As framing continued in October, we eagerly started working on other aspects of the build – electrical, septic, windows, A/C, a giant lawn ornament, plumbing, and the first Sunbeam Ranch Halloween celebration.

We thought this was a funny sight. The lumber supplier was taking too long to get a couple of additional beams to the property, so the framer picked them up on his truck.

We went back and forth deciding whether we wanted this wall in the middle of the master bedroom. Now that it’s built, we’re glad we pulled the trigger. Kylee likes to have the treadmill in the bedroom, but I don’t like seeing it when it’s not in use. Our architect thought of this solution. Our bed will sit on the near side of the wall, and the treadmill will hide on the other side. This approach lets a lot more natural light into the room and provides a good visual anchor for the bed. Great solution.

This is the view of the kitchen, looking in from the front window. I love the shape the trusses create around those high windows.

We wanted the garage to be about the same height as the portion of the house with which it aligns. We decided to take advantage of the extra height by using trusses that created a bonus attic space.

This is the framed garage/casita. The portion without OSB will be clad with perforated, corrugated metal, which will provide some visual interest and allow the garage to breathe. As I’ve mentioned before, the engineer was really conservative in his modeling and required a ton of shearing. Somehow he missed the fact that we wouldn’t be using OSB on this part of the garage, so we had to work with him to find a solution he was comfortable with. He ended up agreeing that the let-in bracing you can see in the picture would do the trick.

Our kids are helpful in really short spurts.

We tried really hard to avoid having this transformer placed between our house and my parents’ house. But in the end SRP didn’t give us an option. I despise how the utility companies force decisions that make no concessions for homeowner preferences or convenience and that destroy design intent. This transformer sits right at the front of our property, creating a visual distraction and a parking hazard – especially for our looming teenage drivers. Ugh. But I do love electricity.

Here we’re trying out some lighting layouts. Those big barn lights on the ground lived in a mexican restaurant at some point. Guess which one and I’ll give you a prize. Notice that the roof in the main room was held up by a temporary support post while we were waiting for the tie rods to be fabricated.

We always envisioned having an old farm truck sitting in front of the house, donning seasonal decor in its bed. And . . . here it is! We bought this truck from a local tinkerer who turns these into works of art. For now, ours will just be an old junky truck. Our daughter is begging us to get it running. Maybe one day.

The original bed had some strange holes cut in the side. We had pictured a stakebed in the first place. So we had the bed removed and replaced with this flatbed.

For some reason I’m totally fascinated with the septic tank and seepage pit.

We found a guy who acquires these old bread pans from a local bakery by the truckload. We bought a few to use as small shelf units.

We’re trying those big barn lights in another location. Nope. Not here either.

The irrigation irritation continues.

The A/C ducting in this part of the house looks like something from a sci-fi movie.

We wanted exposed beams in the center volume of the house. This meant that we had to get creative with the insulation in the roof. The framers built the first roof structure that is exposed on the underside. Then they created uniform-sized cavities on the top of the roof and filled them with thick rigid foam insulation. Those were taped and foamed into place before sheeting was added on top as the outer roof layer. Extra work? Yes. Worth it? At the time I said no. In retrospect I say yes.

Picking and procuring windows was an ordeal! The original design called for black window frames. It was a real challenge to find a supplier who was willing to sell black frames made from a cost-effective, durable material. While you CAN buy fiberglass and vinyl windows in dark colors, manufacturers really don’t like selling them in AZ because the color fades and the sun creates performance problems in relatively short order. We could have used wood window frames clad in a durable, dark material, but that approach was nearly 4X the price of the other options.

Additionally, we didn’t want the windows to stick out farther than the trim. The trim we selected – because of its smooth texture – was thinner than other styles. Our preferred design was to have the windows set back in the opening a few inches. But installers were uncomfortable with this design and wouldn’t warranty the work if we required them to install it this way.

We ended up settling for white vinyl windows with solid energy efficiency and a good warranty, installed using a traditional profile. We honestly thought we might hate the windows. But . . . surprise! We LOVE them. Whew!

Calculating the thicknesses of the door jambs took way more coordination and discussion than I anticipated. We had several rounds of conversations with the framer, door supplier, siding contractor, and architect to make sure we got this right. Here’s a sketch I quickly made for one of our video conferences. All of the schematics were wrong, but it at least gave us a starting point for the conversation.

We wanted to experiment with a unique stair design. Glulam beams started to become a persistent design element int he house, so we decided to try build stairs out of them. Here you can see the framers testing out the prototype.

The original plan called for a tub in each of the kids’ bathrooms. Unfortunately, sometimes framing on site has to diverge from the plans a bit. In this case, that small change made it impossible to put a tub in the boys’ bathroom without causing other problems. So they got a shower – much to the dismay of their sisters who think they got the raw end of the deal.

We went to great lengths to make the envelope of the house as tight as possible as an energy savings measure and to prevent pest access. As one step in that effort, Kylee caulked all of the joints between the framing and foundation.

Seeing some plumbing in the walls gave us hope that one day this might be a functioning house. This is the wall between the laundry room and the boys’ room. That old tub sink will be a vintage touch in the laundry room.

More cabinet planning.

Both of my in-town siblings live within a couple miles of our house, but my parents are staying about 20 minutes away while they finish their home. We all like to visit Grandma and Grandpa on Halloween at their house, so this year they invited us to the first Halloween celebration on the new property. We had our traditional donuts and showed off costumes before heading out to trick-or-treat. This pic is in front of the Bluebird Cottage. The second is our family in front of Sunbeam Ranch. Happy Halloween!

Dustin Smith

Author Dustin Smith

Dustin is the father of four awesome kids and works as a consultant and entrepreneur in the entertainment attractions industry.

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