Mud On My Shoes

This week I’m getting up at 5:30am everyday.  Which is fine except I go to bed at 12:30am.   And I am not one of those people, like my brother or my old boss, who gets up every morning at 4am for shits and giggles.  I like sleep.  Actually, any more, sleep is the most fun in bed I can think of.  I like sleep.

Each evening is spent designing something, writing the blog, sending emails and drinking moderate amounts of beer.  Social responsibility is the latest casualty of our “Not So Small House” project.  Many of the items required to make the house hospitable are yet to be designed or need detail work done to instruct the trades as to how to perform their duties.  Last night was spent knocking off the design of a Kohler vanity set.  Sorry Kohler, if you’d have just put two drawers in your 12″ cabinets, I’d gladly write the check.  As it turns out, you know who, needs two drawers per 12″ cabinet in her Master Bathroom.  Me, I need a cup holder to set my toothpaste cap in.  She has enough paraphernalia to warrant a walk in bathroom closet apparently.  Anyway, custom drawer configuration equals cutting a check to our cabinet maker, my brother.  And it means me up ’til 12:30am drawing up the design in FormZ.  Thank you Kohler for DXF files.  No worries, based on what we spent on plumbing fixtures, Kohler should have a banner year.  Buy stock now.

The night before was spent designing the lighting plan….I think…..I dunno.  It’s all a blur anymore.  On the “to do” list is measure counters in studios to get those ordered.  Design lighting plan for my office alcove.  Design staircase.  On and on.  At some point I’ll wish I was an accountant.  I’d have a lot more money and could pay someone else to design this stuff. 

“But Chris, there’s so much satisfaction in designing your own stuff.”  Baloney.  Maybe sleep isn’t as satisfying, but it’s pretty close.  (Full disclosure: my wife does NOT sleep at all.  She takes care of the boys at night while yours truly snores away.  I love you honey.)

I get up at 5:30 am so I can post my latest drawings and instruction at the job site.  I like to think the trades wax poetically about how spiritually moving my designs, drawings and instruction are.  Reality is, they’ve all stopped showing up to work on the house.  Weird.

Mother Nature hates me.  It rains virtually every day.  So when I stop out to the money pit to post my latest “crayon drawing” on my proverbial “refrigerator” every morning I invariably end up with mud on my shoes. (By the way, I have no regard for the english language or the art of writing so turn your head if you got anything higher than a “C” in high school English class.)

 I’m just not that guy who takes an extra pair of shoes if I step foot on the job site.  I’m a “cut to the chase” lazy, middle-aged, white guy.  With the scope of this project, It’s a miracle if I bathe in the course of a day, let alone run the electric razor across my face.  Kids?  Yeah, I reckon I have two around here somewhere.  (cue ‘Cats in the Cradle’)

So yes, I am wearing the same shirt I wore three times last week.  And no, it’s not ironed yet. 

And yes, that is mud on my shoes. 

And frankly, I kinda like it.

It reminds me that somewhere out there is something bigger than me.  Bigger than all this “stuff” that is my life.  And it’s not about a wooden house or a tree hugger’s bible of efficiency or a glass sink.  It’s something infinitely greater than sum of its parts.

It’s about making something in this world worth making.  Something manifested in wood, glass and steel because that’s the best we can do as human beings.  But the real thing being made isn’t nearly as tangible.

It’s mud on my shoes.

Here are some pics, for  they are worth a thousand words.  If you’re doing something like this yourself, pics are one of the most valuable tools you can employ.  Enjoy.  Contact me with any questions.

A river runs through it. sigh, you can't see it but the water actually flows past my favorite dead tree and our future front yard.


The Rabbit loves, loves, loves the drive to the house at 6am.


Blue foam is starting to go on dormers. We wrap up the Raindrop housewrap real tight and then cover it in blue foam rigid insulation (4" Dow) bottom to top. Notching for blocks and rafters. Cheers to Big Tony for painstakingly installing.


This side is missing the firring strips that go on top of the blue foam. Vertical fir strips for lap siding, horizontal fir strips for board and batten siding. Also, see the ice guard and how it wraps the gutter board.


here you can see I'm slipping the Raindrop housewrap under the Grace Vycor Plus membrane flashing. Only under the windows. On the sides and top of the window it's the opposite.


Detail of finished window bottom. You can see "her" in the background applying Lowes housewrap tape (made by Pactiv, makers of our housewrap) on the seams of the housewrap.


Fuzzy pic but you can see, we went with 6' of ice guard near the gutters because our overhangs are pretty deep.


two of three roof penetrations. ugh, would've been cool if they were even with each other. Oh well.


taping house wrap seams. Note end of trench and cable box, electric and phone.


We really like our house.  Like I think I have a crush on it.  It’s not the most beautiful house in the world on the outside; at least not yet.  But inside, especially upstairs, I really really like it.  And it’s big, a lot bigger than we imagined.  As I’ve said, this is not good but it is what it is, no changing it now.  We’re growing accustomed to all of the house’s quirks and faults.  We’re growing to accustomed to calling it our house now instead of just a pile of cement, wood and PVC pipe.  It’s our house.  It’s no longer this task or that task.  No longer this guy’s coming this week or that guy screwed me over on timing or I hate Mother Nature.  It’s our house.  We’re going to get it done and no one will stand in our way.  Lead, follow or get out-of-the-way.  We’re past the point of no return.  Come hell or high water (god, I hope that high water part is just figurative) we’re finishing this house and moving into it.  I have a good picture in my mind of what everything will look like.

It’s our house.

I think I’ve imprinted on it like a baby goose to his mother.

Of course nothing’s drywalled yet so it looks really open.  But I think it’ll remain open even after drywall.  Long term there are things we can do if it gets too dark and claustrophobic.  For now though it’s great.  Upstairs is my favorite.  The loft is going to be such an odd open room on top of the house that I’m smitten by it.  Who the hell knows what we’ll do up there but we’ve got a loft.  It’s like someone leaving a roadster behind in my driveway; I don’t know what we’ll do with it, it’s not very practical, but it may just be what  a weak soul needs in the thick of it all. 

The upstairs hallway is a room in itself and will prove to be a great gallery for showcasing art for ourselves or potential clients.  I’m looking forward to the alcove I carved out of the bathroom to showcase some found treasures and / or art.  The bathroom bumpout adds some interest as well and will prove perfect for the “Mexican” hutch currently in our dining room.  Christine’s studio is going to prove to be out of this world phenomenal.  With ample cabinet space, stain glass interior windows and vaulted ceiling, I’m honestly jealous.  Oh well she’ll have to walk stairs to get to the kitchen downstairs.  Although, there is a perfect spot for a fireman’s pole…..

Downstairs, the hallway by the bath and laundry will prove to be another perfect gallery wall that clients can glance at as they ascend the staircase for meetings with the Mrs. in her studio.  The crossing axis created across the house and into the Master suite is fantastic.  I can see about 30′-40′ in either direction.  Even though the house is open, the position of where the windows will go created a breeze if you stand in the right spot.  Our architect’s planning is already reaping rewards.  The plan is that through passive solar planning and strategic window placement, we’ll have enough natural breezes in the house to negate the need to run the air conditioner unless absolutely necessary. I can’t wait to try it out once the windows are in and everything’s sealed up tight.

This weekend we did the electrical walk through.  We decided where all the lights would go as well as outlets, switches, cable outlets, and phone jacks.  We’ll actually have a lot more lighting fixtures than most houses, even though we’ll take advantage of day lighting as best we can.  Most of the fixtures will be recessed into the ceiling and will be on clusters of individual circuits to afford us some flexibility.  I’ll be putting LED bulbs in every fixture I can generally speaking.  There will be some CFL’s and regular fluorescents here and there.  No incandescents as far as I’m concerned.  We’ll see how it pans out.  As for fancy fixtures, we’re predominantly looking at sconces, a few ceiling fixtures, exterior fixtures and finally, a set of pendants over the dining room table.  Nothing to fancy, but not necessarily cheap either.  Seems retro barn look still costs money.  We’ll set up a separate panel in the garage to hook up duel 240V charging stations for electric cars.  The panel will also help us manage a full array of photovoltaic solar panels.  The garage is tall enough too that I could build a battery loft and even install a back up generator if need be down the road.

Most of the PVC plumbing pipes are in and the tub units are getting ready to be installed.  We have full shower in the basement that we’re not going to install right away, but best to get it down there now.  After everything’s done, it will be impossible to get a shower unit down into the basement.  We have plans to add some dummy walls and conduits from the basement to the attic for future expansion of electrical or other utilities such as a solar hot water heater.

Mother Nature has made this the rainiest few months I can think of.  Suffice to say if it’s sunny no one’s working, if it’s raining no one’s working.  One roofer should be out there this week putting down the underlayment and ice guard which should all but eliminate rain inside the house.  We have the challenge of building up our REMOTE wall system before the metal roof contractor starts later this week.  The loft and dormers need to be prepped with underlayment, blue rigid insulation (Dow brand from Insulation Depot), and firring strips for the siding.  I also need to start caulking the Raindrop housewrap where it overlaps.  The window bucks need to be cleaned up and the first installment of the Grace Vycor needs to go on, under the Raindrop around the window except below the window where it goes on top of the Raindrop housewrap.  The rigid insulation will need to be caulked too.  Because it’s recycled I don’t think tape will stick to it, it’s filthy.  So we’ll caulk the joints before we put the firring strips on.  The blue board is tacked in place with screws then we fasten it by passing an 8″ screw thru the fir strip and then the insulation into the studs.  All along the bottom we’ll have our first roofer bend up aluminum termite shields and tack those along the perimeter.  These will keep ants our of our rigid insulation.

Busy week this week.  Here are some cross sections and pics (cross sections courtesy of REMOTE wall article and Classic Metals out of Holmes County Ohio).

This REMOTE wall section comes from a builder in Alaska. Generally speaking it's our bible for our walls. execution on our end has not been stellar but doing the best we can.


I was told we can put half round gutters on a metal roof because a flange has to go into the gutter. I don't buy it, but alas I'll go with cookie cutter gutters to save cost. I little piece of my soul will kill itself every time I look at my lame gutters.


detail of metal roof at gables.


cleaning up phase one.


we have to wrap everything in raindrop housewrap. then wrap the window openings in flashing. the windows are late so we have to do it piecemeal.


I have to leave reminders on how to do everything related to insulation and air tightness. no one working on the job's ever done this before so it's a crap shoot everyday.



I think we’re almost halfway through the project in many regards.  In about 2-3 weeks we’ll pass into the back half of the project once the roof is on and the windows are set.  The house will be fairly well weathered in and work will be divided between inside and out.  Framing is about done except for the screen porch.  We’re discovering a lot of nooks that we’ll turn into storage.  You can never have too much storage.  For each nook though we have to add subflooring and work up solutions for the areas where we forgot to make the exterior walls air tight with the Grace Vycor.

This week we got our first waste container, a 20 yard container which is 22′ x 8′ x 4.5′ tall.  We got it from a local vendor who specializes in recycling construction waste.  Unfortunately our project generated a lot of waste.  By stick framing the roof, the result is a lot of little cut offs which take time to dispose of.  Every piece of something we throw out is something I paid for that isn’t going into the house.  Waste is one area where I let myself down.  Realistically unless the builder understands the concept of waste and works to eliminate it, building a house in the cookie cutter fashion, like we are in many regards, generates a lot of waste in material and money.

One of two piles of waste we’ve generated so far.
 Roofing plans are coming together.  We’ll have one roofer install the underlayment and ice guard.  For ice guard we’re using two brands; it really doesn’t matter, they’re all about the same if you get a good quality brand.  We’ll have it installed in all the valleys, where projections like the loft, gables and dormers intersect the roof and along the eaves or gutterboards.  At the gutterboard it’ll be wrapped to the bottom of the board and then up the roof about 6′.  We’re going 6′ because our overhangs are so large.  We want to make sure the ice guard terminates over the wall plane.  For underlayment, because our roof is 12/12, traction is the name of the game.  We’re using Grip Rite underlayment. 
One detail our roofer provided us with is how to finish off the exterior loft wall where it meets the roof.  Remember we’ll have 4″ of rigid insulation blanketing the house.
Additional work this week involves cleaning up the Raindrop housewrap.  The framers blanketed it into the house cavity so we’ll cut it back to the sheathing line on top of the roof so air doesn’t travel down the Raindrop channels into the house.

house wrap needs to be removed from interior of house to prevent air from getting in.

The framers installed window bucks as well.  These 2×8 projections around the window rough openings will be what we mount the windows to.  The exterior insulation will butt up to the bucks.  We’ll wrap the bucks in Grace Vycor Plus membrane flashing, underlapping it under the house wrap around the sides and top of the bucks.  On the bottom the Vycor goes on top of the house wrap to shed any water.

2x8 window bucks in loft

Minor anomalies arose with framing such as the boys’ closets, the door opening have to revert to regular doors due to the shape.  Take a look at the pic to see what I’m talking about:

we'll frame in the door openings more to eliminate the angle in the top left corner of the closet door opening.

Plumbing fixtures have been selected and the rough plumbing is going in.  We selected 1.23 gallon flush toilets to conserve water, as well as low flow shower heads.  The water supply plan is just beginning. We’ll be going with a 10,000 gallon cistern with an integrated filtering system to provide ALL of our fresh water needs.  The cistern will have a light indicator to let us know when it’s low. We anticipate not having to truck in any water except maybe in the dead of winter when everything’s frozen, or in late summer when it doesn’t rain as much.  A year like this year will have the cistern overflowing.
HVAC work should be starting soon as well.  We’ll be going with a 95% efficient gas furnace with a geothermal add-on.  More about that later.


My apologies for my absenteeism, it’s been a very busy week.  We were fortunate enough to sneak away from all the madness and get some rest and relaxation by visiting family over the weekend.  In our absence construction continued, and along with that our “to do” list did not get any smaller.

Rough framing is nearly complete.  The final partitioning is taking place.  We’ve had adjustments made to several rooms.  The upstairs bath required a complete redo to get the vanities on a wall that was tall enough to feature a mirror.  On plan it looked fine but in reality the 5′ kneewall made it impossible to use for a vanity wall.  We took the liberty of adding a bathroom nook, kneewall and bookcase in the hallway.  The boys bedrooms also benefitted from new nooks that will expand the space for toys and treasures.  We added two closets to divide up some of the space allotted to the first floor laundry as well.  The craft room was widened by two feet, taking advantage of free space that became apparent during framing. The framers also are installing add’l 2×8 boards to bring our roof thickness up to 16 inches.  This will allow for enough blown in cellulose insulation to give us an R-60 roof. 

One major part to be framed will be the screen porch roof.  This should go on as soon as the cement is poured for the studio, garage and all the exterior post holes.

I’ll cover more regarding the roof, exterior and everything else as soon as I can.  I’ve been informed that my dinosaur of a keyboard makes too much noise at this hour of night.  🙂

One last thing, I noticed plants are starting to sprout up in the yard where previously there was just dirt.  And they’re not your garden variety weeds, rather the “native” plants that were there before.  So slowly things are headed in the right direction.

naturally occurring pool and plants growing near where single garage will someday be.


plants sprouting in yard


The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

One of my favorite series of books is ‘Not So Big House’ by Sarah Susanka. I’ve spent endless hours pouring over the many pictures, concepts and ideas outlined in the two editions we have. I’d mentally and literally file away the ideas I’d want to apply to our dream house someday.  I even stole an idea for the fireplace surround in our current house from one of the books.  When it comes to house design and decorating I steal early and often.  Wait ’til you see the new house, I’ll show you what I stole.

Our current house is about 2,700 square feet and it’s perfectly comfortable.  We decided to build a new house for various reasons including making better space for doing art and storing the various art related crap that makes up a life doing art.  One of the things we wanted to do was make a “not so big” (NSB) house.  Now the premises of NSB are pretty simple, in fact they’re pretty much the premise of anything you do in life when resources are involved.  You’ve got three variables and you can load up on one or two but usually at the expense of one or two of the others.  When it comes to building a house your variables are size, cost and detail.  Here’s how we fared so far at halftime:

Size.  Our intent when it comes to size was to break even but eliminate rooms we don’t need like the office and the dining room and one of the bedrooms in exchange for two art studio spaces.  A big house, physically and visually just goes against everything we’re trying to achieve.  The hope was to slip a small quaint house onto our land. We caved right off the bat and added a craft room and a loft so, number of rooms wise I think we added two rooms.  Square footage wise we were shooting for 2,700 square feet.  I haven’t tallied the amount lately but it’s somewhere around 2,800+ last time I checked, though I contend if you don’t count the studios, we’re around 2,200 square feet.  Incidentally, the county counts everything and our footprint on Mother Earth is something ridiculous like 5,000 feet plus with the garage.  Where it gets really interesting is when you see the house in the real world.  It’s visually enormous from certain angles.  Like it’s about 12.5% out of scale.  Between the design and construction the end result is fairly intimidating to see in person.   We’ll make lemonade out of lemons, by embracing the scale of our house.  Expect to see an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ bottle at the front door if you visit to hopefully make you large.  We’re going to amp up the size of our furniture, decor, food and pets to overcompensate.  They installed the “breezeway” today.  Christine says it’s more of a “hurricane” way based on the size of it.  You could store 97 illegal immigrants in our breezeway roof alone. It’s so big it makes the garage look small.  My mother commented on how small our house looked before she left on vacation.  It was just the foundation at the time.  Now we no longer have to hang our head in shame. Our house eats small houses for breakfast.   “Honey, is that a bungalow in the eaves?  Good house.” We always thought our neighbors had a big house;  thing looks like a beach house compared to ours now. Our house is huge, but it’s our house so we love it.  Building a ‘Not So Big House’ is a cool concept and I encourage you to try it.  As for us, well I’ll never look at another house in the same way.  They all seem so small. Size Triangle Grade: C-

Cost: It’s tough to judge at this point.  I know for a fact we ran 50% over on excavation because of the blue clay.  We went over on appliances, fireplace and plumbing fixtures, but saved on insulation, steel, cement and windows.  The increased size of the floor joists caused the overhangs to get larger which will cause the metal roof (already 50% over budget) to get more expensive.  All of which will eliminate any savings of switching from engineered rafters to dimensional lumber, which I’m not convinced saved us any money in the first place.  It’s too early to tell but we’re well on our way to blowing the cost leg of the triangle too.  Best case scenario, we home school the boys.  Worst case scenario we sell the house before stepping foot in it (email me and make an offer just in case). Cost Triangle Grade: D+

Details: It’s a bunch of wood now so tough to tell.  We have grand plans. The kitchen, whose design I stole from Dwell magazine, will be awesome.  The general floor plan is manageable and having the studios will be out of this world great.  No more walking up and down stairs to load up the trailer with art.  10″ window sills, interior transoms, a variety of materials, and nice decorating should save the day….while bankrupting us.  The spaces and window layouts are great visually.  The loft is a nice added bonus.  Details Triangle Grade: B


Kitchen coffee center in our cabinet maker's shop.


So we’re going to have to back off on at least two or three of the areas if it’s going to happen at all in the end.  Size is set but we can hold off on finishing several of the rooms and landscaping until we have the money.  Same with details, we can hold off or go with the “Less is more”, “Keep it simple stupid” school of design from here on out.  Cost if impossible to improve unless it’s savings based.  There just isn’t any time to bring in more money into the equation.  It will be a miracle if we’re ready for next year’s art shows.  And the day job in corporate America is like living with a rabid ferret….”Hmm did I remember to lock the cage before I went to bed?”…..”Did something just dart through the doorway”…..any minute you can all be over just like that.

An unsaid fourth part of the triangle (ha ha, I actually got an “A” in high school geometry) is a slurry of principles, ideals, ideas and intentions.  I think these are just as easily eroded during the building process as the other three.  And as dependent on the other three as well.

One of our intentions was to build a “Not So Big House”.  Well, things don’t always turn out like they’re intended.  I’m sure it’ll be fine once it gets the final grading, some landscaping and finish trim.  If not, it’ll still be our place one way or another….well there is that “cost” part of the triangle……ugh. 

Breezeway is easily 12' in the air at present.


House looks big. It scales down on subsequent visits. note different color 2x8's, short ones are white, long ones are redish brown.


Planting Dreams

We’ve got the world’s best black walnut tree in the back yard of our current house.  He (or she) sits in our back yard, just this side of the shed.  Each year he’s the last one to get his leaves and first to lose them.  I suspect he’s lazy like me. He’s not nearly as tall as the half-dozen or so other walnut trees in the area, but he’s tall enough.  If we were to live here forever, I’d probably build a fort near his trunk for the boys.  He’s grown a bit in the last seven years and he, along with the maple we planted in the front yard, are about as close to a friend a man can get when mowing the grass on a hot summer afternoon and looking for a touch of shade.  We’ve even had a picnic in our own back yard last year, under our walnut tree.  Every fall, except for one, I think we’ve had a bumper crop of walnuts grow on “our” tree. If you’ve never seen a walnut, their “husk” (if that’s the right word) makes them look like big green balls hanging from the branches of the tree.  Eventually they fall on the soft grass and clover below; usually during a big storm or as Fall creeps in to lay waste to everything Summer offers up to her.  Most years I collect up the walnuts and toss them in the woods.  One year a squirrel planted one under our deck and it grew into a baby tree.  I promptly transplanted it and in doing so, sealed its fate.  It died within a few weeks.

I’ve read how you plant walnuts to get them to grow into saplings.  I even tried my hand at it last fall.  All I accomplished was turning my hands black.  You see, when you take off the green husk, the moisture inside the walnut turns black when exposed to oxygen.  If it’s on your hands, your hands turn black and even turpentine won’t take the stain off.  I’ve been shuttling nuts, like Noah and his Ark, from our walnut tree to the land for the last 16 months.  Usually I toss them into the preservation areas and figure nature can take its course.  I have yet to see a squirrel which may or may not be good I suppose.  They say, if you want to want grow black walnuts, plant two plots: one for the squirrels to dig up and eat.  The other plot for the squirrels to dig up and forget where they re-buried them.

Tonight we made our daily trek out to the land.  Wife, kids and me.  And as we’ve been known to do, we brought along some souvenirs for the new house and the land.  James had gathered up some treasure today at the current house and he could be seen dragging a tan plastic bucket across the drive of the new house.  Inside one could see about twenty-four 2″ diameter green nuts. 

In my dream of dreams, if I can somehow manage to get one viable sapling, from one nut, from our black walnut tree, I think I’d cry with joy.  Excluding marrying my wife, having our two kids, and picking out our grey cat, I suspect growing a descendant of our black walnut tree on our new land would surpass any other accomplishment I can think of in my  lifetime.

So it was with much skepticism and one and a half ounces of hope that I dug about fifteen little holes in various parts of our property.  And a little blond boy dropped 2″ diameter orbs into said holes.  I gently covered each with soil. 

So we’ll see what happens.

They say the true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you will never rest.  I’d be happy with just seeing a tree emerge.  Technically I could last long enough to see our nut turn into a full size tree but more importantly I’d have successfully brought a piece of our friend with us to the new house.  We’ll have that continuation which is so critical in life.  Connecting the past and future.  Hell, maybe I’ll get lucky and when they go to scatter my ashes, they can drop a handful around a tree whose seed I planted way back in 2011.

Here are pics from today.  Enjoy.

SFI label. Not sure how much, if any of the wood, is certified.


cool cloud. proves you don't always have to live in Texas or Nevada to enjoy spectacular skies.

Looking Like A House

More land wildlife.

The house is starting to look like a house.  Despite a lot of rain the framing has picked back up full steam ahead.  
I’m always amazed by the wildlife I see out at the land.  Over the weekend we spotted a small snake and a day or two ago I saw a frog and buzzard.  Seems everyone’s enjoying the house and land as much as we are.  
I’ve been working on the studio insulation in order to prepare for the cement being poured.  I think I worked the rigid insulation three times, which trumps my effort with the basement insulation.  Forgetting to put the HVAC pipes meant I basically had to start from scratch.  I think I’ve now got it set up as good as it’s going to get.  There’s no insulation around the pipes so I suspect we have a weak spot in the heating / cooling plan, but I’m not sure what I’d do differently, unless I rip up the pipes and swaddled them in insulation.  “Good enough” is going to have to be good enough. 

Studio insulation. The cement will pour over the insulation and HVAC pipes. The 4" will fill up to the bottom edge of the pressure treated sill plate.

While working the 2″ insulation around the perimeter, on Sunday, one of the many thunderstorms we’ve been getting decided to remind me that Mother Nature hates me.  A neat looking black cloud snuck in from the northeast as I was hoping to finish up and get out.  Next thing I know I look up, barely think “cool, I can see my shadow” and the air in my front yard cracked in half in a thunder clap that shook the house.  Drop tools, high tail it out of there.
Fortunately the last two days have been pretty nice.  The rafters are going up and the visual scale of the house is coming back into reality.  The garage still seems huge but at least the house is coming back to the real world.
We’ve been frantically picking out plumbing fixtures so the plumber knows where to run the plumbing pipes.  Also have been meeting with the roofer, fireplace rep and our cabinet maker to plan the next phases of construction.  Our kitchen cabinets are currently being made so that’s exciting. We still have to adjust the design of the upstairs bathroom to accommodate the vanity mirrors.  We’re also adjusting the amount of floor space built into the Cape Cod style roof in the bedrooms.
Waste is beginning to pile up.  I found a pretty good waste collection company that will recycle 80%-90% of the waste we put into the waste container.  I’ll go out to the site, measure up and decide what size we need.  We’ll do two collections.  One at end of framing, another at the end of the project.
Plumbing and HVAC start later this week.  Framing should be done by end of week as well.  Now it’s getting exciting.  Now it’s starting to look like a house.

no idea what the pile of used cement is for.


roof framing. note floating dormer rake boards. roof sheathing will slip underneath.

Ups and Downs, As Usual

House framing with loft on top.

Framing is about half way complete. Mother Nature and the lumber supplier are making a mockery of our schedule. We lost two, relatively dry, days waiting for 14 pieces of subfloor from the lumber supplier. Fall has descended upon northern Ohio and Mother Nature has held out as long as she could. Now we’re subjected to daily rain and temps in the high 60’s. Our electrical trench and sono-tubes for the posts are all filled with water. I don’t even want to imagine the basement; as I don’t think the sump pump is hooked up yet. Maybe I’ll go shopping for goldfish.

We’ve had to hold off the cement contractor because the HVAC in the studio had to be installed. That’s installed but now I’m holding up the project because I haven’t had a chance to put the rigid insulation in the studio floor. It’s getting dark at 8 o’clock now so by time I get out to the job site I’m lucky to have an hour to work. This weekend is scheduled to be raining 24 hours a day, but one way or another I’ll have to get it done so we can get the cement poured on Monday. Putting the rigid down is complicated by the HVAC tubes which stick above the gravel into where the insulation goes. This will require a lot of cutting by hand which is tedious.

I dropped the phone line in the electrical trench which turned out to be a lot more difficult than it sounds. The trench is over 300′ long and a large section goes through the woods. When the trench was cut, a lot of roots overhang the trench which means I had to get down into the 3′-4′ trench, ankle-deep in mud and water and snake the wire past all the roots. A thankless job if there ever was one. I did see a frog though. He kind of looked at me like I was insane, trudging through the muck.

Framing has still been a challenge. The loft is in place and it makes the house seem incredibly tall. At this point the overall scale and proportion of the house does not put me at ease. Hopefully once the roof is on and it’s finished the scale will recede a bit. Right now our “Not So Big House” is rather big. The height issue was compounded by the structural engineer who switched the floor joists from 9.5″ to 12″. This adds about 9″ to the overall height of the house and expanded our overhangs. The larger overhangs will add cost to our metal roof as well. In hind sight, had I known about the taller joists, we could have assessed the impact to our cap cod style home and maybe altered some things before we ordered lumber and started framing.

Another issue we ran into was on paper the entire time but didn’t come to light until we started framing. The large window in the front of the loft was actually drawn up with its bottom seating about halfway down into the floor of the loft. The only practical fix we could come up with was to frame out a rough opening floor to ceiling and order a new window. We may have to eat the old sized window, as all the windows were ordered weeks ago and are scheduled to arrive any day now.

We’re in the process of selecting plumbing fixtures and this is proving disappointing as well. We’re putting the brakes on the process a little and doing our shopping on-line, at least to select makes and models of fixtures. The regular system is set up to make plumbing selection as hurried and unsatisfying as possible. No offense to anyone but the plumber sent us over to his preferred supplier during our lunch hour where we literally have to select everything in an hour or two. Options are usually limited to a couple of items. If we didn’t know any better we’d settle for the process. Afterall we did with our current house. Since this may be our “end all” building endeavor though, we’re taking a step back and using the internet as our showroom. I’ll then send over our selections and they can order them.

Once again, we have to challenge the “old way of doing things” because it just doesn’t fit the reality of how we need to work on this project.

We’ll be out there today finalizing the partitioning of the entire house and then I’ll brave the rain and mud and finish my foam. Miserable yet rewarding work.

It’s exciting to see it coming together. Here are some of the latest pictures. Enjoy.

Utility trench. Carries electric, cable and phone. Cable and electric were dropped by others. I had to drop phone. Miserable job.


here you can see all the roots that I had to snake wire around.


view from the loft / away room.




Loft.HVAC pipes in studio floor.HVAC pipes, vapor barrier and then rigid insulation all in before cement is poured