November 10, 2002
All the Straw-clay walls are plastered, 2 coats inside and out, except for the north connector wall. That wall we just built during the late-July workshop, so we'll let it dry until next spring before we plaster it.
Between Jeremy, Lou, & Thorsten, nearly all the electrical rough-in is complete. A few things only remain, such as the bathroom light & receptacles, the "big" circuits to the kitchen range and the dryer, and installing the circuit breakers. Oh, and the lighting over the kitchen and under the balcony. These fixtures will be integrated with the "planting troughs" and is a little more complicated so we'll put off that task for another day, and finish more crucial elements first. We're on Madison Gas & Electric's calender for the installation of the new underground service on November 18th.
For the past two weeks at least, the whole crew has been focused on one goal: being ready when the insulators arrive. That means every piece of wood blocking, every necessary nailer and every section of wiring above the plane of the top of the wall must be in place and finished. On Friday we were there, and started placing the ceiling air/vapor barrier. However, this has not been without hiccups. For example, it's been a year since we installed the special vent channels for the passive cooling system. They've sustained some damage, from small holes caused by errant nails to the occasional tear from a wayward ladder. If we allowed holes, the insulation will blow through into the channels and will be difficult to remove. It took a few rounds of careful inspections to find and repair it all.
We've had weird travails with the air/vapor barrier materials. The roll of special extra-strong cross-linked polyethylene that we ordered was mysteriously short by a good bit. With Winter coming on, we couldn't afford to wait another week to get more. So that meant making up the difference with conventional 6 mil poly -- an adequate air/vapor barrier, but the anti-stick coating on that stuff contains some formaldehyde. I was disappointed to be forced into this choice. Then we prepared to install the reflective mylar behind the radiant ceiling heating tubes. We only needed a smallish amount, so we arranged to share a roll with Douglas the plumber. Except it was stolen from one of his other job sites the day before we were to install our part -- and the replacement roll won't arrive until next week.
At the last minute, I decided to use Lessco boxes at the second floor electrical boxes. I found a convenient local source (Home Depot) and I wanted to check out if they convenient to install. That meant Jeremy needed to loosen up the boxes we had already finished installing in order to place the Lessco boxes behind. It's the wrong order to do it, but by design there are only a few boxes on the exterior wall. I hope it will be worth the effort because it will save time in creating a well-sealed air/vapor barrier.
Douglas & Greg finished the plumbing rough-in and they've all but finished installing the cast iron base board radiators in the living/dining room. Douglas found these used, had them sandblasted and re-painted. And they look great.
With Anthony's help Will successfully crafted the curved plywood surrounds from 1/2" thick plywood, kerfed on the backside (that is, many shallow cuts, parallel and close together) to allow the plywood to be bent. To achieve the proper radius we still had to apply steam. For that step we employed an old Coleman stove and pan of water - actually a sterilization unit from a Korean war-era army field hospital. The gracefully curved shapes will be covered with veneer plaster to blend seamlessly into the ceiling plane. Even unfinished, they've already drawn ooh's and ahh's from visitors.