Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Friday, March 8, 2019


Monday, March 4, 2019

Horse Before House Part 7
Nothing to it, but to do it

I quickly realized only way to make the numbers work building my house, was to become the painting contractor. It was also apparent my builder didn't believe I was up to it, although I had experience - (re)painting the interior of a previous home. To his credit, he went forward with our contract despite his misgivings. Not to his credit, the scheduling was a nightmare, and it seemed like he and the sub-contractors took advantage of my not knowing the ropes. Many lessons learned. I ended up completing the job for less than half of the professional quote. It looks great now - fingers crossed it holds up over time.

There's this app called ColorSnap that will let you pick colors from an uploaded photo, then give you the corresponding (Sherwin Williams) paint color info. So my house colors were sourced from photos I took or found.

While I waited for the other contractors to finish their work, I measured walls and calculated paint quantities. Good paint is pricey, and it's better to have a little bit more rather than not quite enough, because I don't care whether it's mixed by a computer or not - another batch won't be exactly the same color.  Luckily, there was a well-timed sale on paint at Lowe's. I thought I had (over)planned everything pretty thoroughly, but the siding guy pointed out that he was getting rid of his staging, and did I need to use it to paint the trim on an inaccessible side of the porch. So this happened...

Skinny walk board 20 ft high. Without a doubt the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done... (up to that point anyway)

The siding guy kindly let me borrow his (rickety a$$) scaffolding to paint the front gable as well.

This was a close second to the walk board situation. The peak is around 38' up...

Happily - I avoided this scenario :D

Things got pretty hectic with regards to the scheduling around this point of the summer, because the project was running behind. Not due to me mind you, despite the fact that scheduling the exterior painting was completely weather dependent i.e. beyond my control. After a few sessions of painting one-handed while hanging on for dear life, I decided I'd use a lift to paint the back of the house, which had no conveniently placed porch roof.

Lowe's rented the equipment, and I figured my life, and/or avoiding breaking my neck was worth the money. As it turns out, once I overcame the learning curve - and oddly enough hooking, unhooking, raising and lowering the unit was harder than operating the thing - it was actually sort of fun - except a few days the wind was blowing. That rig was super wiggly in the wind. But better than fun - it allowed me to concentrate on applying paint rather than avoiding death.

Can I honestly say I was certain the rig wasn't going to freeze, and strand me way the heck up in the air in a tiny bucket needing to be rescued? Definitely not 100%. There was some deep breathing + mind over matter on the first day or two.

This baby got way up in the air when fully extended(!) It also steered with a joystick - like a flipping video game.

While I painted the exterior, the sheet rock crew finished the interior walls to ready them for painting. I naΓ―vely assumed painting the interior was going to be easier than the exterior hahaha... let's just say trim painting ain't my b*tch. Next post - the kitchen. (!!!)

There was SO. MUCH. DUST.

Various stages of floored and trimmed, or not

Getting there ❤️

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Horse Before House Part 6
Measure twice, cut once

The ridge beam led to rafters, and soon the walls were closed in. Once the rafters were in place and plywooded over, the roofers took all of two days, which was both amazing and frightening in equal measure. Inside knowledge: on the steeper parts of the roof, the roofers knelt on what turned out to be the foam pads from sofa cushions, which they referred to as their "cadillacs".  πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

The windows went in next - not without a few issues. I had hoped to incorporate an antique half moon window I'd been saving for years, but sadly at the last minute my builder decided he couldn't make it work. Another lesson in being flexible and picking your battles. I decided to use the window decoratively inside the house instead.

Also - it's important to consider things like window height. Over and over I ran into specs in the plans that didn't make sense in the real world. There is a fire code that dictates size and height of bedroom windows, with regard to escaping, but where the porch roof meets the walls, i.e. where the bottom of the windows can start also has to be taken into consideration.  

When I checked out the window holes in my bedroom wall for the first time, I found that I would barely be able to see over the sills, much less reach the catch to open and close, or clean, without a ladder. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't been living on the property, looking at the progress on a daily basis...

We ended up lowering the pitch of the porch roof from 6/12 to 4/12, (for every foot across the roof angles up so many inches), allowing the space for lowering the windows. I would have liked to do even a 3/12, but apparently in areas that get torrential rain like we do, you can't go lower than a 4/12 without risking leaking. Lowering the pitch would come in handy when it came time to paint too.

Above is one example of where I participated in modifying the plans to customize my home. Another change was the laundry facilities. In the plans, there was a pipsqueak of a closet with an apartment-sized stacked washer-dryer combo. Now - I had spent the last eight years carrying laundry to my dad's house every week, and therefore felt very deserving of a dedicated space for laundry. I suggested we convert a 10x10 block off of the porch, which runs around three sides of the house. This resulted in a spacious laundry + mudroom (!), with the added benefit of blocking the harshest summer afternoon sun, as well as much of the wind from the most used section of the porch.

Next post we'll tackle the painting. Enjoy yet more construction p*rn...

When the half moon window was happening...

Plywooding the roof + fireplace bump out

Tar papering

Roofers were here

Soon there will be rails and steps


Siding crew has been busy prepping...

Monday, February 11, 2019

Horse Before House Part 5
Shopping + Topping

At this point - about 90 days into construction - it seemed like a good time to line up what was going to go into the house - plumbing fixtures, lighting, doors, flooring. The kitchen and paint will get future posts all their own.

Although I was able to do a ton of research online, many items needed checking out in real life, so there were the prerequisite trips to Lowe's and Home Depot. They're located off island - a three hour round trip from here. I find box stores completely overwhelming at the best of times. Since an entire day would end up being sacrificed, those little jaunts required serious planning, multiple lists and all the documentation. Whatever did we do before smart phones?

Speaking of smart phones - I used mine to immediately text a recap of every meeting or phone conversation I had with my builder - hoping to avoid any he said-she said issues down the line. That proved to be a successful (although probably annoying πŸ˜‡) strategy lol...

Meanwhile back at the ranch, my framers achieved the ridge beam - aka "topping out." According to google:

"The practice of "topping out" a new building can be traced to the ancient Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in its construction. Long an important component of timber frame building, it migrated initially to England and Northern Europe, thence to the Americas. A tree or leafy branch is placed on the topmost wood or iron beam, often with flags and streamers tied to it. A toast is usually drunk and sometimes workers are treated to a meal."
The afternoon my framers nailed in the ridge beam, they graciously hung this handy flag for me. You can find just about anything on Amazon.

Year of the Unicorn!!!

We celebrated with a shot or two of Patron, and I sent them home with fresh eggs.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Horse Before House Part 4
Second floor + all the decisions

I anticipated the process of building a house would tax my ability + desire + patience for decision making, but the reality surpassed my wildest imaginings. I had also failed to envision the amount of push-back I would receive when my decisions didn't fit it with the ideas + schedules + budgets of others.

Not sure if this is par for the course with single-woman construction clients everywhere, or just here on my island - where unattached women are often cause for fear and suspicion. How can she live without a man - the horror! She cuts her own grass! Operates machinery! (And the ever popular - She might be after my man!!!) I've been challenging the world view of some of the less open-minded folks around here for a while lol. I wish I were kidding.

It started with how to site the house on the lot. My plan was to face the house into the property, at an angle. With covered porches, this would take advantage of passive solar. It would also square the house to the cardinal compass points. The winds that tend to be harshest in hurricanes and winter storms - NE, NW and SW - will hit the house at the corners rather than the walls directly. While I have yet to find research online to back this up (that isn't full of physics equations beyond my comprehension), after living on the property for eight years, through multiple storms, I believe this will mitigate the effect of wind somewhat.

As to the view - while it might be conventional to orient your house to the street - the thought of pointing the front porch at my neighbor's house, and the comings and goings of their parking area, didn't thrill me. I prefer to look out onto the garden, Val's paddock and the woods. It's amazing how much effort was expended explaining and justifying these choices - to the builder, the surveyors, the piling guy, etc...  #becauseisaidso

One of the pitfalls of having to say grace over so many decisions in such a short time, even with months of research prior to building, is getting overwhelmed and saying whatever - f*ck it - I can't deal. Especially when you're not sharing the responsibility of the decision making with a partner.

Balance that with the stress of knowing that many choices are time sensitive and can't be taken back which = bad choices will surely cost $$$ in the future - let's just say there was a maximum amount of pressure. Most of the selections for building materials were based on long term value. Architectural shingles, premium windows, Smart Lap siding, Duration paint. I bought into the theory that quality materials on the front end will payoff in the long term. Fingers crossed. I'll dissect interior choices in a future post. Meanwhile enjoy more construction p*rn 😎

Starting the porch roof and upstairs floor joists

The beginning of much ladder climbing - the only way to access the house for months

Setting out 2x4s to mark the interior walls

The view! Itty bitty Val in the grazing pen...

Looking down from the future stairway

Wrapping around!

Upstairs walls - it's starting to get exciting 😍

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