Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Paint colors

Our color scheme in action

Clapboards are going up on the south side of the house
The house whose color scheme we copied

Nancy and I did a lot of work trying to work out the paint colors for the house last fall before we put in the order for our windows, wanting them to all work as a unit. In the end we ended up finding a house in the next town whose colors we admired and ended up meeting the owners who lent us some of their paint. We just used what they had already worked out.

Colors are hard to figure out, at least for me. I know what I like when I see it, but I have a hard time seeing a color in my mind's eye before and knowing that its what I want.

We completed the clapboarding up the back of the north wall but before we took down all the scaffolding we wanted to get the triangular area of the gable end completely painted so we won't have to go back up there until the next time we need to paint, which will hopefully be a good number of years.

For the record we are technically staining the house rather then painting. I'm not quite sure of the difference, but when it comes to having to repaint using stain means we won't have to scrape first; we'll just be able to go over what's there. The downside of stain is that it needs to be recoated sooner then paint would. I hate scraping but enjoy painting, so the trade-offs seem fine to me.

If you are curious our exterior colors are:

Trim: Benjamin Moore "Mascarpone" semi-gloss
Clapboards: Benjamin Moore "Tree Moss" flat
Window frames and roof: Black

Friday, August 27, 2010

The end of the week

It was our goal to get this end of the house done by Friday and we almost made it, but not quite. We're in the home stretch.

Over the weekend I'll be catching up with painting the siding we've just put up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our clapboards

An end view of one of our clapboards showing the vertical grain running across the clapboard

The following is a little background on the siding we are installing on the house over the next few weeks.

The siding we are using is locally milled, quarter-sawn (therefore vertical grain) spruce clapboards supplied by the Ward Clapboard Mill. The mill has been in operation since 1868 in Moretown village, two doors down from my sister's house. The mill suffered a fire eight or nine years ago, but gladly they rebuilt the lost section and continue supplying a product that is deeply woven into the historical fabric of local architecture.

The term quarter-sawn describes the way a piece of wood is cut from the log from which it came. The illustration above shows how a log can be cut so that you are essentially cutting clapboards in a radial pattern from the center of the log. Cutting in this manner results in what is known as "vertical grain", meaning the grain runs across the wood. Another method of milling is called "flatsawn" where the board is cut from the log across the grain, as demonstrated by the rectangular piece of wood shown in the illustration. Wood cut with a vertical grain will stay flatter and hold together better then flat sawn lumber. I think its fair to say that most generally available clapboard material is not going to be quarter-sawn.

Ward supplies three grades of clapboard and we decided to go with the least fancy grade known as cottage. Cottage is economical and the trade off for that economy is the fact that it comes with a greater number of defects or imperfections then the better grades -- but my thinking was this: perhaps those imperfections could be a desirable asset. Being a fan of historic and aged houses I actually see the cottage grade lumber as sort of lending an "instant old" quality to the look of the exterior because it is a slightly blemished finish. Seeing the results on the house this logic is proving to make sense and it is just what I hoped, which is a very attractive but not seamless finish.

Another detail regarding clapboards that I worried over quite a lot is how much reveal to install our siding with. Revel is the amount of clapboard exposed before the next clapboard is attached over it. Generally what you see is a 3" reveal, sometimes 4", sometimes even 5". I decided on 2 1/2", again with a deep appreciation for the way such a tight reveal looks on lots of old houses around Vermont. Its a lot of material and work to put up that much clapboard, but we're going to be living with it for a really long time, so we might as well get it right. There've been multiple instances where I've gone and measured the reveal on a given house to see what it was. There are examples of reveals as low as 2", but I couldn't justify going that far, so settled on 2 1/2" and now that I can see it going up I feel good about the decision.

It feels great to be working with material that is so much of this place.

Going up...

The second floor with sheetrock complete

We continued our clapboard work today, making good headway up the gable-end north wall. Our goal is to finish this wall by the end of the week. We'll see...

Meanwhile the sheetrocking crew has completed the sheetrock hanging phase of their work. Today they began taping joints and installing corner bead and will be continuing this work. Its been a rapid transformation and the house feels, sounds, and looks quite different then it did a week or so ago.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Let there be siding!

The results of our first day of siding

Joe and I going at it

A steady rain yesterday meant I worked alone painting all the clapboards you see in this picture...

Today Joe and I went to town on the siding project. After a little time getting ourselves set up we started putting up our cottage-grade spruce clapboard siding installed with a 2 1/2" reveal.

With any new process there are always a few kinks to work out, so it was a conscious decision to start at the back of the house in order to work out any issues that needed to be solved, which proved to be a smart way to go because after we got three or four courses up I noticed our spacing was a little off from the marks we'd made as guidelines. We looked at what was going on, solved the issue and adjusted the next few courses to bring us back into alignment with the marks.

It is SO satisfying to finally see the outside of the house coming to life. The colors of the window, trim and clapboards look great. We'll be doing lots more of this over the next few weeks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend Clapboard Clatch

This morning witnessed Nancy's parents Lee and Lou, my mom Maime, as well as Nancy and myself all painting clapboards. Out goal was to finish off the remaining bundles from the first of the two pallet loads we have to paint before we're done.

Everybody chipped in and we had four painting stations going with Lou going around keeping us all supplied with unpainted clapboards and full paint trays, as well as touching up any drips or unpainted spots among our completed boards in the racks. It was a fun way to make a lot of headway on a seemingly endless job. If out count is right, we are over the halfway mark and will continue to chip away at the project as we can.

A slightly reduced sheetrock crew also was here today to put in a little weekend time. At this point they are done sheathing the downstairs and will head upstairs tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow -- a Sunday.

We're not going to stop 'em.

Sheetrockers Rock

The sheetrocking work continued yesterday and the first floor is nearly sheathed. The once skeletal framing is taking shape and starting to define the spaces, such as they are, of the living space on the first floor. This is most apparent in the mudroom entry and the office/guestroom in the back corner.

The sheetrock crew is planning to come back today for some more work and expect to finish off the first floor.

Meanwhile, Lee and Lou continued to crank out the painted clapboards all day yesterday. At this point we are nearly half way through all the boards we need to paint. I spent some time yesterday building more saw horses to facilitate additional painting stations.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Big Day

The blower-door testing apparatus in place in the west door

Bill running the test

The readings

Sheetrock being lifted by the boom truck into the second floor

The first afternoon's work by the sheetrock crew

Lee and Lou hard at work painting clapboards

The wooden drip-edge detail

Today was exciting on a number of fronts.

The sheetrock crew arrived and got to work, making quick work of getting the first sheets up after spending a few hours loading. Its clear they are good at what they do and its feeling like the right decision to have hired this job out. They'll be back tomorrow and Saturday and expect to have all the 'rock up in about three days.

Even more notable was the results of our blower-door test performed by Bill Hulstrunk. Everything was buttoned up that I could think of and Bill gave the house a go.

The results were excellent. In fact Bill said that this was the tightest house he has ever seen and says he's tested thousands of houses. Its hard to rate the performance other than the numbers: from what I understand, an average house about the size of our house would come in at approximately 2000 cfm at 50 pascals. Ours hit 240 cfm at 50 pascals. For the record, his machine couldn't actually measure as low as the number that the machine was trying to register, alternating between "lo" and various numbers in the neighborhood of 230-240. This is as good as could have ever hoped and I feel deeply satisfied to have reached this milestone.

Toiling away out of the limelight, and trying to stay in the shade of the house were Lee and Lou, Nancy's parents, who are up visiting us and doing some great work painting clapboards. Way to go Lee and Lou!

In other news, Joe and I installed the wooden drip edge yesterday. This is a piece of molding that sits on top of the water table. Its a detail that matches the molding at the top of the window frames and ties the whole look of the exterior neatly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sheetrock's Eve

Our to-do list

Rolling the cellulose flat

We pretty much finished up doing all the work needed before the sheetrockers come in and start hanging. If all goes well, that work will start on Thursday. That gives us tomorrow to button up the last bits and move back to the siding and trim work.

One of the little projects we've been working on is rolling the insulated walls with a rolling-pin like tool mounted on the end of an aluminum post. We are doing this because the cellulose pushes out a bit on the Insulweb retaining fabric and the resulting bulge could make it hard to get the sheetrock to sit flat on the studs. The rolling essentially compresses the cellulose a bit and leaves the wall pretty much flat. Joe, Nancy and I have each been taking turns over the last few days and we are nearly done, with only the upper area of the second floor ceiling left to do.

With one or two exceptions we've emptied the first and second floors, clearing way so that nothing hinders the sheetrock going up.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Trim work

Adam and I finished off the week continuing to put up the window frames. These, along with the corner boards and water table already in place are starting to really bring the look of the exterior into focus. I find the house catching my eye and it feels good. If anything I think I'm a little surprised because its starting to look like a nice place, which is great but not what my sense of purpose has been around this thing, but I guess that's what happens when you decide you don't want to just do run-of-the-mill easy details. In other words, the desire to put thought, quality and effort into the overall appearance of the house is starting to add up to something that has some character and distinction.

Joe will be back this week and he and I will be getting everything ready for the sheetrockers to come in towards the end of the week. We could do the sheetrock work, and for a long while we were planning on doing it, but in the end we decided that the expense would easily justify the quality job that we'd get by hiring it out, while allowing Joe and I to make headway on the exterior. Once he and I have everything good for the sheetrock work, we'll be back at the outside work.

In addition to the sheetrock crew we're gonna have a couple of special guest helpers showing up later in the week. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Initial siding work

The corner boards and water table in place

Adam at work

This photo shows the screen/mesh combination that keeps bugs from traveling up behind the water table board where they could nest and cause trouble

Today Adam and I completed installing the water table around the base of the house, having installed the corner boards yesterday. The water table is the horizontal piece of wood that sits at the bottom edge of the house exterior. I'm not sure why its called a water table, but it is. This piece of trim is fixed tightly against the screen and mesh that are installed between the wooden battens around the house. The mesh/screen combo are in place to keep bugs from making nests up behind the siding.

Tomorrow we'll install a wooden drip cap over the water table. This is basically a decorative piece that sheds water from the siding down over the water table. After that we start putting up the window trim and once that's done we're off and running with the clapboard.

Its great to be finally working on the exterior.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moving Outside

Adam installing battens

Bug screen at the bottom of the wall. This will get covered by a 9 1/2" wide horizontal board called the water table, which creates the starting point for the clapboard

Getting the first piece of trim up

After a brief period of rejuvenation on Cape Cod we are back to work this week and have moved our attention to the outside of the house.

Our friend Adam is helping out while Joe is away a dance camp for the week. Its great to have friends like Adam to call on.

We spent yesterday prepping the perimeter of the house before we could start putting up any trim. Adam worked on adding needed wood battens around the windows and corners where trim will land, while I worked on installing bug screen at the base of the house walls. This will keep bugs out of the air space created by the battens between the clapboard siding and the zip system green wall sheathing.

Nancy spent the better part of the day painting trim and clapboard.

At the end of the day we had just enough time to get our first piece of corner board in place. Tomorrow we'll try to get the rest up and maybe even get started on the water table. What's a water table? We'll it's the horizontal piece of wood that is at the base of the house before the clapboard starts. You don't see it on all houses, but it seemed like a nice detail to include, so we are going with it.