Sweep Day

After a week out-of-town for work, I was excited to get out to the house today.  Christine and I packed up our cleaning supplies and the boys and headed out to the job site.  Upon arrival I opened the creaky front door to find my brother was busy picking tape off the floor where the painters had masked everything.  Tony was patiently installing all the interior door knobs.  We took a quick around and then went upstairs to start cleaning up.  The carpet we picked out for the second floor was ultra soft underfoot.  It’s green sage color looked really nice and appropriate for the house’s decor.  All over there were new things to discover, as much work transpired in my absence.  Christine set about getting every penny out our Dyson vacuum, as she swept up all the fuzzy carpet pieces that resulted from the carpet installation earlier in the week.  The house is now kid friendly.  Both boys had a blast running around upstairs getting in our way. 

My first order of business was to clean up the windows.  I used a flat head screwdriver to push in the expansion pipes behind the flexible window trim.  You may remember back when the window were installed, I crimped and hit the ends of the pipes with some clear silicone.  The pipes did have a foil balloon attached so that the argon gas inside could expand as the windows traveled over the Rockies….the balloons gave the gas a place to expand into thus keeping the windows from exploding.  Pushing in the wire looking pipes into the trim was tedious and some windows were better than others.  Once behind the trim I employed a razor blade to scrape off all the paint overspray and window stickers.  A wipe down with Windex and a rag finished that task.  I forget how many windows we have but I got ’em all clean upstairs and can finish the rest tomorrow.  The impressive window wall in our studios required the use of a really cool A-frame ladder that the painters had left on site.  I need to get something like that once we move in.  Worked really well for cleaning otherwise unapproachable windows.

Sweeping the new carpet has to be one of the most rewarding jobs during the whole project.  Christine is keeping most of the house cleaning duties to herself as she finds great pleasure and ownership in the various tasks.  We did switch halfway through and I swept up the stairs.  The staircase is incredibly nice.  The guys at Carpet Warehouse did a great job wrapping each tread individually with a 2′ wide swath of the green carpet that was used upstairs.  A lot of the remainders were able to be used which kept the material out of the landfill.  It’s a nice combination: the carpet, maple treads and the white railing.  The white support trim piece under each tread provided the perfect start / stop spot for the carpet wrapping the treads.  I really like the wood flooring on the landings too.  Having landings afford us the opportunity to place additional art or furniture pieces on site, regardless of the square footage of the landings. One unfortunate omission is a light on our lower landing thus making it a bit dark.  Our youngest enjoyed practicing his stair crawling techniques on his new treads; even scooted down backwards a few steps for the first time.

We’ll sweep the master suite tomorrow.  It’s brown shaggy carpet felt wonderful walking across it as well.  Way up top in the attic there’s a light brown “berber” type flat carpet with a subtle dimensional grid pattern.  James had a fantastic time running around in circles and jumping off of window sills.  The attic will be great for writing, reading, and stormy summer camp outs with the boys.

We had a tour earlier in the week.  Our architect brought out his second year architecture class to see the place.  I wish I could have joined them, as I always enjoy showing off Joe’s latest masterpiece.  The report I got back was that the students liked the house and said the attic is “sick”, which I believe is a good thing.

Al, our Italian (I think he’s Italian) mason, whom I can barely understand, stopped out.  I asked him to mortar some of the stone fireplace crevices in an effort to better camouflage the fact our stone is fake cultured stone.  I don’t know Al well but he used to work on our jobs decades ago when my brothers built houses, and I was a good old-fashioned rough carpenter.  Was good to see him again.  I hope that he can do the exterior stone on the house, once we have the funds to make that happen.  He’s a good guy and pretty much the best mason you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.

I’ll leave you with today’s pics and their commentary.

Crazy, but this is starting to look pretty similar to my rendering of the kitchen.

Sub Zero integrated fridge and freezer received their skins this week. In the center is our altar to coffee. The big thing on the floor in the middle is our convection microwave awaiting its day in the sun. I'm not sure if it's the picture but I'm pretty sure the lights don't line up on the wall like they are supposed to. Attention to detail is not the construction industry's stong suit.

   

Glass tile is laid and grouted in the master shower. The tiles vary in size so there is some inconsistency. Also note, if you're doing this yourself, make sure you get good mortar coverage. The tile edges are glass which means you can see the change in light penetration where there isn't any mortar in the corners. Overall the shower looks good.

Ladders and saws are replaced with carpet and vacuum cleaners. Note the pharmacy sconce in the background from Restoration Hardware. I'll need to remount using longer screws or install some blocking, they're a bit shaky.

Boys bath cabinet by Kraftmaid, from Lowes. It's so tight, the door on the right doesn't work. Crappy design and a tight fit = compromise.

We picked out these sinks 8 months ago because that's what we "had to do". Turns out they don't fit the cabinet we picked out 2 months ago. Which is a damn shame cause I like the circle shape of them. There's probably a "restocking fee" so we'll just hold onto them and pick up two new ones at Home Depot. unfortunately "compromise" is very common when building a house, even if you think you have full control.

I need a giant ladder like this in the future to clean these windows. There's a crank to open top window. Have no idea how that will ever get used.

Hall ceiling lights are in. Happiness. Except the electricians need to move one box over staircase to accommodate large diameter lights.

Family room is finally clean and ready to go, except for a couple of appliances in the way.

Edges of the front door hardware are starting to wear, from oil rubbed bronze to shiny bronze / brass color. Very cool. The handles will help keep time as we, and future generations live in the house. If you're restoring this house 100 years from now, keep these door handles please.

Oil rubbed bronze interior knobs are in place.

 

Master closet wall sconces from Restoration Hardware. Kinda industrial, totally cool.

                   

Lapa hugger ceiling fan with light from Barn Light Electric. Now that I look at it, they installed it wrong, should be hugging the ceiling with no down rod. They also couldn't install the $75 wall switches I paid for. Two items that we'll get fixed after we move in. Installation issues aside, the fans look awesome in the bedrooms.

Cement counter in half bath made by our trim carpenter. It has a fair amount of subtle character that should suit the half bath fairly well. Below is the vanity we got from Home Depot. We painted it black. We'll distress it and add four fake knobs, hopefully something eclectic.

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Check Out Our New Pad

Today we actually saw some progress on the home front.  I stopped out after work and happy to see all the carpet padding was installed throughout the house.  Tomorrow we get the carpet.  After that it’s “shoes off” for everyone working out there, as far as I’m concerned. 

Squishy carpet padding is everywhere now, along with tack strips - ouch.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I’m not sure of the brand name of the carpet pad, I suspect it’s the typical stuff that goes in a cookie cutter house.  I did ask the guys over at Carpet Warehouse to air out the padding and carpet before they install it so that any harmful chemicals will offgas before the material enters our home.  I could still smell some “stuff” but we should survive.  The carpet is supposedly good stuff made partially from corn.  On Wednesday it’s supposed to be 58 degrees outside, so I asked my brother to open up the windows while they work.  That should air out the place and get rid of some of the chemical trace from the various materials that are off gassing in the house.
 

The carpet padding in the Master suite.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In addition to the padding, several other trades were busy today.  I noticed the painters touched up a bunch of stuff including some ceiling areas in the boys bath where we’d put down our first coat of green paint.  Tony also touched up the drywall in the boys bath, leveling out a corner and making it look a lot better than it did yesterday.  Elsewhere he also hung all of the doors.  They had been taken off for painting.  I suspect tomorrow he’ll put on the door knobs.  I had wanted to help do this but I won’t make it out to the site this week I don’t think.  No sense waiting for me.
 

Doors are installed.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The most interesting thing the painters painted today were the steel i-beams in the kitchen.  These beams actually aren’t load bearing, but we felt they lent an industrial feel to our contemporary kitchen and helped delineate the space from its surroundings.  The beams were painted a flat black color.  I think they were painted with something nasty because I could smell the paint, but hopefully this will offgas when we open the windows.  We had a 2×6 placed on each beam to provide a shadow line and to visually beef them up vertically without specifying a taller beam.  Once we move in I may put a faux finish on the beams.  We’ll see.
 

I-beams in Kitchen are now painted black.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The HVAC guys have been busy too.  I noticed the register vents are installed on all the walls.  The Aprilaire Energy Recovery Ventilator is fully installed too.  This unit is a must have for our tight house.  It preheat fresh air with warm air that is being exhausted.  This should keep our energy bills lower while providing a steady supply of fresh air.  In a perfectly tight house this would  be the only source of fresh air.  Regular houses have enough gaps and holes that the whole house “breathes”.  Ours shouldn’t breathe at all if all goes according to plan. 
 

All my incandescent bulbs in the basement are burnt out so I can only show you a picture of the box our ERV came in. James can turn this into a fort.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

When these bad boys get installed, you know you're near the end of your project.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I know my brother was busy in his shop today fabricating countertops, so those should be going in too.  The material for the quartz counters should arrive at the fabricator tomorrow.  I think within one week most everything should be complete and ready for inspection.  Fingers crossed.
 
– Chris

Energy Hog

Ohio Edison sent me a nice little treat in the mail today.  The electric bill for the new house provides a nice reminder of what a disaster this project truly is at times, start to finish.  Inexplicably I’ve got two accounts set up with the utility….maybe instead of moving the meter they just threw a second one on the house.  Actually makes sense….I’ll have to check tomorrow…..maybe the power pole still has a meter servicing the temp outlets that they snaked into the house.  Meanwhile the cheapo temp electric furnace is running off of the main power.  Between the temp electric furnace and sump pump running 24/7 our electrical usage is roughly 6x that of our cookie cutter colonial that we’re in now.  We’re averaging a usage of about 100 KWH per day at the new place!  For reference, we average about 570 KWH a month at our current “builder special” house. So something on the utility’s end is out of sorts or we need to get the regular furnace hooked up and stop using saws as soon as possible.  I can’t afford $500 per month in electrical bills for a house that is supposedly energy-efficient.  We’re also going through sump pumps like candy, I think we’re on our 3rd or 4th one already.  The cost “per mile” for this house is tracking towards an extraordinary number.  It’s like construction amateur hour and the joke’s on me. 

From an ecological and social standpoint, compared to what is going on at our new house, I’d be doing less harm to the world right now if I herded three dozen baby seals into downtown Cleveland and beat them to death with a ball-peen hammer in front of a kindergarten class.  At this rate I’ll make Big Coal bosses blush and Big Oil tycoons want to write alarming letters to the editor.

We were successful in selecting carpet today, now we just need to get it priced out.  I don’t have the information in front of me, but we did select Mohawk Smartstrand carpet for most of the second floor.  It’s partially made from corn derived resin which reduces the reliance on using petroleum to manufacture the material. (Apparently I will need said petroleum to heat my house at some point so win-win). The master bed carpet is also Mohawk.  The attic will have, what I call, a berber style carpet (forget the name) in a snooty grid pattern.  Most importantly all the carpet is Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus which means it meets indoor air quality standards.  This is important because the house is (supposedly) tight and won’t exhale the toxic fumes as readily as a leaky old house would.  All the crap they put into carpets gets ingested and deployed throughout your body via your blood stream.  If I’m going to deploy crap throughout my body it’ll be via Anheuser-Busch products not some off gassing carpet.  Besides, if you know my kids (especially the little one), they spend half their time face down or rolling around on the carpet.  Don’t need them being pissed at me thirty years from now when they’re shooting blanks or battling cancer.

We’ll have to wait and see how much the carpet costs.  We’re trying to get two quotes.  We checked Lowes, and while they have Smartstrand, it’s all different “model” names compared to the distributor we went to.  Once again corporate America makes it impossible to compare apples to apples or make an informed decision.  “Do as we say and everything will be just fine” they seem to be telling us.  None of the carpet at Lowes had the CRI Green Label Plus on the back as far as I could tell.  It was Mohawk Smartstrand so I’m assuming it’s Green Label Plus but no icon so one can’t be sure.  I would have asked but I’m pretty sure no one at Lowes would have the slightest idea of what I’m talking about.  I will say though the display was visually appealing although not really informative.

I’ll have more for you later.  Not much I can do til Monday.

-Chris