Just because we are living in the new house,  doesn’t mean the work is done.  One way we tried to keep a handle on the budget was to not finish the basement. We have now started the process of finishing it on our own. We figured the best place to start was my shop.  Once we got it done we could use it work on other projects that would finish the downstairs.

The builder put in the stud walls for the downstairs.  We have my shop, a bathroom, bedroom and a large room for playing games, watching television and just relaxing.  It will include a kitchenette. We already have the fireplace installed and the rock surround built.

To finish the shop we first installed some overhead lights.  You have to have light to work. To put in the lights, we just added them onto the circuit already installed in the area.  We did have to run some wire so we had to remove and then replace some ceiling insulation.  An itchy business.

With some light to work in we had to put in a new circuit to run my shop equipment.  That involved running wire around doors and windows and into the crawl space where the service panel is located.  I should probably explain, our crawl space has nine foot ceilings so it is not too miserable working in that area. We got the wires run and the outlets wired up.  We added a new 20 amp circuit and the moment of truth was at hand.  Would the electricity fresh from Peninsula Light Company find its way around the circuit to each box energizing it for use.  We tentatively tried each box.  Success on the first try.  I could now run my saws and other equipment.

Janice now was free to insulate the walls in the shop so we could start sheet rocking.  She got the room insulated while I was at work.  It is amazing how much quieter and warmer six inches of pink stuff will make a cold basement room.

When Joe was here for his grandmother’s memorial service he worked with Janice and me to put up the sheet rock.  They did most of the measuring and cutting, I got to do the screwing.  Guess who had more fun? We didn’t do the ceiling.  When we finish the rest of the wiring and plumbing in the basement we are going to have a professional sheet rocker come in and do the whole downstairs.  We figured having someone who really knew what they were doing would get the job done more quickly and more neatly.  I have done a little sheet rocking and I’m sure I don’t have the patience to do a really nice job of taping, mudding and sanding.

The last two projects, for now, in the shop were to make a bench and install the sink and drain board from the oldOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA little cabin on Puget Sound. When we demolished the old place we salvaged some things to use in the new house.  I had been looking forward to using the old kitchen sink in my shop.  It is an old classic Lyon set of metal cupboards and double porcelain sink and drain board. We had the plumber stub in the water and drain lines when the house was being built.  We just had to build in the cupboards and connect it to the plumbing.  We refurbished the cupboard to its previous high gloss white so now I have access to water and lots of new storage in the shop. This is  the third reincarnation of this set.  It was in Janice and Joan’s parent’s house when they were growing up.  When the house’s kitchen was remodeled the kitchen sink and cupboards were moved out to the beach, like so many other house hand me downs. This particular throw away is a big winner for me.

I built a work table for the shop as a last project.  It is made of lOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeft overs from the building process.  Along with the old cabin sliding interior doors I am using as a work bench along the twelve feet of windows looking out onto Puget Sound and Mount Rainier, I am about set to begin a project or two.

I am now moving all my junk…er…tools into the shop.  Right now it is a mess, but soon everything will have its place and be neatly stored for immediate use.

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First Official Use

The new house had its first official function  in January.  We have had Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the first truly official use was for Janice’s and Joan’s mother’s memorial service. It included all the grandkids, and about fifty old friends and neighbors.Nancy Bullard

Mom passed away January fifth.  She had been living in the house she built as a gift for her children since September.  She came to us with a compression fracture in her back. We will never know how that happened, except when you are eighty-nine, those things occur. With the help of therapists, hospital beds, walkers and a few pain killing drugs she had the run  of the place.   Her mobility didn’t last long and she was soView from windowon confined mostly to her bed.  The beauty of this house is the windows looking out onto the Sound.  Even though she didn’t leave her room, she could lay in bed and be surrounded by trees.  The firs outside her window were  resting places for eagles,  food larders for chickadees and nuthatches and  playgrounds for squirrels.  Looking beyond the trees she enjoyed a view of Henderson Bay on Puget Sound all the way to McNeil Island.  It was teaming with jumping salmon, the winter influx of ducks including; harlequins, scoters, golden eyes and buffleheads, as well as some loons and grebes. Beyond the opposite shore rose Mount Rainier in all its snow-covered, cloud laced glory. Nancy’s own personal bubble had shrunk to the room she was living in and the hospital bed she was laying on, but the world outside her window was alive, beautiful and always changing. She lasted past her birthday in October, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years and left with the view of the sun in all its blazing glory rising over Rainier and shining in her eyes.

Fittingly, we helPiper at Memorial Serviced her service in her house.  To honor her Scottish heritage, a piper greeted the guests as they arrived.  After the eulogy the drone of his pipes played Amazing Grace,  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthen danced her to heaven with a medley of Highland quick stepping flings. Her closest friends celebrated her life with happy, funny and sad stories. These same people brought their children and grandchildren, a reminder that as one generation moves on, another carries on the memories and traditions. We all talked, laughed, cried and ate.  We knew Nancy and  the rest of the old gang was there with us.  We could feel them in the warm fellowship we were experiencing with each other.

So, the first official function is over.  Our hope is this little cabin on Puget Sound will be the vertex of many more through the  years. We already look forward to when my niece, Meredith, will have her wedding here overlooking a high August tide this summer.

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This past week we have had Olmsted’s Landscapers in to do their magic on the property.  They were actually in at the end of the construction to do some temporary stuff so we could pass  final inspection.  They put in gravel for the driveway, required for inspection.  They mulched the side yards, again required for inspection.  The mulch prevents run off into the bay.  The yard also had to be seeded and covered with straw, again to prevent run off.  The landscapers are now back to finish up what they started.

Roadside LandscapingThe first thing they did was to install a sprinkler system.  I personally had no desire for this luxury.  We do live in Western Washington and it does rain most of the time.  I also planned on planting native plants which, when established, would need very little extra water.  The landscaper wouldn’t guarantee his plantings without the system, so we now have a sprinkler system.  It is quite impressive, seemingly miles of pipe, two valve boxes and a control panel.  It covers the planting on the road side and the beach side.

Next came the fill.  The beach side of the house needed to be leveled to create more usable space.  Forty yard of fill was dumped and sculpted to contour and level the yard.  It really is going to look nice and be functional when they lay the sod next week.  To accomplish the leveling they had to build some retaining walls.  They are not only nice looking but are functional for holding the slope and for sitting. They included sevWaterside Landscapingeral large rocks already living on the property into the plan. The rocks being used are ones that made digging holes or doing any yard work nearly impossible because of their size and number. Now they are useful and attractive.

They have started the plantings.  One steep slope is planted with kinnikinnick, a native plant that will act as a ground cover. They have included salal another native plant I’m not too fond of, but it will work where it is being planted and be low maintenance. We are using evergreen huckleberry as a buffer plant between the neighbors.  We lost quite a bit of huckleberry during construction and would like to replace it.  Besides, it has great berries to eat. We are including a maple tree From Anderson side Landscapingon the road side, a dogwood and some cedars all native. For some natural color we are putting in rhododendrons. So far the work they have done looks great and the yard will be more functional, starting with the wedding planned for next August.

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Moved In

It has been months, So I hope there is still someone reading  out there.  Christmas came and went.  We  celebrated it here at the new house.  We had a tree, lights, and the appropriate amount of fir boughs decorating the log mantle.  The new house was made for Christmas with its rock fireplace, fir beams and surrounding views.  We were sad that we had neither of our kids here to celebrate and Joan  only had one of hers.

Bullard's BeachThe last four months were spent fighting with the contractor, moving in, getting settled, preparing for the next step in construction, and working with Janice’s mother who moved into the house with us.  When we chose the  contractor to build our house we thought we’d made an informed decision. He was very friendly and outgoing and had solid references.  The problem was his failure to live up to expectations.  He couldn’t control his subcontractors, over charged for services, and accepted bids for services that couldn’t meet  specifications. It took longer to finish the project because we had to keep having subs return to complete unfinished projects or do work that was contracted for but never done.  Words were exchanged and threats were implied, but we finally pushed through the conflict and without ever speaking to him again, finished the house, contracted the landscaping out ourselves and denied him from even seeing the finished product.

Moving in took several weekends of work.  We had three storage units to empty.  One of the units we hadn’t seen the back of for four years. It was like Christmas opening those boxes! They say if you don’t use something for six months, you don’tNight Entrance really need it.  We hadn’t seen some of that stuff in storage for four years and were excited to make it a part of our lives, once again. Being the hoarder I am, we built a storage area above the garage.  It is 12X36 feet and eight feet tall in the center.  All the unused good stuff is up there.  We also have some of the kids’ junk up in storage.  Someday they will come and claim it and make even more room for us to compile stuff.

I mentioned Janice’s mom moved in with us.  She had some medical problems.  She needed more care than she could get at her assisted living home.  She came to us the beginning of September.  It was really great timing.  The house being finished and her getting sick allowed her to move in here.  It is her house and she was able to enjoy the place in a way she could never have enjoyed the little cabin on Puget Sound. She spent the last months of her life experiencing the eagles, water, sky and changing seasons on a daily basis.  Her last words to me, several days before she passed, were ,” lovely, just lovely.”  That about summed her thoughts about the new house and its location.  She was right.

Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad, for sharing this special spot with your family and giving us the where with all to build this wonderful home.

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A Giant Jigsaw Puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are a popular pastime.  When I was little I did puzzles that had ten or twenty pieces.  As I got older I was fascinated by larger puzzles that had 250 or 500 hundred pieces.  Now the puzzles that have a thousand piece or more seem to be the big challenge. I’m not a really big puzzle aficionado, but a lot of people in my family definitely are.

Building a house is a lot like putting a puzzle together only with more small pieces and intangible parts than one of those really big puzzles  of Notre Dame sitting magnificently in the middle of the Seine River on a glorious shining Autumn day.  A house has nails, boards, ideas, pipes, tile, flooring, windows, stairs, paint and a thousand other parts that must be put together, not only in the right place, but at the right time to complete the picture.  Sometimes you find that you have to create pieces to fit into certain parts of the picture.  That would be like having to make the rose window for Notre Dame, with a crayon, in your puzzle without even having a picture on the lid to peek at.

You remember the person in your family that liked to hide one piece of the puzzle so they could put the last piece in?  We are at that point in the house.  Nobody is particularly hiding the last piece, but we are finding about all the pieces that fell off the table and are hiding under the rug.  We are also to the point where we have to make new pieces to fit into spaces we didn’t know we had or were mismeasured earlier in the project.

Joan’s bathtub came the other day.  The framers had built a nice pedestal frame for it, the sheet rockers had neatly closed in the pedestal, and the tilers very artistically covered it with tile and glass. The problem is, the hole was cut the wrong shape to fit the drop in tub.  Oops! Ten days to order and receive the correct tub.

The project manager attempted to put the new refrigerator into its final resting spot last week.  Oops! The space for the refrigerator was too small. Call in the cabinet man to move the cabinets 3/4 of an inch higher.

The fireplace guy came in to hook up the fireplaces to the propane system yesterday.  Oops! These were natural gas fireplaces not compatible with propane. To make matters worse, there was no propane line serving the downstairs fireplace.  Keep in mind, both fireplaces have been permanently put in place behind cemented in river rock.  That will be another week or two to convert and run a line to the one fireplace.

The main entry light fixture and the front sconces are back ordered.  Oops! that will be another three weeks.

You can’t have a keyed dead bolt on the inside of your main entry door.  Oops!  Maybe you can fake out the inspector and he won’t notice, otherwise another two weeks to get the proper part.

The fire suppression system people won’t hook up the sprinkler system until the back flow valve is installed by the plumber.  Oops!  The plumber did it two weeks ago! Are we talking to each other?

Speaking of the plumber, he installed the shower heads in both master baths in the wrong place. Oop! Call back the tilers because they will have to replace the ruined tiles and regrout the mess left behind.

The hardwood floors we chose for the house have been recalled.  Who knew wood was technically complex enough to be recalled? Oops!  It will be a month to get the new wood. We can give you an alternative.  Fortunately, the alternative was an upgrade on our original choice.  I guess we won on that one.

The guy came to install the shower enclosures.  The one in Janice and my bathroom looks great!  Oops! They measured Joan’s incorrectly. We have to manufacture another part.  See you next week. There seems to be a theme going on in Joan’s bathroom.

Last week we got running water in most of our sinks.  I don’t think the water was supposed to be running into the basement like a midsummer rain storm.  Oops!  That plumbing joint had a factory defect.  Call back the sheet rocker and painter because they had to cut a hole in our bedroom wall to find and fix the leak.

That was short list of puzzle pieces that have fallen on the floor and been lost in this giant puzzle we call our new home.  Hopefully, after crawling around on the floor and searching  we will find all the pieces or at least be able to get out our markers and crayons and make something that looks like it may fit.

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House Poles

One of the architectural details we wanted to include in our new home, keeping in the tradition of the Pacific Northwest, is having totem house poles greeting visitors to our home. The natives of the Pacific Northwest perfected the totem poles as a traditional method to convey legends, family lineage, notable events and even as a way to express public shame. We don’t have any shame to share or cast on anyone, but we thought it would be a nice way to celebrate Nancy and Bill’s grandchildren, our children and their place in the beach place’s traditions.

When we cut down the fir trees to be milled into finishing lumber for the house we saved the tops of four of the trees.  They made logs about ten feet long and ten to twelve inches in diameter.  I will carve each log with something that represents each of the grandchildren lives.

I was going to carve the logs before they went up, but they were too heavy.  I am now going to carve them in place.  It may end up being easier in the long run.

Yesterday the logs, rather unceremoniously, went up.  They are the supports for the main entryway. They form the base of the roof which includes several large beams also from the property’s trees. the roof, for the last several months has been supported by a pair of fragile looking 2x6s that seemed about ready to snap and drop the whole roof crashing to the ground.  Using a hydraulic jack, they ever so gently raised the roof a fraction, removed the tired  2×6 and slid the largest beam into place.  It took three guys and several large hammers as well me taking pictures to urge it into position.  That was post number two, or Joey’s.  With it in place they put post four into its spot.  It was MacKenzie’s.  One side of the entry way roof was now solidly supported by two big fir logs.  Logs one and three were soon in place and the main entry now has a very solid  and firmly grounded base.

The next step, after securing the logs, was to place a fourteen foot long 6×12  beam on top of the front two logs. The beam was topped with three 6×6 beams, one placed vertical and two placed at a 45 degree angles.  The rock entry wall and fir door is now covered by a massive, sturdy portico that gives the impression of permanence.

My job is to now carve the house poles.  While Joey’s will have an orca and an eagle’s wing to symbolize his strength and running, the other three poles will have less Native American symbolic figures.  They will include things like a double helix, music, mice and art Muses; all things that represent the grandchildren.  I also will carve a native plant into each log to represent the nature that surrounds us here at the beach next to Puget Sound. The logs are installed so my work is about to begin.

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Granite Slabs

Our kitchen and bathrooms are going to have granite hard surfaces.  That means the countertops are going to be granite.  We have an island in the kitchen plus the counters.  We are also going to use the same granite in the powder room.  The two main bathrooms are going to be quartz which is a whole other story.

What seems like months ago, we chose the type of granite we wanted to use in the house. It was a fascinating experience.  We went to Pentels, a solid surface supplier in Fife, WA. They have a huge warehouse with rows and rows of granite, marble, and quartz.  They are stacked on edge like books in a library.  The amazing part is the variety of stone available to choose from. It was hard to believe this stuff comes out of the ground and with a little polishing turns into stunning pieces of art.  Some of them could actually end up on a wall as art.  We saw one that could have been a Van Gogh with swirling colors and swishes of brushstrokes lighting up its surface.  Another was deep dark blue with iridescence purple only seen at an angle. Of course, those were really expensive and would never match our house.

After salivating over the exotic stuff, we got down to business and starting looking for something that would actually go with the house.  We narrowed it down to two, Geriba Beach and Golden Crystal.  I liked the Golden Crystal because the pattern in it was wilder than the other granite.  Joan didn’t like the Geriba Beach because it was too orange.  We found out Joan has a bias against orange.  Do you know how much orange there is in the world?  Janice was a Geriba Beach fan as it had more cream  colors and less black.  It was a 2-1 decision for Golden Crystal.  I took my future happiness into my hands and sided with my sister-in-law against my wife. Maybe not a good idea, but we are all still talking.

After making this important decision, we now sweep months into the future to the present time.  Our cabinets are all installed and the stone guys are coming out to measure and make a template for our counters.  That means we had to go back to Pentel to choose the actual slabs we will be using in the house.  You see, Golden Crystal is a variety of granite, but each large slab is unique, so you want to get the ones that are the prettiest or most dramatic.  Sounds easy, but it is not.  We needed three slabs to complete our project.  You can not, in all actuality, just choose any old Golden Crystal slab.  They must be slabs that were adjacent to each other in the original block.  Think of granite coming from a block, like a loaf of bread.  You want three slices that were next to each other in the loaf.  The reason is, granite within each block is extremely variable as to pattern and color.  If you have adjacent slices they will match more closely so your counter tops look like they are from the same type of granite.

We chose three adjoining slabs but unfortunately somebody else wanted one of the slabs in our series and had it on hold.  We chose an alternate to the two matching slab that was a close match.  We were hopeful the one on hold would be released so we could have a matching set. Happily they release it so we have three of a kind.

We now are looking forward to the next couple of weeks when the slabs are fabricated into our countertops and we can enjoy their beauty.  Sorry they weren’t your favorite, Janice.

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