The building inspector came by last week to do the final inspection of our cabin. He just found a few things that we were able to complete immediately (add house number, install a missing piece of drywall in the pantry) and passed us.
This is as good a time as any to say the building phase of our project is complete! It brings an immense sense of relief. There were quite a few factors that made this project especially challenging. Here's a quick recap for newer readers of this blog:
- Our Zero-Energy Goal: We call this a cabin, but it's far from the image that invokes, of a drafty log structure out in the woods. We have had the highly ambitious goal to design and build a home that's efficient enough to function on no more electricity than is produced by the sleek solar panels on the metal roof. It took a lot of extra thought in the design and choice of materials, and it certainly took a lot more labor when it came to air sealing.
- The Shared Ownership Concept: The four of us (two couples) searched for a location in the Methow Valley together, formed an LLC, purchased the land, agreed upon a design (Dave actually learned to do the final drawings himself), hired contractors to do the framing, plumbing, electrical, etc., and did much of the finish work ourselves. In a building project of this scope, there are countless decisions to be made, and it becomes even more challenging when four people are weighing in on every decision, not to mention trying to divide the work fairly. This project challenged us all as a group, but I am happy to say that we remained friends throughout it all.
- The DIY Aspect: The higher cost of building in the Methow Valley and the expanding scope of the project meant that we were not able to afford the general contractor bids we received. For better or worse, we decided to take on the role of GC ourselves after receiving encouragement from others who have done it. I know I have learned a lot about building, but it did add some stress. We also ended up taking on more hands-on tasks ourselves, simply because it was too expensive or too difficult to hire someone else to do them.
- The Distance: Seattle to Winthrop seems like a fairly quick drive in the summer if you time it right. However, winter was a different story. With record snowfalls in the Cascades this year, it was often slow going through Snoqualmie Pass, and the North Cascades Highway is still closed while they clear away 25 feet of snow. Getting all our materials on site (like our big living room window that broke several times in transit) took major effort.
- The Babies: Alex and I had our son August 31, right in the thick of construction. The first trip he took, at just a few weeks old, was to camp in a tent next to the house. And now Dave and Lisa are about to have twins less than a year later.
Has this project been challenging? Absolutely! Speaking for myself, I know I have learned a lot both on a building/business level and a personal level. The photos below don't do the house justice, but when experiencing the beauty of the view and the peacefulness of the space in person, the challenge feels worthwhile.