It's February 2008
We are back to work on the house project!  Monday morning, first thing, "Welcome back to our house project.  I hope you had a great winter vacation! Would you like to share what you did? We have an exciting year ahead of us....", I exclaimed in a loud, booming voice (like a teacher on first day of school) to Thomas as we sat down in our planning office with an agenda of what to work on the first day.  We laughed!.

                                             Click on (most) images for a larger view.

February 1st - 13th
Although we were not out on the site, our time has been very productive as we reviewed our framing plans, stick-by-stick and re-checked our measurements to ensure accuracy once we get out there with chop-saw and nail gun.  This has also enabled us to put together our framing order so that we purchase the correct amount of lumber and keep waste as low as possible. Walls will be built on the slab and then stood up into place. By reviewing our construction details we were able to then calculate the size and weight of each section to build so that they are manageable for the two of us to handle (~200lbs). There are only two sections that we will need to get some help with. Our timeline is to get our lumber on site the week of the 18th!
You can download these plans by clicking on the image at left.

To maintain our perspective and enthusiasm, we are planning on working intensely for 10 days and then take 4 off. So twice a month we have time away to keep a balance for our health and to see to other things; we plan to go to the cottage once a month to love it up and we plan to get out on the boat to enjoy this beautiful place we live in.

February 17th After spending two weeks preparing our detailed framing plans, we took a couple of days off to go to the cottage. Sailing back yesterday, we already started talking about all the things we wanted to get ready before our lumber arrives on Monday. We were a little nervous when we placed the order before we left. 

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Today we awoke to a hissing sound coming from under the old house. A quick inspection revealed that one of the elbows we installed last month had attracted the attention of a rodent who managed to gnaw away at it until it sprung a leak. We turned off the water at our master shutoff at the meter and while we waited for the lumber yard to open we started to replant a dozen bushes and trees Laura had to evacuate from our berm during the winter break. This took longer than expected, so it wasn't until around noon that we walked the mud off our boots by traipsing over to Slegg's to buy a 3/4" elbow and 150' of sill plate gasket which we had omitted from the order.

Since the sun came out, we ate our lunch sitting on the slab and then the fun began. While Laura started setting up the table for the DeWalt chop saw, I punched a hole through the wall of the workshop so we could house our compressor inside and still reach all corners of the new house. By the time I finished sweeping and straightening the shop Laura was almost ready to bolt the saw onto the table and install the laser. 

We also did a little mud control and spread some wood chips in strategic locations. Finally we put some finishing touches on our "chart (plans) table" and moved our work table back onto the clean slab so we could use it to cut plywood. I changed the blades on the two skill saws; one for dirty lumber and one for clean. Then we discussed jigs and workflow for a while before cleaning the site and calling it a day.

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first lumber order

February 18th - 21st
Preparing the site took longer than we thought. The lumber arrived late Monday morning and of course the stuff we needed first was buried in the middle of the pile. We had never seen anyone roll a load of lumber off the back of the truck before but the driver felt the power lines were a little close for a crane. Its hard getting used to the rough treatment of stuff we feel is so precious. We spent the rest of the day moving and stacking plywood and getting the tools set up. Laura installed the laser on the miter saw and I reviewed the operation of the nail gun. 

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new, matching, safety runners!


Then we decided it would be a good idea to build a mock up of a wall. Since I have little experience with a nail gun I thought it best to practice, so we built a small wall section out of the scrap from last summer's concrete forms. After we had it standing with a brace in place I thought it a good idea to remind ourselves of the importance of lateral support by giving a little demonstration. We pulled the brace off and were able to easily collapse the wall sideways. Laura thought this so cool that she insisted we rebuild the wall a second time and collapse it again for the camera.

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On Tuesday we made a grand discovery... 16' 2x6s are not actually 16' long. We had planned to get a 102" king stud for downstairs and a 90" king for upstairs out of each 16' stick. We thought we would have to use a new stick to cut the 91" jack studs. Turns out that they machine cut 16' 2x6s to 16" 1 1/4"  allowing us to easily cut Jacks and Kings out of a single stick. Laura is learning all about the space required when butting plates and the amount to allow for the kerf of the blade and I'm learning how to prevent the nail gun from double firing by holding it with one hand and letting it ricochet naturally. By the end of the day we had assembled most of our first little stub wall but thought it best to wait until a fresh new day to actually stand it up.

1st cut

measuring for anchor bolts thru plate

working the brace and bit

laying the 1st P2000 strip and plate

On Wednesday we stood up our first wall. Meager as it was, it was pretty complex since it was a critical shear wall in a cross section with huge lintels and hold-downs. We did so well with that in the morning that we plowed right along and had another long section up by the time we shut down for the day to have dinner with our neighbours. It was while we stood there gloating to ourselves after having cleaned up the site that we decided to check if the bolt holes lined up with the hold-down bracket. They didn't. In our excitement we failed to double check the orientation for a three stud post that was to be tied to the foundation and installed it backwards. We knew we had to take the wall apart the next morning.

cleaning anchor bolts

squaring first section

the first section is standing!

Montana next door saying Hi

February 21st
It took us until 10:30 to tear down that wall section and put it back; this time with the triple stud the right way round! Without hesitation we rolled right into the next section; we became even more cautious, checking and double checking everything. We are getting quite good with the "3-4-5" rule to determine is a wall is square. It was our friend John that reminded us of this simple trick. We had been figuring this out using a calculator with whatever lengths we were working with and had not remembered that "3-4-5" is the simplest way to apply the Pythagorean theorem.

re-doing section

pre-drilled holes for wiring

standing section again

hauling 16's


When we stood up our second 200lb wall and teetered it into place the Egyptian way, we looked up and found the top was not connecting. The two plates had a 1-1/2" gap. Did we measure wrong? Cut too short? Triple checking we found our error. The last wall was not square. We removed the brace and attached the two walls together temporarily with a 1x8 plate. The 3-4-5 rule showed us that the wall was now square and true.  Laura was keen to get one more section up. So moving to the north wall we were able to complete a small section before calling it a day.

February 22nd
Wall sections are popping up everywhere! Well... not quite. We are happy with our progress though. We built our first section with a lintel; our first window frame. Now that we have turned the corner and are starting to move along the north wall we getting a feel of the inglenook space for the first time.

showing Mom the plans

demonstrating reflective P2000

lunch in the inglenook

We had it all ready to raise when Laura's Mom arrived in a taxi for a visit. She watched as we positioned this section and then we had lunch in the inglenook for the first time.


trying out the platform

up 9', have to get over fear of heights

After lunch we proceeded to build a staging platform and a strong ladder to allow us access to the top of the wall.

Then we sorted the lumber pile some more to facilitate careful cuts and minimize scrap.

February 23rd
Although we had some adjustments to make to the plans as a few discrepancies came to light we were able to complete three sections today. The first was the fireplace section in the inglenook. It required some adjustments to keep studs at 16" centers. Then came the second inglenook window.

assembly of fireplace section
Finally we installed a small section to take us to the next shear wall. We were able to avoid toe nailing the lintels by staggering them, one inside and two outside. It's amazing how well the wall sections are coming together and we have developed a nice routine. While Laura cuts all the sticks on her chop saw, I prepare everything for final assembly, mark stud positions, and drill all holes for hold downs and wiring. Before we know it here we are assembling another section.
now the second window is done
It's really a lot of fun. We continue to work at a steady but unhurried pace, taking time to wave to the geese as they fly by and to stretch our backs while gazing up a the clear blue sky of the afternoon. We have such a great sense of accomplishment as our many months of planning and designing are finally taking on real form. It is incredible how well our plans are serving us. Having spent so much time drawing them ourselves we are able to easily modify and adjust things as we need to. Today we decided to add a couple of inches to the length of the inglenook benches so Laura can lie with her head on my lap so I can stroke her hair while we watch our favourite movies!  One couldn't make those kind of adjustments with a construction crew standing around waiting!


overview of site

February 24th
We just had to take advantage of another beautiful, sunny day as the forecast is for rain Tuesday onward.  We waited until after noon to start though, as we spent the morning stocking up on groceries and meeting Mom in town for a coffee and chat. Although there is a town bylaw in place to keep things quiet on Sundays, we figured that we are pretty quiet compared to the majority of construction sites out there.  Our one neighbour is away and we checked with Nancy next door to see if they would mind - she said of course it would be alright as we are so quiet and that we don't have to ask.  We did it out of respect though as we value them as neighbours.

We started on the shear wall that is the division between the inglenook and the front entry.  It was much more complex than I had thought it would be as we had to calculate the layout of the panels of plywood to attach (which give it the lateral support strength). We got it 95% finished before calling it a day as it was getting quite nippy after the sun dipped lower and lower - we were getting chilled.  It will be a good start to tomorrow to get that up and then move on to the front door section!  At the end of the day we now realize that the planes flying overhead, the lawnmower across the road, and the power washer two doors down make just as much, if not more, noise than us.

February 25th...
I'm still eating my breakfast and My Love is already out on the site setting up. She has been at it since 7:30. Every day she is more keen than the day before. The walls are going up and with every expert cut on her miter saw... click here for rest of this story
... 29th... this has been an exciting week.  One section after another is going up... checking and rechecking plans, details and measures before and while we're doing it... squaring each section as we assemble and then checking it again once it is up and against the last section... and bracing it... to prepare for the next section - so much detail!  We enjoy the whole process of setting up the site in the morning... as much as cleaning it up at the end of the day... as much as working on it during the day.  We are moving through this whole process at such a comfortable pace... enjoying every moment.  We came to the realization that you only get to do something for the very first time once... so why rush through it? - enjoy it!  Although... I am keen to see it all coming together as it is!!

shear wall into place

perfect line up

checking top plate, as the sun sets

precision cutting

ecstatic about the front door!

securing door lintel into place

enjoying neighbours

We so enjoy our time at Nancy & Larry's for dinner and great conversation.  Right from the beginning they said they would feed us to give us a break from cooking once a week, every Wednesday.  What great neighbours, eh?!


marking plates for studs and anchors

bringing lumber on site

emptying the driveway

completion of north wall!

first section of the east wall!

keener first thing in the morn!
What a great month this has been!  From reviewing our plans, ordering the lumber, cutting the first stud, standing the first section... it has all been so exciting and we are still so keen and having such a fun time together!  We are learning so much, working so well together, and getting fitter each and every day!  How fortunate are we?!!!
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Contact us at, 2177 Malaview Ave., Sidney, B.C., V8L 2E6, 250-656-8646