This past week was very exciting, as the windows were installed. We spent a bundle on these windows, but they are well worth it. Besides being made of durable fibreglass, they come with a lifetime warranty that includes accidental breakage. All the advice articles I read during the planning process said that the one place NOT to skimp is on windows – get the best you can possibly afford. Replacing windows is an expensive operation, and good windows will pay for themselves by providing better insulation. I chose to go with Milgard Essence windows, with a powder-coated exterior finish in Cinnamon (a lovely rust-red colour) and real wood cladding (pine) on the interior side.
My big splurge was on a pair of sliding French doors that lead from the living room out onto the future patio. My husband teased me for a long time about how much they cost, but when he saw them installed he agreed they were well worth it.
They are the first thing you see when you walk into the house through the main entrance, and I think they really make the view that much more lovely!
Because the door from the dining room to the covered patio is visible from the living room, I chose a door that matches the dual sliders.
The other doors – one for the main entrance, one for the family room entrance, and one for the laundry room – were not part of the Milgard series. They are all fibreglass doors, but the laundry room door has a flat primed surface while the main and family room entry doors have a wood-grain finish.
When I ordered the wood-grain finish doors, I was told we could stain them just like wood. But after they arrived and I met with the painter, he said that it is very difficult to do a good job because the fibreglass just doesn’t take stain the way wood does. When I said that the ones in the showroom looked pretty good, he noted that they were done in a factory environment with equipment that the average house painter does not have. He strongly recommended that I choose a solid paint colour rather than trying to replicate the look of real wood. The salespeople did tell me that the trim around the doors is made of real wood and will take stain differently than the fibreglass doors, and that I should be prepared for that (some people paint the trim a different colour, but I don’t like that look), so a solid paint colour would solve any issues arising from that. I’m still debating whether to go ahead and try the stain anyway – it can always be painted over later if I don’t like it – or to just embrace the solid colour and find something nice that would work with the red windows and cedar siding (I’m thinking midnight blue might be nice).
In order to get up high enough to finish some of the exterior work, the crew had to begin work on the deck (we could have assembled scaffolding but it didn’t make sense to spend money on that when the deck needed to be built at some point anyway). See, the house was intended to be a one-level rancher, but the build site dropped away on one side. We decided to make use of the space underneath for a workshop, but I wanted a visual break between the two stories to emphasize the one-level architectural design of the house. I decided to add a deck that wraps around that side of the house, connecting ground level on the front side with ground level on the back side. The siding will also be different on the lower level to further separate it from above.
Part of the deck will be built using our own lumber. The support posts are 6 x 6 Douglas Fir beams we had milled shortly after we moved onto this property, and the decking and rails will be milled from cedar logs that were felled more recently in preparation for the build.
Since we did not have boards wide or long enough for the horizontal support beams, we chose to use Yellow Cedar for these.
Our builder first told me about yellow cedar when we were discussing the board and batten siding (I was hoping to use our own cedar but we didn’t have enough). I wasn’t aware we had yellow cedar here, but apparently we do. I learned that yellow cedar is much stronger than western red cedar and, accordingly, it can be used as a structural element. It is also very durable, insect-resistant, and tolerates moisture well. Like western red cedar, it will eventually turn grey with age. I decided to use western red cedar for the board and batten siding because I thought the yellow against the red windows would be too much of a contrast for my tastes, but I was happy to bring yellow cedar in for the deck framing. I must say, it is absolutely gorgeous and I am really in love with this wood! I’m now trying to come up with ideas for using it as part of the interior finishing…
The sub-contractor who was supposed to do the interior insulation bailed on us, so our builder had his crew do the job. This meant taking them off exterior wall and deck duty, however, because the drywall team was on a tight schedule and had a specific window of availability for our job: the interior insulation had to be in place before they arrived. The guys worked through part of the long weekend last week and were here again this weekend making sure it was all done.
The exterior walls have Roxul Comfortbatt on the inside, which is fitted between the 2 x 6 studs just like regular insulation. With R = 22 on the inside and another R = 12 on the outside, our walls have R = 34, which is higher than the minimum R = 22 required by our local building code.
The ceiling has two layers of Comfortbatt, a 6″ layer of R = 22 plus a 7″ layer of R = 28 for a total R value of 50 (the code minimum here is 40). Since so much heat loss takes place through the ceiling, I felt it was important to get those R-values up. Using mineral wool instead of fibreglass was expensive, but I felt it was worth the investment due to the superior properties of Roxul, such as being highly resistant to rodents, insects, and moisture. The heavier weight of the Roxul meant the guys had to attach the vapour barrier first in order to help hold the batts in place.
We also installed Roxul Safe ‘n Sound, a soundproofing batt insulation that fits between internal 2 x 4 wall studs. We used it in wall separating the master bedroom from the den, so that if one of us is watching TV in there it won’t disturb whoever is trying to sleep. Also, it provides some added privacy if guests stay the night (the den doubles as a guest room). We also put soundproofing in the guest bathroom. It’s not that far from the main living space, and it’s embarrassing for everybody when you and your guests can hear someone peeing!
After much hard work they are ready for the drywall crew, who arrive tomorrow morning. The drywall sheets and supplies were dropped off on Friday. It’s going to look very different inside once the drywall is in place, and much more like a real house. I can’t wait!