Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Sun
29
Aug '10

Ditches, Pipes, Wires, and Boulders

Saturday was supposed to be the day we dug out under the future bridge to make it a more gradual slope and to place some gravel and landscape boulders. Steve wanted to get this done so he could build the bridge next week and Valerie and I wanted to be there to direct (more like approve) where the boulders would go. I also needed to be there to put the cable TV and phone lines in the to-be-dug trench that would be run with the water line under the boulders to the street. Well, although we showed up at 9:00 as scheduled, Jeff (excavator) didn’t get there until 11:00 and probably didn’t get the first scoop in the ground until 11:30. Our schedule went down hill (pun intended) from there when we realized that “while we’re at it” we shouldn’t just stop the copper pipe and cabling at the top of the hill, we might as well run it all the way to the water meter and cable box. Hmmm. Steve only brought 60′ of copper pipe and 40′ of conduit. I brought 40′ of conduit and few adapters. Not enough. We also decided to put a couple T’s, Y’s, and elbows in the drain pipe for the gutters and didn’t have enough of those, either. Poor Valerie had to make two trips to Lowes and one to Home Depot (via Chik-fil-A for lunch) since they were sold out of what we needed. Luckily the plumber, Tom, showed up around 1:00 as we were stretching out the roll of copper pipe along the street. His first words were, “Who’s the licensed plumber here?! I’m gonna call the shop steward!”

We ended up digging the ditch the whole way to the meter, all 119′ of it. How do I know it was 119′? Because the copper pipe comes in 60′ rolls (at $180/roll). Allowing for about 4″ into the crawlspace wall, we had less than 1′ left over at the meter. It was that close. By 5:30, the water line, two cable TV cables, and the phone cable were layed, buried, and covered. We also got 100′ of drainpipe buried; roughly half routed from the front yard to catch the gutters over the breezeway and the other half from under the front door to catch water from the rain chains. As a token of some success towards the day’s original plan, Jeff placed a single boulder under the front door. Hopefully more will follow on Monday.

Also on Saturday, as I mentioned earlier, Tom the plumber arrived and his crew started drilling holes for pipes. We spent about an hour confirming the tub/shower/sink/toilet locations (pay no attention to plans, they’re not correct) and playing Waterworks (the 1972 card game) trying to figure out how to get the pipes from the master bath down to the mechanical room. Tom used our architect’s name in a vain a couple times. We eventually figured out a solution that didn’t involve any structural changes. Hey, it all flows down hill, right? How hard could it be?

The pictures, below, are from Saturday. The first one is me admiring the ceiling of our breezeway. Nice work, Steve! The flag is flying over one of the few remaining holes in our roof. The star of beams and rafters is the peak over our bedroom—talk about difficult framing! And, the view of the back, looking up, is…a long way up. The last two are of Jeff teetering on the edge.

 

 

 

Fri
27
Aug '10

Not Dried-In, Yet, but Things are a Happenin’

We’re not dried-in yet, but we’re extremely close. They mostly just have the backside of the house to do. Thankfully, the weather has been dry this week and it’s forecast to be dry all of next week, too. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve seen the last of standing water on the living room floor.

Steve’s been putting in some hands-on time personally building the breezeway and the front porch. They’re beautiful. The framers were commenting today on how good they look. We’re at the point where we need to build the bridge leading to the front porch and before we can do that we need to get some gravel underneath and before that goes in we need to run the water, cable, and phone lines, and the drains for the gutters, and while Jeff is here with his trackhoe he might as well put in our landscape boulders and dig the propane tank hole, and… (that sentence was intentionally long so you’d get the gist of the project).

 

 

Anyway, Jeff came by this afternoon with his equipment and some boulders; not just any boulders, but nicely aged and weathered boulders from a farmer’s field about 20 minutes north of Asheville. They look great; most have moss growing on them so they are, indeed, from a field, not blasted out of the side a mountain. They’ll go on the hillside next to the bridge and in front of the office. We don’t have a landscape designer, yet, so we’re trusting Jeff to “place” them, with our direction, tomorrow morning and afternoon. Jeff’s working on Saturday because the woodpeckers (framers) will be off and out of his way. He started work, late today, digging out under the bridge and spreading gravel for the driveway. Adding 3′ of fill in the tub and bringing it up to level with the road really helped with the scale. It, thankfully, looks less like a castle.

  

 

Also happening, today, was my walkthrough with the HVAC guy. Oh, my poor head, trying to figure out the best (or in some cases, least of the worst) places to put the registers. We did some planning with our architect but until you actually have the house framed up and you start thinking about where you’ll put the furniture, you can’t know what works and what doesn’t. The proper place for all the supply registers is in the floor under the windows—unless you plan on putting furniture there. And, where can you possibly fit a 20″x20″ return register? HVAC man’s first choice was right under where we were going to hang the TV! Nope. And, how do we get vents into the master bedroom with its cathedral ceiling? After a long hour+ we finally settled on all the locations and he marked them with the biggest red Sharpie marker I’ve ever seen. Hopefully they’ll still be okay after I sleep on it and Valerie looks at the marks, tomorrow. At least there’s no “up skit” vent in front of the kitchen sink.

P.S. In one of the pictures, above, you’ll notice a framer’s speed square in the upper corner of the dining room. It’s stuck. It was apparently hanging there or being used and someone framed the temporary brace right over top. I tried prying it out but it wouldn’t budge. No worries, it won’t become a permanent part of the house. It’ll be freed when they remove the brace.

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Wed
25
Aug '10

Pity the UPS Man

Valerie spent the last couple days researching and deciding on appliances and I finalized our orders for the rough-in plumbing fixtures. Pity the poor UPS (and Fed-Ex and freight drivers) who will be visiting Camp Bell over the next few months. The stuff is beginning to arrive!

The first appliance off the truck was the one that everyone, when hearing what it is, says, “Huh?” It’s an all-in-one (not a stackable) washer/dryer. It’s 24″ wide and fits under a counter. Yep, that’s right. Put your clothes in, press the button, and at the end of the cycle take them out and wear ‘em. Those fancy Europeans have been doing this for years but the technology is finally coming to America. Our unit is going in the pantry (AKA Costco Room) so we won’t be using it for clothes so much as for dish towels, shoes, and dog blankets. It’s a real space saver and it makes perfect sense…so much so that we’re questioning buying a separate ”old fashioned” washer/dryer combo for the master closet.

Also arriving this week and next are all the plumbing rough-in parts, the stuff that needs to go in the walls or the mechanical room. Shower valves, water heater, water filters, steam shower generator, tub and shower pans, and more. I even ordered and received the toilets because www.faucetdirect.com had free freight shipping on orders over $1500. Yah, we were over that. They matched the lowest price I could find so I ordered them up, too. The garage bay is filling up quickly and I think we’ll be parking the Jeep in the driveway, soon.

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Sun
22
Aug '10

Someone Wrapped Our House in Plastic!

As I walked towards our house this evening I thought back to the ol’ college prank of wrapping some poor freshman’s entire lot of earthly possessions in tin foil. In our case, it looks like someone wrapped our entire house in plastic, and they did, only this plastic is Tyvek — and that’s a good thing. I just wish it was all over our roof. We are still a few days away from being dried in and I can’t wait. We had over an inch of rain, yesterday, and a lot of it was still standing on the floor, this afternoon. Valerie broomed as much as she could out the front door, but it’s impossible to get it all and the floors were still soaking wet when we left. Nothing we can do but hope for a few days of dry weather and a productive week of roof framing. Any day now. Any day now.

 

 Speaking of our front door, we now have one. Actually, we just have a front opening but we also now have a front porch and the beginnings of a roof overhead. Remember that whole locost post exercise from a week ago? I am sooooo glad we went with cedar. The posts framing the front porch and the support beam overhead have been raised and boy do they look nice…straight, smooth…and they smell good, too. Valerie swiped the cut ends to make cedar planks for grilling salmon. I think the first meal we have in our new house should be Pacific Northwest salmon from Bluewater Seafood grilled on cedar scraps from our front porch.

This week Steve, working on his own personal “little” project, framed up the breezeway floor. We can now enter our house through the future back door into the mud room. There’s a pile of cedar beams sitting on the street (protected with plastic from the rain) to frame up the breezeway roof and the bridge to the front door. Those should be happening soon.

 

Last Wednesday we met with our Kitchen designer from Nova Kitchen and Bath. That was a gruelling and mentally taxing couple of hours. Although Valerie has meticulously planned her kitchen down to what will go in what drawer and cupboard, it was still a lot of work to review it all and then outline our desires for the vanities, basement wetbar, and all the window seats. Wait?! How many window seats do we have? That’s a lot of cats! The scary thing is, I have absolutely no idea what $ number it’s all going to add up to. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Also this week, Valerie spent several days researching appliances and preparing a “request for quote” that she’s sending out to the local appliance stores. Forget stainless, white, or black? We are long past those choices. Should the microwave door swing left or down? Where are the controls located for the oven? Is the freezer’s ice maker on the left or right? How many cubic feet per minute does the exhaust fan move? Is the counter depth refrigerator truly counter depth (25″) or do they lie in their spec’s? Why does a small refrigerator cost twice as much as a large one. Etc. Etc. Thank goodness for the Internet. Otherwise, we’d be buying appliances like the salesman at a local store suggested to Valerie. His first question to her was, “What brand do you want?” Who cares?! I suppose that to some people, brand matters, but not to us. Features first. Consumer Reports rating, price, reliability, in the middle. Brand is last on the list. Sorry Viking, Wolf, and Sub Zero.

Finally, this set of temporary stairs was sitting next to the house “leading” to a window in the stairwell. It reminded me of an M.C. Escher drawing.

 

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Tue
17
Aug '10

Flag Day

August 17 is now flag day on Town Mountain. The framing crew raised a US flag over our house, this morning. Pretty cool!

 

Steve and I had lots to discuss this morning. The biggie is that it’s time for me to start ordering plumbing and electrical rough-in supplies — tubs, shower valves, bath fans, steam units, washing machine pans, generator transfer switches, etc. etc. We’re running several weeks behind to be ready for the Parade of Homes in October and I think he’s wanting to make it up by having the “trades” (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and me doing the low voltage) really go go go as soon as we’re dried in. Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be burning up the Internet placing orders. Credit card limits be damned!

 

Sun
15
Aug '10

Everything’s All Turned Around

On Friday afternoon, Valerie and I went out to the house to see how things were progressing. It was raining and she wanted to get some precise measurements of the kitchen so we spent more time walking around the interior than we had in the past. We were standing in the living room eyeing up where the bookshelves would be, how we might put lights on top of the beams, and whether we need to buy a sectional sofa…when Valerie thought of turning everything around.

The plans for our living room are were for a single large room that’s divided about 75% for the living room and 25% for the office with a free-standing wall separating the two areas. We planned to put built-in shelves on both sides of the wall; art shelves and a TV on the living room side and bookshelves on the office side. The couch and chairs would be along the outer walls with their backs to the windows.

Valerie was standing about where the TV would be when she had an epiphany. If we rotated the couch and TV walls one quarter turn and moved the art shelves to the opposite wall around the windows, we would be able to see the great views through the dining and living room windows while still being able to see the TV. We would also have better privacy from people looking in from the street and be able to see into the kitchen. I don’t know why we, or our architect, hadn’t thought of it, before, but once she said it, the better layout was obvious. She got a kiss for such an awesome idea! Luckily, the framers hadn’t built the dividing wall, yet, and although it would have been fine where it was planned, we have the chance to move it a few inches to make the office a little bigger and adjust for furniture instead of shelves along the wall. And, since we don’t locate the furnace registers until late next week, we’re good. We (actually Valerie) caught this early and we can make a simple and no-cost change that will make our future home even better! There’s no question which one of us is going to get the new primo seat on the couch. Sorry, Serena.

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Fri
13
Aug '10

Seattle Morn’

Thursday morning I was at the house bright and early to go to the lumber mill with Steve to look at the locust posts (see my previous entry). As I drove up Town Mountain Road I had a déjà vu moment—I was driving into a marine layer. No, wait. I wasn’t in Seattle. I was in Asheville. We don’t have marine layers, here. It was just low clouds/fog hanging over Town Mountain. The further up I drove, the denser it got. As I pulled onto Vance Gap Road and drove towards our house, it felt just like “home.”

 

Our stairwell construction is underway. Those are the longest (20′) straightest 2×6′s I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know they could grow trees like that. They’re definitely not locust! After looking at the recent work, though, I need to call Steve about the lower window in the stairwell. As I walked up to the house I immediately saw that it’s lower (by about 1.5″) than the window in the Costco room (that career in quality assurance and testing is a real curse). I looked at the window order sheet and, thankfully, we ordered windows the same height, it’s just framed wrong. Easy fix. Steve says that we should be roofed in by Friday, so this coming week will be a busy one, finishing the stairwell, completing the rafters over it and sheathing everything. Once that’s all done, I wonder how we’ll get to the second floor, or the lower level? We won’t be able to crawl through the living room roof. Time for some temporary stairs.

 

I also talked to the HVAC guy on Thursday. Options and decisions, Oh my. We’re going with two heatpumps with propane furnace backups. One is large and will handle the main level and the lower level. The other one, a small unit, will be for the master level. We will have three thermostats, one on each floor. The lower level will be zoned with automatic dampers in the duct work so we can essentially turn off the heating/cooling when its unoccupied (most of the time) and only turn it on when we have guests or it’s poker night. Because most of our floors will be hardwood, we will have a humidifier that runs in the winter to keep them from cracking and keep us more comfortable (no static electricity). And, because the house will be sealed up so tight with spray foam insulation, we will have a fresh air system that occasionally pulls in some fresh air to keep the house from getting stuffy. In two weeks the HVAC guy will come by and do a walk-through with us to decide where the vents will be located. Valerie’s main requirement is that we don’t have an “up skirt” vent in front of the kitchen counter like we had in our first house in Johnson City.

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Thu
12
Aug '10

It’s Hard Being Green

Steve and I went out to Bee Tree Lumber in Swannanoa this morning to look at their locust posts. We were very disappointed. We need a couple 14 and 12 foot 6″x6″s for the bridge leading to the front door and several 8 footers for the breezeway. They had lots of posts that long but, out of maybe 30 we looked at, we could only find 2 or 3 that were straight enough and defect-free enough to use. Some of the longest ones had at least a 4″ bend in them from end to center! Others looked like they were cut from most of the tree and had bark on the outside. Since they were rough cut and dimensionally larger than we needed we asked about planing them down to standard 6×6 size and the guy looked at us (with his one eye) like we were crazy. Apparently you don’t/can’t plane locust beams that large—they are what they are. We still may be able to use locust for the front porch and bridge decking as they had quite a bit of 2×6′s that could be milled to standard size deck boards. On the way back, Steve ordered all the posts, in cedar. Straight. True. In stock at the lumber yard. They’ll be delivered tomorrow. It’s easy not being green.

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Tue
10
Aug '10

Tippy Top

The framing crew’s been busting arse to get our house dried in. They’ve move up to the master level and spent Friday, Monday, and today building the walls and raising part of the roof. Since the roofline continues over the stairwell, they need to build that, soon, and started erecting some scaffolding to make it easier. As it is, the only way up to the master level is via ladder though the rafters of the living room and across about 10′ of open joists. I’m cool with playing monkey, but Valerie won’t be able to admire the tippy top views from our master bedroom and toilet room(!) until she has at least some temporary stairs to get there.

On Thursday I’m going to a local lumber mill to check out some 6″x6″x12′ locust posts. If they look good that’s what we’ll use for the bridge and breezeway supports. The alternatives are cedar, fir, and pressure treated southern yellow pine. Since these posts will be on at the front of the house, our architect wants us to use something “special” — and that’s not pressure treated pine. Cedar and fir would work but they would be shipped all the way from the far-away lands of  Washington, Oregon, or British Columbia. Locust is the hardest, longest lasting, wood in North America and since it’s cut and milled locally, it’s the “green” thing to do…low transportation overhead, local jobs, etc. We will have to pay for extra saw blades, though. Rumor is that the wood is so hard it “eats them up.”

Also up this week, a meeting with the heating and cooling contractor on Thursday.

 

 

  

Sat
7
Aug '10

Just Pictures

I’m busy scraping stucco and paint off our chimney and Valerie’s stripping and re-painting our front door so here are a few pics, less commentary, to keep you up-to-date on the house construction. So far, so good. The big decision going on, now, is “cedar, fir, or black locust posts for the bridge and the breezeway?” Maybe we’ll get the master level finished and the stairwell started next week.

 

 

 

 

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Thu
5
Aug '10

Meanwhile, Back at Camp Bell…

I’d like to say that while our new home is being built that we’re sitting around, enjoying lots of free time, and leafing through magazines picking out paint colors and faucets. Sadly, we’re not. Good ol’ Camp Bell is a fixer upper (we knew that) and we’re heavy into manual labor to get it ready to sell after we move out.

Valerie is working through the windows and doors, one by one. They’re in sorry shape—after 35 years, the polyurethane (or probably varnish) has deteriorated and the wood is water stained and ugly. She’s meticulously sanding and wire brushing all the sashes, sills, jambs, mullions, aprons, stools, and who knows what other window parts. She then primes the wood with Zinsser BIN Primer, a shellac and alcohol based paint that is the ONLY thing she’s found that covers the wood, and then applies a couple coats of white enamel paint. Add a few hours to carefully scrape off the paint from around each of the panes (or is it pains?) and re-hang new blinds and it’s a three-day job to “fix” a pair of windows. But, when she’s done, WOW, do they look nice. It’s a huge improvement and will definitely help sell the house. The last few days she’s needed a break from the monotony of doing-yet-another-window and has rehabbed the back door and is now working on the front door.

I’ve been working in the basement and garage. Camp Bell is a two-story house but the main living area is on the second floor. When you pull into the garage (under the living room and kitchen) you enter the house through an unfinished basement. You walk down a long dark hallway, turn, open a door, and go up stairs to the family room. Until recently, that basement hallway had a single light bulb and a single light switch on one end, the sheetrock was in terible condition (the basement had been flooded at some point), there was zero insulation in the walls, the floor was bare concrete, the door at the bottom of the stairs opened into the hall and would shear off the light bulb unless it was a mini, and on and on and on. Oh, and you had to have the exterior light turned on for the garage door openers to operate. A potential buyer would walk in there and instantly have a negative impression. My job is to fix it. I just gutted all the moldy sheetrock, cleaned up the electrical, and hung 12 sheets of new sheetrock. I’m also framing up a space for a potential/future bathroom/laundry. I am going to pay someone to tape/mud/finish the sheetrock. Ron don’t do that.

Also going on…the stucco is peeling off our chimney and I’ve hired a stucco guy to refinish it. I’m also getting someone to come out and rebuild the top of the chimney which is totally deteriorated and is the reason that water is seeping in and causing the stucco to come off.

Other stuff to do…scrub the vinyl siding (it’s supposed to be white but is more like a light gray from dirt), paint the garage doors and railings, paint under the front balcony, cut down a dieing cherry three in the front yard, plant a few shrubs, completely redo the master bath, paint the kitchen and give it a new vinyl floor, and probably a few more things I forgot. End of October is a good goal. I’m gonna go cry now with Valerie.

Tue
3
Aug '10

Raisin’ the Roof

Wow. We didn’t make it out to the lot house yesterday and lookie what they did! They essentially finished the garage, raised the roof over the living room and office and started work on the master level. Pretty dang nice!

Last Friday, when they had the garage roof just partially complete, I was having a bit of a angst over the amount of wall space above the one garage door. It just seemed too large. It looked okay on the front elevation drawing but in real-life looked like the roof pitch was wrong or someone mis-measured or something. However, now that it’s framed up and the roof is complete, it looks okay. Eventually, there will be a fake window above the door and the peak will be shakes over board-and-batten siding, below. That will help break it up and add interest. I joked with the architect that we could put a big Texas Star over the door. Not funny. After it’s all done, if we think it needs it, we could have a local art welder make some sort of “artsie twiggy thing” to put overhead…or maybe a big letter P…

The amazing progress was in the living room. It has rafters! Now it really looks like a room and you can definately get a sense of the space. Yep, that’s 14′ from floor to peak. There’s still a wall to be built that separates the living room from the office that will have an entertainment center (shelves, TV, etc) on the living side and book shelves on the office side. In the picture, below, the wall will go directly under the collar-tie that’s second in from the end. What’s a collar tie? That’s the beam that runs from one side of the roof (left in the picture) to the other side (right) and ties the two walls together. Without them, the walls would bow out and the roof would collapse in on itself. Typically, collar ties sit directly on the walls, but mechanically they can be up to 1/3 of the way towards the peak. We elected to move them to the 1/3rd position and, now that we see them, really like that look. Caleb explained that it was a bit of a challenge to frame them that way, especially since they didn’t fall right on the rafters and he had to build supports for them, but agreed that they look pretty nice—and they will look really nice once the finish carpenter boxes them in and stains them cherry!

P.S. Caleb says that the puppies are doing fine. His, Mika, the one with the broken leg, is a real sweatie.

P.S.S. Blue Water Seafood just opened up their Asheville store about a mile from our future home, right next to City Bakery! We stopped in for a late late lunch and to check out their fresh fish. Mmmm Mmmm. It’s like a mini-Pike Place Market. You’d think we planned it. We’ll be eating lots of seafood in our new home.

 

 

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Sun
1
Aug '10

If All Else Fails…We Can Live in the Garage

This past week the framers made great progress on the garage, raising the roof and nearly drying it in—which is a good thing because it’s rained nearly every day. Welcome to the south and those afternoon thunderstorms. Unfortunately, because of the rain, they did have to cut a few work days short. One afternoon we had a wicked lightning storm, I’d say the worst I’ve ever experienced. FLASH-BOOM-POW! I was in the basement and Valerie was upstairs. She called me up because it was so amazing. We watched it for a good 20 minutes from our front porch. WOW! Incredible. They did not need to be working in that.

On Friday they started putting up the rafters over the Living Room. That task was delayed a day because Steve had to personally fix a rather large boo-boo. Someone misread the plans and built the Living Room ceiling to 9′ when it was supposed to be 10′. He could have fixed it by simply building a 1′ wall on top of the existing wall but that’s the cheap way out and not structurally sound. So, he cut out the top plate, ripped out all the 2×6 studs between the windows, and put in longer ones. He wasn’t in a good mood on Thursday so I stayed clear.

We did go out a couple times and manned the broom in an attempt to sweep out the standing water but it was a losing battle because it rained again the next day. The water did reveal some low spots that I need to talk to Steve about…next week.

The rest of the crew was busy putting up OSB on the exterior walls and covering it with Tyvek. Next week maybe we’ll see the master suite get built.

 

 

 

 

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