Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Arriving home (home? - we don't HAVE a home...) after our summer vacation, we were pleased to see that nearly all of the windows had been installed. This is the long narrow window at the end of the downstairs hall. Describing this space for you just doesn't do it justice: it's beautiful. At the end of the long hallway that runs the length of the first floor, the ceiling abruptly shoots up five feet or so underneath the stairs that lead from the second floor to floor 2.5. This window and the light it lets in will accent the height of this space and help draw one's gaze down this otherwise narrow, dark hallway.

The house has been wrapped and strapped, too. As soon as the next draw is made Bud will be ordering the siding - a kind of plywood called MDO (medium density overlay) - which I will then have to prime and paint prior to installation. Also, you can see that the main exterior stairway has been roughed in, allowing us to finally experience entering the building as intended by the architects. Notice how the metal roofing extends out over the stairs on this side. This not only provides protection from the elements but it creates a sheltered feeling that is inviting. Can't wait to see the rest of it go in.

OK, here's a quiz: what's missing from this view? If you have been following the blog, you should be able to pick it out easily. OK, part II: WHY? (Here's a hint: it has to do with the bank...)

The windows on this side really complete the look. We specified the "bronze" finish: real nice. (That's my number 2 down there...)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Now we're rolling

Finally I get to do something other than PLAN: laying out the kitchen. Working from the architects' plans and the IKEA catalog, I very carefully located and then sketched out the cabinets and appliances on the subfloor of the kitchen. When the plumber arrives sometime in the next couple of weeks, he will know exactly where to run his lines.

This is evidence that my hunch was correct: things are really rolling at the site. At this particular moment there were no fewer than eight vehicles jammed onto the site. Ben Walker and his crew have been working feverishly to get all the framing finished up inside the house so that they can vacate the interior and leave it to the subs: electricians, plumbers, etc. Every time I show up at the site Ben has a list of questions and he has been urging me to go over every detail multiple times to be sure we have gotten everything. Some of the tasks they have been finishing up include: framing the stairs, pocket doors, framing in the tubs and showers, finishing up the kids' lofts, final window cuts, and SIPs.

This is our roof being delivered: it consists of sheets of galvanized metal. I am told that they will begin installing it this week. Apparently the subs can't come in until the building is water-tight. That means the roof needs to be on, windows and doors in, and the basement poured. Seems like a lot still to do...

Ben and Tim weighing down the end of the metal sheets as the truck attempts to drive off. I eventually had to jump on, too...had to put down the camera, though.

Bud's dog, Louis (pronounced the French way!).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Home Depot's Gonna Own Me

Well, maybe not quite, but this morning's purchace of nearly a thousand bucks worth of bathroom fixtures was a step in that direction. At this point in the game I am actually stopping and carefully reading the promotions for HD credit cards with no interest or payments for 12 months (that's for appliances only, but it might be enough to make me buy them there!)

Let me back up. I am going to say something that I might need to retract in the future, BUT (here it goes) I think (*think*) that work at the site might be shifting into high gear. After the big nine-day absence there is a true flurry of activity going on every day (for the last five days, at least) at the site. Last Thursday when I took my routine drive over to the site what should I see but two cars and three pickup trucks wedged into the site. There were no fewer than six people there working on the house: what a thrill! Since then it has been every day, all day and LOTS of progress. Seriously though, this feels so good.
Leo cutting up the remaining scraps of SIPs to place under the eaves of the roof above him. If you click here you can see what this elevation will look like. There are these long strips of windows that run latitudinally from end to end. Instead of buying SIPs panels that stretched from the sill to the roofline and then cutting out massive amounts of SIPS Bud decided to order shorter lengths and then use scraps to fill in around the window openings - kind of the reverse of the process I previously described.

This shot makes it look like there is nobody on site, but they are all inside: the builder, the forman, the forman's nephew, and the three-man Brazilian crew (of which Leo is the head). Back to the Home Depot story: I purchased two fiberglass shower stall inserts, one tub/shower insert, and one bathtub, rented the HD truck, got some assistance loading everything on it (all those hours of Tetris paying off right here), and made it to the site and back to HD before my 75 minutes ran out. In this shot you can see the fixtures sitting on the ground where we deposited them.

Big achievement today: we got stairs. What a difference it makes to be able to walk up stairs to GO up stairs - no more ladders. The treads are temporary (don't want to mess up the real ones) but nevertheless, this is a nice step (ooo...)

These are the steps up to the third floor loft. Gonna need some serious railings on this one...

This window grouping is going to become the signature of the house. From inside or out, it kind of defines the space. I find it really dramatic and exciting. The light it lets into the interior is fantastic. Can't wait for you to see it in person.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Melting styrofoam (and braincells...)

In the previous post I mentioned I had no pictures to illustrate how they prepare the window openings in the SIPs by melting a channel in the insulation (see previous post for a more detailed explanation). Being that it is a summer Saturday and seeing as the kids were otherwise occupied, I headed over to the site to try to document the process before it's all over. Leo was happy to demonstrate on a piece of scrap SIP.

Leo wields the home-made melter. It is basically a big soldering iron ( I guess) whose heated coil is the width of a 2x4 (as well as the dimension of the SIPs' foam insulation) with a bar across to top to control the depth.

Leo sinks the heated end into the foam (like butter - really cool! He let me try ;-)

... and then draws it down, melting out the channel.

With a flick of the wrist, the foam is removed...

...leaving a channel just the right width and depth to accept a 2x4. When the windows are delivered and ready to go in, they will simply be fit into the opening and nailed into the 2x4 nailers. Pretty neat invention. It goes quickly, too. In just a couple of days these guys have cut nearly all of the window and door openings and installed the nailers.

It is great to see all these openings opening up around the house, letting in light in new and interesting ways. The windows designed by our architects are *anything* but "typical"- which I love. See the links to the architects' designs for the elevations of the Bare Hill Barn House in the post below and you'll see what I mean.

Letting in the light

After mysteriously disappearing for nine days (NINE DAYS!) the crew was back on the job yesterday cutting the widow openings into the SIPs. (Aside: what is it about this business [contracting] that those you have hired to do a job can simply *disappear* for nine days? If I had dropped my car off at the mechanics for a tune up and I didn't get a call for nine days, can you imagine...? This has been one of the most frustrating aspects of this project: the unpredictable nature of the work schedule of our builders. From everyone I have spoken to, this is entirely typical...all the more reason to scratch one's head and wonder about the profession.)

We have a front door! (Or an opening for one, at least.)

This has been really cool: watching the window openings being cut into the SIPs: being able to see where the windows will go, where and how the light enters the interior, watching as the fa├žades begin to look more and more like the drawings we have been looking at for nearly a year now. Basically how this works is that they mark out the dimensions of the opening and simply cut out the hole. Since SIPs are structural, this is nearly all that is required to prepare for installation of the windows. NEARLY all. I don't have a good image of this yet, but once the opening is cut, they take this electric heating coil-thing (technical term) and MELT out the insulation around the window leaving a channel in the SIPs exactly the size of a 2x4. Then 2x4s are inserted into the channel and nailed in; these will act as nailers for the installation of the windows. Pretty cool stuff.

One of the interesting aspects of our house is that the windows (since they are inserted into the SIPs and the SIPs are attached to the exterior of the frame) are outside of the frame and in a number of cases are interrupted by certain members of the frame. This is the window in the upstairs bathroom. Looking through this window will require a visual encounter with a hurricane brace.

...same is true in the boy's room. This window is about 12' off the floor.

To see the architect's renderings of what these facades will eventually look like, click here...

...and here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Easier said than done

Some background: Yesterday the trucking company from which we have been leasing this huge box trailer for the past year or so was supposed to come and pick it up. They called at around 7:30 in the morning to say that they were on their way. I had to then deal with a little moral dilemma. Now, I had told my builder on multiple (stress *multiple*) occasions that the trailer was scheduled to be picked up on the 2nd, so part of me said, "Hey, don't bug him - he knows! You'll just sound like his mother!" However, as my dear insightful wife pointed out, if he HADN'T remembered then all the tools and building materials stored INSIDE the trailer would be on their way to Rhode Island, thus delaying the project further (hard to image it being further delayed...) So, I called. And yes, it was good that I did. An hour later I was over at the site helping the forman's nephew unload all the junk in the trailer. As it turned out, the driver had some problems on the way up (rock through the windshield) and we had to postpone until today...

OK, so this morning the truck shows up, hooks up, and proceeds to dig his wheels into the soft layer of gravel that was conveniently covering that specific spot on the site. Each new attempt got his wheels dug deeper in.

Of course, THIS didn't help either. When the trailer was delivered, it was early Spring, the ground was very soft and the trailer heavy...So, in addition to trying to deal with the gravel and dirt up above, there was the little matter of the stuck wheels down below. We spent approximately two and a half hours trying every trick in the book to get the trailer out: rocks and boards under the wheels, unhooking the truck and trying from a different angle, digging out the wheels, etc. etc. Nothing worked. We stood there scratching our heads until the distant roar of diesel engines finally registered. There was a construction site at the end of the street. Maybe they could help. The driver set off on foot to check it out...

...and two minutes later, along comes this huge fork truck, driven by a leathery-faced older guy whose hard hat said, "Vinny". OK! Vinny to the rescue!

Vinny deftly maneuvered the fork truck behind the stuck trailer, set the tines of the fork under the rear end of the trailer, lifted a bit, and on the signal, gunned the engine simultaneously with the truck, and "POP!", out it came. What a great site. All I had was my digital camera, but I managed to film the event; see the YouTube video feed in the post below.

After the dust had settled, this is what was left: an unobstructed view of the house - a nice change after looking at the trailer all these months.