January 5, 2008
Greg continues his work on the corbels and courtyard staggered edge.


For the last several years you would have to be living on a remote island not to be aware of the trend toward "green" building - using environmentally safe products and doing as little harm to nature and the planet as possible. These are noble ideals - and nobility can be extremely costly, at least at this early stage of the movement. Whenever you take advantage of new technology, you can expect your budget to go out the window.

Greg and I are indeed on a budget, and so we have had to pick and choose the projects and instances where we can "go green."

Here's what we've been able to do:

We've tried to leave the land as untouched as possible, removing very few trees and staying with the native landscaping and plants whenever possible.

We've kept the "footprint" of the house as small as possible by building two stories and not having separate buildings for storage, sheds, shops, or garages.

We've used felled trees, stumps, old logs and exposed rocks from the property for various projects such as the dry creekbed, our decorative snake fences, and for use as focal points in the landscape. We're also using tree branches for various projects such as stair railings and as "brush piles" for wildlife around our pond.

We'll be using wood remnants from the framing to create our parquet flooring inside the front door.

We've encouraged and will continue to encourage wildlife. Once we get moved in, I will do what I did at our previous home and get our property certified with the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat.

We've purchased materials at the salvage yard whenever possible: doors, siding, metals for piping, roof platforms, base, case and molding, plumbing fixtures and lumber for our front door and shutters, and I'm sure for a myriad of other projects I can't even remember.

We've used Ebay for old "how to" books, tractor parts, lumber for our interior staircase, even a dumb waiter from a circa 1928 high rise in New York.

We're installing radiant heat, and using cross ventilation to eliminate the need for air conditioning.

The kitchen flooring we'll be using is a linseed-based product called Marmoleum which is naturally antibacterial.

We've purchased energy saving appliances including a trash compactor to reduce the size of waste materials.

We've installed two underground 1000 gallon tanks to recycle rainwater.

Also, a good portion of the wood that we are using for the exterior woodwork and exterior door jambs were purchased from a local sawmill in a rough form. We then process these pieces on site.

Well, now that I look over this list, I'm feeling mighty proud of ourselves!

January 15, 2008
Greg has been and will be continuing to work on the exterior siding and all the other projects created by that for several more weeks.

It's not just a simple matter of nailing up the Hardie siding to the wall. We had installed Tyvek over all the exterior sheathing a long time ago. In reality, Tyvek should only be exposed for no more than 30 days before being covered. We were WAY over that. So Greg did some research and decided that he could and could leave the Tyvek in place and prior to installing the Hardie he will install two layers of 60-minute felt. After the felt, he will then install the vertical plantons I described earlier. But first, he needs to install backing inside the framing so the plantons are nailed to solid wood and just not the plywood sheathing.

Once he's done with all of that, there will be lots of framing pick up to do. And then we can begin working together on the plumbing. But that's probably two months down the road.

Greg has finished the siding on those two right-angled walls in the courtyard.

January 21, 2008
Despite temperatures in the low 30s and even into the high 20s, Greg is continuing to work on the siding and the courtyard corbels.

At least from certain angles, the exterior is looking almost finished! But, alas it is an illusion.

Since it's so cold, Greg can't do any caulking or painting. So when it comes to putting an extra coat of paint on the exterior plantons and trim, caulking holes and touching up the Hardie staggered edge, that will have to wait - especially since it doesn't "move us forward" to fulfilling our permit requirements and necessitates setting up the scaffolding additional times.

As for the corbels, he's been bringing them home and doing the gluing and caulking inside.

The corbels are a project in themselves and time-consuming to say the least. But they will be featured prominently in the courtyard. Each section of roof - under the belvedere roof, under the roof just below the belvedere, the south and north side peaks and the roof peak at the back of the house - is a different design. But these particular corbels are truly "one of a kind." I designed them, Greg "refined" them and is figuring out how to make them a reality. And we will install them together.

I had been looking for "the" design for months; tearing out pages from magazines and snapping photos of ones I've seen in our limited travels. Then, practically at the last minute I saw a bracket holding up a shelf in a kitchen in one of my architectural "idea" magazines that caught my fancy. What we ended up with is only faintly reminiscent of those brackets. Either for aesthetic reasons or construction requirements, the design eventually morphed into the final version. If it weren't for the work involved in setting up the scaffolding, we would wait to install them, but setting up that scaffolding is a lot of work and Greg will have to do that about a dozen more times before he's done. And, too, they are so heavy - about 50 pounds each - that they require bolting from the inside and that must be done before drywalling.

Here is a shot of a corbel made up of glued solid wood in its final stage - before adding some final details - next to the plywood mockup. A closer look reveals where pieces have been glued together. There is still a lot more work to be done before we attempt to paint them. First, Greg will add some routing to the sharp edges to give it a little more detail. Then they must be puttied and sanded. And then we can prime them. The finished product will be painted copper gilt with some green striping in channels Greg routed out, as well as a few stars and moons to break up the copper.

As for drywalling - which is a year away - we got some good news. We are under the gun to get our C of O ("Certificate of Occupancy"/sign off by the Building Department for fulfilling building and safety requirements) by April 2009 which seems like a long ways away but in reality we will be working doubletime to make that deadline - simply because it's just us working on this. But, we found out that to get the C of O we will not be required to hang any drywall on interior walls; just walls that line the exterior walls of the house in addition to the ceilings. So that will save us literally weeks.

January 25, 2008
It's been icy cold - we're at 1,000 feet elevation. But as long as it isn't actively snowing, Greg has been able to continue work on the exterior.

Now that we have the courtyard siding complete, Greg will start on our North wall.

There has been much discussion between us over this wall (on the right side of the photo) and what exactly we will do with it. Originally, we planned to use Hardie plank below the staggered edge under the peak. Then, when we had so much Eldorado stone left over (because I used a rustic wide-grout which used less stone than was estimated), we thought about continuing the stone on this face of the building. And, we may end up doing that. However, we very much need to move forward (not to mention that the application of stone is expensive), so we have decided to stick with the original plan.

So today, I assisted Greg in applying the black underlayment for the siding and
Greg began the first course (or row) of Hardie which begins at the bottom of the wall.

As we explained before, the white Tyvek protective layer has been up so long it has negated its usefulness. And, too, Greg never used the Tyvek product in California and has decided he'll stick to the tried and true Jumbo Tex.

Although I would love to do some work on the landscaping, the ground is frozen so that is not an option. Our waterfall and pond have frozen over to the point of looking like an ice sculpture. Greg has had to keep an eye on them to make sure the water keeps moving - otherwise our pumps could burn out.

January 26, 2008
For the first time in weeks, I had our high school helper work with me today.

Greg has been busy building those corbels and installing exterior siding which has caused much construction debris to be created.

It certainly isn't cost or time effective to have Greg clean up the mess created, so our helper and I spent the day putting wood debris on our burn pile, sweeping up sawdust, organizing and gathering a myriad of tools that have been left where last used, and picking up hundreds of nails and screws that have been spilled all over the jobsite. When a carpenter is working, especially on ladders and scaffolding, he's constantly dropping them. While it might not seem to be worth the effort, they add up to great numbers in a short period of time - not to mention the inconvenience of throwing something away that if you had kept it would save you a trip to the hardware store.

Now that the installation of the staggered edge in the courtyard is complete, Greg and I have taken a good look and have decided not to put up shutters in this area. The shutters would cover up most of the siding - and now that we do have a good look at it - we think it looks just right just the way it is.

January 28, 2008
As long as it's not raining buckets or snowing so hard you can't see your hands in front of your face, work goes on. So, after shoveling off his work space, Greg continues putting up the Hardie siding on the north wall.

February 2, 2008
Working on the corbels has required schlepping them back and forth from the "jobsite" to our rental home where we can glue and prime paint them in the correct temperatures as required by the product instructions. Then it's back to the jobsite to sand and use any required power equipment. As with any primer, especially if you're using a dark final color, you have your primer "tinted toward the base color." I love all colors and there is a time and place for any color or shade, it's just a matter of finding it. However, I am sick to death of this "mint colored" primer!

February 5, 2008
Now that we have put on not one, not two, but three coats of primer on the corbels (including adding wood putty where needed after the first coat), we are ready to begin applying the finish coats. Here we are using "painter's" blue masking tape - which gives you an easier release than the "regular" beige masking tape - to help with keeping the delineation between colors sharp and crisp. When using this tape you make sure to seal tight the edge against the paint while leaving the other half of the tape relatively loose to insure easier removal. Then you use a dry brush when painting over the edge to avoid leaking and spreading under the tape. And then remove the blue tape as soon as the paint is relatively dry to avoid it ahearing to the surface.

February 11, 2008
We have now completed two coats of green paint and have added two coats of copper metallic paint. Next we'll add a semi-gloss final coat of green plus two coats of clear sealer over the copper since these will be exposed to the elements.

We have also taken some metal stars and moons to the powdercoater and those will be ready soon. The metal stars are different sizes of the ones we've used elsewhere on the exterior. The "moons" are nothing more than inexpensive chain link fencing pole caps.

February 17, 2008
A long long day at work. But an exciting one. Today we began installing the corbels. It's always the prep that takes the longest and so by day's end we were only able to get two of the three installed. Installing the third corbel requires repositioning the scaffold. Thankfully were were able to scoot the thing over a foot or two by using a fulcrum and manpower.

When our helper Danny wasn't helping Greg, I had him "burying" landscaping edging in preparation for creating a walkway below the wall of siding Greg is now working on.

And while Danny and Greg were busy with their projects, I have been embroiled in organizing the house in preparation for the upcoming installation of our fresh air system and plumbing in a few weeks.

February 18, 2008
Finally - after months of designing and weeks of making them a reality - today Greg and I finished the installation of the corbels that are dressing up the courtyard area - defined by our front stairway and the garage doors. They go a long way toward setting the Craftsman Gothic theme of the architectural style.

Creating these architectural elements required making and altering a template, gluing up big chunks of wood, routing the wood to create detail, finding that "gothic" cast iron pendant, and several stages of painting (including researching and ordering the special copper gilt paint) and having the stars and moons powder coated. And here is a close up of the finished project.

With the installation of these three corbels, the courtyard exterior is basically complete! There are small details left to do (mainly the final coat of green paint and caulking on the trim because paint and caulking can't be done in winter weather) but these won't be done for quite a while. But it's sooo exciting to see it looking like it's a home - at least from the outside!

You shoulda seen us installing them on this 2 story-4 section scaffold. Greg would carry the corbel up the ladder using one hand to hold on (how he did this I do not know) and it reminded me of Jesus carrying the cross I swear! Then we were both up on the top of the scaffold, trying to keep our balance and me holding the thing in place - sometimes bracing it with my feet - while Greg drilled holes to secure them with bolts to the building. Quite the process. Good thing I am not terrified of heights!

February 19, 2008
For some reason we will soon be visited by several groups of friends who want to check on our progress. We're always up for giving a tour because it gives us a chance to stand back and see what we've accomplished.

So today Greg spent a couple of "stolen" hours making a "temporarily permanent" interim bridge to connect the front stairs (still in skeletal stage) across the dry creek. Again making use of what we have and, thus, continuing with "going green," he is using boards made from a cedar tree left behind by loggers on our property several years ago.

Greg started out by trimming two logs which will support the boards. These logs were also found on the property. Greg is using a chainsaw to accomplish this before he puts down the cedar boards to form the bridge. Our front staircase is serpentine or "S" shaped, something only a skilled staircase builder could tackle. But because the staircase is and will be in a skeletal stage for quite some time, its shape isn't apparent unless you know to look for it. But the addition of the bridge plays up the shape.

February 23, 2008
Greg has now finished the siding on the north wall. In keeping with our man in the moon theme, we hung a brass and copper wall sculpture that we had hung on our previous home.

One thing I have learned watching Greg build this house is that being a journeyman carpenter requires the dexterity of a gymnast. Climbing up tall ladders with only one hand while balancing some unwieldy object be it a piece of building material or a heavy tool is an every day - several times a day - affair. Just like I had to do a few weeks ago when Greg had me help him install a planton (piece of trim) when I was hanging onto the scaffold for dear life with one hand while holding a heavy air nail gun with the other and trying to aim it and use it properly. They have to get their entire body into the task, squeezing into tight spots, laying on their backs or on their stomachs. You have to be smart, inventivve, strong, and limber and that isn't something you can learn in a book - it takes years of experience.

February 26, 2008
The life of a carpenter has its drawbacks.

One of those drawbacks are unavoidable splinters. Whether from wood or metal shavings, sometimes a carpenter lives with them for weeks until they work themselves out and that annoying pain is something you live with.

Greg must've been hit with a piece of shrapnel when he was using the chainsaw to make that bridge - or a filing from a metal wood screw. At any rate, this one wasn't going away any time soon: his entire hand was swollen and the throbbing pain worked its way up his elbow. All of which necessitated a trip to the doctor and a prescription for antibiotics.

On a happier note, I have now completed the walkway area on the north side of the house. It's interesting how these things come together.

As Greg was working on installing the siding here, snow and rain made the area a virtual mud bath. So I used some of our left over river rock to make the area more user friendly. Although river rock isn't typically used on paths, this area won't be getting a lot of foot traffic once the house is complete.

In addition, nearly two years ago I had purchased a truckload of green granite gravel and I only had a sketchy idea of where and how I would use it. Over time I realized I would use some of it at the base of exterior walls. Between the bottom of the exterior siding and/or stonework, there is about a 5" base that isn't my idea of a finish detail. And dirt near this area tends to splash up mud onto the wall when it rains. So, after creating a path with the river rock, I put the green gravel between that and the building making sure to push up the gravel until it completely hid the cement area. Since this area of the house is in continual shade, I used more of that "free" moss I've been using elsewhere and added in a few rocks to give it some visual interest. I am pleased.



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