About Our Blog

Welcome to Nosan Signature Homes Blog! Our goal is simple – change the world as it relates to building new homes! Since that is kind of daunting, for now we will settle for an intermediate goal - to have fun, educate and demystify the homebuilding process. Whether you are considering building a new home, have done it before or are simply a curious “gunner” (as in someday I am “gunner” build a new home) there should be something here for you.

Our vision is to do this through interaction and participation by folks who are interested in learning about the process of building a new home by involvement in real projects and eliciting input on how our homes should look, feel and behave. We will endeavor to make building our homes transparent and fun, to answer your questions and to make wise choices. We will build our homes on these pages as we build them on the actual sites. You can participate from far or near and will have opportunities to visit our homes and meet with the builder, architect, tradesmen and suppliers.

We ask that you feel free to participate and also, to bear with us, as this is truly an experiment and we will add and subtract features and change our focus from time to time. We won’t be perfect and will remain a “work in progress” for a long time (forever?) but we are committed to making this a great experience for all that participate.

 

While We Were Away......In Case You Noticed

Yes, it has been awhile since we last posted. But we are back with a newly styled website that is clean and easy to get around, better looking blog posts that are more easily searchable. And commenting or contacting us is easier than ever.
We have been building more than just our website having completed several large projects and a few smaller ones. Pictures and plans will start showing up in our galleries soon.
Please take a look at our Long Lake Pines project featuring 4 private wooded sites at Long Lake Road just west of Lahser Road. All Bloomfield Township approvals have been received and the site plan you can see on our Long Lake Pines page has changed significantly and is now final.
Designs for the homes at Long Lake Pines are just taking shape and you can influence them in significant ways. On the inside we will focus on generous and luxurious single floor living for all of your daily needs with options for additional space in high ceiling, light and airy walkout lower levels or adding second floor bedrooms - or both. Outside we will focus on timeless linear design in brick with stone accents, low maintenance aluminum clad windows and composite materials for fascia and extra deep overhangs - all in earth tones. You can preview early sketches on the Long Lake Pines page and please, feel free to comment using any media you are comfortable with from an anonymous email, to Facebook or Twitter, even a personal call or face to face meeting. All are welcome, really!
For those who missed us, thanks for waiting. For those who didn't, why not give us a try?

Almost there...

Well, we are coming to the end of our Turtle Pond Court project both inside and out. Exciting and a little melancholy at the same time. This week we are landscaping with an abundance of shrubs and mature trees. These will be installed and beds built in the next few days then followed by irrigation system, sod and a shiny finish coat on the driveway. [gallery link="file" ids="386,387,388"]

Inside, all of the mechanical and electrical work is done and inspections will be done tomorrow and Wednesday. Our stair rail had to be refinished because it didn’t pass the decorator’s inspection so we may not see it until Friday or Manday and we can’t get final building inspection without it. A real nail biter!

The cleaners were in to clean the windows and rough clean, tile, plumbing fixtures and countertops. Wood floors will be the last thing done. That will happen next week. We have asked the bank to close on the 24th. We will keep you up to date with pictures as we wrap things up here. Wish us luck!

After we complete this one we will start blogging more regularly on our newer projects. Thanks for your interest.

Finishing One and Starting Two More

The last couple weeks have been pretty hectic with all the details of finishing one project and starting several new ones. The pictures below speak for themselves and show a lot of progress on Turtle Pond Ct. Electrical, plumbing and hardware have mostly been installed. We are a bit behind waiting for countertops to be fabricated but they will be here soon and then we can prepare for final inspections and clean up. [gallery link="file" ids="381,382,383"]

This has been a pretty miserable spring but it looks like we will get our landscaping, sprinkler and sod installed in the next couple of weeks. We did a brick paver border on the sidewalk and will be pouring exposed aggregate concrete in the space between.

HILLS OF LONE PINE

We also started a “little” renovation project in a 3,000 square foot ranch with a walkout lower level of about 2,000 square feet.

BEFORE...


AFTER…


I am sure you get the idea!

We started by taking out all of the flooring – wood, marble, ceramic tile and carpet, all of the cabinets, appliances, plumbing fixtures (we left one working toilet for the workers) and all the doors, moldings and other trim materials. We aren’t doing anything structural but will move some doors and open up a couple of walls. This house is about 25 years old, hasn’t seen much updating and the level of maintenance inside and out was only fair. A buyer could have just moved in as you can see from the before pictures below but it was definitely dated. When we stripped back to the drywall (and studs in some areas) we found evidence of some old leaks but a basically sound structure. We will do some posts with before, after demolition and then rebuilt to new condition in the coming months. The new owners are veterans of many new construction projects and have assembled some great design professionals so this should be a very cool home when we are done.

TURTLE LAKE DRIVE

As we wind down this one, we are in for permits to start a sold custom home on Turtle Lake Drive. This house will be a similar size but more traditional four bedroom floor plan with the master suite on the second floor and some large volume two story spaces in the foyer and great room. This home is on a wooded site with steep grades and a full walkout lower level that will feature a 12 foot high ceiling in one area to host a golf simulator.

 LONG LAKE PINES

Last but not least is Long Lake Pines, our four lots on Long Lake Rd. just west of Lahser. We are working through all the various engineering approvals and expect to start development activities by June or July. We are also finalizing some floor plans and exterior architectural themes for this private enclave.

Much more to come so keep looking for our posts.

The Home Stretch

It’s been a couple weeks and we have made much progress. The fireplace hearth and surround – all carved limestone – has been installed!

Wood floors throughout the house are complete, the front door and transom window above have been set in place.

Our wood and glass garage doors have been installed

The lower level is totally caught up with upstairs so we can finish it out all together.

The finish (or trim) carpenters will arrive Monday to a house full of doors, cabinets and moldings to assemble and closet shelving to build.

You will see what looks like amazing progress in the coming weeks as it all comes together but, if you have followed us from the beginning you will recognize that the hard work was the planning required to allow us to make the finish happen smoothly. At least we hope that will be the case!

SOLD! Sort of...

As summer turns to fall and our carpenters walk gracefully and carefully on the engineered trusses that form our roof, we have taken a deposit on our house and it will be off the market while the new owners to be make sure everything is just the way they want it to be. 

The family has 3 children and they wanted the upstairs to have 3 bedrooms and 2 baths so we sketched up a design, they approved, gave us a non-refundable deposit and we changed it on the fly. Here is the old and new layout.

In addition to the cost to do this, the revisions involve carpentry, plumbing, heating, electrical, windows, cabinets, tile, interior doors and trim, etc. we need to communicate and coordinate all this stuff to all these people but that’s our job and we will get it done. We need to have a Plan B in case things don’t work out with our new buyers (the fact that we will make the effort and go to the expense of preparing a Plan B increases the likelihood that we won’t need to use it) so we are meeting with our interior designer next week to pick all of the finishes and colors so we can proceed promptly to completion in either event. Here is how things looked today.

Have a great and safe weekend!

Color Our Home

This week we worked on finalizing exterior colors. Our architect, Dominick Tringali, had a pretty good idea what we needed to do to accomplish a warm look and feel using “hard” materials like natural stone and cedar. He selected various colors and materials and we went out and got larger samples of each. Our developer and homeowners association (HOA) at Turtle Lake must also approve our colors and materials. The best way to get everyone on the same page is to build a mock up using the brick and stone we think we want and then bring samples of the other materials – wood trim, window frames, siding and roofing – so we can look at them in the environment they will “live” in. We haven’t committed to a stone mason yet but one of the best, Bruce Meininger, offered to come by and build our mock up wall. Mark, a very talented stone Mason took the sample material and went to work. This is what they made: Color BoardColor Board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our meeting with Dominick we brought the rest of the samples we have collected and laid them on the “wall”. Here is what that looked like:

Color Board

After our meeting with Dominick we decided to try the shingle color in the upper left corner and that we like the cedar siding on the upper right (we had a third sample that didn’t even make the cut). So we’ll get a bigger shingle sample and put them up again and then we will submit them to the developer and HOA. Hopefully, they will like them as much as we do and we will lock in our orders for everything so they will be there when we need them.

 

 

We also finished the block on our trench footings in the garage and our lanai (enclosed porch) so those areas are ready for the carpenter to build the walls on:

colorourhome6 colorourhome5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our structural steel beams and columns showed up and the driver coaxed them off the of the flatbed truck. Our carpenters will start the job by setting these in place.

More to come…..

Our Home - Bullet Points for this week

We continue to make good progress on site. Here’s what we did this week: We installed our sign!

Nosan Signature Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

We trenched and poured footings for the garage and lanai.

Trench and FootingsTrench and Footings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plumbers hooked up the drains around the outside of the basement walls to flow to the sump well where the sump pump will later be installed (and probably never needed for our sandy, dry basement).

The plumber also installed the sanitary sewer system and hooked it to the sewer lead we brought in from the street when we dug the basement.

Drains and Plumbing

Drains and Plumbing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our electrician installed the meter box so Detroit Edison can bring us power and the workers won’t have to run noisy generators.

We got our stone and brick samples and will make a mockup wall next week to show how they will look with the shingles and stain colors our architect, Dominick Tringali, picked. We will tweak these selections and then show them to the developer for his approval.

The steel beams were ordered and should be out next week so we can set them before we pour the basement floor once the inspector approves all of the underground plumbing.

Any questions, comments or requests regarding future or past topics? We will be happy to shape the discussion so it is relevant to you.

Transformers

What magic a day of earthmoving can work! Our basement now is a hole in the ground we can walk right up to and look in. All we can see is the brick ledge, the part that will be support the stone and brick we install after the carpenters build the frame of Our Home on top of this foundation. A bulldozer and loader are awesome machines in the hands of skilled operators they are Transformers! Here’s Matt at work cutting those big piles that were left from our excavation down to size and spreading and smoothing out the dirt all over the lot.

Foundation Turtle Lake tansformers

On Monday we will finish the grading and the land around Our Home will slope away from the brick ledge so water that comes from rain or snow will drain the way our engineer designed it to. Our surveyor will be out to check that the basement went in as planned and will certify what is there so we can turn it in to the township – I sure hope we got it right!

More happening this coming week:

We will trench, pour and block the garage and lanai footings.

Our truss manufacturer will come measure the basement to make sure the trusses that will form our roof will fit correctly.

We will measure for the steel beams we need in the basement and order them.

Our plumber will install the underground sanitary and storm drain systems so we can pour the basement concrete floor.

Our electrician will install a meter box so DTE, our electric power company can bring our electrical service underground from the area near the street to Our Home and our carpenters won’t need to run a noisy generator.

Well, that’s it for now. Please let us know if you have questions about Our Home or residential construction in general. We would love to help you gain a better understanding and perspective.

It looks so nice but we won't be seeing it again...

Our Home’s walls have been soaking up the sun this week and the concrete has been reaching the strength needed to allow us to safely place dirt all around the outside of our basement. This is called backfilling and we are once again fortunate to have this great sandy earth to use. We will brace the long sections of the wall on the inside to prevent the wall from pushing in and cracking. We are always careful when backfilling but it is a much more difficult task with “heavy” wet clay soils than with our sand. The pictures today show the gray concrete walls with their brick pattern inside and out just after the forms have been removed. Turtle Lake Foundation

These are those same walls with a black bituminous (read “tar”) coating applied all over and the granular gravel (pea stone) covering the plastic drain tile that surrounds the whole wall.

[gallery link="file" ids="101,99,98"]

This protects the drains from coming in direct contract with heavy clay soil and clogging. Again, not that big of a deal for us because our granular soil will let surface water easily flow to the drain tile. From there it will be drawn under the wall through openings the footing crew provided called bleeders. Our plumber will find all the bleeders on the inside, attach pipe to them and direct any flow to the sump pump well. When enough water fills this well, the float attached to the pump will rise, the pump will turn on and water will pumped up and out of Our Home. In this neighborhood it must go to an underground connection and flow to the storm drains beneath the road. It will eventually end up in a wetland, river and lake! Anyhow, without these drain tile, water would pool against the outside of the wall and cause so much hydrostatic pressure that the wall would leak through a crack or rod hole or, in severe cases, collapse inward and part of the house on top of it. And you thought a dry basement was a “given”? The pictures above also show some flat concrete that extends to the edge of the excavation.

Turtle Lake Black Tar (3)

These are pieces of footing that will have cement blocks placed on the to provide support for the garage and lanai footings that will be trenched about 42″ deep, much shallower than the wall footings. These are called “lead walls” and they will be installed before the building inspector allows us to backfill. When we go back next week to trench the footings for the garage and lanai we will go right on top of these lead walls. That square hole in the wall will be our “egress window”.

It will have a “well”, a half circle made from steel or plastic that will allow daylight in our basement and provide a means os escape in an emergency. While all this has been going on we have hired our carpenter, plumber, electrician and HVAC contractor. We are waiting for our stone and brick samples to arrive so we can build a mock up of our walls and roof to make a final determination of those materials and colors. We are also talking to stone masons, fireplace installers, roofing suppliers painters, etc. it is a busy time indeed. If you have questions or comments including why we did something differently than you may have thought, please ask us and we will do our best to respond. On technical issues we will even try to bring our skilled trades into the conversation.

What a wall!

We have been working on the foundation for Our Home and it is a big one! Because we have this beautiful, dry sand base our spread footings could go in just as they were planned. Often times we find problems at this stage that require us to dig deeper and pour extra concrete or engineer a solution to poor soils. Not Our Home, we were able to install the spread footings (a concrete pad that is wider than the basement wall we will build and takes the weight of the wall itself and the house we will build on top of it and spreads it over a wider area). These footings took two men about a day to prepare the wood forms and another day to install the reinforcing steel and place the concrete. Footings are so important that the building inspector must come out and inspect and approve them before concrete can be poured in the forms. If he doesn’t like what he sees he can halt the job and demand an engineer evaluate the situation and either certify it is acceptable or design a repair to address the problem the inspector noted. Our men had to wait a couple hours for the inspector to come but he gave his blessing and they were able to place all the concrete so the wall panels could be installed. The next morning the wall panels or “forms” arrive in racks on a boom truck and they are placed in the basement.

The forms for the footings are removed and stacked outside the excavation so they can be loaded up and moved to the next job. Considering the size of the wall and the quantity of forms it is hard to believe that this is a precision operation. If the wall is not set and poured to the exact plan dimensions and not level and square, Our Home will not come out right. There are some things even a good carpenter can’t fix. If we were to build this wall in a straight line it would stretch longer than a football field. It will take about 100 cubic yards (30 feet long by 30 feet wide by three feet deep) of concrete to fill the forms.

[gallery link="file" ids="95,94,93,92"]

This concrete was delivered in 11 transit mix trucks and they lined up down the street waiting their turn to dump their load. The walls must also be in the correct location on the lot itself. To accomplish this, our surveyors placed several stakes in the ground outside the excavation just for the purpose of giving these guys a reference point. Our excavator was careful not to destroy them or pile dirt on them so the footing and wall crews had no problem getting our foundation in the right place. Later, we will need the surveyor to come out and measure for an accurate “as built” drawing we will need to give to the township with his seal on it to prove it was all done according to the site plan we gave them when we applied for our building permit. Interestingly, the building inspector doesn’t need to look at the wall forms. So, when they are done, checked and double checked by the crew, the concrete is ordered and we start the pour. We have good access to the forms so those 11 trucks come and go dumping their loads of wet concrete and it flows into the forms and starts seeking a level. Once the pour starts we don’t stop because for strength we want a monolithic wall with no seems or joints and no areas where the concrete in the forms sets up and doesn’t bond with the new concrete. The good news is it all went well and the wall as completed in a single pour. The bad news is we ran past our mandated quitting time of 6PM and got at least one neighbor upset. We brought them a big box of Mrs. Fields Cookies and a contrite note apologizing for our faux pas. We will try not to let anything like this happen again!

And tomorrow, the big reveal, the panels come off and we will have one big monolith of a wall….stay tuned.

The truth about dirt, footing installation, and lots of planning

So, from a physical perspective we excavated Our Home and were pleasantly surprised with the sandy soil, we trucked out 650 cubic yards of excess sand we know we can’t use and we got the forms installed for the footings. Not so bad for a three day week since Monday was Memorial Day and it rained all day Friday! We have another little challenge in scheduling as our neighborhood has rules limiting working hours to Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and the Township has cut back to a four day week so no inspections on Friday. We asked for an extra hour on weekdays and the ability to work Saturdays and we were granted that subject to our continued good behavior and not being a nuisance to our neighbors. As to the township, we just have to deal with that. So what is the “truth” about dirt? It is that invariably a lot is either short or long dirt. This is especially so with custom home developments and lots with natural features. When presented with a beautiful treed site with a deep gully or high knob, few developers (and the municipalities they are working in) want to tamper with these features because they look so beautiful and many times are protected by local ordinances that allow only the minimum disturbance reasonably needed to build a home. Sometimes new trees must be planted to compensate for those removed. In the unlikely event permission is given to alter or fill a low area with standing water, there may be costly conditions imposed on the owner. So the roads and utilities are put in and the imaginary lines for the lots are drawn on the paper site plan and working out how to build a house on these beautiful parcels is left to the architect, surveyor and builder. While the lot for Our Home had no wetlands or trees (except some nice pines on a landscaped berm along the back that were out of our way), it was left with more dirt than could possibly remain on site once a house with a basement was built on it.

Sandy Lot Turtle Lake

This made for a nice lawn that drained toward the street but became our challenge once we selected the lot. Most of the lots in this development that had no natural features and were shaped “mass graded” by the developer were left high or long dirt for a combination of reasons which we can only speculate about now. We didn’t help the problem by making Our Home a large footprint with 3,500 square feet of basement. We are convinced Our Home is the right product for this market and did consider trying to mitigate the excess dirt by building part of Our Home on a slab or raising it higher above the street but in the end we felt the best combination of function and aesthetics was to site Our Home as we did, bite the bullet and haul away the excess dirt. We were fortunate to find a site nearby where some homes will be starting soon that is terribly short on dirt so they were glad to have ours :-) .

Enough dirt talk, if you want to know more, just ask! What else has been going on? As it happens, quite a bit. We are hard at work finalizing contracts for our carpenter, lumber supplier, roof truss and manufactured floor system suppliers, windows, plumber, heating and air conditioning (HVAC), and electrical contractors. We also met with Dominick Tringali, our architect, to finalize some questions about exterior materials we will use and the color palette for Our Home. These will have to be submitted to and approved by the homeowners association and developer. Finally, we have been working on marketing. Our Home is now listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) by the on site brokerage company that will handle selling it and we developed a logo for Nosan Signature Homes, see below. Should have our sign up next week.

Logo

Beginnings

We have now rolled up our sleeves and are ready to get on with the work of actually building Our Home. Our architect, Dominick Tringali, has drawn our plans – this is a collaborative effort – together we have tried to Value Engineer Our Home. Simply put this means finding alternatives that cost less but do not negatively affect the quality of the project. When we drew the plan we wanted Our Home to be beautiful and look timelessly elegant. How Our Home “sits” on the lot and relates to its surroundings is a combination of artistic nuance and technical competence. To accomplish this we hire a Registered Land Surveyor and Licensed Engineer to help us situate Our Home on the lot. We must consider the existing topography and natural features, how close we are allowed to build to each property line of our lot, how high or low Our Home will be relative to the street, how water will drain away from us when it rains or snow melts, the location of utilities we need to bring to Our Home, and numerous other factors.

As if this is not enough, the Homeowners Association wants to review these plans to assure Our Home will fit in with the existing homes and homes that will be built later. Over a couple of weeks of dialogue they request we add some things, change some things and agree to abide by their rules and regulations governing construction. The Turtle Lake Homeowners Association is on the high end of the spectrum compared to others we have worked with but we get things worked out to their satisfaction and move on with our approved plans to the Township to apply for our building permit.

A building permit is just one of a bundle of permits we need before we can start construction. The list includes a Soil Erosion permit from the County, (we don’t need a driveway permit because we are on a private road), a Soil Erosion permit from the Township (based on the County one), sewer and water tap permit, applications to gas and electric companies for their service. The Township Building Official reviews our Association approved plans for compliance with national building codes in the form adopted by the Township and Township ordinances and rule concerning site work and construction. After two weeks, we receive a long checklist indicating there were no problems with our architect’s drawings (amazing) but with some changes and notes they want added to our site plan – nothing big here either. We address these promptly and within a few days we are called with the good news that our permit is ready to pick up once we get approval that our site is ready for construction.

Ahhh, we knew this was coming so we went out and prepared for the inspection already so we told them to go right out and take a look. This is what they saw.

Turtle Lake Lot

The black material is “silt fence” that is trenched into the ground to prevent dirt from washing into the street or other folks’ yards. The Township wants it all around the lot even though it is useless where the slope is uphill. There is a temporary driveway of course crushed concrete to give trucks clean access and (hopefully) keep them from tracking mud on the road. The orange fence is interesting. In the rear of the lot it is there to provide a physical barrier to protect the trees up on the berm from our construction activity. This is kind of standard but the orange fence on the sides and rear is new. The Township has decided that they want to protect people from wandering on to a construction site and getting injured. This is their solution along with making us keep it intact until Our Home is fully enclosed and lockable. There is also a port-a-potty required. It is just barely in this frame at the far left.

So we are finally ready to break ground…..that was easy!

What should Our Home look like, how should it function?

We start with the environment and build on what is already there. Turtle Lake has a theme of timeless classic elegance from the boulder and cedar gatehouse, natural landscapes and winding streets emphasizing views os lakes, woods an old sprawling country estate home, barns and white fences. Our Home in the Ponds section will be adjacent to existing homes with stone, cedar and traditional but comfortable architecture. The homes of the Ponds emphasize width over height and the homes themselves create the environment. The sites are professionally maintained by the homeowners association. We wanted Our Home to be unique yet no disruptive. From a functional point of view we wanted a home that was casually elegant, think Ralph Lauren or Martha Stewart – rich, warm colors and textures, functional yet beautiful. Big open spaces for cooking and entertaining both indoor and outdoors. Multiple spaces for private enjoyment, creative pursuits or taking care of business. Space for a visiting child, grandchild or parent to visit and stay without infringing on the owners’ space. A design that would allow for many years of ownership and easily adapt and adjust to changes in family composition and personal needs.

To capture these thoughts and turn them in to a tangible design we shared them with Dominick Tringali, reviewed things both he and we had done before and then started with a blank paper to create what will be Our Home. You can review the plans here and let us know what you think!

The Beginning

So here we are, about to start Our Home. We have already done quite a bit of work to get here. Most of this work is documented in the Lot 24 Turtle Pond Court pages on this website. It all starts with the selection of a homesite. A homesite can be created in one of several ways. A platted lot, a site condominium or by a metes and bounds description. Most people refer to a single family homesite as a “Lot” and we will use that term for Our Home even though it is actually a “unit” in a site condominium development called Turtle Lake and it is in a section of Turtle Lake that has been called “The Pond”. You can see the Turtle Lake Community here and The Pond and our Lot 24 here.

Why Turtle Lake? We wanted to build Our Home in a unique community that features a convenient location with access to major transportation, high quality amenities, open space, privacy and security. we also wanted to associate with a developer with vision and an ability to execute. We chose The Pond because it includes turnkey professional maintenance of the homesite from lawn care to flowers, shrubs, irrigation and snow removal to produce a groomed and manicured look. The appeal is to anyone from a busy family to empty nesters and singles with priorities other than cutting their lawn and shoveling snow. See more about Turtle Lake and Victor International here.