Saturday Ramblings

A busy Saturday, but we’ve gotten somethings off the list. First off the gallery wall is completely painted with two coats of our Sable color paint. Check that off the list.

The gallery wall is painted. Another project complete.

The gallery wall is painted. Another project complete.

Also first thing this morning I went around and installed all the window cranks once and for all. We were missing a few and the set screws were never set. I went around and tightened the set screw and installed the missing cranks; I had to buy three extra sets at $30 a pop.

Tightening the window cranks, finally after 18 months.

Tightening the window cranks, finally after 18 months.

All the window cranks are installed, at long last.

All the window cranks are installed, at long last.

The window crank in the upper studio...well it's not going to get tightened since I can't physically reach it.

The window crank in the upper studio…well it’s not going to get tightened since I can’t physically reach it.

Wouldn’t you know it, I got to the last two windows and I was still missing two cranks. I actually had two in hand, but they were the wrong ones. Not sure why there are “left” and “right” cranks, but never the less I had two of the wrong ones.  I knew I had double and triple counted before I ordered the replacements. So I did the only thing I could do. I put a bounty out for two lefthand window cranks, promising $30 a piece for their discovery and safe delivery to me. Within an hour and a half the wife “discovered” where someone had inexplicably hidden said cranks; one in a junk drawer and one on a shelf somewhere. Having avoided ordering new cranks I installed the found ones, and forked over $60 in cash to the wife.

I am certain my family hides things now on purpose, because they know I will put out a bounty and I always pay in cash. Hey, if it means stuff is found and I don’t have to look for it, so be it. Our track record in the new house for finding bountied items is 100%.

The other day the wife and kids picked up an apple corer during a field trip to a local orchard. It’s pretty neat and makes apples fun to eat at lunch time. Also, not sure if you saw, but the front bed is now covered in fabric and mulch. Check that off the list.

The wife got an apple corer. It's a pretty neat little toy.

The wife got an apple corer. It’s a pretty neat little toy.

The giant front bed is now covered completely with fabric an mulch. Check that off our list.

The giant front bed is now covered completely with fabric an mulch. Check that off our list.

We checked on the bees this week too and they look great as always. The top mid-sized super has been prepared by the bees and is ready for honeycomb, then honey. We have a ton of late Summer flowers in the yard, and the warm days mean the bees are working hard. During inspection some honey dripped out of the comb and I snuck my first taste of our honey. It was magically sweet. I can’t wait to sneak a few small frames worth in October.

A tall frame capped with honey. You can see two colors of honey, light and dark, presumably from two different times of the year.

A tall frame capped with honey. You can see two colors of honey, light and dark, presumably from two different times of the year.

A frame from the center of the hive, covered with capped brood.

A frame from the center of the hive, covered with capped brood.

Bees enjoying a little sun, waiting for the hive to be reassembled.

Bees enjoying a little sun, waiting for the hive to be reassembled.

Bees congregating on an already inspected super.

Bees congregating on an already inspected super.

Inspecting a frame.

Inspecting a frame.

Our girls coming back home, and leaving the hive.

Our girls coming back home, and leaving the hive.

Our list goes on and on but it is very manageable. With every project complete the house feels more like home. Getting some art and photos up on the walls will help tremendously, and that is on the list. Another thing on the list is clearing out the brush around the gum trees. Which I need a working trimmer with a brush clearing attachment to do that job. Of course I wasted half of Friday trying to fix our TroyBilt trimmer…I replaced the spark plug, new gas, new oil, cleaned the air filter…in the end I couldn’t get it to start. I took it to a repair shop and the guy basically said he could clean the carburetor for $75 but why not just buy a new one with a warranty for $99 at Lowes. Basically ours was designed to be a throw away trimmer; a poster child for a throw away society.  Hmmm….what to do. I could fix it myself but that’d take hours of research and effort. I could go buy a new $99 one…after all ours is 10 years old and I could then use all the attachments with the new one (trimmer, brush cutter, blower). Or all we really need is a gas brush cutter, since we got a new electric GreenWorks string trimmer to handle grass duty. Getting a stand alone brush cutter would mean it was higher quality and not a throw away product. That would support a company making quality products that you want to service vs. a company making garbage products (I’m not a TroyBilt fan per se). In the end I’m going to go out and get a brush cutter, and probably drop $300 in the process. And yes it will be gas-powered, as I don’t know of any electric ones out there. I’ll try to sell off the old trimmer (along with my old gas mower) to some soul who is more mechanically inclined and adventurous than I am.

Okay, back to work for me.  Happy weekend peeps.

Burn Out

The number one rule of being a writer, or even an average blog writer, is writing creatively as often as possible. Well I’m sucking at being a writer because I haven’t written here in over ten days. In my defense we took a well needed vacation and I’ve been busy walking the tight rope between getting things done and going crazy with all the monkeys on my back.  Now all of a sudden Summer has flown by and I don’t know where all the time has gone.

I have been spending a lot of time getting some projects underway or at least planned out. I’ve had several tradesmen out to look at various projects including a small electrical punch list (adding outlets to the porch and finally hooking up the outlet in my studio), a gentleman came out to quote sealing my studio cement floor before we put in the new storage shelves, and I got an estimate on pressure washing the decks in preparation for staining them.  The pressure wash guy looked at washing the grey streaks off our gutters too but we ultimately decided to leave them because they’d just come back most likely. They only bother me and no one else cares so we won’t worry about it now.

For the studio floor there are several options. The company we’re going with uses H&C products, which I think is a division of Sherwin Williams. The finish that looks the best is an “infusion reactive acid” stain, which provides a mottled look. But the process sounded to hazardous for our comfort in our home – 4 day process, have to mask doorway to the rest of the house, and there are carcinogenic materials in the finished product. Instead I decided upon a water based semi-transparent decorative stain that is zero-VOC. We selected “espresso” which will hopefully match the tile found elsewhere in the house.  I just have to clear out everything from the studio so they can come in and prep, stain and seal the floor.  Once sealed I should be able to spill paint on it and have it be easier to clean up with soap and water.

Once the studio floor is done, we’ll start installing the new shelves and finally I’ll be organized in my studio, before I go insane.  Thank you god.

Speaking of organization, we got the laundry room cabinets installed and we love them. They make the room look more finished and now we have a ton of space to organize all of the laundry room essentials. I know all this costs money, and I know we should pitch 90% of what is in our home, but in the meantime it’s nice to have a place for everything. The cabinets should help with resale value as well, if and when the time comes for that. With the cabinets in, we’re waiting on laminate and then the countertop. We also need to select a sink for the laundry room and get that ordered….. So much to do not nearly enough hours in the day. If I win the lottery, the first thing I’m doing is hiring a personal assistant or two.

One other monkey I’m getting off my back is the window crank monkey. When they built the house three cranks went missing so I finally ordered new ones. Can you believe it, the bill is $96 for three sets of window cranks….eeek.  But at least that will be off my bucket list. Serious windows got bought out / went out of business so they’re under the Alpen name now. Regardless my old rep is the same. Something of interest: I had to describe which window cranks I needed to order them. Someone smart realized that they should color code the cranks so you can describe if you need a “right” or a “left”. Take a look at the photos and you’ll see that the “left” ones are silver and the “right” ones are gold.  Good idea.

Outside we’re slowly getting the fabric down in the front bed…still! We did plant the new, real, oak leaf hydrangea and transplanted the impostor ones.  I really like the texture of these new hydrangea; they look great outside the dining room windows. Elsewhere I put together the mail order bat house and mounted it to a 16′ 4×4 post. I just have to mount the other bat house to the other side and then go erect the post with houses attached out in the yard.

We’ve been harvesting a bunch of veggies, and wild blackberries in the yard and garden. And many of the wild flowers are still blooming. Everything looks beautiful. I find great pleasure in looking out my studio window as I work at the drafting board. Such a happy and pleasant view.

Sorry I haven’t been writing much lately. Not sure it will be any different in the coming days. But there is a lot going on project wise, life wise and work wise. I’m wearing many hats…which is how I like it I guess. I even have an art commission and I’m working on some things writing wise beyond this blog. So it’s all good. I’m too neurotic to make any of my endeavor amount to anything but that doesn’t stop me. It’s better to burn out than it is to rust right?


A silver left crank on our Serious brand window.

A silver left crank on our Serious brand window.

A "gold" right crank on our Serious brand window.

A “gold” right crank on our Serious brand window.

Assembling one of the bat houses.

Assembling one of the bat houses.

Laundry room cabinets are installed.

Laundry room cabinets are installed.

I mounted the bat houses to a 4x4 post, slipping a 3/4" strip of cedar to mount the bottom of the house to the post even with the top of the house.

I mounted the bat houses to a 4×4 post, slipping a 3/4″ strip of cedar to mount the bottom of the house to the post even with the top of the house.

Oak leaf hydrangeas planted in front bed.

Oak leaf hydrangeas planted in front bed.

Wild flower annuals I planted from seed this year.

Wild flower annuals I planted from seed this year.

Crown Jewel

View of installed loft window.

Today we installed the last window in the main house.  The largest window in the house punctuates the “crown” of the house, front and center in the attic / loft.  It’s approximately 5’x5′ and understandably it weighs a fair bit.  It took four of us, (myself, brothers and Tony) to install it.  I have to check but it showed up a few inches too wide and tall.  You’ll remember this is the window that was too tall to begin with so we had to re-order it.  Something about it, it just wants to be a really big window no matter how small we try to make it.  How can a window be an overachiever?  I don’t know but this one’s doing a pretty good job.  My brother and Tony carried it up through the staircase to where we prepped it in the second floor gallery.  They removed the handles and remounted them on the inside face.  I crimped and cut the air expansion balloon and capped it with silicone.  Tony and I then went up to the loft and my brothers handed us up the window.  If the window was an inch wider we wouldn’t have gotten it through the ladder opening in the floor.  Once topside my brothers stepped outside onto the sider’s scaffolding.  One interesting note, the wood blocks holding up the scaffolding are lagged into the gutter boards with bolts.  This provides enough support for the scaffolding ladders.  Anyway, my brother’s get the gold star for the day cause the scaffold platform is about 20′ in the air outside the window opening.  No worries, I think it’s 30′ before humans die from falling.  We caulked the window rough opening surround with silicone to give the window a tight seal once in place.  The rough opening was incredibly tight so Tony and I slowly fished out the window to the guys outside.  With a little pounding the window was then inserted into the opening and nails pounded through the aluminum nailing flanges.  The opening was leveled and because it was so tight we had to basically go with it “as is”; no shims or anything to fine tune.  It’s a non operating window so it should be okay.  I’m glad we’ve passed this hurdle. 

Nailing the loft window in place. Note how the window goes floor to ceiling. The glass is tempered to meed code and for safety purposes.

Now the house is basically sealed up except for a couple minor details.  Should be ready for our blower test any day now. The blower test will be used to assure everything is tight as well as the information will be used for our EnergyStar 2.5 rating paperwork.

It was nice to see the house in daylight since I miss it most of the week.  All the drywall is hung, including the garage.  The exterior blue foam is virtually done and the siding is coming along.

One of the things that happened this week before / during drywall installation was the fireplace was removed so that area could be properly insulated with caulk, insulation and fire resistant foil paper.  The folks over at the Fireplace Shoppe then had the unit back in the next day.  We’re definitely looking forward to firing the unit up once we move in.

What I call the "mill" view of the house showing the siding on the studios.

 Christine and I have been frantically spending our weekend selecting lighting and other assorted finishing items.  Due to budget constraints, we’re all over the map in terms of sourcing lighting.  A bulk of the lighting is recessed so we have minimal fixtures.  Many of the lighting fixtures (and ceiling fans) will come from Barn Light Electric in Florida.   Their selection is crazy cool and suits our taste and Joe’s artistic creation extremely well.  It’s an eclectic blend of industrial, rural and vintage lighting. Beyond that we picked up a couple of light fixtures at Home Depot as well as Restoration Hardware out of Columbus, Ohio. Some of the lights we ordered started arriving so it’s kinda cool to see the hardware in person.  We are also picking out the exterior door handles and locksets.  The house will be under lock and key very shortly. It’s crazy to think just a few months ago Corky and I were cutting down trees.  Now here we are this far along in the process.  Very cool, very exciting.

Breezeway between house and garage.

This coming week the cistern will go in.  The septic system has been tested and approved by the county / health department.  We’ll also be getting a temporary furnace to get the house up to temperature so the guys can finish drywalling (taping and mudding) the interior.
One interesting thing I noticed this morning is the house was very cold.  Which is remarkable  

Fireplace properly insulated. Foil paper is fire resistant just in case.

 because it was very warm outside.  Now that it’s virtually sealed up the house is isolated from the world around it thermally for all intents and purposes.  It was cold cause there’s no heat / furnace but regardless it will hold its internal temperature now. 
Take a look at the pics.  The project’s coming along nicely. 

Fancy hotel look wall sconces for the Master Bathroom courtesy of Restoration Hardware. I asserted myself and selected these much to the chagrin of the wife. Trust me I say, I'm a trained professional. She reminds me she is too.


Family room. Only about three months from beer, food and game night with friends or family.


Upstairs art gallery wall. Will all be covered in wood, secret doors, and artwork. Ceiling opening is for ladder to attic / loft. Windows up there will route hot air out of the house by way of cyclonic action from the basement all the way up. Think giant helical air flow up stair case, gallery and loft once the windows are opened up.


Downstairs gallery and temp staircase. Located near the studios for clients to traverse between Christine's and my studios.


Front hall. Real fake I-Beam above.


Drywall scaffolding. Eventually the upper wall will be frosted acrylic to get light into the craft room. At some point the attic / loft floor will be frosted glass as well to drive daylight into the gallery.

Window Day

Wow, very busy day on the blog today.  My highest number of vistors to date.  Where’s the party?

It was a fairly busy day at the job site as well today.  Most of the windows are in.  Of course my notes were disregarded and feable attempts were made to crimp the gas tubes coming out of the windows, but even that couldn’t keep me down too long today.  We rushed out there with the boys in tow to catch a glimplse of the house before sunset.


My diagram of how to crip the expansion tubes on our gas filled windows. I of course did a stellar job. When I'm not around I'm pretty sure they do this shit on purpose just to see if I'll have an anyurism

We chose to install Serious high performance windows.  To be hard-core we would’ve bought German windows but we’re not hard-core.  We’re medium core.  Serious windows are made here in the good old USA.  They’re not a household name unless you’re building a seriously efficient house like we are.  To keep our budget in check we went with their middle of the road 525 series windows.  They’re decent looking windows although not aesthetic standouts by any means.  They’ll do the job.  We chose primarily casement windows as casements will net better performance than double hung.  Many of our windows are fixed which are even better.  Only problems we’ve run into revolve around our ability to order properly and issues with the expansion balloons.  No one told me about the balloons so we waited longer than the 5 days to crimp the tubes and cut off the balloons.  We were told this shouldn’t be a problem.  What is a problem is one balloon got sliced by a worker and was in the upside down position so for all intents and purposes I have to assume all the argon gas escaped.  We’ll get a Serious tech out to fix that window.  Additionally we had one window miss sized by the architect and two miss sized by the manufacturer.  I contributed by miss ordering 4 windows that needed to be tempered and they weren’t.  Finally today I noticed I forgot to order one of the garage windows.  So a bad start but at least they’re going in.

525 window performance chart

Our windows are white inside and out.  This should match the decor nicely.  Here are some more pics from today. 

note double fir strips for board and batten siding. studio window are individuals with framing between. Will be tough to insulate between.


Porch roof went on today too!


I showed you the rendering yesterday. Today a foyer wall.


framing for transom over doorway


kitchen area with i-beams above


this is the best thing I designed so far in the last six months. pipe cleaners as "hoses" on a Lego semi truck. Made one blonde kid really really happy. At least I have one fan.


It’s Autumn in Ohio.  Which means it doesn’t stay light out much past 6pm and is pitch black at 6am.  Generally these are the two times I am out at the house.  Rain clouds don’t help the situation. 

What this means for you is that you don’t get to see any new pictures. 

Yesterday we had the framers back on site.  I trudged through the rain and mud and left a punch list tacked to the foyer wall early in the morning.  I then had to bolt to work and then onto a design crit at the Institute of Art.  The Rabbit likes the whole house building thing I suspect.  I filled his tires with air the other day to give him a fighting chance when I go barreling down into and up out of the valley that our new home will be located.  The right rear was down to 10 psi, so maybe he picked up a nail.  I have to keep a close watch ’cause he’s not one to complain.  It’s a miracle we’re both not dead yet.  I’m pretty sure if we did wrap each other around a tree on some inky black rainy morning I wouldn’t die.  Who would they call to say something’s wrong with the house if I wasn’t around?

I was a little concerned regarding the window installation.  I left various notes not to molest the mylar balloons, lest all the gas escape out of them for lack of a thoughtful touch.  Wasn’t too long until a series of phone calls to the site ensued to explain what to and not to do regarding everything from the windows to the porch construction.  The dim morning light revealed nothing except more rain being pushed across the windshield.  By time we got to the third phone call of my claustrophobic, cross town commute the Rabbit’s front tires were slipping enough to remind me he was there.

“They’re going to mess it all up, we need to go back.”

“We don’t need to go back Rabbit.  We need to go to work.  Have a little faith.”

[Yes, I mentally talk to my car.   Contact my therapist and take a number if that alarms you.]

Turns out man does not live by faith alone.  I’m pretty sure they screwed up my windows.  Not so much that all the gas is gone in two of the largest windows in the house.  Rather they cut the balloons and it doesn’t look like the tubing is crimped so I have my suspicions.  Luckily the gas, which makes the window cost more and perform better than cookie cutter windows, is colorless and odorless.  So there is no discernible way to tell if it’s inside the window or not.  Now technically I don’t know if it’s in there or not from the factory but lets assume the window company filled them with gas.  I now have doubt in my mind regarding the presence, or lack there of, of gas, that will drive me certifiably insane at some point in the next 1-30 years that I’m alive and live in the house.  That’s apparently where faith gets me. 

I’m working out a deal to get a window tech out to assess the situation. Afterall I already know at least one window needs to be refilled because someone cut the balloon outright during unpacking.

Meanwhile the blue rigid insulation is going on nicely.  On top of that are firring strips for the siding.  For the board and batten siding we have horizontal firring strips and vertical strips covering the seams of the rigid insulation.  For the lap siding we just need vertical strips.

The roof is scheduled to start being installed next Monday assuming the weather is nice.  Electrical, plumbing and HVAC rough’s should be done in the next week.  For a water tank we found out today we’ll be going with an 80 gallon electric tank.  I may switch to 50 gallon to minimize the amount of water we have to heat and idle.  We had to switch from the gas-fired tankless water heater because we’ll be using a hybrid gas and geothermal heating system.  The geo system will pre-heat the water, therefore an old-fashioned water tank will be just as efficient as the tankless, or so I’m told.  I’ll wrap the tank in insulation to retain heat and keep our utility costs down.

For future power supply options or expansion I checked with a local solar power company.  All we need to do is leave one 15-20 amp breaker slot open in the garage panel and run a conduit from the garage attic to the electrical panel.  The garage really is the best spot for photovoltaics.  We don’t want to mar the aesthetic of the main house with PV cells.  In theory I can power two cars with a closed system in the garage and never pay for gas again (except for the Jeep).

The porches are being framed in this week in anticipation of the roofer starting.  They also built the office platform for my studio.  My punch list for the framers includes the items that will be needed for the insulation as well such as firring down the roof to get 16″ of blown cellulose insulation in the roof.  I’m trying to get them to use the left over 2×4’s from the window packaging to save me some money and trees.

Today’s only eye candy is the front hall pic.  We landed on a design.  I’ll talk more about it when we do the walk through.

I’ll jump onto the stair case designs next.  We’re way behind on a few of the design items.  We actually need to select flooring now too so we can match the stair treads to the flooring.  My carpenter (aka my brother) isn’t talking to me right now ’cause I got short with him regarding the windows and my lost gas.  I have faith at some point he’ll start talking again; after all he’s not going to want to keep walking around my kitchen cabinets in his shop, right?

Now I haven’t been going to church too often with everything that’s going on, but I suspect the big guy will let it slide for now. Which gets me thinking. There’s a lot of faith involved when one takes on this kind of project. Faith that it’ll turn out half way decent.  Faith that we’ll all be talking to each other when it’s done. Faith that my kids will forgive their old man for spending their college fund on the wild goose chase that is this environmentally friendly house.  Faith that I’ll still be married and / or alive at the end of this god awful process. (just kidding honey, I love you, please pick out flooring for me already.)

Faith that when this ridiculous carousel that is my life spins around to the other side there will be a brass ring there waiting for me.

Faith that I’ll be able to grab it.

Slow But Sure

We’re slowly wrapping up the rough framing and getting ready for insulation.  I met with our EnergyStar rater and insulation contractor this week to do a walk through of the house.  It’s best to know what we need to do before the insulation and drywall start going on.  On the exterior the windows are being installed and the rigid insulation is going up.

There is some concern regarding the HVAC ducts being on exterior walls.  These days most if not all the ductwork should be on interior walls to insulation them from the exterior.  Otherwise it’s difficult to get enough insulation in those wall bays.  At least I’ll have 4″ of rigid insulation on the exterior to mitigate the issue as best we can.  Flexible ducts have been installed in many of the kneewall attic areas of our Cape Cod style home.  This means that in reality we will have to treat all these areas as conditioned space.  This will mean insulating the roof and exterior walls just like the main house, but also using some paper material to prevent air movement.  The paper material will act like drywall in terms of controlling air flow, but will be less expensive to install.  Another concern with the flexible ducts is they were installed with too many tight turns or corners.  Flexible ducts need to have gentle radius turns to keep air and debris from piling up in the corners.

A bit more on insulation.  We’ll be using blown in cellulose insulation made from recycled newspaper.  Fairly green although it is treated to be fireproof.  For air tightness we’ll be caulking the drywall seams so that should minimize any perceived ill effects of the fireproof insulation.  As far as I know it’s a safe product.  Part of the insulation job will include extensive caulking and sealing of the entire house, including around light fixtures, outlets and any wall or floor penetrations.  One place to pay attention to is between the OSB sheets.  Technically the framers should space the sheets 1/8″ apart for expansion.  They usually don’t but regardless, any visible gaps in the OSB should be sealed with spray foam from the inside.  On our house there are a couple of areas where you can see daylight shining through the green Raindrop housewrap, between the OSB wall sheathing.

We’ll be having a blower test and filling out three sets of survey forms to establish our home’s HERS rating and ultimately our EnergyStar qualification.  It’s critical that the house essentially be air tight.  I Googled it and it looks like Ohio has about 1,300 EnergyStar homes so we’ll be in the vast minority.  Hopefully in a few years this will be the norm.

On the exterior we continue to pick away at sealing everything and installing the blue rigid insulation.  Windows are starting to go in.  We seat the aluminum nailing flanges of each window in a bead of silicone sealant / caulk and level / nail the windows in place.  Over the top of the flanges, just like our REMOTE wall article says to do, we cover with Grace Vycor Plus membrane flashing.  The insulation contractor will seal everything up from the inside with spray foam and caulk where necessary.

The windows show up with a breather tube and mylar expansion bag.  Serious windows do this because all the windows are gas-filled. Without the tubes the windows would explode when they’re driven over the Rocky Mountains.  Without the mylar balloon the gas would escape.  One of the balloons did get cut so I suspect we’ll have to have a tech come out and refill that window.  On all the other windows, I’ve been crimping the tube in two places and will cut off the mylar balloon.  I then hit the end of the tube with silicone caulk and then tuck it into the window frame.  The gas should stay in the windows for 100 years.  Definitely not my problem then.

On the exterior we’re installing aluminum termite shield to protect the bottom of the rigid from ant / bug infestation.  We simply bought some white aluminum sheet metal and bent it up to form an “L” with a little lip for water run off.  The termite shield gets tacked up behind the housewrap at the bottom of the exterior walls.  It overlaps the foundation by about 2-3 inches.  Resting on top of the termite shield and housewrap are our 2×8 foot  x 4 inch thick sheets of Dow blue rigid insulation.  The rigid is installed by tacking the panel with a couple of screws.  We then come back through and put 1×3 firring strips over the vertical seams.  The horizontal seams get a one foot strip of Raindrop; it’s zig zagged with 4″ stapled above the panel against the existing housewrap, then 4″ runs across the top of the insulation panel, and finally the last 4″ flaps down over the top of the panel.  If our panels weren’t so dirty we’d just tape all the seams.  The firring strips will help give us a decent seal as will the housewrap strips.  We use 8″ screws to secure the firring strips to the wall (passing through the rigid insulation).  Try to hit studs with every screw.  Otherwise the screw will act as a conduit for cold or heat.  We missed a ton and technically should back out the screws and try again, but it’s painfully slow already so we’ll snip the exposes screws and I’ll kit them with some foam insulation.  Should be alright, even for Ohio.

One interesting thing I came up with this week, the loft window is showing up late but we need to get the blue board in place ahead of time.  Once the blueboard is in I won’t be able to get the membrane flashing in place.  So I took strips of it and left the backer paper on and stuck the rest to the window buck perimeter.  After the window is in they can remove the paper and stick it over the flanges.

Here are some new pics from the last few days.














blue foam with housewrap horizontal "z" at joint


detail of housewrap "z" at horizontal joints of rigid insulation.


column pads for porches are finally poured. sono tubes shifted so much, threaded bolts are barely in pad. Bad workers, bad.


to remove just the backer paper from half a strip of Vycor membrane flashing, I use a common nail.


I remove half the backer paper so I can stick the strip around window buck. Once back ordered window is in I can stick the rest. In the meantime I don't hold up blue foam installation.


termite shield


window breather tube and balloon


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.

Behind the Scenes

Not much has happened in the last two days.  At least not anything that visually looks much different from day-to-day.  The first floor deck is finished.  My apologies, no photos of the progress tonight.  We did visit the site to show a friend around the site, but did not snap any pictures.  I also shirked my duties by not installing my wooden thermal breaks in the basement walls.  That’s why god invented weekends I always say.  We’ve got a couple of days before they pour the basement floor and they still have to level out the stone in the basement, so I’ve got some time.  We did get the post pads poured today which means tomorrow they can set the steel support posts for our steel I-beam and the LVL that supports the master bedroom suite.

It was a busy day behind the scenes so to speak though, as nearly every day is.  I ordered the windows.  There’s a pretty hefty lead time and in reality I could have ordered them a few weeks ago because it sounds like the rough framers will blow through our house in about seven building days.  But we’ll be okay.  The framers can come back at a later date to install the windows.

I haven’t had much luck tracking down my Pactiv Greenguard Raindrop housewrap.  I’ve got some feelers out to a couple of resources.  We’ll have a meeting later this week with my site supervisor and architect to go over the nuances and details of constructing the non-traditional aspects of the home.  To make the house super insulated and tight there are some fundamental details we’ll need to adhere to construction-wise to assure we get the performance we want and to minimize the amount of do-overs we encounter (basically the number of times I have to pay someone to rip out something that I already paid for because it was installed incorrectly).  The hard to find housewrap is just one player in a greater team effort to make our home outperform pretty much every other home (relatively speaking) in northern Ohio.  I will now be in the rarefied air where I can get into thermal performance arguments with friends and family who have log homes.  Yes, I know it sounds dangerous, but trust me ladies (and gents), my house will be able to hold its own in said arguments.

Here’s a wall section of our version of a “passive solar house”:

Typical wall section for our high-efficiency house. Courtesy of Ferut Architects in Vermillion, Ohio.
You can see we’re using 2×6 studs and 4″ of rigid insulation on the outside.  That will give us 10″ walls with really deep interior window sills.  The cat will love us for that.  There are essentially 3 locations we could’ve place the window in the wall section.  We chose the outward most to give us the most window sill inside and the most conventional look on the outside.  The other two options would be smack dab in the middle or even inboard, framed in the stick walls in a traditional manner.  With our way we’ll have to build large wood “bucks” around each window.  It’s kind of a pain but it will give us the look and performance we desire.
The Greenguard Raindrop goes on top of the plywood sheathing.  We didn’t go with the triple pane windows to save costs but the windows we chose will outperform pretty much all name brand double pane windows.  We did not get the hard-core German import windows.  I went to the City Club once where they were talking about windows for passive solar houses and they said the only windows you should use are from Germany.  I think that’s a little crazy.  My windows are from like Wisconsin or California I think.  I guess I won’t be privy to the secret German window handshake, gang sign and tattoo, but I’ll still be plenty cozy in wintertime.  At some point I’ve got to divert funds to my overpriced fridge and range.  I mean come on cold wine and well cooked tenderloin count for something in this day and age.  Sorry German windows.  Maybe next house.
Speaking of passive solar, our house is oriented about due south.  We’re off by a few degrees if for no reason than to be outliers at the “Passive Solar and Plush Kitten Convention” (I made that up).  Seriously though, the house just sits better on the land this way and it won’t affect our performance that much.  Also it gives us a nicer orientation for when I place photovoltaics on the garage roof.  You typically want those facing south (in the northern hemisphere). On the main house we’ll have really big windows and the roof will overhang enough in the Summer to keep the sun out, but short enough to let it flow inside in the Winter.  No we don’t have massive cement floors or walls to absorb heat and store it overnight for late nite Deutsche swinger parties.  Though we will have some dark tile and cement countertops in the kitchen, so that’s gotta count for something…right? 
“Dies ist keine passive solar.” 
“Meh, grab me a Burning River from my overpriced fridge and sit your German butt down on my ski lift chair.  If you’re nice I’ll tell you my goat wrestling story.”
There will be some details like wrapping the top plates and making sure everything is sealed up tight that we’ll have to work through the differences compared to normal construction.  Hopefully over time what we’re doing will become “normal” construction.  But for now most of what we’re doing goes against what the traditional model the home construction industry and supply network has been founded on for the last 70 years.  I’ve found that to be the biggest challenge.  Right now, in 2011, we are kinda stuck in a transition period.  There are great designs, solutions and products but many of them are either expensive, difficult to find or the techniques to implement them aren’t fully developed or understood.  Working against that is misunderstanding, need for education, or worst case: resistance to change. Additionally, our forms of measurement of success are based on how things have always been done in the past.  There are a lot of old models that need an “extreme home makeover” (all rights reserved, American Broadcasting Company) so to speak.  Also even the green building industry doesn’t always think holistically, that is to say how does my product work with other products that I may not be trying to sell you? As a consumer, being willing to research and sometimes pay more isn’t always enough.  There’s still a lot of luck and praying involved….and mistakes to be made.   When in doubt, cave into conventional ways of thinking and let the next generation sort it out……(just kidding….though there was that one mahogany beam I was going to use in my closet…..)
I think we’re doing a relatively good job all things considered.  My current windmill I’m chasing is how to handle construction waste.  I need to get some garbage cans out there (by the way, why don’t have a vehicle able to haul large items?  I need a pick up truck desperately) for recycling and trash.  We’ll get a huge dumpster eventually.  I ran out of time and energy to go hard-core and separate everything and forego the dumpster. 
I guess that’s it for now.  A few more days of misc. stuff and then the framing will commence full steam ahead.


The first floor deck goes on tomorrow.  Today though, for once, I had the answer to a potential problem.  The excavator was nice enough to put our steel I-beam on the foundation wall to help out the rough framers when they go to set it tomorrow. This is a huge help, as you’d know, if you’ve ever been a rough framer.  Moving I-beams by hand up onto a wall, especially a 10′ tall, non-back filled wall, is a pain in the ass. I’d rather fall through a window opening while stapling Tyvek to plywood than move an I-beam by hand.  But I digress.  The story is the excavator called me and in the most polite way possible said “Chris, um, I put the beam up on the wall and it looks to be about seven feet too short“.  Ah-ha, it’s supposed to be seven feet too short!  Yes, score one for this guy.  See, we gotta leave room for the staircase.  Don’t blame the excavator, at $30-$60 a pop I’m stingy with my blueprints.  My finish carpenter asks for a blue print daily and I laugh in his face.  And he’s my brother! (Ok, ok I’ll show you the blueprint but you only have 7.5 minutes alloted to you….ready…go!). 

See? The dashed line is my I-beam. In reality it's a pretty red color. I like the color red. It goes nicely with my eyes.


Each day spawns a steady stream of little minor issues that cut into my house-building-enthusiasm like something that repeatedly cuts into something else.  (How the hell do I know what analogy to use, it’s late and building a house is awful.) Today was no different.  So as a coping mechanism I divert my attention to things that are fluffy, easy and I have relative control over.  By the way, ProjectCam is up to ~600 pictures and 80% battery left.

Today’s diversions include: 

1) Getting ready to order windows.  I’ll tell you more in another post, but let’s just say, they’re gonna be triple white (inside, outside and hardware).  And they’re going to be super insulated.  Not super-duper insulation cause we still have to pay for the blue clay incident mind you. 

2) Coming up with new ideas that cost tons of money.  These ideas don’t last long, but they’re fun to play with.  We whipped out our Estes / Twombly book and saw a really cool glass dormer that may just be the answer to our need for natural light in the craft room.  I’m pretty sure if we did this design change my architect, window salesman and carpenters could all afford to go to St. Thomas for Christmas.  I’ve decided we can add this on after the house is built (if at all).  Sorry guys, Santa will visit you in Ohio this year.  

3) And the final diversion for a typical problem filled day: let’s pick out a roof color!  See the roof is like months away from installation, but why focus on the “here and now” when I can relax in the rest and solitude of picking out something that is of little consequence right now.  That my friend is called “diverting”. We’re getting a metal roof.  It will be durable, good-looking, environmentally friendly and be a great substrate for collecting water (all our water will come from the roof).  And it comes in a variety of colors.  Which is great except my brain is mush and I waffle…a lot, so picking out a color will be tough.  Here are our options:

Roof color options. Bright yellow was my first choice but alas, it's not really an option.

We really just have to narrow it down to 3-4 at this point and get some sample chips.  We’ll definitely go with something in the grey or metal color range unless one of you can convince us otherwise with a compelling argument or, if all else fails, a humorous antidote.  Acrylic coated Galvalume is actually a couple grand cheaper than a color so that’s definitely in play.  I do worry about glare from raw metal.  


So let us all divert together.  Here’s what the house looks like if you don’t remember:

"Contemporary Farmhouse" with an Industrial Mill character (once I get done with it....bwahaha).

Send me your comments and votes for a roof color.  If we pick your color you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing we agreed with your impeccable sense of style and color.

You want a prize? 
Okay, but first let me tell you about the time I fell through a window while stapling Tyvek…….