Sewer and Water Line Install

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.



Chipping Away

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.

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.


ADU Home Tour – June 23rd, 2018

We are happy to be participating in the 2018 Denver ADU Home Tour hosted by L&D Construction on June 23rd.

Our friends Lindsay and David of L&D Construction have been first-movers in the ADU construction residential market in Denver.  Having built their own ADU above their garage in the West Colfax neighborhood and experiencing the benefits of short-term rental income; they have become strong advocates for this growing market.  Now 80% of their construction projects are ADU’s and they are projecting they will build 12+ ADU’s this year and 20 in 2019.

Although our Tandem House is not an ADU, the Tandem House building type provides many of the same benefits as an ADU (and more, see Tandem House vs. Accessory Dwelling Unit)  and should be considered when debating the cost/benefits of building a detached unit on a residential lot zoned for ADU or Tandem House in Denver.

Come check out our new house!

SIP Installation

In only 10-days our two story house has risen out of the ground for the biggest impact yet.  It was a fun process to watch the SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) crew unconventionally construct the Tandem House using these pre-manufactured walls (and roof).  The walls, with their insulated core that is sandwiched between two layers of structural board already have windows, doors and account for cutouts for details like structural beam fittings.  The use of these panels require more design drawings and a higher level of detail upfront but when they arrive onsite, installation is a quicker process than traditional stick build construction.  The house is framed, sheathed and insulated at the same time. The overriding benefit is a tight building envelope with higher insulating properties.

Now to the fun part… the timelapse!

The Details:


Happy New Year

We have moved past the earthwork phase and the site is feeling a little more clean.  Plumbing, rock aggregate base and floor insulation went in before the concrete floors were poured.

Scott has been doing a lot of the work to prepare for the installation of the SIP panels.  The sill plates will form the threshold for the insulated wall panels (SIPS) to attach.  Over the holiday week the first floor joists went in along with the structural wall that support the joists at the future basement steps (thanks to my brother Kareem for all the help!).  The floor sheathing is nearly complete and we’re ready for the walls to arrive!


We have a basement!  It’s exciting to finally see walls up.  Within a week the forms were built along with the rebar grid and once the inspection was approved, concrete was trucked in and pumped over the house and into the basement forms in the back.

More process photos.  Almost ready to start backfilling the site.

Footing Forms

Excavation has been a long process because of Denver’s abnormally wet fall weather and the limiting size of our lot.  All the rain and an early October snowfall left the soils saturated which you can imagine is less than ideal for a skid steer bobcat. Its difficult to move heavy dirt around and even more difficult to navigate up a steep ramp on muddy ground.  Hence the delay between weather events as we waited for the site to dry out.

Another limiting factor has been the amount of cut dirt that we have had to truck away (15 truck loads).  Also, because our site is so constrained there is little room to store dirt that we will later backfill when the basement walls are formed.  Luckily we have great neighbors that let us store a pile in their yard for a couple weeks.

Its amazing how smooth the process goes when Scott is on site with all of his survey equipment.  He’s able to seamlessly set grades and communicate footing corner locations to the contractor without skipping a beat!  
Before the snowfall event we draped the basement forms with tarps to keep the ground dry and later came back and pumped the water out.

Check out time lapse video showing the remaining excavation work and the laying out of footing forms for the basement and future garage and mud room on the first floor.


Excavation is well underway.  After 5 long days of work there has been a lot of progress!  The hole is nearly 10 feet deep but doesn’t quite cover the extent of the basement.  We’re probably 2/3rds of the way there.

Although we are not done excavating, because the caissons are now exposed, we were able to get the City to inspect and close out the shoring permit and while they were at it they closed out demolition.  Both were approved which meant on Friday we got our official building permit!  7-months to the day from when we made our first submission to the City.

Up next is finishing site excavation and prepping for foundation footings.  Once the footings are poured the formwork can be built so that the concrete walls for the basement can be poured.



Last week we finally heard back from the City that our construction drawings were approved.  So we didn’t waste anytime!  Within the week we completed our initial City site inspection and subsequently were given our shoring permit.  And, today we officially broke ground.  The contractor dug and poured 13, 20-foot deep caissons that abut the property line to the north.

Shoring was required before excavation because the short 5-foot distance from the neighbor’s property line and our new basement does not leave room for gradual grading that could prevent the earth from sliding into the hole that is dug.  So alternatively, the closely spaced caissons hold the dirt back and prevent any site disturbance to the neighbors property.  The caissons will need to set for 7 days before site excavation can begin.