Thursday, September 29, 2011

The House: 9 weeks/2 months down

We've now been in 35 hrs/week-full-build-mode for 2 months. Our Team A/Team B is barely intact as different home owners have been pulled to work on new projects. We are working hard hard hard and seeing lots of progress, though there is still lots and lots to do. Our projected move-in is in April, though we're all hoping it will be mid-February. Of course, nothing is official yet. It's so far out; we have no clue what will happen between now and then.

So, let's talk about what happened this week.

Everyone (except 7, 8, and 9, which aren't done framing yet): Windows delivered! Check it out in the pictures below. Just delivered, of course. We will install them later.
House 1, 2, 3: plumbing is in, roof trusses have been anchored... I know people have been there building, but I'm not sure what all has happened.
House 4: no change.
House 5 and 6 (ours!): cement garage stairs and cement front porch placed.
House 7 (where we spent our time this week): Exterior and interior framing completed, sheathing on the house done, garage framed and almost all sheathed. There's probably only a couple more hours of work there before it will be ready for roof trusses.
House 8 (Team B working over there this week, minus all the people pulled to get ready for plumbing on other houses): Exterior framing done, starting on interior framing, almost all the exterior sheathing is done.
House 9: no change. It's the last foundation sitting there all lonely and naked. :( We'll be getting to that one very soon, I promise!

Sitting up, crawling, and just plain cute

Katie has learned how to crawl and sit up this week. She's even pulled herself to a stand a couple of times. Too fast, Katie, too fast! but still fun!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Say Cheese, Lee!

Lee is proud to report:

The first lost tooth!

Monday, September 26, 2011

At Church

This is why we love being nursery leaders.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The House: 8 week update

Look at my roof!!!!




Lots more stuff happening this week. Our teams continue to be broken up as we get some houses prepared for sheetrock and shingles. Our building manager has been asking the homeowners of the fully-framed houses to go back to their own houses to work on lots of little projects. And yes, I'll talk about those when it is our turn.

House 1(B team): pipes run for plumbing, and "little projects" taking place.
House 2(A team): same as house 1. Since the homeowners are from the "A-team," and they've been building at their own house almost this whole week, we've been down to just three families framing. On Wednesday, there were just three of us because we had no volunteers or spouses. But we still work hard.
House 3 (B team): also had a little work done to get ready for plumbing, but pipes aren't run yet.
House 4 (A team): no change from last week.
House 5 (B team): finished framing, had roof placed (Subcontractors do our roof).
House 6 (A team) (ours!): finished framing, finished garage, had roof placed.
House 7 (A team): green plate, rim board, load bearing wall, stairs, floor joists, and almost all the subfloor have been done. We also laid out the back wall, but it isn't sheathed yet.
House 8 (B team): basement and garage floor placed, green plate, rim board, load bearing wall, and some floor joists have been done.
House 9 (B team): basement and garage floor placed.

Next week Cody's schedule changes again and I he gets to go build and I stay home with the kids. I'm glad. It's been lots of fun building every day, but I'm tiiiired. (and have a cold.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The House: Earning our Burgers

Guess what? We're ready for roof trusses!


The house at the beginning of today:

The day we started framing on our house, I made a bet with the rest of the A-Team in complete jest. I told them that if we tied or beat our record for fastest framing on our house, I'd make them all burgers. After that hard build week, I decided we deserved burgers whether or not we actually beat our record. So I made burgs for lunch and took them out to our whole A-team.

In the long run, though, we really did "earn" our burgers. :) But even better news--Both house 5 and house 6(ours!) are fully framed, braced, and ready for roof trusses next week. On Tuesday we will probably get to start framing houses 7 and 8. We are doing awesome!

So what exactly happened at our house today? We finished the "energy wall" studs, put in the top plates (which are a second set of 2x4's on the top of all the walls that help keep them very strong), put "ladder backing" where interior walls meet exterior walls (which is a set of 2x4s that help keep everything strong as well as allow for easier sheetrocking), finished exterior sheathing, and built the ENTIRE garage, from framing to sheathing to the massive header above the garage door, and even did the stairs. The last thing we do is brace all the walls so that they won't budge a sixteenth of an inch when the roof trusses are placed. Before bracing, the walls are still little flexible. The house at the end of the day:
And y'know what else? It even rained today. This is AMAZING!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The House: 7 Weeks

Wow, did we ever hit a stride this week! I think everyone could feel the pace pick up. Well, maybe it was just me... but I know I conquered some big fears this week and tried some jobs I never thought I would do.

Over at our house, we have completed the exterior walls and moved on to interior walls. Since we have three awesome framers in our midst, the interior walls fly together. And I do mean fly--flying boards, nails, and in no time, they're flying up. It was a downright madhouse maze yesterday inside! There were three guys laying out walls in different locations, each loading lumber through the windows. A couple of the girls were trying to install all the "energy wall" studs, but toward the end, it just got too insane as we rushed to finish the interior walls before ending. (Which, incidentally, we only missed by 1 2' wall.) My parents came up yesterday, and we continued working on exterior sheathing. It's a lot easier to install when the wall is still laying down. We had to use the 2 story ladder to reach the top of the ply wood. It was kind of precarious. But we did it!

Master Bedroom:
Me in the spacious master closet:

Taking a short break in the front living room window:
Bruce, my neighbor, demonstrating how to properly use a ladder:

Wanna know where each house is now? Okay. For memory's sake. Mom--I've added which team each house belongs to now. We are in team A. We are still one big group, though, sharing expenses and wood, and occasionally tools--but we work separately and only see each other when someone comes over to kife a router or impact drill.

House 1 (team B): The owners returned to their house this week to install roof truss anchors and perpendicular 2x4s that will aid come sheetrocking time, and a few other "small" tasks.
House 2 (team A) &3 (team B): No change from last week (roof in).
House 4(team A): had roof trusses installed and sheathed, and porch and garage concrete stairs placed.
House 5 (team B): interior walls completed, garage framed and mostly sheathed.
House 6 (team A) (ours!): Floor joists in, subfloor in, exterior walls up, interior walls up. I truly think this is the most we've ever done on one house in one week.
House 7 (team A): no change, still just a foundation with a basement and garage floor.
House 8&9 (team B): prepped for cement, with visqueen and tar. I'm not sure if they put on the window wells or not... those are "Team B" houses right now.

Oh, and in case I never mentioned it, here's our normal build hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4-9:30 pm; Saturday from 7-7. That's why there's so many night pictures now. The sun set about 7:45 this week. The waning sunlight and the cooling temperatures are just a sign right now of the impending winter... we're hoping to have shingles on before the snow flies. Lots of work to do to get there. We can do it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rice cereal?

I think the jury's still out on rice cereal...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The House: Hard work=great rewards

I am proud of myself. It takes some major courage to build a house, you know!

Yesterday (September 13, 2011) we got more amazing work on our house done. We have walls! And I, Lisa, cut out our front door. How many people can say that? I also nailed in most of the sheathing myself. That means using the heavy nail gun--one of the things I was most afraid of at first. But I conquered it yesterday. Go me! My arm is sore this morning though. :)

And since I'm chronicling every step of this journey, here's some information about building exterior walls:

The most important tools for building exterior walls are a measuring tape and a pencil, followed by a hammer and a square. Oh, and of course a pair of gloves and water bottle... First, we measure where the wall goes and use the floor plan to carefully lay out the walls. We have to have some decent math skills to know just where to put the doors and windows. Around windows, we have a trimmer and an extra stud on each side. Doors have to have an extra two inches added to the width of the door for the door jams and shims, then have their own trimmer and extra stud as well. Both windows and doors also have headers built out of 2x10 boards. After doors and windows are determined, then we also place studs every 16". Once the wall is in place, we'll put up more studs in the little wave pattern I explained a while back. It gets kind of complicated, and this is a job that I haven't quite mastered yet, but I try to watch what is going on and learn it.

(And incidentally, on the top of this picture you see the wood house across the street? That's "House 3")

Once all the studs are all nailed together, we measure the board to ensure it is square. Then we place big 4'x8' pieces of sheathing on, carefully lining them up. We like to use a chalk line to mark where the studs are so that we nail the sheathing on right. (The nailing was my job.)
We use a heavy-duty construction router to cut out the windows and doors. Then, at last, it is time for my all-time favorite moment of the build: lifting the walls into place. (I wanted to take an epic movie of this, but the camera tipped back. And I couldn't come turn it off because I was still holding the wall in place. But you can at least see part of it).


After the walls are lifted, we level them, toenail them into place with nails, and then brace them up with long 2x4's.


This last picture was taken at sunset, about 7:45 pm. We stay and work until 9:30, so we were able to get the last two front walls lifted before we left. I couldn't take a picture because it was too dark. When we left, all the front-facing walls were up, and the side walls were beginning to take shape. The back wall is also up, of course.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The House: Subfloor

On Saturday (September 10), we made some awesome progress on the house. I promised I would blog all these little steps, so here they are!

After the load bearing wall, green treated wood, and rimboard have been installed, we're ready to start placing the floor joists. The joists we are using are a composite particle board, encased by pine 2x4's (in other words, "I" beams). They are the biggest of any of our building materials, and measure between 16 (the shorties) and 32 feet long. We place them every 16 inches across the whole floor. We square off the rim board, then carefully measure where each joist will be placed. We cut the I joists, then place them in and nail them down with great big nails.

They balance in the middle on the load bearing basement wall. Between each joist, about half way through, we place more small pieces of floor joist, so everything is very solid and square.

We use the floor plan to know exactly where the joists should go, if any need to pop out over the edge of the foundation (cantilever) or where they need to be cut short to go around the stairway. Also, corners get reinforced with extra pieces of joist, and there's a few spots like around stairwells that might need some fidgeting to get the joists in correctly.
(By the way, in the picture above, you can see a house in the background, all framed but with no exterior... that is "House 1." Also, if you look VERY carefully, you can see the top of an empty foundation, which is our next-door neighbor and "House 7." Just to give you a bit of perspective on the neighborhood.)

Once the joists are all placed--which takes a lot of work--we can begin placing subfloor. The subfloor is also a composite particle board, 3/4" thick, with a pre-cut interlocking system (a notch on one side, a rabbit on the other). To place these big 4'x8' sheets, we first use subfloor glue on all the joists. Then we place the boards down, square it up, use a sledge hammer to interlock the rabbit into the notch, and then nail them down with the nail gun. The gluing was my job.

Over spots like cantilevers, stairwells, and corners, we usually place a whole piece of subfloor (or a pre-cut smaller piece) and use a router to cut off excess.

Yesterday it took us about 3 hours to place all the subfloor. At last, we nailed in the last board (both the last board in our stack and the last board on the house... how's that for awesome?), and we had just enough time to clean up and go home.

One last thing that happened at the house: while four of us were busily putting down the subfloor, one more guy started the framing of the large back wall. He's a framing master, I think. :) He laid out big long 2x6's and first marked out where everything will go--studs, windows, doors. Then he brought in the studs, built headers for the windows and doors, and nailed everything together. It's all built now. You can see this back wall laying down in the above pictures.

Today, Sunday Sept 11, we took the kids out to show them the floor on the house. They loved running around on the big empty floor. We did find one little nail and let the kids hammer it in. They have now helped build the house.

This is a very special project, and we are so thrilled we chose to do it. We are already forming a wonderful connection with our neighbors and with our home that will stick with us for life. Now, Tuesday--exterior walls!

Happy 3!




Three years ago, we were blessed to bring our sweet Annalisa into the world.

Now, she's our spitfire little princess. She's so excited it is her birthday! She is having a bubble bath and opened some awesome presents. Lee has been such a wonderful big brother today--playing with Anna's new presents in her way, to make her happy. He even tried to paint her toenails with her new nail polish... but don't worry, we caught him in time. ;)

We will have a little party tomorrow night, but today will be a nice, quiet celebration at home. Happy birthday, Annalisa! We sure love you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

New Furniture

As if we were bored or something... you know, haven't built anything in a while...

On Labor Day, Cody used my dad's shop tools to build this amazing, beautiful new kitchen table. He's been staining and varnishing it all week, and we just brought it in. Pretty stunning, huh!



Also, we recently bought a new couch. We found it on in a warehouse clearance sale. It's microfiber and exactly what I wanted in a couch--somewhat petite, but super comfy.

We really weren't planning on buying any new furniture until after we move into our new house, but sometimes you just can't pass up the opportunities knocking on your door. We're very happy with our purchases and hard work.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The House: 6 Week update


Whew, what a week! I am wiped out! Firstly, all week we've continued working in our little mini-groups, labeled the 'A' team and 'B' team. We're in the 'A' team. We really like it. Everyone gets along very well. Now, I'll just go straight through the houses... that'll be easier. yeah.

House 1, 2, AND 3: roof framing done (trusses and sheathing all installed, but no shingles)
House 4 ('A' team): Exterior walls finished, Interior framing finished, garage framing finished, OSB sheathing all placed, house squared and braced, and all the little details that have to be done to get the house ready for roof trusses. Roof trusses have been delivered, but are not installed.
House 5 (on the 'B' team): rimboard, floor trusses, load bearing wall, subfloor, and a few exterior walls are done.
House 6-Ours! (A team): Started tonight! yaaaay! I'll go into lots of detail below.
House 7, 8, & 9: no changes from last week.


Now, our house.
The first thing we do is measure in 6" from every single corner. Then we use a long chalk line to draw a straight edge for us to line up the floor with. This ensures all our walls will be square. You can't measure from the foundation, because the concrete isn't necessarily straight.

After the chalk line is down, we use that to measure from. We use treated wood everywhere that will touch concrete. So first we have to measure them carefully and cut out holes in the green board where the massive concrete bolts come out of the foundation. Then, we lay down a long roll of insulation, that looks like this:

Then, we place the green board that we pre-measured, cut, and drilled. It goes on top of the insulation. Using metal plates, washers, and nuts, we bolt the green board to the foundation.

After that, the inside of the green board gets caulked, and the outside gets the rimboard. Rim board also must be carefully measured and have notches cut out where it goes over the bolts and metal plates. It's heavy too!

Meanwhile, down in the basement, other people are working hard to build the load bearing basement wall. It must be framed according to the floorplan. We again use treated wood on the bottom, but regular 2x4s for the studs and top plates. We use a long string to make sure it is square. When at last the wall is framed, we all help lift it into place.

(Yes, we really did move THAT fast! j/k)

And that's about where we left off tonight. Saturday: floor joists!

But before I sign off, I wanted to send out a very special THANK YOU to all of our many, many volunteers that have helped us this week, and in previous weeks as well. It has already been so fun and so special to have you come help us, and to show you our new home. I hope you've enjoyed it too! It is a huge undertaking and we couldn't do this without you!

6 months of Bubbly bliss

On September 11, Katie will officially be 6 months old. But since that's Anna's birthday, I will reserve that day for her and post this a few days early.

In this last month, Katie has almost mastered crawling. She gets up on her hands and knees and sometimes even her feet, but has a hard time with the forward motion. She does a little inchworm action to reach toys or toes. Also this month we've worked on taking a bottle (she likes the special NUK nipples). It's hard for her when mommy leaves, but she really is improving.

Katie has a really cute laugh. It's a singular squawk, then a long pause, and another squawk. She smiles and especially laughs at Lee or Anna jumping up and down. Katie still loves to be held, and hates to be left out of the action.

We have loved the last half-year with our little girlie, and can't wait to see what she does next!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The House: 5 weeks, 1 month, becoming a blur

We've finished our first month building the houses. We've found a rhythm and the newness has worn off (not the excitement...never the excitement). Fortunately, everyone is getting along beautifully and we all enjoy being out there, even if it is really hard and dirty work.

This week we've split into two official mini-groups, with half of us assigned to work together on one house and the other half on another. Each of us have a trailer full of tools to use, along with our own individual sets of tools. At night, we're noticing the sun setting earlier. We've had to set out the big lights a couple of times and wear our headlamps so we can keep working until 9:30. We know that we only have a few more weeks of hot weather and long daylight, so we're trying to get as much done as possible.

Here's our house-by-house update.
House 1: Got roof trusses this week
House 2: still waiting for the trusses to be installed
House 3: finished interior framing, garage framing and OSB sheathing, top plates in. All ready for roof trusses!
House 4: Floor joists and subfloor finished, stairs framed and almost finished (just needs a few more stairs done), exterior walls almost all placed (just 1 left)
House 5: Garage and basement floors finally poured (it kind of took them a while to do that)
House 6 (ours!) & 7: also got garage and basement floors poured! Yippee!
House 8 & 9: Full foundations placed.

When I look at these week-by-week progress updates, I notice that we really are getting a lot done, even if it feels like we're kind of slow sometimes. It is taking some rearranging and a lot of sacrifice to balance work, school and building. We now eat our big family dinner right when Cody gets off work at about 1. Then he goes and builds in the evening. Cody--you are amazing. Oh, and blessed news--Katie took a bottle well this week! Makes me feel much better about the times I go build.