Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fat Cat Grooming

One of my cats is an eager eater. We have to put her in a different room so the others have a chance to get at the food. This morning she was casually grooming herself after indulging in some canned cat food. This is Betty Boop who is about 3-4 years old.

"Are you talking to me?"

"I'm busy, don't interrupt."
"I just love a relaxed bath in the morning after a good can of food."
This has nothing to do with the house, but it is a nice diversion. And I do know that Betty is massively obese, but it's hard to put one out of nine cats on a diet. Several of the others are extremely skinny. I do try to keep her from the food.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why We Built the House on Piers (instead of a Crawlspace)

While we were working on the house today, suddenly a storm came up and dumped buckets of rain. This is the view of the front yard with two little rivers running through it. On the right side near the road you can see the creek that the beaver's have dammed up. We need to work on it some more to try to get that down.

This is a view of the front entrance porch. We have not added more gravel to the driveway because it always gets messed up when they move the dumpster. We will do that in a week or two when the dumpster leaves for good.

Another interesting day at the house.

Finishing Details

Lots happened today. We were seriously motivated and got a lot done. We have arbitrarily decided on September first as move-in day and September 13th as House-warming party day so having specific dates has certainly helped us move faster.

As I am extremely clumsy, I am not allowed a paint brush where a spill would be difficult to compensate for such as near a finished floor. But what I love to do and most people do not like is to sand and finish the floors. So while everyone else was in on the paint party. I was working on the stairs.

After we stained the floor 2-3 days ago, we took off our booties and then walked on the stairs. My sister was wearing shoes, I was wearing socks. Apparently the little flimsy booties they sell at the big box stores are not sufficient to prevent stain from bleeding through. I need to remember this. I sanded the stairs with 4 grits - 60-80-100-120 with exhaustive vacuuming in between. Tedious work, but the stairs are so smooth now. I am very happy. I will stain them tomorrow.

I have protected the already painted balusters with homemade baluster condoms. We will see how they work to prevent stain from getting on the paint.

Then I stained the bottom newel post. I think it looks really nice. I can't wait to get the finish on the stairs. They will be so beautiful.

We had trouble finding a stain to match the front inside of the mahogany door. The wood trim is some kind of pine (radiata pine, maybe?) that doesn't take stain as well as we would like. So the mahogany stain that we used on the door would not work. John noticed that the semi-transparent stain on the porch looked like it would match. Crazy. No way would that work, but it did. In fact, it looks great. He covered it with 2 coats of polyurethane.

John got the shoe mould done on the porch and in both bathrooms. We initially thought about painting it, but decided on staining it instead. It looks great.

This is the porch shoe mould. 

Downstairs bathroom shoe mould. It looks great with the tile. 
Anyway, a very productive day. We are getting somewhere and soon John should be in his cozy little energy-efficient home. 

Thank you for taking a look at the progress on John's house.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blower Door - Slight Disappointment

Ok, we had what was supposed to be the second and LAST blower door test, but I am not happy with the result and I may have Dean Benton of Benton Green Energy come again after I have fixed some problems. 

Blower door reading on August 6, 2014

You may recall that a blower door test helps determine how much air leakage you have through the building envelope. The test involves putting a fan in an outside door frame and depressurizing the home to accentuate the air leaks. The house is depressurized to a level of 50 pascals which is about equivalent to the force of a 20 mph wind on the home. There are 2 main values that you get from the test - one is directly from the manometer as shown above and one is calculated based on the volume of the house. This article, Blower Door Basics by Martin Holladay on Green Building Advisor (GBA) explains it much better than I ever could.

Blower Door Set-up while we were at the rough-in stage. 

The number shown on the manometer above is called cfm50 or the amount of air that moves through the home at 50 pascals of pressure. The other number is ach50 or air changes per hour at 50 pascals.

Our previous reading was 98 cfm 50. The above reading is 235, but I think it leveled out at 220. In any case, the number has more than doubled - 2.4 times greater than the last blower door.

What happened??

Well, I have some ideas.

What do you think about this dryer vent? Do you think that there is some leakage around this pipe?

Dryer vent through the wall, not sealed around the vent pipe. This was installed AFTER the first blower door test.

What about the vent cover for the kitchen fan? Do you think that those little plastic louvers seal out air?

This flimsy plastic piece covers one of the fan vents. A similar cover was on the dryer vent. 
Now the photo below may show a less important air leak. This is the inside view of the Lunos e2 - a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) that exchanges outside air for inside air. It does go through the wall in large tube. We did seal the tube to the sheathing inside and out before the walls were closed in. Still it is designed to move air through the home. You may wonder why we go through all the trouble to seal up every possible hole in the building envelope and then deliberately install a fan to exchange air. Well, when you have a very well air sealed home, you need to move more fresh air through for the inhabitants, but it needs to be filtered, conditioned air, not random leaks. That's what the HRV provides.

Lunos e2 Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)
The reason I did not calculate the ach50 is because I am confused about the volume of the house. The house is a Cape Cod design with kneewalls and sloped ceiling upstairs so I don't really know what counts as the house or not.

For example, the space above the bathroom and the bedrooms is not really sealed off from the rest of the house. It is within the thermal envelope of the building. Do I count that? I think so, but I am not sure. I am going to post a questions on Green Building Advisor to get their advice.

Area above the bathroom. You can see the Intello Plus smart vapor retarder from 475 High Performance Building Supply. The ceiling joists are insulated with dense pack cellulose. There will be a small door that fits in the opening. It does not set tightly to the frame, however. Is this within the thermal envelope?

So, the big change from the rough-in stage to almost completion (I know, almost completed at 18 mos later - crazy ) is the vents. We taped cardboard over the area where the vents were during the first test, but I don't know if you tape over vent covers when you go for the final test. That's another question for the knowledgable people at GBA.

I'll let you know more later. Thank you for visiting here. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

More Photos of the New Stairs

Andrew of Carolina Custom Stairs had quite a challenge installing the balusters on our S-shaped handrail. At the level of the S-shape, he had to alter the placement of the balusters so that there was no more than 4 inches between the balusters. Here are a few more photos of the stairs.

We are scheduled for the inspection for the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) tomorrow. We still have a lot to do, but mostly its finishing details - floor finishing, painting trim and such. These last things seem to take forever. So perhaps soon the perpetual house will be finished.

Thank you for taking a look.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stairs Installed - Beautiful!

One of the last things we needed before getting a certificate of occupancy (CO) is a handrail on the stairs. Andrew of Carolina Custom Stair Works did a meticulous and beautiful job installing the stairs. Unbelievable. He noted that most people do not choose to have wood risers instead they choose MDF which is painted. It is much more difficult to install the oak risers because you have to miter the corners at each stair. I have a photo that demonstrates this and shows how beautiful it is.

Notice the S-curve on the left side of the photo. I really like that. This view also shows the color on the walls much better - Aqua Pura - I love it. John does not.  Balusters have been installed but I haven't gotten a photo yet.

View of the top of the stairs. Balusters will be painted.
I love the curve of the handrail at the top of the stairs.
Beautiful detailing of the stairs

This photo shows the expert workmanship of mitered corners on the stairs. We are thrilled with this work.

Well, I hope to get more photos today now that the balusters are up.