Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Little Bit of Completion

Since the builders won't be back until tomorrow, after taking a well deserved week off, and the weather has been bedeviling my roofers, there aren't a lot of great construction pictures. However, Lisa and I managed to finish the libraray/music room this week and start to move things into it. Here's a picture from before:


Here's a currrent shot, while it really doesn't look much different, we did repaint in Ruskin Room Green from Sherwin Williams A&C color palette. We also stripped the windows, baseboard and floor. I patched the holes where I removed the radiator. Since we'll be doing the living room next, we will now pack this room full of boxes and furniture. The chair was up in the attic, and I threw a blanket over it. The wicker couch has a matching chair and rocker, we brought those from Van Buren St. Eventually they will go in the sitting room upstairs.


The feature everyone notices are the bookcases. The room was built to accommodate these with enough space on one side for Bess to put her folding card tables. She bought the bookcases long before building Foxcroft. We have the catalogs she ordered from, they are from the Weis company. While we purchased the bookcases separately from buying the house, we were able to keep the any of the books in them that we wanted. I selected mostly the Iowa Historical Society publications, along with several series including O. Henry, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Modern American Humor. We will also start filling them with books from the Van Buren bookshelves.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sewing, Blowing and Throwing

Friday was another busy day at Foxcroft. Unfortunately, due to a camera malfunction I can't show you pics of anything that happened. Oh, well.

McNair finished their drilling on Thursday by threading the last 200 foot loop and then running a pipe under the house and into the basement. On Friday they came with a back hoe and dug an 8 foot deep trench about 25 feet long to sew the 5 loops together and tie them into the line to the house.


After the pipes were connected they were presseure checked (air blown into the system and metered) to make sure there were no leaks anywhere. Since it was all good their next step will be to come back and fill the loops with liquid.

While this was all happening my roofers came and started their tear off by throwing old shingles into the dumpster parked in the turn around. Nagle Lumber came with their boom truck and delivered half the shingles, I think when they come to drop the other half I will have them lift my clawfoot bathtub that is currently in the garage in through the window just above the turn around.

Over the weekend Lisa and I have put down two coats of varnish in the library/music room, started painting the cupboard interiors in the kitchen, and the basement walls.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"I'm An Old Pipe Liner"*

Today starts the most intriguing part of our house resoration. McNair Brothers Drillers came today to drill and se the pipes for our geothermal heating unit. When costing out adding second floor radiators AND putting in some type of "space pack" central air conditioning system, I realized geothermal was not much more expensive. We are having horizontally bored pipes installed.
At the back of our neighbors yard were set the plastic 2.5 inch pipes that will make the underground loops


The drill unit and and the water truck were set at the front of the house.


The gas, water, phone, etc. lines were all flagged. We need four 200 foot loops for our system, each loop is roughly equivalent to one ton of heating/cooling power. The drill would go down to a depth of 30 feet below the surface run 200 feet to the back of our property and come up again. Here is the start, the drillers were also taking digital pictures and plan to have a website up soon:


The driller sits and reads his display telling pitch of the line, depth, etc.


The rig carries 300 feet of pipes in three stacks of 10 ten foot lengths. When needed the next section automatically drops into place, is lubricated and attached the previous piece


A second crew member walks above the line as it goes, and carries a device that communicates with the driller. He marks every 10 feet where the line is.


Here is the remote sensor:


When the drill comes near the end of the property it is angled back up, and in our case surfaces in the neighbor's yard.


The bore is removed and replaced with a reamer bit


This bit will hook onto both ends of the loop that will be carried back through the hole


As the bore retreats the pipe is pulled through, and water and bentonite are pumped into the hole at the same time filling the entire area around the pipe, this is crucial in getting energy transfer from the ground to the pipe.


The first loop started at 10:15 and was completed with pipes back up at 11:15. The driller said it was like going through butter. I was grateful and left to go teach. When I came back at 5:00 everyone was gone and my front looked like this:


They had drilled 4 of the 5 needed loops in one day (fifth loop is to go into the house). You can see that they ran two loops on either side of the gas line, but all four lines are significantly deeper underground than the gas line. Once the system is running the only thing I will be using natural gas for is the gas insert in the fireplace and the stove. The last loop will then head under the house and then up into the pit dug into the floor in the basement (I forgot to get a picture of that) Then the heat pump will be placed on top of where the loop comes in. All of the lines run under the house at a depth of nearly 30 feet below surface. What I am truly amazed by is that the little bit of mud you see in front is the entire byproduct of a total of 800 feet of underground drilling!

Tomorrow the roofers come!

* Title of one of my favorite songs sung and played by local Iowa City music legend Al Murphy

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Getting Decked, Or Raise High the Barge Beam, Carpenters

With a tip of the hat to J.D. Salinger for the second title, I'll talk about getting decked today. The crew finished the rafter braces and worked on getting the barge beam into place. Since I haven't posted since Friday, here's how the place looked this morning:


To remind you, here's how it looked on Wednesday:


John worked out the birdsmouth cuts for the barge board. The lookouts will have 6" x 6" boxes built off the the posts that we placed yesterday. Shimming and trimming were the order of the day in getting it just right:



After the barge boards were set it was time to put up the facia board on the rafter tails so that we could start to put down the decking. Taryl came to pull on the last rafter tail as I was face nailing the facia board. When I straightened up to put my hammer in the loop on my overalls, my foot slipped under all the shingle crap we had knocked loose. I threw my hand out to catch the rafter tail and of course the hammer in my hand decks Taryl right in the temple. After that we decided to go to lunch.

I was worried that Taryl wouldn't speak to me after that, but it wasn't the case and he even paid for everyone's lunch. We're deciding now whether or not to do that to him every time before lunch, or make a rule that whoever gets hit pays...

After lunch John planed the corner off the facia to make sure the decking would lay down squarely on the rafter tails, and we start putting up the beadboard decking:


After getting the beadboard down we worked at getting the 3/4 ply decking over the rest, then went back and glued and nailed 7/16 deck over the beadboard to make a sandwich the same thickness as the 3/4 decking. Here's a picture with everything but the cripple cut pieces to the valley of the gable:


While we worked today the roofer came and parked his trailer for the tearoff in the driveway turn around, and the geothermal driller came and dropped off 5 200' lengths of plastic tubing that will be buried in the yard. He is supposed to begin tomorrow (Wednesday) and roof tearoff starts Thursday. F & L plan to button up the walls tomorrow and get the hell out of Dodge for a while. Thankfully I'll be teaching tomorrow and won't be endangering any of my workers.

An Apology To My Crew/ Aviation Grade Spruce

First off, I'll apologize to my crew: I'm sorry I haven't taken any pictures the last two work days, I will publicly say that they have not been slacking! Since the last post, they framed the rest of the sitting room, cut the shingles where the valleys for the gable will go, put in the ridge beam, and finished the roof rafters and valleys. They worked on the lookouts for the decorative boxes, figured the bird's mouth cut for the barge board over those boxes, and picked out sheathing that will replicate the look of beadboard in the overhang.

We recycled the 2x6 rafters that were cut from the old roof when we opened up for the gable. I had cleaned all those pieces on Friday. We used them to fill the bottom of the roof rafters at the ceiling height. The pieces we removed were just over 12 feet long and we needed just under 10. John noticed as we were making diagonal cuts to fit them into place that the 4 of the 5 boards were knot free with straight grain that deviated less than one inch over the 12 foot length, meaning that they would be considered "aviation grade" acceptable for use in building planes. Since both he and Pete are licensed pilots, it was a shame to throw these back into the roof, but we agreed it was keeping in spirit of over engineered building that is constant throughout the house.

Today we will sheath and "button up" the gable and get ready for the roofers to come on Thursday. Thursday will be somewhat like D-Day as the following are also going to show up that day:


  • Drillers for the geothermal pipes
  • Electrician to put in new 200 amp service
  • Plumber to talk about new 2nd floor bathroom


The F&L Crew have decided to make themselves scarce starting Thursday for a while, since every one of them has a long list of spousal requests to be completed. Pete is going to Texas with his family for an annual trip to visit friends. My builders have certainly earned some time off.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Little Off the Top, Please

Yesterday I was on the roof tearing off shingles and Lisa was getting her hair cut. Guess which one of us ended up in the doctor's office getting stitches?

We did a lot yesterday. Here is a shot at 9:30 with our bracing up at the spot where we would cut into the roof for the gable:


John went home last night and worked out all the framing details for the gable and rough opening for the window:


We marked our corners on the inside of the roof and drilled holes through to the outside so we would have points to snap a chalk line on to mark our tear off area. Then we sent Pete up with a saw to cut through the shingles only:


John suggested cutting a portal so we wouldn't have to go up and down the ladder:


There were a full three layers of shingles on the roof:


That really boogered up the saw blades so we decided to go for lunch, get more blades, and call Taryl's son Eric to hire him for the afternoon tearing off shingles. We he came we went back to work:


Lisa came by and expressed her approval, she dropped Laurel with me and went to get a haircut. After getting the whole area stripped Taryl said he didn't like getting his picture taken:


Eric, Pete and I finished loading the truck, and Pete, Laurel and I went to the dump:


We came back in time to see the last rafter being cut after all the sheathing had been removed:


It was time to go and dance in the new sitting room, which happened to coincide with our afternoon doughnut break (see Pete's hand):


While we had been working in the morning John had been framing the outer wall, as well as helping tear off. Now we were ready to put the frame in place:


We covered it with a tarp and called it a day:


Today we will do the side framing and begin rafters.

Yes, Lisa's stylist was razor cutting around her ear and slipped, sending her to the doc for two stitches. The haircut was free.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Up and Away

Yesterday was a big day of lifting things into place.

We got the in floor beams ready on Tuesday. Here is one, cut, then put into place:



We got the 15' LVL that spans the top of the stairway opening in place yesterday. Shelly (the architect) had originally put a support post on her plans that would have fallen about 2/3 of the way along the run, because in the standard tables to calculate roof load the largest house is 36' deep. Foxcroft is 46' deep and 34' wide. The folks at the lumber yard said there were pretty certain it would carry the whole load from two points. The building inspector said that if an engineer signed off on the load capacity we could go without the middle post. Fortunately the best engineer in town is a former junior high student of Pete's so we took her the info on the LVL and the roof. According to her calculations, our beam could carry a max of 700 lbs/sq. ft. The roof load is 500 lbs/sq ft. so we got our stamp.

This LVL is a doubled 11 3/4 beam (imagine a taller version of the ones above doubled and nailed together). John wasn't able to come in yesterday morning, so we were quite concerned how 3 middle aged guys would be able to lift it into place. Fortunately my good friends next door have a son who will be playing football for the University of Iowa in the fall. We got Alex and a buddy who was over there to come up and popped that puppy into place in no time. Unfortunately I wasn't able to shoot pics while we were doing it. But here is the beam in place:


Then in the afternoon the lumber truck came with our sticks to frame the walls. They didn't send a boom truck like we asked but with their lift they could get 10 feet up. So Taryl stood on top of the lumber and handed it through the 2nd floot window to John and I. Pete strategically left to get the engineer's stamp 5 minutes before the lumber came. I was too afraid to get a pic of Taryl on the lift for fear that by capturing it, something bad would happen. Imagine a tall man on top of the lumber!


Today we will likely cut into the roof and begin to frame the gable...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Meet My Crew

Who are F&L Builders you ask? Well they are three colleagues of mine who all teach in the Iowa City Community Schools, and do construction on the side. Here's a little bit about each of them:

I've known Pete the longest, he and I go back to 1985. He teaches 7th grade language arts, and is an incredible teacher and writer. I helped Pete put a screened porch on the back of his house in 1989 or so, it was a brutally hot summer, and we learned a lot in doing it. Pete is the communications director of F&L, handles contacts with the trades, and is very much the organized one. He spends a lot of time thinking about improvements to the plans, and is fond of saying "If low e windows were available to the craftsman era builders, I'm sure they would have used them."

Nice uniforms!

Taryl is Pete's teaching partner, at the junior high language arts and social studies classes are blocked together back to back. He is a midwestern farm kid who started working construction as a teenager. Besides building he was also a firefighter before deciding to get into a little less physically strenuous line of work (boy was he wrong in his choices). Taryl is the voice of experience, goes at everything with a gusto, and has great tools.

John is also a latecomer to teaching, he is a Chicago Art Institute grad, who worked as a finish carpenter before getting teaching certification. He has gone between assignments in art and industrial technology (read SHOP). John is my fellow old house lover having completely re-habbed one great old place before buying the one next to it and starting over. He is a great generalist, competent in wiring, building, and finish work. John has spent a fair amount of time at Foxcroft commenting that "There certainly are a lot of different ways you can wire a double switch." We were looking at a ceiling box that had five other wires running out of it at the time.

So why the name F&L? Pete's idea of course, as a committed Hunter Thompson fan, it stand for "Fear and Loathing."

We Passed!

The building inspector came yesterday morning and approved the holes for the footings in the basement, and the posts in the walls on first floor. I was teaching so I didn't get to be present. My crew said the only thing he really wanted to know was did they build the new basement stairs? They answered no, that was the new owner and there was a father-in-law involved also, which apparently satisfied the inspector that he was dealing with capable builders. (The stairs replaced an even worse set, and were done in one afternoon, and yes they seem a little crooked and have a big step at the bottom!)

We made the channels for the in-floor LAMS yesterday and today will be putting up the ones that will go at the ceiling along the top of the stairway. I tooks some photos but forgot to bring the camera home.

I also took the last load of brush to the dump and managed to have the gate of the trailer fall off as I was leaving. A carriage bolt had worked loose and fell somewhere, I couldn't find it, but managed to heave the gate onto the bed of the trailer at an angle that was stable enough to get it back to the house. I took a good deal of abuse back at Foxcroft for doing that. The trailer is an ancient one of Taryl's that we have all used for various projects. I hauled a total of 10 tons of limestone in it when building the patio in our current home.

I really should do an entry about my crew. Perhaps I'll post this and work on it now.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Septuagenarians with Saws

My in-laws came from the Quad Cities yesterday, and George brought his chain saw. Lisa had asked if he'd help clear the yard some time. At 72 George is still pretty fit and healthy. He arrived and started to work clearing the scrub along the driveway. Then all hell broke loose.


Helen's mother passed away in 1970, we think all major yard maintenance stopped then, everywhere is completely overgrown, and out of control. I have already cut and hauled quite a lot of brush, but as a musician I am partial to my digits, so I tend to work with a limb saw or a lopper.

George took out hackberries and other scrub along the driveway for a while, then pointed to the plum tree on the front hill. It was planted in the 1940's and was growing sideways out of the hillside, and completely obscured the right side of the house from the front. I said go for it, and we took that out. We then moved to the maple that was forked too low on the left side of the front, and trimmed to keep just the main trunk. He then took out two major limbs off the walnut that were hangining over the driveway and porch roof respectively. All in all, noticeable improvements in a little over an hour and a half. I knew I could load the cut brush up on a trailer on Monday and take it to be chipped at the city landfill.


I left to show our current home to a couple interested in buying, and imagine my surprise when I return after an hour to find that the amount we cut in front was doubled by what he chopped out in back. The entire yard in back was a huge pile of cut trees and limbs. I looked at Lisa and she shrugged her shoulders, We knew it should happen but thought it could have waited, but oh well. We now can really see al l the neighbors sheds, garages, and other outbuildings, that were concealed, but know that the lilacs should come back in a couple of years. Since the workers will be inside for a while, this now gives Lisa a lot more yard to work with while she can't do much indoors!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Making Our Points (We're on the LVL)

Friday's job was to locate the four load points that will carry the weight of the gable down to the foundation. Since the gable will not extend all the way to the exterior wall in back there will be in floor LVL beams that span from the exterior wall to the load bearing wall on the interior.

On the exterior wall those points fell
•Above the back door




•Just to the north of the windows in the back bedroom



On the interior wall those points fell:
•In the wall between the kitchen and dining room



•Right at the corner of the hallway leading upstairs


So the crew started chalking lines, cutting plaster, getting engineered lumber (LVL) for the header to carry the point from above the back door to around both sides. Figuring where the open the the shingles from outside the house so as to not have to open plaster in the one room I've already completed. Of course everywehere we needed to go had light switches, or outlets, corner bead, or other interesting challenges.

What did I do during all this? I dropped two more loads of trash from the attic into the truck and hauled away, along with all the big plaster from the closet. I showed our current home to another prospective buyer, and did toenail in the last 2x4 beam next to the back door (I bent it over at the end, dammit)

Monday we will finish the posts.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

They're Here!

Today is the first official day of summer for me. Yesterday was the final teacher work day of the 2004-05 school year. What this means at Foxcroft is that the construction crew (F&L Construction) made up of three teacher colleages are at the house beginning demolition for the second floor finishing.

In order to determine how much support is needed for the gable in back they are going to take out the bump out into the kitchen that is made by the back bedroom closet. We had planned to remove this anyway since we will use the closet door to go from the kitchen to the family room, which will be in the back bedroom. I went over at lunch in between the workshops I'm teaching and shot a few fast pics.


ABOVER AND BELOW: kitchen with the broom closet removed





ABOVE AND BELOW: Bedroom closet bump out, the next to go




ABOVE AND BELOW: Cut out in attic floor for HVAC




ABOVE: A look at the back where the gable will be added.

To quote Navin Johnson, "Things are going to start happening to me now!"