Sunday, December 27, 2009

Some time off from blogging

Hi Everyone!

We haven't completely gone away but have been distracted from catching you all up on the progress of our home on GrayNol.

When we last left you, we had celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary by purchasing a new front door. Yes, it was romantic, but so much has happened since then....

New siding is hung ...

We leaped head-first into fresh paint colors! - save your comments, there's no going back ...

the front porch light is installed - and we're still waiting for it to take-off ...

and we have a new mail box!
**** Special monthly surprise box goes to the first person to correctly guess the 1st-use of this mailbox. Does it look familiar, yet absurdly out of place? ****

So, the winter months mean we are now inside repairing the cuts and bruises the interior endured while we were working from the outside in. However, there are always exceptions - i.e. the sunshine lured us out the day after Christmas to break out the climbing ropes and harness to clean the roof & gutters.

To catch you up on where we've been, here are some exciting topics you can look forward to hearing about from us very soon: Depression at the dump, Seattle Rain Screen 101, perfect-fit window trim, minimal off-gassing, Ecohaus finishing products, drywall patchwork, Hardie Plank is your friend, and why Spencer thinks Bondo is a better. We also have some side stories to tell like how to feed three goats while maintaining neighbor diplomacy, birthing a head board in the attic and monkeys mating in Costa Rica! Yes, we've been busy, but we're still having fun :)

For now we unveil the (somewhat) current state of our house....

More to come,
Spencer & Patty

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Agony of Color and the Thrill of the Door

The rain broke and we finished the firring task. The sun was saying to us, "it's your 2nd wedding anniversary, go do something that freshly wed people would do." So, our love lead us to Ballard's Re-store for some high-end junk rather than some high-end food.
If you look closely, you can see Ned's back door is holding our 2nd Anniversary Present, can you guess what it is? If not scroll down for the answer.....

Patricia spotted this beauty on the clearance rack (as clearance as anything can get at a building salvage shop in the heart of the most desirable neighborhoods in Seattle). Since we all know the 2nd Anniversary is the Wood Door Anniversary we had take this door home with us.

As a side note, when searching for a new door in a salvage yard, take careful measurements of both your existing door and its frame. Our new door only needs some slight shaving along the sides and a few inches trimmed from the bottom. Most doors made now are not solid wood and neither is our new door. Many are made with wood fiber center covered by a thin layer of wood ( a veneer) on the front and back sides. These doors are all made with a short section of solid wood at the bottom, top and along both sides for making adjustments. We need to take a mere 1/4 inch off the width and about 4 inches off the height. It will be tricky to do and our friend Brian has lent us his circular saw to get the job done right. That job will have to wait. Patricia and I, tired from the previous day's work and looking for some pampering on our special day retired the remainder of our afternoon and all of our evening to Banya 5 for some earned hot and cold therapy.

While we rest in the Eucalyptus Steam Room you can have a glimpse of what our house will look like with the new door installed....
... at this late date (9/02/2009) we were still agonizing over the best colors.

By now (10/13/2009) we've made up our mind, and the true colors our up on our house. For you locals, you'll have to do a drive-by to see for yourself. Don't be shy - tell us what you think in person :) For the rest of you, well, you'll just have to wait until we catch up on our blog writing. Trust us, you'll love it - at least from afar.
:) Patty-homemaker & Color Master Spence

The Rain Came But so Did the Blue Tarp

Like many Seattle days we were visited by several days of rain. While our grass enjoyed the much needed drink of cool moisture bound in from the Pacific Ocean, Patricia and I pondered how to keep the progress going. Team work brought the best solution. While I knew we could work and stay dry under our two-feet-deep-eaves I hadn't many ideas about how to stay dry while cutting materials. Patricia then pepped up with, "let's use this blue tarp," which was large enough for one of us to run the saws under while the other worked under the eaves.

With our problem solved we were able to return to our best working relationship. With Patricia measuring and cutting and I nailing we both quickly finished the next stage of installing the firing strips needed to hold the siding slightly away from the house...
...This is not the traditional way houses are built but for our wet climate in Seattle this method is better for reducing the chance of our house "catching" The Mold. Later, I will explain with diagrams and pictures how this system, called a 'Rain Screen', works.

'til then my friends, I'm signing off. It's been another hard day of labor in the rain, while Patricia's back at work, cozy in her new office digs.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Windows and people we adore

Dear Followers,
Our apologies for the 2 week delay in posting an update on our GrayNol home project. I know we've left many of you holding your breath wondering what happened after we cut all of those gaping holes into our new home?! Believe me, I've been holding my breath right along side you. Now I'm breathing again ... here's the story:

By the time we managed to successfully rip the 12th window out our house - we had boards over our windows at night, heaps of building debris all over the yard, plaster in our bed and on our pillows, and a skittish kitty who learned to cuddle-up and sleep all day next to the shock waves of the nail gun compressor.

Pat Noland's back in action! - thanks Pat.

Life without windows - it gave our home a cabana-like feeling by day (like Jamaica!) ... um, not so cozy by night with boards blocking out any light and wondering if we might encounter a squatter inside our house the next morning!

We were up to our neck in construction, and there was no turning back. After ripping out all of the windows, we furred out the house by creating another wall surrounding the existing frame of the house. This allowed us to build the exterior walls of our home out, flush with the edge of the foundation (it looks like the foundation was built for brick, but it had no brick!). That also allowed us to keep the existing insulation and house wrap and add a second layer of both insulation and house wrap. So, we easily doubled the efficiency of our home, while adding more water protection and a frame to attach the new siding to.

Notice on this corner of the house, we are building a bay window :)

Yet, we couldn't install one new window until we finished framing the house and called for an inspection. Luckily, bureaucracy was on our side. The same day we called the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development for an inspection - they arrived and we passed inspection! After getting some great tips (adding smoke alarms and proper house ventilation) from a friendly building official, finally, we could start putting our house back together.

Ready for inspection.

Jimmy Tsen came back to help frame! Thanks, Jim!

A few days prior, the big yellow truck arrived with our new windows! Two friendly guys from Pella Windows unloaded our latest investment - 14 new Energy Star qualified, Pella - Proline Windows.

Then the crew was ready to help - Christian, Fred and Fred joined in for the fun of window installation. These guys managed to install 9 windows in one day!

First new window!

Christian prepping for the next window install

Fred Perry installing house wrap

Fred Johnson spraying foam insulation - just after this photo was taken he caught an important mistake. This spray foam was not the kind with minimal expansion, designed for windows and doors, and if left to dry could have bowed our windows to the point of making them unable to open or operate. Good catch, Fred!

Now we're sitting prettier with new windows, insulation, and lots of light pouring into our house. We still have lots to finish: siding, paint, staining, and cleaning up and finishing all of the windows from the inside.

More to come.
Stay tuned,
patty homemaker

Monday, August 31, 2009

The talent behind Carter Oosterhouse

After 2 days of hard labor, well, not so hard, we nearly surrounded our house with new wall framing. My dad, Pat, kept us moving at a good pace while making us laugh with tales of his early days of construction as side-kick to his mentor Bob Ranski. Pat had anecdotes for every tough moment in our two days with him. He explained the practical points of proper positioning to Patricia and I all while executing exacting cuts with the circular saw from over his head and chewing gum. I now understand that it is my dad's knowledge he passed on to Carter Oosterhouse that made Carter both into a famous host of several HGTV home improvement shows but also a handsome male model. I am feeling prettier today and Patricia now cuts 2x4s with ease on her Chop Saw.

Windows and a large order of building materials arrive in our front yard this morning. Two very chatty, jolly men unloaded our future windows to our storage shed. They were looking forward to their long trip to the cooler shores at Ocean Beaches to drop off their other order today and maybe an ice cream. And they were right. By mid afternoon the sun crested our cedar trees and added to the dark tan on the back of my neck.

Patricia worked the saw with skill, cutting lumber for me to nail up to the house. Only a few feet of the south side of the house and the whole west side is left to frame. We hope to complete the remaining framing tomorrow, get our inspection and begin with the insulation and vapor barrier installation on Wednesday. This all means our windows and siding will go in later this week!

Pat executing Bab Ranski's favorite vertical cutting with the circular saw.
patty says: I'm glad Pat was here to give us a confident nod that cutting a hole through your house is okay. So far, so good! I told Joanna we live in a Jamaican house now - no windows and boards up in the evening.

Pat peeking through the hole in the guest room. It's drafty now! Anyone up for a tropical breeze at our place?

Three seconds after this photo Pat leaped from this window doing a reverse back flip to remove a nail above his head.

That's how big the window's in our bedroom will be! - 4'11"
Patty says: I can't wait to sneak out my bedroom window!!

Keeping up with Patricia is not as easy as dancing tango at our wedding.

She just told me to, "get back to work, chump."

The cut that made Carter famous.

My cut was no where near as successful. Note the final location of the saw at my feet.

See, Patricia works hard! It's only 4:59 pm and I'm falling into REM sleep.

And out cold by 5:01.......

patty says: it's beer-thirty!

Good night all,
s & p

Sunday, August 30, 2009

We tore apart the house yesterday - literally

Before we get into the full demolition story of Saturday, we want to thank everyone for all of the advice on color choices. Brent V by far pulled off a brilliantly executed coup to persuade us to make different color choices - he colored 20 different images of our model with alternate choices. Thank you, Brent!

All of this feedback has left us thinking - actually, agonizing - even more over this choice. I guess, you get what you ask for! - and thankfully we do have a group of people out there willing to be thoroughly honest. We thank you for that. Despite popular opinion, we proceeded to by small quarts of yellow and green paint to test on the house. We even demoed the look of the hardwood by nailing them up on the house. This is what it looked like:

We decided against the pastel-looking yellow and green on the left of and below the wood slats. We do still like the goblin-green color on the right. And after much thought we are now leaning toward a slightly more conservative combination. Goblin-green, natural fir wood, and a dark chocolate brown. We're still playing with the color of the door, but for now we'll make it sunshine yellow. Check it out:

While these colors are still hopeful dreams in our mind - we know there's a lot more work to be done before we arrive at the fun of adding the final color touches to our labor of love. In the meantime, we're moving forward with demolition and reconstruction of the exterior of the house, including all new windows on the first floor.

Siding and windows arrive Monday! - I have the week off of work to sweat, labor, and learn alongside Spencer. Yesterday we tore all of the old siding off of our house. Apparently, our siding is a particleboard-style product that was recalled 20+ years ago. Luckily, our house did not sustain any water damage with this defective product fronting some kind of protection. I think our deep soffits and low-lying home contributed keeping our exterior in good shape.

Pat Noland (Spencer's Dad - and master builder) is in town and we have the good fortune of his help this weekend. Jim Tsen showed up in the final hour to help us pluck off some of the soffit boards, and he stayed to make us a fabulous dinner of salmon, new potatoes, and green beans - thanks, Jim!

Tools: shovel (pat's favorite trick), crowbar, cat's paw (my new favorite term - the origin of the name is ever better), hammer, ladder and staple gun.

Here's the destruction we accomplished Satruday:

Spencer and Pat just returned with lumber and nails to start framing. We're building out the exterior of the house to match the foundation - it looks like the previous owners may have built the foundation with the intention of adding brick to the house someday.

Today, the skilled labor and lessons begin. Wish us luck!

:) patty homemaker

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Color Test

Okay, we've been chewing over a tough home decision for the last month. Now, we're looking for your advice. How do you go about picking the exterior colors for your house??! I've read tips such as: coordinate, don't clash with the neighbors; choose historic colors to match the style of your home; don't go too bold or bright on a small house, but use bold accent colors; choose colors from inside of your home - what color combination are you drawn toward?

We have a gray house to the south of us, an electric-blue house to the north of us, and a green house looming over from the hillside. We like bright, warm colors. We've walked the streets of our neighborhood looking for inspiring color combination - we've found a few. We definitely like a houses that use multiple colors in interesting ways.

What we keep coming back to is the vibrantly colored houses we fell in love with on our travels - it seems loud colors exist close to the equator where the sun shines all the time. We would love it if the sun did shine every day in Seattle, but that's just not the case, even though Spencer says different. So, why, I wonder, do so many people have a muted colors on their homes, when the sky is of the same tinge?

So, here's where we're at - Spencer being the brilliant architect he is, whipped up a 3D model of what our house could look like. We haven't bought the paint yet, and we're honestly looking for input here. We've landed on a bright, golden-yellow, goblin green, and a natural wood accent - that's the orange-ish/brown in the rendering.

Tell us what you think - honestly! Give us your suggestions, advice or your color-choice story.

Happy Homemaking,

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Project I - Mom's Room

May 16, 2009

So, we actually started work on the house 2 months ago - these next couple of posts will be us catching up with what we've already finished. The project that quickly rose to the top of our list was to provide cozy accommodations for my mom who was arriving in late-June to help with my Grand Opening events at work - thanks, Mom! The least we could do was provide her with a nice, comfy room to call her own.

However, after moving in to the house in late-April, we quickly noticed a musty smell radiating from the back bedroom. This was supposed to be our guest room! We kept the door shut and proceeded to move in and settle into our home around that room. Mold, and unhealthy air-quality was a real concern for me - I already had my summer allergies coming on and had heard unfortunate stories about what breathing mold can do to a person. The last thing I wanted was our new home to cause harm to us or anyone else in our home.

It was obvious that condensation was a problem around the windows - single-pane, original 1950s windows left black mildew stains all over the window sills. We tried wiping down the sills with a solution of warm water and bleach, but the musty smell still prevailed. Spencer carved small sections of wall board out to see what he could discover in the walls - nothing visible. I'm not sure what he was expecting to see - something like this??! - Luckily, that was not the case. Regardless, we needed to rid our house of the smell and whatever harm was lurking in the room, so we decided to demo the outside walls in this bedroom - removing the wall board and insulation.

Spencer quickly saw a new talent of mine - efficient and effective destruction! We had fun :)

Even after ripping the guts of the wall out, we still didn't find much of anything to find that real ah-ha moment. We proceeded to wipe down the inside of the walls with warm water and bleach and then we added another layer of Mold Control solution.

During our demo and clean-up, it was incredible to find what lay behind the flat painted walls: 1 x 12 planks of knotty cedar. Sap lay behind these walls crystallized, revealing the purity of the product. A true testament that this is a tried-and-true Northwest home.

We let the room sit for a few days and went back in to find only the fragrant smells of cedar radiating from the walls. No hint of must survived. Satisfied with our remediation, Spencer proved to me that he was better than Heman and Spider Man combined - I got home from work to find that he had hung the room full of drywall and perfectly mudded every seam and crevice by himself.

To add the final touches, we needed a fresh layer of paint and curtains to match. Spencer's technique of choosing paint colors scared me at first: he hits up the Oops! shelf of mis-matched paint and chooses the colors he likes. A gallon of Yolo paint (No VOC, GreenSeal Certified) at Ecohaus (Environmental Home Store) runs $40. On the Oops! shelf it's a mere $8. At first my reaction was - We are going to choose the colors of our house, based on other's mistakes?! - Now that I've faced the daunting color charts myself and see the fun that these Oops! colors have brought to our walls, I realize the uncanny luck of turning one person's mistake into our indomitable first choice. We choose cloud blue and light olive green. I, too, choose a fabric from the clearance rack at Pacific Fabrics for curtains - a funky African-print in greens, browns and blues would finish the room perfectly.

Our spare room was ready for our first guest - Welcome Mama Gray!

For our friends and family who are out there reading - know that we invite you to come and stay and experience our cozy guest room too!

:) patty homemaker