Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Much Overdue Update for Modern in MN

Yes, we're still building a house...

Some of the things we've been working on in the last month (and a half, gack!)

-Furring out window jambs with EPS.
This took a while, but all the interior window openings are now set for drywall. Our windows have a built in drywall channel and all of the jambs will be finished with a drywall return. I'm looking forward to the clean, no-trim look this will provide.

-Bituminous peel and stick membrane affixed to all of the exterior window openings.
Although water intrusion is significantly less of an issue with an ICF home since there's nothing to rot and very little moisture migrates through the 8" of concrete and two layers of EPS, we still need to ensure the water tightness of the window in the opening. Dealing with long strips of super sticky membrane while up on a ladder made me wish we had built a shorter house with fewer windows!
While not physically demanding, this chore did require a lot of patience and wrestling of ladders in inconvenient places.

-Site clean up.
We spent about a day just picking up scrap lumber and miscellaneous debris and loading it all into a 15 yard dumpster. While it pained us to be throwing away all that lumber, I kept reminding myself that the overall amount of waste generated by our project was much less than if we were using more conventional methods. Clean up is boring but necessary, and the site is now pretty much ready for finish grading, the driveway, and eventually landscaping although right now it's hard to imagine anything beyond the giant weed farm we've got.

-Gas line, phone line and electricity inside the house!
It took four months and more than a few unpleasant phone calls, but we've finally got gas service to the house. Ironically, the week after this was done, the power company came out to transfer our service from the temporary box to the interior panel, and accidentally cut the new gas line! The result of that was a somewhat comical (and as I understand it, routine) production that involved the police, fire department and the gas company who came out to repair the line. I couldn't help but laugh.

-We've finally gotten a start on the siding.
The order of operations here begins with moving each of the 4 x 8 sheets inside the house to give two coats of paint, and then moving outside to cut and drill for installation. Not a fast process by any means but so far it looks pretty cool and we're finding the HardiPanel easier than expected to work with, aside from the fact that they're big and heavy. I'll probably be much less positive about the whole siding endeavor once we're on to the higher up sections.

My frustration with the plumbers persists. They got the rough in to about 60% finished and then didn't show up for several weeks until I called and inquired WTF?? At that point I was informed that they were under the impression that all that remained was piping for the shower heads in the master bath, and that they were waiting for me to frame the ceiling in there. This had been done and pointed out to their guy well prior to their last visit, and there were many, many things incomplete or incorrect so obviously they were misinformed. Apparently they're still suffering from an inability to communicate and I'm suffering the fallout from their choice to employ a chronic alcoholic and put him in charge of my job.
The whole thing is so unfortunate because the owner and his office staff are absolutely excellent and easy to work with but apparently they have not figured out that Mr. ETOH is not only not doing the work, he's not accurately representing the status of the jobs he's responsible for.

Electrical work is still in progress and still frustrating. As I've said, this is being done by one of my family members, or more specifically, I'm paying his employee what amounts to time and materials for the work, (which, incidentally, is nothing like our original agreement), and I'm at the bottom of their priority list to boot. To make matters worse, things NEVER happen according to the schedule said relative lays out, and I'm lucky if I get 8 hours worth of work from them in a week. At this rate, I figure our cost is actually double or more what we'd be incurring if I had just hired a stranger, so I'm pretty pissy about the whole thing but I'm letting it ride since I'm not ready for drywall yet anyway.

In between all of this stuff, I've been hard at work on the phone as usual. The one drywall contractor that's bothered to get back to us did so with a $26.5 K bid which is WAY more than we budgeted, but I suspect the other guys I'm meeting with this week will be similar because of the amount of detail work our job requires. That I'm insisting on smooth ceilings in the few areas we're using them doesn't help.
We're going to have to get creative to find the money in our budget to deal with this.

After weeks and weeks of agonizing, searching and sending out drawings, I think I've finally found a steel fabricator for our stair and railing. I'll be meeting with him this week and I desperately hope he works out since were way behind on getting this going.

I still haven't made a decision on our garage door. We need an 18' x 7' door, and with frosted, insulated glass, a full view door becomes insanely expensive. Since we don't have the 6 or 7 K in our budget for this, I've had to reconsider and am still weighing the pros and cons of a door with one frosted view section (still more expensive than I'd like) vs. the more commercial looking corrugated door with the narrow oval windows (cheaper and not as cool but may go with the overall look better anyway). Another option would be to get a full-view door with clear glass and then apply a frosted film, but I haven't been able to verify that the adhesive on these films will stay stuck in our cold cold.

Reviewing my last post, I found it difficult not to get bummed about the small amount of progress we seem to have made in the last month and a half. It's on the verge of fall and we thought we'd be getting ready to move in around now but as it stands, the end appears to be just as far as it was a couple of months ago. We've been faced with some difficult events in the other areas of our lives including the death of a very good friend recently, and I think we've both really been struggling to maintain focus and keep up the momentum with our project. It just seems so insignificant and selfish in comparison with the other more serious events in the world that we can't help but pause and consider.

I forgot to mention this, but I spent a few hours with a rented jackhammer extracting concrete from around the shower drains in our master bath to accomodate the drain and waterproofing system I'll be using. It's hard to tell, but this picture also shows the sloped mud bed I constructed as well as the bench seat that will get skinned with plywood and then drywall prior to applying the waterproofing membrane.

This is the east wall with the first course of siding installed (it's dusty so that's why it looks a little weird). The dark band around the bottom is the acrylic stucco that I applied over the EPS to bridge the gap between grade level and the siding. (There will be a partial course of cement board below the one you see). Installing the stucco was another thing I overlooked in my review. Not difficult, per se, but a little tricky to get the hang of and physically demanding work due to the materials and the location.

Just for fun. This is the sink for my guest bath that I brought in to get a fix on counter top height, etc. I guess my Little Kitty Angela approves, since she immediately plunked down in it for a nap.