The Straw House Blog


The House in Pictures

I’ve put together an overview in pictures of the house from the day we broke ground (August 2002) to when we moved in (May 2003).



The barn comes down

We pulled the last part of the barn down today. It took quite a bit of doing. Despite its lean it was quite sturdy. We finally got the last section down by pulling with the bulldozer.

We’ve been held up a bit with our other stuff though. The septic system isn’t going to be done until sometime next week—if we’re lucky. And we’re picking up our kitchen cabinets on Tuesday.

Here’s the barn pictures, plus some views of our new grading around the front of the house.



More trenching

We got the trench filled in today. Tomorrow we start on the septic bed.

I’m having a hard time deciding if the +31C (+38C with the humidex) right now is worse than the -20C (-30C with the windchill) we had six months ago. Of course there weren’t any Deer flies out then…

I’m going into town tonight to see Tina’s band play. They’re called BobCajun - guess what kind of music they play. My feet are killing me though, I’ll probably skip the dancing.



A long soft road

Just when the driveway dries out we get 12” more snow. Then that snow melts, and the driveway’s back to a muddy rutted mess. Mom and Dad can’t get in anymore with their Subaru because the ruts are so deep that the car bottoms out. We don’t have any problem but then I haven’t taken the snow tires off the truck yet.

But the big news is the working toilet! Joanne is a very happy camper right now. The plumber got most of the rough plumbing done yesterday, and I hooked up the bathroom sink. We still don’t have hot water but maybe next week. Sunday I’m going to install the exhaust fan in the front bathroom. Dad’s been working on the doors and windows of the bathroom, so we’ll have a bathroom with privacy.

The installation of the soffits and fascia continues, but there’s only one guy working on the job so that probably won’t be done until next week.

We ordered our appliances today through a store in Peterborough. Our criteria for appliances is a combination of energy efficiency, quality, and cost. We chose a Kitchen Aid fridge and stove, a GE front loading washer and an Asko dishwasher.

Today we took exciting pictures of plumbing!


Mid-week Update

There’s a lot going on this week, the roofers are back putting on the fascia and soffits. The plumber should be making his way in to connect up our plumbing. It’s bad enough going in the bushes when it’s cold out, the women have made it very clear that no plumbing in black-fly season will not be acceptable. The Wiremold conduit for the perimeter electricity, phone and data is ready for pick-up, as is our glass for the bathroom doors and windows and back room door.

Now we’re having fun with Bell Telephone. Two years ago when we started this whole thing we called Bell and they came out and told us that they could run the wire, and it would cost just over $2K, they actually sent people out who measured the driveway. Bell pays for the first 165 metres, our driveway is 900 metres long, $2K didn’t seem like much. I called them on Monday to get that particular ball rolling, and of course the whole thing began to unravel. An engineer came out today and she told my father that she isn’t even sure they can run a phone line that long… uh pardon? She’s going to go back to find the original file and see what they told us and why. Great. They did reserve our phone number though and it is a seriously kick ass number. The kind where you hear it once and it’s memorized. It’ll be really great, if we ever get a phone.

Remember folks building a house is a full contact sport. Do not forget your cup.



More of the same

Pretty much the same deal as last weekend.

Come back tomorrow for a longer entry.



The Problem with Three-Ways

So the fun with wiring continues. Dad and I keep disagreeing on how to wire up three-way switches. Dad thought there was a problem with a switch and re-wired it but while it worked, it wasn’t right. This morning we set out together and we re-wired every single light and three way switch in the house. We now have working lights in the back rooms, and the mud-room, plus proper switched power to the front and back door exterior lights. Paul (the architect) lent us a book about the electrical code and we just wired everything up with the book open in front of us, saved arguing, and everything works. We’ll hook up the other lights as we acquire them.

The heat is lovely, we leave it set at about 17 degrees, and even though we’re having some troubles with the inverter, the house can stay warm through the night with no heat. Which is good since both Dad and I have walked into the house in the morning and found the inverter off and displaying an unknown error. However, after a quick look through the manual (RTFM ya’ know), Dad discovered that there is a way to display the type of error that has occurred. So maybe tomorrow, if there’s a problem again, we’ll be able to figure out what’s going on. Now wouldn’t that be exciting?

We’re just working on small stuff around the house these days, for a whole variety of reasons we’ve sort of slowed down while we get a grip on things. We’re nearing the end of the project and there’s not quite as much money left as we’d hoped, and we feel like we’ve been on a runaway train with rushing to get everything done. Now that we have heat we can slow down, take stock, and get all of the last stuff done right.

So Mom’s been taping the seams in the vapour barrier, Dad and I are working on electrical, caulking, the bathroom, and figuring out how all of of new high-tech systems work.

The next goals are sealing the concrete floor, doing the final coat of stucco on the inside, and running the conduit around the perimeter. Then we have to finish the plumbing, finish the inside the bathroom, and then the kitchen. After all that, maybe, just maybe, we move in. It doesn’t seem that far away now…



Now THAT’S Cold

Today when I left the house, I walked out the front door and locked it behind me. That felt so cool.

By the way it was minus 19 degrees Celsius outside today, keep that in mind. Minus one million with the wind chill. Man it was cold in the wind.

We have water. The pump is in the well, the line is run into the house and into the pressure tank. Yesterday Dan installed the boiler, it just needs the gas hookup and we could have warm floors. The gas will be installed early next week, the guys showed up this morning but they were completely unprepared for the job, they had been misinformed back at the shop about what they had to do at our place.

So here’s the scenario, Eric dug a trench with the backhoe, breaking through the frost from the well to the house at a depth of about five feet. We had left a piece of Big-O pipe through the foundation into the back room to run the water lines. Andrew ran the lines in, we back-filled the trench and Andrew connected the pump and dropped it down the well. That took almost all day. Andrew will come back later when the heating is in to finish the rest of the plumbing. While Andrew dropped the pump, Eric graded around the front of the house, the grade is almost at the right level.

Even though it was so cold today the sun was out all day long. I’m pleased to report that the windows worked quite well. By the time I left at 4pm it was -18C and inside it was -4C. If you stood in front of the windows you could actually feel it warming you. Very cool.

My new hat might be goofy, but it is damn warm.



Snow and Electrical

We spent the afternoon working on the wiring again. We’ve got the wires laid out where we want them and now we’re just stapling them in place. Mom and Jo are busy sanding the posts and beams. One pass with 60 grit, and later they’ll do another pass with 120 grit. Yesterday in Peterborough we bought Joanne her own Random Orbital Sander, so now she has steel-toed boots, a tool belt, a hammer, and a power tool. She’s rough and ready to go!

We got a whole bunch of snow today and it looks to keep going all night long. Eric dropped by to see if the drive needed plowing and we chatted with him for a bit. He’s going to talk to Andrew (the plumber) and coordinate getting our water hooked up. Now since Andrew said before the holidays that he was going to coordinate with Eric between the two of them hopefully they can get this done.

We didn’t take any pictures again so I thought I put together a bit of a retrospective of what we got done in 2002. So here’s the year in pictures.


Happy New Year

A title just like a billion other blogs…

We’ve been working on the wiring over the last few days. Brian (a fellow from my hockey league) is an electrician and came up after X-mas to take a look at what we’re doing. He offered some excellent advice, pointed out a few mistakes, and offered to come back and help wire up our breaker panel - an offer we will definitely be taking him up on. The solar guys wire everything up on their end from the wind generator and panels, through the inverters, batteries and chargers, right up to but not actually into the breaker panel. For that we need an electrician - or we do it ourselves. We’ll be taking that route with plenty of guidance from Brian.

So for the next few days we’ll be stringing up the rest of the wiring and later this week or early next week Rene can start putting up the insulation and vapour barrier.

The next month or so is an interesting juggling act with all of the various trades. We want to get our electrical system set up, our plumbing installed, and our radiant in-floor heating set up. But, we need heat to keep the water system from freezing, and we need water for the heat system. Kind of a Catch-22. At least if you’re building in January… we really don’t want to wait until spring to finish the house.

We bought door handles yesterday, nice ones, clean lines, nice swoop, good action, and not too terribly expensive. We bought ten, enough for all of the doors in the house as well as all of the doors we reasonably expect to have in the near future. Tomorrow we’ll go into Peterborough and get some deadbolts. Once we have the front doors back we can actually lock the house. Then we can leave tools and other stuff there with no worries. My parents will be hugely pleased since that will mean we can empty out their garage and basement.

Joanne and my mom have been working on sanding down the posts and beams that will be exposed inside the house. The doors that we have are Western Red Cedar and we’re finishing the outside trim and window/door bucks with cedar off of our land, finished to look like Western Red Cedar. I’m also hoping that Joanne can figure out some sort of finishing that will give the posts and beams a similar or at least complimentary look.

Today Gator met a porcupine for the first time today. He got close but Joanne managed to call him off. The dogs have developed an obsession with a scrap of some sort animal pelt. We think that it’s off of a deer, probably killed by coyotes. It’s a nice piece of fur, maybe we’ll make a hat.

No pictures this time, wiring just isn’t that exciting.