Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Siding Part 3 - Corten Steel

House update: As of March 4th, I have my certificate of occupancy! I'm mostly moved in, but the blog is still not caught up. Not surprisingly, it's been a bit busy as of late... 

The second material to be installed on the exterior of the house was 14-gauge hardened weathering steel (or Corten). This is a type of steel that is designed to rust. With this particular steel alloy, the layer of corrosion on the surface protects the metal underneath, so the steel won't rust all the way through. As with the cedar siding, the intent is for this siding to be zero-maintenance. I should never need to do any painting other than the occasional rinse to keep it looking good.

Corten steel siding starting to rust on the house
The application of this siding was relatively simple, but the subcontrator had a very difficult time installing it. Each sheet of steel was very heavy and they broke many saw blades cutting it all to shape. The sheets are screwed into the wall with stainless steel screws and a generous application of caulking. The seams between the sheets are protected with a wide piece of weather stripping and caulking. We had some pretty heavy rains over the last couple months and there hasn't even been a hint of water infiltration, so I feel pretty good about this application.

Raw corten steel sheets

corten steel siding against charred cedar

soffit above the master bedroom sliders

steel siding on the deck

steel siding on the deck
I'm really happy with how it turned out. The steel makes the house look like it's been here for years already.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Central Vacuum

One item I wanted to get for the house was a central vacuum. There is a surprising selection of brands and types of vacuums out there. From my research, there are basically two approaches one can take:
  • Standard power vacuum, many outlets (or inlets?), and a relatively short hose
  • High power vacuum, few outlets, and a long, retractable hose per outlet. 
I ended up going with pursuing the second option. It uses the locally-made Hide-a-hose system, which is really convenient. I like that it requires fewer outlets, so there's less attaching and and detaching of endings. I also think that fewer outlets mean that there is less clutter and less to break. The only disadvantage is that it is more expensive because the valves cost more, you need separate hoses, and the vacuum needs to be powerful enough to be able to suck the hose back into the wall once you're done with it. 

For a house of my size, I was quoted about $1800 for option 1 (main unit, garage kit, kitchen dustbin, and 6 outlets throughout the house), and $2500 for option 2 (main unit, garage kit, kitchen dustbin, and 3 hide-a-hose outlets with 40ft hoses). 

central vac in the kitchen with part of the hose coming out of the wall

vacuum in the garage

The main unit is a VacuFlo FC650. It's a filtered cyclonic vacuum cleaner, so there are no vacuum bags. All the dust and debris falls into a 6 gallon removable bin. When I briefly tested it out, I was pleased with how powerful and quiet the system was. With the main unit in the garage, most of the noise I heard was just the sound of air flowing into the hose. I'm looking forward to using it!

Monday, February 4, 2013


For the drywall, I wanted a couple specific things - a level 5 finish and a 1/2" reveal for the base. Drywall installation and finishes come in several different levels of quality. Most houses have an "orange peel" texture applied to the walls. This is done to better hide imperfections in the seams between the drywall panels. In order to keep with the minimalist aesthetic, I wanted to have no texture applied to the walls. This requires more effort to be put into the installation since any imperfections would be immediately visible. 

First, all the studs had to start out perfectly lined up. Using a laser, the drywall contractors carefully stapled furring strips to the studs where necessary throughout the house. 

Furring strips stapled to the studs
They then screwed on the drywall and taped and mudded all the seams.

Taped and mudded seams
After that dried, they applied more coats of joint compound to the walls to further smooth all the transitions.

Additional layers of joint compound applied
And finally, they applied a skim coat across the entire wall and sanded it down to give the wall a perfectly smooth, textureless finish.

Bedroom with finished drywall
perfectly smooth walls

The resulting walls look great. The drywallers also spent a lot of time installing a 1/2" Z-channel base in the walls in lieu of any trim. This creates a shadow-line between the floor and the wall and looks really clean.

1/2" reveal base with level 5 finish

Special thanks to Artistic Drywall for doing such a good job and being on budget.