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Ladybug House

Island House: Plumbing, Wiring, Insulation

Island HouseJamie4 Comments

The weather is outside now!

Lots of AFCI breaker required in the latest code update. Costs have jumped from about $8 per breaker to $50 or more, staggering.

A lot of time has passed since our last progress report and it’s time to update. I don’t know exactly how I got so out of date with my blog entries on the subject, since progress on the house is all I really think about!

Here’s what we’ve been doing. Plumbing rough in, wiring rough in, priming and painting siding, seeing the insulation installed, mostly siding the garage and having the propane tank installed, putting up the furring strips for the wiring chase inside and continuing with preparation for the all important electrical inspection.

The plumbing rough in is basically done. We are going to have it inspected shortly, along with the insulation. Just a little more abs pipe to hook upin the kitchen. We did an inside water test and all the Pex lines are holding their water!  No leaks, no problems. We bought a little thing called a “test ball” for our DWV (Drain, Waste and Vents) test and will be able to have that done shortly. We hooked up the septic system to the power source and were delighted to hear it humming along pumping - it has been in ground for 6 years so we were a little anxious about it even though people told us not to be. (Why do we tell each other not to worry about things that are nearly impossible not to worry about?).

We spent four days working outside while our insulation was being done. Our insulation consists of a “flash and batt” method where a few inches of spray foam are put in and then covered over with Knauf Eco-Batts, which we used on the Beekeeper’s and like very much. The house is warmer already, feels wonderful! The first two days we worked from home as the spray foam was going in and the roar of the generator was too loud (and we were in the way). We had to suddenly move out of our rental (story started badly but ended well) and thankfully the spray foaming coincided well with this inconvenience. When we got back on site, we worked outdoors for a few days hanging the siding I spent the previous week priming and painting with my new Wagner power paint sprayer. That was a fabulous tool. I am generally a hand painter, and still prefer trim painting by hand, but the siding is an enormous project and I was incredibly pleased with the way the simple little gadget worked. I’ll be reviewing it shortly and will leave further comments till then. We had the siding ready and painted and needed to side the garage so that the propane tank could be installed. The siding is 8 inch cedar bevel and looks gorgeous. The yellow is rich and sunny, a perfect antidote to a dark day. Today the skies grew heavy and gray, poured rain for a couple of hours. The brightness of the garage was a joy to see though the kitchen windows, it actually made me feel happy just seeing it out there. I heartily suggest painting your house yellow if you live in a northern clime. The siding is easy to work with, very light weight. When time and weather permit, we will hang the rest of what we have on the house and probably finish up in the Spring time as we don’t have enough siding on hand and the weather is slipping into non painting weather. Still and all, never in our builds have we managed to get to siding at all in the first year, so this feels like a great accomplishment!

We have now returned to wiring work. Shawn has almost all of the wire drawn through the house and taken to the panel. This week he will work on cleaning up and tying up the box. It’s somewhat difficult this time around as the electrical code has changed and now requires AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interruptors) on every 20 amp circuit that serves habitable space. Not only are these AFCI’s expensive, but sometimes they have to be combined with a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor). It’s different than our last wiring work and somewhat complicated by the fact that our island resources for these circuits don’t exist and so we have to order online. That’s not generally a problem, but sometimes during a project it takes getting into it to realize what you’ve forgotten to order. Plumbing jobs are famous for this Murphy’s Law related issue, and this electrical job should experience the effects of a heightened Murphy’s Law as island resources are limited. Tomorrow Shawn will assess his requirements to the best of his ability and see what else he needs. A fair amount he’s already ordered, so at least a solid start can be made. Today we had a short day and finished installing the wiring chase/furring strips for drywall installation and also installed the hangers for recessed lighting throughout most of the house. Tomorrow we are going to drop the ceiling slightly in the kitchen and install the remainder of them.

We’re also having someone come and give us a bid on helping us to install the siding on the dormers. We have tried getting up there to do the papering and the siding of them and it is nearly impossible for us as it involves constantly going up and down to do the cutting and with our limited tools for working at heights, this is a real nightmare. We’ll see what he thinks of the job (sounded enthusiastic when he heard it was a small job and he only works with cedar, so so far so good) and hopefully this can be done shortly. We felt a good sense of relief at the idea of just hiring this work out, it was one of the last areas where work at heights was going to pose some real problems for us and slow us down immensely. Some jobs are definitely worth hiring out to professionals. You simultaneously support the locally skilled economy and save yourself a ton of time and stress.

The next two weeks will include finishing electrical and calling for inspection (hopefully not this Wednesday but the following), having our final plumbing and mechanical inspection, and having our insulation inspection. Then we can move on to preparing for temporary occupancy, ordering/installing plumbing fixtures, drywall and finally flooring. We are aiming for a move in date of December 1st. Let’s see how we do. We’ve got about 50 days to go.

Thanks as always for reading along...

Island House: Wrapping up for the first rains

Island HouseJamie2 Comments

The Seemingly Endless Drought

Our island land is dusty dry this summer, unlike any summer we've seen.

Our island land is dusty dry this summer, unlike any summer we've seen.

It’s been a long and droughty summer in the Pacific Northwest, almost eerily so. It’s a quirk of PNW weather that one despairs of the rain, but when it gets dry for very long, another distress sets in as forests become tinder dry and all the moisture is sucked from the ground.

Here on San Juan Island, fire danger was high throughout most of the summer and there were strict measures in place to restrict fires of all kinds, from back yard recreational fires to campfires in public parks and lands. We watched in surprise as the fields became parched and brittle and pond levels fell precipitously all around us…it became uncommonly common to hear people say they had never seen local ponds fall so low, regardless of the number of years they’d called the island home. 

When rain appeared in the forecast late last week, I originally thought showers, the sorts that have blustered through here and there the last few weeks but amounted to very little and were parched out of remembrance by soaring temps ensuing the very next day. This rain forecast, however, was different.

Rain, and I Mean, RAIN, At Last!

And we were without the most important parts of a roof, the paper membrane and the shingles themselves. Our roofer is busy right now and couldn’t make it out to us before the rain was forecast. We decided to paper the roof ourselves, despite disliking the heights. It seemed only sensible and given the amount of rain we received over the course of the next days and really the last week straight, this was a very good choice. We spent a six hour day, the last hot day of the summer perhaps, papering the entire roof. We used 30# felt and rather than take the huge rolls up with us, we cut off lengths to fit the areas we were working on and slowly rolled and stapled it into place. Because a huge wind storm was predicted for the Saturday after our papering work (which took place on a Thursday), we were concerned about the staples holding. We also used tabbed roofing nails to secure the edges and then hoped for the best as a truly Murphy’s Law inspired storm rolled through last Saturday. Winds were around 30-40 miles per hour and gusts were reported to 50 mph. I am not sure what the accurate wind levels were clocked at here, but it was plenty windy. The storm mellowed out around 2 pm and we headed out to the property to see if our paper had survived. And it had! Hooray!!

We have been delighted with how well our temporary roofing is keeping the rain out, very little coming through the staples. We have had a couple of inches of rain this past week at least, and all is well. Hopefully (such a huge emotion contained in the four little letters spelling hope) the roofing shingles will go on this week. It will certainly be a delight to be closed in this year. Summer seems to have roared in early and is departing early as well. Sigh. Always a lot of sadness for me associated with the end of summer, although fresh corn helps. 

I have spent the week resting my shoulder a bit from a trim paint a thon that left my rotator cuff a little irritable. Shawn has been roughing in the plumbing. It’s nearly done. We had to spend some time laying out the upstairs bathroom again and got a good design in place and all the venting and draining is installed. We also ran cold and hot water lines and got many of the stub ins in place ready for fixtures, essentially. 

We are now preparing for the roughing in of the electric. We won’t have wire until after next week, but have installed the panel box and have roughly mapped out switches and boxes throughout the house. 

The Chimney Chase

After chasing down a fireplace we like, we built a chimney chase for the Valor Senator propane stove. We have ordered and will pick up this weekend. It should look pretty neat!  It was something of a decoding project to figure out the framing requirements for it, but sort it out we did and now the chase is built. We also tied up some other loose ends this week around the house, putting in ceiling catches for drywall and building in the walls for the bathroom and framing a small door from our bedroom closet into the bathroom and building the half walls between the dining room and living room.

Coming up...

Tomorrow we will begin the week by working on some small projects as we prepare to get closed in. We will be building the rest of the chase for the chimney (second floor), putting in the sloped walls for the stairwell, hanging the garage doors and assembling all the materials we’ll need for the electrical work we’ll start the week of the 14th. Windows are also supposed to arrive the week of the 14th and hopefully insulation will be going in by then…since we’re on the subject of hope, we hope to show the shingled roof sometime in the very near future as well! I think that for me this is the most stressful part of the build. We are relying a lot on others to do certain important work (relying on others in comfort is not a strong area for me though I very much appreciate the work) and the weather is changing, closing up the house is such an exciting time, but till certain things get done, we are somewhat restricted in what we can do. Still and all, good progress is being made and it’s hard to be disappointed with how much we’ve accomplished so far!

Thanks for reading along...

Forty-six sheets of plywood this week


It was a great week to be working on the roof. A lot of sunny days, and enough threat of rain in the forecast to keep our motivation alive - as if not having a roof on your house wasn’t motivation enough! We got plywood laid all the way to the ridge line on the north and south sides of the house except where the dormers are. It lined up beautifully and was surprisingly easy to install for us. The actual work requiring Shawn to be out on the plywood deck wasn’t so bad and he was pleased with how comfortable he was using his ropes to move about on a ten pitch roof. That was a pleasant surprise. Much of the roofing we were able to do from the inside out, sliding the plywood sheets up and into position from the inside, nailing as much as possible from the inside and only using the rope and/or harness when some of the nailing had to be done. All in all, a smooth and satisfying process.

We also moved on to building out the walls for both dormers and got them sheathed with plywood, which really makes the house start to look more like it does in our minds. The reality is starting to match the design pictures.

We also installed the final four eave brackets, cut, primed and painted all the merge and barge rafters for the north and south dormers and got the south dormer trim rafters installed and a even start made on the decking of them. Today was a rainy day so I painted in the garage while Shawn nailed on the fascia board for the south rafter and began decking the eaves until he was too soggy to keep at it. Tomorrow we’ll arrive on site with the north dormer barge and merge rafters primed, painted and ready to install. I even have ready several more pieces of eave decking. Hopefully I’ve primed and painted enough so that can be a finished part of the project.

We are now in the process of figuring out how to go about step flashing the dormers, it turns out that we may not install the barge rafter trim till we have the house roofed, which is sort of a shame as the dormer will look incomplete till then. However, with September approaching, we hope to be getting the go ahead to have the roofing done very shortly.

Tomorrow we will be back at it, and hope to complete the sheathing of the roof this week. It will feel good to be able to call the roofers for a heads up and get ready for our framing inspection.

Hope you’ll check in again next week and thanks for reading!