Sunday, August 26, 2012

Owner Building a Home - Week 14 - Electrical, Front Porch, and More

This week we reached the date August 22 - significant because that means we have been at this house building thing for exactly 3 months.  The excavator came to dig the basement on May 22 and the whirlwind that has happened since is still slightly unbelievable.  I am not sure if I should think 3 months is forever or if 3 months is hardly any time at all.  I know that some people can build entire houses in 3 months but we are not your ordinary people and this house is no ordinary house.  Whatever the case, I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished and would say we are nearing the half-way done point.

This week we finally started on the electrical work.  In order for the electricians to know where to place all the lights, we had to mark everything out on the floors.  It is the easiest way to find the centers of the room or to mark the bulkhead locations or to decide on the spacing of the recessed lighting.  Once everything is marked out on the floor, you use a laser level, put the little red dot on your mark and it shoots another laser straight up to the ceiling.  Voila!  You know exactly where to place your lights.  It works so wonderfully!  I had a lot of fun marking out the coffered ceiling for the living room.  Inspired by a photo I saw, it has only been a vision in my head so it is fun to take it one step closer to reality.  While I was marking out that ceiling, AJ and Ari were busy playing Little People all around me.  Most construction sites have to move building supplies around - I move toys.  But I love it!  I am so glad to have them on site with me, helping me when they can and playing when they can't. 

Once we marked out most everything, up went all the octagon boxes for the lights, the recessed lighting and the many boxes for outlets.  I made sure there were plenty of outlets to be had in each room.  The electricians have been running wire throughout the second floor and are close to having that completely wired.  They still need to connect the GFI outlets in the bathrooms and the HRV but that shouldn't take too long.  The electrician also came to install the meter box on the outside of the house and the panel down in the basement.  Once more of the wiring is completed, we will let the hydro company know they can come and connect the power to the house.  Until then, we will continue to work from extension cords running from the storage trailer.

While the electrical work was happening in the house, Jay was busy creating our front porch!  He made a beam to run across the piers that were drilled some time ago.  On top of those beams he placed many joists.  Once they were all plumb and square and cut to the correct length he placed plywood on top.  He reused the plywood from the forms used for the concrete in the garage.  The plywood on the deck is temporary but allows us a place to stand and keeps us from wrecking the actual decking material.  It has been fun for the kids as well since they now play "drive-thru" - someone stands in the school room and some one stands on the front deck and they pass things through the window.  (All the screens have been removed from the windows to keep them from getting wrecked)  Keeps them amused for quite some time.

Late last week we discovered 2 windows were not centered.  The upstairs bedroom closest to the garage and the dining room window just below it are both not where they should be.  The fix is quite easy given the fact that no drywall or siding is up yet.  But it sure made Mr.W think a lot about how it happened.  I am not sure he knows what went wrong but they already moved the bedroom window to its proper place and will move the dining room window this week.

The guys also continued to install the strapping that is on the inside of the house. Let me explain why we are strapping the house.  There are a few different ways to add insulation value to your house.  One common method is the add 1"-2" rigid Styrofoam to the outside of the house.  The challenge with that method comes when you want to install fiber cement siding.  How do you attach the siding to the Styrofoam and insure it doesn't fall off.  When talking to another gentleman, he suggested a better alternative.  Rather than adding insulation on the outside of the house, we are adding 2x4 strapping to the insides of the walls, running horizontally across the studs and the poly, 16" on center from the floor up to the ceiling.  So now we have fully insulated 2x6 walls plus we have an air chamber created by the strapping between the drywall and the exterior studs.  This adds certain insulating value.  Plus, since we have added the strapping, we do not cut into the poly to add your electrical boxes.  Those boxes are all placed on the strapping, never compromising that outer insulating layer.  It makes all your rooms slightly smaller as you are taking off 1 1/2" of space on the exterior walls but hopefully the extra effort is all worth it with a cozier home.  There are only a few pieces of strapping left to install.

Plumbing and heating work continued this week and it is almost complete.   Now that most of the duct work is in place, it is easier for us to figure out the bulkheads we have to make to hide it all.  After talking with Mr.W, who is incredibly creative, we have a plan to make the bulkheads look like they were always a part of the plan.  The plumbing work that was roughed-in to the gravel in the basement was covered by 2 boys that need creative discipline.  They seemed to expend all their energy shovelling which left none to hurt each other so obviously the plan worked!  :)

Work at the house itself takes up most of the time but we still have to co-ordinate all the other things that need to happen to make sure we stay on schedule.  That requires many phone calls and emails.  We have ordered our fireplace this week and arranged for an install time, we arranged for the spray foam insulator to come at the beginning of September, drywall is scheduled for just after the spray foam insulation, and our kitchen cabinets are scheduled to arrive this next Friday.  It takes quite a bit of time to do all those things but sometimes they seem less important than actually working on the house.  I keep reminding Jay that even though there is nothing to be seen for that time, if we want to keep things running smoothly, we need to keep on top of the scheduling.

Though he still has many other jobs he runs to throughout the week, it is so good to have Mr.W around most of the time.  I feel that our progress is greater when he is close at hand but he is also super encouraging.  Last week's feelings of discouragement are behind us (for now) and Jay and I enjoyed working and moving forward this week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Owner Building a Home - Week 13 - Spinning our Wheels

This past week was a hard week.  Mr.W was otherwise engaged elsewhere all week so we were on our own.  He was a phone call away but it is not the same as his presence motivating us, directing us, correcting us and just leading in the great way he leads.  We knew he was super busy and didn't want to disturb him so we fumbled our way through the week. 

Then I was volunteering with the local DVBS run here in town so each morning, Monday through Friday, I hung out with a lovely bunch of grade 2 kids, singing and dancing, playing games and being reminded of how I need to trust Jesus, just like they do.  It was super fun and super tiring.  By the time I made it out to the site, it was between 1-2 pm and I felt lost.  I didn't quite know what I was supposed to be doing and when I finally figured it out, it was time for supper and then time to go home.  It was frustrating, to say the least. 

However, Jay was a trooper.  Jay just kept on working.  He, along with Mr.G when he was available and Mr.E when he came, finished insulating all the exterior walls (well, okay, there are a few pieces left here and there but basically it is done).  They also hung all the poly and sealed it to the walls with acoustical sealant.  That was also what I did.  Oh, the joy of working with a black tar-like substance that sticks to everything, never dries and is tricky to wash off.  I didn't actually get any on my clothes (Mr.G cannot say that!) but was more concerned about my hair.  It was all good in the end, though.  It may look a little messy here and there but it is sealed.  We also went back and sealed each overlap with that wonderful red Tuck Tape to ensure a good seal.  Then the guys started cutting the strapping pieces.  First we got #3 grade wood which was wet and rotten.  After they carried it all inside and had a good look at it, they decided not to use it and had to carry it all back out and carry in the new #2 wood.  One of those "make-work" projects!  Then they attached the strapping on the inside of the walls.  I have no photos of it yet so when I do I will explain the value of the strapping.  They then put the strapping on all the exterior walls.  Water lines were also run through the house and the plumbing was trenched into the basement rocks (which will get covered with concrete once inspection is complete).  Heating ducts continue to spider their way through the house.  That was about the week.  I am sure there were many other little things done here and there but I wasn't there enough to know exactly what (and I didn't take one single photo).  At the end of the week, there was certainly some frustrations about things we encountered and about things we need to fix and that sort of thing but after talking with Mr.W today (who was around most of the day, thankfully), he said all those emotions are normal.  Plus, after I was done working last night and all the lights were out and I was about to get in the van, I happened to look at the sky. 

There is nothing so awe-inspiring as a
dark prairie sky
splashed full with stars accompanied by the
dancing of the northern lights

It was the reminder of my smallness in the expanse of God's universe. 

The reminder that He not only holds all those stars in His hands, He also holds me

It was the reminder of the insignificance of my problems when compared with the glory of our Creator. 

All creation shouts His praise and I couldn't help but join in.  Who cares about my small and momentary problems when faced with the beauty of our Lord?  All this will someday pass but eternity with Jesus?  Now that is worth getting worked up over!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Owner Building a Home - Week 12 - Visible Progress

It is so rewarding when you can look back at the week of work you did and actually SEE a difference.  This week was one of progress . . . visible progress . . . which is so much more encouraging than the non-visible progress that seemed to go on forever.

At the beginning of the week, we continued to do a bit of framing.  I framed out the attic opening, which was rather simple.  At the end of last week I also worked on getting the second staircase ready.  Mr.W laid out the stringers and I created them.  They are made a little differently than the main staircase since there are no spindles on this staircase.  I made the stringers and cut most of the treads and then Mr.W and Jay finished it off on Monday morning when I took a quick trip to the border to pick up a faucet.  When I arrived around 12:30, the staircase was up.  It is so nice to have that second set of stairs.  They go from the garage straight up to the office so that when Jay has meetings with various businessmen, they can go straight to the office and not come through the house.  That way our life can continue without us interrupting them or them interrupting us.  They also framed out the walls around that stairway.  Most of the framing is now done with just another couple small walls to go before it is finally complete.

Since all the structural framing is complete, the inspector came by and had a look.  It is, indeed, deeply satisfying when you frame a 1600 sq.ft main floor and a 2000 sq.ft second floor (never mind all the work required on the 1600 sq.ft basement) and the inspector says he can see nothing wrong and can tell we really paid attention to the details!  Woot, woot for us!!

Since most of the framing is done and the inspector made his appearance, we have moved on to insulating the walls.  What a fantastic job to do if you want immediate progress.  It is so easy to see what you have done - put up one piece and you can see your work.   In only one afternoon, we insulated the whole upstairs!  The neat part is the kids can really help with this step.  The boys and RJ eagerly jumped into helping - they put full batts of insulation in the lower half of the walls and we did the top sections.  With a little adjusting of their work, it is perfect.  This is one area they really enjoy helping and don't seem to grow tired of it.  We just don't have enough bottom-half-of-the-walls for all of them to help for long.  They get way ahead of us but their help is greatly appreciated anyway.  It is fairly humorous to watch our 3 year-old Ari put on a mask upside down, wear gloves 6 sizes too large and attempt to install the insulation.  I love the willing hearts!  Now Mr.W has already finished putting up the poly in a couple of the rooms so we are chugging along quite nicely.

While I was inside putting up the insulation with Mr.E and the kids, Jay was 67 feet up in the air (his words, which, incidentally, always grew each time we talked - he doesn't much like heights) wrapping up the house with Typar.  Last night we stood back and looked at the house all wrapped up and he put his arm around me and told me that since I was a gifts person, he just finished wrapping my gift, complete with red tuck tape.  I think it is one of the most beautiful gifts ever (well, next to my husband and children).

MB Hydro also showed up to install our new hydro poles (for those of you not familiar with our power source, we here in this prairie province of Canada receive our electricity via water power.  Therefore, our electricity is usually referred to as hydro so the hydro poles are the poles that hold the electric lines.).  I was gone during that time but the kids had great fun watching.  They said it was very loud.  It must have made quite the impact on AJ because he has now crafted a similar vehicle set-up out of his Lego.

I mentioned we ran into a snag with our rake head window.  It was supposed to be a 6/12 pitch and it was a 5/12 pitch.  It was a combination of my mistake and the window company's mistake.  Since they take no responsibility for it (I did sign off on it) and will not give us any money for it in return, we installed it anyway.  We just need to modify the lounge ceiling to match the window pitch.  Should be easy.  We also installed the two garage windows today so all that remains to be installed is the office window. 

We also spent some time doing more shopping/research for items for the house.  We researched fireplaces a long time ago and now placed our order.  We have also ordered the 2 corner showers we need (1 for Jay's bathroom and 1 for our bathroom), bought the recessed lighting we will start installing next week, bought the range hood vent so it can be ducted, bought other lighting and bought our laundry sink.  I also learned that Mr.W has done concrete counter tops in the past and would like to do it again.  He didn't know that I have talked about concrete counter tops for at least a year and would love to try it in our kitchen.  Sounds like a plan may be forming!

The plumbing and heating rough-in continues to progress and this time the boys got to be Papa's helpers.  They did a great job!

Today the drywall crew came to check out the site and do a sheet count.  They said that everything looks really good so that is another encouragement.  They see many houses and are familiar with the trade.  I take their compliment to heart.

Finally, before you think this whole building job is about me, I assure you it is not.  Sure, I help out each day but the real hero, in my eyes, is Jay.  He is an unbelievably hard working guy.  Today he started off the morning at the hog barn, working out some kinks there then he came to work on the house.  In the afternoon he went to the chicken barn to work out the kinks there then came back to the house.  Now he is mowing the grass here.  He is the "little-engine-that-could", the energizer bunny, if you will.  He just keeps going and going and going.  Building this house is his job for these few months.  He has "laid himself off" from his other full-time jobs (though he still manages the hog operation and a couple of chicken barns) in order to put full days of work here at the house.  His wages are waaaay down from a normal year.  These are the types of sacrifices he willingly makes for our family and I am so honored to be taking this journey with him.  ♥ you, sweetheart!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Owner Building a Home - Week 11 - No, We Are Not on Vacation!

I was asked recently by a couple of ladies if we were on vacation.  After all, I haven't posted all week.  And it feels kind of neat to know people are tracking our progress so carefully.  I apologize, I really do.  This week we have worked everyday, except Tuesday, but it hasn't been that exciting.  And I have hardly taken any photos. But progress is being made.  Since things are a little more boring and a little less photographable (if that is even a word), I figured I would post at the end of the week saying some of the things we have been working on. 

We finally finished up back framing this week, I think.  There may be a few things here and there that need to be done but it is essentially done.  Back framing, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is when you go and inspect your framing to ensure all the bottom plates are nailed down, all the corners are nailed together, all the door plates have been removed to allow for doorways, all the corner blocking is complete.  It is boring but important work. 

This week I also framed the walls under the staircase going up and created the doorway for the staircase going down.  I also framed all the half walls upstairs that surround the stair opening.

Jason spent a bit of time on the roof with Mr.W shingling.  Mr.W LOVES our roof (note the sarcasm).  It is not fun to work on such high roofs with steep pitches.  They look fantastic but they require a lot of mental alertness to be aware of what is going on.  They were both harnessed in so that gives me the confidence to know they will be okay but they always looked so tired when they came down from the roof.  It takes a lot out of them.  I really appreciate their willingness to do it even though it is not the most fun. 

Heating ducts and plumbing pipes continue to wind their way throughout the house.  That is one part I have a hard time picturing since it will require bulkheads here and there to cover the pipes.  I am so thankful that Mr.W is highly creative and comes up with great solutions for how to make it all look good.

When we installed the roof of the garage, it didn't quite come up to the exterior of the house.  There was a space of about 3 feet since we are making a second stair case from the garage up to the office.  Well this week the guys worked on blocking of the trusses and adding some 2x10s to make a landing up in the office.  Mr.W laid out the one staircase stringer for me but I was unable to get to work on it.  That is my project for tomorrow.

We also moved both the kid's one piece tub/shower into position and our corner air massage tub into the master bath.  Those need to be in place so the plumber knows where to drill the drain holes.  He has also told me I need to go shopping!  I love it when I HAVE to go shopping, even if it is for a Neo-Angle shower, a shower pan for our master bath, some drain assemblies, a sink and faucet and the range hood fan.  Those items are needed to know where to rough-in the plumbing/ducting.  That was one of the reasons we went to Grand Forks for the day on Tuesday.  We left around 9:30 in the morning with the 2 littlest girls (the oldest 3 kids stayed with Grandma) and came back home around 7pm.  In Pembina I had a number of parcels waiting for me, including a sink, some faucets, door levers and kitchen cabinet hardware (and school curriculum but that is not house related).  Then in GF, we picked up the last toilet, some more faucet/shower items, and some recessed lighting.  We had wanted to get even more recessed lighting but they were out of stock.  We also went to a flooring store and fell in love with a pecan flooring.  At $10+ per sq.ft, we are looking at other places to get the same item for a better price.

The guys also worked on the insulation stops up in the trusses.  Those are pieces of cardboard that are stapled in place at the end of the truss - it holds the insulation in the attic while creating an airspace needed for the ventilated soffits.

Earlier this week, Jay spent quite a bit of time adding fill in front of the house to bring up the level to where it needs to be.  That means we no longer need the temporary steps at the front of the house.  He also filled in some of the missing OSB on the front of the house in the lounge area.

We also installed almost all the windows on the second storey. I love our windows. I love our rain glass obscured windows in our Master Bath. The texture is so fun! We ran into a snag with our rake head window for our lounge (the pointed window has been made with the wrong pitch) but are working with the window company on that.

I also learned this week that our kitchen cabinets will be delivered at the very end of the month.  There is no way we will be ready for them at that point so will we need to figure out a place to store them.  Hopefully at that point we are drywalling and will be able to move them into the garage shortly after that.  I really look forward to opening one of the boxes and seeing my cabinets in person. 

Praise the Lord, this week we actually got rain.  The first rains started on Wednesday evening when we were working at the house.  All of us were thankful the roof is almost all shingled which meant we could stay dry in the house.  Our evening was cut short, though, when the power went out due to the storm.  Trying to load everyone back into the van without them getting too wet and muddy was a bit of a challenge but we did it.  The power was only restored the next morning so the generator had to be used for a bit again.

I don't know all that this week holds but I sure hope we are able to finish up all of the framing stuff so we can finally get the inspector in and move onto the next stage.  We have to add all the interior strapping, rough-in electrical and the insulation before we can drywall.   We have 3 full weeks to finish all that in order to get the drywallers in the last week of August.  We may be spending a few more evenings on the site but since I strung up lights, we can work much longer into the evening.
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