Where to stuff our stuff?

Our home in Pennsylvania was about 2430 ft2. Our new Texas home will have nearly 3800 ft2. But before you declare that we’re getting a massively bigger house, consider this other fact: our Pennsylvania home also had a basement of close to 1200 ft2. In our case, half the basement was finished, and served as our family’s primary living and play space for many years: it’s where we had our computers, pool table, the TV and all the Thomas the Tank Engine videos, all our craft supplies… The other half we left unfinished, and that’s where we kept our our STUFF: camping supplies, Christmas decorations, totes full of classroom projects, wrapping paper, and above all, it’s where I started thousands of seedlings under fluorescent lights every winter. It’s hard to imagine living in a house without a basement, and yet, that’s where we’ll find ourselves soon: Texas homes have no basements.

Shopping around for a home near Houston, it was difficult to imagine what we’d do with all of our belongings. Sure, the homes boasted greater square footage living space, but most of that was in grand entryways, spacious living rooms, bigger master bathrooms than anybody could possibly need… And really not a whole lot in the way of storage space. I guess Texans live differently, but we have a lot of legacy stuff (even after throwing massive amounts of it away as we’ve prepared for our move), and we need a place to put it, at least until we figure out how to emulate those Texan ways. Attics I’d poked my head into while visiting some homes for sale weren’t promising: that’s where all the furnaces, water heaters, ductwork, and miscellaneous wiring go (you know, the stuff that’s sensibly put in basements up north), so there’s barely room to move around, let alone store significant amounts of belongings (even the kinds that can withstand the heat of summer).

One of the features that immediately appealed to us in the Perry Homes model we toured (our home’s twin) was that there were two second-story attic spaces accessible through scuttle doors from bedrooms. These attic spaces, located above the garage and the master bathroom, were not nearly as cluttered with pipework and HVAC equipment as the third-floor attic, and because they were located lower, we thought they may stay a little cooler too (that remains to be seen – summer has yet to descend on Houston). We immediately saw the potential for significant storage space, and it truly was one of the factors that swung us towards this model as our chosen home.

Of course, bare attic spaces have rafters with loose-blown insulation at their base; they need significant upgrading to serve a useful purpose. So we got a price on applying decking to some of the attic areas soon after signing the contract, as well as for substituting full-sized doors for the half-size scuttle doors for access to these spaces. After suffering a bit of sticker shock, we decided spring for decking out both attic spaces, and putting a full door into one of them. The second door had a higher price tag than we wanted to spring for at a time where we had already laid out lots of money at the design center.

Perry Homes decked attic space

Decked attic space above the master bedroom

The decked-out areas were soon evident during the framing phase of the home. We were pleased with how they came out: there were still roof supports, some ducts, and other obstacles to work around, but the decking was applied well, and was clearly going to serve its purpose as a support for family possessions. The other thing I noticed during my daily visits was that both of the areas had full-sized doorways framed out. The first time I met construction manager Chris, during the pre-sheetrock meeting and walk-through, I brought up the fact that there were two doorways, even though we had only requested one, and was happy when Chris stated that, given the progress already made, he’d be giving us the second door “on the house”. It was good to know that Perry was willing to look beyond the dollars and go the extra mile for its customers.

Perry Homes doorway about to disappear

A door about to disappear

At this time, it looks like perhaps Chris’ magnanimous gesture violated Perry’s strict policies, because all of a sudden one day, months after that first meeting, I found the doorway studded up (and sheetrocked over the next day). Needless to say, it stung to have something that had been promised and that we had come to count on taken away without as much as a word of notice. At this stage, I’m still working with the construction supervisor to see if we can salvage both the door and Perry’s goodwill. Keeping my fingers crossed.


An early rush

Perry Home Harvest Green framing

Our Perry Home in Harvest Green in the framing stage

The early stages of the construction of our new home were thrilling. I met with the construction manager, Jeff, an affable fellow who talked up the many benefits of Perry Homes. Not all of those would come to be, but it was a feel-good discussion, and we felt good about the venture. Within a week of our design center appointment, the foundation was being prepared – there is no digging required for that in Houston, which helps. Another week later, the concrete had been poured, and framing was underway. It was my daily source of entertainment to swing by the house after work and watch the rapid progress. Sure, there were a few mistakes in evidence (they neglected to give us a doorway from our master bedroom into the master bathroom for one), but at this stage everything was easily fixable. We were a little annoyed to find that one of the construction workers took a nail gun and used 40 nails to write his initials in an upstairs floor. Jeff said that would be fixed in due time, but the nails stayed put. That was perhaps an early indication of how promises from Perry Homes representatives somehow carried less weight than we had come to expect dealing with other businesses. But still, it was fun to see so much happening all at once, and little things didn’t overly bother us. Had we had only had little things to deal with, we would be pleased as punch even now!