Friday, September 14, 2007

More memory lane

In honor of coming to the close of building, here's a taste of the photo progression I am putting together...some stills from over the 18 months we have been at this.


The house site with stakes laying it all out.

The house site in the snow...this is a good photo to compare to the hill we built around the basement.

The house framed on September 1st 2006--just twelve months ago. It seems such a long and such a short time ago.

The backfill and landscaping almost finished.

The most recent photo of Thistle House. You can't see the dozen or so Monarch butterly cocoons on the house, but the day we finished the last inspection we got to watch one of the butterflies take his first flight to the hanging basket to load up on nectar. I bet he was as hungry as we were excited.


Where in the wide world of sports are we?

Well, that's a good question. I am on a one week deployment/temporary duty to Camp Smith, Hawaii for an exercise. Sigh...sadly I have not gone swimming once and I only went to the beach for about a half hour the other night. It's not all fun and games in the US Air Force campers.

Meanwhile, back at the Thistle House we are ALMOST DONE!!!!! The lovely wife and hardworking three kids are painting and sealing floors. Well, they aren't actually painting the floors, but are just shellacing them. When last we left Thistle House we had just passed the final inspection. Well, here we are two weeks later and it's a frantic 'finish everything so we can move in' frenetic frenzy. That was a beautiful bit of alliteration if I say so myself.

Being back in Hawaii has reminded me of many things--when I was last here my father was on active duty and stationed at the Pacific Air Command. We lived at Hickam Air Force base and I drove past my first elementary school yesterday. Wow has this place changed in the last 31 years. I have had a pseudo resentment against Hawaii because it is the place where I spent four sunburned years and where the damage to my skin started that led to my two skin cancers. But walking around has stirred up the place where my first memories came from. I remember being a kid and laying at the foot of the stone water tower, watching the clouds fly over the tower and how it looked like the tower was falling. And then, yesterday, we took a different road back to the hotel and drove under the freeway and I remember being a kid and driving that same route with my Mom. This is also the first place I had a run-in with the police. I was throwing rocks onto the perimeter road on base and the Security Police picked me up and took me to my parents house. That was the first of several times I have been on the wrong end of Air Force Security Police's ire as I have this bad habit of opening alarmed doors and getting the whole building patted down to make sure that nothing is going on.

It's kinda cool how this whole trip down memory lane was brought about by the US Air Force both times--for my Father and Mother and us four kids and now, three decades later for me to return. Hmm...deep thoughts.

Now, off to pack for the flight home tomorrow.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Final inspection is done!

We had our plumbing inspection on Tuesday. While we have a couple of things to correct, the inspector gave us a pass so we could get the final building inspection done on Wednesday. When it was time for the building inspection, we had five items to correct--the worst was the back porch stair height. Linnea and #1 son lowered the step heights to an equal amount and did a fair amount of digging. I came home after work and changed out some breakers for the correct size and added a weather cover for the porch outlets. I also had to correct a ground problem in the master bath--I forgot to bridge the grounds on some of the outlets.

We are installing the rest of the flooring and ceiling and wall textures, painting and planning to move in soon!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Big catch up note

Okay, I last posted a note on 7 August. Tonight is almost two weeks later--zoinks!

We have been going full throttle to get ready for the final inspections. In the last two weeks we have: installed two full bathrooms, a kitchen, finished all the electrical in but one room, built a glass block wall, installed tile in two bathrooms, plumbed in the water heater, installed the porch railings, the porch stairs, the balcony railings, the window screens (had a lovely 52 degree night on Friday), installed a sub-panel for electric as we have 10 more spaces than our 40 space panel (electrical breakers take one to two spaces each), and I am sure more than that. Whew--just typing it wears me out. We also have two sickies in the house right now--Linnea and number one son have a cough/running nose/ear infection going. Son is getting better but Linnea may take a trip to the base emergency room tonight to get some medicine to help her get better.

Looking over the photos from the last weeks, I see that we also spent the first nights at the house--how could I forget? We took last week off on leave and camped overnight from Tuesday to Saturday. Coming back to the apartment in military housing was a let down after being at Thistle House for five nights. Even in it's chaos, it's an easy to live in house. Plus, all the food is there now and the larder is bare here. There is no connection to the internet at Thistle House yet, and I told the kids we are not moving a single computer until every dust speck is gone and all messy work is done. That motivated them as that means the Xbox stays at the apartment too.

So, here is a montage of photos from the last few weeks; comments are welcome.

Basement mechanical room; well pressure tank, water filter, water heater with pressure relief tank--not pictured are the electrical panels and PEX manifold.

The Leaning Tower of PVC Babel. This puppy took about two hours to figure out and build. I had to label all the parts--three bowl sink, one garbage disposal, two dishwashers and one air admittance valve. When it was installed, the right sink drain line was 1 1/2 inches below where it was supposed to be--two hours later it was right. Works great.

Here's the kitchen sink without the Leaning Tower of PVC Babel. Did I mention that we got this sink (Kohler) from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore? It's a real bargain--we spent $40 on a sink that would have cost us $2,000. All we had to do was clean it up and remove the old fixtures. Sweat equity in action.

Re-installing the KitchenAid fridge doors after moving it upstairs. I am really getting bald.

The essentials are getting in place--and if anyone knows where my green Nalgene water bottle is, I need it for physical training tomorrow morning.

Laundry/bath sink--Kohler fixtures are great--install easily and well. I have one problem with a sink missing a washer and they are FedEx-ing it to us. That's three sink faucets, three showers and one bath faucet. Great stuff--two thumbs up and five stars.

A nice photo taken by son #1 (I think). Shows the laundry/bath and nice use of the mirror. Linnea developed this mirror fetish while we were stationed in England, and we came back with something like 15 wall mirrors. Apparently everyone in England is getting rid of theirs and we had to take them--probably something to do with reparations after the Revolution.

The cat is at the house full time now, although he isn't earning his tuna at this time. He is turning into quite the fly and moth catcher though. Number 2 son isn't too bad at flies either, but he doesn't eat them. There is a standing 10 cent bounty on every fly, payable at the ten fly count in Thistle House.

Here it is; the end of the 'Blue Room'. I have an entire future blog series on the trials and tribulations of having a port-a-potty for a year. It's a joy almost indescribable to have indoor plumbing. Now all we need to do is install the bathroom door.

Same toilet in the laundry/bath, showing the glass block shower wall just getting started.

Dinner interruption on Saturday night. Fresh from the garden, our own veg. Disclaimer: the onion is from the store.

Glass block wall, post dinner. Linnea and son #1 are hard at it, installing it. I was doing electric in the upstairs bedrooms.

We are doing a 'Tuscan' theme in the laundry/bath, and when I say 'we' I mean Linnea and Daughter. I just haul boxes of tile.

Finishing up the glass block--rubbing off the stray mortar.

That's it for now--more later. Probably another week before a good post, as the Air Force (and DoD) has blocked access to Blogspot from Air Force networks. Being a military IT guy, I totally agree in principle but it sure impacts my slack time at lunch doing updates. Oh, well.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Margarator

Here is today's tool review; it really has nothing to do with building or anything that is limited to construction trades. It's the Margarator, and boy do we like it. We have spent about $1,000 on slushies at Speedway and when our youngest son wanted a slushy machine for his birthday, Linnea found this. It's built for mixing margaritas in a big way, but it makes a mean slushy too. Add ice, fruit, a little frozen drink mix (like canned orange or guava juice) and presto-changeo, it's slushy time. Runs on DC or AC power (think tailgating!) and the only drawback I have found is the difficulty in cleaning it after the fruit gets in the grinder at the bottom. The top is insulated and it makes about a gallon at a time. Supposedly not too good with diet sodas as the flavor mix, but we haven't tried that yet.

Four stars out of five.

Stairs are going in, first sink installed, cat invades

A week compressed into a single entry; water heater installed, back stairs finished (need hand rail still), laundry sink is in place (ugly job), porch railing is going in, and the front stairs are started.

Whew! That's a lot of work for one sentence. Here are some pictures to appease the audience. Oh-the cat (Ramses) has made the move and become Thistle House's first full time occupant. He's doing a bang-up job keeping the mice away and catching crickets and flies. Here he is.

And here is the first sink. I am no professional when it comes to plumbing (think Frankenplumbing), so I got my learning curve straitened out with the laundry sink. I used a great idea from Fine Homebuilding to add flexible couplings to the pipe and glued connections for the trap and elbows. It's taken a little learning to get it to work, so this isn't the prettiest pipe job you may have seen. Lessons learned include: make sure the trap rests on the floor, make sure the supply lines don't get in the way (this is the only cabinet to have loose PEX showing, the rest have 1/2 inch copper stub-outs), always use Kohler fixtures as they install easily the first time.

The back stairs; still need a hand rail but boy do they work well.

The railing. We are using 2x lumber and 36" hardware cloth as the rails. It's invisible, doesn't slow down the breeze much and it's really sturdy.

And here are the front stairs under construction. The risers aren't finished yet, and the landing at the bottom is just getting started.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Watch the clock!

I just reviewed the blog entries for July and everyone is after 10 PM. Ack! No wonder I am so tired; I work all day long for the Air Force, then work on the house and then come home and blog. Zoinks, I need some sleep.

Kitchen moves closer to completion

Here is today's work; since it's Sunday we try to get some rest and not work so hard. We have been just going to the house after church and letting the kids play while we get some things done. Today we got the counter under-layment and the tile backer installed. I also wired the kitchen island outlets and finished the kitchen circuits. The ovens are on, the lights all work (except for one that I wired wrong--the 'hot' wire that feeds it is connected to another switch so it's doubly switched). Catch that one later.

The seating at the end of the island is visible now; there's room for four to have breakfast or ice cream (or smoothies if feeling healthy). Linnea will work on the tile tomorrow and the oldest son and I will install the last kitchen cabinet tomorrow night.

The island and the pantry in the distance.

Here's the island from the pantry.

And the sink cabinets under the window.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Really quick pic

Here are some really quick pics to show what the kitchen looked like tonight. The ovens are on, the cabinets are in and the island has it's maple countertop. If anyone feels like dancing on the island, that's because we used maple flooring to make the butchertop. It needs the end walls finished and the edge treatment, but it works great.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The cabinets are coming!

Linnea took a run to the Cabinet Warehouse in Richmond, Indiana today to get our cabinets. This is a store that buys the odd lots, mistakes and returns from cabinet makers at really dirt cheap prices and then sells them to house renovators and real estate investors. They never have the same product two weeks in a row and you never will know what you will find, but we got about $8,000 worth of cabinets for $3,300. Some are slightly scratched, one already had holes for drains and water lines, but we got a great Kraftmaid cabinet with Blum 120lb self-closing drawers, with a great pull-out shelf for pans and pots for something like $120. Here are some pictures to show you what I got to see when they picked me up from work today.

Next is a photo of the first cabinet mounted on the wall. Microwave moves tomorrow to the house.

Here's a non-cabinet picture of the shower in the master bath--coming along nicely.

And finally, a great picture of the tiled kitchen hood over the gas range. The range isn't in place yet, but really soon. Maybe this weekend?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The floor is started (cue triumphal music)

Here's a quick photo to show what the floor looks like in the kitchen. We have only one coat of linseed oil on it and some shellac for under the cabinets. The kitchen appliances are all upstairs now and waiting for cabinets to contain them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Flooring underfoot

Linnea started the flooring Sunday night in the kitchen. We are installing it under the cabinets, so we are installing it across the area the cabinets will be in. We should take a trip to Indiana and the Cabinet Warehouse just across the border next week. Here are some pictures to show off the outdoor lights and the start of the flooring.

Linnea is working diagonally from the South-West corner.

The stack of 3/4" thick pine flooring. Aged about nine months since we got it. Looks good on the floor, even unfinished.

The tile for the whirlpool tub.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Watch this space, Part II

Here's the skylight finished with framing and drywall. We will try to get a good picture of it once it's finished with tape and mud and paint.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Here's a series of photos to show what we have been doing this long weekend. We rented a boom lift from Art's Rentals to let us skip the wobbly nightmare of scaffolding over the settling fill dirt. It's been a toss up, whether to finish the siding before or after the fill was done. Neither one has been really a decent base for the scaffolding. It's costing us a small fortune for the boom lift, but it's really handy and is allowing us to get it done in just a few days. I freaked out at about the 25' height, so Linnea has been working in the bucket and I have been cutting siding and getting it upstairs with the kid's help. Here are some pictures to show how it's gone.

Here's Linnea finishing up the dormer in our bedroom.

This is the dormer for the boy's room.

And working on the back of the house. Due to a shortage in the Hardiplank, we are going to 'celebrate' the area above the windows with shingles. It should look great tomorrow.

How it looked around 9PM tonight as we got ready to leave.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Photo progression

Here's where we are today. It's the American Fourth of July, our Independence Day, tomorrow so we are going to celebrate with a classic American cookout on the barbecue and then see a movie. Hope to get in to see the Transformers movie with Linnea and the kids--Linnea loved Transformers when she was a wee little girl.

This picture shows the dormers on the North finished--now we are finishing the Southerly ones.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A week's work, not too much visual

After a week of week, including lots of backfill and siding, it seems like nothing happened in some ways. It's a constant balance between discouragement and perseverance--trying to remember that I am not in charge of the weather, the bank or even myself. God is the man, I am just following him in this seemingly never ending work of building a house.

Anyway, we worked on completing the siding this week--the three North dormers are done and we are started on the middle South dormer. Linnea is going to cut all the shingles for the remaining dormers and we will balance precariously on the tower of scaffolding to install them. The exciting part is leaning the ladder onto the roof from the scaffold and climbing across with a pneumatic nailer and shingles in hand--what could go wrong?

The finished North dormers

Here is the tower of imminent death or injury. Don't look down. Of course, my good friend Bob the Mason swings like a monkey on more wobbly scaffolding, but he's a professional and I am just an amateur faller.

My youngest son has been affected by building in small, insidious ways. Can you spot the psyche damage in this photo? 500 bonus points to the first correct answer.