Archives for the month of: March, 2011

Holy sore back. It’s been a physical couple of days out at the Meadow House and our entire crew is feeling it in one way or another. Installing giant windows and holding plywood above your head while standing on a scaffold in the rain is hard work. 10+ hours a day? Grueling.

But as usual, there’s an upside to so much suffering.

That upside is how the house looks. I’ll provide a more detailed post about the windows another time, but after a ton of research we chose Sierra Pacific as our vendor. And the windows look amazing. They’re vertical grain fir on the inside, with the outside clad in metal painted a terra-cotta/deep orange color. As an aside, Sierra’s sales representative, Joe Konzal, is seriously on his game and has been extremely helpful

Everyone from Matt Melcher to Jesse Oviatt to my father are completely impressed with Sierra’s product. They’re great to install, are extremely stiff, and the interior wood is immaculate. I guess it helps when the window producer is owned by one of the largest lumber companies in the Northwest.

K is also over the moon. It’s an incredible transformation. A few days ago the house looked like a sketch–the framing was done but there was little sense of a house that one day could be livable. Installing windows changes this completely. We have four more to install in the morning, and then we’re buttoned up. Well, mostly anyway…

Scott McSpadden and I took on the brunt of the soffit installation, with my father’s help making cuts on the saw and passing up materials. I’m also really pleased with how this is turning out. Tight joints, consistent work and all-around goodness.

The soffit was a big question mark for many months. There are a lot of materials options, ranging from tongue-and-groove cedar, to inexpensive fir plywood. Ultimately I sourced a rough-sawn mahogany (actually Okume) plywood made by Roseburg. It’s also quite reasonable at a bit less than a dollar per square foot.

This is absolutely beautiful material, and because we have such massive overhangs creates a striking look. Roseburg provided matching veneers, so we’re able to line up a really beautiful pattern. The repetition is fantastic.

Enjoy today’s happy snaps.

Just try to get two six-year-olds to stop running. I dare you.

We had a tiring, but productive, weekend. Saturday morning my father and I met Jesse and my neighbor Doug on site for an extravaganza of heavy lifting. Totally macho. Or something.

Here’s the story. Our windows were delivered the same day as our concrete pour, which had been rescheduled from a few days earlier. So as a result there was nowhere to store the windows on site. Our good friends two doors away offered to allow us to store them in our garage. Problem solved!

Sort of.

The windows are massive. All the doors and most of the windows are eight feet tall. This makes for a very heavy window. The heaviest? Close to 500 pounds. Oh yeah, and we also have a pretty extensive window package. So not only are the windows hefty, but there are many of them.

But a few hours of work and the job was done.

So now it’s on to installation. Jesse is taking the lead on that and I hired a friend, Scott McSpadden, to help me with installation of the soffit. See the picture below, but we have 75 sheets of plywood for the soffit, which is the area under the roof. I love our house design, but it’s going to take a while to get this work done. We have a 2,190 s.f. house (plus the garage). And yet we have 2,200 s.f. of roof overhangs. Good times.

Finally, we’re just about through the big stuff with kitchen cabinets. We even mocked up our kitchen in our rental house. Fun stuff!

Here’s to a productive week.

We took a small break from cabinet-making today. Well, we did build one cabinet box early in the morning, but spent most of the day working with Jesse installing house wrap. OK, not the most exciting thing to do, but we’re one step closer to installing windows, which should start tomorrow.

It was absolutely beautiful today too. We lucked out. No rain, no wind, no worries. And mundane task aside, it was actually pretty fun. Plus, three sets of hands helped things go quickly.

I forgot my semi-good camera today, but here are a few snaps to check out. The good people at R-Control will be quite happy. The house is now a giant R-Contol billboard.

More to come.

It’s been what, almost a month since the last post? Way too long I know, but there are many very, very good reasons for the blogging vacation.

I referenced this in the last post, but we’ve been navigating a pretty stressful situation the past couple of months on site. Sadly, this led to sleepless nights, meetings with our bank, checks written to lawyers, and a new builder on site.┬áThat’s also all I plan to write about the topic on this blog. As unhappy as I ended up, this is a blog about building a house, not flaming a builder.

But on to more interesting things. A week ago I flew to Chicago to meet my father, who lives in New York, and we then drove back to Spokane together. 1,900 miles and two-and-a-half days later we arrived home. Somehow we survived the long trip in an F-250 filled with a bed full of cabinet-making tools.

Cool rock outcroppings in Wisconsin.

More driving in Minnesota.

Only in South Dakota: "Help Manage Your Wildlie. WEAR FUR."

One of my neighbors asked how the drive went. My response? “Well, we didn’t bond enough when he was changing my diapers, so we needed a cross-country trip in a pickup with an AM radio.” I thought it was funny anyway.

So the past few days we’ve started working on our kitchen cabinets. To say we obsessed about the cabinet design is a massive understatement.

We’re building everything from beech, with the exception of the plywood boxes. Beech is a wood that for whatever reason is not in vogue at the moment. I love it though. It’s hard (similar to oak), reasonably stable and has a tight and consistent grain with subtle brown specks. You’ll often see it used in Scandinavian furniture. Lots of Danish Modern designs, for example, are made from beech.


So in addition to being great wood to work with, there’s another upside to beech–it’s relatively inexpensive. To put things into perspective, at wholesale prices beech runs about $2.85 per board foot. White oak is more like $8. This is a good thing, especially given the amount we’re using.

As an aside, if you’re looking for an affordable wood with more figure (or wavy, visibile grain) you should check out ash. It’s similar in appearance (except much whiter) and qualities to oak, but less expensive than even beech. It’s one of those things that confuses me. Outstanding wood, easy to source, absolultely beautiful, yet for some reason not popular.

OK, more about the design. The cabinets use butcher block for both the legs and the countertops. I ordered these through Country Mouldings in Ohio and can’t say enough good things about their service. I’m also thrilled with the quality. Beautiful wood, super-precise sizing, perfectly square corners and edges. Great stuff.

We have a highly-modular design based on using the blocks and plywood boxes. This makes the work relatively fast. The key word in the last sentence is “relatively.” Cabinet work is never terribly fast.

The boxes will sit 8″ off the ground. Some people would call this a waste of space. And yes, we could have shoved another drawer in the void, but I love the way it looks when you turn cabinetry into furniture. I’ll also to take a moment to point out to anyone who doubts this logic that it’s a beautiful waste of space.

Checking things out. The horizontal plywood strips will go away, replaced with a full piece of beech plywood.

Looks good now. When it's finished it should be incredible. And to you cabinet geeks, yes, those are drywall screws. They're temporary.

We haven’t done this yet, but we’ll also use a router to cut in a shallow rabbet, or square notch, anywhere two pieces of wood touch, like for example where a leg meets the counter. This does a couple of things for us. First, it helps hide any inconsistencies in the wood (or mistakes). It also creates a nice little shadow line.

We have a ton more work to do, both in terms of detailing and basic cutting, biscuiting, screwing and gluing. But the general idea is captured here. More to come in the next few days though. It’s a pretty fun start though.