Thursday, December 13, 2012

Not many posts left.....

Hello to everyone that has been following us on our trek through the process of building our super energy efficient house in Italy. We certainly appreciate everyone's comments and support.
Since the last time we wrote, the house is virtually complete. And we can confirm that the house is performing completely according to plan, that is, it is using no combustible fuel (of any sort) to  heat the house. In temperatures as low as -15C (outside), we have never used any form of heat except the sun. At the moment we aren't even using the solar panels as a heat source. They just got turned on last week.
So really there's not much left to do. The stucco was finished 2 weeks ago and it has been too cold to paint it, so unless we get some warmer weather it'll have to wait until spring. All the bathrooms are done, the kitchen has been installed, drywall is done, walls painted and the oak floors are finished.  
But before I get ahead of myself, let's go back to last January.

After our highly successful Turkey dinner for 28 people, we had some holidays back in Canada, which it would turn out was our last holiday season in our Panorama house. It sold in May.
So shortly after the holidays we returned to Italy to complete the drywall mudding and taping. Yuck! But it had to be done.

And painting......finally!

But the transformation was incredible.The house turned from a construction site to something that was finished. Clean walls, and a finished touch! Awesome! But it didn't end there....the floor were yet to come!
Nothing like a few ceiling lights to brighten up the place....

 And some LED lights to light up the freshly painted stairs.....

So here's a sad story...I started putting down the floor and decided that I would start with one room, you know, just to see how it looked. Looked terrific. So I took the custom tinted urethane coating that we had had mixed and started applying it. After a while I started noticing that there were some tiny black streaks on the floor. What the f***? I had just finished the first room and thought it would be prudent to check this out. The room didn't look too bad, maybe a bit darker than we expected, but nice.

As I was pouring the remainder of the coating back into the can, I noticed some tiny back spots in the bottom of the container. When I saw it, I realized immediately what this was. Undissolved pigment from the coloring process of the paint. And worse, this was the reason for the black streaks on the freshly painted floor.

Undissolved pigment and what happens when you rub your finger against it!
The streaking was exactly how the floor looked. What a mess! Well, there was only one solution. I had to wait for the urethane to cure and then sand the whole mess off! Remember, the floor is solid OAK, and polyurethane coatings are meant to be hard. So commenced a wonderful 4 days of sanding, first with 36 grit belts, and then 80 and finally 120 to get the floor back to its unfinished state. 
Needless to say, we didn't try anymore experiments! We decided to use a regular untinted urethane coating, which as it turned out is beautiful.

Same room, resanded and repainted.

Loft area

Kitchen and Dining Room

Living room

And of course, once the floors were done, finally the kitchen could take shape!

Location of the future breakfast bar

Location of the future refrigerator
90 cm oven and microwave
And presto, a finished kitchen, complete with Solid Surface counter tops, pot filler, tile backsplash, cedar breakfast bar and American style fridge.

And with a couch and a couple chairs, we even had a living room! Not mention some of Sara's paintings on the walls.

And of course the house wouldn't be complete without a dog!!

And then there was the last bathroom (the master bath)

And that about finished the inside. The only project left is the railings on the stairs and the loft area. So we moved outside to work on porches and the soffits and fascias. I still had to pour 30 cm of concrete on the outside porch to bring it to the level of the rest of the house, so that project kept me busy for a while. 

Pouring concrete over the Iglus on the outside porch.
One evening during this work, a severe hail storm moved in and dumped a phenomenal amount of hail. It destroyed most of our fruit and created huge damage to the grapes in the area. It seemed like it had snowed, and even the next day we still had piles of hail in the garden.

Hail storm in August!
Fall was coming so I decided it was high time to finish the exterior. The neighbors (at least the ones that could see the house) kept calling it the "blue" house, because of the blue house wrap (with Northstar hardware logo, thanks Leo!). This had to stop! 
Stucco is best applied in cool weather, so I dedicated my efforts to get this part done. We had to put up some scaffolding, finish the house wrap, and put up the stucco wire. I had a company lined up that would do the actual stucco work. It was just easier as they had all the equipment including a stucco pump.

While I had the scaffolding up it was a good time to complete the soffits.  They were a large job. There were simply a lot of square meters to do, and it all had to be painted and stained before going up. But once again it finished up that last bit of the house.

So up went the house wrap and the stucco wire, and soffits.

And the stone ledges. These are Diorite from a local quarry in Vico Canavese. They cut the rock in big pieces and then truck to a local shop, where it is cut and shaped into smaller pieces. Really beautiful stuff, and of course, it's local!

And 3 lads showed up and stuccoed the house. 

We haven't painted it yet as it's too cold (has to be above +5C during the day and cannot freeze at night), so we have to wait for warmer weather or spring.

And just to continue the tradition of parties....only had 18 this time!

So with the cool weather we moved back inside to finally (!) put up the REAL doors.

So, that's about it! Not many updates left, an the house is just about completed. In the spring there will be some landscaping and general cleanup. We will also have to address the garage situation and decide how we will do that.
Invitations remain open for those that would like to see Italy (at least the north).
Hope you have enjoyed the blog and Happy Holidays to all. See you next year.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

OMG, we are bad

Hello Everyone,
Well, this is really embarrassing. It suddenly occurred to us that it has been a while since we updated this blog. What a shock when we realized that it has been a WHOLE year. So you must be wondering what exactly have we done in the last year (besides drinking wine and kicking back).  Well, you would be half right, at least we are drinking wine. 
So what have we accomplished? Well, we are actually living in the house and have been for the last 5 months. We have completed the roof, all the inside framing, insulation, concrete sub-floor, plumbing, electrical, windows, etc. It's probably easier to say what's left to do. We still have to do the exterior, finish mudding the drywall, painting some walls, floors, kitchen, 2 bathrooms, deck and front porch.
Last September I made a concentrated effort to complete a bathroom and a bedroom before Sara arrived, so we actually have indoor plumbing (no more outdoor showers), a bedroom (fully painted), and a kitchen that while not pretty is completely functional.
We actually have had house guests and many dinner parties. The last one was an elaborate affair. We invited 28 people for late thanksgiving/early Christmas dinner and served a 38 lbs (16 kg) turkey with all the trimmings. It was indeed special and a great success. I suspect it will become a tradition.
Anyway, the house is coming together and although the outside still looks the same, the inside is looking more and more like a finished home.
One of the more exciting discoveries is that the house does not appear to need any heat. Yup, you read right! We built the house with the objective of high efficiency (thick walls and ceilings, above average large windows, and insulated floors), but it has exceeded even our (and every Italian that has visited) expectations. Not only do we not have ANY source of heat, but it seems we wouldn't need it. The big windows at the front, the sun, and the overall efficiency of the house are all doing their part. We have a constant temperature of over 20c at most times. In fact, we usually sleep with the bedroom window partially open as it is too warm otherwise.
You might suggest that we have had a mild winter and that Italy does not get cold. And you would be partially correct. Most days are above zero, and most nights only go to -5c or so. And the winters are typically shorter than in Canada. Regardless, most Italian families spend a large portion of their salary on heat from Oct 15 to March 15 even in a comparatively mild winter. We will spend nothing! We are seriously hoping that this house, which we still intend on certifying CasaClima (Gold+), will become something of an example that we can duplicate with other clients.

So let me go back and show you some of our advancements:
The seemingly endless insulation, which will ultimately give us zero energy consumption!

These are panels of foil backed fiberglass insulation 120mm thick. More insulation!
Loose fill Perlite. 

Loose fill Perlite with Fesco V on top.

25cm total floor insulation!
So, what we did was spread loose fill Perlite (an inert volcanic substance) over the entire floor of the house. This product is odd in that it has virtually no resistance to compression when you step on it (a narrow load), but is amazingly strong when a board is placed upon it (a wide load). we spread 20cm (10 inches) of Perlite and then compacted it. On this, we placed 5cm (2 in) of Perlite Fesco V board. This is a pressed Perlite product that allowed up to created a wide load over the floor.
On top of this we laid a plastic water barrier, a plastic grip, hydronic heat pipes (which we may never use!), a wire mesh and 6cm of self leveling compound.

Standing up the last cedar columns

Hydronic heating tubes ready for concrete

Pouring the self leveling slurry. Goes in just like water. hard in 24 hours.

3 hrs later we're done! Waiting to dry.

Final depth of concrete.

So, finally after many weeks, the windows finally arrived! Couldn't wait to get them in. They are beautiful units. 92mm thick, with triple glazing. They are truly amazing. The only problem with them is that they are heavy heavy heavy. Made installing them a bit tricky. Especially the large ones that weighed over 350 kg (almost 800 lbs)!!

AND not least a septic tank! WOW!

Getting Ready for Windows.

1st window installed. Beautiful!

Finally, a kitchen window!!

And certainly not least important......

Starting drywall for .....

......a temporary kitchen.

Our pride and joy.......

This was truly unbelievable! We received 27cm (over 10 inches) of rain in one 24-hour period. It broken every record! The weather system was said to be subtropical, something that no one can remember ever happening. Simply crazy!

And, a wonderful day! The flags (Canadian and Italian) are flying over our completed roof!

Working like a beaver on a bathroom for Sara.

Doesn't look like much....

But it is a working tiled, shower completed bathroom. (Sara loved it. Phew!)

More drywall (our bedroom)

And a finished bedroom!

First dinner party!!!!! Yippee!

Alec, working away on, yup, more drywall.
We even found time for a Halloween jack-o-lantern.

We woke up one morning to find this gal prowling around our yard.

So we decide it was time to have a BIG party. We invited 26 people for a late Thanksgiving/Early Christmas dinner. We cooked up a turkey that weighed 36 lbs with all the fixings. I'm sure we'll have more dinners! 

The table awaits the hordes.

The oven with turkey and the table of appys and bread.

We're READY!
And you KNOW that in Italy, it's all about the food. YUP a loaf of bread!
So, where are we now? We've had our dinner parties and we're in Canada skiing for a bit. Here are a few pictures of the house at present. The drywall is almost done (except for the last taping and sanding), painting and floors to come. And then finishing: kitchen, baseboards, doors. In the spring full guns on the outside. BBQ, pizza oven, stucco and porches. 

BTW, I promise I won't wait as long to update. All the best!