Saturday, August 22, 2009

Long Progress Report

Before I head off to San Diego for a quick work trip (27 hours out of town, 12 of which will be at an airport/on an airliner), I wanted to give a brief progress report on construction.

While we remain frustrated that several subcontractors think it's perfectly OK to not show up when they say they'll be there, there are some bright spots:

Tim Griffin from ARS has been working with us to calculate the HVAC loads for the house and determine the ducting requirements. An energy efficient, air sealed house is a lot different to work with than conventional construction. And our passive solar design adds another twist. Tim has experience with green construction and the Earthcraft Virginia program. And our budget constraints offered another challenge. Tim designed a system and lined up a crew - they're scheduled to start the duct installation on Monday.

The last four days were absolutely exhausting. Andreas had three off-days in a row, so I took some vacation days from work and also spent Wednesday morning on the project. We worked our tails off on the house. I wish everyone we're paying to assist and manage this construction project were doing the same.

Wednesday morning, Aaron and I installed the fan and the fresh air intake system to the fireplace and set that in place.

Starting on Thursday, I spent a full 10 hours on my hands and knees vacuuming the first floor of the house with the shop vac so there would be no dust and debris to contaminate the concrete floor when it's poured next week. Despite multiple requests for workers to clean their shoes before entering, most folks just kept walking in, tracking more dirt for me to vacuum up. I don't mean to sound so negative. But, really, how difficult is it to clean off your shoes before walking into the house, especially after you've been specifically asked to, with the reason for the request explained to you?

While I was inside vacuuming, Andreas was completing numerous projects, including digging a trench to install the drain tile so the sump pump outflow will run under our intended garden area into the stream at the back of the lot. It looks great and is ready for Bernie to install the two cast iron sump pumps next week.

Elmer sent a crew on Thursday evening to install the nailer strips along the exterior walls (the TerraBrick walls). This was to fix mistakes Aaron had made when he cut and installed nailer strips some time ago, but they were of varying heights, so they all had to be removed and trashed. One of the considerations when building with a solid exterior is how to place electrical outlets along those walls. Ours will be centered in a baseboard. The size of the nailer strip in our house is extremely important, as the electrical boxes are screwed into that, and it also is the nailer strip for the baseboards. It needed to be a specific height so that the 1.5" of concrete would not come into the electrical boxes and so the electrical outlets would be a consistent height throughout the baseboards. It was good to get that corrected, since we're hoping that Bartley will be able to come on Wednesday to pour the concrete floor on the main level of the house.

After months and months attempting to get Washington Gas to install service at our house, their subcontractors came on Thursday early afternoon to do the street cut. First thing Friday they were back to trench on the lot and bring the gas line to the back of the house. It was only after I made a phone call to an executive at Washington Gas & Light Holdings that we saw any action. That's all water under the bridge now, but here's a special thanks to WGL Holdings' Marcellous Frye for getting the right people on the job for us.

Piedmont Roofing's crew was supposed to come on Thursday, but they ran over on another project, so they were to be on our project early Friday morning. Mid-afternoon Friday, they finally showed up. But they were not prepared to do what Aaron said he asked them to do. So they installed the roof boots on the plumbing and radon vent and promised to come back on Saturday. They didn't show up this morning. They had several hours of work time before the rain, so it's disappointing they were no-shows.

Tom (the electrician) came on Friday morning and finished everything he needed to for the electrical rough-in inspection. Andreas scheduled that for 9am on Monday.

Accurate Insulation was scheduled to come Friday morning to install the rain gutters. Only one person showed up. He looked at our house and said he couldn't do it himself, so he'd have to get help and come back on Saturday. He said he'd be at our lot by 8am. We showed up at 8:10 and he was there, with a co-worker, only to inform us that the job was COD. Aaron never sent us a contract and most vendors accept payment afterwards. So I drove home to get the checkbook and was back on-site an hour later only to learn that the crew didn't have screws long enough to attach the downspouts through the EIFS and into the concrete columns. So I drove to Brown's Hardware in Falls Church, but they didn't have any 5" stainless steel screws the Accurate folks requested. I then went to Home Depot. They didn't have any either, so I bought some 4" screws (the longest they had) and some 5" lag bolts. As it turned out, neither of those options worked, but the 4" TapCons I had in my truck (leftover from affixing the extruded foam board to the basement walls) fit the bill. All of that running around was a waste of time. After they left, Andreas and I attached some drain tile to direct the water away from the house. As soon as we were done, the rain started to fall. So I don't have any pictures of the gutter and downspouts yet.

After weeks and weeks and weeks, Quality Window and Door sent a service guy out to repair the sliding glass doors that were difficult to slide, install some weather stripping on a sliding glass door that didn't have some, and fix the loose-fitting locks on two of the swinging exterior doors. This was the third service guy to come out to work on the doors. Well, he got most of it done, but we'll need a fourth visit. He didn't have any weather stripping with him, so he couldn't do that. He fixed the two sliding glass doors. And he fixed one of the two locks. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm and someone can bring weather stripping and properly fix that remaining jiggly lock problem. How difficult is this...really?

Loudoun Stairs supposedly was going to come by on Friday to measure for the staircase to the basement and also bring some photos of what the staircase would look like. But they didn't show up. Can anyone recommend a good (but affordable) stair company for some basic stairs into the basement?

Andreas and I installed the pex tubing on the first floor this afternoon (Saturday). We didn't finish until after dark so, again, no photos. Clearly we were focused on getting the job done and not on documenting that for the blog. Sorry folks. We'll snaps some pics later.

While I'm on a flight to the West Coast tomorrow, Andreas plans to clean the basement floor so that can dry and allow us to test some sample coloring for the concrete floor stain when I'm back on the project Tuesday evening. There's a lot more on the schedule for next week, but I guess it will get done only if the subcontractors show up. These days, I'm not holding my breath for that! And please don't ask me about the clerestory windows.