APRIL - MAY 2005

APRIL 9, 2005


Less than a year of moving here, we have "broken ground" on our new home! Whew! It's been a whirlwind since we began this grand adventure....and we ain't seen nuttin' yet!

It all begins with
grading out for the foundation and slab. Greg supervised and we both worked along with our grading contractor, Les West. While Les ran the equipment, we gave him elevations, using a rod and transit, to gauge how much to cut the soil to create a level pad. But before Les could get started, he had to move the huge boulders we've been collecting. We're finding lots an lots of big rocks on our property, but we've also had Les on the lookout for them on his other jobs. Big boulders like this are expensive and we're getting a good deal. They'll be used for landscaping much later in the process.

Greg's just so damn resourceful! As we were digging out the foundation today, we could see some spots where water was seeping up from the ground. This could possibly be due to an underground spring but at this point who knows. But no sooner did we get walk in the door at the end of the day, Greg jumped on the computer and began researching this phenomenon to find out how to deal with it. It turns out it's nothing to be concerned about.

And another bit of momentous news. We now are official. We picked up our Building Permit at the Clallam County offices this past Thursday, nearly eight weeks after submission. However, even if we didn't have our plans back from plan check, we could still begin to build. Just as long as we didn't cover anything up that an inspector needs to see.

Last Tuesday we spent the day with our "local contractor" Mike Stringer, going over the game plan and dropping off sets of plans to lumber yards for bidding. We met Mike working on what is now our neighbor's house when we first came up last March to rent a place. Greg and he hit it off and since our neighbor is the local building inspector, we figured he knew a good tradesman when he saw one. And Mike was willing to work alongside Greg throughout the project; which is all important when it comes to our budget. We need a man like Mike because he's a native and is familiar with local building codes and customs. Plus, there's no way Greg could building this all by himself.

And the subject is...Ants. Along with all those boulders Les brought us, he also collected some pretty large tree trunks, also for landscaping purposes. Spring has now returned to the Peninsula and you can again hear birds singing in the trees, bugs are everywhere, and the mosquitos are biting again (I know...they're all over my legs already and I'm having to douse myself in mosquito repellant). So we arrive at and there are a million carpenter ants swarming in and around and over the logs. They were probably hibernating there for months, lying low until the weather warmed up. And again, Greg goes to Google and takes a course in carpenter ants 101. In California you have termites, here you have carpenter ants. And they can be nasty little fellows. Greg's research told us they don't eat wood, but they live in it and living or eating, they still cause damage. They have a main nest where the queen lives and the workers bring food back to her. When the worker population gets too big, a portion of the workers are forced out to form satellite nests. These nests can take years to establish. In order to find the main nest, killing is not recommended. Instead, give them something to eat like honey, jelly or catfood and watch to see where they take it; that's the main nest. And then it's bombs away. The ant research told us that it's not a good idea to have decaying wood near the house because the ants will go for soft wood first to make a home. So we had Les "edit" our log pile and remove the offending log. We're going to keep a watch out for them and will definitely take some preventative measures when we begin framing.

Speaking of framing, requires some fancy engineering, especially in the livingroom and entry where the staircase leads up to the turret. So Greg created a
scale model as a visual aid to show Mike and the lumber guys as well as the people who will be building the trusses for the roof. Some roofs are what they refer to as "stick built" or it can be subbed out to companies who pre-manufacturer the trusses (which holds up the roof) which saves time and money.

After a long twelve hour day, we now have a
huge level pit where the foundation will be. And we have big mounds of dirt which will be used to backfill around the foundation and end up in landscaping. To give you some idea of the size of the mounds, Les parked his dozer on the top.

And in our spare time (Ha!), we're still collecting cedar branches to be used as balusters for our outside decks. Our neighbors at the rental house were kind enough to "donate" some tree trimmings for our project.
Greg will have a lot of prep work to shave off the foliage and cut them down to size.

An ounce of prevention......Keep this suggestion in mind when interviewing subcontractors: discuss EVERYTHING, absolutely everything beforehand to minimize assumptions that can cause problems. Try to think of every possible situation: holidays, vacations, religious considerations, overtime, weekend work, and t&m (time and materials). For instance: if your contractor is responsible for ordering them, what happens to unused materials? Who gets the refund?

If you do have a problem, a dispute or a misunderstanding about a contract or service, keep a paper trail and summarize the events to date. Provide that information to the salesman or his manager in order to rectify the problems. If you have no satisfaction, then this same letter can be sent up the ladder to the corporate office or parent company. But give the local store the chance to rectify the problem before going up the food chain.
Most problems can always be resolved. If not, thatís why they invented Small Claims Court!

APRIL 10, 2005
Yesterday was the "official" ground breaking, but today our friends Jan & Patty and Jill & Jim surprised us with a party (see
(4/10/05) for details and pictures).

Our electrical consultant came by to
install the temporary power pole. And then Greg built a makeshift staircase to help us get in and out of the pit. I helped too!

At the end of the day we had a huge pit and a
burn pile of old tree trunks. And our sunshine mascot looked on.

At this stage the going will be spotty, but once we start the foundation it'll be hit the ground running every single day.

APRIL 16, 2005
What an exhausting 24 hours. We got up at 4 a.m. this morning to drive all the way to Oregon to pick up some building supplies (what else?). While we were there, we used a 10% off coupon from Lowe's that we got last year when we informed the post office of our move. This is a great deal because they'll let you spend up to $10,000 which translates to a possible $1000 in savings. Plus, a new credit card we got gives us a 1% discount on purchases like this, so it was worth getting up at the crack of dawn and not getting home until Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m.

With stops, Oregon is about 5 hours away. It must've taken us at least 3 or 4 hours to gather up all the supplies from the aisles of Lowe's and another couple of hours
to load it all. And again, we thanked our lucky stars for purchasing the trailer - it's paid for itself over and over again.

APRIL 18, 2005
Today was a very busy day, and although last Saturday was the "official" ground breaking, today we're starting to roll. The morning was a continual procession of arrivals: Les to work on
grading the driveway, Todd our "cement man" to begin the foundation and the footings; Dan the Septic guy (that's him on the right next to Mike Stringer and Greg) to discuss where to bury the piping under the driveway; Mike Stringer our local contractor; the dump truck with the reject cement; Jeff our landscaper here trying to keep ahead by discussing getting boulders in the back before the foundation gets started; and...the all-important port-a-potty...now we're really official.

A driveway is an important component at a jobsite because all delivery trucks need a place to enter the property to unload. If you don't think ahead, you can end up with a muddy mess. The dump trucks came today to delivere "reject cement": large chunks of old concrete road that serve as the underlayer for what will be the finished driveway. For now, it will give us a sturdy path for trucks to traverse with their loads.

While all this activity is going on,
I'm running around picking up rocks, of which there are hundreds that have been dug up when the pad was being excavated. We'll be using these for future landscaping. Why pay for rocks when we've got 'em here; although we'll need truckloads more. Still, it'll be fun to point out that certain rocks came from our own property and were buried there for millions of years.

By the end of the day, looked like

APRIL 19, 2005
Gentlemen, start your engines! What a day...and it's only just beginning.

Greg always says it's easy for a job to run you instead of you running the job. And I think anyone who knows us would be hard pressed to find two more organized people. Nevertheless, we arrive at the jobsite and there's our contractor, our landscaper, a dumptruck full of boulders, a plumber, and the cement/foundation people - all there at once and it's chaos. The landscaper was there to supervise the boulders being brought to the back of the site behind the house because later on, once the foundation is poured, it'll be extremely difficult to get these huge rocks to where they have to be. Only problem is, Les our excavator had to leave early yesterday and had a dentist appointment this morning, and so he wasn't able to prepare the driveway for the truck to travel on. That meant bye bye boulder truck for the other two loads we had orchestrated to be delivered (best laid plans and all), and the one load was put where the excavator will have to move them - a bit of an added cost (although Les is so good with his equipment, it'll probably take about half an hour to move them. And, to add to the fray, the cement/foundation guys came two days early and they ended up leaving because they can't begin setting up their forms if they have to keep a path open for the boulder truck. Whatamorning!

On top of that, I discover our wonderful huge tree stumps are covered in....you guessed it -

Then after all that early morning chaos, Greg had to go into town to try and nail down our plumbing/radiant heating contractor. Getting all of this synchronized is like planning a war. And there are always things, like getting bids out, that are on the top of your list except for the fact that you can't give a bid out until certain preliminary steps (usually out of your control) are completed.

Towards late afternoon, a beautiful Bald Eagle circled over us...hopefully signaling less stressful days ahead - but I doubt it.

After all the workers had gone, Greg and I still had errands to run. We had to pick up a big moving truck to transport the
swing - a measly thousand pounds of steel that we brought with us from California - from the rental house to tomorrow. And unload the boards of white oak we have at the storage place to the rental house where we can control the temperature better. Otherwise the wood starts to "check" or split due to changes in environment, i.e. wet to dry or vise versa.

APRIL 21, 2005
poor old tree stumps have seen more travel than I have in the last few months! Because of our little ant problem, we're going to be putting them smack dab in the middle of a retention pond just across the street. The ants can't travel across water and so eventually they will be no more; at least that's the plan. And then, we'll probably use them in water when we plan our landscaping.

Speaking of the landscaping. Because our living quarters will be on the second floor, it's impossible for me to make any preliminary decisions about it because I can't tell 'til I'm standing up there what exactly I can see down below. And with our limited budget for landscaping, I want to get as much bang for our buck as I can.

Although I have made one decision: the first landscaping project will be "disguising" the drainage ditch to look natural. Where rainfall goes is an important consideration and in our case required having a way to deal with it engineered. The end result will be a ditch that will run all the way down the driveway and along one side of the house which will reduce erosion and keep moisture away from the foundation. We plan to make it look more like a "dry" creekbed, meaning lining it with rocks to give the impression of a stream. And who knows, maybe in the future we'll add a water element.

And,we the swing was safely delivered to . When we moved to Washington, we needed some moving assistance and were introduced to Jarret, a
"strapping" young man willing to get in there and work hard. He brought some buddies to help unload the moving truck. Unfortunately, this thing is so big, our little trailer couldn't handle it. A thousand pounds of steel takes some muscle to move. After Greg and the boys humped it over to the back of our lot to where it will give a spectacular view of Hurricane Ridge while you're up up and away, Les used his magic backhoe to help position it into place.

And we got another lucky break. We were on the long list to have our power connected. There is such a building boom here, all trades and services have more than they can handle and we weren't supposed to have our power in until the middle of May. So in the meantime, we purchased a generator (on our Oregon/Lowe's trip) to run the necessary power tools on the job. But, someone "fell out" and although we had to scramble,
they got us connected today. All this stepped up work to facilitate the Utilities Department required everyone to pitch in. Greg got down in the ditch to make room for some piping and jokingly said, "Well, we're saving money now!" As for the generator, it will still come in handy after we move in. This area is susceptible to power outages and this generator will allow us to keep bare necessities such as the refrigerator, freezer, some lights, and the computers running.

At day's end, is ever so slowly
rising up from the earth.

APRIL 23, 2005
What a great idea. Today we went to a builder's surplus sale in Port Angeles. It seems once a year builders have what amounts to a huge garage sale to get rid of building materials they didn't or couldn't use. For about $5, Greg was able to purchase a couple of parts he'll use to create a giant dispenser for the spool of heavy cable that will be used to deliver power from the street to the house . The spool weighs over 450 lbs. and so having an easy way to unfurl the cable will save time and sprains!

APRIL 26, 2005
A very exciting day as work progresses on the footings which gives the framing of the house a solid foundation to build upon. Now that the forms for the footings have been completed, the
monster truck that pumps the concrete arrived. Before the cement is pumped in, the completed forms give a rough outline of the floorplan. As the truck does the pumping, the foundation guys work to make sure the cement completely fills the form.

And voila!
WE HAVE FOOTINGS - the first visible evidence of a building. And for the first time, begins to take shape.

As for the foundation: there are two types: raised and slab. We're doing a slab which is supposed to be more cost effective (depending on your particular site). A slab sits right on top of the ground, has no crawl space underneath, and plumbing is cemented in - so it better be right or you have a costly problem.

No one can say I'm not rolling up my sleeves and pitching in. Since long walks are a luxury as well as any other regimented workout, I'm keeping as physical as I can. Here I'm helping Les by
holding back the water line while he backfills the ditch for the conduit. I also keep thinking that every single thing I do myself is saving money in the long run.

We're just about finished with installing the swing. Since it was originally designed to sit up on a wall surrounding the roofline on top of our old garage, it too needs footings and so required
concrete work. While Greg shoveled the wet concrete into the forms, Mike was busy mixing the next batch.

APRIL 29, 2005
Today I worked a jackhammer.

Poor Greg, he's working so incredibly hard. Yesterday he
had to dig a 25' long ditch inside the boundaries of the pad to connect the electrical service from the street to the house. As luck would have it, the sun was beating down all day. He left early in the morning and since sunset is late, he worked until about 9:30 and didn't get home until 10 p.m. which meant dinner wasn't served until nearly 11. Even the concrete guys were impressed with his stamina. And they're all in their 20s!

We had our first inspection - checking the footings - and we passed. But this is just the first of dozens to come. At every key step, a representative from the state or the county must sign off on completed work to verify it's been done to code.

I learned something today. Building codes are actually bare minimum requirements - just enough to insure a minimum of safety and keep the powers that be happy. But Greg is a cautious guy and he's decided to beef up certain elements. For instance, the code only requires two ground rods for our house. A ground rod directs current from an electrical storm or power surge into the ground. Otherwise you can not only fry appliances, especially computers, but you can do some serious damage to a human being. Again, Greg did some research and found the safest ground system uses 8 grounds spaced 8' apart for every 200 amp service. Since we're using two 200 amp services, we needed to install 16 rods. And that's what we worked on today. And that's where the jackhammer came in. The rods are 8' long which required Greg humping this 150 lb. piece of equipment up onto a 6' tall scaffold and
beating the rod down. Then I took over on terra firma when it got within reach and finished it off. Actually it was fun, but then I wasn't working all day long.

Also today,
Mike worked on the framing layout - an important aspect to insure the building is configured correctly. He positioned the structural framing hold downs, required by the engineer, into the ground to pinpoint the location of bearing walls for the foundation guys.

And the foundation work has gone to the next phase -
setting the forms for the stem wall - the all-important structure that supports the walls of the building.

MAY 1, 2005
Sunday is no day of rest for us. Greg and I worked all week on installing the various sizes of conduit for both plumbing, electrical and telephone. The conduit acts as a sheath that allows for easy installation of wires and cables as well as access for repairs. We've tried to think ahead and have left some "empty" conduit for future additions since it's relatively inexpensive and we're supplying the labor. Greg figures we've saved thousands of dollars doing this ourselves.

Greg and I glued up long sections of
PVC conduit which will bring the electrical service from the transformer at the street to the house. Everything from the transformer to the street is the responsibility of the utility company to install - and which you pay dearly for. Everything from the transformer to the house is our responsibility. As you can see, the closer to the street you install the transformer, the less work the utility company needs to do. This left a major money project to us which saved us thousands of dollars. We wanted to install the box next to the transformer - they're not exactly what you would call an aesthetic landscaping element.

Lugging the PVC into the ditch was
hard work. Each wire or cable, be it electrical or plumbing, has certain depth requirements. By the time we got all of it installed, I'm sure it made sense to Greg but to me it was just a tangle of piping in a deep ditch. I'm standing in what will be the garage and it's here that all this conduit rises up out of the slab.

MAY 2, 2005
WHATADAY! Rain or shine, work must continue. In order to get ready for the next inspection, we had to finish laying in the conduit. We were
slogging through mud all day long. Just take a look and you'll see what I'm talking about. That trench Greg is standing in turned into quicksand. It sucked your feet down and it took all your strength to pull them out again. And it was quite a feat to keep your boots on during the process. I don't think I've ever been so dirty and wet. We didn't get home until after 9 p.m. To make me feel better, Greg kept reminding me how much money we were saving doing this ourselves.

We have ordered a
storage container delivered to the jobsite to store tools and supplies and generally add some security, not to mention convenience. This type of container, called a "roll off" was standard practice in Beverly Hills and it's well worth the $91/month and has saved us from renting more offsite storage.

MAY 4, 2005
Our hard work paid off - the inspector came to sign off on the ditch work. Now we can cover up the piping with dirt. We had to get up early to get some additional conduit to finish the job before the inspector arrived. This is definitely not L.A. where supply houses open at 6:30 or 7 a.m. Here they open at 8. But after all that scrambling, we finished just in time - and just before another deluge.

With all that running around, by the time we got to the job, the monster truck came to pour the stem walls. You can't tell from this picture, but between those yellow boards is a
2' wall of concrete. We've labeled this to show what's on the first floor (Greg's office, garages, guest bedroom) and the second floor (or living floor) with the livingroom, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom, my office etc.

This part of the project in particular is extremely stressful. Orchestrating the start up is like keeping ten plates spinning on posts. There are a myriad of details and different trades to schedule. It's almost impossible to keep up with it all. We keep telling ourselves that once we get to the framing stage - in about three weeks - things will settle in to a manageable routine because basically it will only be Greg and Mike working. But until then, chaos every day.

Speaking of chaos, I am so upset. I've made a point of making friends with the employees at our new Home Depot. Since we'll be doing so much business with them over the next year, I figured it couldn't hurt for them to know who I was when we call or have a problem. As a result, one of the women at the Special Services Desk gave me another one of those 10% off coupons called "Friends & Family" for unlimited purchases - but only good for a four-day weekend. We had to find the time to make up our shopping list and for some reason I mis-read the coupon and missed the sale by a week. Since this meant a "loss" of several hundred dollars savings, I was beside myself. But after I calmed down a bit, I decided to call Home Depot's 800 number Customer Care Department and explained to them what happened. The good news is they will send me two 10% off coupons for up to $2000 each! This actually works out better because a) it will have no expiration date and b) will allow us to split up our order because these coupons are only good for one day's purchases and c) we would have only spent about this amount with the original coupon. Plus, I found out they offer these Friends & Family coupons about every quarter, so I'll make sure we get one every time they're available.

MAY 5, 2005
We had a "little" scare. As with most places in the state of Washington, before homes were built on the land, and before the land became farmland or ranches, it was dense forest. The logging company that created our development decided it was more profitable to create homesites than to wait until the next generation of trees matured for logging. Our development was last logged probably about twenty years ago. Since our lot is at the end of what is now a cul-du-sac, we learned that it was used as a "logger's landing" meaning logs were brought to this spot for processing. When they were finished with logging the area, the left overs were piled up to be burned. Although the pad for our place seemed to be on solid ground, we decided to opt for a little more peace of mind and have our engineer come out to make sure we weren't building on fill - essentially non-compacted land. You would think we would have thought of such an important thing much earlier than this. And we had, it was just that it was in the back of our minds and the pad appeared to be solid. But just as another precaution, we had Les dig some 4 foot deep holes and our engineer jumped in and poked around with a metal rod and crumbled earth between his fingers. His final pronouncement was that we were okay. If it had proved to be fill, we could still build but it would mean beefing up the foundation - which translates to more time and more money. It's for reasons like this you allow for several thousands of dollars for "extras" in your budget.

In order for Les to get to the area to dig the holes for the soil testing now that the foundation is underway, he had to drive his backhoe from around another part of the property, down and up out of a ravine. I was walking along behind him trying to get some pictures and, of course, when anything happens you really want to capture with a picture - the camera malfunctions. So a description will have to do. It had rained earlier in the week and the hill out of the ravine was very steep. So steep, that this huge rig not only backslid several times (and you can be sure I hightailed it out of the way!), but also just barely escaped tipping backward altogether. Les has been working with equipment like this for twenty years (he said he Dad started him when he was 7) and when he turns around and tells you, "That was scary!", you can bet it was indeed. So, on his return trip back out of the area, I got the camera working again and was able to capture a picture of him
dozing some debris back down the ravine in an attempt to lessen the grade.

Today we also had a meeting with our septic guy to discuss a grey-water system. Who knows what the future holds as far as energy and utility availability and costs? So we're planning on installing what amounts to a huge rainbarrel - a 1000 gallon concrete tank buried underground to catch rainwater from the roof gutters. The water would be used for landscaping, washing clothes, and depending how difficult it would be to set up, could also be used for toilets and even be made "potable" for bathing, drinking water, and cooking. It will be extra money up front but would save money in the long run - not to mention being ecologically sound.

MAY 6, 2005
Ta da! The inside forms have been removed and
we reveal our stem walls. These walls are formed from concrete and sit perpendicular to the footings; and the framing is attached to it. We got them to keep the forms on an extra day which keeps the concrete moist. After the pour, we watered it down several times. Concrete doesn't "dry"; it "cures" - it's a chemical process. Leaving the forms on for a longer period of time increases it's strength by up to 80%.

Concrete or cement? FYI, most people use the terms cement and concrete interchangeably. Cement mixes with an aggregate to make concrete.

While the foundation guys worked on removing the forms, Greg and I completed the installation of the
ground wire system which consisted of digging channels between the 16 ground rods and running a copper wire between each. And again I got physical using a pickax to dig the channels.

MAY 14, 2005
Today I worked on cleaning up the
metal footing plates that sit on top of the stem walls. It's important to clean off all extraneous matter such as concrete so the plate sits firmly on the 2x6 and the nut fits tight, as this is the base of what will eventually be our walls.

These footings use treated wood which helps prevent water damage. In the last couple of years, the formula for treating the wood has changed due to environmental factors. However, they've now found this new formula will eat away at regular nails. For this reason, we're using stainless steel nails wherever they touch treated wood. It's more expensive but as they say, "an ounce of prevention..."

I'm doing everything on this job - even driving the excavator. Wish I had a picture! Les needed to check out something underneath the carriage of the beast and asked me to drive it along for him. What a hoot!

I'm working with Les on several projects and we begin one which turns into something else altogether. We were cleaning up an area piled with old logs which led into the possibility of making some major changes in the septic system which led to creating some wonderful paths through the ravine. We now actually have
walking trails on our own property...who'd a thunk it! This one begins just off the end of the driveway at the house and switchbacks until it comes up at the back of the house just off the master bath. So, when I'm not needed elsewhere, I've been "grooming" the paths. I want to keep the area as natural as possible so I'm just removing the bare minimum and doing a little pruning to expose rotting wood that's covered in moss. Love that moss!

In preparation for installing the septic system, some of my beloved trees had to be removed. Although this is definitely not the season for transplanting trees, it can't hurt to try. So,
Les and I have transplanted a couple of hemlocks and cedars and even a grand fir. I've put three of the larger specimens at the front edge of the property. They look great...now if they only survive.

MAY 16, 2005
Today was a rainy day. In L.A. that would have put work at a screeching halt. Not here. Both the foundation guys and the plumbers worked all day in pouring rain. Not a word of complaint.

work goes on. The underlayer of the foundation has been laid. Before we get to the concrete, there are two other layers. The bottom is pea gravel, and then on top of that is a finer sand. The truck that spreads the gravel and sand is called an Agracat. It's an odd piece of machinery that has a long conveyor belt that spits out the sand. Sure beats hauling all that sand around in a wheelbarrow, especially since we ended up pumping in 140 yards of material!

Greg and Mike have been working on lots of projects while the other trades toil away. There will be a patio underneath the deck off the diningroom.
These are the concrete forms they constructed to create post bases that will hold up the deck.

The plumbers arrive to install the
subslab waste drains and stub up above the slab prior to the slab pour. He'll connect all of the waste drains to these stubs. Accuracy here is extremely important because these things are literally set in stone. Greg and the plumber poured over the plans to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be.

So far we've been blessed with good subs. Everyone does what they say they'll do and shows up as promised. Almost unheard of. I've been talking to our concrete contractor, Todd Crouch of Crouch Concrete about a new speciality of his - concrete countertops. I just happened to talk to him about not being able to get the look I wanted from terrazzo and found out he's been doing countertops for a while. It sounds as if he can make my wish list come true and I'm looking forward to getting some samples. I've also been talking to him about a unique project. There will be two columns holding up the portico (peaked roof over the front door) that come up from ground level. Early on we had talked of finding two huge old tree trunks but nixed that idea for various reasons including the ever-present carpenter ants. I had always liked the look of "faux bois" (false wood) which seems to be making a bit of a comeback fashionwise. A friend of ours has a cement stair railing with this motif. Anyway, mentioned this to Todd and we're exploring the possibility of making faux bois columns.

In the late afternoon, I went back to my "trail grooming" and then took on a neighborhood project (with our own self-preservation in mind).
Scotch Broom is everywhere. It may look pretty - with its bright gold flowers, but it's a serious and growing problem. It's a non-native plant that is now considered a noxious weed - meaning it will choke out native plants and eventually affect habitat and wildlife. The county is trying to raise awareness of this impending disaster and is asking that they be removed. Actually, it's the law that property owners must remove it. Since it was raining, I took a shovel and made a quick trip around the neighborhood removing plants wherever I found them. This development seems to be relatively lightly invaded so I'm hoping we can keep it under control.

MAY 19, 2005
Moving along, the
concrete snorkel arrived to pump concrete into the interior footings.

black asphaltlike product has been painted around the base of the exterior footing to damp proof the stemwall. It's not required by code but is a prudent step to take.

MAY 20, 2005
Our foundation team installs the
Visqueen, a black plastic sheeting that acts as a vapor barrier and required by code. After that was finished, the Agracat put the next layer of sand on the foundation to level the surface before installing the Foamular. Foamular are large sheets of foam which will help insulate the ground away from the floor so that our radiant heating is more efficient.

MAY 23, 2005
Today was another busy day. Our foundation guys installed the
ribar grid which will reinforce the slab and also serve as a convenient way to anchor the radiant tubing.

We chose to go to a thicker slab of 6" which will put the tubing approximately in the center of the slab at a depth of 3". This is extremely helpful because on a large slab such as ours you must use expansion joints to control cracking. In this case, the expansion joints are going to be cut in several days after the pour at a depth of approximately 2". Slabs will crack, it is their nature and these expansion joints force the crack to follow a controlled path. To be effective, our contractor recommends that the joints be cut at a depth of one-third of the thickness of the slab, i.e. 2", so you definitely want to make sure your tubing doesn't fall into this area. We also photographed and took measurements of the tubing layout, especially where it was unavoidable for it to run under walls and other obstacles. This way we have some system of locating tubing if there were to be a problem in the future.

At the same time, the Agracat delivered the
drainage rock which must be placed around the footing drains, the large white pipes which go around the perimeter of the house. There are two separate sets of pipes. The upper pipe carries all of the roof, gutter, and downspout rainwater into the graywater tank which we've decided to install to save money on water usage. The lower pipe takes any ground water coming at the foundation through it's perforations and moves it around the house to empty (or "daylight") into our ravine.

Mike applied a gauzy sheet on top of all the drainage pipes and drainage rocks to prevent silty soil from clogging up the footing drains. Before the drainage rock was poured on, Mike painted

I worked all day with Les clearing out old logs from the perimeter of the property. These logs were probably left there when the property was last logged about 20 years ago. This is really the only work we'll be doing to this side of the property which was the original site we had planned to locate the house on before we realized the other side gave us a better view.

We're trying very hard to be as non-destructive to the habitat as possible. And although I know we're doing some unavoidable damage, most property owners clear their land of almost all trees and other vegetation, destroying nesting for birds and habitat for other species. But I guess you can't stop "progress".

While we were cleaning up, Les found us a huge tree trunk the loggers must have missed way back when. It's at least 50' tall,
old growth Cedar and we estimate it to be near 200 years old. We're thinking of milling it down and using the boards for the house somewhere, possibly the turret paneling.

MAY 27, 2005
Today and tomorrow, the
radiant heat tubing, called Wirsbo Pex, is being installed for our radiant heating system. The tubing is extremely durable and plyable and will be sealed into our slab. There is a science to the placement of this tubing depending on what type of room it will service. We've decided to carry the tubing into the garage/workshop/studio areas. In climates where it can get uncomfortably cold, friends have told us we'll be happy we spent the extra money to include these areas. Generally, places like garages have the tubing spaced wider than say a bedroom.

MAY 29, 2005
After months of planning, we traveled to the big city to take advantage of the tax-free day at Ikea to buy our kitchen cabinets. Greg is a carpenter and cabinetmaker and although you can spend upwards of $40,000, $50,000, $100,000 on kitchen cabinets, for the money, Ikea makes a darn good product including European hardware and full-extension drawers. You just have to know how to install it properly and also it helps to be a carpenter to "customize" certain elements.

We got up at the crack of dawn to hopefully beat the crowds on this Memorial Day weekend and were right to do so. Ikea recently changed their hours to open earlier and it didn't seem like the public had caught on yet; and we also thought Sunday would be better than the actual holiday itself, and we were right. By the time we had loaded our cabinets, the line to get in was out to "there". We brought along reading material thinking we would be spending hours in line. I barely was able to begin a new book and had grabbed Pilars of the Earth by Ken Follett off the shelf....

Serendipity...what a coincidence that this novel is about a stone mason from the 1100s and is all about Gothic architecture. As I mentioned before, I've dubbed our architectural style Craftsman Gothic. It turns out Gothic was always a component of the Arts and Crafts Movement, but I'd never heard the two mentioned in the same breath. And here I thought I invented it!

MAY 31, 2005
We passed our tubing inspection! With any luck (weather permitting), we can pour the foundation slab on Friday.

Meanwhile, we've been going over our lumber bids for framing the house. This is one of the most expensive stages of building. The price of lumber fluctuates all the time and catastrophic events such as hurricanes drive up the prices. Greg has spent hours pouring over bids and making phone calls to various suppliers. In the end, we found that a lumberyard out of the area will give us the best prices. The quality of lumber used for framing is very important and will affect the "straightness" of the walls once the drywall is installed. Plywood isn't quite so critical and we found the best price at Home Depot. In fact, Home Depot can special order many products they never advertise, so we've made it a point to always check with them to compare prices. We've found that hunting for the best buys leads to finding the best materials. You also need to make sure you're comparing apples to apples when comparing prices.

Speaking of bargain hunting, I've learned a little trick. We recently made a very big order online to buy our sink and shower hardware.
Ira Wood had some of the best prices for the Danze line which is similar to Delta. Ordering this type of product online is difficult because there are so many parts involved. But the Ira Wood people were very helpful. And, since we were making such a big order, and the product is a very heavy one, I asked if we could have free shipping and they obliged. This saved a couple hundred dollars at least. So it never hurts to ask.






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