construction destruction

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Dec 282007

The sound of construction is different now. Instead of nail guns and a compressor, the place is ringing with the sound of power tools chewing through wood. I can see why the framers leave as soon as they are done.

The picture above is a good example, where you can see a half-dozen holes in the framing in just a small area. Here is one sewer line (on the left) and two sewer vent pipes, along with the copper pipes for water outlets and a grey conduit pipe sticking up through the concrete on the left. Everything is getting carefully perforated, as the water and electrical infrastructure of the house is threaded through the foundation. One surprise for me is how there is more vent and drain pipe running through the house than sewer line. We’ve asked the plumbers to bring all sewer vents together into two carefully-placed outlets in the roof, so the result looks neat and “part of the architecture”. This has required a lot of thought, planning, and extra PVC pipe.


I think one big picture will say it best. Here is part of the hallway ceiling on the second floor. From left to right, you can see:

  • yellow and white wiring threading through the joists
  • orange pipe for the fire sprinkler system
  • two deck drains in the back, one made of PVC for overflow, and one made of copper for the drain coming down from the roof deck
  • two “cans” for low-voltage light fixtures
  • red PEX pipe for the radiant heating system, and another “can”
  • black sewer vent rising through the laundry room wall

…and the water supply and drain lines aren’t even in place yet!


Also, other major parts are arriving. The solid douglas fir doors came by truck yesterday from British Columbia, and they look great. (George and I have to get to work to put clear finish on them.) We have bluestone arriving from Massachusetts in about 10 days, and the iron spiral stair for the deck shortly after that. Yesterday I picked up our washer and dryer, which are tucked away in storage. And I’m beginning to bring parts out of storage for the plumbers… the first fixture went in the wall this week. With decisions to make every day, we are feeling like marathon jugglers.

spending someone’s hard-earned pay

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Dec 092007

Lennon and McCartney said it well:

Two of us riding nowhere
Spending someone’s hard earned pay
You and me sunday driving
Not arriving on our way back home
We’re on our way back home
We’re on our way home
We’re going home

This thing is taking on home-like qualities, even though we still can’t flush a toilet or turn on a light. Money continues to flow like water out of a fire hydrant. The last few weeks have been frenzied, with a half-dozen decisions every day, calls to suppliers and contractors. Our stress is at an all-time high, nicely balanced by the excitement of seeing it all coming together.

The framing is pretty much complete, the windows are all in (except for 3 trapezoidal clerestory windows arriving on Tuesday) and the electricians and plumbers and my friend George Dapsevicius are all busy as beavers. About 20% of the plumbing and electrical are done, with gobs of wiring in the walls, electrical panels getting installed, sewer pipes climbing between floors.

George is putting a clear water-based finish on all the windows and doors, to protect the wood from moisture, dirt and UV. After talking to a few contractors and friends, and doing some experiments, we decided to use Varathane Diamond Polyurethane, in a satin finish. This stuff is working well; after the usual light sanding prep work, the finished surface is smooth and very hard. We’re planning on 3 coats, which should go on quickly now that the masking is done.


This is a pretty typical interior view, showing the top of the stairs next to the living/dining room/kitchen. The big 4×12 blocking in the elevator shaft is visible behind the stairs, and you can see a soffit framed out over the stairway, a lowered section of the ceiling that is a nice architectural detail. The hallway to the bedroom is on the left.

The pic at the top of the page shows the folding doors between the living room and deck, and here is another view. The gray waterproofing material and a drain are clearly visible, and you can see the bronze-clad aluminum exterior of the doors, with stickers still on the glass. La Cantina did a great job — they fit perfectly, operate very smoothly, and feel substantial.

race against rain, part II

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Dec 022007

After an intensely busy week, I think we are all ready for winter storms. The forecast says it will be wet on Tuesday, and again on Thursday. So we’re just in time.

The plywood deck surfaces were installed this week, and the Division 7 waterproofing crew has installed the drains and flashing, and applied the first two coats of polymer sealant. Below, you can see one of the 2nd floor decks, sealed up and ready for weather, with a drain in the center. The second picture shows one of the bathroom windows, all installed and watertight. The white frame around the window is plastic protectors clipped on over the aluminum frame. They will be removed after the exterior work around each window is completed.


A lot more framing is complete, too. This view up the elevator shaft shows the heavy 4×12 blocking installed on one side to support the elevator lift mechanism.

And finally, here is the outside, with most windows in place. Bob Hartwell has draped plastic over the upper decks, so that the waterproofing polymer can dry without getting falling leaves and blown dirt stuck in it.

Bring on the rain.