Friday, December 27, 2013

HERs score is in....and?

Well finally got the paperwork back.  And it looks pretty good.  It received a 5 star + certification (the + means it went far beyond requirements, roughly 40% actually) for Energy Star certification.
And the HERs score?  Well, we got a 37.  Benchmark house for energy star was 58.  We needed to be 5% better than that to qualify for the big rebates.  I'd say we hit that.  Benchmark new homes are typically 100. 

All in all, the ratings for the house have been very good, and I am happy.  My goals were quite extreme, and possibly unrealistic, but we managed to put together a very efficient home.  Factor in the rebates and it did not cost nearly anything more than if we would have built code minimum. 

Small Christmas update

It has quieted down some around here for building.  It gave us time to put up Shannon's new 12' tree we got last year on sale.  It did not take nearly as long to set up as I thought it would, only a few hours.  I also managed to put lights around the roof line as well.  First time I ever put up lights. 

Here is a little Christmas picture.  One of our dogs is posing looking like an innocent little guy.  But everyone knows that is not true.

Some more updates since the last as well.  We finally got the light installed in the dining room.  Its an interesting statement piece, but we really like it. 

You can see the snow outside.  It has been pretty cold recently, getting mid teens as the daytime highs.  However on a sunny day the windows manage to warm the house up to about 70-72, with the thermostat set point at 67.
The bench here is an old piano bench I salvaged from my parents barn, laying there to die.  I sanded, fixed, re-lacquered and re-upholstered the bench to bring it back to life. know me, I can not NOT be doing something.  There are still odds and ends things to do inside, mainly minor trim work and some window sealing, but that is not any fun.  So why not spend my days off around the holidays by starting the basement man cave/movie room. 
The end wall you can see I framed a wall (2' oc).  I did this because it is easier to mount things and run power and wiring than ICF (see below picture).  This wall will have the screen for the projector, speaker jacks in the wall, and all of the power and data required for the equipment. 
I am installing wall sconces on either side of the viewing space as it creates better ambient lighting that will not distract from a projector like overhead lights can.  The 2 cans in that area are switched separate from the rest of the room and are on dimmers.

This is the location of the wet bar and kitchenette.  We designed about a 12' length of cabinets that will house a wine bar/fridge/station as the left end, counter and sink in the center with glasses and bottles above, and then a place for a full size fridge at the right end.  I will most likely end up building these cabinets since they are custom, but have not ruled out Ikea for the job either.  Since they are custom, if we went the Ikea route it would be a hack job to the extreme. 

 As mentioned running power in ICF can be messy, but its really not that hard at all. 

Since most of the basement will remain un finished, and this room happens to split the electrical panel and the rest of the basement, I installed a 1 1/2" conduit in the ceiling to easily feed the remaining wires (2 bedrooms and a bathroom) above the ceiling since it will be drywalled when the time comes.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Completed....(except for a long list of tiny things).  Not much more to elaborate on it than that. 
We technically moved in a few months ago after I got temporary occupancy.  It made a big difference living and working on it vs driving to and from.  So let the pictures start...

We will begin the house tour on the exterior and work our way through.  Below is the south elevation.  Obviously the solar design come into play here as it had from the beginning.  Later on the inside you will be able to see the difference it makes. 

Part of the issue with the solar design and the plan with the garage was placement.  The house does not face due south, but slightly south east which is about ideal.  The issue with the lot is it falls 7' from the north east corner of the house to the south west corner.  Obviously the ideal placement for the lot and the driveway was to place the garage on the south west side to make the drive nearly flat with slight fall to the street.  However that would block a great deal of sun from the house as it works its way around the south west around to the north west.  So the garage had to go on the east side, which resulted in a steep driveway.  Being as I do not play basketball, I figured that was not the end of the world.  It is not too bad however....we shall see with our first winter. 

Dirty slate tiles.  Have not had a chance to clean it again, as well as the windows.  Its a little different, and we debated between a black, grey, and redish stone vs this, and chose this.  Its hit or miss for me really.  I liked both options, but sometimes I wish I could have seen it with the stone too.  Oh well...

 There is nothing worse than having a material change right on an outside corner.  Many new production and spec houses place brick and stone on the front, but end it right on the corner and starts up siding the rest of the way around.  I certainly did not want to do that, so the placement of the stone was important to kill into inside corners.  You can see I did wrap and return the slate up the roof to give it a look of a stone mass in the center of the home.  I really like the natural cedar beams and columns creating spider legs growing out of the stone to support the roof.
 On the to do list for the spring is landscaping.  Obviously we do not want to plant new things in October, so this will wait (plus easier on the budget that way).  This area will be a rock garden and we have saved quite a few small to medium rocks to place in this area along with a couple large ones that were in the ground.  The rock will continue across the front following the slope down the hill.  I still need to add cedar boards to the sides of the deck to enclose that area. 
With the natural cedar beams and columns, I wanted to continue that look on the roof and floor.  I wanted the wood to direct you in, so the cedar deck was a must to flow out of the stone and down the stairs.  No concrete stoop here.
 A shot of the dirty stone, cedar t&g soffit, cedar beams, and the blue Kolbe custom door. 
 Moving around the house here is the AC unit and exhausts for the furnace and water heater.  This is just a standard 16 SEER 2 stage Lennox AC unit.  Upgrading to a 19 or 21 SEER was not worth the extra cost as it had 0 payoff with the tightness and small cooling load for the house.  This is an example of how placing your money in the shell can reduce the demand of mechanical conditioning and save costs there.  The highest end equipment is not always the best option. 

 Here are the vents for the bath fans and dryer.  They are a nifty aluminum vent that has a gasketed backdraft damper in them to create a tighter seal vs the typical vinyl exhaust hoods.  Plus they look a lot better.  Not the cheapest, they ran about $30 each.

Getting around to the back of the house, here is the covered porch.  It is approximately 24x12 in size, so next spring when we build the deck that will be a nice space to be at.  I ran speaker wires out to the columns so we will add exterior speakers as well. 

Finally ending the garage, which is a work in progress.  I plan on insulating it this winter probably, and finishing it this spring.  It is a full 12x24 deep back area that is the storage and work shop space, but can fit a 3rd car if needed too (like when I get my Mustang)

Moving inside, we enter the mud room which still have a few things to do yet, like hang the doors on the cabinet and finish up the toe kicks.  We built the bench, shelf and cabinet for storage.  The blue cabinets are Ikea.  The 2 side units doors pull out, and there is a trash on the right side.  The dog supplies are in the left side, and its a perfect spot to bathe them in a large deep basin sink.  I think eventually I will had a back splash however since they can shake sometimes and throw water on the wall.  This space is also great for cleaning things from paint brushes to vegetables from mom's garden.  Other uses can be overflow washing of dishes from the kitchen if we have a large gathering. 
 view of the storage cabinet
 eventually we will put baskets on top of the shelves for hats, gloves, and whatever else. 
view of the tile on the floor

Lets move on into the kitchen.......lots of pics here. 

One thing we hated about the previous house was the small galley kitchen.  The kitchen is the heart of the home and always is the place of gathering.  So a few things were very important to use in the layout and design of the space.  It needs to flow and not trap anyone in.  So with modern kitchen design open plans and large islands are the trend, but they really work well.  I also wanted to make sure various "stations" did not interfere with other work areas.  There are 3 general work zones.  The sink, baking and prep, and then actual cooking, either stove of oven.  Then the fridge has to be accessible mainly to the last 2 zones, but also a 3.1 zone, which is open to the rest of the house so it can be accessed without congestion to the other spaces.   As you can see below, this is how it ended up working.  We have had several large gatherings and everything seems to work just as planned.  People are all in the kitchen, but there is plenty of room to walk around them, access the fridge and the sink. 
 Lighting is important in the kitchen, but its also something that needs to be thought about.  Generic cans are what most homes these days throw in the ceiling, but that creates spot lighting and shadowing.  As you all know my hatred towards cans from an energy leaking standpoint, so it was important to not have can lighting in the ceiling for those 2 reasons.  So something else had to be figured out to give a lot of lighting and flexible lighting as well. 
A continuous row of double T5 florescent fixtures were installed above the crown on the cabinets.  I build an angled ledge for them to sit on to project light out into the space.  The ceiling was painted with a gloss white to reflect the light around.  This is the main source of lighting at night and creates great, indirect lighting that fills the space and creates 0 shadowing.  I was anxious to see how well it would work, and it works great. 
Now the space is illuminated with indirect lighting, it needs task lighting placed at the location of the task...your hands.  Pendants were used over the island and over the sink for task lighting.  T5 fixtures were placed under the cabinets for task lighting there.  I chose T5 over LED since LED can look "spotty" as its made up of separate lights.  The florescent T5 creates a nice continuous light source and is almost as efficient as LEDs are, just do not last as long.  Every light source is on its own switch so light levels can be varied, left on for night lighting, or used for mood lighting.  Everything works great and I love how the lighting design turned out. 

You can see where you enter from the garage, into the mudroom right into the kitchen.  It was important to place these 2 spaces close to the garage for carrying items into the house. 

 Here is the shot of the 8'x4' island.  A large island was important and it used a ton.  Awesome work surface to have.  It was also important to have the stove and sink not in the island.  I wanted a large, un-interrupted surface to work on...not even a small task sink.

Shot of the sink.  Its a granite composite sink.  Its quieter and supposed to not chip and scratch.  We shall see how it holds far so good.  With an open kitchen design, a quiet dishwasher was a must and we knew we had to spend more $$ to get one.  We selected a Kenmore Elite model that is around 42 db I believe on sound.  So far its great, can barely hear it run.  Can only slightly hear water sloshing against a door, but with a tv on you can't hear it at all. Great dishwasher so far.

Large exterior windows were important for natural lighting in the kitchen.  Plus the placement allows Shannon to be washing dishes while keeping an eye on future kids playing in the back yard.  (yes, I said all of that correctly).

Since the ceilings are 9', I went with 39" tall upper cabinets for extra space.  The top shelf is very hard for me to reach and impossible for Shan, but we can fit soooo much stuff in these.  All plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, coffee, etc all easily fit in these with room to spare.

A glass and stone tile back splash was added to the wall behind the stove.  Lots of splatter possible in this area. 
 A view of the glass tile. 

 Fridge is a Samsung fridge as well.  Microwave placement was important.  Did not want it on the counter obviously, nor did we want it over the range or up in a cabinet.  So we debated the perfect height for a microwave and incorporated it into the cabinet design.  Works great and is at a great height. 

The stove is a Samsung flex dual range.  LOTS of debate between induction, smooth electric and gas stove, and ultimately we ended up going the smooth glass top for cleaning.  Lots of people loved induction with great reviews, but other features of this stove we liked and that out weighed induction.  The cool thing about this range is it has a dual oven feature.  It has separate controls for an upper oven and lower oven which is separated by a removable metal thermal divider.  Remove the divider, and you now have a full range.  Have only removed the divider once so far.  The 2 separate ovens allows things to be cooked at different temps upper or lower, or use just the small one to bake a pan of fries or a pizza and preheating is just a couple minutes.  So far we really like this range...but maybe the next home we go with the 6 burner gas chefs range!!

Another important part of the design was drawers.  You can fit, organize and access so much stuff in drawers compared to doors, so 85% of the kitchen is drawers.  Love all the drawers.  This is a view of the "cooking" zone.  Drawers on the right have pots, pans, and pot holders.  Drawers on the right have cooking utensils, baking pans, etc.  The large upper cabinet to the right of the stove has spices and oils used for stove top cooking.  The large cabinet over the microwave has tray dividers for baking sheets, pans, drying racks, etc. 

More drawers on the island.  This is the "baking zone".  The top drawers have baking utensils and baking spices.  Large drawers have flour, sugar, mixing bowls and baking pans are in the bottom drawer.  Trash is located on the far right side with dual pull out trash cans.  This works great to have the trash pulled open and work on the island and push stuff off the counter into the trash. 
The far left cabinet is the only non drawer unit and is used for the couple large things we have that fit better on shelves. 

A shot of the granite.  It is called River White.  was sort of hard to find a great white granite, but see an earlier post about selecting the slab.

Continued the granite as the window sill ledge.  Great spot for placing things.

Lets move on....shot into the great room.  Note the speakers in the space.

 Natural rough sawn cedar mantel is a very simple design but creates a statement off of the modern tile. Lots of comments on this.
LED fireplace from Modern Flame. Again, lots of comments on this too.  Flame is very realistic as far as electrics go, and it can produce heat if needed. 
 Since we sold our furniture with the last home knowing we would be needing a different style of this home, we still need to purchase new furniture.  However that can wait as we would rather spend funds on other things at the moment. 
 View from the kitchen into the dining room and rest of the house.
 View of the finished clerestory.
Shot of the media cabinet.  Still need finished as far as stuff inside, but its the heart of music and tv for the home.  All speakers feed to this location so we can listen throughout the house.  Obviously use it a ton. 
Shot of the dining room with the large 7'x8' window.  Still need to replace the light fixture in here with something large.  This was just a temporary left over pendant from the kitchen. 

View of the dining table with some cool white leather chairs we found on line.  Wanted to blend modern with the rustic, and I think these fit the bill perfectly. 

Moving into the entry.  The door is painted green for a pot of color.  We were searching for a unit to place here, as we wanted to find something old and redo it as needed.  Well it was hard to find something we wanted (that didn't cost a lot) so I decided to make one.  This purple unit is built out of reclaimed barn wood 100%.  The only items not reclaimed on this is the paint and hardware.  Was not hard to build, only took an evening to design and build it.  Not sure what we will put in it yet, but we like the piece.  Selected the purple color for a pop in this area as well as something that goes well with the green door.

View of the windows in the dining room.  All of the windows I used scrap bamboo flooring to build the sills and apron out of.  Wanted to durability and matching look of the wood.  Really like how it turned out. 

View of the 1 3/8" triple pane glass.
 So the mirror over the unit was from my Grandmother's home.  Its a very old, hand carved mirror and also very heavy.  It was gold painted, so I sprayed it silver and reused it here.  Again, blending the old with the new, and also having a piece from their home that can be used to remember them with.   

View heading down the stairs.  the sconces on the walls create perfect mood lighting for watching tv at night.
 View down the hallway with the laundry at the end.
 Thermostat and HRV controls on the wall.  Touch screen and wifi enabled to get exterior weather updates and can be controlled via my cell phone (if I ever get it setup).  But the important thing to see here is the temperature.  Its shows 74 degrees and set to 69.  Starting around 9 am it hit about 70 inside and maintained 70-74 until about 11 pm.  Exterior temperature ranged from 40s to low 30s in that time frame.  This is the solar design and tightness of the home working as it should  The furnace did not have to run from before 9 until close to midnight.  The house warms up with the sun pouring in, and the tightness and insulation levels holds the heat for hours. 

Door hardware.  Continues the modern look and feel to the home.
 Look into the main bathroom.  There are no lights on in this picture and no windows either.  All the light is being produced by the Solatube in the ceiling you can see in the upper right.  This is one of the favorite things of the bright this tube is.
 Shot of the Daltile tile floor. 
 View of the lights on and the Solatube.  Ceiling has the same blue color continued up the wall and on the ceiling. 

A view into the first bedroom.
 View into the 2nd bedroom currently set up as the "gaming room" for xbox play, but will be a future nursery when that time comes.  It is across from the master bedroom.

View inside the laundry room.  Put the wire shelves for hanging clothes to dry since I do not like machine drying my shirts and pants.

 Color is hit or miss with people, but I personally like it and Shannon loves it.  Very few men like it, but oh well!  I built a platform to raise the machines just slightly, and also to continue the wood trim giving it a finished look.
Moving into the master bedroom.  The area to the left with the hold and cables will be a future shelf that holds the cable receiver and dvd player.  The cables actually go through the wall, but something isn't working right with the hook ups so until I fix that, this is the temp work around.  There is power and cable hookups in the wall just below the opening on the wall for the components.  Bedroom faces west, so more sun comes in than I really wanted in the summer, but I also did not want big overhangs on this side either.  This end of the house has a gable so it would have needed a very large overhang or an eyebrow.  The triple pane windows really helps with the heat gain however.
 Looking into the master bathroom.  Natural was "zen-like" was the goal here. 
 Mix of bright green, natural wood, whites, and blacks keeps it modern and warm feeling.
 Tile shower (needs cleaned and the glass door installed)
 View of the tub....yet to be used.  Floating shelves allow placement of....stuff....