On Monday February 29, the day I had been dreaming of for so long finally arrived: we broke ground on our new house!
We had just received notice that our building permit was approved, and the excavator was dropped off that weekend. On Monday morning, the framers showed up to mark the lines for the walls and then the excavator started digging.
You may be wondering why it has been two weeks already and I have not posted a single photo. The truth is that those first few days were very stressful – while friends and family were congratulating us, on the inside I was a mess. It was about a week into the build before I was sleeping through the night without waking up in a panic. Throughout the day I would have anxiety attacks. While I knew that building a house can be a stressful experience (they don’t call it a “divorce house” for nothing!), I really wasn’t prepared for how stressful it could be.
One reason for the stress was the financial obligation. This house is part dream home for sure, but also largely a necessity. The 30-year old mobile we have been living in for the last 6 years is falling apart before our eyes, and it will not survive another winter without putting some money into it, which we are loathe to do. In terms of financing the new house, we probably could have used another year or so but we decided we just couldn’t wait any longer. Consequently we are on a tight budget, and that made for some stressful moments during the first week or so.
You see, while a good contractor can provide a pretty accurate estimate of the costs involved in building, the one big variable is what lies underground. Until you start digging, you really don’t know what you will find. You have to dig down to a certain type of soil that is hard enough to support the weight of your home (and won’t break up in an earthquake, for example). If you have to go down further than anticipated, it costs you in many ways: the extra cost of concrete for higher foundation walls, the extra cost of fill to plug up the holes you’ve dug (it’s not as simple as just putting back what we dug out), and then there is the chance that you might have to bring in an engineer to approve the changes you’ve had to make, and that can cost a lot of money.
We ran into a few hiccups during the dig, and for a while there it wasn’t looking too good. I was freaking out that we might not have enough to finish the build: thus my almost-daily panic attacks. But in the end it all turned out okay; our contractors did a fabulous job of problem-solving, and it turned out that the downsides had some upsides to them in terms of saving costs in other areas. The final tally is not in yet, but it looks like the damage (in terms of going over budget) is not going to be too bad. That was a huge load off my mind, and I am back to sleeping through the night!
Another source of major anxiety for me was the finality of certain choices. I’ve had years to think about what I want, but always I was able to change my mind and refine my plans if need be. The start of the build marked the end of the design phase, and I found that a bit terrifying. I now had to make decisions that would be essentially irreversible! That caused a few late nights as well, going over (and over again) all the details in my mind to make sure I had things just as I wanted them (in my next post, I’ll relate a story of how I saved myself from just such an irreversible mistake).
I’m happy to report that I’ve made it through those difficult first few days and am now able to truly embrace the joy of seeing my house come to life! As a bonus, during those stressful moments Husband and I leaned heavily on each other and came through it feeling closer than ever – no divorce house for us!! So stay tuned for lots of photos and progress reports!