Wood and Stone

A site to track our progress as we build our FirstDay Cottage Canadian house kit. Come on in, get a cup of coffee, set a spell and follow along on our journey or join in if you like. Check back for the weekly update (usually by Wednesday when things are going right) to see what we are currently up to!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Red Light, Green Light, 1... 2... 3...

So, a couple of hours ago, we got a call back from the building inspector. We had called to find out if he received our application for a building permit, if there is anything else he needed in order to process it and how long it generally takes to get turned around. He called and let us know that he had just put our building permit in the mail!

We are going to see the foundation contractor and excavator this evening to meet with them and try to set a timetable, and knowing that we have a permit in the mail is huge. We can actually set hard dates instead of guessing, and with the weather set to change (Accuweather says that we are looking at a week of highs in the 60s, and highs above 50 until the end of the month), maybe we will have the footings and foundation walls in by the beginning of May. The building permit is really the catalyst that will set everything in motion. Soon enough, I think, we will realize we are on a runaway train.

After our meeting (thanks to Grandma Lana again for watching the kiddies), we will stop up to the site for a few things. We need to check to see if Cingular has better coverage in our area than Verizon (our wireless carrier for now). Thanks to Mara for letting us borrow her phone for this experiment. The coverage map looks better on paper for Cingular than Verizon, but the proof is in the pudding.

If this works out we will not have to worry about getting a land line installed from the get go. If it doesn't work out, we will get the land line since the Verizon service only works when standing at the top of the driveway, on one foot, holding your right index finger up like a lightning rod and spinning widdershins at 1.23 feet per minute. OK, it may not be that bad, but it certainly isn't usable.

We may also do some more clearing of downed trees if the weather (and snow cover) is acceptable. That part may be tough, depending on how the Nor'easter treated our hill, but we shall see.

Update - 11:15pm

We met with the foundation and excavation people, who are all just great folks. We sat and chatted with them for a while and let them know we have our permit. We will meet them up there Saturday to get things going. They'll bring a machine so they can start looking at elevations and what is what.

We went up and checked out the Cingular service.... It was completely nonexistent aside from their coverage map which shows they cover the area. Ah well, this means we will have to get with Verizon to get a phone line request started.

When we finally got home, we found a piece of mail from the Town, which was our building permit! It is only No. 7 of 2007 - a limited edition, and only good until April 13 of 2008. I have blown up the plans and put them on the walls of my area at work (the word cube really doesn't do it justice), something nice to look at when I need a break from the monitor. I think I will have to put up a copy of the permit to complete the theme.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fifty thousand pounds of FirstDay

We sent in our building permit application at the beginning of last week. Godspeed! The building inspector has already spoken to the engineer who stamped the plans about the design and the requirements for our area, so this should go smoothly. We had also met with the building inspector back in January to get the details of exactly what it is that we need to make this process successful. We included all the items he mentioned with our application.

Hopefully, we will be able to find out this week when we will have our permit, as we meet the foundation and excavation contractors on Wednesday to discuss when they will able to get started. Of course, I doubt that this Nor'easter is going to help that schedule much. The house site is at about 1600', which is above the 1500' line that the forecasters had been kicking around as the rain/snow line for this mid April storm. With predictions of 1-2 feet of snow, and the basic fact that the house site is approximately 10 degrees F cooler than the temperature down here in the valley, it could be a bit before the snow is gone, or even low enough that the driveway is accessible.

We did go up yesterday and do some work while Grandma Lana played with the kids at her house. The septic contractor left (at my request) the trees he cleared, piled around the clearing for the septic. I figured "We could use the wood for fires and the masonry heater when it is built, if we stack it right,"and "Hey, we could save money". I never figured on when we would cut and stack it. It turns out that one of the piles sits between the house and the utility pole. This is problematic, as this path will need to be clear, more so if we go with underground power. We have a quote from the excavation folks to trench it, but we need to talk to an electrician about hooking up the main power to the meter and box, as well as a temporary hookup for construction. One more thing on the pile.

So, after staking out the house site (for the power company to come out and talk to us about a temporary power drop, we need to have the house site staked out) and figuring out the height differences for the drain pipe to the septic tank, we cut wood (I with the chainsaw, Wendy with the bow saw) and moved some of it. This was a lesson in how far we have to go. It showed us just how much we are 'average Americans'. We shall go back next week and do penance at the altar of the god of firewood, which will hopefully help to get us in shape. My exercise regimen, while incredible painful at first, has gotten up to 60 squats and 20 push ups a day. I am trying to increase a bit daily to push myself, though with being sick on and off again this past week, I took some time off and I am sure I have regressed.

This whole thing is getting uncomfortably close now. Its like when you decide on Monday to go see a band on Saturday night. As week progresses you get more excited, but something happens during the wait and by Friday night you aren't sure if you really want to go out on Saturday. You can think of a million things you could be doing instead that don't involve getting up off the couch and leaving the house. As we get closer, the anticipation is killing me, but I also feel that this could easily be postponed. Of course, in order to have a house, we have to decide to get off the couch and do it.

This wasn't helped much by a call Wendy made to FirstDay this week. We called to check on things and they asked us when we want to schedule the house delivery. They gave us the Friday before Memorial Day weekend as a suggested delivery date. Memorial Day weekend is our goal to get started on swinging hammers by. I only realized that this is now less than 6 weeks away when I considered that I had wanted it delivered earlier in may so we could get a couple weekends of fabricating posts and beams in before we started building. When Wendy asked about getting it earlier, they suggested we wait till the end of May, since we don't have a building permit or a Foundation yet, and said that we want to make sure we only have to move the kit materials once, since iwe have fifty thousand pounds of house to move. My blood chilled hearing that number. I have never considered moving that much stuff in my entire life, no less by hand.

Once we get started, I think that things will be moving fast enough that I won't be able to obsess on things like that number. We shall see...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

An Open and Closed Case

We recently requested and received quotes from two companies who sell radiant packages to DIYers. Both quotes were for open direct radiant systems - where the radiant system and the domestic hot water system are tied together, running off one water heater. Looking at the quotes we got back, I wondered if maybe I should get another one. I like having at least three of a given quote to choose from. So, I headed out to ask Google who else sells DIY radiant heat packages.

One of the sites had an article on why open direct radiant systems may be dangerous. I looked into the author's credentials, which certainly put him in the credible zone. I don't like to blindly trust anyone who wants me to give them money. A recent study (Ohio State) confirms that Legionella builds up in plumbing, and that the longer the run, the more it can build up. The downside is adding an extra water heater.

After bringing the article up for a lively (heated) discussion amongst some peers, we decided we'd rather be safe than sorry. Legionella usually only affects the very young, the very old, and the immune challenged. We have young children, older parents, and even if nothing were to happen anytime soon, we are getting older every day. There is no sense in trying to save a little money and opening ourselves (and our family) up to a potential health hazard which could be easily avoided.

We called back the companies and asked for quotes on closed systems. While we were at it, we decided to not put the heat below the first floor to begin with. The quotes include a two zone manifold for expanding that in the future, but since we won't be living in the house the first winter it is up, this will give us a chance to delay spending some money up front and see how well the slab radiant will heat the whole place, so we can get an idea if the radiant in the first floor is really necessary.

We have also been talking to the heater mason who will be building our masonry heater, when we get there. We want to get the design worked out so we know what size footing to pour for it when the foundation is done. He came up with some drawings, which I have rendered in SketchUp. I'll put the images in another post, but it is late and I must get up early to work.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The vision

We have our stamped, modified plans, so we can apply for our building permit! Now to figure out the cubic feet of the house for box 10a....

Here is the final isometric view.

The isometric view, showing what our house will look like

The revised basement plan now has space for mechanical systems and has been rearranged to make dealing with the foundation for the masonry heater easier.

Revised basement plan.  We moved all the bedrooms to the south wall and created the room to the north of the master bedroom and west of the bathroom for our mechanical stuff (hot water heaters, pressure tanks, breaker panels, etc)

Slight changes on the main floor, and no change to the loft

Revised first floor plan.  The biggest change here is to get rid of the island in the kitchen

And a new treat - elevation drawings!

West - this is the side facing the street, and has the main entrance to the house. The driveway will lead up to it. Ignore the egress window on the lower northwest corner - that was removed from the plans in the revisions, but didn't get removed from this view.

This will be our 'curb appeal'.

South - this faces into the deepest portion of our land, and will provide some passive solar heating (look at all the windows!).

The big wall with all the windows.  The light on the first floor should be excellent.

East - this faces toward the back of the lot. The left window is in the study/guestroom, the right window is across from the toilet.

Visit the Gents, reconnect with nature.

North - the non-solar side of the house. The windows present are for daylighting. The tall first floor window is between the bathroom and the stairs, to provide some extra light to a dark area. The door will eventually open onto a screened porch back there. For now, it will have a landing and stairs.

Welcome to the dark side of the house.

Now back to that building permit application...