We’re done sandblasting (I hope!)

We finished installing the base of the extruded aluminum glazing system last week.  The work went well; we figured out how to install the rubber gaskets into the aluminum without destroying our thumbs and worked from one end of the building to the other installing the glazing.

We also started flashing around the operable windows as we worked on the fixed window glazing.  I have mentioned flashing on a couple of occasions, but have not provided many details.  We are fabricating our own flashing from galvanized sheet metal as discussed in Earthship Volume I.  We are painting our flashing to match the extruded aluminum.  You really do need to rub the galvanized steel with vinegar (this cleans the surface and allows the paint to adhere to the galvanized metal) before painting it!  Do as I say not as we did …

After we decked and papered  each operable window overhang(with 15# roofing felt), we measured for the flashing.  I then rolled and cut the flashing using a compound miter saw.  This seems to give a much cleaner cut than using tin snips although we also used tin snips when the saw was not practical.

If I needed to bend the flashing (as was the case for the roof overhang) I clamped the flashing between two layers of wood with the portion to be bent hanging out and used a block to hammer the flashing to the desired angle.  This system worked but I now understand the attraction of owning a metal break and shear.

We measured the window sizes as soon as we were done and sent out quotes on Friday to two companies in Kamloops (Century and AALL Glass) for prices on the fixed and operable windows.  We hope to have our glass ordered in the next couple of days, and have it installed before the end of October.  At the same time we are thinking about the design and construction of our sky lights.  If anybody has any knowledge about building your own sky lights we would love to hear from you!

Once we were done with the glazing we turned to a couple of jobs we had been putting off while we got our windows sorted out.  The logs that sit on top of our tires and extend up to the ceiling were weathered both from sitting in our yard for so many years and from sitting out in the sun over the summer before we got the roof on.  We spent a couple of days sandblasting these logs to remove the weathering.  The picture at the top of this paragraph is Sandra working on scaffolding in one of the bedrooms.  This job was as fun as I remembered; the sand gets everywhere, and breathing is an issue while working in the backs of the U’s.  We did this job before installing the glass so we would have lots of ventilation, and opening the sky lights helped a lot!  The end result was well worth the effort.  We will stain these logs with a clear gloss just like the ceiling and anticipate that this will add a lot of light to the rooms.  The picture attached to this paragraph shows a partially sandblasted log.

Over the last couple of days we’ve been doing the first pack out of the tires in the master bedroom and we started the exterior can wall on the west side of the building.

We hope to carry on with jobs like these while waiting for our windows.

The Front Wall … Arghhh!!!!

September has been busy in the North Thompson; the first weekend of the month was our local North Thompson Fall Fair, last weekend was the winter fair in Kamloops and we have started home schooling this month.

The fair weekends are all about 4H for our family … the kids all have market and ewe lambs and on both of these weekends the kids are at the fair showing their animals.  Helen actually won the Reserve Champion Open Showmanship at the winter fair this year!  (That means second place in showing her lamb in her division.)  On the last day of the winter fair the kids auction their animals off … a fairly stressful event as the kids say goodbye to their animals.  This is made worse for our family as we typically deliver our market lambs to our  neighbors at Lindquist Dairy (they also operate a custom cutting meat shop).  The kids have toured the meat shop and know what happens to the animals … it is a fairly graphic lesson about where our food comes from.  This fall (within the next month) we will be tracking down a ram and trying to get our ewes pregnant … that should be interesting!

With everything else that has been going on it has been difficult to focus on house construction, but we have made some progress …

After committing to and ordering the glazing system for the front wall we got serious about finishing the framing for the front wall.  We started by framing supports for the bottoms of the fixed windows. This was fairly simple; we used a 3×8 for the support and the side braces it rests on.  ‘we applied borate wood preservative and stained this material.  We also put a 2×3 brace under the centre of the support.  This brace is smaller to allow drilling for electrical lines down the road.  We found ourselves picking through our reject 3×8 pile to finish this job … I sure hope we are done with front wall framing materials!

We moved on to framing the openings for the operable windows.  This was a painful experience!  It was not a physically demanding job, and the work went quickly once we knew what we were doing, but getting to the point of knowing what to do was definitely the hard part.   We discussed, argued, argued some more, and finally got sorted out.  The good news is we are still talking, but for a while we were talking very LOUDLY!

I will start by saying we were not thrilled with the operable window solution presented in the Earthship volumes.  I did not like the dormer walls described in volume I and Sandra was not thrilled with the updated operable windows built into the tires shown in Volume III.  We opted to keep our windows in the framed wall (as in Volume I), but made them lower and wide.  The advantage of the windows in the tire wall is that they are lower (improving your air flow), but the look of these windows was simply not going to fly in our house (Sandra and I are no longer discussing this option … loudly or not).  We also thought about foregoing operable windows completely in favour of cooling tubes running under the front wall.  We may still install these cooling tubes, but decided that aesthetically we also wanted operable windows.

Our operable windows lie completely within the 3×8 framing for the rest of the wall meaning we do not have dormer walls for these windows.  I wanted to avoid these walls as I was concerned about breaking up the light entering the building.  We accomplished this by keeping the windows short (just under 2′), and extending the platform that the windows sit on out past the plane of the wall by a few inches.  We used 2×4 lumber for this framing except the top which is ripped down 2×10.  Again we treated all of this material with preservative and then stained it.  The final step in framing these windows was to add rafters for a small roof to keep the rain off.

The next step was to cover the bottom of the framing (where there are no windows) with plywood.  We beveled the top edge of the plywood on a 45 degree angle so that the flashing did not have to make a 90 degree bend where it will eventually be tucked under the bottom edge of the extruded aluminum glazing system.  After that we put an underlayment (we used 15 # roofing paper) on the front face.  We also did this on the exterior faces of the 3×8 studs as we wanted something between the aluminum glazing system and the wood. 

Finally, we flashed the bottom of the wall (we used painted aluminum), and around the edges of the operable windows.  We will finish flashing around the operable windows after they are installed.  In the picture attached to this paragraph you can see the 2×6 decking and underlayment on the roof over the operable opening and the flashing to-date.

In the last couple of days we have started installing the extruded aluminum glazing system.  Much of this work has been simple; cutting the aluminum to length, and mounting it to the exterior faces of the 3×8 framing.  The hardest work by far has been inserting the EPDM gaskets into the extrusions.  The instructions warn that this is a difficult job and will hurt your thumbs as you press the gasket into place … this was an understatement!  Our thumbs are killing us!

I suggested heating the extrusion and cooling the gasket thus temporarily expanding the slots for the gasket and also shrinking the gaskets to make fitting them together easier.  Sandra made it clear I was not allowed to heat the extrusions with a torch in case we cracked the finishing paint.  We did try to cool the gaskets in the freezer and this was a disaster.  I forgot that rubber gets stiff as it gets cold and it became completely unworkable … in my defense this works amazingly well for installing bearings!  After that we immersed the gaskets in hot water and had much greater success.  Our fingers still hurt but we are making better progress!

We hope to get the glazing system installed over the next week.  Here are some more pictures …

Still here…

I realize it must seem we have dropped off the edge of the earth.  We have been taking lots of photos but do not seem to have time to stop and chronicle what we are up to.  We are in the midst of final sandblasting inside the house (before windows are installed) and are currently installing the aluminum glazing system into which our glass will be inserted.  In the midst of all of this I have been working for several clients (bookkeeping) and we have been trying to get the kids set up for homeschooling.  Provincial Winter Fair just finished and lots of 4-H meetings are coming up.  Eeeek.  Will try to post soon, if only photos….