Although the Tandem House is not completely done we decided to move in; just in time to host Thanksgiving with our family. Its been a whirlwind of a month as we not only needed to furnish the entire back tandem house (new), but we also prepared the front (old) house to rent as a short-term rental on Airbnb. We figured there was no reason to delay getting monthly rental income if we are ok living in the tandem house while finishing the final touches. While we live here we will continue to install remaining interior doors, baseboards, door trim, backsplash tile and a number of other smaller tasks.
For now we are relishing in what we have done and not so much in what hasn’t. Its been a huge accomplishment to get to where we are and we want to enjoy it. We’ll keep it low key through the holidays and get back at it in the new year.
But lets get to the good stuff; a photo tour of the house. As a reminder, the home is 2400sf in all, with 4 bedrooms and 3-1/2 baths. The adjacent plan of the first floor shows the open concept living, kitchen and dining area, the 1/2 bath off the mudroom and the 1.5 car garage. The stairs lead down to the basement and up to the second floor bedrooms. The contemporary architecture of the home is complemented by a mid-century modern interior decor.
When Scott and I were dreaming about building our tandem house, we used to spend the weekends going to open houses in the neighborhood. We were curious to see the standard of material finishes that we would be held to in order to compete in the highland residential market. There was one house in particular that had these chunky wood stair treads and metal fabricated railing. We loved the untraditional look and knew that we wanted a similar aesthetic in our house.
Little did we know how complicated planning, designing, fabricating and installing these stairs would be. Although it was a long process, we couldn’t be more happy with how they turned out. We went with solid hickory treads that Scott finished with a natural polymer-based finish. After three coats and sanding in between, the treads were ready for install; just in time for Thanksgiving. Our family could rest assured that we had railings. Not only did the stairs look fabulous but they were safe for all the little ones to run up and down when they played hide and seek!
We made a bold chose by going with concrete floors in our main living space. Although concrete floors are not uncommon these days, it took some extra planning because the floor sits above our basement. Meaning, the joists below the floors had to be doubled up in order to support the structural load of the concrete above. See our previous post on the pouring of these floors.
After ten passes with a diamond grinder and a matte protective finish, the floors are beautiful and have a complex natural look. Even better, they are seamless, collecting little to no dust. They are smooth and easy to clean!
On the second floor, we went with solid character maple hardwoods. We love the natural and bold look of these floors that are a far cry from the more traditional oak flooring that you see in many Denver homes.
We went with porcelain hex tiles in the bathrooms and laundry room which ties in the concrete look from the main floor. And last, we chose carpet in the basement because it gives a comfortable and homey feeling for our guests when they come to stay with us for the holidays!
This past Thanksgiving week our solar pv system passed a final inspection by the City. Going forward our Xcel Energy bill will start metering the solar power generated and used. We couldn’t be more excited to start using power off the grid and to start tracking our savings.
We ended up selecting flexible solar panels by Miasole call the FLEX series, specifically model FLEX-02N . These panels are an ideal solution for our standing seam metal roof since these lightweight modules directly bond to the roof between the metal ridges. Not only do they offer a clean, sleek aesthetic but the modules will provide more than enough energy with the 16, 125-watts panels. These lightweight panels reduce the structural load of a typical panel array and they minimize wind resistance with its flat profile. Our generated energy will be stored in the SMA 3.0 KW inverter which has extra capacity in case we want to add more panels at a later time.
The landscape site work is definitely an orchestrated process that has many phases to follow. The images below give you a sense of where the site stands and we’ll continue to show the evolution. The site work to date is outlined below:
Demolish the existing porch and awning
Excavate and form a retaining wall between the front and back house
Install a new electrical panel and meter box on the existing house and bury the overhead utilities
Layout and build formwork for concrete path and stairs that will connect from the City sidewalk to the new house
Plant Trees (14, Skyrocket Junipers). The evergreen trees will grow to form a 20′ privacy wall between the front and back house
Demo Existing Awning
Demo Existing Awning
Demo Existing Awning
Demo Existing Awning
Porch Without Awning
Demo Existing Porch
Demo Existing Porch
Demo Existing Porch
Excavate to Prep for Retaining Wall
Formwork for Retaining Wall
Pouring Concrete Foot for Retaining Wall
Prepping for Retaining Wall to be Poured on top of Footing
The reward after months of interior framing and particularly the not so fun part of framing out ductwork, is drywall! Now that drywall is up; there is a real sense of space that we have been longing to experience.
But before drywall went on the walls we did one final pass at sealing the building envelope which included foaming around windows, doors and ductwork. The garage walls and ceiling were spray foamed to limit air exchange into the house. Last, we used batt insulation between the first and second floors and again along the master bedroom wall to limit sound transfer between the spaces.
Once insulation was in, drywalling began. Although it is not yet finished, we feel that this has been the biggest impact. We opted for a level 5 finish which is the smoothest result. You’ll see the process in the photos below that begins with hanging drywall, taping and mudding the seams and finally using a big roller to mud the entire wall. After each mudding, the walls are allowed to dry overnight and sanded the next day. We are happy with the result so far and excited for paint.
While Scott completed odds and ends of interior framing, to prep for insulation and drywall; the awning, metal roof and siding were getting installed. Scott and his step dad Jeff spent the weekend building the awning that will provide protection from the outdoor elements. The awning will eventually be cladded in metal and wired for lighting and outdoor speakers.
Roof installation was delayed for months because the subcontractor was so busy (a sign of Denver’s booming construction). This has made it difficult to stay on schedule and keep momentum going when contractors are so hard to track down. Additionally, it leads to a ripple of delays because things like interior insulation and drywall are dependent on a completely dried in house. Luckily we finally got the roofing contractor to site and now things are moving along faster than ever.
In just a week, the metal roof and siding went up. We chose metal standing seam material because it is a superior product that will stand the test of time, and will allow easy installation of our thin film solar panels. Our original design intent was to use flat panels on both the roof and facade (for a clean look) but upon recommendation from the contractor; we ended up incorporating striated siding. Since the structured wall panels are not completely flat and uneven in places, the metal siding, if not rigid enough, will bow out or dimple over time. We obviously did not want that to happen so we chose to incorporate striations to make the siding more rigid. We kept the roof panels flat for two reasons: 1. The roof is flat so we don’t have to worry about imperfections in the metal over time, and, 2. We will be installing solar panels that will adhere to the flat faces of the roof panels.
Standing seam siding is installed on all north and south facades. The metal material will hold up well over time as the hot southern sun beats down on it. We will complete the exterior look with a cedar wood rain screen, installed on all west and east facades (stay tuned).
Measuring for post footings
Awning in progress
Awning structure almost done. Need one more steel post and will get cladded with metal standing seam.
Standing Seam Siding w/ridges.
Smooth Standing Seam Roof Panels
Standing Seam installation
North Facade. Awaiting HVAC systems.
South Facade. Flat Panel Roof with Striated Siding
Scott is really excited about making our home smart, comfortable and efficient so the install of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems has literally brought energy and excitement into the space. When it comes to heating and cooling we will be using a Fujitsu electric zoned mini-split system. Instead of central air, the new HVAC system uses wall-mounted units throughout the home so that we can focus on heating or cooling individual spaces rather than the whole house at once. The system eliminates complex and expensive ductwork and will function much more efficiently than traditional central air. What is a mini-split? Check out this Fujitsu article that explains how it works.
In addition to the systems install, we have new metal fabricated stairs, a garage door and the big event this week was the concrete pour on the first floor. Lots of great pictures to check out below!
plumbing and electrical systems
The Fujitsu wall units that will be installed after drywall is up.
Installing a new sewer and water line to a tandem house is one of the major incurred expenses (basement is a biggy too) that could make you lean towards building an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) instead. Because our lot will be subdivided, the front house and tandem house will be legally independent of each other; requiring that all utilities be tied into the City’s grid and not linked with the front, main house. With an ADU you don’t have to tie utilities (sewer, water, gas, electricity) into the City’s main sewer and water lines, making the process less disturbing and saving a lot of money upfront.
However, if you can burden the upfront cost, we are still firm believers that the benefits of building a tandem house has major advantages over building an ADU (check out ADU vs. Tandem House). Case and point, we just had the tandem house appraised (at ~60% completion) and the appraisal value came in better than we could have expected. Giving us the confidence that all the inconveniences of construction will be worth it in the end.
Below are some images of the sewer and water line install that took about 3 days.
Accessing Sewer Main line. Nearly 20′ deep.
Its like it never happened…. except our lawn is gone….
We are chipping away at the not so glamorous but necessary tasks of interior framing and weatherproofing so that plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems can be installed. Scott spent the end of February and early March framing all the bedrooms, bathrooms and closets and we selected our kitchen and bathroom fixtures so that the plumber had everything he needed. The plumber was in and out within the past two weeks and our next step is to prepare for HVAC and then electrical. We have been refining the electrical plans and selecting fixtures for this next phase. But before electrical can begin, the house has to be dried in.
Standing in the Master Bedroom Looking toward the Master Bath and Closet
Standing in the Master Bath
Stairs to the Second Floor Bathroom
Standing in the Laundry Room looking at the Stairs
Plumbing for the Master Bath
In parallel to plumbing and electrical prep Scott has been weatherproofing the house which is a 5 step process:
The Roof: We rolled out the Siga Majcoat breathable membrane that is taped at the seams with Siga Wigluv construction tape. The products create a wind tight and rain-proof roof.
Filling Facade Joints and Seams: All the transitions between the SIPs are filled with a pink R-guard adhesive.
Liquid Flashing: At every window and door rough opening a red ‘fast flash’ R-guard liquid is applied.
Liquid Weatherproof Membrane: A black liquid weatherproof membrane is roller applied to the entire exterior facade.
Windows and Doors: We have begun to install windows and doors on the first floor where the liquid applied weatherproofing is finished.
In the next week we should be ready to install the rest of the windows. Then we can set the electrical contractor loose. We are also lining up contractors to get underground utilities installed.