The Yeager's New Home
I never expected to be composing a section such as this on this blog. Joleen and I fully researched and prayed over the decision prior to the purchase of the house at 119 Tiger Lane. I asked what I felt to be extensive questions about how the building and foundation was constructed. Like most of us born and reared in the country our builder used current accepted techniques and then over-built. The philosophy of using a 2" x 6" when a 2" by 4" would do has served us well for years.
Our thoughts were that we could afford an expensive well-built, home like this because the maintenance should be less than a less-expensive house. Our home was build during a severe two year drought. The builder did his utmost to wet the soil before pouring the slab. Multiple piers were drilled to load bearing rock. Post-tension cables were positioned every four feet and double cables in each beam.
The soil geology of the area is either Taylor Marl or Austin Chalk. These clays are highly plastic and expansive and can exhibit differential soil movement of one to seven inches over a period of time. Concrete slabs, which act as membranes and ride on the soil, undergo huge shear forces which result in stress fractures. As membranes, concrete slabs tend to conform to the soil topography and reduce the evaporation rate of the soil beneath it. Most slabs undergo a center upheaval or "doming" of 1/2 to one inch in the first six years due to the reduced evaporation rate. A slab mounted home is such soils is an expensive proposition as a slab will continue to exact expensive maintenance and repairs both for itself and the structure built on it.
The best home construction for these soils would be founded on a deep pier system with a structurally supported floor. In other words a steel frame home with an extremely expensive pier and beam foundation, vinyl or hardy board siding, and a detached garage on a separate piered. post-tensioned cabled garage. The result is a "sided" home with a detached garage that would cost more than a comparable brick home. Such a home is unmarketable in the current northeast Texas "keep up with the Jones" school of home ownership.
"The best laid plans of mice and men......." Nature and black land prairie soil seem to have conspired against us. As opposed to being saddened and disappointed by what has happened, it may well be that the Lord has provided this opportunity to anticipate, correct, and repair aspects of our home now rather than several years hence when it would be more difficult and costly. As with most situations, it is the light of history rather than the distorted lens of the present that most clearly reveals the Lord's guiding hand. Pray for me in particular as I am more pessimistic by nature than my stalwart bride Joleen.
I had hoped that any journal entries would be a mention of repainting or carpeting or adding a new feature to our home. Boring and perhaps only requiring a quarterly or annual entry. Hopefully over time things will work out in the long term and my journal can be as boring as I anticipated it would be.
What we have learned:
Maintenance costs are not inversely proportional to the cost of the home.
On black land a manufactured home placed on a custom foundation may be the best buy.
Do not purchase a home built during abnormal weather conditions
Piers do nothing to prevent lifting.
Post-tension cables do little to prevent a slab foundation from cracking. The cables keep the broken sections of the slab together.
The best slabs act as a membrane that floats on top of the ground and will exhibit differential movement.
Maintenance and repairs of a slab foundation and the structure built on it are expensive.
Have an engineer do a soil survey and oversee the foundation planning, then overbuild the foundation.
Concrete aprons such as patios and driveways are consumable items on this soil.
January, 2007 -- For reasons I don't understand and will likely never comprehend The Good Lord decided to catch the North Texas water tables up on rain fall a few months rather than a over a year or two. It began raining in the middle of January.
February, 2007 -- It continued raining in February.
March, 2007 -- Greater than average rain fall continues in March. The water tables are now up and most of us are pretty tired of the almost constant precipitation. The pantry doors no longer line up. Late March I was awakened by a loud snap. A couple of minutes later the sound occurred again. My thoughts were "That sounds like cracking concrete like a slab settling." That morning I noted a crack a cross the grout of the kitchen tile. I observe that the top of the door jam from the breakfast area to the garage is no longer parallel. I am now officially concerned about the amount of rain we are getting in North Texas.
April, 2007 -- The rain continues. We have a few days with clear skies but not many. Lake levels on most area lakes are at or above normal levels. Somehow amongst all the rain I got just over ten pounds of Bermuda seed spread on the property
I note a crack that reaches the about half way across the garage. I begin measuring and conclude the crack in the garage and the crack in the kitchen are the same. We have no cracks in the sheetrock. Praise God. We alert our contractor and begin looking into the Texas state mandated new home warranty.
May, 2007 -- The rain continues. The Texas state mandated new home warranty is a screaming joke and is designed to protect the builder not the home owner. The house pretty much has to be coming apart before the warranty is applicable. I begin calling foundation repair firms to get an estimate of what it will take to halt the damage. The house is lifting off the piers, we are literally floating away. I note cracks in the sheetrock above the windows of the master suite. The patio and driveway apron or now cracked enough that normal winter freezing and ground upheavals will ultimately do enough damage that they will have to be replaced in terms of years rather than decades.
June, 2007 -- The rain continues. I called an engineer to study the situation and recommend a concrete prescription to secure our foundation. I contacted our insurance agent to see if this situation would be covered by our home owners policy. It looks as if we are on our own. The engineer will send a copy of the report to our agent just to be sure. We begin getting cracks in the living room walls and across the ceiling of the garage. By mid-June North Texas has heavy flooding where at least five lives and hundreds of home are lost. We now have a crack down the exterior brick of the east facing wall.
July, 2007 -- North Texas stinks, literally. You walk outside and all smells of stale junior high school locker room. Everywhere is musty, moldy, and stagnant. The flies and mosquitoes are ecstatic and doing quite well, the rest of us however are just wet. I may need to have the yard baled as it has been over a month sense it was dry enough to mow. I keep having "Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day" rattle through my head.
The engineer's report has arrived. The slab only varies a maximum of one inch total which is rather impressive actually considering what North Texas has been through. The engineer advises reconturing the ground around the house and installing gutters for better drainage. We are in a holding pattern as it is too wet to install gutters, reshape the yard, mow the lawn, or much else for that matter. We need it to stop raining.
August, 2007 -- It has stopped the constant raining. Gutters were installed.
September, 2007 -- Flower beds have been readied for spring and the Bermuda grass is doing very well.
October, 2007 -- Well in spite of my initial concerns God had been guiding us in our house purchase. Our little house is actually doing quite well compared with most other homes in the area. The foundation is holding steady and no new cracks have appeared. Our utilities are half or better of what our neighbors are. We hear horror stories of major foundation and wall problems from many other home owners.
Structurally the house is very sound. Our builder is going to take care of the what little settling has taken place before the Christmas Season.
Praise The Lord and hats off to our builder, Harold Stephens of Bonham, Texas.
November, 2007 -- We have been living here just under a year and our total utilities excluding phone service are averaging $250 a month.
December, 2007 -- Harold Stephens repaired the cracked tile in the kitchen. The few small cracks that do show up in the sheetrock are easily rectified by a little painters chalk and some paint.
The road in front of our house is the only access for this growing subdivision. It is a sorry poorly maintained stretch of white rock road. Traversing down Tiger Lane is a jostling experience at the posted 20 MPH speed limit. Our Escort, with it's modified suspension and 51 PSI Faulken tires, is even more rattling. Needless to say we travel a bit more slowly at about 15 MPH. We have found that if we travel 10 to 15 MPH down our road the dust is not stirred to an excessive degree. Traveling at the speed limit or greater cause scenes reminiscent of a Sahara sand storm. The biggest issue is that most folk simply do not travel at even the speed limit. The contractors who are building the homes further into our subdivision are the most flagrant violators and clearly lack good driving sense. Joleen has actually seen children playing well into the front yards of their homes hit by projectile rocks from contractor's truck tires and sent crying to into their house.
I contacted our Fannin County commissioner and spoke to him in regard to the county taking over the maintenance of the roads. The commissioner informed me that when the roads were first laid it would have taken very little if anything than a few forms to turn the roads of to Fannin County. Unfortunately Jamie Bledsoe, the developer neglected both the roads and Fannin County legal process. The roads are no longer to county specifications and would cost a considerable amount to bring them to specification. The prognosis of having the roads paved was even darker. Lacking both time and neighbor interest I dropped the matter for the moment.
Our almost constant southerly wind causes the white dust from the rock road to cover pretty much everything on our side of the street. Just keeping things clean is an issue.
January, 2008 -- Even during cold snaps our house holds heat well. For several days if has dipped into the teens at night and only gotten into the 30s or 40s during the day. We turn off the heat when we leave for school. The greatest temperature drop during the day has been 6 degrees during two days of strong, biting 25+ MPH northerly winds.
Our "Jacuzzi" tub in the master bath gave up the ghost. Nathaniel had used it a few times and Joleen had perhaps used it twice, no where near enough to justify the additional cost over a traditional tub.. While we are disappointed, we are not surprised as one doesn't need to look at one of those tubs very long to see they are going to be a maintenance headache. The very idea of installing something as complex as a pump and plumbing system for a six jet tub and allowing no access panel to the system is a mystery. The tub came with the home and was not an item we would have ordered. There are some things that would do more damage to fix than to leave be. Like the second bath shower, which is plumbed backwards, we have no plans to fix it.
February, 2008 -- Wiped the cabinets down with sealer as the finish was wearing a little. If one keeps on top of the maintenance the job is not too time consuming.
March, 2008 -- Planted Knockout Roses and Azaleas in the flower beds.
April, 2008 --
May, 2008 --
June, 2008 --
July, 2008 --
August, 2008 --
September, 2008 --
October, 2008 -- Work begins on the new Trenton High School Athletic facilities. Part of the development required a drainage reservoir build built behind our house. The pool which Nathaniel christened "the THS Reservoir" is designed to catch run off from rain before it flows on to Trenton High Meadows properties. Essentially the school is providing the drainage control Trenton High Meadows developer James Bledsoe has failed to do. If the amount of water that collects in the THS Reservoir is adequate then the school will seriously explore using that water for the athletic fields. Please explore our Trenton High School Photo Page.
November, 2008 -- A concerned Trenton High Meadows property owner mailed a survey concerning property owner's opinions about the state of Tiger Lane and other gravel roads through out the development and who should be responsible for fixing.
December, 2008 -- Another year and our home is doing very well and holding solid. Christmas!
January, 2009 -- We finally completed installation of our communications tower.
February, 2009 --
March, 2009 -- Our wild flower beds are doing great.
April, 2009 -- We discovered a great way to keep the crazy straight up in the wall dryer vent clean -- the LintEater. The LintEater works very well and is highly recommended.
Unfortunately, we also discovered a leak in the in wall drain from our kitchen sink. No access panels or means to check or repair plumbing fixtures are provided in modern houses it seems. It is amazing that such an expensive item as a house is considered so deposable as to not have a ready means of maintenance and repair of plumbing fixtures.
After cutting through the back of the kitchen cabinets, feeling the pipe, and determining that the leak was toward the slab and not higher I called Garrel Philbern a local contractor I know from church. Garrel confirmed that the best way to approach to continue the investigation was to remove the base board and notch the sheet rock. Garrel came by a few days later and removed the base board. The issue was that during construction a sheet rock nail hand driven and a trim staple was shot in to the pipe. As the nail in particular rusted what had been a decent seal eroded.
The repair consisted of cleaning the existing pipe; cutting a PVC patch from a scrap pipe; applying adequate primer and adhesive; and using an automotive hose clamp to hold it all together.
May, 2009 -- To our surprise and delight we received the Yard of the Month for May from the Trenton Garden Club. We are particularly pleased as we picked our flowers and shrubs to require little water or fertilizer. Wild flowers comprise over 80% of the front beds.
September, 2009 -- There have been two attempts in the last year to organize Trenton High Meadows property owners and push for improved road maintenance. The biggest issue is whether legally any pressure can be placed on the developer to fulfill his moral but not legal obligations.
Hats off to Daniel and Marsha Fisher in their effort to involve the county in Trenton HIgh Meadows road fiasco. The Fishers are the latest residents to take up the baton for the cause of decent roads. Unlike my investigations almost two years ago the Fisher's campaign has intersected with our county commissioner's discovery of a state statute that allows a county to take over road maintenance via public forum and residential ballots rather than the full cooperation of the subdivision developer. More information can be found on the Trenton High Meadows Subdivision Forum.
Now if we can just get folks to stop at the stop signs and hold the speed down to the "suggested" 20 MPH. There have been three brick mailboxes and a brick entry sign knocked down due to reckless drivers.
October, 2009 -- The situation on the Trenton High Meadows Subdivision Forum has degraded to bickering and lambasting. It has become quite clear that if the members of the forum represent typical Trenton High Meadows residents then without some outside governance there will be no cooperative efforts from the members of the subdivision. Fortunately within the forum one has what is in essence a self-selecting population. A) they own a computer, B) they have an Internet connection, C) they feel secure in their computer skills enough to join a forum, D) they feel strongly enough about a subject to join a forum and post entries on that forum. All that to say anyone on the forum is likely not a typical Trenton High Meadows landowner.
Our feelings on the road issue stem from our political philosophy and raw economic pragmatism.
Politically the most basic justification for government is infrastructure and military. Almost any student of political science will agree because infrastructure and military are simply too large for individuals to competently execute and manage. Elected officials are charged with the oversight of the population's needs in a representative democracy such as we have in the United States. We as citizens of the United States are already "dues paying" members of a system of organizations that oversee infrastructure and the military. The most fundamental level is our local government.
Currently all the roadways and associated drainage ditches in Trenton High Meadows are private and the direct responsibility of the property owner, in this case the developer James Bledsoe. With our roads being private and not public we, as a subdivision, have no other recourse when our infrastructure is failing other than ourselves. If the road in front of one's house is wash boarded or potholed then grab the hoe or fire-up the Kubota. If someone is driving recklessly down the road in front of your house you do not have the authority to enforce any traffic laws in part because you live on a private road. We must rely on each individual to pay their fair share, provide an equitable amount of physical labor, or drive within the "posted" norms to assure the subdivision's infrastructure is kept up to acceptable standards. Questions begin to arise. Who is to determine how the money will be collected? What means will be used to communicate any "subdivision arrangements" to new property owners? How do we as a subdivision decide at what standard the infrastructure is to be kept? How will subdivision landowners who cannot, or will not, pay be handled? How will subdivision landowners who are physically unable, or are too busy with jobs or family, to provide any needed manual labor be assisted? How will a property owner, or visitor, who consistently drives recklessly be addressed? It becomes clear as indicated by the comments on the Trenton High Meadows Subdivision Forum that consensus will be difficult, at best, and the situation can rapidly degrade to confusion or anarchy if care is not taken.
It has been previously documented, that the subdivision's developer James Bledsoe is morally responsible for the maintenance of Trenton High Meadows infrastructure and has missed at least one opportunity to seamlessly transfer responsibility for the subdivision's roadways to Fannin County (see December 2007 comments above). A close look at the deed restrictions and other documents accompanying the sale of property in the subdivision will indicate that neither Mr. Bledsoe or his company , TLB Builders, are legally obligated to maintain the roads or other infrastructure in the subdivision. When times get hard, Mr. Bledsoe has placed the interests of his company and family above those of the subdivision. A prime example is the loss of most of the street lamps within the subdivision. TLB Builders determined that the monthly cost of subdivisions street lights were no longer economically viable. Individual property owners were given the opportunity to "adopt" one or more street lights. Few property owners seized the opportunity and most of the subdivision's street lamps remain unlit.
If the behavior of the developer and the property owners are indicative of human behavior then sadly both individuals and loosely associated groups cannot fully and universally be relied on for infrastructure maintenance. Residents can not appeal to the county even though as landowners in Fannin County we are currently paying taxes. Converting the infrastructure of Trenton High Meadows from private to public would give residents political recourse as well. As taxpayers we could then bring pressure to bear on elected officials regarding a variety of issues from potholes, to traffic law enforcement, to routine Fannin County Sheriff Deputy patrols.
Political philosophy and economic reality now begin to intertwine. As mentioned, the subdivision residents of Trenton High Meadows already "pay dues" by currently paying the same level of property taxes that other Fannin County residents who live on county roads do. It is abhorrent that the indiscretion of the developer we must pay "twice" for road maintenance. Ultimately, however, it makes far less economic sense to continue paying full county property taxes and an additional amount for infrastructure maintenance. Poor road conditions tend to have a direct negative effect on property values.
Currently, Fannin County is very poor and many of the county roads are comparable or worse than those in Trenton High Meadows. One needs to focus on a future time when population, industry, and development will create a tax base similar to surrounding counties that have paved most of their county roads. In time this will occur, but not for Trenton High Meadows if the subdivision's roads continue to be private. The decision to request a county "take over" of the Trenton High Meadows basic infrastructure cannot be solely evaluated on current economic conditions.
A relatively small investment has the potential of yielding long term political and economic benefits. The investment it would take to get the roads of Trenton High Meadows to acceptable Fannin County specifications will be more than realized in increased property values, direct out of pocket savings, and political clout.
October 10, 2009 -- A group of "Concerned Residents of Trenton High Meadows Subdivision" drafted and mailed a letter announcing the Fannin County Commissioner Public Hearing.
October 14, 2009 -- James Bledsoe, the developer of the Trenton High Meadows Subdivision, has not fulfilled both his legal and moral obligations to the subdivision property owners by maintaining the roads or turning the infrastructure over to Fannin County in a timely manner. In a weak attempt to get Fannin County to take over the maintenance of the subdivision infrastructure Bledsoe requested a place on the Fannin County Commissioners Court (Item #7). His request for the county to take over the substandard roads was denied.
After days and days of rain and drizzle the roads are truly a mess.
View from FM 815 east on Tiger Lane. (For mores photos see the The Trenton House Photo Page 2009)
October 20, 2009 -- The Fannin County Commissioner Public Hearing with the property owners of Trenton High Meadows at the Trenton High School Cafeteria was held. Fannin County Precinct 2 Commissioner Stanley Barker with the assistance of Richard Glaser, Fannin County District Attorney, and Pat Hilliard, Fannin County Precinct 4 Commissioner did a wonderful job of providing forthright and candid information and insight to the crowd of over one hundred property owners. For the most part legitimate concerns were expressed and intelligent questions were asked. There appeared to be a concerted effort among the majority of attendees to keep the relationship with their neighbors "neighborly".no matter how this issue played out.
There was a great deal of anger expressed toward dishonest developer James Bledsoe who clearly did not fulfill both implied and expressed obligations. It was interesting to note that Fannin County Sheriff Kenneth Moore was present at the beginning of the meeting. Sheriff Moore left after it became clear that James Bledsoe was a "no show" and there would be no "judgment lapses" by any of the attending property owners due to Bledsoe's presence.
A small group of individuals insisted that the county go after Bledsoe for the money it would take to repair the roads. The group offered enough compelling documentation to prompt the District Attorney to state his office would pursue whatever legal means were available to force Bledsoe in whole or part to fulfill his obligations. Bledsoe may be a crook, but he is not stupid. He was dispersed most of the assists associated with the subdivision to several other corporations and a few relatives It will be very difficult to gain a judgment against Bledsoe that will be economically worthwhile. One lady shocked many attending as she demonstrated both ignorance and selfishness by stating she simply had better things to spend her money on and she did not intend to pay to help fix the roads.
A show of hands requested by Commissioner Barker indicated that a significant majority of property owners present wanted to move forward with the process allowing Fannin County to takeover the subdivision's roads and associated drainage. A minor timing snag required the Commissioner call a second hearing in December.
November, 2008 -- Trimmed back the roses and wild flower beds for winter. Most of our wild flowers are well established except for the non indigenous Blue Flax (Linum lewisii), Missouri Primrose (Oenothera missouriensis), and Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) which all three varieties were seeded for spring germination.
December, 2008 -- Christmas!
December 3, 2009 -- After months of consideration and praying we refinanced the house at 4.375%. Not the 4.25% the rates were when we began looking, but much better than the 6.00% interest rate of the initial home purchase. We should be able to pay the house off in under 15 years at the our current payment and save over $30,000. Even more can be saved if we increase our monthly principal payment. We are working to be fully debt free by 2020 or better. Our thanks to Mark Hammond a Mortgage Consultant with C and T Mortgage, LLC of Cypress, Texas for patiently guiding us through the process.
December 10, 2009 -- The second Fannin County Commissioner Public Hearing with the property owners of Trenton High Meadows at the Trenton High School Cafeteria is held. The meeting was very civil in spite of several attendees being very upset with developer James Bledsoe.
December 31, 2009 -- More rain, snow, drizzle, and fog to end the year.
Tiger Lane on a foggy last day of 2009 looking west toward FM 815.
January, 2010 -- Discovered a leak in our hot water line. Had same repaired.
January 2, 2010 -- Tiger Lane claimed another victim. Pete, our neighbor down the street, was bound and determined to get some road time in on his 500cc Kymco scooter. Pete started dow the street but only made it as far as our driveway before the caked mud on the scooter's tires and the soles of his boots rendered the "scoot" more than a slick handful. I had to take Victoria to the High School for her basketball managerial duties. I told Pete to stay right there and I would be back to help as soon as I dropped Victoria off. Typical of the male of the species Pete continued to take matters into his own hands. Jimmy Hass (across the street neighbor) found him in the bar ditch after dumping the Kymco. Jimmy and I used the buggie, a "come-aong", and some straps to pull the scooter out of the ditch. Jimmy and I continued to walk Pete back down Tiger lane toward his house. The mud was so bad that we had to keep clearing the area between the front fender and the front tire so the wheel would rotate. After seventy yards we reached the cul-de-sac at the end of Tiger Lane. Pete was able to continue on his own once on the less used and much dryer cul-de-sac.
The heroic Buggie and the mud boots after setting Pete and his scooter back toward home.
January 11, 2010 -- Hurray for the property owners of Trenton High Meadows for over whelmingly passing the referendum to initiate county take-over of the roads of the subdivision. Hats off to Fannin County Precinct 2 Commissioner Stan Barker who got a crew right to work on maintaining the roads soon after the vote was official. As noted in past posts James Bledsoe, president of TLB Homes LLC (TLB Builders), had long since abandoned both legal and moral obligations to the property owners of the development he started.
Fannin County equipment begins rebuilding the road starting with new base rock and reforming the crown on January 12, 2010.
January 11, 2010 -- We signed the papers for refinancing 119 Tiger Lane during an evening session at our dining room. Betty Cosgrove, the Notary Public provided by C and T Mortgage, LLC of Cypress, Texas came with all the papers to our home. Mrs. Cosgrove was a complete delight and we enjoyed visiting with her during the signing.
We have been making extra principle payments monthly but the lower interest rate and changing from a 30 year term to a 15 year term will enable us to pay the house off in less than 12 years and save at least $35,000 over the course of the loan at our current monthly payment. We plan on increasing our monthly payment as we can afford it.
February 10-11, 2010 -- Over a foot of snow fell in many areas in a little over a 24 hour period shattering records in both total snowfall and snowfall within 24 hours.
March 20-21, 2010 -- Snow with a very brisk northwest wind the first day of spring.
May 2010 -- For the second consecutive year we were honored with The Yard of the Month for May from the Trenton Garden Club. (For more photos see the May 2010 entry The Trenton House Photo Page 2010)
The Yard of the Month for May 2010 from the Trenton Garden Club
August, 2010 -- Fannin County Precinct 2 begins resurfacing all existing roads in Trenton High Meadows with Tishomingo, Oklahoma decomposed granite gravel.
Tige Lane is resurfaced with Tishomingo, Oklahoma decomposed granite gravel.
Our kitchen sink colapses and falls into the cabinet while I am washing dishes. Fortunately no pipes break or water sloshes into the cabinet We are astounded to learn from phone call to Joleen's brother Ricky, a cabinet maker by trade, that using only adhesive to install a sink is now the trade practice. Proper design works with gravity not against it. The sink is propped up using six supports made from "ripped" 1x4 lumber. I begin exploring alternative methods of installation that will last.
September, 2010 -- Fannin County Precinct 2 tnstalled an additional culvert and improved drainage along Tiger Lane.
Fannin County Precinct 2 tnstalled an additional culvert and improved drainage along Tiger Lane.
October, 2010 --
Return to The Yeager's 2006 Trenton, Texas Home Site
The Yeager's 2006 Trenton, Texas Home
Further Information on the Yeagers / Contact Information
God Bless America
This site was constructed using