Friday, November 2, 2012

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

In response to my last post, three different groups of people gave outrageously generous donations to this project. There's a nice diversity to my relationship to these groups, too: one is from my immediate family, one is from my extended family, and one is not from my blood family at all, but definitely from my spiritual family. Combined, these donations will not just allow me to make the house livable, but to completely finish it. My cup overflows. And one of my lessons is, even when a man and his God dream up their own project together, buy the land, get the loan, and start building, God can still say, "It will not be possible for you to finish this without help from many other people."

So it's a joy to report that the work is humming right along. Well, okay, so this work will never "hum along;" it's plodding along at the usual snail's pace. And that's just fine with me. Here are some incrementally glorious advancements that happened since the last post.

I received my kitchen sink. Since my cabinets aren't installed yet, it's sitting in a box in my bedroom:

It weighs 106 pounds - because it is cast iron, with a white baked-on ceramic finish. Cast iron sinks are often way more expensive than stainless steel sinks, but this one I found by Kohler is actually cheaper than all of the steel sinks I was considering. When I found this, I also started thinking that the bright white finish would work better visually with the countertop, which will be stainless steel. Rather than having a steel sink in a steel counter, there will be a contrast. This will be sort of a reversal of the typical look of a hard-surface counter with stainless sink. It was also a nice surprise to find this note about recycled content on the box:

I also received my front door latch (and dead bolt).

When I hadn't received it after a week beyond the date I was told it would arrive, I called the company. They said that after leaving the forge in India, the latch was briefly lost in transit in Germany, but then reappeared in Texas. So after touring the world it finally arrived at my door. The latch is called a "Bermuda" gate latch, but as far as I know Bermuda is one of the few places it did not visit.

My cabinets have been built, but are currently stored in one of the bedrooms until the kitchen tile can be completed.

They are made of walnut and non-toxic, formaldehyde-free board. They are raised nine inches from the floor on stainless steel "feet." I've always wanted the cabinets in this house to be elevated in this way. There's something I like about the openness, allowing the floor and wall to be visible underneath. I think it goes along with the general theme of transparency or honesty in construction. The doors are flat panel, or "shaker style" - like all the interior doors will be. The countertop is currently at the metal shop, getting wrapped with stainless steel.

The ceiling panels between the joists, covering the roof insulation, have all been installed. Well, except for the ones in the bathroom, which I kept down so I could put a waterproof sealer on them. Here's the completed ceiling of a bedroom:

And of the kitchen area:

The three circular cut-outs are where pendant lights will be attached to suspend over the kitchen table area.

This panel material is called Vesta board - a non-toxic, formaldehyde-free particle board. It wasn't my first choice, or even second, for the ceiling panels. But my first choice - a board made of sunflower seed hulls - doesn't seem to be available anywhere currently (and it is pricey):

And my second choice - a board made from reclaimed sorghum plants - is downright exorbitant:

Clearly I was going for something darker, and with quite a bit more texture, partly to contrast with the joists and beams. The Vesta board was inexpensive and non-toxic, and that's good enough for now. But it is screw-attached, so I could easily replace it over time as a board I prefer becomes available at a reasonable price. Replacing each Vesta board slowly and at random over time could make for an interesting transformation.

I used the same stepped or staggered joint here as I used for the exterior siding, interior wall boards in the Great Room, and eventually the wood flooring.

Oh - and the wood boards for the Great Room ceiling. Here the staggered joint runs all the way up the walls from the floor, across the ceiling, and up the high wall to the skylight. The wall boards haven't been installed in this room yet, but the ceilings are almost complete.

No particle board here; it's all square-edge 1x6 southern yellow pine, with a 1/4-inch space between them.

The rectangular openings are for air conditioning vents. Recessed lights will be cut into these boards as well, four on each side of the skylight.

Speaking of lights, the power company came out this week and dug up my entire driveway to bury the permanent electric lines:

Within an hour the trench was covered back up, and a new conduit ran to the meter.

See the guy standing near the stone wall in the first photo of the trench above? That's my tile guy. He worked the kitchen floor first:

As mentioned in the last post, this tile is a natural stone called travertine, in this case quarried in Turkey. I selected the 4x4-inch nominal tile size so that it would work with the four-inch brick and 12-inch column baseplates.

The whole house is organized on a four-inch grid, which can be seen in the brick edging, but is now made even more clear by this tile; the house's organizational module becomes visible here in its most basic and pure form. There are exactly three tiles per column base plate, nine tiles between base plates in the hall, three tiles per 12-inch brick, and so on.

The nine-square grid design (and unintended crosses) that show up in the brick patterning, and even inspired the Great Room floor plan, are here, but in the abstract; the imagination is free to find them wherever it will.

The joints in the tile had to be pretty tight, but they do line up with the brick joints - completing the grid's path that up to now has been seen running up the walls as studs and nails, across the ceiling as joists, and back down as window frames and bricks. So this tile completes the "circle" of this four-inch order, extending it across the floor from wall to wall.

Not a single tile across this entire floor had to be cut. Hallelujah. And amen.

The tile extends into the laundry and mechanical area as well.

I like the color variation in this stone. The tiles that have more gold in them highlight the yellow/orange of the wall boards, and tiles that have more brown and violet will match the walnut cabinets.

Once the tile is grouted and sealed, the mechanical contractor can finish the A/C system - since the air handler has to be set on the tile floor. Then the electrical contractor can run power to the air handler and heat pump, and install switches and lights. Then the plumber can put in toilets and sinks. Then I can move in. I never imagined so much would depend on finishing floor tile.


  1. Getting super curious for an update! Praying that the final work is going well.

  2. It's in the works.. along with a million other things, it seems! Hope to have it up soon.