Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pine Floors, Cut Nails

This shows the trim around the perimeter of the stair opening. (The big white patch is where I had to go into the finished wall to do a little plumbing alteration a few weeks back)

Putting our second course of boards down

Rosin paper goes down first

Most of my day was spent trimming out around the stair opening in order to be ready to put down the pine floor. At roughly 7:00 this evening we actually commenced floor installation. Our floors are twelve-inch wide Vermont pine boards affixed with square-cut nails. (I'll explain what square-cut nails are sometime in the near future). Having never installed a floor with cut-nails it was immediately apparent that all that nailing is both hard and takes time. Nonetheless, we're happy to finally be making some progress in this department and are going to make a full day of it tomorrow.

If you notice two people walking around town with Popeye muscles in their right arms after we're done installing this floor it's because of all the nailing we've just taken on.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slate Work Continues

The facility that produced our slate

Eliza helping out with painting

Sealing the grouted floor


We've been working steadily on the slate floor in the kichen/mudroom area. It's a large area and there are multiple passes that need to be made before we can call it complete, namely, laying the tile, cleaning it, sealing it, grouting it, cleaning it three more times, then sealing it two more times.

We've also laid the tile for the hearth under the woodstove and for entry area around the garden-end door. Tomorrow I'll seal and grout those as well.

We changed our plan a bit which required a trip down to Castleton, Vermont where Nance picked up more slate. While she was there she snapped a few pics at the Camara Slate work shed where they size and plane the slates. I would've enjoyed seeing this myself.

Also, my sister Eliza came over today to help us out. She did a bunch of painting upstairs and in the first floor bathroom. We are nearly all done with the painting.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sealing the Slate

Nance applying the slate sealant

Something of a before-and-after view showing the effect of the sealant

The woodstove and the sawhorse table are approximating the actual location of our dining room table and the position of the stove

With a great day off to celebrate Christmas and enjoy some great time with family and friends (including a surprise visit from Joe), we were back at it today.

We spent a bunch of time cleaning up and working out the precise location of the woodstove and then worked on a pattern for the slate that will go underneath the stove. We also mapped out the slate plan for the west door entrance.

Our main hands on work today was sealing the slate with some mystical milk-like sealing stuff that needs to go on before we grout the floor. If we didn't seal the stone first, the grout would adhere to it and we'd be in deep trouble. This sealant will allow us to wipe the extra grout off the floor and leave it looking like it should.

It's been fun doing projects with Nance. Our need to be done is pressing and Joe is doing other things, so she's been spending even more time than she already was helping to get things done.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wicked Long Day

Today Nancy and I spent laying down the slate floor in the kitchen. We weren't really going on it until around eleven, but once we got under way we worked hard up until around nine this evening. Covering the square footage takes time; mixing the mortar, troweling it out, confirming the tile placement to make sure it correct with the pattern, placing it, and then inserting the little 1/4" spacers that keep the tiles correctly aligned with each other and maintain a proper grout line.

As I mentioned earlier, the color is a lot more varied then we expected, but we both are quite pleased at how its looking. Its a mix of purple and gray slates with some really excellent little green splotches here and there.

We got our slate from Camara Slate in Fair Haven, Vermont. If you look at a map of the various slate colors and where they come from there is this swath that runs from Maine down through New England into Pennsylvania. The western southern-central part of Vermont is known for its slate and if you look at any of the older houses in that part of the state you'll more often then not see some 100 year-old slate roofs.

Tomorrow is Christmas eve and we might try to finish up, but we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Slate and Tile

Detail of the tile pattern in the shower

Our kitchen floor slate pattern. We were surprised, but not unhappy, at the color variety that falls under the "purple" designation. The little white things are spacers.

My main mission today was laying the hardi-backer, which is the cement board underlayment placed on the floor before the slate floor goes down. Luckily, Jake was here working on the downstairs shower and so was able to guide me as I mixed the mortar and tried my hand at a process I'd never done before. It went just fine and worked out nicely.

Meanwhile Jake was installing the tiling in the shower and did nice work. We changed our tile design after it became apparent that my original concept required tile sizes that were not available. Last night Nancy and I calculated the quantity of tile we had to work with and came up with a new horizontal-band concept that used the available tile well. Jake went to it and at the end of the day had two of the three walls complete. We're quite happy with the result.

Tomorrow Nancy and I are all set to install the slate in the kitchen. I laid out a box worth of the pattern and was both surprised and pleased at the color variation in the "purple" slate that we purchased. In reality there is a mix of gray and purple slates with some very interesting green spots among the purple. Nance commented that we had struggled over what color to go with and in the end kind of wound up with a little of both our choices.

We're both excited to put down this floor tomorrow.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice

December 20, 2010 approximately 10:00 am

September 21, 2010 approximately 12:00 pm

June 21, 2010 approximately 12:00 pm

If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I got quite excited around the summer solstice when I found that within a few minutes of twelve noon on June 21, the only element of the decorative sun pattern on the south face of the house was the sun its self.

I've been anticipating the arrival of the winter solstice and hoping that the weather would permit a noon photo to contrast with the summer event. Tomorrow is the solstice, but the weather report is calling for clouds and snow, so I took advantage of today's clear skies to snap a few pictures of the sun on the house.

What I've noticed and am curious about is difference between the sun's shadow at the mid-summer when it was virtually centered on the gable of the south face of the house, and how now, at the winter solstice the sun is centered on the house at roughly ten in the morning. I know we in the northern hemisphere are tilted away from the sun in the winter, but I think I expected that the sun would still be centered on the house at noon, only at a lower angle. I got the angle part right, but clearly not the centered part. The photo from September shows the sun heading south already.

We'll keep our eye out in March for the next installment.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cabinets and Moonlight

Moody moonlight

All the parts to ready for mortise and tenons, then assembling into the cabinet doors

Not posting on the blog is probably more a sign that we are more and more busy these days rather than that there is little to report.

I've had some time to continue on the cabinets and now have the face frames in place and have cut all the parts for the doors. I now need to cut the tenons and mortises to fit them all together.

Meanwhile we are putting together everything we need to lay our slate floor down in the kitchen, under the woodstove, and at the west door entry.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow and Tiles

We're busy. My efforts have been centered on the kitchen cabinetry work, which is coming along well. Next up is building the doors and drawers.

Nancy has been doing tons of painting and is closing in on that work, after a couple of reconsiderations and repaints.

We have our tile here and are trying to confirm our choices which includes selecting the grout color.

As winter really is closing in, we took advantage of the relatively balmy temperatures yesterday to do some last outdoor cleanup and organizing. This included building a ramp to get the riding mower into the shed. It went really smoothly, and it was just in time because this morning we are getting a bunch of snow that might've made it a real chore to get in in it's home for the winter.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lowering three inches

The area under the shower mostly reframed, replumbed and ready for plywood

In this photo you can see the 3" drop into the shower as well as the drain flange.

Jake mortaring the cement board joints

I spent the best part of the last 3 days or so lowering the the floor of the shower stall by three inches. In one respect this might have been a pretty straightforward process, but in the course of thing required some re-plumbing and some tight-quarters support framing while maintaining the well being of the radiant tubing winding through the works.

Why am I lowering the shower floor, you might ask? Well, way back I investigated whether or not I'd need to lower the floor in order to have a pitched grade to the drain. To the extent that I looked into it I felt comfortable not doing so. Now, as I write about it it seems obvious: you can't have a pitched surface without going down (unless you build up to a threshold, which maybe I was thinking at some point.)

Once I had the structure rebuilt and the plywood base installed, then I had to install the cement board, which is the underlayment material for the tile. This stuff was comparatively easy and presented no problems.

This morning Jake, who is doing the tile work in the bathroom, arrived and I was able to keep just ahead of him. He laid the underlayment on the floor of the bathroom and then mortared the joints of the cement board that I'd installed. I also installed the drain base and mortared that as well. His next move is to apply a waterproofing membrane to the whole lower area of the shower pan area.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wide Pine Floors

Pulling the boards in through the second floor bedroom window

The expertly stickered stack of floor boards on the first floor

From the archives: This picture shows the delivery truck that brought a big lumber order, including our floor wood back in September 2009.

Today our friends Sally, Jeremy, Anda and Silas came up to help move the pine floor boards from the basement to the first and second floors. We've been storing them for over a year now since we received them along with the massive lumber delivery for the roof framing in the fall of last year.

To move the lumber to the upper floors we each had our jobs: Nancy and Sally and Silas pulled the 16' long boards up through a window on the second floor as Jeremy and I carted them up from the basement and positioned them at the window. Meanwhile Anda stickered each board as they came in. At some point I broke off and started churning out more 3/4" square stickers to keep up with demand while Jeremy continued moving the boards. It was a big effort but felt effortless with the help of such great folks. I had pleasure imagining Anda telling friends at school tomorrow that she stickered wood and her friends saying "What's that mean?" and her being able to tell them.

Beyond this, Nance and I have been quite busy painting, prepping and such. I've been working steadily on lowering the floor of the first floor bathroom shower floor by three inches. Its turned into quite a project. But more about that later.

Tomorrow I go pick up our bathroom tile order.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Installation to Relaxation

I made a push last week to have the tub installed for the weekend and it happened. Most of the effort was in the multiple coats of primer and then paint on the beadboard before the tub could be placed. The actual installation involved a bunch of plumbing prep and stuff that I had I known way back would have been a bit easier. I'll know for next time.

In any event, late last evening a major emotional and functional moment was reached as I turned on the tap and climbed in. For seven and a half years we've trekked down to my parent's place for baths and showers, which has been really nice to be able to do; it seems that chapter ended with a successful check for leaks and grabbing a towel and some soap.

This is a moment we've been waiting for for a long time!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Root Cellar Latch and Hinges

The latch assembly

The latch, hinges and inside-release push rod

The root cellar door as it is presently configured. A latch and some honkin' hinges'll round it out, eh?

After trolling for months on eBay I finally found (and won for about $40) just the sort of handle and hinge arrangement I've been hoping to find for the root cellar door. I worked for a bunch of years at a Whole Foods Market doing various physical plant kind of stuff and was familiar with this sort of hardware meant for big heavy doors. Since we built the root cellar I've been inspired by the "antique cooler" vibe and knew I'd come across the right hardware sooner or later. Buying this sort of thing new you'd pay a couple hundred dollars just for the latch assembly; probably the same again for the hinges.

The rod with the round disk at the end is a push-release that allows someone inside the root cellar to activate the latch and let themselves out if somehow the door were closed with them inside. A nice safety feature.

We've got a lot going on right now and installing these parts is not super high on the priority list, so I'll look forward to putting them on when there is a little more time. They came from someone out in California. I wonder what their story is.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


We left town for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving with Nancy's family. To take advantage of this we spent the day and a half before we left applying the polyurethane finish to the windows and doors. This stuff stinks, so we figured we'd get a whole bunch done and then have a few days away from the house allowing for things to air out. We'll have to do another coat or two sometime soon and will probably stay in the yurt to avoid the stink.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Status Update

Here's where we're at:

Having installed the beam in the basement I then switched over to reading the second floor bathroom to install the toilet, which happened this morning. Woo hoo! This house is a study in modern miracles, one-by-one and at a moderate pace. In order to install the toilet I needed to finish installing the bead-board, baseboard and cap molding, and then paint it all.

Joe has been working on the stairway project, installing the skirt boards on either side of the stairway and shaping the stair treads and risers in anticipation of installation sometime soon.

I will be returning to the kitchen cabinetry project next week and will probably install the tub in the next few days too up in the second floor bathroom.

The house is more and more our home. It's cozy and it feels good.