April 2024: What Happens When Things Go Right

Number 120, April 2024

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Have you ever had a day when things just did not go well?

George did. He managed to get his knees stuck in the slats of the play yard railing. Will, his brother, had to take the slat off to free him, but not until his laughing Mama had taken a picture — George was not as amused as his Mama was!


Henry’s ducks really enjoyed the rain in February & March!

From the Desk of Bill….

Over the years, we moved a number of times. I was doing electronic design work. There is not much demand for independent designers, so I ended up working for large companies. Those companies were typically located in or near large cities which was where I really did not want to live. 

­One of the places we lived for several years was Prescott in northern Arizona. I did design work for video displays in business jets. The company was small and the main office was in California. Prescott was a small western sort of town. Coming from Florida, Arizona was very different. There were not many saguaro cacti growing there because they don’t seem to grow much higher than 3,000 above sea level and Prescott was about 5,200 feet. 

Surprisingly, our house did not have air conditioning. Most houses did not. They had “swamp coolers” that used evaporating water to cool the air. At that altitude, the weather did not get that hot. There were only a couple of weeks each year when AC would have been nice. When that happened, we spent most of our time in the walk out basement.

Water was a big deal in the west. When the Mormons first settled what is now Mesa in the Phoenix valley, I was told they would hand dig wells and hit water about 60 or 70 feet down. When we were there in the early 1980s, water was about 1,200 feet deep because so much was pumped to provide for the people living in the valley. In Prescott, the wells were about 800 feet deep (if I remember correctly).

There was even a town north of us (Ash Fork) that I was told was a “dry” town. “Dry” as in no water, not no alcohol. The railroad had built a side track in the town so train cars could be parked off the main line. To supply water, a tank car full of potable (drinkable) water was parked on the siding. The city would connect the tank car to their water system and provided the town with water. When the tank car was empty, the railroad would pull the empty tank car and bring in a new full one. I have no idea if this is true, but guys at work told me it was. 

The altitude was high enough that there were very few flying insects. There was no insect screening on the house where we lived. That was quite the change coming from Florida where the mosquitoes were so large, they needed landing lights. Prescott did have a few undesirables: rattle snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and such.

I remember a rattle snake made the mistake of slithering on our concrete patio that overlooked a 10 mile wide valley. Kandy saw it and with a long handled flat shovel diced it into about 1 inch segments. When I got home, she wanted me to bury it, so I shoveled up the pieces and put it to rest.

We also had a little road runner visit once. He was colorful and little – about a foot high. He was fast like the road runner cartoons. We also had tarantulas visit occasionally. Some were large with a body about the size of a tennis ball and legs as large as my fingers. I was assured by guys at work they were not dangerous, but I still stayed away from them.

One of our favorite activities was visiting the Grand Canyon. It was a fun day trip. We would pack a lunch and drive north for a couple of hours and stare at the 20 mile wide, 1 mile deep canyon. (As a side note, the Grand Canyon National Park is on our list of stops this summer with a couple of grandchildren.)

We also liked having a picnic on Mingus Mountain (8,800 feet above sea level). Mingus was across the empty valley behind our house – about 15 miles away. We would have lunch on the top of the mountain and wander through the pine trees. It was fun to find sea shells on the top of the mountain – a seemingly unlikely place for shells. Some claimed the shells were picked up in the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of California by birds and dropped on the mountains. Somehow, that seemed a little far fetched thinking a bird would pick up a sea creature, fly a couple of hundred miles north, gain nearly 9,000 feet in altitude before dropping the shell. Anyway, the children (6 at that time) liked to find them.

Abbey was born while we were in Arizona. Since we were on Mountain time, she arrived on Valentine’s Day (February 14) about 10:30 pm. If we had been in Eastern time, it would have been on February 15 – how disappointing.

While we were in Arizona, we took the children to as many historic and geographic areas as we were able. We visited Indian ruins, an extinct volcano, old western towns, Route 66 locations, mountains, petrified trees, the painted desert, the London Bridge (in Lake Havasu City), the Yuma Territorial Prison and even Meteor Crater in north east Arizona. We visited Four Corners, the only place four states meet. We even stood “on a corner in Winslow, Arizona”.

Rebekah (Becky) is one of our newest employees. 

She is Bill & Kandy’s second oldest daughter. Becky lives in the Knoxville area and works remotely keeping our books in order. Her husband is the Vice President of Engineering for Appalachian Electric Cooperative. They have four children.

What Happens When Things Go Right?

Building a home involves a number of parties and a number of steps. With careful coordination, sometimes those can go very quickly. They involve the contractor (of course), sub contractors, suppliers and, importantly, the home owner.

We built one guest home (about 1,100 square feet with a garage) in about 26 weeks (from Building Permit issued to Certificate of Occupancy). The project was not without problems. The foundation plans did not match the final house plans, the concrete for the slab was “hot” (set faster than it could be finished), the plans had a wall of no thickness to make the cabinets fit. (Zero thickness on plans is one thing, but “building” a wall of zero thickness is another issue.)

So why did the job go so quickly? One of the keys was the home owner knew what they wanted before we began and they did not make any changes as we built. Another key was the availability of the materials. No unusual or difficult to obtain materials were specified. The cabinets were decided early, so they arrived in time. Subs were also available and things worked out well 

This guest house was completed in 181 calendar days (including Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays).

Projects don’t always move that quickly. Today, it seems some subs are a bit more disorganized and have difficulties meeting schedules. Sometimes there are material shortages. Sometimes owners are not sure what they want. Normally, we provide a “decision date” timeline. This indicates, ideally, when we need to know decisions in order to not slow the project. Some items, interior paint colors, for example, have short lead times. Some items such as cabinets typically have lead times in months. Waiting until the house is ready for cabinets to specify them will delay the project while it waits for the cabinets. Since some people have a difficult time visualizing the final product based on paper plans, it is understandable why some would choose to wait to decide. That is fine as long as everyone realizes there is some finite time between a decision and implementation.

Hurricanes can deplete materials and disrupt the building process. The current economic situation can affect subcontractors. With too much business, it takes time to get them to our job site. With too little business, sometimes, employees go somewhere else where the grass is greener.

While the 6 month project was nice to manage, a little later, we beat that one. This was a guest house with a two bay garage (2,400 square feet total). The owners knew what they wanted and the plans were well drawn. Subs arrived when we needed them. There were no material shortages. This guest house took just 163 calendar days (Permit to CO). There were not any significant problems building this home. 

­­­This guest house took less than 6 months to build. Everything fell into place.

Another home we built went quickly also. This was a 4,700 square foot home with a two car garage, walk out basement(!) and deck. There were some hiccups in this home construction, but we quickly overcame them. It was unique in that it has a basement and a second floor. The owners made their decisions in a timely fashion and we were able to keep the project moving quickly in spite of several bumps in the road. Permit to CO was 301 calendar days. Incidentally, this home was designed in-house, by Willis Sinclair Homes, so it would be efficient to build. 

This 4,700 square foot home took less than 10 months to complete (permit to CO).

Building quality homes is more important than building homes quickly, but when you can have both it is very nice!

Are you thinking about building? Call or text (843 846 2500), or email (info@willissinclair.com). We can help.
­© 2024 Willis Sinclair, Inc.

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