Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The real work has started

We have finally been able to start the real work on the house!  That is, the real work that we're doing ourselves. My son Danny and I have been working on structured wiring all week. I think we've got a mile or more of wire fished through the rafters and studs so far. Just another mile or so, and we're done. 

We finished the video cables (two runs of RG6 to each location that could possibly have a TV), the audio-video controller wires, and the speaker wires. I also finished plumbing the central vacuum pipes. Tomorrow, we'll finish miscellaneous audio/video cables, and work on the ethernet cables.  We're laying cat6 ethernet cable to support gigabit ethernet throughout the house--every room will have at least one gigabit ethernet connection.

Danny has been a huge help! On the first day we were laying wires, he told me he needed the ladder I was standing on. But then, taking a look up, the break dancer in him came out. He climbed the wall and pulled the wires down without the ladder. I asked my brother Steve, who was also helping on the first day, if he could climb around just as easily.  His response: "When I was his age."  Danny and his friend Jake, spent the second day crawling around the rafters on the second floor, pulling video cables while I laid vacuum pipes. I certainly couldn't have finished it this quickly without them. 

Today, we had to take a cold day. Temperatures in the single digits are not compatible with running thin wires--the wires crack. And the 170,000 BTU propane heater I bought doesn't do a whole lot of good at that temperature without insulation. So instead, we moved machinery into the workshop. My brother-in-law Bill brought his panel van, and we were able to move the big tools today. We also picked up our garage doors. Bill will install them on Monday. 

Plumbing and HVAC are finished, and the electrician says that they'll be finished next Monday, and be ready for inspection on Tuesday. So it looks like next Tuesday is the big day--both electrical and structural inspections. I hope we can pass the first time through--although I won't schedule the insulation until a week from Monday just in case the inspector finds something that needs fixing (and to give me time to make sure we're really ready to close up the walls).  The carpenters should be here the same day to start the siding.  So we'll see some big transformations in the next couple of weeks. 

I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow.  Wires really aren't too interesting. But vacuum pipes? And Danny crawling around the rafters?  Certainly worth some pictures.

Oh. And Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Late Update

It's been two weeks since my last update. We've been busy with my daughter Linda's graduation from UW-Milwaukee, my dad's stint in the hospital (he'll be alright), about 8 snow storms leading to one the most snowy Decembers we've ever had, and Christmas preparations. In those two weeks, work on the house has progressed a little slower than I'd like, mainly because of the weather. The framers are still working on another job (the weather delayed them by at least a week) so the siding hasn't started yet. HVAC and electrical were both delayed by multiple snow and cold days.

So what's been done? Most importantly, I have a working workshop now. The framers finished furring out the walls, the electrician is done with the rough wiring, I have lights, and even a working Modine furnace dedicated to the shop:

My son Danny and I stopped by the house tonight, and the furnace has raised the temperature of the workshop to 45 degrees (where we had it set), and it takes about 5 minutes to raise the temperature by a degree. We still have to put some more insulation in the walls (more than the R-5 that's already installed on the outside foundation walls) and seal up the stairwell before I turn the heat up much higher. 

You might have noticed the stack of lumber in the picture above. Here's a better view: 

That's 2500 board feet of Wisconsin black cherry. I got a good deal from a local sawmill, who delivered it last weekend after straight-line ripping one edge and planing each board down to 15/16". The quality was better and the price was cheaper than I got when doing my kitchen in the last house seven years ago. I was worried about getting it unloaded from the truck, but Danny and I, with help from my nephews Jake and Joe, worked with the sawmill owner. It only took the five of us about an hour and a half to get it off the truck, down the stairs, and stacked in the workshop. 

Like I said in the last post, the plumber is finished with the rough plumbing, and we passed the plumbing inspection. The hvac guys have taken quite a bit longer, but they're done now as well, and I think we passed the hvac inspection. Here's the furnace and HRV installed: 

I chose a York furnace, manufactured by Johnson Controls which is based here in Wisconsin. It's a modulating furnace, which means that both the blower and the gas flame are variable. It can start out at low speed and low flame when demand is low, and increase both as needed when demand increases. They set it up as a zoned system, with one zone for each floor. Most importantly, it's extremely efficient:

It's supposedly the most efficient furnace on the market today. Since geothermal was too expensive to consider, I figured we should concentrate on getting an efficient furnace instead. We'll see how it impacts the gas bills.

I have to give the hvac guys some credit. They did a good job keeping the ductwork in the joist bays:

Since we're finishing the basement eventually, I want as much ceiling height as possible down there. So the theater and rec room will have 8'-7" ceilings--with no need to work around the duct work. In the bedroom, the ceiling drops to 7'-10" to accommodate the furnace plenum.

As you can see, the basement is all framed now, and the ceiling will look great:

The framers were able to follow the plans pretty closely. We'll have a rec room (with room for a pool table), a theater room, a bedroom/exercise room, and a full bathroom. I figured that as long as the framers were around, I should take advantage and get them to frame in the basement. They did a much better job than I could have, much quicker.

The electricians did get started late last week, as soon as the plumbing and ductwork were far enough along. They've still got about a week of work left to do, but I'll be able to get started on structured wiring tomorrow.

Even though we lost a week due to weather, I put a week of slack in around the holidays. So as soon as the electrician is done and we pass the electrical and framing inspections, the insulators can start. I'm hoping for insulation to start on Jan 5th.

We hit the 90-day point on Dec 23. When I look back at the original schedule, it isn't too bad. we can still hit our projected move-in date of the first week of May.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Passed the plumbing inspection

No pictures this time. We got a fair amount done early this week. The plumber is just about finished. He's done with the waste lines and the water heater, and we passed the first plumbing inspection today. The meter should show up tomorrow, along with the water softener. After the water softener, hose bibs, and a few more supply lines are connected, rough plumbing will be complete. 

The HVAC guys were diverted to another job on Monday, and we had a pretty big snow storm yesterday, so today is only their second day on the job. They made a lot of progress--second floor ducts are done, and they started on the first floor. Tomorrow they should be able to finish the first floor ducts and get started on the basement work--hooking up the furnaces (one for the house, one for the workshop) and the heat recovery ventilator. Next week, they'll set up the air conditioner. 

The framers spent the whole day in the house yesterday (staying out of the weather). They worked on the final framing on the first and second floor, started on the basement stair well, and on framing basement and workshop walls. Today I had three different trades on site at the same time: plumbers, framers, and hvac. It's kind of a mess right now. 

What else for this week? The framers still need to finish framing the basement, and installing the basement windows and the door to the workshop stairs. I have a walk-through with the electricians in the morning--so they'll get started tomorrow. It will take them two weeks to finish. I roughed in the central vac outlets last weeked. This weekend, I'll work on setting up the vacuum pipes. I should be able to pick up the garage doors tomorrow, and hopefully work with my brother-in-law Bill to install them over the weekend or early next week. 

Next weekend, I should be able to start the structured wiring. The framers will be back next week to put up the siding, and I have to call the roofers back to flash the roof penetrations for plumbing & HVAC. So it looks like the house will be completely roofed, sided, and all rough mechanicals will be done before Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And the work moves inside

Windows were delivered on Monday. Installed on Tuesday.  We no longer have gaping holes where the windows should be. Here's the south side of the house with windows installed:

You'll notice that the snow is back in this picture. We had about eight inches over the weekend, and another three or four inches today. But today, it didn't snow inside! I shoveled about 90 gallons of snow out of the second floor last night. But now no more shoveling.

The roofers came out today to finish the flashing. It took them about half the day, but we're all roofed now. The plumber and hvac guys also showed up and got right to work. I was worried that they'd have trouble finding good routes for drain lines and duct work. But it looks like we'll need very few modifications. I'll have to fatten up some walls in bathrooms and possibly drop a ceiling in a closet, but that's about it.

The plumber is just about finished roughing in the fixtures. He set up the laundry room supply and drain, while the hvac guy installed a pan that will give us more clearance for connecting the dryer vent:

They installed the cast iron tubs in the main bathroom upstairs and the guest bathroom on the first floor. The plumber said he hadn't actually installed a cast iron tub in ten years. And this house has three of them. That's one of the reasons we aren't going with a builder--we get full control over everything that gets installed. I'd much rather have a good, heavy cast iron tub than a cheap plastic one. The framing around the tub was perfect--not more than about a 1/2 inch of clearance at the front and back of the tub:

The hvac guys made good progress too. Openings for ducts and returns (each room--except for closets--gets its own return).  I wanted to avoid putting any duct work or plumbing supplies in unconditioned spaces (exterior walls and attic).  We got pretty close. We'll have the supplies for two closets run through the attic because there simply isn't anyplace else good to run them. I'll also have the supply for the guest bath toilet running through the exterior wall between the bathroom and the garage. 

Here is the family room showing our new windows, fireplace, and a whole pile of hvac materials:

The rough plumbing and hvac should take about a week--although the plumber may be done as soon as Friday. I plan to start installing central vacuum lines this weekend, so I'll be ready for the electrician to start next Wednesday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Roof is on...Windows go in tomorrow

Despite the long weekend, we made some progress. The roofers finished the roofing on Saturday. They just have a little bit of flashing to finish up and they're done. It only took them three days. 

And again, my timing was off. The roof was up on Saturday, but windows don't go in until Tuesday. So of course we got about 8" of snow on Sunday. I spent the day trying to put plastic up. And it held, at least while I was there. When I came back this morning, the wind had torn the plastic off the biggest windows.  So I had about an inch of snow covering the floors--both first and second floors. 

I waited a bit too long to order the garage doors. I got them ordered on Saturday, but they won't be ready until next Wednesday. The windows were delivered today, and it looks like they only missed one window: a basement window, which will be delivered on Thursday. I ordered other steel doors (service entrance to the garage, the workshop stair door, door between the garage and the laundry room, and the door between the basement and the workshop) about two weeks ago, and they'll be here either tomorrow or Wednesday. 

We'll be pretty close to closed in tomorrow, but it looks like it will be another week and half before everything is protected from the weather. 

The plumber stopped by today, only to turn around. With the wind, frigid temperature, and snow in the house I don't blame him. He'll come back on Wednesday--after the windows are in and I have a chance to shovel some of the snow out of the house. On the bright side, the fireplace did get installed today. So we met our first mechanical milestone. 

Just a single picture this time. I don't think I've shown one with the house from this angle. It does show the roof almost completed. And look at how well the roof matches the roof of the neighbor's houses. Yes, every house in the neighborhood has the same color roof.  Let's hear it for the suburbs!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roofing has started

The roofers showed up this morning and made good progress. They finished a good portion of the front side of the house:

They said the could finish a roof in three to four days. Here's the section I think they'll start on Friday:

The weather forecast says flurries tomorrow night and Friday morning. Then snow showers on Sunday. Hopefully, the roofers can prioritize the valleys and tarp the ridges on Friday or Saturday to prevent a whole bunch more snow melting into the house.

Some positive progress on other trades. We had some plumbing supplies delivered today: the plumber starts, along with HVAC, on Monday. Pella called to confirm that windows would be delivered on Monday. I talked to the framer, and he'll have the crew at the site on Tuesday to install the windows.

I ordered finish lumber (2500 board feet of cherry) yesterday. They'll have it ready early next week. They called today to see if I had a forklift. There is one at the site, but the carpenter is taking it back tomorrow to use on their next job. So we either have to unload 3 pallets of lumber board by board, or they have to store it at the sawmill for a couple weeks until the carpenters bring the forklift back. Hopefully, they'll be able to store it.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. For those of you who won't be eating dinner at our house--Happy Thanksgiving! For the other 30 or 40 of you, I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Now it's a house

Just a couple pieces of fascia that they ran out of today and some other small details, and the framers are done. So the house is now officially 31'-2" tall.  I guess I have to find another way to measure progress now. 

Wait. Where did all that snow come from? Looks like my timing was off a bit. Are you surprised? The snow came today. The roofers don't come until tomorrow. I dropped Zeke off at school the morning and headed to the site, shovel in hand, ready to shovel out the house. Here's what I saw when I got there:

We got about 2 inches of snow last night. Here's the back of the house in the snow (just in case the front wasn't enough):

See how well the Tyvek camouflages the house in the snow? Maybe we should keep it that color. Luckily, it wasn't very windy when the snow fell, so we didn't get much snow inside the house. And it didn't get warm enough to melt, so we don't have a lot of water in the house so far. If the roofers show up tomorrow, they'll sweep the snow off the roof, so we should be in good shape.

We actually have a pretty good view from the front of the house:

And I'm talking about the distant view. Not the view of the car and the basketball hoop.

Here are the final "framing in progress" pictures. The last sheathing panel going up on the wall: 

And finishing up on the roof sheathing:

The roofers should be there tomorrow, depending on how much they had to delay their current job due to the snow. HVAC, rough plumbing, and fireplace all start next Monday. Windows are also delivered next Monday, and the framers will be back to install them on Tuesday--the same day that our next snow storm is predicted.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Almost done with the roof

Just a quick post this time. The framers have been working on the roof, soffits, and fascia yesterday and today. I spoke with one of the carpenters this morning, and he complained that they usually get soffits and fascia done in a day--but it will take more than three on our house. He said, "Most houses have either gables or hips. This one has both. Everywhere." Here's what he was talking about:

When working with on the design with Kerry, I mentioned that I didn't want any "pork chop" eaves.  We could have gone with a simple craftsman-style open eave. But that didn't seem right. So the solution he came up with was to "return" each side of the gable all the way to the other side of the gable. So in keeping with the shingle style we were influenced by, this house will have strong horizontal lines. I'm sure it was a hassle to design, but it's apparently even a bigger hassle to construct. I have to give the carpenters credit: I think it looks great!  But I'll have to be sure the roofer flashes everything correctly, or we'll have all kinds of leaks. 

They also got the third gable up on the front of the house:

They still have a bunch of work to do on the front. They have to finish sheathing that last gable, and build the soffits and fascia for the whole front of the house. I'll try to get better pictures tomorrow and over the weekend when they're further along. They should be finished with sheathing, soffits, and fascia on Saturday. So the roofer can start on Monday. We have a slight chance of rain and snow on Monday, but the rest of the week looks good. Keep your fingers crossed. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's starting to look like a house

After that rainy week last week, I ended the week by doing some cleanup and starting to do some caulking. And we haven't gotten any rain since (knock on OSB), although we did get a little bit of snow yesterday. When I got to the site yesterday, the roof trusses had already been delivered:

That's our roof sitting there. This morning, I got to the site at about 8:00, the crane was there, and they had already raised the first gable:

A beautiful blue sky, with the temperature at about 19 degrees. You can see a little bit of snow that fell yesterday. And a lot less wind than there was yesterday. But the biggest thing to notice is obvious: it no longer looks like a taco bell, it's finally starting to look like a house!

The framing crew got a lot of work done today. They raised about 95% of the trusses, five out of six gables, and even started sheathing the roof. And I stood there and took about 30 pictures. So here goes.

Watching the trusses get placed was great. Two or three guys standing on the second floor walls, one guy controlling the crane, and another guiding the truss into the right location.

That funny looking truss is part of our roof. Actually, it serves as a girder truss, taking the load from other, more visible parts of the roof. I'm amazed at how precise these guys can be with these huge trusses: they place them within an 1/8 of an inch of where the plan says they're supposed to go.

In the next picture, they just finished placing that girder truss:

One more picture from a funky angle. This time, it's Tim, the lead carpenter positioning one of the trusses for placement.

The crane sure comes in handy. Here's the crane lifting the south gable into place:

I guess it's pretty important to keep the crane level. Here it sits with its wheels off the ground:

While the trusses were being installed, the gas company showed up to connect the gas. So we now have a gas meter. I'm ready to turn the furnace on, but I guess we'll need a furnace first.

They finished with the crane around noon, having lifted most of the trusses into place. When I got there in the afternoon. Here's what it looked like from the front of the house:

You can see they started sheating the front roof. There will be one more gable to the right. They ran out of 2x6s, so they couldn't finish building that last gable. They'll get a delivery from the lumberyard in the morning and should be able to finish it then.

Here's the southwest corner of the house:

And the northwest corner. This is the elevation we were most worried about. I think I posted this concern in one of the earlier blog entries: it's hard to make a garage wall look good. I think Kerry did a good job with the design:

And finally, one of the other things we were worried about was that we didn't want the house to look too big. Here's a picture of the back of the house from near our neighbor's house to the southeast. I think it looks fine. It really doesn't look much taller than either of the ranch houses on either side. I think it even looks smaller (but Megan doesn't agree):

Tomorrow, they'll hopefully finish up that last gable, and get more sheathing done. So I'll have even more pictures. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be windy tomorrow. I sure hope the wind doesn't wreak havoc with the roof (knock on OSB, again).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just waiting for the roof

The framers pretty much finished the second floor walls, added soffits on the first floor in the kitchen and laundry room. They also lowered the ceiling in the front hallway. So they're essentially finished until the trusses--which were delayed by another day--are delivered on Monday.

This weekend, I'll start caulking. I'll be filling every gap I can find in the framing, making sure that I eliminate every air gap that I can even before the insulation goes in. We'll also try to figure out how we're going to store the interior doors. We got a good price on flat panel cherry doors made by the Wausau Door Company here in Wisconsin. We'll use five panel doors that are similar to those on our old house. We ordered them from Home Depot, hoping it would take them a while longer to get them to us.

They arrived yesterday--two weeks ahead of schedule. We could store them in the workshop, but it's still pretty wet down there--the slabs above and below are still drying out. So we'll have to find a conditioned storage unit to store them in for a month or two.

I'll be glad when the house is fully enclosed with a roof, windows, exterior doors, etc. But that's still a few weeks off. It's been raining pretty consistently: every day for the last week. When I checked things with a moisture meter last weekend, the walls were pretty good--about 10% to 12% moisture content. The subfloors? Not so good. They soak up water like a sponge, so they are at 25% and up. The ideal here in the winter is 7%. If things are much wetter than that, I'll risk cracks in the drywall and cupped floors. So it looks like I'll have to get the heat turned on as soon as I can just to start drying things out before the insulation goes in.

Next week will hopefully be much better in terms of weather. Not much rain expected, just a little bit of snow early in the week. By this time next week, the roof should be framed. Roofers should be able to start late next week or early the week after, along with the mechanicals.

The power company was out to mark for the gas line and to install the electric meter today. Hopefully, they'll start digging for the lines tomorrow. But with my luck, they'll arrive at the same time as the trusses or the crane early next week.

Here are a few new pictures. Here's how the front of the house looks. The walls that look incomplete on the right side second floor are actually interior walls. The trusses have to go in before they can finish the exterior:

Here's another view from the northwest corner that shows the garage:

The second floor interior walls are done too. We showed Zeke his new bedroom for the first time. Here's one with Linda's room at the front, Zeke's room on the right side, and Danny's room on the left:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Second floor walls are going up

Just a quick one this time. I stopped by the site yesterday with the intention of cleaning up a little. The sawdust--and the broom--was frozen to the subfloor. Didn't get much cleaned up. The framing crew has been good about keeping the site relatively clean anyway. 

Today the second floor exterior walls started going up. When I got to the site this morning, it was about 26 degrees outside and windy. It didn't seem to slow the framers too much. By 9am, they had a couple of walls up and were constructing others: 

By the time I got back in the afternoon, the exterior walls on three sides of the house were done:

It looks even better from the outside. Here's the east wall of the house at about 5pm:

They also put in the workshop stairs:

Now I won't have to climb into the basement through the window! Tomorrow they'll finish the second floor exterior walls, and maybe even the interior walls. Roof trusses are scheduled for Friday, and the exterior stone should come this week too. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

First floor is all framed

Got a lot done this week. The house is now 12 feet, 4 inches high! The first floor is all framed. The framers even got a good start on the second floor: the second floor joists are in, and so is the second floor subfloor. They even got a start on the second floor walls. The porch was poured in time to miss the freeze that we're getting right now.

But there were also some unavoidable delays. The roof trusses, which I had hoped would be ready Tuesday, won't be delivered until Friday. That moves everything out by about a week. The windows won't be delivered until December 1st. But I did order the thin stone veneer for the front of the house to get delivered next week, so I'll be able to get a head start on that. I'll be setting the stone myself, so I'll finally be able to do something concrete (no pun intended).

We've had some weather delays, but not too bad yet. Just a day or two. The biggest delay is the roof trusses. Tim, the framer, waited until after we had garage walls up to verify the truss measurements. It was necessary because the foundation walls in the basement were poured out of square. He wanted to be sure that he could correct that error without having to increase the size of the trusses. He could. Luckily, I spec'd energy heels on the trusses, and I have 2x6 walls, so we have some room to play. They'll just have to shim the siding when they install it so it lines up with the foundation below.

The second delay was around the windows. I called in a change to Pella to increase the size of the basement windows and to upgrade the doors to use decorative glass. The sales rep told me I called the change in just in time. But then somebody from Pella called me and told me I missed the deadline and they were going to charge me a 50% restocking fee for the door (about $1000). It also delayed the whole window order by 10 days. I'm fighting the extra charge. But I'm not worried about the delay--it will allow me time to get the roof on before the windows are delivered. Since the windows are a "finish" item, it will be much better if I don't get them wet.

Here are some pictures of the work done so far. First some pictures of the garage. The walls are all up, and they started on the roof above the window bump out:

Here's a view from the inside. Looks like we'll have enough room for all of our junk, and maybe even be able to park one of the cars here:

The second floor joists and subfloor are up (for the most part):

And they've started on the second floor walls:

Here's another:

A view of the stairs from the second floor:

I was hoping that we'd be able to get all the way to the roof without any rain. That sure didn't happen. We got hit with the same storm that dumped four feet of snow on South Dakota in the last couple of days. Although by the time it got to us, it was mostly rain. So everything has been washed clean of sawdust, even the basement floor:

Despite the rain, they did get a start on the workshop stairs:

I'm buying a moisture meter from Woodcraft this morning. I want to be sure things are dry enough before we put the insulation and drywall up.

Finally, here's a picture of the Northeast corner of the house that shows we are actually closed in on all four sides

This weekend, I'll do some cleanup. Next week the framers will finish with the second floor walls, and hopefully get started on the roof on Friday.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Second floor joists started

The framers were able to get the the garage walls raised, first floor stairs almost done, most of the second floor joists in, and sheathing on the second floor before it started raining. So I've only got a few pictures to show today.

To start with, when we arrived at the site, the rain was just about past, and we had another great rainbow:

Followed by a pretty good sunset. This time we caught it from the front porch:

See, sometimes it does pay to be a flatlander. The stairs are in, and it was quite a view at the top of the stairs: