Monday, May 30, 2011

Finishing the Framing

Today was the final day of framing.

Here's a walk through of the framing work, including short explanations of staggered studs, thermal bridging, space efficiency.

Here's a homemade 'music video' of the crew putting the final window into place.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Putting a Roof Over Our Head

The framing is almost complete! All that is left now is to put in the windows.

Starting next week, we’ll be putting in the windows, and beginning the electrical work and doing the rough plumbing. In the last couple days, we've placed the sheathing on the roof, finished framing out the windows and skylight.
For those of you in the Portland area, I hope you are able to come to the first open house on Sunday from 12-2pm. Here’s more information about it. This will be the construction phase open house, where you will get to see the completed framing work. If you're not able to make this open house, fear not. We'll have one or two more of them in the next three months.

Siga wrap-the weather resistant barrier

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Second Floor and Roof Sheathing

This video series shows the sheathing, facia board, interior and exterior walls, the stair design, and more!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Raising the Roof

The roof framing

Raising a 500 lbs ridge beam 20ft into the air by hand is not an easy task. It takes strength and communication.

Here's a five minute video of the crew of eight, raising and placing the ridge beam at the apex of the structure.

The roof itself rests on joists, which span from the balloon framed sidewall members, to the ridge beam.

Here are some pictures of the day's events

The skeletal shell of the ADU is almost complete. The next several days will consist of sheathing the roof, framing the interior walls, installing windows, and wrapping the structure in a weather resistant barrier.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Framing (part 2)

The first floor has been assembled. Here are some videos of the 2nd floor being built.

First, the wood must be dropped off. This is not how I imagined they did this.

Here's videos of the second floor being built.

Then, we balloon framed the west wall.

Here's an update at the end of the next day.

Holy cow! Tomorrow, we'll be finishing the roof!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The Framing has begun. Amazingly, this phase is only going to take 7-10 working days, but will result in what will look like a house. I won't be able to keep up with the pace of this framing crew, but will certainly post pictures and videos as I'm able.

The first day of framing was incredible. Before my very eyes, the structure that I had been seeing in SketchUp models and in my mind's eye for months, was crystallizing into a solid, beautiful, purpose-filled form.

Here's a four minute video that shows the Balloon framing process during the first day.

Here are some pictures of the framing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Foundational Fundamentals: (Part 3) The Pour and Flatwork Finish

We poured and finished the concrete floor.

This phase of the project, more than others leading up to it, make the house seem all the more real to me. There is no turning back now.

For the concrete slab floor, which will be my interior floor, I had insisted upon a glassy finish. The tradesmen did a solid and fine job at pouring and smoothing the concrete. However, the great Cherry Tree in my backyard, for which I dedicated an earlier post, had other ideas about my glassy finish, mocking me yet again. More on that momentarily...

This five minute video is a series of nine shorter videos that capture the stages of the concrete slab pour and finish.

The concrete slab pour and the delicate steel-troweled flat finish all happen in one quick day. The concrete team doesn't work on rainy days because the concrete won't cure properly. If it's not raining, they work.

And if it's windy, they work. As it so happened, this day was a windy day. On windy days, trees in full bloom, tend to lose grip upon their flowers.  And "The Cherry tree" as I wrote in my post, "is in full bloom".

During the final sweeps and steel troweled finish of the concrete, it was snowing cherry flowers all over the wet concrete slab. The concrete guys would diligently sweep and pick the flowers off the wet concrete floor, but the flowers kept falling.

Eventually, in the arced sweep of their steel trowels, they pressed the remaining flowers under a thin layer of concrete. And, when the wind died down, and the concrete finish was done, it appeared as though the cherry leaves had been forever buried by concrete, forgotten to all but those who had seen the leaves swept under the final finish. That night, as the concrete set, the flatwork finish looked picture perfect.

24 hours later, the concrete has dried and the smooth finish has revealed its disposition. Scattered Cherry leaves have emerged through the top layer of concrete, leaving cherry tree flower fossils densely speckled throughout the glassy smooth finish. My best guess is that the concrete dried and shrank downward just enough to allow the thin veneer of Cherry flower leaves to emerge through the drying concrete.

Instead of a steel troweled smooth finish, this laughing tree has left a permanent etching of its character. Despite our crafty effort, the natural world has left another unforeseeable biotic stamp in its wake.

My eyes and feet will be left with an unforgettable memory of this day in the foundation.

The fossilized imprints of Cherry flowers in otherwise perfect concrete flatwork

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Foundational Fundamentals (Part 2): Rigid Foam, Spray Foam and Pex Tubing

The foundation work that we did today was about preventing heat loss through the floor, and providing a secure structural foundation for the ADU framing, which will begin next week.

We finished filling in the structure with gravel, and tamped it down. The gravel was leveled with a laser level. Then, the concrete was covered with a vapor barrier, which will serve to prevent moisture from rising and wicking through the concrete slab. Concrete wicks moisture upwards through a process called capillary action.

Next, the 3" of XPS rigid foam was cut out and laid evenly on top of the gravel. 1" of foam was adhered along the top of the foundation walls. This foam will help prevent heat loss from the heated slab to the uninsulated foundation walls. Any significant gaps in between the pieces of rigid foam were filled in with spray foam.

Rebar was laid out in a criss-cross fashion on top of the rigid foam to provide structural support for the concrete slab. Then, cross-linked polyethylene tubing, aka, PEX tubing was laid out and tied to the rebar with tie fasteners. The PEX tubing was laid out in two circuits that originate where the water heater will be installed.

The front porch was filled in with gravel, except around the edges. This will not be a heated portion of the concrete slab. Rebar was laid on top of the gravel for structural support. The edges of that concrete slab will be filled in with concrete, which will be more than a foot thick. This thickness will ensure that the slab is structurally supported and will help prevent settling and cracking

Lastly, the sewer line and water main from the main house were connected together and covered with soil. A sewer clean out was also installed near the foundation wall.

This video is six minutes long and covers these construction elements. Next, we're pouring the concrete slab!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Foundational Fundamentals: Gravel, Rigid Foam, the Water Main, and the Sewer Line

Today, we started to build up the foundation floor. Now that the foundation walls are complete, we've poured gravel, and tamped it down. We've also added rigid foam insulation along the inside of the foundation walls and will add more on top of the gravel to prevent 'thermal bridging'. Basically, this means that we're trying to prevent heat loss through the walls and floors. We're also connecting the sewer line and the water main.

This early building stage is fascinating because, moving forward, these elements will all be invisible. These infrastructural elements exist in most homes, but if you're like me, you're totally unaware of them. And, if you're aware that they're there, you probably have no idea where they are and how they connect together.

Here's a video of the gravel and the rigid foam installation.

Connecting the Sewer line to the ADU

Installing the water main

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Value of a Tree

There's a gorgeous Cherry tree in my back yard. In fact, I purchased this particular property in part because of the lush Cherry tree canopy.

I envisioned that eventually, the ADU would sit under the canopy. I imagined that as I lay in bed, I'd look up through a bedroom skylight, through the branches and leaves into the cloudy night sky. During the day, I'd be able to watch birds flying in and out of their 60ft high nested homes.

These visions came to a crashing halt halfway through the design process when I learned that I could not place the ADU under the tree on the south side of the property, for fear that the ADU would either critically damage the roots of the tree, or that the roots of the tree would eventually upend the foundation.

After much deliberation, my architect and I scratched our whole site and ADU design, and made the decision to push the ADU across the yard to the north. This decision totally altered the entire design process, causing my architect to begin again his design again from scratch. This caused a month delay in my design process and $800.

The Cherry tree is now in full bloom. And though my sinuses are suffering dearly as I write this, I can't imagine having cut down that beauty. It would have gone against my other, better senses.

Though the tree is easy on the eyes, let's side that aside. Let's not look not at the beauty of the tree itself; let's just look purely at the fiscal services that the tree will provide.

What is the value of this tree?

Being set due south of the ADU, the 60 ft canopy perfectly blocks out the arc of the summer sun, providing a natural form of air condition due to the shading it provides. Trees can reduce air conditioning demands 20-50%. And, even more directly, when spending time outside, it will actually reduce the increased ambient 'urban heat island effect' temperature by 2-10 degrees in its immediate shading zone.

Here's the arc of the sun, looking at the ADU. As you can see, from the sun's perspective, the ADU is mostly not visible behind the tree, except for a brief spell in mid morning and later in the afternoon.

During the winter, when the foliage has dropped, the lower arc of the sun's gaze should dapple its way past the vacant branches and in through the houses glazed surfaces, warming the darkly colored concrete floors and other thermal massing surfaces in the house. It will marginally offset the need for gas powered heating the house during the winter, at least during daylight hours.

The trees roots cast their way across the lawn, and absorb up to 100 gallons of stormwater daily--which is a significant benefit in a humid climate like this one.

My tree will reduce urban air pollution in my backyard, including: carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter. To be fair, the tree pollen also causes allergies.

And lastly, the tree will reduce stress and increase health. There have been numerous studies on the health effects of trees near hospitals, prisons, and schools, leading to quicker recovery, calmer inmates, and more attentive students. There are also studies on trees' effects on reduced crimes rates and reduced symptoms of ADD.

And, from a purely fiscal perspective, a study in Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house added an average of $8,870 to the sales price. As I mentioned in the the first portion of this post, I purchased this property in part because of the wonderful tree canopy. So, I guess I am playing right into this particular statistic.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pouring the Foundation Wall

Authors note: I've added two final videos to complete the foundation wall videos.

We passed our first foundation inspection this morning. This inspection gave us the green light to pour the stem wall.

Ten more inspections to go.

Here's a video of the foundation walls being poured.

Here's a closeup video of the concrete (a mix of cement, sand, and gravel):

Here's a video of them leveling the wall:

Here's a video of the set concrete, with forms being removed.

Here's the finished foundation wall:

Pictures of the concrete truck operation:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Breaking Ground: Excavation and Concrete Forms

We have broken ground! We've been doing some landscape preparation work for a couple months, but now we have actually started the construction work. It's all very exciting.

Here's a video of the groundbreaking.

Here's a video of the excavation work on the 2nd day.

Here's a video of the concrete forms built on day 3.

Here are some photos of the first few days of work.

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