Mill Creek Haunted Hollow: Construction BLOG

Entry 1: November 8, 2011
Hi everyone.

Some of you may remember me posting design plans last year to remodel the front of my house into a true Victorian manor to fully maximize the architectural elements for Halloween (follow the link to the old thread).

Well, I have been working on the building plans for almost a year and I hope to start building in the spring.

So, here is what my house looks like without any decorations:

And this is what I'm hoping to build:

So, if the IRS isn't too evil and I don't get laid off in March 2012 (that's when the company always announces layoffs so first quarter can look good on the books) I hope to start building in the spring. Just to kick things off, my wife and I went to an architectural salvage store and build new front doors for $190. I'll strip the old paint and fix them up, but it's a start!

Posted by Jack Skellington: Very nice, I guess the other half is on board with this? You're so lucky.
My wife loves the new bathroom I put in last year, so she's on board. The deal was, no big builds for 2011, so I took the year off from remodeling and we've been saving money. I also sold both of my motorcycles to help pay for the project.
Posted by Camsauce: There's no doubt the design is awesome. Before proceeding though, I'd get some second opinions from your neighbors. Something like this might out-class or otherwise look very out of place in your neighborhood.
Fortunately for me, the neighbors on my cul-de-sac don't have a problem with the remodel. The HOA doesn't have anything in the CC&Rs to prohibit an architectural change of this sort, and because I live in the unincorporated area of the county, building permits are easy to get and I don't have to follow any city regs.

The other perfect thing about my house is that it's hidden in a corner at the bottom of a street next to a park and a protected stream, so it's actually hard to see. The only time you even notice the house is when you come all the way down into the cul-de-sac.

Posted by Scarybella: It's going to look great!!
Do you not have to submit plans for any alterations for any work like this in America like we do in the UK. if the planners dont like the design of your plans they wont allow you to build it, or you will need to change things. I'm not being argumentative just curious I only argue with myself, but my medication helps me keep this to a minimum.

I will keep checking in here to see what's happening

That is a great question and the short answer is, YES.

What I need to do before actually building anything is draw up detailed plans that are designed to federal and state building codes, then take those plans to the county to have all aspects approved and request permits. For this build, I will need a specific building permit for foundation work so that I can build the proper footings to reinforce the current foundation to support the new structure. I will also need a building permit for the structure itself, and I will need an electrical permit for the new wiring that will go into the addition.

Once I get the permits, I can start building. Throughout the building process, the county will send out representatives to evaluate the project. At certain stages of the remodel, I will also need to call out specific county officers to approve work when it is complete (like the foundation and the electrical).

So, there are permits that need to be obtained and a series of assessments that need to be made throughout the build, but it's nothing like the headache of trying to renovate something in the U.K.

Posted by Scarybella: it's a bit similar to over here then. I understand a bit of what goes on over there thanks to my good old friend Mike Holmes lol. "if you're going to do it right. then do it right the first time".. I have moved on from my days of watching this old house with Steve and Norm I am doing quite a lot of work on our house as we speak but nothing on this scale. Good luck with the work.

HA! Yes, I watch a lot of Mike Holmes as well. I've learned a lot from his show over the years. I completely agree with the thought, "do it right the first time".

Entry 2: November 9, 2011
While my neighborhood is not that old (built in 1984) it still has quite a variety of home styles, and there are even a few that have that sort of "modern victorian" look to them with scallop siding and towers and such. The main difference between my neighborhood and more classic styles is the big picture windows everyone has.

Here are some examples of other houses in the neighborhood.

Entry 3: November 14, 2011
May have run into a snag. It seems my current plans include a main tower that is 35 ft tall. Zoning regulations say I'm in a zone that allows for maximum height of 30 ft.

Entry 3, Continued: November 14, 2011
HA! Gotta love grandfather clauses. Since my house was built in 1984, under the old standards for height restrictions, and carrying over to a new permit based on it being an addition of less than 30% in new square footage, the basis for height is equal to the predetermined base elevation of the home as it carries to the midpoint of the peak! (not the ridgeline)

So, that means that the tower can be 35ft tall because it is only a protrusion above the maximum height by 5ft for a footprint of 76 sq ft. If I take the average of that height in combination with the overall roof square footage, based on their math of encompassing space, calcuatiung "average height", I'm okay!

The simple way to say it: "You're not adding a third story to your house, just a tower -- you'll be fine." (clerk from permit office)

Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Congrats TK! Nothing like a tiny little clause in the code to let you get away with pure, unadulterated awesomeness!

Entry 4: November 15, 2011
Here's the latest design. I dropped the tower roof by a foot, changed the windows, changed the dimensions of the garage tower, changed out the columns and balusters, and corrected the roof line a bit.

Here's a better diagram of what I hope to do for the porch pillars and ballusters.

Posted by TNBrad: All I can say is OMG! What do you do for a living?

I'm so looking forward to seeing everything

I'm a graphic designer by trade. I love to design and build things, and I've been remodelling our house since we bought it in 2003.
Posted by Halloweeny78: Umm ... I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said, but I will proceed to pick my jaw up off the floor! Your plans, much like your imagination, is awe inspiring! Finding the perfect house is often difficult to say the least, unless of course you build one yourself! Congrats on your passion and the will to follow through! Looking forward to seeing it progress and, or course, the finished project. Yours will certainly be an awesome haunt!

Just think of the possibilities for your giant spider!

I don't think the small dormers on the garage tower will be difficult to build, but I see your concern regarding debris. I'm hoping the height of the tower and the angle of the roof will help limit anything getting stuck.

Posted by CraigInPa: The house looks great.

You may want to reconsider the plethora of dormers on the right side tower. Unless you're going to sheet that area of roof in copper with welded seams, that's going to be a trap for every bit of debris, plus it'll be quite challenging for your average carpenter to build as drawn.

You may want to consider a period correct european style chimney pot to dress up the flat chimney.

Entry 5: December 5, 2011
I know it's been awhile, but I took some time over the Thanksgiving holiday to start building a scale model of what my house would look like with the additions I'm planning. Now, the model is not complete yet, and I only started to paint it, but these are the actual Behr paint colors I'm hoping to use for the siding and the door and details.

So far, it's been great pratice building the scale model to see just how things will fit together. Also, the whole model comes apart by floor, so I can see where interior walls are, stairs, etc.

Remember, this is what my house looks like right now!

Posted by Jack Skellington: That's great...then you can build scale model props and decorate it for Halloween too!
Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Looks great TK! Are you going to do a Widow's Walk around the upper roof? Possibly a lightning rod on the turret spire? Inquiring minds want to know.
Yes, I plan on putting on a second story railing for the widow's walk, which will allow me complete access to the second floor, and a flat area to rest a ladder so I can access the upper areas easier. I will also be adding iron work to the top of the mansard roof, which is traditional.

I don't know about a lightning rod, but I will be turning some finials on my lathe for the two pointed towers.

Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Awesome! I'd imagine that the design is pretty close to finalized from the looks of things. Any idea as to when the construction will start?
I'm hoping to start construction in the spring. Right now, we're just planning and dreaming. I'm trying to write up a detailed plan of everything I need to do before hand. We're also looking to put together a couple of work party weekends with some friends to help with some of the bigger stuff.

Before I break ground, I want to make sure I'm not owing the IRS too much and that I still have a job. (the company likes to announce layoffs around the end of February every year).

Posted by Garthgoyle: D@mmit, TK!! Is there anything that you are not good at?! Looks amazing, and good luck with the real thing.

Entry 6: December 8, 2011
With the model being built right now, my wife is now thinking we may not need the two round-window dormers that would bookend the main tower. She thinks it may just be too busy and look odd because they're not even. The one on the left is pretty tight between the two towers, while the one on the right has plenty of room to breath.

Any thoughts?

Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: I kind of agree with her TK, but have a slightly different idea as to what makes it seem busy. In my opinion, if you removed the dormers on the side of the tower, that would soften it up just enough. In this particular style, it's a bit similar to the way the Celt's crafted their artwork. Busy was the order of the day.

Also, I was thinking while looking at it. If you left the bookend dormers, and instead of a window in the tower dormer facing street side, put a large clock in that particular port hole. No, it's not particularly accurate for a home, but... Hmmm, clock tower goodness. Yummy!

Posted by ThatGuyCraig: if you dont mind me asking - how much that gonna set you back?!

i mean, lookin at the house you live in at the moment, (no disrespect) it dont look like your a multi-millionaire, but i could imagen adding anotehr floor to your house, changing pretty much everything.... is like just re-building the house???

looks sweet tho man.... id love to be able to even have the option to do this!!!! Love american houses

I've already rebuilt the back of the house, so I know the bones very well. Building is actually very easy, its the careful demolition that requires precision and thought.

As for cost, I'll be doing all the work myself, so it will only be $12K to $15K to complete.

Posted by Gym Whourlfeld:Quick! Do it NOW! Before the building inspections/inspectors become thick as thieves!

A town just 25 miles from me now requires a building permit for if you are nailing up new plasterboard, inside of your own house!? Another town now forbids a home owner from installing their own windows, you must have a contractor!

You can still re-roof your own house but of course not a rental property you might own...

I know some towns have very strict building codes that can be really stupid and frustrating. That's why I'm very grateful to live just outside the city limits! My house is in a thin strip of land between two townships, so I don't have to follow any town codes, just unincorporated county codes! This makes things a lot easier and more affordable.

It helps that I know several of the county inspectors through previous projects, so now it's pretty easy to run the course and get stuff done. Also, I have a neighbor who's a senior journeyman plumber and another friend who is a licensed electrician, so as long as they sign off on my work, the county inspector lets me do my own labor.

Doing all of the work myself saves me a ton of money. I spend about $10K on the bathroom build out, but did all the work myself. If I had paid a contractor to come in a do everything, it may have gotten done a bit faster, but it probably would have cost $30K to $45K to complete.

Entry 7: December 22, 2011
I'm taking the winter to really plan out the remodel. Figure if I build it in my head 100 times, the real project will go pretty easy. What I have here is a complete framing build of the main facade, showing were all the wood will go. I realize that this single image may look overwhelming, but in the original program I drew this in, I can take each section and move it around or isolate it for greater detail.

Posted by Growler: Since you are doing the building yourself you should think about hidden rooms behind swivel bookshelves and hidden passageway to secret doors in rooms. Might as well make it a true haunted house while it's a bare slate.
Funny you should say that! I'm putting in stairs from the second floor to the unfinished attic and those stairs will be hidden in my office behind a bookcase.

Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Ok, that is about 5 different types of awesome! Except...I hope you're building your own version. Because, that one looks a little narrow for traversing with a life sized prop in hand, imho.
Posted by Growler: When you are doing the overhead porch roof, think about hidden speakers and hidden lighting for effects since it will be ripped open at the time and you will not have to run things later on. Same with ambience lighting for the cupala and such while it is still in the designing stages. Love the bookcase. A buddy has one in his house to hide the basement door which is in the living room. He built his into the entertainment center so it looks like one huge piece.
I was just talking to my wife about that last night. I'm going to run outlets under the porch roof to plug in lights and other stuff, and I'll put a few outlets up on the widow's walk so I can plug stuff in to the upper deck as well.

Entry 8: December 24, 2011
Looking at new porch lights online. Have it narrowed down to these four. Of course, once I commit to a certain style, I'll want to make sure the rest of the housefront hardware matches (i.e., Door handles, latches, ringer, etc.)

Anyone out there with an opinion?

Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: From left to right: In your shoes, I'd go with the 1st from the left. With the architectural plans in mind, it lends itself to a rather ornate type of detailing in order to keep with the original architectural style. One might even say a busy type of design is a match to your plans. It's attractive, & draws the eye to it. Matching hardware aside, this one is definitely the best choice to my way of thinking.

The 2nd, is entirely to plain. Definitely not suitable.

The 3rd could work, but it crosses the line of too busy...there's entirely too much going on to look at. The eye kind of gets lost while looking at it imo.

I actually like the last from the left as well. But I don't feel it would match the architectural details as well. Stylistically speaking, it's a little to plain. I'd call that one, close, but no cigar.
Okay, went ahead and ordered two of the wall mount lamps.
Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Hey TK, where did you find those lamps? I'm looking for some for my new column build, and they would be perfect.
I found a place that has some great outdoor lighting, including the lamps I purchased, and their pricing is phenomenal.

Entry 9: January 7, 2012
Yes, those are the paint colors we want to go with. They're all Behr exterior colors. I still need to do some full scale tests to see how it actually looks on the house, but so far, we like 'em

Anyone out there with an opinion?

Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Good stuff! I like Behr a lot, it gives really good coverage. Great choice. Albeit, my favorite is Sherwin-Williams, if I'm the one doing the painting. They sit in first & second for my preferred paint manufacturers. Now Porter on the other hand, I really don't care for at all. I"m really not a fan of any of PPG's automotive paint lines either, & while some swear by PPG...I swear at it. Lol!

Entry 10: January 12, 2012
After some experimenting and cost calculating, I have figured out how to cut and assemble the first of three corbel designs for the new towers. This first corbel design will be for the far left tower. Each corbel tip will also include a wooden finial cap, but I haven't attached that yet in this test model.

So, here is the work area where I was cutting several different materials to determine what would work best, glue best, etc.

And here is the first (almost) finished corbel. For this style, I will need to build 20 corbels. I built this by ripping down the rounded edges of a 2x4 and then cutting individual blocks to the rough shapes. I then glued the sub-sections together and cut the proper shape using my bandsaw and sanding down with my belt sander. Finally, with a little more glue and some hidden screws, I put the whole corbel together.

This example is still rough and I will need to do some more sanding to bring the elements together (and add the finial drop cap). Since each corbel is constructed from a humble 2x4, I can build at least two per board, so each corbel is about $1 to construct.

The addition of a drop finial will add another dollar or more to each corbel.

Here's the first corbel for the left tower with the finial detail and a base coat of the Behr "Toasted Marshmellow" trim color. I will need to build 20 of these. each one is 17 inches tall.

Cut out the templates for the other two corbel styles. I'm gluing the 2x4 blocks together and then I'll run them through the bandsaw.

Here are all three corbel styles I will be creating. The corbel that I have completed a base coat on is pretty much done. That's the design I want to go with for that corbel.

The other two corbels need more detail, but I'm debating what to do and how to do it. Any thoughts out there?

Posted by Garthgoyle: Looks nice, TK
Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Looks like you have your January/February project list figured out Looking great, and I'm fair certain that it's impossible to beat that price tag! And so it begins...

Entry 11: January 14, 2012
I've only ever used my router for edge work, so I really don't know how to set up a template. I'm trying to do some research online right now, but it's trickier than I thought. It's like a bigger version of using the dremel to remove styrofoam when creating a tombstone. I guess I'm more nervous than anything else. My router is a lot bulkier than my dremel, so I don't know how fine I can make curves and corners.

The good thing is I do have a 1/4" straight router bit.

Oh, man. Trying to create a template for a router is a pain-in-the-butt. I need to create the template so that the outside of the router base can follow it, that means the template is at least twice as large as the corbel. I did some testing and my 1/4" straight bit works great for digging out the wood and it leaves a smooth surface, it's just time consuming. I know, I know, I have time, but I still don't like the idea of one corbel a day.

I'm taking this evening to try and brainstorm alternatives. All ideas welcome.

Posted by SavageHaunter: Yes the idea of a templet is very time consuming, but that is the only way I can think of getting all of the cuts uniform. Mayu be there are others who know of a different way. The templet is the only way I know.
Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Honestly, the only really time efficient way to increase the production speed is to build a D.I.Y. cnc router. There are a great many designs/plans out there, and the parts needed are fairly inexpensive overall. Especially if you have access to stepper motors (defunct old printers, scanners, and such are a low cost/free source for them). I really would love to have one myself, and at some point in the near future, that is definitely planned. The advantage you have, is that you already have the router itself. Which cuts a good bit of the front end expenses down. Several have even been built of low cost materials such as MDF. In your shoes, that's where I'd go with a project of this magnitude.

Entry 12: January 15, 2012
We're quickly getting snowed in! I can only imagine how beautiful the house will look in the snow after the remodel.

With nothing to do but research things and tinker in the garage, I found a router bit that is designed with the guide edge above the tip, so it can follow a template.

I'm going to use that tip a template I just designed and cut out today.

Posted by HalloweenScream: How exciting to see real pieces of the house being constructed! I set this thread to a weekly update, and I thoroughly enjoy seeing the progress on Sunday nights. Beautiful woodwork.

Entry 13: January 17, 2012
Had a little time to work in the garage today (about an hour and a half) and I was able to cut and put together four more of the first corbel style. If I had a day, I could probably finish off the rest of the first style!

Posted by Kallie: Are you hoping to have this finished by Halloween? You'll need a whole team of people to help! (Sorry if this was addressed. I didn't read through all 15 pages of this thread)
Ha! Yes, I want to have this completed by Halloween. I'm using the winter months to build as many accessories as I can, then I will start the actual construction in May or June. At the end of June, I have the family leaving for two weeks and I'll have some helpful in-laws come in for a classic "barn raising" speed build. This should get the bulk of the framing and exterior construction complete. After that, I can take my time completing the interior.

Entry 14: January 29, 2012
I know it's been awhile since I posted an update, but with the snowfall and kids out of school all of last week, my wood working had to go on the back burner for a bit. This week, I've been able to duck into the garage for an hour here and there and have almost finished the first series of corbels for the far left tower.

I had to stop for tonight to let the glue dry, but tomorrow I hope to finish these corbels and sand them down.

Posted by Raven's Hollow Cemetery: Looking good TK! No worries, irl gets in the way of our to-do lists all of the time. I think everyone wishes they were farther along in their project list for this year, myself included.

Entry 15: January 30, 2012
Feeling Good! Just completed the first 20 corbels for the left tower. I'm very happy with how they came out, and each one cost me about $2 to build. Looking online, I priced similar corbels in this size at $50 a piece and up!

I've got two more corbel styles to build. I will need to build 25 corbels for the other tower (the one above the garage) and then I will start in on the main roof corbels. I honestly don't know how many of those I will need to build -- it all depends on how far apart I space them. I'm guessing I'll need to build around 50.

Posted by Gym Whourlfeld: I don't mean to sound like a "Know-It-All " (Because I sure don't) , but should your corbells have been back-painted before you assemble them to keep them from rotting from the back-side out?
The refurbishing of a small storefront a block from me rotted badly after maybe 12-15 years like that, kind of ruining all that nice work.
If it's pressure-treated wood, probably no problem.
Just trying to help..
That's a good concern to have. My plan is to seal the corbels with a double coat of exterior paint. That should be enough to protect them.

Entry 16: January 31, 2012
Had a question today that I wanted to respond to, so here it is:

Question from scream1973: I just have to chime in and say wow.. this is quite the undertaking.. Secondly i will things are alot cheaper down yer neck of the woods knowing what we spent on putting a 1400 sq ft addition on the house.. Can't wait to see the progress pictures.

I don't know where you're located, but I know material prices do vary from region to region, but I save most of my money just by doing all the work myself. Five years ago I wanted to redo the kitchen, so I had a company come in and give me an estimate. What I wanted to do was change our small galley kitchen into an open-concept kitchen with a cooking island and wall oven. To do this, a wall would need to be removed. Well, they came back with an estimate of $80,000 to complete the work.

I decided to do it all myself, including building all the cabinets myself. And, just because I was tearing out the old kitchen, it seemed like the perfect time to tear out all the main floor carpet and vinyl and put in hardwood floors.

Galley kitchen before the remodel. Simple layout with a thin Ikea laminate flooring that we installed four years earlier.

The wall comes down, opening up the kitchen to the living room.

More wall removed and the hardwood flooring is stacked in the living room.

Demo all done and ready for the new floor.

Put the floor down in one day because I only wanted to rent the floor gun for a day from Home Depot. (I'm cheap!)

New floor looks beautiful, now it's time to bring in the custom built cabinets I constructed and stained in the garage.

Installing the new kitchen island with lots of storage and counterspace, plus a nice breakfast bar.

Wall and base cabinets coming in and fitting perfectly.

And finally, the kitchen nearly done (still need to put on the top cabinet doors) with one of the kitties playing with a ballon.

Because I did all of the work myself, this project cost me about $7,500 to complete. That's flooring, all the materials for the cabinets, countertops, etc. I spent a month in the garage building cabinets before I started any of the demo. Once the cabinets were complete, I took a week off work, sent the family out of town, and took out the wall, pulled up the old floor, put in the new hardwood (with some help from my brother-in-law), and started bringing in all the new cabinetry. By the time the family came back home a wee later, we had a completely new main floor. It took me a bit longer to install a few of the final drawers and the doors on the wall cabinets, but eventually, everything got done.

Entry 17: February 1, 2012
Had some time this afternoon so I cut out five of the second corbel style. These are still "rough cut" pieces, but I wanted to put five of them together to see how the spacing looks.

I plan to put these corbels on the far right tower; the octagonal tower that will rise above the garage. My plan is to have five corbels on each 3 ft side of the five visible sides of the tower (where it's coming out from the roof).

I like the shape and the thickness of the corbels, but I'm thinking about routering in some sort of ornamentation on the sides -- just don't know what yet.

Entry 18: February 4, 2012
Looks like it's going to be a nice Saturday and I'm hoping to get out to the garage and finish up the second series of corbels. I already did all the block cuts, so today I need to glue and cut the forms on the bandsaw.

A bit of a side note: I originally bought a 9" benchtop bandsaw from Harbor Freight. I was excited at first, but within a few days realized it just wasn't up to the task. The saw blade would bend too much and there wasn't much to stabalize the blade. So, I went out and bought a Skil bandsaw from Lowes (for the same price!) and I think I'm going to like it a lot more. Looking at the floor model at Lowes, it has more metal parts, more blade stabalizers, wider wheels, and a work light!

Another nice thing about the Skil bandsaw is that replacement blades are around $8, where asthe HF replacement blades are $10.

Entry 19: February 11, 2012
Finally found some time to get back to the garage and cut down and sand the second series of corbels. These will go on the second tower (over the garage). I have built 26 of this corbel style.

Posted by Terra: Wow, love the progress so far and your kitchen remodel is beautiful!
It's great to know just how much you can do with some 2x4s and a band saw. I've saved well over $2,500 by building the corbels myself.

Entry 20: February 14, 2012
Officially removed and broke down the old tower. 2011 is officially the last year of the apothecary tower. Now, it's time to build new!

Posted by Hallorenescene: oh man, i loved that baby. so sad to see it demolished. couldn't your kids have used it as a toy house, or a lemonade stand. i'm sure your new structure will be sweet, but dang, that baby was sweet.
The tower fell down in a wind storm. We went to visit my folks and when we came home the top of the tower had blown off and crashed in the driveway. If we had been home, it would have landed on our car!

It was an act of nature telling me I needed to build a more permanent structure.

Posted by Spider Rider: I think the spiders knocked it off. Good luck on this exciting re-model!
Posted by Hallorenescene: oh, that was good luck tk, i'm glad it didn't land on your car, or worse yet, one of you. it sure was a nice looking tower.

Entry 21: April 2, 2012

This week is Spring Break and I'm starting the process of remodelling by gutting the garage so I can build the proper structure for the new second floor. This will give us the additional storage to move things around so we can do the rest of the remodel. My Uncle visited today from Sacramento, where he has been refurbishing victorians for 40 years, and he had some great pointers. I'm looking forward to following his advice as I continue the build.

Removing the drywall and insulation from the garage ceiling.

Most of the garage drywall and insulation is gone, exposing the garage roof joists.

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