Thursday, April 8, 2010

Saturday, March 12 - Tuesday April 4

It's been a beehive of activity at the house in the last month. Unfortunately, this has left me little time to record the events other than what I've been jotting down in my notebook and snapping pictures of. Here are some shots of the more notable items.

Roof Decking / Tarpaper - March 12, 2010

Nice to finally get in the dry.

Nash Getting Dirty - 3/16/10

After throwing a tantrum in the floor because Mom wouldn't let him run a muck, Nash shows off what he picked up while wallowing in the sawdust.

Roofing - March 16-19

The roofers we had really made working on these 10/12 pitches look easy. Ninjas for certain.

Used Car Lot - Monday, March 29th

I was amused to see all this iron lining the street this fine morning. I had to park on the next block, and I wasn't the only one. I think there were four trades working, and there were guys everywhere.

Brickwork - 3/29/10

The masons returned and got busy. It was all we could do to try to stay ahead of them and make sure plumbing and electrical items were poking out of the walls where needed so they could brick around them. I'm happy with the brick we chose. It's different from most of the houses in the neighborhood.

Me Perched in the Living Room Windows - 3/29/10

The past month has found me at the house pretty much every night till dark and every weekend day. This Monday afternoon found me on a walkboard left by my framers so I could mount the ceiling fan boxes in the vaulted living room. It's 17' to the bottom of the decorative beam over my head.

The Data Center

With the help of Karey's cousin Nathan and my good friend and conspirator Jerry, we've wired the house for power, cable, phone and sound. It's been quite an experience, and I could not have done it without the help of these fine gents. Here is the nexus of communications for the house. It's located in the upstairs storage area.

Exterior Siding Begins

It was the moment of truth when the concrete boards started going up. It's hard to tell exactly how things will all mesh together from the little samples. We crossed our fingers with the brick, roofing, lap siding, trim siding and windows and hoped it would all play nice together. I think it does, and we've gotten lots of compliments.

We went with the 8.25" Hardie-Plank cedar-lap, factory painted in "Woodstock Brown". It's made from cement, so it's pretty green, and it has a 15 year warranty on the finish.

The Laundry Chute (or An Exercise in Toe-Stumping)

This item has been in the plans from the beginning, but it never really got assigned to anyone and, therefore, no one looked out for it. So I undertook its construction after it had been encroached on by both plumbers and electricians. I guess I can't be too upset as I was managing both these trades (I even pulled wire right through the space myself). Doh!

The problem was that this particular area is adjacent to the main electrical panel for the downstairs and at a junction of several different sets of walls and floor trusses. It all made for a particularly daunting task, which is why I put it off as long as possible. When I finally got around to it, it was a feat just to get all the wires and pipes out of the way. Then began the head scratching in earnest. The position of the trusses and the upstairs walls did their best to force me to make a weird off-set in the chute, but to no avail. I got pretty handy with the sawsall before this thing finally took shape. Anyway, I'm really happy with how it turned out. I spent a Sunday morning sealing every seam inside the box with aluminum foil tape, and it is one slick tube. Should save the kids (and the wife) much time in the future as everyone has access to the chute from the hallway above.

These pictures really do not do justice to the amount of effort and thought this took. Oh well, I'm sure that's the case with most items of high-quality art.

The Foam Begins - 4/6/10

Much excitement for me began when the insulator got started. First because this is IMHO the pinnacle of insulation technology and I can't wait to see what my utility bills look like at the end of this summer. Second because I sure hope all the wiring and other mechanical is right because it's about to get covered. Fingers crossed until the fixtures go in.

This stuff is amazing to watch. It sprays on like runny paint, then expands like mad until it fills the wall cavities, sealing out air infiltration while insulating.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Morphogenesis (aka The Longest Post Ever)

The progress these two weeks has been really amazing to watch. What was mostly formless is no longer. I apologize in advance for the horrendous length of this post, but this is likely the most exciting period of construction that will occur on this project. Might want to get a snack and something to drink.

Here's the synopsis:

Tuesday, March 2 - Most of the upstairs walls were framed today

Wednesday, March 3 - Concrete for front porch, screened porch and piers for the back deck were poured. Framing continued upstairs. On my 7:30 visit this morning I quiz Rick about how the height of the box dormer wall in the Game Room and how the differing roof pitches will jive. Wall looks taller that I had expected. He says it should work out fine. On my drive home that evening from my day trip to Huntsville, AR, and Muldrow, OK, he called to say that it was not, in fact, working out fine. I told him, no worries, let's just drop the wall height as necessary and vault the ceiling as needed. We were making the ceiling difficult by having a different pitch on the front and back sides and trying to vault the ceiling to a ridge in the center of the room. Simply wasn't going to work. I am much happier with it the way it ended up anyway. Rick is quite simply a master craftsman of home framing.

Thursday, March 4 - Upstairs framing continues and well-drilling begins for the geothermal heat pumps. I'm very excited that I have the opportunity to employ this system which, from all accounts, is the most efficient method of heating and cooling a house that exists. It is also one of the most expensive. Fortunately, Uncle Sam is crediting my taxes for 30% of the install cost which brings the whole system to within $5k of a hi-efficiency air source heat pump. I expect to pay off the difference in less than five years and have excellent utility bills into perpetuity. I'll get into the details more in a future post.

Friday, March 5 - Another day of upstairs framing and well-drilling. Only one hole got drilled yesterday, two today. The framers are pretty much ready to pick a hole and stuff the well drillers in it. Not that they're bad guys, only that they make an amazing amount of ceaseless droning noise. Nerves are frazzled by day's end. Drilling is still underway when I drive by at 6:45.

7:40 am

11:48 am

Saturday, March 6 - Jerry and I got started hanging electrical boxes downstairs. Since we aren't in the dry, all we can hang are the blue plastic items. Canned lights and other ceiling items will have to wait. I had to listen to the well drillers finish their final hole, but I did enjoy watching the process of dropping the loop piping.

Sunday, March 7 - I worked solo all day and hung all the blue plastic boxes that had a wall to hang on throughout the house. A cathartic day and a real gumption-builder. It stormed this night, but was clear and beautiful on Monday morning.

The spot where these two roof planes meet is one of the areas that gave me fits in my 3D CAD model. There is a hallway underneath them that just wouldn't keep sticking its pesky head out of the roof here. Fortunately, the problem was solved nicely by my wood magicians. The hallway ceiling will be a tad short on one side, but will be perfectly usable and look good to boot.

Well-drilling mess. The blackness is shale that came up from the deep. The gray is bentonite clay that they pumped in to fill the hole after the piping was inserted.

Monday, March 8 - Framing continues on the Game Room roof. This morning I also watched them erect the large beam that will support the back deck roof. Looked hairy to me, but these guys do it every day. "If it were easy, our sisters would be doing it", they say.

Tuesday, March 9 - Rafters are up on the back deck roof. Karey and I met with Larry at 2:15 to go over some things. Everything is rolling along and snapping into place.

Wednesday, March 10 - Box dormer in Living Room roof is built. The attic storage under the back deck roof is complete and has an unexpected delightful amount of space. It will be the home of the upstairs HVAC unit and water heater, but will still have room for an average family of migrant workers to stay during the non-harvest months. I'm stoked to see this much storage space with such easy access via a door in the upstairs hallway.
After work, I went to Lowe's and bought more electrical supplies. Ran into my friend Roger, who is very close to finishing the construction on his new house which has been relatively horrific. He's been through two contractors for pretty much each and every trade. I think the plumber is the only one who completed his entire scope. Anyway, I waited out an impressive thunderstorm while hearing the latest in his adventure. Again, the storm passed over in the night and was crisp and clear the next morning. If it must rain, at least it's doing it at night and not slowing progress.

Thursday, March 11 - The upstairs framing is very near completion. The back side roof is completely decked and some of the front as well. Should be under tar paper by tomorrow, which sets me perfectly to continue the electrical rough-in this weekend. Karey's cousin Nathan Darter is helping with that work and started today by installing lighting under the house's crawlspace. That'll be nice for everyone who ever has work to do under there.
I talked Karey into letting my put a couple of triangular picture windows in the west wall of the Living Room's cathedral ceiling. Originally, I didn't think we'd have room because of the roof on the screened porch. Had Larry order those today as well as the shingles. Shingles were the final item to order as far as exterior materials. Should see another transformation in the next weeks as the outside surfaces get some color.

That's all for now. If you made it to the end of this post, I know what you're thinking because I'm thinking it as well. Thank goodness.