They shrunk the rooms!

January 29th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

Drywall is hung

Well, the rooms only shrunk by one inch in each direction since the gypsum wall board is 1/2″ thick. But, the perception of smaller space when the walls are rocked usually sparks similar comments from our clients. Before, we could see from corner to corner of the whole second floor, giving the illusion of longer dimensions for each room.

Actually, that is a design strategy we consciously employ in our work. This photo shows how the windows allow the eye to stretch out into the yard (and even the neighbor’s yard) from the top of the stairs, which makes the spaces seem larger. From this vantage point, if the bedroom doors are open, you can see the great outdoors in three directions. This is really nice; perhaps less as our children discover closed doors as teenagers…

These photos were taken yesterday. We’re still waiting for the taping crew to come. They were supposed to be taping today but never showed up. Maybe it’s too cold out, although the house has been staying nice and warm with its new insulation. Matt and Gary foamed the window shim spaces this week, too, so the building envelope is about as tight as we are going to be, short of the siding.

Acoustic Insulation

Before the drywall was installed, we made sure to have batt insulation installed in the bathroom walls, the hallway walls, and the Master Bedroom wall. This will help isolate sound transmission from room to room. We figured the kids’ closets would provide enough of a sound buffer between their rooms, so we saved a few bucks by not insulating them.

Mary has been studying what kind of shower door we should install. It seems that our tastes veer away from the standard and inexpensive in this regard. A frameless glass door would be coolest, since it would allow the largest opening, swing both ways, and be the cleanest looking. Frosted glass would be desireable, too, but that would be a hefty upgrade.

This is an opportunity for a personal value judgement. Should we save some money or do it right? Odds are we will never change out the door “when we have additional funds”. It will be interesting to see what we do. I’m leaning toward the frameless, frosted glass… There is an outside possibility that a mis-ordered door at Polzin Glass could be modified to fit our opening.

The ERV (energy recovery ventilator) and its pre-heater arrived yesterday. The ERV provides fresh air while balancing the incoming air temperature with the exterior air temperature, saving energy from simply opening a window. In the winter, the fresh air is warmed by the exhaust air. Conversely, the summertime fresh air is cooled by the exhaust air. Makes sense to me. We opted to install a pre-heater for the wintertime, which uses electricity to warm the incoming air to 10 degrees, so the unit will not ice up when we want to ventilate the most and the windows are closed and locked for the winter.

So, now we wait for the drywall to be taped, then the finishes can begin.

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects Comments Off on They shrunk the rooms!

Plum Street Moving Along

January 25th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

Insulation and Tub in Place

Things are coming along well on Plum Street.

Plumbing and electrical rough-ins are complete. The kids’ bathtub is in place and the insulation has passed inspection.

The insulation went smoothly for the most part. We paid extra to have a the insulator coat the ductwork with foam to minimze heat loss. Unfortunately, our inspection revealed that they only foamed the visible side of the ducts, not the whole duct perimeter. We caught this before the cellulose went on top and called them right away, so they were able to finish the foam correctly then get the cellulose in place.

Existing stair remodel

Existing conditions often create some head-scratchers. Here is our stair to the second level. The walls are 1″ out of plumb within six vertical feet. It will look fine when it is finished due to a combination of clever detailing and good craftsmanship by the Contractor. This had to be worked out on site, when the actual condition of the underlying walls was knowable.

Drywall will be completed either Saturday or Monday. This week we met with the cabinetmaker, the tile installer, the shower door supplier, and the hardwood floor installer to keep the balls rolling.

Yesterday marked one month to our desired move-back-in date, so there is much left to be coordinated. We remain optimistic as we see more and more being completed.

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects Comments Off on Plum Street Moving Along

Fremont Circle Progress Reports

January 25th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

Fremont Circle Addition Exterior

The addition has been enclosed, just in time for the cold snap. Here you see the northwest corner of the addition, with windows in place. The cedar detail at the floor line will add a nice balance to the exterior.

Interior work

Here is a look at the interior progress. The ceiling framing actually forms a display shelf in the existing space. I was on site to help decide the right depth of the shelf, an adjustment that is best made in the round instead of on paper. In this case, we did decide to stick with what we had already drawn.

Site visits are also a time when we can work with the Contractor to make adjustments when they are easy to make. We nudged the locations of two electrical outlets and discussed the floor outlet location; also, we went over what will happen for lighting. This sort of conversation helps keep the project heading in the right direction. It’s a whole lot more effective to make frequent minor course corrections than have to make one major correction down the river.

Sheetrock will be hung soon and the insulation will be completed. Art glass windows are in the works, as are custom wood window blinds. Stay tuned!

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects Comments Off on Fremont Circle Progress Reports

Insulation Switch

January 18th, 2008 by Mary Schmelzer

Late last Friday, we spent some time gathering information about AirKrete for the local building official. The insulators were ready to come up on Monday morning and install the stuff, but waited for approval before coming.

Meanwhile, we had Gary and Matt put up vapor retarders and vent chutes to accomodate the Airkrete foam. Everything was ready.

The building official was at seminars all day Monday, but reviewed the data between sessions. At 4:15pm, I called him to find out what he thought. He approved the insulation, so I called the installers and conveyed the good news.

That’s when the clinker clunked. The weather forecast looked too cold (it’s barely above 0 as I type this.) Airkrete is a cementitious foam, meaning that its base is cement. Cement needs to hydrate and cure, and relies on water for hydration. As I understand it, improper hydration could cause the product to slump, or sag within the wall cavity leaving gaps that would need to be repaired. Also, the hoses and equipment are subject to freezing, which can damage them badly.

They estimated a week to install the foam, followed by a week of curing time before the sheetrock could go up. Given the forecast, that would mean a three week minimum delay and the possibility of slumping.

We called Heim Insulation and had them price Icynene foam and cellulose. Their crews were available and the price seemed fair. Today they are installing Icynene in the walls and cellulose over 3″ of Icynene for the ceilings.

Although we didn’t get Airkrete, I believe we will have excellent performance from the new insulation. We saved the fuel of getting the Airkrete installers up from Iowa and the energy we would have spent keeping the uninsulated house from freezing while we waited for warmer temperatures. This should offset the petroleum usage in the icynene.

Airkrete is a bit unknown in these parts, and we spent considerable time learning about the product and studying its properties. I do believe it is “greener” than icynene, but it just wasn’t meant to be on this house. That being said, there is a cavity in the kitchen walls that could be filled with Airkrete if it warms up before the siding is on…

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects Comments Off on Insulation Switch

Ready for insulation

January 12th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

Soffits complete

This week, Duden & Viken put in the remaining soffit panels at the second floor and the finish trim around them. They add a nice level of smaller scale and refinement to the project (even though they are difficult to see in this photo…)

Vapor Retarder Detail

Inside, we applied poly to the ceilings to receive foam insulation. The insulation will follow the second floor ceiling, follow up the attic truss knee wall, extend up the sloped attic ceiling, across the flat attic ceiling, then back down the other side the same way. We devised the idea of using rigid foam to help create continuity of the vapor barrier while limiting the foam insulation to the areas that need it. Gary and Matt did a nice job of fitting and foaming the rigid into the spaces between joists (actually, these are the bottom chord of the trusses.)

May have a delay in the insulation: the local Building Official needs to review AirKrete’s testing data and approve it. Apparently, the State of Minnesota knows nothing of it, even though it has been around for decades and has been installed all over the place, including Biosphere 2 in Arizona.

Sheet rock on the lids

Then, in one day, all the sheetrock went up on the second floor and attic ceilings. Still waiting on exhaust fans in the bathrooms, so those ceilings couldn’t go up.

It is exciting to see the project move toward finished spaces! We see how much nicer the house will be for us when we move back in.

At the same time, this is the tough stretch for the family. The novelty of living in temporary and slightly (heck, tremendously) undersized accommodations has worn off. We’ve been at it long enough to have forgotten which box in storage holds which stuff. Several evenings and weekends have been spent sweeping up after the contractors to help control costs. We miss our laundry machines and dishwasher dearly. Christmas without a decorated tree was pretty weird.

Still, I think it has made us stronger as a family. We have all had to become aware of how our habits and actions impact each other. Picking up after ourselves is paramount, since space is so tight. There is no way not to share meals together. Everyone has stepped up their efforts at pitching in around the house with cooking, dishes, snow-shoveling, and other tasks.

Our family and friend have helped out a lot with moral support. My friend Chris dropped by with beers last night; Mom and Dad have been following this blog almost on a daily basis. Neighbors have been watching and commenting all along. We spend New Year’s Eve at another friend’s home. These acts of kindness have not gone unnoticed! Thank you all!

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects Comments Off on Ready for insulation

Northfield United Methodist Church Kitchen Dedication

January 11th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

Church kitchen remodel

Wednesday evening, Mary and I attended the Super Wednesday meal and Dedication of the newly remodeled kitchen, which we designed. The place was really bustling, unlike this photo shows. It looked like a full hall after everyone had been through the serving line.

The food and company were great; it was nice to see the fellowship and community action supported by our work.

Super Wednesday happens each week during the school year; I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you dropped in to see the kitchen if you stayed for a cup of soup and a sandwich!

Northfield Construction handled the demolition and construction; Nerstrand Custom Cabinets built the cabinets; Bierman’s installed the flooring; Keith Pumper took care of plumbing and HVAC; Guth Electric did the wiring and lighting. The church is pleased with the project and the improvement it has made in their meal ministry.

Posted in All Entries, Community, Portfolio + Projects Comments Off on Northfield United Methodist Church Kitchen Dedication

Seeing Sheet Rock for the First Time

January 10th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

Gypsum Board being Delivered

Monday was another milestone (or maybe we’re just grasping for the finish…) The first load of sheetrock was delivered.

Last window upstairs

Then, without much pomp or circumstance, the guys installed the last window upstairs. No more ladder access to the upper level.

This also coincided closely with passing both electrical and plumbing inspections. Then, we passed framing inspection; the electrician drilled through the bottom chord of the attic trusses, but a quick note from the engineer appeased the building inspector’s concerns.

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects Comments Off on Seeing Sheet Rock for the First Time