Sunday, December 12, 2010


It's a bad sign when the temperature reaches 35 degrees outside and you have to open all the doors in the house to warm it up inside...

Continued wiring this week in a very cold house.  Nearing the end of the regular 15 and 20 amp circuits.  Now all the 30 and 50 amp equipment circuits (stove, oven, dryer, water heater, geo units, back up heaters, sewer pump).  Steve came by to help me figure out a lot of the wiring issues I'm having.  He also confirmed that the mason did a shoddy job, so now I get to try to hunt him down this week.  Fun.

A benefit of all the cold weather: cute pictures of the kids playing in the snow.

Nothing to do with the house, but it was too cute not to include it.

Geothermal well drilling rig in place and ready to go.  It was dropped off Friday right in front of the dumpster that was being picked up on Friday.  I had to spend an hour with the dumpster truck driver figuring out how to extract the full dumpster from the back yard.

Question: How do you keep the blue water from freezing? Answer: Drop a chunk of rock salt in the urinal and let people pee on it.  Great chemistry lesson.


In retrospect, maybe I was over-confident when I said,  "No problem.  I'm doing the electrical.  I'll provide power to the geothermal units."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Electricity and Automobiles

Since Thanksgiving I have been focused on electrical work.  It's a slow process since there are so many decisions to be made: where to put fixtures?, how many?, what type?, where to put the switch?, 3-way or single pole?, bathroom fan locations?, with nightlight feature or without?, how many outlets?, which fixtures to put on which circuits?, how to get power to the circuit?, how to power each fixture?, 15A or 20A?, GFIC or Arcfault?.  And I haven't even gotten to doorbells, internet, telephone, cable, speakers.....  Thankfully, I have Steve to answer all my questions and lend me his tools.  Tearing through multiple studs with a 2 foot auger on his right angle drill never gets old.

In the meantime, my car turned into a trash pit.  I finally cleaned it all out- just in time to tear my tire open on a curb and need to access the spare.  So am I unlucky that I got a flat, or lucky that I was able to get to the spare? 

I also set up a thermometer inside the house this week just out of curiosity.  Maintained low 30's for the weekend.

Pictures of wires running through walls aren't very exciting, so I mixed in some others:

Just in case I break down in a blizzard I keep a few extra jackets and sweatshirts, and boots...
3 weeks worth of school clothes.

Multifunctional passenger seats serves as a file cabinet, hamper, gym locker, trash bin, and breakfast table.  Unfortunately, it can't hold actual passengers.  You know it's time to clean out the car when your wife tells you she's seen things like this on "Hoarders."

Mmmmmmmmmm.... donuts.

Photograph taken by Annika!

Photograph taken by Ella!

Action shot taken by Ella.

The LVL beams seamed like an easy solution to structural issues until I had to try to get wires around them and all the switch boxes just happened to be in that wall.

I never thought I'd have to use a 32' extension ladder indoors.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


The unofficial deadline I set for myself to have the siding done was Thanksgiving.  While I didn't have it done by Thanksgiving day, and there's still a few more pieces of trim to put up, I did get the last piece of cement board secured before Thanksgiving dinner was served.  Victory!  It wouldn't have been possible without my mom and dad coming by this morning when they got back from New York to help with stuff I just couldn't do myself.  I did try to do it myself, but in the process ruined a few pieces of trim trying to cut/handle them alone.  At one point, out of extreme frustration I threw a tape measure at the floor.  The perfect bounce sent it straight back into my face.  No bruises yet, but it did serve to calm me a little.  Thankfully, my dad showed up shortly after that incident.  Which brings me to my Thanksgiving list of gratitude...

I have a lot to be thankful for:
  • My children for "going with the flow."  They are taking everything in stride, and I love them for it.
  • My wife for putting on her warm clothes and coming out in the wind and cold last night to help make the siding "deadline."  She also took on the task of informing Ella about Loki today when she asked why he hasn't been eating the food she's been putting in his dish every day.
  • My in-laws for providing room and board for our family through this whole thing and putting up with the new level of chaos in their home. 
  • My sister-in-law for  taking the brunt of the extra child care duties on top of working 2 jobs and fixing up her own house so that Amy can teach and I can work on the house.
  • My parents for all they've given up in their own lives so my dad can spend so much time helping work on the house.  There's no way I could have done this without his help.
The side of the dormer was the last significant chunk of siding.  I finished that Tuesday night by headlamp to take advantage of a day with temperatures above 40.
On the plus side: He finally finished the rough grade enough to have water drain AWAY from the house!  He also reshaped the driveway to make it less steep.  On the negative side: I talked to the sewer commissioner and learned that we can't get an occupancy permit because he never paid the fees to the town for multiple sewer hook-ups he had done, so they revoked his drain layer's license, yet he continued to do hook-ups illegally.  So ours was done by an unlicensed person and without a permit.  Hopefully the pending lawsuit by the town will be settled by the time we are ready to move in.  What a mess.

The porch beam trimmed and the last pieces of siding in place.  This picture was taken 14 minutes before thanksgiving dinner was served.

Notches: the reason the last 1% of the siding took an inordinate amount of time.

Siding complete, high spots painted, window wells in, only one wet area still in the yard.

Building the tub surround was a welcome break from siding last week.  Shockingly, the tub actually fit into the cutout I made in the deck on the first try.

HVAC has been there this week working on ductwork and installing the geothermal units.  Very cool to see it all coming together, but it brings a whole new layer of decisions about locations of wells, trenches, equipment, ducts, supply grates, returns, piping, wiring, etc.

Spent a whole night contorting myself to get behind the ductwork (see pictures above and below) to seal off the soffit vents so when the insulation is sprayed in it doesn't expand and ooze out of the house.  One more day and the return ducts would have made it impossible for me to do this.

The "alien spaceship" of flexible ducts running off the sheet metal main lines.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Dreaded 40-Footer

Nearing completion of the siding (with the exception of caulking and painting all the trim - that may wait until spring).   Finally got all the high spots done this week thanks to a 40 foot extension ladder borrowed from Dean, picked up and delivered by Amy with her dad's truck and Dean's trailer.  Amy came over early this morning and we sided one wall under the porch.  All that's left: under the porch in front, the front of the family room, and the north side of the garage dormer.

Since it was warm today, and we have the 40-foot ladder set up and the step ladder is still tied on the family room roof still, I did some painting in the high spots as well.  Note to self:  it takes less effort to move a ladder than to try to reach the tricky spots with a brush duct taped to the end of a stick.

"Great Stuff" is not so great when the nozzle gets blown off and your hands get covered in rapidly expanding sticky goo.  The "Always wear gloves" warning makes sense now.  Hopefully the stains will come out of my hands fairly quickly.

Otherwise, did some miscellaneous framing tasks, figured out what to do with the tub deck, some major cleaning/organizing my junk, finally hard wired two outlets for power away from the electrical panel - no more pushing that one extension cord to its limits.

HVAC has also started in earnest.  Now I have to keep up with the electrical so they can hove power to test the equipment once it's installed.  Air supplies and returns are in place.  Met with well driller to locate geo wells. 

The front peak fully sided. 

What do you do when you set up one giant ladder in an unsafe manner?  You add a second ladder, a few bungee cords, some rope to tie it all together, a harness made from two belts, some climbing rope, and your father on belay through the attic window, of course.  Throw in some long planks of siding and some power tools and you've got yourself a party!

Hello down there.

The 20 square feet above the bump-out roof took 80% of our time.  Here we are planning our attack.

The help.

Nearing completion high atop the dreaded 40-footer.  Not too terrifying until I had to walk out on the little plank that's resting between the ladder jack and the steep roof.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

R.I.P. Loki Buddy

Today was the first really sad day at the new house.  Amy and I buried Loki beneath the oak tree in the  back yard at sunset today.

If I were the type who believed in such things, I might think the giant, bright shooting star I saw on the way back to 338 Pakachoag tonight was Loki saying goodbye.

We'll miss you Loki.


Sunday, November 7, 2010


The siding process continues... punctuated by a few welcome interruptions (and a few unwelcome as well).

For example:
-SNOW! - saw my first snowflakes from up on the staging two fridays ago.  A small hint that I need to get this thing wrapped up soon.
-RAIN! - Grading is still not complete, so the last rain storm resulted in a big sink hole and pond against the foundation.  Nothing like a little mud in the mouth when starting a siphon to drain it.
-WIND! - Spent 10 minutes digging through wet leaves today to find my dad's glasses and one lens that got blown off his face by the air discharge from the nail gun.

The good news:
-Meeting with Jeff tomorrow to go over final grading to be done this week.
-Meeting with geothermal guy Thursday to locate wells.
-Heating ductwork starting on Wednesday.
-The end of the siding is in sight thanks to a huge amount of help from dad.  Just the back peak, front dormer, and under the porch left.  Should be done by Thanksgiving (except for the caulking and painting - that may wait till spring - much to Amy's dismay).

Some pictures, including this past month's "interruptions":
Did I mention how much I like being able to lock up the house at the end of each day?

Power center.  No generator anymore, but I'm still running the entire house from a single outlet.  The siding has taken my focus off electrical.  Back to that soon, hopefully.

The inspectors.

A welcome interruption.

The trip to the pumpkin show in Norman's Winnebago.  The first in a series of Halloween related "interruptions."

At the Pumpkin Show 2010.  A welcome night off from siding.

Ella's last weekend soccer game.  No more excuses to take a break on Saturdays...

What passes for quality family time these days.

A quick look at the new trophy before heading back to the house.

Mary D. Stone Halloween parade.  A better way to spend an afternoon than on a ladder.

Dr. Berg: Brain Surgeon

Trick or treating with the ladies.

Elton John in his scrubs.

Trick or Treat at Gramma and Papa's.  Okay, enough fun - back to work.

The master bath tub was delivered!... to the garage... it's still there.... still in the box....  I hope it's actually the one we ordered....

A few of the hundreds of pieces of siding pre-cut and painted.

The effects of cutting all that siding on the garage floor.

The effects of cutting all that siding on my hands.

An add for Dickies?

The 1,459th time climbing out the front window onto the porch roof.

Is this safe?

Dad B. hard at work in the attic - cutting siding and passing it out the window to me on the staging.  A good system.

Thank you dad!

Every day it gets colder, and every day this looks more enticing.  Can't wait to break it in.