Friday, July 31, 2015

The structure continues to morph

The structure continues to develop and morph towards the house we have had in our imaginations for so long.  Details are being added, subtle to some, but big to us.  By the end of business today, Frame Stage 1 should be complete.  The pictures I have today are from last night's visit to the site:

The front porch is framed with columns and ceiling joists.  The columns
will be smooth cedar-wrapped.

The foyer is vaulted, matching the entrance structure.  The foyer is separated
 from the Great Room with a ceiling drop, which we will need to decorate.

The structure over the lanai is complete,
as well as the framing of the fireplace.

The entrance to the casita is a slightly smaller version of the entrance
to the main house.

This shows the five-car garage of which the casita is a part.  The garage
has ten-feet (3m) ceilings, and the "fifth car slot" -- around the corner
from the casita structure -- will be my work area for tools and equipment.

Imagine you are looking through three windows, not just their frames, and
the horizontal structure is not present, and you have my father-in-law's view
from his bed each morning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Closing on the Stage 1 finish...

The last two weeks in the Houston area has seen daily highs at or near 100F (38C).  When the temperature gets that high, our humidity actually drops into the upper 20s/lower 30s percent humidity.  All that means is that shade can provide some escape.  For the framing team, they get shade in the morning when the humidity is high (80-90%) and in the late afternoon when it is low.  During the middle of the day, from 10AM to 3PM, they are in the full heat and breezes do not always make it through the trees to cool them.  They take a two-hour lunch to eat and recover, and I have no problem with that.

All that being said, progress continues.  They raised the beam separating the kitchen and Great Room, and they have installed the trusses which form the outside front entry.  Ceiling joists have been added, and today the posts and frame of the porch overhang will be completed.  They also have to add "pony walls" -- walls any height built on top of other walls -- in order to build the vaulted ceiling.

Here are recent pictures:

The partial build of the entrance truss-work.  Each column timber is 7 1/2
inches (19cm) and the build is custom -- the mortise and tenon method is
used to put the wood puzzle together.

The completed entry truss-works soars 16 feet (5m) into the air.  The
wood is Douglas fir and will be stained to complement the theme

This is the headboard dividing the kitchen and the Great
Room, which is 7 feet (2.1m).  It was done to the architect's
specification, but looked awkward, so we changed it.

Here is the modified headboard, now 8 1/2 feet high (2.6m), and looks
much more like it creates flow in the house.

The change of direction of ceiling joists creates interesting optical geometry,
at least I think so.  The picture above shows the change occurring between
the master bedroom suite and the exercise room, a.k.a. bedroom 4

Monday, July 27, 2015

Progress despite the 100F heat

I must say, the speed at which this crew is framing, dealing with 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8C) heat every day makes me wonder how fast they would be if the temperature was only 86 degrees (30C).  They do pace themselves, and I do not mind.  They need to guard their health while they work.

They are now in the slower part of Frame Stage 1: ceiling joists and headboards, which are all preparatory for Frame Stage 2.  All of the remaining work is overhead, which doubles the personnel for each piece (walls are built on the ground first, then hoisted into position).  It is still flaming hot here, and being on a curing concrete slab makes it worse.  Nonetheless, they say that they will be ready for Frame Stage 2 on Wednesday, two days from now.

Here are some recent pictures:

This is the front of the house, looking east.  The braces have been placed
throughout to support the walls until the ceiling joists connect them as a
unit.  Only the outer walls are bolted to the slab.

The stack of pre-fabricated elements in the foreground are pocket
doors.  There are five in the stack and only four in the plans...hmmm

This room here is the Wine Grotto and is designed to hold 1000 bottles
of wine.  It is only 8 feet by 6 feet (1.8m by 2.4m) and will have its own
cooling system.

This is the header which divides the kitchen and Great Room.  The plans
called for this to be at 7 feet for some reason (as it is in the picture), but
we have decided it is too low and will move it to 8 feet.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pushing ahead...

The framing crew continues to amaze me.  They have 90% of the house framed (for Frame Stage 1, which is exterior and interior walls -- Frame Stage 2 is the roof framing), and have only been working three full days (as of yesterday).  The total framed space for the house, garages, and apartment (casita) is about 9400 square feet (873 square meters), the rate at which the crew is putting up walls is amazing.  Today they will slow a bit because they will be finishing the framing of the Great Room, which is 19 feet (5.8 meters) at its apex.  There are several large beams to put in, one of which can be seen below in one of the pictures.  It looks like they are indeed on target to finish Frame Stage 1 by end-of-business today.  Her are photos from yesterday, at the end of the day:

Compare this to yesterday's photo from almost the same spot and
you can really see the progress

A little closer and you can see the details of the foyer and the entire
front of the house is framed

This is one fo the truly custom rooms in the house -- the dining room,
which is 23 feet long and 13 feet wide, able to accommodate 18 people
around the table (actually two large tables end-to-end)

This is the header which separates the kitchen from the Great Room.  It spans
almost 20 feet (6 meters) and is why the board is significantly wider than
the other boards.  The open area you see through the span is where the
14 feet (4.3 meters) high picture window will be located.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The A-Team pushes onward,,,

Yesterday we had generator issues, and the framing team got very little done.  Today, with sufficient electrical power, the A-Team got back on track with a vengeance.  At the end of today, several walls were up, and main house was really taking shape.  Better yet, The Captain thinks that by the end of business on Friday, the walls of the main house should be completely framed.  Well, we'll see.

Here are pictures from today:

The front wall of the conservatory and the bay window of BDR 4.

A wall goes up while I photograph, completing 3 walls of Bedroom 1

A closer view of the bay window

Stepping back and taking a look at what the A=team has accomplished
in two days.  They might be done with the walls by Friday after all.
I will keep posting as things progress; thanks for coming along.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The framing has begun!

It all got started today, the framing segment, that is.  It will take 2 1/2 to 3 weeks to frame the three structures, and we are excited!

I have never been so involved in building a house before, so the exact details of what is done are not always within my realm of knowledge.  When they said 'framing begins Monday', I thought wood and walls would start climbing upward.  Nope, they spend most of the first day transferring the engineering drawings (which show where each piece of wood is to be placed and what type/size of wood it is) to the slab.  They use chalk lines and grease pencils to annotate the entire slab, indicating where each section of frame is to be placed.  Of course they do!  They don't this stuff on the fly and at a whim!  I guess I had not really thought long enough about that one.

I must commend the framing team on their efficiency.  Not all of them arrived at the same time, but when one did arrive, he already knew what he was supposed to do and got after it.  My construction manager said this was his "A Team", and they looked like it from the get-go.  I was not around to see them finish the day, but they almost had the casita and five-car garage framed, and had finished annotating about 2/3 of the main house.

Here are today's pictures:

The door frame of the casita and the outside wall of the
garage went up first.

This is the wall on the back of the casita, with the gaps
showing window placement.

Bathroom 1, Bedroom 2, Bathroom 3, Pam's office, and the lanai 

The captain at his helm -- his table was the first thing built on-site.

The NW wall of the casita goes up, and the SE wall is finished
out.  The captain continues to annotate the main house.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting ready to Frame

The formwork and cement teams are gone.  The pad has had a coarse grading applied.  All the trash has been removed.  Lumber has been delivered.  Framing is about to begin.

Our house is, keep in mind, a one-story home.  Therefore, we have a large slab and at 16 inches stud spacing (48.6 cm), it will take a lot of wood.  Add to that the choice of 2x6s instead of 2x4s for the exterior walls (to gain more insulation), and the amount of wood required gets even larger.

(For my metric friends, a "2x4" is a piece of lumber 5cm by 10cm and then specified by length.  Likewise, a 2x6 is 5cm by 15cm.)

We have lumber in even larger sizes, mostly to accommodate the vaulted ceiling.  I do wonder whether or not what we have on site today is the total we will need, or only the first pass.  Below are some pictures after the delivery of the wood.  The framers come tomorrow.

PS: I fixed the videos on the previous two posts.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Some more action from the pouring of the slab

Yesterday, the form-work crew returned to strip the forms from the slab and clean-up the site.  This is in preparation for the re-grading of the pad area.  My wife and I walked the pad, multi-checking to make sure the utilities (access for water and electrical) were in the right place and identify various rooms as the vision becomes a reality.  We made a picnic of it, sitting among the front groove of trees.  The clean-up crew moved steadily and constantly -- this was not their first rodeo.

I decided to add a couple more videos from the pouring, since I have them available anyway:



These are photos, so do not try to play them  :-)

Friday, July 10, 2015

It Finally Poured!

It is with great elation that I write, "WE POURED THE SLAB TODAY!"  It was truly an amazing operation.  The campus (main house, five-car garage and casita, two-car garage) required 350 cubic yards (268 cubic meters) of cement.  That is 35 truckloads of cement.  From the first pour to the last was 7 hours, a remarkable 50 cubic yards an hour, or one truck every 12 minutes.  There was a team of at least twenty on hand to work the cement as it was poured, distribute the cement, level it, and then plane it.  From this point forward, our weather dependencies will be absolutely minimal.  Cleanup (removing the forms and clearing debris from the site) and rough grading of the property will take place next week.  Monday after next we will begin framing.  Here are some pictures and a video which I took throughout the day:

The first pour began at 07h20 on July 10, 2015.  They started on the
NE corner of the casita


Working to smooth the surfaces before it completely sets up.

The trenches provide strength and stability for the large slab,
and most of the cement is actually in the trenches, not on the surface

This is the last pour of the day, which is in the east corner of
bedroom four, a.k.a. The Exercise Room

Looking across the two-car garage, the porte-cochere, and the main house.  The final surface planing is underway
and the crew would be done within an hour of this picture.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Creeping toward a pour (and preferably not one of rainwater)

Upon our return from a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we went to check out the site.  We were aware that we had two failures in the pre-pour inspection, which had been rectified, but we also had rain, both of which pushed back the slab pour date.  We went anyway, as it is motivational for us.  We did not realize that additional formwork had been done.  The new formwork entailed demarcating the "inside versus outside" elements of the slab.  It adds greatly to visualizing the eventual outdoor and indoor living areas, as you will see in the pictures which follow.

This is a picture from the front porch, looking east.
The porch is 10 feet deep.

Another view of the front porch, looking back to the
southwest portion of the property.

One can see the shape of the bay window which is left of
the front door

This is a view from the left corner of the "five car garage"
which also contains the "casita", or apartment.  The new
forms clearly demarcate the casita.

This shows the wrap-around porch for the casita,
emphasizing a view of the woods.

This the lanai, which is an outdoor social area between
the main house and the casita.

This is the back corner of the house to the east, which
shows the walkway and porch in front of the
master bedroom.