Sunday, April 17, 2011

Garden!, and some windows to see it through.

I installed the "bay window" in the kitchen yesterday:

Today, I decided to take a break from the house, and beautify the backyard a little bit. Clearly it's a stretch to call any of this a "garden," but it's a start. I'd like to get soil as soon as possible, and then plant some collard greens, radishes, arugula, lettuces, and beets (and sunflowers).

I experimented with ways to make raised beds. My first attempt is with the piles of limbs I had lying around. Despite the gaps between everything, and the looseness of it all, I feel like it will hold soil fine - we'll see...

I had fun working with urbanite (a clever name for urban concrete waste), and old bricks that I had collected from a neighbor's building project long ago.

I've been holding on to these really weird pallets for a while now. I picked them up free when I got the free doors. They turned very quickly from a pile of pallets into a compost bin (which still needs slats in the front, clearly).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Doors

I finally framed out the rough opening for the front door today. I found a very fitting front door in my free pile. The bottom of the door had begun to rot right along the edge, but I was able to cut off 2 inches and find myself well into beautiful, rot-free wood. Now it's a 78" door, rather than an 80," which is more cozy-feeling anyhow. Hopefully you can feast your eyes on it in a photo tomorrow, as I'm planning on installing it in the morning.

I installed the first window. Actually, I didn't install it. I just tapped in a couple nails and sunk a couple screws to hold it in place. It's one of the windows that my parents found in Syracuse, NY and brought down to me in their minivan. I really love the aesthetic of it (especially from the inside - look two photos down...). I need to replace some of the exterior trim, and nail it all in properly. But I couldn't resist just getting it in for the sake of having a window.

I've never made a proper door jamb (frame) before. The door in the shed has a made-up jamb, and the bathroom door in the house (the one I installed yesterday) utilizes the studs as a jamb, which is not proper (the reason that I did this is that the bathroom door is just temporarily in that location - eventually it will be accessed from the North side of the room). And all of the doors I've hung at the farm are on studs as well; I think it's a fine procedure, but some people like a more finished look (and by finished, I mean clean, white, with trim, no nails/screws exposed, etc...). One of the points of this whole project for me is to do most of the things the accepted, "professional" way, so as to think critically about what makes sense and what doesn't - after building a whole house this way, I will have gained a lot of knowledge, and I'll be able to justify to people why I do certain things one way, and why I might do them another. Here's the start of my first attempt at a conventional jamb...

Cutting the mortise joints in the uprights:

Making sure the size is just right for the top piece in the jamb:

And locking it together, ready for screws:

I need to buy a sill from Home Depot tonight, as well as some more dead bolts - I want to install both the front and back door tomorrow (at which point all of the doors will be in!).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Windows, almost.

The house is looking very much like a house these days! I have been working hard to finish the exterior sheathing (which has forced me to decide on where I want all of my windows to be). Below is the Northwest corner. This North side has just a few, small windows for two reasons:

1. passive solar - The sun shines from the south, and so the north side of a building (in the Northern hemisphere) remains in the shade. It's not efficient to have a lot of glass on this side. You will see later on how much glazing (glass) I have designed into the south side, to capture winter sun (yet block out summer sun with roof overhangs).
2. With Part 2 of the house in mind, I don't want to waste my time installing windows in places that are going to end up inside of the finished house footprint.

The aesthetic of the house is looking rather modern, now that the rough window openings are in place. I feel like what has determined this aesthetic is not a desire to be modern, but rather a combination of two things: being restricted by what windows I can come by (that are inexpensive, not ugly, and the right size), and my desire to obtain certain views.

1 Anderson Window - $222 (a splurge for the perfect window in a special spot)
1 small casement window for bathroom - $15
a bunch of window sashes that I will make frames for - $1 each
and free windows collected by me and my parents

I found out the other day that I can order custom-cut window glass (double-pane) at a local store, and that it is not as expensive as I would have thought. So for  some of the windows (most notably the small 14”X20” windows that I will tuck into the stud bays between the two roof lines), I will order these custom rectangles of double-pane glass, and then will make frames for them. This will probably add another $600, for everything else I want (that’s a very rough estimate).

So this is easily under $1,000 for all of the windows for this part of the house! I've heard that usually people spend $8,000-$10,000 for windows on even a reasonably-sized house.

When I am inside my ideal house, I want to look out and see beauty. In the country, this is pretty easy. In the city, much of what is present is other houses, power lines, the road, cars, and lawns. Other than well-framed views of other houses, I don’t wish to see any of this. On the other hand, Durham has some fantastic sunsets, and beautiful clouds, and my lot is well-endowed with large trees. These are the things I want my windows to frame!

I like the play between the main roof lines and the much steeper pitch on the bay window roof:

I had a bit of an execution problem with the first round of metal roofing that I bought and transported to my site. The installation wasn't going quite how I wanted. The style of metal wasn't exactly what I was looking for, and the overlaps weren't looking as seamless as I had hoped. After a day of stress and thinking, I decided that it was best to research other options, and stop for the time being. It turns out that a much better product exists for this particular application, so I ordered it, and it should be delivered this week. In addition to being more appropriate for this pitch, it also allowed me to order painted metal (and therefore, a color), and custom lengths (so there won't have to be two end-overlapping sheets for each section of roof). I was able to take all of the original roofing back to the store (other than what I had begun using and screwing down...).

I "re-used" some of the metal that I had already put screw holes in to finish off this mini-roof above the bay window:

This isn’t the best representation of the view on the West side of the kitchen, but it’s the only photo I have. When moving around the kitchen, these windows will give a great view of the sunset, and also provide an interesting snippet of the roof and gable ridge of the yellow house.

Here are some window locations in the kitchen:

And some of the same windows from the outside:

Here are the layers of the roof, starting above the rafters: 2 layers of 7/16” OSB sheathing, 1” rigid foam insulation (R-5), 1X4” purlins (lumber, spaced 5 inches apart), and then metal roofing on top of it all.

My mother was interested in maybe having me install a solar tube somewhere in the house (see here).  The solar tubes that I’ve seen for sale are really expensive and ugly (they look like something that should be on a lunar rover). I am going to try making “the $1 solar tube.” It’s not really going to be just a dollar, but the window sash was a dollar, mirrors are free, and I'll have to play around with materials to mimic the "diffuser lens." I'll need some lumber, and other supplies to make it happen. Here's the window opening:

Here I cut away the floor of the loft:

I'm going to install the window, and then install a mirror at a 45-degree angle to direct the light that comes into the window down into the pantry. This should make it so that one does not need to use an electric light to find things in the pantry during the day (obviously at night one will need to flip a switch).

Here is a really nice butcher-block-style countertop (will the sink hole already cut out) that I found at the Habitat ReStore (which is where I've gotten half of my windows, too) for $40. It needs to be sanded, re-finished, and then just cut to the size of the bay window. It's hundreds of dollars worth of wood and time, already done for me!

Today I decided that I want to have an enclosed room in the house, with a door that I can deadbolt - to expand my tool/material storage area to more than just the shed. So I framed out the door to the bathroom, and sheathed the interior bathroom wall with 1/2" plywood:

Then I picked through my pile of doors that I had gotten free when a local salvage company went out of business, and found this one to hang as the bathroom door. The door is in really good shape - solid as a rock. And it already has the hole for the deadbolt in it, so I just need to buy the hardware and install it. Eventually this will be the bathroom, but for now: storage.

I was thinking of putting a big triangle window up here above the bay window, but realized that the roof gets too much in the way of any view. I decided to put just a skinny rectangle window in the left part of the triangle instead. The following photos shows the area framed out, and then sheathed (you can see the space I left for a vertical rectangle window):

The weather is beautiful this week!

Here is the same angle, but with the sheathing complete. This side of the house (the South side, facing the backyard, is looking especially modern, with the long, skinny windows). The doorway in the middle will have a big glass door (already picked out and on site). There will also be a window in the bathroom (on the right side of the house in the photo below), but I don't want to cut the opening for it yet, because I want to use the room for safe storage).

The view from inside the office (the central space). I like skinny windows, whether vertical or horizontal, as they give a really interesting peek at what is going on over a broad spectrum of the world outside.


Here are some older photos that never got posted:

These are the triangle supports that I made to hold up the two extra rafters on either side of the taller, kitchen roof (the two rafters that provide overhang). You can probably spot these supports in some of the photos above.

In thinking about how much weight the center wall is going to bear (with both shed roofs bearing down on it), I doubled up a lot of the studs, as you can see here:

Here's the revised "header" for the kitchen doorway - a double 2X10" on edge.

The 1/2" plywood sheathing on this wall provides a lot of additional support (in addition to doubling the studs).

I love the play of the sunlight through the purlins.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Roof Details

Time for a blog post about the details that made up my day, rather than just glory shots of the house.

Here is the pink foam insulation that I referenced in the last post, taped with Tyvek tape along the seams. This kept the rains out this morning:

This is the fastening method for the insulation. A screw with its force spread out with a "fender washer," driven down into the OSB beneath the foam:

The first thing I did today was put up two new rafters, each one creating the desired overhang on either side of the lower roof (this might be easier to understand as the photos continue below...). Because the roof is a shallow pitch, it's really easy to walk around on and place tools down on (without them sliding off). Instead of cutting my rafters on the ground, and then heaving them up, I just set up my cutting station on the roof. You can see the black Sharpie mark that I've drawn on the rafter below. This is one of the three notches that needs to be cut out so that the rafter will sit properly on its supports.

This is a triangle support that I made to hold up the end of the rafter, sticking out from the edge of the house):

Here's the rafter sitting up on the triangle support. This is before the rafter was notched (and placed properly in line) - I set it up prior to notching so that I could locate where exactly to make my Sharpie notations for the notches:

Here is where I cut through the plywood for the other end of the rafter to sit on the stud wall:

I didn't extend the OSB and foam onto these new rafters, because I don't want to be able to see OSB or foam when I look up under the eaves, when the house is finished. I just want to see the underside of the metal roofing (and besides, insulation isn't necessary on an overhang).  So before laying the purlins (which you'll see later on...), I had to make up in height for the 1 7/8" of material that is on the other rafters (2 sheets of 7/16" OSB, and 1" foam). I used Ken's table saw to rip 2X4s down to 2X 1 7/8"-ers, which you can see below:

I started to screw them in along the top of the naked rafters:

And the ends...

Then I began to bring up the purlins, which are strips of wood that run perpendicular to the rafters, upon which will sit the metal roofing.

Installing the purlins:

Done! (for the lower roof)

Here's are some good shots of the triangle support, the installed rafter, and the purlins:


And here are some other thoughts/photos....

Look at this view! This is looking up towards the Eastern sky in the kitchen.  I'm still waiting patiently to find the perfect windows to stick up in these stud bays (at least 3 or 4 of them). These kind of special views are very rare in houses, from my experience. When you walk into most homes, you are forced to experience the world at just one height, which tends to be the eye level of the average human. This doesn't make sense to me. I want to see ground, sky, tiny views, big views, winter views, and summer views. Windows are incredible devices, that determine how we experience the outside world from in our homes. Having them all match in aesthetic, size, and height is a design failure.

Here's the roof over the bay window that I finished up last evening. Some day this will look out onto a flourishing garden, not piles of materials.

And here's a shot of the backyard from up on the roof: