Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cedar for the smell

It has been a long time since my last post - I am participating in an online "group" with over 200 other educators around the world. Becoming a "Webhead". I know you all think I earned that title about 5 blogs ago, but I am always trying to learn ways to improve and use my skills in my job. The house is looking more and more like a home. David has been busy in the walk-in closet. He is siding a wall with aromatic red cedar. I have always thought that cedar was the best way to keep your clothes nice - and it makes the house smells fresh too. This closet also has a natural slate floor. We used mottled purple and it is my favorite color so far.

The weather has been very very cold the last 2 weeks - temperatures never getting above freezing and near 0 degrees Fahrenheit at night - that's about negative 16 degrees Centigrade! But, the furnace still doesn't run with only one firing of the masonry stove. We still hit the low 80's and have to run around in t-shirts and shorts when the sun shines. The only improvement would be to add solar hot water which we may do in the future. We would both like to say good-bye to propane.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Drips and Drops

A question often posed to bermed home owners is if your house is damp. We have had some moisture battles - but not what we expected.
--We installed plastic tubes extending from the stone layer under the slab up through the roof in case of excess radon. Radon can be a problem in Maine and when in a bermed house, very difficult to retrofit. The floor always stayed wet around this tube. It seems the damp air from the ground (this is a bumper year for precipitation) drew up the tube - then condensed when it cooled and ran down the pipe. There is a connection just above the floor in the wall between the garage and study which allowed this condensation to ooze out leaving this permanent damp area in the concrete. We tried covering the top of the pipe to no avail. Finally, a few weeks ago, we gave up and opened up the garage wall - taped the pipe and now it stays dry. The physics of this phenomenon are mind boggling.

--The other challenge seems to be the south wall of windows. The humidity in the house is still fairly high due to curing concrete and plaster walls (my new weather station, a Christmas present from David, reads around 50%). We have been running a dehumidifier and dumping gallons of water, but the windows still steam every night and every time we even think about cooking something. A simple spaghetti dinner can cause streams down the panes. It dawned on us that in conventionally heated houses, the heat is always placed under the windows. Does that mean that the temperature differences will always cause this to occur? No solution yet - but we have decided that the sills will not be wood - probably cultured stone. And when we have the south wall finished, we will install quilted drapes to help isolate the heat from the cold. Until then, its towels and more hours of the dehumidifier. At least when the sun is shining, they dry out.
And watching the thermometer rise to near 80 without any auxiliary heat on a sunny day when it is 4 degrees outside makes it all worth while.

See Saws

Since we plan on doing the rest of the floor tile and then the tongue and groove walls/ceilings ourselves, it is obvious that a few new tools were needed. How did those pioners manage anyway? Slowly, the attached garage is looking more and more like a shop :)
The absolute necessities (to date) are the tile saw and the mitre saw.

Next on the agenda is to finish painting the walk in closet (it is primed now) and then install the cedar wall and the slate floor as we have those supplies. Hopefully, when that is finished the next tile order will arrive.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tiling Trials

In keeping with the thermal mass concept of a passive solar house, we are tiling most (if not all) of our floors. As I posted earlier, we have finally come up with a floor design for the living/dining area and those are on order.
We had planned on doing some acid etching, but just haven't been able to get motivated for that. Still an option for the bedrooms though. The trials are in working with rough concrete floors.
David has even had to do some grinding on one larger "bump". If you think wallboard sanding makes a mess, try sanding concrete in your living room! He has also used a "primer" layer of thin-set to help even out the base.
He says he is learning quickly all about tile - probably more than he has ever wanted to know.

The furnace still hasn't kicked on, but Wednesday is forecast to stay in the teens during the day and dip near zero at night. I am afraid we may break the stretch then. Still burning the Tulikivi only once a day though - and still loving it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January in Maine and No Furnace

A month without a furnace...

OK, its been warm - but we are in Maine and our radiant heat has not run since the Tulikivi went into operation. If the sun shines, even for a minimal amount of time, the temperature rises to 80% and would continue to go up except we open the windows. Yes, that's right - open the windows in Maine. Nothing like fresh air all year long. The passive solar aspects of berming and south facing windows with concrete walls and floors are doing their duty. Should we have dreary days - firing the masonry stove once a day (twice if it is really cold - only had the second firing once), solves the problem. A smooth, even comfortable heat spreads through the rooms and soothes our aging bones. The thermometer hangs around 74 degrees throughout the night and into the next day. We are impressed.

Never have we gotten such fabulous heat with so little work - and such minimal wood. I would recommend this type of living to anyone.

The tile is chosen and the rooms are measured. We are going to use a combination of tiles in the living - dining - hallway areas. The plan is for a border (Crossville Empire Elba Nights polished) around the rooms, encircling the Tulikivi and down the hall. The tile in the living and dining rooms will be 12 x 12 Crossville Strong in Brown. The hallway will be a pattern of different sizes from the same tile. It is so difficult to picture and nearly impossible to finalize - but the die has been cast. Next week, we order and soon Dave will be back on his knees.
Pictures will follow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year 2007

2007 - I resolve.....

Didn't we just pass the century mark? My resolutions contain an annual weight loss (although a few more pounds need to go than in 06 and 05) and the obligatory vow to spend less (going to be difficult with our house finishing).

And in 2007, ! resolve to:
for work:
1. Post at least 2 blogs a week
2. Review my RSS feeds 3 times a week
3. Expand my presentations to include more new technologies for teaching
4. Spend more time directly working with students and teachers - even if it means the paperwork suffers
for myself:
1. Do something everyday for the environment
2. Make those final decisions on tile and wall colors.
3. Smile more, laugh more, brush my dogs more, enjoy my wonderful family, and communicate with old and new friends.