Sunday, December 30, 2012

More plumbing and some snow

Putting the Pex intake lines throughout the house was fairly straightforward. We minimized elbows and joins to minimize leaks and water pressure drops. And we purchased the Pex Manibloc to act as our starting point. It's basically a fuse box for your water system. The cold and hot source lines haven't been added yet in the photo below, but we got those installed yesterday. Other highlights were hammering in the strike plates, stapling up the proper vents, planning the shower stall design, outlining the hall closet design, and freezing our patooties off because it was 26 degrees inside. When I poured water to make coffee, the water instantly froze to slush (it's so cool when that happens - but frustrating that we had to thaw the water before we could make coffee).

Pex manifold - very cool
We also started running the black pipe for the propane lines. Made a good start and identified some parts that were missing. We'll grab those and head back up Monday to finish the lines.

We had quite a bit of snow too. On top of the 8 inches we'd received last week, we had another 3 by the time we left at 3PM. Looks like this year is going to be quite different from last year's snow accumulation. Last year we never even had to clear the road or use our snowshoes. Gotta start breaking some trails!

Officially starting to look like winter

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Not much to report

Oddly, we don't have much to report. Chris has been working diligently on getting the intake plumbing done. He's also been working on the hot water heater and the radiant floor system. We think we're going to need to hook it up after all. Hard to tell for sure as the house is still fairly open and the woodstove doesn't really stand a chance at this point, but we figure why not be ready if needed, right?

We're commuting for now - heading home each night and back in the mornings. Made that decision after the third straight day of waking up to 40 degrees in the Nest, under 20 outside. The whole point of getting the house weather tight was to be able to take a break if needed. I figure a good nights sleep followed by hot showers and room temps that don't make your toes curl qualify as needs. We're hoping that by the time we get the place insulated we'll be back to sleeping up there, but will cross that ice bridge when it comes.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


With construction power in place we've set up a temporary kitchen in the house. Oddly, it's in the living room, but hey, it's at least inside now. 

Making lunch in the "kitchen"
After stacking all the wood we decided to take a break and do something fun - we hung our door bell. Matt bought us an old fashion dinner bell a few years ago and it's now got a place of honor on the front porch. Feel free to ring it if you drop by.

Do you want it here?
Later that day we cut down a Christmas tree. From our own property. Now, our property is not Christmas tree friendly. Most of our trees are hardwoods and they're old enough that small trees have mostly choked out. But we did manage to find a tree. And a Charlie Brown tree it is!

It's got a few gaps...
 It's got enough gaps that you could throw a cat through it and not knock off any needles. But we think it's perfect for the house this year. Next year we'll have a full, beautiful tree. This year, we have a construction stage tree.
We improvised a tree stand. It's freezing inside so we're not worried about watering it. We just needed it  to stand upright. So we cut a section from a log that had bug damage (we killed the bugs, don't worry) and used wedges to get it to fit.

We put on some lights, added some very light-weight ornaments, and plugged it in.


Monday, December 17, 2012


We hired a crew to install the roof tin rather than doing it ourselves. We did the tin on the tractor shed as well as on the Nest, but with it being so darn cold it felt smarter to hire someone else to suffer, I mean, to professionally install the roofing tin.

But first we needed to get some soffits up on the second level roof. So we bought 1x6 trim and some semi-transparent stain, and thanked our lucky stars that it was actually warm enough to get it done.

Warmer than it looks - it was 50* in there
 Chris put a second coat on the boards and then wore his hands out cutting the venting and installing it all. 64 feet times two!
Soffit and trim boards on the second level
The roofers were happy that it was warmer than expected too. They got the drip edge, ice guard, and felt installed day one.
 We had a little trouble with the sheathing on the second level. They'd shorted it just a bit and there wasn't enough sheathing to nail on the drip edge. Chris borrowed Dad's table saw and ripped some boards to make up the difference.
Oops - too short
 And here it is - black tin with the flashing installed and the chimney properly flashed and sealed. We've had rain and sleet since and not a single drip inside. Whew!

Love the contrast between black and board
The exterior is going to be board and batten and we intend to stain it natural. The rest of the trim will be that same semi-transparent black. I really like the contrast and it will support the whole barn look.

We also got a bunch of firewood stacked on the porch. Not sure if we'll continue to do this for future winters or if we'll build a wood shed near the house, but this will work for now.

Cell reception

One of the big unknowns was what we were going to do about telephone up there. I am spectacularly unimpressed with our local phone company and therefore extremely reluctant to pay them $50 a month for limited phone service. But we had zero cell reception. Well, we had zero when we purchased the land. Lately, we've been getting intermittent service and it's been improving (slightly) over time. So we bit the bullet, did some research, and bought a cell booster.

We chose the whole house (ha!) booster from Wilson Electronics. Installed it this week and, lo and behold, we have cell service. Four bars!!!! On Chris's phone (Net-10). On my phone (Verizon), I get one bar, if I'm lucky. Dad's phone (AT&T) gets two bars at our place. We took the unit to his house and he gets four bars there. Now to explain that have to be within 5 feet of the antenna. However, you get cell reception in a place where you were basically cut off from civilization, so it's just a little ha and well worth the $250. Especially as that means we don't have to pay for a land line now. This is extremely exciting news for us.

It hasn't answered our internet quandary, but it gives us more focused questions to ask and I'm confident we'll get that licked soon too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More thankfulness

My brother has been an enormous help on this project. He gave us his time during the framing. He also gave us all of his framing knowledge and experience. In return we fed him lunches and agreed to help him when he builds his place. Given that his building schedule is not set yet, this basically means he gave us six weeks of his very busy life in return for a solid promise of help at some vague future date. And he did it with humor and good will.

As mentioned, we ran into rough plumbing issues this past weekend. Just couldn't quite see how to properly vent the system and run the waste pipes. Matt again rearranged his schedule and came up yesterday to help Chris through it. They swapped ideas, figured out a plan, got it approved by the inspector, and expect to be done by end of day Wednesday.

This type of help is not available to everyone. They either don't have family that can spare the time or don't have family that has the knowledge. We do. And we are so very thankful.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Look! Photos!

I may have fixed the photo issue. Not positive yet. But in the meantime, here are some pics from the Thanksgiving update!

A window beautifully installed, leveled, plumbed, and sealed

Enjoying the new wood stove. Love that thing.

Chris putting in the electric pedestal
I know this thing looks crooked as all get out - it's not quite set yet. It was straight and tall by the time we got done.

Installing the double entry doors.
Installing the double patio doors was a bit tricky. Only because we'd never done it before and the directions were a bit confusing. Actually, they were clear, you just often didn't believe them. But we got 'er done! And full props to Andersen doors for the awesome leveling hinges. Very nice feature.

After beautiful and semi-warm weather over the holiday, we woke up to a light snow Saturday morning. Pretty - but not what we wanted to see when we still didn't have tin on the roof. Oh well, it all worked out.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Not quite there yet

Okay, apparently I'm picasaweb challenged because I haven't fixed this sassafrassin upload issue yet. I'm bringing in the big guns though - I plan to ask my friend Steve to fix the darn thing.

In the meantime, here's what we accomplished this weekend:

1. Sprayed Great Stuff in all the window and door gaps - without spilling any on the floor! Huge success given how sticky that stuff is.
2. Learned how to burn coal in the Fatso stove and therefore have heat past midnight
3. Learned how to manage the new Progress Hybrid wood stove (love that thing)
4. Started our waste and vent plumbing (and realized that we needed help)
5. Watched the roofers install most of the tin
6. Ran to Troy to pick up needed tools and forgot to get the jigsaw. Argh. Took the time to let Hubby soak up some radiator heat and eat a meal that requires more cooking appliances than a grill.
7. Stocked the new refrigerator then read the installation manual and learned you can damage the compressor if you run it in room temps below 55*. Stuck a frozen water jug in it and verified that it's an awesome upright cooler and maintains a safe temp when the room temp is around 35* anyway.
8. Put up some drywall to separate the garage from the house in the hopes of keeping a bit more heat inside an insulated structure.

Frankly, even if I could upload photos, there wasn't anything particularly interesting to take pictures of. We're in the middle phase - waiting for the electrician to finish, waiting for the roofers to finish, figuring out discharge plumbing - rather than the more exciting, hey we just framed a house phase. They all have to get done though.

Some things I learned this weekend:

1. I love working with my husband even when we don't quite agree on the approach to a solution.
2. My cat is insane and is well on her way to driving us crazy too. None of us can wait until we're out of the 11x11 camp and into the big house.
3. "I'm sorry" and "I messed that up" are key phrases and should be uttered by the guilty party immediately after realizing the error. Please note that Hubby and I both uttered these phrases this weekend, depending on who was at fault at what moment. Both felt better after saying it - or hearing it.
4. A self-feeding drywall screw gun is an awesome and amazing tool that has a wee bit of a learning curve.
5. Don't ask for loading help at Home Depot. Damage will ensue (took two different trips for this tidbit to sink in).
6. Electricity is a wonderful and civilizing influence and should never be taken for granted.
7. Flexibility in a building process is incredibly important. Almost as important as being willing to slow down and talk all the way through an issue.

Chris is installing the DHW heater and stacking more firewood this week. Roofing should be done Tuesday. We'll make more progress on the plumbing this coming weekend and hope that we spend more time doing and less time going "huh, that's not gonna work, is it?". Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Solutions and an update

I am frequently amazed at how kind and helpful the blogging community is. I reached out to two of the bloggers that I follow - one of whom was not a follower of mine nor had I ever commented on her site - and asked them about the photo storage. I received helpful answers that I'm working on implementing. Not their fault that I haven't managed to do so yet.

So! Another text heavy update.

We have power!!!!!! National Grid came by Friday afternoon and hooked us up to the pole. Our electrician (Greg) had activated two outlets in the house and we have another at the meter, so we can run equipment instead of using the generator. In fact, the generator has been returned to my dad (a fact that he is quite happy about as we're entering likely outage season).

The rough electrical is done and we only had a couple more changes to make to the layout. I had drawn up two schematics - one for outlets and one for lights and associated switches - for Greg to use and they carried those things around with them constantly. Greg loved it and said he wished all his customers would do them. Please note that I was flexible with it as they had to move some switches to better wall positions and I wasn't upset at all. Detailed oriented? Yes. Fanatically committed to a plan? Not so much.

We were blessed with warm weather Sunday and realized that we'd never have a better time to get the soffits up on the second story roof edge. We ran out and bought the 1x8s and stain Sunday morning and I had the first coat on before 2PM. Chris had to put on a second coat to get the depth of shade right (semi transparent stain in Slate) but he says they look great. The house will be natural board and batten, the windows are Sandtone, and the wood trim and supports will all be black. Well, semi transparent Slate apparently because they don't seem to carry a true black. See, still flexible.

Lowe's delivered the range and refrigerator Monday. Extremely exciting news as that means Chris will actually have refrigeration now. Neither of us are missing the irony of this arriving when temperatures are rarely above freezing and the ice in the cooler never actually melts anymore. Sigh.

That's about it. The roof tin is on site and the installers arrive Thursday. We're working on rough plumbing next. Should be fairly straight-forward as we purchased this nifty Pex manifold thingie and will be able to do straight runs of Pex with minimal joins. Excellent.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Storage issues

Well hell. Did you know that there are photo storage limitations on these blogs? Me neither. But I just got a message saying I was over my limit - but I could buy some. Huh.

Since this blog was supposed to be for updating family and friends about the build, and since it is definitely not a revenue source, I am not willing to shell out money to support it.

Huh again.

So - I have some choices. I can delete some of the photos in old posts and hope I reach the end of the build before my storage runs out again. I can just do text posts (boring). I can stop blogging.

I have discovered that I'm not the only one being affected by this - apparently it's a new thing and I'm seeing it crop up in other blogs that I follow.

So while I mull my options (and some wine), here's the update from Thanksgiving weekend:
Installed the rest of the windows; installed the big entry doors; returned and repurchased doors for the bridge; dug the ditch for the electric and the electrician put in the lines from house to pole and installed the fuse box (this was wildly exciting as it means we're significantly closer to getting power); bought many lights so that the electrician would know what he needs to hooks up (wall, ceiling, outdoor, light/fan, etc); bought the stove and fridge (awesomely on sale even if it was Sunday and not Black Friday); closed up the garage with plywood and tarps. Oh, and we passed the framing inspection!

And I caught a cold. Blargh.

Next up is the plumbing and finishing the electric. Woo-hoo! Hopefully I'll be able to post some pictures of all that soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Once we got the woodstove in place we needed to install the chimney. We're running stovepipe to the first floor ceiling and then enclosing the chimney pipe in a run through the second floor and out the roof. We wanted everything in place so that we could make sure we didn't accidentally get interference from the trusses.

The exposed stove pipe is double-walled, close clearance pipe and will be visible. We used Selkirk pipe and it was a joy to work with. Clear instructions and nice heavy materials. Woodstock Soapstone sold us the pipe with the stove and they worked out exactly how many sections and which types we'd need. They also supplied the fire stops, insulation shields, and exterior flashing and support. A complete package. My Dad opted to buy a chimney kit for his place and that worked just fine for him also. We probably had to do a bit more puzzle piecing than he did though, so maybe the kit is better if you have standard distances. 

Black stove pipe
We'd carefully measured before putting up the interior walls to make sure we'd have appropriate clearance.  Now we had to cut through the subfloor upstairs to allow the chimney chase through.
Cutting the chimney chase
 The reciprocating saw made short work of this.

We fit the sections through the appropriate joist blocks and made sure we had a minimum of 2" clearance to combustibles. Then we marked the top sill for the pipe exit. When they install the trusses they'll  make sure they leave room for the chimney exit.
Bottom section in, marking the next
 One step closer to having a fire!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Running electric

We're building very far from the road. Which means we're building very far from established electric lines. We looked at alternate energy (expensive!) and decided to go with a grid system (also expensive, but less maintenance). It's been a long process and I've only attached photos of the recent work.

Here's how you go about getting power: call Nat Grid and have them send out a Planner. He walks you through options, issues, and puts together a plan to get poles back to your build site. Ours was professional, pleasant, and cooperative about minimizing the number of trees we'd have to clear. Oops - they'd have to clear. One of the advantages of getting poles is that they do all the work. All of it. 

But before anything can be cut, the Planner sends the layout to the Home Office where your Coordinator reviews it, prices it out, and sends you a very large bill. Then everything is sent to Legal where they write up easement requirements for your neighbors. You mail them out and once the easements are back, everything happens more quickly than you'd expect.

First the tree cutting crew arrives (I showed some pictures of that in the Nov 4 post) and clears the way for the pole crew. Then the hole digging crew arrives.

The hole digging crew is here!
 The trucks have huge augers that are supposed to dig a 6 foot deep hole.
The auger in action
Unfortunately, it couldn't get through our Adirondack rock. This is actually why we decided to do poles rather than bury the line (in case anyone was wondering). Based on what we'd hit while digging the foundation (and the general geology of they area), we figured we'd have a nearly impossible time digging the required trench depth. And sure enough, they hit rock in every single hole. So they unloaded the poles and said they'd send back a different crew with a backhoe to see if they could dig rather than auger.

Couldn't dig the holes, but they left the poles
One of the trucks had a hard time making the turn and was heading for the well head. Only one of them - the other made it just fine - so we termed it operator error, not a design flaw with the driveway. Although we may go ahead and put some of our defensive perimeter between the drive and the head, just in case.

No well heads were harmed
The driver got into the soft earth on the side of the driveway and just kept sliding closer to the well head. Finally they decided to winch him out. He did ask if we were going to YouTube this - we told him "only if you actually hit the well and we get a geyser". Fortunately, that didn't happen.

 The very next day, a Saturday no less, the backhoe crew arrived.

Big backhoe
Unfortunately, he soon realized that they hadn't just hit rock, they'd hit ledge. Nothing was moving those suckers. So they sent for the big rock drill. That took a while to get here as they only have one for the entire Northeast. Good capital management on their part, but it meant that it took a couple weeks to get to us. Not complaining though - it could have taken over six weeks.


Measuring the drilled hole

The first pole in place
This drill is different from the well drill. It doesn't use water so the dry rock dust flies everywhere.

Once the poles are upright they run a rope through the attachments. This serves as a guide for the wires.

No wire yet
We were happy to see that the poles blend fairly well. They're definitely there, but your eye sort of passes right by them. And once the poles weather a bit, they'll be even less noticeable.
I think our trees are straighter than their poles
And the crew spared us the big T-supports that you typically see on poles. Since it's just us back there, they used a smaller support arm that is nearly invisible.

With wires
All-in-all, this was a good experience. It took time (lots and lots of time) but once the planning and legal stuff was out of they way it went fairly quickly. In fact, it's ready before we are - we need to get the electrician out to set up our entrance. We've got two giving us quotes and we should have that work done soon. Hot dog! We can give Dad back his generator!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So that's what it's supposed to look like!

So, when last we left it was high 50's, sunny, and t-shirt weather (if you were working that is). The very next morning? 23 degrees and a heavy frost. *sigh*

Pretty frost on the truck
We've been quite fortunate with the contractors and delivery guys that we've dealt with - up to now. The trusses arrived Tuesday and the gentleman driving the truck refused to believe that his little 30 footer would go around the big turnaround. Despite the fact that all the other cement, excavator, well drilling rigs, National Grid trucks, and many, many Curtis Lumber trucks have all made it just fine. Well, there was a small issue with one Nat Grid truck, but that was operator error and the winch solved the problem just fine. Anyhoo - the truss guy said no go. So he backed all the way up the driveway (at least 700 feet, I'll give him props for good backing skills), then at the join on the driveways where they'd cause maximum mayhem, he dumped the trusses. Kaboom.  Nice, huh?
Not the driver!
And what happened soon after he skedadelled? The guys who were actually putting up the trusses arrived. Oh, and then National Grid showed up to finish putting up the electric poles. All at once. And no one could get through.

Queuing up the workers. 
But Chris soon got it sorted out. The Nat Grid guys started where they could (awesome crew by the way - they've been great) and the truss hangers got out the big equipment to move the trusses out of the way.
Look at that cool thing haul truss
They built the end ladders that support the gable overhang.

Huh, so that's a gable end. Neat. 
 And then they got right to work putting up the trusses.

Trusses on the main section of the house
 And soon they had the gable ends done, the trusses up on the center and both wings, and sheathing on most of the roof. These guys were quick!

It's a raised center aisle, or monitor, style building
And then it happened, the ah-ha moment, when the helper, M, said - "oh! so that's what those windows are supposed to look like!" Yes, to all those who wondered what the heck was up with those itty-bitty windows so high up on the wall, that is indeed what they're supposed to look like. They had to be that high to accommodate that roof line of the building wings, and they now make perfect sense.

Love this angle
It's really coming together quickly now. And that porch! Loving how huge the porch is. 

Enormous porch
Oh! And National Grid? Done! We have poles, wires, a transformer, and now we just need the electrician to hook it all to the house. Power - a full seven months since we first started the process and at least six months earlier than my worst fears. Not too shabby.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taping, porch wall, doors and windows

How's that for an "all but the kitchen sink" post title? We got many things accomplished this weekend. We're at the stage of the build where lots needs to be done, but the big things have to wait for something else to happen. For example - we have no roof yet. But that's because the trusses couldn't go up until the porch support wall was complete. Oh, and until the trusses actually arrive on site. But there are many other things that need doing and we tackled a few of them.

The building has been wrapped and we set about cutting the window and doors open. 

Light shining through Tyvek, so pretty!
Ta-da! Openings cut, stapled open, and ready for taping.

Chris and Matt built the porch support wall last week and it's ready to hold up the porch trusses. The porch is 12 feet deep and will be great for picnic benches, comfy seating, and all that wonderful summer stuff.
The porch wall
 It was cold at the start of the weekend. And, as usual lately, wet. I am wearing approximately 25 lbs of clothing. Puffy, bulky, hard to move in, but oh so warm, clothing. We're giving Carhartt coveralls some serious consideration.
Taping in the cold
Taping the house was pleasant work that unfortunately often involved leaning out the second story windows. This photo is quite circumspect as most of the time I was halfway out and leaning over to get a tricky spot. Or leaning over the top of the wall - this may cure me of my balance issues. Or kill me. Let's hope it's the former, not the latter.
See me in the little window?
We forgot to cover the back wall of the Bridge. We've taken to considering this space as living area, which is correct, but it's outside living area. It will be protected from rain but still subject to wind, so house wrap is a must.
Back wall of the Bridge
 It got progressively warmer as the weekend went along. And we loved it!
Warming up and climbing high
We installed two of the house doors, both exiting the mudroom. The left goes into the garage, the right goes outside to the back yard.
Mudroom doors
We had such nice weather that we decided to move a couple of the firepit chairs up to the Bridge and enjoy a few moments of peace and sunshine. That's going to be an excellent space.

Migrating chairs
Monday was even warmer and the sun was out in full force. We needed to refill the wood crib so that became the task for the day. We've got plenty of seasoned wood in lengths too long for the little woodstove in the Nest. So we took some time to cut it to length and split it.

At the beginning of the day
We've also got a lot of logs that have seasoned for about 6 months and need to be cut to length for the big stove in the house. We've been working on these as time allowed and have a decent size stack cut, but spent some additional time on it while the sun was out. Chris will spend some additional time this week moving more seasoned wood to the front of the stack so that this stuff has a bit more time to age.
 The day was perfect and we spent time enjoying the feel of the property as well as working.
Look at that sky!
 And we got the crib refilled. Nice!
A couple hours later
After lunch we decided to install a couple small windows to remind ourselves of the process. We picked the downstairs bathroom windows since they seemed easiest to start on. And cheapest to replace if something went wrong.
Sandtone finish
The install went smoothly and we'll be able to fly through the rest of the windows now that we've got the whole sill wrap, caulk, tape, level, screw, flash, tape again thing down.