When the going gets tough…

the tough start potting

dividing equasetum

Obviously I still have a lot of work to do. I just got the stair treads in and I still have a lot of electrical and plumbing to do but one of the benefits of working on your house yourself is you get to choose the priorities.

 

I ‘ve been thinking that the terrace needed a little love so I was wondering about what kind of plants to put there. I wanted something tall and skinny so that it wouldn’t take up much room and would manage to grab as much sunlight as possible.

 

I bought one tall pot without knowing what was going to go in it. I’ve learned that if you see a pot that you like, buy it. I don’t often find a nice pot at a reasonable price so, when I do, I buy it. I even went back and got another one because that one pot looked kind of lonely on my terrace. Just today I figured out what to put in those pots.

I love bamboo

bamboo from bamboogarden.com

I’ve always loved bamboo and I thought about it when I thought “tall and skinny” but there are more types of bamboo than you could possibly imagine.

 

You’re right, that image at the top of the page is not bamboo and I wasn’t sure if I could grow bamboo in a pot or not. The image to the left here is a special variety of bamboo that I found at bamboogarden.com near Portland, Oregon. On their website I found that there are smaller varieties of bamboo and that some of them will do well in a pot.

 

They told me that bamboo needs a wider pot rather than a deep one so those pots that I already bought were not necessarily the best. The variety of bamboo that I chose wasn’t the cheapest either so I had better take good care of it. I went and bought another pot…..

My bamboo should arrive soon

waiting for bamboo

So here is my terrace with 2 tall pots of equasedum from Home Depot and a new pot waiting for my “special” bamboo from Oregon.

I spent way more time and money than I had any intention of doing but this gives me a lot more satisfaction than crawling around underneath my house adding new conduit and pulling wires.

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Installation of Stair Treads

stair tread alignment jig

This is a jig that I made to align the stair treads during the assembly process. The steel frame intentionally has a lot of room for adjustment to allow for irregularities in the floor and the walls and any variation in all the parts involved. These treads are screwed into the steel plate from below. See the steel plates here and to see the steel frame going in go here.

 

Stairs fill the stairwell

the stairwell

The entrance looked large without the stairs. Now its filled up.  I didn’t skimp on the scale of the stairs. I didn’t want to compromise on the ease of getting up and down. These stairs will get a lot of use.

Something like a spiral staircase just wouldn’t be useful for frequent trips up and down. A “fireman’s pole” might be helpful for trips down though.

 

There is still plenty of work involved in attaching the hand rail posts and fabricating a new hand rail for the stairs but, for now, I rather like it just like this.

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Miscellaneous Progress

Latest Photo

Here is an update. I posted this on facebook but I realize that not everyone uses facebook. This is the finished railing. Did some painting since this picture. Its raining today and I will work on some rough electrical.

Yup its raining in june…Just like it rained in July when my roof was opened up…

 

Finishing Stair Treads

applying clear coat finish to the treds

That is “finishing” as in applying a finish, not to imply that they are finished yet.

Since I don’t have much space inside I wait for nice weather to do finishing of the stair treads on my quiet dead-end street.

I hose off the street a bit to keep dust at a minimum. The finish is applied by a painting pad instead of a traditional brush. Its impossible to leave any brush strokes when you are using a pad and a roller can create texture and bubbles.

Here is the previous post with information on the stair tread material.

Getting Ready for the Wood Stove

tile area for the wood stove

I’ve actually bought the wood stove seen in my earlier post and it sits in the middle of my entry waiting for the stairs as the method for getting it’s 300 pounds of cast iron up to the second floor.

This image shows the tile work that is going to be underneath and behind the wood stove. In the foreground is a small piece of the oak flooring that will meet the tile floor.

 

The Railing for the Deck

deck view from the inside

I have finished enclosing the deck area with wood and glass. The wood railing design is very much as described earlier.

A rendering of my concept

I talked about this design in my earlier post entitled : “Details, details”

 

 

This new railing relates somewhat to the garden fence below. I used the same design techniques outlined in the process of creating that fence here : fence design

 

View from the Street

deck view from the street

The deck enclosure uses three different materials which may be considered taboo by some architectural aficionados. While I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to over think this stuff, there are practical reasons here. The stucco is a “fire wall” required by code due to the close distance to the property line.

The glass area was created to maintain the view that I was enjoying from the unfinished railing and the angled wood was a response to watching the sun set.

A Custom Glass Railing

aluminum and rubber design

I wasn’t able to find any “off-the-shelf” solutions to capture the tempered glass railing. I found the parts that I needed from two different sources.

I added rubber strip material to an aluminum “U” extrusion to create a way to capture the glass.

Aluminum is a beautiful material and can be worked with standard woodworking tools.

cutting aluminum

drilling and countersinking

extrusion attachment

 

 

 

 

 

The only difference working aluminum is that the sawdust sparkles.

aluminum sawdust

A Follow Up on Heating Registers

I was looking for registers in a previous post about “Life in the crawl space.” The register is the final frosting on the cake for all that nasty work down below. I found these bronze fixtures at a fairly reasonable price. The bigger they get, of course, the more they cost so I went with a less expensive register for my 12″ x 12″ Floor Return. I have to save money somewhere.

 

 

The Tub has Arrived

"onto" by duravit

But not the tub I originally wanted. My goal was to have a deep soaking tub that also functioned well as a shower. I thought I found that when I wrote the post about the Duravit “Seadream.” By the time I was ready to order it was out of production. The “Onto” is a beautiful and deep tub but it doesn’t have as much standing space as the other one did.

Now I just have to figure out how to install it ??

duravit installation guide

 

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Sanding Stairs and Pondering More Lighting

Stairs of Parallam

sanding the beams before cutting to size

“Parallam” is an engineered structural beam material. Its designed to be very strong and very straight and consistent. I’m using it for my stair treds. I like the look and the fact that its a sustainable material. I like the balance of the machismo of the steel stair structure in combination with the softness of the wood. This wood material reminds me of a bundle of sticks or grass. I think it relates well to my bamboo floor and my bamboo shade that is the “door” to my stacking washer/dryer room.

rough placement of the treds pre-install

Here you can see the rough placement of the treds before final trimming to size. I have to admit I was a bit concerned about the scale of these hunks of wood in the small space but, happily, my estimates seem to be okay. There will need to be a railing of course but I do like the way that it looks without any railing. I’m working on sanding and final finish before I get them in place.

 

What About Bedside Lighting?

tolomeo wall light

I need to get all of the outlets and light fixture electrical boxes in place. Since I want as clean an installation as possible it seems necessary to determine the type of fixture before I can decide on the exact location of the electrical box.

At this point I am imagining an adjustable light fixture on each side of my new bed. I would like the fixture to mount to the wall without any cord, therefore I need to know what kind of light fixture as well as how wide the bed is going to be and how the fixture attaches to the wall.

Options, Options

Of course there are many options here just like all the other types of fixtures. So more research to do here too. I do want something that has some softness to it and doesn’t seem overly technical. Some of these get very technical very fast. It would be nice if there was some warmth to the light too like this one with a fabric shade. As always cost is a major deciding factor and some of these are too expensive.

 

ledino wall light

philips swing arm

ledino wall light

 

 

 

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Lighting, Both Natural and Artificial

Still Looking

Available in many different sizes but the price goes up accordingly

In an earlier post I was deep in a search for the perfect pendant light fixture. I called this my “fanciful pursuit.” I seem to labor over these fanciful decisions even more than the labor that I put into the fundamental infrastructure of the new abode.

The search never stopped and I have looked at many different sizes and configurations, none of which seemed to be just right. After creating the big entry space in my mind and now a reality, I guess I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it something special.

 

Nature Has It’s Impact

Lately I’ve been watching the sunset like a movie projected onto my upper story.

the sunset projects onto the new wall

The new sliding glass door creates a nicely framed image of the sunset. I find myself watching this image as it moves and changes color. It draws me upstairs to see it in person. I realize now that a pendant light fixture would block this view and I’m not sure if I want to let that happen. I was already thinking that the new fixture should somehow represent the sun or natural light so that, even on foggy days, there is a reminder that the sun is up there somewhere.

Now I’m looking at ceiling mounted fixtures and I’ve found some interesting images that intrigue me. I’m even thinking of putting recessed lighting in the ceiling and then hanging my own custom shade that hangs slightly below the ceiling hiding the fixtures and providing a glow as though there is a skylight in the ceiling. In all my research there is an obvious correlation between size and price. I know that is a “no brainer” but prices jump dramatically as soon as the diffuser gets bigger than 20 inches. I can make my own diffuser as big as I want for much less.

Large Ceiling Mounted Fixtures

found on ylighting website

This fixture is the “Quadra Ice Flat Ceiling Light” by Proli Diffusion Studio. Made in Spain by Vibia.

Its just shy of 24″ Square and I like the quality of the light shown in this image.

I’m not sure how this would work on a slanted ceiling. I think I want the diffuser to be level and I might be able to do that by adjusting the attachment point.

 

 

The Feeling of a Skylight

also found on ylighting

This is the fixture that inspired me with the idea of a large skylight. I like the quality of light in this image but I think it will take some experimentation in the actual space see what is possible.

This fixture is called “Big Ceiling Light” appropriately enough. The design is by Lievore, Altherr and Molina. Made in Spain by Vibia. It’s available in two sizes: 39.5″  and 47.25″ Diameter. I would guess this is the bigger one in the image.

There is a lot of finesse that goes into the design of these consumer items and I’m sure that is what makes them worth so much.

Here is a detail of the fixture above. You can see that its a high quality light that is probably worth it’s price of over $3,000.

I’m wondering, however, if I can create my own diffuser that I just hang from the ceiling underneath a few recessed fixtures. Well, that is the latest exploration that I intend to do. It may take some experimentation to achieve the quality of light that I am seeing in these photographs.

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Life in the Crawl Space

Its Been a Long Haul…

me after a day in the crawl space

but after many days in the crawl space, I have most of the heating ducts in place. I’m not sure what the inspector wants to see so I haven’t taped the ducts or wrapped them with insulation yet.

I’m happy with the heat distribution. I can feel a good force of air at all of the heat registers. Now if I just had some insulation on my second story I would probably have a nice warm house. Its been pretty cold for this area and I definitely don’t want to waste too much energy trying to keep the house warm. I do warm it up for short periods of time though.

You may remember the plan here.

The design changed a bit due to engineering, realities of the space and fittings available.

 

There is a reason they call it a “crawl space”

I bring the crawl space inside with me

I’m not a big fan of going into my crawl space for all the electrical and duct work that I’ve been doing. I usually end up bringing some of the crawl space back inside with me. I know people must do this kind of thing for a living but I can’t wait until its all over. I still have to run new plumbing for my second story bathroom which means I will be going back.

For now I’m resting on my laurels a bit and enjoying some forced air heat on these chilly mornings.

 

 

 

The Fun Part

You know that I am much more interested in the superficial pursuit of interesting design. I’ve spent many hours on the internet looking at all the options for heating registers. The final frosting on the top of a more practical infrastructure. It is kind of amazing how many websites there are out there that specialize in heating registers.

 

Just a Couple

Here are just two examples of what I have been looking at. These two are specifically for floor applications. Obviously if it sits on the floor it needs to be sturdy enough t0 step on. Its not very easy to judge the quality or durability through a website. Price is not always a good indicator. These are both metal.

I look at the shipping weight too and that can help to determine how sturdy it might be. One that I found online is actually at a local store so I’ll take a look at it in real life.

Drop me an email or comment here if you want any additional information such as  the links for any of the websites that I’ve been looking at recently.

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Status Report, September 2012

Where things are :

In the past people have asked me to clarify the locations of things so I hope that this illustration helps to show where things are on the second floor. This is also an opportunity to give a status update.

Layout of the new upstairs

  • The deck and the terrace are both going to have tile on them. The deck area tile is done but the railing around the deck needs to be finished. I posted a process picture of the tile deck on facebook  here.  The basic railing design I posted earlier on this blog here.  I am still tweaking the design a bit so it is slightly different than the illustration. There are different designs for varying transparency in different places. At the end of the deck  2 of the railing sections will be glass.
  • The arbor I made already and is ready for install when I am sure that it won’t get in the way of any other installation.
  • The stairs are in process. The metal frame is in place but I still need to level everything and make the final connections to the building. There will be plenty of work to do here. The engineer specified a beam under the floor where the stairs hit the lower level. The treds are wood and need to be cut and attached, then metal verticals are attached to each tred and those are topped with a solid wood handrail.
  • The bathroom and closet walls in the new bedroom have not been built yet. The entire bathroom has not been started yet. I want to wait until I get the new bathtub before I commit to exact placement of the bathroom wall.

I hope this helps to show where things are in relation to each other.

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Details….details….

I’m working on a lot of different things at the same time. I’m figuring out how to do many of the things that I was unsure of; but then, it seems I often have to move on to something else due to the order that things need to get done. For instance, I figured out the railings for my decks but now I have to wait until I finish the tile. The railing was going to be in the way. I couldn’t run the large duct under the floor until I had the structural beam in place for the new stairway. Still working on that but the stairs are roughly in position.

Let there be heat

verb2 ducting

This is commitment !

I actually committed to the placement of the ducts. I’ve put large holes in the wall and the floor. All of the final ducting is not in yet but I am testing the furnace for heating and it is amazing what a difference a bit of heat makes to the comfort inside the house.  I’d say that “heat” makes a home more than anything else that I have experienced so far. This hole takes the duct underneath my house to be directed to separate spaces.

 

 

Big holes for big ducts

 

This hole goes from my garage into the living space and I had to consult with the engineer to see how big of a hole would be allowed to pierce through the structural shear wall. I had to reframe some of the wall around the hole. The 4×4 stair support is also right next to the opening. I don’t know if all houses are like this but a lot of stuff has to be coordinated together in a tight space.

See the heating layout concept here.

Railings for the decks

Railings are just getting started

I’m really excited for the new exterior spaces that I have created. I have designed the railing panels so that there are places where the sun can come through and there are also places that provide complete privacy. I hope to spend a lot of time on the deck shown in this picture. The other deck (or terrace) is on the left here. The terrace is mostly a place for plants and a bit of outdoor space right outside of my new bedroom.

Railing design

working out the details

I started watching the sun set over my new deck over the last several months. During certain months the sun will be coming right onto my deck and into my new living room. I wanted to take advantage of that. I didn’t, however, want to see or be seen by my neighbors. I developed an angle that I hope will allow for me to look out toward the ocean but will block my view to the neighbor’s house. Different sections of the railing will have different designs. Some designed for letting light through and others to block visibility as much as possible. I learned a lot from the first fence that I built for the ground level. I learned to base everything on stock lumber that I can easily get nearby. Look at fence design on verb2. The railing should relate to the fence below but the requirements are a little different.  Here is a rendering of the railing concept :

A rendering of my concept

A big step for mankind

Stair metal fabrication just arrived

I designed the new staircase to be similar to those old exterior stairs you see on ’70s and ’60s style apartment buildings. The exterior ones have concrete steps. I am going to use a wood construction material for the steps but I borrowed the idea of a single big steel center support.

I worked with a local steel fabricator that helped me to refine the details of construction. I like working with people that are able to have a conversation about process and design. He was very good at making suggestions and also still listening to my crazy ideas.

A little help…

It helps to have strong friends

The finished steel structure was pretty heavy. My friend told me that I had to post a picture of other people helping me because I give the impression that I do everything by myself. There was definitely no way that I could never get this structure in place by myself and it helps that my friends are tall and strong.

 

 

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From the Practical to the Fanciful

I’ve been dealing with a smorgasbord of engineering and design issues. The seismic retrofit is done and inspected except for the final application of plywood sheets to solidify the newly reinforced wall areas. With help from my brother (an engineer) and a local sheet metal shop I laid out the basics of my new central heating system and, at the same time, I’ve been looking at some of the available products to personalize my new home.

The Practical

With help from my brother, I laid out a schematic diagram of what I want to do with the central heating system. My house never had central heating before but I believe this system will help to keep the humidity under control and dry out the furthest corners of my house. I’m concerned about keeping my house dry in this humid, coastal environment.

Three dimensional CAD drawing of furnace layout

From this basic concept I worked with the sheet metal fabricator to come up with the system approach. The average person could have all of this design and installation done by a professional but I can’t afford the thousands of dollars that it would cost right now and I’m very motivated to get some heat in my house. Once I get all of the custom pieces made, I can use stock ductwork to make the runs and connections. Its fairly simple and inexpensive once the basics are in place.

Fanciful is more Fun

Of course I don’t mean “fancy.” You know I prefer a clean and simple design but the search for good design is definitely a “fanciful” pursuit. Good design is almost always more expensive and harder to find. The money I save and the extra time that I spend doing the final construction myself allows me the luxury of searching out products that I really love. I can take my time deciding what bathtub I want because I am the one that has to install it as well as pay for it.

I decided that I needed a couple of ceiling fans to maintain good air circulation away from my new peaked ceilings. There are many different fans available and the one you pick is definitely a big part of your design approach. Hopefully a ceiling fan won’t be changed very often and therefore is a more permanent part of your interior space.

Ron Rezek ceiling fanRon Rezek ceiling fanI looked around locally and couldn’t find anything that was simple and of small scale so I switched to an internet search and found a good variety of products at ylighting.com. There I found a couple of simple fans that had the option of shorter fan blades. Coincidentally I’m familiar with this particular designer, Ron Rezek’s, work as well. I’ve seen and appreciated many of his simple light fixture designs. I have no connection to ylighting but I found their website easy to use and their prices comparable to or lower than other sites. I like ordering from people that make my search easier and maybe even enjoyable.

Entrance stairwell under construction, beginning of shear wall plywood

A space begging for a centerpiece

While I’m working on the plywood shear wall nailing, I can’t help but think about what my new entrance space is going to look like when it is finally finished. I have very intentionally created a larger scale entrance into my new home. I wanted to make the stairwell a feature rather than just a necessity.

My plan here is to have some sort of hanging light fixture. I am not sure yet how big it needs to be in order to look right with the scale of the space. I’m going to have to mock something up in order to figure that out.

Pendant lighting research begins

I know that it has to fit within my general concept of style for this house but I am not sure yet just how big it has to be. I’ve been looking at websites again, from Ikea to Crate & Barrel to ylighting and I’ve seen a great variety of fixtures and a huge variation in price. Some of the large fixtures can cost up to $4,000. The Ikea light that I am looking at is made out of paper and is very cheap but I’m not sure it is big enough and maybe not even durable enough. If I can’t find the right fixture I’m thinking about making it myself. As you can imagine this fixture will have a big effect on the feel of the place.

Crate & Barrel Finley Pendant

IKEA pendent made of paper requires assembly

Available in many different sizes but the price goes up accordingly

22" dia. for $700, not much bang for the buck

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crate & Barrel fixture is 28″ in diameter and is only $200 but I’m not sure if thats going to be big enough. I think I am leaning toward something really simple and therefore may end up making it myself. The simple circles don’t look that hard to make do they? Experience tells me however, if I can find something that I like and can afford, then buy it.

 

Both Practical and Beautiful?

Morso small wood stove

Satisfying my needs for beautiful function are these next two items on my wish list. I am definitely buying this wood stove when I can fit it into my finances. I looked at a lot of different stoves and when I saw this one in person, I was sold. It has the solidity and weight of an old fashioned stove and the size and simplicity to fit into my small space. It’s worth the wait to get the right thing.

Duravit shower / bath

This is the tub that I’m thinking about but can’t afford to buy yet. I’m really intrigued with the design concept that allows for a larger showering space and also a nice place to soak a while. It isn’t the cheapest design but I think it will be great to use and also look really nice in my new bathroom. It looks a bit like the plan of my house.

As always, just comment here or drop me an email if you want to know any more about anything here. I want to be helpful and keep things interesting. I’m not advertising anything here, I’m just trying to share my interest in good, useful and beautiful design.

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November 2011 Update

I have been spending a lot of time underneath my house

foundation plates attach the foundation to the sill plate

There is a bunch of new metal holding my house together. Drilling concrete and inserting epoxy seems second nature to me now. Of course, now that I know what I’m doing, I’m done with the seismic retrofit part of the project.

Simpson hold down holds the stud framing to the foundation

 

 

 

I mentioned these brackets in an earlier post. I bought them a long time ago and have been asking questions of my engineer and my contractor ever since. One thing that wasn’t readily obvious was that the hold downs are actually raised up away from the sill.

You call this sweat equity?

Simpson clip for tying the sill plate to the rim joist

palm nailer allows the user to get nails into tight spaces

For me I think it is more like blood and sweat and tear equity. I’ve left a fair amount of blood and skin behind while inserting these little clips into very tight spaces. My engineer tells me that contractors generally open up part of the floor in order to attach some of the clips and brackets that are necessary to add for the seismic retrofit.

 

I bought this palm nailer in order to get the nails into the tight spaces that I was working in. It was worth it for me since I really didn’t want to remove any of the floor that I had put in myself a while back. We’ve had a few small earthquakes lately and the “big one” is due any day. As my engineer knows, I am very motivated to do this job right. There is a bit of comfort in knowing that an engineer has calculated the forces and designed the seismic additions.

Finally finishing the lower level

finally added the siding and new trim

I changed this lower level window from a large picture window to a smaller window that doesn’t interfere with the new stair placement. I matched the existing siding and built a custom redwood trim for the window. I’ve kept the original siding in a lot of the lower level and also repeated the original siding design at one place on the upper level. I want to remember and respect the history of this little house and the use of redwood siding is part of that history.

This house was built with older growth redwood before our better understanding of sustainability. My respect for those trees is shown by keeping it in place rather than tossing it in a dumpster. The patch shown here is actually pine from New Zealand. Of course there are issues with shipping the material so far but there is apparently enough of a market for it that it makes some sense. My contractor used redwood which is usually well controlled to be sustainable these days. When examining the new redwood compared to the older redwood, you can certainly see a big difference in the tightness of the rings and the weight of the wood and even the darkness of the color.

Moving up my old furniture and thinking up new furniture…

washing the clothes tower bun rack

In the process of moving my furniture upstairs, I realized there was an opportunity to do a thorough cleaning. My clothes tower is easy to move around for cleaning but there is nothing like pulling the drawers out and hosing it off.

This tower is going to be very useful in my new but still small bedroom. I’m rethinking my tower entertainment system though. I think I will leave the “tower of power” downstairs and create a new iMac based entertainment system for the upstairs. I’m thinking of a new lower, “loungey” system that still has power management and wheels of course.

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