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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 10/11/2010

Yes! This is the kind of day I like to see!

We had framing work on the porch continue to make progress. We had the grand fireplace get more built out. We had the main fireplace get installed. We had the propane fireplace for the library upstairs get installed. We had the fireplace chimneys for all of the various fireplaces (in the apartment and in the main house) get installed. We had drywall work continue all over the place. And we had the final external door installed, allowing us to truly and completely close up Tanglewood at night... that's a real good feeling.

Colleen even found what is probably the last Miller Moth of the summer flitting around the stack of PVC pipe... neat!

First the porch. The framing folks arrived bright and early (nothing like a looming deadline to make folks rethink their working hours), almost before Colleen got to the site (and she's been getting there very early). Today seemed mostly to be spent on finishing and fiddly bit work—small cuts that needed to be done for an odd angle, nailing down plywood that didn't have enough fastening, blocking out the columns in preparation for covering them in stone and stucco (and roughly the same proportion as with the house proper). They worked on this for about an hour...

when a big truck came rumbling up with the two remaining fireplaces! We had picked these out a while back when we were touring various fireplace showrooms, and they'd been sitting in a warehouse in town for about a month, awaiting somewhere to go. Now that the framers had completed the bulk of the grand fireplace stack, they could actually begin installation, and so the truck brought both the fireplaces and a bunch of chimney pipe, supports, straps, and other assorted bits. The framing crew quickly got to work installing the fireplaces, putting in the larger wood-burning one on the ground floor first, and then carrying the smaller propane fireplace up to the library area. They both went in fairly quickly (they had made very good measurements) and then the framers continued working on the stack while the fireplace guys (who had driven the truck up from the warehouse) proceeded to bolt everything down and install the chimney flues.

That's when a problem cropped up, unfortunately. Turns out that where we'd put the fireplace is exactly underneath where the attic joins with the vaulted ceiling in the great room. Not even off to the side a little bit or anything—exactly centered under the transition. And this was a problem, since in order to run the flues and chimneys through the attic they'd have to be punched through the trusses—and that is a BIG NO-NO! Those trusses are considered critical to both the hurricane rating and the overall structure integrity of the roof itself and can't be cut—and just for good measure, they're built out of double- and tripled- trusses for added strength. The flues had to run right through them, but obviously they couldn't. An impasse was reached and this was deferred as the framers and fireplace folks worked on other things.

I went up late in the afternoon after Colleen got down from the site and briefed me on the problem. After she explained it, I quickly decided that the best solution was to let the framers build bulwarks on either side of the library fireplace so they could route the flues around the trusses and up through the roof. These would take up a bit of head space near the upstairs library, true, but I liked the payoff we'd be getting—the fireplace upstairs would look more massive and “castle-like”, and the bulwarks would provide a very different look that I thought would be attractive. Colleen readily agreed—I think she had been afraid that I'd be insistent that the chimneys had to go straight up—though she noted that we might have a problem with one area between the drop into the stairwell and the fireplace feeling “cramped” and difficult to get to. We agreed that we'd go ahead and build out the bulwarks and then revisit that after things were in place; if the area does feel weird we have some room to build in a floor extension over the very top of the stair opening to add a foot or so. In some ways that would actually be better, because it would center the stair railing between the two windows over there). Problem solved—a very unexpected problem that nobody saw coming, but at least we solved it. Colleen will pass the decision on to the framing and fireplace guys tomorrow.

Both of the fireplaces look excellent. The propane job is nearly identical to the one we installed in the apartment a while back, a Heatilator brand with some nice fake logs and a timer to prevent somebody from leaving it on and running out the propane tank.

The main fireplace is a bit of a change from my original plan, though. Long-time followers of the blog might recall my intention to install a Tempcast masonry heater here. About a month ago though, Builder Dale called me to let me know that there basically weren't any Tempcasts to be had in a timely fashion—the company estimated they had a three-month backlog! None were to be found in the US, nor in the couple of Canadian outlets—they were simply sold out and backlogged on production and shipping. That was a kick in the head... I really like the Tempcast and its ability to maximize the heat one gains out of a log of firewood. Builder Dale had checked with several fireplace supply places on the chance that one had had a canceled order or possibly one sitting in the corner of the warehouse but every one came back with exactly the same answer—we don't have any, wish we could get some, I can put your name on the list.

Sigh. Steve was not happy.

(A word to the Tempcast guys that can be extended to any generically larger appliance of a similar nature: Look, if you've got a supply problem let people know that! Post it on your web page, send a press release to the building magazines, let the fireplace supply houses know this. When you don't tell them, you let people falsely assume that you have them right here, no problem at all, where do you want it shipped? And when they can't get the item, when it's going to take a minimum of three months and that's just a guess—what makes you think that's acceptable for a builder or remodeler to plan for? This is just plain dumb, does nothing to help your image, and screws up a lot of construction schedules while generating great angst and gnashing of teeth. If you're not honest and forthright with your customers, why should they trust you after the sale?)

Rather disgruntled, I went over to the BMC warehouse to take a gander at more conventional wood-based options. They showed me a pretty neat looking fireplace called the Magna-Fire... a large see-through option that looked like it would fit the “mood” of the room perfectly. We ordered it (somewhat unhappily on my part) and it's what arrived today.

And honestly, it looks very good. It's not what I wanted, and I'll have to decide whether or not replacing it will be worth the hassle if it doesn't work out, but it's a good-looking fireplace.

(Lesson Learned: If there's a particular thing you really really want for your house—a style of fireplace, or a certain kind of ceiling fan, or perhaps a refrigerator that's just right—buy it up front. Let it live in your garage if you must, but get it—otherwise you'll find that it's out-of-stock, discontinued, or some other unpleasant thing.)

Once the fireplaces were nailed and screwed and otherwise fastened down, the fireplace team set to working on the flues. The framing guys helped, of course, since a lot of this involved the two groups working together. Beyond the truss-and-bulwark issue I noted above, things went relatively smoothly, though there was a bit of tension when there was miscommunication (or perhaps just poorly-thought-out planning) regarding the size of the framing needed for the chimneys. Apparently the framing team built out a support chase to the specifications they were given, only to be told upon completion that it all had to be ripped out and redone—that was the wrong size, apparently. Okay... they do that, and what do you know? Looks like they were given the wrong size again...

At this point, Colleen stepped in and suggested (rather forcefully—she can do that you know) that the chimney go in first and that the framing guys would then build to size around it. There were some protests that “that's not how it's done” but given the recent history they didn't go too far, and the chimneys and framing happened with relatively few problems after that.

When the fireplace framing was completed for the day (I think the fireplace guys had to leave for another install) the framing crew moved to finish off installation of the final exterior door. This door is different than the others in that we got it from our neighbor across the way; she was remodeling and decided that she didn't want this particular door any more and so had set it out to be hauled away. Colleen spotted the door straightaway, thought it would work well for the apartment garage exterior door, and took it to the site. Other than being slightly too tall (a problem quickly corrected with a circular saw) it looks great, and the framing guys took a few minutes to get it properly installed at Colleen's request. This now allows Tanglewood to be 100% sealed up each evening, thus greatly reducing the probability of any critter incursions, and allowing us to think about running propane heaters and whatnot once the weather starts turning colder. An excellent milestone to reach!

In and around all of this action, the drywall guys quietly continued their work, cutting drywall where needed and using full-sized sheets where possible. They were pretty much split between trying to finish off some of the larger sections upstairs (mostly in the library area) and doing the smaller trim-style pieces for the more irregular places (like the kitchen island). It seemed to be going well, and there weren't any problems or issues crop up here that I am aware of.

Partway through the day Colleen spotted a Miller Moth on her way down to the trailer to fetch her lunch. These are very common nearly every spring in Colorado, springing out of bushes and collecting in the door jambs of cars and houses by the dozens/hundreds/thousands. This guy has to be pretty much the last Miller around by this point—they normally all vanish around the end of August, and I've no idea where this one came from. He was very dark, which is unusual, though he didn't seem to have this camouflage thing figured out yet, since he was sitting on a piece of blue PVC pipe. Amazing.

Busy day. Awesome progress. Steve Happy.

Steven in Colorado Springs


While finishing out the framing under the stairs, the framing crews bundled up the radiant heat lines (leading to the exterior slab) nice and neat.
The porch looks nice. It'll be even better once the stone goes on!
Kitchen-island drywall! Looks pretty nice.
Working on the framing for the upstairs propane fireplace.
Drywall awaits deployment to the upstairs bathroom (just inside from the deck).
The radiant tubing below the steps will be getting a nice protective frame.
Since the Magna-Fire is so large, it needs a big flue... wow.
The apartment fireplace chimney.
Crews slapping in more drywall upstairs.
Unloading the fireplaces! The big one on the right is the Magna-Fire; the smaller one on the left is the library propane unit.
"How should we move this thing?"
The last Miller Moth of the season. I think he thinks he's hiding.
He's amazingly dark, isn't he?
Checking the Magna-Fire for fit.
Good shot showing the see-thru nature of the Magna-Fire.
This is where the master Whirlpool tub will be going.
Installing the Magna-Fire chimney sections. Boy those are big...
Looking at the chimney from the other side. You can see how the Magna-Fire is routed up the right-hand column, while the library propane unit will route up the left-hand column.
The apartment garage door, sans door.
The apartment garage door, checking measurements.
At times, the chimney work required a couple of crew members. Watch your step!
A framing guy trims out the frame for the apartment garage door.
Drywall work along the upper great-room wall. Note how they use ladders for their cross-walks on the scaffolding--wow. I don't think I would like that.
Checking the propane fireplace for how its chimney fitting is supposed to work.
Closeup of the Magna-Fire unit from the front.
Lots of manpower in place to help with this install.
Notice how the propane chimney is MUCH smaller in diameter than the Magna-Fire one...
Nice shot showing how the chimney sections are carefully supported throughout the column.
Installing the initial chimney sections for the propane fireplace.
After getting the apartment door installed, some of the framing crew went back to work on finishing up the porch.
I think that ladder isn't QUITE tall enough for this guy.
The Magna-Fire all nicely installed....
...and the library fireplace, nearly as far along. The bulwarks I mentioned earlier will flank either side of this stack.

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