Archives for posts with tag: SIPs

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.

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Hey Matt: nice composition!

Driving into the site this morning I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see the house. No I’m not going blind, but we had a pretty thick blanket of fog covering the site.

On the news yesterday the weather-predictor-people predicted freezing fog for this morning. Our six-year-old daughter was very worried about this. “Oh no! How will we be able to drive through a frozen block of fog?” Funny.

I had the chance to meet with Greg Rehn, from HydroSci, this morning to talk about a couple of things related to the radiant heat system he’s beginning to install. While I was there, I also got to see Alexi’s crew lifting the last couple of roof panels into place. Trust me when I write that everyone is happy to reach this milestone.

The past few nights Matt Melcher and I have been out on site, sometimes by chance, together. From a pure entertainment perspective we’ve both  been anxious to see the final panels get installed over what will be the southside courtyard. Well, we’re there now.

Time to get excited about something else! Here are a handful of cellphone shots from a foggy morning.

Another busy weekend for me at the site for me. And for Jesse too, who spent today finishing up the third and final “Y” bracket. It took four of us to get the steel-covered glulams into place. It didn’t help that we were seven feet in the air and standing on a 16″ wide concrete wall. Good thing we took our macho pills this morning.

I think the crew is hoping to finish the roof tomorrow. They also had the membrane that will cover the roof panels delivered, and my understanding is that will go on too. It’s a big roof, but a shallow pitch and all one plane. So hopefully that helps…

Here’s a stack-o-photos. Some of the site, and some of a few details.

 

A short post after a long day. Also a productive day.

After relative quiet on site–over the weekend it was just me and Jesse, with Matt coming out a few times as well–we had a hive of activity today. Jesse kept cranking away on the brackets, while Alexi and his crew got started on the roof.

The SIPs panels arrived on two semis first thing in the morning. From there half the crew did some final prep (I even got in on the action again, using a router to detail the beams) while the other guys organized 45 panels into the right order. At up to 700 pounds each, this is no small trick.

We rented a big crane for the day to get panels into the most difficult corner of the house. Good call. And while the crew hoped to get a few more panels installed, we covered our daughter’s room, the guest room, bathroom and a bit more.

Starting a SIPs roof is a bit like starting a tile job. The first few pieces take longer. Why? Well the first panels set the geometry and rhythm for the rest of the project. If you’re off a bit on the first few, you’ll be off a lot by the last few.

Tomorrow should see big progress. I’ll be back at work, but it should be fun to swing by afterwards. The crew expects to have most of the house covered by the end of the day.

Complete!

Sadly, this is the first post in a week. Not sure how that happened. Oh yeah, now I remember. Work has been busy, and we’re also building a house.

Good stuff has been happening though. Jesse Oviatt has been cranking away on getting the roof support brackets in place. More on this in a second. And Alexi and his crew worked Thursday and Friday to prep a few things before the roof panels are delivered Monday morning.

I spent this past weekend working with Jesse. I think he was happy for the help and it was fun to be on site, even if it meant working 10 hours a day. We made a ton of progress too, which always feels good.

To be clear, the work we are doing isn’t typical framing work. It’s more like the lovechild of cabinetry and bridge building. It’s fussy work. Were you to look around our work area this weekend, you’d see tools typical for framing a house–circular saws, framing hammers, squares, etc. But you’d also see two routers, a set of woodworking chisels, a japanese pull saw, files and a custom made wrench.

Our architect, Matt Melcher, came out for a few hours on Sunday to work with us. He marked the beams that need to be cut in the morning, installed a slope plate, checked measurements, and helped me cut a rabbet into one of the beams with a router.

This was shocking to Jesse. He had never seen an architect do actual work on site. What can I say? Our boy has some skills!

It’s hard for me to put in words how happy I am with the big “Y” columns. They’re insanely beautiful. I’m not sure how something that massive can look so elegant, but it does. And between the fir, the galvanized metal and the concrete, we have a pretty stellar group of materials working together.

You might expect that because I was on site for so many hours that I’d have a ton of pictures, but I don’t. At least not great ones–mostly taken with my phone. But here you go…

Hopefully the SIPs roof will go up without too many hiccups.

Oh, special thanks to our neighbors, Greg and Jackie, who risked their lives to help us install the posts. With the steel attached those suckers weighed at least a couple hundred pounds each. Not fun.

Warning: A longer, more techinical post than usual!

It’s been pretty fascinating to watch the house walls go up. We get a lot of questions about how the structural insulated panels, or SIPs, are assembled, so I thought I’d write about it. There are other resources on the web that show examples of house assembly, but here’s how ours is working.

First off, if you’re not familiar with SIPs, they’re fabricated in a factory. In our case, the walls and roof were made by Big Sky Insulations/R-Control, in Bozeman, Montana. What you get when the truck shows up, is a huge pile of panels that are foam insulation, with oriented strand board, or OSB, on either side. So the panels end up looking like big green sandwiches, with foam as the tasty center.

The OSB has a green tint, but not green as in “we’re so special, we’re building green!” No, it’s a proprietary mildew and termite treatment. So we now have a 20-year warranty against all kinds of nefarious things. Which is a good thing.

During manufacturing, wiring chases are cut into each panel. These run horizontally at set heights (so it’s easy for an electrician to find wires for outlets or sconces or whatever), as well as vertically. Big Sky also ran chases to the exact location of every ceiling fixture. This isn’t essential, but should make life much nicer for our electrician.

Note the wiring chases.

The panels come mortised to accept a connector, and to attach to the sill plate.

OK, so the panels show up on a big truck, and the sill plate has already been installed.This is a 2″ x 6″ mounted to a piece of treated plywood. The plywood, I think, helps support the OSB.

Installing the sill

Each stack of SIPs from the truck comes with an inventory. Individual panels are also marked.

Our crew, with some guidance from the SIPs rep (also not essential, but a definite value add), began putting up walls. In theory it’s a simple process, but with our snowy/slushy/rainy site conditions, there were times that weren’t terribly fun for the crew.

The drawings from Big Sky show the panel layout, among other things.

The next step is running a thick bead of R-Control’s “Do-All-Ply” to the sill and the inside channels of the SIP. Essentially anywhere foam contacts wood, this caulky/gluey looking material is used.

Installing lumber into SIP

You can see the "Do-All-Ply" splooging out in this shot.

The panels are then lifted onto the sill. And they can get heavy. I think (although am not sure) that they’re five pounds/square foot, for the 6 1/2 inch wall panels. So our panels are between 100 and 350 pounds each.

Lifting the panel. Site conditions = far from ideal.

Once the panel is up, it gets nailed, through the OSB skin, into the sill plate.

From there, the crew installed connecting material between the panels, nailing it all together again. The type of connector varies though, depending on where the panels are, what’s attached to them (another panel or say, a sliding door) and the what the house needed from an engineering perspective. Our architect, Matt Melcher, worked through the engineering with Big Sky’s panel engineer, plus an independent structural engineering firm they hired.

Dennis messing with an insulated spline.

In our house, we’re using a combination of R-Control’s insulated splines, standard 2″ x 6″ framing lumber (where we have large window or door openings) and 6″ x 6″ posts (when we need to support roof beams). All together this creates a very strong and rigid system. In fact it’s stronger than a traditionally framed house.

Each panel is detailed for placement and how they'll be connected.

Big Sky cuts its panels to within 1/16″ of what is provided from our architect. And in my opinion, Matt came up with some very, very clever design details that play to the strengths SIPs offer.

For example, check out the details below. These are pockets that Matt designed into the panels. In a traditionally framed house, this is a fussy detail, at best. It requires a lot of framing work, and a lot of finishing work to make it look right. What we ended up with is beams, supported by the panels and surrounded by either insulation, or supported by a wood post. This makes beam installation really easy, removes figuring out how to insulate around the beam, and will create a very slick system for drywalling our ceiling. (More on this another time.) Anyway, it’s one of those very simple, elegant solutions that make the design nerd in me happy. Good for Matt. I love that he’s playing to the strengths of the materials we’re using.

The slick system I wrote about. This beam also has a nailer attached to it, which will be used to attach a clerestory window.

More beam detailing. This one sits on a 6" x 6" wood post.

Here's the end of our garage, showing the beam pocket, sans beam.

And then there’s the insulation properties. SIPs create a highly insulated envelope. We’ll be around R-30 at the walls, and R-50 at the roof. But to hear the company talk about this, compared with traditional fiberglass (or similar) insulation, we’ll have a “true” R-50. My understanding is that it’s impossible to install a batt of fiberglass insulation, or even field applied spray-in foam, without air leaking around the sides. With SIPs we don’t have this problem.

Finally, the last thing we get asked about–a lot–is cost. Without going into too many specifics, by working the design process, having a builder on board that was willing to work with an alternative building system (Carrie), and having a vendor (Big Sky) that really came to the table with great ideas, we were able to get the cost difference between SIPs and stick framing down to a couple of thousand dollars. The materials cost more, but labor to install is less–even in crappy weather like we’re having. And because of the excellent insulation we’ll have, it will absolutely save us money after a year or so.

Finally, a major tip of the hat to Big Sky. The panels have been absolutely spot on. As far as I know, we haven’t had a single panel that needed adjustment. To me this is no small feat. They’ve also been a lot of fun to work with, and that’s important too.

Check the title. This was K’s first statement when she arrived on site today. In fact it was the first time she had been by to visit since the boys starting putting up panels. A busy week at work, combined with entertaining our daughter, L, combined with the darkest time of the year meant she hadn’t had a chance to check things out.

As usual, K is right. It DOES feel “housey.”

Things look unbelieveable. Really. I mean it. I can’t believe how well everything is coming together. The crew is doing a phenomenal job. The framers are flying, Matt has been out a few times a day to offer suggestions and check on things, Misha is cranking away on the retaining walls, and we now have a septic field.

And the SIPs panels have been perfect. Yes, assembly is slower because of the conditions, but every cut, every beam pocket and every connection has gone as hoped.

To say things are slower though is relative. We started putting up panels in earnest on Tuesday. By Friday afternoon the wall panels were complete, and 6 beams had been placed. So we now have walls, including the framing, insulation, wiring chases and interior/exterior sheathing. Nice, and pretty impressive.

All in all, it’s been a week of big progress.

Again, I can’t believe how amazing things look. It’s so beautiful, the scale of the house is incredible, and for the first time, we can truly see and feel the relationship between the land, the house and the retaining walls.

I’ll post better pictures this weekend, but in the mean time, here are a few to at least get you up to speed.

Enjoy.

I don’t have time to write much of a post, but the short version of what’s happening? The crew is putting up panels. Cool!

The conditions on site are slowing things down a bit, but the boys put up one of the long walls yesterday, and expect even more progress today. I poached a short meeting this morning between Matt, our SIPs rep Jerry and the framing crew as they worked through a couple of questions. As Jerry put it, “you know, this house is like a giant geometry exercise.”

Truth.

Well, we have panels. Cool stuff, but a couple of little challenges. Of course. Nothing to be too worried about though.

Here’s what’s happening, in 10 somewhat sarcastic steps.

  1. The SIPs company loaded panels onto a truck in Montana, at their factory.
  2. Like you might expect, they organize the panels in a way that let them get as many panels as possible into said truck to avoid making more trips than necessary.
  3. The semi shows up at our site, and our framing crew uses a forklift to meander down our windy, icy driveway, to our long, icy foundation.
  4. The framing crew unloads the panels.
  5. The framing crew realizes the panels aren’t organized by, say, the way they need to be assembled. So for example, panel number one might be at the bottom of a stack of 10 (100+ pound) panels, number two in the middle of the stack and number 3 at the top.
  6. The framing crew looks around and sees piles of snow and ice everywhere. (Not good–there’s no place to reorganize the panels.
  7. The framing crew gets frustrated.
  8. The builder gets frustrated.
  9. The on site SIP rep gets frustrated.
  10. The builder calls the homeowner, who luckily ate zen pills for breakfast.

All exaggerating aside–and the top-10 list had plenty of exaggeration–it’s a small hurdle. Everything is fine, just a bit of reorganizing to do. I guess. It’s just a crappy winter we’re navigating. If this is the biggest challenge in assembling the house, we’re in darn good shape.

Can’t wait to see the house take shape. Should be fantastic, and I expect there will be a ton more progress tomorrow.

Wish us luck.

Big truck, lots of panels

Ready to go...

Installing the sill

 

 

I’ll admit it. I’m tired of shoveling snow. We had close to three feet at the site, and during my “vacation” last week I spent many an hour removing wet, heavy, cement-like snow from the foundation and site. All is well though, and it was helpful at some level, especially as we move toward raising the walls Monday.

We spent some time Saturday morning with Mikel and Stefan as they continue their board form work. It’s incredibly time consuming, but we’re pretty thrilled with how things look. Matt stopped by and seemed equally enthusiastic.

While shoveling Friday I was surprised to see a giant semi/crane backing down the driveway. Turns out it was our septic tank being delivered. A good test-run anyway, since we’ll have other semis delivering SIP panels on Monday, and the septic truck made it down our steep (and snowy) driveway without a problem.

Anyway, pretty cool to check out the super-macho crane truck, although it’s crazy to me that the workers stood BELOW the septic tank as it’s being lowered. The thing is a giant concrete poo bunker, and must weigh many thousands of pounds. Yikes.

After a good 10 days of gray skies, yesterday was finally sunny. And even though they have nothing to do with our construction process, I couldn’t help but take a couple of pics at sunset. Such a beautiful, wintery evening.