And just for a change, plasterboard.

Yeah, yeah. I know you’re all heartily sick of Kate’s Adventures in Plasterboardland. But it’s quite exciting to me to see an exterior wall in a real room (not one of our titchy bathrooms / laundry rooms) sporting drywall.

This is not one of those days when Kathryn’s able to come work on the house, so this was just me and the giant sheets of drywall and the deeply joyful torment of the ages.

Please also note the beautiful rotozipped socket boxes. For once I didn’t maul the drywall in the process.

I actually put up 3 sheets, there’s one in the hall (which didn’t go so well, I think I was really a bit too tired for doing it).

It is definite progress though.

That’s a lot of plasterboard

So after discovering, yesterday, that BOB would not be doing threshold delivery on the drywall we steeled ourselves for an entertaining afternoon.

The day started somewhat stressfully as immediately I finished my yoga and exercises, and put on my clothes for clearing the house I got a phone call from the delivery driver asking if he could he come an hour early… to which the answer was clearly “no” as I had several important things to do before I could get there, but also, since I paid for delivery in a time slot, I’d really rather it was actually in that time slot.

Anyhow, I still sprinted over to the house after grabbing a premade sandwich and a snack, because I knew that despite the lack of threshold delivery, we still needed somewhere to put it and I knew that could take a while. Lots of cleaning up and clearing the space.

Anyhow, shortly after I arrived, so did the plasterboard:

Ah, an enormous heavy stack of plasterboard outside. Yay.

So the rest of the morning was spent clearing the entire lounge for the 46 sheets of plasterboard that had joined us and that were sat outside basking in the winter sun.

It’s really nice, actually, to see the space again. I forget how big our lounge/kitchen/dining area is.


I mean, it’s not actually big, because our house isn’t actually very big. But when you’re spending all your time carefully skirting around the stuff then it’s easy to forget that the room is actually a reasonable size.

Then I spent the remainder of the afternoon until Kathryn arrived attempting to shim our framing so our walls end up reasonably flat and so the drywall doesn’t crack completely.

Mmm, I’m sure the drywall won’t mind moving in 1/4 inch, then back out again.

The framing on our house is shoddy. We learned doing it, so ours is a bit variable, but frankly, it’s a damn sight better than the shite the original builders did. There’re plenty of spots that are more than 1/4″ out of true. And there are now an inordinate number of cardboard shims bonded to the wall to try and fix that.


Half the bloody house is made of cardboard now. To be fair, some of ours are pretty ropey, but often on ours it’s just one that’s not in line. On theirs it’s in-and-out like the hokey-bloody-cokey. The other thing that’s a significant pain in the bottom is that where our ceiling truss bolts go through, they also stick out a bit if they’re in a spot where the builders couldn’t get to very well.


So they need shimming too, so the drywall doesn’t just crack over it.


Still, it gave me something to do until Kathryn arrived. Then it was time to do this:


Which explains why it’s now time for bed.

‘Tis Done

Hooooooo Raaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!


Our ceiling is finished*, which is fortunate because our wall drywall comes tomorrow. Which will be a joy – moving 46 pieces of drywall from outside to inside because curiously, BOB say they can’t do threshold delivery on drywall. Which is what they did last time. Odd.

*Well, apart from some of the attic areas. But that can be done later.

Small successes

It took pretty much all afternoon, and was pretty tedious with the first version of the board not fitting (again, unsquareness abounds), and requiring quite a lot of tweaking on the second board (which also didn’t fit as well as some of the others we’ve done)…

But. At the end of today our second skylight was drywalled in.


We have the bedroom ceiling to do (and a some attic stuff which we’re not considering as part of the main ceiling job, but would be nice to get done). Then that’s it for ceilings.

So today we ordered our wall drywall. Which is scheduled for delivery…


We did it

So, that piece of board that made our life a misery, that we took up to the ceiling and had to take back down when we realised it wouldn’t fit. That revealed in all its ugly glory just how bad our early framing error had been?

That one?

Yeah, today we made that right. Well, okay, we made it look right. Ish.

The first step was a lot of measuring. A lot of measuring. Then we spent a lot of time debating how to hide the terrible error. The fact was we needed to lose about 2.5 cm in width across a just over 1m span. With a not insignificant amount of fiddling, we came up with losing about 0.75 cm from the narrow board at the top, and the rest off the sloped board which, combined with the pitch of the ceiling we hoped would make it all but disappear into a perspective effect.


Because we’re running out of board, and for the sake of our sanity, we cut it into two sections. Which we popped up last time.

We also cut the board ready for the pitched ceiling.

There was a lot more measuring involved. And a fair bit of concern about the fact that, well, there was a fairly big difference between one end of the board and the other.

But this afternoon (we were adulting this morning… the kind of non-house-building-adulting that gets in the way of building a house) we lugged the board up onto the lift. We spent some fun time trying to get it aligned so it balanced reasonably (it didn’t, it wasn’t bad while vertical, but as soon as we tipped it horizontally it went waaaay out of balance). And then we put it up.

And down a bit.

And up.

And down a bit.

And up…

And we started fixing it.

Then we realised it was just catching at the end where our smoke alarm lives (which we’d put down to fouling on the box before we cut the hole out but it turned out it was juuuust catching the wall). So then we took some screws out.

Then we dropped it a bit again.

Then there was a long period of shaving small amounts off the end. Really we could probably have been more vigorous and chopped a bit more off, but paranoia has been the order of the day for this board. Then we very cautiously ‘rotozipped’ the hole out for the smoke alarm power supply…

Then, with a mixture of trepidation and joy we gradually added in the last few screws… and lo:

Our ceiling goes up one side of the house….and back down. Isn’t technology fabulous.
Sometimes our ceiling is quite high.

Incredibly pleasingly, unless you’re really looking for it, the many defects in angle and straightness and length are pretty much invisible. And once the whole lot is slathered in a layer of skim plaster it should be even harder to spot. There’s some shimming to go on along the wall studs (but not as much as on our front door, which was allegedly built by actual builders):


This satisfactory ending to the day means that we have just the two boards on the second skylight (one side and the not-quite-horizontal piece), and the second bedroom ceiling to do before we can move on to the walls. Which means (drumroll please) we can order the drywall for the walls!

So, with that in mind, I’ve been being the insulation fairy again:


Which, like the new ceiling adds interesting new views of the house. We’ve also started to talk more about how we’re going to achieve the sliding door panels, and how we’re going to do some of the finish pieces… It’s quite exciting :)

Well, I’m glad I did some yoga.

I’m not good at it, but I enjoy yoga. It works fairly well for me, for setting me into a better frame of mind to face the day. I have, on and off, for years, been doing bits of Yoga¬†with¬†Adriene which I find not too woo-ey, and she offers many variations for those of us who are… shall we say, less flexible. And I’m glad that I did some today, because it was one of those days just filled with a myriad of minor irritations.

I got over to the house and realised I’d forgotten my rain jacket. I realised this because it promptly started raining. Since my plan for the day was to try and reduce the enormous pile of bits of our poor tree that came off during the storm down to something more manageable, then run it to the tip, this was somewhat of an irritation.

Instead I spent some time putting up insulation – which was a productive experience, and means less of the itchy to handle later. It also means that for the first time, you can see our bedroom-door-wall. Which is interesting.


Anyhow, the rain stopped, so out I went and gradually reduced our pile of wood down to some faintly useful burnable bits (which will sit and season, slowly)… It took quite a while but eventually it was whittled (or sawn) down to wood that should work fairly well in a stove, and many many twiggy bits.



So I called up my father in law and arranged to go borrow their truck. At which point I realised I’d not brought the keys. Never mind, I thought, I’ll grab lunch – and money to pay our arbourist who’s going to come and trim the rest of the broken bits off the tree…. and I can grab the keys at the same time.

So I pootled off, stopped to get lunch and realised I’d brought a random dirty cup with me, not the clean cup for coffee I’d planned. Still they rinsed it out… but the lid was a bit suspect for just rinsing.

And then I popped and got the keys, collected the garage opener, and drove back to my father-in-law’s house, where I discovered battery was flat on truck. Feh.

So I pootled back to the house via BOB and removed some of the waste from inside to outside. Which felt good. Paid the arborist who’s made our tree look less like a storm battered pile of spinters (and who kindly agreed to take away the rest of the twiglet pile), and then headed home. Not the most productive day, but still more positive than it could have been…

My queendom for a flange

Well, not really.

But if you heard an anguished wail from the general direction of Olympia at about 2 o’clock today, that was me. See, it’s been so long since I’ve driven her, that you may not remember I have a Morris Minor. I’ve been planning to convert her to electric for about 4 years now.

But I’ve not had her on the road <em>at all</em> for…lord knows how long. There was a brief, <em>brief</em> period when we first moved to the US when she was running. And then… it all went wrong.

The very brief summary is that the brand new differential failed. The one rebuilt and inserted just before we moved to the US. The one that I got maybe 1000 miles out of, perhaps, before it disintegrated.

Eventually after much back and forth with the company who rebuilt it for the company that restored her, it turned out they decided not to honour any kind of warranty on it, and I ended up carrying it back in my luggage to the UK. Then I popped it in the mail back to JLH, who’d rebuilt the car and sent the diff off to their favoured specialists (the ones who were now declining any kind of liability because it was >6 months since it was rebuilt. The fact it’d spent 3 of those months in a shipping container not moving seemed not to interest them). He found someone else to look at the diff who proclaimed it beyond salvage. Then we found a replacement diff which was (again) rebuilt – this time to a much higher standard (we hope).

It was shipped to the US – where… we found they’d installed the wrong flange on it. It wouldn’t mate to the propshaft (driveshaft) that was with the car.


Cue a year of struggle by the lovely folks at the garage where it’s sat having missed connections with JLH, and trying local people to find a solution. But it’s tricky, because the car has a back axle from a modified Ford Escort, and a Type 9 Ford gearbox all made bespoke for JLH.

And after a year the garage called and said ‘we pretty much give in’. So then I took the measurements, and I called Jonathon, and I sent e-mails, and I got what we all thought would be the parts ordered.

Only someone, somewhere fucked up. And what they sent is the same bloody flange we’ve already got:


At the moment I’m $360 down, and no further along.

I e-mailed Jonathon and he got right back to me with a “oh, no… I’ll come up with a plan” e-mail. But at the moment I’m super frustrated. Probably not as frustrated as the guys who’ve had my car sat in their garage for a year, but still, super frustrated. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some good news.

2 steps forward, 2 steps back

Having struggled to the house through the snowpocolypse a couple of times, in true PNW style, it’s rained and the snow is mostly gone. What’s left is a reminder of just how filthy internal combustion engine vehicles are, with a layer of dirty soot covering the white frozen remnants at the side of the road.

Our trips to the house have yielded some significant progress on some of the most complex bits of plasterboard in the house. Unlike most builders we have not simply cut a hole in the roof with a tube down to the ceiling. Oh no. That would be faaaar too simple. No, ours is a funky shape with the ceiling the bare minimum thickness that’ll allow us to keep the R-48 requirement betwixt ceiling and underside of the roof vents. It slopes back at a not-quite horizontal angle (why would you want horizontal), and allows light to flood into the corridor. At least, that’s the theory.

It also carries the ‘letterbox opening’ theme which we’ve carried around the house from the front windows to some of the storage… There’s architecture hiding in our little box. At least, in our heads, there is.

Anyhow, so we’ve completed one of them and the other is about half done.

There’s some finessing to do with a rasp along the edge, but otherwise it’s looking pretty nifty

The really nice thing about this is how much we have come to like the place we’re building. Both of us have separately commented on how we enjoy the light, and the space, and the general feel of the building. The time we’ve spent finiking with the design has made a place we both enjoy being in. When we’re not itching from the exposed glassfibre / mineral wool.

We’ve switched from skylights back to doing bedrooms, though, because having started with, we thought, 4 extra boards we’re now down to the wire on boards. More so after our frankly disastrous day today.

See, we had the board cut. So we thought. We’d cut it back at the beginning of this odyssey, when we first discovered the lift wouldn’t reach the ceiling. We had, however, put up the thin strip up that it’s meant to mate against. At least, so we thought.

Cue the struggle that is getting a near 12′, 60kg, floppy and fragile board onto a lift that is about 4′ in the air, in a room that is only half an inch longer than the board is.

After much shuffling of the lift, the two scaffolds, the bench and a folding chair it was up. Aaaand, about half way up we realised it was maaarginally too long. Like, a few mil needed to come off each end. After some debate we concluded that we’d shave off a few mill just where the studs were on the exterior wall end, and just where it was touching a stud that’s marginally further out on the wall we built.





Finally with some shoving and tweaking we got it lined up along the bottom edge. We got it most of the way up and concluded that it looked pretty good…

…and so we put the glue on it and up it went…

…at which point we realised that it didn’t fit. I mean, it fits side to side, and the bottom edge lined up just dandily. The top edge, where it was meant to meet our thin-strip-of-correction…not so much.

It met in the middle. It was not-awful in the middle. I mean, it wasn’t great, but we could probably have got away with it.

But at the south end the gap became about 1/2 an inch…and at the truly abysmal north end, it overlapped by probably more than an inch. There was some panicked debate. The thing had some screws in already – part of a technique we’ve developed for getting the damn things aligned when we have neither the strength nor the number of people traditionally required for this kind of affair.

It had glue that was already drying.

We both felt totally demoralised by going from “we’re going to have our first room with a finished ceiling where we can move onto the walls” to “oh, shit, at least part of this needs to come down”.

We started by backing off the board a bit and taking down part of the thin-strip-of-correction. But after some more looking at how terrible things were Kathryn voiced it and I agreed. It’s got to come back down.

Defeat poured over us as we winched the bloody board down from the ceiling.

It’s not really the board’s fault. Early on we had a bad day. A really f’kin bad day. One of those days where you wonder why in hell you’ve put yourself in this situation and wonder whether any of it is worth it (there are always days like this, it seems). You curse every rotten strand of xylem and phloem that make up the timber that you’re inexpertly wielding.


On this a’cursed day, we were putting up the short section of wall that goes over the master-bathroom door. And nothing, just nothing went right. It was too heavy and unwieldy. We hadn’t realised how unsquare the house is and the measurements we’d made beforehand so I could make the parts – or the parts I’d made – one of them wasn’t right. It wouldn’t line up the way we wanted. It didn’t sit square with anything we tried. We knew it wasn’t right.

We should have taken it down.

We didn’t.

We thought it would be okay… that we could kind of hodge it and bodge it and make it work… but it has come back to haunt us.

The lounge side we’ve come up with a fix for, but this bedroom side?


Well, the widths are all over the shop.

We lose a full inch (2.5cm) across that last 4′ (2.1m) run over the door. Part of that is that the house gets narrower at the end and we didn’t take enough account of it earlier. Part of it is that the roof is not exactly centered over the house, and part of it is that we fucked up.

It is going to be 18 different kinds of nightmare to make something that lies like a sufficiently fringed Persian rug and makes it look straight. We’re going to have to have to make things mate…with curves…and angles…and trying to make things look like they are a constant width…when they’re not.

Which is miserable enough in itself, but taking it all down and staring at it today? That truly sucked.

I am trying (we are both trying) to look on this as a learning experience and with more equanimity than some previous issues. I think we’re both doing better… it’s a sod. No doubt it was very, very disappointing. And it <em>is</em> going to be a pig to sort it out. <em>But</em> we have got better at this than when we started. It is within our capabilities to make this right.


The average snow-fall in Olympia is 12″ (~30cm).

Over an entire year.

Over the last week, outside our house we had about 8″ (~20cm) (which we cleared from our drive), then a day later another 12″ – and then another ~4″ (~10cm)…in the 2 hours after we cleaned off the 12″. The road outside our rental has been more or less impassable unless you have a large vehicle with 4 wheel drive… probably with chains on. Or real winter tyres.

Being a tiny little road, while it isn’t a private road, it doesn’t even manage to make it onto Olympia’s “we’ll plough this when we get round to it” list.

Continue reading “Sneh”

As usual, our timing is off.

So we’re trundling along with the drywalling of the ceiling, still. It’s getting closer:

Just the irritating narrow strip at this end, and the skylights, oh and….

We’ve actually got about 8′ of completed ceiling on one side of the house which is super exciting. We’re going to go and try and put up some more this afternoon – and once we’re done with that, we’ve got some super fun bits in the shape of the skylights.

They are a bit of a nightmare approaching, but what can you do, other than, I suppose, not design your house to be a billion angular nightmares in one.

But it’s definitely getting there. We’ve still got a small bit of ceiling in the main loft space, and all of the tiny bonus loft space above the laundry to do. Once that’s all done we can move on to walls.

But our timing is off. Because if we were a month further along we might be at the point of having, say, flooring down. With heating in. Which would be good, because the temperature here has dropped to -8C (~17F). Which means that our poor little oil filled radiators are working flat out to keep the house warm.

In fact, I was just pondering as I was sat at home, that we are actually maxing out the circuit two of them are on (as there are only 2 live circuits in the house) – so I’ll have to revisit that when we get to the house. I’m trying to think if there’s another circuit I could make live.

But it was 11 C in the house yesterday, which “isn’t enough”. Well, it’s enough, but not comfortable to work in.

It is impressive that two small oil filled radiators are keeping that house at 11C, but… yeah, I’m going to have to revisit that and see if I can sort out a third circuit. I think the hall outlets are independent of the rest, and so I’d only have to blank off one outlet to make that live.