Monday, May 21, 2012

Soil Update & Finally Have Model Pictures!

We made our elevation and color selections without seeing a picture of the Victoria Falls cottage elevation or even a rendering of what it would look like since it was new from Ryan.  Yesterday our Sales Rep surprised us with pictures of our elevation Ryan just built as a model somewhere!  Our colors will be different and we have a front facing garage, but this is close to what ours will look like.  We're really happy with it!

On another note, everything should resume tomorrow after a few week delay due to soil testing and engineer review of our soil.  Ryan is going to drill pylons into bedroom and then pour the spread footer on top of these pylons.  We asked for a copy of the engineers report and they are gladly providing us with one, but we're happy with this solution and feel the foundation is going to be very solid and Ryan has done the right thing by eating the entire unexpected cost.

Here are the pictures of the model & I included one picture of a Quartz counter top we found and really like.  We got the standard counter top from Ryan because we decided we would be able to find a better price after we close and we would have more choices to selected from.  We were also leaning heavily toward quartz because of its durability and the fact that you don't have to seal it.  Does anyone have quartz?  What do you think?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Soiled during pre-construction meeting

As I mentioned in my last post, we broke ground on Monday and we were surprised this morning that we didn't have footers yet but just assumed there were still getting preparing before laying out the forms.  We found out during our pre-construction meeting that our PM has concerns with the strength or density of the soil on our lot because it and a couple neighbors lots have were filled in some time ago.  They're working with the developer and are bringing a couple engineers to our lot early next week to determine how to move forward and ensure the footings are on solid ground.  It sounds like either they will need to excavate down to solid ground with a high enough density or they will have to drill holes, fill them with reinforcing steel and concrete and then pour the footings on these concrete pylons.  In either case, our timeline is going to move at least a couple weeks which pushes us into mid August.  We're getting married in September so there is some worry there...  Our PM has been doing this for years and we feel completely confident in him and are glad that he took the initiative to test the soil and stop progress until the engineers decide the right approach.  We feel lucky for this and feel very lucky that this is an item that will not have the cost passed on to us and Ryan will incur the cost and not pass it on to us.  I'm not sure this would be the case with other builders.

I had a lot of questions about how our home will be built and our PM answered every single one of them and was great.  Here is some of the highlights of what we learned (some of these could be dependent upon your floor plan and community):

  • Drywall is only tacked in place with nails and then screwed in - pleasant surprise
  • The sub floor is glued down and nailed with ring shank nails - another pleasant surprise since these nails bite and hold better than common nails
  • Our basement rough-in plumbing will be vented so we don't have to deal with venting when we finish it
  • Based on current electrical code, all non GFCI outlets are AFCI (Arc Fault) - this is great in my opinion because these will trip if an arcing of electricity occurs (sparks) because of a short, a screw driven through a wire (guilty of that myself once), a hungry squirrel, or even bad extension cords.
  • Window wells have gravel in the bottom that drain down to the french drains that surround the foundation.

Next week will be an interesting week and we're really curious to see how we move forward and when we can get moving in the right direction again.

Pre-construction Meeting Today & Ground Breaking!

Our pre-construction meeting is today and we have now broken ground!  We went last weekend and saw the black fence was up and our house was marked out with flags.  Monday they broke ground and we now have a huge hole to admire.  Hopefully we'll get some dates today for the footer, foundation and lumber package delivery.  It's been a long road but we've finally started!

This is what we saw last weekend

As of Monday!

You can see our neighbor to the left had their lumber delivered so we should be closing within a couple weeks of each other

Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Selections

I guess it's time to post information about our selections!


  • Victoria Falls - Elevation L (Front Entry Garage)
  • Stone - Kentucky
  • Siding - Georgian Gray
  • Board & Batten - Georgian Gray
  • Shutters - Dark Gray (Cottage Style)
  • Front Door - Brown Bean


First Floor

  • Hardwood throughout first floor except for mud room and laundry room
  • Direct set hardwood staircase with carpet runner
  • Family Room
    • 4 ft family room extension 
    • Slate fireplace with recessed lights above
    • All optional windows
    • Additional recessed lights
    • Gold surround sound in ceiling with wall mount center channel 
    • Flat panel pre-wire
    • 2 Data pre-wire's
  • Kitchen
    • Scottsdale Maple Cognac cabinets
    • Premier IV Stainless Steel Appliances
    • Base counters (going with a 3rd party install after we close)
    • TV Pre-wire
    • Recessed lights
    • Pre-wire 2 pendant lights over island
    • 3 switched outlets hidden inside cabinets that we'll use for under cabinet lighting
    • French door to outside instead of sliding glass door
  • Extended laundry room with laundry tub
  • Dining room
    • Tray ceiling
    • Bay window
  • Living room (Office)
    • Converted into office so we added french doors between living room and dining room and also between living room and foyer
    • Optional side windows
    • Flat panel pre-wire
    • 2 Data pre-wire's
  • Garage
    • Dedicated circuit

Second Floor

  • Hardwood in hallway
  • Upgraded carpet in bedrooms with special upgraded padding (see picture below)
Master Suite
  • Flat panel  pre-wire (terminated in closet where receiver, cable box etc will be hidden)
  • Silver in ceiling surround sound
  • Tray ceiling
  • Ceiling fan rough in
Front bedroom (second office)
  • Flat panel pre-wire
  • Data jack
Master Bath
  • Luxury bath
  • 72" jetted tub
  • Digital pre-wire above tub (terminated in the one master closet where cable box etc will be)
  • Ubatuba granite counter top
  • Wyoming Cherry Spice Cabinet
  • Upgraded Tile surround & floor
  • Unfinished basement - we're going to do this ourselves so we can customize it
  • Basement 3 piece rough in 
  • Spotlights in back yard mounted on 2nd floor
  • Additional exterior outlets for Christmas lights etc.


Victoria Falls Elevation L

Kentucky Stone

Carpet in the bedrooms and stair runner, hardwood entire first floor (except mudroom and laundry) and 2nd floor hallway
Carpet padding - great for allergies and with pets & kids

Master bath floor & wall tile.  2nd upstairs bath flooring similar tile

Mud room & Laundry (Our only level 1 lol)

Master counter & cabinet (wanted a different look in the  master)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guardian Home Technologies

Guardian offers a number of options including ones that they advertise and ones they don't.  One of the things they don't advertise is that they will rough in wiring for surround sound and stand-alone speakers if you don't want to purchase the speakers from them.  They also don't advertise that they will install speakers in the ceiling and wire them to wherever you want without having to upgrade to the Lyriq audio package.  When you look at the pricing for prewires  without buying the speakers from them, you'll see that they really don't want to be in the prewire business and want to sell the speakers.  The difference in cost between a prewire surround sound and one with the speakers is about the retail price for the speakers.  After looking at all of these options in a few different ways, we decided on what we wanted them to do because we're busy enough and have enough on our to-do list and didn't want to add more to it such as installing speakers or tv's, etc.

One of the debates we had was about wiring for a home network since nearly everything is wireless now.  We both work from our home offices a decent amount and we have networked printers and network attached storage devices (which can be bandwidth intensive).  We also have electronics that either only have a wired network capability or behave a lot better on a wired network and we have VOIP office phones (Voice over IP) which require a wired network connection.  We decided to have Guardian install network jacks in various places for these reasons.  Another nice side effect is the way they wire the network and phone jacks.  If you have a phone jack in one room and you decide you need a network jack there instead, you simply go to the basement and switch connections in the panel and now the phone jack is network instead (or vice versa).  We also decided to have them wire for our TV's so that the wires were hidden and we can hang them.  In 2 locations we're actually having them wire the TV's and terminate the cables in a closet so we can hide the cable box and other things in there and the other locations wired will have their tables terminate at the bottom of the wall below the tv.  We also decided to have a Gold surround in ceiling in the family room with an upgraded non-ceiling center channel and a silver surround in ceiling in the master.  Also keep in mind with the hanging tv's that you have to add electrical to the wall where the tv is hung and also ensure that you have power wherever your pre-wire terminates (including your subwoofer) so this ended up requiring 6 additional outlets I believe.

Now the part everyone wants - Pricing!  Keep in mind that there are different options not listed (for example speakers in the wall instead of ceiling) and pricing varies across the US.  Good luck negotiating - they basically don't other than for free months of monitoring.

Surround Sound

Speaker only packages with optional additions and upgrades
Klipsch 5.1 Silver Audio System (Surround - Speakers Only) $1,030
Includes in ceiling Klipsch R1650C speakers
Upgrade to Klipsch G12 Center Channel (not in the ceiling) $140
Add a Jamo SUB210 subwoofer $250

Klipsch 5.1 Gold Audio System (Surround - Speakers Only) $1,735
Includes in ceiling Klipsch R-2650-C speakers
Upgrade to Klipsch G16 Center Channel (not in the ceiling) $190
Add a Klipsch SW110 subwoofer $440

Bose AV35 Theatre System $5,330

Full home theater packages
Klipsch/Pioneer 5.1 Silver Audio System (Surround - Speakers Only) $2,874

Includes in ceiling Klipsch R1650C speakers
Upgrade to Klipsch G12 Center Channel (not in the ceiling)
Jamo SUB210 subwoofer
Pioneer receiver
Logitech Harmony 900 Remote Control

Klipsch/Pioneer 5.1 Gold Audio System (Surround - Speakers Only) $3,963

Includes in ceiling Klipsch R-2650-C speakers
Upgrade to Klipsch G16 Center Channel (not in the ceiling)
Klipsch SW110 subwoofer

Pioneer Elite receiver
Logitech Harmony 900 Remote Control

In Ceiling Speakers

In ceiling speakers without Lyriq audio package $620
One pair of Klipsch R1650C
One wall mounted volume control

1 inside ceiling speaker and 1 outside speaker $755
One interior speaker
One AW-500-SM speaker with volume control

Lyriq Audio Package

Four Room Studio Lyriq Audio Package $3,195
Charge and Play Input
Local Source Input
3 Pair of Klipsch R1650C In - Ceiling
1 AW-500-SM Dual Voice Coil Outdoor Speaker
Four Source Eight-Zone Distribution Module Upgrade
Multi Source Input

Two Room Studio Lyriq Audio Package $1,860
Charge and Play Input
2 Pair of Klipsch R1650C In - Ceiling

Flat Panel TV Prewire

Remember that each pre-wire will also require at least 1 additional electrical outlet - upgrade from Ryan.

Same Stud Bay (up to 5 meters with standard speed HDMI) $330
Same Wall (up to 10 meters with standard speed HDMI) $440
Standard/Remote (up to 20 meters with standard speed HDMI) $610

Security System

This depends upon your area and community I believe.  We got the base system installed for free and then added a couple of upgrades.  I'm a firefighter as well so I find a lot of value in the monitoring of smoke and heat detectors especially since we will be leaving our dachshunds and kitty home at times by themselves.  We were able to get 6 months free possibly because of all of the items we purchased.

Standard (free install) system - requires monthly monitoring package for a certain term (2 or 3 years?)
1 Standard Keypad Included
1 Standard Motion Detector
1 Control Panel
1 Siren
3 Door Contact
1 Heat detector

1 Window Contact $70
1 Smoke Communicator $170
1 Carbon Monoxide Detector $190 (you're required to sign a contract saying that if your CO alarm goes off and the fire department kicks in your door, Guardian isn't liable - pretty funny)

Outlets and Connections

Smart Connections Package with router $1,060
3 Cable outlets
2 Data outlets
1 4 port Multimedia outlet

Six Pack of Wall Outlets $495
Any 6 outlets

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Oh Ryan Homes...

We received the answer about our Board & Batten and were surprised what it was.  Wes (our sales rep) went to bat for us and did everything he could but Ryan will not give us any other options for Board & Batten color.  We really like the color of the siding, but we aren't happy being forced into have the same color Board & Batten.  Through this whole process we have been completely open with Wes (probably more than he would like at times lol) and told him that we feel so strongly that if we can't get the color Board & Batten we want (or alternatively Shake siding) we would rather have no Board & Batten and then we would install the color we wanted ourselves after closing.  He mentioned this to the Ryan Homes management team and unfortunately they won't allow us another color choice (we have no choice on Board & Batten - we get the same color as our siding) and won't  leave it unfinished (I'm assuming code reasons).  Even after we told them that we would simply be tearing it off after closing and replacing it with another color they wouldn't budge.  Now we will need to order the right Board & Batten from Plygem and pay to have it installed after we move in.  This is ridiculous but apparently we have no other choice.

In another Ryan community, someone complained about the color and they were allowed to install Shake siding the color they wanted after they complained enough.  We would love the have Shake but Ryan would not approve that either so we're back to tearing it off and replacing at our own cost.  Having no color choice and no flexability when spending thousands on the elevation we selected is a very strange and unsound business decision on Ryan Homes part.  We would be willing to even pay the difference in the cost between the Shake and siding if the Board & Batten were not available but to our dismay, Ryan Homes has said no and has given no explanation.  Being in business myself, this drives me crazy because I go out of my way to make sure my customers get what they need when they need it.  Baffling....  At least we have Wes there to help us and if it weren't for him we would not be as happy as we are with Ryan Homes (NOT happy with the management I want to be clear)...  We can at least address this in our survey at the end so we can ding the management on this...

Enough venting :)

Our Elevation

Here is our elevation!  If you ever happen to see a picture of it built anywhere please share since we haven't found any ;-)

Victoria Falls Elevation L (ours will be a front entry garage like the bottom)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Color Selections

Selecting the colors for our Ryan Home in Cobblestone (Pittsburgh Suburb).  Selecting our elevation (L) was the easiest part for us because we love the cottage look.  The difficult part was selecting the colors!  Ryan has not built our elevation before and doesn't even have a rendering of it so that is a bit stressful...
We have to select colors for:

  • The stone
    • This was very difficult.  We selected based upon the stone samples we saw at our communities model as well as another communities model.  We then searched online and drove around various Ryan communities and discovered that the stone that was being delivered was very different than the model.  After seeing the stone choice, our number 1 choice was ruled out because our neighbor has it but we found a very close second only to find out it's no longer offered.  Our Ryan Sales Rep Wes worked his butt off and got us our stone though!  It will cost an extra $350 but it's worth it to us.
  • The siding
    • The siding we were set on is Graphite Gray - guess what our neighbors has...  Yes Graphite Gray so that ruled it out.  We selected Georgian Gray which we like as well, but that causes another problem as you'll read under board & batten.
  • The board & batten - TBD
    • Since our neighbor has Graphite Gray, we cannot have that color siding so we have to select Georgian Gray.  The board & batten is supposed to be a contrasting element but unfortunately the only choice offered with Georgian Gray siding is Georgian Gray board & batten.  I know this sounds strange but it's true.  I found the supplier (Plygem - Variform product line) and their marketing material shows Graphite Gray board & batten so our Sales Rep Wes is on another mission for us - to get us the Graphite Gray board & batten.  Hopefully the Ryan team see's it isn't fair to only offer us 1 color selection for the siding and board & batten and that 1 neighbors siding selection shouldn't eliminate multiple color options for us.  If we can't get Graphite Gray through Ryan, we're considering asking to have no board & batten installed and we will then purchase it ourselves after closing and install it or tear off what Ryan installs and replace it with Graphite Gray.  So far the Ryan team has been fantastic and has been very flexible and helpful so our fingers are crossed  I still wonder if we could pay our neighbor to change his siding selection from Graphite Gray...  Maybe he'd like a shiny new iPad 3 lol
  • The trim
    • The trim we selected is white which was very easy - we want contrasting colors and the white looks great on other homes.
  • The shutters - TBD
    • This depends on the board & batten situation but we're leaning toward Gray or Black 
  • The front door - TBD
    • This depends on the board & batten situation but we're leaning toward Black or Dark Brown
  • The interior
    • That was easy - Our options are: any color we want as long as it's white (Just like how Ford gave Model-T buyers their color option - Black).  Technically you can have the walls changed from White to another color but that color is used throughout the whole house and the cost is nearly $3,000.  Obviously tinting your paint and spraying the whole house wouldn't cost anywhere near $3,000 so the message we get from this is Ryan really would like you to have white walls ;)    

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ryan Homes vs S&A Homes

There are two builders in Cobblestone - Ryan Homes and S&A.  Since we spent a lot of time researching both builders, we thought it would be helpful to share the information we've discovered, create a comparison and explain how we made our decision to build with Ryan over S&A.  One thing to keep in mind is that each company has great marketing material but you have to make sure you compare apples to apples and ask questions of each builder to make sure you understand everything.  We approached this process being completely open minded and spent time with each builder in model homes, reviewing their building practices, the costs involved and we spent MANY hours researching things ranging from each builders basement waterproofing method to how far apart studs or joists are placed.  This post is a great starting point but this is a huge investment - take your time and ask the right questions, talk to folks building in Cobblestone or folks who have built there.  Even though there are a number of communities being built by  both builders, each community will have different folks managing the construction of your house and may also have completely different crews doing the building.  The people on your builders team in your community make a huge difference.  All of our concrete research told us to go with Ryan but so did the human interaction we've had.  We had a much better feeling with the sales reps at Ryan and the project manager that will oversee our house being built has many years of experience and we feel very comfortable with him and the entire Ryan team.  Now let's get into the details of what we found out about each builder and how we made the decision to build with Ryan...

Note: We're compiling this information now and reviewing our notes as we build this post so it will take us a few days to complete it fully.

Comparing each company

  • Ryan homes is a much larger builder than S&A homes, has been in business longer, has built more homes and builds in more states and regions.  
  • Both builders are concerned with energy efficiency (we'll provide more details below in its own section)
  • Since Ryan homes is a much larger builder, they appear to be more efficient when building (which equates to faster deliveries) and is also able to use their size to gain better material pricing which is then passed on to consumers.  Since Ryan builds so many houses each year (over 300,000 in the last 60 years according to their website), they are able to obtain volume pricing on nearly everything and they pass the savings on to us.
  • Both builders are open and encourage homeowners to play an active role in building them home.  This means showing up to scheduled meetings but also nearly any other time to inspect the work being done.  You can also bring your own independent home inspector to have another expert opinion on how the house is built.  I'm wondering if Mike Holmes is available for a Holmes Inspection?

Number of lots in Cobblestone for each builder

Energy efficiency

Standard features vs upgrades

Sales reps & Sales process

Online research

Comparing marketing collateral & their talking points

Disclaimer:  This blog is based upon conversations with both builders, independent research done online and is not affiliated with Ryan homes or S&A homes in any manner nor were we influenced by either builder and we have not been compensated in any way.  We are simply sharing the information that we gathered through the process.  If you feel anything is incorrect, please let us know asap.