The Final Push

As an aside, as I write this in January of 2022, we’ve been [spoiler alert!] in the house for a couple of months now. Looking back at the final month or so of the build process before we moved in, it’s not a particularly bright spot in our memory. It wasn’t terrible – don’t get me wrong – but we’ve certainly been more at-ease since we’ve moved in. I’m not particularly eager to revisit the last month of the build, but here’s a rundown of what took us from getting water to getting in the house.

Making Do

The second half of October and most of November started to wear on us. What we had hoped would be a few weeks in temporary housing was turning into a few months. It was pretty in the Colorado high country, with the last of the leaves giving into snow, but we were ready to be in the house.

Running Trim

One of my big jobs was to run door and baseboard trim, since we didn’t have a trim carpentry crew. I should add: I am also not much of a trim carpenter. But it also isn’t terribly complicated, and I’m reasonably competent with a saw and a nail gun. And we still had caulk and paint to cover mistakes. I spent a lot of half-days squeezing in work on site when I could. One weekend a couple of friends came up to help me with the second story, which included trimming out the hacked Ikea bookshelves. Overall, we did a pretty decent job for a bunch of amateurs.

Deck Work

Though we didn’t have an interior trim crew, we did hire out the deck work. At first we were just going to hire out the deck framing and do the decking ourselves, but when the bids came back with pretty reasonable numbers on the decking, we decided to pay the money and get it done. By early November we were willing to shell out extra money to make sure we could get in the house by Thanksgiving. The deck crew was quick, and soon we had 600+ square feet of deck on the house. We opted for Trex since we get so much sun exposure and weather in the Colorado high country, and I hate maintenance staining and painting. We couldn’t technically use it just yet, since we didn’t have railings up. They would come – as another example of the crazy labor market, the first quote we got for welding deck railings was nearly $40,000. We eventually got it done for a little over $4,000.

“Final” Inspection

Things were finally set to complete our “final” inspection. We didn’t have decks finished or final paint or the last of our grading, but all of the other pieces were in place.

It did not go well.

A minor issue was that we didn’t have a fireplace key installed – the bit that allows you to turn off the gas line to the fireplace. Easy fix.

More critically, a hot water pipe was spewing water out of one of the fittings. This was a major screwup. Most of the pipes had apparently had water run through them, but the hot water heater hadn’t been filled and under pressure. I’m still at a loss as to 1) how the plumber could have screwed up a fitting so bad, and 2) how the getting-ready-for-inspection process hadn’t involved checking the function of all of the bits that moved water or power through the house. In any event, we failed. Fixing the fireplace key took about a day, fixing the pipe took about a week.

Stumbling Blocks

Once we got the pipe fitting fixed, we were ready to reset the final inspection. Or so we thought. Then Shaun got word that we needed to be 100% complete before we could get our Certificate of Occupancy (“CO”). Up until this point we believed that we could get a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (“TCO”), which basically meant “the house is livable and safe but not quite finished.” That would let us do things like finish the deck railings before getting our final CO. Now the word was that we needed to finish everything, which would take weeks more.

We weren’t happy.

I emailed the head inspector, his boss, and his boss’s boss, explaining that we had been in this process for months and Inspector was moving the goal posts on us. Inspector replied, offended, and suggested that Shaun was misleading us and knew that we didn’t need the decks done – just all of the other sign-offs on our “blue card.” After a fair amount of back-and-forth, it became clear that we needed to finish the final grading (which wasn’t yet done) and we could get everything signed off and get our CO. Which then involved more back-and-forth about whether we could bond our dirt work or whether we could get it knocked out.

That took another week or so of badgering our dirt work contractor. Finally the dirt work got done, and then he left his excavator parked in our yard for three weeks.

Then the inspection got pushed out once or twice as we were hanging around biting our nails.