In 1986, the family started to clear the land for the new home. The acreage was narrow at 447′ and long at over 1200′. The shop took a back seat to the spectacular million $ view of Lake Ontario. There was about 200′ which separated the two buildings.
Construction was a one-storey with full walkout basement. A simple layout with 4 bdrms. down and the master bdrm and ensuite up. The idea was that once the children had grown and left us as empty nesters, we could live completely in the upper part. That eventuality never arrived. Often, life follows a different turn of events from that which we desire. I was over 60 when I finally understood the metaphysical meaning of: ‘We are not in control.’
The house had a great room with a parallel chord, raised heel truss. Both wings had raised heel scissor trusses. The dbl. car garage wing was a regular king post truss, but still maintained had a raised heel of 24″ to accommodate R-60 blown cellulose at the point of the exterior wall.The mantle was a stylized treble clef rendered in NZ totara, 24k gold plated 1/8€ high carbon barstock, Sri Lankan ebony, mother of pearl [MOP] and snow flake obsidian cabochons. There was a fluorescent lamp carved into the backside for accent and all electrical wiring was through the stonework.
All the roofing shingles were originally hand cut on the band saw by myself and were of ON eastern white cedar. The basement floor was poured 4″ concrete over expanded polystyrene [EPS] foil dbl. faced rigid insulation of R12.
All exterior walls were a single wall of 2 x 8 plates top and bottom with staggered 2 x 4’s to minimize thermal bridging @ 16″ O/C. The 6 mil poly vapour barrier was then added and the wall was further enhanced with 2 x 2’s horizontally affixed for an electrical and plumbing channel. Finally, the interior walls were drywalled with 5/8″ gypsum board. Walls became R30 with fibreglass batt insulation. It was the last time I chose to use fibreglass for home building.
The windows were manufactured by a Toronto firm called Inline. At that time, Inline was just getting in to what many now recognize as state-of-the art fibreglass insulated frame and sash windows. In 1988, Inline supplied us with aluminum frame, stainless steel hardware equipped casement and awning windows and a 12’patio door!
Even though it was early to become involved with triple pane, argon and krypton gas filled spaces, I eschewed these new technologies for simple thermal panes. In 1988, Inline had according to the Canada Wood Council, the best Canadian made air infiltration record among all contenders for the crown. There were however days in Feb. when the snake dipped well below -30ºF. We would wake up with 2″ of ice condensed on the bottom of the inside of the panes. Aluminum is not designed for that low a temperature. This is a supplementary reason that towels and dish cloths were invented.
I’ll make every attempt to not go into too much detail about the finishing details of this building. It was a culmination of my learning, tutelage and craftsmanship. The domicile was started in 1986, finished in 1990, with most of the furniture built by this scribbler, i.e., jayöh.
The mason was the same Ray Thibeault from Ivanhoe, ON who also did the limestone random rubble on the Moira house. There are few true masons still in existence, actually working. It took Ray over 3 years on and off to complete the walls and fireplace. The style was coursed layers or sometimes referred to as joint ledger. This house received river rock from the Salmon River north of Kingston. It is essentially sandstone. During the winter, working away in his drop clothed heated area, Ray would sport electrical tape on most of his finger tips, cracked from the weather and the severe coarseness of the rock and mortar.
To build the fireplace as well as all his corners, a string is pulled taught after plumbing for straightness. All rocks are brought to within 1/16″ of the line. Each stone is set off from those below with small wooden wedges to assure that no stone touches another. This helps prevent the transference of dynamic forces that could lead to cracking. There are to be no more than two stones running in a vertical seam, once again, to prevent cracking.
4 separate and distinctive trusses in all. Soffit was fully vented aluminum. Ridge cap extended the full layout in all directions. On this roof, I experimented for the first time with what is more commonly seen in mountain resort chalets known as gullwing gables.
The floors were custom machined in the shop by yours truly. 8€” T&G white ash with a wedge shaped profile and a slight radius as opposed to a chamfer. The look is softer and just as easy to broom clean. Finish was multi coats of polyurethane applied with a soft wool mop for spreading and flow levelling.
So let’s cut to the chase. How did the house perform? It was a tick over 3600 sq. ft. of conditioned living space. We heated mostly with wood, but the house had a larger version of the same, no longer manufactured combination Powrmatic wood/electric furnace of the woodshop on the same 12A property overlooking Lake ON. The house on an average winter consumed between 4 €“ 4/1/2 bush cords of hardwood. I recall the average price/cord delivered, was around $140. According to my friendly calculator, that is a heating bill of a shade over $630. Is that OK for a 3600′ house? (:>) Yes, I oversized the south facing glazing by about 4%. I personally like large glazing, the feeling of being outside, inside. The drawback is that during the frequent early July heat waves, the house would overheat somewhat and also during periods of January sunshine.
This building technology is a gambit after all. It is once again a compromise of many people’s ideas and situations for living. That’s really the key. Housing is about living. One aspect is to have an ecologically small footprint home. We weigh embodied energy of our building materials [i.e., the cost to manufacture whether natural or man-made] vis-à-vis the annular running costs of the building, for it’s life in entirety. Again, there are no perfect solutions, only timely answers for questions that arise like the rising sun. There will always be new ideas brought forth that present new compromises and while satisfying some people, will turn others cold. So be it. For 10 days out of the year when the night time temperature makes sleeping with a blanket uncomfortable, I can save $5000 on an air conditioning system and the attendant greenhouse gases produced from running the carbon fired electrical generating plants. That’s a conscious choice. Therein lies the process of how we awaken to ecology and a better environment for those who come after us. Life in the physical realm isn’t permanent for we human beings. “We don’t get off this rock alive”, as my dear friend Everett says.
Yes, if the house was empty during a weekend or for a rare winter holiday, the electric furnace would kick in at a predetermined thermostat setting. It was built slightly superior to R2000 standards, being equipped with a Lifebreath HRV. We never went for the door blower test. All 6 mil poly was sealed with a truck load of goo, commonly known as black acoustic sealant.
I’ve intentionally not gone into details of some of the features; just images with captions. Suffice to say that they were quite elaborate and I enjoyed the creative force that continues to course through my veins allowing me to do this work now into my 60’s. All thanks go to The Universe and the force that runs through us all. Recognize it, allow it and follow your own yellow brick road. It isn’t there just for Dorothy. Follow your bliss exhorts Joseph Campbell a favourite mentor. In 2005, I surrendered to The Force, moving my personal life into no man’s land, after a sojourn on Vancouver Island for 3 years, I eventually settled in this beloved Valley of Annapolis, Nova Scotia.
Herein lies the real purpose of the blog. How do we build a house as a complete system, capable of housing two home businesses, [custom cabinet shop and a B&B] in a cold northern climate, approaching peak everything and not requiring a furnace? In the ‘north countries’, it’s all about; How do you heat your home?
I am John Ötvös; aka jayöh.