Recently in Interior 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?

The Ceiling - Part 1

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Over the Christmas holiday's we started covering the ceiling in the gallery space with tongue and groove cedar. Dad won the cedar at an auction last spring for a very good price. We won a large stack of boards almost all of which were 16' long, 8" wide and all were tongue and grooved. Unfortunately about 40% of the boards were in pretty bad shape: worm-eaten, weathered, rotten, or warped in some way. We've been cladding our various sheds in the crappier boards and putting aside the good ones to use inside. This fall Joanne and Mom sanded and finished some of those good boards and that's what we've been using.

Over time the Tuck tape that sticks the vapour barrier to the beams has lost it's tack so I'm re-taping as I go.

Fitting the long boards is much easier with a helper. By the end of a day working over your head like this your arms feel like they are about to drop right off.

For extra fun every board in the middle row had to be custom cut to accommodate the light and fan junction boxes. Also because the boards need to be staggered the scaffolding had to make the full trip back and forth across the gallery about a half-dozen times over the course of the project.

We didn't have quite enough boards so we'll complete the job in the spring when we can finish the boards outside - the stain that we use for colour really reeks.

As usual when Dad works so do the children. What's remarkable about this picture is that Gil is actually hammering real nails, into real wood with a toy plastic hammer. No I don't know why there is a parking lot beside the board. Look at how long those legs are! Wonder where he gets his build from?

One of the tenets of passive solar design is thermal mass, and from a passive solar standpoint there are two problems with our house: too much glass and too little thermal mass. But we've been over this before. This weekend we added about 3500 pounds of thermal mass to the north wall of the bedroom. Due to an odd coincidence I met again one of the stonemasons who helped build the arch mentioned here. I got to talking with him about my ideas for the north wall of the living room and ended up hiring him and his partner to help me build the wall using stone from my land. This is a dry laid (no mortar is used) stone wall measuring 12' long by 3' high and 20" deep. 20" is pretty narrow for a drystone wall but we're not anticipating getting any frost heave in the living room. To figure out the weight of stone you usually use the weight of water which is 62 pounds per cubic foot.

Bright and early Saturday morning Matt and Mike arrived and we spent the morning drivinga round the land investigating and excavating the various stone piles around the land. Eight trips later we had a good bunch of stones to work from and we started work on the wall. I've rebuilt some of my grandfather's mortared walls, but I don't have very much experience with dry stacked stone. One of the secrets of a dry stacked stone wall is that it is actually two walls, that lean into each other. This lean is called the batter. We could cheat a fair bit because we were building on a solid surface that wouldn't (hopefully) be moving. So we have only 1" of batter in 3' of height; it's barely noticable.

On Sunday Matt and Mike returned and brought John the fellow who was running the arch seminar that I crashed. With three of them working (and me helping) things moved much faster. We made four more trips for stone - if you're building a wall budget on needing about two to three times as much stone as you need for the wall. Things wrapped up around noon, with the wall capped and level and looking pretty spectacular. It'll take a bit of time to see if the wall is enough thermal mass, I suspect that we'll need a bit more mass. But it looks spectacular, and when the wall is finished with our cedar I think the whole living room area is really going to come together.

Pictures of the wall are here.

Now if you know Gator, you know that he loves stones. Loves them in a way that is nothing short of disturbing. So imagine if you will attempting to build a stone wall witrh a dog who is obsessed with rocks. Imagine that dog spending two days with several men who are equally obsessed with rocks, though not perhaps in quite the same way as Gator (I never saw Matt lick a stone). It was an interesting weekend.

Interior Work - Part One

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Sometimes life interupts the blog and this has been one of those times. But there has been some great progress in the last few weeks, despite more than a few setbacks. I've picked up a contract in the city and so with Joanne home on leave now I'm cimmuting into Toronto on a daily basis. Needless to say this has cut into my available time for working on the house. Recognizing this we hired a friend of my father's, Russ, to help us with the framing if the interior walls. Gil has walls and a room, but no doors. We have an entry to our bedroom room and a linen closet but no door either. Our weekend alarm clock is Gil jumping onto our bed.

Gil's room is drywall on the inside, we figure that kids are so hard on walls, why bother with wood. In the long east wall of his room we've actually roughed in a doorwayd. We figure that he and Declan can share the room until they're about 10 (or so) and when the time come to separate them, we cut open the wall, throw up a door, and build a wall between them. Hey presto! Two bedrooms. So we have ten years to forget where the door is.

Dad has been busy dressing the cedar that we cut back in the summer. We tried to do it here using my generator (the tools are 240V and the house doesn't do 240V). Unfortunately the generator doesn't supply the quantities of current that the tools need and we blow motors on both the planer and jointer. The planer was fixed with a capacitor change, but the jointer needed a whole new motor, which we just got on Thursday. Next it's routing and finishing and those walls can go up. The doors are on order and will hopefully arrive soon. We didn't build the alls up to the ceiling yet for two reasons, we don't really have a ceiling to build to, and we're hoping to do something with sandblasted glass and awning windows for both light transmission and ventilation.

See some picts of the new interior here.

Stonework and Serendipity

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Joanne and I were driving up to my parents on Saturday when she pointed out a tent, high up on a hill beside the highway. "I wonder what's going on up there?" she said. As we came by the base of the hill there was a sign: Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada. Well, I did what any self-respecting member of the Hunter family would do, I ditched Joanne and Gil at my parents and my father and I headed back to find out what was going on.

Looking Up

At the top of the hill we were warmly greeted by John, the leader of the seminar. Their goal was to build an arch from an old stone pile, and whatever other rocks they could gather from the pasture. The seminar was full but we were invited to stick around and observe, and if we had any questions, please feel free to ask.

Looking Up

John proved to be an excellent teacher and just watching, asking a few questions and taking it all in I learned more that afternoon than I have in all the various books I've read. I've been thinking of building the bottom 4' of the south wall of Gil's room from stone, and now I feel confident that I can get it done. Building a 12' x 4' x 18" wall would add 4400 pounds of thermal mass to the house, thermal mass that would receive heat from then sun, the new wood stove, and the radiant floor.

Looking Up

I was great to watch them build this because it was exactly the same kind of stone that we have here. The books tend to deal with nice easy to work with stones like sandstone, limestone, and shale. That's nice but what we have is fieldstone, granite and other difficult to split stones.

Looking Up

The finished the arch late in the afternoon and it's a fantastic sight. It looks like it's been there forever, I suspect a lot of locals will be doing a double take as they head up the highway wondering why they've never seen that before.

Looking Up

The Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada

Well I guess that was easier than expected. Though I don't know how we would have done it without a nail gun (Thanks S!). Thursday I had 200 1"x2" delivered and Friday we braved pre-May 24 traffic to buy supplies.

We started after lunch, and had the bedroom done before dinner.

Strapping the back ceiling.

Where we can we're strapping on 16" centres as we still haven't decided on a final ceiling material. Things are tricky out at the ends as the trusses run east/west, rather than north/south (due to the overhang), and so we're pretty much stuck with 24" centres. We'll cope.

I've also been retaping all of the edges of the vapour barrier, as the red tape - which sticks to everything else - does not adhere very well to paralam. Once the ceiling is up the will be a trim piece that essentially tacks the red tape permanently in place.

Saturday was spent cursing at wiring. One of the more interesting conceptual problems in designing and building a home is imaging not just the current uses of any given space, but the future uses as well. When my parents retired and sold my childhood home the running joke was that if anybody had ripped out all of the extra wiring that we had run over the years the house could become structurally unstable. That is why our house is really just four exterior walls, with the interior as open as possible. The problem lays in running the plumbing and electrical systems. Plumbing is run under the slab, so really there is not much to be done about that. We've circumvented many of the potential problems with electrical wiring by using conduit as baseboard, but power for lights and rooms like the kitchen and bathroom must be run through the ceiling. So to that end we located a J-box in the centre of each of the back 'bays' of the house. Then we ran a line of 14/3 Nomex from each J-box to a post. 14/3 instead of 14/2 simply because the cost is relatively low and why not run an extra conductor if you can? I don't know why I'd need it, but if I ever do I'll be very happy that it is there, and very very annoyed if it wasn't. The 14/3 was left coiled up in amongst the trusses when the insulation and vapour barrier was installed. This was OK with the electrical inspector because the 14/3 IS NOT wired into power at the J-Box. If it had been we'd have had to terminate the 14/3 in another J-box with the ends properly capped, etc.

So now we get to the cursing. I couldn't find one of the coils of 14/3. I knew where it should be, and even after stuffing my arm through a slit in the vapour barrier and rooting around in the insulation I couldn't find it. And in 1500+ pictures of the house being built I didn't have a single one that showed where the coils we located. Note to budding home builders: You CANNOT take too many pictures of your house under construction. Buy a cheap digital camera and don't leave every day until the thing is full. Document every single step, from many different angles. Trust me on this.

I found the cable, did the preliminary wiring for Gil's room and the track lighting for the new office/work area. That was Saturday.

Sunday Dad came over in the morning and we were done by late afternoon.

Strapping the back ceiling.

Strapping the back ceiling.

So that's the whole back area done. I have enough 1"x2" boards left to do the hallway and probably most of the front part of the house, so we may get that strapped very soon as well.

Next weekend we have the sawmill coming in again. I think we'll just be doing the front deck and entrance way this summer, and the east deck next year.

Interior Pictures of the House

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These interior pictures of the house are pretty much the same as the ones that appeared on MocoLoco, but larger and with additional captions.

Aside from from the ceiling and some minor pieces of trim the front part of the house is finished, or at least as finished as it is going to be for the forseeable future. The ceiling is a whole other matter. Right now it is nothing more than vapour barrier over insulation.

There are a variety of options available and the debate revolves around the inevitable nexus of cost, appearance and trouble. The normal, obvious choice is sheetrock (drywall), but I hate drywall, I'm not adept enough at mudding to do it over my head, and even professionals are going to make an unholy mess when it comes to that stage. One problem with open concept is that it is very hard to contain dust. Once it's up it needs to be painted, which is also a pain. Basically we would need to hire professionals for the whole process.

The next option is tongue and groove (T&G) plywood. Pre-finished T&G isn't that expensive, with a lift and a nail gun isn't that hard to install (similar to drywall). The cost is about $60.00 per sheet and we'd need 75 sheets, which comes out to: $4500.00, more than I'd like but not outrageous. We've seen lots of pictures of houses with this done and they all look very nice.

But not great, and whatever we do we're going to be looking at this for a long time. The best looking option would be T&G wood, and we're fortunate enough to have a great deal of wood available to us. BUT, we don't have nearly enough cut yet, and certainly not enough of any given species. So, we could cut down a whole bunch more stock, but the only species we have that is plentiful enough for the ceiling is cedar and I already have most of that earmarked for decks. One idea that is interesting involves taking all the various species and mixing them, creating a patchwork effect. None of this would be ready for a year or so though since the wood needs to be cut, dried (which can take a year or more without a kiln) and routed. The cost though is pretty minimal, the sawyer costs should be around $1500.00 for that much wood, and if get it kiln dried that will add another $1000.00.

We could buy T&G wood but that's quite expensive, 2400sq/ft at $4.00sq/ft is $9600.00, and far more than I want to spend on this.

One option that we've explored is Strawboard, but unfortunately it doesn't come in T&G or a pre-finished form. Either job is bad, but having to do both is a deal killer for me.

Regardless we're going to be staring at vapour barrier for the rest of the summer.

Shelves & Ends

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The shelves are up and my Mom is currently applying a coat of urethane - she likes painting but hates sanding, I don't mind sanding but hate painting, we're a good team. This afternoon we'll slide (ha! - they're huge and heavy) them into place and start laying in the books! We're leaving the backers as wood for now, but I want to replace it with 1/8" translucent polycarbonate sheets. These look like sandblasted glass but are actually cast in place with the texture. They allow light through but only show the faintest of silhouettes. At night they should have a gourgeous glow from the bedroom lights. The drawback? $102.50 per sheet and I need 5 sheets.

Here's some pictures, including close-ups (by request) of the kitchen handles.

Kitchen & Closet

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With Joanne due in less than three weeks the house has once again been the focus of frantic activity. The kitchen is done except for an upper shelf and kickplates.

I bought some rough aromatic cedar which we planed, jointed, ripped and routed for a walk-in closet and coat closet for the mudroom. The walk-in closet is pretty much done but the coat closet will have to wait a bit. The benefit to using rough cedar is the thickness. Regular aromatic cedar that you buy pre-cut is barely 3/8" thick and won't withstand many sandings, our cedar is over 3/4" thick and should last a lifetime. Aromatic cedar is Eastern Red Cedar which only grows in the south, while regular cedar does smell it isn't "aromatic".

I designed bookshelves to create a wall separating the bedroom from the rest of the house. We cut the wood on Gene's big machine and we've been busy sanding and staining the shelves and uprights. Installation should happen tomorrow. I will take pictures, until then here are some pictures of the kitchen and closet, including a very pregnant Joanne.

So far as power goes we had mostly been breaking even but all of the extra work (sanding, sawing, vaccuuming) has been putting us into a deficit. Fortunately the insurance company came through and gave us the money to buy a new generator. This proved to be harder than expected since we got the money right after the big blackout so of course all of the good Honda generators in Southern Ontario were sold, but then Honda was diverting all shipments of new generators to the west coast to help fight the forest fires. Stores were telling us that they weren't expecting a shipment until late October at the earliest. But we got lucky and found one in Uxbridge and drove out there the same day.

Ideally we'd like to put four more solar panels on the roof but that's going to cost nearly $4K and I'm not sure that's in the cards right now.

Joanne's brother-in-law Gene works at a company with a CNC routing machine and he graciously offered to help with the kitchen cabinets. This machine can take a 5x10 sheet of sheet stock (plywood, melamine, etc) and cut it to size according to plans programmed into the computer. It automatically drills all of the shelf and hinge holes as well as the holes for knock-down connectors and dowels (think Ikea, only much stronger). Gene programmed the kitchen according to my rough design. He also ordered us hinges, connectors, and drawer slides - and let me tell you these drawer slides are something else. They're made by a company called Blum (Austrian) and they are the Rolls-Royce of cabinet hardware. Smooth as silk and they automatically close themselves when they get to the last 3 inches of inbound travel. Sweet.

Dad and I had to make a jig to finish some of the drilling that the machine can't do but after two solid afternoons of work we have a pretty close to full working kitchen. We're just missing the hinges (on order) and one cabinet (we ran out of wood).

Joanne's favorite part is the large, tall pull-out pantry. Now we have to decide how to finish the wood. It's all Baltic birch plywood, but we're leaning towards a dark mahogany stain for the drawer and cupboard faces and Tung oil for the countertops. Tung oil is clear with a yellowish tinge.

Joanne has spent the day organizing the kitchen and has found, much to her amazement that she my actually have *gasp* too much storage space. But never fear, there are at least two more boxes of kitchen stuff at my parents.

Here are some pictures of the kitchen, and the cool machine.

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