Dogs in panic

I tried to do a little more work on the trim in the house on Saturday. Zeke and Sam objected. Strenuously.

I had put up the vertical casing on three doors a few days earlier and the dogs acted spooked, as they had in the past when I was using the pneumatic nailer. But this time was different.

The dogs were in the bedroom, where I wanted to install the baseboard behind the bed, so we could push the bed up against the wall. I didn’t realize they were there when I put two nails into a loose piece of flooring. They ran out of the room and pushed through the door into the garage. I had already lowered the garage doors because I figured they would want to be out there, so I wasn’t worried about that. But when I started moving the baseboard around — not even nailing yet, just moving — they freaked. Zeke started trying to rip the rubber gasket off the bottom of the garage door. It literally scared the crap out of Sam.

So this is the progress I made on the bedroom baseboards.

Loose baseboard and quarter round, plus abandoned nail gun.

On Tuesday I stopped at the vet’s office to ask their advice. They didn’t think sedatives were the answer. I didn’t either. I have a lot of trim left to do, and I didn’t want two doped-up dogs around for days on end. The vet suggested boarding them, but I don’t think that’s going to be practical. I guess I’ll try to fix up a hidey-hole for them in the garage.

Here’s Zeke in calmer times.


Notice that there are no baseboards on the wall behind him.

Moon – roof

On Wednesday night the sky was clear enough for the first time in days to see the rising moon.


Leah called my lazy rear end out to get this shot. It’s only so-so. It was handheld, so it’s not really sharp enough to stand up to much enlargement. It was really pretty in person.

And the roof? That’s the new roof on our house.


The weather was pretty good for the last few weeks, but rain was expected during the early hours of Monday (October 26). The roofing material wasn’t delivered until late last week. Fortunately, the roofer came out Saturday with about an hour of daylight left and got the roofing felt up. Then he came and shingled all day Sunday, so by the time the rain started we had a roof. The framing contractor, who provided the roofer as well, said he doesn’t like to ask anyone to work on the weekend, but in this case he made an exception. We’re glad he did. At least the roofer got Monday and Tuesday off anyway, since it rained pretty much the entire two days.

Most of our siding material was delivered earlier last week, but there was still a little bit left. This came on Monday.


This is the fish scale or half-round shingle material that will go on the porch gable. It will be painted white (as of now) to contrast with the dark green (as of now) color of the siding. I think siding will probably start today (Thursday Oct. 29) or Friday, assuming no more rain.

Late evening house update

We’re back. Uncertainty is still with us, but I guess that’s always going to be the case. So, on to the blogging.

This was the eastern sky at around 7:30 pm EDT on Monday, Sept 7.


This was the same view at about the same time on Tuesday.


It had been raining a little and was still sprinkling up on the mountain. The bright clouds are quite high, since they are further in the distance than the darker clouds above them in the photo but they are still illuminated by the setting sun. The taller one might have been a weak storm, but the radar on my phone’s weather app didn’t show much happening down that way.

Not much has been happening with the new house. Neighbor John did some grading where the septic system was installed, and our well is now in. The well driller finished about three weeks ago at a depth of 310 feet, a flow of about five gallons per minute, and about 200 gallons in the well itself. That is slightly deeper than our current well (280 feet), and a lot shallower than our next-door-neighbor’s well, which is about 500 feet and produces about three gallons per minute. Hydrology escapes me.

I told the well driller not to install the pump since we don’t need it right away.

There was a rumor that our framer will start soon, but I haven’t actually heard anything from the framer himself. This puts us about a month and a half behind where I wanted to be on the new house.

The current house is coming along, although somewhat slowly. I have almost finished the lower section of wall in our downstairs den, a problem which has been delaying starting the flooring. This picture, taken Tuesday night, tells the story.

den progress

As you can see, the floor is bare concrete. The beam you can just see at the top of the photo has been sheathed in stained pine like the upstairs beams. There is a stack of flooring to the left of the stairs. The stair treads are finished and laid in place but not nailed. I have all the finished wood I need to complete the stairs. That should go reasonably quickly. The wainscoting on the far wall is what has taken so long. Here’s a closer shot where it joins the hearth.


The wainscoting is made from plywood beadboard. We used the same stain as on all the upstairs trim (Colonial Maple), but in the years since the upstairs was trimmed out, Colonial Maple has developed a redder hue.

The part of the process that took the longest time was finishing the wood. All the wood took multiple coats of stain, and then two coats of polyurethane.

The unfinished wood going up from the wainscoting will eventually be covered with stained boards, but I can do that after the flooring is done, and I really want to get the flooring installed.

The flooring is done in the bedroom right next to the den.



I haven’t finished installing the baseboards because I can’t hang the door because the flooring in the den is not done.

The downstairs bathroom is complete (yay!).


I am waiting to floor the bedroom closet to make sure we have enough flooring for the den. Once the floor is down in the den, I’ll do the closet. Then all we will lack to have a completely finished downstairs is a little trim around the sliding glass door, baseboards and three doors.

Heads in the clouds

It has been rainy and cool here for what seems like weeks. Saturday was a dreary day. When the drizzle stopped, the fog moved in.

foggy road

This was taken at the intersection of Lavender Trail and Fouche Gap Road, looking up towards where the driveway enters our new lot. The official visibility in Rome was 10 miles, which is essentially unlimited. The visibility up here on the mountain was not much more than 100 yards; we were actually up in the clouds.

It has rained so much and we have had so little sunlight even when it’s not raining that the ground remains saturated. Neighbor John’s bulldozer has sat on our lot since the work he did more than two weeks ago. The ground is way too muddy for clearing.

foggy bulldozer

You can just see John’s bulldozer about a stone’s throw from where I took the picture.

The temperature rose through the night Friday, and it’s supposed to continue to rise this night, Saturday. A squall line is supposed to move through the area sometime around midnight. After this round of rain, the temperature is predicted to drop. The predicted high on next Thursday is 28 F. There is sun in the forecast for at least a week, so maybe John can start clearing again before too long.

House rules

First of all, Leah and I want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. We hope you can spend it with people you care about, and we hope you get plenty of good food to eat.

(Updated) I’m certainly not an expert in home design, floor planning or house construction, but after looking for my first house in Alabama, building our current house and planning for our next house, I have some opinions. Some are consistent with standard home design, and some are just my personal view, so take them for what they’re worth. The rules are oriented towards designing a house, but I think you should keep them in mind if you’re looking for an existing house

The first rule is to design your house for the next owner. Quirkiness, eccentricity or even just out-of-the-ordinary taste may suit you, but it’s unlikely to be anyone else’s idea of what a house should be. It doesn’t matter if you think the next house will be your last, because it’s impossible to predict what the future holds.

When I was looking for a house outside Huntsville, Al, my real estate agent showed me a house that a retired couple built. It was an earth-sheltered, passive-solar house with a linear floor plan, like an old roadside motel. There was no central heating or air conditioning. Apparently the owners had read too many enthusiast articles about the virtues of earth sheltering and passive solar heating. As great as they may be, neither works particularly well in Alabama. They had installed a window air conditioner through a wall so that it stuck out into the garage, and then cut holes and put fans in the walls to try to pass the cool air or heat from the wood stove from the living room to the bedrooms. It was their own, personal vision, and it was supposed to be their final home, until they decided to move to Florida to be close to family. It was still for sale years later.

Build the house you want, but make sure it suits the needs of other buyers in your area. If every house in your area has a basement, your house needs a basement. If every house has three bedrooms, your house needs three bedrooms. If every house has central air conditioning, your house needs central air conditioning. If every house has an attached garage, your house needs an attached garage. If every potential home buyer is not a kooky hippie, don’t build a house that only kooky hippies will want.

The second rule is an extension of the first: building a workable house plan from scratch requires hard, thoughtful, informed work. The requirements for practicality tend to control floor plan layout, and every single requirement has to be remembered and met in some way. That’s why if you look at many house plans, they start to look alike.

The third rule is that a house design should meet certain standards for appearance and utility. For example, the tops of windows and the tops of doors on a given side of a house should all be at the same level. If you see a house that happens to violate that rule, you will probably think something looks odd even if you aren’t consciously aware of what the problem is. Ignore that rule and the next buyer swill probably feel some level of discomfort when they look at the house, and discomfort doesn’t sell houses.

The next rule is that a house should be designed for its location. (This is actually such an important rule that it should probably be No. 1.) A house on a slope should probably have a basement. If the slope is steep, the house should probably have a linear layout with the short axis aligned with the slope. If it’s in a hot climate, the roof overhang should be deep enough to provide shade for windows and the sides of the house. If it’s in a cold or even moderate climate, windows should be concentrated on the south-facing side. If there’s a view, put some windows so you can see it.

As a result of Robin’s comment, I came back here to add an important rule as a corollary to the preceding rule. In a climate that requires some heating, taking advantage of the sun’s energy just makes sense. There’s something really satisfying about sitting in a sunny room and being nice and warm when it’s freezing and the wind is blowing outside — and the heat never comes on. Even if a house is not specifically designed as a passive solar house, if the site conditions allow it, there should be windows that can gather some of the sun’s heat in the winter. The slope on our new property prevent having the house face due south as I would prefer. Doing so would introduce features that we’re trying to eliminate, like very high eaves. But we’re going to put deep windows on the southeast and southwest sides to get as much sunlight as we can.

The next rule is that every plumbing fixture should be as close as possible to a water heater. Many (most?) house plans I have looked at ignore this rule because it’s just so convenient to scatter bathrooms all around the house. Put the master bath at one end and the guest bath (or kids’ bath) at the other end, with the kitchen somewhere in between. If the floor plan does that, some provision must be made to get hot water to every outlet quickly, or someone ends up waiting too long for hot water. There are ways to get around it, like recirculating pumps and on-demand heaters, but they tend to cost more. The best plans have a plumbing core, with kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room centered close to the water heater.

The next one is tricky. If you want a 1500-square-foot house, and you want rooms that add up to 1500 square feet, you can’t just draw a rectangle that’s 30 feet by 50 feet.Walls have thickness. Exterior walls are at least six inches thick, and interior walls are around five inches thick. You can either have a 1500-square-foot footprint and smaller rooms, or rooms that add up to 1500 square feet and a larger footprint, not both.

I have some personal rules, or at least inclinations. One is that I don’t like halls; they waste space that could otherwise be used for rooms. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to avoid halls, and I haven’t figured out a way to get around using them. Another is that bathroom walls should be sound-proofed or the bathroom should be located so that the walls don’t adjoin living spaces, especially living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens.

There are so many rules that it’s hard to list them. You know some of them, but you might not be aware of them. For example, every time you enter a room, you expect to find a light switch at a certain height and location next to the entry. If there are two exits for a room, like a living room or kitchen, you’re going to expect to be able to turn off lights at each exit so you don’t have to feel your way through a dark room. When you walk into the house and take your coat off, you’re going to look for some place to hang it up. Vacuum cleaners, sheets and towels need storage.

It’s hard to meet all the requirements even if you know about them. Our current house doesn’t meet all of them. For example, we don’t have a plumbing core. The guest bathroom is out in Siberia, so I end up washing my hands with cold water when I use it. I don’t like a plan that makes it look like you live in a garage with a house attached as an afterthought. Our house looks exactly like that; the first thing you see when you pull into the driveway is the garage.

I have tried to keep the rules in mind while designing our next house. The garage in our next house will be hidden at the back. Our next house will have the plumbing fixtures closer to the water heater, although we won’t quite have a plumbing core. I changed the placement of the master bedroom and living room to take advantage of a view that I didn’t realize we would have.

Last night I thought I was finished with all but the details and was in the process of making a model of the house with foamcore boards. And then when I was taking a shower and thinking about this post, I realized that I had violated my first rule. I had planned for a deck on the front of the house that would have no ground access, which had necessitated putting the main entry on the least accessible side of the house. I realized that layout would look ridiculous, if not crazy, to anyone else. And Leah didn’t like it either.

So now we’re going to have access to the ground from the front deck, and a front door that is actually on the front of the house. Once I got to that point, several problems I was working with suddenly disappeared.

It seems that the rules actually have a reason behind them.