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For my 100th post a little treat for you, I wrote a poem….my first, so go easy on me….it’s late so I reserve the right to keep tweaking it….maybe add something about a pirate.  (It’s my poem and it’s copyrighted so you can’t just go willy nilly using it either, ask permission).  It’s for the wife, thanks for putting up with me the last eight months building this thing.  She’ll like it, it has a cat in it.  Anyway….

Home

Oh what to make a house a home?
Surely does not require a tome
Open creaking front door
Tread on bronze tile floor

Small boys chasing rainy mornings
Heeding watchful mother’s warnings
Filling jars with hopes and dreams
Sewing everything at seams

Chasing fireflies through heat and haze
Learning by eye, life’s amaze
The sound of wind through sassafras leaf
Under pillows baby teeth

Notches on poplar door frame
Sadness that they’re not the same
Little grey cat on window sill
Shining sun with warmth does fill

Laughing with family and good friend
For it is they that memories depend
Stealing sweet summer night kisses
Crafting never realized wishes

A place for celebrating times of gladness
Comfort hiding death’s great sadness
Shelter for when storms do warn
Awaken renewed to greet the morn

Lying asleep under winter’s drift
Through our destiny one does sift
Always present, can always return
When aching heart does so yearn

At the end of every road traveled
It lies in wait, weariness unraveled
A house is a home when it’s in one’s heart
So forth we go, a brand new start

-Chris Weigand © 2012

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Moving, A Lil’ Bit

I guess technically we started moving today.  We went to go see the house and we took over two lawn chairs, two saw horses and a shelf’s worth of garden seeds, wasp spray and miscellaneous soil additives.

The house really needs a good cleaning.  There’s dust everywhere and the carpet is getting matted down.  It’s kind of sad.  The house doesn’t feel fresh and new, or crisp like when you walk through those “Parade of Homes” homes.  That should hopefully change once we clean up and start populating it with several lives worth of crap.

I grabbed Project Cam and brought him home.  There were a lot of great pictures on the SD card.  It appears that the camera worked as planned.  Only weird thing is there are huge blocks of days missing.  Not sure why, maybe the sensor got covered for several days and then uncovered so it’d start taking more pictures.  I have two other cards to check on, but I was at least able to review one card tonight. 

Looking at the photo stream from one day you can appreciate the positioning of the house on the lot.  The large south windows capture the sun first thing in the morning.  This helps passively heat the house up just as everyone is crawling out of bed.  By noon the sun hits the garage roof, which will be handy in the future when we install solar cells there to generate electricity.  Finally the screen porch receives late afternoon sun, followed by a blanket of shadow just as the sun is getting most intense visually; in other words trees keep us from being blinded by bright sun during cocktail hour on the deck and screen porch.

Inside the master bath mirrors and shower door are in.  The mirrors are simple pieces we picked up at Home Depot or Lowes.  The color is slightly off from the cabinets but for now they’ll be okay.  Down the road we can paint or stain them to get the tone just right.  The shower door looks great, virtually a seamless and floating pane of glass.

Upstairs one can now find the ship’s ladder installed, making access to the attic space an easier affair.  The simple white-painted ladder had steps set 8″ apart, and the overall assembly is set at around 68 degrees from horizontal.  Our toddler was able to navigate the steps on his own with the help of a spotter providing courage on demand.  Upon reaching the last step and his final destination, he was able to partake again in passing the time by jumping off the generous window sills onto the grid patterned carpet up there.

In the kitchen, all the cabinets are done with the exception of the aluminum doors and the LED under counter lights.  There are some issues with the doors visually, but I believe down the road all the panels can be replaced.  The laminated doors will suffice for now though.  We have bigger fish to fry, though the finger grips for the drawers and doors will hopefully be adjusted to be more ergonomically friendly.

Outside the excavator is midway through finishing up the drive, providing us with a firm surface to park in front of my studio and opposite the garage.  An earth stabilizing fabric is laid down and then large stone is placed on top.

 

One disappointing thing I discovered is that our Nest thermostat won’t work with our Water Furnace brand furnace.  The hybrid nature of our system isn’t compatible with the Nest.  I sent the company a picture of our wire set up and they quickly responded that it’s not compatible:

Hi Chris,

Thank you for contacting Nest!

I have reviewed your photo and I have determined that you are incompatible due to your black “I” wire. This is most likely the emergency heat. If you decided to forfeit the use of your emergency heat, which is normally only used in conditions of extreme cold, than you would be able to use Nest.

Your system as it currently is connected appears to be a heat pump with first stage heating and first stage cooling, in addition to fan control, a ground (common) wire, and emergency heat.

This stinks.  Now I have to sell my Nest.  If you want one, contact me forthwith.  Our hybrid system acts as a geothermal heat pump most of the time and the high-efficiency furnace kicks in when it’s really cold out.  I’m surprised something as advanced as the Nest doesn’t work with a “hybrid” furnace system (which is fairly advanced in my opinion).

 

Ok, that’s it for today.  Oh, and the boys started moving in too….each of them got a small glass and wire “bug” from their mom to put on the window screen of their new bed rooms.  Hopefully the bugs will be comforting to them when they move into their new spaces.

Spring

Happy Spring everyone!

While we were on vacation in sunny Florida, the weather was even better in Northeast Ohio.  When we left everything was in Winter mode and grey and not leafy at all.  As we drove north after a couple of weeks it was exciting to see all the trees budding from North Carolina to Cleveland. Pulling into our current neighborhood, after our long journey, the sight of the pear trees in full bloom, lining both sides of the street, was indescribably beautiful.

We did stop out at the new house on the way back into to town to see what had transpired since we left. Unfortunately not a lot happened.  Although we have our occupancy permit and loan, meaning the gov’t and lending institutions are happy to say the project is done, this doesn’t translate into everything being done so the peeps who pay the bills are happy.  This was Thursday, so I can now say that much progress has been made since then that I’m ready to move in.  The kitchen was the main thing not completed that would hold us up, and it has since gotten a  lot closer to completion.  All the appliances are now in.  Cabinet doors are basically in too. We still need to order the aluminum framed doors for some of the upper cabinets.  We’re taking a chance that ordering them through Outwater will prove uneventful.  Seems simple enough, measure, select finishes (satin tempered glass with aluminum frames), handles (none for us) and hinges (up swing).  Here’s hoping they work nicely.  They should look great.

A few notes on the appliance installation.  The Zephyr hood will look good once we get the protective plastic off.  Only issues we have is there is supposedly a need for exposed screw heads but none were provided so our carpenters have some nasty looking wood screws holding the vent shroud in place.  The other issue is the vent shroud will freely wobble left to right if you put your hand on it.  The guys will fix this by mounting a wood block to the ceiling inside the shroud to locate and keep the shroud from moving at the top.  There will be some wiggle down low but no one should notice unless you purposefully wiggle it.  Please do not come over and wiggle my shroud. As for the Wolf range, I contributed to the installation effort by raising the unit to be level with the countertops.  You’ll want  a 3/4″ socket for the back scissor jack legs.  Turning the forward facing bolt head is tough cause you can’t quite get a full click on the socket wrench.  For the front I’m not sure what size the nut is on the levelers but I can tell you it is over one inch.  I ended up using vice grips, careful not to scratch the hardwood floor as I turned them.  The location of the gas line coming out of the floor is critical as there is not a lot of leeway.  I know at least one or two times the line had to be moved to get the range seated properly between the cabinets.  Generally speaking the door fronts lined up as I had envisioned.  Technically there are some visual issues with the kitchen and how things line up and the fit and finish, but nothing that the lay person is going to spend much time getting hung up on.  For the record I’m probably the most judgemental person you’ll meet, nothing is ever good enough. 

Other issues revolve around the kitchen ceiling not being level which plays into how the cabinets above the fridge and freezer finish off at the top.  My brother ended up cutting the doors shorter to create a shadow line between the cabinets and ceiling.  The eye won’t be able to discern the sloping ceiling with that shadow line up there.  Shortening the doors also allows them to clear the trim rings on the ceiling recessed lights.  Crazy as it sounds, it seems every little thing fights us sometimes on this house.  It’s possible to reach the promised land, but only now do I realize the sheer amount of design and planning it would take to get it right….much of which you need from the get-go.  Then you need a lot of luck and you’re at the mercy of everyone exicuting to that plan.  I’d love to do it again sometime and see what is possible.

One thing that will be easy to change will be those recessed lights, and I say that because our ceiling in the kitchen is smooth.  Which means changing the lighting doesn’t require retexturing the ceiling, just means a really good patch job on the drywall (and paint).  I hate all the 6″ recessed lights we put into the house.  Every house I look at on the TV and in magazines have more contemporary 4″ lights.  The 6″ lights make the house look dated. I guess I didn’t think of it until after the fact so it’s my fault.  By default the electricians just put in 6″ lights cause that’s what they probably do on every house. My mistake for not catching it, I will fix it in time (and money).

Overall the kitchen turned out (or is turning out) nicely.  The wife and I can and should be very proud of it.  We did see the kitchen faucet in person for the first time and it looks great.  Nice style and the scale is appropriate.  A lot of people are now understanding the steel beams in the ceiling, as now that the rest of the kitchen is in place the beams have come into their own.  As I looked at the kitchen yesterday, it struck me that while the look is very modern and contemporary, the finish selections, other than the stainless steel, are kind of retro….I can’t describe it but I’ll let you decide for yourself when I post final pics.

Elsewhere the ship’s ladder is in and it looks great.  I don’t have a pic today but I’ll show you next time I go out.  The only real deal breaker is the fact that the shower doesn’t have its glass door yet.  Beyond that the house can and will be moved into soon.  There are a lot of cosmetic electrical things that need to be taken care of.  Seems like the electricians just “mailed it in” in some regards.  The exterior outlet boxes are surface mounted and the mounts for the exterior lights are dismal; cedar boards mounted wrongly at an up angle so the lights shoot skyward 15 degrees.  All is easily fixed.  There are also a plethora of pipes, vents and boxes mounted to the outside of Joe’s masterpiece which were seemingly placed by men with no aesthetic sense whatsoever.  In hind sight I should have planned the detail and location of each to the nth degree, but live and learn.  But we’re also at the mercy of whichever dude rolls into the job site that day and whether or not he’s pissed at the world or loving life when he’s installing our $150 light fixture from Restoration Hardware.  In the end every house, even the fancy ones in magazines have these blemishes.  It’s nothing that a little time and money can’t fix.

It was nice to see everything greening up out at the new house.  Looking forward to seeing all the happy plants and trees come back after their Winter hibernation.  Jonathan had set aside some dogwoods and other flowering bushes I marked when he excavated the site.  We replanted three of them yesterday next to the driveway.  Christine and I also spent part of Saturday marking out the rest of the driveway, beds and walkways between the house and garage.  Finally a small parking / turn around spot was cut in between a tall cherry tree we saved (it’s budding) and the freshly replanted dogwoods. Up by the septic field they were busy contouring the land by hand to get the area to dry out.  Once dry they’ll overseed it per regulations and that area will start greening up again.

In the spirit of Spring, I’ll leave you with some fun landscaping numbers.  Not all of this gets planted right away, but according to our landscape plans we’ll be planting 67 new trees, 180 shrubs and plants, and approximately 800+ perennials.  Wow!

This is what happens when it's Friday at 5 o'clock and your electrical box install is all that stands between your electrician and a happy hour date with his girlfriend.

Range hood wiggles and has exposed screw head, oh the humanity!

 

Back of the house looks like a "Vents For Sale" showroom. Can I interest you in something oval-shaped or a classic big ass metal box looking thing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring has sprung. All the happy trees and bushes are budding.

Single garage doors look awsome on paper until you actually have to park a car in them. I survived though and successfully was the first person to park in our garage.

You can see cut in for parking spot. To the right are the three trees we saved from the excavation. They're budding so it looks like they're surviving so far.

This is where we were for the last two weeks while all of you were busy working for a living.

 

 

Embarkation

I sit drinking my Red Stripe, as our vacation regretfully winds down like a half cranked children’s toy (no really, just my first beer of the day, I swear to god).  In a handful of days we’ll be switching gears officially from building a house to moving into a house. 

Part of me is excited to go back and get cracking, another part of me wants to pull the want ads out of the Naples Daily News and see about getting a job.  Unfortunately my talents teeter precariously on non-existent.  Suppose the two-day trek north is as good as it will get.  Remarkably I hear the weather is incredibly nice up there so we have that to look forward to.

Much of what we have is boxed up since our last move (eight years ago), which along with the rest is easily shuttled to the new homestead.  Aside from paying for it all, I actually am excited to get on with it, so to speak.  I’ll snooker a handful of friends into helping us move our worldly possesions….and honestly, we’ve all done it so many times, aside from saving our backs, hiring movers would prove of little value.  Yeah, we’re that good.

It will be enjoyable to get the house “under way” and start charting her performance.  If Spring stays temperate, she may leave port using little or no energy, save power to her lights.  Ferrying ourselves away from the old house permanently should help the monthly bottom line as we’ll be able to mothball that place and cut back on expenses.  Also looking forward to saying goodbye to water and sewer bills.  Yes, we’ll have to pay for the upkeep of our on-site systems, but there we will now be afforded a degree of freedom (at a cost of convenience) most people in America can only dream of.  Given the choice of freedom and convenience my heart goes for freedom every time.  As an exciting aside, for me at least, being self-sustaining allows us to experiment down the road as well; increasing efficiency, trying new systems and products, growing god knows what.

The small steps of packing and moving will put us right in the thick of getting back to working on artwork for the upcoming season of art festivals.  Both studios will be up and running by months end if all goes well.  Every piece of art sold pays for a light fixture, faucet or layer of blue foam.  I’m optimistically (maybe unrealistically) looking forward to being pleasantly surprised by the house’s contribution to our bottom line.  Once up and running our attention will turn to getting the yard up and running and contributing as well.  Come hell or high water we will get something out there growing that we can harvest by year’s end.  Next year will be more organized, but for this year, a small plot of vegetables and a scattering of fruit plants will suffice.  Long term, for shits and giggles, I may see if our land and house can sustain us outright.

The workers are milking the last week of access to the house finishing up odds and ends.  After this weekend I’m throwing them all out, ready or not.  We’ll need the drive finished and get a jump on landscaping I suspect but inside I’m over having people in “my” house other than me.  At least for the time being.

When we get home I’ll start spray painting the remainder of the driveway and the walkways and beds between the house and driveway.  We’ll run up to the garden center and start lining up trees to buy or order so once Spring is here for sure we can start planting.

So I never was able to really relax on vacation but at least we got out for a couple of weeks.  Mentally a little more charged for moving and getting on with the next phase.  Ready to embark on the next step.

Done

 We’re done.

What started with a bulldozer in July ended today with a permit allowing us to occupy the premises.  

Eight months and three  is what it took to go from tick infested brush to finished livable house.  Sure there are a few things to finish but it’s all stuff that can get done during the course of living in the house.

I didn’t do much work on the house myself.  But the last thing I did before I left for vacation was install the house numbers.  We ordered our modern house numbers online.  Each is milled from solid aluminum and the installation was fairly simple and straight forward.  The consensus was to arrange them vertically.  We preferred putting them on the garage, centered vertically with the lower window.  The apple trees should not obscure them, even when fully grown.

Now we can order pizza with some semblance of hope that they delivery guy will find us.

Also before we left we got to see the Silestone countertops and kitchen sink installed.  They look great.  The grey expo finish looks like cement and is a lot glossy-er than I had imagined.  Generally speaking the kitchen looks virtually identical to my rendering.  I have not seen it with the door fronts on yet, though.

Silestone grey expo quartz countertops installed.

Blanco kitchen sink installed. Single bowl will make it easier to clean pots and pans.

Spy photo of cabinet door fronts installed.

Spy photo of ship's ladder installed for attic.

Obviously  a  lot more got done since we left, but it’ll have to wait until we get back to see.  Then the fun part starts (other than figuring out how to pay for everything).  All the fun (and sometimes sad) stuff that it takes to turn wood, steel and glass from a house to a home.

Eve

So I should be writing our “punch list” for the house tonight but I just don’t have it in me.  I do have two Bud Light Limes in me so all is not set adrift.  In about 10 minutes I’m going to sit my lazy ass down in the comfy chair, finish my beer and have some twelve-year-old kid halfway across the country shoot me in the back of the head via my Xbox.  Freedom, sweet freedom.

Seriously though, I can cut the list and drop it off in the morning on my way to work.  I’m going to go on vacation for a few days to recharge from all this house stuff.  We can actually close remotely, so I’ll just monitor the last steps from afar.  Before I leave though, I will stop by tomorrow to see pretty much what turned out to be the figurative crown jewel of the joint.  Tonight is countertop eve.  Only a matter of hours until our quartz counters go in, which should finish off the kitchen.  Although I need to prod my brother to install all the door fronts.

I think I’ll be in love with our kitchen.  Tomorrow will determine the degree of that love, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to look a lot like my rendering, and more importantly my mind’s eye…in fact it may be the one thing in the house that exceeds my expectations all around.   The world needs our kitchen.  I honestly believe the world is a little better off after tomorrow than it was before today because that kitchen exists….. or at least that’s the hope right.

No it’s not earth shattering or even that overly unique.  Hell we filched it from a coffee table magazine.  But we did make it our own.  It has style, craftsmanship, and enough unique qualities to certify it as a needful thing this side of the earth’s crust. 

Alright, I’m done.  I’ll show you pics tomorrow.  Thursday wins.  Thursday is good. Only thing left to do is go battle Friday.  And possibly have a beer in the new kitchen.

Cleaning Windows

I’ve been getting progressively more exhausted with each passing day.  Mentally I’m just about shot.  The house building process has gotten the best of me; I thought I was strong, this house proves I probably am not.  Thankfully for my sanity, the windows need cleaning and I’m just the guy to clean them. 

We spent the weekend cleaning up the new house (and cleaning the old one to show it to prospective buyers).  I finished cleaning all the windows last night and spent tonight working on hanging towel bars.  As it stands now, the house is an incredible cocoon, isolating myself from the rest of the world.  Methodically washing each of about thirty windows is the perfect meditation.  Scraping off the labels and overspray.  Wiping the crud out of the crevices.  Spraying a mist of fresh smelling Windex across each glassy plane.  Working alone in silence.  The last time I experienced this degree of peace, solitude and quiet was when I was cutting out foam blocks from my shiny new foundation in the dead of the summer heat.

Now in the dead of winter grey, albeit an unseasonably warm winter, it’s difficult to feel more than a fractal degree of optimism.  But at least in one night’s (or one night and a day’s) washing windows I at least got to be alone with our new home.  That is reward enough for now I suppose.  Best to get this project done, move in and spend our time, at our leisure, fixing all the little idiosyncracies that beg to send me into a fit of whatnot.

I did reflect on the permanence of what we’ve created.  Or at least my hope that there is some degree of permanence to what we’ve done.  Hopefully by documenting this project, someone a hundred years from now will appreciate what we’ve tried to accomplish; reflect on all the details we tried to turn into reality.  What we’ve done in terms of energy efficiency is ahead of its time frankly.  And I say that only because it was so foreign and difficult to execute.  It really should be common practice but alas not a lot of people value things the same way as we do I suppose.  In a fleeting and disposable society, our hope is that we’ve created something that will last for a very long time.  Soon the bank will come out and put a value on the place.  On paper we’ve input a lot more money than we planned. And on the surface the house is not necessarily remarkable or even “worth” all the money that’s been used to construct it.  Even so what is rendered in wood, steel and glass should reflect a value that should appease the bank (at least enough for a loan).  But the house is so much more than the sum of its parts.  Only time will reflect this project’s true value in this world.  Our society’s current methods and models of assigning value to “things” is disappointingly out of touch with the realities of how the world (and universe) truly operate.  What we’ve built will be compared side by side to traditional houses.  Bonuses will not be given to our abode for the fewer number of mountain tops that will need removal to power it.  Just as demerits are not levied against typically built cookie cutter houses that work hard at degrading us and our communities.  And our project is not immune from negative effect.  For example, the amount of waste generated during the course of our project is staggering.   We’ve could have fallen out of bed and found ways to reduce waste.  But alas only so much can be done by so many in so much time.

Anyway, enough of my social tirades.  On to the eye candy.  Enjoy.  We’re almost done.