Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another Crane Day

We had another crane day this week to move some of the bigger beams into place and put the roofing materials on the roof of the containers to make it easier for Justin and his crew (James and Karl, BTW - Karl is a dead ringer for a younger version of Elvis Costello, it is pretty wild) to build the roof over the living room and containers.

The roof cover over the spare bedroom is on so hopefully no more repeats of the plastic debacle from last week.

This is the view from the inside, when finished you won't see that much beam as there is spray foam insulation going in between those rafters and then covered with the final interior ceiling covering, corrugated metal and wood.

Kind of like the picture below.

Tom from Diamond Crane brought his smaller crane this time over to give us a hand again. Tom is fantastic, fun to work with and does such a great job.

This is the vertical post installed that the HUGE center rafter will sit on and ultimately the ceiling of the containers will be built up to this height.


They got started by moving some of the bigger beams moved into the house and positioned for building the loft/mezzanine.

Then came that big kahuna beam that is the ridge beam for the main ceiling in the living room, it is enormous.

Here is a video of the ridge beam being put in place, careful this is one minute and six seconds of your life you won't get back, so make sure of your commitment.

Anderson Pacific Builders in the house.

Moving the plywood roof sheathing up to the roof of the containers so they are easier to move into place.

Beams and supports go up as well.

Diamond Crane - "Fighting gravity for 25 years"

And this is the back of the Anderson Pacific Builders truck.....I would say they hold true to this.

Wanna Build your Own House - Think Again

Daydreaming of building your own home, fantasizing of hammering a few nails and brandishing a stunning sanctuary, imagining sunny days filled with painting trim as little birds tweet and butterflies flutter?

Think again.

This week was one of those when you wish you lived in an apartment with no maintenance, no upkeep and someone else suffered through the torrential rains to get the darn thing built.

We got our first rain in Northern California, first time since April. Of course Mother Nature once again ignored California's rules of weather. I find it amusing that when I moved to California I was told that it DOES NOT rain between May and October - EVER, and there is a snow LINE below which it doesn't snow. Of course, Mother Nature has other thoughts and uses these as more a guideline for her events.

Hence our first major rainstorm of winter hit this week and it wasn't joking around. Saturday night Kyle and I - in the dark, laid plastic over the half finished roof of the spare bedroom in an attempt to keep the trusses dry through the anticipated rainstorm. Kyle went off to work and Sunday brought fine weather, no issues.

Then Monday came, I checked the plastic Monday morning, still in place, all okay. Checked again just before lunch, UH OH, half of the plastic is now blowing in the wind as the storm ravishes through the area bringing high winds and unrelenting rain (that is my meteorologist speak).

So I don Kyle's big yellow raincoat and boots (because I work at home I am normally in my slippers) and ran down to secure the plastic. And what an ordeal that was. Every time I got the plastic positioned the wind came up and blew it off again, every staple I shot to hold the plastic, the wind just ripped the plastic from it. The other problem, the land around the house has not been graded and so as it got really muddy and is uneven it made it impossible to sit a ladder on straight.

Then the water had accumulated and pooled in between the rafters which made the plastic too heavy to move back into place. Of course as I climbed the ladder to poke holes to allow the water to drain out, each time it drained straight down my arm and drenched my entire self. By this time I was soaked to the skin, my hands were frozen stiff and the plastic was still flapping in the breeze.

Plan B. Let it get wet. And it did.

Definitely a day of house building I would rather forget.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Right in Front of our Nose

It is funny what is staring you in the face and you are too dim to realize it. Actually it is not funny, it is a tad embarrassing and a whole bunch of frustrating. Fortunately we came to our senses just in the nick of time.

The roof is progressing and the framing guys want to start work on the loft/mezzanine area this week, I call it a loft and Kyle calls it a mezzanine, I say our house isn't a hotel so it is a loft. It is on the second floor where the stairs land and is open to below and gains access to the master bedroom.

The floor of this area also serves as the ceiling of the lower floor which means we wanted plank flooring that could be seen from both sides rather than an engineered floor. We also wanted spacing in between the planks so no flooring with tongue and groove but with finished sides.

The whole mission with this house is to re-use and re-purpose as much as we can alongside with responsible new materials where we have to. Our framer had a few ideas for some cool flooring using FSC products but we also liked the idea of parts of our house having a previous story, like our containers and doors etc.. so I started to call around to some wood salvage yards.

There are amazing options out there from French cow barns to southern threshing floors and there are some amazing prices. Understandably so, the work involved to source these places, meticulously dismantle, clean up and plane the wood, ship it from the source, is immense and you can spend huge dollars, I saw some floor planks at $43 ft2...Eeeek!

So on Saturday we bundled ourselves off to Auburn, CA to a hardwood supplier that had a large yard of rough hewn wood to choose from. We were open to ANYTHING, mixed woods, stuff that needed A LOT of work, we were ready. So what do they show us - brand new milled oak.

Uh, not quite what we were looking for. They had great ideas of how to age and weather it chemically and though the price was fantastic, $3.50 ft2, it was milled 4 months ago and sure looked like it too. Grrrrr.

As we stood among giant tree rounds waiting to be milled with a UPRR cargo train blowing its whistle in the background we had an epiphany. We have wood, old salvaged wood with history and a story right in front of our noses. Our hay barn that was constructed from the first owners of the property from wood that was all cut and milled on the property. So off we toddled home to take a look and some measurements to make sure we have enough wood and, low and behold we do!!

Now we just need to empty all of our storage out of the second story, scare the wood boring bees away, pray there are no Black Widow spiders among all the spider webs we have to crawl through, pry up the boards and somehow manhandle 15 x 28', 3" thick boards out from the second story, down, over to the workshop and find a planer on Craigslist to clean them up. No Problem.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Don't Look Up

Because for a long time this was all you would see. 

It is a very pretty blue ski and at night the stars are amazing....BUT that won't be the case in a week when the rain starts!

So this is where Anderson Pacific Builders shows up and puts our roof, and low and behold they are here.

That is James in the shot above setting that big ol' glulam in place in the spare bedroom and it is actually the smallest of the three going into the house. We will have to get a crane to get the other two in place.

The other guy up there is Justin Anderson himself. This roofline on the spare bedroom has actually been a mathematical headache for Justin, we forced him to go back to his high school calculus to figure it out, I think it caused him some physical pain but turned out great.

That is Kyle on the ladder making sure it is level.

And here is a bird's eye view of the beam in place, isn't she a beauty.

We actually had a little party in the house the other night which was really fun. Can't wait till the windows and the roof are in and on.

We had a pretty nice sunset that night too. View from the back of the house.

The windows should be here in about two weeks and tomorrow we are the hunt for plank flooring for the loft area. Tonight Kyle is at another blacksmith class, can't wait to start making cool metal stuff for the house.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On the Road with Gigacrete

Last night we returned from a quick trip down to Las Vegas to pick up the PlasterMax and StuccoMax from Gigacrete. We left early on Saturday with Mom Jo, the pickup truck and the Rascal trailer and headed through South Lake Tahoe over to Carson City and headed down the Eastern Sierras on Rte 395, one of my favorite places in the world.

We took a quick side trip to Bodie State Park at 8,375 ft elevation which is a ghost town that is very well preserved to the point of being eerie, it is untouched since the last resident hoofed it outta town. A booming mining town over the turn of the century, Bodie produced over $100 million of gold before the over 5,000 residents of Bodie decided it was a tad too lawless and a smidgen too far off the beaten track and relocated  (or got shot).

From here we kept going south on Rte 395 to Bishop where we tried to get a hotel room but it was booked solid so we took a left on Rte 168 and headed across the White Mountains and the Bristle-cone Pine Forest (home of the oldest tree in the world). By this time it was pitch-black but we got the feeling we were on a very cool road that included quite a few peaks, a one lane canyon and some fantastic nighttime wildlife viewing; 2 owls, coyote, fox and some field mice. Three hours later we pulled into Beatty, NV and were able to settle in to our hotel room.

We drove the short drive to Las Vegas the next morning and after a long three hours walking around some casinos we got checked into our hotel, grabbed dinner and looked forward to high-tailing it outta there first thing in the morning. After our lungs and ears had recovered from the insanity in the desert we pulled into the Gigacrete HQ ready to pick up some tips and tricks and load  the trailer.

We are using PlasterMax by Gigacrete to cover the interior ICF walls in place of drywall and using the StuccoMax by Gigacrete to cover the exterior ICF walls. Both are incredibly strong products with immense structural value as well as high fire rating. 

The Gigacrete crew couldn't have been nicer and Adam (shown above) spent a few hours with us going through the whole process of mixing the products, applying the first coat, embedding the mesh and then the final coat.

It will definitely take some practice to perfect the art, working on a vertical surface with the hawk and trowel is trickier than the flat surfaces I am used to working on with the concrete. The process is straightforward but I did have a tough time making sure my application was thick enough, and if it isn't and you don't catch it quick enough you can be in trouble.
After the second coat you can continue to trowel till you get the smooth surface you want or you can finish with a sponge effect or use a patterned roller. I love the sponge finish.
While we were going through the training with Adam for both the interior and exterior application, the other guys completely loaded the pallets of wall covering and mesh onto the trailer and truck so we were ready to roll quickly.
Now the hard part, starting on our walls and getting the outside covered and sealed before the rain comes. The trip home was uneventful, we had a few stops to check the load and re-set some of the tie-downs. With over 8,000 lbs of material, we took it a little slower but did get to see that Rte 168 west from Nevada to California in the daytime and what an amazing road, it was stunning. Three mountain peaks with fantastic, peaceful valleys in between nestling quiet, sleepy farms, it is a gorgeous route and so remote. Can't wait to get back there to explore some more as soon as this house is done.