Building With Bay West Homes

The journey of building a new house...

Friday, August 31, 2001

It's been a while since I've posted, cause we're trying to get caught up to present day. Things have been very busy for us lately, so please accept our apologies for the delay! We're getting married on December 1st of this year, which is exactly 3 months away as of tomorrow. Yikes! Everything is so exciting, but it's kinda hectic every now and then. :-) Thanks for your patience!

Jason mentioned the blueprint review a few days ago, and I just wanted to post my thoughts on it. It was 3 hours long, which is awesome, cause that means it was incredibly thorough. We have all (for the moment anyway) the interior and exterior wiring on the blueprint, along with a few structural changes, and other assorted changes. It's so exciting to actually see the physical blueprint, cause that means stuff is getting done! We asked Jeff, the Operations Manager at BayWest (a great guy - very friendly and helpful) when we should expect digging to start and he assured us that early this upcoming week, we should have a hold on our property! Of course when that day happens, you'll see pictures and everything up here!

From what we've been told, our update blueprints will be ready by Sunday, which is our "usual" day to stop by the show home, and then the real fun starts, cause we have to go start meeting with all the different companies to get colours, cupboards, flooring, countertops, appliances...and the list goes on...sorted out. I'm really looking forward to this process. It's the first time I've ever built a home (I've lived in the same house my whole life!), and because we're building this house together, it's that much more exciting!

There's still a long haul ahead, but we'll be sure to keep you updated as we go along, learning all about what building a home is all about!

Monday, August 27, 2001

Wow, how time flies! It's already the 27th, and we haven't updated this site in a week. We're still trying to get caught up to "real time" - some of these pictures are a couple of weeks old now, but I wanted to get them up and talk about some of the things we've faced so far. They still haven't dug the hole in the ground yet for our house, so we have time to get caught up on things.

Monday morning is our big meeting with Bay West - we received our official blueprints a week ago, and this is the meeting where we talk about the changes that we want to make. Electrical outlets, TV cables, telephone jacks, etc.

Being the geek that I am, the wiring is pretty important. However, it's not as important as it once was now that I've discovered the wonders of 802.11b wireless networking. I've been using my Fujitsu laptop lately with 802.11b, and it's wonderful! Extremely fast, reasonable range, and totally wireless - you couldn't ask for anything more! So in the new house I'm making sure we have cable drops in the right spots, but I expect to be using at least half of the PCs wirelessly in the new house. I can't wait - it should be very cool!

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

One of things we forgot to talk about earlier was the very first decision we made: where to build the house! We had picked Tuscany, a community in NW Calgary because the location seemed perfect: it was close to our church, close to Ashley's family, and considering how much time I spent driving up to the NW for things, it felt like it was time to move. Tuscany seemed like a really nice area - it had a nice feel to it, like it was a tight-knit community without being 30 minutes outside the city limits. They have a nice area in the middle with a wading pool, playground for the kids, community centre, etc. Children are quite a few years off for us, but it can't hurt to plan ahead. :-)

Now, onto the real point of this post: the lot!

Choosing a lot for your house is usually fairly simple: it's a game of numbers. On any given block of lots, there will be lots that are "prime" - these are the corner lots, the lots with a great view, or the lots that are bigger than the others. Sometimes the differences are subtle - for example, one lot we were looking at was quite a big more expensive than the one right next to it, because the first lot was in front of a keyhole (a semi-circle of houses), and thus had no other houses directly in front of it. The one immediately on the other side was looking at the side of a house, but it was $5000+ cheaper. Subtle differences on paper usually equate to big changes in "real life".

We really lucked out on our lot! The photo above shows our backyard - nothing but green! The row of houses we're on will back onto a "green space". This is a nice name for "storm drain" - if the water levels get out of control in the area, this green space area will be a collecting point for the water, because it has massive storm drains to cope with the water. The nice thing about this is that they made it look like a park - grass, trees, etc. When we first start looking at lots early this year, they were in the $57K area. Those were the "cheap" lots, because the more expensive ones were closer to $70K. This new segment of lots didn't have anything under $60K, but the lot we found for a little more than that is perfect. From our main floor deck we'll have a lovely mountain view, and the walk-out basement will give us a nice open view of this green space. So far, it seems like the perfect lot!

See what I mean about the flooding? When it rains, you don't want to be playing in the green space!

This is an image showing the layers of land - the rock on the far left will be built up, and our walkout basement will be further over to the right...

Another thing we liked about this lot was that only a few hundred feet away we have a nice walking path that goes around part of the community. Ashley and I have been walking more lately, so this looks like a good place to get some exercise and fresh air.

A photo of the contract I signed when we first started the whole deal. Pretty exciting!

Monday, August 20, 2001

After deciding on the exterior colours, we had another choice: the garage. Stonework or brick? We both agreed that the stonework looked much nicer than plain brick, so we spent some time driving around the area looking at what people had done. It was really interesting to see the variety - everyone had something different.

We decided to go with something like the photo above - it's a nice subtle effect. Although now that I'm looking at it I'm wondering about the reddish tints - how will that look with a black and white exterior? We'll have to look at that again. Thankfully, we still have time to second-guess ourselves over these kinds of decisions. :-)

I forgot to mention one of our other choices - stucco vs. vinyl siding. I was initially leaning towards stucco because I liked the look, but the price was a little high: $3500 CND. Still, I thought it might have been worth it - we went to a house in the area where we we're building to see how it would look. It's an Aspen model without the bonus room...and it's pink.

Pink stucco? Ouch.

We were still pondering going with stucco, but after talking with my parents (who did stucco on their house), we quickly decided against it. The stucco on their house is cracking and falling off, and any shifting or settling of the house on it's foundation causes more cracks. So we decided on plain old vinyl siding - which is a good thing, because looking at the list extras we want added onto the house, I'm happy to have saved $3500!

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Much like Jason, I found the exterior colour selection process to be a bit cumbersome when it came to figuring out what was going to be what colour. My dad is a painter, and so I've heard the terms "fascia" and "soffit" for many years, but until now, really had no idea what they meant! I'm grateful to Shelly, one of the Bay West folk, for spending a few minutes explaining to me which part of the exterior was what. He actually took me outside the showhome and pointed out what the soffit was, where the fascia was and he explained to me what parts of the exterior were going to be aluminum. The patience and diligence with which we are being handled as customers is absolutely unparalleled.

A little side comment here - one of the main reasons we went with Bay West as our builder, aside from them having the house we liked most, was because of the professionalism they exhibit, their friendly demeanors and the overall sense of importance they give us as their customers. No matter how many people they've got building with them, they're always willing to take that extra step, or those extra few minutes to explain things to us. Knowing that regardless of whether we call them or stop and see them, they know who we are immediately really gives Jason and I a great sense of confidence in the company, the quality of our new home, and our happiness as its new owners!

Another colour decision that we needed to make on the new house is the rest of the exterior colours - I said yesterday that we went with black and white, but I didn't explain where. I personally found the colour selection process a little confusing - the Bay West people use these strange terms like "soffit" and "fascia". If you're in the home building market, these are common terms, but to a computer geek like me, these terms are totally foreign. After Ashley patiently explained it to me for the fifth time, I decided to make this graphic for those of you who are a little confused about it too.

On this house, both the soffit and fascia are the same colour, but in many houses they're not. On our house, we went with black fascia and white soffit. I think this will look classy.

One major disappointment for me in this process was the fact that Bay West Homes didn't have any sort of computerized way for us to view the colours on this model of house. There are so many parts of the house, that even now I'm not clear on what exactly the house will look like with all the various exterior sections. It's not like a paint-by-numbers computer program would be hard to do - but the sales reps at Bay West Tuscany (Shelly and Kimerie) tell me that Bay West Homes is the most un-technologically advanced builder in Calgary. Seems like an odd match for someone like me. :)

I also found it odd that they didn't have any pre-done colour selections. For the colour-challenged among us (I'm only half in this category), it would make a lot of sense to have some pre-done colour selections put together by a skilled designer. Giving people a head start would be far more helpful than handing them a swack of colour swatches and saying "Go for it!". Sure, everyone has different tastes, but most homes out there aren't that radically different in terms of colour. Why not give home builders a choice of six colour templates?

Ashley talked about the colours below, but I wanted to show you a few of the houses we looked at when trying to decide what we wanted in a house colour. The most important advice I can give to other home-builders about this stage is to spend some time looking at houses around you. You'd be surprised at what you'll notice! When I started looking at the exterior of houses, I was startled at how varied they were in subtle ways. Each house is an expression of the person who builds it, so this shouldn't be too surprising.

Having a digital camera was incredibly helpful in this part of the process - it's impossible to remember all the details on the houses we saw. I have a Canon Powershot S110 Digital Elph, one of the smallest digital cameras on the market. The tiny size makes it easy to carry with me wherever I go, and it's quick to take out and grab a shot when we saw something we liked. When we were discussing colours later, it was great to look at the pictures of the houses we saw and pick and chose from what other people did.

Now let's take a look at three of the houses that had colour schemes we liked...

This house had a really nice blue trim with wide siding. The blue was really attractive, but we both felt it might date itself in a few years.

This was our runner-up for house colour choices...there's something I find tremendously appealing about burgundy. It's somehow regal looking, yet soothing at the same time. We looked at pairing it with a sandy colour (unlike this photo which had white). Ultimately, we opted for another colour scheme.

This was the winner! It seemed a little strange to me that after looking at so many houses and colour swatches, we ended up picking two "non colours" for our house. Ashley and I have a very specific vision for the interior of the house, and I wanted the exterior to compliment that vision. Black and white - classy, crisp, sharp, simple, focused. I like black and white photos more than I like colour ones, so this shouldn't be a surprise.

Hello everyone! We hope you're enjoying the site so far! I'm Ashley, and as Jason mentioned in an earlier post, it's time for some background on me too! I've lived in the Northwest for my entire life, and even more astonishing than that, I'm still living in the same house I was born in! So building a house is about as new an experience as I've ever had! I'm incredibly excited about the process, and I'm looking forward to designing our house the exact way we want it. I'm currently a student at Mount Royal College, taking an Applied Communications degree with a major in Public Relations. While attending school, I'm also working part time as an Administrative Assistant for our church, Country Hills Community Church, but I'm waiting for a call back about a new, better paying job to help pay the bills, and to help pay for all the extras we're looking at adding to our house!

Much like Jason, I'm the kind of person who prefers things to be brand new than used - an attitude I've grown in since purchasing a used vehicle nearly two years ago, and being somewhat disappointed. It's nice to know that we'll be the first and only people to have ever set foot in our house as owners. Something we're both looking forward to! However, before we can step into our finished home, there are many steps and seemingly infinite details that we need to tend to.

We took one of the major first steps just this past Monday, by choosing our exterior colours - a process which, although you might not think so, took a lot of time and careful consideration. We drove around nearby communities looking at homes, taking pictures of colour schemes we liked and were considering. Then we loaded the photos onto the computer off of Jason's digital camera, and scrolled through to see which ones jumped out at us. Our original plan was to go with an off-white or beige vinyl siding and burguny trim, fascia and aluminum, and when we saw homes with that colour scheme, we both really liked the way they looked. But, of course, something else that we liked came along and made our decision a little bit harder! In the end, we went with white siding and black trim - a very modern, clean and attractive look, and one that goes along with our plans for the interior. I won't get into those plans yet - we have to leave some things as surprises!

Once the builder approves the colour choices, everything is submitted to the city for a permit, and once that permit is obtained, that's when the first dirt will start to fly! We've been told to expect digging to start around the end of this month, and we're looking forward to it very much!

Before the shovel hits the dirt of your lot, the biggest decisions have already been made. It's important to spend some time deciding what you want. To start, where do you want the house to be? What community or part of the city? As I explained below, I chose Tuscany because it was close to where Ashley lived and close to my church. I had heard good things about the area, and it was close to a major commercial district. It seemed like the perfect place to build a house!

Chosing the builder and house was a major challenge - we first started looking at smaller start homes (under 1200 sq feet), but quickly discarded that idea. My current condo is 950 sq feet, and I wanted something that had significantly more space, not just a little more. We looked at around ten different show homes in Tuscany that were over 1500 sq feet, picked two plans that we liked (one from Cedarglen, one from Bay West), then started drilling the sales people with questions. Picking the builder was also part of that process - we liked the people at Bay West (Kimerie and Shelly). They were very helpful and supportive, answered a lot of questions for us, made us feel very much at ease, and made us feel like we were a valued customer. A few months ago Ashley and I were looking at showhomes, and I invited my parents to come along - one of the builders chose to address my father rather than me for the entire visit. That lost them the sale instantly. Note to salespeople: never assume the oldest person is the decision maker!

It took a few visits, but we chose the Aspen floor plan and added a bonus room (the floor plan link in the navigation doesn't include the bonus room). I felt that Bay West was a good builder to go with since they had an established track record of building solid homes. I asked several people who had built new houses lately, and none had heard anything negative about Bay West. Of course, none of them had built with Bay West either - so we'll see how that decision goes...

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

I should note that while this is my first time building a house, I did build the apartment/condo I'm currently living in. I learned a lot from that experience - I learned that while the salesman selling you the property may seem nice, once he has your money he's less inclinced to be helpful. I learned that you can't always trust people when they say they're going to do something - you need to have a photocopy of everything in order to go back to them months later and remind them of what they promised. My hope is that with this new house, I'll be better prepared to face the challenges inherent in such a prospect.

I should start with a little background about myself - I'll let Ashley introduce herself a little later. I'm a Calgarian through and through, currently living in McKenzie Town (SE Calgary). Most of what I consider to be my "life" is in the northwest part of the city, so living so far away has been a hassle for a couple of years now. Hence the choice of Tuscany as the location for the new house. I'm in the computer industry, but what I do changes from month to month. I have a company called Kensai Deisgn and Communications, but I do more work under the "Jason Dunn" brand than my company. I work a lot with Microsoft's Pocket PC team, and I run a personal web site called Pocket PC Thoughts.

So why did I want to buy a new house? Good question.

I've always had a "thing" about new vs. used. Sometimes I don't mind if something is used - a DVD or CD is still the same whether it's new or used. But when you consider things like cars or houses, it's much harder to be trusting that the product you're getting is exactly what you hope it will be. You don't know what the "other" person has done to it or how it's been used. That sounds like I'm an inherantly un-trusting person, but I'm not. I find myself also enjoying the control that newness brings - you can pick the colour, the shape, the size of things. You're the first person to live thre, the first one to make your mark in that place. I've also seen my parents buy too many houses and pour too much time into rennovating them before moving on to be interested in anything other than a new house that's made the way I want it. I know, I know, I'm so picky... :-)

Welcome to the site! We're just getting it off the ground now, because things are starting to happen with our house. Over the next few days we'll talk about who we are, why we started this site, why we chose Bay West, and what the process has been like so far. They haven't started digging yet, so the journey has just started. I hope you'll enjoy reading about our experiences of building a new house, and hopefully we'll all learn a few things along the way about what it takes to build a new house.

In addition to wanting to look back on this home builders diary some day and have a wistful sigh, I want this to be a useful site for other first-time home builders to reference. The issues to watch out for, the problems we might have - hopefully this will allow you to avoid the same issues when building your own home. My hope also is that Bay West Homes would be even more interested in doing a superb job knowing that their progress will be talked about on this site!