Yes, the pale fascia board on the left, is meant to be at the same level as the pale fascia board on the right…. For the record: It is not.

Everything had been sailing along, and the framing had been going up well with the “little” problem of the beam near the staircase.  That has now been resolved.  The beam is moved, and the staircase area was properly boxed in.  The second story roof trusses were being ordered and the crew was finishing up on the the first floor roof rafters.  As they came around the house to match the facia boards (the vertical boards at the base of the roof line) over the front door…. they didn’t match.  In fact, they were off by 7 inches.

“Oh %&#@!”

What now???  Everything has come to a screeching halt while the framer and our general contractor figure out where the error is (it looks like the library roof and the garage roof are higher than is in the drawings), and figure out what we are going to do about it…  to make these match, there is some *serious* roof rework that needs to be done.  We’ve already lost a week sucking our thumbs in wonder looking at the mismatched boards… the fix will likely delay us at least another week… sigh.

In the mean time, we’re pressing on with a somewhat maniacal cheerfulness as if this all isn’t happening.  We’ve found another straw bale expert, and with the help of our lighting designer Julie Hoefler, we are busy making about 200 of the 1001 decisions that need to go into lighting, electrical, switch placement etc. etc.  We’ve both been looking at light fixtures until we are crosseyed, but at least now we have all the placements for the electrician to get started.

Stay tuned…

This is the spot where the missing beam has been removed, ready to have the new beam placed…

The mini swimming pool in the wine cellar

The beam that was in the wrong place last week has been removed, and a new one will be put in soon.  Lots of progress has been made on the roofline, and the strawbale library roof has been framed… but our strawbale expert has disappeared off the face of the earth.  Time to find someone new, and figure out what we need to order to get this library built!  We hope he hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole, but three weeks of unanswered phone calls is too many.

We got the first small rain of the season (early!!) and ended up with a puddle of water in our wine cellar.  Hopefully we’ll  be all dried in before the rain starts in earnest.  A little mildew here and there on the wood… sigh.. it will all be dead by the time we move in, but still… I would have liked to see us get a roof on before it rained even a tiny bit.

This weekend we embarked on another “little project” – remodeling the kitchen and bathroom of the cottage in the back.   Since there isn’t really a guest room in the house apart from our rather small office, our plan is to have the cottage really nice for one night to two months stays – but a cramped kitchen and a bathroom without a bathtub make that not so pleasant for our guests, so we are ripping out the bathroom and the kitchen in the cottage and re-doing them.   That we are doing this should be *particularly* amusing to the people who know the story about the two year moratorium on remodeling…

The cottage being deconstructed

The cottage before deconstruction

The second story is now up and the rafters are going on to the bits of first story roof. More house-like every day!

Framing is progressing well in the third week.  The second story has gone on, and by the end of the week all the exterior walls were in place.  Interior walls upstairs are waiting until the roof trusses – which is good!  We made a couple of last minute changes to the internal walls when we started working with the lighting designer to finalize light placement…. really last minute!

We met with our architect (Forrest), our builder (Paul) and the framing contractor (Osbaldo) to finalize the details of the staircase as it will soon be fabricated for inclusion, and there are going to be tricky details to get a big curved staircase up through the middle of the framing, and getting it off center or skewed in any way would look TERRIBLE.  There is already one “whoops” on that in that there was a upstairs floor beam that was moved in the field to better match up with a post…. but it couldn’t be moved that way without interfering with the headroom coming up the stairs.  There is a little bit of re-do that will have to happen to move that beam *back* 6 inches.   I’m sure that is not the last “little” problem with such an ambitious staircase, as the angles are all hard to calculate.  Until our curved staircase is in, an orange ladder is being used to get to the second floor (top pic at right).

The right picture is a view towards where Natalie’s bathroom and the office window will be, and the left picture  is a view “through” the wall into the master bedroom where lots of bracing is still in place, and the downstairs roof rafters can be seen through the big hole that will be the bedroom window seat.

The framing with the downstairs largely complete and the first second story walls starting to go in

Now we are through week 2 of the framing, and the steel cross brace at the end of the living room is fully framed in, the downstairs minus the strawbale library is more or less rough framed, and the first walls on the second story are starting to go in.  It really does start looking like a house quickly once framing starts!

You can see a couple of details at right with the curved wall on the way in to the library now framed, and a look up into the rafters to show the “engineered wood” including both the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) beams, and the engineered “I-Joists”.  Both use considerably less virgin wood than dimensional lumber as they can be made with the “scrap” from traditional lumber manufacture, and are more consistent in their load bearing.  They will emit marginally more formaldehyde in the first few years, but we intend to live with our windows and doors wide open (and have active ventilation when we don’t), so the tradeoff seems good.

The guys from O-R Builders are framing the whole house with “advanced framing techniques” (otherwise known as “optimum value engineering”) which minimizes solid wood use, and keeps the same structural strength in the house while improving insulation efficiency on the house by up to 30% over standard framing practices.

The drawing of the connection between the house greywater/blackwater sewer system and the greywater wetlands. Stamped “Approved for Construction”

The other exciting news from the week merits its own blog entry.


This is EXTREMELY exciting.  As you could have guessed from previous blog entries, (“Grey is Green” and “Landscaping Plans”), we expected that we would be putting in our greywater wetlands system long after we were done with the house because we expected the planning and permitting to take a long time.

But two things happened.  One, is that in June of this year, our Governator signed the “FInding of Emergency for Proposed Building Standards of the Department of Housing and Community Development regarding the 2007 California Plumbing Code (CPC) California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 5 (Graywater Standards)”.  Translated from extended legalese, it essentially said: “we’re in an extended drought, there should be no onerous regulatory red tape in the way of people putting in grey water systems, so get on with permitting them!”.  With one stroke of the pen, he changed the permitting climate entirely, and even exempted single source greywater systems from even needing permits.  This is a pretty major sea change in California.  The current emergency regs can be found here. These will be changing rapidly in the next few months as the wrinkles get ironed out.

The other happening was that Catherine went with our builder to meet with the head of the building department at Mountain View City Hall to review the proposed greywater plan prior to submission.  The plan was to walk through what we would be submitting with his department, and make sure we had all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed before submitting so that we would have as complete a package as possible, and so that we could gauge how receptive City Hall was going to be to our plans – that meeting couldn’t have gone better.

He looked at everything, was very interested in the way we had set up the greywater wetlands, reviewed all the details on Catherine’s hand-drawn “linker drawing” between the architectural house plans and the landscape plans, and predicted that we should have “no problem” getting this system permitted.  We walked out wondering “did we hear what we thought we just heard???”

Yes we did.  Two weeks after submitting the plans, they came back stamped “Approved for Construction”

As Nemo and Dory would say: “We did it! We did it! Oh yeah, yeah, yeah!”