Wednesday 23 October 2013

Day 65: Secret Ditches

It's been a while since we updated the construction blog of Our House. But today, 23rd October, the digger arrived again! We are late in the year to do this job, everything got late after various timetable issues throughout the summer and especially in September, when certain events just suddenly made all time for this evaporate.

Before the winter can set in fully, we need two more things doing to Our House. First, a special drainage pipe is installed all around the house, which prevents too much water from creeping under the foundations. In Finnish, this pipe is called "salaoja" or "secret ditch", which refers to its being invisible under ground. This is achieved by a special plastic pipe, which has lots of holes to let water in. The ring of these pipes around the house decent to one low point, and from there away from Our House. The first photo shows the trench being dug.

On the next photo you can see how the trench with the pipe is filled again with a special type of gravel. This gravel allows water to flow easily to the pipe, and once it enters the pipe, the easiest way out for the water is to follow the gradient along it to where we want the water to exit. The device on the tripod in the background is a laser, which provides a reference level in order to make sure the pipe has the correct gradient everywhere.

The first set of these pipes were put into the already frozen ground today. These pipes easily click into each other, a process in progress in the photo above.

Tomorrow the work will continue. After that, a layer of sand will be spread across everything, and then it'll be time for FinnFoam again, a layer of insulation preventing the ground under Our House from freezing. So there'll be more on the blog as we go along.

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Journeys to the Dump

After the constructions of Our House, we were left with a huge pile of rubbish. In order to minimise cost of getting rid of it, the whole lot had to be sorted into various categories, since many types of rubbish can be brought to the local dump for free, but unsorted rubbish is expensive.

The first trip was for cardboard, the 2nd trip for plastic, the 3rd trip for "treated wood", i.e. painted or stained wood or MDF. Then there was a 4th trip for plastic, followed by so far three trips for branches and tree roots. The first photo shows one of these loads, obviously before it being secured. The second photo is of the same load after being secured for the journey of some 15 km. With careful planning, we managed to get rid of all rubbish without any cost at all. At least three more journeys for wood are expected before the snow comes in October.

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Wheelbarrow "Spring Over"

Besides having that red heavy-duty wheelbarrow, we decided it was time to buy a normal one for smaller jobs around Our House. Yeah, ok, it doesn't have a winch – but it's yellow! Anyway, the instructions clearly said to mount the axle (indicated by the yellow arrow, click to enlarge) on top of the frame. However, when lifting the wheel barrow on the handle bars, the arch in front of the wheel went so low, that it rammed into any minor obstacle and thereby made moving around on anything but a flat path impossible.

The problem reminded me of an improvement some off-road people do to their 4x4s, which is called "Spring Over Axle" conversion. The idea is that instead of hanging the leaf springs under the axle, they are mounted on top of it, thus giving a lot more ground clearance. Here a "Frame Over" conversion was called for.

The implementation of this on something as basic as a wheel barrow is shown in the photo montage above, which shows both before and after. The axle is at the same location in both photos (arrow), but it has been changed from mounted above to mounted below the frame, thereby lifting the front arch by some 7 cm or so, but at the same time lowering the handle bars and tilting the whole thing backwards. The result: it works! Much better than before!

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Friday 23 August 2013

Tree Recycling

When the digger came to make room for Our House, quite a few trees had to be felled, and these were scattered all over the place. In mid-May, when the snow was gone, the land had dried, but the mozzies hadn't arrived, my neighbour Eero and his friend Risto dropped by "to get some exercise." The result of which was that they had chopped all trees up in small logs some 30-40 cm long. Then Eero dropped by again, and together we used a special wood splitting machine to break the logs in suitably thin pieces for the fireplace. In the photo above there's Eero's quad bike and behind it the machine to split wood. Extremely handy that thing! Also here on the internet, a big Thank You to Eero and Risto for their help!

Afterward all these logs needed collecting and piling up neatly. The tool of choice is a wheel barrow, which in my case isn't powered by one man, but instead by the 90 horses of its 3.6 litre 6-cylinder engine! While our wheel barrow was rapidly approaching its 33rd birthday at the time, there was no stopping it from moving some logs around – the best gardening tool ever!

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Day 64: Ladders on the Roof

Not much has happened over the summer, and the few things that went on will be reported on in due time. When the previous blog post on Our House went out, we were already moving house, and subsequently it's been a very busy time catching up with all the things that had to stay behind due to the construction. The photo above shows the final stage of the work on the chimney. It is a legal requirement in Finland to have ladders going up to the chimney, which are easily accessible from the outside. These were installed on Day 64, i.e. on Monday, 22nd April 2013. Yes, it took me a while to put that on the blog, and the photo was taken in July, in case you are wondering where all the snow's gone. Stay tuned, there'll be more.

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Welcome to Iceland!

No worries, we haven't abandoned Our House and moved to Iceland. Already for a while we've been wondering if it's worth the effort to maintain a server computer for e-mail and web pages, and when our domain was due for renewal this summer, we decided to outsource this service to OrangeWebsite in Reykjavík, Iceland.

There are two key reasons for choosing Iceland: first, the services of OrangeWebsite are running on 100% green energy, i.e. their servers are powered by geothermal energy, which is in abundance on volcanic Iceland. The photo above is of the volcano Hengill, which is one of the sources of Reykjavík's energy, and also the namesake of the server our services are running on now. Secondly, and equally importantly, Iceland has some of the world most rigorous laws on data protection and privacy. While this blog is still hosted by Google, we are investigating if we can transfer it to Iceland, too. The difficulty lies in the need to port it from Blogger to WordPress.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (source).

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Late for work because of what? Reindeer?

Summer in Lapland, warm, blue skies, and wildlife. What about this as an excuse for being late for work: I got held up by a group of reindeer blocking the road. Well, this is completely normal in Lapland, though very rare on the road between the village of Sodankylä and the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory. Have a nice summer everyone! Film: Thomas Ulich, SGO.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Day 63: Chimney Wrapped Up

The waterproofing of the roof after construction of the chimney remained incomplete, but immediately the following day (17th April, Day 63), the entire chimney was clad in metal.

The photo above shows the base of the chimney in more detail. The sheets overlap with the surround on the outside such that water flows from the walls onto the roof without any chance to penetrate.

The whole installation is completed by a little roof on top of the chimney, preventing rain and snow to enter into the chimney and flood the sitting room. Note also that the edge around the chimney pipe is folded up so that water accumulating around it cannot flow into it. Smartly done, and it looks smart, too. The only thing missing now is a permanent access ladder and platform for cleaning and inspection.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Day 62: Waterproofing a Roof

There's seemingly some magic to closing a hole in a roof. Once you cut a hole in the roof, the roof area above the hole acts as a collecting area for water, which then goes straight into – in this case – the gap between chimney and roof. How to close the gap reliably?

First a surround for the chimney base was installed (17th March, Day 62) in such a way, that its edge is under an additional sheet of roof cover. You can see the lower-right corner of the roofing in the photo above.

Thus the water coming from above, will flow onto the chimney surround.  The surround itself is shaped from a single sheet of metal such that there are no gaps and no seams, and the water is guided away from the chimney to flow down in adjacent channels. The photo shows the area just above the base of the chimney.

Here's a view of the entire chimney surround. All screws come with a rubber base, which locks them to the sheet metal in a water-tight fashion.

A small gap between chimney wall and the vertical bits of the surround remains. Thus water can still enter, but in far less quantities than before. This will be fixed another day, and for now the chimney had to be wrapped in some tarp again.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Day 61: Chimney Reaching Full Height

On 16th April (Day 60) in the early morning we began the work on the chimney. A hole was cut into the metal roof, and then the chimney was brought up to its final height. That meant carrying a lot of bricks and mortar up a ladder, but by midday it was done and it looked great. The picture above shows the makeshift scaffolding put into place as a work platform. The platform then grew with the chimney by adding more palettes.

The second photo shows the chimney from above, looking towards the access road to our yard. Unfortunately the person supposed to make a metal cover for the chimney and thereby closing the roof again, didn't have time on the same day, so I had to wrap the hole with some tarp in order to make it survive the following night without water damage. It worked well, but that was due to the lucky fact that the night turned out to have remained dry.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Day 60: Fireplace Door Installed

On Day 60, 11th April, just in the morning before the public show of Our House, we managed to install the door of the fireplace in order to complete the look of it. Also the service/cleaning hatches below the fireplace and at the bottom of the chimney were installed. Now it really looks the part, except for the missing chimney – so don't start a fire just yet.

The house show later in the afternoon was well visited, even crowded at times. Our narrow access road was at one time plugged with cars so that there was no escaping from us. Also, one person parked slightly off the road and needed to be towed out by skidoo... All in all a successful afternoon.

Friday 12 April 2013

Day 59: Kitchen Complete!

On Monday, 9th April (Day 59), the kitchen was finally completed. It had by accident been delivered one element too short, but the missing parts came during the previous week. Now Our House is ready as far as our contract with the factory is concerned – the fire place is a separate arrangement. The only obligation left from our side to fulfil the contract is to show the house to the public.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

House Show

Our House will be shown to the public on 11th April, between 1700h and 1900h. At that time, sales staff will be present, and visitors can have a look around Our House and ask questions etc. If you are interested, take the opportunity and visit. Click on the image above for a larger version, or go directly to the on-line information. Welcome!

Thursday 4 April 2013

Kitchen Arrives and Cleaning Progresses

Our House is basically complete, except of the kitchen, which was accidentally delivered short by one element or 60 cm. The missing cupboard (foreground) and the work surface of correct length (background, to the left) were delivered on 3rd April, and they will be installed on Monday, 8th April.

Otherwise cleaning is progressing, with a general dusting of absolutely everything, which includes also a careful check of possible damaged bits. In a construction process it probably can't always be avoided that something goes wrong, but then it needs to be negotiated if this leads to compensation claims. Thus one of the tasks is finally to reveal the laminate floors by collecting the corrugated cardboard covering. The photo above shows the ready product, a design called "honey oak," the same as the one we chose for the work surface for the kitchen.

Also the windows got their first dusting, and they immediately become one step more transparent. It's surprising how much fine dust collects absolutely everywhere. Fortunately the large stickers weren't glued onto the glass, but stuck there simply by electrostatic adhesion, so easy to remove.

There won't be any more updates to this blog until next Monday, when the kitchen will be complete. After that, blog entries will be sparse, posted whenever something interesting happens. The next items on the agenda are the hand-over of Our House on 11th April, and the House Show on the same day.

Construction-wise, the chimney still needs to break through the roof and reach its final height, and access ladders for chimney sweepers must be installed. In May, we will dig the trenches for drainage pipes. After closing those trenches, another double-layer of FinnFoam around the outside of the foundations will provide the last bit of insulation against ground frost. On top of this, the soil originally taken from under Our House will be used for backfilling around the house.

Furthermore, the house needs to be painted from the outside, and a lot of gardening is going to happen. Thus there will be updates, but at irregular intervals.

House Show: Our House will be open to the public on Thursday, 11th April, from 1700h to 1900h, with sales staff present. Welcome if you are interested. For details follow the link.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Day 58: Blowing Insulation into the Loft

On Day 58 (1st April), another lorry arrived. It was time to give the Our House its final bit of insulation, which was to be blown across the floor of the loft.

The lorry was fully loaded with a material called Ekovilla, which is an insulating wool made of recycled paper. It comes in paper sacks, and is fed into the machine at the back of the lorry, which gives it a good mix, and then blows it through a hose into the loft.

In the loft, one person simply guides the hose until the correct thickness of material is achieved. In our case this was 45 cm of Ekovilla, on top of 10 cm of mineral wool. This should keep us warm in winter, and prevent us from overheating in summer. The photo shows Ekovilla being blown in.

This is what the area looked like afterwards. The product name "Ekovilla" means "eco wool" in English, and it is very ecological, consisting entirely of recycled paper.

The process is very dust, and paper fibres are everywhere. Of course during the process face masks are an absolute must to wear. Otherwise Ekovilla is simply a dry, grey, fluffy substance. However, it compresses well when stepped on, and I am happy we took the advice and built a pathway across the entire loft for later access.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Day 57: Wrapping the Chimney

After the plaster on the chimney under the roof was dry, it was time to wrap it in special fire-proof mineral wool. This is done to prevent the surroundings under the roof to get too hot, should the chimney itself get too hot. Two 50-mm thick layers are wrapped around and secured with wire.

Since the first set of mineral wool sheets are only just tall enough to cover the area to be filled with Ekovilla insulation, I put another set above the first.

This is where the chimney will eventually break through the roof. The roof is made up of large sheets of thin metal, which are pressed into a shape resembling tiles. One can clearly see the shape from underneath.

Unfortunately, it is really difficult to take pictures of this, but during Days 56 and 57 (29th and 30th March), the rest of the family have joined me at the site and began the process of cleaning Our House, beginning with an overall hoover session. Cleaning has started – surely that must mean we are close to moving in: 17 days to go!

Monday 1 April 2013

Day 56: Bridging the Loft

On 29th March, it was time again for us to make some improvements. The "floor" of the loft, as per standard delivery, is a mesh of planks and bars criss-crossing each other. Below these planks, and in between the bars, there's a 100 mm thick layer of mineral wool, under which there's a folio acting as vapour barrier. The folio also makes the house airtight, which aides insulation. Below the folio are the electrical cables and then the ceiling panelling. Thus it is fairly dangerous to step onto the yellow mineral wool, since one might just crash down into the house. The photo above shows the first planks crossing the loft, onto which longitudinal plants will be placed to create a walkway.

During the next phase, paper-based, insulating wool (Ecovilla) will be blown across the entire floor, which will have two side-effects: first, it will obscure the mesh of planks, making it a rather tricky guessing game as to where one can step safely. Secondly, the insulation effect is hinged on the fluffiness of the wool, and once it is compressed by stepping on, the effect is greatly compromised at that location. In order to provide access for jobs like cabling the TV aerial, we were advised to build a bridge about 65 cm high across the entire loft. Fortunately, there was enough left-over wood from the construction. The second photo shows the near-finished main walkway. Now one can move safely across the entire length of the house without stepping on insulation.

Finally, I extended the accessible area towards and around the chimney, just in case we need to get there when finishing it, and also to allow the chimney to be inspected anytime later on.

Sunday 31 March 2013

Day 55: Santa-Vision

While on Tuesday, 26th March (Day 52), it was too cold to open the roof and bring the chimney up to its final height, we did some preparations. Planks were put on the roof to allow for safely climbing up and down. Later on a level palette will serve as a platform to put bricks and mortar on. Our plan to continue the next day failed, since it was snowing and looked all too grim to work on a roof, even though temperature-wise it would've been ok. In the end, Wednesday afternoon the weather was just brilliant.

The decision was made to bring the chimney up to the maximum height possible inside the roof, without cutting the roof open, on Thursday, 28th March (Day 55). This can be done whatever the weather, and it is becoming increasingly urgent, because any day now the next team might arrive and blow a layer of Ekovilla (paper-based, insulating wool) into the loft. When this happens, the chimney must be as high as possible, so that it can be reached from the outside, since we will not be able to walk in the loft anymore. Once compressed by stepping on, the wool will become useless.

Santa-Vision: this is what Santa will see while descending down our chimney to deliver presents. I don't know how he squeezes himself through such tight places, but I know that we won't be getting any presents in the future with diameters larger than 180 mm!

Saturday 30 March 2013

Day 54c: Bathrooms and Kitchen

This is the last instalment of news from Day 54 (27th March). The toilets and bathroom taps have now been fitted, and thus the small bathroom (above) and the shower room are complete.

In the shower room, there's a sink, the shower and a toilet, which is just visible in the lower-right corner of the photo. Also lights are readily fitted here and also in the sauna.

One of the most important ingredients of a Finnish house is the sauna, and of course that needs a stove ("kiuas"). While we have seen the stove previously, now it's been filled with stones. Now everything is in place for the first proper "löyly," i.e. the throwing of water onto the hot stones and the subsequent filling of the room with steam vapour.

Finally the kitchen is almost complete. Unfortunately there was some communication issue somewhere down the line, and the kitchen has been delivered one cupboard shorter than ordered. This will be fixed in the near future as soon as a new work surface in the correct length has been delivered.

Nonetheless we are happy with how the white kitchen stands out against the dark-brown wall. Making some bold choices with colours always bears some risks, but here (and also with the green-and-white bathroom above) our ideas are spot on – at least for us, the rest is a matter of taste.

Friday 29 March 2013

Day 54b: Lighting

We have passed equinox on 20th March, and since then we have more light than anyone south of us. We are heading rapidly towards Polar Day. While we have natural light in abundance now, also artificial light has arrived on Day 54 (27th March)! When I arrived in the evening to check on the progress, I was surprised to see that the lights came on on the front porch: motion sensor! Nice touch.

Six standard "UFO"-type basic lamps have been fitted in bathrooms and utility room as well as in the vestibule. However, most lamps we have to provide ourselves, and Finland has a really useful standard: under the ceiling, there are electrical sockets and hooks to connect lamps to, like the one in the photo above. Thus, fitting a lamp is as easy as buying it, adjusting the cable to length, hanging it on the hook, and plugging it in. Job done.

Earlier in the day I spotted this odd lamp hanging from the living room ceiling. Obviously it is meant for either testing if the socket works, or then for providing temporary lighting. Very handy.

Six LED lights are fitted above the living room windows. We saw these lights during another house show in Sodankylä, and we immediately thought that they are just perfect to round off the effect of the large windows.

Safety first: the house came with a standard of only two smoke detectors and upon recommendation from our site supervisor as well as from the building inspector we added four more, one in each bedroom. They are interconnected and go off simultaneously, and they run off mains electricity with battery backup.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Day 54a: Bob The Builder Came to Help!

Today, Bob the Builder arrived to give us a hand with the final touches of Our House. Can you spot him in the photo above? That's his van anyway.

Let's zoom in a bit, to the centre of the windscreen. I'm sure if we have him in the team, nothing can go wrong. Very reassuring!

Today (Day 54, 27th March) the work continued on a lot of small details, and everything is very much coming together now. I shall report more over the next couple of days or so. Above a photo of one of the windows, completely assembled. Wooden strips cover the gaps between window frame and plaster boards, the blinds are released and made functional, and the window handle is installed. The blinds are operated by those round knobs on the left side.

Finally one of the most important pieces of kit was installed today: the sauna stove ("kiuas" in Finnish). The stones are still missing, but we are very much looking forward to throwing the first water onto the hot stones.