Saturday, December 29, 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside

During our first year of construction, we built a garage so there would be a sheltered place to work. Since the garage is meant to eventually house vehicles, we decided it didn’t need to be insulated. Now that we are working in Torrey throughout the year, we can see (or should I say feel?) what might be the benefits of a little insulation in the garage walls.

Our next winter house project is to make the inside trim for the windows. This is a detailed process, but, right now, the main challenge is the temperature.

As you can see, it is a balmy seven degrees outside. That equates to a balmy little-above-seven degrees in the garage. And the garage houses our woodworking tools - table saw, joiner, sanders, etc.

This heat wave necessitates the appropriate attire: down parka, down vest, insulated gloves, winter hat, eye protection and ear protection.

  Awkward but comfortably toasty...

Some Degree of Separation

Speaking generally, our house has three rooms: bedroom, office and living space. When standing in any of these three rooms, it has been possible to look through the trusses into the ceiling space of the adjoining room. The view is a beautiful reminder of the months of hard labor of previous years.

Several friends have suggested that we put glass in the open spaces of the king trusses in order to preserve the sense of openness. Although we do love seeing the result of our work, we prefer to clearly define each room by filling the openings in the trusses with a partition, thus providing a degree of separation from the activity in the neighboring the rooms

We considered using a variety of materials, but, not surprisingly, again opted for fact, the same bamboo we used for the ceilings in the kitchen and sun room.

Because the bamboo mats are flexible, we needed a solid and substantial surface to which to affix the bamboo. We chose oriented strand board (OSB) for this.
It was a simple task to cut the bamboo to fit the OSB.

Next we stapled the bamboo to the OSB. Through a mistake, we realized that the bamboo has a specific orientation that creates an obvious pattern. It is important for the pattern to be consistent across the truss. Otherwise it would look unprofessional. And, even though we are amateurs, we don’t want the house to look like it was built by amateurs.
Scott was happy that we were completing this part of the finish work because we were on ladders over a dozen feet above the floor.
The result was perfect! The bamboo is reflective enough to bring even more light into each room. In addition, it ties the sun room and kitchen together with a “bridge” of bamboo in the trusses. Even better, we can more precisely control the temperature in each room, the echo-y sound in the house is diminishing and, finally, it looks lovely.

Across Four Novembers

From the outside of our house, it has been very apparent that we have made an incredible amount of least for the first three years. However, when you compare this year’s exterior photo with that of the 2011 photo, the house looks ostensibly the same.
November 2012
November 2011
November 2010
November 2009
But, if you walk inside the house, you'll see a completely different story. This is where we focused most of our efforts in 2012.
November 2011
November 2012
It really is beginning to look like a house instead of a construction site!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why Torrey?

We did get away from construction two times this fall. Beautiful hiking is only a short distance away.

Thanksgiving Bonus

Because setting the bathroom tile went so smoothly, we had plenty of time to work on a few more projects.

We installed all of the light switch and outlet cover plates.
We make and installed trim around the kitchen and entryway doors. Here is the kitchen door before trim.
Here is the kitchen door with trim.
We also installed trim around the bedroom door.


Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we made a trip to Torrey with one goal in mind - to install the tile on the bathroom floor. This needed to be done because our cabinets should arrive sometime after the first of the year. To our great pleasure, we completed the task without any gnashing of teeth or pulling of hair.

First we measured the floor, determined the layout of the tiles and snapped chalk lines to guide our work.
We began laying the tile in the corner farthest from the door so we would not tile ourselves into a corner.
Here Mary applies thinset mortar
and carefully sets a tile in place.
Scott measured
and cut tiles as needed.
After one and half days we had all of the tile set. We left a narrow space of untiled floor on the right because the cabinets will cover this space. The cabinet maker will shim the cabinets to accommodate the height of the missing tiles against the wall.
Scott applied the grout.
We chose a color that was as close to the color of the tile as possible.
Here Scott is removing the drying grout from the surface of the tiles.

In the book, Setting Tile, by Michael Byrne, we read that a poor grout job can spoil a good tile job. 
We hope we have the best of both.


When we say we are moving to Torrey, most people visualize a hot, dry desert town. We don’t really dispel that perception because, if everyone knew what it is really like, it would be filled with people. Instead, it is a summer tourist town. People from all over the world enjoy its red rock scenery, verdant meadows and nearby alpine forests. Capitol Reef National Park is only a few minutes from town. But once the tourist season passes, the not quite 200 local residents get their sleepy little town back. On late fall days, they can walk down main street and not see even one car pass by.

At an elevation of 6830 feet, one might guess Torrey would be very cold, but winter temperatures range from 0 to 60 degrees, and summer temperatures range from 50 to 90 degrees. Summer has a monsoon season, and you can usually plan on plenty of rain after the 4th of July. Sometimes it is more than plenty of rain.

Rain on a straw bale house is dangerous. It can melt your plaster walls, and, if it gets a chance, it can rot your bales. This is why well-designed straw bale houses have large overhanging eaves protecting the walls. Our deep porch serves this purpose.

We have added two additional features that will keep moisture away from our house. First we created a dry river by grading an 8-inch swale around the house. We then filled the swale with gravel, the idea being that rain water on the roof would be directed to this dry “stream bed” and away from the house. We also hung chains from the rain gutters and buried the ends in gravel-filled holes in the dry river bed. At the base of the chains we stacked flat rocks in such a way as to deflect water running down the chains away from our porch posts.

Often visitors ask about the purpose of the chains. Scott tells them that, because it is so windy in Wayne county, we need a way to hold the house to the ground. Of course, now you know the real story.