Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thankful for Fantastic Friends

This post is overdue, but very important. Several friends helped out at critical points along the way. I mentioned several projects where friends helped immensely, but I didn't highlight two key projects within the past few weeks that some friends helped with.

First, shortly after Christmas, I called our friend Chris Zebrowski asking if he wouldn't mind helping me lift a few sheets of the wheatboard so I could make the cuts for the countertop. Chris knew we didn't have heat yet, so when he came over, he brought a couple of kerosene heaters with him. He not only helped to cut the wheatboard, but ensured the cuts were smooth and square, and stayed to help with the joining of the two boards. He also lent his expertise and we worked together to build out the finish boards surrounding the back of the kitchen island. What was to be a couple hours of work turned into several hours on New Years Eve and a marathon session the day after New Years. We arrived around 8am that day, and stopped around 11:30pm. Chris was an incredible help, and I am very grateful for that! Here's a picture of the finished kitchen.

Another friend who was immensely helpful was Jeff Hopp, who volunteered to help install the railing into the basement. As it turns out, he did the whole project for us while we were at work. Didn't he do an amazing job with it!?!?!? Many, many thanks, Jeff!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crossing the Finish Line

We passed our final inspection on Friday!!!!! The City now has our application for the Certificate of Occupancy. In a week or two, we should be able to move in to our new house! 11 months, two and one half weeks to build this house - I'm glad this is almost over.

After we move in, there still will be projects on the house, but they'll be easier to manage while living there.


Great Job Terra Landscape!

Our neighbor Mandy suggested we hire Maryann Ogle/Terra Landscape to do some landscaping work for us. We already were working with someone for the landscape design, but we needed someone to do hardscape work for us. So we met with Maryann, admired her ideas and energy, and got a quote that seemed fair for the huge amount of work required to install permeable pavers and a gravel driveway. We shared some pictures earlier of the walkway being installed, and now that the work is done on that, as well as on the driveway, here's a complete look at the process and finished product. We're thrilled with the results, and it's a joy to walk to the house without having to step through a mile of mud!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting Close...Inside and Outside

Jeff Gunther with Grove Construction did an outstanding job installing the cedar on the west side of the house.

The crew from Terra Landscape & Design, laying the permeable pavers.

Upstairs guest bathroom tub/shower. The fixtures are from Ferguson; the tile from Amicus.

Master bathroom's Duravit sink.

Master bathroom's Duravit wall-mounted toilet, with dual flush.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Good News

Each day seems to bring some more good news. Bernie from Clarke County Plumbing and Tom from Creager Electrical both were on-site this week and have worked on the final details. For Bernie's part, he's been attaching the bathroom fixtures (hanging the toilets on the wall, attaching the bath and shower faucets, etc.). Tom's been completing the circuits for a host of indoor and outdoor lighting and electrical connections. If all goes well, Bernie will finish the plumbing on Thursday, and have a final inspection on Friday. Tom will finish early next week and have a final inspection then. Jeff Gunther from Grove Construction was back on-site today to finish installing the beautiful cedar siding on the West side of the house, and the final trim piece on the East side of the house. Andreas snapped this picture of Jeff before the sun went down, just before Jeff installed the last few pieces.

Jeff installing cedar on the West side of the house.

Meanwhile, Andreas and I have been busy with some tasks of our own. I joined the two pieces of the kitchen counter by the range, using a new Dewalt plate joiner toy (er, I mean tool), and Andreas sanded it and put two coats of Safecoat sealant on it, which we purchased from Amicus Green Building Center. Faceplates have been installed on most of the remaining outlets. The pipes around the hot water heater and the radiant floor system have been insulated. I still have to grout the master shower floor, and seal all of the grout in each of the bathrooms.

North side LED step lights and front door light.

South side LED step lights.

LED step lights into the basement.

Fuzzy picture (low light) of insulated water heater pipes.

Fuzzy picture (low light) of insulated radiant system pipes.

More ELFA in the master closet.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's Starting to Feel Like a Real House

I've had this warm feeling while working on the house the last few days/evenings. Oh, that would be the radiant floor heating that's fully functional, at last! Tom, the electrician, slipped on some ice and wasn't able to come to work this past week. Given the DC area weather forecast, and temperatures projected in the teens, we felt it was mandatory that we hire another electrician to connect power to the hot water heater and connect the radiant system. Our contractor friend, Jeff Hopp, suggested we call a sub he has used with great success. Andreas called him (I'll get his name from Andreas and update this posting with that info) and he came the next day. Not only is he a licensed electrician, but he's a plumber and an HVAC guy too. So he was the right man for the radiant floor job. After the electrical connections were complete, and it was confirmed that the water heater was properly functioning, Andreas filled the radiant tubes with water and the system went live. Within a few hours, the temps went from the 40s into the 50s. By the next morning, it was very warm inside, in the low 60s. By Friday night, each room was at least 65 degrees. We thought it would take two full days to heat up all of the concrete thermal mass, but it took about a day. Working at the house today, with the sun out, I observed air temperatures in the 70s in all rooms that have southern exposure, and the living room thermostat showed a temperature of 78.3 degrees. What amazingly warm feeling to have radiant heat - at long last! Combined with the passive solar attributes, our house was toasty today.

The heat's not the only thing that's been accomplished in the last 10 days. Craig Smith has been working diligently and skillfully on the finish carpentry. The current project is to install Ipe thresholds. If you're not familiar with Ipe, it's an extremely hard wood that's exceptionally durable, suitable for wet and hot and dry locations, and is often used for decks. It was on sale at TW Perry, and we thought it would be ideal for the door thresholds, since that can be a harsh environment for wood.

TW Perry delivered the interior doors on Friday, so we'll work on sealing those with the Safecoat product we bought at Amicus Green Building Center. Andreas and I will install those ourselves, which should be a fun project. Craig Smith will install the three "normal" (hinged) doors early next week. Two of those go in the basement and the third is for the entry to the stairs into the basement. We're using pocket doors in as many places as possible, to save space and ensure a clean/modern look.

The Container Store is holding their annual ELFA shelving system sale this month, so we had an ELFA design for our master closet prepared, and I picked up the ELFA system for that closet last week. Today, I spent a couple of hours in the closet installing the system. I think it looks great, and it's a wonderfully functional closet organizing system. We have it in the condo, and really like it. Act soon to get 30% off ELFA at the Container Store.

Also today, I unpacked the Bosch dryer and the Samsung refrigerator from their crates. The Bosch dryer goes with the Bosch washing machine. Since it's a stackable system, I had to install an attachment to the washer, that the dryer is then affixed to. The end result looks really good.

The final work item today was to use my new, I mean join the two sections of the wheatboard countertop behind the range. I used my shiny new Dewalt plate joiner (sometimes called a biscuit joiner), inserted the biscuit and glue, then clamped the two pieces together. Tomorrow I'll take the clamp off, sand the seam, lightly sand the rest of the wheatboard, clean it with a barely damp cloth to get the dust off, and then apply the first coat of Safecoat no VOC sealant to it. I will do a light sanding and second coat tomorrow night, after we meet with our landscape architect, Erika, who will be reviewing our final draft landscape plan with us.

Countertop seam

It's always fun when friends stop by to visit while we're there working. Today, our friends Mike, Helen, Jeff, John, Helen, and Jeff stopped by. The first Helen brought delicious sandwiches from the Italian Store in Arlington. Yummy! It was great to have a lunch break and good conversation. But then it was back to work!