Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Real time blogging

Fast forward to this past weekend I figured I needed to blog about something far more interesting and and visually satifying than black ABS vent pipe. A post about paint drying is more interesting than ABS vent pipe. I will return to the chronological progress of the house next post.

This weekend we knocked out a big project that has been in the planning from the beginning. Remember THIS post where I attempted to design and locate our propane tank pad which will also house the generator and hold the hot water solar panels?

I created this sketch-up with the Google software and it was going okay until I realized that my wall had no back and most of the posts didn't reach the beams. But the County and our concrete guy got the idea and fortunately didn't take us seriously when they saw it mapped out....

Google maps dumped it on a restaurant roof in Boulder, CO and the sucker wouldn't budge - FAIL!

Tim Crews from Precision Concrete poured the pad and retaining wall, more on that HERE. And this weekend we got to town on finishing the structure so we can get the solar panels up.

It went up pretty easily though I have some doozy of bruises on my arms trying to get those 12' beams into place and poor Kyle took the brunt of the lifting.

Once the posts were up, the cross beams in place and the large perpendicular beams up we roofed it using some of the panels we cut out of the containers. After cleaning and grinding them, we srewed them down to the structure frame and caulked the seems. This weekend we will paint the roof top in preparation for the strutting supports to go on that will hook into the solar panels.
This little house gives shade to the propane tank, our backup power generator and a water pump. All the piping to the house comes in through the middle of the back wall. It will be easy to maintain and protect this equipment from the elements. You can tell we wrapped this project up just as the sun was setting on Sunday night.
We have some more long-term ideas for this structure that are REALLY cool but you y'all will have to wait and see. We have so many ideas for the leftover panels from the containers we might run out of them. For the time being, this is another project off the list!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hold on to your pants - we got us some plumbing

Really can't gush on this post, can't go on and on about the joys of plumbing and indoor running water and flushing toilets. It really is NOT glamorous, exciting, adrenaline rushing or remotely interesting at all.

But nevertheless in the name of full disclosure and just because I went to the trouble of taking the pictures I will share this momentous milestone with all of you.

The plumbing has proved to be a challenge as all the 'water' appliances are in the container side of the house and having sandwiched two containers together we don't have the luxury of an interior wall to chase plumbing pipes through. Hence there were a few renditions of the plan but Kyle finally came up with a layout that fit the house, that we could work with, with the finished look of the house and most importantly a plan that the County Inspector signed off on.

We needed to get all the plumbing pieces installed before we could have the spray foam insulation applied as it would be a huge ordeal to cut through it after the fact to run the plumbing through both in the walls of the exterior of the container and underneath the containers. Kyle also ran all the conduit for the electric underneath the containers so all we need to do is run wire to connect the dots.

The other thing we needed to do before we could even put most of the plumbing and electric in was to clean up the underneath of the containers. Sounds easy enough, it is cleaning........WRONG!

It involved laying on my back on one of those wheeled boards that car mechanics use with a metal grinding wheel in hand, eye glasses, gloves, a face mask, a face shield in 90+ degree weather and on the second go around, a doo rag as it took me days to get the rust pieces out of my hair. Grinding the rust off the underneath the containers was miserable. It went everywhere, in every crack, nook and cranny. I came out from that 2' crawl space each time covered head to foot in brown filth, I was filthier than any time from the horse days. So glad that, that job is behind me and done and the black widow spider was relocated (to the vacuum).

Anyway, onwards and upwards after buying about 200+ plumbing elbows, turns, angles, connectors, reducers and multiple other parts and pieces that seemed to have no name but all come in black ABS plastic.

It is tricky to plan the venting for every single toilet, sink, shower etc..and how they can all tie into one another so your roof doesn't look like swiss cheese. This one above is for the kitchen, overcoming the venting code to maneuver around the window directly above it. 

This is the downstairs bathroom for the sink, toilet and shower. We lucked out here because of the site built wall between the bathroom and laundry room directly behind it.

This is the master bathroom, difficult to overcome some challenges here as there is the structural red iron on the exterior of the house that we cannot drill through so took some ingenuity on Kyle's part. And again the window issue above the sink came into play. This design resulted in some unique design finishes that we came up with so stay tuned for that down the road.

This takes the downstairs bathroom vent up to the roof. This runs through the master closet and will get chased out.  

Drainage from the master bathroom shower (above) and toilet (below) that come down into the utility room and back hallway, respectively and the hallway will get chased out.

Our clean-out, the final chase design will provide a small broom closet here that will allow access to the clean-out.

So once all the plumbing and venting network is in place the openings to the fixtures get covered up and then the entire system gets filled with water to ensure that there are no leaks. Here is Kyle filling the whole system from the roof top. It was actually kind of fun and SUCCESS first time. Way to go baby, nice planning and install. Who needs a plumber and we have INDOOR plumbing. It was all worth it.

And a moment to appreciate the nice view a the end of it all. Phew.....now on to the next thing - insulation!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Somewhere to hang the welcome mat

We found this incredible local guy - Jim Briggs of Jim's Custom Doors and Molding who does gorgeous doors and woodworking so we took over some of the huge wood panels that we salvaged out of the old mobile home to see if he would make a door or two for the house.

Of course Jim couldn't be nicer and it is very cool to see some of the projects he has going at his shop. We are pretty small potatoes compared but he still did an amazing job.

The wood panels are big 8' by 4' and 2" thick cedar panels that lined the living room and some bedrooms in the mobile home that was on the property. They were originally milled from trees on the property so it was important to integrate them into the new house in some way and what better way but the front and back doors.

The back door (technically side door that is on the north wall of the house) also needed some special installation in the form of a doggy door. But no ordinary doggy door. It needed to be tall enough for Denali to get in and close enough to the ground that Ziggy could jump through. We also worried about energy efficiency as some of the dog doors don't close very well after repeated use and we wanted something that would hold up to all four, yes four dogs now, using it multiple times a day.

After a lot of research we came across this door.

The Plexidor opens up sideways rather than one large mono-flap like most dog doors. This type of design holds up much better and is more energy efficient with a tighter closure than most doors. It is also safer via the locking mechanism and is NOT white which was very important.

So with the new doggy door in-hand, Jim got to work on the doors. And in no time we had a front and back door ready to go.

Front Door

Back Door with opening where the doggie door will fit in

We also had to source the hardware for the doors. The hardware we really wanted were handmade from Chili and about $700 per door. So we had to settle for something a little simpler and we went with simple black hinges, hey, you gotta make compromises here and there and pick your indulgences.

So now the doors await a good coating of tongue oil and then they can be installed. We aren't in a hurry to get them installed until all the big construction work is complete in the house for fear the glass gets broken or they get dinged up. So they are in safe storage in the house for now. 

Next up, that pesky plumbing and venting. And pesky is putting it nicely.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Post Blogging Hiatus

And we are back from our blogging hiatus. Sorry for the delay in updates but we had some things with the blog to work out and I thought it best to suspend blogging till those were resolved.

Now we are good to go and it is time to get caught up with your favorite soap opera home building project. When we last left you I was touting that spring has sprung. That lasted about 2 days and we hit full blown summer. It has been 90+ for about all of June and July but fortunately we have a pretty steady breeze which has made it tolerable for working and the house is really cool (temp wise) so it is nice to have inside jobs during the hottest part of the day.

So I won't update the whole progress in one post but drag it out in true blog-like fashion. But we will kick it off with the stairs. They were the next big install chronologically and what a step forward it was.

RTs Mobile Welding welded the stairs offsite and then delivered the treads and stringers for final install on site. We prepped for the stair install with two things.

One was installing the electric for stair lights, little LED lights that will sit recessed in the wall and light the stairs. It was a bit tricky getting the placement right that would match the angle of the stairs and be a even up the stairs. Because of the placement of the stairs that turned halfway up a few of the lights are set in the container wall studs and the others are set in the ICF wall. Phew, things are never easy.

So we rough set the stairs in place and held them up with stands and come-alongs to get a rough idea of where we wanted to place them.

Once the lights were placed we sheathed the container wall with plywood. The plywood at the bottom of that wall alongside the stairs will ultimately get corrugated tin so we didn't need to be too careful about making it perfect. Of course while we were at it we kept sheathing up that wall and once we passed the stair height, those plywood pieces would be the finished product so the pressure was on to make it look great. 

Once this part was done we needed to protect the ICF wall from the welding that was needed to install the stairs. Not good to have sparks like that hit ICF foam blocks. So we jumped in and started plastering that wall to get a feel of the plastering product - Gigacrete, and how easy it would be. Of course there was was  along learning curve in the mixing and application on the wall. Upshot is, it looks fantastic but we didn't get it thick enough. Easy enough to remedy with a second coat but good to know and we also know what doesn't work. 

So now with the electrical in and the walls protected it was time for the stairs. Drum Roll.........

The stairs are in and WHAT a difference. Just not having to jump up and down ladders all day long as we move through the house. It is a huge time saver and exciting to see stairs, actual stairs.

And looked who has already tested these babies out ............

The single stringer is such a clean look it has made us rethink the railing approach. If I had my way there would be no railing, the European style but since the California Building Code (and most other states) think that babies will come to our house and hurl themselves off the stairs we have to have a railing that won't allow a 4" ball to fall. So there goes our nice clean, minimalist look.

The stairs will be painted black and then white oak treads will go on top of each metal tread with a little surprise so stay tuned for more on those treads!!!

Next post - new doors are here and plumbing and venting. So exciting.

Friday, April 12, 2013

California Blacksmith Ass. Spring Conference

We spent today at the CBA (California Blacksmith Association) Spring Conference which was amazing. Tons of smithies from the state and even beyond, all gathered to teach and work on amazing creations.

There are competitions with some incredibly creative and beautifully executed works. Famous smithies lecture and give demonstrations and then you get the chance try your hand with their input as you go.

Kyle made some chisels and a beautiful leaf. The talent and things that can be created with metal is astounding. One criticism is that there are too many grape vines, but then we do live in California.

I am excited that, as Kyle gets better, all the things he can make for the house. And of course, mom Jo has already made numerous requests.

Kyle trying his hand at one of the seminars

Hard at it - this is not quick work.

This competition entry from THESE guys was amazing and WON!! The rock spins between the metal clamp. The whole thing was made in just over a day.

This one was made by THESE guys and this picture doesn't do it justice. The whole thing was made from a pry bar and was NOT cut anywhere, it is one continuous piece. It balances on that big block of steel and the rock is counter balanced by the triangular steel at the bottom.

Boy is it windy - so elegant.

Here fishy, fishy....very creative and cool.

I have seen it all

You know it is out there, those insane pieces that are just so over the top and come with a price tag to match that only sheiks and billionaire recluses buy for their homes. But you don't think that while on a search for pretty simple, straight forward, reasonably priced door hardware that you would come across one of them.

Enter the $15k farmhouse sink. Yes, $15,000. Shown here in bronze but does come in other patinas. It sure is pretty but this goes up there with those Ch√Ęteau Series from La Cornue covered HERE that hurt the purse strings just blogging about it.

Gotta say, even winning Powerball, couldn't bring myself to buy a $15k sink. I imagine I am not alone.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring has Sprung - I hope

Spring has sprung in N.CA and the walnut trees are gorgeous and the tulips are out in full force. The weather (touch wood) has been amazing with temps up in the 70's and bright sunshine.

We (Kyle) have been hard at it on the house but it is frustrating period finishing up all the structural nitty gritty. It is laborious and not a little bit satisfying, in that when you have finished a hard day on a ladder drilling and screwing and there is NOTHING to show for it. But it all has to be done and per the Kyle factor, done perfectly.

I have been able to mow twice already which is great and an improvement over last year getting it mowed so early so we can enjoy green, park like grass.  And as always, cutting the grass, THE most satisfying chore, I love it.

We have been able to start cutting out the ceiling of the upstairs containers. It looks so different and it is great to get so much light in. You can see where the ladder is, will be a window that is in our walk-in closet in the master bedroom.

One problem we had to take a break from the house to solve was THIS.....yes, can figure out what is wrong with this picture. Two criminals on the WRONG side of the gate. The big fluffy one figured out how to open the gate and that was that.

So we bought an automatic gate lock that works in conjunction with the automatic gate.

We installed it in an hour or two with fluffy watching the entire time. He hasn't even tried to open the gate since, he is way too smart for his own good. I am waiting to see his next magical escape trick and where he will sneak out through next.

I think we are ready to schedule our structural inspections so that is the next on the list and Kyle is picking up the metal for the windows on his way home this week so cutting them out is coming.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snow Load calcs paid off

Turns out someone did some good math and those snow load calcs paid off.....

Got a boat load of snow yesterday with HUGE snowflakes. It was neat to see the house draped in snow, for an hour, tooks pics and then the snow can go away. Of course this is a mere dusting to my New Englander friends.

But a few of us really liked the snow.

Denali wouldn't stay still long enough to get a picture, he was ecstatic about the snow.

With the light and the snow in the trees it was pretty, but did turn to ice that night.

The past two weekends we (you know what I mean by "we") worked on finishing up some of the structural fiddly bits left to do. Every red arrow is a spot where we needed to put in 471 screws (may be a slight exaggeration  396 is more realistic;-)). That is a lot of screws.

The Hardy Panels inside needed 16 screws at the top of each panel. What a nightmare that was. The bottom of the panels are bolted into the foundation, that part was easy.

It was exhausting holding the drill and lightly pressing and not breaking drill bits. I failed the last part, I broke multiple drill bits, heck I failed at the whole thing and Kyle kicked me off the project. Ahhh, darn it!

Starting to get things laid out for installing the showers, thinking of using this system to build the angle of the shower floor for proper drainage, hope it works.

We also decided on a color plan for the outside....more on that later:-)