Laying floor and digging dirt

As our schedule permits, we are checking things off of our to do before move-in.  It feels good to be making progress, but we still have much to do!

We acquired some 5″ wide white pine flooring from a local sawmill.  Pine is a pretty soft wood, but it is beautiful, light colored to reflect light and fairly inexpensive.  So we think that a less heavily trafficked location like the bedroom is a good place for it.


We’re using an old-school Porta-Nailer for the install- I love that thing!  For an underlayment we found an silicone impregnated paper called Silicone Vapor Shield. It is kind of like a heavy duty parchment paper that retards moisture in an effort to keep expansion, contraction, and cupping to a minimum.  Many folks use tar paper or rosin paper – but I feel that I would never want tar paper in my house (or bedroom!!)  because of the smell and this SVS is much more tear resistant than red rosin paper.   I like this stuff a lot!  It costs about $20 for 200 sf – not too bad.

Our subfloor is rough boards so there were some gaps between the finish flooring and the subfloor where the finish floor was spanning over discrepancies.  This will likely over time cause some squeaks and creaks, but we are OK with that and are still happy that we chose the local rough pine subfloor over plywood, which would have been perfectly flat.


Rather than rent a floor sander, we thought we would give it a go with a belt sander hooked up to a vacuum and it worked great!  It took a little longer than the floor sander, but we saved a few dollars.  We will see how this works on our harder kitchen flooring…. If you don’t know about Matthias Wandel on Youtube, you should.  The guy is the quintessential genius inventor in my mind.  He did a great video exploring different ways to refinish a floor.  He gave us the confidence to use the belt sander.  Shining a light across the surface highlights any imperfections that need sanding.


Once the sanding was finished and the dust was vacuumed, we moved on to finishing the floor.  We’re using Vermont Natural Coatings’ PolyWhey floor finish in Matte.  It’s the same as the stairs.  We really like this product, but have heard that it doesn’t hold up to heavy traffic areas…… not really an issue in the bedroom.  Here is a great video on applying the finish.


As time allows, we are harvesting the last of our firewood for the winter.  We don’t know how much wood we will burn this year so hopefully we’ve got a bit extra cut and split… Ella likes to help harvest firewood too.  I’m really excited to see how much firewood we use.  At this time of year the sun really starts to shine in our south windows more and more and I can feel the heat coming through the high-gain windows.  Yesterday I was working on the drywall returns on those windows in the middle of the day and was actually so hot I decided to go work somewhere else!   IMG_5346

Here’s the floor all done and ready for baseboards.


With the floor done, the weather turned hot and sunny – perfect for digging a trench!  Because our house is so airtight (preliminary blower door test came in a .64 ach 50) we will need an air intake for our wood stove.  The main reason we need it is because of our range hood – when the hood is on sucking 150 cfm out of the house and the wood stove is going, without an air intake it will begin to reverse the draft in the stovepipe and bring smoke and noxious gases into the house.  We have gone to great lengths to ensure high indoor air quality and definitely don’t want that!  The air intake pipe is an incarnation of an earth tube.  The thinking is that when air is sucked through the pipe (which is buried three feet underground) the warmth of the earth (compared to the warmth of the cold air in winter) will warm the air before it enters the house.  I’ve read of people getting 20 – 40 degrees of temperature increase by using earth tubes – so if the air is -10 F outside, it could be around 30 F when it enters the house, quite an improvement!  We dug 3′ deep because that is all we had the energy for but I have heard of people going much deeper and away from cold winter winds.  I even read of one project boasting of 20′ deep tubes!

I have found many conflicting opinions on earth tubes on the internet, mostly surrounding quality of air coming in and the potential for mold and mildew to grow inside the pipe.  since this is not our main source of fresh air for our house (some people use earth tubes to feed into the HRV of the house) we felt OK using it for this purpose.  We did use PVC pipe (and not corrugated pipe) so that its smooth walls can be cleaned with a rag on a rope and cleaner like hydrogen peroxide if needed.  Also it’s important to provide an escape for any condensation so we pitched the pipe away from the house and drilled a ½” hole at the bottom of the riser.  There is about 8″ of gravel and some filter fabric below this hole.

A lot of people advise against using wood stoves in airtight houses and I can see why. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to use wood for heat (in addition to the passive solar gain).  So we’re going to find a way to make it work.  We will try and just have the air inlet.  If that’s not enough when the range hood is on, we may need to have an in-line fan that comes on when the range hood is switched on that blows air in (to the vicinity of the wood stove) as the range hood blows it out.  I hope we don’t have to do this, but it won’t be too bad if needed.  I always like to think of what if scenarios – what if the power goes out?  We can simply open a window to balance the negative pressure caused by the range hood.


Many thanks to Nick, Helen, and Natasha for their help in filling the trench!  It goes much faster with many hands.


The day after filling the trench, we participated in our neighborhood chicken slaughter.  Each year our neighbors raise a flock of meat birds (this year was about 100) and we help to slaughter them in exchange for purchasing some birds at the cost of raising them.  It is a nice exchange in the sense that it connects us to our food source.  If anyone reading this has never slaughtered or butchered an animal, I definitely recommend it.  It is not necessarily the prettiest or most pleasant task, but an important thing to know how to do.  If you eat meat, know that every animal must get slaughtered and butchered somewhere.


The scalded and plucker are rented – they speed things up but you can also process birds without them.


That’s it for now…. tomorrow  we’ll be back at it!

3 thoughts on “Laying floor and digging dirt

  1. Nice touch, the flowers on the butchers table! And those floors look beautiful, wow. Great to see some montrealers helping with the trench and the poor chickens, hugs to all, xxx

  2. Your floors are so beautiful. I loved watching that video of finishing by trial and error – so many inventions. amazing. i loved it.

    On Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 11:14 PM, mikeandnikamakeahome wrote:

    > nikamike posted: “As our schedule permits, we are checking things off of > our to do before move-in. It feels good to be making progress, but we > still have much to do! We acquired some 5″ wide white pine flooring from a > local sawmill. Pine is a pretty soft wood, but it is” >

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