Saturday, December 23, 2006

SLO B Slow

What a past few days in SLO County. The weather has been mild and that has allowed some very important erosion mitigation in the areas that were burned this summer.

Straw rolls or waddles, and jute netting is not cheap but Farm Supply comes through again with low prices, great pricing and much help in finding the right vegetation to plant in the burned areas.

Also, the tortured tale of landscaping continues its' slow inexorable march. Perhaps it will begin sometime in Feb 07. In trying to find landscapers, there seem to be some fly by night operations and I seem to be going thru them alphabetically. For example, the companies that I have contacted, AAA Landscaping, C&C Landscape, and R&S Landscaping , either stopped returning calls, did not follow through on when they said they would provide a estimate to me or failed to show up.

Happy Holidays!

Hopefully the gentleman who I am working with now will follow thru. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

...and then there was the Blogosphere

My apologies for not keeping up to date on my blogging. It has been a busy time with the holidays, travel, and work.

As for the Paso Straw Bale House, the December cold weather wreaked havoc with the pipes from the well, to the pump, and to the water tank. Several days the temps dropped to the mid 20s and by 5th day of cold weather, the exterior pipes finally froze. Good thing is that after the ice thawed out, insulation was added to prevent a recurrence, the bad thing is that there was no insulation in the first place.

Unfortunately a bigger problem surfaced, mainly a broken piece of PVC at the well. This resulted in a mini-geyser while the pump was on. Luckily a cool head and fleet feet cut power to the pump and called Farm Supply in Paso Robles. If you ever have to call the Pump Division of Farm Supply on the weekend, be prepared to spend $200.00/hour. Fortunately they were not needed on the weekend and during the week they charge $100.00/hour.

In July I blogged about a grass fire. This fire damaged some of the plastic PVC that went to the CDF line. I called out Miller Drilling(who originally installed the well lines and water tank) and received a bid as follows,

  • Replace a pressure Gauge $4.50
  • Check Valve 1, 1 1/4x80 $35.00
  • Misc. Pipes & Electrical Fittings $150.00
  • Sales Tax $13.74
  • Labor: Replumb Booster, 4" CDF Line $500
  • Total: $703.24
End Flashback

Farm Supply came out on a Monday, fixed the broken PVC at the well that was causing the geyser AND fixed the damage from the fire in July for the grand total of $224.29. For those of you keeping score at home, that is a $478.95 difference with a larger scope of work. Farm Supply good, Miller Drilling, perhaps they do a good job but I cannot understand the price difference.

The irony is that Miller Drilling did the original install and did not use insulation. Needless to say, Farm Supply has my business from here on out.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Panning the Paso Straw Bale House

I would like to share some of the views I have had over the years as well as some interesting Panoramas of the house being built. Click on the pictures to see the full size photo. Enjoy!

Foundation Form

Post Harvest

Early Framing
Post Storm

1/3rd Framing Complete

Summer Heat

Center Beam View

Over the years I have taken hundreds of pictures of the house, the surrounding countryside, and the vineyards. The view from the Paso Straw Bale House is awesome. I sit for hours gazing out over the vineyards, listening to the horses, and enjoying the scents of the grape harvest.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Harvest Time

I have to say that this is my favorite time of year. The vines are heavy with fruit,
it is warm in the day but cools down nicely in the evening and the sunsets are breathtaking.

In light of the beauty of the harvest and the smell of fermenting grapes, I do have several projects that I am contemplating for the winter:

  • Re-staining the porch area
  • L-Headers for windows
  • Polishing the interior concrete floor
  • Landscaping
If anyone has experience in polishing concrete floors, hit me up. I would like to know:
  1. How much does it cost for the machinery and polishing pads?
  2. How messy is it?
  3. How long does it take?
  4. Is it really a DIY task?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Blue Pill, or Red Pill

For those of you who have seen The Matrix, the premise is that we are all living in a programmed dreamlike reality controlled by computers. The lead character along with other has figured this out and now are fighting against the 'machines'. At the end of the 1st Matrix movie, the lead gains the ability to see the 'the Matrix, e.g the dream world in the native code that is used to construct 'reality'.

I bring this up because I believe I look at this house in much of the same way. I see how it was constructed. I see every nail, stud, post, shear wall, A35 connector, hvac ducting, pex, etc. It is like I am looking at the code used to construct the house. And for those who know how programming, sometimes code can be elegant, and other times, not so elegant.

It it those not so elegant code fragments that cause much consternation.

So the question is, do I take the Blue Pill and stay in dream world or the Red Pill and see how far down the rabbit hole goes?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Got Wood?

I have access to 80+ year old redwood timbers from an old building. I would like to have these re-sawn for moulding and what not.

The problem is finding someone or someplace to re-saw them. Suggestion are welcome.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Wild Kingdom Battle Royale

I remarked in an earlier post about the Tarantula Hawk. Here is a picture of a Tarantula Hawk as it drags a tarantula it paralyzed into it's lair:The Tarantula is to the left. But this was no ordinary tarantula beat down. After this Tarantula Hawk incapacitated its' victim, another Tarantula Hawk swooped in and tried to gaffle it.
A fight ensued between the two T-Hawks with the winner being the one that originally captured the Tarantula. After battling two worthy opponents, the T-Hawk dragged the paralyzed arachnid more than 10 meters to this spot in the picture.

Here are a few more pics of the dragging...

Needless to say I did not get that close because I have a healthy respect for any insect that can take out a tarantula, kick another Tarantula Hawk to the curb, and then drag it's victim 30 feet.

Take that Brady Barr!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Look Who Visits the House

Not for real, but virtually.

This is a cool way to see the reach of your blog graphically.

In short, a geographic representation of who has visited this blog for the last 12 hours'

Just a little snippet of internet love.

Are we there yet?

In my rants, I believe I have never mentioned that the house is fully functional. You can cook, clean dishes, bathe, run the climate control systems, watch the sunset over the vineyards, marvel at the red tail hawks as they float over the ridge looking for prey, and just relax. There are times when it is difficult to see past the memories, the mistakes, and the money spent on fixing anothers mistakes. But there are times when I catch a glimpse of what it could be, what it should be, and what it can be.

Ok, enough of that, this is what I have planned for this weekend. Touching up the paint on the eaves, staining the posts and if time and weather permits, re-etching the concrete patio. I will be satisified with getting two out of three of these done.

I am hoping to get the patio to look similar to this:

Does anyone want to bet whether or not I can do a better job than Dave Exline at staining concrete? :-)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Where is my fireplace...

So I never got a fireplace. No wood stove, no gas stove, no nothing. Strange that I remember asking for the draw of the fireplace and transfering the money to the contractor but I never got one. Funny how that works. But in my archives I found where my fireplace went:

----- Original Message ----- From: Leslie Miley To: Janice Exline Sent: Friday, October 22, 2004 5:56 PM Subject: Re: Invoice from Three Little Pigs Construction

Janice, All draw requests are deposited in the same account. For example when I request a draw from line 760, it is deposited in the same account that you withdraw funds from. I am trying to avoid either of us withdrawing funds that are not earmarked for our specific items. i.e. after you withdraw funds, the account balance should be zero or close to it. We had the situation with the fireplace where you withdrew the funds that were earmarked for the fireplace draw with draws from other line items. This gets confusing for me and since we
are moving so fast, I need to manage what is being paid when very closely to avoid that potential conflict At the end of the day, I need to make sure that each invoice, whether yours or mine will be paid with the appropriate draw.

So I think I will either go with a Kiva style as I originally planned, or a wood stove. Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The emotional cost to build this house

I am not referring to dollars but emotionally. I look at this house and see what is not done, I look at this house and see where someone else made decisions for me, I look at this house and I see what should have been, not what is. I look at this house and see a broken dream.

2004-2005 was not a good year. From crazy tenants, to shady moving companies, to Dave Exline and Janice Exline, to trying to run a coffee bar in a ultra-conservative, racist town. Who and what I am was fundamentally changed and not all for the better.

I do not believe in people as much as I used to. I do not trust that people will have anything other than their own interest in mind when I deal with them. I no longer see people as individuals but as competitors and roadblocks to my happiness. When I look in the mirror, what disturbs me the most is that I no longer dare to dream.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tarantula Hawk?!?!?

I was minding my own business, walking around the property the other day when I saw this 2 inch long black thing with wings, flying around. I was amazed because I had never seen anything like this. I asked a few people what it could be and lo and behold, it led me to the Tarantula Hawk.

Upon researching this little creature I came upon the following descriptions:

  • The tarantula hawks prefer female tarantulas and seek them in their burrows. They capture (often following a dramatic battle), sting and paralyze the spider. Next they either drag the spider back into her own burrow or transport their prey to a specially prepared nest where a single egg is laid on the spider’s body, and the entrance is covered. The wasp larva, upon hatching, begins to suck the juices from the still-living spider. After the larva grows a bit the spider dies and the larva plunges into the spider's body and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep it fresh.
  • The sting, particularly of Pepsis formosa, is among the most painful of any insect. Commenting on his own experience, one researcher said, "You will curse your mother for ever having you." Another described, "...immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations." Yet another said, "It's not like things that make you swear and say bad things about somebody's mother. These things, when you get stung, you might as well lie down and scream. Why not? It takes your attention off the pain." It is listed near the top of the list in Schmidt Sting Pain Index.
I have no shame in saying I ran when I saw this buzzing around.

Now I know where Ridley Scott and Dan O'Bannon got the idea for Alien. If you see this thing, run!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dave Exline Demons

I have been working on the Paso Straw Bale House for some time now. Strolling down memory lane can sometimes be educational, inspirational, humorous, sad, or downright painful.
Here is the memory lane I was down today.

Dave Exline (partial) email communication From 12/3/2004:

"It appears, after looking over all of the correspondences, reviewing the verbiage, the attitudes, the half-truths, the excuses, and the half baked "negotiations", that you have had an intent to take over this job for a long time. I really believe that you have "set me up". I believe that you thought you could take over the job at the point that we now are. Yet you now discover how much "more" there is yet to do, and you now find yourself incapable of doing it, and you bring in Turko. Not a problem, I hope it all goes well for you and you end up with what you anticipated. It is no longer my art, no longer my product, and you may no longer use my name in connection with it."

To finish my walk down memory lane here is my analysis:
  1. Painful and Sad is Dave Exline alleging that I set him up to take over the job and that it was my intent for a long time.
  2. Educational is "discovering how much more there is yet to do". If he meant re-installing the windows, bringing the house to code due to his unauthorized engineering changes to the roofing system, and re-doing the majority of the electrical, he was right. If all this was done the first time, there would be no need for this blog.
  3. Humorous is that "I can no longer use his name in connection with it." :-)
  4. Inspirational in being able to chronicle this house via blogging.
In my stroll down memory lane, I have come across a few other websites of people who have had issues with their respective contractors. It is amazing to me how similar the stories are. If there is such a thing as a shared experience, having issues with your contractor is one of them.

There must be a school somewhere that teaches this. It needs to be closed.
Blogging rules!

Monday, July 31, 2006

It was bound to happen...

I ran into Dave Exline of Three Little Pigs Construction today at Mayan Hardwood. Dave was kind and polite enough to acknowledge me and even made a comment about this blog. Thanks for reading my blog Dave. It is an honor and a pleasure to know that Dave Exline cares enough about the projects he works on to keep up with them.

In fact, I really do miss the great times we had. From the missed schedules, the infamous window install, the unauthorized change to the roof engineering and the wrong gauge wire for the electrical. And let us not forget the T-111 Dave Exline decided to use, and the funniest of all times was when Dave was trying to convince me I did not need to have heat in the master bedroom and bathroom. He was considerate enough to put it in the laundry room. All in all, having to correct all of those was the highlight of 2005 for me.

Once again, good luck with your legal issues and I hope to run into you again soon.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Did I say it was hot?

I would really like to thank my neighbor Peter for calling and letting me know there was a fire going on and for sending me the pictures below. I also want to thank the California Department of Forestry for responding in force and limiting the amount of structural damage. As you can tell from these photos, those guys did one hell of a job. Thanks again. It is not that often that you get to see your tax dollars at work this well.

Click on the photos for a close up view

Unfortunately, it got a lot hotter on Sunday, July 24th thanks to a small fire.

This is the view out the back door:

Lucky the water tank did not burn but it is scorched.

The fire burned right up to the 5th wheel and only 15 feet from the house.

It looks like the electrical pole behind the house had some issues and started a grass fire.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

...and it is still hot

I admit I am fascinated by this weather. Global climate change or not, this heat is unprecedented. A picture is worth a thousand words.

To say this is out of control is an understatement. I love the heat and have no problem functioning in temps up to 105 degrees, but this type of heat makes me want to lay on the stained concrete floor and not move. Stay cool and stay sane

Friday, July 21, 2006

Summer In the Wine Country

Can I say it has been hot. DAMN HOT! This is from Friday, July 21st.

To cool myself off, I dug these pictures out of the vineyards in different seasons. This is the view from the courtyard.

The daily temp has been above 100 degrees for about 10 straight days. The house (with no airconditioning) stays in the upper 70s' most of the time. Late in the day it can creep up to 80-82 degrees. If I had blinds or curtains the temp would stay in the 70s' all day. Cooling the house is as simple as opening up the windows at night. The house cools to 72-74 degrees by 8am. That said, even with the house performing this way, air conditioning is still needed. If only to cool off the house when it has not been opened up for a few days. Thanks again to Dave Exline for ignoring the energy calculations that were done for the house. After re-reading them, it was clear that air conditioning was needed, even going so far as to spec out the exact unit needed.

I have been thinking of posting the energy calculations, engineering plans, roof, foundation, and electrical plans online. I also have some documentation on a particular construction defect lawsuit. If there is serious enough interest, please let me know.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, June 30, 2006

300 Pics of Paso Straw Bale House

After much procrastination, I have uploaded 300+ pictures, arranged chronologically, of the construction of the Paso Strawbale House. Here you can see up close and personal many of the issues I have previously written about. I hope this is a helpful guide to all of you current and future strawbale, and conventional home owners.

NOTE!!! This is a picture heavy page and could take time to load

Click HERE to view!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

This is how contractors do?!?!

I do not mean to beat a dead horse, but there seems to be something really wrong with how contractors/service providers treat prospective customers in San Luis Obispo County.

For example, the sub who installed my plumbing (Harvey Plumbing), they did not show up on time, did not do inventory prior to starting the job and I just realized, they did not install my sink correctly. Only one side was bolted into the wall so now the sink leans. WTF?!

R&R Heating took 6 months to install the filters for the heating unit, and 4 months to figure out why the unit would not run for more than 7 minutes before turning off. They would also make appointments and not keep them, say they fixed it when it was not fixed and pretty much ensured that the master bedroom went the entire year without a functioning heating unit. Thanks Kenny.

To be clear, these contractors were chosen by Semmes and Company and in the end the subs did do about 85-90% of what they should have.

A few more tidbits of how contractors do in SLO County:

  • The excavator DKS Construction who took weeks to fax a bid that did not contain all aspects of the job. I guess he missed all of the grading around the 1 acre building site I need to have done as well.
  • The landscaping company that promised to email a bid on 6/5/06. Still have not heard from them.
  • The water treatment companies that never called back.
  • Mayan Hardwood that never called back with a quote for columns I planned for the porch. When I showed up in person the person who helped me actually said, "I called you" after 10 minutes of discussion, she realized she did not even have the pricing information she was to call me about.
Would I have had better luck on my own, I doubt it, but it seems as if this behavior is more the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the construction related trades here in San Luis Obispo County.

I just needed to get this off my chest.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Adding to the Blog Roll

I am adding the blog of another Straw Bale house to the blog roll. Mark Frazier is in the early stages of his adventure and has provided me with useful information regarding box beams. I am hoping it is smooth sailing for him from start to finish. Check out the blog for his house Casa De Solariego and perhaps send a shout of encouragement out.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Back to Box Beams

It is Memorial Day weekend. I am sitting here blogging and looking at the vineyards about to drive to SLO to look at paving stones. But what is really on my mind is how I am going to construct box beams.

Do I use hardwood or a treated MDF. Perhaps a false collumn would be better. Red oak or Maple would run $3.00-$6.00/linear foot. Treated MDF would be $1.00-$2.50/linear foot. Mayan Hardwood in Paso has some great product but I am not sure abour the pricing. Big Creek in Paso could also be a resource but I can never make it in there when they are open. (Mon-Fri 6:30am-5:00pm Closed Sat and Sun) HUH? And people complain when Home Depot comes to town...

I am trying to find resources on the web but I am still not sure I want to tackle this on my own. If any DIY'ers want to pipe in I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Straw Bale House Budget Circa 2003

After agonizing over this for several months, I have decided to post the original budget submitted by Three Little Pigs Construction. It is a great view into their cost estimating abilities.

Line items 101-201 were paid prior to actual house construction as well as lines 303 and 308. Take note of the permitting costs and the school fees on lines 103 and 105

This is for a 2500sqft house with mid level finishes and no landscaping.

The actual budget to this point is more than this spreadsheet. At some point I will publish that as well but as work continues the costs are continuing.

Since I do not do construction for a living I do not know how this compares to traditional construction but I suspect it is more. In my opinion, the house could never have been built at that price.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Blogging the Straw Bale Home

When this project started to have issues, I started a conversation with myself. This conversation allows me to turn the many events over in my mind and hopefully learn from them. Blogging has allowed me to articulate the negative thoughts, feelings, and frustration associated in dealing with contractors in general and Three Little Pigs Construction in particular.

This blog is a conversation about this frustration. This is a conversation with those who are looking for straw bale construction info, those who are looking for construction nightmare stories and those who just desire to have more info on Green Building or the Central Coast of California.

I have stated time and again that the internet is leveling the playing field. Whether you are purchasing a car, or buying a house, the internet gives you access to information that until recently was hard if not impossible to come by. And by extension, blogging allows us to have a wider conversation about our lives experiences that others can learn from.

What this blog is not. It is not 'Top Ten things that went wrong with building my house'. It is not 'Things I hate about my contractor', it is a conversation with all of you about my experiences. It is a small window into my life.

Someone said to me that this blog is a poor reflection of me. Perhaps it is, but I am not perfect. Trying to hide my dislike at feeling as if I have been taken advantage would not do any good. Keeping silent about my pain and frustration in watching a 9 month construction schedule stretch to 23 months does not do anyone (mostly myself) any good. Keeping a stiff upper lip and my mouth shut as I see what should have been a very nice looking custom home become a project I have to salvage is not who or what I am about.

As I continue to learn and grow from this experience I can only hope that others take away enough to avoid some of what I have experienced. I will continue to blog and flog.

And for those of you who read this, please take the time to leave a comment. It only takes a second and I would appreciate it greatly.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Throwing a Fit over Finish

I am having a fit over the finish. There seems to be so much to do and not a good way to prioritize things.

For instance, I want to do some type of finish wood over the huge (and infamous) center beam in the great room, the overhang that makes up the clerestory and the posts in the great room. Also, I am trying to decide what type of moulding to add to the clerestory windows. This picture shows the windows, center beam(between the fans), the support posts, and the overhang.

Perhaps something like this along the beams and the overhang (from a different house):

In addition baseboards are still vexing me. Do I just paint and caulk or do I use Flex Moulding products. Does anyone have experience with flexible moulding? I cannot find someone who stocks it. This website is what I am thinking Flex Moulding.

Speaking of windows, I just noticed the interior plaster folks brought their plaster all the way to the edge of the window leaving no header, or side space to hang anything on. Here is an earlier picture of the window in question.

Yes, contractors do need to be babysat. I am just not feeling the love for SLO Contractors these days.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Doors, Floors, and Chores

I have included pictures of some of the doors, the floors, and a list of chores that need to be done. Enjoy.

Here is the entrance to the Master Bedroom and 2nd bathroom. Thanks for doing a knockout job on the doors Scott.

I have not made a decision on whether I want to keep the floors this way or change them. Right now, I think they look good but we will see how they hold up.

Here is the entry way to the kitchen.

A view of the great room window

And for posterity, here is the post that was inexplicably placed in the center of the window. The good thing is that I have found 80 year old Cedar or Douglas Fir reclamimed wood that I will have re-sawed to cover the posts. Should add a bit more character.

Near Term Projects:
  • Wrap support posts and add top and bottom detail
  • Install baseboard moulding
  • Blinds for windows