Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I drove by the Hyannis Visitor Center and stopped to take a photo.  It's an interesting design and has some features worth noticing.  It was hard to get a good view because of the power poles and wiring which are just barely cropped out.
I used the Paint Shop Pro perspective correction tool to correct the vertical convergence in the original of this photo. After dragging a rectangle over the lines which should be vertical or horizontal, one click makes things parallel again. It's almost like cheating.  The Visitor Center has half-round gutters and round downspouts, similar to what we will be using.  In my opinion they look much better, although they are not so common and are harder to find.  The round downspout elbows look much nicer than the crinkled rectangular aluminum ones too.  The porch roof will also be metal and I was looking for someone who could install both in the same color.  The gutters often come from one manufacturer and the metal roof from another.  When searching for contractors I found Fall River Seamless Gutter.  They extrude seamless half-round gutters and make a snap-lock standing seam roof panel.  The roofer who installs the shingles can install the metal roof and the roof will match the gutters, although we haven't decided yet if these will be painted metal or copper.

The Visitor Center also has fibercement shingle siding in the upper gables. This is probably the HardieShingle siding. I had also considered a moulded urethane product by Chemcrest. The Chemcrest shingles are moulded very realistically, but their sizes would result in a fair amount of waste and would be relatively expensive.  I had also considered real wood shingles but wanted something easy to care for especially in the upper reaches.  Again I decided on a Certainteed product.

Their shingles have a 5" exposure, which is appropriate for the space available and they have a realistic woodgrain.  Although I don't have long runs of shingles, Certainteed has an interesting system.  They actually have three different shingle panels and a system to keep them random looking.  So much for the modernist principle of form follows function.  Instead it's more like form follows tradition.

The base of the Visitor Center also has a nice light grey-beige kind of color.  We haul our custom color siding samples around and I compared them to this color.  It's kind of interesting that they are a close match.

And here's our custom turtle from Acadia Weathervanes.

Finally, here are a few construction photos.  Eric Hakala and the guys from Pires Construction are doing a nice job on the trim.  Here's an eave detail which has worked out well.  I had carefully planned this so that the 12/12 pitch rake board will meet the corner of the 15/12 fascia from the front gable.  I can plan things out and provide details to try to make things come out just right, but rely on the skill of others to make it so.  I pre-planned the framing details and showed a perspective view to Eric and mentioned that, because of the different pitches, the trim construction sequence would be 1) install the 12/12 fascia, 2) install the 15/12 fascia, 3) install the 12/12 fascia trim and then 4) install the 15/12 fascia trim.  Others may not notice because it's on the side of the house, but I'll know.  So many buildings have odd details because things weren't properly planned.

And here are a couple of photos of the house with the cupola in place.  The cupola windows will go in later.
It's hard to get good angles with all the equipment and materials.  There's not much extra room on site.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cooking with Gas - or Maybe Not

We've assumed from the start that we'd have either a gas cooktop or range.  It's so much quicker than electric and the flame is so visceral.  When we started looking at appliances, we couldn't help but to fall for a big 48" commercial style range with the double oven like this Wolf range.

It has high capacity burners, multiple options for the cooking surface, and just looks so cool.  When considering how we want to spend our money though, a slide in range like this seems to make more sense.

It's much cheaper and still gets the job done.  It's a single oven, but the lower compartment is a warming drawer.  The slide-in ranges are much better looking than the freestanding style, but you do have to worry about the controls on the front surface.

Here's what the Kitchen would look like.

Rather than having the microwave over the range, this shows a real exhaust hood and an over-the-range style microwave in cabinets custom sized to just the right height so the bottom of the microwave is exactly flush with the bottom of the cabinets.

My wife really would like to have a wall oven or preferably a double oven and a cooktop, which is neater and cleaner than a range.  Wall ovens and a cooktop cost more than a range, and the sizes aren't so standardized.  Once you have built-in ovens, their future replacements have to fit in the holes initially provided or the cabinets have to be modified.  So I started shopping again.

Two wall ovens and a microwave make for a tall stack of appliances and the microwave would we a little high - and the microwave gets so much more use than ovens do.  We considered something like this KitchenAid oven/microwave combo, and we could put a warming drawer below it.  The funny thing is, a single oven and a warming drawer cost about as much as a double oven.  The warming drawer is such a simple appliance but they charge what the market will bear.

I saw some Miele ovens which look fantastic, but the price is a little high.  We like the clean euro style, but not so much the euro style price.

Then we went back to IKEA.  Their selection is limited, but they do have the euro style thing down because they're from Europe.  You can get a Nutid (you have to love their product names)oven

which matches the Nutid microwave

and has the same style and pulls as the Nutid dishwasher

and the Nutid counter-depth refrigerator.

I'm not yet used to the looks of the Nutid exhaust hood

but the shape makes sense.  The upper control is just above head height and the surface slopes down so that the exhaust is closer to the cooking surface.

Now for the cooking with gas part.  The latest Consumer Reports appliance review got me thinking about electric induction cooking.  It's even quicker than gas and has amazing controlability.  Here's a video demo.  I think we're convinced that this is the way to go.

Unfortunately IKEA doesn't have induction cooktops in the US yet.  Their appliances have the style we're looking for, have most of the features we're looking for and even a few we didn't expect, they're made by Whirlpool, have a standard five year warranty and the pricing is hard to beat.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's Starting to Look Like a House

The floor beams are in and the gables are up.  Although ridge boards in the past were typically 2x12's, maybe 16' or 20' long, the ridge board being lifted is a one-piece 40' long LVL (laminated veneer lumber) board.  It's not necessary structurally to have a continuous LVL ridge, but does insure that the ridge will be solid and straight, and it's 14" tall so the cut ends of the rafters aren't taller than the ridge board.

This is the beamed ceiling in the Livng Room.  The small square in the middle will be opened up and the dormer is directly overhead, providing light in both the Living Room and the Loft above.

Here's the view to the front.

And this is the view out the back of the house.  The ocean is out there somewhere beyond the trees.  The roof deck probably isn't high enough to see the ocean even after the leaves drop, but there's always hope.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Wednesday morning things started again.  The first floor walls went up and then Friday the hemlock beams and deck were delivered.

The green sheathing is called Huber Zip System.  It should provide a better air barrier than typical house wraps and better moisture resistance too.  The surface and core of the sheathing are both water resistant and the seams receive a high performance tape to seal the joints.  Typical air and moisture barriers like asphalt felt paper or Tyvek type wraps rely on proper installation for effective protection, and plywood wall sheathing is susceptible to water damage.  I always worry about new products and often rely on the tried and true, even if there are concerns.  At least they're typically known concerns. The Zip System seems to have been thoroughly tested and an improvement over plywood and housewrap or felt.

The photo above shows the 2x6 tongue and groove hemlock floor decking.

And this is a view looking through the Living Room area towards the Master Bathroom and Closet.

The beams will be installed Monday and then the roof goes up.  Then it will really start looking like a house.

Monday, November 2, 2009

No Progress

The first floor deck has been complete for three weeks now, but that’s it for work on site. The Porta Potty’s been there almost four weeks and has seen about 1.5 days use. I’ve had these kinds of problems before with subcontractors during busy times, but didn’t expect this now. I was just about ready to find another framer – except that now things are scheduled to start up again first thing Wednesday. The first floor walls will go up and then the 4x10 beams and wooden deck will arrive Friday morning and should go right into place. The windows will be ready on Monday, November 9 but will have to wait at the lumber yard until the framing is finished.  I had fully expected we would have a weather-tight shell this week, ready for window installation on Monday.

In the meantime, the custom cupola is done and ready to go and we’ve commissioned a weathervane. Acadia Weathervanes has a very reasonably priced turtle weathervane, but when I superimposed it on my drawing of the house, it looked a little small. They will make a custom weathervane for me and increase the size of the turtle by about 50%. That should be ready in about two weeks.