Sunday, April 29, 2012

Moving On

So, it has really been a long time since the last post.   Since then, we put up a shed that was designed in the image of the house, with its own little sitting porch and plenty of room inside for a snow blower, lawn mower, and everything else for the outdoors.  It is a fine place and balances the property nicely, bringing something to keep the house in scale to the yard.

We also paved the driveway.  While we had hoped to keep the driveway as crushed gravel, the encroachment of weeds and the dust into the garage and house put us over the edge.  It looks super-fine, and we have absolutely no regrets about the change.

The biggest change of all is also the most recent.  We decided to move to San Francisco, changing just about everything in our lives, including selling our NextHouse.

We loved everything about our home.  The design phase was so interesting, with the engineering challenges associated with being the first of its kind.  The tear-down of the old house was wrenching, but the process of building the new place was absolutely great.  How often do people say they loved the process of building a house?  We will forever owe a debt of gratitude to our builder (Steve) and to all his guys and the others who worked to build it.  We will miss our yard and the wildlife - - in the last few weeks at the house, we had deer and wild turkeys "fighting" for rights to hang out on our septic mound.  All the weeding could be a black hole, but was so peaceful, and so we'll even miss that.  The deer that regularly destroyed the tomato, green bean, rose, and holly plants will be missed nonetheless.  We had the joy of bluebirds all winter (despite no bluebird house) and hummingbirds all summer (despite no hummingbird feeder).

All that said, our new city called, and off we have gone.  We already love our new city life, and will carry with us great memories of this home.  We wish the new owners all the happiness as they make this house their home.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A New Life for Deck/Acorn/Next

We caught up with our friend Ed over a few beers on Friday and talked a bit about the new life for the old Empyrean entity. Happily, a new owner has emerged, with good financing and a seemingly conservative business model that should be good for the redevelopment of this company. The brand name Empyrean has been minimized, and there is a strong focus on branding the known names - Deck, Acorn and NextHouse.

We hear that a few of the folks who were with the predecessor company are back at work, which is always good news. More importantly, customers are returning. The website is reactivated and cleaned up, and can be found at

In the meantime, we're still loving life in our NextHouse. This was the year to have the house restained, and it really needed it! The south-southwest exposure provides great passive solar, but that same sunlight fades and dries out the stain pretty quickly. The clapboards just drank up the stain and look phenomenal.

We're getting ready for Fall, collecting kindling, trimming plants, and harvesting those vegetables that the deer didn't decimate. Mama deer leaps the garden fence like it's not there, and is particularly fond of beet greens and swiss chard. Not too long til the leaves will be down and raking will be our weekend chore.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Balmy 80F

We spent a good portion of the winter whining about the cold and feeling like the fireplace just wasn't doing the trick. We had struggled in our firebox selection, since the house was designed for an insert that didn't require full masonry. So, we ended up with this Quadra Fire, and were pretty disappointed because it didn't really heat the house up.

So, we turned to our handy technical expert to figure it out. I was ready to rip out the insert, change the framed area, and put a freestanding wood stove in, but knew that would be a lot of work and could be bad aesthetically. Well, it turns out that the Quadra Fire is designed to have a fan/blower system that takes a combination of external and internal air, runs it around the firebox in, and blows it out into the house. So, the big question was whether we could get this set up after the fact.

After several hours of consultation, including bringing Steve over to try to recall what they did when they put the fireplace in (this was, sadly, one case where none of us had in-process photos), we received good news. The fans and air ducts were all installed. All we needed to do was to get them wired to a switch so that we could turn them on. Clearly we weren't paying attention when we answered some question about the fireplace when it was being put in. Anyway, our electrician was able to carve two small holes in the wallboard to access the wiring and fish it up to a new switch. As an added bonus, the lower of the hole was turned into a new outlet, which was needed there anyway. There's no evidence other than a little pencil mark on the wall that this wasn't set up this way from the start.

We're into the often dreary, raining and cold days of April, and continue to enjoy the fireplace's efficiency. It's remarkably easy to get the house at or above 80F with an evening fire, and the heat stays long enough to keep the house above 60 well into the next day.
So, I'll take back everything bad I said about the Quadra Fire....

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Awaiting the Next Empyrean Chapter

So, we heard today that Empyrean International ceased operations this week. Apparently, the current economic tide has taken its toll. Hopefully, one of the other firms (Lindal or someone of that ilk) will pick up the designs and approach, or someone with smarts around brand focus, marketing and operations will come along with enough funding to ressurrect it.

The area here is filled with original deck houses, many of which are likely to need significant updates in the coming years. It would be nice if there was a locally-headquartered company in the area that the current and future deck house owners could turn to when they're ready to update or replace their homes - rather than the generic McMansions that the towns have been sprouting.

A number of people worked a long time for Deck House and have seen some interesting changes there the past few years (the pursuit of the Dwell Homes and renaming to Empyrean), I'm sure many cared a great deal about the core of the company.

Here's a toast to everyone who helped make our place happen - you know who you are. Best wishes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Enough snow - time for spring

It's surprising to think that just about a year ago, the interior framing was underway and maybe the wallboard was going up. So, we're about 9 months in the house now, and things are going well. The house is rock solid, but we do have a few things that Steve's still working on. The first time we used the fireplace, the house pretty much filled up with smoke. The second time, it was fine. We're thinking that the flat expanse of the roof can affect the draw, and we may need to add a section to increase the chimney height. When we get our act together with good firewood, we should be able to really offset those ghastly propane bills. Since we didn't make as much progress with the chainsaw as we hoped to, we've been buying wood that burns fast and not too as hot as I'd like. Definitely need to get ahead of this one for next year.

We're still optimizing the folding door. It's beautiful, but on the really cold nights or gloomy days it does let some air pass. After some issues keeping the door adjusted so that it could be latched, we ended up with the blunt force approach and increased the size of the holes into which the latches fit. This probably has reduced the efficiency of the doors, since there's now more "play" for latching them, which reduces the airtightness of the seal. On the upside, the passive solar attributes of the house are astounding on a sunny winter day. The sun just pours in from both levels, heating the office, living room, and bedroom. It may be the low 30's outside today, but we have the thermostats set at 66 and the upstairs rooms are registering 75F - - not bad.

Ping still likes to sit, watch from, and play on the railing - a game of catch with her is always fun, but during the sunny time, she mostly sits.

We've had some moisture issues in the overhangs on the lower deck. The overhangs were designed without soffit vents, and moisture would build up and condensate in the canister lights. Not only was it dripping out at a sometimes prodigious rate, it also wicked into and stained the wood. One person thinks we may have to replace the recessed canister lights in the kitchen with pendant/trapeze lighting (somehow, the interior lights are to blame for condensation in an exterior overhang). Let's see - that would mean stripping out what's there, bringing in Eddie to redo the wiring, replacing or patching the ceiling wallboard, and of course buying and installing halogen trapeze fixtures - priceless! Empyrean is engineering a soffit vent and insulation approach that are supposed to resolve the issue without having to change the kitchen lighting. Good plan, because I think they're all rightfully concerned about how I might react if we had to mess with the interior.

The recent lunar eclipse was well-viewed from the house. Didn't take any photos, but our private location, the clear skies, and the positioning of the house on the lot meant there were great vantage points. The moon was still quite full last night and when I woke during the night, I could watch it trace across the house, lighting up the rooms.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cats and Bathrooms, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Picking Locks

Oh yea, the other floor plans

So, here's the floor plan for the second floor. It's not the final thing either. Probably the biggest impact change of any was to get rid of the wall and put the cable rail in its place alongside the office. We still can't imagine living in the house with that wall there - it would have been so closed off. Even if our office was a bedroom, we'd still have the cable rail instead of a double-walled hallway. And the master bath - the toilet and shower swapped places as soon as we saw how it would frame up - and we wouldn't have it any other way. These clearly aren't the final plans, because I'm also noticing that this doesn't reflect the proper placement of the sliding doors to the deck off the master bedroom. As designed, the bedroom door would open and block the light from and access to the sliding doors. Even before we tore down the old place, we made the change to shift the doors to the deck to the far side of that wall, so there's no obstruction. I've got to imagine they've addressed this in future designs as well.

This weekend has been filled with postable events, most of which probably are interesting only to us.

The search for mirrors for the guest and half baths had been consuming us for weeks. Like our own version of Groundhog Day, we returned to the same stores, naively believing that they would have something worthwhile this time. Yesterday, in blazing afternoon heat, we trekked through Harvard Square down Mass Ave to look for something serviceable, figuring stores catering to students would have something. After a disappointing round, we stopped for a beer and a salad (very, very good) at Henrietta's Table at the Charles Hotel, and on a dare, stopped back into Crate and Barrel. Well, we found mirrors that would work fine - not our first choice by any means, but better than serviceable.

So, the catch? Oh, these are the last 4 in the country, they've been discontinued and we don't know whether we'll be able to sell them, and they're part of a "design" and our designer isn't here to okay removing them from the display. Well, it turns out if you look like you might cry, people can change their minds pretty quickly - and slap on the 10% floor sample discount. Yippee and three cheers for a store manager with her head on straight!

If this hadn't worked out, we probably would've found ourselves schlepping to Ikea again, and we know how much fun it was to get lost going there the last time!

So, about that locked door

Well, someone other than me (who shall remain nameless) decided he had enough of a hungry cat and tossed her into the guest bath and slammed the door shut. Of course, the little pin lock on the other side had been pressed in somewhere along the way, resulting in a cat locked in a bathroom. This is, of course, on the second floor and has no operable windows. A panicked call to the builder on a Sunday afternoon for tips on breaking in didn't really work out (he has a life...). My entreaties to call the fire department (don't they rescue kittens from trees?) was not agreed to. So, out comes the tool box, and eventually we found an Allen wrench in my bike tools that was just the right size to wiggle into the little hole and pop the pin to the unlocked position.

Someone has litter box duty for the next month as penance for this little misdeed. In the meantime, I'm researching how to disable the locking function on all interior doors before something really bad happens. Why do people want locks on interior doors anyway?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Finishing Touches

We've been busy enough enjoying the house that I've not felt inspired to take the time to post - of course work seems to be taking up more time than ever. It's still so great to come home, have the big folding door open, and relax, work or do whatever.

Storage solved.

We worked with Stokes Woodworking to get some more bookcases. The cases are built in 3 separate pieces that then fit together like a single unit. Very good looking. The middle section is about 7 feet tall and something less than 6 feet wide. Clearly, this was not going up the staircase. The guys looked at the stairs and stepped outside. About an hour later, two more guys showed up. Two guys lifted from below, then one guy continued to hold it from beneath while two guys upstairs were stabilizing it and the fourth ran up the stairs to help lift it up and over the railing. Holy cow. This is why I can't be home when this stuff happens. I basically was freaking out watching this while concurrently participating on a conference call for work. Of course, I should have gotten some pictures of this.

Anyway, with those bookcases in, we've been able to move the existing ones to the reading area in the media room downstairs, and are gradually reshuffling books to the right destination. And, we're figuring out how to arrange our desks in the office - we're not 100% there yet, but we're getting close. The office was really the last place where we were living in a temporary mode, so it's good to get closer to final on it.

The yard has gone from a desolate lunar landscape to a weed-infested lunar landscape.
The cats love the floor-to-ceiling windows in the media room and the entry hall, and spend hours looking at birds, chipmunks, mice, etc. The hard-packed dirt and grasses going to seed provide a great buffet for the birds. The birds, combined with a bumper crop of dragonflies and a few very dry weeks, means that mosquitoes are few and far between. We have had the usual New England suspects on the bird front, but some of our favorites including a few hummingbirds, some goldfinches, and the periodic heron fly-over have brightened things up.

If you kiss enough toads, you finally find a good landscape architect. We spoke with some people we didn't like and met with one who was fixated on water gardens but didn't want to walk around the property with us - it wasn't looking good. We have finally met the person we think gets it and we're looking forward to seeing designs soon. She was a referral from someone at Empyrean, and she has a good balanced sensibility.

We'll probably leave the septic field wild with some mixed grasses and maybe some lupine. Defined spaces elsewhere will be for a vegetable garden, an herb garden, some perennial flower beds, fruit trees, and a very little bit of actual grass. Given where the budget's at, it's a good thing that this can happen over an extended period of time. Presumably, we'll make better decisions in the context of how the earlier plantings look. We are focusing on plants/species that are native to the area, and that are not invasive. The list of available plants is further limited by avoiding plants that will be more appealing to the deer than the ferns currently are. We're perfectly happy to have the deer eat the ferns and scrub bushes on the edge of the woods, but will be less thrilled to buy plants that become winter forage for the deer population. Not sure how many fences it will take to protect the garden from them. It'll be fun to build this out over time, no matter what we end up doing.

Asked and answered.
Here are the first floor plans - not exactly what we built, but pretty close. Of course, a magnifying glass will be required to read them. We didn't do the shower in the half bath, leaving a lot more room for the sauna, and we left out the concept of a partial wall of some sort between the living room and media room (called family room on the plans). I'll see how this looks and put the second floor on another day. If this doesn't work, someone will tell me and I'll figure out an alternative.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One Month In!

A random update, with ramblings on things that strike my interest at the moment.

Give or take, we're been in a month. Long enough to know that cats need rugs, since they can't run across the bamboo flooring without wiping out. The temptation is great, and sometimes cannot be resisted, to throw a favorite toy across the room and see what happens.

There have been some interesting steps along the moving-in process.

Gas dryer hookup. Okay, it's not that hard, but apparently Sears and the manufacturers have decided that if you're going to connect a clothes dryer to propane fuel source, they're going to make it as difficult as possible. So, best efforts by the heating crew notwithstanding, we ended up having to bring in the techs from the propane company. It was a relief to finally get it connected after long delays...hanging clothes off the balcony rail to dry was going to be a little too Hatfield-and-McCoy.

Alarm system. The alarm system exists primarily to wake us up in the middle of the night when the power goes out - as it regularly does in this area. So, it's a long walk around the perimeter of the "balcony", down the stairs, and into the mud room to reset it. It is especially fun when the power goes out twice in a night. If my vision gets any worse, I'll have to start sleeping with my reading glasses by the bedside in order to find the right reset button on the panel.

Mirrors. Okay, I'm not a vampire, but our inability to find mirrors that we like isn't so bad...I have found that I really don't miss taking a look in the mirror in the morning. At some point, we'll really need to find mirrors for the bathrooms.


We do have some great animal-spotting, particularly from the upper level. A doe and ~2 week old fawn wandered across the leach field the other day. The next morning, the healthiest-looking coyote I've seen trotted across. Hopefully the healthy look had nothing to do with the tasty-looking fawn. With room between the house and the trees, we can now see herons, hawks, and the periodic wood duck fly through. Today, we became more convinced that the cats will stay in the house, with our spotting of a fisher cat making its way the length of the stone wall. While not too big, they apparently consider domestic cats to be a particularly special treat for lunch. At night, we can hear the owls.

Acoustics. It's taking a little getting used to, but we're figuring out the acoustics of the house. There are definitely dead zones, where sound just drops off. The cats have figured out the best post-bedtime yowls, which when initiated from the right place, echo and could wake the dead. There is one more rug on order - we'll see if that makes a difference.

It Really is a Loft. I always wanted to live in a loft - probably inspired by watching the movie "Diva" way back when. This house is by no means that, but it is a far better loft than I ever imagined. This place is very open, and has a good flow. The kitchen which we were a bit afraid would be too small, is working out well. The only glitch is that it's hard to empty the dishwasher because we organized the dishes in cabinets that are hard to get to when the dishwasher is open. We love the Fisher Paykel dish drawers.

Lunar Landscape.

The landscaping and driveway won't happen for a while yet, so we look out on dirt and rocks, except the leach field, which had to be seeded. It, however, has a pretty bald top. We talked with a few folks so far, and will probably put down loam and seed winter rye in August. The top of the leach field will get local/native wildflowers and grasses, so that it doesn't need to be mowed.

A Place for Everything.
We're so happy with the work Al and his team did on all the cabinetry that we had him over on Friday to discuss several more bookcases, shelving units for CDs, and a cat-proof cabinet to house the turntable and a few other audio components. Everything should be ready by late July - a much quicker turnaround than the now 6-month wait for a replacement cabinet door to arrive from Germany to replace the one broken by the cat when she tipped a speaker through it. Needless to say, the new speakers will be far less tippy.

There's very little left on the punch list, and some of the pictures have finally been hung. Soon enough we'll get the open house scheduled and invitations sent out.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

We're here - and mosty unpacked!

The move went pretty well on Wednesday. I managed to stay away from the office the whole day, which earned me some points at home. The movers did a pretty good job, and they were fast. Of course, I discovered stuff that we hadn't packed well back when we moved out originally, had never unpacked, and had broken somewhere along the line. Not too much damage so far - a few bowls and a piece of "art glass." I haven't had the nerve to unpack the framed photos, but will probably undertake that tomorrow, time permitting.

The house is great. It really does have the open feel of a loft, but at the same time, various spaces are really private. The acoustics will take some getting used to - but that will improve when we put rugs down in the living and dining rooms.

The moon is approaching full, and each night we get to see it travel across the south-facing exposure. Last night an owl woke me up with its call. Haven't seen too much other wildlife, but the woods/undergrowth are thick enough now that the deer are pretty well-hidden.

We've cooked a few dinners, and now that we actually have stools, we can sit comfortably at the island to eat until our new dining room table and chairs arrive. We had our first official visitor yesterday (official visitor being someone to whom we haven't paid a sum of money or who wasn't in service to us to deliver something). A nice chat on the deck with a glass of wine while the birds sent out their evening calls - gratefully the mosquitoes were not around. We're looking forward to more friends and family visiting - will probably need to start thinking about some sort of party.

"My" deck is truly a respite - high up and with a great view into the woods to watch the birds fly through the treetops. I hope tomorrow morning's coffee and newspaper will be delivered to me there!

Our punch list is an interesting mix of things. Most importantly is finding out how to silence the alarm that sounds when there's a power outage - which happens often enough around here to be a nuisance. If we recall correctly, the alarm has something to do with either the well pump or some other mechanical system. Anyway, it went off somewhere around midnight our first night in - causing me to blindly stumble down the stairs and randomly hit buttons on the control panel til it silenced. Then about 2:30 it went off again, just to announce that the power was back on - requiring another stumble down the stairs and more random button hitting.

It took us a few days to realize that we hadn't used our great Phantom Screen yet. Yee-ha! Down comes the screen, open up the big folding door, and it's like the living room is a screened porch. So far it is the only screen that the cats have not climbed. They (the cats) have adapted quite well to the house. It took less than a day for them to decide that it's really cool to hang out on the cap to the cable rail, like a feline Olga Corbett on a very high balance beam. The drop from the top of the rail is probably 13+ feet, which makes us more than a little nervous. The new trick - as of 30 minutes ago, is for Ping to skitter down the banister overlooking a particularly nasty drop - or to jump up onto that same banister from the stairs. Yikes.

Next on our agenda - settle in, get some basic landscaping underway, plan the real plantings, and enjoy being here. Stella's already figured it out, watching from the catbird seat.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

4 days til move-in

Wow - just four days and we'll be in! While there are still random items to finish off, it's really coming together well. We've started moving a few things to the house; mostly the stuff that we'd rather not have the movers deal with, like golf clubs, little fragile glass tables, and miscellaneous stuff that doesn't pack well. Everything else will be up to the movers. I'll be at work the day of the move, which is alternately a relief and terrifying.

Comcast showed up as scheduled Friday afternoon, and there's *hopefully* internet and cable in an operational status. Maybe we'll take a cable and try connecting one of our computers to the internet today - the wireless will need to wait until our move. We'll be TV free for the first many days, as we await the ordering and arrival of the hi-def TV. The Red Sox will be a sight to behold in hi-def, particularly whenever we're beating the Yankees. Goodwin's High-End will help us get outfitted, and we'll also get them to make sure the turntable gets properly re-established in the new house...still need to get a solid shelf built and anchored to the studs to reduce the vibration and keep the turntable out of the reach of trouble-making cats.

All of the lights are in. The outside lights look really good, and the best thing about them is that they're not the same as every other house you drive past these days. My very old George Kovaks light is up in the dining room, and I'm glad to see it there, like an old friend (and it's probably happy to be out of the box it lived in for 3+ years).

The sauna is looking quite inviting, especially on this 40-degree day, and the whole house looks great now that the cleaning crew has come through. All the stickers are off the windows and the floors shine!

What's not yet done...

We ordered the shower door for the master bath; for the guest, we have a piece of glass coming that will extend just high enough and far enough to keep the showers water inside the tub. It'll be nice to not have to deal with shower curtains anywhere. These will take 3+ weeks, and in the meantime, we'll just have to be careful - it doesn't make sense to buy a shower curtain only to use it for a few weeks.

We haven't done anything about lining up basic landscaping, or paving the driveway. Found some good books at the Concord Bookstore on native grasses and plantings, as well as garden and landscape design. Hopefully, these will provide the inspiration to do much of the design and installation work ourselves. For the time being, we have temporary steps from the back of the garage - not pretty, but mandatory to get the occupancy permit.

With the casting off of several bookcases, we need to get going on replacements; we also no longer have a built-in shelving that was so handy for CD storage. For what it is, a lot of what we've looked at is either cheesy or not worth the price. Perhaps we'll go back to Al, who did such a great job on the cabinets.

Things we don't know...

There are a lot of things we don't quite yet understand how to operate - including some box on the exterior of the house that we have no idea why it's there or what it is for. Even the thermostats have user guides. We'll have plenty of time once we're in to figure it all out.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Catching Up

It's been a while since the last post. As move-in date draws nearer, all the things that need to be handled seem to be converging and conspiring to eat up all of our free time on weekends, and a bunch of time on weekdays as well.

The town gets a black mark for requiring a drywell into which our water conditioning system will flush. I don't know why this wasn't identified as a requirement from the beginning, but it's a drag. The drywell is separate from the septic, so we're spending extra money for site work to build it (we were already over budget on the site work anyway), and the civil engineers placed it inconveniently (and billed us, of course), requiring a whole extra "sewer" line the full length of the house (which means unbudgeted plumbing costs).

The water conditioning system, however, is a supreme improvement over the old one. The guy who put in our new system installed and maintained the treatment system in the prior house (before we had it), and while it was fine in its day, it was pretty bad by the end. The new system will be easy to get at in the mechanical room in the garage, rather than buried in a half-height area beneath the stairs. Paul the plumber (we like the alliteration of some of these guys' names and trades), did a sweet job on the plumbing for it, with labeled shut-off valves and real pressure release valve at a height that we can hang a bucket off of when needed. the new system will be much more efficient, as it will only flush itself after we hit a certain water usage level. The old system had a timer, and that wasn't very accurate, either. So, our new system should use less salt, uses a less-invasive salt than the old one, and should give us a better quality water. We're still using a Multipure system at the kitchen sink for our drinking water. I've been a fan of these for years, and swear by the drinkability of the water; I'll trust that they provide the asserted levels of purification.

The finish work is proceding well - with a bunch of things underway, from the hardwoods to the countertops and the pantry shelves to some of the light fixtures. Hopefully this will all wrap up quickly as we're scheduled to move in on the 23rd - just two weeks away at this point.

We took too long in ordering a few basic items, so the washer and dryer won't arrive til a couple of days after we arrive, our new dining room table will get there about the same time. The use of a folding table for a desk will be verboten in the new house, so the old dining room table will serve that purpose for one of us until an appropriate desk or writing table is acquired. This experiment in sharing an office will be interesting - I feel an anticipation not unlike Les Nessman from the old sitcom WKRP. We haven't figured out stools for the island in the kitchen, but that can happen at our leisure (as will several other things).

Once we arrive, there's a lot to do, including blacktop for the driveway and basic landscaping (at least loam and basic grass seed). We'll do a landscaping plan and build it out over time. Hopefully we'll be able to include a lot of native grasses and plants and avoid having any space that looks manicured.

A bunch more progress was evident on our visit to the house today, but the electricians were pretty busy working and we didn't end up taking any photos. Hopefully we'll get some photos early this coming week and I can get some up to show how close we are to reality.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A closet from Ikea - and a road trip to find it

The Phantom Screen really does work, and I have wrested control of the remote. Here's what the screen looks like partway down. From the inside, there's no's almost like it's not even there. The motor is quiet, smooth, and perfect. It will be very cool. Still not quite sure how to keep the cats from climbing it, though, and my guess is that it's not warrantied against cat-inflicted damage.

We were pleased to see all the bamboo flooring down, and the finish work of the tile around the fireplace. While it would have been nice to just have the wallboard around the doors, building code requires something else. The guys did a nice job - both tiling and flooring. We have cardboard down in a bunch of places, which isn't aesthetically pleasing, but will protect the floors until everything's done. We won't get back up there for a few days to see the hardwoods, which will go in starting today.

After some amount of hemming and hawing, we decided to go to Ikea for the walk-in closet "equipment." We'd been to Ikea previously and kicked the tires on the closet components; and then tried fairly unsuccessfully to configure it on-line. So, we left for the store on Sunday morning in the hopes of arriving before the crowds. We guessed about some back roads to get there...and without any sort of map in the car, it took more than an hour for what should have been a 25 minute drive. Of course, we were not going to ask for directions or buy a map; we simply drove around and hoped for the best.

There was one person who knew how to configure the stuff in the closet section of the store. I don't know if these guys get paid commission, but if they do, he's got a gold mine. Anyway, a few hundred pounds later, and not too many dollars more, we arrived at the new house with flatpack closet materials for Steve and his team to assemble. It's probably a bit lazy of us, but I'm not sure that I'd come up with the time/energy for assembly between now and when we move in.

The countertops are supposed to arrive tomorrow - from there, it's on to appliance installation, final electrical and plumbing, and some miscellaneous items, including touch up of various dings and dents that the wallboard has suffered over the last few weeks.

I called the guy at Humboldt Moving today to set up the move date. They did a good job a few years ago, and again last fall to move us to the temporary living, so I'm sure we'll be in good hands again. Pretty soon we can start repacking and shlepping up bits and pieces on our various travels up there.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Phantom Screen

I canceled a bunch of meetings yesterday morning and went out to the house - it was a perfect day to go if I needed reassurance about things (which I didn't need).

The driver to go to the house was that the guys were scheduled to install the screen that goes on the outside of the big folding doors (see Feb 24 post). The house design is such that when the big door opens, you would have a wide open pass-through. In the woods of New England, having something to keep the bugs out, the cats in, and maybe even the coyotes, bear, and neighborhood cats out seemed like a good idea. The solution: Phantom Screen's Executive Screen, which is a retractable powered screen that is mounted into an overhang outside the folding door and comes down on tracks along each wall edge. We had seen this at a "This Old House" tour a few years ago and thought it was pretty cool back then.

To hold/hide the screen, Steve and his guys engineered the housing that the screen retracts into. It's quite a set up, and it gives us an access panel for when the screen or its motor requires any maintenance. Without this, it would have meant minor de-construction. This may also be handy for the pest guy to check and treat for bees, wasps, and whatever else tries to take up residence. Below is a shot looking up and across the length of the housing. (For some reason the photo keeps reverting to un-rotated, so it's a little awkward.)

Here's the roller during installation...

...everyone breathed easier when it really fit. Apparently there was some question about how it would do. It's really a lot like a big window shade, but the screen slides in to a slot at the top. Here are some of the guys pulling the screen into place on the roller. I wasn't able to stay for the whole deal, so I'm looking forward to getting back on Saturday to see it in the finished state. A few of the Empyrean guys came over to check it out - they're going to see about actually pre-fabbing the housing, rather than having the builder make it on site.

The rest of the house was busy. The tile guys were working on the surround for the fireplace, and the flooring guys were installing more of the bamboo; the hardwood was due to be delivered, and will need to sit a few days to acclimate before install. On the outside, the painters were busy getting the stain on the clapboards.

We ordered the granite for the kitchen counter. After a certain amount of dithering, we finally settled on a fairly standard granite...we had this whole great plan of distressed granite for more of a raw, rough look, but we decided against it because of the maintenance requirement. We also decided firmly against a piece that, while beautiful, would have required a 3 hour+ drive to confirm it was okay. All the counter tops should be done and delivered/installed Tuesday of next week, which will be pretty cool. With that in, the appliances can go in, and the wrap-up will begin.

After the visit to the house, I was giddy...not a normal state for me, but everything sure is looking good. Can't wait for move-in day.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Miscellaneous progress and an update on the windows

What a view!

I've been a bit busy and haven't gotten around to updating for about 10 days, so there's been a lot of progress. The cable rail was installed this week, and it's wonderful. Steve carved away the wallboard so that the posts are half-embedded in the wallboard and have a lower profile than if they were just hanging off the edge. I hadn't recalled how nice these were going to look, and the really good news is that the cats really can't dive between the cables. The trick will be to keep them off the railing, since from there it's a long drop to the living room floor.

A big nor'easter is on the way, bringing lots of wind and rain. We've had some rain and even a bit of snow since the skirt went on to transition from the roof to the gutters, and it seems to have done the trick with respect to the window issue. I guess when the path of least resistance goes into the wall, it's a bit of a problem, and so that's what the skirt addresses. I'd like to get up on the roof someday soon to see how the skirt actually fits on. In the meantime, we may be back to the house today, and if so, I'll look forward to seeing the windows dry on the interior. We are getting word that we'll need to put gutters all the way around the house, including the deck above the kitchen; this should discourage/prevent water from forcing its way into crevices. In the meantime, the windows seem to be doing exactly what we would have expected - keeping the weather out.

With the arrival of the cabinets, the appliance delivery has begun. So far, just the dishwasher(s), wall ovens, and downdraft are at the house. We went with the Fisher & Paykel dish drawers as we like the separate drawer system. Having had one before, the trick is to separate heavy washing from light washing to take best advantage of the water-saving features while still getting clean dishes and not pre-washing everything.

The cooktop will be delivered on Tuesday and the microwave still hasn't come in to the Yale distribution center, but will be in with time to spare (we hope). We're psyched about the microwave because: (1) we don't have one at temp living, and Peter really misses having one to reheat coffee; and (2) I don't really want a microwave, but if we have to have one, this one is under-counter and won't be obvious. It's a Sharp, and opens up just like a drawer. The only bit that will be a challenge is reading the control panel, which will be just low enough to require putting on a pair of glasses, or memorizing the control locations.

The tile flooring went in this week, but still needs the grout. The only place we got "wild" was the guest bath, with this washed-blue color, which really does look better in person!

Also, the sauna is no longer a general storage room and the bench is installed. On a very wintry day like today, it would be good to be there and enjoy its warmth.

The lighting is ordered from Wolfers/Standard Electric. We did pretty well with the selection and while we went overboard on the outdoor fixtures, they're going to be great. Electricians were at the house yesterday getting ready to install fixtures and putting in the last electrical outlets, including the required ones on the kitchen island. We'll try to get away with one set of outlets inside the island and one set on the far end, so they won't be so obvious, but will probably be required to put a set on either end of the island instead - code is designed to replace the common sense that people fail to exercise, and so we end up with things that we wouldn't otherwise want.

We also settled on flooring, and installation should start in a week. We'll have a light bamboo in most rooms, which should really accentuate the light and openness of the house. We had wanted to put a darker wood in the media room, the office, and the master bedroom, but since the bamboo and hardwoods are different thicknesses, it makes for bad transitions. To match up the thicknesses, Steve will have to shim the floor at the point where the two woods will meet. So, we've left just the bedroom and media room with the birch to minimize the transitions, and the office will be bamboo. It's a concession, but one that we were willing to make. The birch will take a few weeks to arrive, so they'll get started on the bamboo and install the birch when it is in. The bamboo price is pretty good - $7/sf installed (before Steve's markup), and we've been assured by all that it's going to be a good quality and long-lasting product.

We're really happy with the "sports lockers" we put in the mudroom - they should keep all our stuff under control and keep miscellaneous shoes and fleeces from being strewn throughout the house. Al did a great job building them, along with all our other cabinetry. He'll definitely stay on our list, as we'll need some bookcases and storage for compact disks (the old house had a built-in bookcase that held them, albeit awkwardly). We've looked into IKEA for the master closet stuff, but their on-line builder is a bit weird - we can't figure out how to address corners and so forth. Otherwise, what we saw of their stuff in the store looks solid and is reasonably priced.

We're about 5 or so weeks from move-in, we hope! At this point, we need to keep things moving from our end so that we're not the ones causing a delay to anything. We're also down to the point where various cost over-runs will start showing up. The site work will be a doozy, since we raised the elevation of the house by 2 feet to keep the crawl space out of the groundwater. The additional fill required, along with simply moving a whole lot more dirt around, will add up big-time.

There will be other places where we'll be over budget, offset to some extent by a series of allowances we're not spending, so we'll do an accounting of where we stand before we do any of the "optional" items, such as the generator. We have some non-optionals, like the treatment system for the well water, which aren't even in the contract, so we'll need to make sure we get those things in place before we have a bunch of fun with things like the plasma TV. Goodwin's High End will be getting much of our discretionary income for the video display, associated boxes, additional speakers, and of course the standing upgrade list to the audio components. We had a nice visit there yesterday, including listening to the Rockport Mira speakers they have set up in one of the demo rooms.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cabinets and Trim

It will be nice to get into the house. Until then, the house is still kind of in the utility mode. There are people in it every day, but they do things to, not with, the house. On my last visit, one of the guys was tidying up - and I could almost a sense the house resting and settling into its skin.

The arrival of the cabinets was a bit of a flashback to the old house. The photo of the installation feels like the mirror stage of the pre-demolition "scavenging" photo from October. The cabinets are looking good - I am anxious to get there this weekend to see how they look for real. So far, we're very happy with the decision to go with a local cabinet-maker. I like the idea that we're working with someone who owns the business and employs guys locally, does a good job, and didn't gouge us on pricing.

The doors, casings, and trim are well on their way. The house was designed with caseless doors and no baseboards, but we opted to fork over the extra bucks to give more of a finish. I never quite "got" the lack of trim in the old Deck House, and think this will look better. Additionally, if a door ever needs to be replaced, this will be loads easier than a caseless style.

I've been revisiting some prefab and green building sites lately - and think that some people have the wrong category in mind when they look at NextHouse. It seems a lot of people are thinking that it's prefab (it's not) or that it's innately green (it's not). I would categorize this as a kit house, and not a DIY version - unless the "Y" in DIY happens to be a professional builder. There's a lot that the builder needs to know and needs to supply, and have the mind of a good engineer to see how things ought to work. I still think we could have done better on the green front, but my green issue is less in the construction than in the destruction of the prior place. The passive solar, our design changes to get better air flow, our use of what will be a killer fireplace, and what we do with flooring and other finish materials will be the places we'll end up making incremental steps.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Painting - and a Septic!

Well, even though some stuff goes slowly, other bits do take shape fast! The septic system is looking mighty fine. Can't remember exactly when the work on the septic started - maybe two weeks ago - but it has moved fast. The field was dug and inspected; the pipes were laid out and inspected; the trenches have been filled with gravel (and inspected, maybe?); the tank areas were dug and tanks put in, and the pump is getting wired. Except for the fact that the field will have to be about 4+ feet above the natural grade, the field is currently a thing of beauty. The trenches are laid out perfectly - it looks like there's not a bit of gravel out of place. The electrician, a man who's probably not prone to gushing, was effusive in his praise of the perfection of the trench that was dug for him to wire the pump. It'll all be buried shortly, but in the meantime it's been captured in all its pixellated delight.

The system is designed that the wastewater is gravity-fed into the first tank; when that tank fills, it dumps to the second tank, from where it's pumped up to the leach field. Apparently a pumped system can last longer, since it isn't always working, but takes a batch, then rests. We'll have a dry well for what's flushed out of the systems that treat the water coming from the well. It's a local requirement, but probably makes good sense as it keeps the stuff that conditions our water from messing up the bacterial action that needs to happen in the tank and leach field. Okay, TMI.

The tile was put up on around the tub in the guest bath this week. Technically speaking, they did it perfectly, just not the way we wanted. After asking that it be taken down and done the way we wanted it, we've backed off and will leave it as is. It seemed such a waste of materials, since the tiles would probably have been trashed and the wallboard behind them would also have needed to be replaced. We didn't like the idea of just wasting it all, so we'll keep it the way they did it. Lesson learned - we should have walked through each of the tiling efforts with them to make sure they would be installing everything the way we wanted. Well, at least all of the tiles look right - there's one that I haven't been able to see to double check.

The wallboard guy is still at it - including today, a Sunday. We figured we could go there and actually have the place to ourselves. Not quite. In the meantime, the painters have basically caught up with him, and have put the base coat on. Benjamin Moore Super White. Apparently the standard for the Deck Houses was always Navajo White, but that has a beige tone to it, and NextHouse was screaming for a true white. The first coat makes a world of difference from the kind of dingy color of the wallboard, and gives the house the feel we wanted. It's going to be nice when the 2x4 "railing" is replaced with the real deal.

Light switches have been put in. Nice, clean white rocker switches that should basically disappear into the walls once all the painting and trim is done. The lighting itself is probably the next big thing. While most of the lights are recessed and therefore done, there are still 15 or so to pick out. This will be interesting, since we tend to have different taste in light fixtures - mine being a bit over the top. But, we'll work with a person at Wolfers/Standard Electric who has done a lot of Deck Houses - will need to make sure she really gets that while this shares the post-and-beam design of Deck Houses, it isn't one.

Hung out on the decks for a few minutes today - a nice warmish morning after an overnight snow. The decks are going to be great. The cats will like the house as well - lots of sun to sleep in and a whole bunch of floor-to-ceiling windows to look out. The driveway and yard are mud pits right now. Not a good time to muck around to get into the basement/crawl space, since the only access is from a bulkhead on the far side of the house. I still want to get down there and get some photos, but it'll have to wait.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Like watching grass grow

Getting the wallboard done seems to be an interminable process. The guy is doing a great job, but it seems like he's doing almost all of it on his own, which makes for a long time. He's been there basically every day (well, maybe not Sundays), and arrived early enough that one day a neighbor called the police. Nothing quite like picking up the weekly town newspaper and seeing your own property listed in the police blotter - a quick call to the police station confirmed what happened. Anyway, with the wallboard up, the fireplace seems much more at home.

We had a bit of a disappointment last Saturday. We were there when it was raining pretty hard, and the window that originally leaked before the gutters went up was all wet again - a puddle. Several other window units (all non-operable windows) had water on the interior side - not between the panes but literally inside the house. One reason is probably that the apron that goes from the roof over the gutters hadn't been installed yet (it has now), but given the location of other windows, it looks like they will need to be reglazed. It's kind of surprising, given that these are pretty standard Empyrean products. Well, at least it's Empyrean's nickel if that's the issue, and hopefully they'll just pay for Steve to have his own guys do the repairs.

The tile guys showed up this week - started with the master shower. Looking good! (Of course, this will probably take as long as the wallboard.) We went to a glass place today, and they'll go out in a week or two to measure and prepare a quote for the shower door and sidelight piece. I think we've agreed on the glass - if not, we'll still go with what I like, right? While we were there, we also picked out the glass for a few of the kitchen cabinets...boy, it seems an eternity since we ordered those, but it's probably just 4 weeks. The glass place seems pretty good - we'll probably go back there for mirrors.

Last Saturday, we went up to a flooring place. The guy said they get really busy on Saturday mornings and that it's best to get there early. So, we scrambled to get up there early, didn't make it as early as planned, but there were no other customers in the joint. Oh well, we picked out a couple of woods so we can get quotes to see how expensive our tastes really are. You have to love these places that focus on selling to the contractors - they won't even begin to tell us the relative prices, so we don't know if we're even in the ballpark of the allowances until the flooring sub prepares the quote.

While we were up in the Wilmington area, we stopped in Burlington - home of a million malls and stores. There's this newish strip mall that had an LL Bean and we had a few minutes to kill and went in there. Tiny store, but may be worth revisiting when we're back in the house. Of more immediate interest is a store called Arhaus Furniture, which claims to specialize in recycled and repurposed materials for its furniture. A salesperson on the floor was talking a lot about how "green" everything in the store is - the website doesn't tout this so much, so I'm not sure where it really falls on the spectrum. We'll probably go back there and give more consideration to one or two things.

We won't go back to West Elm. We had heard of the place but never been there, and thought we might like the aesthetic of their stuff. Yuck. We could not get out fast enough. Basically, our cats could sneeze and the furniture would tremble. If our little Ping jumped up on it, it would fall apart. (Of course, this is the same sweet cat that crashed a speaker through the glass door of a custom-made cabinet.)

Back to the house. A load of stuff arrived from Empyrean, including mostly the interior doors and trim and the baseboards. It's hanging out in various locations, waiting for the walls to be ready. The painters were also at the house this week - mostly to stain the big folding door. I wasn't there, but Peter was, and here's the photo with the door open, painter at work. It was a gorgeous day, and everyone was in a good mood.

The excavator is a big step, because it means that work on the septic has started. A huge hole has been dug and is getting squared off. I'm surprised by how deep the hole is, given that the leach field is, by definition in our town, a raised field. I couldn't get a good look at it today, given the arrival yesterday of about 8-10" of snow locally.

I can't wait for a day that we can be at the house without anyone there. The last three weekends, there's been at least one guy there. As much as we appreciate people working extra, it's hard to hang out and enjoy the house with other people in it. Someday soon, we'll be able to hang out on the deck and eat lunch in the sun. Maybe even read the paper and take a short nap in the mid-day sun.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Week two of wallboarding

We're really in the part where the visible differences seem slower to come, even though each visit has another partial milestone. The wallboard has been going up for about two weeks (give or take, as I can't really keep track of time), and it gives a whole different look to the house.

Upon first view with the wallboard going up, I had a sense of loss - some of the openness is gone. I briefly thought that maybe we should leave it fully open - no wallboard - to keep that sense that has been so familiar to me. But, I suppose that wouldn't fly with the town, and it might end up being kind of weird to live in. This first photo reminds me a lot of the concept pictures of the house - and I supposed when the paint's up, it'll look even crisper. The play of the light and the shadows cast by the window framing is really nice.

Hearing that putting up wallboard could take three weeks was pretty surprising, until we met up with Steve at the house to discuss some of the finer points. Suddenly it's evident that all the little nooks and crannies between windows, and between windows and ceiling, all need carefully cut board squeezed in. None of this is to say that there aren't large spaces where they can just nail up the board as-delivered, but that's probably the really fast part.

Met the wallboard subcontractor last Saturday. As the homeowner, it's a pretty good feeling to show up at the site on a Saturday and find people there working - and who are motivated to being there and getting the job to the next step. We're really lucky to be working with our builder and with the caliber of his crew and subs. I can't help but think of this when I drive to work past a house that has made no visible progress since I started commuting past it in September.

This weekend we need to pick out the main flooring. We started with these great ideas of cork and bamboo, but have pretty much canceled the cork idea as it doesn't wear well and may have so much sealant and finishes that it loses some of the cachet. Not sure whether or how much bamboo will end up in the picture.

We have so far avoided ordering the flat-panel TV, but went ahead and reinforced a wall where we expect it will go - makes you wonder what people who are buying them for an existing house are doing to keep the device from peeling off the wall. I guess having the blocking behind the wallboard will reduce my arguments against getting a new TV. Oh well, it'll be much easier to see the Celtics losing yet another game.

The shower door remains elusive. The master shower has a pretty wide opening, and a custom door/side panel will be needed. Of course, the recommended place to go no longer does shower doors, so we're off after plan "B" - conveniently, it's the same place that the glass for some of the kitchen cabinets will come from. Inconveniently, it's in a little town that's a pain to get to and has limited weekend hours. Clearly a lot of these businesses sell mostly to the trade, so it becomes less convenient for us.

I cannot wait for the house to be done. I'm very tired of not being in our own house, hauling our trash the hour from where we're staying to our transfer station, picking up the mail at the post office, and giving up most of our spare time to shuttling around and doing things to get ready for this. It's going to be great, but I'm ready for this part to be over.

Oh - very exciting - I made my first foray into the crawl space last weekend. Didn't think to take the camera down there, so may make a repeat visit tomorrow and get some pictures. It's not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic. It's filled with all kinds of heating/AC-related equipment, most of which I don't yet understand. We'll need to figure out how this hydro-air setup works, but it feels like something from the movie Brazil (Terry Gilliam - 1985).

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Big Folding Door is In!

This week I called NStar to try to change the billing info on our temporary electric service (which they couldn't do). Along the way, I learned that they had scheduled our regular service to be connected on March 23 - the service request had been placed sometime around January 23. Maybe this was retaliation for getting help last fall to disconnect power for teardown. Anyway, a nice customer service rep gave me the name and phone number of the guy who covers our town. Magically, after a phone call from our builder, service was connected the next day. So, now there are outlets that actually work inside the house!

Insulation is almost fully up, and water barrier nailed over it on the exterior walls. Even without wallboard, the shape and feel of rooms becomes more real at this point. And the wallboard is going up. They started in the utility room, also got the pantry and part of the mudroom, and a bit of the kitchen. It's going to take close to 3 weeks to complete the wallboarding. There's all kinds of narrow spaces, particularly between windows, that will require a lot of time to fit pieces. We thought about leaving the beams surrounding the living room exposed, but decided today to stick with the original design to wallboard over them; it'll provide a better line, since at least one of the beams was going to have to be covered anyway.

The big news is the installation of the big folding door from the living room to the deck. It is a thing of beauty - and not just by comparison to the blue tarp that had been hanging there for so long. The door is solid, smooth of movement, and seals tightly. Yesterday was my first view of it - you stand in the living room and look out at the deer, which are looking back in from their spot in the woods. (too bright of a day to shoot a picture straight out the door, but this angle shows 3 of the door panels and how it corners off with the kitchen.) When you open the door, it settles quite nicely into an alcove and the transition to the outside is complete. Also, with the upstairs deck off the master bedroom close to finished, the feeling of continuity to the outside really works. We'll just have to figure out how to keep the cats in and the wildlife out.

The sauna is getting built out, too, with the cedar boards going up on the walls and ceiling. We were so right to enlarge the sauna - it'll still be a bit small. Can't wait to get in there.

The fireplace is in its slot. While it doesn't have the aesthetic of the Rais, it isn't bad, and it will really heat the house, and in a pretty efficient manner. We're still figuring out what sort of surround to put around it - granite, tile, whatever. I think we'll have a few weeks to figure that out - maybe tie it in to what we do for kitchen counters.

And one other thing...we're actually talking about completion dates! It's nice to think about the reality of winding down the project in the next 3 months, and I won't miss being in a temporary living situation, where you can't always find what you want, and it's an hour drive to visit the house, go to our dry cleaners, or pick up our mail at the post office. Yea! No, we just have to manage our expectations since delays could still hit us.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Two plus months since a foundation

Things are going pretty well. Steve's doing a great job keeping things under control, and it sounds like Empyrean is quite interested in all the improvements and critical changes that are needed to make this work. It seems that our house is kind of the R&D project we hadn't quite expected. Steve identified changes so the decks make sense, various things related to the roof, and a whole bunch of things that are invisible to us, but important to the end result. We knew we chose well with him, but couldn't have anticipated this level of fixing things that Empyrean hadn't yet thought through.

Of course, this probably has caused some things to go more slowly than if someone had already traveled this road, but so goes it. I hear that the model that is going up in the Carolinas is going much more slowly; they're learning from what Steve figures out as he goes. Hopefully Empyrean will make sure he gets the chance to bid on some of the better projects in the area (for work to begin once ours is done, of course).

We visited the house yesterday and met with Steve on some things, like where the air conditioner compressor units will go, where we'll bury the propane tank, and a bunch of stuff that was probably important but escapes me at the moment. The propane tank is a pretty big deal. It's about 1,000 gallons capacity, and it will be buried on an 8' x 16' cement pad (maybe with cement walls). The pad and walls are designed so that when the ground water level is high and the tank is nearly empty, the tank won't pop up out of the ground. Steve didn't believe me when I mentioned a few days back that I had heard this; but the guy from the propane company confirmed it. Propane should be a good, efficient vehicle for us - we'll run the heat, hot water, clothes dryer, and cooktop off of it.

The RAIS fireplace that we liked so much is out of the question. All the information we originally reviewed didn't clue us in that it needed a full masonry firebox. Bummer - we definitely liked the look and style of it. We have found a couple of other good options from Kozy Heat and Energy King. I have no idea how they come up with these company names, but that's okay. Both these companies have full firebox zero clearance fireplaces, which go right into a rough framed area. No masonry required, and no matter which of the two fireplaces we go with, we should be able to throw a lot of heat into the house in the winters - both are pretty efficient, and have a good capacity. We'll figure out whether there's a major difference in price or installation, but otherwise, we are indifferent between the two.

We have a furnace - both a real one and a gerry-rigged contraption. Since the propane hasn't been set up yet, and we're still waiting for the big folding doors, it's kind of tough to heat the house. The guys arranged for a spare furnace to come in - they put it in the media room and are running it on propane piped in from big canisters in the back yard. We really like the distribution system - a big fan hung from the joists.

Having heat's important now, since the house is about ready for the town inspectors to come in to review rough electric and plumbing (and maybe the heat ducts/cold air returns?). As soon as these inspections are set, I think the insulation goes in and then the wallboard goes up. All the wood in the framing needs to be dried out first, otherwise when it does dry out later, it will shrink up and crack the wallboard. So, the heat dries out the wood and hopefully will prevent any ugly surprises. The idea of having wallboard going up in a few weeks is pretty exciting.

In addition to revising the fireplace selection, we've revised our plumbing selections a bit - it turns out we were about to buy $900 kitchen sink. Somehow we chose a model that had a 10" depth rather than 8" depth, which makes a several hundred dollar difference. The mixer valves for the showers are already roughed in - who ever knew that was an item you had to actually select separate from the rest of the shower fixture?

We looked at tile yesterday. We're not using a lot of tile, and there's now a pretty good reason why. With the "allowance" based on $3.50/square foot, we've basically doubled up on the cost. Most everything that we plan to use is $4.75 or more. At least what we found for the shower in the master bath is pretty low-cost, except the $20/sq ft tiles for the shower floor. We'll rethink that one!

Today was appliance day. At the recommendation of several people, we went to Yale Appliance in Dorchester. They have demonstration kitchens with "celebrity" chefs, so while it was a bit of a mob scene, there were some good snacks around. It strikes me that some people might have been there just for the noshing. Anyway, we think we've picked out our appliances, and not a moment too soon, since tomorrow morning is D-day with the cabinet guy. We must finalize wood, layout, everything, so that they can start building them.

The siding is mostly up, and the house is looking mighty good. It's interesting to drive past other houses that started about the same time and feel pretty good about our progress and the path we're headed on.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Heating, Electric, and Garage Doors

Even with Steve (builder) away on vacation this week, we had some good progress. His guys kept going, and it seems that Steve kept up on things from the slopes.

So, here's the good stuff that happened.

  • The troublesome window in the kitchen was moved up
  • Tyvek-wrapping was completed on the remainder of the house
  • The lower deck was finished (not sure when the upper deck will be done)
  • The bulkhead cover was put on for the access to the crawl space
  • Wiring continued throughout the house and the electrical panels are hung
  • Holes were cut in the subfloor for heat/AC vents
  • A whole bunch of duct-related things were put in
  • A new well-pump was installed and new pipes run to the house
  • Holes were punched for plumbing and some PVC pipe run into the bathrooms
  • Downstairs framing moved along, including the framing for the half-wall running up the stairs
  • Some more boulders and loose dirt were moved into place for the rough landscaping

On the downside, our dear friends at the electric utility haven't shown up yet to do the real connection of power to the house to replace the temporary service.

With the scaffolding going up around the house, it looks like the siding will start going up this coming week - it'll be good to see that.

We're a bit stuck on the garage door situation. The garage is prominent when you approach in the driveway, so if the doors stand out, it will be a bad thing. I hate steel doors with fake wood grain, but you can get good insulation in a steel door. There are some cool steel and glass doors, but insulating with all the glass is a problem and they wouldn't be the right look (it'd work if the house had exposed concrete or visible steel construction). Most wood doors are panel-style or a very traditional carriage-house design - clearly the wrong look for this house. We have to figure this one out this week, but it's not been easy so far. Maybe we should just leave tarps up.