The Little Things

We must remember all kinds of details to finish this house properly. Early this week we brought a variety of subcontractors back to the site. Now that drywall is up, Chuck’s Heating and Air Conditioning can install ductwork and machinery in the mechanical room, and Bugbee can blow insulation in the attic. Tim from Pillsbury Excavation returned to improve our footer drains so the backyard doesn’t flood, and the stove contractor stopped by to install and connect the propane tank. It’s rarely easy getting contractors to come when you want them, so kudos to Colin and Terry for their persistence.

Joe installs a maze of ducts in the mechanical room.

Joe installs a maze of ducts in the mechanical room.


The propane tank, hidden along the south side.

The propane tank, hidden along the south side.

Outside, Arnie visited another day to install more decking. The cool detail here is the way the planks fit around the posts. Terry left room for perimeter planks to form a continuous border, and cut out square notches so they fit snugly. (Eventually we will clad the posts to match the farmhouse style.) It looks really slick.

Don't you agree?

Don’t you agree?

Inside, there’s lots of touch-up paint required. The window extensions got really beat up over the past few months, surrounded as they were by construction activities, so I sanded off the bumps and ridges and then Abby brushed on two coats of white paint. That’s a work in progress. Abby also touches up each ceiling after she finishes the walls, covering up the inevitable daubs of paint that miss their mark. It’s tedious work, but someone has to do it.

Library walls are all painted; the living room and first-floor hall have one coat to go. Nat comes to help as needed. Painting is now on the critical path, because we want the paint to dry before we install flooring… and yesterday the flooring was delivered!

Several wall and ceiling colors visible looking up the stairs. I love the crisp lines.

Several wall and ceiling colors visible looking up the stairs. I love the crisp lines.

Heavy in the Paint

Once the walls were prepped, Terry jumped into painting with fierce resolve. Wednesday afternoon he set up the sprayer, then put on his spacesuit and sprayed a coat of primer. For a number of reasons, once you start applying a coat of paint you want to finish it in the same sitting… so Terry and Colin stayed on site until after 9 Wednesday night to get primer on every wall and ceiling in the house.

Thursday dawned and we welcomed the newest addition to our team: Nat the painter. Nat took charge of the sprayer and put a coat of paint in the closets and on all the ceilings. Now, a few notes about the sprayer. It’s by far the fastest way to get a coat of paint on something, but it goes through 5-gallon buckets FAST. Abby and Kari made multiple trips to Home Depot to resupply. So far we’ve needed some 45 gallons of primer, and I think 15 gallons of white tinted paint for the ceilings.

Terry and Nat prepare the sprayer for ceiling paint.

Terry and Nat prepare the sprayer for ceiling paint.

The sprayer requires a steady hand and a proper technique to get an even coat of paint, so none but Terry and Nat have handled it. And even in the hand of a professional, the spray isn’t very precise. You can’t, for example, spray a ceiling one color and a wall another – the colors will splatter over one another.

Well, that’s exactly what we want for most rooms in the house, so once Nat finished spraying the ceilings we whipped out rollers and brushes for the walls. We started in the kitchen. Kari cut in around the perimeters… she has an amazing touch with the brush and got her paint right up to the edge without marking the ceiling at all. Abby followed with a roller. They’ve completed two coats in the kitchen; next up are the living room and library.

Abby and Kari paint the kitchen a lovely cream.

Abby and Kari paint the kitchen a lovely cream.

Outside the house it’s cold, wet, and windy. But plenty of work remains, namely siding and decking. On Thursday, we sided our way up the south face of the house upon three increasingly muddy ladders. And on Friday, we decked about half of the west-facing porch with increasingly numb fingers. We dress in plenty of layers, but I doubt a glove exists that can keep our fingers warm without compromising the dexterity we need to hold a screw. Sometimes you just have to suffer a little.

Marking a trim line on a piece of siding.

Marking a trim line on a piece of siding.


Major progress on the front porch decking. Weather is hideous.

Major progress on the front porch decking. Weather is hideous.

So I’m kind of thankful that the sun sets before 5 now, forcing us indoors to finish out each day. Colin installed temporary bulbs in a number of light fixtures and Terry plugged in a portable heater on each floor (which heat the whole house thanks to our amazing insulation). Electricity enables us to work inside at all hours… it’s a blessing and a curse.

So never mind the darkness
We still can find a way.
‘Cause nothing lasts forever
Even cold November rain.
-Guns N’ Roses

On Deck

The house calls for some 900 square feet of decking. Since the material arrived Friday, we’ve installed more than a third of it, including the entire grill porch and the lower level of the wraparound. Arnie joined the three regulars on site, making this installation faster and more enjoyable.

Like the vinyl siding, our decking is a maintenance-free plastic composite with the appearance of real wood. The planks are about 5 inches wide and up to 20 feet long. We connect them to the porch framing with a clever clip system that sits below the planks, making the fasteners almost invisible once the deck is complete. Each metal clip has two edges, which fit into slots that run the length of the planks, and a downward loop containing a screw hole. Once the deck is complete no screws are exposed at all: they’re all down in the clips hidden by the decking.

Arnie installs special clips to hold the last plank while Colin checks layout.

Arnie installs special clips to hold the last plank while Colin checks layout.

As we install the deck, a familiar pattern holds true: it’s a pain to get started but a breeze after that. Terry custom-cuts the first plank to squeeze in below the siding and any door openings. Because the inside edge sits atop our aluminum flashing, this first plank slants ever so slightly downward… it’s barely noticeable underfoot and it’s a boon to drainage, so no problem there. Then Colin, Arnie, and I take up positions along the length. We install a clip at every joist, put a screw through every clip, and then click in the next plank using rubber mallets. The clips are designed to leave an even spacing between planks, so it’s easy to keep them straight, but even so we frequently run an eyeball along the length for good measure.

Starting to deck the front porch. At 56 feet long, each row requires three planks end to end.

Starting to deck the front porch. At 56 feet long, each row requires three planks end to end.

Winter is coming fast, and with the low sun angle comes magnificent sunsets. Working until twilight to make the most of the short days, we get to watch nature’s light show virtually every evening.