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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bird Dog

Today, for the first time since we adopted him, Pepper acted like a bird dog - what he was bred to be. On our morning walk, after going up to the house site to close all the windows in case the excavator comes to backfill utility trenches, we walked through the upper meadow toward the homesteaders' old hay barn. A large covey of quail was roosting in the elderberry tree that had, through the years, grown up through the roofless barn. A few quail flew off toward our northern fenceline, and Pepper got birdy - head and ears up, back legs braced, muscles tensed, twitching tail. I let him off the lead and he rushed the covey. They flew, and if I'd had a side-by-side loaded with birdshot, I could have filled my limit in one volley. After he came back, I put the lead on again, and we walked through the field by the side of the driveway and the lower meadow back to the house. He's now taking his morning nap, probably dreaming of quail.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Inspector Pepper

The excavator arrived early, with a load of aqua sewer pipe in the bed of his pickup. A few hours later, he rolled back down our driveway and out for the day. This afternoon, Karen and I went up on our ATV to see what he'd accomplished. We were accompanied by Pepper, the Wonder Dog.

A champion digger in his own right, Pepper took time from his busy schedule to inspect the laying of the pipe for the septic system and the power conduit (right down the middle of the photo). Right after this photo was taken, Pepper jumped down into the trench, sniffed around for a while, and gave the work two ears up, the Brittany seal of approval. Perhaps tomorrow or Monday, the dozer will come in to bury the pipe and we can get our front "yard" back. We'll also be ready for Kootenai Electric Cooperative to hook up our power, for United Drilling to install our well pump and water connections, and propane line and tank.

The finish carpenter also was in today, finishing the installation of first-floor baseboard, pulling the clamps off the kitchen island corbels, and cutting and emplacing some of the second-story baseboard.

Tomorrow, in the morning, I'll scrape stray grout off the rough stair treads in preparation for laying wood and stair nose pieces. In the afternoon, Karen and I will be down in the creek, running at a trickle now, and haul out all the tree limbs and other debris that washed down with the spring floods. Hello chainsaw.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Trench Warfare

Power trench in the foreground, septic trench in
the background, propane trench to the left
Our building site now looks like a front line during World War I, with trenches criss-crossing all four sides of the house.

After a week's delay caused by the need for equipment repair and work on another building site, the excavator arrived early this morning with his CAT backhoe to dig trenches for power, water, propane, and septic. Since the foundation was dug in July, we've had a large mound on the north side of the house which I've dubbed Mt. Dirt. Today, there's a whole range of mounds flanking a warren of trenches, some filled, some not. The septic tank is in, but not yet buried. That's probably - no definitely - the least glamorous part of the project, but I can see it coming in handy within days. The black drainfield piping is in, but exposed, and the outfall line is only partially laid. The power trench is empty, as are the water and gas line trenches. I suspect that tomorrow the excavator will drive up his bulldozer, lay the rest of the septic line and the power conduit, and bury them and the tank. The propane line will go in when the tank is delivered, probably next week, and the water line will be installed along with the well pump.
Drainfield pipe end

1,000 gal. capacity should go a long way

Bosch dishwasher awaits its first load
(and toe kick)
The plumber's been busy this week, installing toilets, the pedestal sink in the downstairs bathroom, and the dishwasher (which I'm really looking forward to after washing up by hand these past three years). The finish carpenter has installed all of the downstairs baseboards and toe kicks, as well as the corbels supporting the granite kitchen island and the front door latch (which will have to be removed before painting on Tuesday).

For now, there's limited access to the house site. We can go up the driveway, but not across the "front yard."  Or, we can go across the upper meadow and up a steep trail to the garage, with no room to turn around. But, tomorrow morning, I'll be up there early to start cleaning the wood floors so debris doesn't become ground into the pre-engineered finish.

Corbels supporting granite island counter
Front door latch fits our
Arts & Crafts style

Karen's bathroom counter is "Rainforest Brown"
Indian marble

Next week should mark completion of the electrical, plumbing, painting, and finish carpentry work. When all the workmen have cleared out, I'll install wood flooring over the stair treads and landing. That should get us our county occupancy permit. Then, the contractor has only to finish touch-up and cleaning, and we can start moving in.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gumming Up the Works

Waiting for the excavator to dig trenches for the water, electrical, propane, and sewage lines. He was supposed to have come Wednesday; didn't come. Thursday; didn't come. Friday; didn't come. Today; didn't come. He's gumming up the works for the well driller, electrician, gas company, and Internet provider. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, Donovan and I finished putting down the hardwood flooring, and our good friend and neighbor Dave Pielaet laid the tile flooring and tile stair risers. We're holding off on laying wood on the stair treads (and stair nosing) until we've been able to move in the upstairs furniture. In theory, we're scheduled for the final bank inspection on August 27 and closure of the whole building project on Aug. 31 - a great way for Karen and me to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary.

Donovan and I got the wood flooring in during the span of eight long, hot, sweaty, dusty days. Donovan, who had done some construction when younger, did all the difficult cuts around hallway and closet doorways, and shimmed up the transitions between the wood floors and the tile floors they join. He did a really nice job, and I really appreciate his time and effort. He'll be living with us, and eventually will inherit the house and land, but he did it all right because he wanted it done right. I over-ordered the flooring, so soon I'll be taking back the overage to Home Depot, keeping a box of wood and tile each, just in case.

Painters caulking window and siding seams.
In the meantime, the painters are here caulking all the exterior seams; and the plumber is on site. He's already installed the kitchen sink faucet and the hot water heater, and is getting ready to install the pedestal sink in the downstairs bathroom. I'm looking forward to the toilets, dishwasher, and refrigerator going in; it would be even better if we had electricity, running water, and a septic system.

Details of the caulking work.

It's nice to have that job done and the pressure off, being able to do things that need to be done at our own pace. I can feel the stress in my neck and shoulders winding down, and that's a good thing. This morning I cleaned up our work-site, tipped the wood ends and shards in the dumpster, and brought down all the tools we accumulated during the eight days of floor work.

The hot water heater is in... is the kitchen faucet.

The hallway from front door to living room

The living room floor is finished, playing host
to packets of baseboard

Later, Karen and I drove our truck and trailer to the storage unit we've rented for five years, bringing back a load of stuff we'll save, store in the garage, sell, or give to charity shops. We intend to be out of the storage unit by the end of August - and then it's into the new house.
Tiled stair risers

Thursday, August 16, 2012

So Much Done; So Much To Do

With any luck, we'll have our final credit union inspection in 11 days. Eleven days! Hard to believe we've been at this for the better part of four years, but construction on our site only about a month. So, where are we?

The wall oven and backsplashes were installed this week
The house and garage are essentially built. The porch and balcony decking and permanent steps will be installed after the exterior is caulked and painted; that work starts Monday. There's a bit of wallboard finishing still to be done (we had the doorbell chimes moved up the hallway wall to near the ceiling). The kitchen and bathroom counters have been installed and look great; the cooktop and wall oven are in place and will be hooked up when the electrician and HVAC guys come in next week.

Dave Pielaet lays travertine tile in the powder room

The plumber comes tomorrow to install the tub and sink hardware, the dishwasher and refrigerator; also, tomorrow, the excavator will be in to trench for power, water, propane, and septic. The finish carpenter comes Wednesday to put in the remainder of the doors, cabinet hardware, baseboards and other trim. Once the propane tank is delivered, the fireplace installer will finish the trim and hookup the fireplace to the tank.

The stack of hardwood in the living room is dwindling as
it's installed upstairs

As for what we've got left to do, it's just flooring and stairs. We decided from the beginning to put some sweat equity into the house by installing the wood floors ourselves (as we did at our home in Laramie) and by having our neighbor Dave, a carpenter by trade, install tile in the bathrooms, mud room, kitchen, and foyer. Dave just finished his work today (though we're also going to have him install tile stair risers). This week I finished flooring the master bedroom and closet, and today I finished my closet. Donovan, my stepson, who has done construction work, has done some of the complicated cuts and has been working all day on his bedroom. I'm hoping to finish that room tomorrow (if he hasn't), and start on Karen's study and the living room tomorrow. I should be able to get that done within 11 days.

The first finished wood flooring - complete with
Pepper's paw prints
Pepper, our Brittany, has been having a great time with the house project. Some days I'll drive him up in the truck, and on other days he'll run up through the woods as I go up to the house site on my ATV. He spends most of his time nosing around in the brush, disappearing for trips down to the creek, coming up muddy and full of burrs. He also loves going up and down the house stairs to lie on the cool master bathroom tile; if you look closely, you can see Pepper's paw prints on the hardwood leading in and out.

Karen's started going through our storage unit, identifying things to save, to sell, to donate to charity shops, or to haul to the dump.

There's a very real possibility we'll be in the new house by Labor Day. Fitting, since this house has been a labor of love and, well, a lot of labor.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Exterior Done! Almost

With the exception of porch and balcony decking and permanent steps, construction of the house exterior is done!

Electrical work will be finished tomorrow. Floor tiling about half done. HVAC work; trenching for permanent power, water, and septic to be done next week. Also set for next week is painting and well pump installation. After painting is complete, porch and balcony decking and steps go in.

Tomorrow, Karen, Donovan and I begin installing wood flooring.

Estimated time until occupancy permit - 2 weeks!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Corporate Inspection

Yesterday afternoon, John Davis, president and CEO of Stratford Building Corp., came by to inspect our house. Actually, I think it was more a quality control check on Stratford and its subcontractors on the job. He seemed to be pleased, though there were a couple of minor fixes to be done that came to his attention. I was supportive of the Stratford team - particularly Mike Tinsley and Scott Dawson - as well as the many subcontractors that have done a really good job on our home.

Pepper's doggie door
Busy day, yesterday. I delivered the final load (a bit more than a ton) of travertine floor tiling for the bathrooms, kitchen, mud room, and entry way, and stored them in the garage which, I am pleased to say, now has a doggie door for Pepper. Since Scott was on site, I got him to help me (OK, I helped him) install the articulating TV mount and sound bar for the A/V system (look, ma, no wires!). With that done, the drywall folk sealed up the wall between the living room and Karen's study, burying all the stereo wires within the wall; taped, with mud. Today, he'll finish the drywall in the study and the firewall between the house and garage.

Garage, with sheetrocked fire wall and stacks of floor tile

Karen's study, sheetrocked, with fireplace insert
A/V center in the living room wired and ready to go

First tiling work

That afternoon, when I went up to walk Davis through the house, Dave Pielaet, our good friend, neighbor, and all-around construction guy, was just washing up from installing floor tile in the master bathroom. He's about half done, and should finish that room today.

When he is done and the bedroom floor has been cleaned, I'll begin putting down the 3/8" pre-finished, engineered wood flooring.

Travis and his guys are still working on the siding, and this morning he was working on covering the porch framing. Laying down the balcony and porch decking will wait until the house is painted next week, which is also the target time for Lish Excavating to trench the water and power lines and the septic system.

Later this week, the electrician will be up installing the rest of the lighting, as well as the wall oven and cooktop.

We had one disappointment. There's an electrical outlet in the kitchen in the footprint of where a piece of backsplash will be installed. We wanted to have it removed, but it's required by code and is a key inspection point for occupancy. Oh, well. Great Floors will have to split and seam the backsplash around the outlet. It's all coming together.

Pepper patrolling the front "yard"

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Racing to the Finish Line

The temperature in Post Falls hit 95 today, and through it all, the Town Craft construction guys kept working on the siding, porch and balcony. I admire their youth, strength, and endurance, but I worry that, down the road, working in the hot sun all day with only tattoos covering their skin will lead to skin cancer. Fortunately, they can duck into the garage or under the trees for some relief, while draining water jugs and singing along to country music. I'm starting to think that DeWalt is truly the professional's tool of choice, with nearly all the contractors using their stuff, but Town Craft is the first crew I've seen using a DeWalt radio. Now that's a workingman's boom box.

Great Floors installers cutting a hole for
the island cook top
Today, Travis, owner of Town Craft, put up some temporary front steps, a marked improvement to the short blocks Karen and I have been hauling ourselves up to access the front porch and house. Eventually, they'll be replaced with the same material as our porch and balcony decking. We did a walk-through with Stratford's Mike Tinsley, showing him the counter tops Great Floors put in yesterday. Those guys did a nice job, with tight seam lines and smooth cutouts for the sinks and cook top. There are a few fixes and hurry-up stuff we asked Mike to do - staining and installing the corbels to support the weight of the island counter top (a couple of pieces of cut lumber are acting as temporary props); removing a piece of window trim that prevented installation of the kitchen counter top backsplash (and removing an unnecessary electrical outlet within the footprint of the backsplash - if code will allow it); caulking all the backsplashes where they join walls; rehanging a garage door that's off plumb; moving door chimes to the top of the hallway wall to give us more usable wall space; and increasing the angle of the stairway wall to mimic the rise of the stairs, which will make it easier for us to get large items like mattresses and box springs up to the second floor.
Island with granite counter top and
display shelves

A lot of other work has also been done during the past couple of days. The house and garage roofs are done; the balcony is fully supported, and the temporary supports have been removed; half of the interior lights have been installed, as has the air handling unit; we're wired for satellite TV and Internet service; water and waste connections have been made; most of the siding is up, as are the knees or corbels at the gable ends; and, today, the overhead garage door was installed.

We did our part by picking up half of the ceramic tile to be installed in the kitchen, bathrooms, mud room, and entry way, storing it in the garage for our neighbor, Dave Pielaet, to install probably next week; and tonight, now that we've got more home security, I'll be taking up the wall oven for the electrician to install along with the cook top. Only 22 days since the house modules were delivered; about 14-18 until we take occupancy. Wow.

Karen examining kitchen cabinets, counter tops, lights
Floor tile stacked for installation

Karen sitting on boxes of wood flooring
Garage door installed

Great Floors installers with marble for Karen's
counter tops
What the house looks like today

 Karen and I had been concerned that the construction process would upset the local wildlife, but we've seen several cow elk near the building site after the workmen had gone home. I can imagine sitting on our porch or balcony, drinking a cup of tea, and watching the elk migration and grazing deer.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Buzzing 'Round the Hive

The home site today was a virtual beehive of activity. I knew the roofers were coming up, as well as the carpenters. But by the time everyone was up the hill, the site looked like a small truck dealership.

Pepper and I started the day with a long walk on a chilly morning - the first time in a while that I'd had to wear a sweatshirt. As we got down to the lower meadow, I let him off the lead to run around the field and dig into ground squirrel holes. To my surprise, the fireplace installers came rolling in off the county road; they hadn't been due until Friday. I unhooked my ATV from the trailer and rode across the meadow to try to herd Pepper into the back yard. He stopped when he saw me and followed me right back to the old house, the first time he'd done that. Then, it was back up to the house site.
Travis, of Town Craft Construction,
nailing up vapor barrier.

The carpenters were there, wrapping the front porch with vapor barrier and nailing up siding. The concrete crew was pouring front and side stair pads and the garage floor (smoothing it with the longest implement I could imagine; the roofers were shingling the house and porches. Come of the Arts & Crafts gable knees had been nailed up and one of the Arts & Crafts porch columns had been framed.

The plumber had to cut some holes in the wallboard and flooring to install sink vents. And R&R Heating and Air Conditioning installed the fireplace, running the vent outside; the trim will have to wait until the propane tank is delivered and the wallboard finished behind the audio/video shelving.

Tom the plumber (l) and Scott Dawson, Stratford
site manager,  locating a spot for the sink vent.

Arts & Crafts column framing
It's amazing how much work has been done in less than two weeks since the modules were delivered to our site. Tomorrow: more framing and siding; completion of the roofing; and the first visit by the electrician - time to deliver all the lighting fixtures we'd bought since spring. On Saturday, once the garage floor has cured, I'll hie myself off to Home Depot to bring in the ceramic floor tiles.

Arts & Crafts gable knee
Garage floor concrete finishing

Shingling the porch roof
R&R installing the two-sided fireplace
What the house looks like today - Aug. 2, 2012

 About three weeks to occupancy and emptying out our storage unit after five long years..

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Front Porch Song

When I was growing up, we spent summers sitting on the screened-in front porch of our 1920s house, rocking slowly on an old green glider. All the homes in our area seemed to have porches, but as I moved around the country, from apartment to apartment, to Karen's and my first house, there were no porches. We had a small porch on our house in Laramie, but we'd spend time on our porch, drinking tea and looking out at our neighbors while the cats sat on railings or used the uprights as scratch posts. So, when we decided to build here in Idaho, we decided early on to have a large front porch with a view and, perhaps, a balcony. Today, they really started to take shape.

The front porch has been framed out, waiting for siding
and two more column shapes
No front steps yet, but the porch and balcony offer
great views of our valley

Stratford's Mike Tinsley cuts access ports for
audio and video cables
The Arts & Crafts style of the front porch
columns are starting to take shape
The roof shingles were delivered today, and will be
installed Friday and Saturday.