Structural Engineering and Countertops

Once the initial design was done, Shaun handed the plans off to the structural engineers. Structural engineering takes the design and ensures the building wouldn’t fall over or sink into the ground. It involves the process of detailing the house to decide, for example, how big rafters would need to be in order to hold up the roof’s snow loads. Or how big window headers needed to be in order to support the weight of the structure over the window openings. 

As we understood it, Shaun’s design intended to make some of these things straightforward, placing the structural loads onto the house’s exterior walls and using off-the-shelf components cut to standard sizes of dimensional lumber and building components. Custom is expensive.

This left us without a ton to do. We expected the structural engineering to take a couple of weeks, though it took significantly longer — about a month. Some of that was due to the engineers, and some was due to the HOA’s initial rejection of our plans. More on that later. But on the whole, when the engineers had the plans for the first pass, we didn’t have any decisions to make or design input to give.

Countertop Shopping

We spent our time adding things to our ever-growing Pinterest board. We also went out to a granite… store? Merchant? Purveyor? To take a look at some potential countertop surfaces in person.
We saw some pretty ones:

The field trip was helpful; we looked at a lot of quartz samples (which, ironically, isn’t the element, it’s a composite of stone and epoxy and other science things. “Quartzite,” in countertops, refers to the actual natural stone. “Quartz” refers to the composite). Then we walked through a huge warehouse that was full of slabs of real stone, mostly granite and marble.

Fortunately for our marriage, we tended to like the same material: marble or marble-looking stone or composites with streaks, rather than speckles (like granite trends toward). We like the patterns busy enough to hide crumbs and spills, without quiiiiite getting to so busy as to look speckled. Something kind of like this. At least that was our pick for kitchen countertops.

Not quite speckled marble

For smaller bathroom vanities, we were partial to funky indigo stone, at least for our upstairs powder room and master bathroom. Though penciling out the prices of some of the more expensive options, even a small piece of high-end marble would make for a significantly more expensive kitchen countertop compared to, say, a prefabricated laminate option. So we took some photos and filed things away. Shopping for ideas and inspiration is a lot easier than shopping for actual purchases.

Fancy indigo