OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2005

OCTOBER 1, 2005
There are several websites Greg has discovered that have given him a world of valuable information for our project. You might want to check them out:

http://www.buildingscience.com/

http://www.jlconline.com/cgi-bin/jlconline.storefront

http://www.taunton.com/finehomebuilding/index.asp

http://www.umass.edu/bmatwt/publications/index.html
(Search by "Keyword")

OCTOBER 3, 2005
Greg returned from his exhausting whirlwind trip to "roofing school" late this evening. He learned alot and came back feeling very confident about the installation. He must've taken over 100 digital pictures of every phase of the operation including closeups of materials and tools. He'll refer to these when we begin to do the roof as sort of a refresher course.

As I mentioned a ways back, I spent hours on the internet searching for just the right roof to go with our design - and one that had a price we could live with. The most common metal roof is called standing seam which is a bit too contemporary. Our roof by Stonecrest/Tamko is Metalworks Slate in Quaker Green. This shot taken during Greg's roofing class
gives a good look at the (more or less) finished product.

Meanwhile, we had a long discussion about timetables and reassessed our gameplan. Unlike the roof in California, ours is very steep; anywhere from 8/12 to 12/12 pitch which means it's difficult and uncomfortable to install, not to mention scary. You can bet we'll be using safety harnesses and plenty of scaffolding. With the rains and cold weather coming on, here's what we've decided: we must get this place "buttoned up" meaning weatherproofed. Before the sheathing began, all of the plywood was primed with a flat exterior primer (even when wet, it's not any more slippery than unpainted wood) for extra protection against the weather . Greg checked with the APA (American Plywood Association) if using the primer would affect moisture transference - as no one it seems ever paints roof sheathing. And the APA said it was a good idea. After the roof sheathing is complete, Greg will caulk the roof with mastic (a type of super adhesive). Then he'll install the underlayment to the roof which should make us pretty much water tight. The mastic will give us some water protection until we get the underlayment down. That way we can begin to do the plumbing and electrical and wait to put the actual roof on in the late Spring/early Summer when the weather is more user friendly.

All this means it'll be much later when we "move over" and it could very well be as late as Fall. Can you say "depressing"!

While Greg was driving back from California, our contractor worked on
sheathing the roof. Those horizontal studs are for safety and give you a place to put your feet, but as you can see, you can't allow for every situation. How he's doing this all by himself is amazing since we lost our young laborer to a full-time job. (We let him know early on we were a "one time thing" and he shouldn't pass up the opportunity for long-term employment.) Greg would like to work with the contractor on the sheathing, but once Greg gets back at the job his time will be taken up with a myriad of other projects.

OCTOBER 5, 2005
Our excavator Les has started several projects we need to get moving on. One is a
retaining wall near the South side of the house. It's common to construct retaining walls with the aid of an excavator out of boulders made of basalt which are much less expensive than a built-by-hand stone wall. I've had Les leave the boulders loosely packed so I can plant some type of trailing groundcover in the soil between the rocks to get that "been there for a long time" effect.

Also our waterfall designer/landscaper Jeff stopped by and
he and I worked together on a general plan. To his left is where we've decided to put our pond. Both the pond and the waterfall, which will be installed where that dirt mountain is above my right shoulder, will be prominently visible from the livingroom, the diningroom, and the kitchen. It should be quite breathtaking with the forest and the Olympic Mountains in the background. He used the plywood decking to sketch out a few ideas. We had thought he'd begin work on the waterfall about now, but we've decided he can wait until nicer weather in the Spring which will give him extra time to think about design.

Since we're short a laborer,
guess who's taken his place? Greg has me using a power tool called a palm nailer to drive nails into metal plates that help secure the trusses and protect against strong winds that could tear a roof right off.

These images will be difficult to make heads or tails of, but I'm standing in the diningroom and
looking out past the "new" opening which now gives a dramatic view of the confluence of ceilings in the entry/gallery area. On the left of the image is a small portion of plywood. Resting on top of it is the end of the 9' ceiling and then the room opens up to reveal the high pitched ceilings in the common area.

OCTOBER 7, 2005
Got word from the customer service rep that they will waive the restocking fee for the roofing material returns - we just have to pay for shipping. But hold on, we found out that shipped with our roof by error were "old style" sheets which don't match. So it looks like a bunch of material will have to be exhanged and, hopefully, we'll probably be able to "hitch a ride" for our returns and save the shipping fees.

The horrible hurricanes are affecting the prices and availability of everything imaginable - especially building materials. Some stores are limiting the quantity you can purchase on certain items. The rainy season has begun and we needed to tarp over lots of our stored building supplies and it looks like the price of tarps has just about doubled! Just add the extra tarps to items we'll be selling eventually.

Les was here working on digging our the dirt for
our pond, which will, if plans and budget work out, go just to the left of our waterfall feature. While he did that, I decided to do a little grooming of the flora nearby. Only problem was it began to pour. But I was so wrapped up in what I was doing, I ended up drenched from head to toe.

OCTOBER 8, 2005
Our neighbors, Beth & Jerry, who live just up the hill from our rental house just happen to be sheet metal artists. When I saw what they were able to create using flat sheets of tin (or whatever it is they use), I was just bowled over and overflowing with possibilities. We had them stop by today to discuss several projects.

One of the main projects is the beams in the livingroom ceiling. Months ago I saw
this picture in a magazine and was hoping we'd be able to incorporate a version of this in our home. And with Beth & Jerry's expertise and creativity, it looks like we'll get something extraordinary and within our budget. These beams will be "for looks only" and the fact they'll be constructed of lightweight metal won't cause any engineering problems. The ultimate design will have a mixture of gothic arch, art deco, and art nouveau. I plan to finish the metal with some type of faux rust or mottled faux copper paint...

I also want a detail at the opening of the portico over the front porch leading to the front door. Something on the order of a timberframe look but incorporating our design themes.

And, almost at the last minute, we discussed what we can do with the
exterior of the turret. (Those long studs coming out of the windows are for the scaffolding we'll need to work up there.) Since it's mostly window with very little exterior wall, coming up with a workable material was posing a bit of a problem. But Beth & Jerry suggested we use our metal slate roofing material and create some type of framing around the windows with sheet metal. It was so exciting to be discussing something visual instead of lumber and cement and "guts". Although both Greg and I collaborate on all issues, generally he's the expert of the "skeleton" and I'm more concerned with the "skin" of the project.

OCTOBER 12, 2005
Our house really is a bit of a monster.
This picture doesn't really let you see how it fits into the surroundings, so I stood back on the street and took this picture. And here's another view of the progress so far. I don't want to say we've bitten off more than we can chew because it WILL get finished, but boy there's so much yet to do - thousands and thousands of details. If I look at it that way, it seems it'll never get done, so I just keep repeating, "one foot in front of the other".

Meanwhile, the roof sheathing continues...

OCTOBER 14, 2005
Attended my Natural Landscaping Class yesterday and learned lots of good stuff...

Our site or parcel (or anyone's for that matter) can be divided into three sections or zones. This is called the Zone Approach to maintaining the environment. The first zone is your house and nearby areas that will, necessarily, be the least natural area - where you put most of your ornamentals, lawn, etc. The second zone is a transitional area that begins to have more and more natural flora, and the third zone is totally wild or forested. Even homes in city environments can adopt this approach and works especially well if you get your neighbors involved. That way all backyards come together to create a wildlife corridor.

I also learned that basically anything wild that's growing there, with the exception of invasive plants or noxious weeds, is there for a purpose and serves both the soil, animals, and insects. So while most people here would yank out less showy trees like Alder, I found that this tree not only hosts beneficial insects, but its leaf litter enriches the soil for all plants.

Meanwhile, Greg and Mike are continuing to work on the roof sheathing. It's been raining lately and it seems that the caulking is doing a pretty good job of keeping the water out. But still, it's depressing walking through water-soaked rooms where the sheathing hasn't been installed yet. The sheathing will take another two weeks or so to complete, since only the two of them are working on it.

Our excavator has been working for us sporadically and he just got done prepping our swing site. We brought a swing from "back home" with us since it was a costly item that had to be engineered and was constructed out of 1000 pounds of steel. We found a site on the property overlooking the mountains but the
pad needed to be smoothed out and eventually we'll add a few inches of pea gravel.

More and more we realize what a huge undertaking we've created here. But we discussed this again and again and came to realize that a) we couldn't have bought an existing house to remodel. With Greg's knowledge of proper building techniques and all, I can just imagine his exasperation when he opened up walls to find substandard workmanship and out-dated technology. And b) it would be so much simpler if we just were "clueless" and had no idea what we wanted out of our home. But trouble is, we do! And although this is taking a good three to four years out of our lives - which is a depressing thought since we're getting to "the golden years" - we wouldn't have been happy living in this house for (hopefully) another twenty or thirty years and know if we had stuck it out we could have had exactly what we wanted. So, we both have our bad days and wish this "never-ending work cycle" had never begun, but we try and try to keep our eyes on the prize.

OCTOBER 25, 2005
Now that most of the roof is sheeted and caulked, most of the interior is dry and I've been able to do a good house cleaning, picking up dropped nails and sweeping up sawdust. This has brightened both our moods I think...to see a little order amidst the chaos.

I try and watch what Greg does to adopt some "construction work site savvy". Case in point, I watched Greg hump up a huge piece of plywood from downstairs. The secret is leaning the board against your back and grabbing it from behind with your hands. So while I was sweeping up I tried it and found I was able to move these sheets that are almost twice as tall as I am with little effort.

I've also been spending lots of time grooming the grounds and my fingers are so sore from arthritis. But it's definitely worth it. I'm just removing nearby debris and noxious weeds and pruning tree trunks for aesthetics.

The days have been rainy and gray. If we were living in our new home already, I would absolutely love every minute of it. But the rain slows work and definitely increases the difficulty, especially when working on the roof. I don't know what
these two guys are smiling about. It's an awfully steep roof: they're working above the second floor, just below the turret.

With only Greg and Mike working on the roof, its slow going. We're estimating another two to three weeks to get the rest of the sheeting done and install the underlayment. Greg and Mike have saved the best...or should I say scariest...for last. The entry and livingroom roof pitch is 12/12 and 9/12. Translation: steep. So, they've been working out the kinks in their approach to the work and hopefully this should make that portion safer and a bit quicker to do.

OCTOBER 26, 2005
....And the sheathing continues....

Since the 19th they've been spending time framing below the turret which has required working out some design elements to give it some interest. The end result is
four small gabled roofs ringing the turret with wide eaves and three corbels each. A corbel is an architectural element that helps support the eaves or overhang. Since the turret is so high up....47 feet...we're trying to do as much finish work up there as possible so that we can complete that entire section and not have to restage scaffolding later. And that includes priming and eventually painting the finish coats.

OCTOBER 27, 2005
Now they've completed all the sheathing with the exception of the entry and livingroom.
Today they worked on the livingroom and solariun roof. The livingroom is the steepest roof. They first
tackled the back side and then worked on the small roof overhanging the solarium, parts of which are 17 or 18/12 pitch! Hey guys, stop kidding around!

We've recently bought some old growth cedar to use as the facia and other exterior details. We had it custom milled to allow for especially thick and wide dimensions. It's important to air dry wood properly and Greg used materials left over on the job to create a
huge drying shed for this custom-milled wood. He's so ingenious. The truss company had made a mistake and had to replace some trusses. Greg used the old ones to help construct the shed.

OCTOBER 28, 2005
They've begun to work on sheathing the entry/front porch area.

OCTOBER 29, 2005
While Greg reviewed the past week's work, I was sowing seeds. Through my Natural Landscaping course, we visited a local nursery that specializes in native plants. The owner of the Shore Road Nursery is Dave Allen and his knowledge is boundless. Since we had to basically destroy the natural vegetation over the drainfield, I wanted to prevent erosion with the coming rainy season and also put back something that was natural and would attract wildlife. So Dave made me up a custom mix of grasses and gave me a couple of barrels of prime dairy manure/compost to help broadcast it over the field.

It's been raining, but Greg's idea of caulking the seams of the sheathing is keeping us 95% dry in the completed areas. However, there are a few drops getting in and so we went around and marked where the drips were with a fluorescent paint so that he can patch those later.

OCTOBER 31, 2005
It's Halloween. No matter, it's Monday...and back to work. Our contractor was able to enlist another pair of hands to finish off the sheathing for the steep
livingroom roof and entry/portico. So against gray skies, the two men take measurements for the sheets of plywood while Greg keeps things moving and mans the table saw down below to precut the pieces to size.

NOVEMBER 4, 2005

The Slow Burn

Your workers are not there to save you money and economize and use material efficiently. They’re there to pound nails and get the stuff up. For instance, they’re working on the second floor and they need a 1 ft 2x4 or a 2x2 ft piece of plywood scrap. You’ve created a boneyard of scrap material that's down on the first floor. But right next to your workers is a 20 ft length 2x4 or a full sheet of plywood. Do you think they’ll walk down to the boneyard to get that scrap? Nope! They’ll cut it out of the 20 footer or that pristine sheet of plywood. And then later on they’ll say you didn’t order enough material. And you’ll look over at this beautiful boneyard and do a slow burn.

A slow burn waiting to happen: our metal roof is an easy installation and each piece is approximately 12” x 4’. These will be cut at varying spots to create the staggered look of the tile design. So, we’ll have a boneyard of metal roofing material the majority of which is still usable fairly quickly . We’re pretty darn sure we ordered the right amount of squares. But if the workers don’t efficiently use the scraps where only a small piece is required and instead cut it out of a full piece each time, then guess what? We’ll run short of roofing material and we’ll end up buying 10 additional (and unnecessary) squares. And there goes your painstakingly calculated budget. And the possibility of having to wait for supplies to arrive.

The Slow Burn Part II
Instructions are there for a reason!

One of Greg's major pet peeves: being told "oh, you don't need to do it that way!" when confronted with a manufacturer's installation instructions. Manufacturers put hundreds of thousands of dollars into product research and development, not to mention safety requirements. They must know something we don't know. Not to mention the upsetting reality that many items are installed incorrectly but the homeowner won't know about a brewing problem until months or more likely years down the line. Greg works diligently to make sure this doesn't happen to us.

Today's accomplishments: finishing the roof sheathing, including
installing the roof underlayment, aka Feltex, to the turret.

NOVEMBER 8, 2005
Today was our exterior framing inspection...we passed! Now it's on to putting in windows and putting up Tyvek (the plastic that goes between the exterior plywood and under the siding and/or stonework). We're expecting the window installation to be a monumental job given the sizes (up to 8' x 6') and number (38).

The roof sheathing was rather a slow process with only 2-3 people working on 5000 plus square feet of roof area. So, they began putting in the windows and managed to get the two in my office and the two bedroom windows installed by late afternoon.

But there's still hours and hours of framing pick up to do.

NOVEMBER 9, 2005
Greg is very concerned with moisture barriers. You'd think, coming from the California climate, rain damage would be rare. But even in California, most of the repair work Greg did on the Beverly Hills mansions he worked on for twenty years, was due to rain. Any opening in the roof or a wall has a potential for leakage. When Greg researched the best flashing for windows he discovered a product by
Grace called Vycor Plus. While Mike and Garland, our "guest" worker for the week, muscled in the windows, Greg prepped each opening with the Vycor using a heat gun and a roller to insure the seal was weathertight. The Vycor is installed at the base of the window opening and all around the exterior. And then another layer is applied after the window is in place, along with the Tyvek installation.

Meanwhile, I had stayed home for the past week catching up on office work. When I came in today, the place really needed some tidying up. Having any of the team spend valuable time on cleaning is not only a waste of money, but a waste of their talents. So this kind of thing falls to me. No matter, I like putting things in order - keeps me sane. Or at least postpones my going completely off the deep end!

Since it's so far up in the air, we're planning on finishing everything that has to do with the turret before we take down the scaffolding that was specially constructed for the task. That means the roof sheathing, underlayment, and metal roof will have to be completed. Also, the facia, the siding, and trim. This requires prepainting and staining. And it also requiring the completion of a design project.

We had planned all along to have a weathervane at the top of the turret. We already own one but since the turret is 45+ feet off the ground, the scale was much too small. An internet search for a larger one made me realize they were way out of our price range - anywhere from $1500 to $3000. So I came up with what I think is a very good substitute. In fact, I like it much better than anything I found so far. I have a vast file of images of my favorite subject, the man in the moon. I took one of my favorite images of a sculpture, printed it out, and made a tracing. Then I started adding character lines to give some definition to the face. I then made a decision to cut out the area where the lines appear (as opposed to having those lines painted on) because these would read better when viewed from the ground. Once I was happy with the final drawing, I emailed it to a local metal worker who uses a plasma cutter. He was able to
reproduce my drawing exactly. He worked fast and a day later I had a 3 1/2' foot moonman cut out from a plate of 10 gauge steel. Next, I'll take it to the local welders to have a curved pole attached to the back side which will fit into the holder for placement on the turret roof. After that, I'm taking it to a powder coater and having a metallic copper paint applied to give it some "sparkle" in addition to protecting it from the weather. Since the piece is made of a sheet of flat steel, it won't be a conventional weathervane that moves...it's more like a stationary "flag". But once it's up, that means at least from the outside, the turret will be complete - the first completed project for our home.

One project begets another. Now Greg has to look into lightning protection.

I've also had some time to work on the design for those beams in the livingroom. Our friends Beth & Jerry are also sheet metal artists. Last month they came by to look at the space and we discussed what I wanted in broad detail.

Using pictures from magazine articles, mail order catalogs, and other items of inspiration, I began to sketch out some ideas. Then I scanned the images into the computer and worked with them in Photoshop. I think I'm pretty happy with
this.

NOVEMBER 11, 2005
We're well into the rainy season and it began pouring by late afternoon. Depending on the task at hand, you have to be able to change your game plan with the weather so that expensive workers aren't standing around doing nothing.

But at least something is going much faster than estimated. All of our windows have been installed! When we were "guestimating" how much time it would take, we put aside three weeks. But thanks to a
winch system provided by our contractor, and with the assistance of an additional man, the installation was completed in four days. Here, the window is pulled up by the winch and guided into place. They finished just before the downpour shut down work for the day.

And still there's hours and hours of framing pick up to do.

NOVEMBER 12, 2005
A few words about comfort on a construction site...

For the most part, a construction site is the epitome of primitive conditions. When we broke ground back in April, we were in the midst of a rainy spring. There were times when we were freezing, soaked, muddy to the bone and spent hours in wet clothing. Let me tell ya, driving your car while sitting in wet clothes is no fun at all.

Our contractor usually works alone and over the years came up with some "comfort" items which he brings to every job. When he first set up he brought his
homemade picnic table, a microwave and a water dispenser which he kept filled with bottled water and ice. This was great to have on hot days working outside under the hot sun. The Sanikan/port-a-potty was a welcome addition (not to mention a requirement) which we made sure arrived at the very beginning.

And now that a few months have passed, we've perfected our stable of comfort items to include the following: sunblock, several pairs of work gloves, rainjackets, extra pairs of jeans, sweatshirts and shoes. The picnic table has plenty of condiments: hot sauce, mustard, salt & pepper, sugar, Sweet&Low, powdered cream, tea and instant coffee, jugs of water, cans of sardines, and packets of instant soup. And an endless supply of bottled sport drinks. Various disposable cups, plates and plasticware, paper towels and Kleenex. And now that the cold/rainy season is upon us, we've even talked of getting a cheap used clothes dryer. And our contractor lugged in his
pot bellied stove which we gather round at lunch and brakes and is fed with wood scraps.

Our large construction bin, which we're renting for the duration of the project to serve as a storage facility and office, now has lights, telephone, internet, and a space heater.

NOVEMBER 14, 2005
Today we began
installing the Tyvek, or house wrap, a protective layer between the framing and the exterior finish. This material goes between the plywood sheer paneling and the exterior finish, which in our case will be stone and siding. Since we're in the thick of Fall and Winter's colder and wetter weather is just around the corner, we'll just have to take it one day at a time when it comes to moving ahead with these projects.

NOVEMBER 16, 2005
Today at I met with a representative from the Conservation District to assess our property's native vegetation. It turns out we have a wonderful diversity. It's likely that many counties have such conservation districts which encourage leaving the landscape as natural as possible. Often these programs offer financial assistance to property owners.

NOVEMBER 18, 2005
The
Tyvek installation went quickly and is now complete. Now Greg is concentrating on the turret.

NOVEMBER 19, 2005
Worked with Les completing the retaining wall so that I could, finally, plant my 200-300 daffodil and iris bulbs. It will definitely be something to look forward to in the Spring.

NOVEMBER 21, 2005
Now that the Tyvek is done, Greg has been working on framing out the front door so the stonework can be installed up to it. The finished front door will be an
oversized Gothic arch. Greg uses a plywood template for placement, shape, and size. The framing surrounding the door will be a series of stepped-out moldings which will give the door mass.

NOVEMBER 22, 2005
Since weather is a huge factor now, we hired roofers to install the roof underlayment. They
began yesterday and finished today. We decided to give this over to the "professionals" since time is of the essence. Now we should be pretty much water tight so we can begin working on plumbing and electrical. Also today, the gutter for the turret was installed. It was difficult to get someone to brave the height and steep roofline so Greg worked right along with the installer. Greg installed the underlayment for the turret roof by himself and also plans to install the metal roofing in the next week or so. We want the turret to be completely finished so that when we remove the specially built scaffolding, we won't have to worry about getting up there again. The cherry on top will be the installation of the weathervane and that project should be completed in the next couple of weeks.

NOVEMBER 27, 2005
It's been snowing and the temperatures have been down to as low as 24 degrees at night. Translation: we won't be installing any exterior stone work any time soon. It's much too cold for the cement grout to cure. To be safe, we probably won't begin this project until Springtime. As we said before, it's very difficult to get workers here to heed manufacturer's product installation warnings. If it were up to them, we'd be mixing up cement now.

Today is Sunday, so Greg took this "quiet" day to concentrate on
the turret roof. By day's end, he had almost completed one of the eight sections.


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