Home again, home again, tra la la.

We had a nice holiday in Europe.


More? That’s a bit challenging. First up there’s the mechanical aspects of the holiday. We flew over to London (on Norwegian Air, would recommend), f’cked up and got a tube, then had to change tubes at least once to get to St Pancras (turns out there’s a Thameslink service direct from Gatwick, doh!), then got to the Eurostar terminal. We troddled across to Paris.

And we then, a few days later got back on the Eurostar (bonus upgrade because we were cancelled and rebooked – business class!), got back to London, Tube’d it to our hire car place and drove to the Lake District. Then we drove down to Bristol. Then to Cornwall. Then back to London and flew home.

Then there’s the pretty.

I’m not going to make you sit through 200 photos. But here’s a link to them.

It was wonderful to get back to Europe, see some of our friends, spend some time with my mum and her partner. Sadly, thanks to the SNCF strike we missed seeing my sister, which is a real shame. We’ll have not seen her / fam for about 2 years by the time we get back over there. Maybe.

There are some things though that stick with me – and which made me very thoughtful while we were over there. The first of which is how profoundly I miss Europe. I can’t really explain why. Some of it is the built environment, certainly. I understand that there is history here going back as far as there is in Europe. And there are, I am aware, marks on the environment left by the civilisations that historically lived in these places, before Europeans popped over for a bit of fun genocide.

I understand that, but the transformative nature of the culture in the various places I’ve been in Europe and the casual nature of ‘oh, this is 400 years old and in the street’. I miss that.


And I miss the built environment. Which is part and parcel of the same thing, I suppose. I miss the way that you’re enveloped by buildings, they wrap you and cocoon you in a way that nothing I’ve seen (on the west coast at least, nor from my memory of Toronto, which is my only East Coast North American city) does. The narrow streets were built for people, not for cars. And while the traffic was tedious in the moments we were driving, the cities are walkable in a way that I’d forgotten about. In Paris we travelled on the Metro and à pied, and I never missed our car.

I did miss a lift (it was a sixth floor walk-up). But Paris is a city I’d actually like to live in. Curiously, London did not impart that feeling (it never has, I’ve thought it would be technically interesting to live there, but never had a huge desire to do so). I’d never really thought of Paris as a place to live before, but during this visit it felt like a place I/we could be. Which is novel. Perhaps it’s a childhood thing – but then I spent a lot more time in London as a kid. Paris is different in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

And the Lake District. Were it not for the many factors that practically prevent it, and for the casual ongoing destruction of the NHS and the appalling treatment of migrants, and Brexit (and, and, and), the Lake District would be home. Just being there is a balm for my psyche in a way I really can’t explain. I guess it’s related to spending so many holidays in the Lakes, and the fact that while much of school was miserable and painful, holidays on the mountains were places of total escape. When I was finally contemplating coming out to friends – I went with a friend to the Lake District for a (astonishingly wet*) weekend. We spent the weekend walking, and while I didn’t come out to her there and then, it was the thing that got the ball rolling.

I also miss universal healthcare. We watched some of Hospital, a BBC series that’s following staff in an NHS hospital (Queen’s Medical Centre). While it was painful to watch – in that I remember that kind of stress, that kind of near despair, the highs of saving a life tempered by the incredible challenges of working in a system that’s being strangled by a government that wants it to fail – it also reminded me that you don’t get a bill at the end. That this ridiculous f’kin ‘system’ in the US is cruel and heartless. That the people of the US have chosen to implement non-universal healthcare in a way that’s damaging to the individual, and which has a lack of empathy for those in pain and who are sick continues to astonish me. Because most of the people here seem warm and generous.

But I can’t imagine… just simply cannot imagine having a sick family member here. The thought of having to worry not only about the life of a loved one, but also about whether you’ll be bankrupt and/or homeless at the end of it? It’s profoundly ethically wrong.

That I’m a part of that makes me deeply uncomfortable.

But that’s where we are right now.

And then there’s food.

I am not sure whether it’s the extra exercise, or the lack of preservatives, or the amount of processing, (or less stress, or a combination of all three (probably)) but I can eat food way more comfortably in Europe. More so in France than in England. Which would tie in with my previous experience that food lasted less long on the continent than it did in the UK – probably due to the use of different / fewer preservatives**.

But I could merrily drink milk-based coffee drinks (oh, lord, I miss the flat white. I tried getting one made here and it was hideous, and I’ve never had the nerve to try again. Apparently you can actually get them at Starbucks here, but I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks anyhow). Over here, I quite often get a bit uncomfortable after a couple of coffees. Not enough to stop me drinking them, but enough that I’m a bit wary.

But particularly wheat – which here sometimes bothers me and makes me bloated – not so in Europe. We ate super rich food in Paris and both of us seemed not to have the digestive issues we’ve both had in the US.

Some of that is undoubtably the reduced stress (having arrived back I woke up at 5 (jet-lag) which was then followed by a tedious hour of my brain hashing things out about our house). But some of it is, I suspect, down to the food.

Which leads me to an uncertainty about the future. It’s not like we can do anything about it right now. We have a house that’s in bits, land that we need to sell, and we want to adopt. But it puts many things to think about in my little brain.

All in all, though, it was a nice holiday.

* We slept in the car having cooked dinner in the tent – mainly because the tent was at risk of blowing away.

** I still am utterly freaked out by how long food lasts here. Stuff that I think should be rotting and thrown away is fine. It’s very, very disturbing.

We wait

Today I spent some time atop a ladder (steadied by my beloved) waving an enormous long pole with a hosepipe hooked on the end of it. Eventually I managed to land the hosepipe in one of our plumbing vents.

So then I called today to try and schedule a plumbing appointment. Unfortunately our inspector was away from his desk.


Hopefully things won’t go disastrously wrong tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be able to fit us in.

We also tweaked our design – we now have a built-in seat for shoe on-and-off-ment*. And we have a cupboard in which to hang coats. It’s hideously unsquare largely because it’s attached to our porch framing, which the original builders put up while blindfolded and drunk**. But we *think* we can cover it with shims in the framing of the final trim pieces.

We’ve also decided how we’ll frame up the other cupboard.

And tomorrow I’m back to drilling holes.

* We are both overly excited about this.
** I presume.

Break out the hot melt glue gun.

Well, okay, it’s (poxy) epoxy resin. But I’ve started putting the bolts in.


It’s a slow process – cutting them down to size and drilling the hole, then cleaning the hole, then pumping in the epoxy before leaving it to set for three days. I’ve not yet had the nerve to tighten up any of these bolts, but I really should. There’s a bit of depth variation because I’m not very cautious about cutting the rods down to size. As long as they’re at least 10″ long I’m happy*.

We’ve also cleaned the North side of the house and started on wrapping the south end.


The weather was against us yesterday, though… so we couldn’t do the tyvek that goes above the black, which is a shame. We were hoping to get the house wrapped before our holiday, but that’s not looking that likely. The black lower strip we put on on Sunday; yesterday’s work was all inside instead.

So yesterday I finally turned on the water and astonishingly, there were no leaks. To be fair, the first time I turned on the water (just to our front garden tap) there was a leak, but that was because I had to reuse the nipple* from our old plumbing as the one I’d bought was too long (and we needed water). Having replaced that with a new one, there was no leak.


Of course, we’ll see how it looks when we get there today.

I also filled the under-floor section of the waste water side with water (per the city testing requirements)… it also didn’t leak. But I’m waiting to see if the joint fails. If the weather looks acceptable I’ll run up on the roof today and put a hose in the vent and we can then fill it for inspection.

Which has to happen before we go on holiday, because otherwise our permit will expire, which would suck.

…and we’ve started putting up ceiling joists in the small sections that have ceiling joists…


And lurking in the background are electrical boxes.

We’ve also booked in treatment for the beetles that are eating the posts, and for the mould that’s ruining the trusses…

It’s not quick, but it’s starting to creep towards being housey.

* For limited meanings of ‘happy’.
** Double ended threaded tube, used here to connect between the tap and the pipework.

Well that turned to crap really quickly.

So, yesterday we managed to get some good news. Despite a wasted morning as I toured stores asking for things that didn’t exist – spending more of the morning hunting for things to attach the house to the foundation – discussing things with our engineer – realising that we’d missed something important on the diagram – rediscussing things with our engineer… before giving up at lunch time and meeting with Kathryn for the afternoon’s two person works…

…which went pretty well.

We’d finished framing up the back wall on Monday


And I’d then finished off the last bit of flooring yesterday morning before heading out on my (failed) quest. The other thing that had happened yesterday morning is that the inspector popped around (at our request) and okay’d us to wrap the back and the sides of the house. He asked for us to do some rectification work on the work that was done when the house was constructed where they’d not bothered with some of the nails (surprise surprise), but once that was done we were clear to go.

And so on went our combination of UV-protected open-joint cladding specific black wrap and tyvek. Thus making the house look wayyyy more respectable. From the back at least.


And so today I was feeling pretty good.

And then I set to on the bolt issue again. Having got a final answer from our engineer we I headed to the store – who didn’t have some of the stuff but who pointed me to a store that would. 15 minutes later I discovered, again, that our engineer had spec’d something which apparently doesn’t exist – but if I overengineered it (switching from the 1/2 to 5/8ths inch) then I could get a 10 inch long expansion bolt.


So I get the bolts. I have the threaded bar. I have the Simpson HDU2s. I have the tools to drill the holes. I have the epoxy to fix the threaded bar into the holes for the Simpson HDU2 holddowns. I have the impact socket set to allow me to quickly tighten them up.

All is ready.

So off I went and installed three of the epoxy anchor bolts. To do that, I also have to install an extra stud because – and this will astonish you – they didn’t bother with double studs at joints. I know! You didn’t expect our house’s builders to have cut corners like that, but they did. *sigh*.

So, each bolt requires me to cut, glue, screw then nail in an extra stud. Then to drill the hole, clean the hole, fill the hole with epoxy, then place the bolt in the hole, then wait 3 days for the stuff to set before I can actually attach the damn anchor.

Anyhow, after 3 of them my hand was pretty tired from the pump action on the tube, so I figured I’d try doing some wedge anchors. And lo, things went to shit very rapidly. The first one didn’t seem to want to tighten, no matter how far I hammered it in. I thought that perhaps I’d made the hole too deep (despite measuring it).

So I did another one. And that also wouldn’t tighten and disappeared further and further into the hole.

It was at this point I went outside and looked at our foundation and discovered


It turns out our foundation is made of crap mixed with shite, producing a substance with roughly the same integrity as the 45th President of the US.

Now, I can’t say what concrete should be like here. Perhaps it’s meant to be like powdered sand stacked artfully in a heap that if you nudge it too hard falls over. But I suspect not.

My first thought, because I’m hypercritical of myself, was that I’d drilled too near the edge. So I tried once more, attempting to direct the drill more inboard and having ensured that (contrary to the planning statements) it was as near to the front edge of the mud sill as the 3″ plate washer would allow. This, it turned out, had absolutely no fucking effect whatsoever.

Suspecting that the answer to this is “you’ll have to use epoxy everywhere” I called back our engineer for the billionth time. That was the answer, at least – that was his better answer than “well, you could replace the foundation”. Uh hu. Or we could hope that a particularly large ant walks into the foundation and the house collapses when there’s no one in it, and we escape from this fucking albatross of a money pit.

At this point I was so pissed off with the whole house, and the futility of it all, and the process in general, that I was largely hoping that the wood delivery truck might accidentally back into it and cause the whole fucking thing to collapse, so I decided to call it a night.

It’s not that it’s unfixable. We can – and will – do it. It will be expensive, and way more time consuming than it should be, like everything we’ve touched on this house.

It’s not that that bugs me the most. It’s that it feels completely pointless. Why am I strapping it to the foundation? I suspect the only reason it survived the Nisqually earthquake in 2001 was that it flopped around on it’s shitty foundation like a dying fish on the shores of a river. Tying it down will, I suspect, just mean that in the next quake the shitty foundations it’s on will crack and crumble like the substandard-low-grade crap they are. We’ve managed to make the rest of the structure more solid, but there’s very little we can do for the foundations – which to be honest were half the fucking reason we bought the place.

I also, it must be said, am starting to resent having to pour 1000s of dollars into bringing the place up to code, knowing how many shitearse ‘renovations’ we looked at when buying our house, that I’m damn certain were not up to code in any vague respect.

So I’ll try and dig up some positivity tomorrow. I’ll try and find some enthusiasm to care. But I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Instead, like much of this process, I’ll just plough on in the vain hope that at some point, it’ll feel like a house not a disaster.

So, today was a day

Today was one of those days that was a battle – and I feel a bit like I lost. We have been working on several jobs – there’s the framing at the back where we’ve replaced the sheathing and framed in the new windows. Kathryn finished the nailing on that today, so that at least is good.

There’s the everlasting pain that is the plumbing. I’m now down to one join – which is probably going to be made from two 22.5s stuck together – because it’s not 45 and it’s not 22.5 degrees, and there’s a subtle misalignment between the parts I precut a while ago, and where the vent exits the roof. I have at least managed to get the rest of it all connected together so when the plumbing test stuff finally arrives I’ll actually be able to test it.

I’m suspecting there’ll be at least one leak from one of the crappy joints. Still, we’ll see how it goes.

Anyhow, that was a complete arse today because I thought it was a 45 degree turn. It *should* be, but something I’ve done somewhere means it’s not. And I dry fitted stuff and it went together in that way that things sometimes do when you dry-fit where it clearly wasn’t going to work. But having tried my spare 22.5 turn in there that dry-fitted well enough that I thought it might work. With a bit of brute force and holding.

But I’m using different glue (because they only had multipurpose glue, not the plain ABS glue, and I figured that might be handy as I come to actually installing finish plumbing which may be PVC). It turns out this stuff takes *way* longer to dry, so as I tried to brute-force the joints, the other joints came apart. It ended up being a bit of a tedious disaster, more frustrating because it’s so close to finished and also it’s ladder work, so I can’t do it when Kathryn’s not there.

So I’ll attack it tomorrow, and hopefully get it to work.

Now, to be fair, if my morning hadn’t been so shoddily unproductive, then I would probably have had the patience and common sense to know that it wasn’t fitting well enough to work. But the morning went like this…

Our reading of the plan is that we need 40 5/8″ x 12″ anchor bolts made from galvanised steel.

Call places.

No one has them.

Call company A (poor sodding company A) who say they can get them tomorrow.

[Nip out to get plywood]

Place order with company A.

Visit Home Depot to look at what they have (and because I know I’ll need a 5/8″ SDS drill bit, because I don’t have one and an impact driver). They don’t have them either. Buy tools in readiness for installation anyhow as they are on sale and only have 2 of the impact driver, but hold off buying bit for impact driver as I’m not yet sure what size I need.

Call back company A because have moment of realisation that the price didn’t feel right. Discover that there has been miscommunication, they are ordering bolts to go in before concrete is poured. As we don’t have a time machine, cancel order.

Long discussion with company A where we discover that they can neither get, nor believe exist, 5/8″ anchor bolts made from galvanised steel.

Call engineer. Discuss plans. Identify that what we can get – which is adequate – is 36″ lengths of zinc coated threaded bar, which we can then cut to length, then epoxy in place, then screw down.

Drive back out to Company A (poor, poor sodding company A). Company A order pick for us, 20 threaded bars, 40 washers, 40 plate washers and 40 nuts in 5/8″… and 5 tubes of painfully expensive epoxy.

Drive to Home Depot, return the drillbit which is the wrong size for the 5/8″ bolts when epoxied in (you need a 1/8″ larger hole, apparently).

Literally as I’m leaving home depot get a phonecall from the engineer who points out a paragraph on the plan which indicates an alternative bolt pattern – at the end of the section after the main shearwall hold down section…after the nailing pattern… after all of that.

He explains that this is actually adequate for attaching our house as our house has got existing foundations. This requires approx 40 1/2″ x 10″ long expansion bolts.

I resist the urge to scream.

So tomorrow I get to return the stuff I bought from (poor, poor) Company A, and return the new drillbit, and replace it with the previous-fkin drillbit, and hopefully, gods hopefully, actually fix the house to it’s damn foundations once and for f’kin all.

I’m very grateful that he called, because it’s going to save probably at least $100 – and lots and lots of time, and also save me having to deal with the hideous epoxy. But…augh!

Two Pronged Attack

So when at the house by myself (and a little bit of the time that Kathryn’s been there), I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that the weather’s been both warm and dry to enjoy the awfulness that is the underside of our house.

I say awfulness, because there are still rat deposits that are fresh, and despite being submerged in nearly 6 inches of water before the sump pump was working, the old rat droppings are also still around. In addition, because of the water issues, the moisture barrier (ha) is covered in a layer of fine powdery silty dust, which kicks up whenever you’re under there.

So I get to wear a mask and come out looking like I’ve been dumpster diving in the desert, which is a delight.

Annnyhow. I’ve been doing plumbing. A lot of plumbing. Some of it’s pretty good, and has worked out the way I intended.

Drain and Waste Plumbing, ignore the spaghetti of PEX

Some of it is truly shit – there are definitely two joints that are highly suspect. If they fail in testing (or at inspection) I may have to replace them with flexible joints. I ended up a few degrees off in my run from the far corner of the house to where the sewer/drain exits the building comes in – and also managed to paint myself into a corner where neither side wanted to move, so ended up with a joint where there’s not the proper overlap of the pipes. And the alignment is a bit crappy.

Still, we’ll see if it tolerates being ‘pressurised’* I’ve got a couple more joints to make in the house on the venting (so currently any sewer gas is venting into the house, which I’m not happy about, but I just couldn’t quite make the last few joints today, but at least now any water that runs into the dwv vents will actually run down into the sewer, and not into a bucket, which is what it has been doing).

I’ve also started to insulate the PEX under the floor because while it was 19°C on Monday, it’s going to be back down to freezing in the next few days, and that up-and-down means I’m wanting to be sure the pipes don’t freeze when we test the plumbing. Thankfully, as it stands while the manifold has some water in, the special run I put in to the garden hose pipe is the only one that actually has any water in. The rest of the runs have not been opened yet.

But what have Kathryn and I been up to?

Well, we’ve continued our quest to remove any remnants of the house we bought.


We’ve pulled out the old french door and framed in one of the two windows. The other of the two windows is currently not framed in (but has the original wall studs there).

We’re getting quicker (and better) at framing, I think.


There’s still some more nails to go into the siding – as it was getting pretty late when we stopped. But… the finish line is inching closer.

* Here they pressure test the waste plumbing by blocking the exits, then filling the system and the vent stack with water.

Parlez-vous Français?

When you look at door installation information – as in, how, as a newbie to install a door – there’s one fairly consistent piece of advice. Don’t start with a French door. We are now in a position to understand that more.

On Monday we framed up our French Door’s rough frame – it ended up taking much longer than expected and we ended up getting home much later than intended, with the door still sat next to the hole. Part of that was the amount of time it took us to buy supplies – because while there’s a lot of variation in suggestions of how you should do it, a lot of that debate was made moot by the fact that around here when we tried to find the right kind of flashing no-one stocks it. No-one stocks the corner reinforcement that’s recommended. No one stocks about 3/4ths of the items we’d put on our list.


So then yesterday I spent the morning boning up on how to install a French Door – again – and trying to munge together items from the list of things we could buy, and how to create something much like what was recommended. Then I headed over to the house and prepped the frame for installation. Kathryn arrived after work and a mere SIX AND A HALF SODDING HOURS LATER we had the door installed.

There was a moment about 4 hours in where we both experienced premature celebration.

We’d screwed in both sides of the frame. It was level, plumb, square, true. We shut the doors and opened them with great pleasure. And then we thought we’d just ‘pop’ the screws in the top of the frame having shimmed it to keep it where it was…

…and lo, everything twisted and changed. The doors would not close properly. The gaps were all off.

An hour later we’d managed to get it all back in shape. Then came the joy of putting in the locking mechanisms.

And finally.

Fina-fucking-ly, it was done.


Today has been similarly traumatic. I attempted to drill a hole to run a pipe through – the only stretch of vent pipe that has to run through an exterior wall. Half way through I thought it sounded ‘odd’ – looked – and I’d managed to find a nail (that holds the siding on). Much drilling with my metal drill bits later, I managed to (using a combination of grinding with the drillbit – totally inappropriate use of it, and my tin-snips) cut the nail out and get it sufficiently out of the way that I could finish making the hole.

Our 90° drill is dead, so that needs to go back. It just stopped turning.

Then the toilet.

Now, see, our house as we may have mentioned appears to have been built by people with only a passing acquaintance with common tools, like measuring tapes and levels. And as a result, one of the ‘quirks’ is that the first beam is 4″ out of place. Approximately. I realized this when I was trying to cut new floorboards and that last section, by the front door, is 4″ longer than all the others.

Now this becomes important, because we left our bathroom wall where it was, and previously, the toilet seemed to be curiously further from the wall than you’d expect.

Now, today as I drilled my tiny pilot holes to work out where to put the new toilet flange* I kept going “what the hell”.

Because I realized that the reason the toilet was weirdly far from the bathroom wall is that if not, it’ll run into the beam. It took me a while to work that out because also, it turns out, where we’ve chosen to put the toilet is right on the join between the old flooring and the new, where I’d put an extra reinforcing 2×4 screwed under the floor.

Eventually I worked it out, chopped the hole in the floor and managed to get the flange in. The toilet is going to be irritatingly far from the wall (or we’ll need a special toilet). But… there’s not really a lot of choice. I considered rotating it, but I’ve already run all the other plumbing to there.

Still, it’s done.

One more toilet to go, the laundry floor drain, and I need to come up with some way to indicate under the floor roughly where the shower and bath drains will be; then I get to go grovel under the house again. I just have to connect up the dots, then cap the whole lot off so it can be filled and tested, along with my fresh water plumbing.

Which is to say, progress.

*toilets here sit on a plastic ring on the floor, on which is deposited a ring of wax, and then the toilet sort of… squishes it to make a seal**.
** Yes, I agree.

And a delightful time was had by all

…who weren’t there.


Yeah, it’s been a day of plumbing – so all the runs under the house are complete. Ish. Insofar as they go from the place where they’re meant to start, through the floor, along under the floor and then they pop out in what will, at some point, be our furnace cupboard.

It’s sort of a hybrid of a manifold and a series run system. Each bathroom has 2 feeds of hot and cold – the shower (and in the main bathroom the shower/bath), and also the toilet* & sink**. The kitchen only gets one run (which feeds the refrigerator, dishwasher, pot filler and the main kitchen sink. It’ll also feed the outside hose for the back garden). The laundry gets its own run too – from which I intend to vamp the front-garden-hose tap.

That should mean that, for the most part, the hot and cold water demands don’t lead to massive fluctuations in temperature anywhere where we care. Although I refuse to get non-temperature controlled showers anyway. Having lived with them as a student and as a kid such barbarism is unacceptable in a house we build. I squeal for no-one in the shower***.

So the next step in our JIT purchasing is that I’m ordering a nice adequate manifold, and shall install it in such a way as we can just unscrew it and pop the drywall behind it. Then I need to finish the rough-in and get it checked. Much of it is done to the point of the nipple on which the taps will go. There are however a few bits that still need doing, and I need to get the laundry and fridge boxes bought and installed.


I do feel sorry for anyone who wandered past our house today and heard the crawlspace shouting “You complete bastard, why do you keep coiling that way!”. It turns out that while PEX is way easier than copper in many regards, its persistent desire to be a coil wrapped around you, under-floor posts, itself, other bits of pex, any random bit of anything it can find… is quite irritating when you’re working at 3< °>C / 37< °>F. Mind, I was warm enough under there because I was scrabbling around and trying to hold my head and neck out of the ratshit.

And yes, there are fresh, err, deposits, down there.

I was very glad for my filter mask.

Anyhow, I said mostly done because I ran out of clips, and all that pipework needs insulating. Oh, and (of course), there’s still the soil (DWV) pipe to run. I pulled out a section of the old today, and am starting to ponder the new. But most of that needs the top-plates installed on our walls and we’ve only installed one layer of top plate (because then we can use the second layer to help tie things together).

I’m hoping to hell that we’re doing this right. I will be really, really f’kin sad if we’ve got any of this wrong, but the inspector looked at our work and said “just keep doing what you’re doing”. So we are.

* Yes, hot *and* cold to the toilet because I think a bidet is potentially a good idea. But only if it has warm water.
** Which I still refuse to call a lavatory, despite what I wrote on the plans for the building, because that’s just wrong.
*** Uh, I’ll just leave that there.

Yesterday was a good day

We spent much of the day on Sunday doing calculations and measurements. We worked out the height of the wall in our bedroom, we spent a lot of time working out what bits we needed to cut to what angle. We spent a lot of time thinking about how the walls interlock, and how that works for each joint. Then we spent a lot of time carefully marking and cutting…


Then yesterday we took those many pieces of wood and nailed them together, and despite it just being the two of us, and us not being hugely strong, we used physics to get the 13′ high wall up and nailed in place.


We fought with the unsquareness of the house, the squareness of the roof, the unevenness of the floor, and the bendyness of 16′ lengths of stud-grade douglas fir. We read and researched and despite it being a a cathedral ceiling, with our joint being made on a slope, we did that all and we won. Yesterday was a good day.


Today was a crap day, in contrast. We had a small (1.6m / 64″) section of wall that sits atop the doorframe between our bedroom and our en-suite. We’d calculated this, but didn’t realize that in our adjustments to make the wall sit right(ish) in the unsquare house we’d made one of our measurements wrong. We realized this after we’d manoeuvred the wall up to the top of the door frame and it wouldn’t fit. We took it up and down several times before conceding that there were problems in more than just that direction. We ended up dismantling it, cutting it shorter, reassembling it in situ (with toe-nailing). And in the end, it still didn’t meet the standards we’d like it to. No matter that we can hide all the problems (we think), because they’re in a storage area, not in ‘the house proper’. No matter that the house is a honking pile of unsquare crap and that’s a part of why this is such a mare of a job.

I hate it when we don’t meet our own standards. I hate it when we’re left with something slightly shoddy because we couldn’t get it to sit right. And I’m frustrated that it took us four hours to put up 7 bits of wood.

I shall take this and put it in the place of – we’re learning. But it’ll take me a day or two.

Just add more plastic

Progress on the house continues apace. If it weren’t for the mould taking over the ceiling – and the struggle to dry out the damp, then I’d actually feel pretty positive about how things are progressing. We’ve put up about half the walls (granted, mainly the easier ones), tweaked the design ever so slightly (moved one wall about 10cm / 4 inches) when we realized that the en-suite just wouldn’t work as it was. Well, technically you could make your way past the toilet to the shower, but it would have been really tight. We’ve now got the lumber for most of the other walls in the house and it’s slowly drying out (it rained when it arrived). There’s just about a 4.5m / 14 ft stretch that goes above the corridor and bathroom that we’ve not got wood for yet, and all the ceilings are currently unwooded.


Having originally planned to mainly reuse the studs carefully extracted from the walls we realized that they have an odour – not a hugely strong one, but it’s definitely noticeable – and we really don’t want any more of that in the house than we have to. So we’ve opted for fresh timber inside – and that’s added about $1k to the cost. The good point about that is most of that lumber can be used in the garage, if we get as far as building the garage. We just need some treated timber to be the sole-plate. AFAIK here, you don’t put in a damp proof course – I’m not sure if it’s required for new builds – and instead just use pressure treated timber. Which is weird, because then you have this soggy wet piece of timber (at least, that’s what makes up the sole plate of our house).

Anyway, so that extra $1k is a little painful because this house was already at it’s value limit (we suspect), and now we’re adding $1k in shiny nice timber…

…as will the mould treatment. That’s about another $1k.

…and it turns out that contrary to all the estimators we’ve found online, installing a gas line is about $2k (the estimators pitched that at $400).

…and the cost of our chosen siding just went from the previous estimate to around $4k – an increase of nearly $2k (so I think that’s probably nixed).

But, on the plus side, our windows have apparently arrived at the supplier, so we can start actually installing windows. And we’ve paid for them already – so that’s good. In a move that I think is basically “go away and leave us alone”, our roofing company have decided to simply pay for replacement of the guttering they damaged (rather than painting it and seeing if we were willing to accept that). This is, I suspect, you’re getting nothing for the mould we caused on your ceiling, but now you can’t say we didn’t address the other issues with installation.

I’ve also been plumbing… well, sort of. I’ve finally given in to the call of PEX. It must be said, it’s certainly easier than copper – even if it’s less recyclable. The house should be roughed in, completely, in 2 days. Which is pretty impressive for me working on my own… Were we not building walls and framing windows when Kathryn’s working on the house too, it could probably have been knocked out in a day. Something of a change from days and days, which is what it took me to do the central heating plumbing in Slough.


Once that’s done – and the walls are done – it’s on to the electrical. We’re nearing the point that I can start that anyhow, as some of the walls are in. I just need to go buy a boat-load of cable. One of the delights of 110v electrical is needing a k-bilion separate circuits, because the current demands are so high.


I have that planned out (sorta), but am kinda inclined to wait until the mould’s resolved, as that’s going to be a lot of time hanging about in the rafters, enjoying the delights of the currently mould-ridden space. Either I wait, or I put on a mask for it. And I like to reserve my mask-wearing time for when I’m enjoying the delights of our crawlspace. Sometimes (often) I wonder why we’ve done this to ourselves. It’ll be nice when it’s done, but it’s never going to be like the Bristol house – something that I can be unreservedly proud of. Yes, we’ve made the structure less shoddy, but it’s always going to be a 1970s tract house built to the minimum building standards of the time. Yes, we’ve made it better, we’ve dragged parts of it up to more modern standards. But it’s always going to leave me less than loving it.

So yeah, there we go.