Monday, September 17, 2012

Septic Planning

We had the Lapeer county sanitarian (Chip) come over and look at our property layout. There are some specific site requirements when building the newer berm systems. We had initially scouted out a large bowel shaped area on the property so any mound wouldn't be as noticeable. This area didn't sit right with the sanitarian as it would be prone to gathering water during heavy rainfall.

After talking with the sanitarian a bit, it seems that all they do nowadays are berm type systems in our area. I'm told the berm systems seem to perform better but have a large upfront cost compared to traditional ditch systems

I asked the sanitarian how our particular soil was on a scale of  1 to 10, 10 being the best for septic systems. He stated ours was about a 5 and the usual rating for Elba Twp was about a 3.

Costs for Today: $425
$125 for a sanitary department employee to come onsite and inspect the soil, as well as file the permit application.
$225 for an excavator to come and dig two large holes in the ground for soil inspection.

After talking with our builder a bit after the meeting we got an idea of what the system will cost. The builder estimates the system at just under $12,000.

Below is a diagram we created to submit to the sanitarian for the septic application. The main thing they wanted to see was existing well septic locations for us and the neighbor and the clearances from the proposed changes.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Addition Plans

Our Design Process

To maintain some sense of sanity, we tried to be methodical in designing plans for the addition. We knew the features of the current floor plan that were deficient and some possible fixes we could incorporate. For developing new spaces we had lengthy discussions on what we felt was needed to accommodate our growing family. In the end we felt like we incorporated most of what we wanted and made reasonable compromises on other things.

Some design requirements we developed throughout the process included:
  • A dedicated 1st floor laundry room, close to the kitchen.
  • Increased kitchen area and counter top surface.
  • Basement with room for workout equipment and pool table, possibly a bar area.
  • Additional bedrooms to accommodate guests and future children.
  • Separate bath facilities for the children and parents. We thought this would be important once the children enter their teenage years.
  • Kitchen that opens to the living area such that you can keep an eye on children in the living space while in the kitchen.
We started design with a few guiding rules:
  • Strive for a more square overall structure to minimize material costs while maximizing area.
  • Examine the current structure and attempt to utilize existing walls and partitions, or extend them naturally into the new construction.
  • Load match major walls from the roof down to their bearing footer.
  • Preserve the general "farm house" look when viewing the house from the street. The home's history made this an important rule.

When making any major change to the plans the wife and I would review it daily. Over a week's time any changes seemed to sink in. Eventually, through plan redraws and sometimes heated discussion, we seemed to piece together the aspects that work well and solve pieces of the puzzle that didn't fit. The process was quite iterative, and we found that the more plans and solutions we worked through the more confident we became with our final choices.

Existing Structure

Here is the original 1st floor layout, the kitchen is in the back of the house and the front decking is shown in this drawing. The main entrance is in the kitchen.

As you can see the kitchen is quite small and the washer and dryer are in the kitchen, it's a bit awkward having first time guests walk directly into your kitchen/laundry room. Living in this space we found that we used the sewing room as storage, the dining room partially as a laundry, the bedroom as a nursery, and spent most of our time in the kitchen or living room. We were basically living in 300 square feet and it was tight.  There was a narrow passage from the kitchen to the dining room such that you could not get through if someone had the fridge open or was working on laundry. Another oddity of this floor plan is that you must go through the bathroom to get to the basement.

The floor above has a half bath two small bedrooms and an odd room we simply used to store stuff. The second story didn't go over the kitchen. The roof line was simply a offset "T" with one portion butted into the other forming valleys in the middle, open gables on all exposed ends.

Here is the second story layout:

To give you an idea of how this all looks in real life here is a photo of the house from the front:

The New Plan

We worked through many iterations of our plan but there were really only two major versions. I'll cover the first version briefly but devote a bit more time and description to the second (and final) plan. Here is the plan of the first floor:

This plan featured an additional stairway to get to the second story and a wrap around kitchen. While the floor plan is expansive the separation of kitchen and living areas wasn't ideal.
Here is the second story:

The second story features a master suite. There is an awkward space at the top of the stairs as well.
We began doubting this addition plan once we found that the cost could be substantially more than we were comfortable with.

Here is something close to what we settled on for the first floor. To give you an idea of how the old fits with the new we show the new construction walls on this drawing as solid black while the old walls have no fill color.

This plan adds space by pushing out the back of the house and squaring it off. Doing this on the 1st story created an interesting issue dealing with the roof line on the second story.

To extend the entire area of the new space up to the second floor would require a complete roof restructuring and drastically increase the roof height to cover the span. This would really change the farm house look so we made a compromise by cutting out a portion of the second story plan creating something akin to two large dormers off the back (top of image below) of the structure.

To get a feel for how the various rooms would feel when completed we would often use an existing wall and lay out tape marking the new wall boundaries. Then someone could hold up an big sheet of cardboard or another large object to simulate the new walls where the tape was. Going over a few spaces this way we came up with some changes.

One critical change was to increase the width of the first floor laundry. We originally had it planned at 5ft wide. This would fit some washers and dryer combos but if we ever wanted to upgrade and put them width wise in this room we would have limited options.

We were not increasing the kitchen size considerably. We were adding more counter space with an island but not gaining much additional room for storage. The need for a dedicated pantry storage area became obvious as we thought about room use.

We also spent some time thinking about how we use bathrooms. Our reasoning was that the last thing you do (or should be doing) in there is washing your hands, so we should orient the sink near the exit. Additionally converting the roofing system from trusses to rafters allowed a little more flexibility with wall locations so we bumped out one of the bathroom walls upstairs.

Our plans morphed once again.

First Floor:

Second Floor:


Exterior View: