Friday, June 29, 2012

Here comes the sheetrock

Getting sheetrock into and through the garage for the main floor of our new old house was rather routine, but getting it into the basement took some maneuvering - first, to get the truck into the right position. Then it had to be carefully unloaded from the truck and transferred by the crane operator to the basement door, where a

coworker pulled it through the door and onto a cart. The half-inch 9'X5' panels of sheetrock come taped together in pairs to make them less likely to get damaged and to make the unloading go faster.

The picture above shows two bundles of two still on the crane on the left, one on the hand cart on the right, and one in the middle being pulled off onto the cart. On the next, somewhat fuzzy photo, you can get an idea of what this process looks like from the inside, with the (very fuzzy) crane operator in the background.

Because the bundles of two sheets weigh so much, they are simply allowed to drop onto the cart and later onto the floor, when they reach their destination. Even after being separated, the individual sheets are cut to size before they are moved and lifted up into position.

In the view from below the back deck framing, you can see how it was extended two feet from the posts to reach the intended width of 12 feet. Then diagonal braces were added to support the extension and keep it rigid. It looks very much as if that was the plan all along, and I like it.

While the unloading was happening downstairs, a crew of four sheetrockers were already installing panels on the main floor. They plan to get most of that done by next week, so that the finishers can come in and start spreading the "mud" (wet plaster) that will cover up holes, hammer indentations, and cracks. It will take most of next week to complete the job. Then we'll have to wait and see what's next.  --oc

Monday, June 25, 2012

Foam insulation time

(I tried hard to come up with a good, clever title for this post and even considered "Foaming at the mouth," but in spite of my punning inclination and desire, I could do no better than the prosaic title above. If someone has a better one to suggest, I'll be glad to change it.)

The insulation people got an early start today - about 7:00 I hear. So, when I arrive about 9:30, they had almost finished the attic and were starting on the first floor. Here's what the attic over our master bedroom looks like. The big duct is an air return from the loft area above the dining room.

The joists you can see through here will, of course, be covered underneath with sheetrock and above partly with plywood for attic storage. Because of the foam insulation, things stored here will not be subject to the usual extremes of summer attic heat.

The application of the foam is interesting to watch. There is a big hose attached to the nozzle, and apparently two liquids travel through it and are mixed in the nozzle, for it starts expanding immediately.

In the shot above you can see that the foam is expanding as he moves the nozzle up the space and is already almost fully expanded at the very bottom. I tried to insert a video I took with the camera, but it was taking way to long and showing no signs of finishing. I'll have to open a You Tube account and try to upload it.

In the meantime, the foam looked like some kind of white cotton candy, but I wasn't sure I should try it out with a piece I found in my office. What I'm holding in my hands is one of the pieces they use a long knife to slice off from the parts that stick out between the studs and joists, so it won't interfere with the sheetrock.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) they will finish the foam installation and also install batts of fiberglass, mainly in the basement. The foam does such a complete job of sealing up air leaks that they will have to install a one-way vent near the downstairs woodstove, order to provide air for combustion and to replace what the new dryer and the bathroom exhaust fans remove from the house. It may take a while to get used to living in an almost hermetically sealed environment.

Sheetrock comes later in the week. More then, but enough for now.  --oc

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Busy as a beehive

Monday and Tuesday of this week were rather slow, and only our friend Allan Hardigree was working, installing TV cable and security wires. But when I arrived at the house yesterday (Wednesday) morning, it was like a beehive and busier than we had seen it since we had 11 framers scrambling all over the Phoenix, as it rose up from the ashes. In addition to Allan, several carpenters were trying to finish up the carpentry, install the remaining windows, and put the finishing touches on the roof. We also had a visit from a trio of sheetrock installers, who are due to start next week. And our contractor was there, talking with the sheetrockers, the carpentry foreman, to Allan, and to me - when he wasn't on the phone talking to someone else. It was, indeed, a real beehive. And by this afternoon, all of these items were complete.

We're going to take a quick outside tour clockwise around the house, starting on the north side, that is, the front of the house. From the left you can see the garage, then the kitchen with a breakfast nook to the left of the kitchen door and window. Next is the shed dormer and loft over the dining room and its bay window. Then comes the front door and finally the front bedroom. If you look carefully at the front of the porch and its east end in the picture below, you will see a gentle arch between posts. This is a motif that Roger Collins, the builder of our old house, adopted from the Kenney Ridge Farm House (now Karen Frank's house).

The view from the northeast shows that above the lowest window bottoms on the kitchen and other front rooms beyond, we have board-and-batten Hardie Board. Below that and around the double garage window on the left will be field stone. The glass in that window is made in a pattern called "Rain" (often seen in shower doors), which is designed to let light in the garage but keep wandering eyes out. The soffits and fascia boards are also made of Hardie Board, as is the siding on the shed dormer. You'll see more of the board-and-batten style on the southside of the house.

The east end of the house (below) shows the opening for the garage door, as well as one of the 21"X52" steel panels of the Decra, stone-coated roofing material. The wall covering for this side will be brick.

The view of the southern side of the house shows the board-and-batten pattern on the "chimney" and around the two bay windows of the living room and master bedroom. The large room on the right (actually only 10X10) is the new master bathroom, which replaces an unheated sunroom in the previous house. The old bathroom will now become a walk-in closet. To the right of that is the back of the garage and its two storerooms. The far room to the left on the upper level is a bedroom, and below it is an office. The tripple window is the end of the den; then comes the workshop.

 The west end of the house is the tallest face, being about three stories high. The main level above has two bedrooms with high tripple windows and a guest bath in the middle. On the basement level is the office on the right corner, a workroom on the left, and a third bath, again in the middle. The power and telephone will come underground to the front corner on the left. Our small DISH antenna will be mounted near the back of the shed dormer and the faux chimney, which covers the flues for our two woodstoves. This west wall, like the east and south walls, will be brick. Apparently, having at least three walls of brick makes a difference in the insurance. Our planned security system and fire monitoring are also supposed to lower insurance rates. Its main purpose, however, will be to prevent another disastrous fire like last January's, as well as to forestall any unwanted entry by people who do not have our best interests in mind. And that's about all we can fit into a "quick" tour of the Phoenix rising Up from the Ashes" where our former residence stood.
Tomorrow they are to install the foam insulation, which is supposed to be enough better than other choices to save a half ton on air conditioning. Next week it will be sheetrock inside, and stone and bricks can't be far behind. Stay tuned!  --oc

Monday, June 18, 2012

Roof now (virtually) finished

Last Friday, the day after my last blogpost, workers on our house almost finished the roof, which I thought they would surely do today. Instead, they took the day off, but they're due back tomorrow. On Friday, the large dumpster, with all of its trash and scraps of wood and roofing, etc. was hauled off, as workers finished up a corner of the garage roof. That dumpster has now been replaced with a smaller and cheaper one.

Today we had visits from two building inspectors, one for wiring and one for framing. We had a small problem with the framing of the back deck, which was supposed to be 12 feet wide, but it somehow ended up only 10 feet wide. The problem was to add the two feet without starting the deck framing all over again. Our builder and the appropriate inspector came up with a safe and acceptable solution.

Our friend who represents the DISH network was also here, and we worked out where all the cables and TV outlets would go, as well as the wiring for the security system. The latter will give us added protection against a repeat of our January fire disaster. We have given up on our local cable company, which has been expensive and not reliable for TV and especially not for internet (we now have DSL). DISH will have all the local Atlanta stations, including two PBS channels (our favorites), plus some 200 cable channels.

Once again, the hour is late. Have a good night!  --oc

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Roofing finally begins

Yesterday evening I went down to look at the house, expecting to see only more fascia board up and other carpentry completed, but I got a surprise. This is what I saw:

If you look carefully, you'll see brand-new roofing on this end of the garage, in between the construction dumpster and the woodshed, which fortunately survived along with its contents. Today, a lot more roofing went on, and the deck of the shed dormer became a platform for the sawyer to cut edging strips and panel pieces to fit their individual spots.

This roof is manufactured by Decra and consists of 21"X52" steel panels that are covered with several coatings and bits of stone that are bonded to the steel. Each panel interlocks with the one above it and below it, and workmen use screws to attach the top edge of each panel, which is then covered by the panel above it. This kind of roof is a good bit more expensive that others, but it has a life-time guarantee, or 50 years from date of installation, if the house changes owners. The roof is quite similar to the Gerard roof on our previous house, but this one, as you can see, can be walked on without damage or distortion to the roof. That was not true of the previous roof, which was one of the reasons for going with a different kind this time.

The end result is a roof that looks nice (as in the view of the soutside below) and a lot like one of asphalt shingles, but it is much more resistant to damage and failure. It should not have to be replaced for many, many years - not by us, anyway!

Good night, all!  --oc

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Disaster + Five Months

Today is the five month anniversary of the demise of our house on 12 January 2012. It took half of that time to decide what was salvageable and get it out of the house - and then get the house demolished. We are working and will be working for a while on deciding which of the saved items is restorable and getting it restored, as well as getting many other lost items replaced. The acquisition of most of the furniture items, of course, will have to wait until we have places to put them

Work on the house itself continues, though not as fast as we would like. Sometimes, however, there are good areasons. Sunday and Monday, for example, we got over 1 1/2 inches of rain. We needed that and a lot more to end our current drought. But it means that we are still not ready to put on the roof. At least the electricians have been busy the last two days.

I've been asked by many when the house will be finished and even, "What is your move-in date?" Since I'd really like to know too, today I asked our builder, "What is our ETO (Estimated Time of Occupancy}?" Along with a heavy dose of reality, his answer gives me encouragement: "Establishing a time line should get easier. Now I'm at the mercy of the roofer. Of course, later someone else could get us off schedule, but fewer will have the opportunity. Really, schedules are guesses, but that gets more accurate as we go. I'm guessing three months from 'roofing finished.'" It sound to me like we're talking September. We'll see.

Take care, and I'll bring you more news when I have it.  --oc

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Little by little it's coming together.

Yesterday (Friday) workmen continued to install the Hardie Board around the edge of the roof, in preparation for the installation of the roof itself, which will hopefully begin next week. That does not mean, however, that nothing else is happening. Several more windows and doors are now in place, leaving only about a dozen or so windows to be installed. Nine of these come in three-window sets and should go in fairly quickly. As I walked around the house yesterday, I saw several things newly installed. The main electrical panel is in the wall, as is the heavy cable that will connect it to the meter base outside. Most of the cables have been run from the panel to individual outlets and switch boxes, though not yet connected.

In the meantime, here is the temple at Angkor Wat that we visited the day we learned about the fire.

This is the most famous of the six temples we saw durng the last three days of our bike and barge tour up the Mekong from Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam into Cambodia to Siem Reap, the small town with an international airport, built to accommodate all the tourists that come to the Angkor region. For at least the first couple of days, we kept busy enough to mostly forget about what awaited us back "home," which we usually put in quotes, since our home was no more. But that became ever more present in our minds, as we wrapped up the tour and made the long, long journey back to Athens, Georgia. At least. we had one big, important job to do while traveling: taking inventory of what we had lost and would have to report to the insurance company adjusters. That job is still continuing to this day, but a great deal has been replaced.

Time to hit the sack, in preparation for our day of rest.  --oc

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Getting ready to roof

They made a good bit of progress in the last two days. The rough-in of the forced-air ductwork is now complete. The electrical work is proceeding, and more and more Hardie Board is going up. In the picture below, you can see that the shed dormer now has windows and siding, and there is fascia board on its roof.

The men on the roof measure and pass information to the man below, who saws a plank to the right meassurements. Then he tosses it to the men above, who nail it in place, while the man below cuts the next piece. It actually goes rather quickly. Although there is still a good bit more trim to measure, cut, and install, the Decra roofing can be seen already on the ground in the lower left, waiting its turn to be installed.

All the best.  --oc

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Work continues outside and in

Our carpenters have taken a break from installing windows, so that they can complete the fascia board trim around the roof and be ready to install the roof itself, since most of the roofing material has already arrived. In place of wood, we are using Hardie Board, a tough fiber cement product, this time around because of the trouble carpenter bees gave us with the cypress we used the last time. We had used cypress siding on our first house in 1979 and had no trouble with bees, but the cypress on our second house, finished in 1999, was much more to their liking.

Here carpenters attach Hardie Board as a fascia board on the side of the garage. The Hardie Board will later be painted a color to match the roof - probably a dark brown.

 Meanwhile, on the inside the heat & air guys are busily installing ductwork. Here in the basement, they are hanging two supply ducts for the main floor and basement zones. Baffles will direct the conditioned air to one or the other zone, following directions from the two thermostats, which can be programmed for four different periods during the day and night. With the help of our two woodstoves, we should be plenty warm even on the coldest days. The geo-thermal heat pump will provide us with the most efficient and low-cost heat and air conditioning available.

Finally, it's about time to show our readers the floor plans for the house. It is designed to have everything we need on the main level, including the garage, which will make transition in and out comfortable even on the coldest and rainiest days.

As I mentioned earlier, the master bath was moved to the old sunroom, and the old bath space now becomes a walk-in closet. The master bedroom also is enlarged by the addition of a bay window and the elimination of the old closets. Some of the space that was open deck outside the kitchen door is now included in an expanded kitchen and used for pantry and additional space for a breakfast table.

The ground floor remains basically the same, but the den has acquired another window on the south side and additional space by incorporating a storage room on its northside.

I wish you well until next time.  --oc

Monday, June 4, 2012

More windows and carpentry

We begin to appreciate windows when we see how many it takes to build a house, and how long it takes to get them installed. Necessary holes are cut in the plastic seal - necessary for light every day, sometimes also for ventilation, and in emergencies for escape (or for entry if you get locked out). The carpenters below are making openings in preparation for the installation of window units in two bay windows on the back of the house. The one on the left is for the livingroom bay window and is opposite the one in the diningroom on the front of the house. The one on the right is in the bedroom and is new in this version of the house, a suggestion from our architect, David Matheny.

The door and windows below are for the basement den beneath the livingroom; those are the two rooms that will have woodstoves. The plywood-covered room to the right is the master bath, replacing an  unheated sunroom. The old bath area behind the new will become a walk-in closet.

Above you see the livingroom bay window from the inside beyond the stack of Hardie Board in the foreground. The bedroom bay window is behind the outside door leaning against the wall. Also visible are the cathedral ceiling above and the stairway going up to the loft in the shed dormer. The woodstove will be to the right in this picture. Outside these windows there will eventually be a ten-foot wide deck covered with Trex, a material made from recycled wood, plastic bags, and sawdust.

I noticed today, after a good rain last night, that "dried in" is a relative term. We're looking for our metal roofing material to arrive tomorrow, and soon after that, it should be truly dried in. I'll tell you all about it when it arrives. Until then, take care, and have a good evening.  --oc

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"We've been framed!"

On the 14th of May the framers reached the highest point of our new home. At this point in Germany, there is a "topping out ceremony" with the erection of a small tree, speeches by the builder, owners, and others, and toasts drunk to various people with various wishes. Afterward the glasses are smached against the side of the house and the pieces allowed to fall into the ditch beside the foundation wall. In our country, however, it's rather routine and dull, with only the recognition that the house is now "dried in," if only with tar paper, which then already has holes in it from the nails that hold it down and at least keep it from blowing away.

Since drying in, work on our new house has continued in many areas. The plumbing rough-in was done, the electrical begun, and flues installed for the wood stoves, which were salvaged from the old house. They have now been cleaned up, repainted, and made ready for installation.

Manita is standing behind the flues on the main floor level; the flue on the left comes up from the basement stove, which will do the main heating in the coldest weather. Like its predecessor, this house will have a ground-source (so-called "geothermal") heat pump, which will either draw heat from the earth (winter) or put heat into the earth (summer), with a little going toward heating hot water.

The house will have one heat pump, but will be divided into two zones, with baffles sending the conditioned air either to the main floor or the basement - or both. Individual thermostats that are programmable will sort all of that out and keep us either roasty-toasty or cool and comfy. One concern with the wood stoves will be providing enough combustion air, since the new house will have foam insulation instead of the cellulose in the old house. The resulting difference between old and new heating requirements is supposed to be about a half ton in heat pump capacity.

Providing that air-tight seal will be accomplished in part by plastic wrap around the outside. The tight-fitting doors and windows and the foam itself, I assume, will take care of the rest. The wrap can be seen around the kitchen door and some of the windows in the shot below.

Note also to the right of the kitchen door a double window that replaces a small single window in the old kitchen and provides a lot more light. Farther to the right is the bay window in front of the dining room.

That's about enough for one day. More tomorrow.  --oc

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How it began, and how it continues

My first blog post began with a picture of the remains of our house, but thanks to one of our Kenney Ridge neighbors, Bill Sheehan, we can see what it looked like when the destruction was in progress.

Here we see the garage fully involved - no doubt with the fire feeding in part on our new Chevy Cruze. Then, below, you can see that the fire has reached the loft over the dining room. You can see more of Bill's pictures of the fire and of the scene of destruction the next day by going to the link below. (The red car picture is out of place and a puzzle.)

The fire actually started in the clothes dryer located just to the right of the garage. The dryer had been used the night before to wash our bed linens in preparation for our return. Apparently, lint inside smoldered for 24 hours before igniting the house.
Url for Bill's album:

Finally, I have one more picture for today, showing the basic framing of the new house completed on 14 May and the whole structure dried in. A good deal of progress has been made since this picture, but we'll have to wait till another day to bring you up to date on that.

In the meantime, however, we did a 40-mile bike ride today, and my bed is calling me.
We hope that all is well with you and yours.  --oc

Friday, June 1, 2012

How It All Began

Hi there. This blog is intended only for friends and family, as a way of bringing them/you up to date on what's happening in our grand adventure of building our third new house, something we never intended to do, and certainly not in the same location as the second one. But we can only play the hand we're dealt. I'm trying something new here, so please be patient!

First, I'll send some pictures that briefly show how we got to where we are today, 1 June 2012.

Our "Total loss" (Safeco)

This is what our old house looked like after the fire around suppertime on Thursday, 12 Jan. 2012, that took place while we were eating breakfast halfway around the world - on Friday the 13th Cambodian time.

Here workmen save one of seven  blueberry bushes, which are now alive and bearing fruit.

This is the monster that ate our house and cleared the rubble down to the basement slab and walls.

And that's the way it looked - except for some minor work preparatory to framing - for six weeks from 21 March until 4 May, when I just happened to stop by and saw this:

The next day first floor framing was well underway with 11 Latinos busily working.

In spite of a couple of rain days, the framework continued to rise, and the familiar shape of the shed dormer soon appeared, along with the front porch. It was already beginning to look like home.

Finally on the 14th of May, the tar paper went down, and the house was dried in. I think, however, that we'll have to wait for the next posting to show that picture and to continue the story. I'm running out of time, and I think that this posting is running out of space. It must be all those pictures.

Take care, and let me know whether you were able to see the blog.  --oc