Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Decks and Railings

The deck and railings were completed last week, but I'm just now posting the pictures. The wood will be stained later.

The railings are made of a framed wire grid called "bull panel." I didn't want conventional railings because code requires them to be so close together that you lose your view when you are sitting down. And, I didn't want to have to clean the Texas dust off plexiglass. As you can see, they almost disappear:

Stained Concrete Floors

We are putting a few drops of sweat equity into the house. Our first major project was to stain the concrete floors in the entry and downstairs billiards room. The biggest effort was cleaning up. We had help from Jim and Dave on that.

The staining itself was not that much different from painting, but it took a few trials and errors to get the technique right. We used a paint roller to apply the stain and went over it with a paint pad to spread it out evenly. We used a soy-based stain and sealer. They had no smell at all and the rollers and pads cleaned up with water.

This picture shows the entry. You can see the raw concrete in front of it, which will be covered up with bamboo flooring.

This is the billiards room with a coat of sealer on it:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Waste Management

The National Home Builder's Association estimates that the typical 2,000 square foot home results in 8,000 pounds of waste being added to the landfill. Don was happy to tell us that he still has not had to rent a dumpster. The wood used for concrete forms has been saved to use on other jobs. Some of the waste has been and will be chipped up to use for mulch. A friend of ours is picking up the leftover nails and metal pieces to take to the salvage center. A pile of remnants remains in our drive, and the workers pick from there to do small jobs.

I haven't posted pictures in a while, so here are some you might find interesting...

The Japanese soaking tub and shower pan have been fitted in the Master bath:

This shot shows the electrical wiring terminating on the outside of the building where the two main boxes will be installed. In Texas it is seems to be typical to put the box on the outside of the building, however, that is strange to us. If you did this in NY, you might need to go out in some rather nasty weather to reset a circuit breaker. Apparently, it isn't such a big deal here.  One real upside is the emf's(electro-magnetic frequencies) from these circuit breaker boxes are outside the house with the backside of it to an exterior wall. The other side of this wall is inside a closet in the foyer.  So hopefully, less emf's transferred into the house into a main living area.  Also, if you notice the picture here, there is a two foot overhang.  (Hopefully soon we will have pictures of the main electric cable going into the ground with cable and phone in a separate conduit in the same trench...)

In spite of the unusually cool spring we are having, the trees are starting to leaf out:

This is from the top deck:

And, the mountain laurel is beginning to bloom. It smells like grape candy:

We took a walk out on the property today and enjoyed hearing the birds singing--even though the North wind was blowing like crazy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saving Electricity

We met with the electrician Monday and went over details. We requested switches for wall outlets in a number of places. It is common to have one side of an outlet on a switch for a lamp. But, we wanted switches also for electronics that consume electricity even when they are off, such as the TV and computer. In our current house, we've put these on surge protectors so that we can switch them off at night and have seen significant savings in our electric bill. We plan to use CFL or LED bulbs in most of the lights. They now sell dimmable CFLs, so Tom requested a number of dimmers throughout the house. Unless we are reading, we find that a low light in the evening makes us feel cozy.

Electric and plumbing are continuing this week, with low voltage (cable, audio, phone, and security) to follow. Time Warner wants to charge us $750 to bring cable service to the house. We don't understand why because the neighbors surrounding us already have service, and we're not that far from our nearest neighboor. We will probably put the electric line underground from the street to the house to save a tree and we can have a cable put in the trench. We're hoping this will convince them to lower the price.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Venting Rough-in

A lot has been going on inside. The HVAC has been roughed in. We requested rigid venting for the exhaust fans (bathroom, kitchen, and laundry) because they are more energy efficient and easier to clean than flexible vent pipes. This picture shows the vent housing for the master bath and some of the HVAC vent and return ducts:

Can't remember whether we mentioned this before or not. We had planned for a ventless propane fireplace i the living room. But health agencies warn against their use, especially in a well-insulated space. 

We investigated options and decided to go with an ethanol-burning fireplace. The ethanol, alcohol, and gel burning fireplaces only give off carbon dioxide (like we do when breathing) and steam. They have been approved by the EPA and Canadian health departments. We purchased ours from Laguna Waterworks. The living room has been framed in to accomodate it:


I was finally able to get a decent picture of the south-facing living room wall and sliding door to the deck:

We also brought Kuma with us on our last visit. She had some trouble walking down the stairs. Since our current home is all on one level, she has only navigated a few steps at a time. She walked down the stairs correctly with her front feet, but hopped two steps a time with her rear legs. I'm sure she will get the hang of it. Afterwards, she looked quite comfortable:

The soaking tub finally arrived! The rest of this week will probably be more plumbing and the start of electrical rough-in.