Monday, February 22, 2010

Pocket Door Wall

Today involved building the wall between the living room area and the office space. This is a wall with double pocket doors. The doors will roll into the wall to create a wide pass-through opening between the rooms. Our goal here is to have the option of privacy while also being able to keep the office space open and accessible to the larger living space.

The wall took a little planning and then some careful work to build. It is essentially two parallel walls that are joined at the top and then fixed to the floor but have no connection inbetween, where the door passes through.

With the warm temperatures outside I barely needed the woodstove today and by the afternoon it was pretty warm.

I left the space over the pocket door wall open in case we decide we want to install some sort of transom lights overhead, as we are planning to do over the bathroom doorway. The office and bathroom wall frame the stairway on either side and are in the same plain, so there is a logic to creating a similar look across the whole wall surface.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making Decisions

Checking out dishwashers. We happened to purchase the second one in from the end...

...after we discovered that this "last one" had been sold while we were in the store.
We were indecisive about going with the black look versus the stainless look.

Today was spent trying to decided on which of the major home appliances we want to purchase for the house. This includes the range, the dishwasher, the washing machine, the woodstove, the light fixtures, and the plumbing fixtures. There's a lot of stuff to make decisions on and there are always the factors of cost, features, aesthetics and technical appropriateness.

Our first stop brought us to Bouchard-Pierce in Barre, a supplier of home appliances. We were impressed with the way the salesman's information actually informed our choices. Sometimes the choices are mostly surface deep, sometimes not. In the end we left having purchased a Bosch dishwasher that was on sale (thank you very much Dad and Tia Maria!) and feeling pretty well equipped to make further decisions. That said, there is something a little bewildering and humbling when one finds one's self faced with an array of similar but incrementally different objects that you are going to live with for a long time.

Taking a look at kitchen cabinets

We became a bit stumped with making a decision about cooking ranges. As the kitchen is currently designed, we have a window over the stove. This means having a backsplash control panel will not work and need to find a suitable slide-in unit with controls on the front of the stove. We have to do more looking.

Our future woodstove?

After an informative but non-conclusive stop at the lighting store, we ventured to the woodstove store to make arrangements to purchase a stove we'd already researched and decided on. This was going to be easy, or so we thought. The size of our stove is a major consideration and needs to be really small. Additionally it needs to be equipped with an outside air supply for combustion. It turns out that the stove we'd thought we were going to get was super tiny and we just couldn't get our heads around this being our future woodstove. Beyond that, this particular stove comes with a dubious "fresh air kit" that is not a dedicated supply. That killed the deal.

We then sorted through the other options and are now leaning towards a Hearthstone model, made in Vermont.

We left the stove store and called it a day. There's lots more to do and we're almost doing research as much as buying at this point.

Oh yeah, Vermont is holding a "tax holiday" on March 6th, so we're trying to line up our purchases for that date. It great this is happening because it's disciplining us to make these decisions.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last night I didn't fall asleep right away. While I was laying there I was thinking a bit about the configuration of the bathroom on the second floor with washing machine right outside the door.

Here is an image that roughly shows where the washing machine is in relationship to the door. Although this sort of packs the washing machine away, it leaves almost no room for storage around it.

This configuration wasn't sitting quite right with me and as I stewed it over it came to me that we should move the door around the corner to take up the little square of floor over the stairway.

When I woke up this morning I talked it over with Nance and then went out to see if this would work.

In order to make it happen I had to essentially move the end wall of the bathroom out another foot (towards the right in the photo above) to make the landing over the stairway wide enough to accommodate the width of a door going into the bathroom. This in turn pushes the washing machine out into the room a little more and creates some extra space in the bathroom that isn't necessary, but isn't a problem either.

So, after looking it over with Nancy, I decided to go for it and by the end of the day had reworked the space. With this arrangement, I'll build a closet along the end of the bathroom that will enclose the washer and provide room for a dryer as well, should we ever want one, and linen storage. Having the door located here also makes good use of that little patch of land over the stairway. There'll be a little half wall along the rim of the stairwell in short order.

Nance suggested making upper section of where the old door was be a pass-through linen storage area from the closet to the bathroom.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wiring continues

I've spent the last couple days continuing the wiring. It's going pretty smoothly, with a question here and there for Felton to make sure I've got the right idea. Its taking me longer then I would have guessed once I got started, but I think I'll have the lion's share in place tomorrow or the next day.

After that I'll probably start in on the basement stairs or the office walls to take up some time before Paul and I take up with the plumbing.

Today I ordered the parts I need to build a set of pocket doors going from the living room to the office. I think it'll be a nice way to have the option of privacy or openness between the two spaces.

On a different front, Nancy and I spent 1 1/2 hours yesterday afternoon at our local appliance and fixture store contemplating washing machines, stoves, dishwashers, toilets, etc... there's a lot to figure out and we are hoping to make a bunch of purchases on March 6th, which is a "tax holiday" here in Vermont. Wish us easy decisions and harmonious discussions!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Holes in the house... but not in my heart

My uncle Paul came over Saturday and we schemed out the plumbing layout for the house, 90% of which is located around the two bathrooms. There are three elements to the plumbing system: supply, drain, and vent. We're starting off with the drain and vent portion of the job, which are sort of like mirror systems. The drains take water and waste down while the vents allow air and gasses up.

We spent a few hours locating the necessary holes for the toilets, the sinks, the tub and shower, and then following the drain runs through the walls and down to a point of convergence to then go out the main drain to the septic tank. This requires a lot of boring fairly big holes through the walls. Paul has some hefty augers and it all went pretty smoothly.

To finish up, Paul worked up a materials list which I'll go ahead and order. Once we have our parts in place we'll start installing. Should be fun.

This morning I walked out of the yurt to Nancy's sweet Valentine's Day surprise; a heart on each window and door. I love my wife!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Running the wire

Felton, pointing me in the right direction

Where the load center (circuit breaker box) will be located in the basement

Some wiring in place

The to-do list

After a look around and coming up with "what's next" yesterday with my stepfather Felton, who is a licenced electrician, I started off on the electrical work today. I ran the wiring from the kitchen receptacles and appliances down to the "load center"--formerly known as the circuit breaker box. Its pretty basic, but this is the easy stuff. Its the actual wiring the switches, outlets and fixtures that comes later that baffles me.

I worked my way around most of the first floor today and will finish it off tomorrow. That leaves the second floor for early next week. Today I also boiled down the plans for the stairs to the basement.

Since I'm somewhat dependent on the help and timing of others, I made a list of things that I'll do while keeping the plumbing and electric rolling. There's plenty to do, but it helps to have it laid out in a list in front of me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stairs: Check

Finished up the stairs to the second floor. The dimensions on stairs need to be exact and things came in just right, so I feel happy with the effort. The human body senses the height of stairs and can stumble when there are even very small variations, so things had to be right on.

We made a point of keeping the rise & run to dimensions that would allow a semi-elegant feel to going up and down the stairs and I'd say they feel great; just what we were hoping for. The trade off for designing the stair like this is that they cover more real estate within the house, but I think it was a good direction to go in. They feel easy to go up and down.

Joe introduced me to impact drivers, which are basically screw guns with a very powerful ratcheting hammer built in that makes them able to drive screws and bolts in effortlessly. My old screw gun batteries had died in the mean time, so today I went out and purchased a combo kit of impact driver and screw gun. Handy and top notch.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Landing to second

Today I installed the temporary treads up to the landing and then put plywood down on the landing itself. I then began work on the second set of stairs going from the landing to the second floor. Its working out well and I should have the stairs wrapped up sometime tomorrow. Fun stuff.

From there I'll start running electrical wire from the boxes I've installed back to the to-be-installed breaker box.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gonna fly now..

Floor to floor height: 10'-3 1/4"
Divide by 7: 17.6014
Round off to get the number of treads: 17
You have one less riser then treads: 16
Divide 10'-31/4" by 17: 7 1/4"
7 1/4" is the height of each riser, for a total of 17 from the first floor to the second.

Multiply 7 1/4" x 2: 14 1/2".
Subtract this from 25: 10 1/2"
10 1/2" is the size of each tread, front to back.

Multiply number of treads, 16, times 10 1/2": 168"
168" is the length of the stairs --the run-- from the beginning of the first step to the end of the last.

The above is the basic calculations for figuring out the rise and run of the stairs for our house. Its simple until you account for the thickness of the finish floor and the difference in thickness between tread thickness and floor material. Its all simple and everything when its done, but I spent a bunch of time rechecking my calculations from the day before and eventually confirmed that it was all correct.

That allowed me to start on actually building the first run of stairs up to the landing. This is fun stuff too, involving a carpenters square, and two brass nuts that attach to the square at the markings for the rise and the run. The steps are laid out rise then run, rise then run all the way to the top step.

Accuracy is the name of the game here. Theory and execution should be a close to the same as possible.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Climbing the stairway...

Today I spent the day getting to work on the stairs. I've held off for a long time because I wanted some time to think about what they would look like. At this point I want have a few projects going because I need to be able to switch around in case I get held up with any one effort.

I started off the day close to the woodstove doing some calculating and drawing. I'd like to get the stairs right first time around, so it pays to take the time and be careful.

There will be a landing a little over halfway up the stairs, so once I'd determined the height of the platform, I set about building it. That pretty much took the rest of the day, but before I quit I removed the temporary plywood flooring over the opening, which was very exciting. We get to see and feel what this is going to be like in the house, and I have to report that its good.

One thing I've sort of known for a while but confirmed today is that I'll have to lower the window at the landing. Since I knew it was coming, I'm not bummed, but it'll be some work.

All in all a good day's work. Maybe some actual stairs tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Installing boxes

Today involved installing electrical boxes where I'd located the marks throughout the house. These are the housing for the outlets, switches and lights that will eventually inhabit them.

The boxes that are mounted on an exterior wall come with a rubber flange that helps to seal the connection between the electrical box and the sheetrock that will eventually be installed around it. This is an infamous point of entry for air infiltration and I think I might still try to get a little caulking in around this connection if it doesn't seem like its going to snug up.

The blue boxes are located within the house, so do not require the rubber flange.

Whats becoming apparent is that we need to make decisions about things that we haven't dealt with yet, such as what fixture do we want to have in the bathroom over the mirror? There's a million details like this and its a little overwhelming. Any eager interior designers out there?

Slightly off topic: I figured out today that by placing my stainless steel coffee cup on the woodstove I could reheat or keep my coffee warm. Also had a brief and friendly visit from two women who wanted to introduce me to the lord. I let them know that I'd already made his acquaintance in my own way and so no introduction was needed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Electrical prep

Small rafter ties to create a small flat ceiling where lights will go at the peak

The electrical plan (click on photo for larger view)

The symbols for (l.) outlet and (r.) switch. If you look at the plan above
you'll see these marks located throughout

Today consisted of getting ready to start installing the electrical boxes. This requires transferring the locations for all switches, outlets, and light fixtures from what's shown on the electrical plan to the proper location in the house. I put all outlets at 18" high and the switches at 45". In the peaks of the rooms on the second floor I put in small horizontal rafter ties to create a small ceiling into which we'll have lights installed. There needs to be framing wherever a box will be attached, so that requires that there be blocking as needed to locate switches out outlets.

Tomorrow morning I'll start installing the boxes.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Interior walls

The first floor interior walls show (from l. to r.) the bathroom, the closet, and the mudroom. There is a door from the mudroom that will allow access into the closet. The stairs to the second floor will eventually be located to the left of the bathroom.

This photo shows the closet. There will be a built-in shelving unit that will fill the space opening towards the camera. We currently have a shelf of similar dimensions in the yurt and it works well for us.

This is the upstairs bathroom. The end wall with the door was not yet completed when I took the photo.

Last week was a short work week because we went to Boston on Thursday. Mostly I worked on building the interior walls on the first and second floors. It went pretty smoothly.

I was apprehensive that building in the walls would somehow diminish the experience of the first floor; that it would suddenly feel small and cramped and chopped up, but to my relief it actually still feels spacious and open.

Having these walls in place allows me to start laying out the electrical boxes; the switches, the outlets and the mounted lights, which is what I started working on today.