studio building - little things and big things

We are in total studio building immersion these days.  Despite the tiniest indications of spring, the weather in Vermont has continued to be wintery and cold, adding to the sense that we are in some kind of crazy time-warp where we are always building and it is always winter.

We've gotten a lot done, though!

The last few weeks have been punctuated by some very big things (a concrete floor! the last door installed! wiring! stairs! a heat source!), and some little things.  First the little things: the gable ends got finished - photo above.  (No more staring at purlin overhangs and the underside of our metal roofing.)  We also made soffit/vent boards out of pine and bits of screen for the eaves, and installed them.  (OK, we haven't totally finished the south side . . . but progress, nonetheless.)

Nathan continued trimming the underside of our windows, and we worked inside to fill the smallest triangles with rigid foam so our cellulose installer will have less hassle.

Nathan has also been busy with the foam gun - using the expanding stuff to seal the edges of the triangles and rafter bays (in pink, below), while I trim it back where necessary.

We insulated the entire cupola with rigid foil-faced foam for the highest possible r-value - in a space where a lot of our heat is likely to rise.  (Until we get a ceiling fan, that is!)

We also roughed in the wiring in the parts of the studio that will soon be buried in cellulose insulation.  We're still running off extension cords for now, but soon we'll have outlets for pottery wheels and tools!  And overhead lights, entry fixtures, and switches in all the right places.  Even a motion sensor that will kick on for those dark evening trips to the studio to attend to drying pottery.

Here's the big picture on the first floor - which will be our primary "making" area.  It's about 800 square feet.  (And yes, still very much a "work zone!")

But enough about the small stuff.  (OK, maybe you can't call any of that "small" stuff - but you can argue that the next parts of the project are a lot more exciting. :)

We completed the pick-up and installation of a new-to-us wood stove!  (Made, incidentally, by Vermont Castings, whose plant is less than a mile from our house.  Yay local.)  It's so nice to have a source of heat in the building - although insulation will make it a lot more effective! ;) Nathan worked diligently at installing all the components of our metal asbestos chimney- which begins way down on the first floor and reaches through the peak of the roof and up past the cupola.  The wood stove will be our main source of heat until the radiant system is hooked up, which likely won't be until next heating season.

But it wouldn't really make sense to light up a fire without first closing in the building completely - during a mid-March snow storm no less.  (And to think last year it was 80-degrees at this time of year!)

After some additional framing was completed in the rough opening, the last of the siding was installed under the awning, and the door went in and got trimmed out in record time.  It's so nice to have the last (south) side of the building complete from the outside!

Next up on the list of big accomplishments: stairs!!  We can now walk between floors of our studio without traipsing through the snow, mud, or any combination of the two.

Oooh, boy, are we excited about these winding beauties!  (Thanks to Bob for all the tricky math. :)

There are still lots of little things to do - and at least one major thing before we can get to making pottery - insulation!  We are used to working in the cold at this point, but we'd rather our freshly-thrown pots didn't freeze overnight. ;)  (We've been through that before.)  Here's a preview of the next insulation stage, during which our entire upstairs will shine like a new rocket ship . . .

. . . to be followed closely by dense-pack cellulose in the walls and ceiling . . . and a big 'ole drywall job!

Counting the days until we get to make pottery!  (Will we remember how??)

Happy Spring,

~Becca

studio walls are forming . . .

The past couple of weeks since our pottery studio footing pour have been epic.  (Wait, I've been using that word a lot lately . . . hmm.)  The work of forming our foundation walls with the heavy aluminum forms we borrowed from a friend was just plain hard work!  The learning curve has been steep, to say the least.  Wrapping our brains around form ties, re-bar patterns, slumps, drops, release agents, you name it, it's all been new.

Fortunately, we got off to a good start because our footing was lovely and level and square (we fussed around a lot to get it right!) making the job of marking out the form placement, holes to be drilled for vertical re-bar, etc, an easy one - but that's where 'easy' ended and the real work began.

We chose to use a relatively unknown form of foundation insulation, where the rigid foam, or "blueboard," goes INside the concrete, rather than outside or inside the building.  It's sort of like a structural insulated panel (a.k.a. SIPS), except with concrete.  They- being Thermomass, the company we used- call it "concrete sandwich technology."   I love that - gets right to the heart of it.  Four inches of concrete, four inches blueboard, four inches concrete.  Nice. And. Cozy.

We worked for many solid days on this - in the end it was about two weeks between pours.  Thankfully, we had at least two extra pairs of hands on any given day - there were so many pieces of this puzzle to keep a handle on.  It was sort of like a very large erector set, with a lot more weight - and a lot more at stake.   We were also working against a deadline - that of our builder (more on George a bit later!)  - oh, and WINTER.  No big deal. ;)

But we got it all put together in time for a mid-November, Friday morning pour.  (There were, at times, truck headlights and headlamps needed to get the job done.  Daylight savings is tough on outdoor work!)

On the morning of the pour, our good friends Zane and Alex, from whom we borrowed the forms, were on site to coordinate and assist, as was a new friend, Jim the irreverent and entertaining concrete pumper extraordinaire.  (A title he gave himself, but that we would not refute.)

One of the most interesting parts of doing this ourselves has been learning about the consistencies (or slump) of the mix.  Concrete is basically a mix of sand, stone, water, and Portland cement, and is not unlike what we used in places on our kiln's exterior.  I suppose we love these malleable, mold-able materials, and the mix needed for this wall - given all its narrow channels and re-bar and fiber spacer rods - was one that would move well in and around all the gaps, but remain strong once cured.

In the end, it took about four hours and eighteen cubic yards of concrete to fill the walls;  the pour was a big success.  There were no blow-outs, the forms didn't even creak, or pop, or send the steel wedges that hold in the pins - that hold everything together - flying through the air.  Everything remained as it should.

When the forms came off three days later (concrete is happier and stronger when it can cure slowly), the wall was a beauty.

Phew, what a job that was.  Of course we say now that we'll never do it again . . . we very well might eat our words someday.

I'm also pretty sure that someday, we'll be amazed that we pulled this off.

OK, let's be honest, that 'someday' is today . . .

~Becca

 

a solid concrete footing

This was a big day. A very big day.

We woke before sunrise, and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I was very, very nervous. You might even say I was scared. Yup. After weeks of prep work, there would be two large and heavy loads of concrete in our backyard. We considered having someone more seasoned here with us, but we felt confident we could do it. (Well, confident BEFORE the nightmare I had where all the form boards burst open and collapsed and we were rebuilding frantically while the concrete continued to flow . . . fortunately, things went much smoother than that.)

We had two very nice truck operators, willing to accommodate us rookies, and as soon as things were underway, we were breathing a sigh of relief. (There's nothing like the need to work QUICKLY to keep a girl from worrying about the truck getting stuck, or the chute taking off one of our heads.) Nathan worked with the hoe and shovel, directing the truck and the flow, while I followed behind with the scree boards and trowel.

We got into a rhythm, and I might even say I enjoyed myself! (There was plenty of adrenaline, that's for sure.) Our forms were holding really well and the mix was stiff enough that it wasn't seeping through all the drops (step-downs). When the first truck emptied his load, the second was right behind him, and in position before we knew it, pouring the remainder of the north wall

It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?! A solid foundation from which to build our dream studio.  (Lego approves - although not as happy about the having-to-be-leashed part - but we didn't want our dog stuck in our footing.)

Now, maybe a nap before the next big phase. We'll be form building next week, and this will start to look more like a studio before we know it . . .

Happy Weekend! ~Becca