Friday, August 31, 2007

Who knew?

Blog Day 2007

Apparently its Blog Day 2007. And apparently the idea is to link to other blogs you enjoy that maybe other people might think are cool but don't know about. So here goes:

3Hive: Legal music sharing blog with lots of great music you'll never hear otherwise;

Hendrik Hertzberg: I had to give up the New Yorker when I went back to grad school for productivity reasons, but I still need my fix;

: Not much here til October, but oh boy check out those highlights on the right;

Capital Weather: not really a blog, but I'm addicted to weather;

BitchPhD: If for no other reason than the picture at the top of the page (but lots of other reasons, too).

You throwing that away?

You mean this?

The big pile of wood, with all the scratches and dents and cracks, and even one broken board? Just in a heap at the bottom of my driveway? With a broken pallette and the plastic wrapping thrown in for good measure?

No, actually that's just five thousand dollars worth of ipe that was delivered two weeks late and apparently just thrown piece by piece from the delivery truck. The driver actually called me the night he delivered it and told me that he'd done this so that thieves wouldn't think that it was valuable. Ohhhhhhh. Not because you were lazy, or in a hurry, or aggravated that the driveway was too steep for your truck even though it was described in detail at the time of purchase.

So I left the boys with Sarah's parents and raced out there the next morning to find this mess. Not ten minutes after I got there (around 9am), two people had already stopped to ask if I was throwing it away. It's a wonder it was still there. I spent the next four hours loading it into the back of my minivan, driving it up the hill, and restacking it up at the house. Five trips and 3500 lbs of ipe later, I was finished. It's all scratched up...

Couple of boards were even broken...

(Hey that's me in the reflection! That might be my first appearance on this blog!)

Oh, and it wasn't pre-grooved (to receive the TigerClaw clips). I call Mike at Austin Wholesale, tell him the whole deal. He was apologetic, but also tried to tell me that I hadn't ordered it pre-grooved. After we confirmed that I had been charged the pre-grooved price, he actually told me that they had delivered the right stuff but charged me the wrong amount! To his credit he immediately offered to refund my money and come and get the wood, and I said yes, give me my money back and come and get the wood. Of course, I don't have my money back yet and I've still got the wood. So we'll see where we get with this mess.

When I was looking for ipe, the places everybody seemed to recommend were Austin Wholesale, East Teak, Banner Elk, and IpeDepot. Austin Wholesale had the best price by a few hundred bucks, and they said they would have it there four days from the time I placed my order. They were two weeks late and they screwed it up. So on Tuesday I called George at East Teak, who had longer lengths than I could get from Austin Wholesale (fewer butt ends) and they're supposed to deliver it to my local 84 Lumber today (84 will deliver it the rest of the way on Tuesday). Cost a couple of hundred bucks more. I suppose I should have factored in the potential difficulties of a long distance delivery when I first compared prices.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another Finished Res4 House

When Sarah and I started thinking about Res4 and had our first meeting with them last summer, they told us about a house that had just been set in Wainscott (about an hour past my mom's house on Long Island). We met the contractor out at the house one afternoon and he showed us around - we really wanted to feel what their boxes were like inside size-wise, and we were lucky to be able to take a look. The space was terrific - much bigger than we'd expected (of course this house is about 4000sf). But it cinched it for us - Res4 was the way to go.

Well that house is finished. And quite a house it turned out to be:

This is about where we stood and thought, "This is a pretty big space" (the kitchen module was roughly the size of what we were thinking about at the time for our whole house!):

Res4's site has lots more pics of this house, from drawings to factory construction to finished product.

I need more artsy friends

Anybody reading this blog an aspiring artist trying to make it big? Who wants to contribute to our project in exchange for whatever publicity we can manage to attract for you? (I think I have a phone interview with a reporter from the NYPost this afternoon.) Anyway, an arrangement like this would be perfect...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Been busy, gonna get busier

Tomorrow is the official end of my summer - back to "work," for lack of a better word. But I don't have class on Mondays or Fridays, so I think I'll still be able to get quite a bit done on the house. We'll see...

I've been back and forth from the site a couple times already this week; once to deal with some mis-delivered ipe (a fiasco that I will describe in another post) and then the last couple of days to finish working on the roof and continue in the basement. Here is the current state of things: septic installation was inspected this morning and approved, and Jim the Excavator covered everything up and we're all set there; Heath and Derrick from Hardy Telecom - two of the most pleasant and enjoyable guys I have come across so far on this project, and I've met some pretty great people - got my phone up and running on Thursday (and then Heath and Crystal, one of the waitresses at the Lost River B&G, got married on Friday - nice); Allegheny Power pulled my line up to the house (but haven't connected the pole at the bottom to their grid yet - argh); I got some insulation and drywall up in the stairwell so Quelman and Juan Carlos could start framing the stairs, which are now half done; today I got the rest of the insulation up on the walls; and I'm halfway finished with The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, written by Himself. (It's interesting so far.) Forgot my camera, so no new pics. Oh, and I installed the microwave over the range.

But Marc reminds me that I haven't posted many photos of the state of the inside of the house lately. So here goes:

Framed basement (looking from the stairwell through the rec room, and then back toward the stairwell):

Looking down the hallway:

Into the small bedroom (designed as a bunkroom for kids, but currently storing our pocket door kits and our bamboo stair treads):

Mechanical room (orange pex in the floor are the ends of the radiant loops):

Rough-plumbed bathroom (with a recessed light can on the floor because its planned location in the ceiling has a 2x12 running through it...):

Into the big bedroom (which is home to a LOT of construction materials at the moment, though most of that insulation has made its way into the walls):

The newly-drywalled stairwell (sans stairs):

Open Thread for Marc

Friday, August 24, 2007

Finished (and available for rent!) by the beginning of August

Yeah right. I don't remember exactly when I wrote that, but it seems like a long time ago. To be fair, we didn't set the house (for a variety of reasons) until about a month after we were originally intending. But we're still a bit off from being done. Now we have to figure out whether it's worth paying some trades to get in and get it done faster (drywall, painting, etc. - things that we can do ourselves but will take us a lot longer than it would take pros) and start renting it, or save the money and finish it ourselves over the next month or so but forego some rental income. The trick is leaf season, usually at its peak right around the beginning of October. Another option we've been thinking about is renting it as a 1BR until we get the basement done (the top floor is finished), but that doesn't seem like the ideal experience for a renter.

Anyway, I've been getting a lot of inquiries about when we'll be ready. I'm putting together a mailing list; if you'd like to be on it drop me a note (lostrivermodern AT gmail DOT com). I'll send out some more info as soon as we have a better idea of exactly when we'll begin doing business.

Oh - we got our domain name purchased and hope to have our real website up soon (though it would be nice if that website could have pics of a finished house...).

Mmmmm, lobster

I spent some time in Stonington, ME (the self-proclaimed lobster capital of the world) a couple of summers ago. The only place we could get internet service was at the Blue Hill Public Library, and Blue Hill was a great little town, too. And we visited Mount Desert Island, with its fantastic and kid-perfect Sand Beach:

The Longhouse - a "modern take on the Native American Longhouse" - is lucky enough to be right in the middle of all that fun. Its architect owner/designer and family are keeping track of their progress here, and this is what their house looks like at the moment:

Check it out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Professional advice

Thanks to John at Res4, who helped me fix a little problem I ran into finishing the roof eave on the backside of the house yesterday. Turns out that the roof trusses on that side of the house didn't extend far enough to leave room for the air vent. So following John's suggestion (after talking to him on the new phone service installed at my house!), I extended each of the truss ends - the white of the house wrap is where the original truss ends - before fastening the 2x6:

Another roofer came out to the site yesterday; we should get an estimate from him by the end of the week and soon we should have a finished roof!

Dinner guests

The long grass on the banks of our driveway have been getting some attention:

Back to our regularly scheduled programming

Enough about Marxism. More pics. Lots of rain the last few evenings, and I even took a shower under the (cold!) runoff from the roof. This is what the valley looked like on my way back home last night:

Monday, August 20, 2007

An online note-to-Eric

I share with DoResearch an affinity for a different generation of prefabs. I really love the Charles Goodman houses (that's one of his pictured above), many of which were built in and around DC from the late 40s to the early 70s (Hollin Hills is an entire subdivision (!) of his houses in Alexandria, VA, and there are a couple of smaller subdivisions just outside of DC in Montgomery County, MD). His homes were panelized, and buyers could choose one of a small number of configurations. Hollin Hills got a little blurb in Dwell a couple of years ago, and a terrific cover story in the Washington City Paper. (Some more coverage here, and a blog with lots of Flickr photos here, and also apparently the subject of a documentary film-in-progress. And a recap of its designation as historic.)

I say all this by way of wondering whether Eric has seen this during his time away? It's a collection of photos detailing post-war prefab homes in the UK and the people who live in them:

Now I don't know as much as I should about the particular ideologies of early modernist architectural theory. I understand that Bauhaus' early mission emphasized mass production, utilitarianism, and exploding the artist/craftsman binary - the architectural version of the then-burgeoning cultural Marxism. And that the particular brand of modernism it eventually championed by the '30s was largely the product of Mies' own aesthetic, rather than a natural consequence of class ideology. What vestiges of the early relationship b/w class and modern design remain now? Was that relationship just an historical accident that has been largely left behind?

I know that for me, my interest in modern design is borne out of a visceral aesthetic attraction rather than any larger ideology. Quite a gulf, I imagine, between people like me and people who think seriously about prefab for a living. And between people like me and the people who are the subjects of this book (and I’m going just on the blurb and pics here). I’m being grossly conclusory, but where’s the connection between the aesthetics and economics of the homes in this book and, say, a house like mine? Isn’t (a lot of) the original ideology of the Bauhaus movement (and modernism generally) present in the Sears houses and the Levittown houses, notwithstanding their traditional design? How much of the ideology of modernism is really invested in the aesthetic, which – and this is the point – is what I love about it? Or, put another way, isn’t what’s driving the current zeal for modern prefab simply some savvy marketing to people (like me) who like the look/feel/lifestyle of modern homes? As opposed to any class concerns/ideology?

Prefab is still just a meme and all that jazz, but I wonder if it can (or aspires to?) be any more than that right now. I mean, there’s no way that Res4 (or Dwell, its occasional talk to the contrary) is shooting for the same folks who live in these post-war houses. I'm not saying they should be. But for those concerned about cost (and class), where does the aesthetic of modernism come in? Cost is a bottom line concern for Sarah and me, but not in the way that it is for the kinds of buyers who would drive a mass market. So is all the talk about making modern prefab affordable really missing the point? Which is maybe that most people don’t want modern design? And for as long as that’s the case, it ain’t gonna be cheap?

(I wrote this last night - see what happens when you're stuck in the woods by yourself?)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Barbaric yawps

I spent a lot of time on my roof today (yawping for only the occasional miss with my hammer). I got my roofing estimate back from the roofer who did The Plains House. Took a lot of phone calls (which are a pain here at the site) - I think this is a relatively small job for them so I'm not a huge priority. But they know exactly what I need, and they are apparently very good (if not prompt in getting out estimates). One of the headaches here is that their original bid (which they never sent me) included time and materials for framing out the eave. But then their "boss" told the roofer in charge of my estimate that they won't do the carpentry ("we're not carpenters"). So I'm doing it. And hopefully they'll be out here soon.

This is what the roof line looks like under the housewrap with the rubber membrane pulled back:

I have to build out the eave, which means adding a strip of sheathing, a 2x3 and a 2x6, and an aluminum vent:

The roofers will then hand-shape galvalume flashing across the entire eave (all four sides of the house):

Rubber membrane tacked down onto the eave:

Finally ran out of siding this week

Despite my ordering error, I almost had enough to finish. I ordered 300 additional linear feet of siding, which should be plenty to finish the bit above the sliders. Here's what things look like right now:

The scaffolding should get picked up tomorrow. (DIYs beware - these are the kinds of costs that are easy to miss when budgeting, and that contractors don't have to think about cause they already own this stuff. My checkbook is littered with little costs like this - "Tri-County Rental - $788" - and they are hard to anticipate ahead of time.)

Last bit of corner trim:

I poured the footer for the wraparound part of the deck yesterday, and framed out the stepdown in front of the door today:

Thank you Michael and Joshua!

See you soon!

Places you don't talk about at parties

On Wednesday, our septic materials arrived and Jim started getting 'em in the ground. I think he'll be back tomorrow to install the field and we'll get the whole thing approved on Tuesday (septic is the only inspection item here in Hardy County).

Making sure "it" flows downhill:

The tank gets backfilled with limestone dust to protect it from damage:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Flesh Wounds

We've been lucky overall so far. No big injuries. Worst had been some road burn (Carter took a spill on his skateboard). And then on Wednesday I banged my knee on my newly-filed chain saw and one of the teeth bit me (I hadn't put the cover back on after had I finished using it - let that be a lesson to you). But as they say...

Getting a lot done out here by myself. Of course I picked this trip to forget to bring a fleece - forecast low of 50 degrees tonight. Pretty, though:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

All by Myself, Don't Wanna Be

I worked by myself on Friday, mostly on siding. I could only reach about this high with one level of scaffolding (note the dry erase board to write down my cut lengths, which meant I could minimize the trips climbing up and down between cutting and nailing):

When I couldn't reach any higher I had to add another level to the scaffolding (by myself, need I remind you):

And then I got tired of climbing up and down the scaffolding, so I eliminated the climbing from the process completely. I set up the chop saw on some 2x10s on top of the deck (and though I'm not the savviest guy with a computer, having my laptop on site saved me when my iPod froze):

And while the folks (and the food) at the Lost River Grill have been a treat, I've been eating the same three sandwiches for too many dinners in a row. So this was a welcome change:

On the menu - bratwurst, grilled peppers and tomatoes, an ear of corn, chips and hummus: