Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ode to walls

So yes the work on the dining room walls is moving right along while we still wait for things to come together on the concrete for the shop.

On Sunday Troy interupted some perfectly lovely sunbathing (and you know we don't get much here) to have me help him put up the vapour barrier, or more simply known as plastic. This is really the first of the construction work I have done. [I forgot the first rule of helping (or should I say working with) Troy which is to put on grubbies. So I ruined some nice capris.] But for once I was running the caulk gun and staple gun as much as Troy, not just assisting.

We were working with 8x10' sheets of plastic and I had to agree with Troy that it would have been quite unmanageable with just one. So he was quite justified in drafting me. We caulked every edge and seam and just tried to get it up as smooth, straight, and tight as possible. In the meantime I made a lot of jokes and puns on the word, caulk (who could resist?), and I'm sure if I repeated any of them here we would lose our family rating. But I trust you can come up with your own.

We did get the room done. You'll see in the pictures that it was quite colourful as Troy bought siding caulk (which comes in a variety of tints to match "any" colour). Every new tube was a surprise.

The pictures may cause you to think that where caulk is concerned, Troy thinks more is more, and you would be right. On top of that all the edges were stapled. Troy's new "super-duper" electric staple gun pooped out about half way through so we had to resort to the manual gun. (We are building some strong hands in this house!) Troy later exchanged the gun for a cheaper model (when the expensive one doesn't work where else is there to go?) but it didn't work right out of the box. Wow.

Then, even more exciting, Troy got some drywall up on Tuesday. Look at this:

It really looks like a wall, doesn't it!? With a honkin big window. Yup, that would be about right.

I don't know exactly what's coming up next, but I do know we'll have to blow the walls full of insulation some time soon. Troy promises that's even more fun that working the caulking gun. I don't think I should trust him on that....


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Garden update

What another update? Already? Sure why not...springs blooms are popping up all over right now. The hyacinths, for instance, finally stopped looking so anemic and are sending their scent all through the yard.

And the tulips have finally made an appearence. (Ok, so I'm an impatient gardener.) Along the garage, they're all lined up:
And the ones facing south that I wrote about are all popping open as anticipated. I didn't realize how many purple and yellow ones I had planted. Good for me trying something other than red!

The next to bloom should be the alliums--their flower buds are already forming. And the lilies are coming up through the ground now. (I still get excited that I can recognize plants at such an early stage...I'm learning.)

I put in some cosmos seeds this afternoon that Troy got for free with his last order. They also threw in a free pack of fertilizer--they generously provided a sample for a whole square foot! Wow. Ok, I guess it was free, what am I complaining about.

Alright, that's it for tonight. Tomorrow I should be able to give you an update on the construction, so stayed tuned!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Garden Update

Time for a garden update. After the first two, we didn't get any more crocuses. Those two are going to have to multiply a lot if that's what I have to count on to get more in the next few years. I might have to break down and buy some, but I think other things will have priority. (Like what am I going to do along the road? hmmm....)

But in the meantime, I went around and snapped a few pics of everything blooming and budding tonight. We have exactly two daffodils in bloom. This is so much later than everything in town. I'm guessing that missing the warmer late afternoon sun is responsible. One of the dafs, however, is very fancy (lower left). I don't remember planting it, and I was very cavalier about them as they were coming up. (I'm afraid I'm not very tender with dafs.) But now that I see how fancy they are, I'm going to have to take more care! The problem is that they were planted right beside the spot that the gopher used to tunnel under the porch. So there's a mound of dirt to move but they are growing right through it. I will just have to wait...

Let's see...on the right side you see a tulip that is this close to popping open. Those are the ones on the south side of the south porch. They're a little ahead of the rest. And you see the buds and leaves developing on both crab apple trees. The rest of the trees still look like dead sticks. I've got my fingers crossed for them. And finally there is the first of the sunflowers volunteering under the bird feeder (one of the few seedlings I recognize now--we had chipmunks planting them in all my beds last summer). They come up like weeds, but as long as I thin them down to healthy levels they look great. Who couldn't use more sunflowers?!

Wendy, the irises you gave me are coming up great, up to 4" tall by now. No pictures b/c it would be a boring picture right now. Judy, the irises you gave me are coming up too, but they're only about 2.5 inches tall. Not that this is a competition or anything...I'm sure they're just different types of irises.... In either case a big thank you to both of you! Especially since you helped plant them!

I still have to plant the ground cover I'm going to try on the hill (some Irish Moss and Red Sedum), and the bulb catalog got me again so I have more plants coming including rhubarb.

Troy got his seeds this week so he has tomatoes and some other vegetables started in pots which are now sitting all around the living room. He also got some free zinnia seeds so I will find room for them later too. He just put the potatoes out tonight along the west wall, outside the kitchen. Grass wouldn't grow there anyway, so I guess we can try this. I know, you're still wondering who actually plants potatoes when they're like 10 cents a pound...well we must prepare for the end of life as we know it, you know...

Well, enough for now. For those of you with gardens, this is all old hat, and for those of you without I'm sure this is ho hum.

Either way, enjoy the quickening of spring!

Deconstruction makes way for construction

Hello again. Just some pictures to show you some progress in the dining room. Every time I try to take a picture of an entire room I am more impressed with the photos in magazines. Sure, they have better camera accessories, but it still takes a lot of skill. Anyway, here is some of the newly completed framing in the dining room:The wall on the left faces south (the front of the house). As you can see, we have very fancy curtains hanging in the windows. Ok, maybe not...

Next we have evidence of Troy going foam-crazy. Well, maybe I'll let you decide on the crazy when you visit our crazy-like-a-fox warm house when it's done. Anyway, evidence of his quest to insulate:

And the next picture is evidence of the thickness of the exterior walls: Twelve inches, baby! Forgive the blur, please. I took the pic left-handed, and in quite a contorted position, as I recall. All so that the numbers would be upside right. You're welcome. The window boxes will be even wider. I'm sure we'll put some window seats in the biggest two windows.

Next are the panels he's inserting between the ceiling joists. Formerly, the house didn't have anything of the kind which resulted in a big mess and a not very effective job when they blew in insulation. Since we are also blowing in insulation, we wanted to do it right, of couse. The panels will keep the insulation from being blown all above the ceiling and make sure it can settle properly in the walls. This may seem obvious, but may I repeat that the previous "home improvers" did not do it? With warmer weather upon us, work on the shop will take precedence but the plan will be to have the drywall up and insulation blown in by next winter. That gives us some time, right?

And lest you think I will have one beautifully finished room when that is done, let me show you the interior walls of the same room: (the door leads to a closet, and the right white "column" is a chimney we can't get rid of)Yeah, and all the exterior walls will have precedence over these ones. Ah well, all in good time...

To leave on a positive note, can I tell you how nice it is to be able to sit in the house in a T-shirt? Mmmm...I love sunny days.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hopefully the final word

Email from Troy I received today:

Hi Honey,
[Mr S] says we’re back on. With the proposed changes. Call when we’re ready to pour...
I don’t think it’s a trap...
So I think this is good news...
I guess this is where faith comes in.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Good news...perhaps great!

Yesterday Troy began the calls to concrete companies and the building inspector (we'll call him Mr S) to get the work going on the shop again. Lo and behold! Mr S volunteers the information that the insulated shallow foundation is on track to get put into the Michigan Code in May. Like next month May. Wow! This would be great despite the slight delay this might entail because it means 1. Troy would get the foundation he wants, 2. we wouldn't have to tear out the work that was completed last summer. That would hopefully save some significant time.

Troy is not dancing in the streets (take a moment to try and imagine that) because it is not done yet. And he still suspects Mr S may just be evilly giving him hope only to joyfully yank the rug out later. Who knows? But for now, I am taking this as a sign of good things to come and a welcome answer to prayer. I've been trying to pray for the good of my enemies and not the bolt of lightning that would be more satisfying. It would be nice to think this may be a resulting blessing. Again who knows? (I'm more than a little cautious about assigning cause and effect where God's motives and purposes are concerned!) I am grateful for the unexpected announcement and possible change in our circumstances.

Troy thinks your prayers would be put to better use on more important things like people with cancer and the like, but I think God has time for all things. So our prayer warrior friends out there, feel free to give us a thought or two and we would appreciate it.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cleaning up

So as I was sitting in my car after driving home from work yesterday, I realized that I was not just enjoying a "moment" before going into the house as I often do...I was avoiding going into the house! Everything's a mess, there was not a single room that I could just sit and relax in. Sitting on the couch covered in platic coated with dust/dirt is not an option. The bedroom's messy and doesn't have a chair...I wasn't quite ready for bed yet! The kitchen is full of lumber and the table saw. On and on...I was sick of it.

So I cleaned up last night and this morning. I took the plastic off the couch since Troy is finished making big messes for now. And I vacuumed...and vacuumed. Floors, furniture, shelves, rabbit cage, and everything on them. Got the living room and dining rooms done, but not the entryway, piano, etc etc. (Ok, focus on the positive for just a moment, Christina.) It all felt much better as I left today. AND I noticed Troy is finished framing in the opening. Well, it looks like he is anyway:

All for now. I should get home and enjoy it.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Spring is really close

I can't remember who it was, but someone asked if we had any blooms yet. I had one last week--a purple crocus--but it lasted only one day before it was eaten up. I went to look again on Saturday at 9 in the morning and I didn't see any. Just some tulips getting taller (up to about 3"). When I went out again at noon, this happy bloom was smiling up at me. Now I know crocuses are more the blooms of late winter than early spring, but it is still a sign. (And this warm beautiful sunny weather has not hurt one bit.) I also enjoy this crocus because it was a tag along. I didn't do well with crocuses at the old property and didn't think I moved any of them over. But a few apparently tagged along with my daffodils, tulips and lilies. Lucky me! May they be fruitful and multiply!

This is the view that greets me when I walk up the stairs and look out the window at the landing. It faces due west and always frames a nice scene, especially at sunset. Even the stark bare branches warm up in this light.

All for's late and I still must feed my facebook addiction (a recently acquired addiction) before Troy kicks me off this connection and uses it for his own self.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Recent destruction

Troy has been very busy. The wall between the dining room and living room went from this:
to this:
Troy ripped off the panelling (living room side) and plaster and lath (dining room side), we took out some more of the suspended ceiling in the living room, removed trim, and opened up the passageway by a few feet:

Partway through the work:

A view from the dining room looking into the living room:

Things got a little messy, and we went back to the fifties by covering our furniture with plastic:We're thinking about keeping it...ha ha. Ok, maybe not.

And, as promised, pictures of the new windows. Here is the old south-facing window that's still in the living room:
And here's the new south-facing window in the living room:

Double pane, argon filled, I believe. We will enjoy the new clearer view and fewer drafts. Very nice.

All for now. I'm hoping to do some yard/garden work today. It's sunny so I'd better take advantage. I'm installing something to try and hide the propane tank which is smack in the middle of the east yard. Not pretty.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Winning the war against cold.

OK, technical update for those interested in remodeling an old house.

As you can see from the photographs posted by my lovely wife, we gutted our dining room. I tore the plaster off, then the lath boards, then removed the (spotty and inadequate) cellulose insulation. So, right down to the bare studs. There is nothing quite as dirty or quite as satisfying as tearing plaster off a wall with a sledgehammer and a crowbar.

I debated for a time about leaving all the old stuff in place, and just building the additional wall to give us 12” thick walls when finished. The old walls would contribute some insulating power, and the new insulation/wall would do most of the work.

The problem is two fold. First, I really want to control air infiltration. On a windy day, the effectiveness of most insulation can drop dramatically if air infiltration is not controlled. This is especially true for fiberglass insulation. The reduction can be as much as 50% and it happens when you need the r-value the most.

With new house construction, this is easy. Just wrap the house in Typar or Tyvek on top of the plywood sheathing (before the siding or bricks), and you’re done. Of course, I don’t have that luxury since I am not tearing the siding off my house. As an alternative, I put the “house wrap” on from the inside. I cut a piece of Tyvek for each stud bay and staple it up. If you examine the photos, you see that the Tyvek makes a “C” shape in cross section, since it’s installed on the left stud, the wall sheathing and the right stud.

Once the cellulose is blown in, this will push the Tyvek tight against the studs and sheathing, and will help seal the house wrap to the framing, reducing air infiltration. Without tearing out all the old plaster, insulation, etc, I could not install the Tyvek in the proper place.

The second half of the problem is the fact that this is an old house. I really want and need to know what’s inside those walls. So far, we haven’t found any bad concealed termite damage except in the basement. That’s the nasty “swiss cheese” wood you see in the other photo, now gone/replaced. But the previous insulation job was absolutely terrible. Either they did it themselves, and badly, or a contractor did it and figured the owner wouldn’t know the difference because you can’t see it. I would estimate that 30-40% of the wall was uninsulated.

So the general idea is to tear the old stuff out right down to the studs. Line the wall with Tyvek, build a second wall to make the total thickness ~12”, install all new wiring and plumbing as needed, then a new vapor barrier, then dry wall. Then we blow a foot of cellulose into the wall, finish the drywall then paint and trim. This technique works well for big older homes with nice big rooms, since you will lose at least eight inches on every outside wall. For a house with smaller rooms, you need other techniques like adding the insulation on the outside, or using super high r-value insulation where you can get away with a 6-8” total depth.

That's it for now, tune in soon for further exciting developments.


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