permeable driveways

So we need to choose the paving material between the concrete end of the driveway up to the garage. The stuff we really want is this:

We first saw it at a Cool Home Tour a couple years ago. In the forefront are the "pavers" (they appear to be Grasspave2 pavers), and the grass you see in the back is the result: A drivable lawn!

We've all been referring to this stuff as "grasscrete", but grasscrete is something different, namely concrete pavers with holes in them to allow grass to grow:

Grasscrete is, itself, rather nice stuff. Here's some with a gorilla:

Bomanite is a company that sells the stuff, but there are others as well.

The builder left a sample of Pavestone's grasscrete at our house:

But that isn't exactly what we're looking for. And furthermore, the paver-dude said that the grass in grasscrete requires irrigation to keep the grass alive (lots of drying out from the concrete).

This from NDS is more of what we are looking for:

When properly installed, these suckers (made out of recycled plastic) can support four tons: That's a lot of little cars!

GrasspaveTypar, and Hebden are other suppliers of this stuff.

TrueGrid is a supplier from Houston:

Also made of 100 percent recycled plastic (80 percent post-consumer).

Sorry: Couldn't find a photo of a gorilla with this stuff...

Some more information about permeable driveways from About.com, mygreenhome, Wikipedia, Apartment Therapy, and This Old House.

week 27: doors and baseboards and pavers

Slowly but slowly the house is coming together, and it's looking mighty fine. The past week was focused on finishing the driveway pour, hashing out details on the landscaping, beginning the baseboard and (associated) door installation, and (of course) more sealing (enough with the sealing already, right!).

driveway done! (almost...)

They poured the curb and approach this past week, and it looks muy bueno. And last week's driveway pour has dried to a nice light grey. We still need to finish the drive from the concrete to the garage with grasscrete-ish material.

landscape details

Been hashing out material details with the builder on the landscaping. He was able to locate a local (and less expensive) manufacturer of elongated concrete pavers and set out some samples for us to gawk at. We're liking 'em. The pavers we would install are toward the top, and the different colors we could get are on the standard-sized pavers toward the bottom. They are made by Pavestone, and they are 3 inches by 18 inches and have other complimentary pieces if one wants them. They don't appear to be as elegant-smooth as the others we were flirting with, but our budget isn't as elegant either... However, these have enough of a different/modern twist to them to be worthy of the house.

doors and baseboards

I told the Green House Lady (who hasn't posted to her site in awhile, not even to brag about her non-existant electric bills!) that baseboards were going up before drywall, and she thought that was odd. And it is odd. Most commonly, drywall goes up first followed by the baseboards. However, since we're going for more of a clean look, the baseboards, slightly thicker than the drywall, are going up first and then the drywall will be butted against the top for a quarter-inch reveal.

We're doing the one on the right after Plan A didn't work out too well. With the concrete floors, especially since they were pre-finished, we don't need to worry about covering up a finishing gap. However, we will need to worry about that on the stairs and upstairs with the wood floors. In that case, another small board will be attached at the bottom. Saw a finish similar to this on the recent Modern Home Tour and think it will look great. The builder is little-kid excited about this detail and is talking about adopting it for all of his houses.

First things first, the doors and associated frames, to which the trim butt against, have to go in. Here are a herd of them waiting in the garage for love and attention:

And as a practice run, the baseboarder has been baseboarding the garage, which will have a similar finish to the house:

I don't think we mentioned this earlier, but the builder insulated the garage. He's a wee bit of a gear head and knows about our little cars, so he's taking special care of the garage. The insulation will be great if we ever decide to air condition the garage, a must for working on cars in the Texas heat.

None of the door-doors are installed yet, but two of the three pocket doors (master bath and master closet) are in:

And here's a detail of the trim around the door:

Kinda hard to see, but the trim is flush with the door jambs.

They also have the door and trim installed on the mechanical closet:

And have a start on the baseboards for the stairwell:

more sealing? are you serious?

Yes, more sealing... Sealing is great for fixated personalities, and we have fixated personalities (me more so than the bride...). Spent a chunk of the weekend doing a final and methodical inch-by-inch once-over on the inside of the house. The twist this time was building a home-made (half-assed) blower door with a good-sized fan, a sheet of plastic, and tape.

The idea is to create a negative pressure inside the house (the fan is pulling air from the inside and blowing it outside) such that any leaks in the house will really be sucking air. And this jerry-rigged booger worked like a charm. I could feel the egregious leaks with my skin (a couple were blowing like a Motel 6 hair dryer!) and could easily see minor leaks using a smoky incense stick:

It might be a little hard to see, but there's an incense stick coming up from the bottom-center of the photo. At the tip of the stick, there's a trail of smoke that veers to your left indicating a draft (and therefore a leak!). That hunk of metal you see there, a hanger, tends to be an air leaker. I wound up silicon sealing all the open edges of these in the house.

Wished they made purple foam sealer. Purple would look great here.

The good news is that using this method I was able to identify a few terrible leaks we had missed with our earlier efforts and discover that the storefront window in the powder room is terribly-horribly (literally rattling-in-the-frame) sealed (need to talk to the builder about that...). The other good news is that after crawling over much of the interior of the house with incense (incanting "Searching top to bottom down. Leak, I'll find you. Leak be found!") I didn't find too many leaks. Yay! The other windows, the Rhinos, are tighter than Warren Buffett on a trip to Vegas.

Today I'll be back out there (the bride is working at a power plant in Primm, Nevada, this weekend...) sealing on the outside around the exposed eaves of the front and back porches and carport. After that, I think we'll be done sealing for awhile...


(envelope please) and the architect is...

According to our manifesto, we shouldn’t be revealing our architects until the bitter end since they still have a role until we get a certificate of occupancy from the city. But 95 97 percent of their work is done, and what they have done thus far has been absolutely fabulous. Unless they pull a Dallas Cowboys and blow it all in the final minutes, we feel confidant that we know these dudes. Furthermore, we’ve already heartily recommended them to friends and inquiring minds from the interwebs. At least two referrals have led to projects with (as far as we know) similarly happy customers.

Drum roll please: Architect 2d is Nick Mehl and The Usonian Expert is Jay Bolsega (insert exhuberant trumpets with a smattering fade of clarinets [and Flamenco guitar]). 

Nick didn’t ping our architectural radar until a friend at work solicited recommendations from an interior designer (former architect) across-the-street neighbor. After gawking at Nick's website and blog (and liking what we saw and read), we interviewed him. Amazingly, he met our entire want list and appeared (and turned out to be) easy to work with. After opening up a shared office with several others architects, Nick brought in Jay to collaborate on the project. Jay’s been fun to work with as well, and, given his interest in architectural history, a blast to talk with (it’s hard to get us separated once we get going...). His Usonian Expertness is clearly on display with the house.

Shortly after meeting Nick, he and four other architects (including Jay), already sharing storefront, pooled resources into a firm called Element 5 Architecture, so our project went from a Nick Mehl Architecture project to an Element 5 Architecture project. 

We cannot say enough good things about Nick; he’s really been perfect for us. He’s a great listener, he's attentive to aesthetic and programmatic needs, he’s super easy to work with, and perhaps most importantly (especially after earlier nightmares...) right as rain on costs. And equally arguably most importantly, we absolutely love the house he and Jay designed for us, its more hidden treasures slowly revealing themselves to us as it gets built.

Although he’s designed Modern for us and others, Nick is versatile. One of the houses we toured on the Cool Homes Tour was a green home in more of the Arts and Crafts vein (we had a wipe-the-dribble-from-the-corners-of-our-mouths lovefest about Nick with the owners after we revealed we were fixin' to start building a house with him).

After being absolutely heartbroken (and somewhat bitter) after our first experience with an architect, it feels like a miracle to have wound up with ones as great as Nick and Jay. 


week 26: flatwork, parapet tops, and mo sealing!

The big news this week is installation of the flatwork, namely the driveway and walkway to the front door. It's not all quite done yet since the city made us take out the existing curb to put in a new one. Prolly for the best since it will look better if the concrete is all of the same vintage.

One interesting element of the driveway (and there's one in the walkway) are these three-inch holes for feather grass. The foreman thought this was quite odd...

We planted a couple feather grasses to see how they would work. They work!

A subtle change is that the parapets are now topped. Yay! Adds a wee bit of bling to the tippy-top of the house.

Since nothing progressed on the interior (a good thing), I spent the day there today (my birthday!) sealing sill plates (the boards that rest on the foundation) and the boards that attach to the sill plates. I've read that gaps between sill plate and slab add up to an eight-inch square hole in your house if you don't seal them. I believe it. When I sealed the gap on the western side of the house, you could feel a breeze coming out from that crack! Will spend a few hours tomorrow touching things up, but that should settle the wheeling and sealing (except for some work planned for the outside for next weekend). At this point we've sealed every crack we can find (and reach: can't reach the top of the stairwell windows). 

Had a good meeting with the builder on Tuesday morning at Lance Armstrong's coffee shop (I wonder if they slip something extra in the coffee there...). We talked about landscaping, tile, flatwork, wood floors, wood ceilings, baseboards, drywall finish, and the coming array of events to completion. We are in the home stretch, folks!


week 25: color! baseboard concepts! sealing!

We have color on the house! It's not completely painted (they left the inner walls of the front porch area unpainted for some reason), but most of it is, and it looks great:

We're really liking the gray we chose. There's something excitingly dull about it. Gunmetal gray?A wee bit of steely blue to it, for sure. Overcast weekend, so we'll see how it looks in the sun, but so far, so good.

They also ran the underground utility from the house to the garage:

And they graded the lot and started setting forms for the driveway and walk to the front of the house:

The builder said we need to get some concrete down so we don't continue to track mud into the house. We're all for that!

Inside, they put in insulation around and about the bathrooms for sound control:

We wound up spending the weekend (I was there for 17 hours...) sealing between boards on outer walls and touching up the spray foam insulation. There were parts of the house where I could see daylight between the boards (admittedly up into the space above the outside eaves). Not good. So a-sealing we went.

 Lots and lots of silicon and lots and lots of spray foam later, our house is much better sealed. Would be better if we had one more weekend for additional touch-ups (which is possible depending on when baseboards and drywall go up), but it is much better now. Not passivhaus better, mind you, but much better. (And I have a nasty full-index-finger-tip blister now as proof. Ouch.)

It blew like Moby Dick last night as a front passed through. I hoped the winds would keep up so we could better assess our sealing job. But alas, the air was dead much of the day. Sent the bride to a head shop for incense so we could use the smoke to detect leaks, but couldn't tell one way or the other.

Oh yeah, the baseboards! If you recall, we were planning on using a notched board as our baseboard. The only problem? The baseboards are thicker than the drywall, so the notch winds up being flush with the drywall. The trim dude and the builder experimented with some other notches, but there appeared to be too much variation for them to look good. However, the look of a minor bump-out on the trim does look good, so we are going to go forward with un-notched baseboards that have a quarter-inch-ish bump out. Sealed and painted all white, it will look good. Saw a house on the tour last week that had a similar look, and it looked good.