Wednesday, November 30, 2011

products galore: A Toasty Floor for Camping

Photo by Anna Wolf via Randi Brookman Harris
we can't think of anything better than waking up on a cold winter morning and putting your bare feet down onto a toasty warm floor.  so we are using a product called warmboard to heat the entire house.  warmboard is a radiant heat panel that creates the subfloor.  it uses hot water running through a system of pex-aluminum-pex tubes in conjunction with a conductive aluminum panel to evenly heat under your finish floor (hardwood, tile, etc)

radiant heat has been around for a long while, however warmboard has some really awesome features that we love.  unlike other radiant heat systems warmboard responds quickly due to its highly conductive panel and its low thermal mass.  other systems use concrete as the conductor which heats slowly and cannot respond to temperature changes throughout the day.  and unlike forced air their are no air registers to see, and no hot air blowing to dry out your skin.  you are also saving energy by not heating your ceilings which leaves your feet chilled, because we all know warm air rises.

Warmboard Explained

so what if you aren't building a new home but would still like the comfort of radiant heat?  bathrooms are a great place to start and warmboard has a new product that is thinner and can be used in renovation situations its called warmboard- r panel 

our warmboard is arriving tomorrow and it should be a breeze to install these panels on top of our floor joists!  it is exciting to think that in just a few days not only will our sub-floor be in place but so will our heating system!

Monday, November 28, 2011

progress report: building the first floor

as planned björn and i worked all day on thanksgiving and there was no shopping til we dropped on black friday, it was back to work for us.  however, we accomplished most of our list from last week which is really exciting! here is what we worked on:

we placed the sill plates on the stemwalls this was our final chance
to make sure our house is perfectly level

the foam creates a barrier so that no air can get into the foundation

björn tightening the bolts down on the sill plates

next björn used a hammerdrill to drill holes in the foundation floor to secure pony walls

i also used the hammerdrill but it proved to be a little jarring 

after screwing down the bottom plate we added the vertical boards at 24" on center
björn got to use his new hatachi nail gun

these pony walls will support the floor joists to ensure that we have a really solid feeling floor

me using the nail gun

all of our finished pony walls!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy thanksgiving

we have so much to give thanks for this year- the project is moving forward and going better than planned, we both are healthy and happy and we are so thankful to be able to share our adventures with you.  we are working this thanksgiving day but we will be enjoying a beautiful thanksgiving fest later this afternoon.

our rustic thanksgiving table awaiting all of spoils for our thanksgiving feast

i took some time to decorate our thanksgiving table so that we can have a very festive meal.  i hope everyone has a wonderful holiday with people you love, good food and a lot of things to be thankful for!

another shot of our purple, sage and ebony table

the desert table- all it needs are the deserts!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

progress report: finishing up the foundation

one of the challenges we faced because of our decision to use Insulated Concrete Forms to build our stem walls was what to do where the foundation is above ground.  we planned on having about 6" of the foundation above the ground level however, if you recall the ICF's have foam on the exterior.  

we could have applied a finish to the foam however, this would leave us with a small ledge where the "house" sits on the foundation.  in order to avoid this problem we removed 8" of the foam from the stem walls, exposing the concrete wall behind.  this worked out well- but now we were faced with the problem of the plastic bracing built in to the ICFs being exposed as well.

in order to cleanly cover the entire area that will be above ground we had some colored metal flashing made.  this was simply a piece of metal with a 2" flange a 90 degree bend and an 8" flange.  this we tacked all around the perimeter of the foundation.  the sill plate will sit on top of this flashing.

the flashing around the corner of the stemwall-
and our beautiful water-proofing job

we also water proofed the entire foundation using a peel and stick water proofing product called Tamko TW-60, it is a rubberized asphalt product designed for below grade applications. our foundation is going to be super dry and that makes us excited.

what also makes us excited is the fact that our guys are back and working hard to clean up the site.  they are putting down a foundation drain with gravel on top and eventually will be back filling the hole around the foundation to bring everything up to ground level.  it will be nice to have the dirt under control!

the drain pipe will direct water away from our foundation

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

expert advice: money money money

björn has been urging me to share our experience/misadventure in securing the financing for this little project, although i have been a little hesitant to get on my soap box i guess it is part of our experience, good or bad.  the word that comes to mind when i think about the financing is nightmare.

we started the process of securing a home loan in early august of this year.  the plan was for björn's mother, who owns the property, to get a mortgage on the little red house that she lives in currently.  this home has been in her family and unencumbered for years, so we thought "oh this will be easy."  we only needed about 50% of the home value which should not have been a problem.

the little red house- needs some work but thats another post

we filled out an application from Wells Fargo, first mistake, however, we thought it would be the easiest approach due to the fact that björn's mother does all of her banking with Wells.  after filling out the application we heard NOTHING, we called, left messages, waited, maybe heard back from the losers at the Durango branch of WF, maybe not.  this continued on for weeks, we had to coax information out of our assigned loan officer, we basically scheduled our own appraisal after in numerous calls to figure out what was needed to finished the application.

we had been hoping to close our loan and secure the money by the middle of october. hah- Wells Fargo assured us that our application would be made a priority but that they had no way of telling us a closing date, they "can't really communicate with the underwriters."  after the 15th of October had come and gone and we hadn't heard a peep from that lame-o, our loan officer, björn started to get angry- we felt trapped, certainly our loan would be approved- they kept telling us everything looked fine- but why was it taking so long?  and we couldn't possibly start another application at another bank this late in the game, that would delay us further.

the straw that broke the camels back was when we received a letter in the mail from Wells which requested we take a survey on our loan experience!!!- "we don't even have it yet you jerks!!!"  björn called in the big guns and ended up calling the office of the president of Wells Fargo.  a representative who compared himself to the man guarding the wizard of oz, was able to track down our loan- apparently it had been swirling around the under writers offices with some outstanding information still needed from us.  what really ticked us off was not that it had gotten lost in the shuffle but that our loan officer had not communicated with us, if he needed info from us we were happy to give it to him.

"nobody can see the wizard, not nobody, not no- how"

it was now october 31st and we still had no loan nor did we have a closing date.  we faxed all the additional info to the underwriters that they needed and then we went to a different bank - a local bank!  although i would have loved to go down to the durango branch of Wells Fargo and punch our loan officer mr. loser in the nose, but no we went to a local bank, just to chat.

björn, his mother and i sat down with the bank of the san juans- a local southwest colorado bank at 10:00 am on halloween.  by 10:30 our representative there, tom, had set us up with all of the information we needed on securing a home equity line of credit for the amount we requested.  all we had to do was to fill out the application, they would use our previous home appraisal, and they could discuss the application in the weekly meeting and probably have the loan approved in as little a 5 days!  FIVE DAYS- it had been three months at Wells Fargo and we still didn't have a closing date- what was wrong with this picture.

i could go on about the injustices of a huge giant bank like Wells Fargo used tax-payer bailout money to do some not so awesome things, or the fact that they are making millions of dollars on home mortgages for doing paperwork- because in reality that is all it is- an i.o.u- nothing is real money anymore.  this isn't Its A Wonderful Life anymore, and neither is Bank of the San Juan but its closer-

Jimmy Stewart explaining just how savings and loans work-
 via The Great Mortgage Revolt

to wrap up this story- we continued to pursue the Wells Fargo loan- just in case, but in the end Bank of the San Juans won out- they were able to get us approved in a little over a week and have the money in hand- it felt good to tell Wells Fargo to go....well you know.  i am also looking forward to filling out their little customer satisfaction survey.

what did we learn?  i think björn and i both agree that if we could do it all over we would have gone to a small bank first or better yet a credit union, Durango is fortunate enough that it is still a small town and that it has a few small town banks left.  just think, the money this bank is making off of us is staying in durango, to help people who live in durango- what a concept.  our advice to you is to try your hardest to support your own local banks.  credit unions are even better be because they are owned by you and they are not for profit corporations, not only will you get much better service than you will at one of these giants (BofA, Wells, CapitalOne, etc) but you may just be helping out your neighbors too.

we have the money- FINALLY! we can pay back all of our credit cards and replenish our personal bank accounts, and not worry about how we are going to pay for materials labors and we are feeling like it IS A Wonderful Life!

Monday, November 21, 2011

progress report: monday

mondays used to be such a drag but now i look forward to all of the projects that we are going to complete on the house during the week.  its still a little hard getting up for 7 am yoga on monday mornings but when i return home i am ready to get to work on the project.

now that we have our foundation complete the building process will start to happen a little more quickly, we hope.  we are going to be building the first floor this week- which involves building poney walls in the crawl space and then laying up sill plates and the floor joists.  we will also be water proofing the foundation and getting ready to back fill.  our friends at  Carll Construction will be working on getting the permitting to dig up our street to install the water and sewer lines.  this is definitely an aspect of the project that björn and i cannot take on ourselves so we are thankful for the help.

i thought i would share a few photos of another project we were managing during all of the other work we have been doing on our house project.  björn's grandmother, the one with the awesome apartment that we stay in, here, has a rental property in durango that need a new deck built.  here is the finished product!

this week is thanksgiving but we are planning on working right on thru the holiday, only taking a break to stuff our faces with turkey and pumpkin pie!  ciao

Friday, November 18, 2011

progress report: we are pretty awesome

it has been a while since i have updated you on our progress.  björn and i have been very busy in the last week and i am excited to share all of our progress with you.  after driving back from the boulder area last wednesday we got right to work.  our concrete slab, seen here, was looking great.  one week after pouring, the concrete is cured enough for us to work on.  we removed all of the concrete blankets and plastic last friday and did our best to clean off the slab.  

the next step was to build our stem walls.  in the old days one would hire a contractor to build and pour your stem walls.  he would come with a truck filled with wood to build a form for the stem walls.  this would take a few days to construct and brace and when they were finished pouring the concrete and letting it cure he would take off the forms and you would have a concrete wall.  well, that seemed like a lot of work for björn and i so we researched other options.  what did we find?... ICF's!  otherwise known as Insulated Concrete Forms-- and that is just what they are.  made of 2.5" styrofoam "walls" braced with plastic these giant legos fit together to create the forms for the stem walls.  they can be stacked pretty high, however we only needed two layers for our 32" crawl space. 

we were so happy to find Build Block out of Colorado Springs and distributed by Block Busters in Cortez, CO.  they are a great product and we had a lot of success using them. once we built our stem wall perimeter we added rebar and then poured concrete, it was that easy!  the foam remains on so you have an insulated crawl space, pretty great if you ask me.

as you can see the blocks were extremely heavy!

most of the blocks were left full lengths but we cut some blocks to fit our design.

a straight block and björn working with a corner block

the black plastic fins helped to brace the 2.5" of foam and also acted as rebar ties
we added two pieces of #5 rebar along the entire perimeter.  this gives some extra strength to the concrete.

we also added a few chases through the
stem walls with pvc pipe, this one is for the sewer line.

our finished wall assembly with some additional bracing- ready for the pour tomorrow!
our friend Nichols concrete pumping was on the job again!

rob filling the walls with concrete

björn and jack using a vibrator to vibrate the concrete into the walls

all the walls are filled

working the vibrator!

as the concrete set up we added anchor bolts which will be essential in the next step of the building
adding the floor system!

we are so stoked at our progress thus far.  in a little over two months we had built a rock wall, dug a big hole, had it compacted, cut and bent rebar, poured a slab and built and poured stem walls!  im just sayin...we are pretty awesome!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

products galore: wood stoves

björn and i had been debating about a fireplace versus a wood stove versus not having anything at all.  he grew up with a wood burning stove, i grew up with fireplaces.  i don't know if its because the weather has turned cold but i am definitely all for having a wood stove- its seems much more colorado-y (great word i know) there is something about cozying up to a crackling fire on a cold afternoon that is so dreamy and perfect. there are a lot of great examples out there of stoves that i would love to have.  here are a few we are considering and a few i think are cool!

a cute little stove with wood storage via style-files

c-four stove, six colors to choose from via charn wood

wuelh yanes wood stove via design boom

this one you can cook on! esse ironheart stove via

shaker wood stove- i really like this one! via wittus

classic 4 wood burning stove- you can bake a pie in this one!  via euroheat

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

designers we heart: air force academy, colorado springs

björn had to go to work on sunday morning and due to all of the snow in durango we were force to drive north to colorado springs so that he could catch a flight out.  colorado springs is a beautiful place geographically.  the mountains to the west of the city rise up so quickly and you can see majestic pikes peak from just about anywhere.  colorado springs is also home to the air force academy and the site of this great building designed by famed architect, walter netsch of skidmore, owings and merrill.  this building serves as the cadet chapel and is a beautiful example of a space which can evoke a feeling of spirituality and awe in just about anyone.  completed in 1962 the chapel consists of 17 spires made up of 100 tubular steel tetrahedrons spaced one foot apart.  the void between the tetrahedrons is filled with colored stained glass which glows from within. the 17 spires resemble fighter jets soaring in the sky and the piece is truly a great example of modern architecture.

view of the chapel from a wooded path leading from the visitors center

the interior of the chapel and the protestant worship space

the beautiful spires

the other buildings on campus are pretty interesting as well especially with the
 mountains as a backdrop

i enjoyed my visit to the air force academy chapel and was even fortunate enough to attend a service in the beautiful space.  i think that the mission of the chapel is important to note, the goal is "to inspire men and women to become leaders of character by providing spiritual care and facilitating the exercise of free religion."  

all photos via me for design house love


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