Blog

July 18, 2016

Blog Archives Republished

As we prepare to launch our memoir "Dream. Build. Believe." we decided to re-publish all the old blog entries that were written during the building of our home. For those of you who are looking to learn more about some of the details that were too cumbersome for the book, or would like to see the thousands of photos we took along the way, we hope you'll enjoy this "deeper dive" into the process!

Posted by Stephen at 6:54 PM

April 22, 2010

Dream House Archive

DIY has finally posted on-demand archives of all our shows. Here are the links - enjoy!!!

Episode 1 - "Meet the Mackeys"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/meet-the-mackeys/50386.html

Episode 2 - "A Foundation and a Harvest"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/a-foundation-and-a-harvest/50387.html

Episode 3 - "Timber Frame and a Name"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/timber-frame-and-a-name/50388.html

Episode 4 - "Sweat Equity"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/sweat-equity/50389.html

Episode 5 - "Busting Budgets and Timelines"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/busting-budgets-and-timelines/50390.html

Episode 6 - "The Pressure is Mounting"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/the-pressure-is-mounting/50391.html

Episode 7 - "Desperately Seeking Solutions"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/desperately-seeking-solutions/50392.html

Episode 8 - "Making it Move-in Ready"
http://www.diynetwork.com/videos/making-it-move-in-ready/50393.html

Posted by Stephen at 7:02 AM

June 20, 2008

Beginning the West Deck

In anticipation of our grand opening next week we wanted to ensure we could provide a second means of egress for safety reasons. So the key to that is the installation of a small deck on the west side of the house, to which we'll add a handicapped access ramp. Took about four days spread over a couple weeks to get the footers dug/poured inspected, then the posts/beam/ledger installed and inspected, and finally the decking. I was even treated to a puppet show during construction!

Enjoy the pics!

Posted by Stephen at 9:14 AM

April 24, 2008

Front Walk Completed

Many thanks to Ron Hawes, Trevor and Zack for getting our front walkway completed! Ron was over at our place several weeks ago and noticed our crappy temporary plywood walkway and asked what the plan was for the walk. Originally I had though about flagstone but he suggested some heavy stepping stones. I recall seeing a similar design at his place when we'd go for meetings at the office so we agreed right away. Basically Trevor dug a path about 8 inches deep then placed the VERY heavy stones with the bobcat forks. Sometimes it took a few tries and some fill dirt underneath to get a stone level and steady. Then after a few stones were in place they backfilled in dirt between the stones to lock them in and tamped down the dirt with the digging bar. Trevor suggested I take a turn with the digging bar and I suggested he get his head out of his ass.

The walk looks amazing - Check out the pics!

Posted by Stephen at 10:04 PM

November 18, 2007

Construction Daily

Over the past few weekends I've been a tiling fool, getting the tasting bar and foyer floors ready for our first big Thanksgiving. The first phase of the tiling was in front of the tasting bar. This actually want really well, as I used 6" squares in order to make the curve, with smaller 4" squares at the edges. The rationale behind using the 4" squares is that they are slightly thinner and make an easier transition into the Schluter Systems edging to create a nice slope from the wood floor to the Schluter metal to the 4" to the 6". Get it...?

Anyway once the area in front of the bar was done I went over to a hidden area to begin figuring out how to cut the large tiles. Something about the design was just bugging me, and after a while I figured out that if I offset each row of large tile it created a much more eye-pleasing design i.e. rather than making each corner match up, the corner of the first rown is at the middle of the next tile and so on and so forth. You'll see in the pics.

Next was the tiling in the foyer, and that took several days to get it done as there were quite a few challenging cuts to make around the air register, timberframe posts, and stairway to the catwalk. All in all I was really happy with how it turned out, now I just have to get it grouted before Thanksgiving!!!

Project hours = 46
Total hours = 778

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 7:38 PM

October 21, 2007

Construction Daily

Work continued today on the flooring underlayment. As with everything associated with this round tasting bar, the flooring is also turning out to be a major pain in the ass. Turns out I had to use the laser level to score lines in the floor, then create a paper template for the rather complex curved/angled pizza slice that becomes each flooring piece. You'll see what I mean in the pictures. Anyway, it took a while to figure out the proper design, then the process became transferring the shape of the template onto the Hardiboard, which then had to be cut one at a time with a jigsaw. And since this shit is basically made of concrete I can tell you it does wonders on saw blades. Basically I went through two jigsaw blades per piece. Fun. Tristan was on hand to distribute screws all over the universe, while Duncan cheered from the sidelines.

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 732

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 7:37 PM

October 20, 2007

Construction Daily

Today (at long last) I began work on the foyer flooring. We figured we have enough wood in the house so we wanted to introduce another texture/material. We opted to go with 18" square slate tiles in the foyer, with 6" squares around the tasting bar, and 4" squares as borders. As with all projects, step one is to dry fit the tiles and lay everything out to figure out where the full vs. cut pieces are going to go. In addition, I had to figure out the proper heights to ensure a seamless transition from the slate to the wood flooring. The key to this whole puzzle is the aluminum Schluter Systems edging, which essentially provides a very clean slope from the wood to the slate. This stuff is awesome, and with a little bit of "customization" with some tin snips I was able to make the curve around the bar.

So once I had the tile layout figured out (with my assistant Tristan helping) it was time to begin work on the underlayment, Hardiboard to ensure a good water-resistant surface to adhere the tile.

Daily hours = 7
Total hours = 724

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 7:36 PM

July 15, 2007

Construction Daily

Finished up tiling the master suite today! What a relief, and now I can put the tile saw away for a few months. I am completely burned out on tiling, as over the past year I've tiled four bathrooms floors, one tub surround, one shower, one jacuzzi tub, one fireplace, two vanities, and a kitchen floor. Think I've earned my letter jacket...

Enjoy the pics

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 717

Posted by Stephen at 11:29 AM

July 14, 2007

Construction Daily

Continued working on the master suite tile today. Started the day with a bit of anxiety, as I seriously had NO IDEA how I was going to tile around the fireplace. I figured I'd just let my creativity take me where it may. So as I was considering one dumb idea after another, I noticed a piece of custom tile sitting on the window ledge. We had ordered some hand-made celtic tiles very early in the process but didn't want to overdo the celtic motif. So they ended up just lying around. Anyhow, one piece in particular had a very cool platinum finish to it, so I thought I could turn it on it's corner and put it right in the top center of the fireplace surround. Now the problem became figuring out how to cut a hole in the middle of a piece of tile, because I didn't want it to be in a seam. Got that figured out whilst the HGTV camera was rolling, and hopefully they'll include that scene because that was some tricky shit!

So once I had the little diamond in place I figured out a way to incorporate the diamond motif on the sides of the fireplace. Anyhow, the whole thing turned out pretty neat, and I'll be able to finish it up tomorrow.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 707

Posted by Stephen at 7:59 PM

July 11, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I finished up the floor tile in the master suite, and got started on the fireplace/tub surround. Will take a few more days to finish this up. Lost interest in tiling after a while so I decided to go play with the AV toys. First order of business was to rebuild the supporting shelf in the pantry, as the weight of all the amplification awesomeness was too much for the temporary shelf I had in place. Got that done and put the components back in place, although I still have a huge rat's nest of cabling to contend with, but I'll save that for a rainy day sometime in 2015.

Once I had signal flowing, I decided to unpack the projector and test the feed from the Denon AV receiver up to the loft. After a few minutes monkeying around with settings, I got the projector up and running and WOW is this going to be cool!

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 697

Posted by Stephen at 7:44 PM

July 8, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I finished up the master suite vanity construction, then began the always-fun task of cleaning the room in preparation for the floor tile. I swear this is the 10th time I've cleaned this place, but I seem to keep using it as a temporary work space so oh well. To prep for the floor tile you gotta get on hands and knees and scrape up every glue and drywall boogie to make sure you have a perfectly flat surface. Once that was done, I was able to get half the floor tiled before shutting down for the day.

Enjoy the pics

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 687

Posted by Stephen at 11:28 AM

July 7, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I began work on the custom his-n-hers vanities in the master suite. As this portion of the room is entirely custom with the vanities/fireplace/jacuzzi there was not really a way to utilize pre-bought vanities. So we are creating them from scratch, and using Hardibacker tile backing board for the main face construction to ensure durability from the dampness. Shannon gets two doors under her sink, and I only get one as I opted to install our large subwoofer under my sink for our master suite surround system. The choice was either between more crap under my sink, or more bass when we watch movies and well....

Daily hours = 4
Total hours = 679

Posted by Stephen at 7:24 PM

July 4, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I installed the water softener and iron filter, both Pelican units. The units came with a ton of extra adapters, PVC as well as copper. But of course nothing is easy and the PVC fittings they sent were for a different kind of PVC than the supply lines in our house, so I had to make a run down to Ferguson in Winchester to get the proper adapters and pipe. Anyway once that was all figured out it was a relatively simple task to get the units rolled into place (they are not light, especially after running them full of water to flush out the particle dust!) but once they were set it was just a matter of getting the PVC "jigsaw puzzle" figured out.

Took about four hours to get it all done, and the literature says the unit takes a few days to reach full operating strength. Hopefully this iron filter is all it's cracked up to be because every single one of our brand new fixtures already has rust stains. I've been able to scrub them out but it took three different brands of rust remover to get it done. Not something I want to do every month!


Daily hours = 4
Total hours = 675

Posted by Stephen at 8:19 PM

July 1, 2007

Construction Daily

So it's over. Our last day in the rental shack, getting out the final pieces and finishing up the move. HGTV was on hand to capture a few touching moments, most difficult was leaving Tristan's room. It was incredibly hard to walk away from that space, thinking about all those nights he fell asleep on my chest in the loveseat. That's also the room we brought him home to. Also tough to think about the other bedroom, and having baby Duncan sleeping in his little seat at the foot of our bed. Seems odd that they'll have no memory of this place, yet in many ways it was so important in their, and certainly our lives.

So goodbye little shack. Thanks for being part of our lives while we built our dream house. Shannon and I had no idea we'd end up living here for nearly three years, but it went by in a flash with everything we've had going on. I imagine we'll drive by every now and again, just to keep an eye on the place and do some reminiscing. And even though we couldn't wait to get out, in a way I'll definitely miss that place.


Daily hours (S&S combined) = 20
Total hours = 671

Posted by Stephen at 8:07 PM

June 30, 2007

Construction Daily

Spent all day today working on the move. We had hoped to finish it up but just ran out of time, energy, and basically interest by the evening. We figured even though tomorrow is July 1st there is no way anyone is planning on moving in, so we bailed and went to the new house to get some sleep.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 20
Total hours = 651

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 11:27 AM

June 17, 2007

Construction Daily

Moved two more loads over.

Daily hours = 5
Total hours = 631

Posted by Stephen at 4:29 AM

June 16, 2007

Construction Daily

Moved two loads over from the rental. The move isn't going too badly, because we have all that space in the winery. Basically we're stashing most of our stuff in the winery until we complete the house and figure out where things will need to go. Still, we are throwing a LOT of shit out that we accumulated in the rental, looks like we're going to fill up a 30 cubic yard dumpster. Yeah, that's the big long one...

Daily hours = 5
Total hours = 626

Posted by Stephen at 4:24 AM

June 15, 2007

Construction Daily

Moved a truckload from the rental to the new house, what better way to spend a Friday evening after a long day at work...

Daily hours = 3
Total hours = 621

Happy Birthday Mom (Grammy) !!!

Posted by Stephen at 4:21 AM

June 12, 2007

Construction Daily

Today the Conestoga Buildings team installed the big rollup door on the winery. Very solid door, we're thrilled with the installation. So that completes the shell of the winery, now we just have to come up with another $100k to finish the inside. I think we'll let that wait a few years...

Posted by Stephen at 4:19 AM

June 11, 2007

Construction Daily

Moved a truckload from the rental to the new house, what better way to spend a Monday evening after a long day at work...

Daily hours = 3
Total hours = 618

Posted by Stephen at 10:44 PM

June 10, 2007

Construction Daily

Another full day today - started off with some more painting and finished up all the trim. Spent a few hours cleaning up the hallway and the playroom, and we're really starting to get a good feel for the place now that we're spending our entire weekends here. Installed the threshold between the playroom and mudroom - had some trouble with it so not sure if it's going to stay down properly. Might have to re-do that one at some point.

We took the afternoon off to enjoy a pool party over at the Wright's place. Got back to the house and put the boys to bed and decided to get a couple of truckloads moved out of the rental. It's great having the big winery, most everything just goes right inside there except for the few things we really need to have inside the house.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 615

Posted by Stephen at 10:34 PM

June 9, 2007

Construction Daily

Had a busy day today, after taking it easy for a few weeks after the mad dash for the occupancy permit. We've been sleeping in the new house each weekend, and loving it. This morning I decided it was time to get the boy's home theater hooked up (albeit somewhat temporary) so they can watch their movies. Had the HGTV crew over to film some painting, so Shannon took the boys back over to the rental while I got the playroom painted as well as the trim in the hallway. As the afternoon started to wear on I had to finish up inside and get another fungicide application on out in the vineyard.

Daily hours = 8
Totay hours = 605

Posted by Stephen at 10:05 PM

June 8, 2007

Construction Daily

Today Conestoga had their concrete subcontractor come out to pour the floor of the winery. They did an awesome job, especially around the floor drains which will serve the tank area. George was on hand to film it for HGTV. We're so happy with the job Conestoga is doing, really professional work.

Posted by Stephen at 9:34 PM

June 6, 2007

Construction Daily

Today Conestoga had their floor subcontractor come out and put in all the gravel which will serve as a base for the upcoming concrete pour. They were even nice enough to take care of figuring out how high to make the floor drains, and also took care of installing the plumbing for me - those guys rock.

Posted by Stephen at 9:43 PM

May 11, 2007

Construction Daily

We finally have a new house! Tonight is our first night sleeping in the new place, and even though we just threw a couple mattresses on the floor it outranks even the most luxurious hotel in the world. What an absolutely incredible feeling, we've waited for tonight for a long, long time.

Posted by Stephen at 9:46 PM

May 8, 2007

Construction Daily

We made it. Ron picked up our occupancy permit this afternoon at 3:30 pm, an hour and a half before the office closed on the last day before our construction loan expires. Just had to fax a copy to the mortgage company to begin the loan conversion process.

Even though there are still a lot of projects left to complete the house, it is legally available for us to move in whenever we like. It is an amazing feeling, crossing this finish line after the most insane year of our lives. Can't believe it's really over, feels like so much pressure has been lifted. Yes there is still a long road ahead to finish the house and get the tasting room ready to open the business, but we are ready for some time off to decompress. We have been pounding and pounding ourselves into the ground for so long to try to make it happen, and now it's time to pull back and enjoy what we've done. Will be laying low for a while, but will definitely be sleeping in the NEW HOUSE for the first time this weekend!!!

Posted by Stephen at 11:06 PM

May 7, 2007

Construction Daily

Today we passed our gas and plumbing inspections and got both permits! One more to go, the big one tomorrow.

Posted by Stephen at 10:53 PM

May 6, 2007

Construction Daily

Finished up the last two acres of herbicide spraying to start the day. Then headed back inside to grout the master suite sink tops and tub surround top. Once that was done it was time to sweep up and make the place presentable for the upcoming inspections. Actually finished kind of early for once!

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 597

Posted by Stephen at 10:46 PM

May 5, 2007

Construction Daily

Tiled the top of the tub surround today - another check mark on the way to the occupancy permit. Then caulked the master suite shower. After that it was time to get in the vineyard where I installed four rows of trellis tensioners, then with the remaining daylight began spraying herbicide in the rows to keep the vines clean. Long day.

Daily hours = 12
Total hours = 589

Posted by Stephen at 10:35 PM

May 4, 2007

Construction Daily

Today Trevor did some additional machine work to help out with grading and drainage. He cut in a small creek to allow the runoff from a Sagle Road culvert to drain directly into our pond rather than flooding the field. Other news outside, the landscape crew finished the seed spray application.

Inside Vernon and Tim finished the last of the railings. Those two are awesome - the railings are perfect and they did a great job of figuring out some very difficult angle cuts and designing a great solution for the main floor staircase.

Tom and Lance finished up the last of the catwalk bloodwood. They'll be back in a few weeks to tackle the tasting room floor.

Darren installed the rest of the range hood, and tackled several other punch list tasks. I was busy running from project to project answering questions between installing the shower doors, painting trim, and installing the A/V shelf in the pantry.

The afternoon ended on a high note, as the Tops of the Town crew showed up to install the countertop. Doug and two buddies began gluing the pieces together and securing the top to the cabinets. Such a huge top is not a trivial installation! Took them about six hours to get it done, and then we all enjoyed a few beers together, just to make sure the tops worked properly. :o)

We cleared a major hurdle as well today - we got our zoning permit on the first try! Now one thing left to do - get the occupancy permit next week.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 577

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 11:26 AM

May 3, 2007

Construction Daily

Today the landscape crew began spraying the new lawn mixture. They spent yesterday clearing the site of rocks. Pretty cool, they had a bobcat with a giant nylon brush wheel attachment and essentially "swept" the entire property. Then the spray crew came in and began laying down the seed/fertilizer mixture.

The Hawes crew finished up the parking lot, and inside Vernon and Tim completed the loft railings. Darren put a layer of luann on the tasting bar so it would pass inspection.

Tom and Lance were on hand to continue the bloodwood on the catwalk. It is looking great!

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 11:23 AM

May 1, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I focused my attention on cleaning out the master suite. Not fun scraping all the glue and drywall mud off the floor, but it was nice to finally get a look at the size of the room without a ton of shit lying around.

The Tops of the Town crew came by to drop of the sections of the counter top. Wow. That's all I can say. This top is going to look so cool. They'll be back on Friday to do the installation.

Vernon and Tim finished up the catwalk railings and will continue on the loft railings tomorrow.

Outside Trevor dug two trenches in the winery for the floor drain plumbing. Glad I didn't see him drive a backhoe into the building, would have had an anxiety attack...

Spent some time in the vineyard installing tensioners for the trellis catch wires.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 567

Check out the pics

Posted by Stephen at 12:35 AM

April 30, 2007

Construction Daily

Vernon and Tim were onsite to begin work on the railings. I had hoped to do them myself but considering the looming May 9 deadline it just doesn't look possible. They got the two long sides of the catwalk done, and we are very happy with the design. It's always kind of tense wondering how a design will come together as it never looks the same in reality as in your head, but this is going to look great. Didn't want anything too fancy that wouldn't blend with the rest of the interior architecture, thus I took more of a "deck" railing approach rather than a fancy Victorian-looking thing.

Electricians managed to get the ceiling fans installed. That is a LONG way up (about 28' to the peak of the ceiling!)

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:02 PM

April 29, 2007

Construction Daily

Today Shannon continued painting trim, and I began working on the master suite sinks. Part of the final inspection will be "finished surfaces" in some key places, namely under the sinks and the top deck of the jacuzzi tub. The sides don't have to be finished but the tops have to be tiled and grouted. Given the small space it was pretty easy to get it done in a couple hours, so now Fred can set the sinks on Monday. While Shannon was finishing up the trim I unpacked the new range hood and got it test fit. Looks like I'll need to boy some different ducting that what I had originally planned, but no big deal that stuff is pretty cheap.

Got done in the house and went back out to the vineyard to hammer up two more rows of trellis wire.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 16
Total hours = 557

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:01 PM

April 28, 2007

Construction Daily

Busy inside and out today, both with house and vineyard chores. We started off with some interior work, Shannon painting trim and me working in the master suite. We just recently got the gas working. Since we got the water on and hot water heater hooked up we ran the tub for the first time and I thought Shannon was going to jump right in! Then I started working on the fireplace, which essentially meant installing the interior fake logs and the igniter and remote control. We figured it was too far to walk across the room so we'd need a remote control to turn the fireplace on and off! :o)

Had some trouble with the remote receiver and finally figured out that the batteries that shipped with the unit were dead. New batteries, and poof - now that's a fire. Looks like my fireplace installation held up as well which is a real good thing.


After that was done and Shannon finished the trim, it was time for some exterior work, placing the house numbers and installing the new mailbox. Of course since there was a TV camera there we made total idiots out of ourselves, we'd hate to come across like we know what we're doing...

Shannon had to get going so I went out to the vineyard and nailed up four more rows of trellis wire. By now it was getting dark so time to head back inside. I test fit the stone sinks in the master suite, and re-drilled the vanity top in the boys room so the Pooh faucet would fit (it was designed for a wide-spacing but our top was close-spacing - of course.) It is so cute - the boys will love it. Late night, but got a lot done!

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 16
Total hours = 541

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:01 PM

April 26, 2007

Construction Daily

Some really cool stuff happening today! Tom finished up the music loft while I continued working on the remaining newel posts in the catwalk. Once he was done in the loft they moved downstairs and got to work in the gift shop and WOW what a difference the red oak makes vs. the bloodwood. They were able to use the regular flooring nailer and just absolutely banged through the whole gift shop in about five hours. These guys are pros.

Outside the driveway got installed - that is a wild operation. Basically a dump truck pulls into the end of the driveway and tilts the box. As the stone starts to pour out the truck moves slowly along laying the stone at just the right rate. Then a few quick passes with the bobcat and voila - a driveway. Once the stone was in place, Trevor began building up the old entrance to close off the old driveway. We opted to keep a longer drive, which exits at the bottom of either side of the hill. Figured it was safer than trying to drive out where the old driveway was. Plus we want to plant some bushes and trees to block off the view from the road a bit - nice to have a little privacy while sitting on the front porch.

Daily hours = 12
Total hours = 525

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:00 PM

April 25, 2007

Construction Daily

Tom Daniels began installing the bloodwood flooring in the loft today. I stopped by for a while before heading to work just to talk through the project with him. As we suspected, the bloodwood was too hard and brittle to use his normal flooring nailer - the large nails just broke off the tongues of the flooring pieces. So the ugly answer to this problem was that every single nail hole had to be drilled by hand, then the nail tapped in and set with a nail-set. Not fun. Tom and his son Lance had a rough day, laying about 150 square feet of flooring as opposed to his normal 400 square feet per day that he accomplishes with his normal tools. BUT they are doing a great job and this flooring looks awesome!!!

Posted by Stephen at 8:22 PM

April 24, 2007

Construction Daily

Marathon day today. Got an early start and headed into Tops of the Town shop to work through the top plans with Douglas, the carpenter who will be creating the Corian countertop. Given the complexity of the curve (even with the template) we felt it was best to talk it through. It was cool visiting the shop, as I hadn't been there in years. That is where I used to work during Christmas and summer vacations, and where I learned much of my carpentry. Still have some of our old pictures and posters on the wall - kind of a "museum" although I don't think the Smithsonian has anything to worry about...

Headed back to the house and got to work on the newel posts. I set the remaining ones under the music loft, and set the four above the kitchen. As the day was wearing on, I realized I needed to route a bullnose edge on some of the bloodwood so our flooring installer Tom would have all the material he needed to begin laying the music loft floor tomorrow. Having him scheduled is really what is driving the installation of the newel posts, since they have to be in before the flooring so that the pieces can be properly cut around them. Another race...

Once the bullnose was routed I had to scrape and sweep the floor in the music loft and catwalk so Tom had a clean surface to work on.

Meanwhile outside the Hawes team continued work on final grading and the driveway.

Daily hours = 15
Total hours = 513

Posted by Stephen at 7:46 PM

April 23, 2007

Construction Daily

Today the Hawes crew finished the the grading around the winery, and also finished up the grading for the parking lot. Really starting to look like a cool entry to the operation. Trevor also began cutting in the driveway. Basically they have to cut out the first few inches of topsoil so the first layer of 2" stone has a solid base, then two layers of 1" go on top.

Posted by Stephen at 7:15 PM

April 22, 2007

Construction Daily

Today was the first day of the newel post installation. For those who've been following along, the first try at anything always involves a few mistakes. Essentially the process involved measuring out the correct distances for placing the newel posts along the edge of the floor, according to code. Then the newel post is set in place and checked for level, which of course it never is. For decoration, I wanted the newel posts to look like they were held in place with pegs similar to the timberframe, thus I first created a 1" diameter hole about an inch deep, which would later hold dowel plugs.

Then holes are augered through the newel post into the timberframe and lag bolts are started. Once the lag bolts are almost tight, I inserted shims behind the post to bring it into level. Then I tightened down the two lag bolts. The last step was to glue in the dowel plugs and tape them in place until the glue sets.

So you can imagine it took a few posts to get this down to an organized process, but after a while it started to go pretty fast and the posts look great against the timberframe.

After putting most of the day on the newel posts, I had to get out to the vineyard to finish nailing trellis wire. Jim was over to help out and we got a few rows nailed up. Before shutting down for the day I covered the basement hallway carpet with heavy paper and plywood to protect it from the ongoing construction and upcoming move-in. Long-ass day but got a ton done!

Daily hours = 14
Total hours = 498

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:59 PM

April 21, 2007

Construction Daily

Yeah! Today we got the carpet installed in the basement and wow what a difference that makes. It just turns a basic painted room into a nice cozy space, and having the boys room painted already really made such a difference with the carpet. Since we've been together Shannon and I haven't had a carpeted room - hardwood everywhere - so it was a great change and will be a great floor for the boys to run around on.

While the carpet guys were installing the carpet, I finished up sanding and oiling the newel posts. Then it was time to haul them all upstairs which actually was quite a exhausting chore. The first five weren't a big deal, but the last 23 got a little heavy! Once I was cleared out of the room, Shannon started on the master suite cleanup while I began prepping the newel posts for installation on the loft tomorrow. Great productive day.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 12
Total hours = 486

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:58 PM

April 19, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I finished up the newel posts. Once that was done I needed to switch gears onto another project for a change of pace, so I decided to install the security camera on the front porch. I had attempted this a few weeks ago, but I was having a very hard time getting the signal to show up on the computer so after an hour of screwing around with settings I got the tech support on the phone and they figured out they built the computer incorrectly - installed the wrong video capture card. Sigh. Anyway the new card showed up and go figure everything worked the first time. That little camera is pretty cool - it automatically switches to infrared at night for round-the-clock recording.

Once I was done playing with electronic toys I got back to the newel posts - a lot of sanding and oiling ahead (using the same Danish oil that LCTF used on the frame to ensure a matching finish. This oil is awesome.)

The Hawes subs have been busy on various projects. The front porch railings are complete, the front porch lighting fixtures are installed (although they forgot the downrod on the main light and will have to go back and fix that later...) and the trim around the star window is done. Looks great!

Daily hours = 12
Total hours = 474

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:58 PM

April 17, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I continued work on the catwalk newel posts. Pretty much just a long day in the master bedroom "workshop" cutting and routing the posts. With 28 posts to make this takes a few days...

Shannon was onhand to help clean up the basement floor. Lots of drywall mud drops, glue, and other assorted nastiness on the floor that would make the upcoming carpet installation impossible. So it took us several hours to scrape up every boogie, then sweep, then vaccuum, then wet mop. Good times.

Daily hours = 14
Total hours = 466

Posted by Stephen at 12:35 PM

April 15, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I headed off to Houston for an event with Avaya. Shannon was able to put in a few hours and got the second coats of blue and green done in the boy's room and spare bedroom.

Daily hours = 4
Total hours = 452

Posted by Stephen at 1:02 AM

April 14, 2007

Construction Daily

Today started with a bit of fun. Got to head down to the Ferguson showroom to pick out some plumbing fixtures - faucets for the master suite, toilets for the tasting room, and floor drains / plumbing for the floor of the winery. Any kind of shopping is more fun than grouting floors!

Had to check in with Shannon a few times as I was figuring out what to get, but after an hour or so I had the order placed and was heading back to the house to work on newel posts. Creating the posts is becoming more efficient as I develop little shortcuts and methods, and they are quite consistent. Check out the pics to see my assembly line (our bedroom...)

Meanwhile Shannon was getting the first coat of paint on the boy's room (blue) and the spare bedroom (sage green). She was able to put in a full day while the Grammies took turns watching the boys. It's great to see the rooms coming to life with the color!

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 18
Total hours = 448

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 12:01 AM

April 12, 2007

Construction Daily

Had a huge day today. Started off the day pissed off because the electricians didn't bother to show up, even though they know we're under an extreme time crunch. Seems like they make a little progress then disappear. Yesterday they got some of the lighting circuits working, then today nothing. One more missed day and I am firing their sorry asses.

First order of business was to grout the ladies bathroom in the tasting area. I'm getting pretty tired of grouting so I had put this off for a few days, but now I have to get the barrel vanities set so Fred can finish the plumbing. Aunt Gin and Ginnie Vizi stopped by for a visit while I was doing that, so I didn't get to chat too much so they had a look around on their own.

Fred is making some progress on fixtures - he got the little potty installed in the boys bathroom. That is the funniest thing I have ever seen! The painters have been staining doors in the tasting room, and the natural wood looks amazing against the deep purple - really loving the color scheme. I also got tired of looking at the plastic film on the windows so I began peeling off a few pieces and WOW what a difference. Can't believe the views of our property. Kind of weird how a seemingly insignificant thing can make such a big difference.

Next big task was to finally begin working on the newel posts for the catwalk and loft railings. I've been looking forward to this, as I've had a design in my head for months and now get to begin crafting the posts. As with all test pieces, this had a few mistakes along the way - incorrect measurements, cuts etc. Mom was actually on hand to help out - holding pieces in place etc. It was fun having her there - so many days I've been working alone it was good to have someone to chat with.

I didn't bother chamfering the corners at this point, I just wanted to cut the newel to the general dimensions and set it in place with some balusters. Reason being I wanted to validate the design before beginning mass production. Happily though, the design worked out great, so now the next step is to "operationalize" the process to make it more efficient. Considering I have 27 newel posts to craft, I better figure out some time-saving steps!

Daily hours = 12
Total hours = 430

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 12:00 AM

April 11, 2007

Construction Daily

Today was a huge day, thanks to my brother Jim who took a little time off work to help out. The first order of the day was to place our appliances, clearly not something I was looking forward to handling on my own! We started in the kitchen, getting both of the stoves in place. Definitely heavier than they looked. Next up was the fridge, a boy did that big boy weigh a few pounds. I was just glad we got it in place without damaging any of the floor.

Once those were in place, we went downstairs to get both sets of stackable washer/dryers in place. That was kind of a pain in the ass because we had to lift the dryer while standing in the hallway. A little bit tight! We got it figured out, then got all the packing/boxes moved out into the dumpster. Shannon is going to be sooo happy to see the appliances in place!

Next up was to create an exact template for the curved tasting bar. This was a critical step to getting the incoming Corian top cut exactly perfect in my cousin Bill's countertop shop, Tops of the Town. So the plan was to build a luann replica of the countertop, then disassemble it, take it over to Bill's place, then they would use the template to create the Corian tops. Jim and I both used to work with Bill back in the college days, so we knew pretty well how to create the template. The hardest part of course was the curve, so basically we nailed the sheets of luann to the tasting room floor, and transferred the measurements of the tasting bar onto the floor. Once the bar was "drawn" on the luann, we pulled out the nails and took the jigsaw and cut out the shape. It came out in several pieces, and we had to assemble them in place on the bar counters. The template turned out great, with a nice little gap the whole way around the back that hopefully will enable a smooth installation.

Thanks Jim!

Daily hours = 12
Total hours = 418

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:45 PM

April 8, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I focused on the music loft. Got the remaining side of the PA installed. This one was a lot harder than the previous one, basically because of the way I was wedged into the timber frame. Trying to hold the weight of the speaker with my left arm while trying to thread the shackle with my right was not fun, especially knowing a slip off the beam is a pretty long fall. Anyway, after looking like a dork for 15 minutes on national TV I got it installed.

Then I got the LED lights installed. Mounted 8 up in the top beam. Once those were in I installed a piece of conduit so I could have clean cable runs up to the lights and center speaker. Pulled all the cable up (DMX for the lights, speaker cable, and power for the movie screen and lights.) Shannon came by for a few hours and dusted off her audio engineer skills and wired up the Neutrik speaker connectors!

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 14
Total hours = 406

Posted by Stephen at 10:29 PM

April 7, 2007

Construction Daily

Spent most of the day outside in the vineyard, running trellis wire, and hammering nails. Seems the seasons aren't slowing down for our construction project, and the vines will be coming out soon - have to have this trellis done!

Did get inside for a few hours once I ran out of wire. Placed the vanity, wall cabinet, and medicine chest in the boys bathroom, and laid the cultured marble top in place. I just set the faucet on top, and realized that the holes in the sink top are too close together and will have to be custom cut to accomodate the escutcheons. Fun - that can wait...

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 392

Posted by Stephen at 10:06 PM

April 5, 2007

Construction Daily

Today the Conestoga team continued skinning the winery. It is really coming together, and I continue to be impressed with their efficiency.

Inside, I continued work on the kitchen cabinets. Working my way back from the stoves, I decided to leave myself an extra inch or so of space on either side to avoid difficulty in sliding in the actual appliances. Why struggle? The peninsula proved to be somewhat challenging to secure, since there isn't a wall to screw it to. The solution is to mount a piece directly to the floor (drilling a hole through the grout into the subfloor, not through the impossibly-hard tile...) and screwing the mount directly to the subfloor. Then placing the peninsula cabinet on top, and screwing the base to the floor mount. Additional strength is gained by screwing the peninsula to the adjoining cabinets, which are of course mounted to the wall. The whole thing ended up feeling really solid.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 382

Posted by Stephen at 10:44 PM

April 3, 2007

Construction Daily

Big day today. Conestoga was on hand to begin installing the roof trusses. I stopped by to snap a few pictures before heading back to Rentals Unlimited to re-rent the flatbed to go get the bloodwood. Re-rent you ask? Learn more about that mess...

Got out to Lumber Liquidators about 10 am and talked over the installation with the GM, Randy. He was very helpful and gave me a lot of good tips on installing the flooring, and actually recommended a guy by the name of Tom Daniels who installs a lot of floors for them. Took me a while to get the load secured, and I was making damn sure it was tight because the bill came to over $12,000 for this flooring (and I still have more ordered to pick up later!) Not something you want to scatter all over the road for sure.

Got back to the house and couldn't believe my eyes - in the four hours I was gone the Conestoga team had installed the entire roof. Unreal.

Thus began the miserable chore of unloading the flooring. The first part wasn't so bad - I had bought some red oak for the gift shop, and each box weighed about 50 pounds. Carried in about 22 boxes of that stuff then got to the hard part. Each box of bloodwood weighed in at 100 pounds. The first box wasn't so bad, but after 20 I was definitely exhausted. I decided to ask the Conestoga guys if they wanted to make a few quick bucks and help me unload. Best $100 I ever spent. Three of them helped me out and we got the truck finished up. Once that was done I had to run the truck up to Frederick and return it. After that I called it a day.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 372

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:11 PM

April 1, 2007

Construction Daily

This morning I began repositioning a kitchenette cabinet that I wasn't happy with. The cabinet over the sink got moved over the refrigerator, and now we're planning on installing a shelf over the sink for the microwave.

Shannon got over early and we got started on the kitchen in the tasting room. First order of business was to install the wall cabinets along the refrigerator wall. Having Shannon's help made this a lot easier than the downstairs! The wall cabinets went in pretty quickly, but once we started on the base cabinets it became apparent that they were going to be more challenging. Using my laser lever I was able to determine that the floor was slightly out of level, angling down a 1/4" from the refrigerator to the peak of the tasting bar curve. Thus I decided to mount the cabinet closest to the refrigerator directly on the floor, then shim up each successive cabinet. In addition, the HVAC subs had installed a floor vent right in the middle of two cabinets, so I had to custom cut the bottoms of those cabinets to ensure proper ventilation into the kitchen. Wouldn't have been too hard for them to ask "where are the cabinets going" but that just makes too much sense...

Shannon had to return home to the rental to relieve Memom and I continued placing cabinets and rough placing some appliances to get a feel for the tasting bar space. Due to the placement of another under-cabinet floor vent I had to re-design the layout of the wine coolers. It wasn't a big deal and the functionality still will work out really well. Finished up pretty late and decided to begin on the other wall cabinets in a few days.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 18
Total hours = 362

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:11 PM

March 31, 2007

Construction Daily

I spent the morning making a quick run up to Lancaster County Timber Frames to pick up material for the railings. Figured it made sense to use their supplier for the douglas fir to ensure a consistent look as the railings will butt up against the posts. So I was at Rentals Unlimited at 7 AM to pick up a flatbed, then up to York, PA I went. Got there and Chuck and Tony helped me get loaded up with 2"x4"s, 4"x6", and 2"x6" lumber. Turned right around and headed home, then had the enjoyable task of unloading all that lumber into the house.

Once that was done I set off for Martinsburg, WV to pick up all the bloodwood for the floors. Much to my dismay (and subsequent temper tantrum) once I got there I found out they only stay open until 3 PM on Saturdays. Looked at my watch - 3:20 PM. I was so pissed off, because now I had to rent this damn truck again next weekend to get the lumber. Not a good way to end the day. So I turned around and went to Frederick to drop off the truck, then headed back to the house.

Meanwhile, Shannon was downstairs priming the playroom while the boys were at the rental with Grammy. After she finished up I decided to tackle hanging the playroom kitchenette cabinets. Thank goodness for the laser level I bought a few months ago, that thing is worth it's weight in gold for hanging cabinets (no matter how much Shannon pokes fun at me for buying it!) Still was a bit challenging holding a cabinet in place with one hand while screwing it to the wall with the other hand, but using some bracing I got it figured out.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 18
Total hours = 344

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:01 PM

March 30, 2007

Construction Daily

Conestoga was by today to drill the holes for the post footers. Of course they ran into trouble due to some large rocks that were in the fill dirt we got, so now we get to pay more for the additional machine time. At least it's done, and we're scheduled to have the posts go in on Monday!

Posted by Stephen at 4:03 PM

March 29, 2007

Construction Daily

The winery site is complete, and ready to begin construction. Conestoga Buildings dropped off the materials, and the crew will be onsite tomorrow to drill the holes for the footers. Since the ground behind the winery is so waterlogged, Trevor dug a trench from the well site over to a holding area so the silt-filled water can begin to drain out without getting into the pond.

Inside, Shannon and I began the very un-fun job of cleaning up the basement, and scraping the floors. All the drywall mud spills, and adhesives etc. made a tough job of getting it all flat. Since we'll be having the carpet come in soon, and I'm beginning on the laminate floor the concrete had to be perfectly smooth. It took us about three hours to get the three bedrooms, hallway, and playroom cleaned up.

Once that was done, Shannon began priming the boy's room and I began installing the laminate flooring. It took a little while to figure out the best way to make cuts, and I goofed more than a few pieces (cut the wrong end and chopped off the tongues instead of the grooves - oops) but after a few rows it really goes down quickly. And the underlayment adds a nice spring to the floor, which will be great since I'm sure the boys will have more than a few wipeouts in here.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 20
Total hours = 326

Posted by Stephen at 11:00 PM

March 27, 2007

Construction Daily

Trevor has been spending a few days building up the winery site to ensure proper water runoff around the site. Ron actually got a call from a buddy who was looking to get rid of some fill dirt from a construction site east of Leesburg. So we ended up getting about 30 dump trucks of dirt which we used to build up the pad.

Inside, I got the boy's tub grouted, and then tiled the shower in the master suite. Grouting sucks, and at this point I can honestly say I've gotten tiling out of my system.

On the sub front, the electricians have been "switching and plugging" and getting wires tied into the fuse panel in the basement. Vernon and Tim have been working on trimming the tasting room and catwalk, and we've got some great looking baseboard to show for it.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 306

Posted by Stephen at 10:53 PM

March 25, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I got the boy's tub tiled. Went pretty well, as I used the laser level to keep everything nice and straight. As usual, I forgot to put in the soap dish and had to pull some tiles off and redo it. Shannon applied the primer in the office. Also spent a few hours in the vineyard running trellis wire, as we're running out of time to get that complete - spring will be here soon.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 16
Total hours = 296

Posted by Stephen at 10:20 PM

March 24, 2007

Construction Daily

Huge day today. Grouted the boy's bathroom, installed the base cove in our bathroom, and got the kitchen grouted. Grouting the bathroom was a piece of cake, but the kitchen was much much more challenging. I think the difference was that the bathroom tile had a rougher edge which naturally hides a lot of the grout oddities, whereas the kitchen tile has perfectly beveled edges so every little bump or dip in the grout lines. So it took a lot longer to try and get them all evened out. Anyhow I got done pretty late and just walked away and left a big mess to clean up tomorrow!

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 11
Total hours = 280

Posted by Stephen at 10:00 PM

March 22, 2007

Construction Daily

Today was the first day of my time off from work. I've been saving vacation time and will now be onsite every Tuesday and Thursday until the first week of May. Until Emily has the baby that is. And unless ten more gigs get dropped in our Viva lap. Yikes...

Anyway it was pretty cool being onsite with the other subs - usually we're alone on the weekends but today the place is buzzing with activity. The painters are working in the catwalk and loft. The trim carpenters are hanging doors and installing trim in the basement. Ron and Trevor are moving landscape boulders. And I'm running around answering a thousand questions. Maybe I'll get something done today too...? Actually I did hang the backer board in the master bathroom and mudded/taped the joints.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 269

Posted by Stephen at 9:40 PM

March 18, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's main task was to finish up the ceramic tile in the master bathroom. That took a few hours due to the large number of curved cuts. Brian Korte stopped by to help out and finished priming the ceiling down the hall and into the playroom. It was great to chat and get caught up and everything that he'd been up to - check out the latest Brickworkz masterpiece. He also took a few pics and posted them in his gallery.

Had to quit early today since Shannon and I are taking my mom to see George Winston at the Barns at Wolftrap tonight. Heading home to take a quick nap and a long shower, then enjoying an evening out.

Daily hours = 6
Total hours = 259

Posted by Stephen at 9:18 PM

March 17, 2007

Construction Daily

Shannon and I were both working in the basement today. I got started on tiling the floor of the boy's bathroom while she applied primer in the bathroom as well as the ceilings in the bedrooms and hallway. I finished up the boy's bathroom pretty quickly as that was a relatively simple tiling job, then I got started on our bathroom was is nowhere near as simple due to the curved shower pan. Cutting the curves became very problematic and I eventually had to resort to "freehanding" the cuts on the tile saw. Basically I moved the guide plate out of the way and held each piece of tile up the saw blade with my hands. Don't try this at home...

This past week the drywall crew finished up the rest of the upstairs, and all the appliances were delivered.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 17
Total hours = 253

Posted by Stephen at 10:43 PM

March 3, 2007

Construction Daily

This week the drywall finisher came over and began mudding/taping the basement and upstairs. It took a pretty serious heart-to-heart with Ron and Richard to convey my sense of urgency about the approaching May 9th one-year deadline on the construction loan. They were very receptive to my concerns, and agreed with my position that we needed to begin moving the subs in parallel to speed up progress. Thus while the drywall crew was upstairs hanging sheets of drywall, the finisher was coming in right behind them.

Today Shannon was able to come over for a few hours while we had Grammy support to watch the boys. We took a couple hours and did some pruning out in the vineyard before heading inside. She spent some time testing paint colors while I continued tiling the kitchen floor. She also pitched in and installed some tile. Once she had to leave I decided I needed to finish it up, since we have two large back-to-back events for Viva and I will be in the office tomorrow (Sunday) and then we leave for Miami on Tuesday, and upon arriving home on Saturday I have to stay in DC for another show. Won't be back in the house for almost two weeks. :(

Check out the pics.

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 16
Total hours = 236

Posted by Stephen at 10:04 PM

February 25, 2007

Construction Daily

Today I focused on continuing the kitchen tile. I never thought this was going to be as time-consuming as it's turning out to be, but the angled layout is proving to be very tough. In addition, the high-quality porcelain tile is extremely hard to cut. Oh well, nothing to do but keep at it. Another late night - check out the pics.

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 220

Posted by Stephen at 10:24 PM

February 24, 2007

Construction Daily

Debbie Hartwick stopped by today, along with my mom to offer some input on paint colors in the gift shop. I had originally thought we'd go with a different wall color and floor in there to set it apart from the rest of the tasting room. But after talking with Debbie we decided to go with the same beige color we're using in the main tasting area, but go with a different floor (red oak instead of bloodwood.) We also spent some time looking at paint colors for the bathrooms, and decided on Behr Winter Wheat to complement the floor tiles.

Debbie also put some thought into our railing system, and came up with the idea for using a glass railing above the gift shop to preserve the view of the star window and ceiling from the gift shop. Sounds awesome - now we have to get some quotes...

I had started tiling the men's room when everyone showed up, so mom and Debbie installed a few pieces of tile. Shannon also pitched in for some tiling as well, while Memom watched the boys at the rental. We got the bathroom finished up, and everyone took off while I started laying out the kitchen tile project. This would be much more complicated, as the tiles are angled 45 degrees from each wall, thus it was critical to get an accurate center line created to ensure a consistent pattern. Had a pretty tough time getting started within the curve of the tasting bar due to all the weird angles. Finally got out of the curve and quit for the day - will get back at it tomorrow.

Work continued on the drywall in the basement this week.

Today's tasks:
- Completed the men's room ceramic tile
- Began the kitchen ceramic tile

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 16
Total hours = 212

Posted by Stephen at 10:06 PM

Construction Daily

Debbie Hartwick stopped by today, along with my mom to offer some input on paint colors in the gift shop. I had originally thought we'd go with a different wall color and floor in there to set it apart from the rest of the tasting room. But after talking with Debbie we decided to go with the same beige color we're using in the main tasting area, but go with a different floor (red oak instead of bloodwood.) We also spent some time looking at paint colors for the bathrooms, and decided on Behr Winter Wheat to complement the floor tiles.

Debbie also put some thought into our railing system, and came up with the idea for using a glass railing above the gift shop to preserve the view of the star window and ceiling from the gift shop. Sounds awesome - now we have to get some quotes...

I had started tiling the men's room when everyone showed up, so mom and Debbie installed a few pieces of tile. Shannon also pitched in for some tiling as well, while Memom watched the boys at the rental. We got the bathroom finished up, and everyone took off while I started laying out the kitchen tile project. This would be much more complicated, as the tiles are angled 45 degrees from each wall, thus it was critical to get an accurate center line created to ensure a consistent pattern. Had a pretty tough time getting started within the curve of the tasting bar due to all the weird angles. Finally got out of the curve and quit for the day - will get back at it tomorrow.

Work continued on the drywall in the basement this week.

Today's tasks:
- Completed the men's room ceramic tile
- Began the kitchen ceramic tile

Daily hours (S&S combined) = 16
Total hours = 212

Posted by Stephen at 10:06 PM

February 21, 2007

Construction Daily

Stopped by the house to check out drywall progress. Seemed to be moving pretty slow (go figure) but the work looks really good. All three bedrooms and the kid's bathroom are done, and they are coming down the hallway.

They've also gotten the trench dug to the well, so we should have water to the house by the end of the week. Good stuff.

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 1:45 PM

February 18, 2007

Construction Daily

Boys with toys...

Today was day one of the AV component installation. The goal was to get all the high stuff installed so I don't have to put scaffolding on the hardwood floor in a few weeks. Target for the day was to get the dropdown screen, center speaker, main PA speakers, and stage lighting installed. Ken offered to come by to help out with the installation, as it would be pretty tough (not to mention unsafe) to try and wrangle that big thing into place by myself.

Step one was to construct a scaffolding platform with safety railing so didn't have to work from ladders. Once that was in place, we started taking measurements and I realized the screen wasn't going to be hidden behind the cross beam as I had originally anticipated, but would have to hang below. Once I knew where the screen was going, I installed the center speaker. Had to bend some heavy duty L brackets to the proper angle to ensure good coverage, and it was a relatively simple matter to find the center line and bolt it in place.

The more complex operation came with installing the screen. Ken helped me lift it up onto the scaffolding, then up onto the railing. Took some more measurements, then drilled pilot holes into the timber frame for the hardware. Then I climbed out onto the side beam while Ken lifted the screen into place and installed the hardware. Did the other side pretty quickly and voila - a big-ass movie theater right in our living room! Rigged up a temporary AC service to test the motor, hit the button and lowered the screen into place. It took a little while to adjust the stops to get the screen to lower into the correct position, but once it's dialed in it only takes a switch to lower/raise the screen.

Next step was to install the PA speakers, which was a bit more difficult due to having to do the whole install from on top of the side beam. It also took a while to figure out which hardware to use, and I realized I needed a few more pieces from Home Depot, which brought the installation to a halt. About this time Ken had to get home, and the Klauses came by bring lunch and dinner in celebration of Duncan's arrival. So after a tasty lunch and chasing toddlers around the house I headed off to Home Depot to get the remaining bits. Got back and installed the right speaker, and as I was unpacking the left I heard a loud clunk when I picked the box up. Oh good grief now what...? Apparently the crossover transformer inside had come loose and was dangling inside the cabinet. I just plain didn't feel like messing with it so I just boxed it up and decided to send it back. For $800 a speaker I think the damn thing just needs to be right!

So that brought the day's events to a close - not as successful as I'd hoped but still got a lot done, and only a few more hours and the loft AV will be complete (except for the projector!)

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 196

Posted by Stephen at 1:29 PM

February 17, 2007

Construction Daily

Today was the first day of "visible" building - tiling the ladies room floor in the tasting room. I've been looking forward to getting into the tiling for a long time, having done so many other tile jobs when I used to work for my cousin Bill back in the college days. We're definitely jumping the gun a bit since the room hasn't been drywalled yet, but we're really running out of time to get our occupancy permit - the bank gives you one year or else you have to go back to another closing (and closing COSTS) so May 9th is the due date. Given the rate our crew has been moving at lately I just can't afford to wait, so we're taking the risks and tiling ahead of drywall. So I have to leave appropriate space around the perimeter of the room for the drywall, and I'll lay down luann and plywood to protect the floor from the drywall stilts.


Shannon was also able to get her mom to come out and babysit for a few hours so she could lay some tile. So I marked out the floor and spent a lot of time checking where all the cut tiles would lay to ensure I didn't have any odd cuts at the doorway or along the walls. Once the whole project was laid out, it was time to assemble the new wet saw I purchased for all the tile work coming up. And wouldn't you know it, but after getting everything all set up and built the damn saw motor was shot. I turned that thing on and thought it was going to blow up. Soooo pissed, but the worst part was that Shannon wasn't going to get to do any tiling today. We hopped in the truck and went over to Home Depot to get another saw, and by the time we were done it was time to get Shannon home to relieve her mom. After that I went back to the house and started tiling around 7 PM. I didn't finish until after 11, and probaby irritated the hell out of my neighbors due to the racket from the wet saw. Sorry! Anyhow I got it done and went home to bed.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 12
Total hours = 186

Posted by Stephen at 10:15 PM

February 15, 2007

Construction Daily

Today Darren and Kevin finished up the loft subfloor and loaded in the drywall delivery. That must have been a pain in the ass - had to carry all the 12' sheets up the stairs to the loft. Looks like they'll be installing drywall tomorrow - AWESOME!!!

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 9:41 AM

February 14, 2007

Construction Daily

Ugh - so of course all the drywall was supposed to be delivered today and we get sleet/freezing rain, then 6 inches of snow, then more freezing rain. The house and yard is encased in solid ice - no deliveries today. :(

Posted by Stephen at 9:33 AM

February 13, 2007

Construction Daily

We got our close-in inspection today - next step = drywall!!!

Posted by Stephen at 9:32 AM

February 12, 2007

Construction Daily

The insulation crew completed the downstairs today!

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 9:31 AM

February 11, 2007

Construction Daily

More subfloor work today. After discussing floor joist capacity in the music loft with the carpenters, we decided that the joist were sufficient to someday support the weight of a baby grand piano. But they felt it would be a good idea to add another layer of 3/4" plywood to better distribute the weight. Thus the total floor will be 3/4" of subfloor 1, 3/4" of subfloor 2 and 3/4" of hardwood for a total 2 1/4" == sturdy! I actually didn't finish the entire loft (ran out of time) so the carpenters may have to install the last two sheets tomorrow. One other little task, I installed additional bracing from the tasting bar to the floor for added strength.

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 174

Posted by Stephen at 9:33 PM

February 10, 2007

Construction Daily

Today we installed the subfloor reinforcement in the kitchen. Shannon was over to help out, and screwed in several pieces of the plywood while the HGTV crew filmed. It was great to have her "getting dirty" after being on the sidelines for 9 months! I took a short break to go to Jim and Shayna's for dinner, and afterwards Ken came over to help finish the last two pieces. They were the most complicated due to the tasting bar curve, but having the extra set of hands really made it an easy task. Enjoy the pics.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 166

Posted by Stephen at 9:28 PM

February 8, 2007

Construction Daily

Oops - failed our framing inspection the first time, but it wasn't unexpected (they always find something.) So Darren and Kevin had to install a few more firestops and now we're all set for insulation on Monday!

Posted by Stephen at 3:38 PM

February 6, 2007

Construction Daily

Whoo hoo! We passed our rough-in electrical inspection - next stop is framing inspection.

Posted by Stephen at 3:17 PM

February 5, 2007

Construction Daily

Holy crap I can't believe it - the electricians finished today.

Posted by Stephen at 3:16 PM

February 4, 2007

Construction Daily

This weekend I began prepping the tasting room bathroom subfloors. Essentially they needed reinforced to 1) stiffen them to hopefully avoid cracks in the tile grout and 2) bring them up to the level of the hardwood floors which will be in the gift shop. Also, I finally finished the tasting room LCD cable installation. I ended up having to pull the wires out of the catwalk, and go down through the wall into the basement ceiling then back up into the pantry. Fun...

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 10 / 8
Total hours = 156

Posted by Stephen at 2:32 PM

January 30, 2007

Construction Daily

Today the electricians hooked up the wires to the furnace and Temp-a-Tron fired it up - we have heat!

Posted by Stephen at 5:30 PM

January 28, 2007

The Geek Carpenter

This past Wednesday while I was working in the house, I was having a chat with the electrician. He asked me when I was planning on framing in the tasting bar and I said in a few months. Not good said he - it needs to be wired in order for the whole house to pass inspection. ACK! OK, I don't want to hold up the show so I figured I need to get this framed up right away, at least good enough to run the electrical boxes.

As I pondered the complexity of the design (essentially a semi-circle) I realized that if I wanted to do this right I would need absolutely precise measurements, and a template for the cross braces. I fired up TurboCAD, the program we use at Viva Productions to design stages and began working on the bar framing. I decided it would basically be 2x6 verticals in a radial pattern around a center point. To keep things sensible, I decided to place a 2x6 every 10 degrees, that way my mitre cuts would be a nice 5 degrees on either side of the braces. Once the plan was done in CAD, it was easy to transfer the radius to the floor in magic marker as a guide.

The key to the whole project turned out to be the scale outline of the cross bracing that I printed out of TurboCAD. This was critical in ensuring the exterior wall would follow a perfectly smooth curve. Step one was to lay out several printed copies along with 2x6 stock to double-check the layout was accurate. It turned out to be a little off, due to the fact that when I cut out the templates I didn't take the line width into consideration - this is how close the tolerances were! So when I cut the master template I just removed the width of the line and voila it was exact.

The building strategy was to start from either side and build towards the center, that way if I got a little off the whole thing wouldn't be lopsided on one side or the other. Turned out to be a good call, because the last two braces on either side of the last 2x6 were about 1/2 inch shorter than the rest, but because they were identical it didn't mess up the curve. Another key to the project was installing temporary bracing to ensure that every 2x6 stayed perfectly level while the glue setup. Oh and for anyone ponder whether or not to get an air compressor and framing nailer - GET ONE TODAY - there is no substitute.

I have to say I have done a lot of carpentry work in my day, but this project felt like a rite of passage. Very complex yet very fulfilling, and it feels like I can show it to "real carpenters" and not feel like a dork.

Enough of my rambling - check out the pics.

Download CAD view 1
Download CAD view 2
Download brace template

Design hours = 4
Total hours = 118

Saturday hours = 10
Total hours = 128

Sunday hours = 10
Total hours = 138

Posted by Stephen at 5:06 PM

January 21, 2007

Construction Daily

Finshed the Audio/Video/Data installation today!!!

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed remaining nail stop plates
*Installed four 19" lengths of conduit in the pantry to come down from the ceiling to the rear of the electronics

Once this was all done I had to spend an hour going around the house gathering all the spare parts, extra cable, tools etc. and getting them all organized and out of the way. What a huge job that turned out to be, but I feel pretty good about the outcome. Also nice to know that an extremely time-sensitive job is over. Technically I don't have to hook anything up until the rest of the work is done, but the cables definitely had to be pulled to get the drywall done. Although I suspect I won't put the final connections off for too long - too many toys to play with now!!!

Daily hours = 3
Total hours = 114

Posted by Stephen at 9:17 PM

January 20, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Ran speaker wire to the catwalk delay speakers
*Ran three coaxial cables to the loft
*Hooked up the subwoofer cables
*Ran the gift shop in-ceiling speaker wires
*Built and installed an XLR loom to the loft with 6 sends and 2 returns (enough to mic and monitor a duo or trio)
*Ran LED par can DMX lines to/from the loft
*Secured all loft runs to existing conduit and plumbing vents
*Added two more coaxial runs to the playroom to allow for RGB composite signal to the HDTV
*Installed nail stop plates - ran out with four to go >:-[

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 111

Posted by Stephen at 9:25 PM

January 16, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's Completed Tasks:
*Completed the main floor surround speaker wiring
*Temporarily installed the left rear 42" Philips LCD HDTV to check positioning
*Installed extra bracing in the master suite and playroom to support the LCD HDTVs

Roger and Bev stopped by to check out the place. They were blown away by the whole thing, and we got some great footage for HGTV Dream House. They have been so supportive of all of our endeavors, it's great to see them enjoying the end results. OK the "in progress" results!

I began to wonder if the 42" LCD would be too large in our bedroom and overshadow the look of the fireplace and mantel. So I test fit the smaller LCD just to see what it would look like. Still can't decide, so I just made sure I put enough bracing in the wall to support the bracket for either TV. My gut tells me I'll end up putting the larger one in our room - can't justify a TV that nice getting jelly fingerprints all over it while playing "Bob the Builder" on an infinite loop...

Darren and team worked on framing the bulkheads while the electricians continued work on the world's longest installation. Dominion Power came out to install a new power pole to replace the dilapidated one that had been there for decades. And believe it or not they just left the old one in the ground! Assholes! What am I supposed to do with that nasty old pole in my front yard???

On the bright side, we passed our plumbing and gas rough-in inspections!

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 101

Posted by Stephen at 4:52 PM

January 15, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Re-routed the pantry video/data bundle around the electronic component access frame
*Ran speaker wire for the left side and rear surround speakers in the tasting room

Daily hours = 2
Total hours = 91

Posted by Stephen at 4:45 PM

January 10, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed the fireplace venting. Kind of a pain in the ass, as each joint has to be sealed up with Mill Pac, a high-temperature sealant for direct-vent applications.

Ron came by to dig the hole for the propane tank, and Holtzman showed up to run the gas line to the fireplace and place the tank.

The electricians are well underway in the basement. Funny story - when I got there this morning I noticed that the electricians had run three wires right in front of the exterior fireplace vent. HELLO - did you not notice the huge hole??? So they had to be moved before I could work on the vent system. When the electricians pulled up (not the company owner, just a couple of kids fresh out of trade school...) I mentioned the issue to them and offered up a suggestion for an alternative wire placement - and got a boatload of attitude. Now mind you, I did not introduce myself as the homeowner, and I certainly did not look like one in my shorts, workboots, ratty hair and torn sweatshirt. So after about ten minutes they came back and offered to move the wires to a different location. Then the kid asks "Have you seen the homeowner today? I have some questions for him." Quite slowly I just raised my hand, and watched the blood drain out of his face... Actually, after that we had a very productive walk-through and discussed some minor changes and clarifications. He was very helpful and offered up some great suggestions.

But you should have heard his asshole pucker when he realized he was being a little jackass to the check-writer!

I have to say though, the greatest moment of the day came when Shannon called and gave me the update from her morning midwife appointment. They decided to break her water tomorrow - Duncan is coming!!! :) That news made it VERY tough to concentrate on the work, but I fumbled through and got it over with.

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 89

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:46 PM

January 8, 2007

Construction Daily

The electricians began installing wire in the basement today, and Fred set the master suite whirlpool! The carpenters cut channels in the exterior walls to run the plumbing and electrical for the Mitsubishi air conditioners that will supplement the central HVAC unit.

Posted by Stephen at 10:23 PM

January 7, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed the remaining three exterior video surveillance cameras - one on each of the three other walls for 360-degree coverage. Got to drive the all-terrain forklift around and used the bucket to reach the camera locations. Good times!
*Ran the left side/rear surround in-ceiling speaker wires under the catwalk

Daily hours = 6
Total hours = 81

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:03 PM

January 6, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed the master suite fireplace and exterior vent - don't have the proper pieces to install the pipe because the opening to the outside vent had to be cut off-center from the fireplace due to the layout of the floor joists. I'll have to get some additional pipe and two 45-degree joints to configure the pipe over a few inches before tying in to the exterior vent.
*Installed the front porch video surveillance camera. What a bitch getting the hole drilled through from the inside into the ceiling of the covered porch. Essentially it took over two hours to get a hole drilled and the wiring run through - of course I got to look like a dumbass for the TV camera. Be sure to tune in for this one...
*Installed the kitchen video/data bundle
*Installed the gift shop video/data bundle

Daily hours = 9
Total hours = 75

Check out the pics.

The painters finished up the second coat on the rear of the house - what a difference!

Posted by Stephen at 9:40 PM

January 5, 2007

Construction Daily

Today the crew from Holtzman came by to run gas lines. They ran all but the master suite fireplace, which they will do tomorrow once I have the fireplace installed. Fred has completed all the plumbing except for the master suite whirlpool tub setting, which is also pending the fireplace install.

The painters put another coat on a small section of the rear to evaluate this as an option for fixing the difference between the front/back and ends. It turned out great, so we are going to have them finish it up. I think the issue stems from the fact that they may have used an oil-based semi-transparent on the front/back and an acrylic-based semi-transparent on the ends. Just takes one screwup at the supply house to destroy an entire job. There is still a slight difference because the rear will now have two coats, but it is trivial compared to what it was looking like.

Posted by Stephen at 9:48 PM

January 3, 2007

Construction Daily

Today Fred came and set the kid's bathtub. Must have been a miserable job, given the fact we got a cast iron one which weighs several hundred pounds. He also set our shower pan in the master suite. Painters arrived to begin the trim - a primer coat then paint. We've discovered an issue with the stain, looks like the ends of the house and dormers are different than the front and back. Even the painter is unhappy with the job his guys have done, so looks like we have to figure something out and get this fixed.

Posted by Stephen at 3:48 PM

January 1, 2007

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Finished the loft floor carpentry (patched earlier subwoofer installation error, completed access panels)
*Completed 3" pantry/loft conduit
*Installed data/video bundle in pantry wall

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 66

Posted by Stephen at 9:41 PM

December 31, 2006

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed second in-floor subwoofer. Big job, required cutting out the floor and dropping the speaker in from the top, then rebuilding part of the floor joist to support the replacement floor section.
*Cut cable access panels in loft floor to allow flexibility for future wiring needs
*Installed plywood bottom in joist bay to create single large cable bay
*Began installation of AV conduit between pantry hub and loft

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 58

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 9:31 PM

December 30, 2006

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed one piece of drywall to allow for network panel mounting
*Mounted one of two network panels (required some framing to ensure proper mounting support)

Had to quit early today - big family Christmas party to attend!

Daily hours = 4
Total hours = 48

Check out the latest progress pics.

Posted by Stephen at 8:50 PM

December 26, 2006

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed home theater wiring in kid's playroom
*Installed video/data bundle in kid's playroom
*Installed main floor LCD cables - 25' and 75' 5-wire BNC HDTV video, (2) RCA audio L&R and S-VHS cable to each 42" LCD. HGTV was on hand to shoot some of the cable installation, as well as get some footage of me working into the night. Got some great shots of the outside of house lit from inside.

Plenty more boxes arriving at the rental shack. Living room is full of lighting boxes and the HDTV big rolldown screen is taking up the kitchen.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 8
Total hours = 44

Posted by Stephen at 10:06 PM

December 23, 2006

Construction Daily

The painter's finished most of the staining - still have the rear dormers to stain, and all the trim to paint. Duct installation continues. Fred began installation of the water supply lines.

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed video data bundles in office and boy's bedroom
*Installed video surveillance cables in boy's bedroom
*Installed three runs of flexible conduit between the pantry and master suite, including a junction box in the mudroom
*Pulled two video and four data cable through two of the flexible conduits, leaving one open for future expansion

Went into Purcellville and bought Tristan a Christmas tree - can't have my boy without a tree on Christmas morning no matter how busy we are!

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 10
Total hours = 36

Posted by Stephen at 9:44 PM

December 17, 2006

Construction Daily

Today's completed tasks:
*Installed one of two Polk Audio CSW200 in-floor subwoofers.
*Installed video surveillance wires in the kid's playroom

Had some trouble with the second subwoofer. Apparently the joists surrounding the first one were wider than the standard 16", thus the 13" sub fit right in. But when I went to install the second one, I couldn't fit the speaker cabinet up inside the joists. A 16" joist spacing, with a 3 1/2" two-by-four on top only leaves 12 1/2" of space - obviously not enough to push a 13" speaker in between. So I wasted three hours on that. Next week I'll have to cut out the floor and drop the speaker in from above. Good times.

Check out the pics.

Daily hours = 6
Total hours = 26

Posted by Stephen at 9:16 PM

December 16, 2006

Construction Daily

So here we go! Today I began the AV wiring installation. I have been planning this project for months, actually years I suppose because this is an integral part of the tasting room experience. Endless hours of research went into the design, but if you want to check out a great comprehensive guide to integrated networks and structured media systems, you can access the Leviton guide here. The HGTV crew was on-hand to capture the beginning of the project, and they were treated to some bad language, cuts and bruises.

In a nutshell, every room in our house will have four cat5e and three coaxial cables running back to the control panel. The four cat5e and two coax will terminate in a configurable Leviton plate which will allow for multiple jack combinations. To start, I'll install (4) RJ45 jacks and (2) coax jacks since the RJ45 can accept an RJ11 phone plug. The remaining coax will be on the opposing wall to allow for various bed/furniture configurations without having to run cable across the floor. Here is another DIY resource with some great photos of an actual installation - check it out. In addition to the complex AV and data systems, we are also installing a closed circuit video surveillance system with four exterior cameras and four interior.

Today's completed tasks:
* Installed the master suite conduit from my closet to the fireplace buildout
* Pulled the AV wire through the master suite conduit (3 speaker for left, right and center audio, and a five-wire for the HDTV LCD)
* Installed master suite surround speaker cable - four boxes
* Wired the Au Pair suite for data and video
* Installed four exterior camera cables (coax and DC power) and two interior cameras for the tasting bar and gift shop

Check out the pics.

Daily Hours = 14
Total Hours = 20

On another note, the painters showed up today to begin staining the siding. This is going to look so awesome! :)

Posted by Stephen at 9:14 PM

December 15, 2006

Construction Daily

Went by the house today to do my final AV installation walkthrough. Got lucky and bumped into the electrician and talked through a few issues he thought I might run into. So I changed my conduit plan a bit and made my final decisions. Then headed to Tristan's Xmas party at daycare!

After the party I spent four hours at Lowe's this evening (three in the same aisle!) deciding on which pieces of conduit to buy. I ended up getting more components than I really needed - I figured I'd rather have extra stuff onsite than having to run back to Lowe's. So looks like tomorrow will be day one of a very long winter...

Daily Hours = 6
Total Hours = 6

Posted by Stephen at 9:48 PM

December 13, 2006

Construction Daily

The metal porch roof was installed today - WOW! :)

Work continues on the ductwork installation.

Posted by Stephen at 4:45 PM

December 9, 2006

Construction Daily

View the pics from the week.

Posted by Stephen at 11:04 PM

December 8, 2006

Construction Daily

HVAC duct installation.

Posted by Stephen at 10:50 PM

December 7, 2006

Construction Daily

HVAC duct installation.

Posted by Stephen at 10:49 PM

December 6, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the HVAC crew arrived to begin delivering the duct material. Looks like it will take them about 2 weeks to get the ducts installed. We've also run into a snag with cooling loads for summer events. The HVAC sub calculated that a large event (60 people) on a hot day would overload our system, thus they've recommended installing a separate Mitsubishi AC unit on the wall overlooking the vineyard. Shit. Well we don't want to bake any clients in August so we're approving the extra cost for the unit - $1,800 - but there is no way you're sticking an AC unit on my vineyard wall Sparky. We decided it would work just fine placed on the back wall at the vineyard end.

Posted by Stephen at 10:44 PM

December 5, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the roofers came out to install flashing on the covered porch so Vernon and Tim could finish the siding on the front of the house. Siding is complete, only exterior carpentry left is a few more boards on the porch ceiling - just waiting on the material. They also installed the basement staircase, and it is so nice to be able to get downstairs without having to go outside!

Posted by Stephen at 10:40 PM

November 30, 2006

Construction Daily

The whirlpool tub for the master suite was delivered today!

Posted by Stephen at 10:42 PM

November 28, 2006

Construction Daily

Today Vernon and Tim lowered the upper loft. Somehow the original crew managed to overlook the phrase "Use Joist Hangers" which appears on the blueprints. Thus they installed the upper loft joists on top of the timberframe. The net result is that the loft is a foot higher than it is supposed to be, which will definitely cause sightline issues when there are live performances. To verify this, I climbed up onto the loft and Shannon sat in a chair on the main level and we figured that lowering the loft would be the difference between a visitor being able to see a performer's instrument (guitar etc.) or not. So we made the call - lower it.

Posted by Stephen at 10:25 PM

November 27, 2006

Construction Daily

This really isn't a daily entry, but rather a summary of several weeks of late-night Web surfing. I've been staying up late working out the details of the audio/visual systems that I'm installing, and it's now time to start buying gear. We settled on an AV budget of $20,000 which just plain kicks ass - going to get a lot of cool shit. I'll post the complete plan later once it's installed, but suffice to say the tasting room system will rival some small theaters.

Anyhow, I ended up getting really lucky with my purchases - apparently today is known as "Cyber Monday" which is the Monday after Thanksgiving where online retailers give deep discounts. So I came into a lot of savings and was able to leverage the discounts into some gear upgrades. Let there be rawk.

Posted by Stephen at 10:29 PM

November 21, 2006

Construction Daily

Vernon and Tim finished up all the window and door trim on the basement level today. Only thing left for them to finish is the siding above the front porch, but that can't happen until the metal roof gets installed.

Fred has finished up most of the PVC and will have to wait until the HVAC ducts are complete to run copper.

Posted by Stephen at 9:34 PM

November 18, 2006

Construction Daily

Enjoy the pics from this week's progress.

Posted by Stephen at 9:54 PM

November 12, 2006

Construction Daily

Enjoy the pics from this week's progress.

Posted by Stephen at 9:26 PM

November 8, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the siding team put all the siding on under the front porch. In addition, the last French doors were installed. Now maybe we can keep out the stray cats at night...

Posted by Stephen at 3:20 PM

November 6, 2006

Construction Daily

The plumbers started installing the PVC in the basement today. Ron and Fred (plumber) called me and indicated that the sink placement we struggled with and thought we had figured out would not pass code. The drain has to be 15" off of at least one finished wall. Looks I have to go out to the site tomorrow night after work and re-figure it out, as Fred needs the answer by Wednesday morning.

They also installed the star window today! :)

Posted by Stephen at 3:21 PM

November 5, 2006

Construction Daily

Took some pics today to keep track of progress. You'll notice one where someone drew a cartoon on one of the posts. I doubt it was one of the subcontractors - probably a local teenage punk-asshole with nothing better to do at night. No real damage done as we'll be able to sand it lightly then apply some more Danish Oil. I'm pushing to get the door locks in place, and then will try to get a security system in place ASAP.

I really hope I never find out who it was...

Enjoy the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:55 PM

November 2, 2006

Construction Daily

Today Shannon and I were back at AOL doing a Webcast for their all-hands meeting. So we got out of there by 2:30 and headed out to the construction site for a quick visit before heading home to work. It was cool seeing the siding on the rear of the house completed. The board and batten we upgraded to looks fantastic, and the texture of the battens gives a very classic feel. Ron happened to be onsite, as he had just done a rough grade to cover up some debris that has accumulated during construction. As I was watching the siding team put up the vineyard-facing wall I realized they hadn't accounted for the star window - OOPS. So they'll have to go back and frame that in.

Have a meeting with Richard first thing tomorrow morning - I owe the plumber specs on the urinal for the men's room, so we have to stay up tonight and decide on that.

Posted by Stephen at 11:50 PM

October 30, 2006

Construction Daily

Picked up the star window today! It is awesome. The guys at Loudoun Lumber in Purcellville were so curious they tore open the corner of the box just so everyone could see the window. It is going to be such a unique aspect of the house - can't wait to see it installed!

Posted by Stephen at 11:55 PM

October 28, 2006

Construction Daily

Today we had to finally figure out how we're going to build our master suite - i.e. how is this tub/fireplace/dual-sink configuration going to work out? So I figured the best way is to create a few mockups to give us a really good feel for what the actual tub, sink and bed will feel like. It's impossible to really tell on paper, so I built some life-size models out of leftover blue styrofoam insulation. Once I had the tub surround framed in, I was able to create the sink ledge models, and this was critical in placing the sinks (which the plumber needs to know on Monday.) The HGTV crew was on hand to film the decision process, and Shannon came over to help make the final call. The big breakthrough came when I figured out that I wanted one solid ledge running the entire length of the wall to allow the fireplace and both sink vessels to be at the same height, with enough of an apron above the top of the tub to enable some decorative tile work.

Once the bedroom was done, we went upstairs and drew out the tasting bar on the floor, and ran into a bunch of problems, the main one being the placement of the dual dishwashers is not going to work. So now it's back to the drawing board in the kitchen.

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 11:07 PM

October 27, 2006

Construction Daily

Ordered the whirlpool tub for the master suite. $4,600 - zoinks! We wanted something different so we went with a pretty whacked color. Think I'll wait and show the pics once it's installed...

Posted by Stephen at 3:56 PM

October 26, 2006

Construction Daily

The star window is done! I paid the balance and have to figure out when to go get it, but we're pretty excited about seeing it in place. Hopefully the siding subcontractors got the message that another window is on the way and haven't boarded over the area yet...

Posted by Stephen at 3:54 PM

October 25, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the framers returned to move the closet doors in the master suite, as well as enlarge the former downstairs storage closet so it can accomodate the washer/dryer units. They got moved out of the mudroom due to limited space because of the size of the HVAC components.

I had several meetings today:
7 AM - Loudoun Times Mirror interview
8 AM - walkthrough with plumber
9 AM - walkthrough with electrician
10 AM - walkthrough with HVAC team
11 AM - wrap-up with Richard on stairs, catwalk fascia, upper loft flooring (currently incorrect - was not supposed to be joists on top of the timberframe but rather hung within the frame with joist hangers) Shannon and I will decide this weekend whether or not to leave it as-is or make the change.

I felt pretty good about all the walkthroughs, especially the HVAC because we figured out clever ways to hide the main supply/return lines to the catwalk without having any exposed ductwork. The only slightly odd thing will be a small drywall buildout on the back of the kitchen wall, visible as you walk in the front door, but hell we'll hang some coat hooks on it and pretend it was supposed to be there!

I was a little disappointed that we'll have a bulkhead running the length of the basement for ductwork down there, but it beats the alternative of weakening the joists to run it through. I'd much rather have the sturdier floor given the events we plan on having.

Posted by Stephen at 3:41 PM

October 24, 2006

Construction Daily

The siding subcontractor started putting on the Tyvek material, but since it was so windy they didn't get too far. Shingles were supposed to be delivered but didn't show up.

Posted by Stephen at 3:51 PM

October 21, 2006

Construction Daily

This morning Shannon took a bunch of my family (who were in town for my sister Rebecca's wedding yesterday) out to the house to check out the construction. Many of them had not seen the land since our wedding, so this was their first view of the vineyard and construction. Bad news though - when they got inside Shannon discovered that two woodpeckers had flown in. Not good. So she called me (I'm in Houston doing a show) and asked what to do. So I called Ron, and he said try to shoo them out an open window with a broom. Otherwise, get a BB gun.

So long story short Shannon recruited my cousin's husband Gary to help out. He came over (with my other cousin's husband's BB gun just in case) to try and get them out. Luckily they were able to scare them out before rolling out the artillery. Then of course Gary got roped into figuring out how to close off the door openings so they didn't get back in, but luckily there was some plastic sheeting around so he was able to nail that up over the door openings. Good times.

Posted by Stephen at 8:56 PM

October 20, 2006

Construction Daily

Had to pick up color samples for the metal porch roof this morning. Kinda funny, the catalog was at the "Little Country Store" on Harper's Ferry road. Apparently Ron is doing some work for the proprietor and he had the book. Not sure I can make a choice based on colored thumbnails though, since we had so much trouble picking paint. Think I'm going to have to go find a distributor and see some real-life samples up close to make the final choice.

Posted by Stephen at 8:43 PM

October 19, 2006

Construction Daily

Work continued on framing in the main floor - pantry, bathrooms, and kitchen walls are going up.

Posted by Stephen at 8:46 PM

October 18, 2006

Construction Daily

Richard called today about an issue with our door order. Shannon and I didn't see the main floor French doors anywhere, so I emailed them and asked about it. Apparently they weren't included in the original order so he had to place another order. But we've already reached our door allotment of $9,500 so this is going to put us over that budget line item by about $800. Lots of things have gone over, so I have some work to do in the days ahead to itemize everything we've spent so far and determine exactly how much over we are. I have a feeling I will not like the result of that exercise...

Posted by Stephen at 8:50 PM

October 17, 2006

Construction Daily

The framers began putting on the catwalk deck today. Shannon and I went out to the house early to do some HGTV footage, but it was too rainy and cold to take Tristan out of the truck (he's got sinusitis) so Shannon stayed in the truck with him and I did a quick interview under the production crew popup tent.

Posted by Stephen at 8:48 PM

October 16, 2006

Construction Daily

Today work continued on the catwalk floor joist installation. Also, the roofers came and applied the tar paper over the entire roof, both main and covered porch. Good thing, looks like a lot of rain is coming tomorrow. Exchanged emails with Josh from Lancaster County Timber Frame about how I'm thinking of finishing the exposed sides of the catwalk floor - essentially I think it would be best to get thin pieces of Douglas Fir and create fascias to match the exposed beams, and install a display shelf to cover the seam. Josh agreed that keeping the same typ of wood would probably be best, and that the shelf would work out well. So looks like that's the plan - for now...

Posted by Stephen at 10:09 PM

October 15, 2006

Construction Daily

So the decision is upon us - what color is the house going to be??? We have to tell Richard tomorrow what color shingles to order, thus we have to know what color we want the house. We thought we were down to two - a dark navy blue with light grey trim, or a light grey with white trim.

So we went to Home Depot and bought four pine shelves, and a quart of blue, light grey, dark grey, and medium grey. Also bought some trim pieces to mock up windows, and some silver flashing to mock up the covered porch. Once we got home, I created four miniature "front elevations" complete with wall color, silver roof, painted trim. And after lining up the different colors side-by-side it was immediately apparent that the light grey walls were lame. So on a hunch, I created a mockup with dark grey walls, light grey trim, and white windows. So now the decision was between blue/light grey, blue/dark grey, and dark grey/light grey wall/trim combinations. I was having trouble making a decision, but Shannon really liked the dark grey, as it has just a hint of blue in it and looked great in both full sun and partial shade. So to help myself out, I decided to grab some Christmas ornaments to get a feel of what the colors would look like when decorated for the holidays. And after seeing some Christmas balls, as well as Halloween decorations against each one the choice was clear. The exterior of the house will be:

- Dark grey walls
- Light grey trim
- White window trim
- Board and batten siding
- Biscayne blue shingles on the main roof (a darker grey than the walls with just hint of Williamsburg blue)
- Silver metal roof on the covered porch

It is going to look so great - can't wait to see it come together!

Here are the latest pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:46 PM

October 11, 2006

Construction Daily

Shannon went by the site this morning to check out the window and door delivery. Took a few pics and sent them to me - I'm in the middle of a show in New Orleans and it's awesome to get these pics. Can't wait to get home on Thursday and go see the progress!

Front doors (unpainted)
Door detail
Sidelight detail
Basement door
Window stockpile

She also picked up shingle samples that Richard had dropped off. Time for us to make the final decision on the house color, shingle color, and porch roof. The construction contract specifies wood T1-11 siding and architectural shingles all over, but now we're considering changing to board and batten siding (+$1,200) for a more traditional look. We're also thinking about upgrading the porch roof to metal (+$5,000) to accent the porch. Materials are getting ordered Monday, so on Sunday we're going to home depot to get some paint and material to put different color schemes together - another Home Depot date!

Posted by Stephen at 10:27 AM

October 10, 2006

Construction Daily

Got the remainder of the front porch roof framed in today.

Left
Right

Posted by Stephen at 10:21 AM

October 5, 2006

Construction Daily

The framers arrived today to begin installing the roof of the covered porch. LCTF created the main structure out of Douglas Fir timberframe, but the rest of the roof is 2x4. While the framers are back, we're going to have them move the closet doors in the master suite so we can put our bed against the wall and still have his/hers closet entries. Originally we thought we'd be able to put the bed in the center of the room, but after taping it out on the floor it just didn't make sense with the size of the tub we're getting.

Posted by Stephen at 10:21 PM

October 4, 2006

Construction Daily

Today I leave for New Orleans for 9 days to work a large corporate event for Avaya. So I had to meet with Richard and the electrician to talk through the wiring plan for the ceiling, since the wires need to be run before the roofers can install the plywood over the 2x4 sleepers than LCTF installed. In order to eliminate any communication issues, I created wiring diagrams for each floor, and numbered every circuit and where I wanted the switches located. Figured I may as well write it down because it really made me think through the functionality of the lighting design. Feel pretty good about the outcome, seems we'll have plenty of work light, as well as some nice ambient lighting over the tasting bar and catwalk.

We also spent some time with Richard discussing the roof overhang, and decided to shorten the eaves to 12" on the ends of the house. This will provide a more classic look and be less "cottage" - in addition it will prove to be a sturdier method in the long run since longer overhangs tend to sag after many years.

Looks like today is the last day LCTF will be onsite finishing up the dormers. Can't believe it's over!

Posted by Stephen at 10:15 PM

October 2, 2006

Construction Daily

Had to get up REAL early today. Richard told me he needed our downstairs tub since the framers would probably be installing it while I'm away in New Orleans. So since I'm heading to the airport tomorrow today is pretty much the only day I could do it. But since I have so much to do at VIVA I didn't want to be late to work. The answer - get up at 4:30, eat breakfast and head to Ferguson Enterprises plumbing supply in Winchester to be there when the doors open at 6 AM. Good times. So I picked up our tub, a nice wide 32"x60" Kohler cast iron tub. And that bitch weighs a LOT. So the warehouse dude helped me get it on the trailer (with a few dirty looks - not how he wanted to start his day) and I drove it out to the construction site after a quick stop at Dunkin' Donuts to get a dozen for the crew. Dropped the trailer off and was gone before anyone else had even arrived. Home by 7:30, hopped in the shower and took off for work. Sleepy...

Posted by Stephen at 10:24 PM

September 30, 2006

Construction Daily

Today Shannon and I had a Home Depot date! Her mom came out to the rental to watch Tristan, and we headed out to do some faucet shopping. Actually got most of the faucets, but couldn't find two nice ones for the tasting room bathrooms, so we ordered them online once we got home. We had a great time shopping together - days like today are what home building are supposed to be like.

On a silly note, Shannon found a Winnie-the-Pooh faucet in a clearance pile, so we got it for the kids bathroom! Too funny, total impulse purchase, but when we showed it to Tristan at home he loved it, so it's a done deal.

Also ordered some custom hand-hammered Mexican copper sinks for the tasting room bathrooms, and some "special" vanities. Can't say just yet - don't want to blow the surprise!

Check out the sinks.

http://www.mexicancopper.com/products.php?cat=1&id=00127

Posted by Stephen at 9:19 PM

September 29, 2006

Construction Daily

The LCTF crew had been having some trouble finishing up the dormers - in particular the joint between the back of the dormer and the main roof. You can see in the front view how one has been completed and the other three still have light shining through. But not to worry, Joe and the team have figured out a solution and are heading back to the shop to cut the custom pieces required to fill the voids and will finish up next week.

Check out the pics

Posted by Stephen at 9:08 PM

September 23, 2006

Construction Daily

Check out the pics

Posted by Stephen at 9:08 PM

September 22, 2006

Construction Daily

Sonofabitch can't people just do their jobs??? OK I'm ranting. Another "professional consultant" has just cost us a pile of money. If you've been following, you already know about the engineering delays that cost us two months of progress and created scheduling nightmares. This time it is the soil consultant who screwed up.

We were greeted this morning by four voicemails and two emails from Shawn Hawes saying "CALL DAD ASAP" Uh boy, this already feels expensive. So we call Ron and he is at the site with Kenny the septic subcontractor. Apparently when the soil consultant, sited the drain field he didn't take the topography of the meadow into consideration. Yes, the septic tank is higher than the junction box, but there is a low spot where the pipe between the two was run. The net result being that sewage would sit in the low spot as it ran from the septic to the drain field. Two solutions were proposed:

1) Run the pipe straight and build up the ground underneath. So picture if you will a 600' hump running across the meadow with a septic pipe inside of it. Oh yeah, that sounds like it would last a long time.
2) Install a pump system which would force the sewage out of the liquid tank, through the low spot, back up to the junction box where it then feeds via gravity into the field. That sounds far more logical.

Great, that will be $4,000 please. Kiss my ass. Literally.

Posted by Stephen at 9:10 PM

September 21, 2006

Construction Daily

Check out the pics

Posted by Stephen at 9:08 PM

September 19, 2006

Construction Daily

Check out the pics

Posted by Stephen at 9:07 PM

September 15, 2006

Construction Daily

Frame assembly day four

See the gallery

Posted by Stephen at 11:01 PM

September 14, 2006

Construction Daily

Frame assembly day three

See the gallery

Posted by Stephen at 10:57 PM

September 12, 2006

Construction Daily

Frame assembly day one

See the gallery

Posted by Stephen at 10:50 PM

September 11, 2006

Construction Daily

Timber frame delivery - pics for now, entry coming soon!

See the gallery

Posted by Stephen at 10:48 PM

August 30, 2006

Star Window

Throughout the design phase of our home, we have always tried to create unique elements that will make our home something special. Not only for us, but for visitors to the winery, and to the community as well. The most recent addition to this philosophy is a star window, which will adorn the peak of the vineyard-facing wall. Many reasons for this. One is the vineyard brand - our tag line is "Wine - Music - America" as we believe these are the three themes the vineyard will support.

The biggest challenge with the window has been due to the fact that we added it so late in the building process, and the frame has already been cut. Thus the optimum placement for the window turned out to be right in the middle of a crossbeam. So we had to push it up toward the peak a bit, but it still turned out pretty cool. Check out the elevations.

New side elevation
Bent 1

On a more personal level though, the star window has turned out to be a memorial to our grandparents. Shannon and I both wanted to include a special place dedicated to their memory. At first we thought about putting their two favorite chairs in a corner with pictures, among many other different ideas.

My Grandmother, Mary Hanich lived in Middletown, PA and then Elizabethtown, PA after she remarried Walter Lightner, and I remember as a kid driving up to visit. The two-hour drive seemed like an eternity "Mom, are we there YET???" But we always knew when we were getting close when we would pass the Star Barn, which sits on the side of 283 a few miles west of the exit for Middletown. A distinctive part of the landscape, the barn always meant Grandma's place was near!

Check out the Star Barn

Even deeper than that however, was the final line from a Christmas poem I had written for her in 1989 (while I was supposed to be studying for midterms at the University of Miami) which reads:

"If I could have a single wish in my passing it would be
To become a star and forever shine at Christmas upon my family"

I never imagined we would make that wish come true.

Posted by Stephen at 8:29 PM

August 29, 2006

Construction Daily

Ron called today - the subfloor is finished! Now we're just waiting until September 11 for the arrival of the timberframe. Awesome. In the meantime, Ron will probably start on digging out the septic system (tank and drainfield) to keep things moving.

Posted by Stephen at 8:20 AM

August 28, 2006

Construction Daily

Work continued on leveling the basement framing. Initial framing only secures the bottom of each wall to the slab, and connect each wall together, but the tops of the walls are left loose until the subfloor deck is finished. Then the crew comes back through the basement and levels and squares each wall, as well as the subfloor (shimming up etc.)

Posted by Stephen at 7:57 AM

August 26, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the subfloor deck was completed, and most of the basement is framed in. It all happens so fast! After the Viognier harvest and pressing, we took Grammy over to show her around.

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:35 PM

August 25, 2006

Construction Daily

Work continued on the basement framing rough-in, and work on the subfloor decking commenced. Shannon and I stopped by this morning to shoot some footage for the HGTV show. Tristan thought the racket from the power tools was a little loud!

Posted by Stephen at 10:33 PM

August 24, 2006

Construction Daily

Work continued on the subfloor today, and work commenced on the basement walls.

Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:30 PM

August 23, 2006

Construction Daily

Today work began on installing the subfloor. Step one is to put the 28' spans across the foundation walls, with a hole in the appropriate place for the stairway down to the basement, and reinforcements wherever the timberframe posts sit on the floor.

Posted by Stephen at 10:28 PM

August 21, 2006

Construction Daily

All the material for the basement framing and subfloor construction was delivered today. Looks like construction will begin Wednesday. Tonight we have to pick out our front door style and email it off to Richard at Hawes.

Posted by Stephen at 9:38 PM

August 19, 2006

Construction Daily

Slab is poured! Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:50 PM

August 18, 2006

Construction Daily

Shannon, Tristan and I went by the site today to watch the cement trucks roll into place and begin pouring the slab. They actually started pouring in the corner that will be Tristan's bedroom. The HGTV crew was on hand to capture the moment, and it was so cool to watch the concrete coming down the chute into the foundation floor. Once the floor started to fill up, we had to leave for work, but as we were loading Tristan into the truck I saw one of his lego blocks. I grabbed it and went back down to his bedroom window, leaned in and pushed the lego down into the cement. Tristan's room forever! :)

Posted by Stephen at 11:59 PM

August 17, 2006

Construction Daily

Today Ron backfilled the foundation and created the slopes around the side of the house. Shannon went by to check it out, but it was such a dusty mess that she couldn't get anywhere near. Neither could the HGTV crew due to potential damage to the gear. The foundation is prepped, plumbing in place, and ready for the slab pour!

Posted by Stephen at 11:51 PM

August 16, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the waterproofing crew came out to spray the rubber sealant around the foundation walls. Ron also brought out a load of boulders which will be used for landscaping and grade retention as we create some nice slopes away from the road around the sides of the house. The slab preparations are done and the gravel, rebar, and plastic sheeting are in place awaiting the concrete.

Posted by Stephen at 11:49 PM

August 15, 2006

Construction Daily

Today plumber installed the drains and vents into the basement floor in preparation for the slab pour later this week. Lots of critical measurements have to be right, because it's a huge problem to have to move drains after the slab has been poured.

Posted by Stephen at 11:45 PM

August 14, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the foundation crew removed the aluminum panels from the poured wall. Seems like the concrete set up really fast, since it was just poured on Friday, but in truth the panels could have come off on Saturday no problem. The HGTV crew wanted Shannon and I to be there when the panels came off, so we were happy to oblige as we wanted to see it happen. Then we had a meeting with the heating/air conditioning subcontractor (Dana) and the plumber. Lots of decisions have to be made between these two subs, as their systems are critical to the comfort of the home, but the installations can have many conflicts.

As it turned out, we are going to have to move our washer and dryer stacks out of the mudroom into the storage closet to make room for the gas furnace and main duct work. Another decision we had to make is where to put the plumbing vents (the white tubes you sometimes see sticking out of the ceiling) The issue arose in that there are no enclosed walls in the upper floors in which to conceal the PVC vents, thus we decided to cut channels into the structural insulated panels on the outer wall to insert the vents.

There is still a big issue remaining in figuring out where to put the air conditioning returns for the upper floors, but I have some ideas I'll be working out with Dana and the Hawes team. The main problem is that we don't want exposed duct work in the tasting room, so we're having to hide everything in the catwalk floor. But since air will take the path of least resistance, it makes it impractical to run the duct up one side, as that side would always be hotter/cooler than the other side since the air would mostly come out the registers closer to the main trunk rather than dividing evenly across the whole floor. Good times...

Posted by Stephen at 11:33 PM

August 11, 2006

Construction Daily

Today they assembled the aluminum forms that create a giant "mold" into which concrete is poured, becoming the foundation walls. Each panel is made of aluminum, and the outer one has a brick pattern on it to give the illusion of a finished brick wall. The wall is 10" thick and reinforced with vertical and horizontal rebar. The inside of the forms are sprayed with grease (or some other kind of release liquid so the concrete doesn't stick.)

There was a bit of a mishap today - as they were nearing the end of pouring, one of the panels broke loose from the weight of the concrete pushing outward and about four square yards of concrete spilled out onto the backyard. Luckily no one was in the way - that could have been ugly. So the HGTV crew is happy because they caught the whole thing on camera = good TV.

Enjoy the pics!

Posted by Stephen at 9:41 PM

August 10, 2006

Construction Daily

Today the footer crew came in to mark the house site, cut in the footers, place the forms and pour the concrete. Check out the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 10:38 PM

August 9, 2006

Construction Daily

Today Ron showed up with his loader to cut in the foundation. Essentially what this means is that he will cut into the hillside to create a flat area at the level of the basement floor, then the footer crew will come in tomorrow to cut in the footers. In addition to cutting in the foundation, Ron also did a lot of site prep:

- created a loading access road to bring in the timberframe flatbed
- created a foundation access road to bring in the cement trucks
- began pushing dirt behind the house to create a backyard

HERE WE GO!!!!!!!

Posted by Stephen at 10:35 PM

August 7, 2006

Construction Daily

Ron called and advised that we have a meeting with the concrete sub Wed morning at 7:30 AM, then they are bringing in the equipment to dig the footers. Footers should be poured Thursday and there is a 90% chance the preformed walls will be set in place on Friday afternoon! WALLS BABY! All three days will be shot for the HGTV Dream House show - finally some construction footage!

Posted by Stephen at 1:25 PM

August 1, 2006

Construction Daily

Finally! Finally Finally!! Finally Finally Finally!!!

We got word today from Ron that our building permit was approved.

GAME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Stephen at 9:25 PM

July 29, 2006

Meeting The Frame

Today we got to meet our new home for the first time during our visit to Lancaster County Timber Frames. Since it was such an important day, we decided to take yesterday off of work to try and relax a bit. So we slept in, then headed up to stay in York, PA. Had a quick dinner and did a little research/planning at Lowes. Seems like we haven't been in the mood to shop around for interior stuff since we've just been waiting and waiting through all the delays, but now that progress is being made we've been reinvigorated.

We got up early and headed over to LCTF, got there before 8 to meet the HGTV crew. Got miked up and did a few "arrival" shots before saying hello to Tony, Josh, and Amy, who had been miked up before we arrived. Then the big moment arrived, and they took us into the shop where the first thing we saw was the beam that will be in the middle of the picture windows overlooking the vineyard. That beam is being carved with the word "NOTAVIVA" and some grape clusters. Tony Zaya, the co-founder of LCTF is doing the carving himself. Seeing that just blew us away - the care and craftsmanship were so apparent. So we did some camera shots by the carving, then had to do a quick diaper change!

Grabbed a coffee and a donut, then it was time to see our actual frame. They had assembled bent #2 and it was laying on the floor. It was VERY deceiving laying on the floor - it looked so small! Shannon asked Josh "what does it sit on?" and he replied "Nothing, just the subfloor" They must have seen the disappointment in her eyes because you can't really get a sense of how big the frame is when it's laying down. So Shannon decided to get a more accurate perspective and laid down on the floor in line with the bottom of the frame so she could look up at the ceiling! Too funny - Tony said "uhhh, no one's EVER done that before!" So I tried it too and definitely got a sense for the size of the frame - it's awesome!!!

Of course the camera crew was capturing everything, so the LCTF crew took bent #2 apart, then began to assemble bent #1. It's incredible how quickly the posts and beams go together. I would guess that they assembled the bent in about 45 minutes, plus another 15 to tighten the joints into place. Once it was together they had to drill the holes for the pegs which will hold it all together. So Chuck asked if I wanted to drill one - of course! After I did it, Shannon was looking a little bummed so we told her she had to drill one. Not sure Tony was prepared for this - he looked so nervous having a pregnant lady using power tools in his shop! She did great, and of course it makes for good TV.

It was easily one of the most amazing days in this whole process, and one I was so eagerly anticipating. To meet the home you're going to spend the rest of your life in is absolutely overwhelming, and to realize that the NOTAVIVA beam will be right above our Christmas tree for all our babies' first Christmas. This is what it's all about, dreaming big, taking risks, and making it happen. Today felt good. Really, really good.

Enjoy the pics!

Our heartfelt thanks to Tony, Josh, Amy, Chuck, and everyone at Lancaster County Timber Frames. Words fall short when we try to express how much your care and commitment mean to us, and we sincerely hope that you'll take away something special from this project. Never take for granted the importance and beauty of the work you do, as the art you've created will outlive us all and be an inspiration for generations to come.

Posted by Stephen at 10:32 PM

July 19, 2006

Construction Daily

Holy shit. It's done. Ron called this morning to say he finally got the plans back yesterday from the structural engineer. So this morning he headed over to the Loudoun County Government building to submit our permit application. What should have taken two weeks for engineering took eleven, but it appears we are moving forward at last.

Posted by Stephen at 4:44 PM

July 14, 2006

Construction Daily

August 14th is a no go. I just can't believe it. We had the conference call and everyone feels that the safe route is to commit to the September 11 delivery of the frame. So there it is. We will begin putting our frame up on the fifth anniversary of the WTC and Pentagon attacks. Perhaps it was just meant to be this way, a tribute to rebuilding. I don't know...

On the very small but very happy bright side, Amy from LCTF sent me the first pics of our frame being carved. After all the shit lately it felt incredible to actually see something coming to life. I got very choked up opening up the pics, hope you enjoy them.

View image 1
View image 2
View image 3

Posted by Stephen at 5:59 PM

July 13, 2006

Construction Daily

Talked to Richard at Hawes today. Even though the architect had overnighted the plans for the engineer to stamp, now it appears the engineer is out of town on vacation for the rest of the week. Suddenly our August 14 delivery date for the frame is in jeopardy. I've arranged a conference call for tomorrow to determine the go/no-go for the August 14 date.

I spoke to Lancaster Timber Frames about their schedule and their next available date is September 11, a date whose historical significance is not lost on anyone.

Posted by Stephen at 5:55 PM

July 12, 2006

Construction Daily

Sent LCTF a check for $23,000 for the commencement of carving. Completed our first draw request for $50,000 to cover the Hawes deposit, the demolition invoices, and the latest LCTF invoice. Everything up to this point has been paid out of savings, but now it's time to put some money back in the reserves to ensure smooth cash flow as invoices start to come in.

Posted by Stephen at 10:29 PM

July 11, 2006

Construction Daily

After all the delay with the engineer we finally thought we were making progress again. Then today we found out that after the architect inserted all the engineering data into the blueprints (making them final) he sent the incorrect copies up to Hawes. So when Richard delivered the plans back to the engineer to get his seal, the engineer said no way. So now we're losing another day while the architect overnights the correct version. This is way beyond ridiculous.

On the bright side, I had a call today with Tony Zaya up at Lancaster County Timber Frames. They began laying out our frame yesterday and commmenced with the carving. So it was very cool to hear the power tools in the background knowing that they were working on our frame! At least SOMETHING is moving forward...

Posted by Stephen at 10:20 PM

July 7, 2006

Construction Daily

The architect completed inserting the new engineering data into the plans, and is putting the revised copies in the mail to Richard at Hawes office. Next steps are for Richard to take the plans back to the engineer for his seal, then off to the county to apply for the building permit.

Heard from Josh at the timber frame company. They are appropriately nervous about the timeline slipping again, as originally they were to arrive on July 17 but the engineering delays precluded that. Now we are scheduled for an August 14 frame installation, but given the uncertainty of the permit application process and not to mention potential weather delays we are all feeling a little tense...

Posted by Stephen at 2:21 PM

July 5, 2006

Construction Daily

At long last it appears the engineer has completed his work on the drawings. A process that was supposed to take two weeks took nine, and has derailed the entire summer schedule. Next step is for the architect to put the new engineering data in the blueprints.

Posted by Stephen at 2:19 PM

June 22, 2006

Construction Daily

Don't think I've abandoned my construction entries, it's just that NOTHING has been happening. We are all sitting around waiting for the engineer to finish his work on the blueprints. Shannon and I have been making dozens of phone calls to Ron and Lancaster County Timber Frames to try and figure out why this has been taking so long. Apparently it took the blueprint engineer and the frame engineer a while to connect but good grief, it should not take eight weeks to get this done. This is a real drag.

Posted by Stephen at 7:30 PM

June 19, 2006

Construction Daily

Received our first invoice from Hawes today to cover the demolition:

$12,374.45 to Hawes for GC
$10,110.00 to Dozer for the trackhoe and labor
$4,860.00 to W.G. Harrison for the 6-wheel dump truck and labor

Posted by Stephen at 10:33 PM

June 2, 2006

Construction Daily

Today we met Ron and the camera crew at the site at 7:30 AM so we could position the house on the cleared site. Ron took some rough elevations, and we had a few measuring tapes out to get an idea of the footprint of the house (big!) Due to the amount of clearing that Ron and Dozer did we were able to move the new home farther from the pond in order to give us more seating areas for the eventual hillside terraces, and we were also able to move about 15' farther into the site from Sagle Road to give us a slightly larger front yard. Ron said when they go to backfill the foundation, that they will actually cut 2' of the hill between the house and the road, and push it around the sides of the house to create a bit of a "back yard" behind the walk-out basement before the hill drops away to the pond.

The best part was when Trevor (Ron's helper) picked Shannon and I up in the bucket of the bobcat, and moved into position so that we were standing exactly in the spot where the tasting bar will eventually go so we could look out into the vineyard. What an awesome view it is going to be!!!

Posted by Stephen at 8:36 PM

May 30, 2006

Demolition Complete

It's all over. Mostly. There are still a few trees left standing that can't come down until we have our grading permit in place, but that will happen in a few weeks. Besides that, the house is down, debris gone, burned and buried. Same with the outbuildings. In the gallery, the "parking lot site" is where the old barn was. It is essentially a blank canvas, ready to begin. What a great effort, our thanks to Dozer and his crew, and especially to Ron Hawes for making it all happen.

Enjoy the pics!!!

And if you'd like to see what it used to look like, check out the posterity photos of the old house here:

Posterity Photo Gallery

Posted by Stephen at 10:38 PM

May 25, 2006

Demolition Day Four

Since technically Shannon and I are on vacation, we decided to squeeze in a mini-date amidst all the insanity currently going on. So we dropped Tristan off at daycare and went out for breakfast in Leesburg. It was nice to take a few hours to ourselves just to enjoy a little time alone.

Alas, duty called and we had to head back over to the demolition site to check on progress. We stopped in quickly to see how things were going, and learned that the fire was to be lit around 4 PM. The HGTV Dream House camera crew would be onsite to catch the action on tape, so of course they wanted us there to get our thoughts on tape. Not that we needed prodding mind you, because it's not every day you get to see a fire like that!

We also got the final word from the well-diggers. They stopped at 770 feet and are getting 1.5 gallon per minute, which is safely over the county minimum. The new issue though, is that that refresh rate will serve our house fine, but will definitely not be enough to support a winery. So it looks like we'll be drilling another well in the future. Total cost for the well - $9,000 but since we agreed to pay cash we got a big discount and only paid $7,400 for the whole deal. And even though we have such a lame refresh rate, a hole that deep will be holding over 1,000 gallons of water in reserve so we're in good shape.

So I headed home to start getting ready for our trip, and Shannon went to run errands. The plan was to meet back at the fire site around 4:30 PM which we did, but things were behind schedule. Mom picked Tristan up from day care and met us out there, but since the lighting was delayed we went back home for an hour or so to get more things together for the trip, then went back to the vineyard. What a sight to behold! You could feel the heat from the fire about 100' away, and watching Dozer drive the trackhoe right to the edge of the pit and drop new trees on was just incredible.

Enjoy the pics!!!

On the construction front, the county health department came out to do the perc test on the new drainfield site, which was approved!

Posted by Stephen at 10:21 PM

May 24, 2006

Demolition Day Three

While we were visiting our new office, Dozer and the demo crew dug a huge hole beside the vineyard to use as a burn pit for all the combustible debris from the house demo. Essentially they dug a trench long enough and deep enough to back a 6-wheel dump truck into to dump each load. Then as Dozer began to clear the trees from the hillside they put the tree pieces on top of the debris pit. It was pretty awesome to finally catch our first glimpse of the new view we'll have of the pond and the vineyard from the tasting bar.

There is going to be one big-ass fire tomorrow night...

Bad news from the well-diggers. They are down to 600 feet and barely getting a gallon per minute. For those who don't know shit about well-digging that is abysmal. In fact there are many wells around that are less than 100 feet deep that get 30 gallons per minute. They will keep drilling tomorrow but it's not looking good. In fact, if the county isn't convinced that the well will produce over one gallon per minute we won't get the approval and we'll have to fill this well in with concrete and start over. And no, you don't get your money back for the useless hole.

Enjoy the pics!!!

Meanwhile, out in the vineyard, the post crew had finished the remainder of the posts for the new plantings.

Of course, once the demo crew was gone for the day it was back to vineyard chores. Had to shoot position the viognier, then spray both the cab franc and viognier with the next round of fungicide:

Microthiol Special - rate 2 lb per acre
Dithane DF Rainshield Nt - rate 2 lb per acre

Headed home at 8:30 PM. And this was supposed to be an easy week off...

Posted by Stephen at 10:03 PM

May 23, 2006

Demolition Day Two

Today was the end of the barn and assorted junk outbuildings. We did decide however to save the corn shed, which you'll see being moved out of harm's way by a skid loader and the trackhoe. Someday we hope to position it at the corner of the parking lot and paint our logo on one side, and an American flag on the other.

The well-drilling crew showed up and began drilling - hopefully that goes OK!

Enjoy the pics!!!

After the demolition crew was done for the day, it was time for my vineyard chores. Had to shoot position the cab franc, and mow the entire vineyard. Meanwhile, Donny Ulmer's crew was pounding in the trellis posts for the new planting. Seems like so much is going on at once now it's sometimes hard to keep track of it all. Once the post crew called it a day I was able to finish mowing, and headed home around 8:30 PM. Have a big day tomorrow - we're visiting our new office for the first time to meet the new team. Can't wait to start the new gigs once we get back from our Memorial Day Weekend trip to Deep Creek Lake.

Posted by Stephen at 9:52 PM

May 22, 2006

Demolition Day One

Wow. The old house is gone. No words will do it justice, you just have to check out the pictures.

Demolition Day One Gallery

Tough to describe the emotions, but it was pretty sad at times, especially when they tore out the bedroom where we slept all those times we came down from CT when we were working on the wedding. That was rough to watch.

We were able to save quite a few cool pieces from the old house, which we intend to clean up and display in the new tasting room:
- hand-painted fireplace insert dating to Civil War era
- dozens of hand-forged nails, hooks, and spikes
- original logs not chewed up by termites
- original hand-forged pot hook and chain built into the original chimney in 1807 (a museum-quality piece)

Happy Birthday to me - I turned 38 today. What a great present - beginning this year-long construction project!

Posted by Stephen at 9:54 PM

May 19, 2006

Construction Daily

Shannon met the High Noon time-lapse camera crew out at the site at 7:00 AM to confirm placement. Then she had to go by after work (her last day at AOL) to learn the camera operation procedures (startup, shutdown, etc.)

Sent $40,000 check to Lancaster County Timber Frames to order material.

Demo starts Monday morning at 8:00 AM!!!

Posted by Stephen at 9:50 PM

May 9, 2006

Construction Daily

Went to settlement this morning at Monarch Title in McLean. Vince met us there, and the signing of the many scary documents with very big numbers went quite well. We have until May 8, 2007 to get this house built or else...

Got confirmation from Mike Mustard of Pike Electric that they would install the power pole tomorrow for the time-lapse camera. $200 for the pole and $200 for labor. Not bad for the installation of a 45' pole. Have to go to the site tonight to mark the spot with a bamboo stick and sign so they know exactly where to put it, and leave a check in the door. Also spoke with Lori Legler and Sean from High Noon about the pole placement, and they want the big dead oak tree removed before the camera install to ensure it isn't in the shot. Sean called Ron directly to coordinate.

Got a call from the Loudoun County Health Inspector who was onsite to confirm the well abandonment. The well drilling company had come by and removed the cap from the well, pulled up the pump, hose and electrical wiring, and filled the entire thing with concrete. Judging by the pile of hose, wire and mess they left in the front yard looks like the well was about 150' deep.

Talked to Ron and the health inspector spoke to him after he had called me, and it looks like this guy has a grip on what Ron is planning to do with crushing the old septic when they come to do the house demo. If the rest of the county dept. approves the plan Ron won't have to make two trips, one to abandon the septic and another to demo the house, saving us money. Otherwise Ron will do the abandonment next week.

Posted by Stephen at 7:57 PM

May 8, 2006

Construction Daily

Spoke with the appraiser about the floor plans, interior treatments (floors, appliances, etc.) in order to create the final appraisal for settlement tomorrow morning.

Spoke with Mike Mustard about the pole installation for the time-lapse camera. Starting to feel like I'm getting the runaround, although he promised to call first thing tomorrow morning to confirm the install date. We'll see...

Posted by Stephen at 5:03 PM

May 4, 2006

Construction Daily

Got a call today from the settlement company about escrow funds on the mortgage. Essentially they need me to call Homecomings Financial to put a freeze on escrow funds so that the mortgage company doesn't pay taxes, because the settlement company takes care of that at closing and it is a BIG hassle to get the double taxes refunded from the county. Made the call and got it sorted out.

Got a message from Ron Hawes that we are still shooting for May 22 to begin demolition, although there may be a snag with the demolition permit since the county wants the old septic tank abandoned (filled with lime, crushed and buried) before issuing the permit. Since Ron has such a long history with the county he is hoping to be able to abandon the septic at the same time they tear down the house, but if the county won't let it proceed that way Ron will have to come out and just bury the septic, photograph and document the task, submit to the county, then await the demolition permit before beginning the demo. Good grief...

Posted by Stephen at 2:46 PM

May 3, 2006

Construction Daily

Signed the construction loan application this morning! Met Vince Tricarico at the main First Savings Mortgage Corporation office. HGTV Dream House crew was on hand to shoot the signing and conversations, as well as interview Shannon and I about anxieties, excitement etc.

Check out Vince's site: www.VinceLends.com

Still trying to run down the power pole for the time lapse camera installation. Talking to a guy named Mike Mustard (no kidding) about doing the work - still need a firm commitment from him, although it is sounding promising.

Received a DV camera from High Noon so Shannon and I can start shooting some of our own footage - should be fun!

Posted by Stephen at 4:19 PM

May 1, 2006

Construction Daily

Faxed financial docs to Vince:
- bank statements (last 2 months)
- W2 (last 2 years)
- pay stubs (last 2 pay periods)
- investment statements

Vince (lender) and Sean (producer) spoke and worked out the TV shoot for the loan closing. Set the time for 8:30 AM this Wednesday morning. Shannon and I are to be onsite at 8 AM to get microphones on and do a quick interview prior to signing. I can give my interview now - "Oh shit, that's a big number..."

Had a flurry of activity around mounting the time-lapse camera to the power pole - long story short Dominion Power said "no way" due to liability etc. So the installation for tomorrow is delayed until we can get another pole installed, which I am dealing with to make sure it happens. New camera installation tentatively scheduled for the 18th or 19th - we'll see.

Hawes indicated they'll try to start the demo on the 22nd, but have several other jobs going and will keep us posted.

Posted by Stephen at 5:05 PM

April 28, 2006

Construction Daily

Emailed Leyland to let him know we'll be using Vince's closing attorney. Hopefully he understands - I'm sure he will.

Spoke with Vince and got a status on loan progress - he'll have paperwork finalized Monday. We owe him 2 yrs W2s, last 2 pay stubs and bank statements - will fax on Monday. He checked our credit and called it "impeccable" - that felt great since we've worked very hard for the past three years at minimizing debt ($0 revolving on credit cards) and making every payment on time (boat and car). Those things do matter when you need them most! Thanked him for all of his support and guidance, and offered up a corporate party for his company when construction is done - "The House That Vince Built" :)

Shannon and I did a little brainstorming yesterday and today about a motif for our master suite - currently we're thinking "Old Mexico" with authentic handmade tiles, wrought iron accents, etc. We both have lots of pottery and art from our travels to Mexico, Spain, and South America that we could make a very cozy, unique, sort of 400 year-old Mission vibe. Who knows - last week were set on a sleek Scandinavian spa look, and two days ago it was the Pottery Barn showcase, but who cares this is the fun part!!! Surfing the net and daydreaming!

Posted by Stephen at 4:15 PM

April 27, 2006

Construction Daily

Sent Sean the site plan with measurements for the time lapse camera.

View site plan

Talked to Lori from High Noon about time lapse camera installation and operation process - referred her to Rentals Unlimited for generator and manlift information.

Talked to Leyland Mahan to engage him as lien agent and closing attorney. Filled him in on the HGTV initiative.

Spoke with Shawn Hawes to confirm their execution of the contract. She faxed the complete contract to Vince.

Heard back from Josh at Lancaster County Timber Frames and they have agreed to July 17 as the first day of the frame raising. Wow.

Spoke with Vince and confirmed closing will be done before I leave for South Africa on 13-May. He indicated he preferred to use his associate as closing attorney - will call Leyland tomorrow to explain the situation and cancel. Vince has approved a total loan package of $1.1 million for the construction of the house and remainder of the land loan. Anticipate paying the principal down with cash after construction is complete to bring under $1 large, but will see where interest rates vs. investment returns are at that time to evaluate the broader opportunity. Told Vince we paid the $22k deposit to the contractor and he said "I know" - holy shit Big Brother is watching the credit report...

Posted by Stephen at 9:04 PM

April 26, 2006

Construction Daily

Went by Hawes office this morning to review and sign the construction contract. Final home price crept up slightly due to last minute clarifications to a grand total of $717,467.72.

Reviewed the contract clauses and spec sheet, approved all items, and signed the docs. Put down deposit of $22,036.70 to secure schedule and begin permit application processes (both demolition and building). Ron will sign contracts tonight and Shawn will fax contract, plans, and draw schedule to Vince so he may begin drawing up the loan.

Richard estimates the demolition and foundation digging can occur while the building permit is being processed, and right now it looks like the old house is coming down the week of May 22-26. He also estimates the foundation and subfloor will be ready for the timber frame installation by second week of July!

Contract stipulates owner provides liability insurance - have contacted Farm Bureau who already insures the property to acquire new coverage.

Need to retain lien agent and closing attorney - Hawes has recommended Leyland Mehan in Leesburg, who I'll contact today.

Following up on time-lapse camera placement for HGTV shoot, will either put on existing powerline pole or install a new pole as the old powerline poles may be removed to bury the power lines along the property road frontage.

Posted by Stephen at 11:29 AM

April 25, 2006

Construction Daily

Sent fax to Hawes:
1) Well digging permit
2) Well abandonment permit
3) Septic abandonment permit
4) Property plat
5) Building layout
6) Dominion Electric demolition letter
7) Temporary electric panel work order

Sent fax to Vince:
1) Last mortgage statement

Emailed timberframers about status and timing - will send $35,000 check to order materials second week of May.

Ron Hawes going to county to submit application for building demo - should take 1-2 weeks to get inspection and approval, then building can come down any time. Ron also spoke with well-digging company who will schedule us in a couple weeks. Ron spoke with Dominion Electric engineer to coordinate site inspection to review proposed removal of electric poles and burying lines to the house as well as lines along the road, rather than replace the old poles with new.

Phone call with Sean to review the updated schedule to plan location TV shots accordingly.

Posted by Stephen at 11:55 AM

April 24, 2006

Construction Daily

Dropped by Hawes construction office this morning to review spec with Richard and identify which components of construction will be Hawes and which will be Mackey. Reviewed draw schedule possibilities with Shawn Hawes, who will coordinate with Vince. Scheduled contract signing for this Wednesday. Received blueprints bill for $3,000 payable to Munsey Log Homes.

Spoke to Vince (lender) about project status, and the HGTV shoot. Will plan to do location shoot in his office either May 2 or 3 with construction loan active May 9 or 10.

Spoke to Donny Ulmer regarding vineyard trellis post installation. Tentative date set for May 4 or 5 - Donny will confirm beginning of next week.

Posted by Stephen at 12:02 PM

March 5, 2006

Posterity Photos

Sometime in the weeks ahead the old house at the vineyard will be getting razed to make way for the new place. Couldn't let it go without some sort of photo archive to remember it by.

Enjoy the pics.

Posted by Stephen at 9:26 PM

January 2, 2006

Floor Plans

We finally finished the floor plans for the new house, which is a good thing because I have to get them to the contractor this week so we can finalize the contract and get started on the actual blueprints. I actually have to say I lost count of the revisions, but it is in the several dozen. And I couldn't even begin to guess the hours spent poring over magazines and Web sites looking for inspiration. In fact I've been doing that for years, as prior to Shannon and I moving in together in 2002 I was planning on building a log home and was well into the research phase of that project.

Our designing began in earnest in summer 2004, when we purchased Punch AS3000 Architectural software. Not quite CAD, but much higher-end than most consumer-grade home design tools. We've spent countless nights lying in bed with my laptop on my chest moving walls around. Worth every minute of it too, because the final design is perfectly suited to both our lifestyle and vineyard business goals. It's been awesome working so closely together on this project, because every piece has been talked about, gone over, revised until we're both completely happy with the results. And Shannon is VERY excited about playing in the new kitchen!

So check it out. And yes, that is a gas fireplace on top of a whirlpool tub right in the master bedroom. Why...? Why not?

PDF - Finished basement
PDF - Tasting room
PDF - Catwalk and loft
Tasting Bar 3D Rendering
Catwalk 3D Rendering

Posted by Stephen at 7:43 PM

December 21, 2005

Updated Frame Design

Just got the new frame design in from Josh today. Main differences are the bent locations, and a new front door configuration using a header to support one side of bent #3. We also had to change the way we were doing the HVAC ducts, so now instead of having exposed ductwork suspended from the ceiling, we are going with ducts buried in the catwalk floor. Should be very clean.

Looking at the 3D rendering though, I now think I have overlooked an acoustical issue in my original design. Having an open gable on the front of the house but not the rear leads me to believe the listening experience would be unbalanced - have to figure this out. Could add another gable to the rear (but that would probably be some serious bucks because that is complex joinery) or I might forego the gables and add more dormers. This is where the $300 we spent on our own architectural software just paid for itself - moving gables and dormers around on a computer is a lot easier than doing it with a crane or paying an architect...

Download the frame PDF here.
Note - it will be easier to read if you select "View/Rotate/Counter-clockwise".

Posted by Stephen at 5:15 PM

November 19, 2005

Lancaster County Timber Frames Visit

Today we visited Lancaster County Timber Frames who will be building the frame for our new home/tasting room. Shannon and I have been working on the plans for well over a year now, and I actually first contacted LCTF in fall of 2004 as we were beginning to get quotes from manufacturers. I had a great conversation with Tony Zaya, founder of the company, due to the fact that LCTF is based in Lititz, PA which is where my former sound company Clair Brothers is based. Come to find out that Tony and Roy Clair went to college together - small world! It was during my time at Clair Brothers that I became familiar with the quality of craftsmanship that comes from central PA, and that is the kind of work we are looking for in our home.

I sent Tony the original concepts that we had for the building and he was immediately intrigued. Essentially we are designing a multi-function facility that can serve as a tasting bar, live-music performance hall, private party facility, and corporate retreat. The original defining features were the central tasting bar, large loft for seating, and upper loft which serves as the music stage. In front of the music stage will be a drop-down video screen for home theater purposes (watching football in a tasting room!) as well as corporate events. Of course the sound system will be over-the-top! So to say that it is not a typical structure is an understatment.

Since the original design, we have reconfigured the main loft into more of a "catwalk" design, which actually stretches the entire length of the building and have changed the bathroom/closet/kitchen configuration accordingly. I'll post new drawings soon!

We left for Lititz last night, figuring we'd get home, pack a bag and go. Yeah right - three hours later we hit the road. Got to Lititz about 10:30pm to find that the Inn we were staying at sends the front desk attendant home after 10! So we had to call his cell phone and sit in the parking lot until he got back, then we were right to sleep. Got up early, had a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed out. But something seemed weird as we were following the mapquest directions through a residential area - come to find out that the mailing address I copied off the Web site was actually Tony's house and not the warehouse. The warehouse is in York, about 40 minutes south - ack! So a quick call to the shop for directions and away we go.

Once we got there we were met by Amy Weaver (contracts) and Joshua Coleman (designer) as well as Tony. Immediately we got a great sense of enthusiasm for the project from everyone. So after introductions we went into the main shop to see some work getting done (they stopped sanding while we were in there with the baby) and checked out some trusses ready for shipping. Then we went over to another warehouse next door to see some other frames already completed ready to ship. Then back to the office and upstairs to Josh's design loft to check out our frame on the computer. We chatted about a few design issues and minor changes for a while, then Josh took us out to see two of their existing projects.

The first was an ongoing project overlooking a river - gorgeous view. The interior is actually very similar to what we're doing, with douglas fir frame and white pine tongue-and-groove ceiling with light walls. The quality of the work was amazing!

Next we went to a restaurant at a golf course which was completed a few years ago. The concept is somewhat similar to what we're doing, with a loft for music performances, so it gave us a great idea of what the size of the interior would feel like. After looking around we had lunch together, and filled Josh in on our history - how we met, how the vineyard concept came together, what the vision was for the future. It's humbling in a way to see the expression on people's faces when we tell them the story - I guess it seems pretty amazing hearing it for the first time, and we rarely sit still long enough to ponder it.

So after lunch we parted ways, with Josh hoping to get us the next round of plans before Christmas. Hopefully the plans will be final before the end of the year, so we can get started on blueprints for the builder.

Check out the photos from our trip!

Posted by Stephen at 11:34 AM

October 26, 2005

Construction Estimate and Soul-Searching . . .

10/26/05

Although this entry is dated 26-October, I'm actually writing it just before Christmas. I've been putting it off as it is probably the most difficult entry I've had to write, as it recounts a very trying time for us. 26-October is the day we finally got back an estimate for building our home and tasting room at the vineyard, and it was - to sum it up with one word - devastating. The figure was double what we had budgeted for the project, and we had budgeted quite a bit, or so we thought.

The budget was based on our desire to enable Shannon to become a teacher in a few years, to enjoy a less-stressful career, spend more time with the kids, and have the summers off to be with the kids and run the vineyard. Obviously there would be a significant difference in salary, but would enable the life we have been building and planning. And in an instant, just by reading an email, that plan was gone.

What followed over the next few days was some of the deepest soul-searching we've ever had to do. As we started to explore alternatives for trying to make this dream happen, the notion of packing it in surfaced as a very real option. Over and over we had to ask ourselves - Why are we putting ourselves through this? We could easily sell the land, pay cash for a home in Ashburn, Shannon could be a stay-home mom, and we could have lots of play money to travel and buy toys. That truly began to sound like a fine option. We also talked about just building a small house on the land - forget the tasting room, forget the winery.

Lying in bed late at night, saying things like that out loud, it was almost like having a light go off in our hearts. But we have to be realistic - we have a baby now, and we want to be good and sensible parents, so maybe following some crazy dream is NOT prudent. Round and round we talked and ached for days on end. We decided that we needed to connect with the land to make the final go/no-go decision, but since it was so cold we didn't want to take Tristan out. So Shannon stayed at home with Tristan, and I set up a campsite in the woods behind the vineyard. Even sitting in front of the fire, all alone in the woods in the middle of the night, it took a long time to let the financials and the risks wash away, so I could begin to focus on the dream and what it was all about. Shannon did the same at home, watching Tristan sleep, also wondering what it was all about.

Sunday morning back at the house, we both knew what the answer was, for many of the same reasons, and some individual ones. We both agreed we have come too far, worked to hard, and achieved so much in such a short time to let this slip through our fingers so close to the finish line. The thought of selling out, giving in to convenience is just too hard to swallow. This is the place where we were married, where our life together began. The visions of little ones running through the vineyard chasing puppies - Of taking long walks together through our woods at sunset - of harvests, brunches, art festivals, special events, music - all of it is just too close to let go. For Shannon, the thought of walking away from all the hard work before we really got to experience the life was too much. For me, sitting in the woods, it came down to thinking about what "Notaviva" means to me. It's more than a word, it's an experience, a state of being. "The Music of Life" - it conveys something special, something unique for everyone. I want to share that feeling with the world, and I want to be part of something special. We're so close to making it happen, and in my mind to turn back now would be to fail.

To forge ahead, throw caution to the wind and just say "I believe in us and I believe we can do it" is for me the greatest success. We're now going to have to deal with the pressure of a million-dollar mortgage, work 7 days a week all year long, put our kids through absolute craziness all the time, rely on family and friends to help us through, but we are going to give this our absolute best shot. We believe this tasting room is going to be something special - for us, for our children, our friends and family, and for the people who will come from far and wide to experience what we've built. And if along the way we both get laid off, if everything that can go wrong does, and if we never get there then we've decided we can live with that. We'll be able to look at each other and know that we followed our hearts, in a day and age when so few people do. Because I am not afraid of falling on my face, but I am terrified of looking in the mirror and seeing someone who played it safe.

Posted by Stephen at 11:31 AM

August 18, 2005

Health Permit Applications

We turned another page in the pre-construction process today - applying for our health permits in preparation for building. Five permits in all!!!

1) WAB - well abandonment (we need to move the existing well)
2) SAB - septic abandonment (we need to move the tank)
3) Well permit - to drill a new one
4) Septic renovation - to install a new tank
5) Demolition permit - need a health permit to tear down the house (kinda weird cuz if they saw it they'd probably have us arrested for allowing such a dump to remain standing this long...)

Still need to apply for another demo permit with the Dept of Building and Development but they advised me when I was at the counter not to apply until we are within 6 months of actually breaking ground, because that is the interval after which they can sometimes change zoning, so I'd have to reapply. Thus, since we probably won't break ground until March/April I'll have to go back for that one.

So there goes $470 - but who cares as long as it gets the ball rolling!

Posted by Stephen at 4:38 PM

November 7, 2004

Open House

It's done. All of it. Having an open house as I write - already had some prospects come through. Kinda feel sorry for them as I hadn't showered yet (after working for the past 16 hours with only a 2-hour nap from 4-6AM) so I was quite repulsive. Awesome. They were actually checking out the place for their grandmother, and they liked it so they are bringing her by in a little bit. Buy grandma, buy!

Friday night Shannon picked me up from work and we headed down to VA. Got into the shack a little after 1AM, then fell right to sleep. Woke up and got ready for our first meeting with Doug Fabbioli - will blog about that later - and that finished up about noon yesterday, then it was time to get the Uhaul with Shannon's clothes and most of the kitchen stuff unloaded at the new place. In the midst of all this, a stray kitten wandered over to our place from across the street. Pitiful. Two eye infections glued shut and a sinus infection - the poor thing could barely breathe. So we snatch her up and take her with us, with the plan of depositing at the animal hospital for treatment. So then we met my mom at the new place and got the Uhaul unloaded, then went back to the shack for the bedroom furniture while mom picked up some lunch. Unloaded the second time, then it was time to get me to the airport for a 5PM flight. Ahh, but first we have to deposit kitty and trailer.

Animal hospital - closed.
Uhaul office - hidden.
Stress levels - mounting.

Finally get the Uhaul dropped off, but now there is no time for Shannon to take me to the airport, so I hop in with Mom and we're off to Dulles (after a teary goodbye - very sad.) Shannon makes it to the animal shelter just in time, and I make my flight just in time.

So I land at White Plains at 6:45PM, head to Wilton (damn cab ride cost more than my plane ticket...) pick up my car and go to Home Depot to pick up some remaining pieces. Back to the house and work until 4AM getting the last bits of construction done. Nap until 6AM then get up and begin the cleanup. Finished that around noon just in time for some nice folks to drop by. What a weekend.

Anyway, for you fans who have been following the kitchen progress, I betcha can't wait to see the final result??? Well first let's have a peek at what it looked like just over 2 weeks ago:

View 1
View 2

Lovely pink laminate cabinets! And one more peek after it was gutted:

Gutted with surprise pipe

And now for the main event! Since some of the colors didn't come across too well on my old digital camera, the counters are dark blue with a grainy pattern in them, and the walls are a light grey/silver, maple cabinets, brushed silver hardware and wall plates.

View image 1
View image 2
View image 3
View image 4
View image 5 (ugly light is getting replaced tomorrow night...)

Now I just have to manage to keep my eyes open until 5PM when the open house is over. I am toasted right now.

Also have to write my relocation notice for work tonight - dropping the bomb on my boss tomorrow. She's the best - I am very hopeful that even if there is some resistance from the other Execs that she'll make it happen for me. Cross your fingers gang...

Posted by Stephen at 12:50 PM | Comments ( 2 )

November 1, 2004

For Sale By Owner

Well it's official - the sign went in the yard yesterday. 152 Vista Terrace is for sale by owner. Probably didn't make friends with the neighbors though - the house across the street is for sale as well, and since they are using a realtor I figured why not sponge off of their traffic. How was I to know they were having an open house yesterday? hehe... We actually got a call right after I put out the sign but Shannon thinks it was the neighbor asking us what we are listing for (or to tell me off...) Got another call today though from a drive by, so it's encouraging so far!

So I created a Web page and have been spamming the local realtors - and will hopefully get it in the MLS tomorrow via a list-it-yourself service. So have a look at our page.

Shannon has the blues a bit - selling your first home is always kind of sad. We're kind of glad she'll be in VA during this process, maybe it won't be so bad. Plus she'll have the two varmints with her so that's one less headache to worry about while showing the house. Seamus will stay with me and devour any prospects who don't like the work we've just done. He's a predator. "The house is great but we don't like the kitchen." Seamus - kill.

View image 1
View image 2

Posted by Stephen at 4:17 PM | Comments ( 2 )

October 31, 2004

Ready For Paint

So I'll begin today's ramblings by directing your attention to the posting time at the end of this entry. Guess who forgot to set the clocks back last night? Sad. So that delicious little perk that we only get to enjoy once a year - a little bit of happiness when an extra hour of sleep just falls out of the sky. Kind of like finding a $20 in your winter coat pocket. And I missed it. Oh well not like there's nothing to do. On the bright side we get an extra hour of playtime in the kitchen and den, which by the way are READY TO PAINT!!!

Whoo hoo! The worst is over! And by "worst" I mean all the drywall sanding is done. In my opinion, that is the most wretched task in all of home improvement. Perhaps it goes back to my summer job right out of high school - working with my cousin Bill who owns "Tops of the Town." We built and installed countertops, and when he was just starting out we worked 4 out of 5 days at an underpriveleged apartment complex called Ravenwood where we had to remove the closets in each bedroom (they had these huge ugly folding doors) then rebuild new ones with nicer doors. Plus we got to tear out the old countertops and put in new ones. Ever get to take a 20-year old countertop out of an underpriveleged apartment? Go ahead - stick your hand down the crack between the counter and the stove. And while you're at it stick your nose in the plumbing under the sink... Anyway I spent that summer sanding drywall, and 75% of the time on a chair inside a closet. So there are still some negative associations rolling around in my pumpkin for sure.

Have to say though, I did have a pretty good time since working for Bill was a non-stop comedy hour. We had a lot of laughs. And besides, that is where I picked up my first skillzzz in home improvement, invaluable experience that has served me well. So that brings us back to the point - the cabinets are set and today we're painting the kitchen and the den. One more fix in the den - the baseboard heater started leaking during the demo. Upon closer inspection it had apparently leaked some time ago and the previous owners packed about 12 pounds of caulk around the joint which held for decades until I managed to break it last week. Sigh. So that had to get torn out in order to install a new one. Oh yes, what special sauce lurks behind a nice warm leaky baseboard heater...

OK it's time for breakfast, cheerios or cold pizza? Pizza - the official food of home improvement. Nah I'll go for the cheerios - just have to wash out a bowl in the bathroom sink. But it's really starting to look like a kitchen again!

View image 1
View image2

Posted by Stephen at 5:39 AM

October 30, 2004

Home Stretch

Well she made it. Shannon's last day at WWE was yesterday - they had a small party for her over at the TV building. So many people very sad to see her leaving, yet all of them are so happy for us and for our road ahead.

So we celebrated last night at our favorite New Haven restaurant - "Roomba" - a Cuban/Carribbean/fusion restaurant. Although everything is awesome, the highlight would have to be the soup of the day - pumpkin/apple/spice - oh so harvesty and yummy.

Posted a few pics to the vineyard site yesterday. Most remarkable is seeing the wedding site before/after pics right next to each other. Holy rock wall Batman... Have a look.

So now we're in the critical stage of the renovations. We have to finish this place because next weekend Shannon moves down - :( - to start her new job - :) - and I'll be up here holding an open house on Sunday. I really want her to be able to relax and rest this week (salon appointment on Wed - thanks Memom) so we have to finish all the construction/painting this weekend so she can get some rest.

As for the move, we're renting a small house just outside of Hillsboro about 10 minutes from our land. 1 bedroom, living room (wood stove), den/office, kitchen, garage, on 6 acres with a fishing pond. After the insanity of these past months, we are going to be hibernating this winter for sure! Here's a few pics:

View image 1
View image 2
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View image 4

Posted by Stephen at 6:58 AM | Comments ( 2 )

October 24, 2004

Weekend Status

Made great progress on the kitchen renovation. Here's where we started yesterday morning: view 1 and view 2.

Quite a few surprises and setbacks along the way, the most notable being the discovery of the main drain line in the back corner. That is one of those stories where you suspect something is amiss and hate to find out you were right. Prior to tearing out the old cabinets I was taking measurements and found some of them confusing - the back counter top wasn't the typical depth (short by 4 inches.) I said to Shannon "that counter top was shortened for a reason - that wall has a surprise for us..." Sure enough once I got all the old plaster off - SURPRISE! Oh well, small change of plans and essentially ended up just building out the wall slightly with some new studs so the drywall would lay flush on the pipe. Have a look.

Just to backtrack a bit, the first step was to get the old cabinets off the wall. This actually wasn't too bad and only took about 3 hours to clear down to the bare walls - view 1 and view 2.

Next step was to get down to the bare studs (and find the surprise...) and this is always so messy. Meanwhile we set up an assembly area in the den so that Shannon could build all the cabinets. Note the dust mask - the cloud of krud from the demo has pretty much covered the entire house!

Once the studs were in, then it was time to re-run the electrical work and install new switches and boxes. Once that was done up went the drywall, including a tricky cut that had 3 electrical boxes and a window cutout then went in (almost) without a hitch. Once the new drywall was up then it was time to hang the wall cabinets. We got them all up and the range hood back in place, and now we are two sore, sleepy people. So as we head off to sleep, I figured I'd post this shot so I have something to look at tomorrow at work, cuz I know my shoulders are going to be cranky, and Shannon's back is buggin' from putting together all ten cabinets. But when it's done, the before/after shots are going to be awesome. Take a peek and say goodnight...


Posted by Stephen at 10:48 PM

October 23, 2004

New Plan

Well the house is coming together great. And thinking about all the work we've done so far, and how important it is going to be to sell this house quickly, a gnawing, unsettled feeling began to eat at me. I think I almost had an anxiety attack about the current state of the kitchen. For anyone who's been to the house, or seen a picture you know the eyesore of all eyesores is our kitchen. Ugliest floor that looks dirty even after you mop it, but the worst is the cabinets - PINK LAMINATE. We've been pondering solutions to this disaster - thought about painting them, re-laminating them, new doors - and while considering some of those lame options it hit me: any potential buyer with half a brain is going to walk away from a viewing thinking "that is one ugly-ass kitchen - next house..." They won't remember the perfect new siding, or the 6 other rooms that have just been renovated.

So I started shopping online for do-it-yourself cabinets, and after a trip to IKEA last night (awesome stuff - you have to check that place out!) they have an ordering delay of 2-4 weeks. I hope to have a contract in that timeframe so that didn't really work. So over to Home Depot to look around, and actually found some really decent maple build-them-yourself jobs.

Moral of the story - I'm gutting the kitchen today and doing this right. I figure all the materials will total just under $2,000 - so for that price it just doesn't make sense to try and fix the old crap, especially considering we have a dumpster sitting right out back just waiting for the pink laminate cabinets. After all the work we've done on this house, it's impossible to leave the last component (and depending on the buyer potentially the most important) not done correctly.

Heading to HD now to pick up the pieces. This is going to be a long weekend...

Posted by Stephen at 7:01 AM | Comments ( 6 )

October 17, 2004

Bathroom done!

Finished the bathroom last night! Just couldn't go to bed knowing there was one last wall plate to be screwed in place... For a small half bath it turned out pretty nice - have a look.

Also finished framing the pantry (view 1 and view 2) and completed the electrical work. Will finish the drywall today and get the first coat of mud applied.

Shannon is making great progress outside - has both of the doors and mailbox painted, plus all the trim scraped and painted, plus the porch railings. Today's task is painting the brick foundation. We'll post outside shots once it's all done - so far it looks great!

Posted by Stephen at 9:39 AM | Comments ( 3 )

October 13, 2004

Moving right along...

Very productive weekend for the CT house! The siding is complete (pictures soon...) and the bathroom is painted - just need to finish the floor and re-install the fixtures. Will be done this weekend. Doesn't look like I'll reach my goal of staying injury-free this move. Already gave myself a pretty severe strain in my shoulder/chest whilst framing in the new pantry. Time to buy stock in Advil.

Lupe Esmerelda (Rebecca) had a great time visiting this weekend. Our camping trip was divine! Have to put up some of the video, especially the shot where I go in the tent, and Lupe looks up and growls "I'm ready for my closeup Mr. Demille..." Ewww... It wasn't all play, Lupe did a great job planting the front flower beds and mulching. House looks so nice.

Had a great chat with Kim Mendes, our neighbor on Sagle Road. Her and husband Mark are in the final stages of completing their log home, and I asked if we can get together soon to talk about the challenges of their building process. She is looking forward to it, and I'm sure they will be a tremendous help in steering us clear of some of their troubles (not to say we won't find our own anyway!)

Not a lot of vineyard planning going on right now - everyone is focused on finishing the house so we can get it listed this month.

Posted by Stephen at 4:41 PM | Comments ( 2 )

October 6, 2004

Moving Update

Work is progressing nicely on the CT house. Getting ready to sell is always a big job! This past weekend I got the outside fence powerwashed and painted. Have to tell you about spray painters. Wow - what a mess. I mean I pretty much spray painted the whole yard white. Looked like a blizzard hit. Thankfully I was able to keep most of the overspray out of the neighbors yards using a backing board. But I'll trade the mess for the time savings any day. Painted the whole fence in 90 minutes. Took Shannon three weekends to do it by hand when she bought the place. I figure a good low mowing and the white grass will turn green again...

Also got the bathroom drywalled and sanded (another fine mess...) and will get the trim on tonight and get painting this weekend. Have a look once, and twice. Am also putting a new pantry in the kitchen so hope to get that framed in tomorrow night (started anyway.) Got the den cleaned out and will be starting on some drywall patches. Found a dog hair under the couch. Actually I found one hundred billion of them under there but who's counting...

New siding is looking great!!! Wow what a difference, and Shannon is really happy to see the house looking so nice, even though we're leaving. Just feels good to see your first home realize it's full potential.

View siding image 1
View siding image 2
View siding image 3


This weekend my seester Lupe Esmerelda Sanchez (a.k.a. Rebecca) will be visiting. We're excited, since we'll be going boat camping on Sunday afternoon -> Monday. Then back to the house to put Lupe to work on the outside of the house - mulching, planting a few posies to nicen up the joint. Looking for the magic of "curb appeal" to aid in the sale!

Found a do-it-yourself service that allows you to get your house on the MLS listings. We're going to go the FSBO route and try to save a commission. Hopefully it works out, but if we get separated for too long -

more than a day??? :(

- with Shannon in VA and me in CT, then we'll get a real estate agent to deal with it. Just racing the clock right now because we really hope to list this month. Tons to do yet!

Posted by Stephen at 11:18 AM | Comments ( 3 )

September 25, 2004

Demo(lition) not Demo(nstration)

Demo'ing is a drag.

Yesterday I mentioned that the first step in any construction project is speaking to a lender. I suppose that was a bit premature - the first step in any new construction project is surviving the preparation and sale of the previous house. Anyone who has ever sold a home has asked themselves "What the hell are we fixing this place up for? We're leaving!?!?" That question holds even more bitterness when you're standing in a pile of rubble up to your knees...

Last night's project was the demo of our downstairs bathroom. If you're not familiar with home construction techniques of the 1920's, walls were not constructed of the nice neat sheets of drywall stacked up so nicely at Home Depot. Oh no. Walls were constructed by putting a billion little horizontal wood pieces, and then packing plaster on them. So imagine the reverse (demo) - the walls don't come apart in nice large sheets, but rather a billion little pieces (not to mention the asbestos-laden dust cloud that accompanies this procedure...) A hateful task to say the least.

On the bright side the worst is over! Our bathroom is in several trash cans on the front porch, awaiting the delivery of the dumpster. The cool part of doing a demo properly is that now I have a nice blank canvas to begin the reconstruction process. I'm one of those (sometimes referred to as 'anal') folks who even likes to be neat when I'm being dirty. So having a neat space prior to beginning construction is paramount! Probably begin putting up drywall tomorrow or some night this week.

Still though, anyone who has been in these situations will inevitably look upon the finished room with pride and sadness, and softly whisper to their spouse...

"Let's go start our new life." :)

Posted by Stephen at 11:24 AM | Comments ( 1 )

September 24, 2004

Construction Concepts

Yesterday was a big day for the construction planning. Posted some floor plans and 3D renderings on a hidden URL and submitted to four timber frame companies. Basically the first step in any project is to find a lender, and work out some rough budget numbers. Then you get to buy some fun architectural software to draw up your dream house, then present the rough drafts to the timber frame companies. Then they come back with a cost. Then the goal is to get that cost well below the lender number to leave yourself a buffer zone for "oops-oh-by-the-ways" that are going to pop up during construction.

Using the design software was a lot of fun, especially when I somehow put a toilet on the roof, and a closet door 30 feet underground. That was awesome. Hopefully we won't have to go back to the drawing board too much (i.e. shrink the house...) To avoid bad karma we're not showing anyone the drawings (drawerings?) yet because you just know the more people that are in on the big plan is proportional to the level of disappointment that could come. So no peeking for now!

Anyway here's the URLs of the four companies:
Blue Ridge Timberwrights
Thistlewood
Yankee Barn Homes
Bensonwood Homes

Posted by Stephen at 10:45 AM | Comments ( 1 )