Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We had our first Christmas in our unfinished house, but it was very nice. Our living room has been construction central, but we finally cleaned up some of the tools and ladders for photos. Plus, today we cut down a tiny birch shrub as a Christmas tree!

Since our last post, we've finished our built in bookshelf with Danish oil and two coats of polyurethane. It's real cherry, which was very expensive but it looks awesome and will darken with age. Some of the wood has some really excellent curly figuring, and it almost shimmers in the light, a phenomenon called chatoyance or directionality.

Here it is in relationship for our office upstairs in the loft.

Also, we made our first furniture purchase! Part of our plan with building a small house involved leaving enough to invest in nice furniture right away. We weren't going to buy this so soon, but I surprised Marcy and was even able to sneak it in the house while she picked up her folks at the airport. It's very comfy, but we'll have to cover it up while we make more dust.

Thanks everyone for your continuing support and we hope you had a wonderful Holiday!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Superceding Andrews Energy Blog with Pictures!

Andrew and I have been pretty lazy lately with the blog posts so guess what...you get 2 in one day! Sometimes I forget that Andrew is a photographer until he takes super sweet pictures. He makes our house that, in reality looks pretty messy, into a land of unicorns and fairies. We have actually been working on stuff in our house these last couple of months. We swear. It's hard to believe that we only just moved in about a month ago. Anyway, I don't have much else to say so enjoy!

Below is our upstairs bathroom. It's so close to being done, there are only a couple more things to do yet. How do you like our super awesome inset linen closet with the open shelves? The towels and stuff give it some color. Plus my days as a house keeper come in handy now. I can fold our towels all fancy.

So next is our upstairs bedroom. As you can probably tell we don't have much furniture. Currently we our using our plastic moving totes as bed stands and such. Check out the super cute mini-bifolds! They're on the window that looks down on our living room, from our bedroom. You know, the pants less oration window. The mini-bifolds are one of the custom doors that the finish carpenters did for us. Also I think our closet looks pretty neat. We got some of those nice wooden blinds for the windows. I think they match the rest of our wood really well.

Lastly you have the mock kitchen that I set up last weekend. We don't get our kitchen cabinets in until after New Years. Sorry Mom and Dad, we'll have to take you out to dinner on Christmas or cook a turkey in our microwave. The hall way picture shows our front door and the doors opening into the downstairs bathroom and Pauls room on the right. You'll notice the awesome tile floor. This is my favorite aspect of our house. I think it came out stupendously. All of the grouting is done, boy was that hard work. And the last picture is of our Utility room. It seems we can do our laundry but can't cook a decent meal.

That's it, more to come when we get more finished. Plus we now have super fast DSL so that may mean more blog posts. Yippeee!

Energy shock

Our first energy bills are starting to come in, so we can begin to see if our efforts have paid off...

Most people are feeling the effects of high energy costs, especially those here in Fairbanks. Not only do we have high demand thanks to -40 degree weeks, but energy sure costs more than it used to. Both electricity and heating oil are about 50% more than a few years ago.

We were aware of this in the planning and building of our house, so we took great measures to build an efficient house.

We added 50% more insulation value to the walls. 100% more in the ceiling. Our boiler is 90% efficient. Our radiant heating feels like 70 degrees when the air is only heated to 67. Our vapor barrier has 1/6th the normal number of penetrations, and all of these are double sealed with acoustical sealant and special tape. Fresh air will be brought into the house through an HRV, which extracts 80% of the exhaust heat, compared to 0% for older houses which get fresh air only through leakage. All indoor lighting is energy star compliant fluorescent, which uses about 1/4 the energy. Our front loading washing machine uses 1/3 the water while washing better. The list goes on.

So has it paid off? Hard to tell at this point. Our first 35 days of heating and producing hot water had an average outside temp of 10 degrees, which represents 1/7th of the average annual heating load for Fairbanks. During this time we used about 70 gallons of heating oil, which could be off some based on the tank filling method.

This number is quiet good, but not at all outstanding, which was our goal.

However, during that time, construction was (and still is) very much underway. We had only a temporary door half that time, which was completely unsealed. The HRV has not been installed, and without it our extra-tight construction causes a buildup in humidity (due to wet paint, showering, etc) so a window was cracked most of the time. We also did painting and other wood finishing, and opened several windows for about a week total to exhaust the fumes.

We're now locked down a little better, the HRV should go in this weekend, and we're expecting some of that great cold Fairbanks weather, so the next months should give us a good feel for just how well we did. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Apologies to all for this pictureless post. Andrew and I are now moved into our house. We finished up the final cleaning at our rental on Wednesday at 5pm. Our house wasn't as finished as we would have liked when moving in but that's just how things go I guess. Since the last post we were able to lay all of the tile, but not grout everything. We got the guest room, downstairs bathroom, and half of the living room grouted. Again, thanks to Craig, we got the boiler running and light switches in. Then the rest of the time has been spent moving and cleaning out our other place. Plus we both have a cold, so we have been super grumpy. Moving, working on the house, and colds are not very good combinations. But it's done now! Which is exciting. We can just fall into bed after working on the house.

Funny story: So for the entire summer I have managed not to go "Number 2" on our land. As I had at one point stepped in somebody else's leavings. Last night, as a form of celebration, Andrew and I went out for Thai food. Which commonly gives us stomach problems and eventually we both end up in the bathroom. So after Thai food Andrew was installing the toilet and I had to go to the bathroom really bad. Ironically the night we were installing the toilet is the night that I baptized our land with my poop. Sigh.

Monday, November 5, 2007


This weekend we did some fun stuff! Drywall and painting is done so finish work begins! We installed laminate flooring upstairs in the loft, bedroom, and two closets. It's Pergo "Colby Walnut." It goes fairly fast, but is actually hard physical work because clicking it together takes some muscle. We're sore. But, other than being dirty already, it looks awesome and makes the place start to look finished!

Then we did tiling downstairs, which is even harder. First we put down a primer and then final coat of RedGuard, which is a waterproofing and crack prevention membrane for the tile. It provides some flex as the heated floor expands and contracts at a different rate than the tile. Thanks to John, we went pretty fast after the critical first row. I spread mortar, Marcy set tiles, John mixed mortar, cleaned globules that got on the tile, selected tiles and handed them to Marcy, etc. It's a good 3 person job.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

siding, drywall

The drywall and painting crew is nearly done inside. They have primed and are doing a bit of touch up work but should paint soon. Since there is nothing we can do inside, we are working outside. We finished the wraparound deck (except for railings) and did siding on one and a half sides of the house this weekend. The hardiplank fibercement siding is fairly easy to install but has nasty dust when cut. Lou's mustache protected him. Lucky for us, the primer gray it comes in looks good enough to keep for the winter. Thanks so much Matt and Lou for coming up to help!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Outside and Stuff

So here is the news since the last time we posted. The drywall has been hung, every last bit of it. We can actually see what each room will feel like as far as size. They are now mudding and taping and say they will be completely done by this Friday. That means our house should be painted by Friday!!! The only work left on the inside is....a lot. To give you an idea: flooring (hopefully will be done before we move in), light switches, base and ceiling trim, install wooden window ledges, hang doors, install corner shower walls, toilets, sinks, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, light fixtures, etc. Outside: siding, deck stairs and rails, vents, etc. So there is a ton more to do before we are finished but we have about 3 weeks to really push for things like flooring.

Right now we are banished from the inside of the house because the mudders and tapers have taken over. So we have been working on some projects outside. Andrew and I got matching Carhartt full body suits that seem to be doing the job of keeping us warm. However they don't stay super dry and with all the snow lately our knees and butts have been getting pretty wet. It's starting to get dark around 7pm now so we usually don't stay much passed that time. However, we do have a huge work light for those nights outside that we really want to finish something. I'm starting to get anxious to move in. Even though we won't have much in the way of amenities at the beginning it will be nice to come home and work instead of driving back and forth between the two residences. What an all encompassing project.

Lou Logans up again to help us with the house (and work on Patricks website). Andrew has taken a couple days off to work with him. Full days of work really make us feel good, 2 hours at the end of the day just doesn't get lots done.

So far we have finished some of the front deck. Now we don't have to climb into the front door on rickety, construction stairs.

We have almost finished the back deck as well. It's just missing some stairs and we are going to have to buy some more cedar boards to finish it up. Check out Andrews wet butt in the first picture, hehehehe.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Another day, another $19,000

Its snowing today. Last time it snowed, M&M was out digging. the foundation. It must be their queue, because today they came out to install our septic, fuel, and water tanks. We're home briefly to pick up a trailer, so more pictures will come, but here's the septic tank going in.

Also, here's a picture Marcy snapped of me crawling in the insulation space through a gable vent

Other than this, things are going well. We're fully insulated, and by the end of Sunday should have every last thing in the walls. Drywall will go up this week! Today we built the front porch, and when the water line is in we'll attach it to the house and build stairs up to it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Racing against time

We continue to work away as hard as we can to beat winter. There is just so much that has to go in the walls before drywall can go up, and we need drywall on the ceiling before we can finish insulating there.

Plus we were waiting on plumbing before getting the septic system, water tank, and fuel tanks installed. We now got enough of that in for the dirt crew to come in, which should happen by the end of this week.

We are making progress though. Wiring, including thermostat and HRV control wire is complete, walls are fully insulated with a one layer of fiberglass and one layer of foam. Caroline Haggard, friend of my Dad from Big Lake helped with that, among other things this weekend.

We also ran most of the HRV ducts, only leaving out one or two that go in after plumbing drains. An HRV is a heat recovery ventilator. It exhausts air from the kitchen and bathrooms while bringing fresh air into the bedrooms from outside, but it keeps the heat from the old air. These are needed on modern construction which is so tight the house doesn't breath and would have stale air.

I cut holes for the ducts with a Rotozip, which is a terrible tool. It's loud enough to hurt your ears even with earplugs, and it sprays sawdust into your eyes even with safety goggles. And it doesn't work very well.
My dad, up for the third time to offer even more help, had an equally bad job of cutting the ductwork. Marcy assembled duct pieces and taped them, because she does that sort of thing better than any of us guys.

Dale Haggard, Master plumber, was also up from Big Lake. He put together a superb heating system for us, and requested payment only in Crown Royal. We couldn't be more grateful for all this help. Thanks everyone!

Dale working his magic

Pike as big as a whale, you say, extraordinary!

So in the interim between blog posts I thought I'd post a picture. Pike have been introduced into the lakes around the Matanuska Valley where my parents live. They are both avid fisher persons and haven't ever caught one in the lakes here in Alaska before, until now. My Dad is now on a one man mission to catch as many pike as possible and eradicate them from Alaskan waters.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Andrew: "So... We're out of money."

Marcy: "Yeah...."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Toasty Toes

Our house will have in floor radiant heat, which is exceptionally comfortable and exceptionally efficient. The colder it is outside, the toastier your feet get.

First we laid the tubing. It took about a day. There are six 200 feet runs. Some people would have done four 300 foot runs, but this setup allows more than double the water flow, which results in evener heat, a faster heating floor, and a better load on the boiler.

The tubing was very unwieldy. Marcy handled the 1000 foot roll of it, and ended up bruised on her arms. I operated the stapler, which looked like a big bike pump, except using it it reminded me of catching a fast pitch softball. There were 500 staples. All the tubes terminate in the utility room.

Today the gypcrete crew poured the floor on top of the tubes. Here's three of the crew, loading sand, emptying bags of gypcrete, and operating the mixer. Our truck is in the background. We borrowed a 325 gallon tank which saved us the expense of a water truck.

Here is the fourth crewmember beginning the pour. It comes out fairly liquid from a hose and is mostly self-leveling.

About halfway done. We had 1.5" thick poured. It weights about 12,000 pounds. Don't worry, our floor was engineered to support 18,000 pounds of concrete, but then we added 50% more joists just to be safe.

All the gypcrete has been poured and is being screeded to a final finish. The whole opperation only took about 2 hours, half of which was setup and teardown.