Construction Materials

Posted by Mike at 10:01 pm

After a couple weeks of not doing much on the house, I’ve started working on the drawers for the kitchen cabinets. I built the base cabinets a while ago so we could get our granite installed, but I’ve been dragging my feet on finishing the rest of the cabinets up. But, Amy won’t let us entertain until they’re done so I’m on the job again.

I decided to use poplar for the drawer boxes because it’s relatively inexpensive and soft which makes it easy to work with; especially when making dovetails. Hardwood can crack and can be difficult to fit together. My supplier only had 3/4″ thick material in stock so I bought that and planed it down to 5/8″. They also only had certain widths so I got 5-1/2″ and ripped it down to 4-1/2″ for the upper drawers. The lower drawers will all be 11″ tall so I have 8-1/4″ material for those. Then I cut a 1/4″ groove a half inch from the lower edge to receive the bottom of the drawers. For that I got some 1/4″ melamine with maple coloring.

Once I finish the drawers, I’ll start work on the uppers and the panels for all the doors and drawers and for our built in refrigerator. Lots more fun to come.

By the way, here is a video of me routing the dovetails for the drawer boxes.

Posted by Mike at 10:43 am

We are just about done with our master bathroom. We opted not to put a bathtub in the master since neither of us really take baths (we do shower however once a week whether we need it or not. And, we have bathtubs in both of our other bathrooms if we really want to take a bath). We decided not to have a huge master since we just use it for a half hour each day. But, we did put in a pretty large walk-in shower. We also opted for a water closet for the toilet with a pocket door for privacy. Then we installed two separate hanging sinks with a hanging cabinet between them.

Getting the shower ready was a pretty big process because we needed a shower pan. Ideally we would have sunk the shower pan into the concrete floor, but that needed to have been planned months before and would have caused a week spot in the structural floor. No doubt there would have needed to have been some changes in the structural engineering which took place more than a year ago. So I poured the pan on top the regular floor. After pouring the concrete for the shower pan, installing a rubber membrane, and pouring concrete over that I was ready to tile the floor.

For the shower floor we opted for a cut river rock. We’d both stood on a full river rock floor and it actually hurt our feet. The material we selected is cut flat and affixed to a nylon mesh in 12″ x 12″ squares. That worked quite well and allowed the stone to curve with the contours of the shower pan. I installed that and grouted it in a couple days. For the wall we again used the 12″ x 24″ tile, but put it horizontally (unlike the bathroom downstairs). We went all the way to the 9′ ceilings which ended up being a lot of tile. Amy grouted all the walls, caulked the corners and cleaned the tile. Now all we have to do is seal the tile, install one piece of base trim and we’ll be done… for now. Amy would like to tile the entire north wall of the bathroom which I agree would look nice, but I didn’t have it in me to finish it now. It’s been added to the list of future projects.

Posted by Mike at 10:14 am

Originally I had planned to pour concrete counter tops for the kitchen. I did it in a previous house and thought they looked awesome. But that was way back in initial planning when we were going to have hardwood floors. We ended up putting in concrete floors and we figured more concrete would have been too much. And fortunately we found some money in our budget so we decided to get granite.

We looked at a lot of granite suppliers in the Denver area and it was really hard to pick out a slab. It’s amazing how every store has just about the exact same stone and none of them really jumped out. Let me clarify, none that we could afford jumped out. There were lots of “exotic” slabs that were amazing. To make it a little more difficult, we had a long dimension on the south wall and I didn’t want to have a seam. So we needed a slab about 126″ long and most slabs are about 110″. After several days and many hours of looking at stone we finally picked a slab that was okay, but neither of us were super excited about it. Then on the way home we decided to stop in one more place we had been before and there was our slab. We were both really pleased. It has some really cool textures and we love it. On top of that, we could get all our counters out of the one slab and we even had extra for the window sills in the kitchen. I guess things happen for a reason.

Note: I made all the kitchen cabinets out of 3/4″ maple plywood. You can see the unfinished base cabinets here. I am currently in the process of making the drawer boxes and door fronts as well as the upper cabinets.

Posted by Mike at 9:38 am

Landscaping is expensive. I mentioned this in a previous post. We got a bid for about $20,000. That’s CRAZY!  Actually, I wish we could afford to hire someone for all it, but we can’t. Most of it I could do myself, but it would take a lot of heavy labor. So we decided we’d do some things ourselves like put in the irrigation system, put in plants and trees, and seed or sod some grass. But we decided to hire someone to put in some rock. And man am I glad we did.

We had many tons of cobble stone delivered before the driveway was poured so heavy trucks didn’t need to drive on it. Then a few weeks later a crew came in and went to work. They installed a “dry” river bed in the front of the house. I put dry in quotes because when those afternoon monsoon rains come, it is no longer dry. It is however extremely functional and channels the water away and around the house. We also had about 40 feet of 2 foot high retaining wall built on the south side of the house where the lot sloped  pretty severely. Then we had them install a three foot wide band of cobble around the entire yard. Lastly, they graded around the house and installed three feet of cobble there too. All in all, it was definitely worth the price.

This fall we’ll hopefully be planting a lot of vegetation. We plan on taking advantage of the sales and getting lots of plants and a few trees to put in the ground.

Posted by Mike at 9:56 am

The basement bathroom has been up and running for a while now. I had a couple friends come out and visit the first week of June so I had to get it ready. That meant tiling the shower and getting the sink, toilet, and urinal installed. I worked a few long days and the plumbers were able to come the day before my friends arrived to get everything hooked up.

For tile I originally bought 12″ x 12″ slate for this bathroom but then I discovered that almost every tile was not square; one end to the other was off by 1/8″. That makes it impossible to have straight grout lines. I called the tile store and they said there was variation because it was a natural product. BULLSHIT!  I’d buy that with color and thickness, but nature didn’t cut the stone into 11-7/8″ x 11-3/4″ (almost) squares. So I returned all that and went with a 12″ x 24″ porcelain tile installed vertically. It is called metallic brown and is meant to look a bit like rusted metal. You can cover some area pretty fast with such a big tile, but it is a bear when the wall isn’t flat, which was the case in a few spots. Oh well. It’s in now.

By the way, the urinal is one of my favorite things in the house. I work at home so it’s pretty nice to walk across the hall and have a urinal to use.

Posted by Mike at 1:04 am

Since we got screwed by our stairs contractor, we had to come up with our own stair treads. I ordered material from a mill in the mountains, but I chose to finish the material myself. It ended up taking three full days. I had to cut the material to length, plane it smooth and to thickness, sand it smooth, and then mount it. Fortunately the 12″ ( 30cm) treads fit in my planer so I was able to make at least two sides smooth. Then I sanded the other two sides which wasn’t hard until my belt sander started smoking and almost started on fire. I ended up using my random orbital sander to finish up the surfaces and the my router to round over the edges. In the end I think we got a great staircase at fraction of the cost of retail staircase with similar features. Take a look…

Posted by Mike at 3:00 pm

We finally got the driveway poured today. This is one if the biggest steps we’ve had so far. No longer must we cringe when rain (or snow) is forecast for fear of a muddy, mucky, gooey walk to the house. We have a nice new concrete driveway and sidewalk. It runs all the way out to the road which is over 100 feet (32m). It’s 16-feet wide (5M) and has a 20′ x 40′ parking and turn-around area. They also poured the sidewalk up to the front porch. It all turned out really nice.

The guys started to form everything Monday morning around 6:30. They had to move a lot of dirt. In fact, they trucked out 3 tandems full. Most of this was the recycled concrete tracking pad we had to put in. They were done forming about 1:00. The next morning the crew showed up about 10 minutes before the first cement truck at 7:00am. They were done pouring around 1:30. All told, there was over 3,000 sq ft of concrete which was just over 40 cubic yards. This marks the last of our concrete on the house project. Here are a few pictures of the forming and pouring.

Posted by Mike at 9:02 am

We’re almost done with the trimmers. They started a couple days ago and have been fantastic. They are like artists with door and trim as their canvas. As some of you may know, I like woodworking, but I don’t have the patience or skills to do trim work. It’s really difficult to get all the joints perfect. This is why we decided to leave it to the professionals. So we got the doors ordered a couple months ago and delivered last week, trim ordered last week and delivered Monday, and the guys started Tuesday. We used fir wood throughout the house and we plan on just clear-coating it which will help bring out the grain nicely. Here are a few pictures of the progress so far.

Notice the transom windows above the living room doors. These were a decision we made to help balance out the front door which is 8 feet tall (2.4 m). We saw at a house an 8ft entry door with a standard 6′ 8″ (2 m) closet door and the different heights didn’t look right. Then at a different house we saw an 8ft entry door with an 8ft closet door, but the closet door was so narrow and tall, that looked off too. So we decided to do an 8ft closet opening with a 6′ 8″ door and 1′ 4″ transom above. We hoped it would help balance out the heights and provide a little light in the closet too. But we didn’t stop there. Of course once the close door was that tall, Amy felt the doorway into the guest bedroom and bathroom hallway would look off. So guess what?  A transom there too. And then what about the laundry and master bedroom doors on the other side of the room. Those would be off too. Well, we better do transoms there as well. So now we have four doors with transoms over them. I think it looks awesome though. Ahh the joy of building.

Posted by Mike at 5:21 pm

We’ve got drywall. I repeat, we have got DRYWALL!  OK. That’s a pretty big deal. It is amazing how different a house looks when there are actually walls. If you don’t believe me, just watch the video tour below. Whoops!  I said insulation when I meant drywall.

Not much to say about hanging the drywall. Not really any drama or problems. It took a while to get to this point because we failed rough plumbing inspection twice and we failed our rough framing inspection once. But once those were done we had insulation installed in a day and then the drywall started. The drywall was delivered Thursday, they started hanging last Friday (just 2 guys), continued Monday (still just 2 guys), had another join them Tuesday and Wednesday, and that was it. I had an inspection today and they passed. Tomorrow hopefully the crew for taping and mudding joints will start. They claim that take about 3 or 4 days. I hope so. I guess I better find a painter.

Here are a few photos of the project: