Demanding Sanding

Spring/early summer of 2016, and I’ve been doing some sanding. OK, a LOT of sanding. But before I get into that, here are a few things Clare’s been up to while I kick up the dust.

When I mentioned to Clare that I thought we should make all the duplex electrical outlets (okay, receptacles!) into quads, she took it in stride and commenced to wiring up a storm. Now, there’s no way we’ll ever run out of places to plug things in (ha!). Then she took care of some more lighting fixtures. Installing lights over the doors makes the outside look even more finished:

Code requires a light over every exterior door... ...fortunately, code lets you pick nice-looking fixtures!

And, since it’s spring, time to start lots and lots of seeds. Every year, I’m very concerned about the basil. Because basil is very, very important.

mmmmmmm... futurepesto

When we framed Nerdwood, the timbers sat out in the elements for many months before they were covered by a roof, and many many more months before the outside walls were done. This caused them to weather to gray and/or brown, which looks pretty good on the outside, but on the inside, we thought it would brighten things up to sand and finish the exposed framing. Of course, there is lots and lots of exposed framing.

After doing some research, I ordered a 6″ random-orbit sander made by Bosch that got very high marks for usability and durability, although some said that using it on the highest setting was like wrestling an angry badger. Or robot. This turned out to be true. I started by sanding the posts and beams on the second floor, then finishing them with linseed oil. Linseed oil is great to work with, you can use one coat, and it will last a very long time if the wood you are finishing will not be subject to much wear.

Guess we can't dance on the posts

Once those were done, we cleared everything off the second floor and removed the temporary plywood decking:

The deck was stacked - behind the house

Careful where you step...

Now it was time to fire up the ol’ Bosch. Well, the new Bosch. Good thing the weather was cool for the vast majority of the sanding, because I had a lot of gear on my head:

All Clare heard me saying was "Mrrrffllf flrrml flooof bloofin."

The posts and beams were cut with a bandsaw (portable sawmill), but the joists were cut with some kind of buzzsaw – in other words, a circular saw. Sanding really brought out the saw marks, which we really like the looks of:

It's rustic!

They’ll be a bit darker when they are finished, but the saw marks will still be accentuated. All this sanding took quite awhile, especially since I couldn’t do it for more than a few hours at a time without getting the “Vibrating Palm of Death.” But eventually, every post, beam, and joist was sanded.

One morning in the middle of all this excitement, we showed up at Nerdwood and our neighbor Diesel was there to see what all the fuss was about:

"Hey, guys! Mind if I snack while I watch?"


The Light Pours Out Of Me

Once we finished cordwooding the house, it was time to start working in earnest on the interior. Clare and I decided it would be best to start the finish work upstairs and work our way down, so that the mess would fall into the as-yet-unfinished first floor, rather than on stuff we had just finished. During the fall and early winter of 2015, our friend Matt had some time to give us a hand (fortunately for us!), and he framed out the area above the second-floor cordwood walls. He then drywalled the whole area, aside from where the second-floor bathroom will be – since we decided not to put any cordwood walls in the bathrooms, we’ll be finishing that room separately.

Clare and I took over at this point, painting the drywall, and putting up trim that I made from leftover cedar boards. Most of the second floor looks pretty well done at this point, as long as you don’t look down at the temporary plywood flooring on the second floor.

Clare's storied windows

Trim me! Trim you!

While Matt was working, and throughout the winter, I installed ceiling light fixtures on the knotty aspen ceiling, covering both the great room and the second floor.

Let's pretend those bundles of wires aren't there...

They had to brush a lot of nickels to make these fixtures

Working on Nerdwood after work during the previous winters was always a bit spooky, since it gets so dark out there so early, and the couple of portable work lights we have just light a small area, casting mysterious shadows throughout the rest of the house. The track lights and second floor ceiling lights really light the whole place up, and make it more homey to work in. Plus, they are LED bulbs, so they use a tiny amount of juice compared to the energy-hog halogen work lights.

As you can see above, I also put in a ceiling fan over the great room. In addition to having a light in it, it really moves a lot of air, helping keep the whole house an even temperature, even though all the heat is coming from just the floor and the masonry heater. We chose a fan with a DC motor, which is pricier, but is completely silent at all but the highest, “It’s a twister!” fan speeds.

On Christmas Day, the temps outside were hovering just around freezing, so water kept dripping from the roof, then coating theĀ vegetation with ice:

Ice attack!

The Interior View

While insulating the ceiling we had to take into account areas where infrastructure such as the chimney and the plumbing vent would eventually have to get through the roof. This involved adding some extra baffles to leave openings in the insulation. We also had to run some electric wire (Romex) for overhead lighting and a ceiling fan.

Always plan ahead for lighting.

By February of 2011, we were finished with the ceiling for the time being, and were working on pulling wiring through the conduit with a fish tape, and wiring the outlets. We had a few circuits live in no time.

It's an outlet.

Another important task was to cut 2x8s into base plates for the inner cordwood walls. As we spent all this time inside in the now well-insulated house, we noticed how well our passive solar design was working. On sunny days, the house warmed up and the in-floor heating kicked in rarely, if at all.

A sunny space.

Foam Power

Before we could have the contractor come to spray the walls with insulation, there were a few more things to take care of. We had to plan for electricity and water infrastructure before winter weather set in. We hired an electrical contractor to run metal conduit along the walls of the house for the electrical wiring. This conduit would ultimately reside in the insulation layer, between the two cordwood layers.


We also cut some baffles made of corrugated plastic to place between the roof joists above the walls.

Simply baffling.

Once the conduit was in place, we had a local contractor, Superior Polymer, spray the walls with open cell foam. They completed the job very quickly, in under a day. It was a really striking difference to walk into the newly insulated house.

The contractors were very thorough, and generous with the foam. I mean, they sprayed the bejeezus out of the place. It was like walking into a foam cave. It was immediately much warmer, and incredibly quiet inside. Although I knew it was only temporary, it was a bit sad to no longer see cordwood on the inside.

The walls, white with foam.

Yes, that's a lot of foam.

Our next important item was to get running water inside the house. This would be necessary in order to heat the house using the in-floor heating system.