Sunday, June 01, 2008

Cherry and Ash Flooring

With all of the messy stonework, blockwork, and stucco work complete on the inside of the house, we've decided to start putting down more hardwood flooring. This first picture is of the cherry floor we put down in the loft. We bought this flooring, unfinished, from the warehouse for $1/square foot. It already had microbevels premilled on the edges, so it was destined to be sold as prefinished flooring, but was culled in the manufacturing process for some reason. Because of the pre-exisitng microbevels, my wife sanded and put 3 to 4 coats of polyurethane on each piece (using a brush... an arduous process!) before we nailed it to the floor. We had exactly enough 3" and 5" wide pieces to cover the loft above the kitchen. It was a lot of work, but it looks fabulous in real life. We've dared the kids to walk on it with muddy shoes. ;)

In the great room, we're putting down ash flooring, bought for the same price from the same factory. It has no bevels, so we will sand and finish it after it is on the floor. I bought all of the ash the factory had to offer at the time. Most of it is 2.25" wide and sorted in three types of bundles labeled "qtr and rift," "select and btr," and "no. 1 common." We broke all of the packages apart and we were able to harvest rift and quartered boards from the other two piles in order to have just enough to do our entire great room in rift and quartered ash. The other, i.e. flatsawn, ash boards will be used in the dining room and in our bedroom. Rift and quartersawn ash looks much like rift and quartersawn oak, but with more contrast, a lighter color, and no ray flecking. To my wife and I, it looks just like "fruit stripe gum" if only we were to stain it in the colors of the rainbow.

Above the roof with stone (Fireplace part XV)

Working on the chimney is hard sometimes because of the heat and smoke coming from it! Seriously, the fact that the chimney is not complete has not kept us from cooking lots of yummy food in the pizza oven. The other night, I seared home-grown rib steaks directly on the bricks next to the fire, while this loaf of bread cooked further off to one side of the oven, and broccoli steamed in a cast iron skillet in the back of the oven.

One of our four children (the youngest boy) has an extremely high metabolism and can therefore out-eat the other three children combined, at most meals. To say that he enjoys food is an understatement. I don't often post personal pictures, but his visual endorsement of this meal was too engaging to keep to myself. It was he that insisted I take a picture of the first loaf of bread. For desert, he roasted marsh mellows over the coals left in the oven.

Instead of building scaffolding on the slate roof, the stone mason and I have been working from the end of the crane, with my wife at the controls of the machine. We load two buckets of mortar and a few courses of stone on to our working platform each time we fly up to the chimney. We precut the quoins and field stones while we're on the ground, so minimal trimming is required while we're perched above the slate roof. And to make things easier, I have chosen to use quoins and field stones with dimensions that we know will line up with the cinder block courses, so we can align our courses with the copper step flashing and the pre-mortared brick-ties without too much head scratching.

Around the chimney, we have placed cardboard "catch mats" to prevent the wet mortar from staining the slate. Still, it is difficult to keep all of the mortar off of the slate. I anticipate some sort of roof cleaning or scrubbing (or sanding?!) will be necessary when the job is done.

Farm chores (baling hay and sorting cattle for rotational grazing) are keeping me from finishing this stonework anytime soon. In due time...

Stucco on the Chimney (Fireplace Part XIV)

Whew, I'm way behind on updating the blog! In fact, I just realized that we stucco'ed the entire chimney without taking a single picture of the process. Oh well, here's a so-so picture of the finished product.

I used the Quickrete one-step Stucco product that comes in 80 lb bags - "just add water." I applied it directly to the cinder blocks (wetted down with water) with no mesh or lath and it seemed to stick just fine (time will tell). At first, I tried to achieve a very smooth finish, but found this was somewhat futile for a couple of reasons... First, our stucco skills (those of mine and the stone mason who is still sticking with me) were not really up to the task. Actually, we could keep the finished surface smooth, but it took an inordinate amount of time and cold-joints (between day one and day two) were especially hard to disguise. Secondly, the product that I chose has fiberglass embedded in the mix to reduce cracking in the finished product. It seemed that when I tried to wet-float the surface (to get it smooth) after the initial cure, the fibers would raise up out of the finished surface.

Which leads me to another point. Although the product says "one step" right on the bag, it was necessary to apply the stucco in two steps. In fact, the small-print instructions on the back of the bag actually recommend a second step using another Quickrete product called "stucco finish coat." After rubbing my arms against the first coat, and feeling the itching sensation that results from exposure to fiberglass, I decided that a finish coat is a necessity for indoor applications or anywhere you might anticipate a person touching the surface.

Whereas we applied the first coat (with fiberglass) at 1/4" to 3/8" thick, it was only necessary to apply the second coat (without fiberglass) at 1/8" thick. The fiberglass also helped to hide the cinder block mortar joints which were still barely visible after the first coat of stucco dried. With scaffolding already in place, we were able to put the finish coat on the entire surface (400 square feet) in one day so there were no cold joints in the final surface. The mason also suggested (wisely) that we apply the finish coat from the top down so that drips and dribbles would not mar our finish coat.

Where the chimney passed through the roof, I had to figure out a few details. Common sense (and codes in some regions) dictate that chimneys have 2" of clearance to combustable structural members where the chimney passes through the roof. How then does one fill this space? In the picture to the left, you can see the copper step flashing that keeps rain from entering the house through this gap. The copper step flashing provides no measure of insulation to the outside. In fact, one can see daylight between the pieces of flashing.

Into this 2" gap, I stuffed un-faced fiberglass insulation. It is important to use un-faced insulation, because the paper facing could present a fire hazard, but unfaced fiberglass is even nastier than faced insulation. Cutting and stuffing this material (now labeled as possible cancerous) into the gap was a nasty job. I'm glad that I've got no fiberglass insulation anywhere else in the house. Fiberglass insulation does not impede air flow (e.g. precious warm air leaving the house), nor is it pretty to look at, so I bought some thin aluminum flashing (in rolls) and bent it into a shape that would fill the gap just below the fiberglass insulation.

Painted flashing stock might have been more aesthetically acceptable, but I reasoned that paint was not good to have in contact with the chimney for the same reason that paper should not contact the chimney.

This aluminum flashing is also flexible enough to accommodate differential movement of the house structure and the chimney structure. Speaking of differential movement, we had winds that approached 30 mph while I was working on this detail on the inside of the house, and I could not detect any movement between he house and chimney whatsoever. Of course, the house or the chimney could settle over the years.