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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Cut and Run

Just pics tonight.  I quit on doing the fireplace stone myself.  Worried it won’t turn out okay, therefore easier and more effective to have a professional bang it out in a day at a cost of $600.  One of life’s secrets is to know how to pick your battles.  I’m good at many things, but DIY projects are not in my wheelhouse.  Our (the wife and I’s) contribution to the project will be design and a lifetime of debtor’s prison.  I’ll leave the craftsmanship stuff to the pros.

Ceiling lights in craft room. Two overheads on one switch, six low voltage lights (not installed yet) on a different switch. Overhead lights are old school barn type lights, 10" in diameter, dark grey finish. They look nice.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6" white tile (Daltile) in boys bathroom shower. Should be thrilling to figure out how to work a shower curtain into this picture. I have some ideas...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I attempted to install cultured stone on fireplace. Here I had to notch a piece of corner stone to clear a 2x6 remnant that was sticking out of the wall. I used a grinder with a diamond blade to carve out the penis shaped notch you see here, in my hand, of course. My life and this house, I need a drink.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This is the amount of stone I got up before I cut and ran. It actually was very fun, relaxing and therapeutic. I'm so glad I got that out of my system. Now I can pay someone to do it for me.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Staircase sans its protective wrapping. The floating maple treads are stunning against the white railings.

First Snow……man

We made our first snow man last weekend. 

Our first snowman.

 
 
The snow that would go on to wreak havoc on our schedule during the work week, was perfectly benign and conducive to making a little snowman before we departed on Sunday.  To top him off we added clay eyes and twigs for arms.  James was a bit pokey getting his twig so ultimately it ended up as a “horn” on the snowman’s head.  It was about as much fun as I’ve had out there so far.  This place is going to be a perfectly good time for all, year round.
 
 
 
 
 
Painting has been dominating the house this week.  Other trades are trying to wrap up as well.  We have less than two weeks to complete everything and I honestly don’t know how it will all get done.  Because the painters have basically take over the place with all their masking and spraying it makes it impossible to get much else done in the main house.
 

The entire house is masked off for the spray painting of the trim

 
 
All the trim is being painted white.  The painters mask all the floors, walls and ceilings to prevent overspray.  Everything should be done painting wise by end of day tomorrow hopefully, so about 3-4 days total to finish sanding, mask and paint everything inside.  As you know, the outside doesn’t get painted until Spring when it warms up.
 
 
On the outside the excavator finished hooking up the septic system.  We’ll get a sink and toilet installed so we can get the system inspected next week.  We had a back up system installed for the sump pump as well.  As you know, and especially now, there is a lot of surface water the seeps down into the soil and eventually into the basement.  The back up sump pump is battery operated and will kick on in case of electrical failure.  It should also kick on if the primary pump stops working.  This will give us peace of mind in the long run that we’ve done everything we could to prevent flooding in the basement.  Of note, once the gutters are in they’ll divert most of the water that would currently be getting into the basement.  Landscaping and settling soil in the yard will also help to divert and keep water away.
 

We went with the heavier duty battery back up for our sump pump. It includes a back up pump, battery which should run the pump for up to 12 continuous hours and a trickle charger for the battery

 
Also the final hookups for the cistern were made this week and paperwork submitted for the final inspection as well.
 
In the basement it’s exciting to see the furnace installed now.  The geothermal lines are run from the foundation wall to the unit and each is fully insulated.  The “water furnace” is a hybrid system that includes a 95% efficient natural gas furnace as well as a geothermal system.  I’ll follow-up with more detailed info, but for now I believe the geo thermal system runs most of the time and the gas kicks on when it’s really cold out.  Very similar in principle to a hybrid car motor / engine.  The geo system also provides summer cooling so we don’t need an air conditioner condenser outside the house, for better aesthetics.
 

Water furnace unit installed. Large tank to the left is actually part of the drinking water supply.

 
Finish wise, the only thing going on this week has been installation of the 3×6 glass subway tiles in the Master Bathroom.  There are about 800 tiles that need to be installed.  So far it’s been two days.  I estimate another 1-2 days to finish being installed.  They look really nice and my brother has been very kind not to complain about what is surely a tedious chore, installing each tile individually.  We chose a staggered pattern.  The tiles are real glass with a white background.  The diamond grout has flecks of glass in it and casts a nice shadow line across each tile; providing a great deal of visual depth and interest to the shower.
 
Some of the electrical fixtures are going in as well.  I’m really happy with the lights I picked out for the Master Bathroom.  My goal for the bathroom was to give it a hotel feel so that in a way everyday would be like being on vacation at a really nice hotel.  The lights are retro art deco units from Restoration Hardware.  And the aforementioned glass tiles add a real touch of something special. 
 

Glass subway tile being installed.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Master Bath lights and cabinets, sans sinks and mirrors.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beyond this, we’re just wrapping up some odds and ends.  I was going to work on the fireplace tomorrow but the painters need the house for another day.  Fortunately the snow is gone, so while we won’t be making any more snowmen for a while, at least tradesman can get to the house and work.  Goodbye for now.
 

Gallery wall upstairs has gotten its primer coat.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Magnetism

It’s amazing how long ago is feels since the bulldozer first ran through the brush, tracing what would become our driveway, back in June, or July.  I guess eight months is a long time, though about average for building a new home; fairly quick for a custom home.  As we approach the end of the project, the amount of action at the house is picking up significantly.  After a few weeks of only one or two trades on site we’re back to where it’s not uncommon to see three or more at a time.  Phone calls, texts, and emails start to dominate the day as final preparations are orchestrated.  The land looks completely different, 180 degrees different, than it did in mid summer, but the magnetism has only grown stronger.  Tonight, after dropping off tile, I stuck around to snap some photos and found myself, as usual, unable or unwilling to readily leave.  There’s something about the stillness or potential to the land and house as it transforms that fixates me to the sense of place that is being created.  And with every trip, either at night or as I lock up after everyone has left, I have to break myself away; forcing myself back into reality.

In many regards this will change once the pitter patter of little (and big) feet move into the house and life’s needful things are scattered about the yard, but hopefully not completely.  Hopefully, for as long as it stands, in the calm of Spring mornings, the buzz of late Summer nights or the solitude of an empty Winter day that magnetism will still be there, beckoning and calling myself, our family, or whomever has the genuine fortune of being there.

So to serve this purpose, or because of it, we’re doing everything we can to pay attention to all of the details.  We’re striving to finish the house with items that delight the senses.  For the most part this has gotten us into hot water budget wise, but many of the items will never be replaced or even remodelled.  I can honestly say and believe this.  There is a permanence in the land and structure that we are working to instill, even if it’s subconscious.  In an ever-changing world, this house will provide safe, comforting, harbor for all who come in contact with her. 

Or at least that’s the idea. 

Of course it’s eleven o’clock at night and I’m getting slap happy as we approach the finish line so take it for what it’s worth. 

Worst case scenario the door bell is pretty cool.

Pics for your enjoyment below.  HVAC, gutters, electrical, septic all start the beginning of the end to their journeys next week.  This weekend I’m tackling a list of odds n ends including the fireplace stonework myself.  We’ll also be going on our last shopping spree to get towel racks, door knobs and even house numbers. There’s so much to do, even I’ll be ready to leave at the end of the day.

Don't know if I showed you, but all the siding is done, even on the exterior of the loft.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Painters are filling nail holes and caulking all the trim. Caulking the trim will help seal up the house and get us a better score on our blower door test.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Most of the stair railing is done. Simple poplar hardwood rail, we'll have it painted white.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Water line for freezer needs to be moved. We'll seal up the gaping hole where it was before so we don't get air penetration into that cavity. Incidently they discovered that pantry door trim "locks" in the freezer making it impossible to remove once the cabinets are in. This will be solved via removeable trim. The screw heads will be photographed and then spackled over. I the freezer needs to come out we'll just look at the pic, remove spackle, screws, and trim.

 
 
 
 
 

Fireplace surround is covered in 1/2" OSB. I'll put mesh and cultured stone on it this weekend. Wish me luck, I've never actually done any of that. No worries, not like it's a focal point or anything.

 
 
 

We had the HVAC guys over at Sissler Heating and Cooling drop off the registers so the base boards could be cut to size.

  
 
 
 
 
 
 

First floor flight of stairs with rail mostly finished. Railing on middle two flights was compromised due to the shift occuring with the intruding foundation wall. Not much we can do at this point but live with it.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Studio railing in place.

 

Yes it's our doorbell. It's cast, and finished in oil rubbed bronze. By artist Michael Healy

Upstairs Downstairs

I’ve been living vicariously through grainy phone pictures the last couple days.  Fortunately it’s staying lighter later but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily getting out there daily.  I stopped by the other morning to drop a check off for one of the trades but mornings are still pitch black making it impossible to take in anything sensory of value. Today I did sneak out after work, postponing dinner a few extra minutes, to indulge my curiosity.  For I had seen nothing but grainy pictures of what was going on out there.

Waffling over the fireplace surround design continued to be a favored pastime and today was the last possible time to make a design decision.  The plan is to surround the Edge 60 with the same quartz that will be on the kitchen counters.  The quartz material will then “cascade” down onto the floor creating a quasi “hearth”, inset into the light maple hardwood flooring.  Surrounding all of that will be our cultured field stone.  Look, the finished product will either be really nice or look like a complete, over priced, train wreck.  Honestly I have no idea.  That pretty much goes for the entire project at this point.  All we can do is hope we made a few good decisions along the way.

Edge60 with its Studio faceplate in place. Surrounding the faceplate will be Silestone quartz from floor to about 5 or 6 inches above the faceplate. On the floor will be a panel of the Silestone as well. You can see where we left the wood flooring off. Overall about 48" wide. We shall see...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One annoying anomaly is there are reports that cold air is coming in below the fireplace.  I’ll have to investigate this weekend.  Additionally we’ll frame out the breezeway and porch columns, install an ironing board and other miscellaneous odds and ends.

Most of the light maple hardwood floor is installed, including the stair landings and hallways.  Speaking of stairs, the finished stairs are all installed.  Everything is wrapped up to protect the wood finish of the treads but they are remarkably beautiful from what I can tell.  The appear to be structurally sound and of proper design.  It’ll be weeks before they gain their full complement of safety rails and two-tone paint job (stain and white paint).  The stringers are 3 or 4 laminated layers of 3/4″ thick wood (poplar?).  Each floating tread is about 2.5 to 3 inch thick veneered maple.  Code requires there be no larger than a 4″ gap so a strip of wood is added to the underside of each tread.  This helps support the tread and minimizes the opening between treads.  Open treads are preferred because they allow better air flow from the basement to the second floor; helping with the air current that will help keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  They also happen to look really cool and drool worthy.  We’ll wrap them in berber carpet to soften the steps for little ones crawling up and down.  The open tread design should be okay safety wise.  I grew up with open treads and seemingly survived unscathed.

Stairs without their protective covering

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Left stringer is one piece of 3/4" material. It will be beefed up with two more layers. Below, that open triangle will be enclosed with an MDF panel painted white.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The interior doors were delivered today too.  I didn’t think we had that many but a quick survey this evening revealed they are all over the place….seemingly multiplying behind tuned backs.  The style looks really nice, which is to say nice equates to a simple three panel “farmhouse” look.
 

C'mon baby light my fire. The doors arrived today.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The garage doors look remarkably better today.  They installed some more trim and weather-stripping to cover up the 2″ gaps that were present previously.  Looks like they’re slowly working their way around cupola with siding as well too.  As soon as that’s done, gutters can go on I suspect.
 

Light maple hardwood flooring going in in the Family Room and Kitchen

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hmmm…..reckon that’s it for today.  Doors and trim will start going in tomorrow.  We need to secure mirrors, the last of the lights and get cabinets delivered this week.  There’s some tile that needs to be finished downstairs and we’re struggling to get the glass tile for the Master bath shower. 
 
Finally, switching gears, check out this book that Linda Killian wrote.  It came out today.  It’s called “The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents”.  I was part of a focus group that Linda interviewed in Ohio.  It was interesting to participate and hear what other independent voters had to say.  I placed my order today via Amazon.com.  Check it out there or at your local book store.