Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's Raining Cats And Dogs

   Not much to show for this week. Not that things didn't get done, but how many pictures of roughed in plumbing can anyone be expected to enjoy? Surely, there is someone out there who is breathlessly waiting for the plumbing chapter...
   Boyd from Gallow and Smith Plumbing was completing the rough plumbing. Boyd came to Ed and said  "I have to drive into town and pick up some more black pipe 90* elbows. I thought I had enough in the truck, but I don't." Yikes! Town is an hour each way.
    Ed says..."I think I have some of those in the barn." After running down to check..sure enough, he did! Which is why, whenever I'm sent on an errand to buy two of something, I come home with three.
   Ed built the deck for the spa tub. This is a Kohler Archer 6' jetted tub. One of the reasons I bought this particular tub was that it had an in-line heater. That also means that Ed had to remember to wire for two outlets..one for the jets and one for the heater.

   He also framed in the support walls in the laundry/craft room for the shoe rack and dog rinse . On the left will be a shoe cubby, since this where we will be coming in and going out most of the time. Instead of shoes winding up in a muddy pile, I'll have a nice, neat place to put each pair. Just to the right of the shoe rack is where the dog wash will be. In a perfect world, the dog will be trained to come in this door (only), and go stand in the shower pan until being told it's ok to come out. That way we can rinse his/her feet.I don't think this will work well with the cats. It is unbelievable how much dirt and mud comes in on pet paws! We can also put very muddy wet boots here to drip dry a little, and hang wet coats. Then to the right of the dog rinse will be the stackable full sized washer and dryer. At the corner will be a counter, then a laundry sink.  
   My kitchen is also plumbed. The sink will look out into the rest of the first floor and out the big expanse of windows to the valley below. I also have a prep sink in the island. Boyd also put in a gas pipe for the propane for our stove. Here, Midnight is checking to see if there is any food in THIS kitchen.
    While Boyd has been working on the plumbing, Ed has been putting in the vents for fans. This is not his favorite chore. Some of the vents go through unheated attic space. That means all that vent pipe has to be wrapped with insulation. We don't want steam and moisture going up into the vent in the attic, condensing on the pipe and running back down into the wall as water. So Ed has been standing on a ladder, wrapping that nasty fiberglass insulation around the vent pipes and taping it down.  It's ugly, itchy work.
   Yesterday Chuck-the-building-inspector came out and signed off the rough plumbing and the framing. 
    Ed says it's time to get serious about electrical wiring. I need to order the central vacuum system. The entryway, dining room and island light fixtures have been ordered. The interior doorknob sets should be here next week.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Plumborama

    It's been a busy week. The delivery trucks have been here so often with plumbing fixtures, I've started setting a place at the dinner table for the truck drivers. Shower pans, tubs, toilets, faucets, drains,valves. It's a Plumborama.
   The Swanstone shower pans came last week. This week we received all the Kohler faucets for the bathrooms. It was overwhelming trying to pick out the perfect faucet, so instead of choosing a different style for each bathroom, I made it easy on myself and stuck to one classic style for all.
   Thursday afternoon we were scheduled to receive delivery of the Kohler toilet fixtures and the pedestal sink for the powder room. Mayflower said they'd bee here between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sun sets at about 4:35 here this time of year, but it doesn't get really dark until about 5:15. 5:30 came and went, and by 6:15 we decided they got tied up and weren't coming. We started following our usual evening routine..shower, a glass of wine, dinner. At 7:40 we hear a truck transmission gear down and the grating of brakes. Ed and I looked at each other in disbelief. It's night, in the Northwest, a week from winter solstice. It's overcast, and we're at the end of a very rural road. So to say it is dark outside would be a serious understatement. I ran over and threw on the porch light while Ed grabbed the car keys and headed down the stairs. He started the Jeep and threw on the lights so they could see to come in the driveway. The two delivery guys were as cheerful as could be. He says, "Yeah we stopped at a restaurant in Grays River (20 miles away) and asked where this place was, and everybody there started giving us directions."  Ten minutes after they arrived we had five toilets and a pedestal sink stacked up by the garage and they were on their way. Poor guys..they had one more delivery to make before they drove back to Portland.

   Ed has been working on the basement, specifically the area that will be the home theater. He put up soundboard on the interior walls and placed the cans for the  lights. This is going to be a fun spot. We'll elevate the screen on a small stage just in case the grandkids ever want to give a performance, but the room will be big enough for "Soup and Movie Night" with friends and neighbors.

   The thing that really felt like a step forward was the arrival of the plumbers. They will be placing the waste lines, the water lines, and the valves. We had to wait until those fixtures arrived before scheduling them to come out, and when they got here they didn't mess around.  Ed and I went over each room and made sure we were on the same page for placement of sinks and toilets, baths and showers, laundry and...well..you get the idea. It's amazing how much two guys can get done in a couple of days.

   The weather forecast said we would have a few days that might be relatively rain-free, so Ed thought it would be a good time to do something about the entrance to the basement. We needed the road to be wider, and we needed retaining walls on either side. It didn't have to be pretty...it just had to be solid.

   Sam Longtain showed up with his equipment and began scooping out dirt, and placing huge interlocking
blocks. These blocks are made locally at Southwest Concrete. When they have a truck come back to the shop with leftover cement, they pour them into these blocks. They may differ in the mix, or the amount of calcium, etc, but, boy can they hold back a ton of sand!   And that's just what we need.

 When he was done, the entry to the basement was wide, clean and solid. As an added bonus, we will have a path up to the other side of the hill between the house and the barn.
   No, don't flinch. I'll plant grape ivy, or nasturtiums or something along those blocks to make them look less industrial.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Think That I Shall Never See A Poem As Lovely As A Tree

  I've been playing with tile for the fireplace surrounds. I would love, love, love to get something like Pratt and Larson tiles, or some other kind of handcrafted, period specific tiles, but since I'm not filthy rich, that's out. for the most part, slate tiles have been done to death, although they are used a lot because they are beautiful.I spotted some 3x6 slate tiles and decided to mix in some accents and see if I could find a pattern that wasn't too far off the mark for Craftsman style. I'm still working on it.

    Saturday, Ed and I drove down to Tsugawa's Nursery in Woodland. They have a wonderful  selection of Japanese maples and dwarf evergreens.  Ms. Lawrence spent quite a bit of time helping us decide which trees to bring home, and how to best place them. What a font of information she is! We came home with a kousa dogwood "Milky Way", the largest tree, and three maples, "Red Dragon", "Crimson Queen", and "Tamukeyama". As soon as Ed gets the sidewalks repoured, I'll put them in the ground. Winter is the best time to plant these trees, since it gives them time to set roots before the growth spurt in the spring.
   We've been impatiently waiting for plumbing fixture deliveries. Finally, on Monday, we received three! First was the Kohler jetted tub, followed by Swanstone shower pans, then Santec shower unit for the craft room mudpan. Still MIA are two more Kohler tubs, and Grohe shower fixtures. Somehow they don't have the expected drama just sitting in the cardboard boxes. But ohhh, when they're in!

    In the meantime, Ed has been plugging away (no pun intended) with the electrical. He's been nailing in those little blue junction boxes everywhere. Starting in the basement he has started fishing wire from box to box.We should keep a count and see how many miles of wire it takes to complete the job.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks Be To God

Thanks be to God for roses rare,
For skies of blue and sunshine fair,
For every gift I raise a prayer,
Thanks be to God!

     Today is Thanksgiving, and there are not words enough to express my humble gratitude. We've worked a year on the new house. No one has been injured, fallen ill, ..or fallen, for that matter. Family and friends are all well and happy. 

   Last Wednesday the fireplaces came. They are BIS Tradition CE, which are non-catalytic zero clearance stoves, installed by Woodstove Warehouse in Kelso.
Ed had previously built the frames and chases, so it was just a matter of making a few adjustments and beefing up the base support. The doors aren't here yet, and the big aluminum protector plate will stay in place until the tile is set on the surround. 


  In the meantime, I stand where the kitchen will be, and admire the view. I love the openness of this floor plan. It will be nice to be in the kitchen and still be a part of whatever is going on. There will be craftsman style bookcases on either side. 

    Upstairs in the family room and library the other fireplace awaits. This is the view from the bedroom door. The entertainment cabinet will be on the left, and will have the TV, stereo and miscellaneous electronics. To the right will be a box for firewood. My guess is that we will spend the day downstairs in the kitchen and craft room, and evenings upstairs.  Time will tell. 

   In the wintertime, the view from the balcony completely changes. The big leaf maples,alders and cascara trees lose their leaves which allows us to have a clear view of the middle pasture and the creek. The creek takes on a life of it's own in the winter. We don't have rain storms, we have weather events. With 100" of rain per year, that creek can be really scary! Fortunately in the five years we've been here, it's only come over the top once.

   It's hard to believe we drove up here on Thanksgiving Day five years ago. We had the truck packed full, and pulled a trailer with the second car which was also packed full. Everything else came by moving van a week later. Ed commuted 800 miles each way to work for four long years. By Thanksgiving next year we should be in our new home. Thanks be to God.   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Good News, Bad News

   We've had Mount Vesuvius in our front yard since the basement was dug a year ago. Most of the dirt went down into the pasture, but we still managed to keep quite a pile. Now that the bulk of the heavy delivery trucks have come and gone, we wanted to regain some semblance of a front yard. I've been trying to figure out what I want this area to look like, but it's tough to get the picture in my mind when there is a monster pile of mud in the center.

 Fall and winter are the best times to plant trees and perennials, so Ed wanted to move the dirt around before the heavy rains start. The rule is:
  " If there is sun, outside's the one. If it is wet, inside's the best bet."
 Ok, it's a cheesy rhyme, but it's the best I could do in a pinch.  Not only is the dirt heavier if it's soaking wet, but the tractor churns up the mud like a Cuisinart on steroids. It took two days to move the pile, and put it down on the road he's been working on. The first day was a nice day. The second day...not so much.
   By the end of the second day, things were pretty wet, but most of the dirt was gone. We spent the afternoon picking up construction debris and loading it into the truck. We then made the second dump run in a week.
   Now I can start planning! I see a kousa dogwood tree, a few small Japanese maples, some small lavender, rhodys...whatever the deer won't eat.

  Once the rains started, Ed moved back inside. The fireplaces will be installed tomorrow. Ed finished framing the upstairs fireplace.
    He also had to re-work the framing in the east bathroom. Because the plans showed no route for the HVAC ducting, we had to improvise. Some of it came up through the upstairs bathroom which completely changed the configuration of the bathroom. To retain the elements we wanted, ie, double sinks, we decided to take out the linen closet, put the sinks where the linen closet was going to be, and use an antique armoire for the linens instead. In practical terms, this meant, Ed had to rip out some framing that was already completed and re-do it. In mental terms, it was like removing a tooth with pliers. But once he made the decision, he went right to it. It'll be perfect.

He had some other details to complete upstairs, such as finishing the final pieces of fire blocking.

 He also had to frame in attic access panels in each upstairs closet, and one from the east upstairs closet to access the attic over the craft room. I'm not sure why these are code. I'm sure there is a logical reason...I'll let you know if I think of one.

    The good news is, tomorrow I fly south to visit family for a few days. The bad news is, the fireplaces will be installed tomorrow and I'll miss it. Hopefully Ed won't be too busy to take some photos. I'll only be gone for a few days, but things have started happening at a rapid pace.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two Cats In The Yard, Life Used To Be So Hard, Now Everything Is Easy Cause Of You

   Who would have believed that the huge pile of lumber and Trex deck in the driveway would be almost completely gone? We can actually use the driveway now!
    This week Ed and Rick finished up the exterior decking and stairs. It's low on the list of priorities, but before final inspection, the stairs going up to the apartment will be completely re-worked and tied into the deck. In the meantime, it'll be a little tight walking into the garage.

   This portion of deck goes from the front side between the house and the garage, to the back deck. There are stairs on either side, one set that come up to the craft room door, then some that come down the back and to the garage entrance.
    I can't even tell you how nice it is to have stairs going up to the back door. No more entry ladders! And I can almost avoid walking in wet sand...almost. Of course the dog and cats don't want to go along with the program. Nonetheless, the amount of sand being tracked into the apartment has been greatly reduced. Even so, I could probably make sand sculptures with the amount of stuff coming in.

  Kendra doesn't make much of a mess. Oh, she sheds a little, and she's tough on the baseboards which she uses as a scratching post, but for the most part she's about as slow as you'd expect a 17 year old cat to be. She does enjoy a nice winter fire. She sat in front of our Hearthstone Tribute stove for about 20 minutes, staring at the fire like it was a TV. We love this stove. It's attractive, and efficient. Maybe a little too efficient for 700 square feet of living space. We have to be conservative in it's use or we roast ourselves out of the room!

 Mittens and Midnight have a different approach to the use of the stove. The stove makes a nice backdrop for the food bowl, which is, apparently, where Midnight spends the..er..bulk..of his time. It's never too difficult to tell which twin is which with these two. Just remember to lift with the legs and use proper body mechanics when picking up one's cat. At 22 lbs., he's a workout.

   We had originally planned to put a Hearthstone stove on both floors, but finally decided to go with the BIS Tradition CE woodburning zero clearance fireplace. It is a very efficient non-catalytic fireplace, that will provide plenty of heat for our needs. Of course, we have a furnace system in the event we need that, but wood will be our first choice.

   I found a local supplier who will also be doing the installation of both fireplaces. I have every confidence Ed could handle the job, but this is one of those things that MUST be done absolutely correctly. Ed started working on framing up the surround. Since we have a fireplace upstairs and down, getting both stovepipes up the chimney will take some careful planning.
    Ed decided to build the surround on a piece of plywood so he could adjust the location when the installer is here, then nail the surround to the wall when it is in the perfect location. How does he think of that!?

 We will have a 12" rise for a hearth to make the fireplace more visible. It also makes a nice place to sit. There will be step-back bookcases on either side, in the Craftsman style. A nice book...a cup of tea...does it get much better than that?

Friday, October 29, 2010

You're Stairing or Tread Lightly

   After a very wet and rainy weekend, Ed and Rick framed in the rooms in the basement.  The utility room is just off the exterior basement roll-up door. In the center will be a media room, with stairs to the rest of the house, a game room, affectionately known as the Saloon, and the gym.
   Once the basement interior was framed, Ed started prepping for more cement. This time he's pouring the front stair base and the footing for the side deck which will connect the house to the garage.

The next morning he knocked the forms apart and started hanging the stringers which he had already cut. Because the stairs are made out of Trex deck, the stringers have to be every 16". This accommodates both the flex (Trex flex!) and the curvature of the stairs.

  Each tread piece went from stringer to stringer. Each riser was in three pieces. Between the risers and the stair treads, there were 110 pieces. Each piece had to be individually marked and cut.

   I had driven into town to order fireplaces and run errands. By the time I got home in the afternoon,  the front stairs were finished.  This is the first time we have been able to access the house without either going up a ladder, or entering through the basement.  I went up and down the stairs several times, just to try them out.  Aren't they beautiful?


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Storm's A'Coming

   Ed and Rick have been working to get the last of the shingling finished before the rain starts. Ed says it feels like he's been stapling shingles for years, but has really been two months. They stapled that first shingle the last week of August.
  Always thinking ahead, Ed wired in two electrical boxes for the Christmas lights. Then they began putting up the tongue-in-groove pine boards for the front porch soffit.

   It looks awesome! In fact it looks so good Ed decided to use it on the back porch soffit as well. We had originally used stained cedar plywood, but aren't happy with how it looks. Ed can just install this right over the plywood, and it will look so much better.
   Finally, that last shingle went on. It's a milestone, believe me!

   In the meantime, we had a run of really beautiful fall weather. I wanted to paint the basement door to match the faux carriage doors I painted on the garage.  It's a little silly because you can't really see the basement roll-up door. But that didn't slow me down.
   Over the basic white, and just to be sure, I put a coat of Kilz primer. You can never go wrong with a nice coat of primer.  I'm sure that's a proverb someplace..After the primer dried, I applied a coat of Valspar exterior satin, Natural Cork. Then a coat of 3 parts glaze, 1 part Natural Cork, and  1/2  part (?) of black. Brush it on, wipe it off. The darker color gets in the grooves of the simulated wood grain and adds a sense of depth.

   How lucky can I get? I awoke to another glorious day..cold in the morning and sunny all afternoon.  I got out my pencil, copied my design from my graph paper to the door and mixed the next color. This time, no glaze, 1 pint of Natural Cork, and 2 oz. of black.
   If the weather were not about to change, I would have let this dry for several days. OK, maybe not, because I have no patience, but I was having fun.

 I started painting the shadow lines.This is what defines the door, and makes it three dimensional. It took staring at photos of doors for quite some time for me to get this because I'm not artistic by nature. I also painted in some hinges and door handles. Later today I'll put some little detail touches on those pieces, using some touches of lighter paint to paint in screws, and create roundness on the door handles.

    What a feeling! The entire exterior of the house is secure, locks are on the doors, and sealed to the weather. We were so concerned that we wouldn't have it done in time before winter arrived.  Today is going to be the last decent day for a while. It feels good to know it can storm all it wants, without ill effect. Ed has worked so hard to get it done. Now he can take a breath!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Hot Ragtime or That Burns My Britches

The shingling continues. Ed is really tired of it, but he expects to be done this week. He's really looking forward to that! This is the east side of the house. Those darned corbels are a pain to put up, because it requires about 6 trips up and down the ladder. Carry up the base. Measure the length and  angle. Go down the ladder. Cut the angle off the base. Go back up the ladder. Secure the base. Go back down the ladder. Get the corbel. Go up the ladder. Like that.

 After the east side was done, they moved to the back and worked on the second story. I love the way the shingles wrap around the top of the center window. Each shingle had to be cut to fit. Ed has an amazing eye for detail, and it really shows.

   In the meantime, it's been my job to stain and seal the front door, sidelights and transom. I used Minwax pre-stain wood treatment to help the stain go on more evenly. It's a mixture of varnish and paint thinner. Then I used  Minwax gel stain, Aged Oak, and Minwax urethane sealer.

   Note To Self: Do not take a rag full of paint thinner and stain and stick it in your back jeans pocket for several hours.
   I was waiting for one coat to dry, and was checking my e-mail, when I felt a horrible pain in my back. "Oh great," I thought "I've pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve or something." It was pretty intense, and getting stronger. I finally realized that darned paint rag in my back pocket had soaked through and was burning my skin. I wound up with a nasty burn the size of ..well..a pants pocket..on my ..er..hip. I probably won't do that again!
The good news is, the door looks great. It is a Simpson door in douglas fir. The stile in the center of the door echoes the shape of the columns on the porch.

The locksets we decided on  are Emtek Arts and Crafts edition, with glass knobs on the interior side. I'm thrilled. They are beautiful.
   I'm always a little nervous ordering items sight unseen on the internet, but this was definitely a very good choice.

 They are heavy and solid. The mechanics work smoothly and quietly. And they just make my heart sing every time I look at them. That's a good thing because there are eight doors that will have them.

  Yesterday I stained piece after piece of 6" tongue-in-groove boards for the front porch soffits. No, I didn't put anything in my back pocket.I did manage to get it all stained without further injury.
  As soon as Ed and Rick are done with the shingles, the soffit will be the next project.

Just about the time I was done with the staining, the Milgard representative showed up to finish the last of the corrections on the windows. In no time at all he changed out the regular glass and installed the tempered glass.  The windows are finally correct and complete.

  This morning, Overhead Door Co. showed up to install the basement roll up door. They were done, cleaned up and out of here in two hours. I'll probably paint this door to match the faux carriage doors on the garage, but I'll need three days of good weather to do that, and rain is predicted for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Is The Song That Never Ends

  Ed is still shingling. Have I mentioned the shingles? They go on and on. Ed finished the west side of the house, which is the weather side. It was also the highest, scariest side to work on.
   Now that it's autumn, and the leaves are coming off the trees, you can see the house from the road. As you come up the valley, this is the first glimpse of the house. Those beautiful cedar shingles, placed one by one, are a striking sight.

 But....second verse, same as the first. Ed and Rick moved over to the other side of the house and began again. At least by this time, Ed has stopped worrying about the weather. He's confident he can get the shingles on before the heavy rains start. We're also finally getting that beautiful fall weather.  It's cold in the morning, and clear and 65* during the day, perfect working weather.

Ed put up the corbels (lookouts..I'm never sure what to call them..) and kept moving up.

  Ed and Rick have put up about 50 boxes of shingles. Each box covers 50 square feet. Ed figures he'll use about  six more boxes. Two staples per shingle, sometimes three for the big ones. Every piece that angles against the roof or window trim has to be cut to fit. That's a lot of custom fitting. It's a lot of cardboard boxes to the recycle bin. The best byproduct is the trim of the shingles. It makes great kindling for the fireplace!

It just goes on and on. I would be overwhelmed by the size of the project, but Ed says to just take it in small daily steps.

 "Slow and steady wins the race", he reminds me.
And, of course, he's right. He's finishing up the sides of the dormer today, and will finish the front this week.

   In the meantime, the correct front door was delivered, and I got right to work. The door is douglas fir, so I used a pre-stain treatment on the wood before I stained it. I used the same stain on the front door as I used on the Codel fiberglass french doors, Minwax gel stain, Aged Oak. It comes out a little darker on the fir than the fiberglass, which is fine.
As soon as it warms up a little bit this morning, I'll put on the first coat of sealer.

   The bane of my existence has become the Codel fiberglass french doors. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have bought Codel doors. My first inkling was when I tried to call their customer service line after mis-applying the gel stain. That was not a happy or productive experience, but I thought "Hey, every company has an employee that doesn't know which end is up."

   We bought six sets of in-swing french doors. As I began to stain one set, I noticed the embossed grain on the one door was completely different than the other five sets.  Most of them are embossed to look like an actual wood door. I mean, that's the point isn't it?

   The one set has the grain all going the same direction, vertically. It looks like somebody took a big piece of plywood, cut a hole in the middle for the glass, and called it a door. It's awful! I called the window and door company we bought them through, who agreed it didn't sound normal and said they would have the Codel representative call us.
   Kal, the Codel representative called us the next morning. After some back and forth calling, Kal advised us that the french doors are made in three widths. The wide and narrow width doors are made as a normal door is made, as our five other sets are made. The middle size, is manufactured differently. Neither the distributor in Longview, nor Kal, the Codel representative had even been aware of this, which apparently is why we hadn't been advised when we bought the doors. Codel would be willing to replace this door with a smaller or larger door, but they wouldn't cover the new framing. Just to be clear, framing includes the exterior custom door trim, the shingles that surround the trim, and the transom window over the door, all of which are already in place. All of those would have to be torn out and  replaced out of our pocket. And Ed would have to suspend shingling the rest of the south side of the house until the new door and new transom window were manufactured and  installed. Did I mention we have only two weeks of decent weather before winter is here? Other than that Codel had no solution for us, nor were they particularly concerned.
   Words fail me. The door looks horrible, and it would cost over $1000.00 to rework the door opening. If I win the lottery, the first thing going to the dump are these Codel doors.

  In spite of this aggravation, life is good. Every day that the work gets done without anyone falling or getting injured is a good day. We have food on the table, love in our hearts, and hope for the next day. Bright blessings surround us.