Friday, June 29, 2012

A little help from our hired friends

We have been trying to make a big decision.  That is why we have been sadly absent from our little blog, but it is now time to fess up.  We need help. We have, in fact, hired help.

For the last month and a half we have been beating our heads against walls trying to figure out how to frame this complicated roof line and how it meets walls at angles and how it connects to the log framing ( which is an entire different beast). To clarify this for those of you who have not examined our plans, the house is a double gabled vaulted ceiling.  That means the roof has two peaks that intersect and from the inside it is vaulted and meets this double roof line at odd angles. Angles we cannot figure out. To add to the confusion, once the roof line becomes porch cover, it turns into log framing. Some of this log framing goes from inside the house, to outside the house. Some is structural and some of the log beams are MASSIVE.  I am not trying to confuse you, just trying to give you all the details of why we have been dragging, lagging, and generally acting very confused about this part of the project.

To be fair, once the house is framed we are more than confident in our abilities to wrap, side, put on the roof, install doors and windows, put up interior walls, and do all the finish work inside. But we are learning that house framing and reading the plans to do so well is a different skill set. One we do not possess.

So, we have not gotten far in framing. Five walls up to eight feet went up and then we hit a wall. We had carpenter friends come out and look at the plans. They scratched their heads and said, "well, I am not sure how to go about this and I have been framing houses for 10 years". That made us feel better and worse.  Better because it meant we aren't total morons and worse because we might be total morons for so blindly thinking that we could frame this house.

We were both feeling rather defeated when John looked at me one night and said " It's just that we are not the best people to hire for this job". I agreed and put an ad on craigslist looking for someone to help us through the process. Like a project manager. Someone with lots of experience.  We asked around to our friends, at the hardware store,  the lumber yard.... anywhere to get a recommendation. I answered several responses from craigslist. NEVER again. One guy called two mornings in row at 6:30 insisting that he wanted the job and would be moving here soon.  I finally spoke to him at a reasonable business hour and he was quite pushy. He told me he was moving his entire family to Alaska in 7 days. I politely let him know that we were looking for someone who could see this project along further than a week and he just kept talking about his experience log framing. The rest goes like this;
              Me: Wait.... where are you?
              Him: Where are you?
              Me: I am in Kingston Washington.
              Him: I'm in Washington.
              Me: Okay..... so we need someone in washington and you are moving to Alaska.
              Him: NO, I am coming Alaska in 7 days.
              Me: I KNOW.... and we are in washington.
              Him: No, your in alaska. Why would I be applying for a job in Washington?
              Me: That's what I have been trying to figure out!
              Him: Your ad very clearly says that you are in kingston, Alaska.
              Me: I assure you it does not.
              Him: YES, it does!
              Me: No one else I have spoken to has thought that. My ad says Kingston, Washington.
              Him: But Kingston Alaska is so close to Anchorage. I could commute really easily.
              Me: EXCEPT THAT I AM NOT IN ALASKA!  I have to go, thanks for your time.

John told me I should have just said, "you start friday".  Around this time we got the name of a local guy. He built his house and it very closely mirrors our house. Natural elements, log framing, vaulted ceiling. And he is super nice and available starting next week. We are stoked. I am not sure if this is really doing it justice. We feel like a 3 ton weight was lifted off of our chests and now we can go back to this being fun, knowing we have knowledge, experience and a really nice guy on our side. He thinks the house will be framed by the first week of August. We will not be there daily working along side him. He is a licensed, bonded contractor who will be bringing a small crew, but there will be times we will be helping. He is going to take us through framing inspection and and then we will be on our own again. I cannot begin to explain how happy I am about this decision. It was a hard one to make. We didn't want to feel like we "cheated", but we just aren't the best people to hire for this part of the job.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Photo Update

A colorful result of seed bombs thrown at our wedding.  A poppy, perhaps?
The wood shop in action
Rhododendron in bloom
One of our recycled billboards re-repurposed into a makeshift privy
Whimsical composting toilet
Christy's perennial herb bed

The house as it currently stands.
Still a little drafty.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Vertical Trajectory

With both hemming and hawing crossed off of our to-do list, and the weather offering us an overdue dry spell, we took a big leap this week and started to build some walls!

Sure, we've built walls before, but it's an exciting and slightly scary thing to start the walls of our home.  Once we got started, though, progress became rapid. tangible and really gratifying.  We had the help of some local friends who know more than us, which helped us regain our confidence.  They helped us figure out which walls go up first, and to what point.  The complicated parts are yet to come, for now we're only building up to 8'.  Above that we run into framing our first loft, a compound-gabled roof, and all those things that scared us before we started.  One day at a time, it seems, is the best way to get things done, which is admittedly hard for me, who wants to build the entire house in minute detail in my head before starting.  That's just not feasible, and luckily Christy has done a good job of dragging me back to reality.

During the first wall, the north-facing wall of our kitchen and bathroom if you're curious, I took an opportunity to really become one with our building...

I nailed myself to it.  More accurately, I nailed it to myself, as the 16D framing nail went through our kitchen window header before continuing through my middle finger and into the index.  I didn't hit any bone, and it was a pretty clean puncture wound with a new nail, so as far as pneumatic framing hammer injuries go, it's small fries.  A nice reminder of the force behind those things though, and a warning not to get too lackadaisical about wielding the power to drive nails with the mere twitch of a finger (no pun intended).  

And finally, a quick eulogy for Stubbs, our rooster who died today of unknown causes.  

You were a good rooster, Stubbs.  Even with your aggressive brother plucking out your tail feathers, you managed to win over your harem with kindness and, well, frequent copulation.  Even though you attacked Christy on several occasions, she's as saddened by your passing as your hens and I.  Enjoy that chick-weed-covered free range in the sky, buddy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You have to go out of the way to come back a short distance correctly

One thing about house building is that you have to work in order and out of order at the same time. I mean, you can't put up the roof until the walls are up and yet you have to make so many advanced decisions in order to execute the process correctly. The idea is that you do these things in a way so that all of the chips fall together at the right time.

So the house is far from framed and we have had to spend these last few days making decisions about doors and windows.( In order to frame the house correctly.) We have also been taking this time to try to figure out what happens on certain walls when they meet the ceiling but I do believe that is for another post. On to doors and windows!

We discovered that you are allowed ONE freebie in terms of doors and windows being up to code. We obviously are choosing the ridiculous front door we found on Craigslist, but here is a reminder.  It is a pressed resin door with some crazy honeycomb inside.

We have two other doors in the house and we finally made the decision today to go with Doug Fir doors in a very simple style. One is a set of french doors. We are going smaller than normal ( 4 ft wide as opposed to 6 ft) to give it a different feel. More like wee hobbit doors.  The back door will be a simple half glass wooden door. We had to decide now because different doors come in varying dimensions and we need to know exactly in order to frame in the rough openings.

95% of our windows need to match each other for spacing so we are going with casement windows. Very simple, cost effective, and highly insulated. We have been able to chose a couple that can be their own thing and we have been scouring the architectural salvage places.

So as we are sitting at the Lumber yard debating the general merits of doors, I, who am petitioning for a divided light door, say to John " you know, when you start making compromises on the details you eventually lose all of the character in a house". He pretty much laughed and reminded me about the other purchases we have made lately. Here is one.

We have one window in the entrance way and we found a metal window( bronze) at a thrift shop that just rocks, and there is no way you could say this thing isn't up to code. It puts code to shame. I adore the latches and hardware on this thing and think it is going to add some serious charm.

Here is another. This one will never be up to any ones code but my own code of coolness. It is wooden and barely holding on to life right now, but I can shore it up and make it perfect. We have a wall when you first enter the house that divides the kitchen from the mud room and I want to put this window in that wall. It would be nice to be able to see into the kitchen and I think this window will be awesomely disorienting.

That is not a broken window. It is made to be a parallelogram.  I love LOVE it. I had in mind a window  for that space that was stained glass, or decorative and I think there will be places in the house for that, but I so love this in the entry way. The top corner will be directing you into the main living space.

So you don't think these crazy things are coming just from me, here is the gem that John picked out.

This is from an old grain factory and is a tool that was used to clean the bottom of the silos. It is metal, has a patented stamp up top and some great metal patches at the bottom and we are going to use it as a fire barrier behind the woodstove.

So as you can see, we are in no danger of losing character. Keeping the entire house from being a parallelogram? That is going to be something to watch out for.