This blog documents the progress of our super-cool, pre-fab home "somewhere" in the wilds of Northwest Arkansas. Rocio Romero designed the home, model LVL, and incorporated our custom modifications. GC Don Lourie is doing the build and architect Brad Satterwhite is providing additional ingenuity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Deck the Halls

Don and Jeremy attacked the ipe and banged out a beautiful deck. Next up, stainless posts, steel cables and turnbuckles from

Travis completed the HVAC with the heat pump install this weekend. The two-stage Trane and 4-ton Lennox are super quite and arrived just in time to heat up the space for the floor and paint. And speaking of paint, check out the SMOOTH ceilings and walls. A layer of SpeedSkim spray on skim coat makes the tape seams disappear, a nice extra step with all the horizontal natural light.

I also ordered our kitchen counter material from PaperStone. We're going with their line that is made from 100% post-consumer waste and petroleum-free, formaldehyde-free resins. Because PaperStone's dark colors are more stable in UV light, we selected Obsidian. If you're considering PaperStone, be sure to check out their Handyman Specials on off-spec panels.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So Close

But yet so far. Heidi and I made a down-and-back run to Arkansas Saturday to deliver toilets, faucets and mirrors. While there, we caught up with Don, shot some pics and measured a few spaces. Everything seemed to be humming along.

Then, Monday came. A few critical path items jumped the track and will push us back about a week.
  1. The stainless kitchen cabinets we ordered from Lasertron will be delayed due to an email mixup.
  2. The heat won't be connected for two weeks, which delays the floor installation.
  3. We found out cultured marble won't work for the tub or bathroom sinks and devised a Plan B (Neptune Zen Soaker Tub and custom-fabricated under-mount stainless trough sinks).
  4. And, last, but not least, the company Don scheduled to prime the drywall bumped us a week.
I guess these things happen in building. It's just wild that they all happened in the last two days.

Here are the updated shots from Saturday. As you might expect, we're getting very excited and anxious!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dog House

What fearsome beasts will guard the gates of Secret Fortress Hideout? It's Durga the giant schnauzer puppy and Pedro the, uh, um, stray Chihuahua and ????? mix (actually, we hope to solve the mystery of his parentage soon thanks to a DIY mail-away DNA test).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Home Stretch

Tons to show and tell from the last post. The sheetrock is up and the deck is framed. The electrician has completed the lighting plan and the plumbing is in. Next up, exterior sheet metal, paint, tile, flooring and kitchen cabinets.

So, naturally, we decided it was time for a trip to Ikea in Chicago for mirrors, shelving, storage, bathroom hardware, kitchen supplies and bedding. Oh, and we picked up a giant schnauzer puppy from a breeder in Yorkville, Il. It was a wild and wacky trip.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

It's Halloween night and Don sent some nice photos for trick or treat. For the treat, these are the first images I've seen of the completed glass. For the trick, our insulators have sprayed the inside walls and ceiling with soy-based spray insulation. Pretty cool stuff.

Earlier this week Don dropped off the RAIS Pina wood stove--all 500 lbs. of it! Today, I also had a security company wire the place with a fire and security system. The system includes motion detectors, glass break sensors, door sensors, smoke detectors and a temperature monitor that will alert me if the inside temp drops below a certain limit. We also ran RG6 cable for satellite tv and internet.

The drywaller starts tomorrow and the ipe wood for the deck and bridge should arrive Friday. Found a good source for cable railings and posts in Tacoma, WA--American Metal Specialties.

In a few weeks I'll order the flooring from Green Building Supply. We're going with natural strand bamboo in living and bedrooms and natural cork for the utility room. We'll do 1x1 daltile in the bathrooms with whisper-quiet Panasonic exhaust fans. At this point we're shooting for an early December move-in date.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The leaves may not have changed yet, but SFH certainly has since my last post. Lots to celebrate. The tar paper is on the outside. Don added a coat of green-gray paint to the foundation wall. Many of the interior walls have been framed out. Travis and crew from All-Weather Control installed the ductwork and air handler for the heat pump. The electrician and plumber are on the job next week. And the windows are in progress.

Don and I spoke about a few modifications to the original plan. We will take the guest bath walls to the ceiling rather than the 7 feet or so in the plan. Also, we'll be pulling return air through wall vents in the hallway and bedrooms. We'll locate the electrical panel on the exterior porch wall in the utility room and run circuits for radiant floors in both baths.

I dropped off a few finish items as well:
• two in-wall and two ceiling speakers for install (Accurian brand from RadioShack)
• mounting bracket for 42" LCD tv
• tub valve and tub/shower valve for bathroom fixtures (Pharma and Como by Danze)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lighting Design

Here's a preliminary design for placement of recessed lights throughout. We'll most likely use 5" cans. The yellow dots indicate light fixtures and the green represent outside power locations. The yellow rectangle in the master bath is a fixed skylight.

R-19 and Counting

The faux walls are up and insulated with Johns Manville formaldehyde-free fiberglass batt. Kraft paper backing was removed to reduce the probability of mold issues. We plan to use a soy-based spray insulation inside the interior walls bringing the R value well over 20 (35+ for some walls). The minimum for our area is R-11. The roof will get the same treatment with 1" of insulation where the insulating roof board is thicker and 3" where the board tapers for drainage on the east side (back).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Full Steam Ahead

Don and crew are really cruising now. The TPO roof is down and we've added a skylight to brighten the master bathroom. The electrician has started on wiring and Don has started framing out the interior walls. A crew will spray soy-based insulation into the interior wall spaces next. This alone should provide a high R-value, but we're also investigating using a formaldehyde-free fiberglass batt for the exterior faux walls.

We needed to lower the porch to accommodate a three-layer floor made with tapered insulation board, waterproof barrier and ipe wood planks. We could do this because we went with a floor design using 2" x 10" joists rather than I-joists. The intent is to level out the transition between the outside ipe and inside bamboo flooring (natural, horizontal). Don is fabricating a 14-foot steel ramp that will connect the entry with the higher ground on the west side. We'll use ipe here as well.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Big Weekend at SFH

Don and crew have made a lot of progress in the last two days. The faux wall sections are up with the exception of a few panels. These will support the siding. They also completed the roof decking. Don used strapping to reinforce a point above the southwest corner of the house This was a precaution to correct for a missing beam hanger. We were comfortable not using the hanger because the non-load-bearing beam is bolted to the post plate and Don's solution is stronger than the original hanger.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Labor (of Love) Day

The roof trusses are going up and the house is taking shape. Grandpa came down for the weekend with us and it was a great holiday. Boat maintenance, swimming in the pool, swimming in the lake, Sonny's Pizza, fort making and house building. The boys slept very well!