week 13: stuck on stucco

The time lapse is updated: On to preparations for stucco! The visible progress this week is the installation of paper, lath (that chicken wire looking stuff), and flashing about the windows. These activities are giving the house a decidedly Darth Vaderish appearance as it slowly fades into the shadows [insert ominous music here].

Some writing on the floor for the soon-to-be-installed posts to support the art wall:

The bride is worried about the powder room window, which has now been papered and lathed:

And some extra stuff that needs to be returned:

The onsite pow-wow

Based on some concerns we had on the installation of the paper and the roof lines at the end of the carport and concerns the builder had on the installation of duct work, we had a big pow-wow at the site Tuesday of last week with the builder; the stucco, framing, and HVAC subs; and the architects.

If you recall from the update last week, I was concerned about how the moisture barrier was being installed. The long and the short of it is: The way the sub is doing it isn't a best management practice (by my understanding...), but the way he's doing it is not fatal (at least I hope so...). My understanding is that the best management practice is to have (1) a formal drainage barrier and (2) two layers of moisture barrier that (3) have the two layers of moisture barrier lap themselves such that there's (potential for) a drainage plane between the interior barrier and the external sacrificial barrier. I come to this understanding from the Zip System installation instructions (they mention 1 and 2 but don't specifically specify 3), the folks over at Building Science, Corp./Green Building Advisor (they mention 1 and 2 but don't specifically specify 3), and the International Building Code (they mention 2 and 3).

Let me tell you, it was hell finding the lapping clearly explained somewhere on the interwebs. Everyone says two layers, but (almost) no one says how those two layers should lap (I finally found it in the International Building Code). The sub claims that the way he's doing it is the "right way", that you want the drainage plane to empty back into the stucco so it gets away from the house. Furthermore, he points to the Zip System as providing the fallback moisture barrier if his system fails. He also notes that moisture infiltration that results in drainage in the drainage plane is more of an issue in the wetter north than in the drier south, claiming that he's only ever seen water dripping out the bottom of a weep screed in Texas once, and that was with a 10-year-old paint job (stucco paint's ability to reject infiltration decreases with time). When asked about not having a formal drainage plane, he pointed to the drier, warmer climate of the south. When asked about the International Building Code, he points to the exception to the rule, which he says the Zip System fits into the exception (I'm not a lawyer, but my read of that exception [admittedly not the clearestly written piece of English out there...] refers to the need for double layering not the how of the layering).

I'm not convinced, but only being vaguely book-smart on the issue, hearing some of the truth of what he's saying (much of building science is biased toward the colder north), and seeing evidence of the sub's obvious concern with waterproofing the house, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, the builder will have all this prep work inspected by a third party expert. Plus the sub is already halfway done papering and lathing the house. The lesson here is to build construction requirements you really care about into the contract beforehand, something we didn't do. At the very least, I have photographs for the later lawsuit (Joking!!! [I hope...]).

The builder started off the conversation by noting that we were installing the F1 of HVAC systems, an appropriate comment since this weekend was the debut of Formula 1 racing in Austin. There are a lot of load-bearing solid beams running this way and that about the house. This makes it a wee bit challenging to run ductwork since cutting holes in solid beams could compromise the structural integrity of said beams. After a bit of looking and chatting (and subsequent advice from the engineer), we're going to drop the ceiling in the downstairs hallway in the master suite to get air over to the master closet and laundry room (I like ceiling height changes, so this is cool with me; one of the architects said that height changes make the higher heights seem higher), run the air to the master suite through the second-story roof and then down through the guest room closet (not ideal from a friction loss standpoint, but the alternative [more lowered ceilings] wasn't great), and then cut two holes in the beam in the living room to get air over yonder.

    roof line at the end of the carport
This turned out to be the easiest issue to solve despite the builder and sub initially questioning the water-proofing wisdom of it and reluctance to redo what has been already done.

I started off by pointing out the constant height of the eave edge along the front of the house, and then pointed out the non-constant thickness coming around the north side. "You referring to that triangle bit there?" the sub asked. "That looks like [let's use the word "feces" here for this family friendly blog]. I'll fix that." And that was that, fortunately, because I was willing to go to the mat on this item.

Building a house includes lots of problem solving as issues pop up, so there were lots of side discussions about this and that, including the eyebrows over three of the windows (how to do it with stucco and avoid water and cracking issues). It seems the window guy has figured out how to install the problematic windows. We still need the storefront to get installed (at that point, we will have doors!). We talked about the garage doors (fiberglass for the side access door; aluminum with glass for the garage door (good news: We'll be able to see the Isettas; bad news: We'll have to keep the garage clean). There are some details getting worked out on exactly how the limestone for the facade will be attached and supported.

As expected, it was indeed great fun hearing the architects talk about the house and the cantilevers. The Usonian Expert, aware of the builder's concerns about the strength of the cantilever, joked that perhaps we needed a re-eneactment of Frank Lloyd Wrights famous demonstration on the strength of the columns for the Johnson Wax Headquarters by piling sandbags on top of one until it failed, way past the required strength. I proposed using architects (ha!).

next steps

Still some loose ends to clean up on the framing, need to get the roof done, and need to finish the straggling windows and doors. The builder says that once the house is closed in, work will start on the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. He's also starting to make a push on the cabinets, so we'll need to meet with the cabinet lady. We'll also need to start thinking more seriously about the low voltage stuff (speakers and security).

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