Fabulous / Frustrating

Let’s get the fabulous out of the way first, because it’s brief but very good news. We sold our land – contracts exchanged, recorded and paperwork completed, money in the bank. We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop having had several offers from people that flaked out, or people who ran screaming from Thurston County, when this offer came in it looked too good to be true. And they didn’t run screaming, and they paid, so now it’s off our hands.

Which is an enormous relief.

The frustrating is, as you would expect, the house.

We’re really down to things that I can only do with Kathryn there, because they’re up in the air*, which led to me doing bitty little things which are unrewarding and made it feel kinda like I’d not really achieved anything.

I did put the rainscreen up around the meter box:

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Which is one of those things that takes ages to cut (because of the fiddly, fiddly shape), but doesn’t really require both of us there. It was just about reachable with just me there – but it is missing a few screws from the very top. Hopefully we won’t have an enormously windy day, although the rest of the screws are fairly well embedded.

I masked off the remaining four windows ready to be treated with danish oil. I will probably oil them on Monday…

I popped in the last bit of insulation in the lower sections of the lounge wall – which means that bit is ready for inspection…

I painted the ceiling of our porch black – it’s actually going to be mostly hidden behind another layer of board, which will also be black**, but I wanted a coat of paint on it. And I’ve cut in and fitted the light fitting box…

I also spent some time fixing a problem that I realised too late to have spent an irritating sum of cash on. While two of the bathroom fans we have (ironically the cheaper ones) will fit between the ceiling joists in the main bathroom****; the fan we actually bought for that bathroom, it turns out, won’t.

So after some debate I realised the simplest solution is to just trade the 3/4 bathroom one for the other bathroom one – that way we actually get the nicer, quieter, but larger fan in our 3/4 (en-suite) bathroom. Which would be great, but it screws up the floor of the mini-attic space above. Which is, of course, irritating. It also necessitates cutting out some more floor for the vent – because it’s a 4″ vent, not a 3″ vent. And it means the 3″ vent cap (which we had for the wall) is now useless, as is the oval 4″ to round 3″ adaptor that is specific to the fan that we bought. Grr.

The other problem with this was it meant I needed to move an outlet wire.

Which it must be said turned out to have enough extra length. So that was good, if somewhat frustrating overall.

So while today has been great in some parts it’s been a bit frustrating in others, and while we’re waiting for the under floor heating stuff, and until I go get the cedar for the trim it’s hard for me to feel useful and like I’m making progress.

* Up in the air junior birdman woman song style.
** Because we have a whole funky dunky lighting thing involving semi-hidden LED lights that glow down from the top of the porch***.
*** Why? Because we like making things deeply over complicated and hard, why else?
**** Which are closer together because it’s our main attic and it may be the case that we own a lot of books.

Damn forums

So, I was doing some reading about prepping for inspections and wandered across a discussion of the fact that while it is ‘to code’ to have a 12/2 run from the panel and then 14/2 spurs from that run (if you have lights and outlets on a circuit), so long as that circuit has a breaker correct for the lower rated wire… apparently inspectors don’t like it. Or more specifically, they don’t like it when DIYers do it. Fine, apparently, if you’re a pro-electrician (and it’s done following the code). But likely to lead to tedious discussions if you’re a DIYer.

Which is funny because that’s how it says to do it in my code book.

Thankfully we’d only done that on a couple of circuits, so I spent some of today tweaking those circuits – removing the 14/2 (thinner gauge) wire and replacing it with 12/2 (which we had left over). Sadly, the boiler circuit (which consists of one double outlet, one light and the smoke detectors) is more of a pain to fix. But if our inspector doesn’t like it I can fix it with one run of 14/2 back to the panel and replacing the single outlet box with a double – and splitting the two circuits. Not a nightmare, but a pain.

I also plumbed in the shower – which, it turns out has a weird quirk – in that while it’s a “raindrop shower”, the showerhead is only about 14″ from the inside of the stud wall (3.5″ thick). Now – to be fair, there’s a female drop-ear that it connects to – but it was asking that to be positioned a minimum of 1 5/8″ back from the surface of the wall. Which still left the showerhead approximately 1′ from the wall. Which is insane. Add to that the fact that our bath has approximately 3″ wide surround, and suddenly you’re looking at a shower that’s only 9″ (22cm) from the edge of the bath…

Which is…not ideal.

After much futzing with it, I managed to position the drop-ear *just* inside the wall – which gains us back almost an inch and a half. I’m slightly worrying that we’ll end up having to buy a longer adapter* – lord knows the damn thing was expensive enough, but it was about the only US-spec shower we could find that fell remotely in our price range and at least faintly reflected the Crane Drexel sink.

I may also have to add a nailplate of some sort to hide in the wall because the pipe is now well less than 1 1/4″ back from the drywall surface. And the cursed thing that is the shower valve (which took a couple of hours of futzing with) probably needs a bit of the stud edge trimmed off to make the faceplate fit. It doesn’t *say* it needs that space in the directions for installation – but when you look at the faceplate it is *meant* to be recessed into the wall. Which is fine…if there’s not a stud right where the damn valve needs to be.

Still, I’m going to leave that for the minute, now it’s far enough along for the plumbing inspection – I think – and that tweak can be in the final inspection.

The list of things to do for inspection is getting shorter though.

  • Low voltage wiring (network)
  • Tighten last earthquake bolt (under pile of insulation)
  • Vent ducting 3/4 bath (requires gable rainscreen to be present)
  • Vent ducting laundry (requires gable rainscreen to be present)
  • Vent ducting main bath
  • Smoke detector wiring and bedroom boxes
  • Exterior light box rear(requires rainscreen to be present)
  • Exterior light box front
  • Insulation lounge wall (partly done)
  • Framing: Both bedroom / attic wall sections, section above laundry room)
  • Plumbing vents – run through laundry room attic wall framing

We’ve started measuring for the funky triangular bits of framing that sit in the sections between the attic and the two bedrooms and the little mini attic above the laundry and 3/4 bath. It’s made hideously complex by the fact we really want a built in shelf above the doors in both bedrooms. Which is pretty much what you’d expect considering the number of multi-way switches we’ve installed in a tiny, tiny house.

Incidentally, USians, is premixed coloured paint a thing here? I’ve not seen it anywhere I’ve been – everywhere seems to only be mix-to-order, which is bizarre to me. I only realised they didn’t have it at Home Depot** after wandering around for about 10 minutes looking for it…

…and then was somewhat fazed – because in the UK there’s usually a few aisles of varying qualities of premixed colours (cheap -> expensive), plus you can go get whatever you want mixed (moderate -> more expensive).

In the end I got my little tin of black paint mixed… but… well… is this me being blind?

* And this is where I really, really miss UK plumbing, because normally in the UK this bit would be a compression joint and a bit of pipe you cut to length, but here it has to be threaded at the wall end – and since this has a 90 degree bend in it for the shower head… they just make it some length or other.
** Or possibly BOB, which might be my new name for it (Big Orange Box – because I tend to call it B&Q).

Yet more copper

So, we continued our plan to put all of the copper in the world in our house. At least, it somewhat feels that way. We’ve used way more than I guestimated based on the book – which says you’ll need N rolls of W, X, Y and Z gauges for a medium size house. I thought, given our house’s smallness that we’d need much less. Turns out that we’ve needed about 2/3rds as much.

Part of that is that I like to break off rooms into separate circuits – and break off lighting and sockets into separate circuits.

Part of it is that we’ve tended to route things the “gold standard” way (over the top of windows, rather than under them).

Anyhow, today we worked on it some more… it was very hot out and the idea of putting up rainscreen even in the shade on such a hot day was pretty unappealing. As I’ve whinged before, the project’s not exactly going fast, and I’m hoping that when we do (hopefully) get the permit signed off and can start insulating and drywalling (plasterboarding) that we might get that going a bit quicker.

We still have the ply to put down on the floor – along with the heating pipes – which needs to be done before we can start faffing around with walls. And we’re starting to really struggle with all the crap in the house. Offcuts of wood that are potentially useful. Offcuts of wood that we’re thinking of using for firewood. Offcuts of ply that might be handy. Offcuts of ply that are probably scrap, but irritatingly large and thus kept around. The beams we got because I f’cked up and bought an extra beam – which turned out to be handy, because we f’cked up and cut it to the wrong length and which we might use in the garage…

The gardening stuff…

It’s all got to go somewhere. And that means a shed, realistically. Because while I’d love to throw the garage up, we aren’t in a position to do that really. We’re thinking of giving in and getting some nasty brackets with a cut list, then throwing a shed up (hopefully in a couple of days) – just because it would make things much more managable.

But that means probably spending money on an excavator rental, or hand digging a large hole. One is costly in money, the other in time we don’t have.

Which we could probably complain about more, but for the fact that we’ve booked a holiday – 8 days away from this madness. Which – despite the loss of 2 weekends, and a solid week of work – is I think needed to keep us at least slightly sane.

Carving through the granite

Sometimes I’m somewhat frustrated by the glacial pace of our progress. I have to remind myself that for the most part, it’s just the two of us. Kathryn’s mom has been helping us by painting the backs of the rainscreen panels – which saves us a lot of time because we can just prime/paint the cuts we make to fit around windows and such.

But it’s taken us 3 days to get the front and the north side (not even including the gable) done.

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Part of this is because we care about the finish and so spend quite a lot of time debating and tweaking and trying to get the lines right.

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Part of it is learning – most rainscreens are made with far higher quality stuff than we can afford. This is shop-grade T1-11. So although it’s made the same as the APA rated sheathing it’s failed quality control. To try and get it such that it won’t fall apart we want to protect it and fix it firmly, while still allowing it to function as a rainscreen.

It’s fiddly – to try and reduce insect ingress we’ve got this mesh that needs to be fixed between the screen and the housewrap; getting than in place while getting the furring strips that hold the rainscreen out from the building on and lined up right is tricky.

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But the final result is pretty pleasing.

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There are many sins that will need to be covered with the trim strips. We’d much prefer to have much better quality materials, with joints that actually fit together really well, and have this section be flat (and actually, we love the colour of the ply). But none of those things are remotely within budget.

Still, it – like many things – is a good learning experience.

We’ve also been gradually picking at the final list of wiring jobs (which is mainly runs to / from lights from switches).

I know we’ll get there, it’s just when that’s bothering me.

Oh, in good news, after 3 attempts the toilet we ordered from Wayfair has arrived…. intact! :)

And that’s (nearly) a wrap

So we’ve continued our quest to wrap the entire building in plastic (ugh). The weather was overcast today which meant it was a perfect day for us to finish the wrap. Yesterday we did the front (in the shade), but were unable to even consider doing the south facing side of the house because it was so freaking hot in the sun. Today, thanks to an overcast day we were able to bring the scaffolding out and…

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Ta-da!

Yes, that’s one end of the house wrapped. Just the North end’s gable left…

We’ve also started toying with paint colours. Irritatingly, here a ‘tester’ pot of paint is about 500ml, unlike in the UK where you can get a tester pot that is literally enough to paint about 0.25 sq m.

It wouldn’t be quite so irritating, but they’re about $15 a pop. Which given we like to try quite a few different colours… well. We tried three, and don’t really like any of them. Tomorrow we’re going to spring for another two…

We’ve also finished the main attic floor (which means we can get on with more framing).

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And got all the joists in for the laundry/bathroom attic floor…

It’s all adding up to slow but steady progress. I’ve also been working on the outlet wiring and tomorrow plan to have a deeply enjoyable morning of drilling holes for the final bits of earthquake proofing.

We’ve also been putting oil on the interior window frames – and they’re looking pretty spiffy.

It’s not really feeling like the end is in sight, but at least maybe we’re passing the middle? And bits of it feel pretty good. The windows being in is a big one – and when we finally finish the wrap (hopefully this weekend), that’ll feel damn good. We’ve also discovered we can use “shop” grade material for our rainscreen – which drops the cost without being too damaging to the final finish.

One slight fly in the ointment at the moment* is that the grass at the back of the house is flowering/seeding which is killing my allergies – but we’re still waiting on the new battery (and blade) for the lawnmower (ordered a week ago, still no shipping notification), and our strimmer is out of strimming string. All of which made today a long torment.

I’m somewhat wary of how tomorrow will go too.

* Not as bad as a mouse dropping in the yoghurt

Sloooooooow down

Things have slowed down somewhat. We burned the candle at both ends (and possibly in the middle) – managing to get one of the picture windows into the bedroom:

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And then the next day hoped to get the wrap up for the final window.

Only the next day I had a bit of a sore throat and didn’t quite feel right. After about 5 hours I was suddenly was hit by a wave of tiredness and feeling awful. We managed to get the tricky bit of the wrap done, but didn’t finish the front… Kathryn was lovely and tidied up, watered the garden and ferried me home. But the next day I was done. It started off like a cold, but spiralled into nausea and fevers and utter exhaustion. After 3 days of laying on the sofa, sleeping and watching TV (I was so tired it took me 4 goes to make it through a Star Wars film – I just had to keep stopping and sleeping), I gave in and accepted that I was not, under any circumstances, going to make it in to work on Friday.

That day passed in a wave of tiredness – but with bonus excitement. I could stand up, I put clothes on (instead of PJs), and didn’t actually need to sleep through the day, just napped a bit in the morning.

Then Saturday we went for gold – with a trip up to Seattle to collect stuff that we’d put holds on at Second Use.

There was an expected traffic apocalypse on i5* on Saturday, so we took a very relaxed drive up the peninsula, and then hopped on a ferry. It was longer, but super pretty.

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And when we got there – we managed to collect actual marble tiles!

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For $20 :)

We *think* there’s enough to do the bathroom floor. Although wastage on hex tiles? Hrm.

Also: a sink, light fittings, and arranged to collect a bath on Monday…

It wasn’t exactly resting, but it was a pretty chilled day. We also got to try out the DC rapid charging up in Seattle – and it worked fine this time (unlike our last traumatic trip).

I was still knackered by the end of the day though, and even today I’m struggling. I’m not sure if it’s a cold, or allergies, or what. But I’m so tired…

Despite that, on Sunday we went for it – installing the final window. And although it took us about twice as long as normal, that last window slotted into place.

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We have ALL OUR WINDOWS IN!

And yesterday after collecting the bath…

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We have now returned to a couple of other jobs – the attic floor and the plumbing and the electrics. I realised I’d made a mistake when I was plumbing the vent for the bathroom. I’d tried to make it so that it didn’t run through the attic space – which worked, but was long, because we wanted to have as much attic floor available as possible.

But I’d forgotten that there’s a vent fan duct that also needs to run through that space. So, there’s absolutely no point in trying to avoid the attic, so I lopped the zig-zag section out of the pipe, and made up a new simpler, shorter one. Kathryn got more flooring down, and it meant that we could put the pipe through a hole in the floor, rather than having to do some weird long slit, too.

Kathryn’s dad also arrived to help us get the bath into the house. See, it turned out that the cast iron bath we’ve chosen is… heavy enough that the folks at Second Use declared it as being one that needed the fork-lift to get it into the pickup. And getting it out of the pickup was clearly not going to be a two person job. With three of us, it turned into just a very challenging problem. We flipped it end over end, tipped it, walked it, and eventually managed to kind of lever it into the house… It’s really heavy, but we slapped a lot of extra supports in that section of the house, so it should be okay.

What is (unsurprisingly) difficult is that being a vintage bath(tub) – and having no overflow we’re finding it tricky to locate a US bath(tub) drain that’ll fit. Since over here they generally have an overflow with a flappy little flippy thing to work the built in pop-up plug for the drain. I’m trying to find a pop-up drain that’ll work… but the size also seems a little obscure.

We’re also thinking we it might be advisable to add an ’emergency’ drain to the floor…given the absence of overflow.

We just need toilets now. More tricky, because that bathroom is a 14″ rough-in. And we’ve decided we like the look of unibody toilets. Feh.

* They were closing the motorway Northbound and reducing lanes Southbound. In Seattle. One of the busiest stretches.

Working like crazy

We put in a solid 16.5 hours this weekend on the house. And what did we do?

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Well, the two front windows, the last two original windows? They came out. We’d left them for a while for various reasons. One is that we don’t like having the front boarded up, but another is that one of them (the one nearest the car) is 8ft long and the other is 6ft long. We’d removed a 6ft one earlier and it was a complete pig, so we weren’t hugely looking forward to this.

Fortunately, the 8ft one was broken (our contractors broke it) so we tackled that first knowing we could chop it up to pull it out. It turned out, however, that the joker who installed it had used whatever s/he had lying around to install it. Y’know, a couple of drywall screws, a few nails here and there. The end of a tube of caulk.

In fact, it was so badly installed that we had more difficulty getting it out because it half fell out part way through. It was hanging by a couple of nails… In the end we put a tarp on the ground, Kathryn pulled the nails and sort of let slide-fall onto the tarp where it shattered.

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Fortunately, the contractors had stuck a sheet of plastic across the front of it to stop it falling apart when they broke it, which stopped most of the glass exploding out across the garden.

We then ripped out a big chunk of manky old wall…

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Framed up for our new (much smaller) window

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Made a little strip of ply to fill in the enormous gap in the siding left by the original builders… (which had been filled with spider nests and dead insects when we stripped the trim off)

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(Over a roughly 6ft span that goes from 1.5 inches to less than 1/8th of an inch). Did these people not have a f’kin plumb bob?

And as the day wore to a close we put the siding up (we’ll cut out the window after the framing’s approved).

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Sunday was a rinse and repeat:

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Only in this case they had barely installed the window. It came out almost pristine. The few nails that were holding it in were mainly the ones in the trim. Oh and 2 drywall screws and a 2 wood screws that were about 20mm long.

There was also some caulk – about 20cm of it along the top edge of trim…holding the trim to the window. After Kathryn pulled some of the trim off it became rapidly apparent that we’d have to hold it in while she pulled off the rest, because it was so loose. It actually threw us both for a bit, because less than an hour after we got there we’d removed the window and weren’t mentally ready for “now we need to demo the wall”.

This one was tricker because we had to replace the header – our plans require two jack studs either side of the header (rather than one on the original header), so even though our new window is the same size as the old window (although approximately 30cm further north than the old window), we needed to pull the old header to install a longer one.

But after quite a lot of experimentation with methods on previous windows we got this one in smoothly. Albeit with some beating it with a hammer and a block of wood to get it in the last few mm (it was pretty snug).

And ended the day with the front boarded up.

So quick shower this morning a few nails (we didn’t do all the siding nails yesterday), and I’ll call for an inspection on that. Then we can wrap the front, put in the last two windows…and commence making the rainscreen.

Also, obviously, there’s the interior electrics to do, and the drywall, and the flooring, and the heating… and and and.

Cream crackered

So yesterday we got window number five in. That end of the building is also partially wrapped, which is nice:

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It’s slightly irritating that the gas meter (which is as near to the front of the house as they’d allow) lands up right under the window. Partly because it’s an ugly thing right under the window, and partly because we’d like to have the enclosing fence in front of the meter, but obviously PSE would be unthrilled by that. So we need to work that out. We’d also like the fence there because it would mean we could put our rainwater capture tank just behind the fence, right at the front of the house, where it’s essentially invisible from the house. Buuuuut, no. So that also needs a plan alteration. It has also come to my attention that I’ll need a socket for the pump for the rain water capture system… which I’d not considered or planned for.

Poot.

Anyhow.

The window is in, the side is partially wrapped, all of these are good things.

Today I took a day ‘off’ and worked on the garden. Part of this is because of the dear. Oh, no, I mean deer. As in “Oh, deer”.

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We’d heard a hint that deer don’t like fishing line strung across at knee-ish height because they feel it but can’t see it. The theory went that they can’t see the thing and so won’t attempt to jump it.

Apparently, however, they’ll step over the damn thing and eat the plant.

Or all the plants.

Our fruit bush planting took a deer related munching, so today I made up a temporary fruit cage, and I have plans to make a fully fledged fruit cage, but that requires more time and energy than I have today. Also, more chicken wire than I bought. And a discussion with Kathryn about how big to make it.

I expect I caused much entertainment to anyone watching as I danced around with the bloody chickenwire as I unrolled it, and it re-rolled itself. And much cursing and pulling at it was had. And I attempted to semi-flatten it out and install it over my head and it would collapse or tangle itself up.

I suppose, if I design it right, I could make the fruitcage disassembleable and sectional.

Hrm.

Anyhow, I also threw together a second raised bed (because I may have had a seed/bean buying incident).

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We just need to steal more soil to fill it. I’m thinking I might start digging the trench that’ll carry the rainwater back from the front of the house (it follows the line of the old soakaway pipe from the back of the house), so I can steal that good quality(ish) soil for the bed. I can also dig some more of the trench around the front of the house. That might work :-/

All the soil that’s left from the pit is really lousy clay with stones. I put some in there to hold down the card, but it’s not really what we want for the veg bed.

I also, having changed the faulty relay on the mower yesterday, put it to work. Sorta.

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See, while the relay definitely seems to have been faulty – and replacing it does make the mower ‘work’, the ancient AGM battery in it is… uh, possibly somewhere after it’s last legs.

The motor does spin, and if you have short enough grass and walk very slowly around the garden, occasionally tilting the mower up so it can spin back up to speed when it’s encountered some long grass, it does cut. I imagine it was quite nice to use when it was new, because it’s super quiet.

It is, however, not terribly effective. I mean, it’s more effective than our cylinder mower. Well, it’s less effort for an equivalent level of effective.

I’m trying a few cycles of discharge and recharging to see if that helps, but I suspect it needs a new battery in addition to needing the new (and installed) relay. Which is irritating because Neuton do sell batteries – but they’re $100 apiece. Which I’d not really mind too much if I knew the mower worked. But I’m not absolutely convinced that the battery is going to be the last of its failings. It could probably also do with the blade sharpening…

So I’m not sure what we’ll do about that…

Less productive…

So yesterday I had a small plan for the morning – errand, B&Q Home Depot, fix lawn mower, maybe attach one of the exterior sockets.

What happened instead was:

Collect tyre (takes a while, the woman didn’t twig that the tyre stood on the rack was a package for several minutes, looked very confused when it said it was in the collection place until I said – “It is a tyre, so it should be pretty big…”).

Home Depot – meander round for hours trying to work out how best to manage the exterior sockets and the conduit that’s possibly required. I’m still unclear if it is required, but it only cost a few dollars and means I only have to install the sockets once. If I do it right. Stare at pipe for our rain-water capture system. Buy some… Get back to the house, unload, laugh like an idiot* because I realized that yes, I bought enough pipe to do the run from the (theoretical) storage tank to the (theoretical) pump but… I didn’t buy anything to connect those lengths of pipe together. Get back in the car, drive the 20 minutes back to home depot to buy those bits, a couple of other options for conduit (wrong choice), more drainage pipe (I realized that I should hook up the gutter at the front if we want to save enough to flush toilets too.

Then when Kathryn arrived and we went to start work she realized that we were lacking something else. I can’t remember what, so I ended up making a third trip. By the end of that I was feeling pretty grumpy with myself. Which made me grumpy. I know I shouldn’t be, I’m trying to work on letting the days when we don’t get as much as I’d like done wash over me and be gone, but I didn’t really feel like I’d made a huge number of things for me to do yesterday…

…But still, we managed to get two layers of house wrap on, which is a good thing.

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It means today we need to cut the window opening, add one more layer of house wrap and pop the window in, then we should be able to move on to doing the front windows. Which are, to be fair, some of the most difficult ones. They’re longer, heavier and require much more rebuilding (the bedroom) or working around the old header and framing (the office).

On which note, since I have washing up to do, and a shower to have, I should get on.

*Causing the guy doing roof work across the street to stare at me in alarm

Well, that was hot.

Not in the sense of hawt, obviously.

Just fucking hot.

So despite a predicted high of 28°C we’d made the plan to try and get the south window in yesterday. Allowing a good chunk of day for us to do it, we planned to arrive early to try and avoid the worst of the sun, and then spend the day getting the window in – which meant cutting the hole, wrapping that side of the building, flashing, putting the window in, then fixing it in.

Being a Sunday and not wanting to be deeply obnoxious, we didn’t want to get there really early.

So, off we went – and realized that the sun hits that side of the house full on well before 9. Probably before 8.

So, uh, that didn’t work.

But we carried on regardless – having to take breaks to hide in the shade every few minutes because it’s f’ckin hot cutting and hammering in the sun.

So just as a reminder…

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and now:

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It’s getting there.

But yesterday was slow. Damn slow. It was so hot it took us nearly 8 hours to put in the window and wrap that side, most of which was us sitting in the shade going ‘fuck, it’s hot’.

I was not built for this kind of weather.

Anyhow, we’re going to start wrapping the North side today, so off I jolly well trot.