Saturday, August 23, 2008

OT: Building the Lounge

aka, where the heck have we been?!

Because we don't seem to have enough to do on the house, Dan and I took a little "break" to work on another project.. we've been doing this little Burning Man thing for awhile, and for the 10th anniversary of the Thunderdome we thought we'd do it up..

If you happen to remember the post about our wedding, you might recall the flaming arch we made to get married under.. well my dreamy mad scientist envisioned the arch as a doorway to a place we could go after the Thunderdome was done for the night, and the Fire Lounge was born. It made an appearance at Burning Man 2006 and the sketch at left is the plan for Fire Lounge 2008: bigger, better, and with more fire /evil grin

<-- Here's Dan fixing the mount for one of the two flaming tulips. You can see the one behind him has a propane tank sticking out the top.. although these run on propane, that isn't where we store it (we go through MUCH more propane than that!), it's where the gas expands until we open a valve and it all gushes out the top. The copper vines extend further up and serve as pilot lights to ignite the giant ball of flame.

This is Big Dave.
Big Dave is rebuilding one of the valves that wasn't opening.. it's very, very sad when you push the magic button and there's no giant burst of flame.. Dave's making sure that doesn't happen again. Thanks Dave!

This is Annetta.
Annetta is soldering some of the leaves that have fallen off between the wedding, burning man, moving, and then sitting outside in the backyard all winter.. thanks Annetta!

This is Shannon and Mollie.
Shannon and Mollie are helping us plumb little green propane tanks to a great big propane tank so we don't need any more disposable tanks that only last for one night. Thanks Shannon and Mollie!

This is the fire tornado Luke built to keep us warm when the temperature plummets at night in the desert.

That's a vacuum cleaner down at the bottom to draw the air up through some harley exhaust pipes he welded onto a washing machine basin. It's truly the world's most awesome fire pit! Thanks Luke!

This is the control box Dan built to control the different components of the fire tornado. There's a dimmer switch to control the speed of the vacuum, an on/off switch to control the spark, and a knob on the side to control the flow of the propane

This is me cutting a 20' length of 6" cast iron pipe into 2 10' lengths to start off an awesomely cool new piece for the fire lounge. A friend sent us a youtube link to a Rubens Tube, which is apparently a common physics class experiment (not in any physics class I ever took!).

The very short explanation is that it's like the equalizer lights on the front of your stereo that bounce up and down with the music, but instead of lights, it's fire!

Here's Emily making sure her dad drills all the holes just right. They have to be the same size, and evenly spaced for this to work.

Here's Dan starting the plumbing to feed propane into the tubes.

The tubes will be sealed on each end with rubber caps (you can see one on the end in the picture), and on one end we'll attach a speaker, which will compress the gas in the tube when it moves, forcing the propane out at a higher pressure, depending on the frequency of the sound. (doesn't that sound cool?!)

Here's the first test.. stand back everyone!

The flames definitely look cool, but they're not oscillating as much as we'd hoped.

What does one do with a silicone baking pad when one doesn't have an oven? Why, use it as a membrane for a rubens tube, of course!

After some trial and error, we decided that the best effect was from the speaker sealed right against the open end of the tube, with no membrane in between. After sealing it with some weatherstripping and a minor mishap with blowing the speaker off the end, it was working pretty well!

Here's a video of test #5


The next thing we needed were stands to sit the tubes on so they'd be at eye-level instead of not-seeing-and-tripping-over-level. This is Josh spending an afternoon whipping up perfectly fabricated stands that stack, are sturdy, can be staked to the ground in the desert or be free standing, and would also hold a wind-shield. Thanks Josh!

As you can probably see in the video, the slightest breeze really wreaked havoc with the flames, so Josh sketched out and whipped up a frame and sheet of metal to arc around the back and sides, protecting the flame from 3 sides. We also decided to add pilot lights so if the wind was coming from that last direction and blew the flame out, we wouldn't have unburnt propane venting.

This is Woody Minor's annual "Woody Walk," which is a walking tour hosted by the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society. Woody is an author and historian and knows everything there is to know about the buildings in Alameda. Although we were bummed we didn't have time to go his year's walk came to us!

We were testing the heat shield setup when the tour came by. We all got a brief history of our house and then Woody declared that ours was his favorite example of Marcuse and Remmel's Eclectic style, and that it had found the perfect eccentric owners to bring it back to life.

.. coming up next time, the fire lounge in action!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Closing it up

The siding is starting to go up now, over the housewrap.. plus, you can see more of the waterproofing around the windows.

Our little transom (by which I mean the gaping hole left by lowering the door opening a couple feet) over the door is gone, the sheathing wraps around the corner and soon the waterproofing and siding will too.

hmm.. I really need to get the rest of that blue tape off the lites in the pretty door..

Next up is the flashing over the top of the windows to keep water from getting in between the siding and the trim.

And finally, the casing.

Although the only trim around the windows down here was 1x4s, we'll trim it out to match the built-up trim on the rest of the windows in the house.

For right now though, we're just happy to have windows!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We can see through the walls

Look, windows!

<-- Here are the windows in the garage

And back in the bedroom.. those are the only two openings in the wall! hen they're up we have a nice breeze, and - and here's the best part - when they're down, there's no breeze!

Back outside, you can see more of the waterproofing.. the housewrap adds a moisture barrier between the plywood and the siding, which is 2 layers of goodness we didn’t have before

Our house is a never-ending construction zone.. the piles move from one spot to another, but there are always piles.

Monday, August 18, 2008

WWW (Walls Windows Waterproofing)

We're pretty big on waterproofing anyway, because it increases the lifespan of the materials, but the fact that we had to cut off the bottom several inches of our house because the bottom of the studs was all rotted out is putting us on even more of a mission.

<-- Here you can see the flashing up to drive the water away from the bottom edge of the sheathing, out over the foundation

The sheathing and the flashing are up all the way along the length of the house

And the bumpout is freestanding again, still with no sag!

And here's a shot of the crazy and highly specific nailing pattern on the plywood sheathing. This wall adds an enormous amount of lateral bracing to the house which should (knock on wood) keep everything secure in an earthquake

Friday, August 15, 2008


The bumpout is up on crutches, but it’s better and stronger than ever before! The jacks lifted it back inline, and the sag is gone

<-- Check out the underside.There's a new 2x10 sistered onto each joist from the edge of the bumpout through to the super-beefy beam running down the center of the garage.

It feels much more stable there too, walking and jumping on it from above. And soon we can get back to stapling up the heating fins so sometime this winter we have a chance of having heat. It'll be much easier to get the fins and tubing out under the bumpout with the underside exposed like this.

<-- These are those joists from the inside. You can see a bit of daylight coming through at the ends, and the sistered joists are resting on our super-beefy garage beam.

You can also see one set of window openings framed in with the new header and post.

Here’s a better view of the window framing in the garage/workshop.

The openings have new 6x6 headers, which are supported in the middle by 4x6 posts

This is the window framing in the bedroom in back.. there's actually wall back there now!

Which makes it reeeaally dark in there.. this pic is blindly taken with the flash. If only we had some windows..

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the Wall, continued

Here we have the beginning of the sheathing.

The windows you see there leaning up against the house are from the garage.. they don't match any other windows in the house and because they’re double-wides we had some problems with the framing that needed fixing.

From the inside a couple days ago you can see what the problem with the header is.. there isn't one! There's just a couple 2x6s turned on their side.. Not sure if you can see the sag in this picture, but it's pretty pronounced.

To span the opening over 2 windows with two stories above, we would have to put in a pretty beefy header, which would mean moving the windows down and buying new expensive beams. The alternative is to split up the windows and put a supporting post in between to support the header in the middle, which is what we decided to do.

Another issue we need to address is that the bumpout is underframed, and sagging even worse since the foundation was done. We figured it would be much better to deal with that now, before we closed up the walls. So we need to sister 2x10s to all the joists that cantilever out in the bumpout.

Here you can see the supports in place to prop it back up to level. Next, the joists can be attached nice and straight-like

Monday, August 11, 2008

the Wall

The East wall of the house has been a bit of a problem, particularly the outside wall of the downstairs bedroom. Between the 2 falling apart windows, and the “windows” that are essentially panes of glass somehow suspended midway up the wall, and the door opening we got rid of, there's pretty much no wall there anyway.

There's nothing to do but rebuild the wall from scratch, which of course means up to all modern codes with shear wall and housewrap and flashing.. so we talked a lot about what we should do with the rest of the wall towards the front of the house. Although it wasn’t a cost we weren’t expecting now, the obvious best thing for the house in the long run is to sheath and waterproof the whole length of the wall. We had a pile of 2x6s from an old project (which I spent HOURS moving from a pile out back to a pile along the side of the house.. but that’s not a very exciting blog post), which made a huge dent in the materials we had to purchase for this.

Another issue is that, because of all the openings in the outside wall of the bedroom in back, there is very little siding longer that a foot or two long. Short of having custom siding milled to the thickness and profile of the original siding, there would be a bunch of work to shim out anything we could buy off the shelf to line up with the original siding at the front of the house, and it would not be likely to wind up seamless, even with all that effort.. Ultimately, we decided to use the new siding we bought for the back of the house (which, conveniently enough is still sitting on sawhorses smack in the middle of the garage in the way of everything we try to do down there) and get more of it to replace everything along the wall with the new stuff. The original siding will be perfect for the back of the house.. we have enough long runs to do most of it, and the short runs will be fine for what’s hidden behind the stairs.

Once we decided all that, we were stuck with a decision on doing it ourselves over the next several months, or hiring someone who could get it done well in a fraction of that time. Dan interviewed at least a dozen contractors, and found a local team that came very highly recommended, sounded like they knew what they were talking about, and who does excellent work.
(Note to one of the contractors we talked to.. if you fail your contractor's exam A) do NOT bring that up in an interview, and B) if you happen to let it slip, you might want to consider charging slightly less than what a licensed contractor would get)

So, they got started today and should be done in about a week

Check out the new use of our former plywood backdoor!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New windows

Our new windows are here!

I'll explain more about why we bought the windows as we go into the impending framing in the house, but the price of these was also a factor in buying new instead of trying to fix and move the old ones.

Plus, I read all the time about how windows are the one thing that you want to buy new instead of salvaging from old houses.. The performance and efficiency of double-pane windows are far beyond the old single-paned ones.

We went with Marvin Integrity Wood-Ultrex series windows, which seem pretty great.. They're clear pine on the inside, paintable fiberglass clad on the outside (I know that we'd never have to paint them if we just got them clad in a color we want for the trim on the house.. we're just not beige people..), with low E insulated glazing.

And somehow, because they only come in a handful of sizes, they're really affordable. So, as you can see, we loaded up ;)