Friday, December 29, 2006

A side of siding, please

Here's two pictures to give an idea of where we are with the house siding. Sickness reigns in the house, so it's going slowly. Today was a beautiful day--sunny and warm (mid 50's!).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's been a wierd 30 days...

Everyone told me that 60% of the time spent building a house is standing around and doing nothing. I am not sure if that's true of all houses, commercial and owner-built, but it's true for us so far.

Update: We have started the siding on the house, installed the soffits, ran about 50% of the PEX water lines and Kenny the plumber is running the waste and drain in the house (in between building his barn and taking his kids to soccer games). I have some really grainy pictures of the house in the near dark showing the siding, but I will take some more this weekend (maybe, it is almost Christmas after all) to show what it looks like with siding and trim. We have most of the south sided and painted, except for up at the soffit. Linnea also spent a back breaking morning doing parge coat over the basement insulation. Bob the mason brought by three yards of mortar (Type M for all you masons out there) and we tinted it to a clay reddish-brown. While we worked on siding, Linnea slapped the mortar on like a frenzied sculptor working in reverse. It's looking a lot like a house now, if you ignore the other unfinished bits.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas. But we won't be in the house for it this year. That was our goal when we started (see earliest blog entries) six months ago with building. When we sat down with the kids to let them know Christmas 2006 was happening in the appartment rather than the house, one of them asked "How long have we been building?". I answered, "Six months", which led to the next question "How far along are we?". I had just worked that out with the bank, and we are barely over 60% done. So, this childlike sage said to me, "Then we have about four months left, if we are getting about 10% done a month, right?" Out of the mouth of babes...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The end of the lumber (outside anyway)

The porch and balcony are framed and sheathed. Shingles will go on soon and the decking to the balcony, then the railing. The posts for the porch roof have to be put in too, so I guess we aren't done with the lumber after all, but for now we are. I have got to get the siding on and the soffits closed in, but it's tough to do with the sun setting about an hour and half after I get out of work. That means it's going to be weekends and days off from work. But you can see the porch and balcony, plus a detail of the porch rafters to show off what Linnea has built.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Last warm, sunny day for a while

It was over 70 degrees (that's 22 or 23 for everyone still in England) here today and sunny. What a great day to have off for a holiday. We built the master bedroom deck and did some work on the porch roof. Looks like rain tomorrow, so if it's too wet to work outside we will run plumbing. Here are two pictures to let you see the porch from the garage site and from the porch itself. If you look hard you will see the detailing that Linnea put on the rafter tails. Every contractor that has seen that has approved. We feel like the porch is our signature and graduation project for the house, since we hired a crew to frame the house. Lately, Linnea and I have been finally breaking the silence over our Christmas target move-in date. It's only something like 45 days until then and we have so much to do that it's not in our power to make it happen. Of course, that's the ideal situation for God to make a miracle work out. That's not saying that we deserve a direct intervention in the physics of creation just to make it to our Bethel Hem (that's an inside joke, as we live in Bethel township and Joseph and Mary were headed to...well, you know how it went). If we are living in a barn for Christmas, that's okay with me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More pictures...and the missing scaffolding

I noticed that the scaffolding isn't in that picture as mentioned--so here it is. There's also a bonus of the porch before the roof was framed and sheathed. I don't have any pictures of that yet--maybe tomorrow? The maniac on the top of the scaffolding is Bob the builder--my good friend and the go to guy if you want to borrow something. I was at his house this summer and it was like being at the tool rental place. No less than three people came by to borrow a tool.

Late, but as promised pictures

Here are a few recent pictures from last week's work. The towers of scaffolding are what we used to set the shingles on the steepest part of the house. Bob Peters and his crew, masons by day and roofers on the weekend, helped us by busting their butts for three straight days to get it done. It's been a HUGE blessing with the intermittant Autumn rain to not worry about it. Chris, their experienced roofer, came back on Tuesday to finish it up. We have the porch roof on 3/4s of the way and need to install the rafters for the south face of the porch roof. We are going to put in the master bedroom balcony ledgers first, then put up the rafters and roof it. The second picture is the sliding door with transom for the living room. It opens onto air right now, but there is a deck coming there too. You can also see the windows on the left that are in the other half of the living room.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Waiting no longer

Well, there was frost out this morning and I had to scrape the windshield, so I think Fall is over. Looks like rain for the next couple of days, then sun and highs in the '50s early next week.

It's going to be crowded at the house the next few days; HVAC ductwork should be going in tomorrow, the well driller Rod will be by to talk about hooking the well into the house and we will be there for a four-day fun fest of roofing. I will be getting the scaffolding for the roofing and trying to work on the porch rafters. On Friday Bob and his merry men will be over to start the roofing--if the rain holds off. Saturday Kenny the plumber will be over to start the drain and vent lines--he thinks a single day will be all he needs to run that (wow). We spent a bunch 'o money at Lowes (go big blue!) this week on plumbing fixtures and plumbing lines. Yesterday Linnea went all googley-eyed over an outdoor faucet that has hot and cold to a single hose bib. She has imagined a shower hookup for summer use on a single hose line. Great idea, but they didn't have it on the shelf.

Power poles are setup and dug into the solid limestone shelf that hides below the dirt. They should be finished today with setting the overhead lines to tie us into the main feed and then BAM, we got the power. Let's take the generator back to the tool rental place ASAP.

More pictures to load, but they are on a flash card at home and I am at work.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Okay, where are we now?

It's raining here in Ohio, and that means mud. It also means that the roof is leaking, onto both the piles of pine flooring and the appliances in the basement. Funny, I never saw THAT on "This Old House". We are looking for about a week of dry weather coming up, and the roofing team is scheduled for late next week.

The porch deck is framed now, and about 2/3s has decking on it. We are going to finish the posts and decking, then start the porch roof framing next.

We have also found a plumber! Kenny is a friend of a friend from church and says this is going to be easy--I hope so. We got our plumbing plans approved and pulled (that's contractor speak for "I went and paid extortion money to the county") a permit. Now we are ready to start. Saturday we are blocking in the toilets and marking where the waste lines will go. This is totally new for me (waste and vent) and I was really nervous when I thought of doing it all on my own. It comes back to the third grade--where I learned most of life's important lessons; if you have somone to hold your hand things are better. And a nap helps too. Cookies are even better.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Near the end of framing

Having fallen into the "way too busy" zone and apparently it will be a while before we escape, I am behind in my posts for the time lapse photography. Here are a few 'catch' up pics. Here is a picture from the 1st of Sept.

Friday, August 18, 2006

End of week two's framing

It may not look like a lot happened this week, but it did. There was also a day off for the framers for most of Thursday too. Here's what it looked like on Thursday. I haven't introduced the framers yet! Duane Flora and his sons Craig and Brian are our framing crew, and Duane is our consultant. The bank wanted us to have an overseeing contractor with experience as we have not built a house before. So, we asked around and went to the first contractor we talked to about building one of Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House houses. Duane is mostly a remodeler, but he has built a few houses from start to finish. He and his boys are framing Thistle House for us, and may work on other parts as needed.

This is the end of last week; the second floor subfloor is done, the stairs are up and all the interior walls are framed.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day two of framing

Here is what it looked like last night. We laid out the kitchen on the subfloor and decided what to do with the cabinets. It is really starting to look like a house, rather than a bomb shelter yet to be buried.

Progression of photos from each day's work..

I am going to take a picture from the same perspective each day to show what's happening--it might look like one of those cool National Geographic specials with the time lapse photography. Or, it might look like a drunk monkey with a camera. Beauty, and your opinion, is in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, July 31, 2006

And here's where we stand today

It's about 100 degrees outside (heat index), nearing the dreaded pair of 90's (degrees and humidity). Linnea is installing the basement insulation to get ready for the backfill. And here's what it all looks like.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Here's half the basement

This is a catch-up posting, as we are busyier than an ant in a rainstorm. We have finished the basement, framed in the basement walls and the subfloor is down for the first floor. The basement is about half done with the waterproofing and now we are waiting for the rain to finish so we can get back to work.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Basement is underway

Well, the last two weeks have been fast, but slow. The weather held up the excavation for a few days and now has kept our mason away for this week. But we are coming into the dry season in Ohio (people tell me, although it's raining again). We have a slab and first course of block for the basement walls. Bob the mason (he can build it!) will be at work on Monday with his crew to finish the basement. Then we can start framing. The garage is going to be a bear as it's about 3/4" of soil on top of the bedrock. Not quite sure how we are going to make the footer and slab work on this--have to talk to our excavation guy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Memo to self: remember to call before you dig

Have you ever seen those signs that say something like "Remember to call us before you dig"? Working in military communications for the last 18 years, I have seen countless examples of why you do this. We refer to heavy machinery as 'cable finders' for their common use as a buried cable cutter. So, as we begin to build the first thing I have forgotten to do was to call before the digging started. The bobcat hit a three pair, direct bury telephone cable at six inches depth. It's a dead line that used to provide service to our next door neighbor. So, for everyone watching at home; remember to call before you dig.

"A driveway? Happy thought, indeed"

To paraphrase and abuse Jane Austin, a gravel drive way is a happy thought indeed. Just this morning, as I drove out after a nightime thunderstorm, the road was rough but dry. This week we have broken ground and only one telephone cable. Turns out it was an old service run to our next door neighbor--no longer used. Whew! That would be an terrible way to get to know the neighbors, "Hi, my name is Gene and we just had the telephone cable cut for your place. What's your name?"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Get a golden shovel honey!

Well, we closed the construction loan today and I want everyone to do their part to keep interest rates down so the adjustable part of the rate doesn't. During the construction we will have an adjustable rate loan; it starts with a lower rate than the prime but it can climb as high as 12.95%--if the LIBOR (London Interbank loan rate) goes that high. Since it's been low and isn't only tied to the US market I hope it doesn't change too much. We will see.

But, we can start construction next week. The backhoe should be on site on Tuesday and putting in a road (good thing, as it's 4WD to get past the swamp/mud bath). He will also start the footers for the foundation for the house and the garage. Our shed is almost done, all we need is a door and to install the bay window. Plus finish enclosing the gable end and shingle it. Can't be more that three days of hard work.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My favorite funny sites

Okay, I admit to spending way to much time cruising the internet looking for funny things that make me laugh. Some of my favorite sites are too good to keep to myself. Here, for your enjoyment, are Gene's Favorite Places to Laugh - a great news site that spoofs Christians and our pomposity - a spoof of Tech Support and the people who support the 'Users' - another spoof site that lists all the wacko patents given out in the USA

Still waiting on the bank to finish the loan. The appraiser is appraising the house for the loan-to-value ratio (house >= loan), then we should be approved and start construction. We spent Memorial Day weekend at the property building our storage shed. It's the art studio in the Stinking River (see Blog somewhere down below). Three walls are up and we hope to get one or more today. And our replacement mower arrived from Country Home Products (the DR Mower people). The first threw a piston rod or something and blew a hole in the crankcase after 10 minutes of run time. DR sent a replacement engine, but it was for last year's model. To make amends they sent us a new mower and it's here, waiting at the lumber yard for us to clear the trailer (full of shed lumber) and pick up. More to come on that...

Friday, May 05, 2006

The electric company--we're gonna give you the power!

Does anyone besides me remember the theme song to the PBS kids show The Electric Company? "We're gonna turn you on, we're gonna give you the power!" Well, we found out that our electric company is gonna be the rural co-op; we weren't sure that was going to be the best news but our friend Kenny (an electrician) said it was. After we walked the property with the engineer from Pioneer we we're 'juiced' up! Instead of a $4,000 utility fee I had budgeted, we are paying $72 for a meter base. What a blessing!


The BANK has our paperwork and is 'processing' it. I hope that doesn't involve a shredder.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Now, the work is done...

Well, the hard planning is done. The scratching of our heads and beating them against the drawing board is over--we have mailed our permit, plans and hopes off to the bank. If all is in order we should hear from them in about three weeks with their offer on the loan. If not, I have no idea what we will do. It's in God's hands all along, it just is more obvious now with our scurrying around finished. Sitting still we can 'be still and know that He is God'. I have thought a lot on what Jesus said about worry--he said 'don't worry about what you will eat or wear or where you will live. Who can add a hair to their head or a minute to their life by effort or anxiety.' 1 Peter 5: says that we are to be humble because God is opposed to the proud. We are to humble ourselves under God's powerful hand and let Him place us in prominence when He wants us to be there. And throw our anxiety on His shoulders because, after all, He cares about us a lot. The relationship between anxiety and humility doesn't make sense at first, at least to me. But I think that pride in ourselves warps our perspective, especially concerning what we can control. If I live with the attitude that I control my life, and the outcome of the events I am concerned about is in my sphere of control, then it's natural that I will be worried or pensive about the resolution of events. If I have a more Jesus-like attitude, that God is in charge of every event and my worry does nothing but cut me off from faith, then I will be avoiding pride and anxiety. Avoiding those attitudes is a great thing. Truly, "contentment with Godliness is of great gain"!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

We are off again...

Okay, a quick explanation of what has gone on the last month or so...

When last we left Gene and Linnea they were on their way to a zoning meeting, Little did they know the horrors that awaited them--wait, that's the other blog. When they arrived at the township building, they were met by an angry mob--nope, that's the other blog again. They were actually met by one of their neighbors who opposed the variance they asked for regarding their garage location. He has his house for sale and we think that he is opposed because he is asking about twice what the house is worth. Anyway, the variance was tabled because the garage was moved as a result of the stinking river (see earlier entry) and we didn't have the exact location on paper. Fast forward to last Thursday--we were prepared for a riot this time. The couple we are buying the land from were there, we had exact measurements and pictures in case the neighbor was still opposed. We didn't see him that night and the board was happy to grant our request. So on Friday we dropped the plans at the building department and pulled our permits. Should have the permits this week, if there are no issues with the plans. As Willy Nelson famously sang, "We're on the road again... making mudpies with my friends. I'm just glad to be on the road again."

Enter #302872 to see his house and help him sell it--for his blessing, not ours It's a beautiful house and is on 15 acres in a great area. We decided that we would not seek anything but the best for them as they sell their house, so spread the word.


Buying a used bay window at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore? $50

Loading it on top of your Land Rover because it's too big to fit inside? Three strong guys and a ladder.

Gas to get it home in the Land Rover? $5

Having everyone on the freeway look at you because you have a boat sized window on a classic truck? Priceless...

For those building a house as cheap as you can there is Mastercard, for everything else there's your British 1972 LandRover.

Land Rover - the best 4X4XFar...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A stinking river runs through it

To steal a line from a recent Robert Redford movie I really should have either seen the movie or read the book, but I haven't. What I did see was a river that was undocumented on our property this past weekend. Ohio received a boatload of rain this weekend after a steady work-week of the same. So the ground was well saturated before the heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday morning. After I dropped Linnea and the kids at the front door of church I took a trip to the property and was very surprised to see a two acre lake on the neighbors property that was flowing through our pine trees and off into the oversized culvert under the road. It looked drivable, so I put the truck into 4WD LO and sloshed through. Good news, the house site was dry and high above the water. Bad news, the garage was flooded (well, the site for it anyway). And Linnea's art studio/temporary storage site was in the middle of the river that had appeared under the pine trees. The roadside culvert under our driveway was blocked but that wasn't a problem as the ditch was higher than the neighbor's lake. I think that once we get the backhoe on site regrading the ditch and clearing the culvert will solve the overflow problem. But that afternoon when Linnea and I were trying to solve another problem we got into a fight over the art studio location. I, with great clarity and objectivity, pointed out that it was the dumbest idea since eating a certain apple to put the art studio in the middle of the seasonal river. Linnea, with equal aplomb and self control, insisted that she could design a footing that would allow the water to pass under without problems. I do have to say that this disagreement was resolved without name calling or really getting mad at each other. The dam broke when I said, "Fine, you can put your art studio in the middle of the stinking river!" That brought on giggles and healing and eventual resolution. We have been repeating that phrase all week. I guess the art studio will be in the middle of the "Stinking River".

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A few good reads

As we are going along and getting all of the bids collected, I am constantly learning more about the entire industry of construction. Tuesday evening we spent an hour at the house site with Tim the Dozer. He works as a jack of all sorts of trades, as long as it involves concrete and earth moving. He is working a bid for the driveway, pads for the house and garage, septic system and foundation footers. Everytime I explain to a tradesman that we are contracting our own house, I try to make sure that I give them permission to speak their mind. These men and women are the ones who make their living doing their trade. Even if I know a lot about their trade, it doesn't make me an expert. Linnea can talk their lingo and keep up with them, while I flounder along looking for a English to Contractor dictionary.

I am still looking for a good English to Contractor dictionary, as well as a book on how to build a house yourself. The best books I have found so far are Habitat for Humanity: How to Build a House by Larry Haun and How to Plan, Subcontract and Build Your Dream House: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Pitfalls by Warren Jaeger. Both are still in print, although the second book is $40 and I found it at the library. I am only a third of the way through it, but the author has proven his competence already with what I know from experience.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Getting hot or getting cold

Today's progress was to get a resonable quote for a heating/air conditioning system. This is our second quote and it's almost $5,000 cheaper than the other. So, is that a better bid or a worse system? It's a tough job to figure out what is a resonable quote for work done on a house if you don't know what a fair price is. There is a lot more to hiring someone to do a complex job than just price. If price was the only thing important, we would buy everything on E-bay. But hiring a contractor gets you more than just the work--you are also hiring their time, attention and quality. When I worked in the bike shop before I joined the Air Force, I remember customers saying that they would come to our shop for the prices, but they would go to the small shop for work on their bike. I asked them why they would do this when we had great mechanics and great prices. The answer surprised me; "I go to that other shop because I like the way they do their work and I think they do a better job." I am trying to remember that as I hire sub-contractors to work on our house. The more expensive job isn't always the best. It's the fair price done by the hard worker that I want to hire.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Molasses in Winter

One of the frustrations of contracting your own house is that you don't have anyone to blame for inactivity except yourself. There are periods where nothing is happening at the house, and while there are multiple tasks to get done you can't get to them. Working a regular job and trying to lead a 'normal' life, despite juggling the 5,000 piece house building puzzle, leaves a few hours available each day to concentrate on building. Yesterday was one of my workout days (conveniently required by the Air Force, so I have to make it fit my schedule) and I left work about 45 minutes later than normal. So that sucked up even more time. I did laze around the house for a bit, but my window of opportunity to work on the house was only about 12.5 seconds. Some of the Olympic skiing runs were shorter than that, but they ended in a crash.
Today I carried over all the items that were on yesterday's To Do List. Call two plumbers back, call a HVAC company to ask about their bid and the township zoning office to get our siteplan offically blessed. And that's why I reply 'about September first' when asked "When will you move in?"

Friday, February 24, 2006

Water from the well, well well. Only one hole in the ground though. If interested, it came out to less than 1 PPM of iron and about 23 grains of water hardness. That's almost half of what we had in Texas on city water. The well has a static level of about 20 feet and is 110' deep.

Life lessons from salty water

Well, well well-three holes in the ground. That was one of my Dad's favorite sayings, and I wish he was alive so I could tell him that we own a hole in the ground. We got a call this afternoon as I was leaving work from Rod the well driller. He said that he was done and was packing up the rig--did we want to come up and see the well working? Did we ever! I went home and grabbed Linnea and the kids and headed North. Got up there on a cooling Ohio afternoon; the sun was still high enough to warm us by it's heat, but the wind was strong enough to blow it away before you were warm. So we stood in the wind and sun for about an hour talking wells and work and life with Rod the driller. Rod's one of the saltiest salts of the earth I have ever met. His grandfather got him started on drilling when Rod was still in school. Rod said he used to sneak out of school to spend the day with his Granpa and drill wells. Rod is still drilling wells the same way his Granpa did, with a cable rig. The cable rig is an old school drill that uses percussive pounding to drill the well, rather than a rotary drill that cuts through quickly. Rod and about half of the county inspectors we spoke to recommended the percussive drill as it breaks up the rock and produces more veins that feed the well. So as Rod told me more about wells and how he drills them I heard more than just the work he did, I heard him talking about a passing way of life--working hard for a living. Rod has been through 15 different apprentices in the last couple of years. Rod's about my age (close to 40), but working in the heat and cold, sun and rain has weathered him like the rock he drills in. None of the apprentices has worked out as they all wanted to apprentice to Donald Trump rather than a hard working man who knows the value of hard work. It made me want to tell him "I will work for you!" or maybe volunteer one of our sons. I know that my grandfathers knew the value of hard work and so did my Dad. It took me a lot longer to learn that lesson than I want to admit.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What does a drill rig look like anyway?

Here's a photo of the rig that's drilling our well.

There's a hole in the bucket...

Just got off the phone with the thickest accent I have found in Ohio. That's Rod, our well driller. He's got the well at 80' right now and he thinks it's putting out about 8 to 10 gallons a minute. He is going to punch on down to 110' or so to see if he can get the flow a little higher. He also suggested that we put in a PVC liner to keep out the shale as there is so much loose rock. So that's the first item to go over budget. Maybe not, as I budgeted $4,200 for the entire well and rough water connection. We shall see. As God said, "He will be like a tree {firmly} planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers."

We have a plan

Yep, the plans FINALLY printed at the reprographics shop correctly. It wasn't their fault but ours. What a learning curve. You know, building a house is one long series of learning curves, and angles, and lengths and widths and even some straight lines.
So we have our plans, and I will post the Adobe Acrobat file to the blog for you to enjoy. Now that we have the plans, and the well is being drilled, we can apply for the permit. Hopefully next week. So, back to work and back to finishing the construction budget...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We are go!

We have started the build. While the only thing we can see so far is mud, it's a start. Since we started in October preparing to build, we have been slowly going stir-crazy (like stir-fry, only slower and more painful). Yes, the well is being drilled. At the end of the week we hope and pray for a $2000 hole in the ground. Only, this hole should be about 120' deep and have water on the other end. If successful, we will drop the plans at the county building office and buy us a building permit.
In other news, we have also have lined up our electrican and masonry subs. Three cheers for Ken Lowry and Bob Peters. Now if we can only find a plumber!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006