Do the Needful

This winter, we made a decision that it was time to set a date to move into Nerdwood. We’re getting close enough to finishing that a firm date would inspire us to push, and push hard, to finish at least the basics needed to live there. Not only are we itching to live there, but since we are renting an apartment while we work on the house, actually living there will save us a big chunk o’ change every month. We had wanted to be DONE done by the time we moved in, but let’s face it, 10+ years is long enough. We can finish after we move in.

Our apartment lease runs out at the end of July this year (2017), so we told out landlord that we are not renewing. Yikes! Now it’s for real. We’ve made a list of things that absolutely must be ready by the time we move in. Stairs, the top layer of flooring on the second floor, maybe a few appliances, like a fridge, stove and washing machine. Oh, and first order of business, a real bathroom.

This bathroom will be on the second floor, so we started by putting down plywood underlayment on top of the aspen subfloor. Eventually we will tile on top of the plywood. Once the underlayment was down, it was time to start framing the walls.

Plywood, cordwood, wall wood, floor wood

You'll not find many bathrooms with a better view

You’ll notice we did not cordwood the bathroom walls. Some people have done so without issue, but we were slightly leery of moisture plus cordwood. Also, that was a handful of walls we didn’t have to spend weeks cordwooding. After framing out the exterior walls, we put up our first real interior wall:

If you look real close, you'll notice we had to frame around a shelflet. Whoops!

When we discussed what kind of shower to put in, Clare suggested one that was easy to clean. I wanted steam. Thus, we went with a one-piece acrylic shower enclosure – easy to clean and rated for steam. Also, super heavy. Between our friend Dan (thanks, Dan!), me, and the delivery guy, not to mention a quick-n-dirty sled I fashioned out of a sheet of plywood, we managed to get the unit up to the house, through the back door, and upstairs.

If you're a shower aficionado, you don't need me to point out that's it's the Warm Rain WR-903

Because it’s a one-piece, we had to get it inside the bathroom before framing the other walls, since it is too big to fit through an interior doorway. Once it was inside the bathroom, we continued framing. Clare would measure the space, I would draw the wall, Clare would measure and cut the lumber, and I would assemble the walls. Before too long, we had the whole thing framed out:

Very pod-like!

Now, time to do more plumbing. Yay! Since all we had were stubs coming out of the slab on the first floor, we had to build the interior wall on the first floor that the plumbing stack and vent runs through. Then, extend the stack upwards, along with the vent lines, and run the drain lines from all the fixtures in the second floor bathroom. This took awhile, since I had to cut and dry-fit everything first, while I figured out how to fit it all together in a sane, code-compliant way. Eventually, the first-floor drain/vent plumbing was done:

Hm, might have goofed on that first hole...

Another vampire squid is born

Now it was time to run the second floor plumbing:

The vent jogs to the right to make room for a recessed medicine cabinet. No peeking!

…and vent line:

Begone, foul sewer gases!

Fun! But now we’re edging into June, and we have a LOT more stuff to get done! We’re moving at the end of July, no way to avoid it since we have to vacate the apartment to let the new tenants in. Will we at least have stairs and a finished bathroom, let alone a finished floor to put our bed on? Stay tuned…

A Song From Under the Floorboards

The view from below

Time to put in a real second floor, one that doesn’t have bits sticking out or weak spots that startle you when you walk on them, like the temporary plywood floor did. Temporary, as in it was only there for eight and a half years (!). Since the floor will be visible from below, between the joists, it has to look good on both sides, top and bottom. We had originally thought we would use a single layer of inch-and-a-half-thick planks, but none of the millwork places around here could do that unless we bought them knives for their milling machines, at a price of many hundreds of dollars. Instead, we decided to do the floor in two layers – a bottom layer of local aspen, the exact same stuff as we put up on the ceiling, and a top layer of local maple. Each layer is three-quarters of an inch thick, giving us the same total thickness as we had originally planned.

The aspen on the ceiling came to us pre-finished, so I asked the folks we got the ceiling from, Keweenaw Specialty Woods, for more of the same. Unfortunately, they told me they no longer provide finishing services, apparently the one guy they had who did that has left! I was pretty bummed at the prospect of applying multiple coats of polyurethane, sanding between each coat, before putting down the boards. Then Clare asked why we didn’t just use more linseed oil, since we were not going to be dancing on the ceiling (sorry, Mr. Ritchie). This worked out great – it’s really easy to roll the stuff on, no sanding needed, one coat does the job.

Once we had some of the boards finished, I ran a string line from one end of the house to the other, and screwed in the first “baseline” row, lining one edge of the board up with the string.

Level tear us apart, again.

You may notice in the picture above, some of the joists are weathered on top, and some look freshly cut. Since they were not perfectly level with each other (probably a combination of ‘rustic’ building techniques and sitting there for 9 years), I had to plane some down, and shim some up, to achieve some semblance of level.

Once the baseline was in, and we organized the boards by size, it was time to start slappin’ ’em in, and nailin’ ’em down with the trusty “Airstrike”:



The joists are in a spiderweb-like radial pattern, so we had to put the boards down in sections, the ends overlapping a joist, then cut a straight line down the center of that joist with a circular saw. Like this:

That old line again!

Did we miss a spot?!

Then we butted up the next section’s boards against the line we just cut, and did the same thing all over again.

Seems I've seen this seam in an unseemly scene

Soon, we had enough floor in place that we could use it to finish the rest of the boards in insect-free comfort. Note that we are only finishing the downward-facing side of the boards, which is why they are yellowish, and the top of the floor is not:

Knot much room to walk here...

After a couple of weeks, working nights and weekends, we have a delightfully flat, smooth floor upstairs. Still need another layer, but it really is starting to look finished upstairs:

Ready for clams on the half-shell, and roller skates. Roller skates.