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Building a home, week 8: Choosing lights and a flooring debate

It is hard to believe that it has been just two months since we met Steve Lecas of Gander Builders and started on the home buying/building process. Nevertheless, here we are at week eight in this ongoing saga, "Building a home." So much has happened in these last two months that it seems like the process started months and months ago. That's not to say that it hasn't been enjoyable. It has. But along with the fun comes plenty of stress, too. There are dozens of decisions to be made, which is fun and creative, but there is pressure. Then, there is the packing, which is ongoing. Compound that with worries when you hear the cash register in your head go "cha-ching" every time you make a decision and you can't help but wonder, "Will this be worth it? Are we making the right decisions?"

Early Saturday morning we had decided on a new stain for the windows and door. The lighter stain, while beautiful, detracted from the dark brown trim and posts.
Cheryl Dangel Bartolini
After two months of coming up and down makeshift stairs, the finished stairway was installed late this week.
Cheryl Dangel Bartolini

You second guess yourself 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The process is fun, crazy, frustrating and exhilerating all at the same time. This week was no exception.

May 17: An early morning meeting at the house to change the stain on the windows and door resulted in a fast decision. A darker stain was unanimously approved after the Minwax Black Walnut, which looked great a few weeks ago, detracted from the James Hardie dark brown house trim and front posts. This time a gel stain was used to cover the previously stained and varnished mahogany. As soon as we chose the color, the painter was off; he'll come back later in the week to finish the job.

We had a very productive meeting with Don Esler of Don’s Shelving about our closet organizers. He brought the original plans that we requested and also delivered some additional ideas, too. For instance, rather than have just a linen closet with shelves between the master bedroom closet and the master bath, he suggested turning the closet into a built-in cabinet. We really liked the idea because it solves the problem of having three doors in a small hallway, one to the closet, one to the linen closet and another to the bathroom.

May 19: We spent nearly three hours at Crest Lighting in New Lenox choosing lighting fixtures. It was a very productive meeting. Now we just need to wait and see if a couple of the fixtures we chose are still available.

May 20: The drywalling is complete at the house. Outside, work was done to prepare for the radiant heat in the garage and back porch.

May 21: They primed the entire house. Oh, if only everything could go so fast. Later in the evening, received word that the wood flooring installer declined to work with the Swedish hardwood finish that we requested. Instead, he is advocating for Bona’s Traffic. Flashback to the late 1990s: In a former residence, I had an old pine floor refinished that had been painted green and buried under subfloors. It looked like a floor straight out of the HGTV show, Rehab Addict. At the same time, a new Brazilian Cherry hardwood floor was installed in an adjacent room. At the time, I had dogs and cats and wanted a durable finish. A Swedish finish with the brand name of Synteko Classic was recommended. The result was incredible. The floors looked like glass and were gorgeous. Best of all, they held up to all wear and tear and scratches.

Subsequently, when the time came to install a hardwood floor in my current home, I requested the same product but the installer urged me instead to go with Bona Mega, a waterbased product. He pointed out that the product is safer than the Swedish finishes, which have fumes and can be toxic. That was really a moot point since I hadn't yet moved into the house and I assume that installers take the proper precautions when working with the product. Yet, I was under a time crunch and trusted him; I allowed him to persuade me to go against my better judgement. I went with his recommendation only to have the floors fail in several areas within a couple of months. I have since learned that they cannot be spot refinished and when the product starts to degrade, it does so rapidly and it looks awful.

Now that scenario is repeating itself. We don't want to delay the schedule, but we also do not want to settle for something that does not have our utmost confidence, even if it claims to be durable and for commercial use. A hardwood floor installation is too big an investment to take any chances. With no one to install the product, I did a quick search of the web to find Synteko Classic distributors in the Chicago area and provided the list to Lecas. We’ll see what happens next.

May 22: The house re-staining is complete and looks fantastic. We finalized our plans for the closets and received a revised landscape plan. We arrived at the house and, as scheduled, they started installing the stairs. While only a portion was installed, we are still very impressed.

May 23: The concrete was poured in the front porch, garage and back porch. The flooring issue is causing a delay, so some dates are sliding further back into the schedule. Phone calls and emails are flying. Now, we get to take a break over the long holiday weekend.

To read this journey through the home building process from the beginning, click here. To read the next installment, click here.

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