This blog is solely about the start-to-finish construction of a house.
It is recommended to start at the earliest post and proceed chronologically.

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December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays to All!

by artist Kristina Solomoukha.

Peace and Best Wishes to you all.
We are closing up for the week between Christmas and New Years to be with family and friends.  We hope you can also.

See you in 2015!

Siding Progress Report

Siding continues, with excellent results so far.

Also seen here, the weather cooperated and I added the bottom piece of steel to the breakfast nook, completing the box.  The red/white plastic is covering the fresh primer on the welds.

Roof is Finally Done! Wait. Recall that.

The long tale of the roof (not counting gutters) almost came to conclusion yesterday.  They finally came back with the last remaining skylight and a missing piece of flashing.  All was installed, and we thought we were finally complete with our lid.

Last night it rained good and hard.

This morning, there was a small drip coming from the new skylight.


The Sad Tale of the Garage Siding

The garage was intended to receive the same furring strips under the siding as the house, to create a vented-cavity rainscreen.  (Exterior insulation not included.)

Turns out the subcontractor kinda forgot to include the garage furring in his bid. (It was mentioned in the work summary, but not in the line-items used to figure the costs.)

While a shady contractor might say something like this to try and line their pockets, I decided that our guy was telling the truth. 

Not having any additional money to throw at this issue (for furring and labor), and not being one to punish honest mistakes, our compromise is to use this "drainwrap" weather resistant barrier to achieve at least a minimal amount of ventilation. 
This brand uses a matrix of raised plastic nubbins to hold the back of the siding not quite 1/16" of an inch off the WRB.  This is one of the better alternatives of drainwrap out there; some just have a wrinkly surface texture as their "drainage plane".

Better than nothing, I am still skeptical of the extent of effectiveness.  Extensive testing led to the National Building Code of Canada adopting a rainscreen requirement with a 10mm (over 1/4") space.  That said, a series of tests by John Straube, PhD does show that a gap as small as 1mm (about what this is) still makes a difference.

We'll now have a laboratory on site to see how it performs over the years.

Plumbing Insulation

Lisa secured some plumbing insulation, and we covered the drain lines that run over the Living & Dining rooms. 

Got some confused looks from the cellulose guys...
this insulation is for sound, not temperature.

Yes, that is the yellow  WRB air-sealing tape being re-purposed.  It ain't pretty, but it gets covered.

December 18, 2014

Siding Begins!

The very first pieces of siding are on the building!

Nothing But Net (Insulation Continues)

Netting is going up on the exterior walls; this netting is what holds the cellulose in place until the drywall is installed. 

The Foam Ghost (Insulation Begins)

This apparition was seen in the Kitchen, spewing ectoplasm.

December 14, 2014

Piles Upon Piles

One of the features of being your own General Contractor - you end up with quite a lot of products & materials to store.

This is one side of our Dining Room.  Here you see doors, screens, an oven, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, weatherstripping, curtain track, tile, door hardware, nails, and spray foam, among other items.

The other wall of the room is similarly stacked.


Living Room view West toward Dining & Entry
Ladies & Gentlemen - drum roll please - the first finished surface in the building.

Our polished concrete slab turned out nicely! 

Photos below.

December 11, 2014

Fine Grind

How to churn mud and almost hit everything.
Today the floor slab grinding & polishing guys arrived.

We are very, very excited (and a little nervous) to see the end result.

High Winds

Hard to tell from the photo, but we are having a massive wind storm right now.  The large roof overhang is flexing just a little in the biggest gusts (just the bottom corners - the ridge is solid).  Power is out in nearby blocks.  I've been collecting flying debris from around the yard.  

A friend is reporting on FB that her roof shingles are literally flying away.  Yikes!  

December 07, 2014

Upper Soffit Underway

Soffit, with stepped vent detail
The soffit is underway!  Even though were are not quite ready for siding, the siding contractor has arrived.

Since we can't start the siding yet, we got going on the upper roof soffit. 

Had a few minor design issues that had to be revised on the fly to account for framing conditions.
Florentino is doing a great job, and we are very pleased with the results.

December 06, 2014

Spray Foam Foray

Have Gun, Will Not Travel
Taking on the perimeter foam sealing of the windows and doors myself, for better or worse.

Got a professional foam gun, and some cans of low-expanding foam, and today I gave it a shot.

December 03, 2014

Roofing Woes

Still only a partially-finished roof.  A number of issues have been encountered:

December 02, 2014


Massive Massing Studies
So a couple of Architects finally get to design their own home.

There is a chance, it seems, that they might go a little overboard studying every possible permutation before settling on a scheme.

Above is an early 3d exploration of the building massing in relation to the site.

Somewhere along that line of variations was the seed of an idea that grew into the building currently being constructed.

Plans in Alignment
Another example: the drawing above is an AutoCad study showing a line of fairly well-developed floor plans, each differing in some way. 

Starting with "A", each plan was assigned a letter.  We ran out of alphabet and just began double letters before we circled back and ultimately chose plan "U" for further development.

An unusual effort perhaps, but for us this approach was a useful tool.  It was hard initially to fight the feeling of "one more missing better option".  The idea that hasn't been explored is hard to quantify.  By going ahead and drawing up every permutation we could think of (within reasonable constraints), we could more easily weigh them against each other. 

Some plans were easy to eliminate, but they served as good reminders that we had covered that ground.  Some were good solid contenders, and much harder to choose between. Of the solid options, we eventually decided that one of them was the right balance for us.

November 25, 2014


For the last (almost) 2 weeks, the electricians have been running wire all over the house. 

Tomorrow we have our rough-in inspection scheduled.

Misc tales of an electrical nature below.

November 22, 2014

Downpour Art

When the rain drives him off the roof, one of the roofers likes to sketch.

November 20, 2014

How are you Coping?

Steel deck coping in place
It took a bit of wrestling and shims to get these 7 heavy steel copings into place, but they look great.

Mid Lid

The roof is underway.
A banner day - the main roof is in progress.

November 18, 2014

Finally! The metal roof takes shape.

Play-doh Fun Factory for roofs
Only about a month and 1/2 behind the scheduled install, this trailer backed into the courtyard and started spitting out roof panels.

November 13, 2014

Breakfast Armor

Welding in the garage, using a table and bar clamps as a jig.
The steel cladding for the Breakfast Nook was installed today - despite the freezing rain.

November 11, 2014

Street View Progress

Rockwool insulation spreads across the exterior.  Still no finished roof.

Breakfast Nook Window

Exterior View: the awning window, open 90 degrees
Pictures of the awning window at the breakfast nook. 

Meanwhile, the exterior Rockwool insulation is enveloping the wall.

November 07, 2014

Ceiling Fan Mount

The old question:  how to mount a ceiling fan on the ridge of a vaulted ceiling?

Battle of the Radios

We had a situation the other day: 4 radios at once, battling for supremacy.

80's music inside,
Latino music on the roof,
Rock in the front,
and Jazz in the back.

Overheard on the Jobsite:

"...and every time _____ got drunk, _____ would play Pat Benatar at top volume and sing every word"

November 04, 2014

Carport Roof

Membrane roof installation on the Carport/Entry roof canopy.  With built-in gutter.
The first of the roofing was completed today.  It is a low-slope roof on top of the carport and entry canopy.  At some point in the future, lightweight soil and plants will cover this, creating a garden roof.

Sunday (Monday) Progress Update

What are these?
In the last week, many things have happened, but which don't lend themselves to photographs.

October 30, 2014

Heating the Breakfast Nook

Routered Subfloor
This piece of plywood will be the subfloor for the breakfast nook seen beyond. 

I'm using a router to cut channels in the 1 1/8" thick plywood.  Radiant floor tubing will be placed in these channels to make sure the breakfast nook is nice and cosy in the winter.

A piece of tubing is inside the channels on the left, making sure the bends are workable.

The finished flooring (fir) will cover this tubing, and insulation below it will direct the heat upwards.

A first glimpse of the large awning window (custom from Versatile) can be seen beyond.  Didn't get a chance to photograph the install.  Now it huddles under a tarp until I get protective finish on it.

A straightedge guides the router for the straight cuts, but the curves are freehand.  A little bit of wonkiness is acceptable, I hope. 

October 27, 2014

Exterior Assembly Work

Steel Window Box, Exterior Insulation
Today's work covered a few milestones:
- The first of the steel window boxes was installed
- The bottom-of-wall metal drip flashing and bug screen was completed
- The first of the exterior rockwool insulation was installed.

October 25, 2014

Tales from the Jobsite

This evening we had wind gusts approaching 50 mph.
Out on the deck trying to further ballast down the billowing tarp, I was locked out of the house when the wind slammed the door behind me.  (Predictable? Doh.)
The exterior latch handle has yet to be installed.

The deck is on the second floor.

Feeling foolish, I considered my ninja skills, or lack-there-of, for a climb down two stories in the rain.

As luck would have it, I realized there was still a ladder leaning against the east canopy, and I was able to make the much less dangerous lateral clamber over to it.

I might just leave that ladder there for a while longer.

More Bathtub

Wait, what?
Just had to share this shot of the bathtub install. 

A bit of on-the-fly awkward adjustment process.

October 23, 2014

Overheard at the Jobsite

"Well I don't have a magic wand, so what am I supposed to do about it?"

Feelin' Sill-y

The first steel sills installed
Remember those steel sills and copings here that I was painting?

Today the weather broke long enough for me to install the first run of them along the master bedroom window 'slot'.

Duct, Duct, Grille

Duct Spaghetti
As part of the Mechanical System rough-in, the ERV has been installed.

Feeling Tubby

It is a bit difficult to sit in
Plumbing rough-in continues at a good pace.  One of the more visual aspects of this is the new tub!

We are quite pleased with this tub.  I would specify this again, no problem.  Opening the box elicited oohs & ahs - a nice deep soaker.  Here is a link to the item. 

The tub is rocked up on its side so that the drain & overflow assembly can be installed first.  Also, a grout bed will go down to give good solid support to the bottom.

Then we get to see how well the framing wall & ledger I built will fit.

Also visible in this picture is beefy blocking, low & high, to support our wall mounted vertical radiator.  You can see the feeds poking through from the floor.

October 21, 2014

We Have Water

Men in a rut
Portland Water Bureau showed up and gave us a water meter.

(If charging a hefty fee can be considered "giving")

October 16, 2014

We Have Gas

Gas Meter, mid-install
(and the meal was worth it.  Sorry.)

Today they connected the gas meter to the house piping, and connected it to the street.

Man in the Hole
Now we're (on the way toward) cookin' with gas.

October 14, 2014

Overheard of the Jobsite

G1: Ok, if you lose this bet, you have to wear a New York Yankees hat for a year.

G2:  No.  I won't do it.  A man has to have limits.

Steel Sills & Copings

Primed Steel, and a lot of it
Yesterday the raw steel window sills and parapet copings arrived. 

Here is a shot of today's task of priming each of these heavy things, one at a time, two different sides.

Some of these are quite heavy, and I lost control of one as I attempted to set it down softly on the cardboard to dry.  Made a nice sound, which got the attention of the framer nearby.


Drilling in the water line
The day came when the house needed to be connected to the outside world.

October 13, 2014

Sunday Progress Update

Mechanical Room takes shape
The past week was mostly about Heating and Ventilating.
The framing crew did a fair amount of misc tasks, but hard to take a photo of.

October 05, 2014

Overheard on the Jobsite

G1: "So what I don't understand is why Narcissists like to riot on May Day."

G2: "Anarchists.  I think you mean Anarchists."

Ladder Pile

This is not even all of the ladders currently involved.

Sunday Progress Update

We have a Fascia! 
(the boards that define the edge of the roof)

October 03, 2014

Observations from the Field:

Most of your clothes will quickly become 'project clothes'.

October 01, 2014

September 30, 2014


The Roof AIr-barrier Sandwich, prior to cutting, folding, and taping
We are trying a fairly unique method for air-sealing this house.  If you are interested, details follow below.

Trash Enclosure

The trash enclosure was poured yesterday, and revealed today. 

Eventually gates will be added to hide our bins.  But for now, revel in the glorious board-formed concrete.

The south massing anchor

September 29, 2014

Roof Deck Drainage

Sweet looking sleepers
A roof deck over living space is always a complicated bit of design.  Here is our scenario.

The underlying structural decking is flat, since it was installed on floor trusses.

Since we want the roof to drain well, we needed to add some slope to the surface.

I carefully cut a lot of sloped 2x framing lumber ("sleepers") to create a sloped structure.

(Yes, I actually took this on - not sure why the framers didn't think it was in their scope...  #GCproblems)

All are nailed and screwed down to the structural floor.

Note that they all slope to one corner of the deck where the drain will be located.

3/4" plywood decking is cut to follow the new sloped surface.
3/4" T&G plywood cut to fit - dry run, prior to insulation

Then the cavities between the sleepers are filled with insulation.

A bead of adhesive is applied, and the decking is screwed down over the insulated sleepers.

Now when the roofers apply their roof membrane, it will drain all to the drain in one corner.

We are using a TPO membrane.

Atop the membrane will eventually be placed a finish surface of concrete pavers.  They are supported by leveling pedestals to make up for the sloped surface beneath them.

Until the roof membrane is installed, this roof deck is a source of worry - it is basically a swimming pool that we've waterproofed with a tarp, and we hope very much the tarp won't leak.  I've had to deploy and remove this tarp a dozen times now as I work on this.
Drainage slope works!  Hopefully the tarp keeps doing so as well.