September, 2005

Labor Day weekend was pretty much that, labor. We made lots of progress on some key features that are required in order to receive a certificate of occupancy (CO).

Elaine started out with the guest shower, laying out the pebble floor. She was assisted by Sarah Watterberg, who was camping out at the ranch with her mom and dad (Tina and Peter) and her sister Emily. In addition to helping with the stones, she actually wore Lucky out, a feat we didn't think possible.


Here's what the finished layout looks like. We will grout it later with a grout made from the same earth as the walls.


While Elaine worked on the stones, I continued trimming the sloppy edge of the bond beam. Here are before and after shots of the south wall of the bedroom. The rammed earth still needs to be patched - an after-after photo to come later?


The shower will be lined with 12" square slate tiles (from India). These tiles are precise enough that we can lay them up with no grout lines. This requires a slightly different preperation. Instead of using cement backer board, we are using a fairly new product called Denshield, which is a gypsum product like sheetrock, but is covered with a vinyl skin which is waterproof. It has a texture which allows is to adhere to the thinset that holds the tiles of the backer. All penetrations in the board (seams, screw holes) are filled with silicone caulk. The resulting system is completely waterproof, unlike cement backer board, which is permeable.


Ken and Teresa came up for the second weekend of September (9/9-9/11). Everyone got into the act of tiling the shower. The first step involved washing the tiles, which is not very photogenic, so you are spared that tedious step which everyone participated in, some more than others.  Here Elaine and Teresa are start tiling the shower. The pattern was the idea of Elaine's friend Angie Harbin. We had purchased a reddish slate that matches the rammed earth plus some green marble tiles for accent. We picked the green tiles because they were so pretty, but had no notion of what we were going to do with them. Angie suggested the diamond pattern you see here. Of course, it does double or triple the work, especially if we stick to the plan to have no grout lines.


Here's the green tile we liked so much. It's marble and called "Rain Forest". Very appropriate. This is a full 12"x12" tile. The diamonds in the pattern are 4"x4". Since it's a natural stone, every tile is different.


The tile is cut on with a diamond blade wet saw. Here Ken is doing the corner cuts.


Here's the state of the shower when the weekend ended. The tape on the diamonds was necessary because the diamond tiles are quite a bit thinner than the reddish slate. If the diamond got pushed too far in, the tape allowed Elaine to pull it back flush to the surface.


The master bath has both a shower and a tub. The tub abuts the shower, with a wide ledge for sitting. I spent most of Saturday building the frame which supports the tub and the tile. The backer board system is the same as in the guest shower, and the tile pattern will also be the same diamond pattern.
Saturday also saw the final placement of the new generator, which has a factory sound and weather enclosure. It is placed on concrete piers set with anchor bolts. Although the tolerance on the bolt locations was 1/8", the generator set down on the bolts with no tweaking required! The generator is located in a small gully west of the house, just below the sight (and sound) line.

The trenching was done with a Ditch Witch - a specialized machine which digs a fairly narrow trench up to 4' deep or so. In our case, we only needed 24".

On to September, Part II