On being quietly exhausted

Every day, pretty much, for the past year and a half I or We have gone to the house to work on it for some, or all of the day. If we don’t, it’s because we’re at work at our jobs. Or because we’re trying to keep our apartment fairly pleasant (and broadly succeeding, although the gradual accumulation of cruft, and the fact we keep thinking we’ll be moving, and thus failure to deal with said cruft is gradually filling the apartment with more books, music and creative resources than it can reasonably contain).

And it’s beginning to show.

We’re both beat.

Just tired and scraping along.

It’s tricky, because we’re at a point where a big chunk of the work is done. It’s that kinda 3/4 of the way there point which is always tough, it’s always a challenge. But because this is such a big project, 3/4 there is not liveable. In Slough and Bristol it was liveable at 3/4 done. Giving us a chance to rest and recuperate.

We can’t do that here. We need to find the energy for a final push.

We have, however, decided to get quotes in for finish plastering. Having discovered that there are some people around here who’ll do finish plastering with a smooth finish – and considered that it may take us actually months to finish it ourselves (it may, frankly, take us months to work out what materials we need to plaster)… Of course, this does actually require contractors calling us back, which is somewhat of a rarity.


The impossibility of walls

So things are gradually progressing.

After a mere 5 coats (5!) our front door is adequately painted. I realised after about the 3rd coat with pathetic coverage that we really should have sprayed it. Of course, the challenge would have been getting a colour match for the colour we’d chosen… Or, I suppose we could have got a spray gun for the acrylic paint. Either way. At the end of the day, it looks pretty good.

5 sodding coats

We also sprayed the frame a sort of bronze (dark walnut), which matches the windows pretty well.


It’s not perfect by any means, and on the back of the house where the frames are all easily visible in line, I think we’ll use some of the touch-up spray we have for the windows to get a closer match by throwing a thin topcoat of bronze over the brown.

Inside the mudding and taping is more or less done. There’s an n’th coat to do on the ceiling above the lounge, and the second bedroom / office has much of it left to tape / mud (because we’re using it for storage). But all the rest of the house is mudded and taped. Now comes the pain of sanding. Most of it we’re hoping to get away without sanding (at least this coat), just taking off any really high spots because we’re going to skim it. At least that’s the theory.

The ceilings however, they need sanding at the very least. We’ve skimmed a chunk of the top – which attempts to ameliorate the change in pitch caused by adjusting elsewhere for unsquare framing, and the exterior walls being variable distances from the peak. The skim does make it less obvious, but needs a lot of sanding. A lot. Which given how long and how tiring it was to sand the little bit of hall ceiling that I did today is… not something to look forward to. I am thinking perhaps we should invest in a proper drywall sander, given that they’re only $100.


This ‘Level 4’ finish is what we’re hoping to get away with, but we’ll have to try painting it and then see how it looks. Apparently on ceilings it can be more obvious that there are multiple unevennesses. So we may end up covering all of it in compound and flatting it back. Of course, the front hall was so shoddy anyhow, that for big chunks of it it’s effectively covered side to side.

We’ll see.

The bathrooms are more-or-less done on mudding (in this case thin-setting on the walls and ‘mud’ on the ceilings). There’s a need for a bit more thinset around the shower-shelves, in which I’ll probably embed some more mesh (I’ve got loads extra anyhow).


These obviously need sanding on the ceilings, then the whole kit and caboodle needs painting – ceilings with ceiling paint, and walls / floor with waterproofing goop.

Mind, the en-suite has to wait until the floor is down before gooping, because the goop makes a waterproof membrane which is what allows that to be a wet room. Irritating, because that room we actually have a toilet for, so if we could get all the plumbing pipes and heating down in there, it’d be nice to have an indoor toilet.

The biggest hurdle (other than time) is wall finish.

We wanted to use a substance called Murco M-100. This is a hypoallergenic joint compound a friend is using as a wall finish. But it’s made in Colorado and sold in the mythical land of Cal-I-Forn-Iay. A place from which it is almost impossible to obtain things. At least at a reasonable cost. The local supplier who sold it for $12/bag closed, as did the one in Portland. The only local place we can get it from now quotes $38 a bag, then tacks on the $300 shipping, which would put up the cost for our house by $1300. Which hurts. A lot.

Now our friend has a friend visiting from this mythical place who could bring up some Murco, but that means making the decision now. Right now. Before we’ve played with it ourselves.

Given the endless phonecalls, and the requirement to sacrifice the first-born goose from the leader of a gaggle under a waxing moon on the 32nd day of July before we could order Murco, we decided to get a natural plaster book. That and having discovered that lime is readily available around here, relatively cheap AND there are techniques that allow you to put less earth-destroyey plasters over drywall.

Nice, we thought.

Only, yes, you can get Lime. That’s easy. You can get sand. Probably. Although lime plaster is apparently pretty picky about sand and to quote the guy at the Masonry Supply place I went to “no one really does that stuff anymore”. But I think sand should be doable.

But it also wants things like “hemp fibre”. Which you can’t get locally, which means ordering it online. Which means paying shipping.

And that’s irritating, because what we really want is a small amount to work out if we want a large amount, but what we’re probably going to end up doing is getting much more than we need and then concluding the lime plastering is waaay to hard. Then we’re going to have to work out some other plan.

Either that or we’ll get a little bit, realise it’s perfect and then need to order a lot. Because we have a lot of wall. And a lot of corners. Because we are insane and made our house incredibly complex.

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.



Well, that’s a disappointment.

I treked up to Fife today to pick up our oven, about which I have been quite excited. In the yard I stripped off some of the wrapping to check the door (okay) and the control panel (looked okay). I peaked through the bubble wrap and saw the blue of the oven. Great.

We managed, with careful packing to snug it into the i3. It turns out that a US oven <em>just</em> fits in to the i3.

Having got it home it sat in the car until Kathryn arrived…

…and actually until the end of our work day.

We managed to get the two top sheets on our tall bedroom wall up (which is pleasing). Then, since the rain showed no signs of letting up we gave in and carried in the oven.

We set it down and carefully unwrapped it.

And… bollocks.


No, it’s not the angle the photo’s at. It’s been bent. Horribly.

Which is odd, because the packing material around it looked fine. Not a scratch, dent or bend. The door, which was travelling on top of the oven was also undamaged.

But the oven itself is fucked.

So I’ve requested a not-as-described refund.


What, more drywall?

Whaaat? More pictures of plasterboard? It’s almost like that is almost all we do at the moment.


That end piece, we thought it would be hellish. There was a lot of measuring. A lot of approximating angles. A lot of adjusting, but Kathryn cut it and with just a little shaving it fits really well. The shims we put in have made it so the wall looks pretty straight now that first run of drywall is up.

Tomorrow we are going to add another sheet below that, and maybe attack that corner of slopes and short bits. It’s unlikely that we’ll get to the east wall, which is the next whole wall that I can do bits on.

Roughly 2 boards per afternoon is our target. Four boards in a day. Two boards if I’m there by myself.

So we’re plodding along and making progress.

Up and down and up

So, that could really describe the individual sheets of plasterboard which often need a little correcting before they fit well enough, our sprints up and down on the scaffolding, or my mood.

The last few days have been rough for some reason. The tax thing has at least been resolved. We went to a tax preparer, and for the cheerful sum of $159 he made it so we owed $1300 instead of $1900. So that was a saving overall… which is good. Also we feel more confident about sending it in now we’ve had some advice about what we can reasonably consider to be a ‘land improvement’.

I suspect my frustration at the car situation is creeping in to my mood. I was quite excited by the vehicular options I thought would be open to us, and I’m a little worried that we’re going to end up with a Bolt just because it’s the only one we can lay our hands on, and I really don’t feel like it’s the best choice for us. Bloody ZEV mandate-less WA.

And, well, I’ve not felt like we made loads of progress on the house this week. Tuesday was all errands and failing to do taxes, Wednesday I had to run up to Tacoma to collect our dishwasher, and by the time I’d got back there wasn’t really enough time to make it back to the house before we had our tax appointment – which meant two days with no progress at all. Thankfully, Monday and today went well, so I’m feeling better… My mood’s still a bit labile (although Rozi Plain is helping)…

Anyhow, so Monday I finished off the East wall, which we’d started at the weekend:

Look, I made an animation and everything.

And today we put finished the dining area (well, technically there’s a tiny bit above the corridor to do).


It’s a big step forward. I’ve made a start on our bedroom, too:


It’s possible that we might get the North wall completed this weekend. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s still 3 pieces… I’ve also started filling the upper bit of the wall between the dining room and our bedroom with insulation. It’s a minging task, with itchy fluffy dust filling the air. But it’ll be worth it. In fact it is worth it, because despite the fact that our walls are made of wood and an inch of gypsum, that solid filling makes them sound so much better than the cheap houses we’ve looked at where they’ve not bothered to insulate.

Despite the fact that we’re not finished, we have to get an inspection next week whatever happens, though, because our permit is running out. So wish us luck.

The car dance

In much less extremely awful news than my last post, we’re trying to buy a car. I say trying, because you wouldn’t think it would be that hard. But we want an EV (obvs), specifically, we’d really like a Kia Niro EV. But since they’re not out yet, and the Trumpian is trying to remove the $7500 federal tax credit for EVs, because the world isn’t ending quickly enough for him, we’re trying to rush through this process.

Worse, because Hyundai and Kia appear to have either massively underestimated how many cars they would sell in Europe, or not cared enough to buy enough batteries, both the cars we want are in ridiculously (laughably) short supply (now in Europe and from the get-go in the US).

As in dealers are talking about getting one, or maybe two. And Hyundai will apparently not be shipping the cars to non Zero Emission Mandate states, of which we are one. And where they are shipping the cars, also seem to mainly be shipping the higher profit mid-and-high end of the range cars, not the cheap and chipper version of the cars that we want.

All of which ends with ‘we may have to go to California to get the damn car’, which is ridiculous.

I’m also told that dealers in CA may be less than happy to sell us a Kona. Because why? Because they don’t get all the kickbacks they need in that state if they sell to an out-of-stater. Which makes me more irritated.

We might end up getting a Bolt if we can’t get this organised by the end of the month. Bird in the hand being worth several theoretical birds that may or may not be in bushes. But it really doesn’t meet our camping needs very well, and I’d like the faster charging, better range and base-spec-safety-features of the Kona or Niro than the Bolt. Also – black interior will probably not suffer as much as the black/white Bolt interior.

But hey. Beggars / choosers.

I spend a lot of time at the moment e-mailing dealers and asking about cars. It’s made more difficult because they’re two states away. The OR dealers will sell us a car – but they only have the mid-and-high end ones. The CA dealers are…unhelpful, for the most part. And the double difficulty is that we would have to fly down for several days and choosing when to do that, if we decide we will, is… tricky.

In the vacuum of information being provided by Kia USA, dealers are filling the void. One dealer told me today that they should have cars early next week. Another said not until May, someone on Twitter said they’re local dealer says only ‘showroom cars’ are coming at the moment. One dealer said they’ve only got an allocation of one at the moment, another said they’re expecting many cars to come in.

‘Do you see this shit’ (thanks sweartrek)

It’s driving me absolutely batty, and making me want to scream. Also, I’m wilful and difficult, and someone telling me I can’t have something I want makes me want it more.