Thursday, June 25, 2009

The CO .... we are done .... kind of

A few weeks ago we finally had the final inspection. It felt like the day that I turned in my PhD dissertation. Lots of work for many years and even more stress waiting to see if I would pass. The inspector came by for a visit and was there for about 20 minutes. He was and has been great to work with. Other than a few minor items he said we were good to go and to call him in a few days to sign off on the permit after we did the hour of fixes.

We added an outlet on the back of the house, pulled together documentation on the safety film on the windows and put some returns on the stair rails. The inspector showed up for his final visit about 5 minutes before a had a conference call and left with about a minute to spare. Not to gloat ... but you will notice no marks in the middle or failed inspection column. I was shooting for a perfect record but did not plan on getting one.

The house is nowhere near complete but we figure that we have at least 3-4 decades left to work on it, but at a slower pace. Watch for more updates in the near future now that there is more time to blog.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

$100 Quarter Sawn Oak Front Door

I have been meaning to do a post about our front door for a while. The door has been a project I have been working on for several months on and off. For the house addition we decided to site-build all of the doors. This includes the 12 interior doors. These are more akin to furniture with the amount of finish work that has gone into them.

The door is quite large but the scale is perfect for our porch. It measures in at 4 feet x 8 feet, not including the casing or side lights and is made entirely out of quarter sawn oak that we cut on site. The door is so heavy that I used 5 hinges to hang it. For more about the quarter sawing you can check out a previous post.

When you go into any big box store you can order up the large "custom" entry doors. They come in a variety of woods and wood looking fiberglass. They can run upwards of $5,000 for a fully custom door. Our only expense was some custom insulated glass panels from Clear Vue Glass in Durham and the finish. Okay ... while the door itself may have only cost under $100, my overall investment (including the shop, sawmill, tractor etc) raises the cost of the door.

The following picture provides a good example of the quarter sawn oak that we were getting out of our logs. It is fairly labor intensive, but the process gives you a great grain pattern and a stable product. The rails and stiles are actually laminated, or made up of two 3/4 inch boards glued together. This results in less warpage and allows you to use regular 4/4 stock instead of starting out with 8/4 stock. We used the standard dark stain formula that I came up with several years ago after doing a lot of sampling of different stain mixtures. It is the same stain that we are using on the interior trim and some furniture.

The interior is still lacking its final trim. The ultimate plans are to add some stained glass in the top window and the side lights, but that will have to wait until we get the stained glass materials out. You can see an amber stained glass fixture above the door. As it works out, and one could even say as planned, it is perfectly framed in by the window in the door as you walk up to the house.

With much of the trim and wood work in the house I have tried to keep true to the wood that we have. While much of the quarter sawn boards are clear of knots, some are not. Instead of being overly selective with the boards, I routed out the few knots and placed some dutchmen so the door looks like it has been there for 100 years and has had some repairs. It is a what I call "perfectly imperfect". Gustav Stickley would have been proud.

Labels: , ,

Frank Lloyd Wright Weekend in Chicago (lots of pictures)

Last summer Stephanie and I took a trip to Chicago for a long weekend. It was perfect weather, not too hot or humid. We stayed in our old neighborhood or Oak Park at the Carleton Hotel. During that time we had a chance to walk through the historic district that has numerous Frank Lloyd Wright houses, including his home and studio.

Within walking a few blocks you can get a glimpse of the evolution of his designs, from late Victorian styles (Gale house),

to his shingle-clad home and studio, to my favorite Oak Park design where he started hiding the front door and turned the houses 90 deg on axis to make them sit wide on their lots.

A striking house that sits across the street is the Moore House that he originally designed in 1895 and then redesigned it in 1929 after a fire. It is a Tudor style with this tall wide chimneys. It was a perfect Sunday morning for a walk.

A few days later we had a chance to tour the Robie house. The house is located on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. We took the Red line and transferred to the bus. After a quick burger at the Woodlawn Tap we walked a few blocks to the house. It is currently undergoing restoration, but it is still a sight to see. It sits on the corner and overlooks former prairie which is now university buildings.

Once again there is the hidden front door motif. This time it was to the left and around the corner.
Part of the attraction of this house was that Stephanie had just finished reading Wright 3 to our sons, Jacob and Joshua. In the book one of the main characters, Tommy, lives in the apartment next door (as seen the in the photo).

All in all it was a great weekend, and yes we did do a lot more than take pictures of FLW houses.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rough-in Complete - July 2008

June and July were busy months at Boothe Mountain Retreat. We spent most of the time working on the rough-in activities, along with siding. This included over 1200 feet of radiant tubing (1/2 inch PEX) stapled under the second floor (you can see Jeff having a good time at this!). For the addition we used floor trusses instead of standard 2x material which created plenty of openings for plumbing, duct work, electrical etc. I do not think we would ever go back to traditional floor framing. Not only were they easy to use, the members were nearly the same cost as 2x8 or 2x10 floor joists.

All of the tubing was affixed to the subfloor using site pressed aluminum flashing. You can purchase the trasfer plates but it is easier to make them and it saves a lot of money. We used standard flashing rolls and made a press using short sections of the tubing screwed to scrap subfloor (postive) and then a negative portion of of the press was 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch OSB that cooresponded with the tubing. The nice thing is that you can move the tubing around on the press to adjust the spacing and any reasonably weighted person (>100 lbs) can crank these out. Jeff's 13 year old son Christian got fairly proficient at the process.

There was a lot of work that went into connecting the addition to the original timber frame portion of the house. Here you can see the step up into the 10x10 portion of porch that we enclosed as a connector. It is at the same elevation as our current playroom for the kids and does a lot to tie the buildings together. It has a fairly low ceiling (~7-6) and it helps to highlight the expansiveness of the 10 ft ceilings in first floor of the new addition. Frank Lloyd Wright used these technique in his designs as saw it as a "birthing process." One of the first places I saw this was in the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison WI. It was an un-built design of his that was finally realized around 1992. There is this hall that takes you into the main room overlooking the lake. There is a transition from a hall with 7 ft ceilings to over 30 ft in the main room.

Here you can see the view from the front sitting area of the addition. This is the one spot where we used timber framing. It is an 8x8 post that carries the corner of the second floor. Once again, the open floor trusses allowed for fairly easy HVAC duct work, central vac and other rough-in.
The concrete floors were still unfinished but they look great now (future blog entry).

One of the great spaces is the 3rd floor attic. It started as walk up attic storage but while I was finishing the plans for the house we increased the roof pitch and added 14 ft wide dormers on each side. The ceilings go from 9+ feet in the center of the room to 7-6 at the dormer ends. We ran water lines, the stack, central vac, internet etc up there so it will be fully functional someday. I had some extra wire so we ran a switch from the first floor to one of the attic outlets. We plan on installing a whole house fan to help with cooling in the spring and fall.

We insulated with spray foam but since the attic was a walk-up the county inspectors required us to spray the foam with fire-proof paint which was going run $1/sq foot. Our dry wall was running around $0.60/sq foot for materials and installation/finishing so it was a no brainer to install dry wall. This was the impetus for us to do a complete wiring job in the attic so we could trim the windows and put some flooring down in the future to have another floor of the house. Now that is a bonus room.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "2 week till done" Time Continuum

Fear not .... the progress has not stopped on our house addition. We are finally in that "two weeks till done" time warp. We planned on calling for our final inspection before the end of the year (2008) since we had family coming for a visit and we were unable and unwilling to put them up in the pop-up camper two trips in a row. Our visitors decided that they did not want to rush us on the house, and they probably realized that we were not close to being done, so they postponed their visit till spring. Also, the world economic meltdown caused a slight change in plans for the spend on the work. During the second half of the year we were waiting for our home equity line of credit to be frozen. So in the true fashion of drunken sailors on shore leave we (smartly) spent almost all the money under the equity line and purchased most of the items needed to finish the addition, except for labor. So Jeff, our one full time helper, finished up what he could and was off to some new jobs in December. So it is back to the home improvement solo show.

The silver lining of this is that we feel that the project is more under control and since it is governed by cash on hand instead of check book tied to a line of credit. We are now to a short list of projects that are needed to get the CO (certificate of occupancy) but that leaves out the Stickley styled builtins, coffered ceilings and custom cabinets. The pace is nice. I spend an hour in the morning working on a small project and then 3-4 hours in the evening trying to knock something off the list. As you can see in the above picture that was taken this morning, the place is coming together. The front "lawn" is seeded and strawed, just waiting for some warmth and rain. Now we are only "two weeks" away from finishing.

Stay tuned for more regular updates and some "vintage" shots covering the work since the early fall.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

First fire of the season....

The AC has been off for a week or two and the nights have been getting cooler. Today was windy with a daytime high in the high 50's. This coincided with the near completion of our hard wood floor installation so it was time ... time for the first fire of the season in our soap stone stove. I had been saving all the small scraps of quarter sawn strip flooring just for this. It will probably be too warm in here in a few minutes, but we can open the windows. Fall is here, even if only for just a few days so far.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Spray Foam Insulation - Video

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Goodbye Mr. Pink and Hello to Mr. Foam

It seems like everywhere you look there is a push for all things "Green". If you go to the big box store there are green items in every isle. People with 6000 sq ft houses talk about being green. I guess we are actually doing something popular without knowing it. Much of the materials, almost all the wood in the original timber frame structure came from within several hundred feet of the house footprint. Trees came down, they were milled onsite, dried in the solar kiln and then put into service in the house (flooring, trim, cabinets, timbers, decking, ceiling etc.). When it came to insulating the frame we went with the old cost effective standard which is fiberglass insulation … not very green. In addition to making you itch like crazy when installed, the manufacturing of the insulation takes a lot of energy to melt and spin the glass into fibers and then it is backed with a tar coated paper and coated with formaldehyde.

We decided to look into alternatives. Being that it was July in North Carolina and having one of our two small AC units not working, we were okay with spending a little more money to dramatically increase our heating and cooling efficiency. I called our friend Jack who turned a drafty 1920 barn into a house since he was on top of the different types of insulation from denim bats to SIPs panels, to blown in cellulose to spray foam. He used soy based spray foam and has had electricity bills this summer that were around $39/month while using central air. He did comment that he had his bill spike a few months ago in the high $50’s. Sounds like a bad problem.

I called Tu Nguyen at Healthy Home Insulation to see what it would cost to insulate our house. Jack used Healthy Home Insulation to insulate his barn and had nothing but good things to say about working with Tu and his product called Icynene. The great thing about Icynen spray foam is that it is CFC free and uses water at the propellant. We had a traditional contractor bid on fiberglass insulation and Icynene was only $1,500 more and the entire envelope of the house would be sealed. This includes the walk up attic (look for the future posting about the real “Bonus Room”) so it was a no brainer.

Tu and his crew showed up last Monday morning and they were finished a day later. This included covering all the windows, spraying the foam, trimming it down, sealing around the windows and cleaning and bagging the trimmed foam. I was able to get a video of DJ spraying the first foam. It was amazing how the temperature of the house started to drop as he worked his way through the house. On Wednesday we had the insulation inspection and our inspector thought it all looked great. The only problem he had was that he thought we might be too insulated and we might need to provide some ventilation with the outside. As Jack said Tu and his team were the most professional group he had out at his job site and that they were quick thorough in their work. Jack was right.

When I closed up the windows in the addition tonight after the drywall finishers left, the temperature was cooler in the addition than in the current timber frame, even though we have one of our AC units running non-stop. Jack might be right about the $39 electric bills during the summer in North Carolina. Viva la green revolution!

Labels: ,

View My Stats