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?

Not So Heavy Metal

I don’t know what’s going on or who we pissed off but virtually nothing is happening at the house. In all fairness I’ve only mustered enough energy and time to wrap and finish off four more windows.  Beyond that not much is happening.  The blue rigid insulation continues to be put on, along with the firring strips for the siding.  Most of the dormers are done and the west gable is complete.  The porch roof also now has underlayment.  Our roofer recommended, and installed, ice guard over the entire roof due to the shallow 2.5/12 pitch of the roof.  The screen porch roof is a lot easier to walk on than the 12/12 pitch of the main house.  Almost like walking on the ground.  All this work is in preparation for the other roofer who will install the metal roof.

recycled blue Dow 4″ rigid insulation on exterior of house, with firring strips on top for siding and sealing of joints.

Which leads us to today.  They started installing the standing seam metal roof today!  Rejoice!

Standing seam metal roof on garage.

In case you were dying with anticipation, we went with Sheffield’s COOLR Energy Efficient Metal Roofing Material in a Pre-Weathered Galvalume color.  Thickness is 24 gauge (as opposed to a typical 26 gauge material.)  This metallic color is a Kynar 500 finish and looks like a charcoal grey in regular light.  Today it looked light grey due to the overcast rainy skies.  This color, like most COOLR colors is EnergyStar and LEED 2009 compliant.  It has an ISR (initial solar reflectance) of 0.30 and an EMI (emissivity) of 0.79, and finally an SRI (solar reflectance index) of 27.  These numbers are fairly respectable and should help keep the house cool in the summer.  The durable metal finish will outlast me, even if I stopped drinking and started exercising.  We’ll never have to replace our roof unless, god forbid, we get hit by a massive hail storm or tornado.  Only worry might be a scratch or rust but the Kynar finish is pretty durable.  I’m not worried.

The finish will be good to for collecting rain water as our primary water supply.  I did some research and decided that a metal roof was the best finish for collecting rain water for my family.  You can use pretty much anything other than cedar shakes.  The cedar will leach stuff into the water that’ll make you sick.  Asphalt shingles don’t sound like an appealing surface to drink from so that, in conjunction with having to replace them every 10-20 years, nixed that option.  Copper, Aluminum, and slate all would have been viable options as well I suppose.  Plastic roofing was a possible option too.


















Additionally I stopped out early this morning to post up notes for the AWOL electricians and noticed our excavator (the guy) out working in the dark, the lights on the excavator (the big yellow machine) illuminating the back yard.  Today was a double-header of success in that in addition to the roof, the septic tank was installed.  Not sure if it was inspected but at some point they’ll truck in 1,800 gallons of water to test the system and get the inspector to sign off on it.  The septic system won’t actually be hooked up to the house until virtually when we move in to assure it stays “clean” and free of debris that might compromise the system.  We’ll also get a list of stuff we shouldn’t throw down the drain.  If we throw bacteria killing agents or chemicals down the drain it will negate the bacteria in the system rendering the system useless.  I think we should be fine, but will be interesting to see the list.

I of course was so engrossed by our new roof, I forgot to take pictures of the septic tank for you to enjoy today.  If it’s still uncovered tomorrow I’ll take  a pic.  It’s actually pretty cool looking.  I think it’s plastic and it’s finished in a racy green color.  The location is half way between the house and septic field.  Waste will be pumped up from the house to the tank, then up to the field.  The actual location may wreak havoc with our landscape plan but at this point I don’t even care anymore. Just get it in there and we’ll deal with the impact to the master plan later.  As noted early on, the house is shifted about 20-60 feet west so our landscape plan would need adjustment anyway.

Goodbye sewer bills! (of course we’ll have septic maintenance bills, but I suspect those will be less or at the very least fairly constant……we’ll see.)

Hopefully someone starts working again on the HVAC and electric.  We also have some framing to finish too before insulation can start going in.  Exterior doors were slated to show up today too, but didn’t.

But I can’t complain too much because I’m just as guilty.  We have a laundry list of things to design and detail and select.  I thought at some point it’d be easy or more enjoyable.  Enjoyable at times, easy never.  There’s also some labor I can do out at the site as well so maybe a few days off work are in order.

Stay tuned.



Here I’m putting on a strip of 4″ Vycor Plus over the head and jamb nailing flanges on the windows. Another option would have been to install the windows when framing the wall and encase the flange, buck and onto the wall with 12″ rolls of Vycor. 12″ would be a special order. The 4″, 6″ and 9″ we’re using are readily available at Lowes.


















I think we’re almost halfway through the project in many regards.  In about 2-3 weeks we’ll pass into the back half of the project once the roof is on and the windows are set.  The house will be fairly well weathered in and work will be divided between inside and out.  Framing is about done except for the screen porch.  We’re discovering a lot of nooks that we’ll turn into storage.  You can never have too much storage.  For each nook though we have to add subflooring and work up solutions for the areas where we forgot to make the exterior walls air tight with the Grace Vycor.

This week we got our first waste container, a 20 yard container which is 22′ x 8′ x 4.5′ tall.  We got it from a local vendor who specializes in recycling construction waste.  Unfortunately our project generated a lot of waste.  By stick framing the roof, the result is a lot of little cut offs which take time to dispose of.  Every piece of something we throw out is something I paid for that isn’t going into the house.  Waste is one area where I let myself down.  Realistically unless the builder understands the concept of waste and works to eliminate it, building a house in the cookie cutter fashion, like we are in many regards, generates a lot of waste in material and money.

One of two piles of waste we’ve generated so far.
 Roofing plans are coming together.  We’ll have one roofer install the underlayment and ice guard.  For ice guard we’re using two brands; it really doesn’t matter, they’re all about the same if you get a good quality brand.  We’ll have it installed in all the valleys, where projections like the loft, gables and dormers intersect the roof and along the eaves or gutterboards.  At the gutterboard it’ll be wrapped to the bottom of the board and then up the roof about 6′.  We’re going 6′ because our overhangs are so large.  We want to make sure the ice guard terminates over the wall plane.  For underlayment, because our roof is 12/12, traction is the name of the game.  We’re using Grip Rite underlayment. 
One detail our roofer provided us with is how to finish off the exterior loft wall where it meets the roof.  Remember we’ll have 4″ of rigid insulation blanketing the house.
Additional work this week involves cleaning up the Raindrop housewrap.  The framers blanketed it into the house cavity so we’ll cut it back to the sheathing line on top of the roof so air doesn’t travel down the Raindrop channels into the house.

house wrap needs to be removed from interior of house to prevent air from getting in.

The framers installed window bucks as well.  These 2×8 projections around the window rough openings will be what we mount the windows to.  The exterior insulation will butt up to the bucks.  We’ll wrap the bucks in Grace Vycor Plus membrane flashing, underlapping it under the house wrap around the sides and top of the bucks.  On the bottom the Vycor goes on top of the house wrap to shed any water.

2x8 window bucks in loft

Minor anomalies arose with framing such as the boys’ closets, the door opening have to revert to regular doors due to the shape.  Take a look at the pic to see what I’m talking about:

we'll frame in the door openings more to eliminate the angle in the top left corner of the closet door opening.

Plumbing fixtures have been selected and the rough plumbing is going in.  We selected 1.23 gallon flush toilets to conserve water, as well as low flow shower heads.  The water supply plan is just beginning. We’ll be going with a 10,000 gallon cistern with an integrated filtering system to provide ALL of our fresh water needs.  The cistern will have a light indicator to let us know when it’s low. We anticipate not having to truck in any water except maybe in the dead of winter when everything’s frozen, or in late summer when it doesn’t rain as much.  A year like this year will have the cistern overflowing.
HVAC work should be starting soon as well.  We’ll be going with a 95% efficient gas furnace with a geothermal add-on.  More about that later.

Looking Like A House

More land wildlife.

The house is starting to look like a house.  Despite a lot of rain the framing has picked back up full steam ahead.  
I’m always amazed by the wildlife I see out at the land.  Over the weekend we spotted a small snake and a day or two ago I saw a frog and buzzard.  Seems everyone’s enjoying the house and land as much as we are.  
I’ve been working on the studio insulation in order to prepare for the cement being poured.  I think I worked the rigid insulation three times, which trumps my effort with the basement insulation.  Forgetting to put the HVAC pipes meant I basically had to start from scratch.  I think I’ve now got it set up as good as it’s going to get.  There’s no insulation around the pipes so I suspect we have a weak spot in the heating / cooling plan, but I’m not sure what I’d do differently, unless I rip up the pipes and swaddled them in insulation.  “Good enough” is going to have to be good enough. 

Studio insulation. The cement will pour over the insulation and HVAC pipes. The 4" will fill up to the bottom edge of the pressure treated sill plate.

While working the 2″ insulation around the perimeter, on Sunday, one of the many thunderstorms we’ve been getting decided to remind me that Mother Nature hates me.  A neat looking black cloud snuck in from the northeast as I was hoping to finish up and get out.  Next thing I know I look up, barely think “cool, I can see my shadow” and the air in my front yard cracked in half in a thunder clap that shook the house.  Drop tools, high tail it out of there.
Fortunately the last two days have been pretty nice.  The rafters are going up and the visual scale of the house is coming back into reality.  The garage still seems huge but at least the house is coming back to the real world.
We’ve been frantically picking out plumbing fixtures so the plumber knows where to run the plumbing pipes.  Also have been meeting with the roofer, fireplace rep and our cabinet maker to plan the next phases of construction.  Our kitchen cabinets are currently being made so that’s exciting. We still have to adjust the design of the upstairs bathroom to accommodate the vanity mirrors.  We’re also adjusting the amount of floor space built into the Cape Cod style roof in the bedrooms.
Waste is beginning to pile up.  I found a pretty good waste collection company that will recycle 80%-90% of the waste we put into the waste container.  I’ll go out to the site, measure up and decide what size we need.  We’ll do two collections.  One at end of framing, another at the end of the project.
Plumbing and HVAC start later this week.  Framing should be done by end of week as well.  Now it’s getting exciting.  Now it’s starting to look like a house.

no idea what the pile of used cement is for.


roof framing. note floating dormer rake boards. roof sheathing will slip underneath.

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.