Friday, December 23, 2011

education. #passivehouse

Adam Cohen, our architect and co-owner of Structures Design Build, explains passivhaus technology; commonly referred to as "passive house" technology in the United States.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

drywall. #passivehouse

It's starting to look more like a home inside.  As of Monday, the last blower door test passed at this phase in the build so Structures Design Build started hanging drywall today.  We're anticipating installation, mudding and sanding of drywall to be complete with a week and a half unless something else comes up.  After that, siding and exterior color selections.


[A master bedroom.]

[Hallway w/closets in master bedroom.]

[A guest bedroom.]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

ceilings. #passivehouse

So, how do you eliminate thermal bridging in the ceilings of a passive house?  Hang 2x2s.

[A view of our master bedroom.]

In order to maintain the envelope of our passive house and minimize thermal bridging, OSB was nailed to the rafters on the second floor.  The seams were sealed and 2x2s were screwed into the OSB.  From here, drywall will be fastened to the 2x2s creating a small pocket for wiring to be run across the ceiling.

[A closer look.]

vapor barrier. #passivehouse

Just when we thought this house was air tight, it got a little tighter.  Structures Design Build has been had at work sealing off the interior insulation.  Every exterior wall is receiving CertainTeed MemBrain a vapor barrier to help prevent moisture build up in the walls.

[CertainTeed MemBrain vapor barrier.]

[Sealed at every window.]

insulation. #passivehouse

Last week Structures Design Build arranged for thermal imaging to analyze the building envelope of our passive house. Prior to the thermal imaging tests, over a foot of cellulose insulation was blown into the attic.

I'm hoping we can get some thermal image shots of the house.  From the sounds of it, the results were very good; just a few cold spots.

[Lots of dense dust.]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

solar thermal.

The bigger part of the passive house standard is energy efficiency. Installing EneryStar appliances and CFL/LED lights help meet the passive house requirements, but heating water can be an energy hog. That's why we've opted to install a solar thermal water heater on our roof. I won't get into the details of how it works, but the idea is to cut water heating out of our electric bill.

Roanoke's Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicle Association (REEVA) is helping us with this install. REEVA is a local group of energy aware individuals with the soul purpose of helping "to install as many renewable energy systems as possible to reduce our demand on carbon fuels, save money and protect the environment."

You can learn more about REEVA on their website, or contact me and I'll ks possible to reduce our demand on carbon fuels, save money and protect the environment." You can learn more about REEVA on their website, or contact me and I'll get you in touch with the club.


Saturday, November 19, 2011


Windows and doors are in on the first floor and two of the windows are installed on the second. It looks like Structures has started with the nail base, but weather may be an issue next week and delay progress further.

By the way, sorry for recent absence from the blog; if anyone is reading this. Since the shingles were stolen a while back, I've hesitated to post anything on the progress in the off chance those worthless fu$&ers had the internet, a computer and even knew what a blog was.

It's funny (not really) how violated you feel when someone messes with your shit. Its been over a month now and I still can't shake it. I've been spending just about every evening up here waiting, hoping and praying they come back so I can sick ole Barley on 'em; but no dice. In time - they'll be back.

I talked to my neighbor today and he told me they got the Thaxton tire bandits. He had a truck load of tires dumped on his property back in May when someone swiped some parts off my dads track loader. I wonder if the bastards they caught were the same creole that took my shingles (fingers crossed) -

Anyhow, I'm about to wrap up this day on the mountain burning brush and chasing the pups around.

[1 fire, 1 beer and 1 hell of a view]

Monday, October 24, 2011


Our passive house windows were shipped from Munster Joinery in Ireland and we expect their arrival to the US by the end of the week.  From there, its Customs, then delivery to Roanoke.  Seems like a big trip for just a house full of windows, eh?  There's actually three homes worth of windows included in this shipment; ours, a passive house in Stuart, and a passive house church in Blacksburg.




[And shipped.]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

blower door test. dirty thieves.

After the first round of blower door tests, our passive house yielded 0.26 air changes per hour (ACH) at 50 pascals (Pa).  What's that mean - well, that means that our house is tight; very little air leakage.  The passive house standard requires 0.6 ACH @ 50 Pa.  With that said, the doors and windows haven't been installed yet but the results shouldn't vary too much following their installation.

[Wesley setting up the blower door for the first test.]

[Jim taping the panel seams and remaining holes.]

[Running the first round of tests.]

With all the good news from the results of the blower door tests, we got some bad news on this past Monday.  I got a call when the roofers showed up to install the shingles and they were short an entire pallet.  After reviewing pictures and speaking with the suppliers, we determined someone stole a whole pallet of shingles.

I met a sheriff's deputy on the mountain that evening and we walked the property to determine what happened.  We discovered the thieves drove into the property, loaded up the shingles then drove away.  Fortunately, rain hadn't washed away the tire tracks so the deputy was able to capture a mold as evidence.

[Setting up the form for the mold.]

[Waiting for the mold to set.]

[And then there was evidence.]

Tire tracks aren't enough to bust a crook, but pictures are.  Our game camera caught the thieves in action.

['68-72 Ford F100 2WD]

[Two white males jacking what doesn't belong to them.]

And we even got the news to cover it!  The hole event was more of a pain in the a$$ than anything.  We've barricaded the property and we've got security fence on its way to help secure the fence for the remainder of the build.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

geothermal. power. shingles.

After meeting with Jim on the mountain yesterday afternoon, I learned that there's gonna be some noticeable changes taking place this week.  It sounds like the house is just about ready for permanent electrical service.  They'll be trenching for the conduit to run from the pole to the back of the house with a track hoe at some point this week.  While they have the machine on the site, they'll also be digging for the geothermal install.

[Geothermal grid to be installed in the back yard.]

The shingles were delivered yesterday and we should have a finished roof by the end of the week.

[Tar paper installed and exterior walls sealed.]

[Spaces to be filled with 5 3/4" dense foam nail base.]

Jim and Aaron told me that they're running into a problem with sealing the interior seams.  From what I can make of it, the OSB on the second floor sealing won't "accept" the tape they intended on using.  As a result, Structures had to order new tape from Germany.  Until these seams are taped, air tightness testing is suspended.  They are expecting to complete seam sealing as soon as the tape arrives.

Here's a peek at what its gonna take to seal every seam with the new tape - SIGA Wigluv 100 and Dockskin

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

just one revision.

Sorry for the delay; I've been slammed lately and honestly I was trying to put together a video for the next post but it's just pictures for now.

A busy week on the mountain and busy week elsewhere.  In just one week, we got a new niece [Kiera], I got promoted at work and we've got a roof on the house.

[Sheathing on the garage Monday; shingles by weeks end?]

[Taping the seams and sealing the envelope.]

[His/her closets leading toward the bath.]

And here comes our first, hopefully last revision - as you'll see in the picture below, the carpenters have completed the first run of stairs.  To the right the treads is the kitchen and to left is the pantry.  Things just didn't seem to flow right; we'd have to walk out of the kitchen to get a potato or fetch the bag of chips.  So we thought about it and I called Aaron at Structures.

[Current stair configuration.]

My first concern in the revision was $$$ and my other was delays; how much was this gonna cost us and how much would this set things back?  Nothing, except materials of course and Aaron even said Jim might work on it today.  [In the picture above, the new pantry will be located were the current stairs are.]  Since the stairs were built, all they would have to do is move them; upstairs I'd lose 12" of my "his" closet.  Ha, Steph wasn't giving up an inch ;-)  Aaron had a sketch to us by the end of the day and it was a done deal this morning.  Also, we'll be picking up some built in shelves in the kitchen, as a result of the revision.  I think Steph was pretty excited about that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

garage, walls, seals and ccc road

Another action packed weekend on the mountain.  The rain cleared up last Tuesday and it took a couple days for things to dry out, but the walls upstairs and the garage are well underway.

[Its taking shape.]

On Saturday, Dad stopped by to help replace hydraulic seals on the loader; they were in dire need of repair.  By 6:30 pm, we had things wrapped up and he was on his way.

[A before shot; nasty, leaky mess.]

I squeezed in a couple hours road grading and ditch digging Sunday afternoon - all of the rain we got last weekend really did a number on the road.  If I can get the ditches dug and cleaned, drainage shouldn't be a problem for at least a couple years.  This makes the perfect segway for some interesting history about our road:

Labeled as CCC Road in Thaxton, VA, our private road is also known as Flat Top Mountain Road.  CCC Road was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) either during the 1930s or early 1940s.  As many of you already know, Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the CCC to provide employment for young men in relief families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression while at the same time implementing a general natural resource conservation program in every state and territory. (Source: Wikipedia)  The CCC was broken up into roughly +/- 1400 camps that were scattered across the country.  Each camp was assigned separate types of work projects; anything ranging from forest protection to wildlife management.

Although I've exhausted my research efforts online, I have reason to believe our road was established in an effort to protect the forest and prevent fires.  One of my neighbors often rides his four-wheeler by when I've been on the mountain.  As he passed one day, I flagged him down for a visit.  He pulled to a stop with a big smile and we started talking.  It turns out that close relatives of his were CCC enrollees and they had all worked on the construction of our road.  [I'll have to take some pictures of the culverts, its impressive; all of the rock appears to be chiseled by hand and stacked.]

So you would think that this would mean our road is public, right?  Wrong.  The CCC was known to do a quite a bit of work on private land even though the majority of their projects were performed in our state parks and national forests.

If you'd like to learn more, please reference Wikipedia for more information on the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

two floors and a puddle

The walls are going up, but the rain and wind has been pelting the mountain over the past couple of days.

I got a call from Jim with Structures this morning - he told me there was a large tree across the road blocking access for our delivery truck.  While we were on the phone, he said the delivery truck had chained to the tree and was already pulling it out of the way - you gotta respect that kind of dedication; I just wish I had some photos of it.

Also, Jim mentioned that even though the roof isn't up everything is intact and the site is draining properly.

[A view from the driveway.]

[The garage will come later.]

[Mudroom, half bath, and closets.]

[Looking at the front door.]

[Kitchen and stairs to the left.]

[A wet guest bedroom upstairs.]

[Master bedroom; to be continued.]

Monday, August 29, 2011

walls. brush.

Wow - this weekend was no joke.  We rented a chipper and hauled it up to the mountain to start breaking down all of the brush left from AEP's power line install.  Saturday dad joined us and we knocked out a heavy chunk of the brush as the wind from Hurricane Irene blasted the mountain.  The cloud cover and constant wind keep the temps down but the chipper but beating on each of us for sure. 

On Sunday, Steph and I started where we left off and called it a day around 3:00pm.  At 90F and little to no wind, we wore down pretty quickly.  Needless to say, we've got more work to do, but we'll wait for the cooler temps that the fall season will bring before we revisit that kind of work.

I decided to make a trip over the mountain after talking with Rob, Aaron, Jim and Adam at Structures today.  Rob had mentioned that the walls are officially on the rise and we can expect a lot of changes on the mountain this week.  I arrived at the driveway to discover what looked like to be a house slowly forming before my eyes.

[Panels and walls.]

[Between the slab and wall panels.]

[And a closer look.]

[Door and window frames to be cut out after the first air tightness test.]


With a doubt, last week was a busy week on the mountain.  The slab was poured, the septic system was installed and the drain field was completed.  Honestly, its nice to see the slab finally.  We were a bit concerned at first.  The house seemed so small with just the foam forms laid out.  Now that the slab has cured, things are looking a lot better and bigger!

[A view of the front patio and first floor.]

[A view of the back patio.]

[Got garage?]

[Septic and drain field installed.]

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The house is coming along - the gravel has be poured, the plumbing rough-in is nearly complete and the slab is scheduled for this week.  On the other hand, Steph and I have A LOT of work left cleaning up the brush.

I set up camp on the mountain Saturday and spent the entire weekend watching flames.  Steph and Dad came up Sunday to lend a hand and we got a bunch done.

[Time lapse - Saturday on the mountain.]

Saturday, August 13, 2011

burn baby burn

Up on the mountain tonight burning brush before the slab gets poured next week. Just me and Barley hanging out watching sparks fly but Steph is on her way with dinner shortly; Subway - yum!

Damn. Just discovered I can't upload pictures to Blogger from my iPhone.

Right now I've got the perfect recipe for an evening bonfire; a bulldozer, chords upon chords of wood, matches and Yuengling. Cheers!

Friday, August 5, 2011

pick a color

Which colors would you choose?

We never thought picking out an exterior paint scheme for the house would be that hard until we visited Sherwin Williams; wow - colors, colors and more colors!  Steph and I had an idea for what we wanted, but we couldn't get the colors to make sense.

That's when we went to my close friend Anne Moore for some guidance.  She's an interior designer and we knew she could steer us in the right direction.   

After a meeting and a few emails, here are the 17 color combinations Anne put together for us - Which one(s) do you like?

If you're up for giving some input, simply hit the Comments link at the bottom and tell us which combinations you like best.  For closer look, click on a picture if you want to see a full-size version of it.

Thanks a million Anne; let's see what the peanut gallery has to say.

[color concept 1]

[color concept 2]

[color concept 3]

[color concept 4]

[color concept 5]

[color concept 6]

[color concept 7]

[color concept 8]

[color concept 9]

[color concept 10]
[color concept 11]
[color concept 12]
[color concept 13]

[color concept 14]

[color concept 15]

[color concept 16]

[color concept 17]