Studio Night

Good news, cedar siding is going on the dormers. Bad news is I just realized cedar siding's going on the dormers.

On an otherwise dismal day, at least one little portion of my existence is shaping up.  Siding is going on the house.  There’s a dormer that’s 2/3 covered in siding materials.  The bulk of the house and garage will be Western Red Cedar siding that we’ll let weather to a natural grey color.  The remainder will be painted board and batten siding.  It took the picture above for me to finally realize a potential issue though.  The cedar siding may wreak havoc with the health of our rain water collection plan.  You can collect rain water for consumption off a variety of materials including asphalt shingles, but cedar is a no no.  There are toxic preservatives in most if not all cedar shakes used for roofing.  Cedar itself, regardless of preservatives, contains natural tannins and oils that make water coming off of it non-potable.  Figures with everything going on I’d wait ’til the last-minute to realize there was an issue.  I guess my oversight knows boundaries after today.
Ultimately though this only affects the three dormers on the house.  The attic loft is painted board and batten siding so it won’t cause a problem. 
I’ll know better tomorrow if we have to replace the one section on already.  Otherwise everything is running along, slowly but surely.  The siding job itself is stunning in conjunction with the metal roof.  Bar none, it’ll be one of the best looking houses in the area. Of course I’m biased and know nothing of humility.  Ugh, I wish we were doing stone right off the bat.  We’ll all just have to wait a year.

Porch ceiling covered in OSB. Will then be wrapped and covered in insulation inside and out. The recessed lights have a built in adjustment so they'll slide down the requisite 1.5".

This week was remarkable also for the fact that I got back into the studio.  Granted it was only to paint frames, but in the studio again I was.  I had forgotten how good that can be for my soul.  And no, it has nothing to do about hiding from the family.  In fact, for half the time I had a guest artist in studio.  

A budding "tape" painter just like his old man. Hopefully he loses the paint brush and makes something of himself someday. Being an artist is no way to go through life. Trust me.

I set up the easel and palette for my painting buddy, donned in his official “painting clothes”,  and proceeds to bark out orders.  He concisely tells me which colors of paint he’ll need for the night’s session.  I’m then informed I need to supply him with no less than five brushes and two palette knives, all called out by their proper names.  And every five minutes or so  I am to stop whatever I am doing and supply him with painters tape.  Not to get all ‘Flowers Are Red’ on the kid, but regardless of what colors I dole out most of the painting is a greenish grey blob.  But if you were to ask the artist it’s a painting of his “Tower”. (Actually no need to ask, he tells you outright, so his ego-maniac, artist dad is doing something right).  After about twenty minutes he’s done for the night and he retires back up the wooden stairs leading out of the basement, leaving me to my thoughts, paint and my one beer for the night.  It will be easier when we’re in the new place as the studio will be on the first floor and  easier to access the rest of the “action” in the house.
But also, hopefully, the new studio will be still somewhat secluded.  For I forgot what it was like to get away from the rules, expectations, and order of “reality” and get back into the studio where pretty much anything’s possible with the bat of an eye.  How nice it is to turn on some music, wet a brush and paint something.  Anything. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s something to be said for solitude; no matter who you are or what you think you’re doing (or think you obligated to be doing) with your 24/7.  A solitude and individuality that to the extreme can make one unbearable to be around, but well worth the risk in any instance.  Trust me, I’d lead you not astray.
That being said it’s still a nice treat  when you are fortunate enough to get the occasional fellow artist to join you in studio for a night.  Even when he’s a demanding, blonde three-year old.

Mantle Day

Building the house is a series of seemingly mundane processes and “work” punctuated by the rare fun task to give the project its seasoning. 

I went out to the house today to work on some odds and ends with my brother, who’s also our master carpenter for the project.  The pocket doors are all installed except the Master Bath pocket.  That door ended up being a 2′-10″ door which is a rarity in the pocket door world so we’re backordered on that one.  No big deal.  We also installed blocking for towel bars and toilet paper rolls.  Not the sexiest part of the job but necessary none the less.  I also moved the Dining Table pendant plates to be more in line with the lighting plan I conjured.  They were mounted outboard enough off plan for me to notice. 

Overall we’re humming along.  Inspections passed for all the rough ins.  Siding will start going up on Monday.  The final color scheme is a pretty poorly kept secret, but you won’t know until I post it here.  Actually final paint won’t go on untill Spring because we’re in the heart of frost season now and the afternoon temperatures no longer reach any manageable height.  And finally the largest window in the house will go up in the loft sometime this week.  How it will go in is something we’re still working on.  Hopefully with the help of the siding contractor we’ll get it installed.  The 45 degree metal roof makes it quite the task.  One other thing we did today is we installed a couple more LVL joists under the loft / attic ladder opening.  I like that the opening is still letting in a fair amount of natural light into the otherwise dark Cape Cod hallway upstairs.  In my dream of dreams and maybe someday I’ll install a glass floor in the attic and let even more light in.

I do need to check ProjectCam though.  I think he’s being neglected; his memory card may be full.

Once we wrapped up our chores inside my brother and I jumped outside and started looking for logs.  The fireplace is going to need a mantle to hang stockings from so I thought it’d be nice to craft one out of the timber we cut down when clearing the lot.  We only cut five trees down so we had a limited selection.  My first choice was the cherry tree I cut down myself, with Corky’s guidance.  It was actually standing pretty close to where the fireplace is today.  Unfortunately it proved to be too narrow.  Our mantle is 48″ wide, about 5″ tall, and between 3″ – 6″ deep.  The mantle will curve in a gentle arc to make it more approachable / pass-able.  The fireplace is in the center of the room and is in a traffic area so to have a solid rectangular slab, while more congruent with the style of the house, would project too far in my opinion.

We walked over to a larger pile of timber that was felled and stored near the east preservation area.  Amongst this pile are a handful off cherry trees and one maple tree.  We selected the lower trunk of a cherry tree as it gave us the most material to work with and would be softer to cut with the chain saw than the maple.  If I had to guess I’d say this is the cherry tree Corky dropped with the help of Jonathan the excavator.  It was a pretty gnarly tree that required some roping to assure it fell in the best direction.

Picture of the raw cherry tree log we selected for the mantle.

My brother then proceeded to make an end cut for length with the chainsaw.  A knob was knocked off the one end next.  We then positioned the log to make cuts lengthwise to square up the timber.  Eric cut off as much sapwood as possible.  The sapwood would show up as white bands in the finished product and wouldn’t stain as well.  Once squared up on all four sides we loaded the soon to be mantle in the truck for transport back to the cabinet shop for processing.  Eric will seal the ends and set the log inside to dry out.  By sealing the ends the log will more uniformly dry, but there’s always a chance the log with crack.  We’ll have to wait and see but it shouldn’t.

First cut of log for mantle. Note, you can see the chairlift chair in the background I believe.


squaring up the cherry mantle log with a chainsaw


Fin. (for now)

Once dried the log will be run through the jointer, planer and chainsawed into shape.  Ultimately it’ll be sanded and.  We’ll lag it into place above the fireplace when we go to trim out the inside of the house.


Been out-of-town so I missed out on a few days at the building site.  Insulation has begun and our EnergyStar consultant has been visiting the house.  The rigid insulation is being wrapped up outside and the front porch is on as well.  While I was out they didn’t run the insulation all the way down my studio wall when they put the front porch on.  I’m contemplating removing the porch, install the rigid and then lag the north side of the porch through the foam into the studio studs.  On the other areas of the house the ledger board is against the house, my prefered method for structural reasons.  Thermally though this is a train wreck mitigated only by the fact that where the ledger board ends up vertically it’s at or below the floor joists.  We’ll over compensate inside with lots of spray foam in the joist bays atop the Superior Walls.  I can’t do that in my studio.  The issue is compounded because there are water lines that run in that studio wall where the porch meets.  Best thing may be to start over on the front porch.

The fireplace is in, just waiting on the inspection.  I’m getting some feedback on the housewrap on the outside of the chase, but need to check with the inspector, I’m not sure what the issue is.  I also need to bring out the air intake 4″ so it will project past the rigid insulation.  Finally the fireplace installer inserted some pink batt insulation in the chase areas.  We’ll pull that out and make sure it’s insulated properly.

Cost is becoming an issue so we’re cutting back where we still can.  We’ll delay the air cleaner and humidity control on the furnace.  They can be added if necessary down the road.  One nice thing about doing them now was getting the 30% tax credit on the entire geothermal system including these add ons.  But omitting them now saves some money.  We’re also omitting all the stone on the house and will install that after we move in.  Stone is planned to go on the foundation, fireplace, chase, garage and front porch area.  We picked out a really nice cultured stone product that gives a nice stacked stone effect.  No big deal waiting.  Need everything to grow back in before the house is book / magazine photo shoot ready anyway.  Inside we’re reevaluating the kitchen cabinets and may switch to laminate door fronts.  Laminate will be less authentic, but more durable and may be able to get a better match / consistency of color and visual texture vs. playing with real wood.  Countertops may switch from concrete to laminate as well.  Though there are several other materials we’ll look at.

The greenest thing is to buy durable materials that you don’t have to replace down the road. But with every plan, flexibility is the key to success.  There comes a time when various points on the quality, quantity, cost triangle have to move in or out.  We’ll omit the front hall built in for now too, that can wait until we’re moved in.  Items like the screen porch, certain light fixtures and transoms above the bedrooms will wait as well.  Other items can be upgraded down the road such as the lighting in the boys bathroom. Several fundamental items were never up for consideration such as the HVAC hybrid geothermal system, appliances, roof, siding and insulation.  We’re balancing as best we can.

Some items will have to wait til Spring regardless including exterior painting.  It’s just too late in the year to reliable paint the house on the outside.  Siding doesn’t start going on for another week.

Insulating the house takes about 5 working days.  The first few days are spent spraying expanding and non-expanding foam in the joist bays and windows respectively.  ALL wire and pipe penetrations between floors get sprayed with expanding foam.  And all the seams between framing members get caulked to stop air penetration in its tracks.  Seeing this in person is awesom, not the act but rather the result.  I’ve actually dreamt of this day and I’m downright gitty I get to see all the caulk lines in person.  This is so above and beyond what cookie cutter builders have been doing for decades (centuries).  It’s also simple and cost effective.

Here are some pics, enjoy.

Not thrilled with how much 4" rigid we'll lose out on with the ledger board mounted so high on the studio wall. may remove porch and do over. Note, porch ceiling gets OSB and 1" rigid insulation. Should be 2" rigid but lights are designed to slide down only and 1.5" inches. I may box out around lights and add another inch of insulation everywhere else. It's living space above so it's critical this area be air tight and insulated.


Spray foam, roof baffles for air flow and corrugated "blockers" for the end of each rafter bay. Note, when we switched from engineered rafters to stick built, we gained a nice thermal break between the 2x4 and 2x8 rafters as shown here. this kneewall area is our line of defense. We'll insulation and tack up insulation wrap under the 2x4's to keep everything thermally copacetic.


QuadraFire EDGE60 pellet burning fireplace. Will burn sunflower seeds, corn, sawdust or switchgrass. 4" flue pipe is easy to exhaust, though it's crooked when it exits our house.


Window insulation is non expanding foam. Expanding foam will warp your windows.


can see white caulk on all framing seams. Expanding foam in joist bays above.


unfinished fire place chase. not rigid insulation under chase. air intake for fireplace shown.


styrofoam baffles stapled to underside of roof for proper air flow to keep roof in good shape for years to come.