Monday, March 31, 2014

Two Walls, One Room - More V-Joint Installations

It's an exciting time here in our cabin!

Nana and Papa are coming to visit for the first time since last summer/fall when our progress had only been to get the outer shell of the cabin up.

Papa had only just begun on framing the floor in the "kitchen" before they had to return to the south.

At least we got to see them again at Christmas, but it's seemed like so long since then.  Thankfully we have gotten a chance to touch base by Skype and email and Google Chat, but there's nothing like being able to have your family right there with you to share your time and space.

The visit of Aunt V! earlier in the year had gone really well (from our perspective).  She slept in Kenny's room and with her bionic hip, had little trouble navigating the stairs to use the facilities at any time of day or night.

While I'm confident that Nana and Papa will also have no problems accessing all parts of the cabin, it was looking logistically difficult to fit everyone into the two working bedrooms we have now.

With that in mind, the load of fresh V-jointed pine that I was able to pick up on Friday was a timely arrival!

Grandpa and I got to it right away on Saturday morning, hoping to be able to enclose the main floor bedroom before my parents arrive this coming Thursday.


First up was ratcheting the wall into a more permanent position - it had taken a bit of a bend and the top was out by over an inch in the middle.  I will likely try to drill out and lag-bolt it into a more permanent orientation when I can get my hands onto some long bolts.  At this point, I think I will drill a hole in the top of the wall, and then put in a long lag bolt of a narrow enough diameter that it doesn't actually grip onto the wall itself.  Then I will insert the bolt into the end of the floor joist above.  This will hopefully allow the loft to settle, without putting downward pressure on the wall.  Don't worry, I'll *try* to remember to take pictures of this scheme as I put it into practise, so you can understand what I'm on about.


With the wall in position, and the sun already falling onto my panels enough to both charge them, as well as run the mitre saw, we were off!


One complaint I had with our work upstairs was the butt joints of the wall boards had opened up a bit and it didn't look as neat as I would have liked.  I want to try to find ways to avoid this from happening completely, and in this particular situation, I figured the best option would be to put all my joints behind the side support of the stairs, even if it meant that we couldn't locate the joint on a stud.  My thoughts were that the run of jointed boards above and below the joint would still give it support and hold it in position.  So far, I've been vindicated.  The wall looks flawless, even though it was a few inches more than ten feet, and all my boards were in the eight foot range.

I'm not sure how I will hide my joints in the rest of the construction, but at least in this case, things worked out really well.


I cut out for my electrical boxes, and am especially enamoured with these outlets which include two USB charging ports as a replacement for the top half of the receptical.  We currently have two of them in the cabin and I am tickled pink with their usefulness!


We can't forget about the television mount - I took great pains to ensure it was level, but of course, once the weight of the television itself was on the end of the arm, it took up the slight slack in the arm itself to go just slightly off from level.  I don't believe it's noticeable to anyone but me, and considering how I had gotten use to the previous mount being WAY off, this will be totally fine.


You can see how neatly the power meter fits onto the wall.  It even shows we are charging up the batteries at this point in the construction process!


At the top of the wall, I wanted to really ensure the final board was nice and tight, so a little help from my pry-bar went a long way.


This was all accomplished in the morning, so when Grandpa returned in the afternoon, we were more than primed for the narrower wall on the other side of the room.  This one went up lickety-split.  It did have the slight difference in that it had the doorway in it.

The doorway meant that I installed the boards up the large side, across the top, and then a number of thirteen inch boards down the narrow side.  This went better than expected, and will surely be my new technique for this sort of situation.  I will have to research and think about how to do something similar around windows.


We now have an enclosed bedroom on the main floor!  I just have to clean up this room, and it should be close to fit for human habitation!

With a third bedroom prepared, now Nana and Papa can easily find their way to the facilities for nighttime trips, without fear of having to use my "unconventional" staircase.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Push To Finish Installing The Floor

Now that the main living area of the cabin had been completely disrupted to allow me to begin installing the floor, I wanted to get it finished in good time.  This doesn't include the "finishing" - sanding and sealing, but rather, just the installation to allow us to walk around on an even, firmer surface.


Grandpa and I had on previous days managed to work our way out from the south wall.  By the end of the second day, I had managed to get under the kitchen counter and out the far side.


I framed a border around the stove, which went a bit better than I had initially expected.  By using my circular saw to cut the bottom strip off of the groove side of the tongue and groove flooring, the boards fit perfectly over the durock surface under the stove.


Donna and I decided to cut a "bevel" into the durock at each front corner to make it not extend so far out into the wood flooring.  Especially on the side where people were coming in from the front door into the living area, it "opened up" the path of movement.


Once we got to the stairs, it took a bit of work to get them disconnected safely and yet still secured until I could run the flooring under them and out the other side.


Gosh, these stairs make my butt look big.

This was also the right time to add in the new and improved railing posts on the landing.  The topmost tread of the stairs had always been a few inches shallower than the rest, so the way I opted to correct this was to have the stairs moved out from the landing a bit.  I saw the post as able to do double duty in that I could rest the stairs on it too and acheive nearly the perfect spacing.

Of course, this meant cutting off a bit of the side of the stairs at the bottom so they wouldn't overhang the trap door in the floor there that lets me access the crawlspace from another place.

As a safety measure, I screwed down a two by three so the stairs could only slide so far out from their original position.

Yes Virginia, that extension cord was my idea for a quick and dirty "safety line", just in case the stairs came away at the landing and were destined to fall.  Of course, my main concern was the new tv under them, so I opted to remove it from the wall bracket altogether.

Between Grandpa using the mitre saw, the compressor coming on every few minutes, and the extremely loud compressive "bangs" of the floor stapler, Kenny opted for ear mufflers that could still allow him to hear his iPad games.

After Grandpa left to feed his fires, I decided to make this a one-day job rather than continuing the next day (or the next...)  So I pushed on.  First up was to raise the centre support column for the loft so that it was level with the flooring.



At the very end, I had to coax the final strip onto the tongue with the always-handy slot screwdriver.  Never used it much for driving screws, but as a thin handled lever, it was superb!


Then it was time for spaghetti supper - We were trying out our new slow cooker for the very first time, so Donna opted to cook the meatballs and sauce in that.  I had noticed that on sunny days, our batteries reached full voltage on or around lunch, and then excess current was just being dumped as they absorbed or floated until sunset.  With a little research and thought, and a burning desire to actually get some use out of that excess energy, I felt it was worth exploring if we could run a small load on top of the charge controller.  I was right!  (Doesn't happen very often, give me my moment please...)

I think this will be a VERY handy and useful discovery and option during the hot days of summer when we don't want to heat up the whole cabin just to cook a meal.  We will surely have a glut of energy, and this will let us use it, while not having to make ourselves uncomfortable.

The spaghetti was excellent BTW.  Kenny ate his whole serving and I had two, plus ate it for brunch the next morning.














Monday, March 17, 2014

Experiments with Hardwood Floors

Well, I mentioned that upstairs my floorboards had exhibited a little bit of "shrinkage" - gaps of a sixteenth of an inch have opened up between the boards in numerous places.


It was suggested that it wasn't a case of the boards continuing to dry, but that I hadn't nailed them down tightly enough.

I had never installed a floor before, and didn't see it being that much different from other projects, so I installed the entire upstairs simply with my brad nailer.  Now I understand that there is actually a specific tool for nailing or stapling down a floor.

Don't roll your eyes at me - I just didn't even consider that there was a different option.

I'm not interested in pulling up the whole floor and re-doing it.  Not at this point anyway...  The boards have gaps, but they aren't hideous or anything like that.  They aren't rocking or sliding around.  I'll let it ride and update my readers as to if they need further attention after I finish them.

By the time I was ready to move from the loft to the main floor, I had an offer of a loan of a floor stapler with a large compressor.  I readily accepted, even at the rental cost (one case of beer - and not cheap beer either!)

I headed out to pick it up that night, and of course, got our Toyota Echo stuck in their driveway.  At least they had a huge four wheel drive truck that was able to tow me up the driveway to the road, where I took a long drive in the dark through the back roads of the local townships.

Our lifestyle means that we don't find ourselves out and about after dark very often, so it's different driving when it does happen nowadays.  More often, I find myself in the dark when I'm heading to town in the mornings in the dead of winter, with sunrise still many hours away.

The next day Grandpa and I got ready to put the flooring down in the bathroom.  I plugged the compressor in and - beeeeeeep!  The inverter balked.  Sheesh, the compressor must pull down over 3000 watts of startup power?

I headed outside and started up the generator, then repeated my experiment...



In the bathroom, I abandoned the notion of running hot water from the stove reservoir, so I cut off that poly pipe and installed the hardwood directly over the truncated pipe.





Grooooooaaaaaannnnnnnn!  The generator started to shake violently, but came into a sputtering level that managed to run the compressor until it cut off.  We plodded away like this for the day, finishing the tiny bathroom floor with the stapler, and then doing the pantry.

In the main floor bedroom, we had no such luck on the next day.  I simply could not get the generator to run the compressor.  It stalled every time the motor came on.





We completed the bedroom with a VERY generous helping of my brad nailer again.  I'm just going to have to see how this works out.  The ends of the boards I was able to nail directly through the tops for a pretty firm joint.  Elsewhere, I put in nails every five to six inches at the very most.

I decided that for the main part of the cabin, I wanted to try the nailer again.  So I purchased an inexpensive two gallon compressor from Home Depot at a really sharp price.  I'm sure it is very underpowered for a professional contractor, but I had their assurances that if it didn't drive the stapler, I could return it.

At that price point, I would have accepted it blowing up after I installed the floor and just wrote it off as a consumable.  Anything it does after the floor will just be "gravy".

I haven't begun the main floor yet, I think I will try to focus on finishing the floors I already have done to confirm the concept.


Just to test out the new compressor and floor stapler combination, I did finish off the trap doors in the pantry with the two items.  I believe it was about every five to ten staples that the compressor had to come back on to charge up.  This was reasonable to me.

It is nice that these smaller items run directly off my inverter and battery power.  I have realized that on a sunny day at this time of year, my underwhelming batteries charge up for nighttime very rapidly, and then a huge amount of potential power is wasted if I don't use it.  So during the midmorning, Donna does laundry, we plug in lots of battery powered items to charge up, and just generally use our peak power.

I'll try to update next on how finishing the bathroom and pantry go.

Here's me playing with tilt-shift.













Monday, March 3, 2014

A Stylish, Inexpensive, Right-Sized Sink for our Bathroom

Having a drain in the kitchen sink is another luxury that we've rapidly become accustomed to.

For a few months, I simply had a bucket under the sink drain, and we tried to be mindful of how full it was at any given time before pulling the plug.  I managed to score the envious task of dumping out the "slop bucket" on a regular basis, with Donna filling in when I was neglectful of my duties.

Refurbishing the drain line from 1" poly pipe to 1 1/2" stiff ABS pipe sure has seemed to fit the bill for both our kitchen and sauna.  Last up - the bathroom.


I coupled together two twelve foot lengths of ABS and with some finagling, managed to get them from one corner of the cabin (the bathroom) to the other corner (where the drain line passed through the foundation footing).  I cut my existing drain line, and inserted a Y adapter. 


Then I had Donna press a two foot length of ABS through my newly expanded hole in the floor, until I was able to get it through into the crawlspace. I glued it into the new drain line, and then propped up this new line with the remaining six by six blocks that I had under the floor of the cabin.

Returning to the surface world, I cut down a piece of fancy birch plywood to act as a bathroom counter.


At one end, I drilled in the holes for my faucet.  While I don't have running water to connect to the taps, I still wanted to ensure it was in an appropriate position for future use.


Due to our limited depth of counter and spacing, I opted to put the taps on the side of the sink, rather than behind it, as is generally traditional.

Next, I wanted to cheap out on buying a sink, as they can be rather expensive.

I also wanted something that would be slightly smaller than commercially available.

All this, and looking nice.

Enter the local department store's mixing bowl selection!


At first I tried to use my spade bit to drill out a hole in the bottom.  I was even willing to dull my bit and have to purchase a new one at the current price point of the entire sink assembly.

You can imagine my surprise at just how hard a cheap bowl can be compared to the teeth on a spade bit. It was no contest, as with a shower of sparks and smoke, the teeth on my bit disappeared into the ether.


I switched to drilling a number of holes in a circular pattern, and then using my side cutters to nip out an approximate circle for the drain to be installed.


The drain installed nicely.


It passed the initial tests.  The only shortcoming at this point is that it had a circular "dimple" around the outside of the base which allows a ring of water to settle and not fully drain out.


I installed the counter at what I thought was an appropriate height (three feet), but which is now feeling a little higher than normal for a bathroom counter.  We will try it out for awhile and see if we want it to be adjusted to our own personal preferences.


I dry fit the ABS up above the floor and simply lowered the sink drain down into the ABS pipe.  Things seem to work fine from that end, although I will surely want to find a clamp or fittings to make this an air and water tight seal at some point, likely shortly after a snake, mole, or mouse climb out of the space between the two pipes.

Finally, I pushed the faucet into position.  I wish I could find what I had done with the locking nuts that should hold it under the counter - if they don't turn up when I come to plumb in the fixture, I guess I'll have to improvise with washers and nuts.


We moved our toothbrushing equipment into place, and last night christened the entire assembly with surprising lack of fanfare.  I guess we were all stuffed with Mummu's delicious chili con carne.

Thankfully, no more wiping toothpaste out of the kitchen sink before doing dishes!








Sunday, March 2, 2014

Changing Tastes (Literally) - Poached Eggs on the Woodstove

As I get older, I find myself going through changes in just about every respect.  One of the least distressing is that my tastes are growing (slightly) broader.

I am now willing to eat poached eggs.

A couple of months ago Donna and I were at A and W early in the morning and through a misunderstanding, I wound up with two Bacon ' Egger sandwiches (oh!  300% of my daily fat!), both with poached, rather than my traditional scrambled, eggs.

Not wanting to cause too much trouble, I decided to just try scarfing them down - but instead, found that they were really okay.

I thought about that for awhile, and realized that this would make my breakfast ordering much easier.  But I never considered it a "home" option until a few nights later.

As I was asleep, I suddenly began to dream about cracking eggs into some of our smallest enameled metal dishes (or ramekins), and then putting THOSE into a larger saucepan filled with boiling water.

When I woke up, I knew what I had to (ask Donna) to do.

We toasted some english muffins, cooked eggs as per my dream, added some ham and cheese, and were in breakfast sandwich heaven!



Over the weeks that have followed, we have experimented with slight variations on this theme.  I purchased some silicon egg poaching bowls from Dollarama and they seem to be the most useable.  The eggs tend to stick to everything we have used, even if we pre-treat it with a bit of oil.  But the bowls fit easily into the pot, and can be reused if we want to make multiple batches.  Just cracking the eggs directly into the water has been the least satisfying, but I suppose we'd be willing to try it again if we were presented with a method for keeping the egg all together.


It's been nice having them as a new alternative breakfast.  Kenny isn't that much into them.  He still infinitely favours his oatmeal.