Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Michelle's Deadline, Oysters, Rain

There won't be much house building going on over the next several days especially if the national weather service is telling the truth about the chance of rain in the near future. Also, Michelle's feeling the heat of a deadline for a large project she's been working on for a while. That means more time for me with Chloe and Hazel. Delivering oysters is now an every Thursday event. Getting them out of the water, bagging them up, and delivering them to Ellsworth eats up a few hours. I'll be selling oysters well into October.

Maybe a little break in the action is a good thing. A little rest for my hammer-swinging arm. The south and north walls of the second floor are now standing. The shorter east and west walls will go quickly. Then there's a load bearing wall running down the middle that sits directly over the long LVL that holds up the second floor joists. Roof rafters will follow, and it will finally resemble the frame of a gable ended house.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Feeling Stupid

I arrived at the house site this morning ready to use my new power from Bangor Hydro. Noise free electricity. I plugged into the outlet wired at the meter post, and nothing happened when I pulled the trigger. The breakers were on. I pushed the reset buttons on the outlet. Nothing. So, without investigating further, I called Bangor Hydro. A truck showed up a couple hours later. Did you press the reset buttons. Yes, I said. The guy took my circular saw and plugged it in. Then he pressed the reset button and pulled the trigger. It worked, of course. I hadn't pressed the button far enough. He handed me the saw and walked back to the truck. I followed, embarrassed, and apologized for my stupidity. Happens all the time, the guy said, keeps us employed. So, he should be thanking me for providing that little bit of job security.

Yesterday's power hook up went without a hitch. The guys who showed up to do the job needed a little convincing that I could stand in for a licensed electrician. I had a hard hat, though, and safety glasses. They were stuck with me. The guy explained that sometimes they show up to find the homeowner trying to save money by not hiring an electrician and thoroughly unprepared for the task at hand. I gave him my understanding of what was about to happen and my role in it. He seemed skeptical but satisfied enough. I measured and sawsalled like I was supposed to, and that was it. It saved me a couple hundred bucks.

With the rest of my day today, I nailed together the wall segments for the south and north walls of the second floor, a total of 76' of framing. The walls are on the deck waiting for a second pair of hands to put them up. Michelle is on duty tomorrow around noon.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Decked over

The First Headstand

Michael has a history of doing headstands to mark milestones in our building process. There should have been some headstands before now, but they just haven't happened.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bangor Hydro

I have a date with the power company on Monday morning. I had to hunt down a hard hat for the occasion. Usually an electrician is there to assist Bangor Hydro in putting the wire and conduit up the pole. When I called to schedule an appointment, the guy said that if I were standing in for an electrician I'd need a hard hat and safety glasses. As I understand the process, all I do is stand by with a sawsall and cut the last piece of conduit to size and file the metal shavings off the end. They will run the wire up the pole, tie into the grid, install the transformer and meter and flip the switch. Then I'll return the generator to Jim. To build the last of the concrete forms and frame the first floor, I have used about 7 gallons of gasoline to generate electricity.

The deck for the second floor is on, and I'm ready to start framing the walls. This should go quickly. I've cut most of the studs and nailed together all the jack studs and headers for the five windows on the south side. If it weren't for the wet weather we've been having for the last few days, the walls would be up already.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Floor Joists

The floor joists are in and ready for a sub floor. There was a little sawsall action today when I discovered that the south wall (38' long) had bowed out a half inch in the middle during the nailing of floor joists. I set up a string so I could mark where the wall should be and cut the offending joists where they were nailed to the rim joist. That done, I was able to nail the rim joist to the floor joists and re-plumb the wall. I'm waiting on the arrival of ship-lap 1x12 pine boards to deck the whole thing over. Michelle and the girls are headed to Bridgton for a few days and the computer is going with them. So that's it till Saturday.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

LVL's Are Heavy

Laminated Veneer Lumber is the beam material of choice these days. The large header over the slider is made up of three 14" LVL's. When it was screwed together and nailed to the jacks and studs, it was too heavy for two people to stand up. But with two people on each end (thanks for helping Sam) it went up without a struggle. The beams running down the center of the house are made of two LVL's screwed together. Two of them are about 15' long. Again, they were too heavy to lift into place at the top of the wall. I ended up unscrewing them and lifting a half at a time. All but a few of the joists for the 2nd floor are in place. I haven't framed the opening for the stairwell yet. With the arrival of the boards I'm using as a sub floor, we'll be ready to deck over the 2nd floor. Then the second floor walls will go up. By the end of the week we might have the 2nd floor framed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Big Header, Stair Pads, Walls, Joists, Midwest, Workers

Posted by Michelle (in case anyone wonders why I don't know what I'm talking about).

Big header over three-paned sliding door

Cement footings for posts to hold up stairs (or something like that)

Door to the house (and mudroom and utility rooms)

Second floor joists are in above the mudroom and utility room.

Box on a post awaiting meter.

With a loon (duck?) from the midwest?

Workers (Hazel took this portrait of Michael and James)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tapley Returns!

I thought I was through with Lewis Tapley, but he keeps coming back like agita from a bad tuna sub. I was walking over the leach field last week when I discovered another little sink hole in the sand. (The first sink hole was caused by a hole in one of the plastic chambers; it was repaired.) This hole was far more interesting. There are three long plastic chambers connected to each other with PVC pipe. The gray water flows through the chambers and gradually leaches into the ground. The hole I discovered was at the very end of the first chamber. The PVC pipe had become separated from the chamber, and the sand above it filled in the void. This, obviously, is a serious problem. Two thirds of the leach field is not connected to the system. But it also, in my opinion, calls into question the soundness of the whole thing. If one part had moved, creating a separation between pipe and chamber, perhaps other connections had failed as well. The only way to find out is to dig the whole thing up.

Rather than jump to the phone, again, with a complaint to Tapley, I sought another professional opinion. And then I called the plumbing inspector, Lew Hutchins. The plumbing inspector is responsible for, among other things, inspecting the installation of septic systems. Lew shared my concerns about the system as a whole. If I called Tapley to address the problem, and he was less than cooperative, Lew would call Tapley himself. According to Lew, Tapley has to fix it, and if the system fails a couple years from now due to installer incompetence, he'd have to dig the whole thing up and replace it. I wonder if there have been other calls to the plumbing inspector concerning Lewis' work. So I called Lewis yesterday on his cell and left a message. No reply yet. That's OK. He can take his time. He's on the hook for this one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The pictures Michelle's posting will tell the story. While she was gone, the we framed the walls for the first floor. There's one piece missing, the opening for the slider, because it was too heavy for James and me to lift. We'll need a third person.

Big wall needing third person. Anyone available?

The electricians showed up a few days ago and pulled the wire through the conduit and set up the box that'll hold the meter. Bob Fairweather of Bangor Hydro came yesterday to inspect and cleared the job for processing. In a week or so we should have something to plug into.

It's time to set the second floor joists. This will be tricky because the inconsistencies of the foundation show in the top of the wall. Now is the time to correct the problem before it ends up in the roof.

Future home of the picture window in the living room

Monday, July 7, 2008


The forms have been stripped and disassembled for use as framing members. There's a new guy on the site. James Cassidy of Greenwich, CT. He'll be helping out for the next six or so weeks until he's off to RIT. James spent the day with a cordless drill taking apart the forms. Viking delivered the pressure treated lumber for the mudsill, and at the end of the day I started bolting it to the foundation. With this delivery I also got 100 lbs of nails for framing, the rigid foam for insulating the outside of the foundation, LVL beams to make the header for big 12' slider opening, and an assortment of additional framing lumber. By the end of the day tomorrow, we will be ready to backfill the foundation. Walls will follow.

Root tubes (aka our root cellar)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Green Concrete

The forms are filled with green concrete. No blowouts. No unforeseen problems. The concrete delivery guy was co-operative, nice, and, sensing that we were novices, full of good suggestions. At one point he said we were better than some professional crews he's delivered for. At least we had enthusiasm on our side. The wooden chute I made came in handy to reach the farthest wall, but the truck could reach just about everything on its own. I was a little late getting the foundation bolts in. The concrete stayed workable for a long time but seemed to set quickly after a certain point. Finding the level line I'd drawn on the inside of the form was time consuming and messy but not impossible.

We're off to the Brooklin 4th of July Parade this morning. Then in the afternoon I have to defend my peapod champion title. After yesterday I'm afraid I'm not going to be in top form at the oars.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tomorrow 12:30pm

Yes, I'm obsessively thinking about concrete. My imagination exaggerates the force of gravity. I have visions of staging nails having their heads sheared off. Of metal strapping tearing under the strain. Then the voice of reason steps in. The taller the form the greater the force, but the forms are only 24 inches high. I've looked the whole thing over again and again. Nothing bad is going to happen. I'm 98% sure. It's the other 2% that shears nail heads and tears metal strapping.

I made a 7' wooden chute today to help get the concrete to the farthest reaches of the forms. And I bought several jugs of laundry detergent to mix with water and spray on the forms as a release agent. I couldn't see myself spraying on gallons of hydraulic fluid, the typical release around here. The soap should work well enough.

First thing tomorrow I'll borrow a couple hoes and then spend the rest of the morning worrying until the cement truck shows up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

11 Yards

My forms will be put to the test on Thursday morning when they'll get filled with 11 yards of concrete. Jeff came this morning to improve access around the foundation. The cement truck should be able to shoot concrete to just about every side. There shouldn't be too much manual moving of the stuff, but I'll have four people with hoes and shovels to do whatever it takes. I'll be glad when it's over without incident. I'm just a little worried that there's some weak point I've overlooked. I've witnessed concrete blowouts; it's not pretty. I once had the responsibility of bracing the forms on a wall 7' high and 25' long. We were pouring a wall against a stone foundation for an old triple decker renovation in Woonsocket, RI. A careless carpenter had built the forms, and in one small spot on the bottom of one of the forms the plywood wasn't properly fastened to the stud. The absolute worst place for a weak spot on a set of forms is on the bottom where much of the force of the concrete is concentrated. The forms got about half full of concrete when the sharp sound of splintering wood stopped everything. Concrete came pouring out of the broken form. We spent a couple hours wheelbarrowing concrete out of the basement, another couple hours repairing and re-bracing the forms, and the cement truck came again at the very end of a very long day.