Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghost Stories

In honor of Halloween I thought that I would post something a little different for you all. Most of you know I have been working on a restoration of this very large house in Birmingham. Some of my early posts show some details of the house. I've been so busy lately I have not put much up about it in awhile so, here we go. There is a very large room on the bottom level (it has 5 levels) of the house that is a copy of a large hall in a castle in England. The weapons and armor and other decorative items (there are some jousting lances in the corner) have all been authenticated to be from the Middle Ages. The man who built this house was a little eccentric and loved anything to do with England. Unfortunately, he didn't get to live in the house very long before the Depression hit and he lost his fortune. He tried to conserve his money by living down in these lower levels and eating creatures he caught on the property as he was a pretty good hunter and his trophies from his big hunts are still displayed all over the house. But, alas, it was not enough and he could not make his last payment, so the bank took the house and all the contents. Some say he cursed the house when he was forced out and something horrible has befallen every owner since him. Some say that the wife of the 4th owner haunts the house because she was murdered in her bedroom.

Let me tell you what I know and have heard. I haven't seen anything since working in the house but I have heard plenty that I cannot explain. I was working on the outside of one of the windows to this room one day. The room is half below ground so if you are outside you can walk right up to the windows. I had the window open to work on it and therefore I could see and hear what went on in the room. For the most part, we are not allowed in the house and the exterior doors are kept locked. Well, I was just working along and I distinctly heard someone walk across the room. The floor is limestone and so it's hard to walk across it quietly. It was so audible that I just casually looked down into the room to see who was in there because it's a little unusual for people to be down there. No one was there. A few more minutes passed and I heard them walk by again. This time I leaned in the window all the way so that I could get a good view of the whole room. As before, no one was there. There is a back door to the room but you can't open it from the outside and it makes a horrible noise when it is opened so I would have heard if someone came in that way. About 20 minutes later one of the other carpenters came to help me get the window put back together and as we were working on it we bothe heard the footsteps again all the way across the floor. We both turned, without saying anything to one another, and looked down into the room and of course, didn't see anyone. We looked at each other and I said, "You heard that too!" and he said "I didn't hear anything!" and we threw that window back together and hauled our butts out of there.

I was down in this room on another occasion with one of the masons cleaning up after a storm because the ceiling leaks some now. This is one of the items we are in the process of repairing. Most everyone else had left and the owners were not there. We suddenly started hearing this woman talking and just going on and on about something. At first I thought someone had called and I could hear the answering machine from upstairs but I realized that is impossible. The walls are 2 feet thick for the most part and all the phones are way up on the top levels. It was so loud we thought maybe some neighbors had walked over so we went out the back door to see who was around. No one was there. It got quiet for awhile but then started back up after about 5 minutes. We looked all around the back yard and when we came up to the main levels we looked around to see if the people had come home but no one was there. Neither experience was really frightening, which is surprising to me because I can be a real scaredy-cat sometimes. When I went down this afternoon to get these photos though, I made one of the guys go with me. Halloween....in this house... I'm not taking any chances!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wrap It Up

We started with the house wrap this weekend; didn't get completely done but we got the majority of it up and then we ran out of felt caps to nail it and the hardware store was closed so we moved over to doing some electrical work. When we started nailing up the Tyvek on the west side there I noticed bunches of wasps coming from somewhere. We finally tracked them to a cavity behind one of the T-posts in a wall. I guess they didn't like it when we started hammering because they kept coming after me. I told Allen there was no way I was getting on that pick board, 15 feet up in the air with a bunch of pissed wasps flying around so we had to exterminate them before we could go back to work.
Anyway, we got most all of the plugs wired and now just have to figure out how I want the lighting done. The BFA has come up with a really cool concept for the lighting in the living room/kitchen but we have to figure the best way to wire it.
I feel like I am really doing some blatant product placement and endorsement with some of these last pics of stuff we are using but they are good products and I don't mind showing what we use. There is no way to show the house without it anyway. Just use good name brand products like these; these Big Box Home Improvement store brand products I'm not much impressed with.

The colors this year have been much brighter than I expected. This photo does not do the trees justice here. We were walking around at the end of the day on Sunday just looking at stuff and the sun was setting and shining on these trees and they were really glowing. I didn't have much hope that it would translate well in the photo. Oh, well.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wire In The Hole!

We are waiting on the metal roof to be ordered so we decided to work on some interior stuff this weekend. I tried to think of everywhere I could possibly imagine wanting an electrical plug. That is harder than it seems. I think we did pretty good though so we set a bunch of plug and switch boxes and started running wire to them and making circuits. This is just all standard stuff right now; heavy duty stuff will be later such as my kiln, the washer etc. I keep wondering if I have forgotten something though. Do any of you have any kind of unusually placed plugs or switches that you have found to be indispensable? Maybe something people would not normally think of? I have put several in the pantry for dustvac, etc.
We also framed in this gable end and sheathed the attic side. This side (the living room side) will be covered in a very nice plywood (maple or something) instead of sheetrock and stained different colors. I know this is going to be hard to imagine but I'll try to explain the best I can. We will use some really nice looking fasteners to attach the plywood (so its ok if they show) and each sheet of plywood will maintain its borders so we will not try to patch them all together, like you would sheetrock. It will be a little industrial looking I think. Then each sheet will be stained a different color. Kind of muted, natural blues, greens, reds etc. Then there will be a really cool shelving system overlaid on this made of squares and rectangles of various sizes and these will hold my ceramic and sculpture collection. This was the BFA's idea and I think it's going to look great. I've got to figure out lighting for it now though!

I can barely stand to type looking at this photos 'cause these things give me the willies so! I guess the cool weather is causing many critters to look for warmer places and we found several of these nasty, hideous creatures in the house. Most of you know these are camel crickets but I prefer to call them spawn of the devil. There are not many things in this world that will make me scream like a sissy but these are one of them. I think this one was about the size of my hand but I smashed him before it could go for my throat which they will do, you know!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Up On The Roof (again)

Here is a little bit of a differnet view of the house that I don't think I've shown before. I like this because you can see all the way thru the house. We finished insulating the entire roof now and are ready to order the metal decking. I will be glad when the roof is done; the rest of the work moves faster. Pablo had some interesting questions about my last post and since I did not get to answer him when he first left the comments, I thought I would just answer now because some other people might have been wondering some of the same stuff.
As far as how much we are insulating; Alabama winters can and do get fairly cold. I think our average daytime temperature in Dec., Jan. Feb. is low 50's but quite often in the 40's and nights regularly go 30's but can get down in the teens. I remember one Christmas Eve night when I was a teenager it was 7 degrees. But here is the thing; your primary source of heat loss from inside your house is through the roof. There is some through windows and walls etc. but hot air rises and so it transfers itself out that way. It's not to keep the cold out so much as to keep your heating source from having to work so much by retaining as much heat as possible. However, in the summer, good roofing insulation does work by keeping heat out because of heat transfer. The roofing will heat up and in turn heat the decking, then the attic, then your ceiling etc. until it migrates into your living space. Good insulation and air spaces help prevent this. As do light colored roofs. Basically, insulate as much as you can possibly afford to.
Now, on the bullseyes on the roofing membrane; you would not normally use that membrane the way we did (which you may know). It would normally be put down directly on the plywood decking, under the shingles or whatever and when you nail down felt or this stuff, you are using short felt caps and it doesn't matter if you hit rafters or not because its in the attic. Now, this does bring up something I failed to mention. We don't have any attic in the living room/ kitchen area of the house, so what are we doing about that? When we nailed down the sleepers (the 2x4's that are sandwiching the insulation panels) we did take care to hit the rafters so that no nails would show on the ceiling. The insulation panels are not nailed but they do have metal clips on top of the sleepers holding them down. The fancy roofing membrane is nailed to the sleepers and glued also so we don't have to worry about nails showing from that. I hope I am able to explain this correctly, if not please ask more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Upside Down/ Inside Out

We started on the roof insulation this weekend. We are using a 3" thick foam board called Iso board. It's similar to the Dow blue board that you may have seen in Lowe's or Home Depot but it has a 18.5 R- value where the Dow board is R-15 and it was only about $1.25 a sheet more. That's a 4' x 8' sheet. It has about 45% recycled content too, so I was happy about that. It is normally used for commercial structures but is great for this application. The gable end of the house (where there is attic) will also have traditional bat insulation so that end will be really well insulated.
We ran two 2x4's all around the perimeter of the roof and then started laying down one run of Iso board all the way across the roof and then sandwiched that with 2x4's. Then just keep repeating until you reach the top. The only thing about the Iso board is it has alot of fiberglass in the outer paper coating so I was SO itchy at the end of the day.
After we ran all the insulation we went over that with this high tech new roofing felt stuff I got for free off of a job. It's not really felt; it's more like a vinyl type stuff. It's great to work with though. It lays down very nice. We put this down because we are going to have a metal roof and you usually get some condensation under a metal deck and this material will protect the framing and insulation from getting damp. Plus, it didn't cost me anything so, what the heck!
In putting all this down it meant we had to take up our toe-boards from the roof and therefore nothing to catch on if you start sliding. The roof is not really steep but Allen was afraid this material might be slick and he knows how clumsy I am, so I got to wear that wonderfully attractive harness.
This is just a close up of the "felt" we used. Cool stuff and it's treated somehow to be non- skidding to walk on. It also comes in 4' wide rolls whereas traditional roofing felt comes in 3' wide rolls. I thought it was funny how they put little bullseyes everywhere you are supposed to nail it too. And no, we didn't nail it everywhere they said as you can probably see.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Let The Sun Shine In

We are starting to get a noticable amount of sunlight coming in now from the southern windows. The last time I really paid attention to this was back around the first of September, I guess, and it was just a tiny sliver of sun. This photo is of the kitchen window's sun. Now this sunlight will be hitting on alot of hard surfaces when the house is done so it will, hopefully, be absorbed well and released slowly after the sun goes down. The countertops in the kitchen will be concrete, ceramic tile floors and probably a ceramic tile backsplash.
This is in the living room with the sun coming through the clerestory windows. Now sure what type of flooring will be here. I hope hardwood at some point but it may be plywood for a while. There will be a wood burning stove in this area on the north wall and it will have a stone or ceramic hearth around it to absorb the heat if the sunlight will reach it. I'm not sure if the clerestory windows are at the correct height, angle, etc. to cause the sunlight to land on the wall. I expect by January to be getting a whole lot more sun in here. I guess these patches of sunlight are about 14" wide at about noon time. Very few of the trees in the area have started to loose their leaves either but it was about 85 degrees today too, so that's fine. When it gets cold enough to need heat the leaves will be gone for the most part. Cool how that works!
We worked on the roof this weekend but it was not very exciting stuff, thus no photos. I'll have some photos of it next weekend though so you can see better what is going on with that. Our insulation system on the roof is going to be a little different than what alot of people are used to seeing so I will show all the details and try to explain it.