Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Flux Capacitor

We chose a spot for the woodstove this week. There was much discussion about location - next to the stairs, against the wall, in the corner, in the hallway, in the dining room, outside, etc... in the end, we are all happy with the spot we chose. This picture shows the beginning of the hearth - two 1/2" sheets of plywood screwed together and to the floor.More hearth work. Andy and Chris measured and cut the slate, and Andy is seen here applying the grout. It's messy work, but it really cleans up well.

Mindy has taped off some areas on the side of the stairs. We will apply dark tung oil to the stair treads themselves, but the stringer (which will stay exposed, by the way) will be a few coats of polyacrilic like the posts and ceilings. The railing to the loft is attached in this picture. I don't have any pictures of the assembly pieces, but I'll have some next week. In the bottom right of the picture is a 48" post built out of three 2x6's, just like the posts everywhere else. It also has a tenon that extends into a mortise we cut into the floor. The tenon is secured from underneath the floor, the side of the post is attached with long bolts that come through the stringer, and the railing is attached with 4" screws through a spacer block that Andy curved with the table saw. The 4" screws are not as long as we would like, so we'll replace those with 6" screws this week. Maybe. Anyway, it's on the list of things to do.

The hearth will end up with a wood trim piece around the sides. Karen wanted slate there, and we all agree it would look good, but we aren't very confident of slate taking abuse well, and on the sides of a hearth, it surely will see some abuse.Andy jointing the ballisters for the handrail to the loft or the basement. They're all the same stock, just like the railings we have in place in the loft now.
The excavators dug the lines for the propane this week.
And then the propane company installed the tank and filled it up. This is a 1,000 gallon tank, meant to ensure that the propane truck doesn't have to worry about accessing our house in the winter. Our driveway can be treacherous.
Andy and Chris' dad came out this week and put in a lot of hours of help. Six straight days, in fact. The house just seems to swallow up work. Grandpa and Eli are taking a little snack break while they watch the workers install the propane tank.
Sanding the living room floor. From what I remember in high school Earth Science, the seasons are caused by changes in the angle of insolation. As the earth tilts away from the sun, the sun rises lower and lower in the sky each day until the winter solstice. That means cooler weather, but it also means more light penetration in the house. We are thrilled with the amount of light that comes in our South wall. Thrilled, I tell ya. The white sheets on the right are 3/4" melamine, which we will use to build the forms for the concrete countertops for the kitchen. We plan to build and pour in the living room, and then carry them into the kitchen for installation. They will need about a week to cure.
Dad and Chris assembled the rest of the kitchen cabinets this week. Lots of measuring, cutting, and using all the fun tools. They made two trips into town for more hardwood plywood - some birch, and some cherry.
The kitchen island is mostly in place here, and Dad has the railing clamped to it for some plane work. Andy routed the edge of the railing with a 3/4" roundover bit, but there was a 1/16" lip on top that needed some extra hand work. Dad planed it, sanded it, and called it good.
The island, placed mostly in position and nearly ready to be screwed together and have the top fastened in place.
What do you think the shelf life of an Eli is?

Seriously. Have we mentioned how much we love the light that comes into the house? The island is secured in place in this picture. Cabinets are screwed to each other with #8 1 1/4" screws, and screwed to the floor with 2" pocket screws. If the island moves, the whole house must be moving with it. But really, who has time to move the island when you can just watch the sunlight dance across the floor all day?The electricians have begun to install lights in the ceilings. We had to build special brackets for some of them. This light is in the living room. It's on a chain, so no bracket required. The pitch of the roof is too much for some of the other lights, however. Lights that were designed for more normal installations in a flat ceiling.
Our plumber, John. Great guy to work with. He's friendly with the kids and the dogs, and he sings while he works. He's working on the vents for the island in this picture from Saturday afternoon. The open nature of the house is tricky, and instead of boxing in an ABS pipe or trying to use paint to disguise it we chose copper. Oops... I mean coppah.

This is our flux capacitor. Andy says it's steampunk. After a brief moment on teh google, Chris agrees. We think it's a pretty cool feature. This will be the view as you stand at the sink in the island.To prepare for the back stoop, Dad moved the pallets and scraped the dirt away to replace it with gravel.The Boy Scouts were out on Saturday morning and used the circular saw and some hammers to build this platform. It's 24" high and 48" square. The top surface is interior flooring with the tongue ripped off. No, we don't expect it to last very long out in the elements like this, but it's a good temporary solution until we build the real deck or stonework to take its place.The parting shot from the cherry tree. Back stoop, back steps, and the refrigerator and woodstove have been moved inside the house. Looking a bit cleaner out there! We have four pallets in place to hold some fire wood. It won't be long until we'll need it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I took a few more pictures of the bathroom vanity for somebody who was curious how it was built. While I was at it, I took the sink and faucet out of their boxes and set them in place, too. :) That's always the fun part.
This last picture probably shows the construction method best. Sorry it's a bit fuzzy. The lower shelf and the counter top surface are both made from left-over 2x6 tongue and groove flooring. The rest of the wood; the posts and rails, are ripped from 2x4s. The posts and rails are all 1 1/2" square, and are held together with pocket screws. You could also mortise and tenon the joints, but we just don't have the time right now, and pocket screws are a simple, square, sturdy joint that takes a neat jig, but not a lot of time.
The flooring pieces were glued together, clamped in place for 24 hours, then cut to length and screwed in place from underneath the rail that supports each flat surface.

I know... not exactly a professional how-to, but I hope it answers your questions, Serina.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Kitchen Carcasses

Well, that's one more week gone by. Where did the time go? Let's see:

Andy installed a few more slate tiles in the mudroom. There is still some grout-work to do there, so maybe we'll get to that in the coming week.Karen is routing a side panel of the kitchen cabinets to prepare for assembly. Benson used the router this week, too. Benson really likes to try everything. Except sweeping. Maybe he thinks he has the sweeping thing all figured out already.
We began to assemble the hearth pieces this week, but we didn't get very far. The hearth will be tiled with slate, just like the mudroom. The woodstove will end up about where Andy is standing.
A friend of Chris' came over on Saturday and helped out for a few hours. Tariq and Benson helped assemble these cabinet carcasses, and it's neat to see them in place. There is quite a bit of work to do on them, obviously. But we're making steady progress.
A wider view of the kitchen progress. The island surface you see here will be at 36" high, and on the East side (the left) will be a raised area where we are sure to gather for pie. And ice cream. Or maybe just pie. Or maybe just ice cream... oh, the dilemmas we will have!
Sorry, Karen. You have a looooong way to go with that little bitty sander. With softwood floors, we thought it prudent to avoid the commercial floor sanders in favor of a more delicate approach. Karen and Mindy have spent hours and hours sanding around the house, and room by room, we move closer to the end.
A bit of innocent vandalism for a nephew in New York. Happy birthday, Hunter!
Chris and Karen's bedroom, with a view through to the bathroom in the background. The wall is closed in now, and that makes a real nice shift from having everything so open.
The two Takagi tankless water heaters are mostly installed. The vents have a few extra pieces to put together early next week. A 1,000 gallon propane tank will be installed on Tuesday, and shortly after that, we hope to turn on the slab and heat the house up a bit. The propane tank will be underground, thankfully. At 5'x5'x18', it's not exactly subtle.
Andy and Mindy's bathroom has seen some big changes. They chose a vanity, sink, and hardware, and that is basically roughed in at this point. The shower base is also installed, but we still have to figure out the walls and put those together.
We built a small vanity for the mudroom bath this week, and applied a single coat of dark tung oil, just like the floor. Actually, the top surface of the vanity was made from extra flooring pieces, so it matches the floor pretty well, and will look great on the slate. The holes for the drain and faucet are finished, and it was tempting to put the vessel and faucet in place. All in good time.
The excavators made some good progress on the grading around the house. This is the window on the North wall. It would have been a huge undertaking for us to get these stones into place ourselves. We plan a similar retaining wall for the garden area and for the entrance to the front door. Which is really on the side. Anyway, it will also have stones there. We hope to see that come together this week after they install the propane tank.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Loft Floor

This is a direct continuation of last week's pictures - the mudroom bathroom. Andy and Chris cut and installed the slate this week. This is the first half of the room done.The rest of the tiles are in place, with the grout yet to be done.
The grout is done but not totally cleaned up in this picture, and the rest of the mudroom floor has been primed for the mortar and wonderboard. We would like to install the tile in the rest of the room this coming week.
Andy routering (yes, Russell, I know that's not a word) one of the panels for the kitchen. We chose a Bosch router that has a fixed and a plunge base. It is a wonderful machine to use. Stable, smooth, and reliable. We're glad to have a project that required its purchase. :)
The current view of the kitchen, as seen from the loft. It's a mess, I know. The only excuse is lack of time - we'll make things orderly later. This is propped up in place so the plumber can see where things will be installed. Based on this mock-up, he should be able to drill holes in the floor and our cabinets, run the pex needed, and do all the rest he has to do. We are using 3/4" birch plywood for most of the carcasses, but anywhere a wall will be visible we will use 3/4" cherry ply. The faces and doors will be cherry hardwood. Since the countertop will be a very heavy concrete slab, we chose to double up the verticals wherever possible. We want the load of the top distributed evenly around a solid base.

Karen working on the bathroom vanities. She experimented with some sanding and some stain, but I think we'll end up painting these. The stain of the floor is a very rich color, and the room will probably look best without too many contrasting grain patterns.
The loft is the most empty room in the house right now, so Chris brought some work up there during the week, too.
Snowing in the house again? Mindy was sanding the floor to prepare for the tung oil, and the flash on the camera does funny things with the sawdust in the air. Eli enjoys his window seat.See? Mindy is still sanding. In the winter months, the sunlight will shine well into the house, but it looks beautiful all year round. The well-lit south wall is one of our favorite features of the house.
The loft as seen from the living room. Nice straight rails, and it feels good to have the room closed off up there. We haven't heard for sure if we'll need to install electric outlets along the loft walls. We should find out this week when the electrical inspection takes place.
Two coats of tung oil are down on the floor at this point. It makes for a warm, inviting surface.
Even with just a few dim bulbs on in the house, the windows really light up. When one light is on, we'll be able to walk around the entire upstairs part of the house - with no walls, everything carries between the rooms. Light, sound... yes, I think it will always be a noisy, happy house.
This view hasn't changed too much. The doors are painted, the rear latch is installed... but that's about it. The grey cube is the Osburn woodstove we picked out, and the blue monolith is the refrigerator. These two things are too heavy to move very often, and they would just be in the way if we brought them inside. They'll be ok out here for a little bit, but we'll be glad to get them in and put them to use.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Powah is On!

The powah is turned on, and we have lights to prove it now. The rough electric is finished for the entire basement level and part of the main living level. That work will continue this coming week. The electrician knows our move-in date, and he's on board with finishing his work in time for that.The outlets along the South wall.
Wiring and a smoke detector hardwired into the wall on the North end of the dining room/South wall of Chris and Karen's bathroom.
We put up some more railing sections in the loft on Saturday. They came out straight and sturdy, just like the house. We think the look matches well. These will end up with a coat or three of poly just like the rest of the non-floor surfaces in the house. We ripped 2x4s to make the ballisters, and a single 2x4 was cut to length for the top and bottom rail. Each ballister is ripped from a 2x4, cut to length, jointed, sanded, drilled with four holes, and finally installed. They take a lot of time, but it's happy work, and it's fun to see them put in place.
Mindy was busy this week on the basement floor. The acid stain is down, and on Monday she'll be back to apply the neutralizer. The color is called "Old Hickory". It's certainly a big change from the natural grey. We are excited to see the finished surface, and have one floor surface totally done.

Like I said... Mindy was busy this week. She also spent some time in Chris and Karen's bathroom, working on the floor there. We chose a dark tung oil as the finished surface for the upper floors. This room will end up with a water-resistant finish, so it's unique in that respect, but the color will be the same everywhere. It's great to see it go on, and Mindy said it was very simple to apply.
Andy is working on the ballisters for the loft. He had a smooth system set up, like a one-man assembly line. While he wasn't taking this picture, Chris was in the loft assembling the kits Andy had put together for each section of rail.
Ahh, we hope Benson will remember with fondness the good old days of playing in the leach field.
Eli being Eli. We used the back "steps" as a mixing area. There was a constantly changing mix of paint, oil, and cement there this week.
Light grey to dark grey. The dark grey will be the finished color for both doors. By the time we left the house on Saturday evening, both doors were painted, reinstalled, and the mudroom door latch was installed. The door to the kitchen will require some drilling for the different style latch the girls chose.

We bought the slate for the mudroom floor on Saturday. Eventually we will install this everywhere in the mudroom, and possibly near the other entrance as well. For now, we will focus on the mudroom bath, since the fixtures are dependent on the floor being in place.We thought this was great to see, so we have pictures of each step so far. The first layer is milky white paint. This took awhile to dry, and the dogs stepped through it at one point, so there are white paw prints leading into the kitchen before they slowly fade. Quite poetic, really.
The second layer is 1/4" of mortar, applied with a trowel made specifically for this purpose. You can add this to the list of things we've never done before - building a house really makes you stretch into new abilities.
The third layer is wonderboard, a 1/4" board of mesh and concrete. This is pressed onto the mortar, and then screwed in place. On top of this will be another coat of mortar, then the slate and the grout. Can't wait to see the next step! We ran out of time on Saturday, so the slate will need to wait until next week.