Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hi Mary...

Garage in the foreground, with numbered days

Our to-do plan and schedule for the next 2 1/2 weeks

Among the many items we need to move on, a Easy Spindryer vintage washing machine. I had fantasies of running of powering this by bicycle. Never happened, but we did actually do a couple of loads of laundry in it

I re-framed the opening for the window coming up the stairs, and soon we'll relocate the window to match the new height. The original location was a bit high.

Recent events have prompted us to refocus our energy on taking down the garage sooner then we had originally planned. It means some scurrying now, but we're both excited at the prospect that the house will be able to stand on its own without the dubious presence of the garage right in front of it.

Given this new challenge, Nance and I have been working through the logistics of everything that needs to happen to actually have this thing torn down. Currently (no pun intended) the electric line from the pole goes to the meter and panel housed in the garage, as does the phone line. Relocating these requires timing, coordination, digging, and materials all be lined up and carefully ordered so that we are able to maintain service and make the switch safely, allowing for a large excavator to come in, knock down the building and then load it into dumpsters. Never mind that we have tons of stuff in there we need to sort through and then relocate to the basement. Its a big project, and it will delay focused progress on the house a bit, but it is ultimately part of getting the whole project done, so it really is just a reordering towards that end.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Edition

There's some tidying-up to do, but I finished all the significant electrical work today. I'll have Felton come up again early next week and we'll do another walk-through to find any omissions or problems.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Window inspectors

Window inspectors at work

This photo shows where each home-run electrical circuit comes down into the basement. Soon enough, the electrical panel (properly known as the load center) will be mounted on this space and each wire will connect to a circuit breaker. The wire coming out of the pipe in the wall is the (unconnected) power supply into the house

The electrical work continued today, with a brief visit by two young window inspectors, along with their chauffeur. While carrying out their duties, they also checked out a couple of special spots that are excellent for kids to hide in while they play hide-n-seek with their uncle. As a thank-you for their services, they were sent home with some just-made maple syrup.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Closing in on the electrical

The electrical punch list

Some wires in place

A triple switch box in the kitchen

This is where the bed will be. You can see the matching outlets and light switch boxes to the left and the right with the blue light mounting box above in the center

Last Friday Felton came up to the house and did a walk-through with me to go over the progress on the electrical work. It was useful and as we talked I made a list of things I needed to change, correct, or complete. With the list in hand, I want to work through this stuff and be as done as I can be with the electrical work. I hope that I'll be there in another day or two, although it seems to go slower then it seems like it should.

Before moving on I'm going to go around and label everything so we know what is what and what is going where for what purpose. I've been labeling along the way, but not thoroughly, so I want to make sure we can understand everything once the sheetrock is covering the wires snaking through the walls.

The challenge is to anticipate and wire for intuitive light switching as you move through the house. I drew this all out in plan but have found myself mostly just doing it from feel in the actual house. Today I ran a circuit that allows us to turn on a light centrally located on the first floor from either entrance doorway or at the bottom of the stairs. A similar issue has been working out lighting for coming up the stair and going to bed. We've decided that we'll have a light over the bed that can be switched from either side of the bed and at the top of the stairs as you come up. The last photo shows the boxes in place for this as well as the blue light mounting box affixed to the rafter centered above.

I'm ready to get done with the electrical work and move on to completing the plumbing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010



Made the changes to the mudroom/kitchen entry today and it feels really good. We loose a little closet space, but I think its well worth the improvement in flow and transition.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Drain and vent

This is where all the drains come together and leave the house, headed for the septic tank

These are our water supply lines

On Saturday Paul and I pretty much wrapped up the PVC drain/vent plumbing throughout the house.

Next up is running the water supply lines. In the old days, these were the copper pipes that ran through the floors and walls supplying hot and cold water to the house fixtures such as a tub, toilet or sink. These days its much more common to use PEX pipe, which is a flexible plastic tubing. The advantages being cost, ease of installation, material flexibility, high performance, and simplicity when it comes to making connections. In the old days you had to sweat (solder) each joint of copper, these days you just make your connection and crimp it with a special tool that cinches a compression ring.

I've installed the mounting board in the basement where all the hot and cold lines will terminate and tomorrow afternoon Paul and I are going to start running the lines.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Plumbing continues

How to get a pipe in the house. Note the second hole to the left of the pipe

The pipe in place on the inside, one each through the two holes on the outside

The rigid insulation in the basement. You'd be surprised how many times I've whacked my head harder then I'd like on that white plastic pipe coming out of the wall.

I've been plugging away at the drain and vent lines.

What surprised me was that in order to get certain lines into place in the floor joists, you have to continue your line of holes right out through the side of the house. What do you do if you've built a house out of concrete?

I've been enjoying the plumbing work; you basically have a pile of fittings and you dry-fit them together with lengths of PVC pipe and when everything is good and they are pitched the way you want them, you glue them all together with nasty smelling solvent glue.

I've also been continuing with the insulation of the basement in advance of our HRV unit being installed. (HRV stands for Heat Recovery Ventilation and is the mechanism that will supply us fresh air, since the house will be highly air-tight and super-insulated. Without this system there'd be no opportunity for fresh air to enter the house, or stale damp air to exit. More on this later.)

Anyway, the HRV unit will be installed soon in the back corner of the basement and I want to have the insulation in place so I'm not trying to fit it behind the unit after the fact. Putting up the insulation requires hanging sheet plastic from the sill , taping the overlap seams of plastic (the red tape in the photo), then cutting the boards of insulation to fit over the pink board coming up from under the slab. I then drill a pilot hole through a piece of strapping and the insulation into the concrete and finally screw a concrete screw to hold it in place.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Edition

Paul is connecting the vent portion of the line here. Note how the pipe makes a 90 turn and goes straight up. On the left you see where the drain goes down. There will be a sink and tub located here

This is where the washing machine will be, with a toilet on the other side of the wall. I had to open the windows to help vent the fumes from the PVC pipe cleaner and cement

Today my uncle Paul came over and we went at the plumbing. We made good progress and I'm in good shape to continue where we left off. What's obvious to me now that wasn't as clear before is how drains go hand in hand and are nearly mirrored by vents. If water is going down, there is a pipe going up to allow the water to drain without creating suction at what ever fixture is being used. Makes sense--I've just never really thought about it much.

I feel really grateful to Paul coming over and giving up part of his weekends to help me get this done.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kitchen Redesign

This is the original kitchen plan. Note the abubpt left turn from the mudroom to the kitchen and the narrow island with little circulation space around it.

This is the latest version: We've removed the door between mudroom and kitchen and angled the wall of the closet to allow a more gentle transition from mudroom to kitchen. We've also eliminated the cabinets on the wall adjacent to the mudroom and moved the refrigerator against the outside wall. This arrangement allows for a bigger island and more space to move around.

East elevation of the kitchen cabinetry

At work in the house, on the house

Nancy and I have long had the sense that the kitchen plan has seemed okay, but not quite right. Over the last few days we've spent a bunch of time redesigning the layout and have made some progress. The primary issue is the island in the center of the space. As drawn originally, the island would have had to be pretty narrow and there would be inadequate space to circulate around it. Additionally, there was a doorway between the mudroom and the kitchen which we were feeling more and more wasn't really necessary. The first plan meant you looked right at the closet door when you entered. With the latter version, there is a more inviting and gentle transition between spaces.

The end wall of the closet in the first version was going to be deep shelves. This was okay, but it felt a little removed from the actual kitchen space. As we've conceived it now, the shelves will be near the dining room table on the wall with the stove. This feels like a more natural transition between kitchen area to the dining area.

There may be more changes to come, but for now this feels like an improvement.

Following on the heels of reconfiguring the kitchen floor plan, I've also been drawing the elevations to give us a sense of the cabinet layout.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Which kind of fool are we?

A farmhouse style sink with various faucet options

Shower head and controls

A couple of toilets--traditional styling? dual flush?

What's known as a Schoolhouse style antique lamp

Some used doors. In a few instances we found them being sold in a collection of matching sets

We have been focusing on a few other aspects of the project over the last handful of days.

We have spent considerable time sorting out the options for kitchen appliances, the kitchen sink, plumbing fixtures for the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as doors and lighting. It's takes a certain kind of perseverance in the face of so many choices and little basis to work from other then intuition. We've made tons of headway and have the lion's share of the decisions made. This has included hours on the internet sorting through descriptions and makers trying to make sure we're comparing apples to apples, and then lots of time in the car driving from retailer to retailer to get the sales pitch and see for ourselves what seems like the right choice.

So far we've actually purchased a dishwasher and laundry washing machine. We feel like we made good choices in both cases.

For a long time we've been hoping that we'd be able to use old doors throughout the interior but upon looking at the options we are sort of leaning towards new. There are lots of doors out there, but in almost every case there is the factor of refinishing, concern about structural tightness, and feeling confident about the style that has kept us from certainty when sorting through racks of old doors.

Lighting was really fun to look at, especially the offerings at Conant Metal & Light in Burlington. They make beautiful lighting that they sell along with tastefully selected choices from other makers. This stop got my creative juices going and I left feeling inspired to make some of our lighting. I'm looking forward to digging into this...

An aspect of this whole effort that's had us kind of uncertain is this: We started our shopping day off at a plumbing supply house that has a showroom for the public but only sells through contractors. We spent considerable time looking at options and in the end made choices we felt good about. I would typify their selection as mid-to-high quality. Nice stuff with a range of choices. Nothing cheesy.

Our quandary came at the end of the day when we stopped by Home Depot to "just look" after having looked at lots of other generally higher quality retailers throughout the day. When we started looking around we were just confused. How can a faucet be $600 at one outlet, and $150 here at Home Depot? Is the qualitative difference that great? What gives? I've been joking that we started feeling like we didn't know which kind of fool were are: A) buying into the price-equals-quality-and-we're-worth-it foolishness, or the B) huh-that-looks-pretty-good-and-its-way-cheaper-and-can't-be-that-bad kind of foolishness. A fool either way? Who knows.

Its hard to say what the answer is, but I find it helpful to think of the qualitative differences about something with which I AM familiar, like bikes, and that helps me remember that similar looking objects can have significant qualitative and functional differences. So, having consulted with others whose opinion we trust and having thought on it a bit, we are erring towards quality where and when we can, at least with high-use and high-contact items like the faucets. I said to Nance tonight that I'd rather have a decent stove then a premium toilet.

Somethings got to give sometime, somewhere.


Snowy days to build walls

Last week saw a welcome snowstorm after a full two months of no snow whatsoever. It was fun to see the snow pile up on the roof and then slide down in a big wuuuummmphff around the house.

While the snow was coming down I completed the wall that houses the pocket doors. This wall defines the office space and, despite our worries that the space would be compromised with a stair hatch to the basement, it feels like its going to work out pretty well. The doors are a good way to separate the living room area from the office area. I finished off the office space by building a little triangular hanging wall that encloses the upper part of the stairs.

That brought me to finishing the bathroom/washing machine/closet configuration on the second floor. I've now reconfigured that little are three times and I think we're good at this point. Here's the history:
1.The first iteration was simply an end wall with a doorway in it. As described in the last post, we decided that moving the door around the corner would be a better use of the space. There is a picture of this configuration in the Feb. 18th posting.
2. The second arrangement had the door around the corner with a closet adjacent to the end wall to house the washing machine. This is what is seen in the fourth photo.
3. We decided we didn't like how far out the closet came so we decided that we could steal some space from within the bathroom to house the washing machine and use the our nice looking existing armoire as a built-in in place of a enclosed closet. Photo number five.

We're going to stick with this layout for the time being.