Monthly Archives: August 2017

The end is coming

It rained yesterday. I mean, a good ol’ gully washer! Rain coming down in sheets. Hail. Overflowing rain barrels (which we coincidentally had just filled up with well water because we use them to water our animals and they were getting low and who knew it was going to pour?) It was glorious.

And this morning I am reminded that the end is near.

The end of summer.

Because of the rain yesterday, the air is cooler than usual this morning, and fresh. The cheatgrass all around me is doing its usual end of summer imitation of fall colors. And September is right around the corner.

Normally I love Autumn. It’s my favorite season. However this year, we’re feeling the heat (haha) to get our house dried in before the cold weather hits.

But things keep delaying us. Last week it was that we couldn’t find any delivery drivers to bring in backfill for us. This week, we got the dirt to put into the inside of the footers, only to be stopped by the weather (can’t do anything on the house pad when there’s 3 inches of mud).

So we take it as a sign that we need to work on other things.

Hubs and I have been working fairly steadily getting our well shed finished off this past week.

Pajii graciously plunked down the money to get a shed for us so that we can put a water system in there so we can have water on site for the winter.

We had it made with 2×6 walls so we could put thicker insulation in it (R-19). We also had them beef up the floor since we are going to put heavy totes of water in there.

Then Hubs and I added windows (we could put them in for cheaper than having the shed company put them in), a loft, wiring, insulation, and we are working on the wall panels and trim now.

It might seem like a departure from our true goal of building our house, but we see it as necessary for several reasons.

The first is that it’s become glaringly obvious that we’re going to be spending another winter in the trailers. Last winter, the water situation was rough. We only had as much water on hand as could be stored in jugs inside the trailers. Anything that was stored outside in barrels or totes was almost always a solid block of ice. By insulating the shed and putting a heating source in there, we can store totes of water in there and keep them from freezing. It also gives us a chance to go ahead and get our water filtration system up and running so we can actually drink our well water. The shed will also give us a place to put a washing machine on the homestead which we haven’t had since last summer (been hauling laundry to the laundromat).

The second reason why we are pushing to get the well shed finished is because, well, we can’t do anything on the house right now anyway.

And thirdly, it’s giving us, especially my hubby who’s never built a house before, some crucial experience that will be extremely useful when we do finally get around to building the house.

So we work on the shed. And the “end” is in site. I’d say by the end of this week we should be pretty much finished.

And then, Lord willing, we start back up on the house again.

For now, here’s pics of our progress with finishing out the shed.

Putting up the 2×6 boards as floor joists for the loft.

We sheeted the floor of the loft with some of the 3/4″ plywood we had left over from building our house footings forms.

We framed out three new windows (two upstairs in the loft and one downstairs).

Hubs cutting out the hole for the south facing window in the loft.

Hanging out the tiny window like that makes it look like a child’s play house.

Once we had the floor in for the loft and the two windows put in up there for ventilation, we worked on insulating the downstairs floor. This 2″ thick rigid foam is the same stuff we put around the outside of our house footers. With the two sheets of 3/4″ plywood (one under and one over) it adds up to about R-12 on the floors. Not a lot of insulation, but it is better than having an uninsulated floor for sure.

Got the flooring down.

What could go wrong? And yes, that’s me. Working on trimming the windows.

Wiring. We’ll have one light on the ceiling of the downstairs, a GFCI outlet on each wall, and two outlets upstairs, one of which will be controlled by a light switch.

Flower Girl actually was a big help running the wiring through the holes in the loft.

She’s getting old enough that she’s becoming an actual help at times.

Insulation time! We wanted to get the loft insulated first so that it would cut down on the heat transfer to the whole shed. What a difference!

Insulation is all done, time to start putting up paneling. We decided to go with natural wood bead board for a couple reasons. First of all, we like the look. Second of all, when you factor in things like tape and texture and paint, the bead board was not much more expensive than sheetrock, especially for a small project like this. Thirdly, we like the look.

Paneling all installed in the loft. Just gotta put in trim to hide the seams. In retrospect, we could/should have done things a bit different to have fewer seams, but we learned a ton and will do better in the downstairs.

Besides, the girls don’t know it yet, but the loft is going to become their playroom (and a play room doesn’t need to have perfect paneling). That’s what these colorful foam flooring pieces that we got from a friend which are drying out after being washed off are for. (Was that a confusing sentence or what! Too tired to fix it, though.) Those will be the flooring for the loft to cushion it for the girls. At the moment, they think it’s going to be a storage room. But as I said, it’s become obvious that we are going to spend another winter in the trailers. It will be nice to have a space that the girls can go play where we’re not all right on top of each other. And we can see Princess Girl using it a lot this school year as a quite place to go to do her school work. She is easily distracted and when we live in such a tiny space, it’s hard to find somewhere to concentrate.

Insulating the ceiling of the downstairs. Since we are going to have our water system in there, we want it as insulated as possible so it’s easy to heat so nothing freezes.

Downstairs insulation finished and starting on the paneling.

And that’s as far as we’ve gotten. I’ll post more as we progress.

House update: exterior backfill and slab footer leveling

We got the outside of the footers backfilled. Which also means we got our garage pad excavated since that’s where the dirt for the backfill came from.

Before we backfilled, however, we had to put rigid insulation around the footers. This helps to insulate the pad so that the house is easier to heat. We chose to go with extruded polystyrene (xps) since it seemed more durable to us. Also, our plans say it has to be at least R-7 and this 2 inch xps foam is R-10 and was easier to find at our local big box hardware store than the right kind of expanded polystyrene (eps). 

We also spent a couple days ripping our form bords down to the right height and reattaching them so that they become the forms for the finished slab. I like that we were able to reuse materials. In addition to the wood, we had put all the forms together with screws, which means we were able to save those when we took the footer forms apart and use them again. Once the slab is poured, these forms will come down and one more row of insulation will go down, then we’ll backfill the rest of the way. And I am sure all this wood will find it’s use on the homestead.

We rented an excavator that Pops operated for us. He’s a wizard in that thing! But then, that’s what he did for a living for 30+ years.

Excavating the garage pad (and getting us fill dirt)

The Hubs and I took turns operating the little bobcat we also rented. Would have been nice to have something a bit bigger, but that’s all that was available on short notice. We used that to move the dirt around the house.

Almost done with the exterior backfill

And since we had the machine there, we decided to finally move the huge boulders into their permanent positions. 

These gigantic boulders came out of the hillside when we excavated for our well. We knew they would come in handy for landscaping and retaining. So that’s exactly how we used them.

Play boulders


The new garage pad with big boulders as a retaining wall

Just a couple days after finishing the backfill, we took off on a big family vacation that has been in the works for two years. 

The Castle Rock Family at Mt Rushmore

We got back from vacation this past weekend, and now it’s back to work!

First thing our hired hand and I did this morning in was some rebar work that needed to be finished. It was one of those jobs that would have been easy to forget.

Then we worked on leveling up the forms. They were pretty close to level, but needed a bit of adjusting here and there.

The first thing we did was go around with a transit level and measuring rod and see where the forms were high or low. Princess Girl and Pajii helped out today as well.

A transit level is basically a swiveling scope mounted on a tri-pod. You make sure it is perfectly level by using the adjusters, then site through it to a measuring rod or tape measure.

The site through the transit

Once we figured out the measurement that was most common, we called that measurement “grade” and brought everything else up or down to meet it. 

Sometimes we had to detach the form from the supports and pry the form up a bit and re-attach. But for the most part, we had to get some spots down a bit. Because there was not enough wiggle room in the system to push the boards down, I came up with the idea to plane down the high spots. We would find two “grade” spots not too far from each other, put a chalk line on it, then use the electric planer to take off the excess down to the mark.

Princess girl was in charge of the camera for a bit – obviously!

It worked great!

Planing down the high spots


That’s all we did today. Tomorrow I am going to order some fill dirt and we’ll start backfilling the interior on Friday (gotta work my summer job on Thursday). Tomorrow we also have some more bracing to do on the forms now that they are level. Don’t want those suckers to move a millimeter!

Then, over the weekend, we start trenching for interior footers and plumbing! This progress is so exciting!