Saturday, January 29, 2011

This weeks' work

One lamp refinished, one waiting for some work

Nancy getting ready to apply the oil finish to the cabinet doors and drawer fronts

The step that Adam built down to the guest room on the second floor

Adam putting in the plugs on the stair tread screw holes

We rounded off this week with more along the same lines as recent work. Adam got the majority of the stairs in and all the screw holes plugged (there are two stairs left to go that require some special shaping before installing, so that'll happen next week). Nancy began work on finishing the cabinets, which is a multi-stage process over many days (we are copying our friend Kate's recipe for cabinet finish which starts with an oil finish and the multiple coats of polyurethane). I did a small rewiring project to make a the switches in the guest room make a little more ergonomic sence, and Felton was here to wire up our stove/oven in the kitchen.

I spent this evening cleaning the oxidization and accumulated stuff off of one of a pair of lights that we plan to mount outside the west end garden doorway. I just happened to come across these lights a couple of months ago in a free pile outside someone's place on the chance we might want to use them. They strike me as a little formal, but they are nice lights so we are going to put them up and see what we think.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stairs, a step and a hood

Adam putting the final touches on the step leading down to the guest room on the second floor. Joe had the idea to make it a storage space as well as a step and I thought that was a great idea, so we made it happen

The hood over the stove. We'll be hooking up the stove in just a matter of days

The stair treads and risers in place. The last two steps are a different shape then the rest so they are not done yet

We've been cranking away at all sorts of projects. Adam has most of the baseboard cut and fitted for the second floor that is awaiting a couple of coats of polyurethane and then will be nailed into place. He's also built and installed the step leading down from the main area of the second floor to the guest room space. Joe had the great idea of making the step a storage space as well, so we went ahead and made it happen.

I've completed the cabinetry and now need to turn my attention to the counters. I have the wood and work on that project next week. In the meantime I'm working to get a few electrical projects in order so Felton can come and hook stuff up. One of those projects was installing the hood over the kitchen stove. Since we don't have overhead cabinets over our stove I chose to hang the hood with steel cable and it is a nice sort of minimal and neat solution.

Adam spent today installing the stairs and has done a fine job. They look and feel great. Tomorrow I'll be insulating them from below in order to dampen the sound between the first and second floors.

Nancy began finish work on the cabinetry this afternoon, starting with a coat of Watco oil finish. This we'll follow with a few coats of polyurethane. The nice thing about using the European-style hinges is that you can take your cabinet doors off in a second for things like applying finish. Likewise, we un-attached the drawer fronts so they are easy to work on. The cabinetry looks slick and it's going to be a nice package.

(Note on photos: Our camera is gone missing, most likely in some pocket or on some window sill, so we're relying on our iTouch built-in camera and the quality is sort of iffy. Hopefully the regular camera will show up soon)

Monday, January 24, 2011

...and we continue on...

The very first fire in the woodstove

Nancy doing some more of the painting following Adam having completed the trim inside the bathroom

The appliances sitting in place in the kitchen. The stove and the fridge are soon to follow, although nothing is actually hooked up yet, I just need them there so I can install the trim to match up correctly

This section cabinetry is very close to complete. A few more vertical trim pieces, fit the drawer fronts and that'll be it. Oh yes, we'll need knobs and pulls.

We've been making steady progress. Adam has been working through all sorts of trim-out projects that includes all the doors downstairs, a couple of doorways upstairs, a single step down into the guest room and coming up in the next couple of days the finish work on the the main stairway from first to second. Nancy patiently did a super nice job finishing and sanding the stair treads five times over. They look great. Also, I think its fair to say that the painting is all done. There'll be some touch-ups here and there, but all the significant stuff, and most of the insignificant stuff is now done.

I've been continuing on the cabinets and am almost ready to start on the counter tops. In fact, my plan is to go get the material tomorrow and begin fabrication later this week. I'm feeling quite happy with how the whole cabinetry project is developing; as I've said before, this is new and fussy territory for me, so it is satisfying to see it work out well.

Oh yes, we've started lighting fires in the woodstove and it is just great. It's quiet, beautiful and puts out nice heat. We had to carefully light a series of small fires that "season" the stone and burn off the fumes from the new stovepipe and stove enamel. It's wicked cozy. Last night the temperature got down to around -16 below zero, so it feels good to have the stove going. Even with the cold it just feels good to be in the house. The experience of this whole super-insulation thing so far is just an even, comfortable, and stable environment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cabinets and Trim

Adam at work on the casing around the pocket doors

Lining up the forstner bit with the pilot hole

Drilling the mounting hole

Doors in place. Notice the red line at the top -- I've yet to adjust these doors so they all line up level

Here I'm using the laser to sight the height line for the drawer slides, one of which is mounted on the left

I've been working on the cabinets, specifically the doors and the drawers. Having never before built cabinetry in any real way I've felt trepidatious at some of the critical junctures. One of those junctures is marking, drilling, and mounting the doors. I spent a good bit of effort to make a couple of jigs that allowed me to make accurate marks for drilling. I tested one door before deciding that my jig was going to work and then after it worked fine went ahead and did the rest. The doors are all mounted with what are known as "European" hinges. They are quite common these days, but used to be somewhat exotic. The beauty of them is that they allow for adjustments in three directions (or more on some models), so if your doors are not all quite straight or a little off center or whatever, you have some room to correct.

I also mounted the slides for all the drawers and that went fine too. Actually, what made it really easy was Adam's laser level. I set it up, found my height and the laser shone its horizontal beam into all the bays of the cabinets and I was able to mark all my drawer heights super accurately. The alternative would have been cumbersome and of dubious accuracy. Hooray for laser levels!

Tomorrow I'll mount the drawers and then make the drawer fronts and finish the cabinet face frame inbetween the doors and drawer fronts. When I get to that point I'm basically done with the major work on the cabinets and will then been getting ready to build the maple countertops.

Working alongside me this week, Adam has been building the framed door passages at both the exit doors and between the office and living space, which is the wall that houses the pocket doors. He's done some nice work and these things all look like pieces of furniture. He'll probably have all the doors trimmed out tomorrow and then be on to running the baseboard that connects it all together.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dedicated Air

Air to supply the woodstove comes in through this duct hood...

...then passes under the first floor and up to the woodstove...

...then into a little add-on air-supply box under the woostove where the stove draws it's air. Once combusted, the fumes travel up the stove pipe...

...into the insulated pipe in the second floor living space and up through the roof...

...and back out to the great outdoors, having never mixed with the interior air

A key element required of a super-tight super-insulated house is insuring a dedicated air supply to all combustion. Likewise all combustion needs to have a dedicated vent route, also isolated from the interior air.

Two examples of this principal are the propane boiler in the basement which has a short in-and-out combustion air supply and the woodstove on the first floor. The woodstove, unlike the boiler, is located in the middle of the house so there is a good measure of ducting running from the outside supply hood to the woodstove and then exhausting from the wood stove up the stovepipe to the insulated stovepipe and through the roof. I've been quite careful to make sure the whole run is tightly sealed so that the woodstove is only pulling air from outside and only venting to the outside. I don't want any leaks.

The not-really-resolved aspect of this equation is the propane-fueled gas stove-top range. The air supply is the ambient household air, and the venting, such as it is, will be a hood mounted over the stove top. This will all work okay, but it isn't ideal. If we run the hood, we'll need to open a window or door to allow air in so as not to create a negative air pressure in the house which could then result in a back draft in the woodstove. We have carbon monoxide detectors on both floors even though they are not required by code since there will be a small amount emitted by the stove.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stair Treads

Nancy spent a bunch of time today putting the first coat of finish on our cherry stair treads, which means more stinky stuff, but not nearly so bad as the smell from the floors after they got their coats of polyurethane.

Nance also installed the registers on the HRV air supply and return ducts. Its seems everyday there is one more little detail like this that says "finshed".

Adam is going to rejoin our effort again this week, so we'll see some good progress with both him and I working together.

Cabinet drawers

The drawers, in parts

First door mounted

The drawers assembled

I spent the latter part of last week shaping and building the cabinet drawers, seven of them in all. I also worked on coming up with a jig to facilitate the orderly mounting of the cabinet doors to the cabinets. This took some careful planning and a practice run or two, but my first try on the actual door worked quite well. Its worth taking some time because once you start drilling mounting holes and such it is hard to relocate that hole over ever-so-slightly if it's not quite where you want it.

Over the weekend Nancy has spent a bunch of time sanding all the cabinet drawers and doors and together we are putting the final pieces in place to complete the installation of the woodstove. It was slightly challenging, but everything is where it needs to be and with a few more odds and ends to do we'll be able to fire it up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Drawer Boxes

Big snowfall today

Cabinet drawers in process. The interconnecting joints are called box joints

Today was an effort to keep warm and work well. We're staying out of the house while the nasty fumes from the polyurethane on the floors dries. Tomorrow is the last coat.

Today I spent making the boxes for our cabinet drawers and it went quite well. The easy part is planing them down to thickness and then the slightly trickier part is cutting the box joints at the ends. This requires some careful set-up on the table saw with a dado blade and a lot of micro adjustments, but in the end I got it all to work neatly.

A box joint is what you'll often see on traditional or nicer cabinet drawers. I'm familiar with making box joints for our bee hive boxes. It it a very satisfying way to join wood.

Tomorrow I'll complete the drawers and think through mounting the doors and getting ready to install the drawers. Maybe I'll even get beyond the thinking part!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The last few days have seen a few developments: the floor finishing crew has been here and given all the floor surfaces a thorough sanding and have now put down the first of three layers of polyurethane. The floors look great but the fumes are nearly unbearable, so consequently Nance and I are fully living back in the yurt for the week until the floor process is complete.

I installed the shower fixtures last Sunday before work on the floors began. They look great but we haven't had a chance to actually test the shower out yet since we were waiting for some caulk to dry. We'll get our chance this weekend once we can get back in the house.

I've been back at the cabinetry project and have put together most of the cabinet doors. Tomorrow I'll start building the drawers and drawer fronts.

Today I also made a run over the mountain for maple that we'll be using for the baseboard and door trim on the first floor.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ready to finish floors

Jeremy setting nails last week

We've been busy preparing for the floor finishing crew that arrives tomorrow morning to sand and then polyurethane the pine floors we put down last week. The most time intensive aspect of getting ready has been setting the nails. It's just a lot of work and the kicker is that when the finishing guys showed up this morning to drop off some equipment they said we had to set them deeper then I thought we would, so we had to go back over it all this afternoon. Luckily for me Randy showed up to help out and made a long hard job manageable.

Otherwise, we are ready. I'll be back to working on the kitchen cabinets this week as access through the house will be pretty limited until the floors are done, which should be Thursday sometime. This means Nancy and I'll be living in the yurt again for the week.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some Old Snapshots

I found an old box of photos that miraculously seem to show the day's events... a planning meeting with Nancy; a visit from Randy and Solveig, and the light coming in on the new floor.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Floors down

The pine floors installed. Notice also the woodstove is now set on the slate hearth. We'll get around to hooking it up soon. Oh yes, we also built a somewhat more expansive bottom step spilling out into the living space
Adam hard at work

The floor in process

Jake's tile work grouted and nearly done

Adam has been back up to help us out for the last two days and he and I managed to get the flooring down on the first floor. Due to some supply issues we went with 2" nails on the first floor instead of the 2 1/2" nails that Nancy and I used on the second floor. It was striking (no pun intended) how much easier the smaller nails were to nail in. Also, in a blessing from on high, the span of the main area of the living space on the first floor turns out to be just under sixteen feet wide and this allowed us to install our large stack of sixteen foot pine planking with no joints whatsoever on the first floor. I wish I could say I planned it, but I didn't -- it just worked out that way.

The next job for me is to set all the nails on both floors, which means hammering them with a tool called a nail set that submerges the nail heads roughly an eighth-inch below the finished the surface. This will make things good for next week when the floor sanding/finishing crew arrives to polish off the job.

Working alongside Adam and me today was Jake who is nearly done with the bathroom tiling project. The last remaining detail is to caulk the corner joints and then we are free to hook up the all the fixtures and call it a working bathroom. Maybe that'll happen this weekend?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Square Cut Nails

We are putting our pine floors down with square cut nails, which if you were to see them would probably look like what you think of as "old fashioned" nails. Cut nails were most commonly used from the seventeen-hundreds up through the early twentieth-century, and are made by shearing a small wedge from steel plate. This results in a nail that is parallel on two sides, and tapered on the other two. A head is then formed on the sheared nail and it is ready for use.

We're putting down wide plank pine floors and cut nails work well because there is a lot of width across each board to attach to the sub floor and using three cut nails each gives it a lot of hold. In the old days, this is how a floor would go down and you'd have the nail heads showing as a part of the process. We're pretty happy with the results.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

More floor

This is a really cool wedge system to push the flooring planks together as you are installing them to achieve a tight fit

Nancy and I spent a long day yesterday and made a lot of progress on the second floor. We've calculated that it takes, on average, about an hour per course of flooring to put down. This includes rearranging, making special cuts, backing up when necessary, etc... We figure we're about two-thirds of the way done on the second floor and expect to finish it this weekend.

At the end of the day we each took a bath and then nodded off just after midnight.

Happy New Years!