Paper Recycling

One thing I always forget to mention, and is a good habit to get into, is paper recycling. We’re fortunate in NEOhio to have these green bins for paper collection located all over the place; often at local schools. The bins accept any clean paper based material including mail, paper, corrugated board and chipboard (i.e. cardboard).

Green paper recycling containers

Green paper recycling containers

I create a pile in my studio of all the paper “waste” our household generates and when the pile becomes more than I want to look at, I drive it up to our local middle school for drop off into these bins. I figure I go once a month, and pretty much fill up the back of the RAV4.  My unscientific calculation is that we recycle between 200-300 cubic feet of paper annually.

Our household is zero (clean) paper waste – ALL of it is recycled. This reduces the amount of trash we haul down to the curb. In fact often our huge trash bin only has a bag or two of trash per week.

Additionally we recycle nearly 100% of our metal, glass, and plastic. Pretty much all of which is collected by our local curbside pick up. Plastic bags are cycled at the grocery store.

Consider increasing your recycling in 2015.

Info on paper recycling for fellow NEOhioans here: click me

***Opt out of your Yellow Pages by clicking here*** This saves tons of paper (literally) and you can find virtually every business that you’d want to do business with, online.

Some info copied from the River Valley website:

Recycling Facts

Making new paper products from your collected scrap paper results in significant energy savings and water use. The EPA has estimated that 41 percent of solid waste is paper.

* For every ton or 2,000 pounds of recycled paper produced:

  • 7,000 fewer gallons of water used to manufacture recycled paper than new paper.
  • Approximately 4,100 kwh less energy used to manufacture recycled paper, than new paper.
  • Recycling paper helps to conserve our forest and by making one ton of paper from recovered material saves 17 pulp trees.
  • Almost 60 pounds of air pollutants that would have been produced from new paper production are kept out of the atmosphere.

Benefits to Your Organization

  • Save on the costs of solid waste disposal.
  • Divert paper from local landfills, and extend the landfill life.
  • Help in the reduction of air, water and land pollution.
  • Provide the community with a convenient drop-off location.
  • Provides your organization with fundraising opportunities.

Accepted Items for the Recycling Program

  • Newspapers
  • Phonebooks
  • Office and School Paper
  • Magazines
  • Brown Paper Bags
  • Catalogs
  • Mail
  • Cardboard


Red Haven Semi-Dwarf Peach tree blossoms.

Red Haven Semi-Dwarf Peach tree blossoms.

I’m pretty sure we have an addiction that may be borderline unhealthy. Well I know I have several of those, but what I’m specifically speaking about is our addiction to plants, namely trees. Okay, I swear we’re done….for now. It’s just that a certain little blond kid wanted a peach tree when we were at Lowe’s getting the Red Oak tree for Earth Day. Well we rushed out without getting one. Friday was Arbor Day, so what a perfect time to go plant some more trees. Except the weather was crappy. Today we ran out after my Saturday work meetings; took the trailer up to Lowe’s and selected three peach trees.

Now we have an unplanned peach orchard in our back yard.

In theory we’ve got a lot going on self-sustaining-wise. Bees = honey and wax, apples, black berries, raspberries, blue berries, choke berries, various herbs and vegetables, and now peaches.

In reality we haven’t had anything “grow” enough to harvest anything of note. Other than the cucumbers and zucchini last year; and maybe a few herbs.


The new peach orchard. Three trees if you're counting; next to the raspberry bushes and garden.

The new peach orchard. Three trees if you’re counting; next to the raspberry bushes and garden.


I planted two varieties of peaches: Red Haven and Belle of Georgia. Here’s some Georgia peach history (click here). Both are semi-dwarf varieties which means they should be about 10′-20′ in each direction. Home growers should stick to dwarf or semi-dwarf trees because they are easier to manage and produce fruit earlier in the lifespan of the tree. Peach trees hate wind. Don’t we all? We determined that there’s an alcove between the playground and veggie garden that gets lots of sun and the wind isn’t as strong as everywhere else. The land slopes in the area too, so cold air should pool elsewhere. See, cold frosty air runs over land much like water does, pooling in the low-lying areas. Keep your orchard trees out of the low-lying areas, in the sun and out of the wind and you should be fine.

I spaced our peach trees about 10′-11′ apart in a triangle. According to the cards that came with the trees, they are hardy to -10 to -20 degrees which should be fine. Unlike our apples, the peach trees are self-pollinating, but having two varieties should increase our yield. I will say it may be a moot point because it looks like the Red Haven’s are blossoming earlier than the Belle. I guess we’ll see. Regardless, the flowers are ready for the bees. We just need a little less wind, and the bees to discover the new trees. Then we should have peaches as early as this August if all goes exceedingly well.

Only other things of note: we took a box of junk to the e-recycling event in the park this morning. Of course they wouldn’t take our broken blender which kind of irritated me quite frankly. I took it home and it was easier to take apart than any other electronic device I’ve encountered lately. And voila it had a motor and circuit board – things I would think could be recycled. But “no” big bad e-recycler people don’t want blenders. Whatever. I took it apart, my kid will play with the part and then I’ll dump it all in the next e-recycling box. Except the housing and motor – those will go in a landfill and we all can blame the recycling guys who hate the planet.

Also I fixed the drawer on the wife’s Kohler bathroom cabinet. For whatever reason the wheel started falling out of the track. I bent the track back into place, cleaned the construction debris throughout the track areas and lubricated the wheels on the drawer with some WD-40. Seems better.

And as inspired by my fellow blogger at ’40 Is Like The New 30′, I will share a song to go with this post: none other than ‘Peaches’ by The Presidents of the United States of America.


My Earth Day 2014 Post – Household Eco-Tips

A deer feeds on clover on Earth Day this year. In the background are the tupelo trees we planted last year on Earth Day.

A deer feeds on clover on Earth Day this year. In the background are the tupelo trees we planted last year on Earth Day.

First things first, this is not the as promised conclusion to ‘Ranking Movies My Kid’s Watch’ as I promised in my last post. Normally I’d keep putting it off and not write about anything else, but because this is Earth Day I felt compelled to leap-frog and write a post today. I’m trying to include my wife in on the movie decision process, but the votes are not in yet; we are still evaluating.

One more aside, as I write this she just texted me that she had a tick on her forehead, so tick season is officially underway. I’m sure I’ll be under strict orders to build a guinea fowl house this weekend. I’m not proud, I will freely accept donations of time, money or materials to rid our land of ticks. She isn’t even outside, she’s working. The tick must’ve come from my car or something. Ugh I don’t have the capacity to deal with all of this.

Okay, back to Earth Day. It’s a special day because it marks the 2nd anniversary of our moving into our home. It was merely a coincidence but I like that the house move anniversary falls on this day because of all the environmentally sustainable things we did in building the house and landscape.

We’re planning on going out and buying a small tree to plant to mark the occasion later today. I’ll share that adventure in a future post. I’m thinking something with nuts so we can attract more squirrels. Of course any tree we buy will be tiny – thus any nuts, and subsequent squirrels will come roughly forty years after I’m dead. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts right.

I’ve been super busy in the garage and outside working on the sand box, so I’ll have upcoming posts on those activities as well (hopefully I’ll have some useful tips and tricks for the DIY’er inside of you or in your household).  But I will wait to post those after posting part 2 of the movie ratings, as promised.

Household Eco Tips

For Earth Day, here are my informal tips for making your home more eco-friendly.

Recycle – Think of everything that comes through your house as raw materials, many of which can be recycled. What you can recycle and how it’s recycled varies by community so check around, with your waste hauler or community website, so learn specific details that apply to your household. Generally speaking paper, plastics (#1 & #2 especially), and metals can all be easily recycled. We have a container in our kitchen for plastic and metal. I collect everything paper – clean food boxes, office paper and corrugated boxes – and have a pile in my studio. Every other week or so I haul it all up to a Paper Retriever location. Did you know that many recycling facilities can even recycle milk and juice containers? Check with your waste hauler to see what they take

As for electronics, there should be local companies or even community events to take your used computers, batteries, cords and whatnot to get recycled. Either erase computer hard drives or take make sure the recycling company will erase the contents. Also check to make sure they’re not sending your waste overseas to China or India – it’s not uncommon for the U.S. to send e-waste overseas for disassembly in less than socially or environmentally responsible ways.

Food can be recycled by starting a compost pile in your yard. There are plenty of sources on the web and at your local garden center to help you on the path of composting.

In the end if you recycle most of what comes into your house, the actual amount of garbage you’re putting on the curb should diminish significantly. Remember, everything you throw in the garbage is something you paid good money for but has no value in your life, so you’re just throwing it away. Seems like a waste

Reduce – And on that note, throwing away stuff that you paid good money for, think about reducing the amount of stuff you bring into your home. Work to buy things that are durable or can be repaired. This is hard to do with kids, trust me I know – often times you can’t control what comes into the house in the form of gifts, impulse buys or gifts of appeasement. If you need something, do your homework and be an informed consumer. Read reviews, understand your needs and vote with your money. Buy from companies that are working to preserve the environment and social well-being. Support their bottom line and reward their initiative with your dollars. I’m a believer in capitalistic free-market karma.

LED Light Bulbs – Do yourself a favor, start buying LED light bulbs from now on. The price has come down significantly, they last over 20,000 hours in some cases, and they pay for themselves in energy savings in a matter of just a couple of years. Since they last so long, they also reduce your maintenance workload which means more time golfing and less time running up to Lowe’s. Plus lowering your electricity bills every month means more money to spend on golf balls. LED’s are available in a wide range of color temperatures from cool to warm, as well as various shapes for every application in your home.

Eliminate Plastic Grocery Bags – No. 4 Plastic bags, like those you get at the grocery store are impossible to recycle with other plastics. Do not place these in your recycling bin. Instead gather them, and other clean No. 4 plastic bags, and recycle them at the grocery store. Better yet, try to eliminate them all together by using reusable cloth bags to get your groceries. The cloth bags are great because you can load them up with more items than plastic or paper bags, which means fewer trips from the car to your kitchen.

Make Your Yard Nature Friendly – There are all kinds of things you can do outside to make your yard more nature and family friendly. Use natural fertilizers and stop using harmful petroleum-based fertilizers. You ever notice the little “keep kids and pets off” signs those landscapers put up after fertilizing people’s lawns? Why would you want something on your lawn that could kill your kid, just so you can have grass that is greener than your neighbors? We need to stop having perfect grass as the universal symbol of happiness in our residential world. There are plenty of organic ways to encourage grass to grow. And while you’re at it, plant grasses that require less maintenance and water. Additionally clover is a great plant for your yard. Bees and deer love clover, and it stays green year round.

Set up a rain barrel to collect free rain water from your gutters that can be used in your garden or yard for irrigation.

Plant native trees, plants and flowers. Not only will the bees and birds love them, they also require less watering (if any watering at all) and are naturally tolerant of your locale which means less maintenance (and more time golfing).

Speaking of wildlife, create habitat for them to live and raise their young. Plant milkweed for monarch butterflies. Native wildflowers and clover for bees. A brush pile for small mammals. An overturned pot with a “door” for toads. Build and mount a bat house, or box for nesting owls, ducks or birds.

These are just some ideas I had off the top of my head. One of these days I’ll find the time to do some hardcore research and give you a laundry list of resources. The main thing you should take away is that environmental sustainability:

– often saves you money in the long run, or at least asks that you start paying the real cost of life’s necessities

– often saves you time in the long run, or makes life easier if you’re lazy like me

– can be a lot of fun and personally rewarding, as well as a great way to include the whole family and community

What tips do you have to save time, money and help the environment in your household?

Share in the comments below.




Red Twig Dogwood

Saturday we traveled to Chagrin Valley Nurseries and found our elusive Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’.  They were a little leggy and rough but that’s the way we like our plants, so we gleefully adopted three of them, as specified by our landscape plan.  We now officially have one bed done!  Happiness. These red twig dogwoods will look awesome in winter and will welcome guests during the snowy months with showy red branches that will contrast nicely with the landscape and house.  The ‘Sibirica’ variety specified were hard to come by but we’re glad we found them at a local nursery.  We can cut them back in the Spring; for now they’re just going to be leggy.

We also had ten yards of Eco Mulch delivered from Kurtz Brothers.  What’s cool about this mulch is it’s made from recycled construction waste, so in theory some of the wood in our mulch could have originated as construction debris from our exact house.  The plants like it because the mulch contributes nutrients to the soil.  The typical black colored mulch that we usually like to use adds virtually nothing to the soil.

Elsewhere we started planting our berry bushes.  We planted two types of blueberries, and one type of raspberries.  We’ll be picking up some blackberry bushes as well.  For many of these plants, including the raspberries and eventually the apple trees, we’ll need two varieties to get cross pollination and eventually fruit.  Strawberry plants, and two arctic kiwi trees round out the weekend’s acquisitions.  The kiwi’s were and impulse buy; something we can experiment with and add some exotic spice to our garden.

I finished planting all the baby trees as well this weekend.  Eight black walnuts, eight sugar maples, some red maples, and butternuts rounded out the new tree list.  In all we planted upwards of forty saplings on the property.  We have yet to plant any larger trees but those will be coming soon.  We’re working on the pricing for the Black Gum trees and apple trees that will go in the front yard.


Spray painting the back yard to see how it is laying out.

Spreading mulch. Yay! This bed is done!

Red Twig Dogwoods are in center between the boxwoods

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.

Enough Already


So building a house is pretty cool.  Self contracting a house is even cooler.  I know this to be an absolute truth cause the lady at Lowes told me so.   As did several of my co-workers.  And various family members.  Hell even my wife told me that, and I told her that, at one point.  Problem is….well….it’s fun to a point.  Granted it’s probably more fun if you’re  into masochism or you self medicate regularly, but alas, barring one of these escape routes, it ain’t that pretty at all.  (bonus points if you now hurl yourself into a wall…….”’cause I’d rather feel bad than not feel anything at all”)

We bulldozed our way down the path of creation back in July.  Here we are in December and honestly, Christine and I looked at each other after I took a quick tour of the project today.  We looked at each other and figured out, we’re kinda over the whole “building a house” thing.  Kinda over the spending all of our money, and everyone else’s money.  Over the worry, the drama, the set backs, the victories, the decisions, the surprises.  We’re tired of trying to sell our existing house, the cleaning up for open houses, the worry and sleepless nights. Tired of the ‘Groundhog Day’ script that is our life during construction. Burnt out from saving the planet one piece of blue foam at a time. Kinda over all of it.

We’re actually ready for the “move the hell in and start painting stuff” phase.  Or the “what in holy heck are we going to do with an entire weekend to ourselves” parts.  Or the “look, James drew a picture of something he calls ‘man’s face’ on the wall with crayons and I have no intention of cleaning it off in my lifetime” bits.  Good news is we’re close to the fun parts and eventually the funnest part which is moving in.

The HVAC guys went to town this week in the basement.  All the ductwork is run for the entire house.  With 9′ ceilings in the basement, even though there are ducts running everywhere, we’ll have a lot of headroom when it’s finished.  The temp furnace is in place but not hooked up.  We’re still waiting on the permanent power for the house.  The reason we use a temp furnace is because the finishing process would trash a regular furnace, and therefore render its warranty useless.  The temp furnace also means we don’t have to use wasteful and dangerous torpedo heaters inside the house.

The cistern is pretty much covered up.  They just have to install the two roof scrubbers.  The scrubbers help clean up the water supply. 

Today we went out and cleaned up pretty much the last of the waste on the outside of the house.  The latest dumpster is the smaller one.  We threw out mostly non-wood waste.  I’m going to save all the 2×4’s and other usable lumber from here on out.  What we did throw today was the last piece of blue foam.  After a short ceremony I dropped a ceremonial last piece of the recycled 4″ rigid insulation into our dumpster.  It was bitter-sweet as we’d grown attached to our blue foam.  But the wretched stuff had to go.  It was dirty, and it seemed like we were constantly moving it out of our way.  My estimate was pretty good on how much we’d need. Even so though, there was a lot of scrap.  Finally it is all gone basically.

I’ll leave you with a plethora of pictures from over the weekend, including some to get you in the Christmas spirit.  Step right this way. Roll up, roll up…..

YAY! It's the end of blue foam for our house. We threw out the last piece of scrap today. We'll miss you. (not really)


Scrubber waiting to be installed.


We're using red fire-proof caulk around the fireplace components. Neat.


2" slip fit receiver for 1.5" sump pump pipe assures we won't have a cracked pipe down the road. Water drains from sump pump out to the yard.


We "ran out" of 4" rigid so we used virgin 2" sheets on the porch.

Oh, one other thing.  Something I have to do is create a better seal in the kneewall spaces.  There’s HVAC ducts that run through there so it will be conditioned space.  We have plastic stapled under the rafters now but there’s some concern on water condensing on the plastic from the heat in the HVAC ducts.  I’m going to have to crawl in there, remove the plastic and replace with 1/4″ fan board insulation.  Ugh, what a job but someone’s gotta do it.  The fan board should be easier and cheaper than drywall and should do the trick.  I’ll just tape and caulk all the seams and staple holes. 

fan board for sale at Lowes

And finally, we went Christmas shopping and put up the tree this weekend.

If you love me you'll buy me this book for Christmas.


These looked good to. Yes, apparently I'm planning for the end of the world on my 6.5 acres of heaven.


Look this guy remodeled a house in Northeast Ohio with his family and wrote a book about it......Hmmm interesting idea...


Tomato plant kid with Christmas tree he helped put up. No worries, it's a fake tree. His dad single-handedly murdered ALL the living trees, remember?

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


Making Progress

Yay, we have cement in our basement!

We finished placing down the 4″ rigid insulation last night.  Also we installed our 2×4 thermal breaks in the foam pockets I’d previously cut out of our Superior Wall bays. As an added measure I also sprayed some expanding foam in the gaps between the 2×4’s and the blue foam in the walls.  I also sprayed around the base of the steel columns and any other misc. places I could see.   I didn’t go completely nuts with the spray foam but the little bit I did should help.  There were some gaps in the our insulation here and there but I doubt any of it will add up to anything meaningful. Afterall we’re dealing with constant temperature earth, then rigid and then 4″ of cement.  On top of that eventually is any furnishings like carpet, drywall, etc. plus more wall insulation.  The basement should be fine and toasty, or cool depending on the time of year.

I’ll share some photos from the day with you….

Here are the pressure treated 2x4's in the pockets I cut out of the foam walls. I used liquid nails to adhere the 2x4's. You can see how nicely everything is lining up on our level lines on the studs. 4" gravel, 4" foam, then 4" cement.

I ran out of daylight last night so I woke up and was the first person in line at Lowe’s to get some more spray foam.  I scampered out to the site and the cement contractor and pump truck were already set up by 7:30am.  I snuck downstairs and sprayed a few last-minute spots while they laid down the rebar on top of my rigid insulation.

Rough plumbing for the bathroom. We had to move the horizontal pipe up 4" after this picture so it'd clear the foam and cement. I'm not sure these pipes are all in the right place....probably something I should've checked before they poured the basement this morning.

Morning in Lowes parking lot. Mmmmm...pretty. Now back to work

Because our lot isn’t back filled yet and the general difficulty in getting to the main house, we had to employ a pump truck to pour the basement floor.  It was pretty neat to see.  I cement truck basically backs up to the pump truck and dumps the cement in to a hopper.   The pump truck then out reaches its long boom and pumps the cement into the basement through the stairwell.  The boom is operated via remote control.  We ended up needing two trucks worth of cement to do our basement.

Here's a good view of the job site with the pump truck and cement truck getting ready to pump cement into the basement.



The boom is controlled via remote control by the operator, standing to the left in this picture.

The floor was poured in about 1-2 hours.  By 10:30am they were finishing off the top surface of the cement and using a trowel to cut the expansion joints in the cement floor.  The cement flowed into the bays of the foundation walls, locking everything together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Will be interesting to see what kind of cracking develops in the floor over time as the house settles.

Christine brought the boys out to see the cement truck and pump truck. I thought the trucks were pretty neat to see up close too.


Picture of the poured basement. Very cool indeed. Starting to look and feel like a house. Eventually somewhere in there we'll have a play room, storage room, bath and maybe even a home theater with tiered seating.

Now that the foam is down and floor is poured, my work out at the site pretty much revolves around keeping things clean and orderly.  I took out two new shiny trash cans.  One for trash and the other for recyclables.  Eventually we’ll probably get one of those large dumpsters for construction waste.  I’ve got a call into a supplier that rents them and claims to recycle up to 80% of the contents.  In the meantime I’ve started separating our construction waste and setting it off to the side.  I’ve got  a lot of foam cut offs that I need to figure out what to do with.  Hopefully they can be recycled, if not they may end up being landfilled or maybe I can use them up in my studio floor.

We picked up these nice Rubbermaid cans at Home Depot or Lowes (I didn't actually go to buy them, the in-laws did, I just hauled them out to the site). They both fit in the VW. Not sure if anyone will use them but they make me feel better; at least I'm trying..

 The excavator starts back filling this weekend and we’ll be ready to go when the framers come back to start framing the first floor.  Then ProjectCam will really have something to take pictures of and the house will start taking shape 

I started separating the construction waste as well as storing the various building materials off to the side. Backfilling starts soon so I want to make sure things are organized.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

We have foam.  Actually we have extruded polystyrene rigid insulation; and a lot of it.  I ordered all our rigid insulation and it was delivered today.  Insulation Depot supplied us with enough recycled rigid insulation for under our slab floors and the entire exterior (assuming I calculated correctly).  It comes in on a tractor trailer and I had my rag-tag crew of worker bees out there bright and early this morning to unload it.  Insulation Depot saved me 50% on the cost of my rigid insulation with the added benefit of using recycled material that was diverted from going to a landfill.    The material I got came off of a roof from somewhere on the Eastern seaboard or Mid-Atlantic I suspect.  It was very dirty but no one said it’s always easy being green.

After unloading from the semi truck we reloaded the insulation onto a trailer to haul up to the job site.

 Our load ended up all being 2×8 sheets of recycled blue Dow rigid XPS.  You basically take what they have on hand.  Sometimes you’ll get green or pink insulation boards in varying dimensions.  We’ll be putting the rigid insulation under the concrete slabs.  Even though the earth is a toasty 50+ degrees year round, the insulation will help prevent condensation and keep our floors an even toastier 68+ degrees I’m thinking.  On the exterior walls, our 4″ of rigid insulation will make our walls 10″ thick and give us an additional R-20 on the walls.  It’s all part of our plan to save us up to $1,500 annually versus a regular cookie cutter house built to code.  That’s $45,000 savings in utility costs over the life of a 30 year mortgage.  Not to mention the increased property value.  Also because we’ll be super insulated, our HVAC system doesn’t have to be as robust as what you’d normally put in a 2,800 sq. ft. Ohio home.  The goal is to use the A/C and gas furnace as little as possible throughout the year.  We eventually will have a pellet stove and maybe someday switch to geothermal.  At some point I’ll theoretically be able to switch us off the grid if we wanted to.

Unloading 2x8 sheets at the job site. Dirty work but luckily we had Corky out there along with Tony (one of our builders), the wife, my dad and my niece to help. They pitched in without complaint. We were up to our eyeballs in grime.

 Today was a lot of planning for getting the house up and going; including planning the cement pours, the rough plumbing was started and the steel beam and posts were hopefully ordered.  With the Superior walls and the details we need to implement to make this such a great performing house, traditional planning and task lists need to really be detailed out.  It’s not like a typical house where everything gets “banged out” in a clean linear order.  Everyone involved has had to adjust a little and successful planning is essential.  Kind of preparing for a big football game.  Plays are formulated, and practiced and refined. Most of what we get done in the next two weeks will set the stage for the rest of the project.  After that it should get a lot easier and more conventional.

Self portrait of yours truly, riding in the back of the truck on one of the runs up to the job site. It took about 6 trips total, covering the 1/3 mile length of my driveway. You can see in my eyes that I'm losing my mind.

For more information on using recycled rigid insulation on your project check out Insulation Depot at
They were very helpful and accommodating and I was able to pinpoint my delivery time within an hour so I could have my crew at the ready.  All the insulation is inspected, so we don’t expect any insect damage.  Some pieces will have cutouts from whatever it was used for before.  And some of it was melted a little here and there.  But since it’s going under slab or outside the house it should suffice and is never seen.  It comes in on a semi and you’re responsible for unloading within a 2 hour window.  We unloaded using 6 people in about 45 minutes.  If your insulation is recycled in the traditional sense, plan on it being a dirty job.
Nothing in life that is “worth it” though is easy.

Impulse Buying for Sport

Alright, I planned on taking the night off.  Kick back, eat my peanut buster parfait, watch Hell’s Kitchen and then probably play some Call of Duty (yes, I’m basically a 14-year-old boy in a man’s body).  Not think about tomorrow.  Not think about the large semi truck with my foundation on it.  Not think about how they said “we’ll try our best not to run over your neighbor’s [100-year-old] tree” when they deliver the foundation and haul a crane up my driveway.

I wasn’t even going to post to the blog.  But I just had to tell you about my, our, impulse buy tonight.  Christine told me about an email we got from a local ski resort where we do one of our art shows at.  I checked it out and it struck accord with, I think, number 4 or 5 on my list of reasons of why we’re moving to the country.  Because in the county you can do whatever the hell you like and go off and buy something like this:

Our new addition to the house project.

It’s a vintage 1977 quad ski lift chair.  Just about the most random, coolest thing I can think that we’ve ever bought.  A steal at $200 if you ask me.  Bought completely on a whim with no idea what we’ll do with it.  But it’s ours.  And I’m pretty sure not too many of you out there know anyone who has an authentic ski lift chair.  I so badly want to put it inside the house but alas I think I will lose out to the “turn it into a swing” crowd.  Either way, I don’t care.  Maybe by the outdoor fireplace.

Send me ideas.

After all this day-to-day planning, battling everyone (it seems) at times, working all day, working all night, fighting nature, praying to god, tempting fate, and so forth, it was so refreshing and liberating to say “what the hell” and just go out and randomly buy something that has very little practical value. 
I was really stressing out about tomorrow (and secretly still am to a certain extent) but you know what? We’ve got a chair lift chair now.  And it makes me smile.