Plumbing done – deck and shelf planning

I installed the last toilet last night (in the master bath) so our plumbing is now officially done.

I’ve also planned our deck and done a material take-off for it. Amber’s working on planning the shelves for the pantry so we’ll order all that material tomorrow and have it delivered on Friday. I expect to get the deck built this weekend and may have time for exterior lights as well.

Cabinets! and other updates

We have cabinets!  Well, they are currently sitting in cardboard boxes in our dining area, but they are set to be installed on Monday.  By Wednesday evening, we should have cabinets in the kitchen and the two upstairs bathrooms.

We’ve also received almost all of our light fixtures and all of our ceiling fans.  So far Matt has installed three ceiling fans (including the one 16 ft or so off the ground) and one light fixture.

Approximately 75% of the house is painted now.  All we need to do corners and edges in the high places (although that will probably require the rental of a scissor lift – we will not be repainting anytime soon!) and some work in the bedrooms.

I also have been cleaning up a great deal, and mopping the floors.  The floors are amazingly dirty.  Between drywall dust and the acculumated dust, mud, and construction debris from the past almost year and a half, the floors are incredibly filthy.  I am consoling myself with the thought that at least the floors should never be quite this dirty again!

We’re also talking to some people about doing some tile work in all of the bathrooms.  We had thought about doing the tile ourselves, but given how long this project is taking it is time to sub this out.  We’re also somewhat concerned about our ability to create a good, water-tight pan for the two showers without tubs and we’ve received a very good recommendation for a local tile contractor.  Now we just have to figure out how to pay for it…

Drywall update

The drywall, taping and mudding, and texturing are now complete!  The house looks great – so much brighter and more like a home than a construction site.

We’ve started painting the ceilings and some of the rooms, and today Matt installed our first light fixture.   It seems like such a little thing, but when I think of all it took to get to the point where we could install a finish light fixture, it seems like a very big thing indeed!

Rough Inspections Passed

Today was the day – rough electrical, rough plumbing and rough framing.

There’s a few minor things that we need to fix but we’re all signed off.

The inspector was very impressed by the electrical panel (thanks, Chris).

All-in-all it was much simpler than I expected it to be. Now we’re on to drywall, then the finish work.

The Tortoise

We are still here. We are still working on the house. It’s just progressing slowly.

Between going out of town for a wedding, being sick, spending most of a weekend looking for a lost pair of glasses (found, by the way) and being very busy with work, we haven’t been able to get as much work done on the house as we’d hoped.

So, what is our progress?

We’ve been continuing with electrical work. I’ve been making up boxes and making sure that I understand where all the wires run and what they’re for. Yesterday, I showed Amber how to run wire and make up a box so that she can work on that while I work on other stuff. I installed switches for the lights that we have in so that I don’t have to keep turning them on and off via the breakers.

While drilling holes for our network cable, I uncovered a problem with a plug that I’d previously wired. I plugged in my drill and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. After verifying that my drill was still OK, I tested the voltage at the plug and discovered that it was only 104V, not the expected 120V. This particular plug is a significant juncture. There’s a 12/3 wire coming in (two circuits) and since I’ve got a pigtail, 1 line out to circuit A and 2 lines out to circuit B there are 5 different wires to get into the neutral wirenut. After unscrewing the wirenut, I realized that the neutral from the supply wasn’t making good contact with the other wires. I upsized to a larger wirenut and everything worked correctly, but it took some time to figure out the problem, determine the appropriate solution and get everything back into the box and the plug back on without any voltage drop due to bad contacts. I learned from the experience and it felt good to be able to troubleshoot and fix the problem on my own.

As a family, we tend to be fairly technologically oriented. I wanted to have network cable in the house, we need phone cable and (though we aren’t likely to use it) we decided to run coax cable. Since we have no attic space and very little subfloor, there’s a lot of holes to drill in studs. I found a neat cable at our local electrical and network place that has 2 CAT-5E and 2 RJ6 (coax) cables in one sheath. The 500′ spool will be enough for us to do the entire house and since I’m doing every room as a home run from a central location it’ll be easy to manage it all in the future. Almost all of the cable is run, I just need to finish drilling for the kitchen and pull the cable there.

On the plumbing front, Amber and I have been continuing to work on the vent lines. Last weekend I had her run the chop saw and cut lengths while I measured and fit them. This worked well till I needed a 9′ length of pipe for a long run and we only had 6′ left.

While my brothers were out in March, we purchased our upstairs bathtub and put it in place. Yesterday I marked the locations for the drain and overflow pipes while the tub was in place, then managed to move the 316 pound behemoth out of the way to drill them out and cut the floor between the holes for the connecting pipe. Once we get a couple more plumbing bits, we’ll be able to hook up that drain and almost all of our waste plumbing will be done – just the vents and the drain for the downstairs shower will be left.

Yesterday, I also started work on supply line plumbing. I’ve had the parts for a while now but have been focusing on other stuff. I realized yesterday that I should do the supply plumbing behind tub before putting the tub in place because it’ll be easier. I ran into a slight problem with the crimping tools I’m borrowing for the PEX in that they don’t seem to open wide enough to go over the pipe mid-run – they seem to have to slide on from one end which doesn’t work with how I need to use them. I found a set online that I think will work, but they cost $250 so I’m going to talk to the guy I’m borrowing the tools from to be sure I’m doing it right before I make any “sudden moves”.

Outside, we did some landscaping with my parents’ tractor last weekend when Steve and Val were up visiting. We moved a bunch of the leftover leach field drain rock to a pile outside of our future garden site. Then we put the teeth into the grader box and “smoothed out” the rents in the earth created when the grade-all that was used to set our roof panels got stuck back in December. Emma was a bit sad to see her pond sites go away, but it really does look better now and it doesn’t provide a breeding place for mosquitos anymore.

We’re just pushing on with the in-the-wall and ceiling stuff. We need to get all of that finished for our rough inspections before drywall. At this point, I’m not entirely sure when that will be, but I’m betting on July. Once work slows down (mid-May I think) I’ll be able to work on the house in the evenings again and not just on the weekends.

Yes, it’s taking a long time, but every day I work on the house – every time I get a little further and can sit back and look at something I did or built or assembled, I feel good about it. It’s an amazing feeling to sit back and look at the bigger picture and see how much you’ve accomplished.

For some time I’ve believed that I can do anything if I work at it and try hard enough. Yes, it may take me a while. Yes, I’ll have to learn new things. Yes, I’ll make mistakes. But I can do it. This experience with the house is simply reinforcing my belief.

Brief Status Update

I feel like the month of January was mostly a time for catching our breath and figuring out what’s next.

The structure is totally up (walls and roof). Most internal framing is done. The roof material is on and most of the siding, trim and fascia are done. External doors are hung, windows are in and we’re totally dried in.

Next comes plumbing and electrical. We’ve been planning our electrical setup and the DWV lines that we’ll need to run and the implementation of these plans should start in earnest this month.

And then there was a roof…


The last few weeks have just been a flurry of activity on the house. All the walls are up, the roof panels are on, and the interior rough framing will be finished in the next couple days.

Once that’s all done (and inspected) we’re moving on to roofing and siding. We’ve got two different outfits lined up for those and after the work is done, we’ll be completely weather-tight! The can snow, storm and shed water as much as it wants and we can continue to work happily inside.

The inside work will initially consist of electrical, plumbing and planning. Plumbing will be fairly straightforward but we’ll have to figure out a few odd places and how to route pipes so that they’ll have the correct fall with minimal disruption to the structural elements. I’m sure we’ll have to build some soffits to hide things but that’s just part of the project.

Electrical work will be a challenge because we’ve got a lot of exposed ceiling and routing wires will be a challenge. I’ve got a brother who’s a commercial electrician up in Alaska and he’s going to come down and help us out for a week or so this spring. Before he comes though, we need to have everything planned and prepped as much as possible so that he can just work on what he’s good at – running wire and hooking things up correctly. I’m sure that he wouldn’t mind helping out with some construction-esque work to route the wires but there are reasons that he’s a commercial electrician, not a residential electrician.

Once all the walls are up and the space is clean and dry, we can also start planning the kitchen layout, figuring out how our flooring will be arranged and thinking about what sort of railing we’ll using on our numerous edges. The pace of work will slow down considerably but it will be more directly driven and handled just by us – a change we’re definitely looking forward to. It’s been nice (and necessary) to hire some outside help to get us to this point but I’m looking forward to getting back to our original intent of doing it ourselves.


We had our first snowfall that we’ve seen on the property this week! It’s very exciting to be finally living in a place where it snows.

Driving up to the property on Monday morning, it really felt like winter was here as I saw small mounds of snow on the side of the road and the deep green of the evergreens was softened by a little dusting of white.

This shot is from the upstairs master bedroom window looking south.

A couple pictures

Progress is being made, although we haven’t had much time in front of the computer in order share what’s happened.  My mother-in-law was kind enough to send me a couple pictures she took yesterday and I thought they were good representations of what we’ve done.

First, here’s our start on the house.  We got delivery on the 7th as planned, and it was challenging getting all the panels up to the house pad and sorted.  They are now all sorted and thanks to some family who were visiting for Thanksgiving, we were able to get a few panels up.  This is the northwest corner of the house.  The panels in the background are the second story panels.  The wood on the very top is not part of the wall, it is there to protect the panels from moisture.

And our other big project has been working with PG&E to get our power going.  They pulled power up the hill and down to our subpanel last week, and yesterday someone came by and installed our meter.  Check it out – you don’t often get to see a meter that reads this!


And yes, we have power!  Matt is doing electrical work today so that we can plug the trailer in and have some outlets down near the house pad.  I think the well is already set to go, but I’m not sure.   It will be nice not to have to run the generator all the time!

Lots of Progress!

After a feverish rush of work done largely by Matt over the last week or so, we now have completed our concrete forms and we’ve passed our first inspection. Matt and a crew of guys are pouring concrete into our perimeter foundation this morning, and in a week we’ll be pouring concrete for our slab. In the meantime we’ll have to strip the form boards, pour rock for fill, lay more rebar, and put in our vapor barrier. Yes, the fun never ends. I can’t post pictures because I’m currently visiting my parents in the Bay Area, but hopefully we’ll be able to post some in the next week or so.

The other big news is that we have a delivery date for our SIP panels — Wednesday, November 7th. After getting the panels we’ll have to do some work cutting and mounting wood to the panels so that we can attach them together, but we’ll probably be having the house-raising for the first floor either that weekend or the weekend following. After the first floor is up we’ll have to build out all the load bearing walls and the second story sub-floor before we can put the second story and roof on. Matt is taking November off so he can work full time on the house.

Busy, busy, busy!