Thursday, February 6, 2014

Project team meeting (Windows, HVAC, and Demo)

Today was our first project team meeting. When things really get going they will happen every week, but for now every two weeks seems appropriate. This morning we talked about windows, HVAC, and I had a chance to see some of the demolition work.

First up, let me say a bit about demo. Well actually there isn't much to say about it at this point, but after so much anticipation, it is such a nice, tangible sign of progress it is hard not to get a little giddy. The old aggregate concrete terrace was there when the meeting started but after about an hour and half it had largely been reduced to rubble.

Is that a Bobcat in the backyard or are you just happy to see me?

When I arrived for the meeting the back patio looked like this. The brown flat area is the old aggregate concrete slab covered in a little dirt.

Turns out the concrete was particularly thick and a normal handheld jackhammer wouldn't quite do the trick.

A bit of the patio rubble.

Flat surface no more.

Of course the noise of the Bobcat jackhammer made it a little hard to hear the meeting at times, but that's the sound of progress I guess.

One of the more exciting parts of the meeting was the discussion about windows. Currently the house has its original wood frame windows from 1934. When we moved in most of them were busted, and stuck, and just looking plain awful. We spent a good chunk of change a few years ago to have them all removed, stripped, mended, and rehung. Those windows are largely staying in place. The beautiful French doors in the picture above were custom made for us at the same time, but unfortunately those will not have a role in the new house. The resulting opening after their removal will be the main entrance to the new family room right where all that rubble is. There will be two sets of new French doors with sidelights that will line the back of the addition, but wanting all the new stuff to match (and be double glazed), these doors will have to find another home.

A Loewen window sample that doesn't look much like what ours will look like
but very helpful for discussion during the meeting.

The new windows in the addition will be as similar to the old windows as we can get without going totally custom and without sticking with single glazing. Even an untrained eye will probably notice the difference, but their spatial relationship to the existing windows will be such that direct comparison won't happen in too many views. The new windows will be double hung, six over six, simulated divided light windows made from Douglas fir by Loewen. And given the thermal protection of the double glazing, we discovered today that we can have clear glass as opposed to low emissivity (low e) glass which casts more of a greenish tint. This was good news indeed. We also discovered that we can probably get the new French doors with double glazing and true divided lights.

Our lead architect along with her project architect were at the meeting and know enough about our desires to ask all the right questions and insist on details that we would never have known we cared about. This is one of the ways having an architect who really knows her stuff is invaluable. We probably would get a decent product that looks good without her help, but it would have been not quite right. The devil is always in the details and while discussions of muntin width and depth and profile wouldn't have been over my head, getting it perfect is what you need an expert for.

The second part of the meeting concerned duct work layout and radiator location. We also had a very helpful discussion about the equipment that will be in our basement mechanical room for the geothermal heating and cooling system. I will have lots more to say about geothermal when they get going on drilling the wells for the system.

In the meantime, enjoy some more progress pictures.

Before demo began. (We had been testing cabinet paint colors.)
Similar view today. God only knows how much kitchen slime is on the edge of the range.

A full discussion on paint colors in the near future.

A similar view this morning. A bit of architectural archaeology.

Cabinets on the side porch.

The old, hideous counter tops This was likely the product of a sprucing up from the last 10 or 20 years. Tip for anyone
thinking of a tile counter top. Don't do it. So hard to keep clean and that lip on the edge sure made it hard to whisk
crumbs into the garbage. The fact that it also had a drop-in sink as opposed to an under counter  mounted one also made it really difficult to keep things clean.

The old sink that was just a little too small. I could fit a half sheet pan flat on the bottom but I had one large skillet
that was so hard to clean in this sink. And the sink itself was hard to keep clean of metal scuff marks. Baking soda often
worked better than cleanser, but even that didn't get all the stains out.

There is also a fair amount of site protection and runoff protection that is necessary prior to excavation. An inspector from the District Department of the Environment came out about a week ago to make sure our contractor was planning on doing the right thing.

The rock is to give construction vehicles a sturdier footing. The straw bales against the plastic sheeting
helps limit runoff.

Not only did this area smell like a manager but it really seemed to beg to be a petting zoo.
Wouldn't Lucy look cute asleep on the hay?

Thanks guys, can't wait to see what happens next.


  1. Yes Potomac Valley is GREAT (hi Daryl!) -they do things right ( the hay and stone, etc ). You'll be so happy with them. Just remember to keep up your enthusiasm as the project stretches on and on -and on. The first picture is great; almost looks photoshopped!

  2. This is so fascinating. I will be following along.

  3. How exciting Thomas. Will follow along with interest, and hope there aren't too many irritants for you along the way. There will always be some; it's the nature of the beast.

  4. I'm THE MOST excited about you getting geothermal heating and cooling. I would love to have that.

  5. Your kitchen draws make me think of a pile of Persephone books and make me want to paint my own kitchen again. Absolutely agree about tiled work tops.

  6. Stefan: I am not too worried about enthusiasm since we aren't living on site thank god. I can just pretend it doesn't exist.

    Pigtown*Design: I am glad you like it. I know people like to live vicariously. I know I do.

    Columnist: We've had so many irritants leading up to this point, I hate to see what comes next.

    Heather: I kind of am too. It wasn't part of the plan from the beginning so it has me extra excited.

    Hayley: I wasn't trying to have a Persephone kitchen, but I do want something subtle and elegant which certainly fits with Persephone.