A billion thin bits of cedar

So yesterday I made it to the corner of the building. Or more accurately, I finished applying cedar to the front corner of our house – I’d not trimmed it to length, but it was all there:

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Last night, and, for a while, this morning, I was wondering if I’d manage some fair distance down the south side of the building today. But I’d not considered that:

We need 12 of the black painted furring strips for that wall (there’s still the back wall to do, too). So this morning I needed to cut and paint them before I could get started. And to work out that we needed 12 I first had to sit down and work out the pattern.

I’d not worked out how long to make the cedar strips…because they’re 12 foot long and our building is just over 24 foot – plus the inch at each end to make it meet the cedar that’s furred out from the building anyhow. So it ends up being ~24′ 5″. Which you can’t do out of two 12′ strips. At the north end I screwed up and ended up with an erroneous non-brick-pattern line because I did alternating rows of [6′, 12′, the end bit] and [12′, 6′, the end bit]. Which seemed fine in my head, but ends up with:


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Which was stoopid. But it’s behind a fence anyhow, and I seem to recall that what I did was throw in a 3′ section somewhere to make it not line up. I can’t recall how I ‘fixed’ it, but it’s not quite the way we intended.

The south end I spent some time thinking about it this morning before attacking it (and I’d thought about this for some time before) and after some playing I have:


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(3’5″, 12′, 9′; 9′, 12′, 3’5″)

Which looks like it’ll work well. But… of course, in addition to working out how it would fit together if it was a plain flat wall, this is not a plain flat wall (we have none of them). This is one of the most complex ones – with the fuse box and the 3 outlets (one box containing two standard / doubles, one for the 40A Rav and one for the 50A general EV charger outlet).

So having sussed the plan, painted the furring strips I then realised that I needed to plane some more cedar. Because, if you’d forgotten, to save money we got rough cut cedar, not planed, so it has to be planed before going onto the house.

So once I’d planed a bunch of strips today I spent a lot of time measuring and cutting. I trimmed down the front ones to length (although I need to get a DA sander on ends of them). I put in the two stainless steel nails into the ends of each one that tie them to the straight runs to the back. And this is where we’re at:

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It was pretty hot out there so I hid under the shade of our shade, which worked fine earlier in the day, but as the sun got low in the evening I just couldn’t find a way to hide and ended up getting pretty warm… but I’m reasonably pleased with how it’s working out. I’m somewhat nervous about the meeting up at the back of the two sides. Thankfully, the french door is in the way, so if it’s not perfectly in line it’s not a total disaster, but it’d be really nice if it was close without a lot of frantic adjustment.

Plan is (as always, subject to change) – do the south side, then do the north side, then do the back.

There’s still the whole strip around the front door too, but that really needs the new front door to be in. Which we’re not quite ready for yet.

Feh.

It’s what’s on the outside that counts

Well, at the moment it is.

This past week we have plodded on with the cedar – I’m now most of the way across the front of the house…

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Although I still need to go back and finish off the back section of the North wall of the house. I left that because I wasn’t sure how I was going to tackle the back corner joint – and cutting for it, but I think I’ll end up doing it the way I’ve done the front corner joints – where I make them overlong, then trim and give them a *very* light sand once I know where the line-up point is for the next side. This is my “cunning” plan to deal with the unsquareness of the building.

We have also decided on how we’re going to do the bit either side of the door. We’ve made the final decision to scrap the really cool thing we wanted to do, and switch to the achievable within a faintly realistic timeframe variant, which is much simpler.

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Today we continued to prime our way around the eaves (where the soffits would be if we had them). This side I remembered that we need to caulk along that strip at the top – to attempt to reduce the amount of bug ingress that can occur (because we have no way to access that void once the plasterboard is up). We’ll have to go back and caulk the top of the bird-blocks at the front, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. I can reach that on a ladder at a push.

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Despite being a dog of a job – slow, fiddly, uncomfortable (I have such a crick in my neck now) and fairly much unrewarding, and also feeling like it’s eating into time when we could be making the house habitable – it does at least look better once it’s done. The wood out here was still stained from the visit from the mould fairy that we got early on. It hadn’t seemed to change since we got the house properly roofed, and mostly it was fine, but there were a few boards that we were less than happy with, particularly on the North end of the house. They’ve all been treated with a proper fungicidal treatment – and now this is stain blocking primer with a mould inhibitor in it. We want to be damn sure that shite ain’t coming back.

We were going to try and match the colour of the roof, but have now decided that something a bit brighter might be nice – and help to reflect light into the building. That said, the light in there is actually really nice – and one of the things that makes us feel a lot more positive about the project.

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Most likely we’ll go with some sort of pale-grey-y-white. Something that shouldn’t become instantly dirty, but also doesn’t just look like we’ve not painted it for a long time.

This week I’m hoping to get more cedar up, and when Kathryn’s free we’re going to attempt to finish the priming, and I guess if the weather holds out we’ll be moving onto the final coat. We’re still hoping that our very-discount-wood supplier will get more of the cedar we need in, because if they don’t the the price is roughly four times the original price. Which would make us both quite unhappy.

One thing which has been pleasing is that with 2400 Watts being poured into the house to heat it, it’s warm. It’s straight up warm in there. Despite having no plasterboard, and loose insulation just stuffed in the ceiling, and the sky-light areas being enclosed with cardboard stapled to the joists, those two little heaters are keeping the entire place warm. Most of the time the thermostatic one seems to be on standby.

So that’s astonishing. I mean, we’ve never had a really well insulated house before, and this one at the moment the front door is badly installed and it’s got no proper air barrier on the inside, but it’s warm with very little heat being put in. So that’s pretty nifty :)

So that went superbly

On Wednesday as the sun cleared away the morning mizzle our Bob lorry turned up with a boatload of fire rated 5/8″ thick plasterboard. I had tried to order the ultralight variant, but it turns out that is not carried by any of our local Bobs. So instead we got the standard variety. Each of these is about 50kg and local planning requires our entire ceiling is done in fire rated boards.

It turned out for an extra $20 they’d deliver inside (fools!); but it also turned out that neither of the people seemed to actually have much experience of moving drywall and needed to be reminded that you can’t carry a sheet of 12ft drywall flat and unsupported, and the whole process was startlingly fraught. Still, apart from the corners of a few sheets, it all made it in to the house in one piece.

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So then we set to on putting up one sheet in the one and only area we had the stuff to put up. See, we have special clips and crack reducing strips that are required for the cathedral ceiling, which, despite my frantic ordering late last week did not arrive in time. But the hall had the advantage that it’s much lower…and doesn’t require any specialist stuff…

… So, we thought we’d just try doing one, just so we could learn a bit about the process, and so we could feel like we are making progress on getting to moving in. See, the other task that’s actually more urgent is to paint the soffit, and for that we need decent weather. But despite the sun having cleared the sky we thought we’d put up one sheet of drywall.

To say it didn’t go well is an understatement.

The first error we made is forgetting just how unsquare our house is. No, actually the first error was accidentally picking what, it turns out, is the most complex piece of the entire ceiling. Then we forgot how insanely unsquare the house is. So the first sheet didn’t fit and we eventually managed to break the edge of it trying to work out how much we needed to trim and shave. We remeasured, and eventually recut a fresh sheet which with some manoeuvring we got into place. Started screwing in place… And then heard unpleasantness.

Cracking unpleasantness.

I’m not sure why yet, but the corner of the sheet cracked, and having taken a solid 4 hours to get one sheet into place, we were both pretty much done for the day.

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We have a couple more ‘extras’ so hopefully once we have had some experience on some other sheets we can come back and replace it. And the clips (which save us adding in some extra framing and theoretically reduce the risk of cracks at the corners of the rooms) and the metal strip (which hopefully makes up for our slightly dodgy framing at the top of the 4m wall and reduces the propensity of that cathedral ceiling to crack) have now arrived and are sat in a large heavy heap in our apartment – so we can at least start on a fairly sane bit.

But that will more or less have to wait until we’ve painted the soffits, because the weather looks ripe for soffit painting.

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It feels like no progress, but I have to remind myself it’s really important.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t

So adding to our tally of inspections that are signed off, and good news on the house front, we had our insulation signed off. That means framing, plumbing, electrical, mechanical and insulation are all passed. What does that mean? That means we can put up drywall… only…well, let’s start back a little bit.

We also managed to drag our less than light 1940s (most likely), cast iron salvaged bath into position which meant that both the shower in the little bathroom and the bath in the big bathroom could have their drains connected. So we did that.

Now in that process we had to make a hole for the bath drain to go through before putting the bath in position. Well, we could have put the bath in position, then marked it, then moved it, made the hole, then moved it back. Did I mention it’s cast iron? And incredibly heavy?

So instead we went with measuring and making the hole, then “sliding” the bath into position, then passing the drain through the bath and tightening it up from underneath. But this came with a few caveats. I, for some reason (which currently escapes me) decided to drill a hole that was really the minimum size I could get away with for the hole. I think I had vague thoughts about trying to minimise weakening of the floor, and that there are a lot of extra joists we threw under there to try and add more support and I hoped to avoid cutting into them…

Who knows. I thought it’d be big enough… but…

And because the bath was too heavy to lift I just felt the rim of the drain with my finger and thought it felt okay. See, I couldn’t really see it very well through the hole which… wasn’t big enough.

So I thought I’d get away with it, and that the seal would be good enough…

I mean, I don’t know what possessed me to think any of these things. Because it has literally never been true. I’ve always had a mare of a time sealing salvaged sinks and baths well. I’ve always needed to clean them thoroughly with sharp blades. I’ve often had to have several goes.

So I threw some water in the bath and it seemed to be staying there, so I let it drain. I’d already got cold and filthy grovelling under the house and we had above-ground stuff to do, so I thought I’d recheck it the next day. So yesterday I threw a bucket of water in the bath and left it to sit for a while. It seemed okay…

….and then I went under the house an hour or two later and found… a puddle of water and a slow, steady drip from under the bath. Fuck.

So I got to grovel round in the filthy water (pooled on the muddy upper surface of the old, filthy vapour barrier). I ended up hacking the floor to bits with totally inappropriate tools, because the bath sits very low to the ground so the pilot bit of our big hole drilling drill bits would foul on the bottom of the bath – so I abused the hell out of my smaller Forstner drill bits to make a few holes around the original hole – which allowed me to pull out more floor, which allowed me to get the blade in to scrape the bottom of the bath and the pipe wrench in. I’m also not convinced the drain’s really the right size.

I ordered it based on it being the only one I could find that didn’t require a threaded hole and being roughly the right size, but I feel like a 1.5″ drain would actually probably fit fine, and possibly be a better fit. So that’s ordered, but they’re coming to spray foam on Monday, so if this one’s sealed and working I’m inclined to leave it unless the new drain is clearly going to be a way better fit. This is one of those – not being familiar with the stuff so it’s harder to work out what size to order things. At any rate, the rest of the plumbing’s fine, or at least appears so… so if I have to rectify this it shouldn’t be impossible.

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We’ve also put up the pocket door frames, which is quite exciting. It means all the framing is truly completed. Apart from any fixes needed when we’re drywalling… And it adds that final sort of definition to the spaces. The door frames to both bathrooms and the laundry were massive voids because the pocket door frames were missing… now they’re in, and finally the rooms feel more room like.

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So, we should be drywalling… only, you need the wood to be under 15% humidity…

Yeah, about that.

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We’ve known for a while that it wasn’t going to be that easy. But now the insulation’s in, we’ve thrown some heating in, and (freakily) turned on the “whole house fan”, so hopefully the house’ll be dryer. Weirdly, you can have two studs that are nailed together along their entire run and one will be 8% RH and the next one will be 17% RH. Mostly though, the new stuff is around 8-10% and the older stuff is around 12-17%. The ceiling trusses are tend to be in the higher end too… which is a pain, because that’s where we wanted to start. Anyhow, we’ve got to clear some space – both to space to work and space to store the drywall when it arrives. So I’ve gone back to working on the cedar:

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I’ve also been working on the bit of wood that hides the transformers for the hidden LED lights that lurk behind the cedar that will go around our front porch. Hopefully they (and it) will work.

On the drywall front, we’ve got a book, and we’ve ordered some funky things that apparently help deal with the drywall joints at angles on the cathedral ceilings (which apparently like to crack) and our clumsy framing at the top of the cathedral ceiling wall. Only now do I work out how we could have held the walls up and vertical while we faffed about to get something more accurately in-line than we did. Thankfully, you’re not meant to put screws in too near the top of the wall, so it may be that the worst of our bits of framing don’t actually matter.

And soon we’ll place the terrifyingly huge order for drywall. We also need to lay some of the heating pipework to feed the hot-water towel warmers – since they hang on the wall that pipe will need to go in before the drywall.

So there’s much progress, but it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be in by our vague and unspoken deadline. Sadly. There’s so much drywall to do… and this is our first ever attempt at drywall, so I don’t expect a lot of speed.

Paint and itch

Progress continues almost apace. At the weekend our lovely family and friends turned up to help us turn the house green. With the change in the weather we were really keen to get at least one coat of the exterior paint on those t1-11 rainscreen sheets of plywood. And after a frantic day of us applying making tape and paper, running to keep up with our crew of painters who, it turned out, were bloody quick, our house is green.

It turns out it’s a pretty limey green, somewhat brighter than either of us had expected, and perhaps more 1970s then we’d expected.

Which is period appropriate. Done moments I really like it, others I’m a bit unsure about it. But whatever it is, it’s up, and doing its job. Yesterday I went and picked up the final two sheets of plywood for the front. These are the ‘tricky’ ones which are meant to be cut, to some extent, to fit around the cedar trim. We are simplifying this, we think, given the struggle to get accurate positioning of the boards.

Given the multiway variability of the many interacting things… (The roof line, the foundation height, the wall height, the thickness of the various bits of cedar…), our original plan looks a little like utter insanity. So we’re trying to work out exactly what we’re doing on that front…

But our main project has been the installation of vast amounts of insulation.

We’re nearly, but not quite done with the world of itchiness. Then we can call for another inspection… And then, drywall!

Inspection the first.

So we finally managed to reach an actual formal inspection point. We’ve had partial inspections which have allowed us to proceed in a non-standard order (exterior framing so we could wrap and rainscreen the building; but that’s not a formally recognised point).

But today after we worked all through the weekend we got all the work done to get the wiring inspected.

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And…

We passed!

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There were a couple of earth issues which he asked we change – so that’s done (it took about 20 minutes); he described the install as being neat (which I didn’t dance at, despite the urge); and he didn’t have any issues with the panel wiring, which had me quite worried. He also wanted some fireproof foam on the conduit through to the panel – so that’s done too (I had that around, just didn’t want to spray it until he’d inspected).

The panel is still missing 2 breakers – a 40A one (which arrived today) for the Rav4 EV charger, and a 15A AFCI (I think, it’s either an AFCI or a GFCI). The wires are in place for it, and the earth is wired in, but the actual breaker hasn’t arrived for one of them, and the other arrived this evening at about 8pm.

Since the weather has been somewhat inclement this week we’ve switched to doing some interior work, and have started putting up the baffles on the cathedral ceiling. The hope is that we’ll get the next inspection on Monday and then move on to insulating. That will mean we can heat the house.

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Which given that we’re entering the colder, wetter part of the year is important. There are a couple of bits of plumbing to do under the house (connecting up the bath and the shower drains) and then we should be good to spray-foam under there (that’s a job we’re paying someone to do).

But at any rate, despite the wetness of the weather and the fact that we’ve not yet got the rain-water holding tank in the ground, or the outside of the building painted*, passing the inspection has injected some positivity into a project that was starting to feel like an interminable awful thing with no end in sight. At least now there’s it feels like there’s actual progress and we’re moving towards a place we can enjoy.

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* Painting party next weekend folks…unless it’s raining!

Snip, strip, clip, repeat

So during / after my little breakdown on Tuesday (sorry about that, you didn’t really need to endure it, but hey…) I went down to BOB and forked out some cash for a few new tools (a chunkier wire stripper, a pair of “electrician’s scissors” and a less bent set of needle nose pliers which I will endeavour not to cover in engine oil and gunk, I promise), a terrifying quantity of sockets (outlets), lightswitches, little wire-joiners, wire twist joiners (which I still think are hideous, but they are easy), and some more odds and sods, and set to on the wiring.

I realised after my little freakout (again, sorry), that actually – as inspections go – for the first time we’ve ever fully wired a house – “please connect these things and I’ll come back” is really a fucking amazing outcome. I’m hoping that <em>is</em> the total of it when he comes for the do-over. But really – not getting “jesus, what have you done” is a serious prize.

So I spent yesterday fairly solidly working on the wiring – caught a mistake <em>I’d</em> made (extra, pointless wire) which I then sat down with Kathryn last night going over the circuit several times to be sure it was right before today wiring everything that could possibly be related to it, and concluding that no – that wire is pointless – and pulling it out.

I also realised that if we’re having a separate gas hob and electric oven (the new plan because we can’t afford a euro-size cooker and our kitchen is titchy, and US cookers are needlessly massive as a general rule; this way we can at least save some of the wasted space by getting two built-ins – It also means we can have the proper arrangement of appliances. Gas stove, electric oven) then we need an outlet for the spark-igniter to plug / be wired into.  So I added that one in to one of the kitchen circuits. As a side point, I’ve not seen an equivalent for the Europe’s Fused Connection Unit faceplates which are nifty things… But most of the gas stove tops I’ve seen just have a plug on the end of the lead anyhow…

So I’ve worked my way down  starting from the lounge – I think I’ve done all the sockets in the lounge, kitchen, laundry, dining room, and one bathroom (with the exception of the ceiling fan, which I need to be up in the loft space to connect). I’ve started on the main bedroom, leaving the boiler cupboard, the main bathroom, the second bedroom, the hall outlets and the outside sockets to do.

I’ve also ordered a frankly terrifying quantity of breakers – made worse by the fact that since we’ve replaced / upgraded the panel and the wiring I suspect (though am not sure) that everything has to be either arc fault or ground fault protected except for a couple of items… and actually, now I come to think about it, they may also need to be protected too. That means that instead of using a $6 breaker, I’ve had to order breakers that are well into double figures. And I’m now wondering if the two standard breakers that I picked up at BOB (which were cheaper than the online prices, amazingly) might need to go back because I’m thinking they may well need to be GFCI instead.

Which’d mean instead of $16, they’d be $80, at best ($150 at BOB).

Still. Hopefully we can get the wiring side all sorted by the end of the weekend (although the breakers won’t be in) – and it looks like it <em>might</em> be cool enough – and not rainy for long enough for us to get the last of the rainscreen up. That would be good.

Also, our rainwater tank arrived – and it’s fucking massive. Which is great, except that I’ve looked at the hole it’s meant to be going in, and it ain’t big enough. So that’s a bugger. If anyone has a burning desire to dig holes in rock-hard clay, be sure to let me know. We rented a digger and tried, and it didn’t seem to be successful.

Today it felt like a bit much.

I’m sure the political situation didn’t help… listening helplessly as a country slides into a tin-pot dictatorship run by a misogynist 4th rate fascist is pretty tiring mentally… but we’ve had some frustrating days recently and today topped that off nicely.

We had hoped to get the rainscreen finished on the south end of the house yesterday, but the promised slightly cloudy day suddenly became extremely warm and cloudless – making being at the south end of the house pretty much unbearable. Which – after we’d really struggled with a bendy piece of wood that didn’t want to go into place (deeply fun on a 4.5m high platform which is not exactly stable because it’s stood on gravel) – left us both feeling less than thrilled. Not least because there are only two pieces of rainscreen left, and then we can move on to priming what’s there… but mainly because it’s another 3/4 finished job in a massive list of 3/4 finished jobs where we don’t seem to be able to get over the finish line.

…we did also start work on the front of the house, tackling the open joint cedar cladding there – which looks gorgeous but takes an insane amount of time. Part of this is the attention to detail, which isn’t really the full attention to detail it should be getting, but does look good anyhow. I mean, really it should have all the joints made more carefully than we are, but it’s already taking hours / days (and potentially weeks) to get this cladding on.

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Frankly, on our budget, I’m damn proud that’s happening at all.

So coming in to today, which was theoretically inspection day for the electrics, I was already feeling somewhat angsty. Now, as you’ve probably gathered, the “theoretically” implies that something went awry. Which it did.

See, my understanding of the rough-in (which it turns out was wrong), was that the wires run into the outlet boxes, but are not connected, and run to the panel, but not into the panel, and are also – not connected. Apparently, that’s not how it’s done here. The inspector was (again) very nice and explained that all the grounds need to be connected through all the boxes. And that the panel needs to be wired. Which somewhat terrifies me – because I am not at all fond of having the wires connected to breakers in the panel that aren’t connected to functioning outlets. But hey.

Also, I am less than thrilled at cutting the descriptions off our cables before wiring them in to switches – particularly for the multiway switches where I want to know which cable comes from where and goes where. But the positive is that he looked around and felt like ‘most everything else was fine. He just couldn’t inspect. Now I remind myself that this is a good thing. He didn’t come in and go “dear god, what have you done”. That’s always a good start. He is – broadly speaking – seemingly happy with our rough in, how we’ve fed and arranged the cables, etc.

However, the 37 outlets in the house all need us to sit down *now*, before we can have our inspections, and connect all the ground wires. All the switch boxes need us to work down how the wiring – and thus – grounding for each set of switches works (because some of the boxes have multiple feeds from the fusebox) – it’s not complex, as such, just there’s a lot of f’kin wires. Nearly all the main switch locations in the house switch multiple locations. The hall lights are switched in two, the kitchen lights in three, the dining lights in two… This means we have many ground cables flapping around. Well, in boxes. Still.

So while it is positive, it again means we’re not at the first inspection. I don’t see that inspection happening this week – because it is going to take hours to install the fusebox. And honestly, I don’t really want to pay the hundreds of dollars for new breakers to meet modern code*, so am looking for overstock and some discounts… so as to take the costs down again. But we really (really) want to get past this inspection so we can insulate the f’kin house before it gets colder and wetter, and we end up with it being full of mould. Because that would be heartbreaking at this point.

* Because apparently, we can’t just stick the old breakers in the new box**. Feh.
** Actually, they wouldn’t fit – but we can’t even just stick modern equivalent breakers in. All the circuits must be either AFCI or GFCI protected, except (curiously) the high current ones (which seems counter intuitive to me, but there y’go).

Well Jeff, you’ve ruined that for me.

I’ve used Amazon forever. As an internet lurking soul since before there was an internet I’ve been through countless suppliers. I can’t even recall most of them. But from Amazon’s first days of shipping to the UK I was using their services.

I’ve always felt a bit iffy about their treatment of staff, suspecting it would be crap. And I’ve always suspected that the founder would be an arsehole. But as the trickle of awful has increased to a steady torrent I now find that the little bit of consumer joy I got from ordering things from them is more a feeling of despair.

There are some bits for the house where we’ve picked them and I don’t have another supplier, and there’s probably always going to be the “well crap, I can’t get this anywhere else*”. But I think it’s time to kill the Amazon prime subscription, and I’ve started the slow trawl of trying to find alternative suppliers.

*Sigh*

*Walmart doesn’t count, I already refuse to but anything from that wellspring of monkey shit.