716 sq. ft. Cuyamaca Cottage

Started by flyingvan, January 29, 2012, 04:11:35 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


  So I've been wondering what style house we built is. 

It's sort of a 'Bay-and Gable' but 'Storybook Style' might fit too
Find what you love and let it kill you.


  This is sort of an experiment...I want the retaining wall next to the stairs to have little twinkly lights between the stones.  I ran 20' of CPVC across the yard and under the house where the light source will be.  I'm employing a trick I picked up here on Countryplans----using AnnaMarie's vacuum to pull a string through the pipe.  There are three sweep elbows.

   Here it is just before pouring.  I partially lined the form with an old shower curtain but left enough so the mortar will bond.  There are two different thicknesses of fibers, 40 in all.  I drilled tiny holes and pushed them through.  Later I'll strip the forms and cut the fibers flush with the smooth mortar that cured up against the shower curtain material.  Then I'll finish building the stone wall over that.  It'll end up being a band of mortar snaking its way through the stones, with the fiber optics embedded.  I hope.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Sounds like a neat idea - I'm interested to see how it turns out!


While you are pulling I think I would pull an extra wire to use in case the primary fails.  Just a little safeguard being that it is not really accessible if a failure might occur.   Or if you don't have the extra wire just pull a piece of rope or cord so that you can pull another piece of wire in the future if needed.  Small price to pay for piece of mind. ;)


    Good advice, but I could always just set up the vacuum again...except the top end is now encased in concrete.   The fiber optics turned out....AWESOME.  I used two sizes of fibers---.5mm and .25mm.    I had zero experience with this, but now I know---even the .25 is super bright.  Since the company I ordered from offered sizes much larger I feared .25 would be too tiny.  I have to figure out how to take a picture of it now.  They even light the stairs nicely.  It turned out far better than hoped!   The 3 watt light source under the house has plenty of room left so when I pour more walkway I'll be using more of the fiber optics.  I also have an idea for a fiber optic sundial for the wine cellar, but it's still in the idea stage.  With some funding it could one day be a concept.
     For the record, there's no wire pulled through the CPVC, just fiber optic cable.  Since it survived the pour and it gopher proof in the piping, I think it should be fine for many years.  All the electrical parts are in the crawlspace out of the elements.  Totally expandable too since there's plenty of room in the light source for more fiber optics

  Then I found this......I guess it was a good idea because someone else already did it.  Pretty cool! http://www.hineslab.com/Digital_Sundial.html
Find what you love and let it kill you.


 Simpson Strong Ties.   I am not a rep or anything, but man did I buy a lot of Simpson products to build this place.  Any time the structure goes from anything to anything, there were ties.  Sheer, seismic, TJI hangers.  I started wondering about the Simpson company.  First, here are some places I used them--

    They ran in price from a few cents for the roof deck clips to around $500 for the custom gable beam/valley hanger they welded up for me. 
    I was very impressed with this company.  There are plenty of online resources for specs and installation instructions.  They stand behind every single product except for one that's designed for use in pressure treated applications.  When I called them for that custom made hanger, I had already worked out the math and angles but they re-did it all.  I was slightly off.  (Figuring out the angle of the valley where a roof pitch meets is harder than it sounds.  Dihedrals.).

That custom made hanger is in the lower right quadrant of this pic, from underneath
  If you have gables with 12:17 pitch meeting in a valley, what is the angle of that valley?  The Simpson rep just had me sned a fax of that detail from the plans I'd drawn, we talked on the phone a bit, and they had it to me within the week. 

With all the boxes and boxes of strongties I went through I started wondering about the company.
   As luck would have it, the grandfather of one of my son's team mates was a recently retired salesman for Simpson.  He told me Simpson made screens in the 50's.  During the building boom, a neighbor came to Simpson wanting a way to connect 2x4's to walls for flat roofs.  He did all the proper calculations so they'd be strong enough, but he was smart----before selling them he went to the federal agency that was a precurser for the UBC, asking for standards to be set---he didn't want substandard knockoffs competing with his product.  The feds realized he had done the work for them, and set the standard 'Simpson or better'.  A working relationship started that continues today.  When a new connector is needed, UBC folks go to Simpson, they engineer it, things still get stamped 'Simpson or better'.....They've done a good job maintaining a near monopoly.  It's traded on the NYSE, $32.07 as of this writing.  My theory is we just ended an 8 year dirth of new construction, thanks to the Dodds/Frank interference with the free market (that invariably results in shortages) and the next building boom is starting soon
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Love your house but have a question:  If you had the opportunity to put the fireplace against a wall with the chimney outside... would you?   


No!  Since I designed this, I had that opportunity.  My first owner/builder project has the woodstove against the wall.  It took extra effort to put it in the center, but there are some very distinct advantages.
1)  Much more of the heat stays inside the house.
2)  That heat is better and more evenly distributed around the house.
3) Chimneys draft best when configured like this.
4) The wall furnace is situated right next to the fireplace for the same reasons, plus I could hide the flue in the same chase as the chimney.
5) The island formed by the fireplace hides two columns that support the beam holding up the upstairs, providing enough strength I could cantilever out the reading nook.
6) The interior chimney looks cool.
7)  Having the fireplace in the center instead of tucked in a corner somewhere makes it a much more usable place for meeting and relaxing.
8--With the fireplace in the middle, the chimney exits the roof at the ridge---not the lower wall.  Roofs, which move, that slope down to masonry, which does not move, form a spot notorious for roof leaks and snow pile-ups.  With the chimney at the highest point you avoid this issue.  True, you can have it on the end of the cabin with the gable peak, but then you have to support the ridge with it.  Sealing the exterior wall to the masonry is yet another common source for leaks and drafts.
   This fireplace is airtight, drafts outside air through a duct, and has a thermostat controlled blower that distributes the heat around. 

   The advantages of an exterior wall fireplace----easier to construct, and deal with the fireplace footing.  I suppose some open floorplans would call for it too.  We really use our fireplace for heat and although the gravity wall furnace does a great job, we consider it secondary heat.  Firewood's free for the taking.


This earlier topic is a little related---  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=12652.0

  So, I'm pretty sold on the centrally located fireplaces.  For this cottage the fireplace was supposed to be the main focal point (which made it the best place to mount the TV, which bugged me to no end, so it got hidden behind shutters)

   The chase was framed to end up with one edge right at the ridge, so the chimney (air cooled double wall steel pipe) runs up just next to the ridge pole.  The vent for the furnace is then hidden from view from the front of the house by the chimney----I didn't want any gas or plumbing vents to show from the street.  The shingles for the chimney exterior are just slate cut to random widths with corners cut off, and I bought one extra wide one just to break things up.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Tks.  I was curious because I am looking at plans now and one of them is a 20x20 and we are leaning toward having a fireplace at the wall to free up interior space.  Had a house once that had a centrally located fireplace and it was great.. but it was a substantially larger space.     


  This is still a work in progress.  Looks like I'm stuck at the paying job until after the Holidays so this won't get finished for a few weeks yet (NOT complaining.  Very glad to have a job right now)
   I took these at twilight.  If it's too bright out the fiberoptics don't show up at all, and when it's dark out my camera insists on flashing.  I'll get someone more pic savvy than me to take a proper night photo.
   Each of these fibers is 25' long and terminates under the house where a 3 watt LED lights them.  There's a little wheel with  holes in it that turns slowly, making the lights twinkle.   I used two sizes of fibers---.25mm and .5mm.  I had no experience with these and there really is very little data online for DIY types.  The .25 mm fibers are plenty bright, and as I add on to what I've done here (there's plenty of room left in the light source) I'm sticking with the .25's.

   I'll fill in the rest of the stones, then back-pour concrete to lock them in like I did with all the other stonework.  Then I'll form a curb to cap it all.  The area behind it will be lined with gopher screen then good dirt.  We want herbs growing in and cascading out.
   The fiber optics are bright enough to light the stairs.  I'm looking forward to trying out some more stuff with this product
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Electric Rant...

    Just got off the phone with someone who needed electrical basics explained.   I've found with all the steps invloved with building, electrical was one of the easiest steps, just keep the NEC book on hand as a reference.  There's one thing that bugged me, so I didn't really comply with the letter of the law, explained to my inspector why, and he agreed!

   Arc fault circuits.  It's the breaker with a white pigtail that goes into the neutral bar.  There's circuitry that detects an arc, like from a frayed cord, that isn't shorted enough to trip a breaker but IS shorted enough to burn a house down.  They went from being required in just bedroom outlets, to ceiling lights too, to any living area.  Word on the street is, enforcing this rule has been pretty loose.
   Here's the thing.  I DID install the arc fault circuit for the outlets, but the ceiling lights are on a regular breaker.  The smoke detectors and CO detector must be hardwired in, with a battery backup.  OK so far....Also, the smoke detectors should be wired to a circuit that gets used regularly, so if that circuit trips for whatever reason, it won't go unnoticed.  That's a good idea too, in my opinion.  So my detectors are wired in with the upstairs ceiling lights.  Now they want those ceiling lights on an arc fault protected circuit.  It makes no sense whatsoever to put my smoke and CO detectors on a circuit designed to trip if there's an electrical arc somewhere!  Fortunately my inspector agreed.  (I had a spare breaker ready to plug in anyway if he insisted).

   Basic wiring rules----

1) Black (or red) is hot.  They go to the brass screws on switches and outlets.  White are neutral.  Don't reverse these.
2) 15 amp breakers get 14 AWG wire or better.  20's get 12 AWG.  Don't try to put 15 amp switches or outlets on 12 AWG wire.
3) Balance your two hot legs coming into the house---the goal is to have as little load on your neutral, which basically dumps into the ground, as possible.  You wil actually use less electricity if you pay attention to this detail.....If your TV is always on, or there's some light always on, put those on the leg the fridge isn't on.  If you list out all your electrical needs and guess at how often each thing is used, then divide them between one leg and the other (the two 'hots' coming in) you're doing good.  The neutral is the same throughout the house, so if you're using two 100 watt bulbs on the same leg (even if they are on different breakers) that hot is energizing your bulbs, going to neutral, then returning to ground or the powerplant.  If those same two bulbs are on different legs, some of the return through the neutral goes back through the other bulb that's in a different phase.  Your meter spins slower, your building is more efficient.

  I kind of went overboard with this theme---my outlets in the kitchen are wired with one leg on top, the other on the bottom.
4) VERY IMPORTANT---ground and bond everything---water, gas, foundation rebar.  A very common mistake is people cut their copper pipe and put a water filter in line.  One side is grounded and bonded, the other isn't.  You just built a battery---one side is energized with any unbalanced neutral current, the other isn't.  Minerals in your water will take advantage of the potential and you'll start getting pinhole leaks in the plumbing where ions are being stripped away.  Any place you make a break in your plumbing you have to bond it---just bridge it with some copper wire and copper clamps so everything metal is joined together.  When there IS a short somewhere, you want the path of least resistance to be parts of your house, not you or a family member.
5) Always switch through the hot, never the neutral......If you followed rule #1 you did this already.  If you ran the white wire through the switch to that ceiling light, and that white wire was properly wired as the neutral, it WILL work.  The light will turn on and off....However, the appliance is still energized.  Wiring it backwards means you've made the whole thing 'hot' all the time, and when you flip the switch you ground it and the light comes on.  In a few years you climb your metal ladder to change that bulb, thinking it's dead because the light's out, then you can't figure out why you're taking 110v and trying not to fall.
6) If you get weird electrical problems, like some lights are super bright while others are dim, TV's are smoking, lights are coming on by themselves---you lost your neutral somewhere, either the panel or the acorn nut in the drip loop, and the electricity is backfeeding through the other leg.  Or maybe your house is possessed by evil spirits.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


   This picture is a little better of my fiberoptic wall.....The fibers shimmer because the light source has this little wheel with holes in it that turns in front of the fibers.    I still have to fill in with more rocks and pour the top curb.  The fibers are bright enough that you can see the steps, all from a single 3 watt bulb.  There's enough space in the light source I can add quite a bit more fibers in the walkway I'm going to build.   
Find what you love and let it kill you.


    Brrrr.......More evidence of global warming---a frozen lake in San Diego
Find what you love and let it kill you.


  When we started this place, the goal was to get my wife, AnnaMarie, to design her dream cottage.  Every single design element, shape, and color was her decision.  It took awhile to figure out how to present questions and options to her so she could envision what it was she was deciding, but we got there.
   I created a monster.

   She used to always just answer 'whatever you think is best'.... But now she's realized she has a style, and an opinion of how things should look.

  One of the finishing touches was the backsplash behind the stove.  It was just painted like the rest of the kitchen before, but she really wanted the same native stonework that's around the fireplace.

   I've been working on the fiber optic wall outside, but the snowy weather called for an indoor project.  I loaned out my wetsaw I'd cut the other rocks with, so rented a bigger one from Home Depot.  I spent 6 hours or so cutting up stones.  Then made a template out of cardboard so she could puzzle fit the stones (with the help of our daughter).  Then cut wonderboard to the proper size, pre-drilled holes where there were studs....(Oh---here's a helpful hint.  Before you mount the wonderboard,  go ahead and set the first coarse of stones along the bottom and let it cure.  That way you can mount the board, then set the rest of the stones and they won't sag at all.)

   Let them set, did the grout, then sealed the stones. 

   She hates it.  "Can you take it back out?" Umm not easily.  It's part of the wall now.  "I really liked it better before.  I didn't think I would but now it looks to busy"

    This is HER dream home, so out they'll come.  I'm going to make it a low priority project and hope she gets used to it, then likes it, then loves it---that's what happened with the concrete 3 color hearth, anyway.

(I feel obliged to note---this is very, very uncharacteristic of her.  We've been together most of our lives now, and I so much prefer to know what her wishes are.  I'm not good at guessing)
Find what you love and let it kill you.


If I've learned anything during my years owning, renovating, and observing homes, it's that nothing is ever perfect. There are always going to be issues, things you hate, parts of the construction that are a reminder of a tough time or a regretted decision. A friend's parents had a horrific experience with their contractor while redoing the entire interior of their country house (to be used as their permanent residence as they were retiring). The original hardwood floors were laid at a beautiful 45 degree angle, and they were click-lock boards made from ecologically friendly wood. But they were installed in a seaside home, where there's inevitably going to be some shifting movement, and then he put a center kitchen island on the floor with a 1-ton slab of granite counter on top!! Needless to say the floors began to split apart and shift, so they had to have them entirely re-done in a much different style of wood. It was horribly frustrating, but it's part of renos. While some things can definitely be fixed, when you work in a budget, sometimes you just need to learn how to love parts of your renovation that you aren't so thrilled about.  :-\

That being said, I hope that the rest of the house works out!! The photos look fantastic. For what it's worth, I really like the backsplash and fireplace the way it is!


More Craigslist finds---

   As mentioned before, we built paying cash as we went so there would be no debt involved with this place.  We now have 4 houses between us and homelessness, in a great part thanks to my wife's frugal nature (in spite of what the local paper says, firemen don't really earn that much)
   Her new cottage was pretty much completely decorated, except for the coffee table.  She wanted me to build it from leftover scraps of the Jacareuba, but until Mtn. Don finishes building that board stretcher I need it isn't going to happen.  So, plan 'B'---every day before leaving for work, find a coffee table on Craigslist that just might work and leave it up on the computer. 
   After about 12 tries, she liked this one.

   Thursday was our tandem bike date day (awesome weather at the beach, only an hour drive away)  so we met with the Craigslister and saw the table.  AnnaMarie loved it---it helped, I think, that the seller shared her same decorating style.
    The place is filled with Craigslist finds.  Once I got over the uncomfortable part of getting used to calling and meeting strangers for a business deal, it got to be pretty fun.  People seem to understand when you tell them "Thanks for meeting with us, but it isn't quite what we wanted".  We've met some pretty cool people.  In this pic alone the sofa ($40.  Ikea Ecktorp, we already had the cover) flooring (600 sq. ft. +, 40 year old T&G, $120) and table, all Craigslist.  The bedframe, chandelier, twin oven range, tankless water heater, and assorted other things all came from Craigslist too.  It turned in to one of the more fun parts of the project, cuddled in bed after a long day of building, looking at the laptop for stuff we needed
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Oh and sidenote---I went up with a hammer and stone chisel and pretended I was going to demolish the backsplash.  She told me to wait, she's not so sure she hates it anymore.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


What if she called your bluff, and said "let it rip!" haha.....Nice build by the way, I dont think I ever mentioned that


Oh--I would have chiseled away.  If I were 100% confident that's what she really wanted, I would have just done it, patched the holes, and re-painted it.   There were a few other things along the way she had me re-do, and to her credit she's been right that it ends up better----the thick wood trim along the bar is a perfect example.  I followed directions from a magazine article about how thick the wood you lean against should be---she had me cut away most of it and it really did look lots better
Find what you love and let it kill you.


OK.  She got used to the stone backsplash and now really likes it.  Change is hard, I guess.

  I swear, it's taking longer to finish a little rock wall than it took me to frame the whole house.  All the projects that I had a great excuse to backburner---at home, work, and the rental properties---all came to a head and required attention.  Plus I've been making family time more of a priority.  In the rain and snow though it's not worth getting sick working outside.
Here's my theory on building storage space---I design spaces to store all the things I can imagine will need to be stored.  Measure brooms, vacuums, DVD's, spices.  Create the spaces.  Then, when she moves stuff in, I let her figure out what shuold go where---it's not always how I planned it but ends up making sense.  This wall pantry build under the stairs is quite shallow (5") it takes up no room really but provides lots of storage space.

  Also the little cubbies under the wal end of the counter---it would have been too deep an area to be useful from the sink side.  AnnaMarie's thinking of getting slide out baskets to put there like she did in the kitchen--

     The row of basket shelves here is opposite where the fireplace tools go on the other side.  The skinny door hides cookie sheets and cutting boards.  The doors to the right have shallow shelves (10") so the base cabinet will have room for the barstools and the legs that sit on them, but the three drawers go deeper---they are up tight against the counter and leave plenty room for sitting without knee banging.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


    Now that the cottage is done it's back to doing a little hardscaping.  AnnaMarie wasn't sure how she wanted the yard shaped until everything else was done.  She'd like to get busy planting---it's a challenging area for gardeners.  Very rocky iron rich soil, dry summers, cold windy winters, and when you DO get something to grow the deer will come to snack. 
    So, we're building some more stone walls to shape some flat areas that are easily accessible for my dear, but not so accessible for my deer.
     I bet how you build stone walls is very dependent on what kind of stones you have.  Ours are very sharp and angular so if you have a big pile of them set aside, you can always find the 'perfect fit' one.  You just have to be sure to have rocks of all sizes, from a little bigger than you can safely move to palm sized.

  Here's the footing.  I'll mark the area to be dug with string first then sink the shovel in to get things started.

   Next I'll form the footing and pilasters up for a single pour so there ae no cold joints.  I like to line it all with visqueen so the concrete surface doesn't get water sucked out by the soil.  Bending and installing rebar sometimes requires the dis- and-re-assembly of forms.

   Speaking of rebar----I set this long galvanized pipe in the wall so I'd have a good place to bend rebar later.  You just feed the rebar in the pipe and bend it with another pipe section.

   Next it's just a metter of dry stacking the stones between the pilasters.

   Then I'll put something behind it all like a sheet of plywood and back pour concrete in.  I like to leave some big gaps here and there so the concrete makes it all the way through.  These walls are ground squirrel proof---without the concrete backing they'd quickly dig homes through and behind.  Note the rebar pins coming out the top of the pilasters for the top curb


    Forming the curb takes some 2x material and creative bracing.  If you line the whole thing with visqueen you get a nice smooth finish and the curb gracefully conforms to the top of the stones.


   Since my required two parking spaces (min. 9' x 19') were in the extreme rear yard, I was required to have a 6' fence.  Su 4x4 post holders were set in the concrete of the curb.  You have to plan your rebar carefully so the 4x4 holders aren't blocked by the embedded rebar.
    I would have liked to have built my foundation like this.  It probably would have held fine but no way passed inspection.   I wish I had taken pictures of the caissons---I didn't want the lower wall holding up the parking (and the hillside) bowing out over time so the top of three of the pilasters has a poured concrete beam that runs under the driveway to the footing of the upper wall.  That way neither wall can move.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Looks like I'm starting a new project tomorrow....We need more storage here at the helicopter station.  We currently live in a doublewide trailer we begged off and did enough work on to make it habitable, and we built some structures around some seatainers, a deck, and a fuel truck shelter (which we can't use anymore because of the new secondary containment rules)....There are plans to build us a real hangar someday so we can get the copters out of the salt fog, so I'm going to build this shed on giant skids.  That way, when we do move, it can just get flatbedded over to the new spot. 
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Here's a picture of the foreman in her now completed cottage.   (She took down the Christmas stuff and put in the Valentine's.  She cut all these hearts out of various things---my favorites are the ones cut from my work jeans that have every color paint, caulk, and stain used in the place.  No, I will not wear them now.)

Find what you love and let it kill you.


Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.