Looking through the kitchen towards the living room.

There are a few things of interest to me today.

Let’s get to the big thing first. After waiting and planning and rescheduling and tinkering and blocking and venting and inspecting and taping, it finally happened.

Yes, today we started work on drywall. And when I say “we,” I really mean others. (Cue applause.) It’s an exciting day in the Palisades above Spokane. Yes, today marks the moment that our future house shifts from being coated in sawdust, to being coated in gypsum dust.

It’s early days–the crew only started at about 11 today–but already there’s progress and our living room and kitchen are suddenly bright. Really, it’s like someone suddenly turned on the lights.

By the weekend we’ll have a fundamentally different looking house.

Next up for milestones, Jesse installed the front door today. Not only is it a great door, but we’re now completely closed in. That seems significant to me.

Finally, if you’re a loyal reader you might remember the cute gosling from Mother’s Day. Well yesterday–yes, Father’s Day–I took a new picture. Little guy is growing up. Very cool stuff to see, and a crack up to watch because it’s gangly and awkward. Just like any good teenager.


I didn’t have the heart to take his picture, but I wanted to.

I spent the day yesterday not in my office where I can work to make money, but out on site where I can work to not pay other people money. Our drywall begins Wednesday afternoon and I’m behind on a couple of things I promised to take care of, and to help Jesse, hence my day away from the office.

It was a hot, humid (by Spokane standards) and long day. Towards the end of the day Jesse came over to answer yet another remedial question I had about running bathroom vent lines and he looked, well, like an older and stronger version of one of those kids from the coal mines in the 1920s. He was sweating, covered in black dust from the chalk lines he was snapping on the ceiling, and looking like he was in dire need of a cool veranda and glass of iced tea. Working with me does that to a person.

Jesse is second from the left.

So, back to drywall. I’ll post pictures later this week, but for the first time, well ever, the house is completely clear of sawdust, tools, scrap wood and brooms. It’s at the “lovely bones” stage. No, not the good book or horrible movie, but the beautiful skeleton stage. Everything is in place. Rooms are defined. Light streams in. And we can’t wait for what comes next.

Before signing off, here are a few final thoughts. I realize that the thoughts below are far less interesting than say design discussions or whatever, but when you’re building a house you learn all kinds of stuff:

  • If you believe in the caste system, and I make poor ethical choices in the coming years, I’ll likely live my next life as an insulation contractor. I know, I know, we have a SIP house and there’s barely any insulating to do. But still, it’s one of the least pleasant jobs on site. Even with a mask and long-sleeved everything, that nasty stuff is miserable.

Sudras. That's me!

  • Don’t forget to wear your gloves. I realize I sound like your mother. But seriously, I took them off for two minutes and in that time managed to accidentally trigger the drill I was holding while changing the four inch hole saw attachment. Result? A super-fun infection, a big band aid and tube of anti-biotic cream. By the way, here are my new favorite work gloves. Leather palms that are barely padded, low cut so they don’t irritate my wrists, and wear like iron–especially when handling stuff like plywood.

My latest gloves are similar to this, sans the goofy plastic Star Wars stormtrooper plastic stuff.Great cable, and yes we will repurpose those spools for something cool!

  • On HVAC. If insulating is my least favorite job, running vent lines comes next. I know that I’ll appreciate how silent our bathroom fans are now that they’re linked to their difficult to install rigid vent lines, but the flexible stuff would have made life much easier.

Rigid vent line. Difficult, persnickity, but oh-so-quiet.

  • If you ever need spray foam for insulating around outlets and windows, I highly recommend DAP over Great Stuff. GS gets everywhere and is near-impossible to clean. DAP? The opposite. The only downside is it’s modestly more expensive. Totally worth it, especially when you’re spraying it next to clear vertical grain fir windows.

You know you're a geek when you get excited about this stuff.

  • A quick shout out to the good people from our local electronic store at Huppin’s / OneCall. Great customer service is so refreshing. I called looking for speaker cable. They didn’t have what I needed, but had an installation truck stop by and deliver more than enough to get the job done. It almost made up for my experience with that television company that uses ugly gray dishes to capture and deliver satellite images.

We reached a new milestone recently. Today, I refer not to windows or framing or electrical work. While we’ve reached milestones with all of those lately, what I’m referencing is you, fair reader.

Yes, we’ve now had a whopping 15,000 visitors to our fair blog. OK, so we’re not exactly at the top of most advertisers’ hit list, and we don’t have manufacturers offering us free products (but please, feel free!). Still, that’s a lot of people.

To commemorate this special day I did a quick scan of the search terms that bring people to our blog.

Surprisingly, by far the most common search term is some version of “board form concrete.” Or “board formed concrete.” Or “formed concrete with boards.” You get the idea … Who knew my excruciating posts about our retaining walls would be so popular?

A close second is an obvious one. “Meadow House.” Glad you could find us.

Scanning through other search terms made for some interesting reading. Here are some of my favorites, along with some requisite commentary, in no particular order.

“true to myself”: Not sure what to say about this. Just remember what you learned in kindergarten or something.

“love making chair with hole in the middle made by ikea”: Um, I was just at Ikea, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t see anything marketed as a “love making chair.” The more I think about this search term the more disturbed I become. Now if you care to get romantic with a chair, or on a chair, I’m sure Ikea has a number of items that are appropriate for your Scandinavian tendencies.

“gatto cucine”: In Italian this translates to “cat kitchen.” I hope this person wasn’t looking for a recipe.

“very narrow house”: Hey, this one makes sense! We have one of these!

“16 feet wide floor plans”: See above

“nike child labor 2011”: Not so sure what to say about this other than to request Nike send any labor of any kind our way. We’re over budget and can use the help.

“smaller house with big windows”: Why yes, we do have a smaller house with big windows.

“what is a grade beam”: Do you want the technical answer or the practical one? Practical? OK. A grade beam is a giant money magnet that prevents you from buying cool things like fancy appliances or plumbing fixtures. If you want the technical answer read this post.

matt melcher golf”: The rumor is that Matt is a fantastic golfer. But sorry, he’s not allowed to play golf. He’s too busy taking calls from me.

“how to install exterior v.g fir window”: If you haven’t done this before, it’s more involved than you’d think. Unless you want your windows to leak. Then it’s easy. Drop Jesse Oviatt a line. He can help you. (email him: oviattconstruction at live dot com)

Thanks for reading and commenting and visiting. It’s been fun to share our stories.

Jesse and Scott finished something I find satisfying. Last week, they installed our final windows. These were ordered after the others for a number of reasons, but holy smokes they’re hot. We had become used to the idea of a dark bedroom. Well, four sets of 10′ tall windows changes that in a hurry.

Some other time we’ll have the set of metal caps, powder-coated the same orange color, installed. Sounds like this is an easy job, but there’s no rush.

In other news, the electrical work is moving along nicely. Can lights are installed, outlets are being wired, and Mike from Alpha Electric should wrap up his work by Wednesday. Very cool, and I will absolutely NOT miss stretching out 150′ of 12 gauge extension cord all over the place.

We also had a fun meeting with Matt Melcher this weekend to discuss some thoughts on drywall and trim details. You need to know that we’ve given a huge amount of thought to the myriad of ways to trim our windows, ranging from no trim–just a simple drywall “reveal”–to, well, I won’t go into all of the options now. To do this would make for an excruciating post that you wouldn’t read. But please, send us thoughts of support as we wade through the bog of indecisiveness.

Anyway…so we’re talking about trim and Matt gets into the zone. He gets more than a little excited about a detail involving lengths of simple 2″ vertical grain fir, butt jointed around one of the windows. Now, in case you’re not a cabinet dork (like me!) a butt joint is made when two pieces of wood “butt” against one another at a 90 degree angle.

But this was awesome. In his excitement and increasingly fast speech Matt exclaims, “I love a nice clean butt.”

I let it go. K let it go. Every now and then we pretend to be mature. Of course Matt left and we lost it.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t share a story like this, but I know Matt rarely reads this blog. Wait a minute…

Enjoy the pictures. I wish they did a better job capturing the bedroom corner. I’ll need to work on my iPhoneography.

And best wishes to Scott McSpadden, carpenter-extraordinaire, who is off to Alaska for 10 days of framing work in horrific conditions. Buona fortuna.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love the construction process. I enjoy talking about framing: king stud (that’s me!), ledgers, shims and a strong 3/8″  here or there. I welcome discussions about the finer points of board formed concrete. And if you’d like to talk pex vs. copper I’m your person.

But let’s face it, this stuff pales in comparison to the fun that most ordinary humans envision when you tell them you’re building a house. Stainless steel appliances, cool fixtures, Scandinavian furniture and of course a booming sound system. Alas, when you’re building a house there’s often little money left over for this elusive fun stuff. Instead it’s been spent on pex, ledger boards and pea gravel.

Today though, I can at least talk about a few of the cool things we’re doing with lighting.

First, as I’ve written about ad nauseum we have long hallways that will be illuminated by a series of pendant lights. We wanted something a bit raw and unrefined to contrast with much more finished feel that we’ll get from fir paneling and smooth drywall. So after much discussion K and I settled on a series of bare bulbs hung from cloth cords. But as every first-year architect student will tell you, “less is more.” In this case, more means a stripped down fixture can be freaking expensive. Or really cheesy.

Cost is also a definite driver. Something that’s bat-poop cool, but less expensive than you can buy at Ikea? No problem!

One evening a year or two ago we stumbled upon a photo/location site in the UK, the name of which alludes me now. I saved this image though that planted a seed for where we’re now headed.

Behold, the Nud pendant in lime green. We dig these, and at less than $40 each we dig them even more. The only downside? We had to order them from Sweden. That’s OK though, because they arrived four days after we placed the order. Nice. By the way, if you’re reading this at work and want to Google the company’s site rather than click on the link above, I strongly recommend against searching for “Nud Sweden.” Just saying.

If you like this look but don’t feel like you need a celedon/lime green cord to complete yourself as a person, these are more easily sourced from BoConcept. For some reason the lights aren’t on their web site, but give them a call. They have them.

Note the exposed bulb. Very cool, but because there’s no shade the shape and light quality become crucial. Here are a handful of the myriad options we’ve considered.

Halogen PAR bulb: Fantastic light, dimmable and beautiful in its own utilitarian way. You can also get these with a lumen output, or the amount of light the bulb pumps out, high enough to light up a soccer stadium. Not so great on the energy efficiency side of the checklist though. On the other hand, the bulb itself is inexpensive. Say, $8 or so.

Edison: Kickin’ it old skool, yo. Seriously though, there’s a lot to like. From the shape to the visible filament to the light quality, we like these. And we can get them with a silver coating to adjust how they illuminate the hallway. Also very cool. What’s not so cool? Energy inefficiency. Again.

LED: Kind of like the halogen. Crisp, white light, dimmable and cool looking in a futuristic kind of way. Downside is price. The light bulb is more expensive than the fixture. And yeah, yeah I know, it’ll pay for itself because it will last a gillion years and requires a modicum of the power a halogen draws. But it’s still a $50 light bulb.

VU1: I only just heard of this technology, which is actually dated TV tech applied to a light bulb. Great idea though! Not a good candidate for the hanging lamps, but I’m thinking of ordering a few to test out on our can lights. At $20 each they’re priced well, too.

Plumen: Oh, how we do love thee. Plumen, you bestill our hearts. Finally, a cool looking CFL. The only downsides are price ($30 each) and the fact we can’t dim them. Oh, and at 680 lumen output I’m not 100% sure they’ll kick off enough light. Then again, they might. These just became available this week in the US of A. I went ahead and ordered two to check them out. We have lots of options for where we can use them…

More to come on the lighting front. But to foreshadow, here’s our knock-it-out-of-the-park, budget buster, tres cool, can’t wait to install it dining room light.

A new addition to the wetland.

Before getting to less interesting things, above is a Mother’s Day picture for everyone. We have a seasonal pond at the top of our property that is a temporary home to two Canada Geese. Scratch that, it’s now three geese. A gosling emerged a few days ago. While this has nothing to do with construction, it has a lot to do with the house. It’s going to be pretty amazing to live there.

A lot continues to happen out on our little site. For one, our giant roof and fascia is now clad in zincalume. It’s an amazing thing. We went from a great looking plane of a roof, but sans metal, to something much more extraordinary.

You’ll see this in the pictures, but because of how our house sits on the land you see the roof quite a bit–on the approach as well as anytime you’re walking around the back of the property. Standing on the uphill side of the house is kind of crazy. The roof is just two feet (or so) off the ground, so you end up looking up what seems like a humongous runway. It’s kind of trippy.

Standing above the site, from the driveway, K loves the overall shape. It seems like a series of giant puzzle pieces. It’s really quite elegant.

The crew from BJ Roofing have a couple of more days of work. There are still a handful of flashings to install as well as caps for the corners of the fascia. And our plumber will start his vent work tomorrow, so unfortunately we’ll have four vent pipes sticking out of our pretty roof. But that’s OK, it’s better than the alternative, which is a house that smells like, well the kind of things that get deposited in the toilet.

I don’t have many recent pictures of the inside of the house. In fact it’s hard to capture how amazing the framing looks. And by the way, we’re essentially done framing. Did you catch that? Yes, we’re done framing. a HUGE milestone.

So electrical and plumbing start this week, and we should be drywalling within a couple of weeks. Nice.

Click the link below for the big version.

Spokane Preservation Invitation

In 140-characters or less, tell me in 30 seconds, always-on kind of world, it bothers me that forums for thoughtful discussion seem to be on the wane.

Sure, some of us listen to Fresh Air during our commute or have a chat on a bike ride or golf course, but I always appreciate the chance to hear opposing ideas and the reasoning behind a defined point of view.

Given this, I was pretty excited to hear about two linked events happening next week centered on modern architecture.

On Wednesday, the MAC is hosting a free showing of Modern Views: A Conversation on Northwest Modern Architecture. I haven’t seen it, but the people I know who have were pretty blown away.

Modern Views: A Conversation on Northwest Modern Architecture from studio/216 on Vimeo.

Then on Thursday a round table discussion/Q&A is being held with a pretty awesome panel. Mortiz Kundig, who doesn’t get enough credit for his groundbreaking mid-century work (BTW, his son Tom has done pretty well for himself as an architect), Matt Melcher who designed our house, Steve Clark and Mark Dailey.

Go support the MAC and Spokane Preservation Advocates. See you there.

And a hat-tip to Anderson Mraz Design. Their work for Johnston Printing on its Proof! magazine issue dedicated to Spokane’s mid-century movement planted the seeds for this event.

I'm not sure what I like more. The new fascia, or the sunset reflected in the windows.

Jesse and Scott have been framing the inside of the house for almost three weeks. All things considered they’ve made impressive progress. They’re just a few walls and soffits away from finishing up, and if all goes well (famous last words!) should wrap things up in the next few days.
We’re having a good time walking around the house. The rooms are all in (save a powder and utility room) so it’s quite easy to imagine the flow, the light and the final finish details. K spends a lot of time quietly looking around, taking things in. Fun.
This morning something exciting happened though. Another milestone. Installation of the roof began.
Of course, as has been the case more than once, the weather foiled carefully laid plans. Today’s culprits were rain and wind. Again. We’ll have a metal roof via our friends at BJ Roofing and Custom Bilt. But given the 30 mph wind, this was sketchy. A 5o’ long piece of metal acts a lot like a sail evidently, so the forming truck that rolls out the metal was sent packing, and instead installation of our metal fascia began.
As an aside, BJ Roofing is one of those Spokane companies that few have heard of in town, but everyone seems to know other places. Brad Hemenway recently returned from re-roofing a Frank Lloyd Wright house in California, and he’s regularly called on to do some pretty whiz-bang copper work. Luckily he lives a few miles from our place and agreed to help us, too.
After some healthy obsession about roof color, we decided to stick with our original choice of “zincalume.” This ties in with the galvanized metal in our brackets nicely and helps keep our palate of materials consistent.  And it looks so stinking cool. My “stinking cool” is K’s “shing-shing sparkly.” Matt’s pretty thrilled with it too.
So over the next couple of weeks we’ll have a literal roof over our heads. And after watching water pour down the wood soffit we so carefully installed, this couldn’t make me more relieved.

As framing continues, sometimes it’s hard for me to keep our focus on the current work. Don’t get me wrong. The boys are doing an unbelievable job framing. It’s just that as soon as we get through one thing, I get even more excited about the next. Plus, the rooms are all nicely defined now, which leads to discussions about fun stuff like final finish details, and we’re looking forward to jumping out of our skin about the promise of next week’s metal roof installation.

I popped by the site yesterday, once again resplendent in inappropriate/non-construction clothes. I was greeted by the sound of progress–the pop-pop of pnuematic nailers–as I carefully navigated the uneven ground like a peacock on an ice-skating rink in my fancy shoes.

Jesse and Scott have been working through the kitchen and dining room framing, installing the final blocking and “pony” walls. Not only do things look great, they also look incredibly fun. Our storage soffits, for the moment anyway, look like the longest set of playground monkeybars I’ve ever seen. My dad said something to the effect of, “Wow, it looks like something they’d use to train Marines.”

In any case, it’s all very cool and exciting. And suddenly, it’s much easier to envision the dance of drywall, plywood, and light that we’ve been working towards for so many months.

The last few days have seen some pretty extreme weather. Sunny skies. No wait, hail. No wait, sun. Look, a blizzard! So when I came to visit yesterday within about 15 minutes we had a good half-inch of snow on the roof. Until it all melted 10 minutes later. So here’s the deal. A 5,000 s.f. roof with a bunch of snow, which suddenly melts.

This is a less-than-perfect video, but Scott and I went running out to the entry court to quite a site. We of course don’t have our gutters installed yet, so had the chance to witness a pretty stunning waterfall/water feature. And yes, we’re thinking about how to create some kind of cool aqueduct thing to make this a regular occurence. Maybe.

Way back when I wrote about our floorplan. See below, but in the public part of the house–dining, living, kitchen–rooms are defined by a series of storage posts. Essentially each room will have four 30″ x 30″ pillars that house cabinetry. These help create the rooms, as well as add functional storage. And storage, I hear, is a good thing.

There are a couple of other interesting things that happen as a result of these posts. First, they help create long hallways with beautiful site lines through the house. Also, the posts create a platform for even more storage–housed above the posts on the south side of the house. We’ve been calling these aptly-named storage soffits and plan to build some pretty slick cabinets accessed by a library ladder.

Click for the big view.

Today Jesse and Scott started framing the living room, kitchen and dining room. They made it through the first three storage posts, and I think tomorrow will work back towards the bedrooms.

We’re pretty freaking excited to see this start to come together. By early next week we should have a pretty defined space to walk through. Fun.