Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kitchen Finishes Continue

Wall oven and Pantry Closet
The kitchen is looking more finished at the New House Next Door. Some appliances have been installed, electrical outlets and light fixtures are in, the crown molding above the wall cabinets has been applied, and the cabinet door knobs and drawer pulls are attached.

The future owners did a little "sweat equity" last weekend- they worked on the kitchen island top themselves... They got a deal on a butcher block top, but it needed to be cut to fit their island's size, and then a finish needs to be applied to seal the wood.

Owner participation is a great thing. Of course I greatly encourage it during the design process, but even during the building process, it's great for the future residents to feel they had a hand in helping create their new place. There are projects that use donated funds to build low income housing, like Habitat for Humanity - and they require the future owners to work a minimum of hours on the construction of their house. It gives a connection and sense of ownership that is hard to come by otherwise, and it has been found to increase the new owner's ability to keep and maintain their new home for the long haul.

Screened Porch (Sun Porch)

Outside, the sun porch/ screened porch got it's screens installed into the framed openings. I designed it to be finished from the exterior, but to save money, the interior of the porch has been left unfinished for now. Finishing the interior will be a future task for my FIL and DH to work on together someday once we are neighbors.

This is what I'd call an "outdoor room". (click here to read on my website about The Outdoor Connection) The room can be accessed from french doors in the living room, or from the back porch. It is open on three sides, making one really feel as if one is outside when in the space (as opposed to a screened porch that is only open on one or two sides feeling more enclosed). To state the obvious, a screened porch gives one more protection from the elements, and can be used more of the time than a simple deck or patio. (rain, buggy evenings...) This screened porch extends its use even more, by switching into a sun porch during colder months.

It faces south and west, looking toward the back yard and the Catskill Mountain View. With the "Combination Door" inserts we used, the screened panels can easily be swapped for glass panels with the turn of a few screws. Once glass is inserted, this space actually has the ability to gain heat from the sun, both for the sun room, and, when the french doors are opened, for the house as well. During the warm weather months, the roof of the screened porch actually helps keep the house cooler, by shading the western-facing living room glass doors.

So, for summer, a shady, insect-free, breezy respite. For early spring and late fall, a space to catch the diminished sun after/before a cold winter. And for sustainability, the ability to actually help heat and cool the house. That's a hard-working space!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The New Workshop Next Door

Work at the NHND is moving slowly now, getting the final fixtures installed and such.

But! Here on our property, we have started a new outbuilding project that's in the early framing stages and is moving fast. This building will be a two-vehicle car port and a one room wood working shop/studio space. (click here to go to first post about this project)

The foundation and site work is very low-impact by design. Piers reach below grade to frost and support a wood floor system. 2x4 walls support a scissor truss (higher in the middle) roof. The truss is also designed to perform well in terms of energy code, by having a "raised heel" to have more space for insulation above the wall (that spot is traditionally a weak link in the insulation/thermal barrier). The walls will be sheathed with continuous insulation, as well as insulated within the wall cavity. This 23'x23' space will be high, and dry, well lit and warm - all things DH's current workshop in the basement is not. Yay!

In terms of zoning and site planning design, this building was designed to meet the Village's codes and pattern book. Since the one end of the structure is for cars - although not a technically a garage, I located it back 20' from the front of the house, to keep it secondary - as an outbuilding should be. The workshop part will have a front porch facing the street, and our driveway became a circular shape, with two entrances/exits. There are always restrictions regarding how much of the site can be covered by building footprint, and we were careful to meet all requirements and presented our site plan to the planning board for approval last year.

Concrete pier foundation with wire, fabric & gravel under building

Wood framed floor system for workshop/studio space

Raising the last wall of workshop
Roof trusses

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bathroom Fixtures

First Floor Bathroom Fixtures
The plumber has installed the pedestal sink, toilet, and faucets in the first floor bathroom. The faucets have lever-style handles (both tub/shower and lavatory - aka sink) with porcelain inserts, which looks classic and meets universal design standards for ease of use.

Now that the painters have finished inside, the chair-rail and cove moulding will be painted and installed above the white bead-board wainscot. Next will be light fixtures, medicine cabinets, glass shower door, and toilet room accessories (grab bars, towel bars, tp holder, robe hook, etc.) to make the bathroom complete! (and re-hanging the door, of course!)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Final Parging

The parging over the above-grade part of the foundation - remember the below grade portion gets water-proofed- (click here to read post about waterproofing)  was completed this weekend.

The color the owners selected is quite light - you see a big difference from the first layer parging "scratch coat" pictures posted last week, but, oddly, not a big difference from the light blue XPS insulation that's been visible until this point. The GC spread straw around the perimeter of the foundation to help prevent mud splashing up onto this new, light grey finish when next it rains. (like it has onto the bottom courses of siding at the garage building)

The exterior is slowly stepping closer to being completely done. All that's left is porch railings and stairs, sunporch glass/screen inserts, exterior electrical fixtures, final placement of propane tanks, final grading, final driveway, and planting grass.

View from the backyard

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Wainscot - what a cool word, huh?

Wainscotting is any type of wood finish on a wall, usually for the lower half, under a chair-rail. This is a traditional finish that was used to make the lower part of a wall durable, so that when furniture banged against it, the wall remained un-scuffed.

Nowadays most houses have gypsum wall board all the way to the floor, but sometimes in a fancy library or dining room you might see wood paneling as a wainscot; or in a cottage-style home - in lots of magazines these days- you'll see fresh, white bead-board wainscot in a mud room or a bathroom.

Installing white bead-board wainscot in the bathrooms is the way I detailed the NHND and a few other bathrooms I've worked on. It lends a classy feel and looks sharp against the colored wall above. When I went next door to take a photo, my camera battery was dead, so for now I'll post a generic drawing of wainscot styles and show you a photo next time.

Examples of some traditional wainscot styles

Friday, May 16, 2014


A new exterior finish was started this week. The stucco crew came and secured the 2" rigid insulation to the concrete foundation wall, scratched up it's surface, and applied a base or scratch coat over fiberglass mesh. No more blue insulation board visible around the NHND's foundation!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stair Railing and Closet Shelving

The stair handrails and closet shelves/clothes rods are installed. The interior trim is all done - including on the oval window, which isn't shown in this photo. The oval trim is made of a flexible synthetic material that will be painted to look like the rest of the wood casings.

Clothes closets have a simple rod with shelf above. Storage closets have shelves. By design, the New House Next Door has a lot of closets- 3 on the first floor, and 4 on the second floor! Two of the most unique closets are the one under the stairs and the one in the painting studio. (the largest second floor room will be used by my MIL as her painting studio, rather than as a master bedroom- view her fantastic work here on Face Book)

The under the stair closet has a sort of magical "The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe" quality to me because the coats will be hung across the width of the space, as usual, but one would part those coats and slip behind them to access the shelves against the back wall. I specified double doors for this closet, so that when open they do not block the hallway - a problem in their current house.

The painting studio closet is a wide closet with double doors. Inside will be a counter with a sink, for cleaning brushes, with storage shelves above. The second largest bedroom has a walk-in closet with a pocket door.

The largest storage area, though, is the attic. There is a pull-down stair from the studio ceiling to access the attic. The roof was framed with what is called an "attic truss", which leaves the center, highest space free of diagonal truss chords, so it is usable space. (click to go to wintertime post about roof trusses)

Smallest Bedroom Clothes Closet

Painting Studio Closet- see plumbing for sink poke through wall

Perfect for Hide and Seek - the Closet under the Stair
Attic Pull-Down Stair - before trim

Monday, May 12, 2014


Many a box truck has been pulling up in front of the New House Next Door delivering cardboard boxes with light fixtures, toilets, faucets, screen/glass inserts for the sun-porch, and many of the other finishing touches needed before the new owners can move in.

In our barn, we've recently had another kind of delivery. Yesterday- yes, on Mother's Day!- our dairy goat Peach gave birth to a single bucking. His name is "Canyon" and he sure is cute!

And here's a picture from a delivery we received last month: 11 baby chicks we ordered from a nearby hatchery. They came in a small box through the post office.

Nothing says spring like baby farm animals!

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Friday, May 9, 2014

God is in the Details

"God is in the details" is a quote from famous German-American minimalist architect Mies van der Rohe.

Inside Corner, where two door casings come together

That's the stage we are at inside at the New House Next Door. I wish I could say I designed all these interior trim details in advance, but the truth is that some of the ingenious details around inside corners and such are discussed and made on site by the carpenter, Scott.

One thing I did specify is a tall baseboard and substantial three-part casing in the rooms, and then a smaller base and more minimal one-piece casing in the closets. The tall base is nearly the height of the baseboard radiators, and helps make them less obtrusive. (click to go to post about designing hide mechanicals)

Smaller beaded 1x4 casing and base in closets

Larger Three-Piece Moldings and 7 1/4" Colonial Base in Rooms

Today the stair guy is on site to install the newel posts, spindles, and handrails on the interior stair. This is very detailed, finish work and will be a real feature in the house. We discussed exactly where the newels will go and how they will be securely anchored to be really sturdy. Photos to come next time!

Also today, the electrician is on site doing the finish electric work now that all the interior painting is done around switches, fixtures and outlets. (Painters are also around caulking and touching up.) He is installing paddle switches, which I selected because of their ease of use (Universal Design - anyone can easily flip a switch, even with an elbow or shoulder)

Slides into gap @ Radiator
Meitered Return on Baseboard ...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Exterior Painting

Painting exterior trim
So now that spring is fully here in the Hudson Valley, painters can work outdoors again. At the New House Next Door the painters have come around on days when the weather is warm and no rain is in the forecast to do the exterior work of caulking and painting.

The cement board siding that the carpenters installed was factory painted the dark, "Iron Gray" color. The treated "Bodyguard" trim was factory primed white. So, really the materials were painted or at least primed prior to installation. The painters are here to apply white paint on the white trim - you don't see a change in the photos, really.

James Hardi - the manufacturer of the cement siding, touts their factory applied finish as being long-lasting and durable. The down-sides of the factory finish are that you choose from a handful of colors (which was no problem, we all *love* the Iron Gray color and how striking it looks against the white trim and windows) and that the carpenters must be super careful during handling and installation. I think they'd much rather work the "old fashioned way" with bare wood (or cement, even) material for cutting and nailing, and then have the painters come and prime and paint after the carpentry is complete.

In other news, our old house next door is also being painted this spring. We have an 1890s home with wood clapboard siding and fish-scale shakes. In the 1950s, it was covered with aluminum siding (to avoid exterior maintenance, is usually the reason - but it just defers the maintenance to later). Aluminum covered all the details, too, but fortunately with little permanent damage done. It's been wonderful to see the beautiful details exposed when the aluminum was removed, and they are really going to pop once it's all painted. Here's some photos from the 1940s showing the house as it was. With the NHND and our old house next door being painted at the same time, it will be interesting to see how they each look/last over the next decade...

Friday, May 2, 2014

Construction at the House Next to The NHND - our house!

Construction has begun at our own house next to the New House Next Door. Now our house is between two construction sites! We have had a plan in the works for years to build an outbuilding in the south yard that would house a woodworking shop and a carport.

We designed the building to be low-impact on our site. We have many mature, beautiful trees that we wanted to protect, so we designed a pier foundation, rather than a full excavation with a foundation wall or concrete slab. This means that a small machine came on site and holes were augered in a grid pattern, causing minimal disturbance to the tree roots. Flared footings and sonotube forms were positioned in the holes and then concrete and rebar were placed into the forms.

A small amount of concrete was used - but a lot of labor, bucketing it into the pier forms when the concrete truck/chute couldn't get any closer, as well as the labor to get the small sonotubes in just the right location.
 It was picky work to layout the lines/holes/forms in exactly the correct location, but the payoff is that that's it for disturbance to the site! It's an extremely simple and economical foundation design - especially for what is a fairly large footprint on the site. From atop the concrete piers, metal fasteners will hold wood posts and beams that will support the floors, walls and roofs. I'll keep you posted on this new construction project - the New Workshop Next Door!

Interior Trimwork Continues

Window and door casings have been going on inside at the New House Next Door. It is a three piece molding - first a beaded 1x4 casing around sides and top of window/door. A sill (or stool, as it's actually called) at base of window with the beaded casing underneath and a cove. A 1x2 backband around outside of casing, with mitered corners, and then an ogee piece inside the back-band. It is substantial and classic, by design, lending a feeling of quality and permanence to the house.

Typical Second Floor Window Casing/Sill

Upstairs Hallway Looking toward Studio

Door and Window Casing in the Studio