I spent three days last weekend installing some hardwood flooring in the living and dining areas and the hallway. I have to say it was back breaking work but also one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve done.
First though, the last time I slept at the cottage, I had a four legged creature try to join my under the covers! I tried to catch the little bugger with some Victor traps and all I had to show for it was some missing peanut butter. I have it on good authority though that the world’s best trap is also a Victor but not the ones I tried. I’ve been told it has to be Victor (not Tomcat) and not the brass trigger but the yellow plastic one that looks like cheese, baited with 1/2 tsp of peanut butter right near the fulcrum. (http://www.victorpest.com/store/rodent-control/bm032) Well when I arrived, two of the traps had found their mark and the rest still had their peanut butter so I’m hoping we’ve seen the last of the mice.
But I digress!
We shopped around for hardwood flooring with price certainly at the top of the criteria list. Also, it had to be prefinished. We saw some cherry at Lumber Liquidators for $4.79 sq ft. It was really, really beautiful and if it was for home it would be worth it. We found some 2-1/4″ stained maple at Home Depot for $2.99 sq ft on-line. Interestingly they want $4.99 in the stores. We ordered one box to see what it really looks like and thought it fit the bill just great and you couldn’t beat the price. We went back on-line to order the rest (600 sq ft) and lo and behold…not available on-line. We thought they got wise to us and the price discrepancy. So back to the shopping. We almost decided to go back to the cherry when we decided to give homedepot.com one more try. It worked! The order went through. As an added bonus, when went to pick it up, it took them almost an hour to find it and bring it out. I think they felt sorry for us with two little girls in tow so they knocked another $100 of the total. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the flooring.
I took the boxes up to the lake in November with a rented cargo van and stacked the boxes to acclimatize. The first step was to lay out some of the flooring to see how it would fit around the hearth and entryway tiling. I didn’t want to end up with tiny slivers at the front. I ended up starting 5/8″ from the wall resulting in about 1″ strips at the front of the tile. Not bad, not great. Next step was to setup a string line across the north wall to make sure the first strip was straight. I used the straightest pieces I could find and nailed them down with my 16ga finish nail gun both through the face and through the tongue.
Because of the narrow strips, I had to use the finish nailer on a second row too, this time just nailing the tongue. Once I had the first strips installed and a sheet of rosin paper down as underlayment, I was off to the Depot for the flooring nailer and nails. The width of the room is about 22′ on average and it’s about the same across, plus the hall and a closet. That works out to 128 strips and, with nails 8″ apart, a little over 3700 nails. I was pretty surprised that nails cost $20/1000, meaning I spent $80 on nails. The gun nailer wasn’t cheap either at $35/day. I started with the nailer on Friday at around 2pm and worked until about 8. I was able to get around the tiling which was pretty tedious, a lot of trips to the miter saw.
I started at 8 the next morning, not wanting to wake anyone up on the lake with the saw. I worked until 7 that night and could barely stand straight by the end of the day. My system (and it’s not likely a good one) was to get 5 or 6 pieces of progressively shorter lengths, each different by at least 4″. Those were trimmed at a 15 degree angle one end because of the shape of the prow end walls facing the lake. I worked from right to left, maybe because I’m a lefty. I nailed down the longest first, then the next longest, etc. I would then fill in the rest of those rows and then start the process over. The instructions from Bruce said to unbox about 2/3′s of the flooring before starting. I ignored that and had about 2 boxes (40 sq ft) spread out at any one time. I found that two boxes gave a good enough selection of lengths. By the end of day two, I had worked up to about the mid point of the hall.
As for any tips? It’s not really complicated work, just tiring. For each row, I laid out the pieces, making sure to avoid joints in the previous two rows. I’d then (gently) tap each piece into position with a framing hammer. I started nailing each piece at the end adjacent to the previous piece to make sure the joint was tight. Although the thin 2-1/4″ strips meant a lot of nailing, it was also easy for the flooring nailer with it’s great, heavy, rubber faced mallet to close any gaps when the pieces weren’t perfectly straight. I moved pretty well I think but I was always careful to have the nailer seated against the edge and the tongue and didn’t have any misfires. The gun gives a little POP when it’s out of nails. One disconcerting thing about the gun I used was that a little spark shot out about every tenth nail. There’s lot’s combustibles in the house so it made me a little nervous but nothing came of it so I guess it’s fine.
I stopped around noon on Sunday (day 3) meaning I rented the gun for two days. I’ve got another 100 sq ft left to do meaning one more day to finish (probably next Sunday). I’m very pleased with the results.
I’ve been pretty bad about posting any updates this fall. Sorry! I’ll take this opportunity to update on the progress. Lots has happened.
We’re done with the general contractor…and I mean that in a good way! He wrapped up his work basically in October. It certainly took a lot longer than we had hopped but we’re very pleased with the results:
Since the last time I posted an update, my Dad and I spent a week at the cottage. He did 99% of the finish electrical and I did paneling, paneling and more paneling (and I still didn’t get it done).
We were supposed to have both electricity and water but of course we had neither. Fortunately, the neighbor offered us an outlet and so with bottled water and with bottled beer we were OK. The lake was even warm enough to take a few baths in.
There was lots of electrical to be done and I pretty much shot my budget out of the water and we still have a few fixtures and fans to pick up. It wasn’t the outlets, switches and even thermostats so much as the recessed lighting fixtures, a 240v relay and AFCI breakers. One AFCI (arc-fault circuit interupter) cost me more than all of the normal breakers combined. I sure hope it’s worth it.
The paneling was a lot of work but I’m very pleased with how it turned out:
Earlier in the year I rented a laser level and made a level mark around all of the rooms. This turned out to be really helpful in getting the starter strips nailed on. To do that, I measured down from the line for the walls and up for the ceilings. I would then nail in a common nail about every 4′ to support the first course. I tried to pick long straight boards for the first strip. The first day was pretty slow until I got the hang of cutting 4 or 5 courses at once and not having to up and down the ladder and out to the saw for each course. Also, installed it the way a roofer would do shingles, starting at one corner and working out and up from there rather than doing one full strip at a time.
Easily the most tedious part was having to work around all of the electrical boxes. There was lots of cursing electrical engineers from this Mech E! I figure I was able to do about 250 sq ft a day. The walls had less up and down on the scaffolding but they also had lots of electrical boxes to contend with.
I got lots of mileage out of my 16ga finish nailer. I used 1-3/4″ nails and fired them through the tongue. I can’t even imagine doing this job with finish nails and a hammer! For the most part I was really pleased with the quality of the lumber, especially for under a $1 a sq ft. However, when there was a little bow to it, I was really pleased I picked up a little tool called a Bo-Wrench (http://www.cepcotool.com/bowrench/). It grabs on to the studs or the rafters and can take out at least an 1″ of bow. I couldn’t have done without it because on a ladder or a scaffold, you just can’t get enough purchase to do it by hand.
I had my dad take a picture of my on the scaffold to prove I actually did do some work. I have to admit it felt a lot higher up than the picture shows. I wasn’t too disappointed that I had to call in a local finish carpenter to complete the ceiling. At the peak it’s 22′ to the floor!
I’ve got a few more square feet of finicky paneling to finish off this weekend and then eventually some simple trim. Here’s a view looking up at the sleeping loft from the front room:
NYSEG finally got around to installing our electrical service in October. It took a while but other than $300 to connect our triplex wire to the pole, they covered the cost of the line extension so I’ve got no complaints. It sure was nice to finally have power (and therefore water). It’s almost livable now. In fact we took the girls up for a weekend a few weeks ago and had a great time. The wood stove did a great job of keeping us cozy.
Taking the day off Friday and will stay through Saturday to do a few more jobs. I want to finish off the paneling, lay some more slate tiles in front of the entry way and get a start on the flooring in the great room. We got a great deal on some prefinished maple from Home Depot. I’ll post an update on that project soon.
Our hope for the winter/early spring is to get the hardwood flooring in, the sheetrock walls painted and the kitchen cabinets installed. I think that will make it more than livable going into the 2012 cottaging season!
Aside from moving a few rocks and checking things over, I really haven’t done a whole lot of actual work yet but I spent Friday and Saturday on the first of many, many of our projects. The GC is responsible for installing the wood stove. In an effort to keep that from being held up, I decided to install some slate tiles as a surround for the stove.
I bought the tiles at Home Depot. They were only $1.69 a tile. They came in boxes of five but, after looking at the first box, I quickly realized that after the journey from India, most of them were a little worse for wear. So I went through, one by one, and pulled out 65 good ones, tapping on each one to listen for a crack. I bet I rejected twice as many again. Kudos also to my Mazda 3 which is serving double duty as a pickup this summer.
1) First, I had to install some nailers to support the cement backer board for the tiles. I also put in some R-19 fiberglass insulation in the stud cavities.
2) Next I installed some 1/2″ HardieBacker cement backer board on the wall using backer board screws to the studs. I used 1/4″ HardieBacker on the floor and used thinset mortar and screws as per the instructions. Used a 1/4″ notched trowel on the floor. Also used some more thinset and embedded fiberglass tape over the joints in the backer boards. You’ll notice a hole in the backer board on the floor. The woodstove we’re getting is a pedestal model and, if you provide a 4″ opening anywhere within the base, it will draw in combustion air through the hole. I put in a metal duct adapter into the basement and will connect that to the outside later.
3) I waited overnight for the thinset to set up and used the rest of the night to cut some tiles and did a much needed clean and sweep up of the inside of the cottage. Thanks to Frank for lending me his little 4″ Craftsman wet saw. It went through these like butter.
4) After a night in the tent and a couple cups of coffee from the Coleman stove, I was back at the next morning.
5) I put the cut tiles at the back and bottom and started with those first. I used a polymer blend thinset for the tiles. I used a 1/4″ notch trowel for the wall and a 3/8″ for the floor to give a little more “adjustability” to keep them reasonably level. I left those for about 2 hours to set up since they are my “foundation” for the rest of the tiles and I didn’t want them moving.
6) It soon became apparent that the tiles were nominally 12″ square at best. Some were off as much as 1/4″ so keeping the spacing uniform was not going to be possible. I could have cut them all the same but, this is a cottage after all and I wasn’t about to do that. So I did my best. I worked my way up the wall mixing up just enough thinset to one course. Any extra I’d use to lay a single tile on the floor as I went.
7) It went pretty well and I got a good rhythm. I’d mix a batch of thinset first. Since I didn’t trust myself to not drop mortar, I put up a drop sheet to cover the previous course of tiles. That would take about 5 minutes which is how long you’re supposed to let the thinset sit before using. I’d then lay the center of the five tiles on each course, and so on and so on. I think you can see in the picture that I used the little plastic spacers (where possible).
I don’t know if it’s proper technique or not but I used the following method to lay each tile; I butt the new tile against the previous ones and pressed it into the mortar. Because I started it tight against the previous tiles, none of the mortar squeezed up between the joints. I then gave it a little push to slide open the joints a little more than the spacer width. I put the spacers in and eased it back until the gap was correct. It seemed to work OK and I had no problems with tiles coming off. For insurance I gave each one a few taps with a rubber mallet.
8 ) Once the wall was set, I took a break for lunch (leftover Subway from the night before!) and went at the floor. The floor was easier to lay but I was little more careful on picking the tiles to try and have them as uniform as possible.
9) Here’s where I left it when I departed on Saturday (in the middle of a monsoon of course)
The final size is 5′ wide (the length of the backboard) by 4 1/2′ tall. I left a full tile out around the combustion air opening in case I screwed that up. If I got the position right, I’ll fill it in the space around it when the stove arrives.
Next weekend, I’ll seal the tiles and grout and then the stove can go in any time after that.
So other than some sore knees, I’m pretty happy with Project #1.
It’s been nearly 4 weeks since the last update. During that time there’s been lots of progress (and a few delays too) but we’ve been on vacation for some of that and basically I’ve been remiss in getting a new post. So today I’ll do two! First an update on the contractors and then a weekend project post.
The contractors have been somewhat busy. The good news is that most of the windows are delivered, about half are up and about a third of the siding is up. The bad news is that some of the windows haven’t been delivered which is causing a backup on a bunch of other things.
First though, you can see that the back of the house is basically done, just a little trim work on the eaves and soffits. (You’ll also notice the mud…we’ve obviously built in the rain capitol of the Northeast. Priority one is to get some of our many piles of chipped brush down as mulch)
I couldn’t be happier. The brown clapboard on the bottom with the green shingles on top worked just the way I had hoped (Tracy hasn’t seen the shingles in person yet so she can comment on them later). The “shingles” come in panels and are available in straight edge or staggered edge. We went for the staggered edge to hopefully make it a little more “cottage-y”. I think the red of the windows make them stand out just enough too. And the best part is…no wood! The clapboard, shingles, trim and soffits are actually cement composite (HardiePlank, HardieShingle, HardieTrim and, you guessed it, HardieSoffit…http://www.jameshardie.com/homeowner/products-exterior.shtml). They come prefinished as you can see. The windows are aluminum clad and again, factory finished.
I know that the lack of wood may be blasphemous to some but…. We’ve been fixing/improving/maintaining our 90 year old Bungalow at home for 10 years now and I’ve reached the following conclusion: wood has no place on the outside of a house!….at least one that you don’t want to be in a constant state of maintenance.
You can see in this picture that the roofing is also done.
Moving over to the southwest side of the cottage:
Things are really taking shape here. All the framing is done and they’ve started on the deck. You can see that the windows in the bay window are in. The kitchen sink looks out of these windows (which, like all of the glass are WeatherShield aluminum clad wood windows with unfinished pine on the inside if you’re interested).
All of the glass for the front of the cottage are sitting inside except for the trapezoidal and triangular units. The general contractor decided to wait until the framing was done to get exact rough openings. This was smart because you can’t return custom sized glass. Unfortunately, until those go in, the rest of the units would be vulnerable to the rain (especially the pine interiors) so they’re waiting until the custom units arrive. In the meantime, and for safety reasons when installing the glass, they’ve started the deck framing and the decking and railings are on site too.
It’s really, really exciting to see the final shape of the cottage up!
The utilities are starting to go in. The electrician’s (who evidently moonlight on the comedy circuit) were hard at work on Friday while I worked on a project myself. The plumber’s also at it and I will have an update describing the plumbing system in the near future. The septic is done, although there’s no water in the pipes yet to test it.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that NYSEG (NY State Electric & Gas) will be able to get us power lines for free or close to it. Met with the electrician and he had some ideas on how to run the lines both with and without a new pole. One area that the GC fell down on in my opinion is that he didn’t have the septic guy run us a conduit to get the triplex power lines from the pole to the building. So now he’ll have to come back and dig a 18″ deep trench. At least he’ll know where the good spots to run it are and it shouldn’t cost too much.
So that’s it for the contractors to date…we’re hoping that they will be all but finished in three weeks and then the real fun begins when we take over. Actually, that transition’s begun as I started the first of our many, many projects last weekend which I’ll update as well.
Wow! That’s all I can say this week. After watching the tortoise’s pace of clearing, excavating, footings, etc., etc…this week certainly went like the hare. The last time I was at the lake, the foundation was done but no slab yet. What a difference a week makes!
As you can see, the framers made a little progress. This is the view that faces the lake. The rough openings on this side will be windows and a sliding patio door. You can also see that the they’ve got a post in place ready for the big LVL beam. All of the first floor partitions are framed and, that lumber laying on the second floor is all of the rafters got and ready to go. I bet they’ll get the roof framed and sheathed on Monday.
Here’s a view from the south facing side. The rough opening to the left will be for windows in the dining area and the one to the right is for a bay window.
Here’s a view from the back of the cottage taken earlier in the day before showing the rough openings for the windows for the two bedrooms (they’re using one of the openings as the entryway so it’s not fully framed yet.
One experiment I tried was to use T1-11 plywood ( a trextured and grooved plywood usually used for siding) as the subfloor material with the grooves facing down. I was hoping that it might look good enough to be the finished ceiling and I think, with a little trim work that it just might:
The ladder here is where the stairs to the loft will be
When I came back at the end of the day, the tanks and manhole for the pump were in place
One thing that I’ve been somewhat conscious of is the view of the building from the lake. We’ve been hoping to keep it pretty well hidden and not be conspicuous. I drove around to other side of the lake and took this picture. I think we’re pretty well hidden and with brown siding, it should blend in even more. We’re in the middle of the this image, to the left of the pretty visible cottage. If you look closely, that’s our little aluminum boat sitting on the dock.
Well we’ve reached a major milestone. The concrete is finished. I traveled up the middle of last week to take a look at the foundation with the forms stripped off and to look at the basement before the slab was poured.
It was really a thrill to see the forms removed and the foundation in place.
As you can see they already had the damp proofing rolled on. They also had the perimeter drain installed and some gravel over the drain tile. You can also see the vent opening in the back wall and if you look closely, you can see pockets on the left and right hand side (south and north walls) for some beams and round penetration for the sewer outlet on the back (east) wall.
The concrete was really smooth, no joints, or air pockets that I could see.
You can see the anchor bolts for the sill plate in the picture on the right. We had originally planned on dyeing the concrete a dark brown so that it would blend into the surroundings better than the raw concrete. However, the concrete vendor wanted $2500! The dye is expensive but they have to wash out their trucks especially well when they use dye. I originally believed that a lot more of the concrete would be visible. Now that it’s built, there will only be 8-24″ of the wall showing though so I’m glad we decided against spending all that money.
The mason and his crew were smoothing out and compacting the soil in the basement floor when I arrived. They then had to spread gravel and lay down the vapor barrier prior to the concrete arriving the next day.
I spent another couple of hours pulling out rocks from the excavation so that we can use them later. Field stone and slate tends to run anywhere from $100 to $200 a pallet and I’ve probably pulled about five pallets worth so far. I want to use the slate for a walkway some day and the field stone to help line the driveway and some paths later on.
They poured the slab the next day. We made a compromise on the slab. Since this isn’t ever going to be a finished basement, we decided that the expense of a full thickness, reinforced slab wasn’t justified. At the same time though, I didn’t want a dirty, damp, musty crawlspace so we elected to go with a “rat slab”. I’d never heard the term rat slab before. They call it that because it helps to keep the rats and other critters out of the cellar (it’s actually code in some municipalities). It’s only 2″-3″ thick with no reinforcing and just a broomed finish. That means it’ll likely crack in no time but I’ll keep on top of that with caulking and it’s considerably cheaper. So here’s a picture of the finished foundation.
P.S. UPDATE…got a picture this morning from the contractor. The framing lumber has arrived so they’ll definitely be starting tomorrow!
I arrived at the lot on Monday afternoon hoping to find maybe a finished foundation or at the very least the forms up. Should have known better. The footings were done and stripped but that’s it. Evidently the mason had a family emergency. Oh well, at least there was progress.
As you can see by the picture, there’s been a lot of rain in the past week.
Even though progress hasn’t been as fast as we hoped, I’ve been really pleased with the work so far. As I mentioned in a previous post, code requires an 8×16 footing, no rebar required. The mason went with a 9-1/4 x 16 (2×10 forms) with two pieces of rebar. In addition, he saw that at the prow end (facing the lake), because of the all the windows, there will be a post running from the ridge beam down and it will therefore be carrying quite a bit of the roof load. (about a 1/6th of the entire roof load I think). So he really beefed up the footing there…it’s just about a 10″ thick sidewalk actually. You can see it in this picture:
We’re heading up this weekend for a night or two of camping at the lot. (One of the members puts on a July 4th weekend fireworks show so the girls are excited!). I arranged for a porta-potty too so hopefully that will be there. We got a little concerned that with no bathroom in site, the contractors have had to resort to less than desirable alternatives. I know it’s the woods. But it’s our woods!
UPDATE: Walls are in place! Got this picture from the GC on Thursday:
I’ll have an update later this weekend. Hoping that the forms are stripped off so I can have a look. Last concrete is the rat slab. That’s supposed to be next week. Don’t know what a rat slab is? You’ll just have to check back next week for the explanation.