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Left Coast / Right Coast: Building a house – the end is in sight

I’ve written before on us building a new home just down the street from where we currently live. It’s been a slow slogging through the mud process. But at last we can see the end. Just today, they were installing the cabinets in the bathrooms and the kitchen, then the appliances will be put in.
Mike Gold building a house in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Frank Hammer.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

I’ve written before on us building a new home just down the street from where we currently live. It’s been a slow slogging through the mud process. But at last we can see the end.

Just today, they were installing the cabinets in the bathrooms and the kitchen, then the appliances will be put in. After that, the final electrical work and plumbing. (Electrical – putting in all the lighting fixtures, wall switches, wall plugs, etc. and for plumbing – putting in all the fixtures, toilets, sinks, etc.)

Each time I think we’re getting close, another half dozen things pop up. For example, the driveway has to slope a certain percentage between the garage floor and the street. So we have had a front end loader moving dirt around for days. The idea is the county wants you to be able to pull out of your driveway without losing control of your car on a “too steep” sloped driveway.

Another detail – one has to “legally” locate the edges of the property. We did this at least twice before – using a surveyor to mark these points with stakes. However, for some reason, the stakes have managed to “move” quite by themselves, so we had to re-measure and re-locate them again.

On the driveway subject, ours intersects the street in front of the house at an angle. Simply a matter of making the slope of the driveway meet the county specifications. Well, they also want you to make the driveway intersect the street at a 90 degree angle. Reason? So when you are ready to pull out onto the street – you can easily see in both directions. (It’s a safety thing.) Fact is there isn’t a driveway on our street that actually meets the 90 degree specification. It’s simply a geometry problem. If you come down to the street at too “direct” an angle – the slope of the driveway can be too steep.

What you have to do is meet with the county inspector and have a discussion about what is and isn’t possible.

Next, the elevator. We decided given the relatively high end type of home, an elevator was really required. That’s because there are four living levels in the house (including the garage). It has taken two or three men at least ten days to “build and install” the elevator. One (at least I do) tends to think of an elevator as a small room suspended on cables that run up the elevator shaft walls. Not quite. Ours was actually “assembled” from dozens of piece-parts.

None of the finished product actually looks like an elevator like you see in an office building. The floor of the elevator looks simply like a large square piece of wood. Then they assembled brackets to hold everything together. Sort of like building it out of Legos. So once you get everything in shape and “working,” there are three separate “approval processes” the county has to go through. The last only after the house has its Certificate of Occupancy.

My last complaint has to do with sales tax. A few years ago, the state decided that all sub-contractors working on a house would be required to charge sales tax. Given that in our county the tax is just over 10%, that adds well over $100,000 to the cost of building a higher end home.

Yeah, I know sales tax is required to raise revenue as our state does not have (at present) an income tax. I say “at present” as certain progressive members of our state legislative branches have tried on several occasions to implement an income tax. Fortunately, the state Supreme Court has ruled over and over that it is unconstitutional – according to our state charter.

As W.C. Fields said: “Show me a politician that does not want to implement more taxes and I’ll show you something that does not exist naturally in nature.”

Oh, well, now onward to getting our CO (certificate of occupancy). I hope I don’t have to grovel too badly in front of the county inspector. I don’t do well at groveling.

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