DECEMBER 2005 - JANUARY 2006
DECEMBER 11, 2005
Things have definitely slowed down lately, mainly due to eight inches of snow.
I had to laugh. I finally found someone to work in the "yard" with me...gathering up lots of pruned limbs and such to carry to the burn pile. And just as we start working, it begins to snow...and in no time at all, everything I wanted to rake up and carry away was hidden by a blanket of white!
The weather has also required Greg to take measures to ensure the custom milled lumber we recently bought for exterior trim is dry. He bought a jumbo heater, enclosed the living room with a curtain made of tarp, and installed insulation in the ceiling. Now he can prepaint the boards before installation.
And my "pseudo" weathervane has been powder coated and is ready to be placed on top of our turret. But first we have to take proper measures for lightning protection. There are no code requirements for this, but Greg is a thorough guy, and, as always, this required some time on the internet to find just the right equipment.
And we made another lumber purchase at a very good price. Greg found hundreds of feet of beautiful crown molding and base and case (the trim around interior windows and trim for the baseboards) at a local salvage yard. They were having a storewide 20% off sale and we figure we saved ourselves at least $2,000 to $3,000 on that purchase alone.
DECEMBER 14, 2005
Lots of projects for the turret have now been wrapped up. The roof is installed, the moonvane is up, and Greg completed the lightning protection.
With so many details to deal with, we hadn't thought through our weathervane project as to what potential problems it might create. When Greg saw how large it was, he realized this big chunk of steel was a perfect lightning rod. His first response was, "Couldn't we have made this out of fiberglass?" Too late.
So now he began yet another round of internet research for lightning protection. His research revealed that Washington doesn't have as serious a lightning problem as states in the midwest, but it does kill one person every two years! When he spoke with our low voltage consultant about it, the consultant said he suffered a lightning strike on his home and it fried everything in the house. Greg found a company, Harger.com, where he was able to send a sketch of the turret roof with dimensions, and they designed the system for free with a printout of the materials needed.
In our case, the vane is clamped to an aluminum wire above the roofline and a copper wire below that runs down to another 10' copper rod pounded into the ground. We could dig up one of the 16 ground rods we installed early on in the project, but at this point it's easier to just put in a new one. The vane sits on the forward edge of the turret ridge and Harger recommended we install an air terminal at the other end of the ridge. An air terminal is just an aluminum rod about 18" tall that sits vertically above the ridge. The vane and the air terminal are connected with the same special copper wire and then the air terminal is grounded with another run of copper wire to its own 10' copper rod pounded into the ground. We learned the metal weathervane does not attract lightning, nor does the air terminal repel lightning. But if lightning were to strike at the air terminal or vane, it would have a safe path to the ground. It doesn't mean that it couldn't hit another part of our roof and damage our electrical system, but it isn't in our budget to have an air terminal at every ridge, spaced every 20' with copper wires running to individual ground rods. A decent lightning protection system for a house with about 5000 sf of roof would cost about $3000. We opted to protect the weathervane which is located at the highest point of the roof. In addition, we'll install a whole house surge protector at the electrical box. This whole house surge protector mitigates large surges in electrical power. For subtle spikes, we'll use a more sophisticated surge protector at each outlet for sensitive electronic equipment. You do not want to use a whole house surge protector for the more subtle spikes at the main electrical box because you'll end up replacing it often and that can be expensive.
But now that it's up, all the extra work was worth it!
We're really pleased with the roofing material we chose - it really does look like slate. Now that the turret roof is complete, we'll be removing the special scaffolding. Even though it took several days to construct, it was worth it's weight in gold from a safety factor point of view.
DECEMBER 15, 2005
Work continues on completing the turret. Today the eight windows were installed. Cannot wait for the day where we're all warm and cozy looking out on our incredible 360 degree view of the Olympics and Victoria, Canada.
Getting these huge windows up to the third story from inside the house could have been a real logistical nightmare requiring the rental of a cherry picker (the kind you see the telephone companies use for repairs). But our contractor made the installation easy with the use of an electrical winch powered by a 12 volt battery. A heavy braided wire rope was wrapped around the exterior of the window and hoisted up through an opening in the turret floor (which is where the double helix staircase will eventually lead to).With this kind of help, all the windows were installed in one afternoon.
DECEMBER 27, 2005
Beware contractors who insist on the "postman mentality": through rain or sleet or hail or snow - they will push the job forward...creating expensive and destructive problems in their wake. What drives this is the "I don't care if there's snow on the ground, I need to make a living so let's pour that concrete and paint that wet lumber!" work ethic. Your job is to be diligent and make sure your project is being handled correctly. That's why we could never be an "absentee homeowners" and let the job proceed without our supervision. We can't tell you how many homes we've watched being built this winter where foundations are being poured, paint applied, and windows being caulked. Of course, doing it right may cost you time, but this pales in comparison to removing the failed product and starting over.
Every product has a phone number or a website on the label. You owe it to yourself and your investment to stay on top of things. Many products are affected by (cold and wet) weather: paint, caulk, sealants, cement, and mortar to name just a few. Manufacturer's instructions are there for a reason: these people know their products. They've probably spent millions of dollars researching the optimum application conditions. Ignoring their requirements could void the warranty and likely mean failure of the product at some point in the future. When? There's no way of telling. It could be right away, weeks, months, or years. But you can imagine what heartache you'll be in for if the paint doesn't dry properly, if the cement doesn't cure properly, if caulks crack or shrivel allowing water or other elements to invade supposedly watertight areas. Often when these types of problems occur, the homeowner is unaware that the reason was the improper installation. And the repair should be the responsibility of the contractor.
Here's how cold weather has affected our project recently. We were using the master bedroom as a painting room for the final latex coats on the exterior cedar trim. We painted the boards on a Saturday and then we forgot all about them. Then the weather turned cold and the temperature never got above 40 degrees for the entire week. The following weekend we went to move the boards and to our surprise, the paint was still as wet as if it had just been applied! We have a lot more painting that must be done, so it was necessary to make sure the paint would cure properly. Our warm room (which we wrote of briefly on December 11) insured success. Creating it required choosing the largest room possible (in our case the livingroom) and insulating the exterior walls - temporarily. (Later on in the job when we do the final insulation we'll use 2'x8' 1" thick rigid foam sheets to create the air space below the roof deck at the cathedral ceiling in the livingroom, as well as the turret ceiling.) So we took advantage of a sale at Home Depot and went ahead and purchased the 1" foam we will need for those projects later on. We attached the rigid foam to the ceiling trusses like drywall. We blocked off the open end of the livingroom with a large, heavy plastic tarp. If necessary, we would have double tarped it for more insulation, but with the purchase of a construction site heater in combination with a 220 forced-air electric unit provided by our contractor, we were able to keep temperatures within an optimum range.
A side note about heating and construction: in this application to create our warm room, the diesel powered heater is fine. Later on, when we do the drywall, if we need to heat rooms to insure proper drying, we must use electric heat. Don't let your drywall contractor come in with propane or diesel powered heaters as these will put moisture back in the air and subsequently into your drywall. Electric heat with fans moving the air is a much more efficient way to eliminate moisture from drywall in a colder climate.
DECEMBER 30, 2005
More t's crossed and i's dotted on the turret. The siding was begun on Wednesday and completed today. And it looks FAN-TAS-TIC! Although the weather for this picture wasn't cooperating, the stained Hardie siding looks so real and the dark green trim just sets it off perfectly. It's just the rustic look we were trying to achieve.
Because the weather has been cold and wet, not to mention a million other projects that had immediate priority, we've had to keep postponing staining the rest of the Hardie siding several times since the Fall. The staggered edge style will be installed on the second story at the front of the house and at some areas just below the peak of the roof to give a bit of variety to areas that will be covered with large expanses of the long Cedar Mill planks. Greg first had to remodel the studio/spray booth to hold these pieces and also add lighting and heat, so that was done last week. This heater has 115,000 btu and runs on diesel. Although it was a pricey item, the problems caused by not using heat outweighed that consideration - and, too, this will be one of the many items we will sell when we no longer need them.
Greg and Mike began staining the first batch today.
DECEMBER 31, 2005
It may be the last day of the year, but Greg and I put in a full day. Greg installed more corbels and stars and I worked on the staining.
The corbels and stars are one of many "design as you go" touches that Greg has come up with to add some flair. When the sun comes out, I'll include a good picture of these details.
As with the long Cedar Mill planks of siding that I stained in the Fall, it took a while to develop an efficient procedure for spraying the staggered edge. We used some reject pieces (from Greg and Mike's first batch before I was able to develop better results)‚ to create this mock up which illustrates the illusion of individual shingles when installed. These shingles are much more labor intensive than the long planks and more critical too as these will be seen on the front of the house.
At first we tried pulling me along in a cart to reach the highest row of pieces, but that became unnecessary because I ended up developing my own way of working it.
I wasn't too happy with the results from Greg and Mike's first attempt at staining these pieces (although understandably it's a work-in-progress procedure). I could see the arc of the spray on some boards and too many uneven brush marks. And because these pieces look like individual shingles, there is a great deal of difficulty getting the stain between the shingles and achieving good coverage on the visible edges. Some I couldn't improve on, so they're going into the reject pile to be used in areas that are high up or not easily seen.
It took two batches of siding for me to get the best results. First the boards must be well cleaned with a stiff brush. Unlike the Cedar Mill planks, these pieces have very rough edges and if they aren't brushed well, splinters tend to break off revealing whitish unstained material. Because the individual boards are so close together on the racks, after the brushing I took a tiny paint roller and/or applicator and prestained the outer edges of each board (visible on the previous picture). Once I begin to spray, in order to paint the porous bottom edges of these pieces, I aim the spray shooting upward from below. Then I hold the sprayer at an angle and try to get the spray down between the cracks of the shingles coming at it in both directions. This does cause some puddling and dripping, but in the end I got great coverage in these problem areas. Because of the amount of stain that gets on the boards, I only spray one piece at a time. As soon as I spray each piece, I grab my brush and start working the stain across the surface following the grain, watching for dripping on the pieces below. After an hour, I begin the process again. The third coat is just a light spray over the surface of the boards.
Because the weather is cold, and despite using a powerful heater, I'm only doing one batch every other day so they stain and cure well. With the first batch, the finished pieces were stacked together too early and material from the unpainted underside of the board stuck to the stained surface of the board below. So now I'm putting the previous day's stained pieces onto the drying racks and letting them cure for another day. Meanwhile, I load up the next batch, brush them down, and paint the outer edges so that I'm ready to paint the next day.
Now that I'm getting good results, I'll make sure from this batch forward to keep these boards aside and make sure they're the ones used in the most visible areas.
JANUARY 4, 2006
Last summer we discovered what is most likely a 200 year old 60 foot tall Cedar (the one with the chain) that had obviously been harvested by the lumber company that developed our neighborhood. It was fairly well hidden beneath some brush which probably explains why it was left behind. Finders keepers! We found out it was worth several hundred dollars and decided to have it milled for use on our home.
Today I stopped by the sawmill to grab a picture of the work in progress. I think it's only fitting that our house make use of materials found on our land, and it will be interesting to see where it ends up being used.
JANUARY 10, 2006
Today they worked on installing the window trim on the north side. To keep details in scale with the size of the house, we needed oversize trim. We found it at a family owned mill in Forks, McClanahan's, about an hour from our house, where they milled two hundred year old Cedar logs to our specifications. We've prepainted them but they'll still have to be touched up later on.
And Greg, creating as he goes, is coming up with some interesting details. Here you can see a rounded end to the facia on the right side of the image. Earlier, Greg began to add copper clad corbels under each corner of the eaves of the turret and then added a row of stars above the windows - in keeping with our motif. With the moonvane above, it's the icing on the cake!
Now we're looking at a larger star to place in the center of the rounded edge of the facia.
JANUARY 12, 2006
After all the hours spent wearing a mask and wielding a paint sprayer, I'm getting the chance to see the results of my labors. They have begun to install the Hardie siding on the North side of the house. Our contractor will be finishing up with us in the next few weeks...and then Greg and I will be on our own. So before he leaves, Greg and he are installing any exterior finish that requires two men and tall ladders.
JANUARY 16, 2006
Big day! Our thousand gallon propane tank was delivered this afternoon. Les arrived in the morning to dig the pit which is about 20 feet long, five feet wide, and five feet deep.
The tank weighs a (mere) twenty one hundred pounds and comes encased in a protective cover. Les wasn't expecting this, thinking he could just slide the tank into the hole. So believe me, there were some serious looks on both Les' and the tank installation people's faces about whether or not Les' excavator could lift this thing into place without tipping the excavator right into the hole. Add to that the fact that it has been raining for days and days and the ground is like jello pudding. Now I know what they mean when they talk about how an earthquake creates liquefaction turning the ground to mush. So it was determined that even after the tank passes inspection tomorrow, we will wait to see how the ground is drying out before burying the tank and the nearby septic system. It took a good couple of hours of maneuvering this beast until we finally got it into the ground. Whew!
Meanwhile, Mike and Greg worked on the staggered edge siding at the back of the house.
JANUARY 17, 2006
Wow! The staggered edge Hardie on the North side of the house is complete and it looks fabulous - if I do say so myself. While a factory applied stain would have been more uniform (not to mention four times the cost!), the fact that it's hand applied gives it more depth and I contend unless I told you it wasn't actually a wood product, you wouldn't be the wiser. Underneath the staggered edge is a "belly board" which will separate the staggered edge siding from the Cedar Mill lapsiding (used on the exterior of the turret). The fact that the staggered edge stain is deeper than the lapsiding, I feel, breaks up the expanse of siding, just as two tones of paint would achieve the same effect.
Greg has been working on some designs for the corbels which will go under the eaves above the staggered edge, but these aren't crucial to worry about at this stage of the game; and Greg can install these by himself when the time comes.
JANUARY 28, 2006
Spent the day traveling to Tacoma to pick up the two fireplaces we bought a year ago.....
JANUARY 30, 2006
What a day for Greg!
This has been one of the rainiest winters in memory here. We don't get the amount of rainfall that Seattle does, but Seattle was bucking an all-time record of continuous rainfall approaching 33 straight days. Nonetheless, it's been wet here. The ground is saturated. That's why we can't cover the propane tank yet.
Greg and I worked at on Sunday. I prepped the next batch of staggered edge to be painted, and Greg tied up lots of loose ends in preparation for our contractor's return from yet another vacation. We haven't taken an actual vacation in about eleven years! Anyway, the rains must have been torrential last night, because when Greg arrived this morning, our 2100 pound propane taken was floating and capsized! It was so wet that the trench and french drain we installed were ineffectual - just too much water.
We had the propane company come out for a site evaluation. It's probably just as well this happened now because these tanks can also float and pop up from underground with these wet conditions. The propane tech suggested we use four 2000 lb. blocks of cement, two on each side of the tank, and then strap the tank down to the blocks.
Meanwhile, since we can't bury the thing yet, Greg made a "collar" to at least keep the tank upright if the rain fills up the hole again.
It's always something. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln loved the play!
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