Thursday, January 30, 2014

Windows and Doors

The temperature has been hovering below freezing here for a last couple of weeks, so it's awful nice for the New House Next Door to have windows and doors beginning to enclose the space.

We used a reasonably priced, good quality wood window that has good energy code ratings and looks decent while fitting into many people's budgets. I specified the 2 wide by 2 high divided lite pattern for a traditional look. The client selected the white exterior finish and white primed wood for the interior finish.

Sun streams in on a cold winter's day

Most of the windows are the double-hung style. This is a  traditional style (for here in the Northeast) that has two sashes that slide up and down within the frame. Some of the windows are casements. This style has a crank to open the entire panel on a swing arm. These are convenient over a kitchen counter (where it is difficult to reach and push a sash up) and are used to meet egress code in the bedrooms since the casement's opening is twice as large as that of a double-hung window. (Click to go to post about window egress code)

Front Door

French Doors

The doors are solid wood, styles as selected by the owner. The front doors have sidelights to let in light and see who is knocking on your door. The back door and garage doors have glass for light and visibility also. The french doors are an element that my MIL wanted from the very beginning. They connect the living room to the screened-in porch and face the mountain view and sunset. They lend some traditional charm that their current farmhouse has, hopefully easing their transition into this new house.

The last exterior doors are the over-head doors for the garage. The installer came by today with his clip-board and measuring tape to verify the rough openings. Once they are installed, I'll post a picture.

Did you ever read the Laura Ingalls "Little House on the Prairie" books? Pa built a cabin for the family to live it; it had one window. And before he was able to go to town to get the glass, the opening was covered with oil cloth! Windows were real luxuries that were kept to a minimum in the past.  If you are in a cold climate, sit by a (closed) south-facing window for a bit on this sunny winter day and appreciate your windows and all they do to bring in the light and keep out the elements!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


The plumbers arrived today. They began to install some of the drain and vent pipes for the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room. The New House Next Door has 8 plumbing fixtures: a tub, a shower, two toilets, two lavatories, a kitchen sink and and clean-up sink in the art studio. There are also some appliances that get connected to water, like the dish washer, the clothes washer, and the refrigerator.

Hole were cut in the wood framing where necessary and plastic pipes were fit and glued in place at all water drain locations. Each fixture has a vent up through the roof - if you have a drain that "gurgles" in your home that's because it is not properly vented- and a sloped drain pipe connected to the sewer outlet in the crawlspace.

Bathroom lavatory and toilet drains

Plumbing for the clothes washer

The plumbers will also install the supply lines that bring hot and cold water to each fixture, the hot water baseboard radiators, and most of the equipment in the mechanical room. (direct vent boiler, hot water storage tank, and heat recovery ventilator). It doesn't make for fancy photographs or exciting commentary, but I'm sure you all appreciate how wonderful indoor plumbing and central heating is!

Roofing and Snow

Blowing snow off the roof
Today they started shingling the roof. First they had to shovel, sweep, and snow-blow the snow off the roof decks. Construction during winter can really offer up some obstacles that the crew wouldn't be facing if they were building another time of year or in another area of the country. (Side Note: You can also see they have many of the windows installed.)

Ice & Water shield membrane applied to eave

Before shingling, they apply a membrane along the eaves and any low-slope areas to protect against leaks due to ice damming. Ice damming can occur on roofs when heat leaks out of the house and thaws the snow/ice on the roof and then that melted ice drips down the roof, and re-freezes when it gets to the cold roof overhang. (where it is no longer over the heated space of the house) In the process of re-freezing, the water and ice can be forced up underneath the roof shingles, causing a roof leak. You see home-owners who put up a zig-zag of heat tape along their roof edges and use electricity to try and combat this problem, but of course a well designed and built roof detail should not have this problem in the first place.

The New House Next Door will be super-well insulated and, along with a great roof, that is the first step in prevention. The truss was designed to have a "raised heel" which allows for full depth of insulation to be installed at the top of the wall - a critical location for good insulating practices to prevent ice damming. And then there is the added insurance of the ice and water shield membrane applied under the roof shingles so we can be sure the ice and snow stays on the outside of the roof and water doesn't make it's way in.
Roof Shingles

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Finish Materials

So I made a mistake in that last post. Probably not the first or last...

I was excitedly saying how the fascia board is the first "finished" material to be installed on the new house next door, but really the porch floors should have gotten that label weeks ago. They are tongue and groove (meaning their shape interlocks one board with the next) and they are douglas fir, a fairly good species for outdoor use. They were pre-primed on all faces and edges prior to installation and will be painted some porch floor gray color eventually. That's sort of the hint that made me realize my mistake - anytime wood is being primed/painted, it is an exposed, finish material. You may think of paint as an aesthetic thing, but truthfully it is an important protective layer for any wood material that is out in the elements.

In other notes, the windows were delivered to the site today and are beginning to be installed! Talk about exciting finish materials! As far as budgets, windows are not inconsequential, so we always want to be sure to get the order right. Refer to the post  "A Window into the Architect's Process" where I was re-reviewing the window schedule. I hope I got them all correct!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stepping Down the Scale

Look at these pictures before and after the front porch was built:

In the first images, the new house next door has a front wall that looks tall and flat - not exactly inviting, maybe sort of imposing. Then the front porch roof is added, and the scale of that two-story-plus-attic gable wall is brought down to be more person friendly. Isn't that neat? Suddenly the building looks much more approachable and human scale. The single story part of the house on the left, where the kitchen, eating area, and mud room are located, does the same thing along the driveway side - stepping down the mass of the building from the high second story roof gently to the ground.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Continuing to Wrap the Corner

I was told that Scott the framer said the roof that wraps the corner is like a run on sentence since it keeps going and going. Ha!

They finished that roof that wraps the corner today by sheathing the gable roof over the screened in porch. And yes, he's right - it goes on and on - because I connected three roofs together into one.

In an earlier version of the design for the new house next door, the screened porch was separate from the roof over the single story kitchen area. It was during a revision of the back porch entry that I decided to have the house roof that covers the kitchen and dining area, wrap around the corner and become the porch roof protecting the back door and then crash into the screened porch roof. Voila! A run-on roof sentence! Poor in grammar perhaps, but since one flows to the next, good for design, I think.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Wrapping Around the Corner

Framers working on the roof wrapping the corner:

Sometimes exterior spaces, like open porches, have roofs over them. This extra shelter creates a unique outdoor space, different than a deck or patio, which are open above. And the fact that porches have a roof allows for some interesting play of solid and void in the design of the massing of the structure as a whole. Porch roofs can be integral to the roof of the enclosed, interior space - or they can be more independent from the main roof. I like to think of it as either adding or subtracting to the massing. On the new house next door, we have both types.

The front porch is an "add-on".- it is a traditional hip roof that attaches to the front two story wall of the house. It's construction is not integral with the house construction - it is autonomous- it could be there or not. (that's for the construction, but in terms of how the house functions and the aesthetics, it should definitely be there!) Porches provide some important functions on a building: acting as outdoor rooms, providing weather protection at the entry door, creating an important part of an "entry sequence" one passes through as one arrives or leaves the building, and by helping to step down the scale of a tall, flat wall from high roof down to the ground.

The back porch provides the same weather protection over the door, albeit on a much smaller scale than the front porch. The back porch is pretty tiny, really just large enough to shelter the people entering the back door and to have a grill or laundry basket space. And it connects to the screened porch. It's roof is very different. It is not tacked on, but rather is integral (really the same roof) as that of the the first floor area of the house. A low hip roof covers the kitchen, dining area and mud room entry (all interior spaces) and then that same roof continues to cover the back porch, wrapping around the back corner of the house until it hits into the screened porch roof. "Subtracting" space from under a roof to create a porch is a neat trick that I like to use in my designs and it has been used historically in may buildings. Here's some of me past projects with porches:

Example: Add-on porch- This one has a balcony above!

Example: Subtracted area under roof for porch- and a screened porch

That's a wrap for this post!

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Front porch and back porch floor framing is done. It looks like a grid-work of "green" lumber (pressure treated, to help prevent rot) connected with timber lock bolts and metal joist hangers. There was a fair amount of being really particular to get it all right. With the back porch, it's roof is integral with the house roof, making it a bit tricky to build.
front porch

They started with the transit to set the heights. The front porch is a step down from inside to the porch floor; the back/screened porch is more level with the finished floor. They bolted a ledger board, over flashing, to the wall of the house. Then they cut the 6x6 pressure treated posts to height and set them atop the concrete piers (remember them? set into the ground before frost?) They secured the wood posts into the metal post bases that connect post to pier. A series of beams and joists span post to post and to the ledger to create the structure that will support the tongue and groove porch flooring.

back/screened porch
Today it is 8 F & snowing. They have covered over the openings of the new house next door and set up a heater inside so they can pre-prime the flooring. I'm not going to think about snow and cold... I'm going to imagine a warm, sunny summer day when my in-laws can sit outside on one of their new porches, enjoying the outdoors.