Friday, July 16, 2010

Delays and the Masonry Heater Phase II

The past few weeks have seen a lot of progress and a lot of delays. It's been frustrating because so many things are co-dependent at this point, a delay in one item causes a delay in another. For example, the bamboo floors were supposed to be installed last week. This can only take place once the bamboo has been acclimated to the proper humidity level in the house. But the humidity level in the house is not well controlled until the ground source heat pump is actually running. Unfortunately, although the drilling has been completed, the geothermal system has yet to be "plugged in and turned on." Thus, a delay in the completion of the heating/cooling system has delayed the bamboo floor installation, which delays the installation of the kitchen appliances and pushes off the carpet installation. We've had other delays as well which result in their own domino effect of delays.  Sometimes it seems like we'll never move into this house.  Sigh...

One item that has been moving along quite nicely is the masonry heater.  Phase I of the heater, which I wrote about a while back, consisted of constructing the heater core, the exhaust channels, and the start of the chimney.  Phase II has mainly consisted of installing the exterior finishing stone.  In contrast to the house exterior, we opted to use real stone on the masonry heater because we will regularly be in close proximity to it and we think it looks much nicer.  The disadvantage is that real stone doesn't necessarily come in perfectly sized pieces that are easy to fit together.  On the contrary, this process is more like putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle with pieces that don't quite fit together.

Stone Puzzle Pieces (Click image for more photos.)

Watching Brian work on this phase of the process has been fascinating.  It's as much art as it is mortar and stone.  He divides the stones by shades and carefully chooses them so that there is a nice mix of color as the work progresses.  Since the stones come in random sizes and shapes, there is a lot of marking, cutting, and chiseling involved in getting them to fit nicely together.  It's time consuming work but the end result is quite beautiful.  He's a true craftsman in every sense of the word.

Chiseling a Stone (Click image for more photos.)

At this point, there are still a few holes to fill and the chimney needs to be completed on the exterior of the house.  But it's clear that when finished, the heater will be a real focal point of the main living area, which is exactly what we were hoping for. To read about this heater from the builder's perspective, take a look at Brian's website.

Almost finished! (Click image for more photos.)

One useful by-product of the delays is that we got to witness how the house performs in very hot weather with no air conditioning. We designed the house to take advantage of passive solar heating in the winter, but also designed it to passively cool in the summer. During the past few weeks, the East Coast has experienced a pretty intense heat wave, with temperatures in the upper 90s and even into the 100s. When the house is closed up with only the clerestory and basement windows open, the rising hot air flows out the upper clerestory windows. This natural convection current pulls in air through the North-facing basement windows and into the rest of the house. The result is that the cool basement air is naturally circulated through the house. Although this was all designed into the house, it was surprising and very gratifying to experience how cool the house stayed during this stretch of hot weather. Unfortunately, we didn't actually measure the temperature inside the house, but walking in from outside, the house felt air conditioned. I would estimate it was close to 20 degrees cooler inside than out.


Anonymous said...

Your fireplace is magnificent!I have never seen one more beautiful and imposing. You have made such good choices with this house.You should both be proud. Love Mom

David and Virginia Jackson said...

Glad to hear you like it, mom. We agree! I'll pass the compliment on to Brian. He'll be happy to hear it. And you do realize, I'm sure, that it's more than just a fireplace :)

Post a Comment