Archive for July, 2012


July 28

We have drywall!  Wow, what a difference drywall makes!  No post last week as the drywall took longer than expected to be delivered because we’re back to mud and they couldn’t get the truck close enough to the house.  And then there was a delay in the last of the blocking to get installed in the walls and ceilings for future trim work.  And then the drywall crew didn’t show when expected… so there wasn’t much to blog about for a week.  But the drywall crew was on site this week in full force and now has the entire house hung with drywall, corner bead installed, joints taped and joint compound on the walls!


Pictures below… it was amazing walking through the house with walls and ceilings now, after many months of open walls, it was a major milestone to have drywall installed, each of the rooms really took on a completely different feeling – like real rooms!  It’s amazing how quickly the drywall goes up, hard to believe that they did the entire house and office in one week.  They had a little bit left to finish in the garage and were back today to get that done.


Last week also saw the well completed, the well was already on site and is an amazing 700′ deep!  It pumps at 35 gallons per minute, way more than we will ever need but it was already installed when we bought the lot and had been designed and drilled to support all the houses on the street when this land was to be a development.  But then the housing bubble burst and that developer went bankrupt and the land sat for a couple of years.  So when we bought our lot we happened to pick the one with the well which saved us some money.  The pump, piping and electric are installed and connected to the house.  It was interesting to see that the pressure tanks have been reduced to something really small (photo below) because they now use a computer to control the pump to regulate the pressure.  Nice to have this checked off the list and be ready for water.


The trim carpenter will be on site starting Monday and will start to trim out the windows and ceiling details including the beams in the great room, beams in the lower level entertainment room and coffered ceiling in the dining room.  Lots of work for him to do while he waits for the interior doors a front door to arrive on site.  (The wait for the front door is likely to begin to be my next obsession and worry much like the roof was.  The front is completely covered by the large porch roof, but with walls up, I am feeling like a front door would be good soon!)  We’re using fir for the trim for the main level that will all be stained to match the newly stained wood windows.  We’re using regular, finger-jointed pine for the trim in the lower level, garage, and office as that will all be painted.  The fir is coming from the same mill in the mountains of North Carolina that cut all our cedar for the outside trim details.  That was several hundred dollars cheaper than anywhere Byron could find it locally.  The framer was to drive up and pick that up on Friday, hopefully that is on site this week so that the trim carpenter can remain on site and start knocking out his work.


Byron tells us that the Framer will also pick up the bead board for the front porch at the same time and finally this week we should see the timbers on the front entrance get started.  I have been eagerly awaiting that detail as you all know.


Mr. Bailey and sons were back on site this past week installing our beautiful blue stone steps to the back yard and the stoop / steps leading into the mud room in the house.  The blue stone looks great and was also used to cap the retaining wall on the top side of the breezeway.  (The blue stone choice, Noel points out, is one of the few design choices I have made, she wanted slate but we’re using slate on the floor on the mudroom and butler’s pantry, plus slate is more expensive… so I ‘won out’ on the blue stone choice.  I think it looks great!  And I think Noel likes it as well!)


We have finalized nearly all our tile selections for the house and will show some pictures of what we have chosen in future blogs for sure.  Byron has that list and Noel has designed the tile patterns for every floor, shower and wall in great detail (of course!) and so the tile crew can come on site soon and get their prep work started including the underlayment and durarock on the walls of the showers, etc.  And soon the hardwood floor will start as that has to get installed before the trim carpenter can do the baseboard.


Lots of photos below… starting to feel a like a house inside.  Very excited to get started on interior finishes now.  Excited to share the progress, thanks for following along with our journey.  Our best to all.


Doug and Noel



Great room looking into the back of the house, taken from the stairs headed to the lower level… You really get a sense for the finished space now with walls and ceilings in place.

Great room with dry wall! Looking towards the fireplace and built-ins, master bedroom door on the left, screened in porch on the right, French doors out to the deck on the right side of this picture. The yellow beams (LVL) are structural to the roof and will be faced in 1X trim and stained.

Entertainment room on the lower level facing onto the backyard and eventual patio. The door in the corner is to Sarah’s room. The steel support beams are in place giving temporary support to the huge LVL beam in the ceiling, we’ll install two large posts here during trim work that will be incorporated into the stairs and the other into the end of the ‘bar’ in the downstairs kitchen.

The office, which is above the garage, the space is so much brighter now with the walls up to reflect the light and no more long, dark spaces under the roof eaves, we really love this space now with walls! The angled beams that protrude from the ceiling will get trimed out and be stained to further stand out and to carry the design theme from the great room into the office.

View from the front door into the great room, dining room on the left, coat closet and half bath are the next door on the left, kitchen on the right hand side of the great room as you enter.

Blue stone slabs being fitted onto the step and stoop leading into the mud room in the house.

New blue stone steps leading up to the breeze way from the backyard. The remaining river rock can now be installed up to the stone cap and stair treads.

Blue stone cap on the top of the wall along the breeze way in between the house and the garage that overlooks the steps down to the backyard, the bluestone slabs match the stair treads.

We got connected to the well last week also which was a nice surprise. The pressure tanks now are tiny as there is a computer (black box on the wall) that regulates the pump to maintain consistent water pressure. The yellow lines in this picture are gas lines, the on-demand hot water heater will be near this same location.

Sarah’s bedroom (lower level 2nd master suite) looking towards her walk-in closet and in-suite bath.

The last space to get drywall installed was done late today, garage bay walls just need their drywall hung which happened this afternoon.


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Stained window trim at last and perfect! Three windows in the kitchen end of the great room that will eventually be surrounded by cherry trim that will blend from window trim into the cabinets.

July 17th (pictures from July 14th)

That is such a simple title but such a big milestone  – we have insulation!  The house was insulated last week both the spray foam in the roof deck and the walls, as well as the sound dampening insulation on interior walls.  Because the garage did not pass its initial framing inspection, the insulation there came last and had to wait for the following week.  The reason for the inspection delay was not that anything was wrong, but the building inspector required to see more documentation from an engineer on our giant steel beams in the garage that hold up the office and roof (and allow us to have no steel columns in the garage to bang your car door into).


The insulation certainly makes the house look different on the inside – no more walking through (some) walls and for the first time some rooms felt closed in like real rooms.  One of the upgrades we’re investing in is putting insulation in some interior walls for sound dampening, like all the bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry room.  And we’re insulating the lower level ceiling to allow us to maintain different temperatures if for example we ever wanted to maintain that level at a different temperature.  We’re also investing in building the house to energy star standards which means more insulation sealing.  For example, that requires you to caulk all the exterior joints of the wall framing where two studs meet or where the wall joins the floor (picture below).  And since we built with 2 X 6 wall studs and not 2 X 4, we have a higher R value in the walls.  This is not common here in the South but something we wanted to invest in for lower energy bills in the long run.  We also invested in open cell spray foam in the attic / roof assemblies.  This gives us an incredible R value and also means that the attic, and thus the air handler / furnace units will sit within the building envelope, not outside it.  So on a hot summer day, even with no air conditioning vents cooling the space directly, the attic will maintain a very comfortable temperature.


The stone masons were back on site installing more river rock and have finished the rock on the foundation.  They will move on to the exterior stairs and column piers soon.


The framers were back on site installing the last of the blocking in the walls before insulation went in, for example in the walk in closets where the organizers will eventually attach to the walls.  And they installed most of the exterior, Craftsman style brackets, which we continue to love.  Some pictures below.


One of the bigger decisions about the house that we have been debating and working on for literally months and months is what to do about staining the interior window trim.  In most Craftsman style houses the window and door trim is stained, not painted.  We have had different points of view on this and have gone back and forth what we wanted to do.  And we had a difference of opinion on what to do.  So, like many things, we found a compromise.  We’re staining the window and door trim on the main floor of the house and then we’ll paint the trim (white) on the lower level.  This means we’ll use solid wood doors which will be stained, on the main floor, and matching design but painted MDF doors (solid core) on the lower level.


This then lead to the months long debate of what color to stain the trim, how to match it (or not) to the stained wood cabinets, stained wood doors, hard wood flooring, color scheme of the house and our furniture.  Noel has spent a lot of time looking at color options and wood species options (cherry, pine, alder, oak, etc.)  Once we settled on a wood – with a lot of guidance from Byron – the next step was the color.  We tried several of the standard colors and those weren’t right.  So Noel has spent countless hours on the floor of our kitchen custom mixing stains to get the exact color.  We went by on Saturday to meet with Byron and the painter to apply final test coats to a window in the garage that will be painted anyway.  After much work and many rounds of trial and error, we love the final result, thanks to Noel’s diligent efforts!  Some pictures are above and below.  It looks fantastic!


So this week’s pictures are probably not a thing of beauty to anyone but us.  Insulation, caulk, stained window trim and exterior brackets… not very exciting perhaps.  But getting the insulation in and signed off on – as well as all the framing inspections – represents a big week in our home building journey.  The drywall is scheduled to be delivered this week so another week of big change is expected.


More soon.  Hope this finds everyone well.  Our best to all,

Doug and Noel




Close-up of the final stain color on the windows (Breakfast nook overlooking the backyard and pool.)

Shed dormer on the front with final coats of paint on the rafter tails, and newly stained brackets, a small snapshot but an example of lots of details coming together to make a look that Noel worked hard to outline for Byron and the crews.

Spray foam insulation in the porch roof where it meets the main body of the house… Getting ready to close in the porch ceiling and start work on the timber A-frame above the entrance now…

Brackets under the eaves of the breakfast nook gable, facing the backyard.

Noel standing at the top of the breezeway steps leading to the back yard… and you can see the additional river rock stone that has been placed one either side of the steps.. and one of the newly installed Craftsman brackets now installed, including the mini bracket to the left in the little gable dormer (which is where the stairs go up to the office, above the garage).

More brackets are now installed and more final coats of trim paint are on – looks awesome!

Entertainment room and future half-kitchen area. The ceilings are insulated even though there is finished, conditioned space upstairs. This is because they are two different zones and we may someday not run the lower level HVAC very much. It’s also for noise dampening. The far wall is Sarah’s room and the second master suite, these are insulated for noise dampening as well. This was the first time these spaces felt like rooms as you can no longer see through the walls!

Lots of insulation! In this view are three different kinds of insulation used. We used an open cell, spray foam in the roof deck assembly, we used fiberglass R19 for the exterior walls, and rock wool around locations that will experience heat such as this can light, the fireplace vents, etc.

That’s a lot of caulk! We’re building the house to Energy Star standards and so one of the requirements is that you caulk ALL of the places where framing members meet on outside walls. So every place where you have a stud meet the floor or two studs meet one another like in this picture, all of those joints are caulked for air sealing. That’s a lot of caulk.

This the wall of the unfinished side of the basement, dividing what will be 1,000 SF of storage and mechanical space from the rest of the finished, lower level. The building inspector made Byron sheath this wall in plywood, something he has not seen before. We planned to sheetrock it, but the framing inspection would only pass if we covered it in plywood. Ok. So up goes plywood. The reason? Not as a fire block as I would have guessed. Something to do with air quality. Huh? We needed to move on so the plywood went up!

This week’s random picture. The master bath wasn’t designed with a linen closet, something we didn’t realize until we were underway with the house. In the late stages of framing the house we realized there was this empty cavity in the front of the master bath that was formed by the box window (a bump out on the front of the house). One day on one of our many walk throughs with Byron, we got to discussed the idea to make this space a small, hiden, closet. The space will be trimed out by the finish carpenter and fashioned into a small closet space on the inside of the water closet. It will be big enough for clean towels, a stash of TP and things like that… and all out of sight but still within easy reach!

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Rocks and dirt

July 8, 2012

Rocks and dirt… lots of progress last week and the most visible examples came from the amount of rock facing added to the foundation, and the huge difference the addition of the fill has made to the backyard.  The additional trees that had to come were brought down and then the ~25 truckloads of dirt were brought in and compacted as the site was regraded.  The backyard now has its final grade / fill in place so we can move forward with the concrete and block work in the back for the pool patio, planters, and terrace.  The backyard looks completely different now!  Wow!  Some before and after photos are below to highlight just how different it looks!  We have a real backyard now and we can more easily envision the yard, patio, and planting areas that have been drawn on our master plan for months.  While the site was being done, and while it was dry last week, Byron went ahead and brought in the stone for some of the future concrete areas, and did the nearly final grade in the front yard.  We learned that when the big tree came down in the back they missed the house by less than two feet.  Byron side that they dropped it exactly where it was supposed to fall, but that it was good that we weren’t here to see it.  Yikes.


In addition to dirt…  a lot of progress last week on the stone facing along the foundation.  We were pleasantly surprised how much progress the stone masons made in just two days.  The entire house has its river rock applied to the foundation now and they are nearly done with the garage / office foundation.  More to do on the block stairs and far side of the garage but you get really a feel for the look of the rock finish now.  Looks great and we love it!  And the stone is well on its way on the retaining wall that forms essentially a courtyard off the breezeway, pictures of that are below as well.  The block work was completed last week on the piers that form the foundation for the big timbers, that will be faced in the same river rock soon as well.  With the roof on and these piers done, work can commence on the big timbers in the front.  Soon.


The first of the cedar brackets that are finished in the dark stain went on the house.  Only 5 went on so many more to go, but it’s a start and was the first time we had seen the dark stain against the field of green siding and creamy, off-white trim.  The dark wood really pops and makes that important exterior trim detail stand out.  Picture is below.


The last of the metal roofing was installed including on all the bump-out structures…  No pictures of that below, I guess I forgot to take one, next week.  But we’re 100% under roof now, every nook and cranny.


The electricians were back on site and appear to have their long punch list complete now.  All were relatively minor changes / corrections but all had to be done.  All that remains for their crew is the last of the central vac work.  Who would have guessed that would take so many weeks to be completed.  Should be done Monday.


We passed the re-inspection of the HVAC rough, so that is now done and signed off.  One last big inspection to go, for framing, and that is scheduled for Monday.  Byron does not expect any issues there.  The insulators are ready to roll this week, assuming no issues on Monday, they will get underway on Tuesday and should have the entire house done in three days.  Monday will be the last inspection, last of the framing details (blocking for future trim work, not inspection related work), all of the brackets installed (because they get attached from the inside so must be complete before insulation), last of the central vac, etc.  It’s not too long of a list at this point, feels doable in one day.  We’re hoping to have insulation complete this week and then the week after the drywall will start.


We appreciate everyone’s encouragement of our blog, we’re enjoying sharing in our journey with friends and family, thanks for your support!


Our best to all,

Doug and Noel


Lots of river rock was added to the foundation this week… foundation of the garage / office near the breezeway (which was also filled in with dirt and then gravel, getting closer to being ready for concrete sidewalks). The little corner of dirt here will eventually be a spot for a small garden, maybe drapping over the stone wall…

The block piers are finished and will soon be faced in river rock as well. These will serve as the foundation for the big cedar timbers that will be in the front and support the porch and front gable roofs. Some of these are cinder block and some are brick… kind of looks funny now but you’ll never see it once they are faced… was cheaper to use leftovers here since they’ll not be visible once completed.

These are the stairs coming off the breezeway between the garage/office and the house. We love this “courtyard” kind of feeling between the two structures and now with the river rock going on it’s starting to really look finished. There will be gardens along both sides of what will be walkway here leading to the pool area. These windows are one of the guest rooms on the lower level.

The first of the stained cedar brackets were installed, first time we had seen them in place against the field of green siding and off-white trim. The framers added some additional, final trim peices that now need to be painted that you can see in the picture but this is otherwise a pretty complete look at how the finished gables will appear. We love how the dark stain makes these details pop!

River rock along the foundation of the garage…

River rock is now complete on the front of the house.. the missing rocks on the side you can see by the porch are because that represents where the final grade will be leading up to the porch when it’s complete.

River rock facing now complete on the left side of the house…

BEFORE: Picture of the backyard from last week before the additional trees came down and the 25 loads of fill were brought in and graded… quite a difference, we actually feel like we have a backyard now, much better sense of the space… and no more mud (for the time being, I am sure that will change with the next rain storm but at least this is final fill and not clay so expect it will dry out more quickly).

AFTER: Final grade in the backyard.

AFTER: backyard after 25 truck loads of new dirt to bring the back to final grade and after the additional trees had come down. We’re left with a steeper grade off to the left than we had envisioned, but we can’t fill that in with the septic tank there so it will get landscaped and will eventually blend into surrounding area better… we think! 😉

Near-final grade in the front with the additional stone work and the base of the piers built to support the future timbers.

The backyard along the back of the house with final grade and the stone under the deck has been placed for what will be the terrace (concrete patio). No more red, muddy clay out the back door.

Front entrance is ready for the timber work with the roof on and the brick piers built to support them. A little more fill is needed here in the front for final grade but it’s just about there.

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Lanes merge ahead…

July 4th (Pictures from June 30th)

Last week’s post talked about all the final steps that were underway prior to insulation.  We’re still in that same phase…  and still a fairly long punch list of things to do before we can insulate and move on to drywall.  I will admit to being frustrated last week that we had so many punch lists still open of things that had to be done before we could insulate and move on to drywall.  Byron, as always, was simply terrific about being responsive to us, being patient but determined, and doing a good job of managing details, budget and, well, my lack of patience sometimes.  He explained that the phase of construction we’re in now is like when four lanes of traffic merge into two lanes.  You get a traffic jam of cars all waiting their turn to merge.  All the subs and all their punch lists are merging now and you can’t go any faster than the car in front of you.  I get it.  Four more months on our lease and counting… and with no insulation or drywall yet, being July already, and writing a lot of checks these days… the stress was mounting.  Reviewing the schedule and next steps was helpful and a lot is planned for these next two weeks.


Progress last week as the subs converge into only two lanes….  Half of the metal roofing was installed, half the breezeway (front half) and one of the bump-out roofs had their bronze, standing seam metal roof installed, looks great.  Picture below.  Central Vac work continued, slowly.  The brick masons, who are really nice guys and doing beautiful work, built the stairs to the backyard which is a nice to have in place (picture below).  Those steps, like the ones into the house from the breezeway will get bluestone steps (treads) and be faced in the river rock.  The big stone piers that will form the foundation for the big cedar timbers in the front also got started, despite the 105 degree heat and it being a Saturday, the 79-year-old brick mason was out there putting them together.  The stone piers are made of block and once the cedar timbers are installed, they will be faced in river rock and get a blue stone cap.  the brick mason and his work are featured below.


The metal vent pipes were installed for the fireplaces and that meant Byron could get up on the roof and install the vent caps and chimney cap.  And that in turn meant that last roof valley was shingled now which is nice, 100% shingled finally.  Chimney cap picture is below.


We didn’t pass the HVAC inspection this week, bummer.  Mr. Dixon will now have to come back out and do a bunch of work.  It’s silly stuff that you apparently don’t do until the house is further along but this inspector demanded it be done now, so it has to be done.  You can’t get final pre-insulation inspection until all rough inspections are done so that  puts those steps out till next week.


The week ahead promises some big changes though.  The 25 dump truck loads of dirt will be brought in for the backyard, and they may bring in the fill and regrade the front yard as well.  And that means the additional trees will come down so that will be a big change for the backyard.  More block will continue to finish those piers in the front porch.  The electricians will be back on site with a long punch list to get done.  A full day of HVAC work that wasn’t planned yet has to be done.  The framers will be back on site installing their blocking and finally (maybe) installing our Craftsman brackets under the roof eaves.  Final HVAC inspection and then final framing / pre-insulation inspection.  Byron expects most of the subs to be working on July 4th to get this work in while it is dry and before final inspections.


The second of July now we’re on track then for insulation and the week after drywall.  The spray foam insulation in the roof deck assemblies will take one day and then the exterior wall insulation and interior sound dampening insulation will take two days.


We’re in the final stages before some big transformations.  We’re eager and a little anxious for next steps but excited about how the house is coming out and very appreciative of Byron’s expertise and support.  Caution, lanes merge ahead.  But traffic reports indicate a return to highway speed soon after!


Have a safe and happy July Fourth!


Doug and Noel




The standing seam metal roof started to go on this week, half was installed and the remaining will be completed this week upcoming. Looks great and a color match to the dark bronze window frames.

Final chimney cap and vent stack are installed and the last of the roof shingles around it… we are 100% roofed now!

We have stairs! No more balance beam walking to get from the front yard to the back. The brick masons (see caption below) built these stairs out of block this week. These will get blue stone steps (treads) and then be faced with the river rock accent, that should be an awesome look.

First of the block piers in the classic Craftsman tapered column style being installed (left hand side of front porch). The gentleman doing this work is 79 years old (yes, 79) and has worked with Byron for 20-years. It’s a heat index of 105 on the day I took this picture and this gentlemen is working in long sleeves and pants… a necessity for his work I realize but wow. Him and his son are doing all the masonary block work around the house, super nice guys and doing awesome work. The column will finish at the height of the wood frame that the string sits on and then the cedar beam will sit on this base.

“Foundation” work started on the block pier on the front porch to eventually hold the big ceda beams that form the A-frame timber entrance…. The front ground will be filled in to bottom of this pier, so you can see how much dirt we need to add to the front…

Vent pipe for the two gas fireplaces was installed so that the chimney could be finished. It’s 105 here, thank goodness we have the gas fireplaces ready to go.

A last minute change that originated from the cabinet design, the refrigerator was going to protrude out more than the base cabinets around it so Byron and Noel got the idea to build a slight recess into the wall so that it can push back, stealing 6″ from the butler’s pantry. Naturally it wasn’t that easy, we also had to have a water line for the ice maker and electrical junction box moved but those were easy to move by 6″. This was on the punch list for the framer to do before insulation.

While insulation has not started, the insulation company has been on site and put in the fire stop in all the floor / plate penetrations… one small but important step completed towards drywall.

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