Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Water supply lines

Supply lines running up from the manifold
(horizontal copper piece mounted on wall)

The lines come up from below and then make a
90 degree turn to exit what will be the wall

The copper fittings to which the sink will be attached to in the future

Today was spent running water supply lines. These are the lines that bring water to a sink, toilet, shower, washing machine or tub. Blues lines for cold, red lines for hot. In the old days all of this work would have been done with copper tubing and fittings which is both expensive and time consuming, but also requires precise routing of lines, whereas the plastic PEX supply lines are flexible and installed as a continuous line from manifold to fixture. I'm wondering if I might finish off the rest of the lines tomorrow. We'll see.

The view this morning as we received a late April snowstorm

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A hole in the wall

There have been very few genuine screw-ups thus far in the house building process.

One exception was communication around routing the electrical and phone lines into the house. In short, when we went to put the permanent electrical conduit line into the house the porch was in the way. This really hasn't turned out to be that big a deal, but it did require me to drill a new hole through the foundation through which to route the electrical and phone lines.

I thought it would be fun to show the process of making the hole and closing it back up.

The corner of the basement wall where the lines need to come through

Cutting the insulation away to reveal the plastic vapor barrier which I cut so as to be
able to re-attach new plastic at the end

Drilling multiple holes to make one big hole. Daylight is showing through on the left

The hole complete. Not yet drilled is a second, smaller hole for the phone line
conduit to come through to the left of this hole

The electrical conduit coming through the wall

The view from the outside. Electrical on left, telephone on right

Same view after patching concrete with hydraulic cement and then coating the whole area with foundation tar

The view from inside

Re-installed vapor barrier

Re-installed insulation. That wire there is our phone line and that's what connects us
to the internet, so this blog is going through that line

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back to work

After a week's vacation, today I was back to work on the house--mostly just picking up the pieces from where we left off when we left town. Cleaning up, arranging stuff, completing little unfinished bits of work.

Now I need to refocus and plan the next steps.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Drawing brought to life

I've been waiting for this for a long time. You spend a long time working on plans and coming up with something you think is good, but your plans are only an abstraction of a complex reality. Even so, its cool to have the opportunity to "see" the view you've drawn and referred to many many times. Making this pairing is encouraging and sparks my desire to now get on to doing the trim and siding!

Mac was here again today and finished up with the grading. Things are looking very nice around here in a landscape-y way after months of rough shapelessness. We'll be taking a little break for a week and when we get back I'll pick up where I left off with the plumbing and Mac will be back to do some final touches on the grading and landscape work.

Its been an intense couple of weeks leading up to taking down the garage, so much so that I wasn't able to keep up with the blog quite as much as I like to. Here's a calendar I drew up that, despite many adjustments, proved to be a pretty close map of what happened. Task for tomorrow: fly to Florida.

It might be worth noting that as of today this blog is coming to you via a phone line that runs down the pole, through it's new conduit leading to the basement and into the house. Bit by bit the house is starting to wake from its incubative state.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The House: Unwrapped

Today we finally we got to experience the land and the house without the garage. Its amazing. The house now has space to breath and stand alone without the uncomfortable contrast offered by the garage. It allows the house to stand as a whole where you get to see the various elements as a unit, rather hints of the whole from constrained vantage point.

There is also a sense of space and view and distance around the house that I love. Things feel simpler and more elemental now. Notwithstanding that there is still the yurt, the large dumpster and the excavator, there is a sense of breathing room around the house. You can see the whole and you can see around and beyond it.

Its a bit of a surprise to look out from the inside. I'd gotten used to the visual shelter provided by the garage/breezeway building. Our challenge now is to start thinking about coming up with a landscape plan that provides a sense of privacy while still having a sense of openness on the south side of the house facing our neighbor and the road.

This was one of the most dramatic days of this whole house building process and one that we've been anticipating for a long time. It feels great to have reached it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Going, going, gone halfway




Today Mac showed up and went to work with his excavator. He dug a trench to run the power and phone to the house and then set to work taking down the breezeway section of the garage. As someone once said about woodworking "Its the set-up that takes time, not the cut" seems to apply to this project. We've been working steadily for the last couple of weeks to be ready to bring the building down and then today it happened and took all of about half an hour to bring the structure down.

Tomorrow Mac comes back to complete the building demolition.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Sunset for the garage, now with windows, doors, power supply and stuff all removed

A photo from the days when we were living in the garage. Dana and Nancy we're making dinner

The same space today. Astute observers will notice the larger window at the end of the building which I switched out for the smaller one seen in the photo above

Another shot from today

After 41 years of service, the stalwart garage right next to the house is due to come down tomorrow or the next day.

This building has served many purposes over the years. When we moved onto the property in 2003 my brother-in-law Randy was storing his Volvo 122 sedan in the garage, and the breezeway space was filled with lots of relics and junk. At first we were living in a tent outside the building, and then after a short while we moved into the garage. For a while we had a refrigerator, stove, two computers, a futon and a dinning table all happening in the midst of the space. We moved on to live in the yurt shortly afterwords but have remained grateful to for the shelter.

Later I used it as a workshop and we used the breezeway as a general purpose storage unit, housing extra clothes, books, garden stuff, art supplies etc...

As the house has taken form most "shop" type work seems to just happen in the house so in the last few months the building has been useful primarily as building-related storage. In emptying out the space we've had to move large amounts of stuff to the basement of the house and are already feeling the need to have some sort of utility space besides the garage that would serve to house bikes, garden tools, bee equipment, woodworking projects and the like. We'll see what shape this takes over time.

A couple of friends have written asking why we are not taking the time to take the building down and salvage the materials. The answer in short is that this project was not something we even anticipated doing until August, but in order to meet the certain permit requirements in a timely manner we've had to move this project to the fast track. We leave for vacation this Friday, so we needed to have the project complete before we left. If time were not pressing, I think we'd be fairly inclined to take the building apart.

Although I am glad that the building is coming down, I feel slightly wistful about the passing of this building. Its not pretty or heroic, but it is a tie to the property from before we were here and when the building is gone there will be very little evidence of that past. Sort of feels like passing the last island out as you set sail for the wide ocean.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

One of our submarines...

This propane tank will soon be buried somewhere in the vicinity of the house.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Down in a hole

Glad I don't have to do this too often

At work about to install the new power pole. The new pedestal is just past the man on the left

The PVC conduit running from the pedestal down through the trench to the pole

Still concentrating on preparations to take down the garage, I've spent the last two days digging a ten foot long trench that is three feet deep between our electric meter pedestal and the newly installed telephone pole. It was going fine until I hit the cementazoic layer--consisting mostly of super dense rock and clay that really was cement like. At one point I was considering giving up, but just about then started to break through to the next strata down and realized I'd be able to work through it.

Today I laid in the pipes for the new power service coming from the pole and got a start on the piping for the phone line as well. Felton has been coming up periodically to check on the progress and keep an eye on my work.

All this will allow us to remove the electrical panel and meter from the garage in anticipation of next week's work.

In the meantime Nancy has spent her evenings moving the firewood to its new location away from the garage and I'm slowly working through all the tools, bike parts, and random shoe-making machinery in the garage.

It'll all come together, but we've got a lot to do!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Switched out windows

Joe looking out the original window opening

The new window in place

A sense of the view

The stair window being re-framed to lower it

The stair window in its new home, about a foot lower

Today Joe and I switched out the small triple-set second floor window for the larger pair. It went smoothly and we are quite happy with the result. Joe commented that if ever we want to sell the house, bring the potential buyer up to look out the window at the view and it'll seal the deal. I think he's right.

The new window not only opens up the upstairs room to the light and the view, it also helps to balance the exterior shapes a little. The window feels in proportion to the first floor windows.

We also pulled out, reframed and lowered the window you look out at the landing on the stairs. Now its about right for gazing out of as you pass by. It was about a foot too high.

Meanwhile, work on the garage is keeping us very busy. We continue to line up the pieces in order to bring the building down next week. This includes relocation of the power supply to the buildings, moving all our stuff out of the garage, moving the firewood stack next to the building, etc... there's a lot too it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Raidant tubing

Joe wrestling long red snakes!

The radiant tubing stapled up to the underside of the first floor

The special stapler used to attach the radiant tubing. You have to contract the handle three times to insert one staple --which might seem cumbersome-- but it goes quickly

The power company dropping off our new telephone pole

Joe came back yesterday morning after a break of about 2 1/2 months. Its good to have him back.

He and I tackled installing the remaining insulation in the basement yesterday and today set to work on installing the radiant tubing underneath the first floor. With any new project I always feel a little apprehension about getting up to speed and working out the inevitable questions or unknowns that arise. Starting on this project was no different, but after a little time to get going we worked out the routine and it went quite smoothly.

Tomorrow we'll finish up the radiant and if we have time switch out a two windows. One is a bigger window, the other is one that needs to be lowered. Its supposed to be a really nice day.

Oh yes, the power company came and dropped off a new telephone pole. They were going to install it, but the ground was so wet from the recent rain that the decided to come back early next week to actually put it up. So for the next few days we have a telephone pole in our driveway.