Still at it!

Yes, we are.  Despite not having blogged in a while, we are still working hard.  No, we are not sitting on the beach in Thailand.  Well then, are you living in your new house you may be wondering…. no.  We have been making our list of to do’s before moving in longer…… which means that the move-in date got pushed back.  On the bright side, we are content in our cozy tiny house so there is no real rush to move in.

One of the processes we have had to invent was how to do the bullnoses at our window openings.  We really like the look of bullnose corners in many strawbale and cobb houses, but how to do that when using drywall?  You can buy pvc bullnose but I never think they look good in the end.  What we settled on was holding the drywall back about 1/2″ on both sides and then span the corner with this heavy-duty fiberglass mesh tape.  We used a plastic form with the profile cut into it to get the curve close.  Then we mudded it to keep its shape.  Mudding the curve is a little harder than doing a flat, but we’ve gotten the hang of it.  Again we use the form to get a nice profile for applying the mud atop the fiberglass tape.  After the Mud is done, we can apply lime plaster over the tape and dry mud.  I actually think it will be more durable than the pvc bullnose – but it is more work.


First we installed the window sills, then the drywall returns.  Note that the drywall returns (piece that returns to the window) needed to be shimmed to the correct location in relation to the window.  This was a fussy job.IMG_5377

Shims being checked with a straight edge. IMG_5378

We dug another trench because they are so much fun.  This one was for our septic line.  I’m still glad the tractor didn’t fall into the trench! (it was close)


We used some scraps of insulation atop the pipe at the bottom of the trench to give some extra frost protection since our line was only 2 – 3 feet deep most of the way.  IMG_5443

Once our trench-digging muscles were all warmed up, we dug a really really big trench.  600′ of trench to be exact.  From our shared office in the parking lot to our house, our neighbor’s house and the well.  We consulted with an electrician about wire size and some of the trickier connection details, but wired it ourselves.  We learned a lot about voltage drop and junction box fill capacity calculations.

Because of our long run and number of elbows, we didn’t think we could pull the wire through a completed conduit so an excavator friend recommended we slide the conduit onto the wire before dropping it into the trench.  So, we glued up lengths of about 100′ pieces of conduit and then slipped them onto the wire that was rolled out beside the trench.  Then we flopped it into the trench and backfilled.  Overall it went fairly smoothly.  IMG_5473

And it worked!IMG_5538

Possibly one of our least enjoyable tasks in our whole house building process has been installing our kitchen floor.  I really don’t like height transitions in the floor between rooms – call it a pet peeve.  In order to have the floors on the main level all be the same height, we needed to sink the sleepers into the concrete.  Because we are amateur concrete installers, out slab had a few bumps (the largest of which just happened to be in the kitchen!).

So, in order to do this, we first determined the highest level that the floor could be to minimize the amount of concrete removal.  Next we leveled a sleeper with shims and then used it as a guide for the concrete saw which was set to the correct depth.  The saw was run down the leveled sleeper to make four or five kerfs in the concrete.  Then we chipped out the concrete between the slices.  This left a relatively rough and wobbly surface for attaching the sleeper, so we ended up grinding down the cut section so it would be flat for the sleeper to be fastened to.  As you could imagine, this created a lot of dust.  No fun.  At all.  Happy that it is done!  A laser level was extremely helpful for this process.  IMG_5428

Chipping the concrete.  Windows have plastic to keep flying concrete chips away from the virgin glass.  IMG_5427


Once the sleepers were all set, the wood went in easily.  We were originally going to install hard maple, but when our local mill owner showed us the yellow birch (and the price tags of the two), we went with the yellow birch.  It has a similar grain pattern and not too much softer than the maple – but quite a bit cheaper.  IMG_5475

Vermont Natural coatings here too…IMG_5496

fun in the snow…IMG_5521

Upstairs we need somewhere to keep our dry goods.  So we’ve constructed a sizable bank of drawers/shelves.  And one mini-hanging closet for our (limited) supply of fancy clothes.  IMG_5540IMG_5541

It was a fun challenge to frame this out of wood rather than plywood.  But the drawers are plywood.  IMG_5546

Got a new book with lots of good knowledge.IMG_5551

Rather than taking the project to the tools, we brought the tools to the project.

Over the holidays we left the house for 10 days unattended and unheated.  We set our digital thermometer to record the highs and lows while we were gone.  Upon our return we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the low was 47 degrees – the house didn’t freeze despite sub-zero temperatures!  The passive solar is working!  Wow, what a great feeling to design something and have it actually work the way it is intended!  It is really incredible how on sunny days with arctic temps swirling outside, the downstairs will warm up to over 60 degrees with no supplemental heat.  IMG_5552

We’re making the pocket door into the bathroom into a curved opening.  It is amazing how a curved doorway can have such an effect on the whole room.  I cut thin (1/8″) strips of maple and then glued them on a form.   (more pictures next time…)IMG_5553

Our local mill gave me a good deal on 2″ wide strips of maple.  They were offcuts from a larger order.  It’s more work for us to glue them together to make the pieces we need, but helps our limited funds stretch further.  And, I’ll admit that I kind of like gluing boards together.  IMG_5554

Glued up boards will be the jamb for our door frame.  We decided against drywall returns in the doorways because these areas tend to take a beating.  IMG_5557

Note the tape protecting the air barrier from the trim nails.IMG_5559

It’s that time of year.  The sap is flowing.IMG_5583

I am a little sad to see the snow go so early, but our chickens are definitely glad to be able to scratch in the earth again.IMG_5586

Presently we’re working on kitchen cabinets and other trim details.  Slowly moving forward.

3 thoughts on “Still at it!

  1. Loved reading this! I enjoyed the humor about digging the trench. I will share with your grandma in Alden.

  2. Kerfs, sleepers, sap and chickens, oooooh everything looks so well cared for… amazing to light the lights in the house! Gotta love that passive solar heat. Keep well and strong, lotsa luvnsmoochies from your Ottawa fam xxxx

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