Here is the rebirth of my housebuilding blog, originally published on the now defunct Vox platform. It mainly covers the building process from 2006-2007, with some sporadic posts afterwards. I will present each entry as is from when it was first written and add real-time commentary (in italics) when I just cannot help myself.

The Gentle Physicality of Concrete Pouring


It is an education in opposites to watch a crew pour concrete. At first glance, it appears completely physical, requiring more muscle than technique. Quickly, though, you begin to see the art. It’s a hidden dance, but it is there. The juxtaposition of a huge spinning concrete truck shooting gray sludge down a crusted, rusty chute and two guys on the other end, positioning the chute this way or that, ultimately smoothing the surface with a quick motion and nonchalant air, with a grace that comes from motor memory and repetition, is striking. The whole affair is akin to watching a rugby match—brutal, physical, yet highly skilled and fluid.

Proof is in the details: a line of bolts belies the thought and order needed to complete a successful pour. It also reveals the art.

And when the forms come off, when the odd-looking braces and apparatus are stripped away, you are left with the deliciously familiar: walls. Ah, here it is. This is what I’ve been looking for. Here is the beginning of my house.

In Praise of Overhangs

 I was working today at Granite Lake Pottery, installing some storm windows on the studio. It was raining off and on, more on than off truth to tell. But I managed to stay pretty dry because of the generous overhangs on the building. I am a big fan of overhangs and was extremely happy when "First Day" decided to offer them as an extra. They make sense in so many ways. If nothing else, they give a poor dubber like myself a little shelter from the storm.

The forms went up today—it looks striking, almost alien, or maybe Mad Maxian. What it really serves to do is to give one a sense of how the house will sit on the land. The grade is not as bad as I had once thought. Of course, it is not fully graded yet, we have a ways to go. 

The pour happens tomorrow, weather permitting. In the meantime, if anyone needs a bit of mud, drop us a line.

Those overhangs have really been a blessing. Besides keeping rain away from the foundation they play a huge role in keeping the house cool in the summer. By blocking the high summer sun our southern wall of windows doesn't fry us in the dog days of August. The overhangs also gave me the chance to design and build some cool brackets to support the wide soffits. Pictures of those come much later so stay tuned.

Cellar Holes, Footings, and the Beauty of Concrete

These are all stitched-together photos of the building site, from cleared land to finished hole. I would have included a picture of the land before it was cleared but it really just looks like a bunch of trees. That huge boulder in the middle of the cellar hole was too big to be removed and had to be blown up, which sounds a lot more exciting than it actually was.

A game of inches
Met with the excavator yesterday at the site. We talked about window placement, and decided to not bother with windows on the south side since we are building a deck there eventually. Also some confusion on the actual width of the foundation, allowing for a 2” foam insulation on the outside. He is used to shrinking the foundation 4” to allow for the extra 2” all around. This seemed to make sense, but the closer we looked at the plans, the more it seemed he needed to do a full pour. We called J. at First Day and left a message and hopefully will hear from him. At any rate, we need to figure this out before Monday.

Why Monday? Because they are coming to pour the footings on Monday. Then the walls Tuesday. Then they prep the floor for a pour, and we install the radiant heat over the weekend (which is Labor Day weekend, so we get an extra day to finish). Then they pour the floor next Tuesday (5th), and the house kit arrives Thursday. All in all, full speed ahead.

Gray is this year's black
These guys had the forms built and the footings poured by 11am. Rock on, fellas! 

It is amazing to look back at these pictures now, to see the real beginnings of this house we have lived in for the past five years. What is most striking is how small it looks. And that was one of the most interesting parts of the building process--the way the size of the house would seem to change as we completed different steps. At this stage it seemed tiny, when the walls were poured it seemed cavernous. Outside walls framed--small again. Interior walls done--spacious. The eye and mind get tricked so easily. Perception is a fickle mistress.

The other thing that strikes me is at this point I had no idea what I was in for. The whole adventure was laid out before me and I was starry-eyed and blissfully ignorant. Ah, youth.