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.

Almost an inspection

So, today we had planned to have an inspection. We’ve been working on lots of the disparate jobs that needed doing and… (ta da) were ready for an inspection today. Only we weren’t.

I’d got my inspectors mixed up, and the guy today doesn’t do electrics, he does framing, plumbing and mechanical. Some how I had him down as framing, plumbing and electrics. Which he’s not. Which didn’t work out ideally as they apparently like to get electrical done first, then he can come in and do the rest. Which would mean that we could drywall (if we pass).

Thankfully, he was very nice about it and had a walk round – flagging a few minor things for his return (a couple of bracing straps we need where the old-and-new meet and we couldn’t overlap the top-plates the way that we’d ideally have liked to (done). Where there’s no bolt next to the french door (because the french door sits partially over the crawl-space opening) he wanted some more nails (done, just dug out the nail gun and whopped some in there :) ). There’s a couple of strengthening plates to go over the top-plate on the triangular section above the laundry that I knew we were missing, but I’d forgotten to get. He actually didn’t flag that today, so I’m not absolutely certain that they’re required, but they are 40c each, so I picked them up while I was at BOB today, and will put them up when Kathryn’s free to be in the house too.

I also arranged an electrical inspection for the next day that works for both us and Oly planning – which means we’ll be inspected on Tuesday. Expect an anguished wail.

In other news we’ve continued the rainscreening – it was actually too hot yesterday we discovered after we’d got the scaffold up – so we only put one board up. I appear to have not taken a photo of it, so here’s a shot of it just prior…

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We bought and fitted the wood for the shed base (treated timber) and spread out the gravel in the hole. Frustratingly, because my digging was far from perfect, the amount of gravel we’ve got is about 2″ shy of the top of the frame. Options include putting concrete in that top two inches (might be wise), or going and getting more gravel (cheaper). We should also really rent a compactor for a few hours and squidge it down. Maybe that’s a weekend job… and then we can see how bad it really is.

Kathryn’s cut all of the wood for the shed frame – so we should be able to put it up fairly quickly once we get a base to put it on… oh, and some ply to go on the outside of it.

And then I spent the afternoon today applying more of the near 250 strips of wood we’ve decided to apply to the house. I’d like to claim that it’s going quicker now I know what I’m doing, but it’s really not. At least not by much. I’ve made a ‘special tool’ which holds the strip up at one end (it’s a C-shaped bit of bent wire). This means I spend less time flailing about and trying to persuade it to fit. But most of the time is really trying to make sure it looks right. It’s not a case of getting the whole thing perfectly level, and the spacing all perfectly even because the bits of wood are not even widths, nor are they straight. So it’s more a “this is where it should be, now, what will make it look right” kind of deal.

Still, the first side is about 3/4 done – and that’s taken a day and a half – more or less. So hopefully a good week should see most of the house finished. Only… of course… we bought an insufficient amount, and there’s no more in stock. So that should be interesting.

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So, we went on holiday

Now I know, a lot of you are probably thinking “but they just went on holiday in April” – which is true. But there’s definitely a difference between a holiday of seeing family and friends, and a holiday of wandering around in a wholly relaxed manner and reading books and disconnecting from the online world.

And not to be whiny (although I am, quite), we were both knackered. We haven’t been taking days off – and working on the house every day had taken it’s toll. We were both struggling – and so a week hiding in the Oregon countryside was the plan.

We hopped in the i3 and headed down… the same day as the Nazi / Patriot Prayer rally in Portland. Which was just peachy timing. Thankfully, there’s a new charger off I-5 in Longview, so we slid down that way and only got a pathetic wanker staring us down once. Otherwise the journey down was uneventful (but that charger is only 25kW, not 50kW, so it takes a while to fill up our i3). Annnnyhooo.

So we got down to Eugene, found ourselves in a very nice quiet cabin, tucked up in the treeline in a valley at a little smallholding. Eugene turned out to be a very us kind of city… the first day we found a coffee shop that served French Toast and made our appointments for the massage the next day. And then we had an incident involving the Eugene House of Records…

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Which unsurprisingly led to more music being at home with us. Funnily enough, we couldn’t listen to any of it, as the car lacks a CD player, and the cabin had no record deck.

We pottered around Eugene, poking at stores and generally relaxing, before heading over to see the y free-in-the-park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which we enjoyed with fresh Strawberries :)

We pottered to various shops, had a massage, ate yummy pastries, visited Eugene Pride, had a good look around the U of O art gallery (which is really bloody good), and the Maude Kerns art center (which had a cool exhibit on). We pottered out to see waterfalls, and wandered some not-terribly-hard trails through dry-as-crisp woodland. We watched bats through the window, dipped ourselves in a stream and let the water run over us as the sun crept across the sky. We read, listened to music, mimicked ducks and turkeys.

We mooched around the farmer’s market and bought wine made from Oregon Grape. We toured a winery and tasted wine from three wineries. We sat and watched a covers group while we ate wood fired pizza at a winery as the sun slowly set.

We saw a South American Mexican dance performance (shades of Germany and Spain, it’s fascinating), and wandered around the Portland Japanese Garden on our way home.

Photos are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49965961@N00/albums/72157699817719774/with/43972979932/ for those who are interested :)

In theory…

I should be using these few hours between shopping for food and cleaning the house, and Kathryn getting home from work for working on our house. I should be. I should be because I ran through shopping this morning having scrubbed the bathroom, washed up, dusted.

I flew downtown, having stopped off to drop off the recycling (and failed to get my laptop battery recycled, because Target has device recycling, not battery recycling, which I always get wrong). I ran through the shops we use, and the local farmer’s market.

I barely paused to say hello when my friends were playing (Pinniped) and didn’t stay to hear them play – which makes me feel worse about the fact that when I got home and ate lunch, I crashed. I am so, so tired. We’re pushing (and pushing) and have been pushing to try and get to the first formal inspection. That covers framing, electrical and plumbing rough in.

We’re so close I can almost taste it.

But it has meant that we’ve been working far more than is reasonable, especially given the temperature. With the outside temperature often being at around 30c / 86F or more, the inside has been up to around 40C / 104F. Indeed I recall seeing 42C on our thermometer. And that’s at ground level. Up in the attic, which is where the vast majority of our work has been it’s way hotter. Yesterday, while I was outside, I was outside at a temp of more than 30 degrees C and working on the house from 8am to 6pm.

And while it does mean there is progress – lots of it. It also means that perhaps I should listen to my body when it informs me that it is time to rest. Now.

We have a hole full of gravel for a shed base courtesy of me driving an excavator for the first time ever*. We also have a hole for the IBC tote to capture rain water, and the buried barrel – which it turns out was just really the lid and a few remenant bits of rusting side – has been dug out. Also the metal pole that was the washing line has been removed (it’s not where we want a washing line). We’ve also done some pre-emptive digging for what will be our raingarden.

Hole for a shed base, and no, I've not put the wood around it yet

We’ve built two of the three bits of wall that are the final bits of framing we require for inspection. These are the (bloody) triangular bits of wall that go above the attic. We’re now realizing why cheap houses don’t have cathedral ceilings. It’s because, beyond the additional expense and engineering involved in getting trusses, and the extra insulation required, it’s also a pain in the arse to frame. I’m also getting why the few cheaper houses I’ve seen with cathedral ceilings have had weird unused spaces – because it’s much easier to only put up one difficult triangular wall and leave a useless space than it is to make multiple difficult triangular walls.

Framing of a triangular wall

We’ve not been able to find any real information on framing non-structural triangular fill-in segments. And so they’ve kind of been guesswork. There’s lots of stuff on doing gable ends, but these aren’t gable ends. There’s stuff on structural triangles, but these are non-structural. Their entire purpose is to hold up the drywall at the end of the room. Still, we’ve done the one in the dining area, and we’ve done the one in the second bedroom. We’ve put up the blocking (which goes between the trusses) for the main bedroom – and have the wood. Hopefully we’ll get that up this weekend.

That leaves:

– 3/4 Bathroom vent connection (I’ve now fitted the actual fan)
– Laundry / Whole house fan vent connection
– Install plastic box and run cable for smoke detector in main bedroom (we have done the hall and the second bedroom)
– Add the 14/2 feed for the boiler room lights from the panel
– Install the plastic light box for one of the kitchen lights
– Reconnect the plumbing vent for the laundry

The problem is – we’ve got two competing concerns – there’s inspection which we need to progress, and there’s covering the housewrap and protecting it from UV. Both have time pressure, but are completely unrelated activities. The finish on the house is a hideously complex process – because nothing we do is easy.

We are applying individually cut strips of 1×2″ cedar to the bottom 35″ of the house. We have bought 1×2’s pre-cut, but because we don’t have loads of money kicking around spare, they are rough-cut, so we have to plane them. Each of them, therefore, has to run through the planer. This is a rainscreen of far more complexity than is reasonable for a house of this quality – but we have always liked the open joint look. So have gone the extra mile to make it happen… which is all very well, except that dear god does it take a long time. Not least because I’m trying to get it to look level on a house which is not level, and to be at least ‘close’ to level, and also for those who’ve not realised, cheap wood isn’t straight. Not even slightly.

I spent yesterday morning problem solving exactly how this would work – and starting the process. I made one mistake**, but it is fairly easily fixable, and now I’ve realised that I need a special ‘tool’ of my own design which I’ll make before I start on it again. I’ve also worked out what the staggering lengths need to be (that’s the mistake I made on the first wall, but I can hide it thanks to the gas meter being present, also it’s the North wall which is the least visible side of the house, and once we get a fence up it should be pretty much hidden).

Strips of wood applied to a wall in an excessively complex brickwork pattern

All of which is to say things are progressing. I feel bad that I’ve not made them progress today. But I am knackered. And we’ve got a full weekend of rainscreen and/or framing coming up. So… rest might be useful.

* I also discovered that one of our neighbours is a dick. He came out and swore at me for being too noisy at the terrible time of 9am. No explanation, just called me an asshole and stormed off (we’ve not met this neighbour before, he’s at the back of the house).

** Well, one significant mistake that I’ve not fixed yet.

Progress outside, if not much inside

For ‘reasons’ we have been really pushing to try and get the rainscreen up on the house. Our rainscreen (as has probably been mentioned by me before) is cheap shop-grade plain-face t1-11* which will get battens over it so that unless you are paying proper attention it’ll look like board and batten. As usual with us, we’re dressing something not terribly pricey to look much nicer than it is. And complicated, because we can save on materials by making us do the installation work.

Anyhow, the back of the house and some of the other bits are running up against the “do not leave your vapour barrier exposed longer than” periods of time – hence the massive push to get the back covered. This despite the fact that the weather has been hot, sunny and dry. Also despite the fact that at times it’s painfully frustrating. We at best can manage a rate of about 1 board an hour, which seems ridiculously slow – given it’s just a 4’x8′ board that we cut down to 4′ by 82″, then stick on the wall using screws it sounds like it should be fairly easy…

But first up most of the boards overlap a window, or a door. And the header of our building isn’t flat, and the roofline wanders up and down just a bit. And there’s the whole entertaining m’larkey of the scheme that we’re using to prevent insect ingress into the small void behind the panels (which is for airflow). Those exterior boards are separated from the wall and the vapour barrier by a 3/8″ “furring” strip, at the top and bottom of which runs mesh. Metal mesh. Which is springy, and difficult to wedge a board over. I mean, the entire point is that it’s all a snug fit to make it less of a haven for small crawly creatures. But all in all as we’re trying to hold a heavy board up, with reasonably accurate cutouts for windows…while squishing mesh, screwing it to the wall and not breaking the windows. It turns out it’s “tricky”.

So basically, one board an hour. Ish. Slightly longer, usually. Sometimes with much swearing. Sometimes with some despairing. Recently, I’ve been trying for some equanimity by reciting the mantra that the “test fit” is a “test fit” and I should not expect it to fit.

Because no matter how hard I try to accurately cut and measure, there’s almost invariably a few mil here or there that need to be shaved off. Which means getting the board up, positioned, marked, back down, trimmed, retested, then when it’s right painting all the cut edges.

Anyhow, so long-story long. Big push. We’ve still got the south face to do, but we wrapped that relatively recently, so it’s less pressing. At least a bit.

We spent some (quite grumpy time, if I recall correctly) on the weekend getting the North gable done.

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We then spent Sunday/Monday/Tuesday getting the East side of the house done…

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Which really does feel like quite an achievement. And we’re very pleased with how it’s coming together.

Please take the time to ooh and ahh over our lovely rainscreen. Which just needs priming now. Then battens. Then more priming. Then painting.

Oh, and note that we quietly trimmed the downspout so that it fits (and is positioned between vertical and the special version of vertical that is the end of the house).

People keep asking us when we’ll be in, and if we’ll speed up now *x* has happened, or *y* is ready. And I kind of want to wail when they do, because it’s just the two of us, part time, and it has become apparent that we are effectively building a house. In fact, it’s actually, in many ways, harder than building it from scratch, because we have to work within the bounds of someone else’s mistakes, and someone else’s lazy decisions.

But anyhow, the rainscreen job is somewhat more towards completion.

We’ve also connected up one of the bathroom vents. Although I realize that I’ve not cut out enough of the wood around it (because our roofers didn’t cut a big enough hole for the vents when they moved them – or more accurately, the cut a big enough hole, but positioned the vents right up against the wood). I trimmed one side, and thought I’d done enough, but when I looked yesterday I realised there’s not enough clearance on the lowest side of the hole either. But regardless, it’s actually connected to a bathroom fan which, if it had power, could blow humid air out of the bathroom (if it had walls, and functional plumbing) into the outside world. Woo.

I’m also beginning to settle myself with the idea that we should tweak the furnace outlet to be an outlet by itself, and make the lights in that room a separate circuit. Thus avoiding the whole 14/2 gauge 12/2 gauge potential inspection debacle. I’ve picked up a two-gang switch box which will make that happen more easily.

So we’re inching forward, albeit not at anywhere near the rate we’d like.

* Plywood with a faux grain on it. Plain face means that it’s once continuous face, you can get T1-11 that looks vaguely like tongue-and-groove slotted together**.
** If you squint hard enough.