Looooong drive

So, okay, by USian standards it wasn’t Long. And actually, even by UK standards it was a perfectly acceptable drive. However, the loading of all the offcuts of drywall from the house* into my father in law’s pick-up, having borrowed the pick-up from his house (the other side of Oly), then driving up to Tacoma to the drywall recycling place** (which it turns out is the far side of Tacoma, not this side of Tacoma), then off-loading the entire truckload by my lonesome tod (Kathryn’s away ’til tomorrrow), then driving across to the masonry supply place in Lakewood (which it turned out didn’t have the kind of sand we wanted) – although he did give me a couple of suggestions for places that might, then we had a chat about Lime (and how it’s actually cheaper to get the non-fluffy stuff from feed supply places – and apparently it works fine, but needs a lot more mixing). So I bought the fluffy (easier to mix) Lime this time…


…then driving back down to Olympia, dropping off the bag of fluffy lime (we’re going to try lime plastering. Yes, really).

…then dropping off the truck, picking up our car and driving back home.

It felt like a long f’kin day.

And who knows if taking the drywall on a 40 mile journey to recycle it is better for the environment – let’s say 20mpg? So around 14 litres of petrol, or 4 gallons… for the round trip? *Shrug* Ballpark figure. I dunno, let’s ask Google:

Sometimes I’m f’kin impressive in my ballpark estimations

So, a drywall sheet has an embodied energy of 3.5MJ/kg.

We recycled 1300lbs -> or about 590kg – or material with an embodied energy of 2000MJ.

Random internet site says that 1 gallon of gasoline takes 22MJ to refine (which I suspect is low, and what does that include anyway? Does that include the energy to drill, and ship it to and from the refinery? Bah). So that’s, what 44MJ, for what we used today.

1 litre of petrol releases 34.2 MJ (about 470MJ for the 14 litres we burned (ugh))

So, the petrol used embodies around ~510MJ.

So I think it was worth it? I mean, obviously, energy is also used in turning the drywall back in to usable gypsum. Which I’m not including. But seriously, these are the kind of things that run through my head.

Ah well.

In other news, our door is now grey (en-route to being green).

It shall be greeeeeeen.

And I think I’ve done nearly all the bits of joint compound filling that I can do from the ground (until we clear the other bedroom). We’ve also come up with a solution to our floor – at least, we hope. It’s a not-quite-so cheap, but much quicker solution and it resolves the concerns we both had about the nice floor finish we’re planning to use cracking.

Our floor now goes:

From the Top:
Crack isolation membrane
3/4 ply pipe guides (in the straight bits); Thinset (in the bendy bits); 3/4 hydronic pipe
Existing 1/2″ ply
Car decking
We don’t talk about what’s under the house, because it’s hideous.

This is iteration 8743 of the plan for the floor. At some point we’re actually going to be at a point where we can install the floor, and then we’ll have to settle on one. This is my favourite so far – the ply does the straight sections of the pipe guides – which also helps to stiffen the floor – but rather than cutting curves for every single bend in the pipe, we secure the pipe down, throw thinset over it, and then separate that whole damn lot from the microcement topping with a crack isolation membrane.

Hopefully it’ll work.

* Well, not quite all. I mean, some went in the bin and I concluded that discretion was the better part of valour when faced with the two soggy wet bags of mouldy micro-small offcuts. They can go to the tip.

** Y’know what’s slightly horrifying? I arrived and while I was offloading my moudlering pile of offcuts to be ground down to powder and then turned back in to drywall, I watched as a truckload of not-to-spec drywall (apparently usually it’s “off-square”) was dumped to be recycled. Given that our entire building was off flipping square, there’s got to be a better use for the drywall seconds than re-milling it to reuse it. I mean, I get it if it’s got lots of massive bubbles in it, but… ugh.

It’s not really about how long it takes, but it’s about how long it takes.

There’s a sort of wilful battle going on. We want to finish the house, soon, really. It’s not cheap to rent a place and pay the mortgage on another. And I know we’re insanely lucky to be able to afford that (albeit not indefinitely). But the jobs we have left to do (beyond things like putting in actual fixtures and fittings) are not quick.

I mean, if you’re a skilled plasterer, then plastering the walls in our place, being as it’s pretty small, probably is a fairly quick job. But finding someone who can do smooth plaster over here is uncommon. Finding someone who we could afford is probably needle in a haystack uncommon, and then there’s the tug of: “We’ve done it all ourselves up until now, we don’t want someone else coming in.”

It’s also really tough because while in the UK nice, affordable, eco-friendly materials are not everywhere, they seem to be much easier to get than here in the PNW. We’ve been debating countless options for our wall coating, with the traditional time/cost/quality triad – only now there’s the fourth component – availability. To some extent that’s cost; I mean, if you’re willing to ship things across the country then I suppose most things are available.

But realistically, in our area, there doesn’t seem to be a lot around. And it might be that we’re looking in the wrong place. But apart from bespoke house builders who stock stuff for themselves; there just isn’t a lot of earth-friendly material kicking around.

I spent today working on the final bits of plasterboard (they’re up!) and applying more joint compound – the boiler cupboard is done, as is the first coat on nearly all of the hall. I’ve slathered lots up in the bedroom, and I’m still working on the laundry, with it’s jaunty step in between layers.

Look, it’s a hall! And it’s only moderately slopey

But we’re not a million miles away from needing to plaster; and while I can now entertain myself putting tiny strips of cedar around the front door (almost endlessly), and putting the lighting in place for the porch, we’re going to have to come to some kind of conclusion.

Lime plaster does seem like an option, especially since the “oh, yes, I could get a long pole and paint the walls/ceiling with glue-and-sand” which means that it’s not a coat of glue and sand when Kathryn has to be there, then us trying to plaster the entire roof and the walls* when Kathryn has to be there. Time with both of us there is limited and precious… so things like American Clay or other multicoat plaster systems are really less than ideal. Realistically, I can do the hall and east and west walls by myself, but everything else (centre spine wall, both sides, and the north and south walls) all need Kathryn and I to be there to finish it.


We’re trying to find something that doesn’t require lots of coats, doesn’t cost a fortune, and isn’t utterly hideous for the planet (and/or us). It’s tricky.

And yeah, yeah, we are pushing the very limits of what we can do. And perhaps we should get someone in to do the plastering. We’re pushing the limits of ourselves. But it’s hard. this is our project. This is our house, we built it. Letting someone else in now feels like… some kind of defeat. And we’re alternately frustrated by our slow progress and overjoyed by the place we’re building and how much we like it. It’s all very contradictory and complicated.

*I’m not at all sure that the roof should be lime plastered, since it’s really adhering to glue and sand, not to nice chunky lath.

That was a lot of (worthwhile) work

So, we have finally installed our shiny new front door. All horizontal slit windows and modernist handle, it’s in and looking way better than the mouldy door the fire service installed. It wasn’t mouldy when they installed it, to be fair. But the point at which it was installed was about the least ideal point for it to be installed.

It got damp, then it got mouldy. Then we sprayed it with mould killer, which seems to have worked, but it was always the cheapest door that home depot sell. And yeah, I did say he didn’t need to worry too much about the quality of the installation, and told him not to bother foaming around it, but that meant that the amount of road noise that came through was pretty astonishing.

So yesterday, having popped over to see Kathryn’s mom, and having had lunch with Nikki, we finally took out that crappy old door, and put in the new one.

The new door, with a few shims left to do…

It took us from 4pm to 9pm to do it, and the unsquareness of the house has, of course, bitten us again (the sill step is hilariously far from square), but it makes such a difference!

It really changes the look of the house from the outside:

Hello, says our house, in a strangely “oh, look, a face, because I’m a human and I’m programmed to see faces everywhere” way.

But it also does exactly what we wanted; it really brightens up the hallway. Amazingly so. I mean, it’s west facing, so at the point in the day when the house is at it’s darkest, we have this lovely light coming in from the west side, and that was entirely blocked by the old door. Now light comes flooding in to the hall (that might be overstating it)… but at any rate it’s really quite exciting.

So obviously, we covered it up.


Because we didn’t want to ruin it when we put up the plasterboard for the door. That was one of today’s painful tasks. Mainly painful because of the unsquareness of the house, which led to the unsquareness of the floor, which led to the spectacular unsquareness of the boiler room cupboard. We had tried to even it out a bit, but had to some more shimming to make it level enough to attach the sliding door runner to.

Which means that the gap at the top is…well, not perfect, shall we say. It is of course made worse by the fact that this is the first bit of drywalling we did, and we didn’t think to shim the ceiling down a bit at the door, and indeed all over the flipping place, to make up for the fact that the door and the wall there are half an inch higher than they are 4′ away at the entrance to the bedrooms. That’s because the foundation at the door is half an inch higher. Because of course it is.

Anyhow, we have plans for hiding the unevenness further. But cutting the 11’4″ piece of plasterboard for the door was an entertaining task, and not one that was achieved wholly perfectly. But we think it’s “good enough”. So when I’ve put the final few bits of plasterboard on the lower half of the walls, and finished plasterboarding the other side of it for the boiler cupboard, we’ll actually have finished drywalling.

We can say that because the afternoon was spent in the deeply enjoyable task of drywalling the tiny little attic above the bathroom and laundry. In many respects it was hardly worth it, but it’s about 70 cu ft (2 cubic meters) of storage which we would otherwise not have. And it was plasterboard we already had.

The itchyness from lying on the wooden flooring measuring and holding up bits of plasterboard while being showered in insulation does make me question that though.

Our quest to find some sort of reasonably priced finish material continues, however. We’re vaguely considering this:

Which is a possibility… we’re both fond lime plaster, and it has the potential to be relatively cheap…

Anyhow. No decision as yet.

Gosh, I’ve been quiet.

I guess the frantic pace of building has kept me away from the computer (ha). Actually, we went to Portland for a weekend (there’s a post over there, in the Drafts pile, which I need to write about it. It was fun), then we have continued on with what is definitely progress, if not enormously rapid progress.


We have more or less finished the drywalling. The porch-hall wall and associate cupboard bit is lacking any kind of drywall – because our new front door is waiting to go in first. But other than that, and a little bit of attic space, we’re finished. We’ve even done the (bits of the) main attic (that we were planning to do).

So now it’s taping and mudding.

…and mudding

Which is progressing fairly much apace.


We still have the skylights to do in the main living space, and both bedrooms to do, (and one strip where the pitched ceiling meets the wall at the end of the dining room, oh and some corners in the pantry), but that’s trundling along fairly rapidly. Aided by the fact that despite proclaiming on the pack that it’s workable for 80 minutes (Ha*), the 90 minute joint compound is actually workable for maybe 30 minutes.

Which certainly lends a certain degree of urgency to proceedings once it’s mixed. Still my dad’s plasterer’s trowel is getting a fairly hefty work out (screw this drywall tools nonsense).

Which leads us to wall coverings.

See, we’d planned to use Murco M-100. It’s really a joint compound / texture, but a friend tells us that you can use it to make a smooth-finish plaster replacement. It was, until fairly recently, available from a place called Green Depot in Seattle. Which has closed. Tracking down anywhere that can even get it from the far-away land of Cal-i-forn-i-ahhhh has proven to be an unnecessarily tedious challenge.

And it seems that it’s one of those things where you have to ask the special person who knows.

Because having called a billion drywall supply places working my way spiralling outward, I ended up calling Murco themselves, who suggested a company who deny any knowledge of Murco. Then after several more abject failures, I called Murco again, and got hold of the right person, who gave us a place locally that will order it. But only after I explained to them that they had previously ordered it, and perhaps they could find the specific person who ordered it last time who might know how to order it again.

It turns out they can order it… and they will sell it to us…

At 3 times the price it was at Green Depot.

Plus shipping from California.


Which has led us back to the circle of pain which is searching the internet for something that we like, can afford, and which isn’t super complex to put up. The nice thing about Murco was it could go up pretty rapidly and, we hoped, possibly in one coat. Many other things require you to prime the drywall first (ugh), or require multiple coats, or indeed both, or cost many thousands of dollars up front.

We’re also kind of stuffed by our location. No-where around us would sell us the kind of drywall you’re meant to use for veneer plaster (which is what we wanted to use), and so now we’re limited in what we can put on it. Feh.

Kathryn has suggested a plan so we can at least keep making forward progress, which is that I can start work on the underfloor heating pipe guides. Ironically, now we’ve spent some time in the place I’m really regretting the decisions we made early on about heating. While I’m looking forward to having a heated floor, it’s beyond overkill for the place. We’ve insulated it so well that it’s actually warm enough with the three radiators we have in the house. We’d still have needed some kind of water heater, but given the size of the house we could probably have had a in-ceiling ductless heater and a small tankless electric heater. Or even a few tankless heaters (one for each bathroom and one for the kitchen). BUT, since we’ve paid for the hot-water radiant floor heating kit – and it would probably cost more now to switch – but I have distinct guilt about putting in natural gas heating at this point in history.

If only they’d start using biodigester methane for our local gas supply.

Anyway, more joint compound tomorrow, and then onto the bathrooms where it’s thinset on the joints. Whee.