Exterior finishes

The entrance of a house tells a story………this one is not grand or extravagent, but rather functional, minimalist and hopefully incorporates good Feng Shui. The materials are fiber cement board stained to look like cedar (more environmentally friendly, inexpensive, durable and fire resistant than real cedar). The north wall of the house is going to be parged with cement (with an additive for waterproofing). I will then limewash the walls; I’ve done some experimenting and I’m satisfied the finish will hold up – it’s been used for centuries and it’s easy using type ‘S’ lime, which is ridiculously inexpensive ($9 for a 50 lb bag which makes 32 gallons!) Cement pigments can be added, but I think I like the stark white. I’ve done some research about waterproofing the limewash with tallow (animal fat), but in the hot and humid Maryland climate there is a risk of rancid odour. Apparently some experts think it’s best to just add water to the slaked lime, with no other additives.

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A good friend of mine is an organic farmer who is also very interested in water run-off and soil erosion. She said one of the best things you can do (particularly if you have a high clay content in the soil) is dig a pond. It will attract frogs and toads, which keeps the mosquito population down, plus it creates plant diversity. She said it will dry up around mid-late summer and requires little maintenance. Feng Shui believes water near the entrance to a house is auspicious and represents wealth, although you shouldn’t see water running away from the house as it suggests loss of wealth.

Below is the (north) front entrance.

I would like to find some stepping-stones to lead to the front door. My plan is to use decorative gravel around the stepping-stones and minimize grass.

Important discoveries……

While we were outside yesterday (and I happened to have a level in my hand), I decided to check the angles on the drains (to daylight – done by the excavator) as they looked as if they we pointing up rather than down………(when there are no clear level reference points sometimes your eyes can deceive you and create optical illusion.) No, I should have trusted my eyes and not underestimated the complete lack of pride some people take in their work! At the time (after the septic was installed) I said ‘the angles look off – did you put a level on it?…Do you have a level handy I can check it with?’ – ‘We checked it before we back filled’ was their reply……..The last 20″ of drain had a 1/2″ slope TOWARDS the house. These ‘small’ barely noticeable drains, left unchecked could have caused multiple problems and enormous expense to fix at a later date. This kind of error, committed with a don’t-care-attitude makes my blood boil. I guess when your dad owns the company you can afford to be arrogant and complacent……

Update: Spoke to Doug and he reassured me they would take care of the drains.

Waiting on insulation

I ordered the insulation for the ceiling from Lowes online (Roxul ComfortBatts – recycled stone), I got a call last week saying it would be delivered last Wednesday, but it didn’t arrive. I finally tracked it down yesterday and it’s apparently not going to be here until this Friday! This puts us back a week which is a bit annoying! (but not the end of the world)…………There are lots of lose ends that need to be tied up, plus we can work on the bathrooms.


Siding possibilities.

Considering siding possibilities….. A rectangle or square are the most efficient and least costly structures to build; however a long unbroken expanse can look boring. I created an offset to help separate the interior space and create more visual interest, while still keeping things simple. Now Its time to have fun with the exterior finishes. I’m going to use a couple of different materials: fiber cement and EIFS (synthetic stucco) and lime wash (over the concrete.)

My husband (fortunately) likes my design ideas and general aesthetic sensibilities. Red is a little bold, but I think the right shade of red (deep and leaning toward maroon) will bring the house to life. Once he got over the shook of considering this as a possibility he agreed it could work ( If he was against it I would reconsider)…. The gray looks a little lack luster!


Rounding up materials…

Took a trip to The Loading dock today….found some nice wide cherry flooring, not quite a steal at $80 but it’s still only about $1.30 SF. I want to use it on the other side of the pellet stove wall- I’m using a really cool texture stone on one side, the contrast between the stone (Eldorado – from Bel Air Road Supply in Rosedale – $6.50 SF) polished cherry will make a great contrast.





The lower level of the office /man cave was intended as my studio/wood shop, however using such a nice space to house my equipment seems a waste: my table saw, drill press, jointer, planned etc are not worthy……not unimportant, but more deserving of say, a shipping container.


For the bargain price of $1900, plus $320 for sandblasting and a paint job (my choice of color in marine grade Sherman Williams paint) I have a ready made water proof structure. Nestled into trees and discreetly placed at the bottom of the lot it will serve as a great storage/woodworking area.

Electricians are almost finished with rough-in.

We should have the rough-in inspection within the next couple of days…..The plumbing rough-in is complete. The only problem is the 2″ PVC sleeve became detached during the backfill. We found both ends but so far we haven’t been able to feed the PEX all the way to the office….I have a couple of ideas, so all is no yet lost.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do as far as a well pump goes. We could get a slow solar pump and and a 1,000 gallon below grade storage tank. The electrician is installing an inverter for basic electrical needs in the event of a power outage; that way we can have refrigeration, lights, pellet stove etc.

We are preparing for the bathroom’s radiant floor heat….



One step forward, two steps back!

When my husband and I purchased the lot, a well had already been drilled- which saved us the expense and trouble. It was drilled over ten years ago and produced an impressive thirteen gallons per minute. I’ve been researching well pumps…..I would like to have water even if we have no power. I looked at solar pumps but they seemed expensive, I looked into regular well pumps with either a large underground water tank ($800-1,000) or a back up generator ($1,200 installation, $1,000+ for the generator). So, I’m back looking at solar pumps -for solar energy there is a 30% tax credit and Harford Co. offfers upto $2,500 in a property tax credit.

In order to properly size the pump I need to know the depth of the well and the depth of the water. To do this a fishing wieght and bobber are lowered into the well with line. A great job for my husband and son, both like to fish and it’s a real- life mathematical exercise for my son. What could go wrong?

I charged him with the task, I called an hour later to check-in with him. ‘So, how’s it going’ I asked. ‘Um, OK’ he said. ‘How deep is the well? I ventured. ‘Im not sure, I dropped the fishing weight” he said a little sheepishly… ‘but it’s OK’ he added. ‘Really?’ I replied – ‘it’s OK that we now have a lead weight in the bottom of our well?’. ‘I don’t THINK it’s lead’ he offered.

My husband never ceases to amaze me with his ability to screw up the simplest of things….he’s a very smart man with many talents but completely lacking in common sense. Fortunately, it was attached to the bobber and got tangled up with the next line we sent down. So all is well. (Pun not intended!)




The Amish are back, again.

There were two Amish crews working today…..one on the roof and the other doing the deck. The electricians were also here and the plumber came by this evening. That’s a lot of work in one day! It’s also a lot to keep up with. I spent most if the day running around: I had to return the truck I rented to pick up the roofing materials, I went to Home Depot three times, Lowes and the Roof Center. The roofing crew are working by the hour, I supplied the materials ($4300!) and had to pick up some additional things at the Roof Center. I felt a keen sense of urgency knowing if they had to wait on me for anything I would be paying five guys to sit around and do nothing!





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Cool features.


I love this new lock – no keys to lose! My husband is the quintessential scientist……..the mundane aspects of life are of little concern to him (until he can’t find his keys or ID!) This house is designed around simplicity, efficiency and chaos control. This nifty little combo lock ($65 at Amazon) is well made, allows you to set multiple codes and eliminates the lost keys drama.


This is a nice tub faucet (also from Amazon ($108). I like the clean lines and I think it complements the tub.

Love the Japanese tub! The boys are pretty excited about taking baths in water deep enough to swim. Growing up in England with parents who experienced war rationing (including many years after the war) we wasted nothing, including water – bath water was re-used (yuck) but to this day I can’t stand water being wasted. I have no doubt that in years to come we will be fighting wars over water and need to start considering ways to conserve. Obviously not having a bath tub would be a good start but with small children that’s not really an option, so having a comfortable and ergonomically designed tub that uses less water than your average seems reasonable start.

Electrical box is in….


The electrical box is mounted. Jonas (Wakefield Builders) is going to do the roofing membrane (that’s a relief, the thought of doing it with hillbilly Mike is a little scary!) I have to finish the stairs before I can get the next draw from the bank – which I need to buy the roofing materials, plus it will be a little more convinenient than hanging off a ladder. The outside upper level needs to be prepped for the next coat of waterproofing……followed by the backfill and general grading. The plumber needs to set the tub, but I have to put the PEX tubing in the floor, which requires a layer of rigid insulation, furring strips, plywood, Cement board and tile – all by Saturday. Our tax extension runs out on Monday and I haven’t done everything I need for our accountant! Life is anything but dull!