“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”
-Take your kitchen and bathroom plans to multiple locations to get quotes for countertops. Do this well in advance of when you are needing the counters. If you are open to using remnants in the bathrooms, you can also save some money.
-If you are going to finish your basement eventually, have your contractor/framers add nailer blocks between the outer floor joists. It’s much easier to do it now before the subfloor is installed.
Topics of Discussion in this Article:
After the continued weather delays, Michelle and I were anxious for the next steps to begin and to see our house take shape. With every additional weather delay, we knew that our completion date would be getting pushed ahead more and more, which meant additional interest payments on the construction loan, utilities, insurance, etc. The first load of wood was delivered on a Monday and we thought FINALLY it would be begin. Then, Mother Nature, with her unpredictable weather changes, caused even more delays. The windchill this particular week was -35 degrees on Wednesday and then it shot up to 60 on the weekend with inches of rain. The saga continued…
Sill Plate and Support Wall Construction
On the first semi-manageable day, the framing crew arrived on site. They unloaded their tools, set up some rolling scaffolding in the basement, and got to work. The first task was to fasten sill plates on top of the basement walls. Before the sill plates could be fastened, the workers had to put down thermal seal on top of the wall. This is a roll of Styrofoam-like material and its purpose is to provide insulation between the top of the basement walls and the sill plates. Next, they installed the sill plates one piece at a time. The sill plates are treated 2×6 boards. They must be treated since they are in contact with the concrete and must resist water/moisture. Then, the workers drilled holes in the boards that lined up with the anchor bolts that were set in the top of the concrete walls when they were being poured. Finally, they fastened the board to the top of the wall by placing a washer and large nut on the anchor bolt and tightened it down. This was a time consuming process and it didn’t look like much, but I was excited to finally see some wood being installed.
Once the sill plates were finished, the framers’ next task was to install the support walls in the basement. These walls will be made out of 2×6 lumber and will be used in place of steel posts and beams that you might see in other basements. Using the plans, they identified the exact placement of the walls and made marks on the floor. They used a chalk line to strike lines from one side to the other to make sure they installed the walls straight. Then, they laid treated 2x6s (bottom plate) down along the chalk line. They also placed standard 2x6s (top plate) down next to the bottom plate and began laying out the wall. They marked the location of every stud (every 16” on center) and door openings. Next, the framers fastened the bottom place to the floor along the chalk line. To do this, they used a hammer drill to drill a hole through the wood and into the concrete floor. Once drilled, they secured the bottom plate using Tapcons (specific screws to anchor things into concrete).
With the sill plates fastened, it was time to install the vertical studs. The framers secured a string tightly from one side of the basement to the other over where the wall would be installed. They then measured from the sill plate to the string line wherever a stud would be placed. The purpose of measuring to the string line was to adjust for any variance in the height/thickness of the basement slab. This was especially important because if this wall wasn’t perfectly level, the difference would be transferred upward to the rest of the house throughout the entire building process. One worker cut each stud to its specific length while another fastened the studs to the bottom plate using a nail gun. Once all of the studs were fastened to the bottom plate, they placed the top place and began nailing each stud to the previously marked locations. They repeated this process three times for the three support walls in the basement.
Floor Joist Installation
Once all of the support walls were built, it was time for the floor joists to be set. The floor joists were set in two sections. Both sections were approximately 30′ long. With the help of a lift, they were able to move the joists close to where they would be installed. One at a time, the joists were placed and secured to the sill plates and support walls. After all of the joists were set, “crush blocks” were installed to the side of each joist and fastened to the support walls. The purpose of these blocks were to keep from the joists from compressing once all of weight of the house is transferred down onto the support walls. This process took most of the day. Finally, it looked like there was some progress on site when viewing from the road.
Before the subfloor could be installed, the framers had to install a rim joist around the edges and ends of all floor joists. A rim joist is a solid piece of particle board about 2 inches thick that is used to finish all of the edges of the floor joists.
Now that the floor joist were installed, it was time for the framing crew to put down the subfloor. I had a light day at work, so I decided I’d drop the boys off at school and offer to lend a hand. They gladly accepted the help and once all of the materials were placed accordingly, we got underway. To complete this process, we needed 4’x8′ sheets of subfloor, subfloor adhesive, strips of screws, and a sledgehammer. To start, two of the workers chalked a line 4′ off of the edge of one end of the house. This would ensure that we were starting all of the sheets in line. Using a caulking gun, one worker would apply the subfloor adhesive on the top of the floor joists where the next sheet would be placed. I helped another worker take the sheets of subfloor off of the stack and place. Finally, another worker would follow behind us with a screw gun and screw the sheet down every 6-8 inches into each joist.
Once the first row was down, we started on the second row. Each sheet had grooves on the sides so it would “lock” together. Once we placed the sheet, a sledgehammer and wood block was used to knock it into place, tying it in with the other sheets. This process went smoothly so that no one had to wait to complete their part of the process. Within three hours, we had installed 2,300 square feet of subfloor and beat the rain showers moving into the area.
Now that we had our cabinets selected, it was time to start giving our countertops some thought. Michelle and I didn’t think we’d be able to select our exact tops yet, but we at least wanted to shop around and get some prices so we’d know where to go when it was time for selections. We were also unsure if we were going to select quartz or granite for our tops. I started off by setting up an appointment with what I thought was a granite supplier on the east side. I called and explained to the worker that I was building a house and simply wanted some prices for starters. She encouraged us to stop by and see what they had to offer. That afternoon, we stopped in the office and were extremely disappointed. This was a business that didn’t offer granite and quartz slabs, but instead focused on applying a granite shell to the outside of your existing countertops (this would have been great information in our phone conversation). We politely thanked her for her time and were on our way.
Next, we scheduled an appointment at Cutting Edge Concepts with salesperson Zach. This company is a granite and quartz supplier in the local area. Michelle and I took in some partial prints of the bathrooms and kitchen so they could provide us with a quote. We spent about an hour with Zach becoming educated on the difference between granite and quartz, the advantages/disadvantages of each, and the different levels with corresponding price ranges. One thing we learned was that although quartz is a natural mineral, quartz countertops are 93% quartz and 7% polymer, which is what gives the quartz its unique colors and patterns. However, due to the polymer, really hot objects placed directly on quartz counters could cause the polymer to “pop” and leave small cracks in the countertop. Another thing we learned was about the different levels in either type of countertop. A Level A top is the cheapest, but it will be a uniform color/pattern. Level B tops increase in price and begin to show some variation, but not a significant amount. The levels increase and you start to see some major “movement” and viens in Level E on up. These tops looked amazing, but the prices were not within budget. We viewed some large slabs that they had in the warehouse and felt like we would be satisfied with some of the Level A and B choices. Within about a week, Zach emailed us a proposal. Unfortunately, any level of tops they could provide were over our budget so our search continued.
I had been searching for countertop suppliers in the area so I started getting several advertisements in my Facebook feed for businesses. There was a company that continually appeared and was advertising for discounts on granite countertops out of Greenfield. The ad had a picture of “The Granite Twins” from Cornerstone Marble and Granite along with videos. I called to set up and appointment. While on the phone, the consultant asked if I could email her the plans and she would go ahead and work on a proposal for us. Within an hour, she had emailed me proposals for Level A and Level B (considered their Granite of the Month). Their prices were well within our budget so we set up an appointment for Friday.
Cornerstone Marble and Granite is a smaller, family-owned business but we soon found that their customer service was phenomenal. When we arrived at our appointment, the consultant immediately showed us their different levels of granite. The Level A options were the same as we had previously seen. However, the Level B “Granite of the Month” selections were awesome.
These slabs had a lot of movement and character. Similar slabs would have been Level D or higher at the other suppliers and out of reach for us. We selected a slab that we liked and with a down-payment, they would hold these slabs for us until we were ready for install in May. She also asked us if we were open to remnant pieces for the bathrooms. These are granite or quartz pieces (most half slabs) that are left from other jobs. Since we didn’t care if the bathroom tops matched the kitchen, we said we were interested. This provided us with additional savings. These pieces vary according to what is available at the time so we will have to come look at the options when we are closer to the measurement/installation phase. I’d highly recommend this company to anyone looking for a budget-friendly option for solid-surface countertops.