MAY - JUNE 2008

May 3, 2008
Today was our "helper's" last day. Whew. Greg is absolutely positively exhausted. Three solid weeks of 12-15 hour days. Well, the kid worked a regular 8 hour day but then Greg would work into the evening laying out the next day's project so that all questions, material choices and so on were made so maybe he could work on something else.

And still, no matter how much detail in explanation you give, you can't impart the reasoning and seasoning of a journeyman to a young kid - they just don't get why you are approaching certain tasks in a deliberate way. Hence, you leave them to their own devices (after the instructions) and darned if they don't do it "their" way!

Here's some of the specific frustrations Greg had to deal with:

1. "Make sure you nail this up with this side down."

Come back an hour later and have to tear it off.

2. "Make sure you use 8D nails here so you don't penetrate the waterproof membrane on the other side of the board"

Come back later, "Did you use 8Ds?" "No, I used 16Ds but I angled them."

3. "Nail off this plywood sheeting on this wall. Now I've used bright orange fluorescent paint to mark the areas not to nail because the nails will penetrate the plumbing lines behind the plywood. I've also written in large letters inthe paint -- NO NAILS --"

Come back later, and well you know what happened!

As explained somewhere else on this journal, Greg was lucky enough to begin his carpentry career working side-by-side with carpenters in their 50s, 60s and even 70s. It was the equivalent of getting his master's and PhD. He doesn't see that opportunity available any longer for the young carpenters of today. More importantly, they just don't seem curious or enthusiatic - it's a job...not a career.

Greg's nephew, Jeff, works as a customer service rep for a large homebuilder. Recently Jeff's brother, Scott, bought a "new" home. The workmanship in every part of the home was awful, sloppy and sometimes incorrect. Jeff was able to give Scott some pointers on how to deal with the homebuilder to get things corrected. According to Jeff, that is the nature of most building today: get it done fast and cheap; quality is low down on the list: it is cheaper to fix only what is complained about later rather than hiring a more experienced craftsman in the first place. What a shame.

At any rate, Greg is due a much needed rest.

While he was finishing up the day with the worker, I spent the entire day cleaning up the place - the second time in the last two weeks. Construction creates debris - but that's a good thing. It means the job is progressing so I definitely don't complain about putting the place back together. Actually, it's a very good anti-anxiety pill and gives me something to focus on - which prevents me from obsessing about all the other details.

With the push this kid was there to accomplish, we are just about done with installation of all of the exterior siding. Which means we can get our homeowners association CC&Rs off our minds. So in a week we should have everything done except for final coats of paint and caulking which we don't intend to tackle until a) warmer weather for the caulking and b) final paint until after move in.

May 9, 2008
And another big section of the exterior is finished off. This is the mountain view back side of the house that overlooks our pond and waterfall. Perfectionists that we both are, there will be a lot of touch up to do as well as just turning away from things done by the carpenter we hired that's just not up to our high expectations.

May 11, 2008
While Greg is moving around his scaffolding and working on finishing those last two walls of siding, I've been literally digging in and working on landscaping projects.

Now that the scaffolding has been removed from key areas about the house, I've been able to finish off my "baseline" rocks at the foot of most of the exterior walls.

Like Greg, I'm a stickler for details - that's what makes the job. And one of the details that "bugs" me about how you have to build houses here is that foot or so of exposed concrete at the base of walls. In California, we were able to plant shubbery right up to the house, but with wetter weather and moisture concerns, that's not an option here. So I came up with this idea - stacking rocks to hide the cement just below the siding and stonework. This also helps keep dirt from being splashed onto the siding when it rains.

May 12, 2008
The last exterior trim board in the last area to be sided - just outside the guest room. Greg had me get into the act, for posterity.

May 16, 2008
The BIG TA DA. We is (basically) finished with the outside of !!!!!!

Only took us just shy of three years and two months to do it, but we've accomplished a huge milestone. Here's Greg nailing up the last few pieces of siding and window trim.

May 17, 2008
While I did yardwork my high school helper, with a little tutoring from Greg, put together our new bridges which span the drycreeks around the property. This one creates a viewing platform for contemplating in front of our pond. And this one crosses a section of the dry creekbed (note the old bridge on the lower right).

My yardwork consisted of weeding weeding weeding. Hopefully I'll be able to get a jump on it unlike last year when it all went to seed before I could.

May 20, 2008
Greg and I spend most of the day beginning the big "Organization Project."

Organizing mostly consists of putting tools and electrical equipment in one spot, gathering up stray screws and nails of which there are hundreds (which added up can save some cash) and throwing out unusable lumber (as opposed to saving anything that could be used for small projects).

We do this every so often - but not often enough. Now that we'll soon be working on the interior, we need to regroup. But alas, we never get as much organizing done as I would like.

May 21, 2008
Today we hitched up our trailer and made the trip to our sheet metal artist's workshop to pick up the livingroom beams.

Greg, always thinking ahead, built a rack to secure them in the trailer. Then we used the rack to store them.

Now that we have them here, I'll have a lot of prep work ahead of me which will include removing oils from the metal, spackling or using Bondo to mask imperfections, and then priming for paint.

May 22, 2008
Greg has been working for what seems like months on constructing our one-of-a-kind front door.

Part of that process is building the jamb which is an art in itself. Today's carpenters wouldn't know where to start; they're used to buying the jamb premade along with the door.

So pull up a chair and take a seat at "Jamb School:"

All of the walls on the first floor are of 2x8 construction. Add the 1/2" shear panel on the exterior side and 5/8" drywall on the interior side and the wall thickness becomes 8-3/8" thick. This is a custom order jamb at the local supplier and exceedingly pricey. Plus the material used will probably be hemlock or a hem-fir combo at best and still it will probably be a jamb that is finger-jointed. When Greg first started in construction in Los Angeles in the 1970s, the carpenters usually built the jambs on site which actually speeded up the process.

Using air-dried Douglas fir from McClanahan Mill in Forks, WA, Greg set about building the jambs. The Doug fir came from the mill rough sawn and hard as a rock. Excellent jamb making material. The rough thickness was a bit over 1-1/2" or as it is also called six-quarter (6/4), that is, 6 quarter inches equals 1-1/2". Four-quarter would be a net of one inch. Greg needed to square up the jambs on all four sides. The broad, flat surfaces of the face would be smoothed by a planer, but Greg needed to straightedge the edges of the stock from the rough cut of the mill.

There are several ways to straight edge material. Tack a known straight strip of plywood to the board, overhanging one edge about 1/2" and run it through a table saw with the straight edge of the plywood running against the table saw fence and trimming straight the other edge of the board. The plywood straightedge can be removed and the stock flipped around and run through the table saw, cutting it to the proper jamb width.

As I said, the Doug fir stock was dry and hard as a rock. Greg has an old Grizzly table saw but was waiting on parts to get it up to speed. How else to straightedge this stock? Step in the old reliable SkilSaw. Greg keeps two SkilSaws, one for framing and rough work and the other for finish carpentry projects. With the proper saw guides, blades and know-how, almost anything can be built with a SkilSaw. But first you have to gave a saw guide that will give a straight line cut, the length of the jamb legs. Greg usually makes several SkilSaw saw guides, short ones and long ones. The short ones are perfect for getting a straight cut when trimming doors off to the finish height once the carpet is laid. In this case, he would need a long one for the 8' jamb legs.

The saw guide is simply a long piece of 1/2" plywood, about 8" wide. This picture shows the
SkilSaw resting on an 8' sawguide. By looking at the picture you can see the foot of the SkilSaw sitting on the plywood guide. Next to the long side of the SkilSaw foot is another piece of 1/2" plywood about 1-1/2" wide. With the aid of a known straight edge, like an 8' level, this small piece is attached to the larger plywood strip. The back set for the SkilSaw on the long side is about 3-5/8". The smaller piece is attached to the larger strip about 4" back from the edge of the plywood. Once the two are secured, he then runs the SkilSaw down the guide to cut off the excess plywood of the larger strip. The edge that is left on the guide is exactly where you place the guide for whatever you are cutting.

In this case, Greg needed to not only straightedge the stock but would then have to glue pieces together to get the proper width. He decided that the jambs would be finished out at 8-1/2" width instead of measured 8-3/8", so he could allow for any discrepancies in the framing. The stock he was working from was around 6" and 7" wide. To take advantage of all the material, Greg decided to trim off on one straight edge pass enough fall off material to save later for interior door jamb stops. Picture
#1, picture #2, and picture #3, show this process with the last picture showing the fall off that will become one piece of door stop.

Once he had straightedges, Greg examined the boards and marked which side were finish and which side was the backside. A piece of chalk makes these decisions easy to see. Then he went to work on knot holes. This Doug fir was fairly clear but had several scattered knotholes. These would be hard on the planer blades, so they had to be eliminated prior to that step. For knot holes on the backside of he simply used a grinder with a wood abrasive to
"dish out" the knot holes so they would be lower than the material to be planed around it.

On the face side, he used a simple homemade
router template to remove the knotholes. These were filled with wood blocks. They are glued in with Titebond III and clamped. These patches don't have to be flush with the surface, that can be taken care of in a later step. Greg calls these wood patches "Dutchmans." When Greg first started in construction, he worked with a high-end homebuilder in Beverly Hills who had been around since the 1940s. Greg was in his late twenties at the time and the crew was made up of older carpenters. In fact, the next youngest carpenter was 59 years old, then a half dozen in their sixties and several in their seventies. The general contractor was 75 years old. These old timers were true journeymen carpenters and could do everything from setting concrete forms and framing to finish carpentry and cabinets. Greg spent several years with this company and it was like getting a Ph.D. in carpentry from these old professors. Anyway, all these old timers referred to the process of using wood patches to fill voids as adding a Dutchman. Maybe it has something to do with the old image of a Dutchboy with patches on his pants.

Once all the edges were straightened and knotholes taken care of, it was time to glue up the pieces to gain the width needed for the final jambs. Since we are doing this process in the winter, the jobsite was too cold for Titebond III to be effective. It requires a temperature of at least 45 degrees and according to a call to Titebond's tech support, this is a temperature is necessary for at least 24 hours during the cure process. So Greg completed prepping the pieces and cut the biscuit slots on the job.
Biscuitting is the modern day method of joining wood together; doweling was the process of the past. Once all the pieces were ready, he brought them to our rental home and glued them up in the spare bedroom.

After a couple of days, Greg returned the glued-up stock to the job and started the next step. When clamping, the glue will squeeze out. On the finish side of board, the glue should be removed while it is still wet. This can be done with a damp cloth. It was a little tougher since this wood was rough cut but only the big clumps needed to be sponged off since this material still had to be run through the planer. Since it was awkward gluing up in the spare bedroom, Greg just let the glue drip from the backside onto a plastic sheet spread out on the floor. If these pieces had been planed and then joined together - and especially if they were eventually to be stained - then Greg would have clamped them up. After waiting the appropriate clamp time and at the proper temperature recommended by the glue manufacturer, he then unclamped the pieces. Removing the excess glue with a glue scraper is easier at this time since the glue is still pliable. Some feel that using a damp cloth to remove the wet glue on stain grade material will drive the glue into the wood affecting the look of the stain. Back at the job, Greg
removed the rest of excess dried glue with a glue scraper.

The Dutchman patches are also
surfaced with a electric planer to get them close to the surface.

Before doing the final planing of the glued up boards,
Greg checks to see how square across the surface the boards are. This is important when running the boards through the planer. It is also best to run the boards with the high point of the cup pointing at the planer blades. The board could "rock" going through the planer if this was reversed.

Now the boards are planed to smooth the finish side. It is not necessary to clean up the backside unless that is where the high point of the cup occurs. Then plane that side enough to flip it over to run through the planer without rocking. After planing, the boards can be milled to width, cut the
rabbet for the door and the weatherstrip slot.

In our case, we used a kerf-in foam weatherstrip made by Pemko ( The product number is Q102. For this particular door jamb pictured the jamb stock is now finished at 1-1/2" x 8-1/2". The door thickness is 1-3/4" and in the picture you can see the depth of the rabbet is greater than the thickness of the door to allow for the weatherstrip. Greg usually adds about 5/16" to the depth for the weatherstrip. So the door rabbet is cut at 2-1/16" x 5/8" as pictured. When cutting the rabbet a slot is also cut to receive the foam weatherstrip as pictured. Also in this picture you can see that the back of the jamb is slightly grooved using a table saw. This will help prevent the jamb from cupping.

Once the door rabbet is complete the jamb can be assembled. The jamb assembly consists of four parts. One jamb top or "head", two jamb sides or "legs" and the bottom threshold, nowadays made of aluminum. Most all of Greg's experience from years ago when they had to site build the jambs, a oak threshold was used. Later on the weatherstripping was installed by a weatherstripper that specialized in interlocking weatherstrip. This is probably a dying art and rarely used any more. There many types of aluminum thresholds and weatherstripping products and Greg settled on
anodized aluminum thresholds also provided by Pemko. Greg devised a router jig to cut out for the aluminum threshold used to attach to the bottom of the jamb legs. The top part of the jamb legs are routed to receive the jamb head. Remember to screw the threshold in with a little a little polyurethane sealant. Now the finished jamb can be installed over the PVC jamb sill that was installed previously.

Before installing any exterior jamb, a sill pan should be used. These sill pans are a protective pan that prevents any water that either leaks through the threshold or comes in under the door to come into the building. Most thresholds installed today are made of aluminum. Even though they are usually anodized, it is still a good idea to never allow aluminum to come into contact with treated lumber or concrete. So besides preventing water penetration the sill pan also provides that barrier. Even if you made the decision not to use a sill pan, you should at least use something to insulate the aluminum threshold from these caustic materials. Roofing felt at the very least or one of the Vycor products Years ago, Greg said that on the big jobs the sheet metal company always provided these pans made of soldered sheet metal. Today they are available on line and Greg used ones that are made of PVC and glued up from three parts to fit about any size wall at 2x6 or less. Since the first floor walls are 2x8, Greg had to fabricate wider pans from the parts provided by Jamsill ( This company saw a void to fill in this market and is located in Ashland, Oregon. On one of his trips up and down the I-5, Greg stopped in to their factory and purchased what he needed. The customer service of this company is fantastic. Greg described the details of the 2x8 walls to their staff and was given extra materials at no charge to fabricate oversized Jamsills.

Once the
Jamsill is installed, the rough opening should be protected by products made by Vycor or ProtectoWrap. Greg's overkill of jamb installation follows this path:

1. The sill pan is installed.
2. To the rough framing he applies Vycor, to include a lap over the sill pan.
3. The jamb is set in place, plumbed, leveled and attached using 3" galvanized screws. Rough framing should be a little bigger than the outside dimensions of the jamb by at least 1/2" for shimming later. Then try to attach the hinge side of the jamb first, hard against the framing. This leaves furring out the active side but gives the hinge side a solid anchor. One thing that Greg saw not being done up here, that was always done was to block back the framing on either side of the door. This gives the wall a more solid feeling. You know, when a door is slammed, the wall vibrates. The wall isn't blocked. Of course, do this blocking before the electrician, plumber and other subs do their work. Most likely they'll just smash your block out of their way, but it's the thought that counts.
4. After the jamb is set. Then Greg seals any gaps between jamb and framing with a good polyurethane sealant. Over this,
he bridges between the jamb and the framing with Vycor ( or ProtectoWrap holding it back about 3/8" from the inside edge. This will be covered by the finish casing added to the exterior. The inside gap of the jamb and framing will be "foamed" to meet energy code requirements. Be sure to use the non-expanding foam for this step.

Now it's time to hang a door.

June 3, 2008
Greg begins to install the HRV (heat recovery ventilation system).

In order to hoist it onto the platform Greg built to hold it, we worked like Egyptians by building up the unit with blocks of wood until the height matched the height of the platform - and then we were able to scoot it over.

June 5, 2008
While Greg spends time figuring out exactly where to put the ducting for the HRV, I begin work on the beams.

First, in preparation for paint, I wash the sheet metal thoroughly with a modern (non-toxic) version of TSP - which used to be known as Spic 'n Span.

XXXJune 6, 2008
Greg spends hours figuring out the ducting system for our HRV.

I work on the beams to smooth out the solder and fill in the seams on the surface by applying Bondo, and then use oscillating sander to smooth the finish. Especially since we will be using a metallic paint, a good surface is a must.

June 9, 2008
Greg continues on the HRV ducting.

I am working on the beams. After sanding down the Bondo, I prime them.

June 22, 2008
Greg working on ducting for bathroom ventillation - GREG EXPLAIN "CENTRAL" SYSTEM FOR THAT ROOM

I do a rather thorough clean up. Vac up construction dust and organize supplies in prep for gypcrete later in the summer or early fall

And we work on beams. I'm lousy, trial and error with Bondo, spackle, drywall compound.

Working out design issues: less is more, original finial ideas we see don't work, buy spears, talk to lighting consultants about change from lights in finials to spot lights

June 23, 2008
Greg working on front door. We'll be having company in a month and would love them to see it - besides it's required for our CofO.



And for previous house notes go to

to see what we've been up to lately

(the newest entries are always at the bottom of the page)