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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 1/29/2018 7:39:31 PM

Here are some pics of the exterior and master bath. We had a hard time with a contractor for the siding and paint.  I fired the painters after they dragged their feet all summer and hired a new crew.  They were done in 3 days.  Just some trim work, master bath cabinets, then we're done!  Hoping to be done in 2 months, and then onto building a 36x40 shop for my business. A few of these pics keep loading 90 degrees off even though they're straight on my computer.  I don't know what's going on there, but enjoy!

Photos

Back patio made from rock taken from a state material pit. Got free permit from state and picked it for free, My wife made it and it's finished now with a fire ring, but covered in snow right now.
Balcony with custom made metal panels in the railing. One of my customers made the railings for me. He's also making the interior staircase and catwalk railings too. These panels are Alaskan wildflowers: fireweed, wild iris, and forget-me-nots.
Closeup of one of the railing panels.
Front of the house painted finally!
South facing side of the house painted, with the solar water heaters still working!
Back of the house.
Front of the house from the driveway.
Looking into master bath. Toilet in it's own room on far side, with pocket door. Cabinets ready for install and counter top.
Custom tiled shower. Still undecided on installing a glass partition or not.
Deck mounted soaking tub.
Close up of the shower floor.
Front entry all tiled up. Just need some walnut trim, and motivation to finish it now.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 1/22/2018 2:37:28 AM

I forgot about this one.  We insulated the back porch and finished it out with tongue and groove, and bead board.  Very nice to sit out here in spring-fall. We don't keep it heated but it is insulated so with the interior door open to it the heat warms it up in a couple hours during the winter.

Photos

Applying some chair rail between the two different wall coverings.
View from one end. If it was brighter this time of year I would have a better picture of it finished now.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 1/22/2018 2:31:11 AM

Here are more pics of the kitchen. 

Photos

View from dining area.
Island with masonry heater in background.
From the living room. I didn't have enough small mosaic to totally wrap the island so I used larger mosaics on this side of the island with very similar colors.
Closeup of the back splash and counter top.
Close up of the island.
Custom pantry adjacent to the kitchen.
Pantry doors.
The form for the counter top. Broken glass laid in place, then concrete poured on top, so it's actually poured upside down. When pouring I let the poured concrete hit a piece of scrap foam and then run into the form. If not, the flowing concrete will disperse the glass.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 1/22/2018 2:21:49 AM

Here are some pics of the kitchen construction.  We worked on the ceiling and floor while waiting for the ordered cabinets to show up.  I made the concrete counter tops in the garage.

Photos

So this was our temporary kitchen in the garage for about 4 years while building.
We put tongue and groove pine in the ceiling and coated with polyurethane.
Tile in the dining area
Friend and my son helping out.
The tile continues through the kitchen, the pantry, and into the front room.
Polishing the concrete counter tops with a wet grinder.
Applying a sealer to the finished top.
Mosaic tile and grout back splash
Hand made pulls from a local blacksmith.
Hand made knobs from a local blacksmith.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 1/22/2018 2:08:59 AM

Wow!  Time flies when you get busy with other stuff in life and it drags the project on longer and longer.  I've been awfully busy but I finally made some time to post some updates for the last 3 1/2 years.  I'll have to break it up into a couple different posts though.  On with the pics!

Photos

We had to strap the house with 1x4s in prep for siding. This is the south facing wall with solar water heaters. I rented a man lift for this part.
View of the Alaska Range from above my roof.
Front of the house.
We sided it with LP lap siding. This took quite some time to get it done due to the contractor dragging their feet.
View of the front entry. We weren't able to have it painted until last year. Problem with the contractor.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 10/26/2014

I've been awfully busy with a new job, flood damage control, and knocking out the most important stuff before snow falls, and it already has. My laptop crashed so I don't have pictures of a few things but I'll show what I got. This summer was the wettest summer in recorded history here and it wreaked havoc with our building plans. We had flooding in the crawlspace most of the summer that caused us to put in French drains and sump pump down there, install soffit, fascia, then gutters to get the water away from the house. Then I excavated a couple drainage ditches to help move the water further away from the house. After all that was under control, we were able to install our last windows in the master bedroom, bonus room, and master bathroom. We also put in the last radiant heat zone and poured concrete on top. We installed the front door and exterior lights on the front of the house. 98% of the foam on the outside is done too. We hired a mason to build the block foundation and core for our masonry heater, then faced and finished it ourselves. The masonry heater burns a lot cleaner than wood stoves and fireplaces because you burn a really hot fire once a day, burning all the creosote-causing gases in the firebox. The exhaust takes longer to exit the house as it goes through several channels before it goes up the chimney. The wood requirement is also less because you're not feeding a fire around the clock. This design is a Swedish contraflow. More info on how they work can be found at the Masonry Heater Association webpage http://www.mha-net.org/ Now I'm taking a short break before I get back into the swing of things. Enough of that, to the pics!

Tim

Photos

Block foundation before filling the cores and slab pour on top
Core half way built, with water coils in place
Core built most of the way
Core built and braced for seismic reinforcement. Cardboard in place for an expansion gap.
Working on the facing with my son. We got rock by getting a permit from the State of Alaska to gather rock from a material site.
Coat hook on the side before it's cleaned up with muriatic acid. Those cleanout holes get covers.
All done except for tile grout on the back wall and a tiled hearth.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 12/29/2013 6:27:58 PM

Well, it's been a busy year and here are a couple more pics to wrap it up.  I really wanted to get the boys in their rooms by Christmas and we did.  A couple weeks ago we had somebody spray texture all the drywall that we have been working on the past few months.  Most of it has been primed, and we painted both boys' rooms, put cherry flooring down, and finished it off with some contrasting pine trim.  We were able to move them in there on Christmas Eve.  The only thing left in their rooms is to install a closet system, doors, and tile the window sills. My wife has been priming/painting the stairwell/loft area, and the kitchen, pantry, dining area too. Right now I'm working on tiling my daughter's bathroom above the garage, which is already painted, and should be finished by next weekend, I hope.  Have a Happy New Year!

Tim

Photos

Putting down trim in my older son's room.
Younger son's closet. Both rooms are pretty much identical, just different colors.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 12/1/2013

Okay, found a few more pics on my wife's camera. The ones I had been looking for seem to be long gone.  Here are a few more with details in the captions.

Photos

Stone mosaic walkway at the front entry. Took my wife two weeks placing each stone to make this.
View of the house with most windows installed. Alaska wildflowers planted on top of our leach field in the foreground.
Using a Genie to install the 2" foam on the outside. We can already tell the difference from last year when we didn't have it.
Beautiful fall colors with the sun setting.
We collected local rock to put on the face of the masonry heater.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 12/1/2013

Well, I'm back, and didn't realize how long it's been since I posted an update or been to this site. Time flies when you're busy building and working. I have a lot of reading to catch up on. Since I last posted earlier this spring we've done quite a bit, but I'm having trouble locating all my pictures from this summer. I do have a few for now though.

As a follow up on my solar water heater project, it has done well. My monthly electric bill dropped about $100 throughout summer and fall. The drainback system was preheating our domestic hot water input temperature to 66-87 degrees, up from 38. I was still heating water into the first or second week of November with the panels. Since then it has dropped off, but I installed a thermosiphon heat exchanger onto the side of our temporary wood stove. Don't worry, safety valves and expansion tank are installed as well. Since the solar water heater is not operating anymore due to lack of sunlight and severe temps, the heat exchanger has taken up the slack and kept our electric bill down to summertime levels. Regarding our other progress, we've installed 11 windows, so goodbye to the cave effect! Making all the Azek window extensions took some time and cost quite a bit. I put tongue and groove knotty pine on the back porch ceiling and blew in fiberglass insulation on top of that. We had to re-blow insulation into a few places up in the main attic. Since we didn't have siding and soffits on, a few bad wintry gusts last year whipped through the attic and blew some of the insulation around, creating a few empty pockets. I still don't have siding or soffit material on but I plugged up the lower open areas in the gable trusses close to the level of insulation. 

We also finished installing 2" of foam on the outside of the exterior walls except for a couple places where I have to install a couple more windows next year. I rented a Genie man-lift for this and it made it much easier for the upper level. I built two more of those wood sheds and it should be enough to hold one years' worth of firewood.

We installed sheetrock in the great room, kitchen, dining, pantry, stairwell, loft, front room, entryway, both boys rooms, bathroom and the hallway in between. The only sheetrock left to do is in the master suite, laundry, area surrounding the front door, and part of the garage.

Our raised garden beds did well for their first year, especially for getting a late start. All thanks to my wife since I didn't have the time to devote to it.

I installed the radiant tubes and flooring in the boys' rooms and bathroom, then poured lightweight concrete in the boys' bathroom floor. I had a problem with the mix and will have to make a repair before I set any tile on it. I started doing the mud and tape myself in their bedrooms, bath, and hallway. But after a month of making painfully slow progress using hand tools, I decided to hire some help. I'll still finish their area, but I'm having somebody else take on the rest of the house as I get the drywall up and prepped for finish.

Here are some pics and I'll add another update when I find the rest of the pics.

Photos

Heat exchanger on the side of the wood stove to pre-heat the 38-degree well water en route to the electric water heater. The sloped pipes allow the water to circulate as it heats and cools.
The larger tanks holds water for the wood stove to heat and is in upstream of the electric water heater. So far, it preheats the water to 70-85 degrees before entering the electric water heater. We are able to get by with a small 30-gallon electric heater because the preheating tank keeps plenty of water already warm.
Dining area with large south facing window.
Kitchen area presently being used as a work area. Nevertheless, sheetrocked, mud and tape in progress.
Stairwell and loft with two windows, sheetrocked, mud and tape in progress.
Hallway between boys' rooms with adjoining bathroom on left.
One of the boys' rooms. Closet around the corner of the doorway and to the left.
Great room, all sheetrocked, mud and tape in progress.
We own the acre across the road from us and it's loaded with a lot of blueberries just like this.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 5/5/2013

I haven't made much progress on the house lately, since being in a house with almost no windows like a cave has curbed my motivation to work inside. However, I have windows on order and they should be here in a couple of weeks. Then I'll start sheetrocking like crazy. We did manage to wrap up the last bit of rough-in plumbing and electrical and the inspector cleared us to close it all up with sheetrock.

What I have been doing is building a solar hot water system. Yes, a solar hot water system in Alaska. I built two 4x10 collectors and mounted them on the south wall of the house and built a 250-gallon drainback tank in the crawlspace. I'm still sealing up the tank, but hopefully in about two weeks I'll be up and running with it. The temp outside today was 38 degrees and sunny, but in the collector it was 157 degrees! My well water is a constant 38 degrees so I see some big savings in the near future. The cold water going to our electric hot water heater will first go though a heat exchanger in the drainback tank and be preheated before it makes it to the electric water heater.  I'll probably disconnect one of the elements.

We put all eight windows in the back porch to create a nice four-season porch. I also built a 4x16 wood shed using pallets, some 2x4s, and a little metal roofing. No more messing around with tarps and plywood to cover up our firewood. On with the pics...

Photos

Collector half finished, with the copper tubing encased in homemade aluminum fins, painted on the back to prevent galvanic corrosion. My wife did all the painting
Collectors mounted on the south wall without glazing. Note the sloping pipes, so the water drains back to the tank when the controller shuts down the pump. This summer I'll install windows above and below them.
Collectors with SUNTUF glazing installed. The water comes up, tees off to both collectors at the bottom, then flows across and upwards, the turns back to the center, and tees together again to return to the tank.
Close up of one of the collectors.
Back porch all opened up.
View from inside the back porch. This year the snow is about 2-3 weeks late in melting away.
Wood shed built from pallets. I used pallets for the base and vertical dividers between each base pallet to create a row of stalls covered under one roof. I put this together in two evenings, pretty easy to make. Two more to be built.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 12/25/2012

So here's the rest of the pics from the past few month's progress. As I was selecting the pics I noticed some accomplishments that I didn't include in the journal entry. I noted them where applicable. Have a Happy New Year!

Photos

Here is the copper conduit coming from my crawl space, with foam insulation to keep the heat out. I used copper to conduct the cold all the way up the line.
Here is where the copper tube terminates in the garage. Right now I only have one line installed but there's room for three, so I'll have room for two beers and a root beer on tap. Once the wall is finished, I'll install a three-tap manifold. But for now, a good old party tap will work.
Here's my zero-energy kegerator made from 2" foam scraps. You can see the foam-wrapped copper tube come down through the top and extend into the box holding my kegs. The thermometer says it's 45 deg. in there today. Perfect!
Front window installed above garage, and 2" foam covering the outside.
Dormer window installed in my daughter's room. The 2" foam was applied in this area too and extending around the back wall.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 12/25/2012

Okay, I finally have a functional camera to post pics and provide updates. Getting film developed for my old 35mm SLR isn't too convenient these days, and since the wife's camera got wet during a rafting trip this past summer we've been without a ways to capture the moment for awhile. Anyway, I will post pics in two separate posts  since there are about two dozen to put up and in the past I've had trouble loading all into one post.

Since my last post, I've made as much progress as can be made when working full time. I installed the radiant PEX in the bonus room, bathroom, and bedroom floors above the garage and master suite. After that we hung the drywall in those rooms to make them livable as soon as possible. For the bathroom area where I'll be tiling I poured a custom mixed lightweight concrete that uses vermiculite instead of standard aggregate. The other areas use the sand and 2x2 nailers as previously discussed.

Once that was done, my next goal was to install the HRV. I finally finished the project under the guidance of Ventilation Solutions. They came out and inspected the whole thing and it has been working great. The HRV really helps keep the moisture levels balanced in the house and fresh filtered air circulating throughout. Another plus is that each bathroom is exhausted into a common duct requiring only one exhaust penetration. After that we put up drywall in the bonus room and bedroom upstairs as soon as the walls were foamed. Then I installed our first two windows (triple pane) and it made a huge difference in the lighting. After re-doing the vapor barrier and insulation in the garage ceiling, we strapped and foamed the garage walls and sheetrocked the ceiling and exterior walls. Next, I installed the garage door tracks and door opener, then trimmed it out.

As summer was coming to a close, I tried to apply as much 2" foam as I could to the exterior walls before it got cold. I could only put it in large blocks where there would be no windows, since I didn't have most of them in yet. I was able to foam almost all of the north wall, first and second floors, with the exception of three spots in the vicinity of some small windows. I was also able to foam part of the east wall upstairs, along the front of the garage and bonus room, and four feet along the bottom of the south wall. Every little bit helps, especially since we've been below -30 consistently for about the last two weeks.

Once it got too cold to comfortably work outside, my focus shifted inside. I started foaming, strapping, and foaming the exterior walls as much as possible. After that I hooked up the radiant heat for the zone upstairs above the garage. Then I installed the zone valve controller, thermostats, and associated wiring. Finally, my heat is all automatic!! Another project I finished is my $50 zero-energy kegerator. See pics for details. This was a project I worked on while I took a couple-week hiatus from all house construction. Apart from some additional work done in the yard to get grass started for next year, I think that's all of it. 

Tim

Photos

Wood stove re-located to great room, ceiling fan installed to push the heat around, and big wall mostly foamed.
Up close view of interior side of my exterior walls and how I'm foaming them. About 85% of the house is done
Oh yeah, forgot about this. I decided to frame in a loft above the foyer, connected to the catwalk. The two-story open space above the foyer seemed like a waste of space. Makes for a nice place to hang dry clothes in the wintertime.
The kitchen/dining room walls foamed with the exception of areas where receptacles will be installed. The foam gets installed after the wiring is done. Note the extra wide strapping where the cabinets will hang.
Garage all strapped, foamed, and sheetrocked. With a functional door.
HRV and filter unit. All outside and recirculated inside air goes through three filters before it gets supplied to a duct in every room. The moisture stripped out of the air drains out of the HRV via the clear tube.
This is the intake duct that must be separated some distance from the exhaust duct.
These are the main supply and exhaust ducts coming into the garage that are further branched out down the line. I also installed a range hood above the stove in our temporary garage kitchen. Once the kitchen in the house is finished, this will be the exhaust hood for my brewing station. Working on my man cave, one step at a time.
Here is the zone valve controller to run the heat in the house. When a thermostat tells it it needs heat, it opens up the zone valve to that area, turns on the circulating pump to move hot water to that zone, and activates the boiler. If the water is not up to temp, the boiler will come on heating up water as long or short as needed.
I closed up this soffit area too. Last year I had a bunch of hoar frost up inside the roof and it became a headache in the spring. You can see the exhaust for the HRV. The boiler exhaust is not too far away from that.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 7/21/2012

I finally set aside some time to put an update for the summer so far. We've been awfully busy with a few days in there for some fishing (fishing takes precedence over blog updates, sorry).

After all the ceiling sheetrock was hung, we shingled all the roof. That took about a week and a half and cost much more than expected due to a problem with a supplier. Next up was the attic insulation. Surprisingly, the blown-in fiberglass is much more comfortable to work with than the batts. The blow-in took about 7-8 hours to cover about 1,700 sq ft. with 20+ inches to the tune of R-60. I installed speaker wire in the bonus room walls and their boxes for surround sound. My oldest son is visiting and has been pretty good help. The two older boys foamed the interior side of the exterior walls upstairs in the bonus room and daughter's room. Still have a few pieces to go. Might have them finish it up today. Right now I have the boys cutting up more strapping for the exterior walls on the inside.

I picked up the two big windows that we'll put in this year. One for the bonus room and one for the daughter's room. I bought a pair of nice suction cup handles for moving and positioning the windows, since I've got quite a few more windows to install. Our back porch is now set in place and ready for foam and a knob/lockset. All of the exterior walls are fully insulated. Most of the rim joists are done too. The wife has been a huge help there.

Last week I started installing the heat recovery ventilator ductwork. I was going to have a contractor do this for me since it seems like a complicated operation, but the price tag of $8K-$9K wasn't an option; so we took the DIY route with the same contractor, since he offers to provide the materials, layout, installation guidance, and inspection for about half the cost. All of the exhaust ducts are installed, pulling air from 3 1/2 baths and the kitchen. The next phase will be installing all the supply ducts to each bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bonus room. As soon as the ducts are installed, I need to run some low-voltage wiring for the HRV controls, then I'll be ready for sheetrock over those areas.

Deal of the month: I picked up around $1,500 worth of fire brick left over from another project for $200. They had been setting outside for about five years, so they were all wet and a little dirty but still in good shape. I might have enough brick to do the whole masonry heater, we'll see.

Enjoy the pics!

Photos

Roofing the front part of the house with a few friends, beautiful day.
Crawling through the trusses and spraying down the fiberglass to keep us warmer this winter.
The boys foaming the interior. Trying to look like professionals.
Exhaust ducts for the upstairs bathroom dropping into the kitchen below and connecting to the kitchen exhaust. I plan on closing it all in with a soffit above where the cabinets will be.
Two layers of 2" XPS foam in the rimjoist and sealed up with more foam.
Finished level of fiberglass
Main exhaust branch in the crawlspace going up into the first floor wall, then into the garage where the HRV will be located, near the other mechanicals.
Dark clouds in the evening, but we still get a rainbow. Awesome!



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 5/13/2012

I haven't updated in a while, since I've been steadily working on the house in the evenings and on weekends. Progress has been slowed by small details along the way. The drywall is installed on the ceilings of bedrooms 2, 3, 4, the bonus room, and the long hallway upstairs between beds 2-3. The bath above the garage is rough plumbed-in and bathtub set in place. I have the ceiling sheetrocked in there as well and most of the walls covered too. I subbed out the DWV rough-in, and the drain for this tub when set in place, was directly above a joist, complicating matters. The joists above the garage are 12" O.C., so the simplest way to correct the problem was to build a platform for the tub to sit on, then turn the drainpipe over and down to the stub-out. The distance between the tub and the toilet would be too close if I moved the tub over any further to use the adjacent joist bay.

All the power, lights, and smoke detector rough-in wiring is complete on the second floor. A couple of the power circuits are fully hooked up so I don't have to have so many extension cords laying around. My inspector came out and did an inspection on the upper level and part of the lower level so I can close those areas up, and said it all looked fine. I also pre-wired in the ceiling boxes for an overhead projector with HDMI, Cat5, RCA video and RG-6 coax cables. I ordered two of the big windows, one for the bonus room and one for bedroom #4. I don't have a picture available, but I also cut in an opening on the back gable wall for attic access. I framed up a 2x5 platform just inside the opening so there is a place to sit down and stage tools/materials when there's work to do up there. It sets about 2' above the bottom chord of the truss, so there's plenty of space for insulation underneath.

The spring weight restrictions on the roads were lifted the other day, so I had 10 yards of fill dirt brought in to finish leveling out some bumpy spots in the yard so we can finally plant some grass. I have 20 yards of gravel coming tomorrow, so I can finish grading the woodcutting and storage area too. This week I'll be ordering shingles and finishing up details so a couple friends and I can hang the drywall on the great room and stairwell ceiling next Saturday. Nobody in town has a drywall lift that goes 19' so I'll have to bolt my drywall lift to the scaffold I'm using and take it easy.

Deal of the month: I walked into Home Depot to buy some 4'x12' sheets of 5/8 drywall and they had 28 sheets of damaged drywall (almost all 5/8) stacked on a cart. I asked about it and they said they were $5 each. They're normally $22 each and the damage to most of them would be cut off anyways so I snatched them all up. I was able to use all of them without too much waste and only made one extra butt joint. Talk about perfect timing.

Photos

Bonus room ceiling sheetrocked.
One of three bedrooms sheetrocked.
Bath#3 roughed in and mostly covered.
What can you do with PEX scraps? Take a 96-cent coupler and make hula hoops for the kids!!



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 4/1/2012

After a long cold winter to take a break from building and spending money on construction we're back at it again. We learned a hard lesson in the importance of vapor barrier tightness. The warm moist air from our inhabited space leaked past areas we didn't seal good enough or didn't have drywall pushing against it creating a tight seal. So all winter long the moisture condensed above us in the joist bays, forming ice, and melted this spring. We had to remove a bunch of the insulation to dry out the bays before mold takes over. The wife focused on that and installing fiberglass in all the upstairs walls.

I've been in between jobs for past two weeks until this Monday so I've been able to put full days in as well. I installed the vapor barrier, and carefully this time, sealed it up. Once the vapor barrier was up, I put up horizontal furring strips every two feet providing space to run electrical and add another 1 1/2" of foam before drywall. For the furring that goes along the top and bottom plates, I used thinner strips of wood and put 3/4" of foam behind them to provide a thermal break. Then I installed receptacle circuits in the bonus room, bed#4, bath#3, and the master bedroom. I also put  up a temp guardrail on the catwalk, and hung some can lights in the upstairs walkway/hallways. Next up is running PEX for bath#3, sconce light, AV, and network wiring in the bonus room.

Photos

Bed#4 furred out and wired.
Bonus room furred out and wired.
One of the walls the wife insulated.
Closer pic of the furring strips with foam behind them when laid over an area where they had continuous contact with wood (top/bottom plates, window frames).



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 11/23/2011

For the past few weeks I've made slow progress on getting our boiler up and running. Last spring I prefabricated the radiant manifolds, only to realize recently that they would be too small. So I took a few steps back, and had to remake the radiant manifolds all over again in a larger size. I soldered up all the manifolds, mounted them to some Unistrut, soldered some more, set the boiler in place, and soldered some more. All my solder joints were leak-free, but a couple of the threaded joints leaked. I found those leaks using compressed air in the manifold before I mounted them, so fixing them wasn't too hard.

After the boiler was all plumbed in, I installed a Toyotomi lift pump to bring the heating oil up out of the in-ground tank and gravity feed to the tank. The first attempt didn't work out so well because when I tapped into one of the two lines running into the tank I tapped into the return line, which is about a foot or so above the bottom of the tank. With only 75 gallons in a 500-gallon tank, the lift pump was sucking air. So back to the hardware store again to get another fuel line splice.

Once I tapped into the other line, the lift pump station filled with heating oil and bled the fuel supply all the way to the burner head. We bought this used boiler for $400 last winter off Craig's List with intentions to use it temporarily until we could afford what we really wanted. I recently found out that they don't make them anymore and parts are hard to come by, so it's good that it's only temporary. After I made a power cord using some 14/2 Romex and a repair plug, I installed the exhaust flue and surrounded it with some rock wool insulation left over from the wood stove install. Amazingly, the boiler fired up right away!

I'm still toying with balancing the water flow between the two half loops coming off of one header, but we have heat in the garage slab. The inner portion of the slab is nice and toasty and the outer portion is slowly warming up. 

The temps for the past 10 days or so have been -20 during the day and -35 to -40 at night, so with only the wood stove to supply heat until the boiler was fired up on Sunday night, the garage has been chilly during the day and pretty cold in the AM. We had the kids move into the master suite with us for about a week while I tried to get more heat in the garage. The boiler is kind of manually controlled right now until I get more money to buy a zone valve controller. Two zone valves are installed, but right now I only plumbed in the garage zone. After I take a break for a couple weeks, I'll plumb in the master suite zone and that will be the only two zones to run for the rest of this winter.

Photos

Overview of my boiler install. A lot of money sitting in copper and brass fittings right there. Never would have thought mechanicals could be so expensive.
Closeup of the radiant manifolds.
Closeup of the two supply PEX tubes and two return PEX tubes for the garage slab. There are two loops, 300' long each.
The fuel lift station and temporary carbon monoxide/smoke detector.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 10/19/2011

The past few days I ran two power circuits, a light circuit, and under-cabinet lights in the garage. Since I use my garage extensively, I put the outlets on the north wall on one circuit, and the south wall outlets on another. Also, I have to run two outdoor receptacles on timers to plug the vehicles into during most of the winter to keep the engine-block and battery heaters on. I only had one timer, so I will have to install the other one after I run to town tomorrow for another and more supplies. The north wall circuit has more outlets than the south wall, since my work benches will be located there eventually. It's complete except for that timer, outdoor GFCI receptacle, and I need another 20-amp breaker installed to power it up. I mounted the 4" boxes to strapping on the wall, because I'm going to strap the wall 16" O.C. horizontally, put EPS foam in between and sheetrock over that. I talked to my inspector/engineer and he said that's fine, just staple the Romex to the edges of the studs.

When I was looking at lighting options, I wasn't sure if four 4' two-bulb fluorescent fixtures would be enough, but once I had them powered up there was no question about it, it's plenty. I didn't want the kind with diffusers, because they just get all dirtied up and bugs tend to get trapped in them too. So I went with these ones that have white reflectors and a wire cage over them to protect the bulbs from getting broken. When I roughed in the wiring for the ceiling boxes two months ago, I referenced the wrong wiring diagram and didn't run the right wiring between fixtures for a power-switch-light x 4-switch configuration. So today I took a couple steps back and had to run another run of 14-3 from the first switch to the second one, and ended up using the 14-3 already in place between the fixtures for parallel circuits, clipping the red wire. The insulation and vapor barrier is already in place, so re-routing 14-2 up in the ceiling was out of the question. Oh well, I'll pay more attention next time.

The other to-do on my working vacation was add some under-cabinet lighting for our temporary kitchen. I didn't hard-wire them in though, I took the easy route this time. I bought three little 14" fluorescent  lights that link together and get plugged into an outlet. Later I might put a little switch in the power cord to make it easier to turn them all off at once. I'll have a pretty nice brewing area by the time I'm done with the house and we've completed the real kitchen, leaving me with this setup in the garage.

Tomorrow I won't get hardly anything done since I'll be running to town for supplies and putting studded tires on the wife's van. The roads are slick because the temps are hovering between 20°-30° in the daytime. There was two cars off the road when I went to the Post Office earlier today. Next up is the master bedroom lights.

Photos

Four fixtures do the job here.
The timer temp mounted to spacer blocking on the south wall. Later 1 1/2" foam and strapping will be added to the interior walls.
North wall circuits.
Kitchen cabinets with new lighting installed.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 10/10/2011

I've spent the last three days trying to get all the minimum plumbing wrapped up so we can get by for the winter. I ran PEX lines from the manifold to the washer bibs, temporary bathroom sink, kitchen in the garage, toilet, and temp shower. I broke the first toilet putting it in, so I got a cheaper replacement for now. I found an economy stand-up shower kit at Spenard Builders Supply to use for the winter, the kind that might be used for a remote cabin or work site. $219 for the shower walls, pan, drain adapter, water control valves, shower head, and a curtain. What a deal!

I also set up the temporary kitchen in the garage with used cabinets, sink, and faucet from Habitat ReStore, and a new laminate countertop.  Today I hooked up the stove and hot water heater circuits. Feels good to take a shower in the house instead of the chilly camper. We're still running on minimum power outlets right now, but I hope to add a couple circuits to the garage next week along with some overhead light fixtures. Tomorrow I'll be winterizing the camper and starting work on laying down 1/2" CDX on top of the radiant floor in the master bedroom and closets. Once that's done, next comes the drywall and insulation in the master bedroom.

Photos

Makeshift kitchen in the garage, which will stay in place for later use in homebrewing.
Used bath sink and cabinet from Habitat ReStore temp installed in the master bath.
PEX manifold and enough plumbing for now.
Temp shower set up for the winter while I put in a nice custom tile shower.
Toilet installed, the second time. Laundry bibs and washer in place behind it.
Our temporary living room/kid's room/kitchen/dining set up in the garage. As more gets completed in the rest of the house, some space will be freed up in the garage. This will do for now.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 10/6/2011

I've been working some long hours so it's hard to get much done, but I've been plugging away at the bare essentials to make a functional living space for us. I installed a tee off the pressure tank with a 3/4" ball valve to a branch for the outside hose bibs that will get installed in the Spring, and a 1" branch with ball valves, whole-house filter, and line to the softener. From there I continued a 1" line to the cold side of the Manabloc PEX manifold with a 3/4 tee off to the electric hot water heater inlet.

Today I finished up the hot water line from the heater to the manifold. I was getting pretty good at sweating pipes, then spent a couple hours redoing a couple leaky joints. Oh well. Tomorrow and Friday the plan is to run the electrical circuit to the water heater and hang a couple of kitchen cabinets to create some storage space and get rid of some clutter out from under our feet. I also got most of the DUROCK laid down on the bathroom and laundry floor.

Photos

Back side of water heater and softener plumbing.
Manabloc and water heater connections
Water filter plumbing with 1" line into crawlspace over to laundry room
Most of the DUROCK laid down



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 9/26/2011

This past week we were able to get the soon-to-be-occupied part of the house closed in with vapor barrier, insulation, and a functional wood stove. I also built a 4' high, 4" thick foam partition in the crawlspace to segregate the heated part of the house where we'll be living from the unheated part, since there will be water pipes in the crawlspace under us. The well installer trenched the line from the well to the house (7 foot), into the crawlspace and up into the garage where he installed the pressure tank. No more running a generator to pump water!

Last night was our first frost so we need to get out of the camper soon but I haven't been able to make any plumbing connections in the house yet. Next weekend. Knowing I work long hours and winter is just about here, a couple of friends knocked out the vapor barrier in the garage ceiling while I was at work on Friday. I put the garage door sections up on Friday night and discovered that the vertical tracks were stolen from the site some time between October, 2010 and this spring, because they were on site last year and now they're gone. I'll have to contact the manufacturer to get replacements. I just have them held in with bent-over nails for now. The wood stove easily keeps the garage and master suite nice and toasty. We'll see how well it does when it's -40 this winter.

Photos

A couple visitors stopped by.
Garage door set in place.
Pressure tank installed
Garage ceiling covered in plastic
Foam partition in the crawlspace separating heated/unheated areas.
Wood stove temporarily installed with cement board behind it for heat deflection.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 9/18/2011

This weekend we got a good bit done, but a little more is always nice. Saturday we filled in between the 2x sleepers on the floor and covered over the PEX with sand, but the sand is damp so I used up the rest of my propane on the bullet heater to heat up the master suite in an effort to dry it out. Didn't work so well, but I'll keep the fan blowing across it for now until I can fire up the wood stove and cook it out. Once it's nice and dry, I'll cover over it with some HardieBacker for tile areas and 1/4" OSB for hardwood flooring areas.

The wife finished up the fiberglass in the garage ceiling, so it's now ready for vapor barrier. The well driller stopped by to see what was needed to finish up installing water service to the house. Right now we have a temporary control on top the well casing that we plug a generator into when we need to refill the camper tanks. He's coming back this week to trench the line from the well into the crawlspace and up into the garage and set up the pressure tank. I expect frost within a week, so it's important to get some utilities set up in the house.

I wrapped the inside of the garage door opening with pressure-treated 2x and flashed it. It's ready for the door now, but I'll wait until later in the week after the vapor barrier is up so we have good lighting for that. Today a couple friends stopped by for a few hours and we put up vapor barrier in the great room ceiling, installed a few pieces of drywall where the chimney comes through, and put the ceiling support in for the chimney. I used some .7 mil plastic to enclose the great room at the second-floor walls, creating an air bubble to keep some heat in, making it a little nicer to work in. I hope I can knock out most of the chimney when I get home from work tomorrow evening, we'll see.

Photos

Laundry room circuits and backside of master bath circuits and plumbing. The sand in the floor is the thermal mass for the radiant heating PEX.
Backside view of master bath vanity light fixtures and ceiling fixtures. The vanity lights are temporary until all the paint and drywall is done, then we'll put some nice ones in.
Garage door framed in with PT lumber and flashed.
Great room ceiling with vapor barrier and chimney support installed.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 9/16/2011

For the past couple weeks we've been busy pouring a slab, installing insulation in the garage ceiling, master bedroom walls, master bath walls/ceiling, and running electrical circuits, and other minor stuff to prep for winter. We poured the slab, but the concrete was very slow to activate even with 1% accelerator mixed in. The guys hand-troweled the best they could, because it wouldn't firm up enough to get the power troweler on there. It looks good though.

I put 2" of XPS in the joist bay above the garage and then my wife put 12" of fiberglass under that. She fell off the ladder the other day trying to finish it up and twisted her ankle, but is recovering. I used metal joist-bridging ties to hold the foam in place while the foam board glue dries; works pretty well. Most of the garage ceiling fiberglass is done except for about two more joist bays, which we should knock out tomorrow. The overhead light circuits are run so we'll install the Visqueen very soon in the garage. If I weren't going to occupy the garage for the winter I wouldn't bother, but we have to seal it off from the rest of the unoccupied/unheated space.

I ran all the circuits for the master bath, well pump, water-line heat tape, dryer, and laundry room circuit. I ran short on 6-3 for the stove circuit to the garage, so I have to splice it in at a box and finish that up too. A cheap bath fan is installed for now until next year when I have money to get an HRV installed. The vapor barrier is up all through the master suite, I just need to seal around the ceiling light boxes and put up a few temp light fixtures while I save up for drywall. Over the past couple days I put down battens on the floor, and today ran all the radiant PEX. Tomorrow or Sunday I'll fill in between the battens with sand for thermal mass.

Right now my main concern is installing the wood stove chimney in the great room, hanging the vapor barrier in there to create a large air bubble, and installing the garage door. They're calling for snow next week, so I got to keep plugging along until I get the bare essentials in so we can get out of the travel trailer. Oh yeah, and the dryer venting is installed as well. Here are a couple pics, I'll post more tomorrow or Sunday.

Photos

Finished garage slab
Putting XPS in the garage ceiling
Fiberglass installed 95%
PEX installed for the radiant floor in the master bath, continuing into the master bedroom, then laundry, for one zone.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 8/31/2011 9:11:10 AM

Last weekend and this week, we've been prepping for the concrete pour next weekend and installing fiberglass batts to get us closer to moving in. The trees are turning colors already and the geese are heading south, so there's not much time left to work comfortably or live out of a travel trailer.

Photos




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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 8/23/2011

In August we put down vapor barrier in the crawlspace, Tyvek on the outside, installed the stairs, flashing around the foundation, applied waterproof membrane to the second floor porch deck, insulated the master bedroom, master bath, and garage walls, and started prepping the garage for concrete. I finally took my first weekend off this summer and relaxed. Now we're back at it, as fall is just around the corner and in Alaska it doesn't last very long. We finally have internet!! So I'll have updates on a more regular basis. Here are a few more pics.

Tim

Photos

Tyvek applied to most of the house, still a little bit to finish up if it ever stops raining.
The wife and I geared up for fiberglass batts!
Running the compactor over the gravel again since it was torn up from all the traffic since last year.
The perimeter foam is put down now we're filling in with some sand and thinner sheets of foam closer to the center of the garage.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 8/23/2011

July was an awfully busy month and I didn't have time to post any updates while working full-time and all of my spare time devoted to the house. We finished up the sheathing and roofing, ran a couple circuits, and put in a lot of blocking where required for drywall nailers and fire code. I started on the the back porch and we closed it in to make it available as much as possible throughout the year. We insulated the floor with 2" of EPS and R-13 batts left over from the shop. I'll insulate the rest later. The front porch is done, but I don't have a pic available right now. We put down walnut composite decking there. Here are a few pics from July.

Tim

Photos

Back porch framed up and the rest of the house sheathed.
Landing for the stairs



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 7/5/2011

We've steadily been making progress on the house, a little slow but steady. Framing details slow down my progress, along with limited time. We've got power installed, but still no phone/internet line. The service entrance panel passed inspection first time, thanks to my neighbor who helped me with the install. The roof is 95% of the way framed and covered with underlayment, so most of the house stays dry now. We just about finished framing in the master bedroom bay window, and installed all but one of the fascias (going up today). One more valley still needs framed in the back by the master. I installed the main circuit breaker panel and ran a couple circuits, so now we only use the generator to power the well pump for refilling the camper's water tanks.

We decided to convert the area above the garage on one side to a second-floor porch. My son and I were able to frame it up and sheath it in a day. All last weekend we had to work around the rain. Once my framer gets back on his feet (sick right now) he'll finish up the valley and press on with some stairs. In the meantime, I'll finish the underlayment on the porch, install the one remaining fascia, and install more truss bracing. Here are some pics of the past few weeks' progress.

Tim

Photos

View of the house from the north
View from the front with the second floor porch framed in (minus railings).
View from the porch.
View out the bay window in the master bedroom.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 6/7/2011

Here are some more pics, with the trusses installed and close to what the house currently looks like. After this weekend, I should have more updates.

Photos

These trusses were stood up by me and two helpers. The ones left laying on their side in the middle of the house were put up by another three-man crew the next day.
View from the great room looking toward the front door. The stairs go to the right side of the entry and I decided to eventually frame in a small loft area above the entry instead of having a two-story foyer.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 6/7/2011

I finally made the leap into civilian life and have retired from the military. We are now living on site in the travel trailer and shop. We don't have internet or permanent power yet, so a lot of progress has been made lately - I just haven't had time to post any pics until now. I was able to build the second floor exterior walls and 80% of the interior walls. Finding labor help is easier said than done and in today's economy one would think it would be easier to find willing workers, apparently not. So most of the work was done by myself and a neighbor I hired on as a helper. We got half of the big trusses (45' wide) stood up and I called in a three-man crew to stand up the rest of the big ones and frame the dormer. Hopefully this weekend I can have them finish up the main roof and leave the rest of the framing to me. The plan is to install the service entrance this weekend as well and hopefully have power and internet connected within two weeks. Enough talking, here's some pics:

Photos

View of the second floor framing from the backyard.
View from the front. The catwalk installed made it really handy to go from one side to the other; it stays.
Boom truck setting the smaller trusses up on the top plate.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 3/2/2011

We got the final truss quote in yesterday and paid for them, since the cost of lumber keeps going up and will definitely go up in another month as the building season really gets going. We were able to save $1,500 and get the cost down to $8,700 by foregoing the small half trusses for the porch and some other shed roof areas. We can just hand-frame those areas in pretty easily. In the meantime, I just keep snagging deals when I can from Craig's List and Habitat ReStore. 68 more days to go.

Tim


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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 2/26/2011

We took a load of materials up to our site last weekend and arrived safely, despite that roads were not cleared very well from  6" of fresh snow. I managed to clear 18" of snow off the driveway with a snowblower so we could get the truck and trailer up to the garage. I wish I had taken pictures of everything covered in snow. We installed a service door in the garage and did some organizing despite the temps hovering around zero during the day. They haven't put the power pole in yet, but the spot is staked out and all the trees in the utility easement are cut down and stacked. More firewood!

We left for home in a blizzard. Had 12" of snow on top the truck on the morning of return and the snow kept coming heavily, making the drive a little intense. After about two hours we passed through the mountain range and the weather let up.
 
I finally got approval on my military retirement, so starting in the spring, no more long distance commuting to the job site once we relocate back up north. I'll be taking a couple months off to get the roof on the house and take care of other odds and ends while job searching. Only 72 days until I get back at it!

Tim


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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 2/13/2011

We're putting the plan together for this summer's planned progress. I coordinated with the power company, and initially they said it was going to cost me $5,000 to get power within range of the house. But another agent reviewed my request and said they could bring the power from another direction since, I own the acre across the road as well. Now they're coming in from the west instead of the north and they only have to put in one pole, and it won't cost me a dime to get power within range of my house! I got the call two days before Christmas so I asked the guy if he was related to old St Nick!

Anyway, they should be setting the pole this week or next.  Surprisingly, they prefer to install poles in the middle of the frigid winter vs. summer. We really wanted power to come in underground, but it was going to cost an additional $2,000 to install a meter pole, rent equipment for that, run the line in the ground, and pay for all the line and so on. We decided to put the service entrance on the side of the house, since the power weatherhead has to be two feet above the roof deck, which is 22 ft. off the ground, so the incoming line really won't be noticed anyway. Since we're doing this for cash and every penny counts, we've learned to compromise on some things when necessary if the overall outcome is still good.

I submitted a bid for trusses and it came in at $10K, and that includes transportation across 300 miles and stacking them on the top plate. I looked at another truss manufacturer closer to the building site, and the estimated cost was the same. I wanted to use the closer of the two but the distance between him and I prevents me from meeting with him until it's too late for me to get the trusses in time, because his shop is closed down for the winter until April. So this week I'll meet locally with the bidder who has already reviewed the plans and given me a truss layout plan. But I'll be cutting some costs here (about $2K-$3K) by deleting all the short half-trusses from the order and hand-framing the porch roofs and shed roofs myself. Simple pitches and short spans are easy, and just doesn't make sense to pay high dollar for trusses in these areas.

So the plan for this summer is to get dried in, minus windows, and work on other parts of the house that we already have supplies for while we save for windows. The window manufacturer has already told us he will cut us a deal if we order in the wintertime when they're not busy so he has work for his crew. In the meantime we've been snatching up deals off Craig's List and Habitat ReStore as much as possible. We picked up a used Energy Star rated boiler for $400 and plan to use it for a few years until we have enough money to get the $5,000 boiler we really want.
 
We're trying to get a section of the house habitable next year so we can live there in the winter to reduce our living expenses while saving for more supplies. The boiler was one of the big ticket items keeping us from making that happen. I know a lot of people say stay out of the house until it's finished, and I know it will not be easy, but it's a road we're willing to travel to keep our expenses down so we can complete our build faster and be debt-free when it's complete. I can't wait for spring!!


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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 10/10/2010

It's been a while since I last posted, because I took a month off work to frame up as much as I could before winter hits with a good stopping point. Internet access is not too convenient from the building site and after working 12-14 hr. days, rest is the only thing I could focus on. I hired a seasoned framer to give me a hand with building the exterior walls and framing the second floor joists/decking. Occasional help from a couple of friends helped me keep things on schedule when I got in a time crunch. I actually enjoyed working by myself, but time was limited, so I had to have help more than I wanted to. We sheathed the walls before standing them up to make it easier to keep them square and plumb. Some days were really productive, but some days were counter-productive when framing had to be redone to correct mistakes or when details were forgotten about during initial frame-up.

We got the first floor all framed up minus a couple places that I still have to put in a few pieces of blocking on the shear walls. The second-floor joists are all in place with 3/4" tongue and groove plywood glued/nailed down over it. The tuck-under garage took quite some time (and a lot of glue) since I had to put the I-joists 12" on center across a 22' span, for a 28' long garage. The weather was great, with almost no rain and mild temps for the majority of the time. The plan is to go back in early spring, stand up the second-floor walls and put the roof trusses on. Right now everything is reasonably covered in 6-mil plastic to keep it from getting saturated with snow melt later on. This past month has definitely made me realize how long it takes to build a house by yourself.

I'll try to post some pics, hopefully better luck this time.

Photos

View from rear of the house. Kitchen/dining/study on the left, great room in the middle, and master suite on the right.
Front of garage before sheathing, with joist started on ceiling.
This 18"x5"x18' glulam beam took four of us two hours to manhandle into position near the top of the 9' wall. Most of the beam will be left exposed and coated with poly.
The subfloor almost complete, with a 2 1/2" dropped-foyer floor area. This Asian-influenced dropped floor will minimize dirt being tracked into the house.
View of the front right side of the house. From the front, study, guest bath, pantry, kitchen, then dining.
View outside from master bedroom where the bay windows will go.
View from driveway, garage-door temp installed and everything covered in 6-mil plastic.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 8/4/2010

We took a few days and reused over half of our footing-form boards to install all of our beams in the crawlspace. Since we had the time and the lumber on hand, the wife and I went ahead with the next step and installed about a third of the I-joists that I got a deal on for $1 per lineal foot, and put down most of the 3/4" decking. Then we covered it with plastic until I return in a month with more time and money to finish the first-floor subfloor. I forgot to take a picture of the joists and flooring installed before we left. I put the heating-oil tank in the hole and shoveled in some dirt to keep it in place and keep somebody from getting hurt until I run the lines and backfill completely over it next month. I forgot to bring my big pipe wrench with me this trip, so the fuel lines, vent, and fill tubes have to wait until Sept.

Tim

Photos

Good view of all the beams we built re-using footing forms. About 165 feet of beams. One triple 2x10, and the rest are double 2x10s.
Fuel tank set in place. To the right is my chair for enjoying a cold one after a hard day's work while contemplating the next day's tasks.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 7/20/2010 11:44:29 AM

I took two weeks off to finish the foundation and install the septic. Since the wife, myself, and an occasional paid helper did everything, it took us a full two weeks to get that done. Definitely longer than expected. We took advantage of our long summer daylight and put in a minimum of 15 hrs every day.

Since I had the Bobcat, I did the rough grading and backfilled 90% of the way around the foundation after the cement cured for a week. I kept the dirt about 1-2 feet away from the wall until I get the subfloor down later, so the soil doesn't push on the wall just yet. I wanted to install the mud sills and all the floor beams as well, but we only had time to get this done. I'll go back in 6 weeks or so and put the beams and subfloor down. Enjoy the pics.

Tim

Photos

ICFs erected and ready for the pour next morning.
Making the second trip around with concrete.
Walls poured, waterproofed, and protected for back fill. We also added rigid foam for a frost-protected shallow footing.
Leach field and tank installed, lots of hard work!
2" of rigid foam will reduce the top soil cover to two feet.
Another beautiful day in Alaska, with a double rainbow!



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 6/9/2010

We took a road trip north and put our footings in. The process of completing 260 lineal feet of a 10-corner foundation and 23 post pads took four days to lay out, square, level, rebar, and pour concrete. My wife, a friend, and I worked long hard days but we couldn't ask for better weather. The footings tuned out decent, but a couple of the porch-post pads we worked right at the very end were kinda stiff. We used a boom truck, but in hindsight I should have hired a couple more hands for the pour. Oh well, lesson learned.

I also installed a wood stove in the cabin/workshop for heat when I build in the fall. We leveled out the forms with a water level, partly to save money, but also for the challenge of using an old technique. We're going back up at the beginning of July to put up the ICF foundation walls, septic, and some other odds and ends. I have free access to a Bobcat, so I'll do a partial backfill on the foundation by pushing dirt up, to but not touching the walls. This will save me some time during full backfill after I install the subfloor in Sept. Here are a few pics attached.

Tim

Photos

Batter boards in place, moving gravel around and compacting to level out low spots.
2x10 form boards up and rebar going in.
All rebar in place and boom truck getting ready.
Starting the pour.
My wife working on her screeding skills.
Footings complete, and boards stripped for reuse as laminated beams.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 5/14/2010

My son and I made the 8-hour drive up north last weekend to knock out a few things and prepare for footings. Most everything else was accomplished, but the final compaction couldn't be completed because the final gravel layer was too water-saturated from spring snow melt and the water wasn't going anywhere, since the ground was still frozen down to 3 ft. But we did take a load of materials up with us including all the rebar I pre-bent for my corners. We made sleeping bunks in the shop, so I don't have to drag the travel trailer up every time we make the trip.

I rented a backhoe and had a buddy dig a test hole for the engineer to see the soil conditions where the septic will go. Once he sketches out the septic plan, I'll put the septic in (this summer). I took the required training to install my own septic. I also met with the well driller and he drilled the well this past Wednesday. He drilled through gravel down to 92 ft to hit good water; the last 40 ft. was permafrost gravel. The drilling, casing, pump, and temp. water setup cost $6,660. Just a little dent in the savings... Since he drilled and brought more water on top, I'm having a buddy pump the foundation hole out this weekend so the excavator can compact next week, hopefully. Then we'll go up at the end of this month for about 10 days to lay/pour footings and a myriad of other odds and ends. In August, I'll put up the ICF and install the septic system, and return in Sept. to put down the first floor and garage, and cap it for the winter just before the snow flies. 

Still trying to decide if I want to retire next year or wait until the following year. I badly want out of my current career and location. If I retire next year, I'll have just enough cash to get the shell up with no windows or doors. If I wait until the following year, it will give me enough cash to plumb, wire, and install windows and doors, and build the masonry heater. I guess I'll wait and see how much cash I go through this summer...

Tim


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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 2/12/2010

Well, I'm still chomping at the bit to get building but we're still in scrimp and save mode since we'll be building this with cash only.  Since we're 350 miles away and I have another two years until I can retire from the military, there isn't much I can do right now but study construction methods, surf forums like this, refine the budget, hammer out exactly which materials we plan on using, and seek out deals on tools/supplies. I may try to volunteer as an apprentice to an electrician or plumber this summer just to pick up some practice on two trades I'm only a little experienced in so I can do my own later. The summer of next year I'll have enough cash to put up the shell. The plan is to put the shell up summer/fall 2011 and retire spring 2012 with all summer to finish it.

By my budget/savings forecast we'll have enough cash to build a weathertight shell with water, septic, power, insulation, siding, and masonry heater. This summer we are going to install our own septic tank/field and have the well drilled. As much as I'd love to put in the crawlspace foundation, I'm leery of doing anything this year that can be damaged by time or weather. Frost-jacking is a problem up here.

Our engineer is finished with the final plans, but is having trouble printing them out so I don't have them in hand yet. I'll be using advanced framing techniques as much as possible to not only save on lumber but to maximize the thermal efficiency of the exterior wall. I'm also putting 2" of  EPS foam on the outside with 1x3 strapping to attach the fiber cement siding to. I snagged a deal on the EPS, 106 4x8 sheets at only $12 each!  In order to eliminate almost all penetrations in the vapor barrier, we're strapping the exterior walls inside horizontally with 2x2s every 2' O.C. to run/mount all the electrical and fill the 2' gaps with 1 1/2" EPS (I got 50 4x8 sheets of these for $10 each). This should get me about an R-35 wall with the R-21 batts in the stud bays. I figure the added cost of the extra insulation/strapping is about two to three years' worth of heating oil, which ironically is more expensive in Alaska than the lower 48. Anyhow, just giving an update so my journal doesn't go stagnant and get deleted.

Tim


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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 9/19/2009 5:44:39 AM

Well, this summer we had a contractor finish the excavation to match the footprint.  He excavated to solid gravel at 4'.  Then he brought in and packed 2' of gravel to raise the elevation a bit since the area I'm in is all flat and next to a marshy plot. I wanted to be 1' higher than the neighbor because they had 4" of water in their crawlspace during record rainfall last year.

Photos

Base for footers.
Base for footers with shop in background.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 3/9/2009

Here's a few pics after the hole was dug for the foundation. I also built a 12x20 shop to work out of when construction is in full swing. The shop will be my woodworking shop when the house is finished, and as last resort, temporary residence until the house is livable inside. 

Photos

Excavation progress
Our workshop ready for roofing.
Since this will eventually serve as my wood shop, I took the time to insulate and put up an vapor barrier. Building the shed was good practice for my rusty carpentry skills.



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Posted to NorthPoleHome by Tim in North Pole, AK on 11/19/2008

This will be our future home in North Pole, AK that we will start building in summer 2010. We have already bought, paid for, and cleared the land ourselves. 75% of the excavation is completed also. I put the driveways in myself and built a 12x20 workshop on the property as a base to work out of during construction. I will be putting up pictures of the current progress soon.

We plan on building the house as energy efficient as reasonably possible to keep operating and maintenance costs low for the lifetime of the house. By installing a masonry heater, radiant floors, extra insulation, triple-pane windows, and solar panels we hope to drastically reduce our dependency on oil as much as possible. Natural gas is not an option in the area and the power company uses oil to generate electricity. Still considering boiler options. We've snatched up some end-of-construction-season clearance deals as we seen them to help save on overall costs. So far we picked up 2,200 sq ft of Kahrs' Linnea engineered hardwood flooring for $2.99 sq ft. It's $4.90 in some stores. We also purchased many quality lighting and plumbing fixtures at deep discounts at the local box stores. Hopefully I'll be able to locate my pictures soon and post them.

Photos

Front rendering of the house. We bought plans from Donald Gardner and we're pretty happy with them.
1st floor reversed We're installing a masonry heater in place of the traditional fireplace.
2nd floor reversed
Rear of house reversed



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