Monday, October 28, 2013

Two Week's Worth

--> My favorite part of a creating a list is checking off the items as they are completed. I’ve even contemplated adding “Make a list” to each one I compile so I’m able to check off something as soon as the list is written. It’s a thought.

Now that our construction to-do list is getting shorter and shorter, I’m compelled to make an accounting of everything we accomplish during each Torrey visit. Our most recent trip was fifteen days long. Here’s the list:

Completed Elfa closet
Completed dry river around house
Installed mechanical room door
Installed trim around mechanical room door
Moved all of the dirt piles away
Wrapped fruit trees
Winterized garden
Reinforced fence
Checked the yurt for holes
Removed bathroom fixtures from office bathroom in preparation for plaster
Finished lath in office bathroom
            (Repaired bathroom wiring after I put a staple through
             two wires and blew out the lights)
Checked smoke alarms
Planned bamboo fence to go around propane tank
Planned bamboo railing for bedroom
Wrapped exposed wires on solar panel
Planned pantry for living room
Staked future fence line between house and pasture
Staked future driveway

Built firewood rack and kindling box
Once all of that was done, we felt justified in going on a three-day llama trip.

We even went to our neighbors’ apple tasting party! We brought these Kerr crabapples from our trees in Logan. They were a hit!

Mechanical Room Door

--> I remember lengthy discussions related to the location of the mechanical room for the solar hot water system and radiant floor heating. I was worried about the amount of noise it might produce. I was worried about the size. I was worried about the appearance. I’ve been called a worrier, and I admit it in this situation. I was worried! When it came right down to it, though, there was no option. There was no other place for it except in our bedroom, right across from our bed. Like I said…I was worried.

However, now that we’ve spent a summer sleeping with this mechanical roommate, I realize that he is really a very quiet fellow. Now, even though he’s 10 feet tall and three feet wide, I hardly even notice him…except when Scott and I discuss the type of door we want to close behind him.

First we looked at an accordion door. You know, the kind that separates classrooms in a school or that divides conference centers into meeting rooms. We even found a fairly attractive possibility - Woodfold Doors.

Then I looked into building a frame and fabric door. There weren’t any satisfactory ideas on-line. And the size (remember that 10 foot X three foot dimension) was a problem.

We finally realized we wanted a door built in the same style as the other doors on the wall. But a 10-foot tall door would be a custom order. It is possible that could have been done, and I’m sure there is hardware that could support the weight of such a hefty guy. Still, to access the mechanical system, moving 10 feet of wood would be unwieldy, and the cost would have been prohibitive.

Eventually we discovered bi-fold doors at Accent Doors and Trim. This was an affordable choice because we could purchase solid wood doors in standard dimensions. Keeping visual considerations in mind, one door we would hang at the same height at the other doors on the wall by inserting a header about 80 inches above the floor. The second door, much smaller than the first, would have been an expensive custom order. Instead we purchased another solid wood door in standard dimensions. We would cut that door across the center panel and hang it from the top of the mechanical room opening.

The mechanical room prior to bi-fold door installation
The mechanical room after the lower door is installed
Scott completes the upper bi-fold door
Both doors in place
The entire bedroom wall showing all doors

As you can see, I’m now sleeping with another handsome fellow, even though number two is a giant. I’m not worried anymore.

Hanging a Closet

In a straw bale house, a closet is a necessity that requires planning months, even years, before clothes actually arrive on move-in day. That’s because, unless one intends to purchase a custom-built. free-standing system, nailers must be imbedded into the straw and plaster so there is a strong, rigid platform to hold the screws that will eventually affix closet hardware to the walls.

Scott and I looked at several options and planned to use the closet and shelving  manufactured by Rubbermaid. We liked their adjustable FreeSlide shelving. Unfortunately, that system required the insertion of screws at regular intervals in the supporting verticals. This meant we needed to be fairly certain about our closet needs in order to place nailers in the correct places. At that point of construction, we weren’t ready to make such far-reaching decisions. Instead, we planned to use their Direct Mount product. It resembled the type of closet we already had in Logan. Even though it wasn’t elegant, we could work with it. 

Two summers ago, Scott notched the closet bales to accommodate nailers, screwing them to the bamboo supporting the bales. For future reference, before plastering, I held a measuring tape against the wall while Scott took photos in order to record the location of all nailers.

We’ve since learned that some folks embed nailers in a fashion that leaves them exposed. This makes it easy to locate them when it’s time to attached shelves, cupboards or other fixtures. All of our nailers are covered by plaster, so our photographic record was absolutely necessary.

This summer, as we prepared to complete the closet, our plans changed. While standing in our Torrey neighbors’ bedroom, we found what we had really been looking for all along. Ann and Robert used a product manufactured by Elfa and sold on-line by The Container Store.  After checking out the website and reviewing the installation guidelines and videos, we knew this was the company for us. No screws or nailers are necessary except those required for the top rail. All of the other components are supported from that rail.

To me, the great selling points included the on-line support for design, customizing, ordering and installation…plus their regular sales…up to 30% off of all closet and shelving components. We placed our order and waited for delivery.

We’ve just returned from two weeks of work (and a little play) in Torrey, whittling away at the several last things on our list, the first of which was to install that Elfa closet. We allotted two days for the project, but it was so simple, clothes were hanging the first afternoon.

To begin, we referred to our earlier photo record of nailer placement and drew a line marking the horizontal nailer that corresponded to the upper limit of the closet system.

Let me say that, after spending days, days, days and more days attempting to create beautiful plaster, seeing Scott drill a hole into this wall in order to place the upper rail of our closet was a disconcerting experience. After many gulps, deep breaths and counts to three, we overcame the emotional drama and proceeded with the project.

Screwing the upper rail into place.
The upper rail in place.

Attaching the vertical supports to the upper rail.
All four vertical supports in place.
Inserting shelf brackets
Aligning shelf brackets
Drawers and shoe racks in place
Shelf baskets, hanging rod and upper shelf in place
Scott's closet
Mary's closet

We love this closet! It seems like a perfect option for a straw bale wall. Now that we’ve lived with it for a short time, we plan to order a few more components during the December 24th sale.