Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cold & Snowy

Temperatures have been in the teens the last few days, so the snow we got on Sunday and Monday hasn't gone anywhere. It's still just beautiful outside. Here's a picture I took this morning at sunrise outside my office (really, this is just somebody's yard in Sedro-Woolley). We never actually saw the sun, but for a few minutes the whole sky turned a stunning pink.
I haven't been out to the house (the roads are super trecherous, it's definately not worth driving out just to oogle) but Mark & Steve have been out there putting up more trim and working on the floors. Mark reports that there isn't much more snow up there than in town, but the wind is stronger and its piling the snow into drifts. Luckily it seems one of the neighbors is keeping the driveway cleared.

The painters are there today to work on some of the upstairs trim, but there's some kind of problem with the heat, the house is down to 53°! Either we've run out of propane (d'oh!) or the regulator has frozen, which is apparently a fairly common occurance according to Yvonne at the propane company. Mark is working on figuring out which it is now. Fingers crossed it's just the regulator, because if we can't get it going today we'll lose the painting time. Which would suck.

Update: Turns out the condensation overflow pipe was frozen! It's a 1/2 inch PVC drain that runs out throught the wall of the mechanical room to let off excess water. The snow had drifted up over it on the exterior, and the pipe is frozen solid. Mark disconnected it at the base of the boiler unit and drained nearly a gallon of water out... after which the unit started up fine. I guess that's a good thing to know about & watch for in cold weather!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Snow day!

Well, not really, because I am here at the office. But tomorrow I might not be... the coworker I caught a ride to work with today has the day off tomorrow. So unless it quits snowing and the roads clear off, me and my aging honda with the bald tires will stay home. :)
We got 11 inches of snow in Bellingham yesterday. There's only about 6" outside my office (about 40 miles to the south), but it's still coming down thick & fast. All of this is more or less unheard-of for this time of year. November has been a strange month. I expect that quite a bit more snow fell out at the house than fell in town, but, well, I haven't been out there to check.
Since we aren't really used to snow (real snow, not just a skiff) around here, it's extremely disruptive. Schools are closed, at least 50% of the workforce stays home, and in general there's an air of excitement around even the most mundane things. It's a lot of fun, really.
And it's also really, really, really beautiful.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Laminate Laminated

Upstairs countertops finished! The bathroom:
The Laundry room:
You can't really tell from the pictures, but this laminate is not a solid color, it has little flecks and threads of darker and lighter warm orangey-browns in it.
Pretty much all the laminate we are using is from Pionite, in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me...

Yep, today's my thirty-first birthday. As my friend Aimee says, that means I am now thirty-wonderful. :)

So, what did I get for my birthday? Well, I haven't opened any presents yet (that's for later tonight) but I did talk to Mark and I got a whole bunch of good news. First, Alan Hale the Laminate guy (his company is called Aligator Works) is out at my house putting the laminate on the countertops today. Also, the China-multi slate tiles are at the house now and they might start laying them out in the entryway. Which is all certainly pretty nifty. But... the BEST news is that Mark is pretty confident he can have our house FINISHED by the end of December! Which really means before Christmas, because realistically, nothing would get done the week between Christmas and New Years anyway, and everybody knows it. Any way you slice it, the news that December will be the last month we live in the aparment makes for a terrific birthday present. It kind of brings a special cheer to Thanksgiving, too.

There will be no posting over the holiday weekend, because I don't have a computer at home and I'm not coming to work! You all have a happy Thanksgiving. Remember, if you have a warm, safe and secure house, enough food to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in you are wealthier than 75% of the people on this planet.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Joy of Sinkholes

Yesterday all the sinkholes were cut in the subcounters, and the sinks dropped into them, including the kitchen sink. I am going to LOVE this new big sink.
I should perhaps explain that one of the things about the new house that I am looking forward to is having a nice, big, deep kitchen sink. For far too long we have lived in a small apartment with a totally insufficient kitchen sink. (Actually, the whole kitchen is insufficient in every way, but the sink is the worst part.) You can't even wash a regular-sized cutting board, let alone a casserole dish in it! You can't fill a soup pot because the cheap @#$*%! faucet rises only about 3" above the level of the counter top, and the sink is only 5 1/2" deep. The faucet is only reaches about 5" from it's base too, which means forget reaching the corner of the sink, you can't even reach the center. I have come to HATE it. Soon, I will be rid of it forever, and I won't be looking back.

Here's the lovely faucet that goes with it:

It's still in the box, but get a load of how long it is... which will translate into being really TALL. It also has a pull-out sprayer nozzle thingy. Oh, the soup pots I will fill with you.

In the downstairs bathroom we have a plain white ceramic sink, to go along with the clawfoot tub.
It will have these super cool nearly-but-not-quite-clear white glass 1" tiles as part of the backsplash. I tell you, it was like christmas last night, opening boxes and peeking inside...
...finding things like the faucet for the clawfoot tub.
Upstairs in the laundry room the utility sink has also been set into it's cutout. Cary demonstrates just how large & deep (15") it really is:
In the upstairs bathroom the Mexican sink is also in its spot. It looks small compared to the downstairs sink because the vanity itself is wider. In actuality, they are close to the same volume, although they are shaped a little differently - not that it will matter one whit as far as using them goes.
The shower/bath insert upstairs has been unmasked at last. It's been in the house since the framing, but we haven't actually SEEN it for so long that it seemed kind of new again last night. Cary demonstrates how tall he really is:
Maybe someday when we have money again I'll tear out this insert and build him a deep, custom tile tub, big enough that he can really soak in it. Or maybe we'll just get a hot-tub. :)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Last of the Marmoleum

And about an hour for Jim the Flooring Guy:
And Voila! The floor in the downstairs bathroom is finished. I'd post a picture of the finished floor except that my camera ran out of batteries.

Someone in the comments a while back asked for more information about Marmoleum. Pretty much all you ever wanted to know can be found here.
Basically, it's a more-or-less natural, non-vinyl, durable, water-resistant floor material that comes in a roll and is glued to the subfloor. It's pretty similar to what people used to mean when they said "linoleum", back before that came to mean vinyl. It comes in lots of pretty colors, typically with a "marbled" pattern to them. It is really nice stuff. I first became aware of it after my parent's basement flooded (busted pipe) and they redid the entire basement with marmoleum, replacing the old vinyl flooring that was ruined by the water. It really does have a completely different feel to it than the vinyl - much nicer. Even if you don't know (or care) anything about the totally evil toxicity of vinyl, you would notice the difference!

Fence Finished

On Saturday Cary and I finished building the rest of the fence around the mitigation planting area. It was a big job. Cary dug all the holes but one (Ralphie Wiggins voice: I'm helping!), most of which promptly filled with water. I mean, you could actually see the water rising up from the bottoms and running down the sides of the fresh-dug holes. In a couple of instances, we hit air pockets (or somehting) which bubbled and popped and sputterd, presumably as the previously trapped air or gas was replaced by water. It was a pretty wierd thing.
Anyway, here's the finished fence. Remarkably straight and level-looking, if I do say so myself.
Now we just have to decide whether we want to build another fence down the west side of the driveway, or plant a row of shrubberies instead. What would you do, internet?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Porch Light

Porch lights! Pretty... One by the mechanical room door, and one by the sun porch door.


The pumps which control the radiant heat were installed yesterday, and all the thermostats were hooked up. This means the heating system is now completely, fully, 100% finished. Yay! Here's what the finished upstairs manifold looks like, with its little WIRSBO pumps all in a row:
The way it works is that each "zone" of the house has it's own loop of the radiant tubing running through it. We have 4 zones for each floor of the house, for instance upstairs each bedroom is it's own independant zone. Each loop of tubing comes back to a separate node on the manifold. Each node on the manifold has a pump on it, which is controlled by the thermostat in the individual room.
When you set the thermostat higher in a room, the pump speeds up the circulation of the water through the tubing, therby pushing more heat into the room. I just love how efficient it all is. Each pump is also conveniently labeled with the name/description of the zone it controls. Aren't those pumps just about the cutest little things? Ok, I can't beleive I just wrote that either. I better go look at some kitten pictures or something, quick!

Stay Off Of Tile.

Just say No! to Tile abuse. (Hahahahaaaa! I made a funny. So why don't I hear you laughing?)

Ok, but seriously, yesterday Mark and Steve cut & laid down all the slate in the sunroom! What a nice surprise - I only expected to see a stack of boxes and some lines drawn on the floor, but they really went all out. The gluey stuff underneath the tile takes some time to dry, and then they'll do the grout in the cracks. Steve had the room well blocked off to keep anyone from walking on the tile before it set:
There's some dust and smears and stuff on the tile, but this is more or less what it will look like. It's really beautiful, not so much black as a really dark gray with lighter speckles and veins subtly running through it.
And zooming in for the ultra-closeup, you can even see the ridges in the glue showing in the crack between the two tiles. The gage (thickness) on these tiles is really nice and uniform, which will make for a nice clean finish and smooth walking surface. There's still some variation of course, because it is a natual material, but these are a good quality tile. A lot of the slate tiles you see on the shelves at, say, Lowes, really have too much variability in the gage to make a safe walking surface.
This same "Brazilian Black" slate tile will be used for the hearth, which they are hopefully going to start on today. It will also be mixed with some of the "China Multi" multi-colored slate tiles for the backsplash along the kitchen counters. I can't wait until I can walk on it!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Whoosh, Crash, Eeeeewww....

That's the sound of one of the worst catastophes known to man: a port-o-potty blowing over in the wind. It was caused by that crazy-strong windstorm that spent the day thoroughly thrashing and soaking western Washinton. Everything outside that was even kinda-sorta lightweight got blown into the bushes, like tarps, garbage cans, wheelbarrows and yes, the aforementioned port-o-let. No, I am not kidding.

I called Mark this morning to let him know about the accident with the porta-john, but he was already aware of it and had it taken care of before noon. I didn't ask for details. :}

Nothing very productive got done at the house yestarday, because the power went out mid-morning. But today it's been dry and even somewhat sunny and the lights are back on, so things should be back to normal. The tile was supposed to come in today and hopefully they'll have started laying it out, I'm excited to see it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Trimity Trim Trim Trim

Yep, more trim got done yesterday. It's a lot more exciting than it sounds. Here's a self-portrait done in the newly trimmed out upstairs bathroom window...
Also, in case you were wondering, the trim we are using is all 100% recycled/reclaimed wood MDF. Each peice has a little sticker on the back, like the one below, which tells how much recycled and reclaimed material (no, I don't know what the difference is either) is in it. I was surprised to see that they aren't all the same amounts, I guess they make different stickers for different batches or something.
It would be nice to be able to use real wood for the trim, but the budget just couldn't do it. Maybe in 25 years when we're ready for a remodel/update. :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Trim Details

Most of the upstairs trim has now been done. All the doors have been hung, and most have been trimmed out on at least one side. There's still quite a bit of raw trim material in the pile in the living room, but progress is definately being made. :) Here are a few shots of the trim details, which I promised to post a few days ago, so you can see for yourself how nice it looks. Starting with the extra-deep windowsill:
This is the upper "lip" detail, which has a nice classic feel to it:
Here's what the whole bedroom looks like, complete with the baseboard trim.
Once all the trim is up they'll putty all those little nail holes and then it will be painted. The color in the bedroom is a lighter shade of the same color from the walls. Outside of the bedrooms, the trim will be painted a slightly darker shade of the wheat/tan wall color. I can't wait to see that!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Holy Mitigation Party, Batman!

Saturday the weather cleared as promised, and the work party was a resounding success! We got more done than I had dared to hope for, and had a pretty good time doing it. It sure makes a difference when you have a large, willing crew of hardworking folks for a task like this. Here's a big THANKYOU to all of you who helped pull off this huge, muddy task. And now, on with the pictures!

Here's what we started with in the morning, all the holes which we dug out on Wednesday with their color-coded stakes ready for planting:
The first wheelbarrow load of freshly dug wild salmonberry plants. Before the septic mound was installed last spring, we rescued a large number of the native salmonberries which were growing where the mound was to go. They spent the summer heeled-in under a hemlock tree and then yesterday we re-dug them and moved them to the mitigation area. Some of them didn't make it through the summer (we didn't even water them), but we were able to find 50 of them in good enough shape to make the second move on Saturday. We gave them some extra compost and I hope they'll thrive in their new spot. They're tough little plants, so they should do fine.
Dave wrangles a salmonberry into a planting hole. These plants are much larger than nursery stock would be, but that just means more berries sooner!
Nick and I teamed up to plant some salmonberries. Some of the holes were, um, excessivly deep (damn that inexperienced & inconsistant backhoe operator, anyhow!), and required quite a bit of fill. Also, they were full of water. It took one person to hold up the plant, while the other shoveled compost into the water until it would stand up on its own.
Cary loads up another wheelbarrow with compost...

Bo takes on the rosa pisocarpus:
Nick gets started on the bark mulch placement. We not only had to clear a 2' circle around each plant (we flipped the sod over) but we also had to apply a 4" thick mulch over that area to further inhibit competition from the field grass.
Part of the group in action (L-R: Reimar, Nick, Bo, Cary, Charlotte. Anita and Chris managed to thoroughly dodge the camera but worked hard all the same.)
Charlotte not only wields a mean shovel, she looks good doing it!
Reimar was movin' pretty fast, but I managed to get a picture of him during a lull in the action:
Nick, Cary and Bo discuss the finer points of fence building:
I actually had to pull the plug on the fence building at about 6 pm, because Cary and Nick were out in the field working on it after dark in the rain with only the headlights from my car to go by. They got it around the corner though, and we'll be able to finish it up next weekend. (We came back on Sunday and took these pictures of what we'd accomplished.)
Here's a view of the finished mitigation planting, taken from the upstairs bedroom window. Looks pretty professional, doesn't it? The wood in the foreground is the fenceposts and rails, all laid out and ready to install.
There is just a little more to do, we have to install some "woody debris" (aka logs), finish the fence, and plant a few more shrubs along the west side of the driveway. Then we can call the county and arrange for them to come and inspect everything "as-built", and hopefully they'll sign off on it without any trouble! Then we can get out money back (we had to deposit nearly $3500 in a special account as a sort of guarantee that this work would get done) and just let the plants do their thing. They'll keep monitoring it (and us) for 5 years to make sure that the plants all grow big and happy in their newly restored wetland buffer.

It's so nice to have the lion's share of this work out of the way. This had been causing me a huge amount of stress which is now gone. Once again, a big heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped! It sure is nice to have friends and family willing to come together like this. :) And for those of you who weren't able to make it this weekend, don't worry - we'll have more work parties in the future!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Saturday Forcast

Highs 47F/8C, Lows 40F/4C. Overcast with rain showers at times. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch. Muddy, with occasional hot chocolate breaks. Midday pizza expected, followed by evening beers.

Currently, it is raining outside my office window. However, this is not the same kind of record-flood inducing monsoon rains that we had last weekend. It's really just your regular, run-of-the-mill, wet fall day in coastal Washington kind of rain. And it's forcasted to lighten up to mere showers tomorrow.

So, if you're planning to come help with the planting tomorrow, bundle up in your woolies and your rain gear. Waterproof boots will be nice to have. Maybe bring a dry change of clothes for the ride home. But DO come. We'll be there!

Trim, Doors & Knobs

Yesterday all the doors upstairs were hung, and Steve trimmed out several of the windows and got started on trimming the doors as well. Here he is, hard at work in the hallway:
And this is what the hallway looks like when he's gone downstairs to cut some more peices...
Here is one of the finished gable windows. I really like the classic lines of the trim. (I'll try to get a detail shot one of these days so you can really see what I'm talking about. For now, you can just click the picture and it'll enlarge a little bit.) Trim style is one of those things that I've never really paid much attention too, at least not in any detailed way - I just know if I like it or not in a general sense. When Mark started asking me HOW I wanted the trim to be done, I was pretty much at a total loss for what to say. This is what he suggested, and I am really, really happy with it.
Also, notice that the knobs have been put on the windowseat cabinet. Here's a close up of the knobs in the laundry room:
And here are the drawer pulls in the kitchen. I love that Cherry. What a beautiful wood!
Lots more door hanging and trim work to come...