Recently in House Category

Ceiling progress

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We've been making some excellent progress on the ceiling. It's rough work handling the hardwood boards up over your head, I can only manage about 4 hours at a time before I'm done. For the back section we'll mill the boards thinner, we don't need a full 5/8" for a ceiling, 1/2" would work out just fine.

Luckily we've been getting some help from friends and family. Phil and his boys made a trip up and we got a big section done, Stephen came by and lent a hand, and of course Dad's been a rock.

Phil lends a helping hand.

Every board has to have each end squared up with the chop saw and all of the end boards have to be custom cut to fit. Joanne has become a master with the saw, tape and square.

Chopmaster General, Joanne.

We're about two thirds done and might even be ready for trim in a few weeks.

As Phil said, most people would love to have a floor that looked this good!. As Phil said, most people would love to have a floor that looked this good!

Of course the boys wouldn't mind if the job lasts a while longer, after all most kids don't have a jungle gym in their living room.

Dad, can we cross the bridge?

Green magazine

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Our house is featured in the latest issue of Green, an Australian magazine. The article is very nice - written by our friend and former neighbour Liza Finlay and the pictures by her cousin Naomi Finlay are spectacular. This article is the first to feature photos of our house in the winter. Aside from being one of our four favorite seasons winter provides lots of sun to the interior of the house. The pictures look sun drenched and warm on the interior, an excellent contrast to the snowy landscape outside.

We had a a photoshoot here a couple of weeks ago for a forthcoming coffee table book and the contrasts between the two photographers and publications was remarkable. Naomi captured images of a house that people live in, including one fantastic shot of Gil and Declan that we'll treasure forever (cliche though that may be). The coffee table book people don't seem to want any people in the pictures at all. In fact another of their books that we looked through did not have a single living creature in any of the houses featured. In fact some of the houses didn't even seem to have furniture. Le Corbusier, one of my least favorite architects described houses as "machines for living" and the houses in this book had been staged to the point where the interface between house and human was tenuous at best. So why did we agree to be in the book? It was a last minute request from our architects and I didn't have a chance to check out any of the other books from this publisher beforehand.

The new deck

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Long time readers might recall a post I wrote back in April of 2005 talking about milling cedar and the fabulous decks that would be built. I'm pleased to report that construction has finally begun on the east decks, including a new deck directly off the front door.

My helpers

This deck is a team effort, unfortunately I have to spend as much time trying to keep the kids on my team as I do building the deck. It takes only a matter of seconds for them to not only form their own team but for that team to splinter into two entirely separate (and warring) factions. Things degenerate rapidly at that point. So as a result both children are gradually accumulating their own tool sets and each has a simple task that they must perform in order to "help" me. For example both travel with a handful of 3 1/2" screws that each gets to hand me in turn as I screw down the decking. Both kids help me measure the deck (each with his personal dollar store tape measure natch) which lends an interesting twist to the old saw "measure twice, cut once" since neither can actually read a tape measure.

Deck boards going on.

I have noticed that they are doubly helpful when they are wearing superhero pyjamas.

The dynamic duo.

It's all worth it when you get a section done and the kids are so proud that they helped build the deck.

July Update

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Spring and summer have been busy around the house. The bench is complete except for finishing. I haven't decided yet what kind of finish I want to use on the bench yet, though I'm leaning towards Tried and True Linseed Oil and Beeswax finish as I love the depth and glow it gives to wood. Danish oil seems to be the traditional choice.

Front view Side view

I had to disassemble the twin screw vise and re-install it, but that was expected. It's very finicky to install correctly even when you follow the instructions to the letter. There's still a bit of stiffness in the last inch of travel but I'll probably leave it as is for a while and see if any other problems develop before taking it apart again. The rear vise jaws are secured to the bench with 5" bolts threaded right into the bench top. The front jaw, just like the end vise chop, is a piece of spalted Maple from a tree off our land.

We also had the portable saw mill in to mill the logs that I mentioned back in April. Of the thirty-eight logs only two proved to be rotten so we got away pretty lucky with storing them for so long.

Milling lumber Milling lumber Milling lumber Milling lumber Milling lumber Milling lumber

Unfortunately some of what we had thought was Maple when we cut it in the winter turned out to be Basswood. On the other hand some of the Bassword was very nice. In particular we flitch cut the crotch of the tree and found some gorgeous grain and colour which is uncommon in Basswood which is normally very clear and white.

lumber lumber lumber

We'll stack and sticker the wood through the summer and hopefully the Ash will be dry enough to go into the kiln this fall. My goal for this fall/winter is to get the ceiling done.

Green Home and Garden Tour

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Peterborough Green-Up a local environmental group is holding a green home and garden tour on June 7, 2008, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We're a part of the tour in addition to several interesting homes and businesses in Peterborough proper.

Details are available on the Green-up website.

Normally if you'd like a tour of our house you have to wait for the annual OSBBC Straw House Tour in October, so this is an early opportunity if October doesn't work for you.

From the Green-up site: Take a tour of homes and businesses where real people are making real changes to reduce their impact on our local resources. These sites will showcase some of the inspirational environmental examples that residents in Peterborough are setting through personal actions.

Tour locations highlight examples of green lifestyles, including a totally off grid home, using recycled building materials, hot water heating, solar and wind energy, and more! Extensive natural gardens will also be on display at some tour stops, with examples of how to create great gardens while conserving water, providing habitat and food for wildlife, and enhancing the environment!

The Driveway

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Most people when they come to visit remark upon the length of our driveway. Because the front 30 acres of our land is part of the Oak Ridges Moraine we couldn't build the house anywhere near the road. As a result the house is near the centre of the land and our driveway is nearly a kilometre long. The quality of the road varies seasonally: muddy and wet during the spring, dry and dusty during the summer, rough in the fall and not surprisingly, slippery in the winter. 

Our driveway is plowed in the winter rather than blown. Now here in the country the snowblower vs. plow debate can be nearly religious in its tone and fervour but I personally prefer plowing because it builds up big drifts at the side of the fields which can act like crude snow fences. Our neighbour has a driveway nearly as long as ours and a snowblower and he has constant problems with the snow blowing right back over his lane within days of blowing it clear. The drawback to plowing is that in years with heavy snowfalls the driveway can get progressively narrower as you run out of room to put the snow. We've already had problems up where we park the cars where the piles are encroaching on our parking spaces. We pay about $300 a year for plowing for an average of twelve visits. This year we're already at six so I'm expecting the bill will be higher. 

20071230_icydriveway.jpg

The big problem this year is the ice. We've had ice storms before but the ice usually only lasts a day or two and melts or is covered by snow. Our driveway has been covered by ice for it's whole length for several weeks now. The ice is so thick and so complete that I've been tempted to strap on my skates and try and skate the whole thing. The ice is causing us big problems with cars as you can well imagine. We park on a slope and on several occassions we haven't been able to negotiate the hill. Backing down the hill is... exciting. Joanne has stuck her car in snowbanks twice - once so bad that I had to winch it out - I buried the truck so thoroughly that it looked like I had parallel parked it into a snowbank and my parents spent the better part of an hour trapped in the driveway on Christmas day. We can't leave the cars at the bottom of the hill because there isn't enough room to turn them around down there. So every day I go out with the ash tray and spread out the meagre ashes from the wood stove. We can't get back to the pit and I'm loathe to spend the money on sanding (and I can't get back to my pit) so we'll just wait and hope that we get some snow soon. 

An update in pictures and numbers

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Ceara, unimpressed

Ceara's 13. She just got groomed. The groomer went a bit nuts with the sheers. Ceara is not impressed.

Gil, helping

Gil's nearly two and a half. He likes to help me build things. He helps by moving all the tools around.

Declan, eating.

Declan is 6 months old. This is his first meal of "solid" food. Not bad for flavourless mush.

New solar panels.

We installed four more solar panels this winter. They doubled our production to 1.3KW. Life is good.

Declan, eating.

The first two of possibly five decks to be built this year.

OSBBC Straw House Tour

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The 3rd Annual OSBBC Straw House Tour is Saturday October 1st, 2005. We will not be on it this year. Joanne's due date is October 3rd so I expect that we will either have a newborn in the house (Sokolowski's tend towards the early), or we will be driving up and down the bumpiest roads we can find (as far as Joanne is concerned any day now would be just fine).

If you were counting on coming by and seeing the place I apologize, we'll be back in 2006.

Did I mention that it's going to be a busy summer?

Last fall Dad and I logged a bunch of cedar trees from the west and south parts of the land. We're lucky, in that we have good cedar, it often rots from the inside out, so you can't tell how good a tree is until the tree is on the ground. The other problems with cedar are that it tapers considerably from bottom to top, and that there are lots of small branches that sprout out directly from the trunk all the way up the tree. This usually means that you have to clear around the base of the tree first before dropping it, both to have space to cut, and to ensure an escape route. I drop the trees, so I'm damn careful about making sure I have lots of space to run if the tree doesn't drop in the right direction!

Various logs ready for milling

What we want from the cedar is mostly 2" thick boards. I'm hoping to build some decks around the house this summer. We don't bother drying the cedar first, it dries very quickly in place with minimal cupping, and we use screws rather than nails to make later adjustments easier. In two years when it's dried out in place, we'll rent a floor sander and get rid of any cupping/bowing. We did that on Dad's deck and it seems to have worked out just fine.

Here's a sketch of the proposed decking:

Exterior Deck Plan

Clicking on the image will bring up a larger version. As an added bonus there is a bunch of extra info on the sketch for those of you interested in the interior changes.

The deck across the front is largely cosmetic, as you wouldn't want to sit on it, it would be much to hot and sunny for most of the year (reflection from the windows). The 12'x12' area to the west is a small deck for the BBQ, and to sit and look out over the forest, we may also screen in this deck. The large east deck is the main sitting portion as it has the best view, and is sheltered from most of the summer sun. We aren't big fans of sitting out the sun. We're also lucky in that we get a bit of a breeze around the house year-round, and that helps keep the bugs away in spring/summer.

Cedar lumber, stacked and stickered.

At this point we have probably 1/4 of the wood that we will needs for these decks, and as a result, they may get built in stages. Over the next couple of weeks Dad and I will be dropping another six cedars (at least), as well as some more standing dead Black Cherry, and at least one standing dead Ash. The Black Cherry isn't very large, it's hard to get much more than 2 or 3 inch boards out of it, but it's a very interesting wood, and I think I may use it to replace the cupboard and drawer faces in the kitchen.

The other big job I'd like to get started on this summer is the barn. The original barn collapsed a couple of decades ago, and we've pulled a great deal of the lumber, and farm machinery, and cow bones, and old straw, and.... Yep, it was pretty bad. Unfortunately once all that stuff was removed it allowed the weeds, shrubs, and even trees a chance to set roots. Something must be done. The plan is to bulldoze all of the old timbers into a hole on the other side of the driveway where they can continue to rot in piece. The part that is currently standing will be torn down and rebuilt as a shed. Cheap and cheerful, will be the name of the game. With a low roof line that matches the look of the house without obscuring the view. I'd also like to clean off the top of the walls and pour a new concrete cap to prevent further deterioration. Right now water is getting into the tops of the walls each fall, freezing in the winter and spalling off the top layers of stones. I don't intend to re-point the whole walls, I have neither time nor inclination for that, I only hope to slow their inevitable collapse.

The Barn. Looking across the front.

It's going to be a busy summer.

Joanne is pregnant with #2, and so Gil is going to have to move out of the nursury, and into his own room. At the moment my office occupies the space that will be his room. The office has to go, the space needs walls, but before that the space needs a ceiling.

Here's a view of the currrent floorplan along with notations.

Floorplan Interior

  1. The new office. Just a long slim desk along the back wall. Simple clean, and I'm still working out how to hide the cables and computers
  2. Bedroom wall. This wall will be floor to ceiling bookshelves just like it's opposite (bordering the master bedroom. The top area will be triangular pieces of sandblasted glass to let in light and maintain privacy.
  3. Bedroom wall. This wall will be clad with panel or drywall on the bedroom side and T&G cedar on the living room side. It will be built to move to expand the size of the bedroom when the time comes to break it into two rooms.
  4. Linen Closet. Lined with all of my leftover aromatic cedar
  5. Bedroom Door. We're going need to enforce some privacy soon.
  6. Odd, there doesn't seem to be a number six...
  7. This space is currently the nursury, but it is plumbed to be an ensuite. When competition for the main bathroom gets too fierce, we get our own.
  8. Walk-in closet. Lined with aromatic cedar. Staining is done, but it needs some trim and sliding doors.
  9. Front hall closet. Lined with aromatic cedar, it needs sliding doors, and some better shelves for seasonal storage.

Before the walls for Gil's room can be built a ceiling must be installed.

The Ceiling

Many ideas have been floated for how to cover our ceiling. Right now it's just vapour barrier over insulation. Functional, but not terribly attractive.

Drywall: We hate drywall. And installing it after you've moved in? On 2000 sq/ft of ceiling, I don't think so.


Plywood Ceiling Picture

Plywood: Nice concept, and I've seen it done well, but a huge amount of work, very tough to get the edges clean and straight, and very hard for two people to do, over their heads day after day. I've undertaken a fairly exhaustive search for pre-finished T&G plywood, and well, it doesn't seem to exist. I can get prefinished, but it's VERY expensive. Or I can get T&G but it's used for subfloors and is very rough.

Tongue and Groove Ceiling Picture

Tongue and Groove Wood: Similar to what you'd use for flooring. It's expensive if you buy pre-finished, but unfinished Western Red Cedar is not too bad. VERY nice looks, somewhat expensive. Now I'd rather use my own wood, but my cedar is way too knotty to use for a ceiling, not to mention that most of the cedar I have right now is slated to be used in decks. I have some maple, ash and black cherry, but nowhere near the quantities I'd need for the ceiling, and it won't be dry for a couple of years if I don't get a kiln built. Then there is the work involved in planing, jointing, routing and finishing 2500 sq/ft worth of hard wood. I don't mind doing the work, but I don't see having that kind of time in the forseeable future. As the old addage of freelance work goes, "You either have money or time. You never have both."

What we're concentrating on now is the back ceiling, the ceiling over the bedrooms and open area. The 'hallway' and gallery will likely be done the same way. But I have greater ambitions for the front part of the house. I thought I'd share a few of my inspirational images with you.

Cool Ceiling Picture

Oh man, what a ceiling. We can't pull off something that daring, we don't have the space to allow a drop like that, but I'm seriously thinking that a wave effect, done with straight boards could be very effective as well.

Eventscape Ceiling Picture

Eventscape makes cool tensioned fabric errr... things. Layered I think it would be very cool as a ceiling, but probably expensive.

Felt Ceiling Picture

Yes, that is industrial felt. Great because it's rigid enough to hold a shape, and it absorbs sound. A big consideration when you've built a house that's largely open concept, and more than somewhat reflective.

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