Saturday, March 31, 2007

We are building a tower

Here is the sequence of scaffolding from today. We started with a tower three bucks high--we ended with five bucks. I don't know why they are called 'bucks', it's just what my friend Bob the mason calls them. So that's what we do. These lovely red scaffold bucks are from Duane, our framer and overseeing contractor.

Anyway, if you look hard you can see that the soffit is going on the right (North) side of the silo. I stood on a ladder on the balcony (don't tell OSHA) to nail it on.

This last picture is from the ground looking up the scaffolding. It's a long way to fall, so I anchored the scaffolding through the open window to a 2X4 screwed into the inside of the silo. It's also attached to the porch and the balcony. Despite it's height, it's pretty stable and not too wobbly. Linnea, she who is not afraid of falling but is afraid of dropping things, said (after she was on the ground), "Holy cow, that is really tall!"

Weather you like it or not...

Looking for thunderstorms today and maybe tomorrow--whether we like the weather or not.

The next five days are dedicated to getting a lot done on the house--I am taking leave (that's vacation for everyone outside the military) Mon - Wed next week. I plan on taking one to two days off each week to finish up the house until we are done. There's about 12 weeks of time left until our construction loan "matures" and we exhaust our money set aside for the interest on that loan. If we aren't done by June 15, we will start making double payments (mortgage and rent where we live now) August 1. Ack!

So, time to kick it in gear and finish. I will call the building inspector Monday to get a pre-inspection walk through. I want to see what we need to finish before he's ready to sign us off for our rough inspections. Then we can insulate and close up the walls! Then all we have to do is install everything, like flooring, fixtures, paint, move and be here around my birthday in early June.

Linnea and I have talked about Nehemiah, the prophet who God called to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem after the city had been sacked and burned. He had an impossible task with unfriendly neighbors and scared builders. We have had all of those situations on this project! We feel like the next 12 weeks will be our miracle, after all, God worked out that the walls around Jerusalem were rebuilt in a month. We have two and a half, and our friends have all said that they will help us in droves once the insulation is in.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Our inspiration, the 'Barage'

This is the 'other' barn in our life. This one is in Missouri at our parent's home. This will be their barn-garage (or Barage as we call it). This barn plan is from my father-in-law Ken, an electrical engineer with too much time on his hands now that he is retired.

He has built the house pictured on top, mostly carving it by hand from a solid block of mahogany :-) Actually, his house is made of Legos filled with concrete--insulated concrete forms made of polystyrene and locked together. It's about an insulation value of R50 and resistant to rounds fired by an Abrams M-1 tank. It's a beautiful house filled with beautiful things--like to the two best people I can imagine as my bride's parents.

The barn was first built in California at the house where Linnea grew up. It's here on Google Earth--the poor man's satellite imagery. When Ken moved to Missouri, he lost the plans and had to redesign it from scratch. We have said about 100 times over the years that the barn would make a great house--now we are finding out if that is true. It is definitely easier to side if it doesn't have a walk-out basement. Look how much further along they are than we are!
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Porch nearly done, silo next

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of where we are. The siding on the porch is nearly done, we only need to paint the trim at the top to finish it off. Around the corner is the siding running to the silo--the silo is the three story bump out that is the architectural element from the barn. The silo is sided with shingles. Actually, now is a good time to talk about our siding.

The siding is cement fiber-board Hardiplank and Hardishingle from James Hardie.
It is rot proof, insect proof, tough to cut (get a special blade that's made for it). It's also expensive. We spent about $4,500 for the whole house. I am not sure what aluminum or vinyl would cost, but we used Hardiplank in Texas when we renovated our house in Willow Park. Since we rebuilt that house from the termite invasion, we wanted something tough for the little monsters. We really liked it and so, here we go again.

The picture of the balcony is to give you an idea of what we are looking at for siding there. It won't be too bad, and I did the flashing behind it where it is close to the porch roof. It will be a few rows of tiny pieces, but it won't be fiddly cuts like around the windows.
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Monday, March 26, 2007

Contractor's need space

Another lesson learned: clearly communicate and hold contractors to their assigned space in a house. Some trades, like plumbing and HVAC (heating, vacuum and air conditioning) eat up space in a wall and the ceilings. We knew this ahead of their work, but we are constantly running into problems with where our HVAC crew put their ductwork. We told their installation planner where we had planned for their ducts and returns, but this didn't get passed to the installation crew. We have a major conflict in the mechanical room where a 4" drain pipe is blocked by their duct work and the refrigerant line from the geothermal ground loop. Ack!

LESSON LEARNED: Spray paint the limits of a particular trade's working area and make them stick to it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Where we are today

This is what the house looks like today. Siding on the West is painted as high as we can reach to install it, and we really made progress on the siding on the North porch. It reaches all the way to the front door.We talked to our framer, Duane, about having him and his sons finish the high siding and trim. We might take the money from the garage budget to hire them to finish that out. If I work it right, maybe I can be off for the week that we could afford them and work alongside. We need to get this house sided and the trim on to be ready for the next inspection.


Long day today, but we had our secret booster that kept us going--we worked until 7 PM tonight to finish the porch work. Can you guess what it is? I will put the answer up tomorrow.
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If this and the tub were only working

If only the Jacuzzi tub and this shower were hooked up, we would hardly need to leave. We worked until 7PM last night, and it would be great to wash up at the house. Maybe next month or the month after. This is the shower in the downstairs laundry/bath.
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Saturday, March 24, 2007

The secret booster that keeps us going

Here is the secret ingredient that kept us going yesterday--pizza and Dr Pepper.
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Where does the Stinking River end?

This is where the Stinking River ends, at least for us. Just to the left of the picture is the culvert under the road, and you can see the current in the water as it flows down here. We hope to cut a new ditch in alongside the road and under our drive way to divert the stinking river.

We shall see.
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Return of the Stinking River

For everyone who didn't see the Stinking River, here it is. You can see that the river flows from the Stinking Pond on my neighbors property. It actually comes from the road and the corn field south of us. All the soil is about 6 inches deep with limestone underneath, so drainage is slow.If it rains enough, like yesterday, to saturate the soil and we get a heavy downpour the pond fills up, and then it slowly drains across our property.

Talked again to my backhoe guy, Tim, about adding a negative slope to the frontage ditch to send the river along the road and straight to the culvert. I will add another picture to show where the rest of the water goes.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My basement looks like the spaghetti factory

Spaghetti everywhere!

The PEX manifold and where the circuit breaker panel will go

The basement mechanical room has the PEX manifold, pressure tank, water heater, circuit breaker panel AND the heatpump heat exchanger/blower for the HVAC. It's getting a bit crowded in there.

Thaw brings ketchup!

Here's a quick summary of what's been going on since January.

In late January we were frozen out as the temp dropped into the single digits, and the propane heater we borrowed had to go home. So, until the thaw at the end of February, we basically did nothing. We did have family time and get some sleep, plus rebuild the family computer.

Now that the thaw has happened, we are playing catchup (hence the title). Wiring is underway, as we are nearly done with the PEX supply tubing. It's looking speghetti like in the house and it's more difficult to sneak between studs; we have to start using the doorways.

We are getting ready for the next inspection; it's a biggie as it covers rough framing, rough electrical, rough HVAC (heat and A/C) and rough plumbing. We have to finish siding the house, finish all the rough framing (things like partition walls) and have all the electrical wire run. We also have to pressure test the plumbing and get ready to tie it to the pressure tank from the well.

This next week we are hoping to finish the wire and my son and I can buckle down and get the siding up in a big way. I have to finish the north side of the house (just started, as you can see in the picture) and then the east side needs to get done. I have reached my maximum height on the scaffolding, as any higher I get freaked out about the distance X 32M/second2 = terminal velocity. I plan on renting a boom trailer so I can use that to reach the tall stuff. Linnea pointed out last night that she is totally fine on a tall ladder. I read in this month's Fine Homebuilding that Warner Ladders did a survey and more people are scared of falling from a 25' ladder than speaking to a crowd or asking for a raise. Linnea said her only concern on a tall ladder is dropping something onto someone's head.