RHB: Albano Part 2
Reality Home Building Part II - The Albanos
In our last issue we met Chuck and Simone Albano and saw photos of their new home when it was about a third of the way into the construction process. Construction is progressing nicely and this time we’re checking in as they get ever closer to completion.
The Albanos chose The Sandusky plan by Sater Design Group because the design incorporated everything they were looking for in a home – an open layout, expansive windows to maximize their water view, and multiple outdoor living spaces. They have stayed fairly true to the plan as drawn, making a few changes in layout and stylistic details to suit their tastes and the climate of eastern North Carolina.
“Our ideas are really coming together at this stage of construction,” said Simone. “The sheetrock is up and the cabinets and built-ins and fixtures are being installed. Every day there’s visible progress and it’s easy to imagine how the house will look when it is done. All the time we spent pre-planning is really paying off.”
Fortunately so far there have been few construction delays. The worst problem was getting Mother Nature to cooperate when it came time to install the stone accents on the garage and foundation. The Albanos chose a ledge stone pattern by Eldorado Stone in a mixture of gray and brown to complement the weathered cedar shakes and enhance the cottage feel of the plan.
“Installing stone – or any type of masonry, for that matter – requires dry weather conditions for the mortar to set properly,” Chuck said. “Humidity delays drying time but rain is a real problem when trying to get stone to stick to a screed coat. Every time the temperature was right, it rained! Every time the weather would clear for a few days it was too cold. That delayed the installation of the stone for quite a while, but didn’t really affect the rest of construction. It was worth waiting for, though. The stone accents are one of our favorite things about the house.”
The Albanos are enjoying a somewhat unique working relationship with their builder, Danny Varner of Varner Brothers Construction. Because Chuck has extensive construction experience, he made it clear when hiring Danny that he and Simone would be very hands-on during the construction process.
One of the tasks the Albanos wanted to handle themselves was coordinating the purchase of cabinets, counters, plumbing fixtures and similar items. Typically, a homeowner is given a budget allowance for these items (determined by the builder and homeowner during the contract phase) and works with the builder or the subcontractors to select the various items. When selections are finalized the builder places the order and arranges for delivery. Depending on how a given builder operates, the contractor may or may not make some of their profit by adding a percentage to the cost of those items.
By buying direct, Chuck and Simone have been able to save literally tens of thousands of dollars while getting exactly what they want in their home. “We joined a buying club with over 700 manufacturers called Direct Buy (www.directbuy.com.) They literally offer everything you could ever need to build a new home or remodel an old one. You pay a membership fee to join and then you have access to everything they offer,” Chuck said. “I cannot say enough great things about it. I honestly think it is one of the best – if not the best – decision we made. We are saving a lot of money. The selection is great! And, we are able to shop various manufacturers from one location. We bought electrical and plumbing fixtures, fans, flooring, ceramic tile, wind rated garage doors, bath and kitchen accessories and high end electronics for the media room. The best buy was the new furniture we needed to transition from New England Country to Coastal North Carolina. Danny gives us dates when things need to be on site and as long as we get deliveries there on time everyone is happy.”
“We had a couple of expensive ‘wish list’ items for this house that we were not willing to compromise on because this is our retirement home and we don’t want to have to replace things. Keeping the adage ‘Pay me now or pay me later’ in mind can actually save money in the long term.” Simone said. “Top of the line appliances was one of my big ‘wants.’ We bought Thermador professional-grade stainless steel appliances and I’m really looking forward to using them.”
“I wanted a gas fireplace that didn’t look like a gas fireplace, one that looks realistic and indistinguishable from a wood fireplace,” Chuck said. “We also wanted really nice cabinetry,” he continued. “Sater plans are full of functional and unique architectural details that you usually don’t find in homes within this price range. We are making sure to execute that aspect of the plan with attention to detail because we know it will be those little touches that really make the home special. We are working with a custom cabinetry shop and they’re doing a fantastic job. The cabinets in the kitchen are beautiful, and the built-ins in the great room are a great complement to them. I’m looking forward seeing what the rest of the built-ins and vanities will look like. We took license with the plan and did our own design work.”
The Albanos have also incorporated a unique design scheme into each of the two upstairs guest suites – a solution to confusion that arose during construction. “The two upstairs suites are essentially identical,” Simone said, “and every time we’d talk about them with the builder everybody would end up confused as to which room we were talking about. To solve the dilemma we named one room ‘Savannah’ and the other one ‘Key West’ after two of our favorite places to visit. We decided to carry those themes through to the decorating, so we chose the fixtures in the bathrooms and the furniture and décor for those rooms based on their respective themes. It’s been a challenge, albeit fun, to find pieces that fit the themes – some things we already had and some we’ve bought specifically for the new house – and I think it’s definitely a more creative solution than simply calling them ‘room one’ and ‘room two.’”
Chuck and Simone have also been incorporating energy-saving elements into the home whenever possible.
“We made sure to choose Energy Star appliances, and our HVAC is a Seer 14 unit – super efficient,” Chuck said. “Also, the house is insulated really well. It’s probably massively over-insulated by most people’s standards, but we wanted it to be really tight and draft-free for energy efficiency.”
“We designed the driveway and landscaping beds to support a ‘Tropical Savannah’ theme, which is a mixture of native plants and various varieties of palms. The plan calls for using plants that won’t require extra watering or special fertilizers. The irrigation system will alleviate a lot of watering during periods of drought. Also, sometime in the near future we’d like to add a wind generator,” Simone said. “We couldn’t afford to do it during construction, but I’m hopeful we can get it done next year”.
“We’re getting so close now and I really can’t wait for the house to be completed and to be settled in,” Simone said. “We’re looking forward to spending many wonderful years in our new home and sharing it with family and friends.”
Join us next time as we catch up with the Albanos after they move in and see pictures of the finished home.