Siding is Going On


Hard to believe it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted on our progress. Part of that has been the busy-ness of work (architecture, my day job) and of general contracting. But we have been making progress; some visual, some not.

Probably the most visual so far has been the windows, siding and the arbors. There’s a lot of detail there. But, like the stepped fascias, the critical part of a design (beyond its functionality) is in the details. For instance, we have lap siding (gold in the picture) below shingle siding (grey in the picture), separated by a trim board. That trim board lines up with the grids in the windows. It’s those “little” things that I believe separate a good design from a great design.

From here on for a while, the exterior won’t look a lot different (unless we get some good weather and can get the outside painted soon, which will NOT be gold and grey). Gutters come tomorrow as do the two sump pumps to help keep the crawl spaces dry. We have a high water table and poor soils.

Most of our work now will be inside.

Our cabinet maker is getting started. I think I mentioned in a previous post that the cabinet wood we fell in love with was Peruvian Walnut. Well, obviously that wasn’t going to work, so we started looking for alternatives. We did look at a domestic Black Walnut, but the grain was too busy for our floors, which are Forest Stewardship Council Costa Rica Teak (plantation-grown, not rain forest wood); it has a very busy grain pattern. And we ended up right back at “home” with vertical grain Douglas Fir. It stains beautifully and gives us the look and contrast we want, which is very similar to the Peruvian Walnut.

We’ve met with our electrician and gone over our lighting. Juno brand has a brand new, cool LED recess spot light that we’re going to use in a lot of areas in both houses. It’s a 10 watt, 2″ spot that puts out the same amount of light as a 65 watt incandescent fixture. We are trying to use  LED lighting everywhere. They last longer, don’t have the mercury issues a compact fluorescent has and aren’t mini-heaters, like incandescent bulbs are.

We also have our painter on board and will be using zero or low VOC paints throughout the interior. The rough plumbing is in and the central vacuum system is piped. The rough piping for our Heat Recovery Ventilators is in and we have ordered our heat pump water heaters (with the incentives and EWEB rebates, they only cost $699 each and use 1/3 the electricity, so our payback on the extra cost will be about a year).

There are a lot of parts and pieces to make it all come together. It’s pretty exciting and each day we are getting more and more anxious to get moved in.

Soon. Very soon.

Recent Progress

IMG_0173There hasn’t been much visible to post, so I thought I’d show some recent progress (and Hannah is helping with this post; she’s used to this, I think, because her other set of gaga’s are building right now, too).

We have the garage slabs poured and covered, the rough plumbing mostly in and are just finishing the underground utilities (electrical, cable, sewer). Sidewalks get repaired and repoured tomorrow and we start work on the soffits tomorrow, too.

Roofs are completely on and after the soffits, we will start on the windows and getting things enclosed so we can start the electrical. We want to wait so our wiring doesn’t walk off (a common occurrence these days). The crawl spaces are relatively dry (no standing water) and we are installing a french drain at the north side of the house, probably tomorrow or Wednesday just because.

It’s a short work week this week because of Thanksgiving. And we are thankful for so many things: construction has really been going very smooth, bids are coming in close to where we need them to be, we are blessed to even be building a new home and our granddaughter came down to visit, so we gave her the tour.

We hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Be grateful for everything you have and everything you are.

Rains and Roofs and Pumps

IMG_1009We have had rain and more rain. The fans in the crawl spaces ended up sitting in about 6″ to 8″ of water. Argh…

So we have a pump in the crawl space now and are pumping out the water. Now that the roofs are on (or at least dried in) we should be in better shape on this front.

I’m talking to my plumber about putting in permanent sump pumps at each house to keep the crawl spaces dry.

But the bright spot in all this is the roof. The latest round of heavy rains hit yesterday (Thursday) and my roofer was originally scheduled for Thursday to dry in the main house. BUT, River Roofing came out on Wednesday and got us dried in BEFORE the latest round of rain. And that’s why I use and recommend them. They are awesome, they think ahead and they will bend over backward for you.

I also met with the mechanical people today (Comfort Flow Heating) and went over the locations for our mini-split heat pump units and the heat recovery ventilator (HRV) vent locations. Another top-notch company. They care about where the vents go, how it all goes together and how it looks as well as how it works.

That’s the latest update; more later.


This Week’s Progress


With the roof trusses up and the eaves and fascias and barge boards going up, the houses are really, really feeling good to us.

The overhang framing adds such a dimension to the houses and the curb appeal. The stacked, double 2×8 fascias add a sense of mass to the houses that, I feel, is critical. One pet peeve I have as an architect is wimpy overhangs and fascias that are barely larger than the gutters; you can barely see that they’re even there!

The roofs are going on; the cottage has the felt paper and the main house is getting close.

We are also starting to make some of our selections of materials, even though we’ve had most everything picked for four years. We had a walnut selected for our cabinets that we LOVED. The grain, the hue (a very dark walnut) were perfect. Except. The sample was Peruvian Walnut. As in rain forest walnut.

So we’re rethinking the walnut and looking at a domestic Black Walnut. Aside from the rain forest issue, my concern was the way walnut fades. We had cherry floors in our previous house and cherry darkens with age; no problem. In fact, it looked better and better year after year. But walnut fading doesn’t excite us too much.

So I Googled it. (Google is a verb now). And I found that walnut apparently really only fades in direct sunlight and/or UV. Well, none of our cabinets will see any direct sunlight. They are all internal to the house or under a large porch overhang. So I think we’re good.

If you click on the picture above, you can see both houses. I did a panorama and it doesn’t fit well in my blog format.



Really Taking Shape Now



The trusses were delivered this week and the houses are really taking shape now. We are getting a feel for how the houses’ room sizes and relationships to the neighborhood will be.

And we love it.

The way the houses sit on the lot and relate to each other is exactly as we pictured in our minds. The porches – the main entry porch at 15th and Lawrence, where we plan on a couple of chairs to sit and drink coffee on Saturday mornings, the BBQ porch at the other side of the main house and the entry porch and patio at the cottage, all feel wonderful.

These next few days will see the rest of the roof going on, the fascias and barge boards (extra-wide for added character) and the roof plywood (so we can FINALLY get things drying out).

So I’ll keep posting. We are taking pictures for a slide show sequence when this is all complete; likely early in the Spring 2015.

More Progress on the House(s)



lawrence2It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve done an update.

Sorry about that, but I’ve been really busy at work and things visually hadn’t changed much.

We have all of the walls now framed and are close to getting trusses delivered. My mason is installing the porch posts and cheek walls for the three porches so we can get the posts in to support the beams to support the trusses. We should be seeing some more visible progress by the end of next week.

You’ll also notice the excavator in the middle of the picture; we’re backfilling around the house and getting some of the gravel down for the patios and garages.

The small pile of wood in the foreground is about half of the waste so far. I took a 300# load to EcoSort about a week ago and about 95% of that was recyclable. If you’re not familiar with EcoSort, I encourage you to look at their website via the link; they are a local service that sorts construction waste and recycles what can be recycled. Our first load was largely small pieces of wood, cardboard and similar material. The next load will be similar.

We’ve also enjoyed meeting a lot of our neighbors. It seems like every time we are on site, we meet a new neighbor. I think we’ve now met every one of the immediate neighbors; they seem very friendly and we think we’re going to really enjoy living in the neighborhood.

The only downside we can see so far (if it is a downside), is Cornucopia is just three blocks away.

And that could prove VERY dangerous…


Cottage Progress




The Cottage is coming along well. Walls up, plywood on. Trusses are coming soon and the walls on the Main House will be starting tomorrow. We are doing the exterior walls as two, separate 2×4 walls with a 1″ gap between. This gives us an 8″ wall and about an R-37 insulation level.

R-values (“resistance”) are something that measures how well the house retains heat or cool inside. The higher the value, the better. Code is R-21, so we are about 60% better. This will give our tenants much lower utility costs. Our attic will have close to two feet of insulation. The floors will also have a foot of insulation.

And we are doing the same construction on the Main House.

Both houses will have a mini-split heat pump unit that will heat and cool at an incredibly high efficiency level. So combined with the added insulation, electric bills for both houses should be very low.

Well, it’s getting late. More later.


Apartment Life | The First Week


I actually thought I’d do one post on the apartment, then move back to the house. But it’s been amazing to my wife and I how many people are raising and eyebrow, asking, questioning, skeptical that we could go from a 2,750 sq ft home to a 950 sq ft apartment with little adjustment. So as I sit on my leather sectional sofa, blogging on my laptop via wi-fi and sip my mocha made with my own espresso machine, let’s take a little perspective-check.

We loved our home. It worked well for us as the kids grew up and served us well. The yard was awesome. But since the kids moved out, we really were only living on the main floor, which was about 1,800 sq ft. So the transition to the apartment was easier.

What seems interesting to me is the underlying, pervasive idea that more or bigger is necessarily better. As Americans, we seem to think that bigger cars are better (look how much larger a 2014 Honda is than a 1985 Honda), bigger houses are better (the AVERAGE new home size in the U.S. is now 2,500 sq ft), etc.

To which I say: “How much is enough?”

That phrase became apparent to us in recent weeks and maybe I’ll blog on that someday. But really, we are so blessed to be living in a 950 sq ft, 2-bedroom apartment that a good share of our furniture fits and is a standard of living that is STILL better than probably 90% of the world (i.e. running/clean/hot water, dishwasher, microwave, heat and electricity).

I can honestly say after this first week, we are enjoying this part of our adventure. The house construction is coming along well (more on that later) and we’re totally stoked about this part of our journey. So don’t think we’re covering anything up when we say we are enjoying our life in our “little” apartment. The average HOME in the U.S. just 60-70 years ago was smaller than this.

Apartment Life – Redux

549550_10151267535645902_1427022305_nWe have made the next step in our transition. Our movers were on hyperdrive yesterday and what was going to be a two-day move to the apartment, then put the rest in storage ended up being a one-day event. We had tried to purge as much unnecessary “stuff” ahead of time and with Brenda’s awesome lead (she did most of it), we got it all done in a day.

We have moved into one of our apartments on River Road and will live here until the house is complete. We haven’t lived in an apartment since 1982, but it is quite a blessing that we have this available for us. Living on a very busy street will take some getting used to; but so far, going from 2,750 sq ft to 950 sq ft has been pretty easy.

Floor framing of the cottage started yesterday and floor framing the house probably will start today.

Today we will be organizing the apartment and getting things in their place. More later.


Progress Today



We stripped the forms on the Cottage today and started setting up forms on the house. House concrete will be poured tomorrow. Coming along nicely.


We are using high fly ash concrete. This recycles a waste product (coal ash from coal power pants) and results in stronger concrete.