Additional Pool & House Renderings, A Couple of Changes

Day 232
Total Spent So Far: $59,140.16
30 Yard Dumpsters Filled: 3.5

We had a few adjustments made to the renderings of the plans for the pool and balconies.  We also got a few additional views rendered out to see how the upstairs back patio flowed.

We adjusted the outdoor kitchen downstairs to ensure we had room for a sink, fridge, and grill.

Outdoor Kitchen
Outdoor Kitchen

We adjusted the scuba room storage placement on the back of the house so that it didn’t cover one of the few windows in the small studio apartment. (To make sure there was still good ventilation there.)

Alleyway for Entrance and Window on Studio Apartment
Alleyway for Entrance and Window on Studio Apartment
Scuba Room / Solar Panel Power-wall Room
Scuba Room / Solar Panel Power-wall Room with New Covered Parking

We discussed a secret path (barely visible from the top view) through the jungle that would lead up to the upstairs back patio up the side of the hill to connect the back patio to the pool patio.

Top Down Overview
Top Down Overview
Jungle Path Close Up
Jungle Path Close Up

We added in the sliding panoramic doors on the South side of the house/balcony.  Now both the South Wall and East Wall of the house open completely up to the balconies upstairs.

Slider Wall with Panoramic Doors on South Side of House
Slider Wall with Panoramic Doors on South Side of House
View of South Balcony
View of South Balcony

Finally we took a look at what the entrance to the balcony looks like from the back patio, and the placement of where they would connect.

Entrance to Balcony from Back Patio
Entrance to Balcony from Back Patio
Back Patio View
Back Patio View

We also discussed a few other things not shown in the renderings, such as making the fireplace outside gas driven since we have winds up here for both safety and smoke aversion.

2D Plans
2D Plans

I think we’re now ready to start getting quotes and bids from contractors on making this happen!  Hopefully our designer captured our vision within our budget!

I started on the Nursery last week, prepping it for paint.  I have to paint this weekend.  Tile hopefully starting the next.  Only 5 more weeks until Liam is born!

Another update soon when the nursery is finished!

Caribbean Pool Design with Infinity Edge & Balconies for Windchime Estates

We recently invited Shane LeBlanc of Selective Designs to fly out to St. Croix and spend the afternoon with us discussing the design and our dreams for our outdoor living space, pool, and major remodel to the structure of our house by adding a wrap-around gallery style balcony.  We had all sorts of ideas, infinity edge on the cliffside, lowered bar on the cliffside with multiple levels of decking, fire pit, lounge space – lots of lounge space, wet deck, outdoor grille and kitchen area, and a room for my scuba gear easily accessible from our Jeep for cleaning, rinsing, drying, and storage.

Shane is an award winning globally known pool and landscape designer.  His work is simply incredible.  When he saw where we were, he immediately wanted to do the project because in his words, “With this view we can create an award winning pool, and that’s what I do, award winning pools.”

When he got to the house, Shane seemed to grab our vision immediately, and snapped some photos of the house and surrounding views.  I sent him our survey so he had the setbacks and exact dimensions of the current structure.  Honestly, for as short of a time as he was here (maybe an hour or so), I was a tad worried he wasn’t going to be able to have all he needed to create the design.

Boy was I wrong.

The design he sent over captured our vision almost perfectly! Sure, some doors are going to look a little different, maybe a plant or two, and who knows on the colors, but more or less everything is sitting in its place!  It literally IS our dream backyard! He not only did the 2D drawings, which we’ll now be taking to contractors to bid the project, but a 3D model of which we got lots of still shots and a fly-through video to really show off the idea.  We now have our eye literally on the prize.  If only we could speed up the next two years that it will take to build it.  So, who’s coming to visit?

Pool and Balconies 3D Video Fly Through

3D Rendering Still Images

View from Above Facing South East
View from Above Facing South East
View from "The View" Villa
View from “The View” Villa
View Facing South of Pool Side from Bar
View Facing South of Pool Side from Bar
View Looking up at Lower Deck and Bar Facing South West
View Looking up at Lower Deck and Bar Facing South West
View Facing West at Pool, Looking at Eastern Side of House
View Facing West at Pool, Looking at Eastern Side of House
View Facing North West of Cliffside and Pool Wall
View Facing North West of Cliffside and Pool Wall
Facing East from Wet Deck
Facing East from Wet Deck
View from infinity Edge Pool Looking at Buck Island
View from infinity Edge Pool Looking at Buck Island
View Facing South West of Cliffside and Lower Deck
View Facing South West of Cliffside and Lower Deck
View from Garden Pool Deck
View from Garden Pool Deck
Driveway with South Facing Balcony
Driveway with South Facing Balcony
South Facing Balcony and Covered Parking with Scuba Room
South Facing Balcony and Covered Parking with Scuba Room
View from Northwest Looking at Fire Pit
View from Northwest Looking at Fire Pit
View from East Balcony Facing Buck Island
View from East Balcony Facing Buck Island
View from Top Level Pool Deck Facing South East with Bar
View from Top Level Pool Deck Facing South East with Bar
View From Cabana Bed
View From Cabana Bed
View From Inside "The View" Villa
View From Inside “The View” Villa
Looking at Balcony, Upper Pool Deck, and Cabana
Looking at Balcony, Upper Pool Deck, and Cabana
View of Infinity Edge Pool with Catch Basin
View of Infinity Edge Pool with Catch Basin

“The Mermaid” AirBnB on the Island of St. Croix is Finally Finished!

 

I apologize for the time lapse since my last post.  After two straight weeks of working on The Mermaid Villa to finish it for one of my companies’ superstars, Sebastian, and his big move down to St. Croix, I was so dead beat tired from “working on the house” that I switched gears physically and mentally and went back to focusing on my day job for a bit.  The timing couldn’t have been better either as I really needed to focus on the Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain lineup announcement which happened November 30th.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, I own a large multi-stage music festival in Arkansas, which sees up to 10,000 people a day who come for camping, art, and music in the Ozark National Forest for four nights a year. It’s a ton of work, and our lineup announcement requires a ton of focus to secure the right acts and get it distributed to the masses.

Anyways, we finally snapped a photo of Terry painting! She was such a huge help and we couldn’t have finished the place without her.

Terry
Terry

Dave also came down for another visit and we busted out the final plumbing in the bathroom, tile, ceiling fans, and electrical.  The place really came out great.  The bathroom was the most work, as we literally stripped it down to bare concrete walls, and redid all of the plumbing and electrical, framed out new 2x4s and installed concrete backer board so we could tile up the walls and cover the plumbing and electrical.  I bought $350 worth of travertine “pebbles” to create an interesting look on the back wall and floor of the small shower we built from scratch.  It needed something else given it’s size to make it unique and make it pop.  I think it turned out great.  After 4 weeks of waiting on Sears to get our fridge delivered (it can take a long time to get things on the island sometimes) it finally arrived after Sebastian did, and the place was complete.  Well, after a tad more painting… We couldn’t let Sebastian get out of adding a bit of his own touch to his place.

I still want to replace the ceiling in there at some point, and of course when the windows and doors that we ordered 6 months ago finally get here, those will get installed as well.

Check out some of the Before and After photos!

After New Kitchen
After New Kitchen
Shower Handle
Shower Handle and Pebble Backdrop

This blog wouldn’t be complete without showing a bit of our lifestyle on the island.  We’ve done a bunch of fun things in the last few weeks since Sebastian arrived.  My brother and a couple of his friends also came down for Thanksgiving.  Here’s some of our adventures!

Point Udall at Sunset
Point Udall at Sunset
Jeep Trail with View of Buck Island
Jeep Trail with View of Buck Island
KC and Sebastian on Their First Scuba Dive
KC and Sebastian on Their First Scuba Dive
Sebastian with a Moko Jumbie
Sebastian with a Moko Jumbie
Jeep on the Jeep Trail
Jeep on the Jeep Trail
Brother Chris on a Rain Forest Jeep Trail
Brother Chris on a Rain Forest Jeep Trail
Sebastian Sailing to Buck Island
Sebastian Sailing to Buck Island
At Lunch with Terry at EAT
At Lunch with Terry at EAT
Our View is Beautiful
Our View is Beautiful

The Mermaid in St. Croix Remains Elusive, But Progress Was Made.

Day 155
Total Spent So Far: $52,558
30 Yard Dumpsters Filled: 3

Well, just two weeks after Dave left St. Croix, we flew him back down.  I’m not sure if he’s coming for the Rum, the beaches, or just to hang out, but he was happy to play a big roll in getting the middle apartment “The Mermaid” further along this time around.  One of my partners I work with is coming to live in St. Croix for our new software product, PromoJuice, and he arrives November 10th.  Since I’m gone for a few weeks during October and there is limited time between now and then, we really needed to focus and move this project along.  And so we did.

We didn’t finish though, and I’ll be able to get quite a bit done myself the end of October.  Dave has another trip already booked for the first week in November to help me wrap it up, and possibly start on the upstairs again if there’s enough time.  There is a ton of tiling to do still in the apartment before then.  Terry is still helping us with the painting there too, which there is also a ton to do.  I need pictures of Terry… She’s always working in there when I’m too busy to be doing so during the week, so I never seem to capture her all painted up.  I will though at some point and make sure to include it in this blog.  We can’t thank her enough for what she’s doing for us recently.  Dave too.  We’d definitely be a lot further behind without them!

Demo to Mermaid St Croix
Demo to Mermaid St Croix

One week ago, I completed the demolition of the bathroom in the apartment in preparation for last weekend when Dave would be here to help.  I had a lot of comments last time on my “demolition in flip flops” and here again I see in the photos I didn’t learn my lesson.  It’s just so natural here not to wear shoes.  Besides a recent trip to Vegas for work, I literally think I’ve been wearing flip flops now for over a year.  Once you get into that mode, it’s incredibly hard to wear a pair of socks and shoes.  Anyways, I tore out most of the wood walls in the bathroom to expose the plumbing and electrical we were planning to redo, and removed the toilet and bits of tile that remained.  We did leave a wall and a half of the wood, which we’ll paint to tie into the bedroom of the apartment and give it a beach feel.  The rest of the walls will be tiled all the way floor to ceiling.

I also leveled the floors with self leveling concrete both upstairs in the kitchen, as well as downstairs in the Mermaid Bathroom before Dave got there.  It is allowing us to tile smoothly, without the imperfections that existed from the demolition.

Shower Floor
Shower Floor

When Dave arrived our first order of business was to get the shower wall framed out, drain hammered out so we could put a new one in, and start pouring the concrete which would eventually hold our new shower pan.  We wanted a day for the concrete to dry so we could finish the shower pan and drain by the time Dave left.  The old shower was literally a plastic insert from an RV, so we were building this shower from scratch.

New Pumbing
New Pumbing

After completing the shower wall and pan, we started replacing all the copper piping and electrical in the walls, including the first proper installation of a GFCI outlet in the house. Yay! Believe it or not, none of the outlets in the house have protection on them in the places they should currently, and when we removed the shower we literally exposed a live outlet that was installed behind the shower wall! Needless to say we removed that before replacing the walls with concrete tile backer board.  All copper piping was removed and replaced with CPVC, which will help prevent leaks behind the walls in the future.

New Tile on Floor
New Tile on Floor

We did start to tile some of the flooring but didn’t get incredibly far.  While I tiled and rehung the cabinet doors with new hardware in the kitchen, Dave worked on reversing the bathroom door to add some additional space to the bathroom, as well as hang a new solid door on the pump room which will drastically cut down on the noise from the pump.  Unfortunately that door got the best of Dave before he left this weekend as the frame was never built square to start with, so we’ve got a bit more to do on that in November.

One Wall Panel Complete
One Wall Panel Complete

The last day we switched to building the bedroom wall.  This was a project completely from scratch, made with 2x4s, 1x4s, and 1x6s.  We modeled it off of the wall that already existed in The View to help tie the apartments together in the house a bit.  I like the wall in the View because it breathes and allows airflow through while creating privacy that one cannot see through.  The one we built came out beautifully.  It was incredibly easy actually, with the exception of hammering in the panels into the wall’s frame at the very end.  It was a very tight fit so it took some strength to get them in their slots.  If you want to replicate a wall like this, it is essentially the following process.  I’ve included larger pictures below as well:

  1.  Build a 2×4 frame which will hold as many panels as you need.  Size it appropriately so that the panels will fit in the wall frame.
  2. Measure out your 1×4’s for the outside edges of the large panels, and cut them to size.
  3. Mark the lines with a pencil where you will install the angled 1x6s on them 1x4s.  The 1x6s, if marked and spaced at exactly 4″ apart along the 1×4, can be installed at a 59 degree angle to get the other side of the 1×6 to lineup on the back side of the 1×4 border.  You may have to look at the pictures to see exactly what I mean.
  4. Screw the frame together for the panel, and then screw on your 1×6 pre-cut pieces on the pencil line at the 59 degree angle at 4″ apart into the frame of the panel.
  5. Once you have the panels done, insert them into the larger framed wall you pre-installed.  A couple screws will hold them in.  Caulk, paint, etc.

We did a ton this weekend and made great progress.  Super happy to be doing it with Dave as well as he’s got a great positive attitude and is super easy to work with.  He’s got a place to stay in the Caribbean as long as we’re here… that’s for sure!

Can’t wait to update you in November with completed photos of The Mermaid!

Wall We Replicated in The View
Wall We Replicated in The View
Wall in The Mermaid We Built
Wall in The Mermaid We Built
Installing the 59 Degree Slats
Installing the 59 Degree Slats
Building the 2nd Panel
Building the 2nd Panel
The Wall Framing
The Wall Framing
1 of 2 Panels Installed
1 of 2 Panels Installed

 

A Shot of our Granite Counters with Travertine Flooring
A Shot of our Granite Counters with Travertine Flooring
New PVC Attached to Copper Input
New PVC Attached to Copper Input
Concrete Backer Board Installed with Floor
Concrete Backer Board Installed with Floor
Shower Shelves Built In
Shower Shelves Built In
Installing the Shower Concrete
Installing the Shower Concrete
Installing the Shower Pan
Installing the Shower Pan
Shower Pan Installed with New Plumbing
Shower Pan Installed with New Plumbing

Rats! Our Kitchen Has Been Demolished!

Day 139
Total Spent So Far: $49,349
30 Yard Dumpsters Filled: 3

What a weekend.

Our fiend David Earhart came down to help us tear out the old kitchen which was upstairs in our main house. I wanted some help for this one as it involved tearing out concrete plastered walls as well to open up the space. I also wasn’t sure which walls may have been load bearing. Dave has been a great friend and resource to have on hand as he’s got years of experience behind him.

We haven’t been using the kitchen because it was infested with rats when we moved in. We got rid of the infestation but there was no way we were ever going to be able to clean or repair them enough for use. Completely disgusting. Besides, we wanted to remodel it anyways. Tearing them out was such a win for us. We found two carcases that had probably been there for over a year or two. Mostly just bones, no smell. One rat had actually stolen a dollar from the previous owner, and was using it in his nest. He also had a thing for Juicy Fruit. Talk about a sneaky rat.

Shaleece is Excited!
Shaleece is Excited!

We’ve got a huge open space now between the dining and living room. Our view is wide open and seen now when you walk in the front door. We’re going to have to box in another beam in the kitchen ceiling, and we already have plans for the layout of the new kitchen and island in our heads. (Exact measurements TBD). For the next few months we’ll actually be using a 6 foot folding table as a counter, next to our stove and sink which we temporarily reinstalled on some rudimentary wood framing we built. We’ve also got some temporary shelves setup for our dishes.

Before we put in the new kitchen I have to focus on getting our downstairs apartment, The Mermaid, complete. The timeline for that is November now because my partner Sebastian is moving down to help focus on our software company PromoJuice. Shaleece’s superior at FEMA’s wife, Terry, is coming to help us paint to speed things up starting today, and Dave will be flying back down at the end of the month. We should have no problems finishing it in time.

I’ve got to level out some areas of the floor upstairs since the demo took out some of the flooring where wall footers and cabinets were installed. The holes in the floor would currently make installing new tile uneven. Self-leveling concrete will work well for this to fill in the gaps and level it out again. Afterwards we’ll be installing new travertine upstairs before putting in the new kitchen, right over top of the old floors.

We’re getting all the travertine from Home Depot on island.  If you didn’t know, you can custom order items from any Home Depot supplier direct to Home Depot, even if they don’t normally carry it in the store. For example, if they have one type of travertine, you can find the company that supplies it and order anything else that supplier has available. Our travertine was ordered from MSI Stone and we do have some custom pieces coming in (pebble travertine for bathroom shower floors, for example) which Home Depot didn’t carry. This is great considering the cost of shipping into the islands. It allows you to take advantage of Home Depot’s logistics already in place.

Our new windows and doors should be coming in within the next month or so… Dave is going to be helping me with those installs as well.

Here’s a few more photos from the weekend!

Kitchen Remodel St Croix
Dave and Will
Out with the Old In with the New
Out with the Old In with the New
Kitchen Remodel St. Croix
Tearing out Counter Tops
Counter Top Removal
Counter Top Removal
Piece by Piece
Piece by Piece
Walls Almost Gone
Walls Almost Gone
Shaleece Enjoying the Open Space
Shaleece Enjoying the Open Space

 

St. Croix AirBnB Number Two: “The View” is Complete!

Day 103
Total Spent So Far: $46,197

Our Second St. Croix AirBnB Vacation Rental is now complete!  We finished The View finally after crazy electrical issues, remodeling the kitchen, installing new appliances, fans, light fixtures, all new switches, outlets, paint, toilets and I’m sure several other things I haven’t thought about.  We’re super excited as this one is really nice!  Shaleece and I are actually jealous that we have to continue living upstairs (since it’s not been redone yet) while we rent out this super nice apartment below.

Before I get to the finished “The View” – an update on “The Mermaid’s” Progress…  I’ve also completed the backsplash, counters, and sink in “The Mermaid.”  Lots more to do in there, but I’ve got to get back to a bit of “earned income” work for a bit before I can focus there again for a while.  Next week I’m in Las Vegas for the Tony Robins Business Mastery Conference.  Should be a great time.

Starting on Mermaid Kitchen
Starting on Mermaid Kitchen
So Much Work to Do!!!
So Much Work to Do in the Mermaid!!!
Mermaid Counter, Sink and Backsplash Done!
Mermaid Counter, Sink and Backsplash Done!
Backsplash Close Up
The Mermaid Backsplash Close Up

…And if you missed this very important announcement on Facebook, Shaleece and I are now expecting!!!  Even more reason to get this remodel done quickly! This is bonafide video that we are indeed going to be parents!

OK – Back to The View…

In reality we’ve still got a little more to do in The View too, but nothing that doesn’t keep it from being rented out now.  Home Depot didn’t have quite enough of the backsplash to finish behind the sink in the kitchen, but I’ve done everything else… the tiles are on order.  I’ve also got a special little project I want to accomplish building a bar with matching granite counter top to the kitchen out of Rum Barrels (Super Cool!).  We also are going to put new travertine floors in the apartment when we do the rest of the home, and of course the windows and doors we ordered are not here yet which is going to make a huge difference to the apartment.  Still major renovations and upgrades I guess to be done.  When the pool is complete, the french doors in this apartment are going to lead right out to the pool deck.  It will be amazing for sure.

Our friend KC has moved in for a few months into The View.  He’s a contractor on island here whom actually is from Orlando as well. We happened to have some friends in common back home which made the connection for us when we first met.  So far, it seems he’s loving the peacefulness and tranquility of our little mountain top.  Since he’s moved in for a bit, we don’t have it listed live yet online as we’re not sure when he’s leaving.  We like having KC here – he’s turned out to be a great friend and good company.

I’ve got a new logo ready though, for when we go live with marketing to the public…  Check out some of the photos of the place!

The View
The View Logo
Main Apartment
Main Apartment
Dining Table with View
Dining Table with View
Kitchen!
Kitchen!
Kitchen Stove
Kitchen Stove
Microwave and Coffee
Microwave and Coffee
Breakfast Counter
Breakfast Counter
Fully Stocked Kitchen
Fully Stocked Kitchen
Living Space
Living Space
Full Size Pull Out Sleeper Sofa
Full Size Pull Out Sleeper Sofa
Workspace
Workspace
Entryway
Entryway
Bathroom
Bathroom
Bathroom
Bathroom
Master King Size Bed
Master King Size Bed

 

Our First St. Croix AirBnB, Windsor’s Rest, Is Complete!

Day 81
Total Spent So Far: $42,709

Yes, it’s true, our first St. Croix AirBnB is now complete, and our first booking happened within 12 hours of the listing!

Before (Windsor's Rest)
Before (Windsor’s Rest)
After Windsor's Rest
After Windsor’s Rest
Before (Windsor's Rest)
Before (Windsor’s Rest)
After (Windsor's Rest)
After (Windsor’s Rest)

I’m falling behind in keeping up with the writing though…  We’ve just had so much going on in the last couple of months…  To start, WE GOT MARRIED! Around 85 people came through, most from the states, to visit us for one of the most magical weeks of my life.  Our wedding guests (family and friends) enjoyed much of the island’s offerings, but left much to do for their next visit as well.  The wedding day was one of the best days of my life (and Shaleece agrees luckily!)

Together our entire group of guests went snorkeling and diving off Cane Bay Beach, drank beer with the pigs in the rain forest at the Domino Club, had a pig roast on the beach, sailed to Buck Island on the Terroro II Trimaran with Captain Carl, toured the Captain Morgan Rum Distillery, partied at Rainbow Beach, scuba dived the Butler Bay Wrecks, and so much more.  It was a really beautiful time spent with friends and family… but boy was it a lot of work!

Buck Island Sail
Buck Island Sail

After everyone left, Shaleece and I took 10 days which we spent in Punta Cana at one of the most relaxing and beautiful resorts I’ve ever been to for our honeymoon. Needless to say this kept us from working on the house for a bit.

 

However, we’re back at it in full swing now as we approach the end of the first 90 days, and since the last writing a lot has happened.  A major milestone occurred this week as we finished the smallest apartment and launched our first AirBnB!  It’s listed on both AirBnB and the Homeaway family of sites including VRBO if you’re interested in coming to see the rest of our progress. I’ve still got a few minor things I want to do to Windsor’s Rest, including an upgraded custom drop ceiling in the front entry way to replace the standard tiles, but nothing that would prevent us from renting it out.  I’m sure there will always be things we want to do here.

See it on AirBnB

See it on Homeaway

We’ve come across a leak which has alluded us from upstairs in our master bathroom. I’ve had two plumbers out to the house and both have scratched their heads as to where to start.  Neither want to give me a quote, and they come up with suggestions from “Add a little caulking there” to “Let’s tear out this entire wall.”  It’s frustrating to say the least, and it’s incredibly hard to get them to even show up.  It’s a common theme here actually that you can’t get anyone to do anything unless their right in front of you, and most of them don’t want to give you a price until they’re almost done with the job.  It’s one of the reason’s we’ve done most of this work ourselves.  We think it’s coming from the upstairs shower.

The sinks and granite counters were put in, in all three downstairs apartments.  I did have some help here as I wasn’t about to risk breaking or miss-cutting $4,500 worth of granite counter tops.  The company, Italia Marble and Tile on St. Croix has been great to work with.  I’m working on our design for the upstairs kitchen remodel now.

Granite Installation
Granite Installation
Granite Installation
Granite Installation

A word of advice if you’re in Home Depot, get an XPro account to track all your purchases so you don’t have to save receipts, and always send your orders ($1,500 or more) at a time to The Bid Room.  I saved $3,000 on my windows by sending it to the Bid Room.  I’ve saved $500 here and there several other times as well.  Basically they will take your order, send it to corporate who analyzes it and discounts anything with big margins for you to try to win the business… just because your order is over $1,500.  Anyone can do it too, but most people don’t know about the program!  Ask at the Service Desk.

Lots of Switches to Replace
Lots of Switches to Replace
Lots of Wiring
Lots of Wiring
Lots of Plumbing
Lots of Plumbing

My skill sets have increased greatly in the home improvement category.  I’ve been doing a lot of electrical work myself, including swapping outlets, switches, light fixtures, fans, and more, both re-wiring and breaker replacement at times.  I’ve plumbed a few sinks, and replaced about 5 faucets with new water lines so far.  Replaced a toilet too.  I’ve done a ton of backsplash tile work (a skillset I’ve had from a previous home) and of course I’m getting better at painting (now with a professional sprayer at times.)  The truth is, none of this is that hard, it just takes some patience and know-how which you can learn easily online or with a few conversations with someone who knows a bit more than you do.  Really it’s about having the time, but if you consider how much you’re saving when you do work like this yourself, many times the hourly rates are worth venturing on your own rather than bringing in a plumber, electrician, painter, etc.

Obviously it doesn’t go as fast as when you have a team, but if you’re trying to stretch your budget, or make money on the remodel – doing a lot of it yourself is definitely the way to go.  One day’s worth of plumbing projects I just did saved me about $1,200 I calculated.  I really have no idea to tally up all I will save in the end in labor, but I know it’s going to be a lot.

The View (our largest apartment) is almost complete, and looks like it’s on target for August 1st.  Our friend KC is moving into that apartment on a longer term rental for now while he’s here still working recovery efforts from last year’s storms.  It’s really beautiful.  If we weren’t renting it out immediately, Shaleece and I would have definitely moved down there while we completed the upstairs remodel.  I completed the bathroom remodel there (minus new tile which will come down the road), and the only thing left in the apartment is some painting trim, a bit more backsplash in the kitchen, some outlets and switches to replace, and a new fan to be hung in the Master Bedroom.  That’s such a small list from when I started in there!  I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

New Light Fixtures Installed
New Light Fixtures Installed
New Backslpash Almost Done (The View)
New Backslpash Almost Done (The View)
Lots of New Paint
Lots of New Paint

Not much progress has been made on the middle apartment as of late, the wedding and honeymoon took up much of our time, and I realize my target dates in the last article to have all three apartments done was way off.  So goes it with construction projects though, right? I did rebuild the top cabinets with a friend Vaughn on the island since the previous ones were destroyed by termites.  We’ve also put in the new granite counter tops, sink, faucet, and I’ve started on the backsplash here.  More photos of that to come when it’s complete.

Rebuilding Cabinets
Rebuilding Cabinets
Tearing Out Old Cabinets
Tearing Out Old Cabinets
Rebuilding Cabinets
Rebuilding Cabinets

We ordered our windows, but not from my Uncle Bob after-all.  The main reason behind this was because PGT doesn’t offer any windows that “breath” like jalousie style louvers, which are critical in our open air breezy home with natural air conditioning.  This house was designed to stay cool throughout the summer months with no AC due to the way it breathes.  Replacing our windows with side-sliders would kill the natural ability to get constant breezes without having to have the windows all the way open, all the time, which isn’t feasible when it rains. We plan to add AC to the bedrooms since we won’t need to cool the entire house in the near future.  Although it’s not completely necessary with the breezes up here, I think from a an online AirBnB marketing prospective, people stateside will be “looking” for AC.

We found a company in Puerto Rico, called Airmaster, which our Home Depot down here carries and sells due to their geographic area.  I measured them all out, and put the order together over the course of two weeks.  Every one is custom made.  The order includes over 46 windows, three sets of french doors, and three regular entry doors.  This house is massive.  It’s going to take 12 weeks before they get here, and I have no idea where I’m going to store them all while I await them getting installed, but my friend Dave from the mainland who helped with my Lakehouse’s kitchen said he would come down a few weekends to help me install them and show me the ropes of putting them in a concrete house.  That was the big addition to the expenditures this time around and has put us over $40k now.

My cousin Kira also came down and helped us paint our master bedroom and start on The View right before the wedding.  She is definitely a weekend warrior!  She is the reason we were able to move into the house so quickly!  THANK YOU KIRA SO MUCH!  <3

My Warrior Cousin Kira
My Warrior Cousin Kira
Master Bedroom Repaint with Kira
Master Bedroom Repaint with Kira

Hopefully I will get to updating this blog a bit more often.  Some other big news to announce soon, stay tuned.

 

Removing Tile Sucks! …But These Apartments Are Well On Their Way!

Day 17
Total Spent So Far: $14,303

Well, the amount we’ve spent is climbing steadily, and I see no signs of it slowing down over the next 30-60 days.  We’ve bought much of our supplies for the remodel of the apartments so far but have a long way to go on the entire house.  Remaining for the apartments will be fans and light fixtures, tile for the Mermaid (Apartment 2), shower, and the labor to install the granite counter tops.  We’ve purchased our sinks and faucets for the kitchens downstairs.  The sinks are a modern under-mount granite and should compliment the granite counters and backsplashes we selected for each apartment nicely.  All three are being shipped to Miami, and then forwarded over to St. Croix via VI Cargo.  That’s how we get everything into the island that isn’t through the United States Postal Service.  They make it pretty simple actually, and the cost isn’t outrageous in reality.  It does add 5-15% more to everything, depending upon how much an item weighs and how big it is, but the price to live here is well worth it.  It also adds a week or two in additional time to arrive, again the price you pay living on an island.   Oh, and I almost forgot import tax into the territory… that adds a few more percent to the cost.

Counter Removal
Counter Removal

Demo to the counters and cabinets has been fun.  Redoing the ones in Windsor’s Rest went well so we’re doing the same with the Mermaid.  The Mermaid has some old wood damage from termites so we’re replacing some of the cabinets this week before getting the granite installed. After pulling the backsplash off of one of the walls in Windsor’s Rest (which was just a piece of Formica) I noticed some crazy demo had been done at some point to replumb.  It’s not a concern of course, as I’ll be installing our slate backsplash soon enough so you won’t even see it, but I took a few pictures as it looks pretty gnarly.

Plumbing Exposed
Plumbing Exposed

The sinks should arrive around the first or second week of June, and we should have them installed shortly after, and just prior to our wedding it seems.  (June 23rd.)  Most likely, all three apartments downstairs will be finished and ready to rent out by mid June or the first week of July.  We’re incredibly excited about that, and the ability to start earning some income from them while we continue making progress on the rest of the remodel.  The sinks have to arrive before we can insert the granite counters since they’re under-mount, and then the backsplashes can be installed.  Windsor’s Rest is now finished (with the exception of a small rum barrel vanity project I’m going to tackle and the sink/counter/backsplash.)

Cruzan Rum Barrels
Cruzan Rum Barrels

We bought six rum barrels yesterday for $190 to include delivery.  Besides turning a few into vanities by cutting them down, sanding and refinishing them to add a bit of Cruzan flair to the apartment restrooms, we’ll use the others in our garden.  They look awesome outside when plants are around their base and set on top of them.  It gives the gardens a real caribbean flair.

In addition to the sinks and vanities, we’ve also measured out all of our windows and doors in the house.  Right now the Jalousie windows are incredibly outdated looking, and over the years the previous owner has replaced any that broke with wood – which make a great hurricane shutter but impossible to see through… and with these views, I’m not sure why anyone would ever block the windows.  Even the glass Jalousies are hard to see through though, and the breaking up of glass really impedes the view.   We’re going to purchase flat pane horizontal sliding windows with vinyl tracks made by PGT Windows.  These can be slid open to catch the breezes, but when closed they will show the most glass for the best clear views.  Vinyl is our choice instead of aluminum to cut down on the corrosion that happens here to metal since we don’t run central heat or air, and the salt from the sea assists in the breaking down of metals. We will have two walls with pocket sliders that open up completely to a wrap around balcony (on both the South and East end of the home) when we are finished.  The photo below is an example of the glass sliders we’re installing and sort of what we’re going for.

Example of PGT Pocket Sliders
Example of PGT Pocket Sliders

My Uncle Bob Royall, who works at World of Windows in St. Petersburg, Florida, is helping me with the Windows.  21 of them total which includes the two long pocket sliding door walls.  He’s given us a great deal and even spoke with the manufacturer to get an extended family discount for us.  If you need windows, please give him the opportunity to assist you!  He made some great suggestions for us and even came up with a customized solution for a kitchen pass-through window we want to install.  The total cost for the windows, not including shipping through VI Cargo and import taxes is just around $22,000.  That of course, doesn’t include any installation either.  I’m guessing on the installation, it’s going to run us around $10,000-$15,000.  I could be way off.  One person told me it may cost as much as $1,000 per window in a concrete house.  Jeeze, I hope not.

I started with a hammer... and got no where...
I started with a hammer… and got no where…

Removing Tile Sucks! For the past week, I have been removing tile in the Mermaid.  I started with a hammer, and got no where… so I used a medium size tile jack hammer that I rented for $78 on island to do most of it over the course of about 6 hours.  In that time frame I had a few pieces of shrapnel cause me to bleed, and a nice metal floor track slice my leg up pretty bad.  There were some areas I couldn’t reach with the jack hammer so I’ve been pulling those up manually with a chisel and a hammer again.  I’ve hit my hand so many times I’ve lost count and my thumb is twice the size it should be I think.

Medium Size Jack Hammer for the Win
Medium Size Jack Hammer for the Win

When we go to do the upstairs (5 times the size of the downstairs floor I just removed) I am definitely hiring someone to do that removal.  So far we’ve only hired the lawn guys to clear our view, and plan to hire the granite installer.  Other than that, everything else has been done by Shaleece and I.  My cousin Kira is flying down to assist us with some painting in a week or so.  We’re super grateful for her and can’t wait for her to get here.

That's Me Removing Tile
That’s Me Removing Tile

We’re on our second dumpster now; it’s filled with much of the demolition from the second apartment including the tile from the floor I’ve been wheel barreling out.

Finally, I did take some time to clean up the logo we found and added “Estates” to it.  I couldn’t find the font, and most likely it’s a treatment anyways, so I had to create it from scratch to match.  Took some time, but I think it came out great.   Next update soon.

The Story of Windchime Estates and the Start of Our Remodel

Day 11
Total Spent So Far: $11,920

Shaleece Picking Granite
Shaleece Picking Granite

Before I dive into this next post, I wanted to put it out there that I’m going to start consistently adding the above heading with the “day” since we started the remodel (May 3rd) and the total spent so far.   Should give you some perspective at how fast, or slow we’ve been moving since the last post.  The above amount already includes backsplashes (material only for downstairs apartments), granite (material only for downstairs apartments), a ton of yard work to clear our view even more, paint for most of the interior of the house, random tools, doors, new cabinet hardware, several faucets, three new ranges, a new washer and dryer, and probably several other things I haven’t thought of yet.

Demolition of Cabinets/Kitchen
Demolition of Cabinets/Kitchen

We’re actually almost done (minus the sink/granite install) with our first apartment out of three.  While I feel like we’re moving slower than I’d like, it’s only been 11 days and we’ve been spending more than $1k/day on average… so I don’t know how we’d go any faster really and I’m actually happy with our progress so far.

Besides the intense amount of “demolition” I’ve done on the old kitchen cabinets and counter tops preparing for the granite and backsplash install, and the painting and new hardware installed throughout the first apartment, the other thing that’s been done that has been very impressive is the amount of “bush work” that has been done along the sides of our cliffs (both the Eastern and Southern cliffs) .

Apartment 1 Paint and Cabinets
Apartment 1 Paint and Cabinets

These guys have been at it tirelessly for three days straight and have cleared out about 15′ down the mountain side to open our view from the 20′ tall Tan Tan trees that grow like weeds.  I thought our view was amazing before but now it’s really impressive.

We also have quite a bit more yard than we expected after we cut back the overgrown bushes and grasses on the land that had been previously cleared out.

Bush Work
Bush Work

This was a pleasant surprise as the dogs have a lot more room to roam.

It’s All in the Name: Windchime Estates

Originally our plan has been to name our property Waitiki Villa all along, in honor of the place Shaleece and I first met. The story can be found here on our blog. After purchasing the property however, we had the opportunity to speak to the previous owner, Tom, who told us the rich history of home and it’s previous owners, including the man who built it.

We’re now planning to name our happy abode Windchime Estates, although plans for Waitiki’s inclusion on the estate still exist.

In 1972 the home was originally built by a sail maker, Ralph.  Ralph’s son, Ralph Jr. later inherited the property from his late father, whom much like his father was a sailer through and through.  Ralph owned a boat named Windchime, which was a 39′ Trimaran that he sailed the world twice with, and where he met his best friend Tom (also a sailer) in the South Pacific.  One day, in the late 80’s Ralph had taken Windchime on a charter with nine people out to Buck Island (viewed from our home.)  Upon the way back the wind died, and without power, Windchime drifted into what is known as Round Reef, the reef that protects Christiansted Harbor (also viewed from our home.)

Windchime Wreck
Windchime Wreck

Ralph lost the boat that day on Round Reef, within view from his own home.  He saved many parts from the boat in hopes to rebuild her one day.  Shortly thereafter in 1989 Hurricane Hugo ripped through the Caribbean decimating St. Croix and tearing the roof off of Ralph Jr.’s home as well as a wall built for his outdoor living space.

Wrecks from Hugo
Wrecks from Hugo

Ralph later used the masts from Windchime as the headers for these walls in the re-construction of his home, which are still seen today.  Ralph willed the home to his best friend he met in the South Pacific, Tom, who 10 year’s later sold the home to us.  Besides this amazing story rich with history, the wind never stops blowing at the high elevation where we are at.  We thought it only right to name the property after the boat for multiple reasons since we know the history, can see the masts in it’s construction,  can literally see the place it sailed and wrecked, and more than likely will hang windchimes from them since the breeze will always play us a tune.

Windchime Logo on Letter Head
Windchime Logo on Letter Head

We also found on the back door of the generator room a hand written note, taped to the back of the door.  Simply put it said “Do Not Lock! We Don’t Have a Key for This Door!”  – Why is this important you ask? Well, it was written on a piece of paper from the early 80’s it appears with a header that included the Windchime Trimaran’s logo from Ralph’s chartering business.  So cool to find this vintage piece!  We plan to pay homage to this logo now and have a sign created with it at our front entrance gate to identify the property.

We decided to keep going with the names since we’re planning to rent out the bottom apartments as short term rentals for easy identification of the three apartments; we named each of them based on additional ideas which we thought made some sense.

Apartment 1 is on the South West corner of our property facing a large mountainous view with a deep reaching valley, covered in forest.  This forest is called Windsor’s Forest.  Well past Windsor’s forest you can see the South shore and at night, the twinkling lights of houses across the forest on the other side of the island beneath the stars.  This apartment is a small efficiency which we feel most who stay there will only come home to “rest” rather than to hang out.  We named this apartment, Windsor’s Rest.

Apartment 2 is in the middle, facing South.  We’ve gotten many comments that Shaleece looked like a Mermaid in our underwater engagement photos which lead to many other mermaid discussions, items for her bridal shower, and well – quite frankly mermaids are everywhere on St. Croix… so we dubbed this apartment The Mermaid.

Apartment 3 is on the East end of our home, and has what we consider the best view, with the most ocean and a clear central (almost framed) look at Buck Island.  It will also open up to our infinity edge pool over the cliff when we finish with it, so rightfully so we named this, the largest apartment, The View.

Finally, last but definitely not least, we decided since we met at Waitiki (a bar in Orlando) that our Pool Bar, which will be held right on the cliff, with seats in and out of the pool, will be dubbed Waitki.  I’m sure Shaleece and I will wander down at times and have a drink, to celebrate “us” the way we did the first night we met.  Today we actually found “his and hers” Waitiki solar light up statues.  They are awesome and we weren’t sure if we’d find them again later so we bought them, even though their final resting place won’t be finished for quite some time. We’re keeping them in the box put away until the pool bar is done.

That’s all for now.  More to come soon!  For Now, More Photos!

Apartment 1 Before the Work Began
Apartment 1 Before the Work Began
Giant 40 Yard Dumpster - We Filled It and Need Another!
Giant 40 Yard Dumpster – We Filled It and Need Another!
New Hardware Goes A Long Way
New Hardware Goes A Long Way
Shaleece Painting!
Shaleece Painting!
Cabinet Termite Damage
Cabinet Termite Damage
Ripping Out Old Sinks, Backsplash, and Cabinets
Ripping Out Old Sinks, Backsplash, and Cabinets
One of Our Many Home Depot Car Loads
One of Our Many Home Depot Car Loads
Land Crab in Our Back Yard
Land Crab in Our Back Yard

We’ve Bought a House! – A Major Shift Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Well I’ve been M.I.A. for quite some time on this blog… and I feel horrible about it.  I’ve wanted to write in it so much, but throughout the last few years trying to buy houses, buy land, and move to St. Croix with one fail after another, I didn’t want to write another article until I was 100% sure about the direction we were headed.  This last time I thought I was so sure we were building a house… and then TWO category 5 hurricanes landed in the US Virgin Islands.  Boy did they turn the island (and our plans) upside down.

So you’ve already read the title of this article and know by now we’ve bought a house – but have no fear, while this blog is going to shift from a “building in St. Croix” to a “completely gutting and remodeling in St. Croix” journey, there is PLENTY to learn here none-the-less.  We’ve basically bought, on the cheap after the hurricanes, a shell of a house with new plumbing, updated electrical, a roof that lasted through the storms, and an interior that hasn’t been touched since 1972, after two major hurricanes.  Needless to say there is a TON of work to do here.  But buying this property has saved us an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in concrete, electrical, and plumbing costs if we were to have gotten this far (with a property this big) ourselves.  In the end, this was the smarter move for building more equity quickly, and getting our dream home done on a tighter budget.

Celebratory Closing Day!
Celebratory Closing Day!
Celebratory Closing Day!
Shaleece and Tamra Cheers!

To explain why this worked out, when just a few months ago you couldn’t touch anything we were interested in for less than $750,000 (making building a somewhat feasible option), the Real Estate market tanked immediately after the storms came through.  NO ONE was thinking of moving here in the last quarter of 2017 and thousands of people fled the island for the mainland leaving all sorts of deals to be had on cars, houses, and land.  At the same time that the real estate market took a hit, construction materials and labor sky-rocketed as everyone on the island scrambled to start repairing their homes and businesses.  Today the market is quickly recovering, and we were incredibly lucky to lock a home under contract and close on it as fast as we did.  (A special thanks to Doane Dariah from Sotheby’s Realty and Michelle Nose of Leeward Island Mortgage – These ladies can get ANYTHING done!)  While the market is recovering, construction materials and labor are still at an all time shortage and high.

The good news is that most of the things inside the home, such as paint, fixtures, light carpentry, tile, backsplashes and refinishing is going to be done by Shaleece and I.  We’re still planning on using the contractors and draftsman I spoke of earlier in the blog to do some of the bigger items such as the pool, wrap around balcony, kitchen remodel (requires walls being removed), 2 car garage and 6th bedroom, however we aren’t in a rush to get many of these done which will help us on the costs as construction prices normalize over the next year or so.  I’m also still planning to source all the materials myself to save as much as possible and GC the project overall for the most part.

I’ve got a lot to update in the next couple of days to catch you up, and if I wrote everything here this article would be the longest yet – so I’m going to leave you with some hints of topics to be covered in articles to come and some descriptions and photos of the place we’ve bought!

To be discussed in the next few days:

  • The Story of Windchime and the Change of Our Villa’s Name
  • $5k Already Spent at Home Depot in First 2 Days Remodeling
  • Pool Design Sketched & Wrap Around Balcony Plans
  • New Windows, Doors, and Shutters in the Works!
  • Tiles, Granite, and Backsplashes Selected for Apartments
  • Indian Furniture – Safe and Sound All the Way from India!
  • Paint Colors Chosen and Painting Begun
  • Meeting the Neighbors – Our First Monthly Neighborhood Brunch!
The House!
Shaleece and I in front of the house with the keys!

The House!

The house currently boasts a total of 5 Bedrooms with 5 Bathrooms and 2,950 square feet inside with another 1,500 square feet of living space outside.  The main house consists of 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms upstairs, while downstairs we have three separate apartments, including two one bedroom apartments and one studio.  The plan is to rent these units out via AirBnB, HomeAway, or VRBO when we’re all said and done with their remodel which should more than cover the entire mortgage on the property.

Estimates on the future value by multiple contractors after discussing our plans for the remodel are in the $1.2M to $1.3M range. The property was purchased for just $349,000, on a lot with this million dollar view, 200 degrees from North East to South West.  We can see Buck Island, Christiansted Harbor and Round Reef, the North Shore all the way to Sugarloaf Hill and Goat Hill. Point Udall at these hills is the Eastern most point of the USA. The Featured Image at the top of this post is our Eastern view taken from our house.  We can also see a large strip of the South Shore.

We’re surrounded by hundreds of acres of undeveloped land known as Windsor Forest in a community called Vista Concordia and Concordia Ridge.  We’re located on the North Shore where we’ve always wanted to be, central to everything, on the “Scenic Route” of St. Croix upon the second highest mountain on the island; only second to that of the next mountain after us along the same Scenic Route.  Multiple neighbors we’ve met have been on the island for 20 years, have lived everywhere from East to West, and swear this is the best location they’ve found  yet.  Our drive-way is about 300 feet long.  The lot is breath-taking and the views this house has the potential of showing off upstairs are incredible.  Most who I’ve taken to the home say that the views are of the very best they’ve seen on the island.  We think so too.

Enough with the talk… Here are some photos of this horrendously dirty and out-dated house!

Waitiki St Croix - Windchime Estates - View - Scenic Route
Some of our friends checking out the house right after we closed!