Friday, October 30, 2009


One thing about training to be a real man is that the process doesn't end with hammers and power tools. There are the ever-present issues of the yard. Besides mowing and cutting and splitting and all that good stuff, we're having problems with our lawn as well as our blueberry bushes.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, and excuse me if I have, but our blueberries, which were house-welcoming presents, have taken a turn for the worse. They gave us loads of berries the first year, tapered off a bit the next year, and this year looked like they were on the verge of death. No berries, and sickly looking. I made the mistake of putting wood ash over them thinking I was doing them a favor, only to learn they love acidic conditions and ash is alkaline. How was I supposed to know? And what am I supposed to do with all that ash?

Anyway, we are in the midst of reversing the process. I tried to remove as much of the ash and junk as possible, then spread some nice juicy acidic fertilizer around the base and covered it with pine mulch (evergreens are acidic, I learned). We got lucky in that right after doing it, it rained for days, so hopefully the conditions are working their magic on the roots, but we won't really know until next Spring, though we'll keep our fingers crossed.

There is also the issue of the lawn restoration. Our friend W said it's hard, if not impossible, to beat out lawn ivy, i.e, Creeping Charlie. The stuff is hard as nails and grows like a house on fire, so maybe I just need to embrace it... naah! When I first spread the grass seeds, I was convinced that there was no way in heck this was going to work. The seeds just sit on the surface of the soil, how were they going to grow? Well, here we are, two months later, and sure enough, the seedlings are sprouting up all over the place. How cool is that? I need to do research my next step, but so far, so good. Something to look forward to in Spring.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Front Porch, Framing, and Rough Openings

So I managed to cut out my second rough opening the other day, and felt so much like a man that I went inside and read some Hemingway. This time around, I only dropped the header once, and even that could have been avoided if I wasn't taking shortcuts out of laziness. My inadequacies always come back to haunt me. It was good for entertainment value, however. N was watching me, from a safe distance (I thankfully made him stay a safe distance back until I secured the header), and I'd left my box of nails on the bottom sill. When the header fell, it not only crushed the box, but managed to drive several of the nails into the wood. Kind of funny, though I'm glad it wasn't my head under there.

After it was up, I was ready to cut the final two ROs, but we really need to finalize our choices on windows before we go cutting up the frame. My Mentor concurred with me that this was probably a good idea. This, like all things in life involving contracting, was not as simple as it seems, because in the interest of symmetry and aesthetics, you'd like to get proper spacing and proportions relative to things like counter tops, pre-existing windows, and appliances. This then requires that you envision your kitchen in its final form, and that, for me, is the hard part. It's easy enough to knock out studs and cut jacks, but to have to think about it? Count me out.

After much toiling and discussion, I think we've arrived at a window and its placement. Now we just have to see if it exists, i.e., if they carry the stock window. We could have any sort of window custom made to fit any RO, but then you're getting into the big bucks. We'll stick with stock windows for now, they cost well over half the price.

Yesterday my Mentor stopped by and helped me put up sheathing, though we had to stop because we can't finish the back without knowing the ROs. Those darn windows keep coming back to haunt me, so I've got to just get it done. At least the sheathing has been initiated, making it all that much easier to put the next boards in. I have this incredibly naive fantasy that I can put up sheathing by myself, and I'll at least give it a try, though I need to make sure the kids are not within earshot because I know while I'm doing it, every other sound coming out of my mouth will be the F-word.

Also got loads of good advice about the front porch, all of which simply confused me even more. After all is said and done, I don't think we'll be employing concrete. Out of the 456 opinions I got on what to do, all of which BTW were different, at least 450 of them hinted or declared the concrete would be too thin and would crack. Majority rules. Unfortunately, this also means I have to rip up the cement board, which ain't gonna be easy. I'm never comfortable destroying something that someone else has worked so hard on creating, especially when it involves our house.

On the bright note, after slaving over the details and possibilities, I do feel increasingly confident that not only can this be done, but I can do it. At least some of it. That's why the invented power tools. Whatever happens, it should be interesting, so stay tuned for more wild and whacky adventures. And thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good Help is Hard to Find

Just for the record, I never once believed I could do this on my own. In fact, I approached this project as if my Mentor was going to hold my hand and pretty much do everything while I sat back and took notes, but no such luck. And in the end, that's not how any learning experience should be. Sometimes you have to sweat and bleed a little before the hard lessons are tacked into your brain.

Case in point, this barn. My Mentor is busy with flying and he will be going back to Maine in November, so what the heck am I going to do? Well, rather than cry, or in addition to crying, I need to man up and deal with what needs to be dealt with. Which for a city-boy like myself means one thing: hire a contractor. I'll need to keep a standing supply of beer in the house, while sequestering the non-alcoholic stuff or else compromise my fragile standing the real man world.

The problem I run into is that I really want to be active in the building of this barn, for many reasons, but also as an integral part of my real man training. This complicates matters because really serious contractors don't want some Johnny-come-lately getting in their way, which I know I would. Also, they tend to hire their own crews. What I need is someone who is capable and reliable but is also willing to let me come in and destroy all their hard work. Someone who is not as uptight as me and will come in to help and assess but not dominate the project. Then, of course, can take the reigns when I have to go inside to make Rice Crispy Treats for the kids.

Well, finding this ideal candidate ain't easy, as you might have guessed. I got two responses when I called around. Either they never called me back, or were busy. How's that for getting shot down in flames? What is it with contractors? Don't they want our money?

I finally spoke with my karate teacher, CH, and I think he's the man. Besides being capable and trustworthy, he does it all, and is willing to work around our schedules. He even mentioned working at night. He is also a logger and does ceilings, but the time will tell where this one goes. I want to believe.

My Mentor also introduced me to a guy B who is a seasoned contractor and is willing to put up with my inadequacies, so things are looking up. But it's early, and there's much room for disappointment. In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away. Our short term goal is to seal up that barn and work in the winter. I don't think this is unrealistic, but what do I know?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Miracles do Happen

In a testament to the fact that miracles do indeed happen, I somehow managed to put a rough opening in, all by my lonesome. For the record, it was incredibly hard to do, and not only did it bring tears to my eyes, but I almost gave up. I couldn't, however, face my Mentor after doing that, so I persevered. And best of all, it only took me about 6 hours to put in, but at least it's in, and I can hold up my head in pride. The following pic is not the finished product.

I based the design on the other windows, since we were simply moving the front ones to the back, so the ROs (contractor lingo for rough openings) would be identical. With this in mind, it all seemed so simple, but I forgot to factor in the fact that the green wood that we're using, rough cut hemlock I believe, weighs a metric ton, so when all is said and done, the actual header (more contractor lingo for the top part) weighs about 50-60 pounds. This would not be so bad if you didn't have to lift it over your head while balancing yourself on a sawhorse and then secure it. Whatever you do, don't try this at home.

I ended up dropping the thing 5-6 times before I finally came up with a plan. My Mentor would have been proud of me. The header rests on posts I believe they call "jacks," but whatever they are, I was told the fit should be tight. What I ended up doing was placing the jacks in first, but at an angle to the studs (the boards that hold up the roof). I placed the header on the angled jacks, then gently forced the jacks plumb (contractor lingo for vertically flush) with the studs, thereby lifting the header into place. What a nightmare, what a dream.

I was so pleased with myself that I went inside and celebrated by making lunch for the kids and then doing the dishes. I have to confess, I shamelessly went back to the RO that I'd made again and again to just stare at my handiwork. Call me vain, but it left me with a warm glow inside.

Just a quick sidenote, my Mentor warned me repeatedly to not leave boards with nails lying around, and of course I completely ignored him in a rush to get as much done as possible. And, of course, I ended up stepping on a nail, but luckily for me, it didn't hit my foot, though I could feel it penetrate the rubber soul of my shoe. Not a good feeling, but as I've always said, the lessons you learn the hard way are the ones you never forget. Unless you're stupid. I'll leave it at that.

Now I'm light years away from completing this project, but I am gaining some degree of confidence in my limited contracting abilities, so much so that I am looking forward to cutting out the next rough opening.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I'm learning more about concrete than I'd ever known in the past, probably because in the past, I'd never spent a minute even thinking about it. Interesting stuff, though, and yet another thing we take for granted when we live in a house and have no interest in how things work.

We have a plan to redo the front porch in concrete, and when it's done right, it's beautiful. The key phrase, of course, is "done right." Anybody can mix and pour concrete, it's not unlike playing with mud, but the fine tuning is literally an art.

The porch was originally done with tiles, beautiful ones, mind you, except that there was a serious design flaw in that the pitch was all wrong. When it rained heavily the water was shunted towards the house, when you want it to flow away. This was a huge problem because the water collects and then makes its way through the floor and into the basement. Big problems. As anyone who owns a house knows, especially in New England, moisture is the enemy.

So my Mentor mentioned some beautiful concrete work he'd seen, got the information, we started the process of redoing the porch. The easy part was ripping out the old tiles, which the kids helped me with. Of course, once that was done, I let it sit for awhile, which is typical for me, and now the time has come to move forward thanks to a little pressure (threats?) from above.

The main concern is if the concrete will be strong enough. My Mentor told me to make some molds that will mimic the final product, and we'll set about trying to destroy them to see if they are strong enough. I bought some concrete from LaValley's and was amazed at how cheap that stuff is. I think I paid $4 for an 80lb bag, though you begin to realize how much you end up using. Having never worked with concrete before, I naturally shied away from doing anything, and the bag just sat in the basement, though I felt triumphant that I even bought the stuff.

Eventually it was indicated to me that the state of the porch was unacceptable, forcing me to take action. It's amazing what a little pressure will do for a guy. I made the molds, and then had to cut out the rebar, which is a wire mesh that is too thick to cut with tin snips. I ended using a hacksaw, which was awkward, but did the trick.

I worked in the basement because it's cold outside, and it wasn't so bad. In fact, it's not unlike making bread. You have your dough, you add water, and mix the stuff. If anything, it's easier because you don't have to knead . The directions say to pour the entire contents into a bin and add 4 quarts of water. I didn't need that much, so I had to estimate how much water to add. Again, my baking experience came in handy and I could get a pretty good idea how much to add.

After adding the stuff to the mold, I tried my best to smooth it over, but found this to be pretty challenging, to the point where I gave up and decided that this time around, we'd simply test it for strength. I'm thinking we're going to need a little help on this one.

Once (if?) we get the porch poured, I need to finish ripping out the shingles and then put up new clapboards. Then I have to paint them. Boy, it's crazy how much work it takes to own a home. I have to confess, much to Mentor's chagrin, I'm sure, but it's a lot easier making whoopie pies with the kids. That's why they pay contractors the big bucks.

I've also found that when you ask around, the so-called experts will all tell you a different story. You can go crazy sifting through all the information. The temperature outside is getting cold, and I asked the guys at LaValley's what to do. They said it was find to pour the stuff, you just don't to do it when it drops to zero degrees. The concrete dries overnight, but it needs to "cure" over several weeks. What a pain.

I believe this involves the evaporation of water and the dissipation of air, so naturally you don't want the stuff to freeze. Another friend of mine, CF, who is one of those guys who has done everything and knows everybody (a good candidate for unofficial mayor of this town), said you don't want to do it when the temp falls below 40 degrees. While I completely respect CF and really trust his word, I'm inclined to go with the guys at LaValleys (my new buddies) said. However, CF happens to have a cement mixer (why?) that he said we could borrow, so I don't want to offend him. CF also knows a guy who can do the concrete work, which we might need in the end.

That's where we stand. My Mentor is going to kill me but I still need to rip out the white stuff on the deck, so hopefully I can get that done before shows up today. Yeah, right, is that before or after I make breakfast and wash the dishes?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Septic Complications and LaValley's Credibility

About a year ago when we went through the whole rigmarole of getting the septic designed and approved, it never really dawned on us how important it is to have a floor plan, even though my Mentor kept pounding this point into our head. What's the big deal, we figured. Just put the bathroom here and the kitchen here.

Well, the beauty of hindsight is that it's always 20/20, and in retrospect, we realize how much smoother things would have been, not to mention quicker, if we'd had a floor plan in the beginning. But how were we supposed to know? This is all new to us.

Case in point, the septic system. When the engineer came to the house, he asked us where the pipe would exit the dwelling. How should I know? I just told him out the side, so he designed it accordingly.

Now, of course, we don't want it to go out the side, we want it out the back because of where the toilets are located, as per our fabulous floor plan that we came up with a year after the fact. Anyway, this presented a few problems. First off, the septic tank and leach field are situated on the side. Since the toilets are in the back, we would have to run a pipe either through the floor to the side, or out the back and then along the backside, but outside the house.

The former plan requires a jackhammer to cut a trench through the foundation, then pouring concrete over the pipe, which besides being a pain, seems like a bad idea since you cannot access that pipe. The latter plan is much better, but brings up the problem of angles and distance. As I've learned, you want to minimize/eliminate angles and minimize length, which makes sense when you think of toilet flow. Solids move best in a straight line, and the shorter the distance, the better.

The jackhammer approach would eliminate the angle problem, but not the distance problem. The backside approach would eliminate the need to tear up the foundation, but introduces angles and distance. So what to do? The excavator said to contact the engineer, which I did. And this is what I learned.

He basically said the only two places to exit the house are the back and the side. The main constraints on the pipes and the tank are in relation to driveways and water sources. I.e., moving the tank to minimize angles out the back is allowable, as long as certain restraints are met. There is some degree of leeway in terms of placement, so we are in good shape, I think. I need to confer with the excavator some more, but at least we got a thumbs up from the engineer. Good enough for me. One other concern was the distance, which we thought might be too long, but he said it wouldn't be a problem. Maybe this would all have been simpler if we just installed composting toilets. I still like that idea.

One final note, I finally got approval from LaValley's for our contractor's account. Actually, it's a cash account, meaning it's not an official contractor's acct, but close enough to give me street credibility amongst the real men who shop and work there, and I get a discount. So when I go in there and the mean cashier asks me if I have an account, I can say, "Of course I have an account. Why do you think I shop here? And who died and made and you Grace Kelly?"

That should win me some points. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Marcos Agrelli for the pic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Small Steps and Even Superman Needed Help

Okay, as part of my new assertive plan, I went ahead and ordered some big ticket supplies. Just for the record, it makes me uneasy to spend large sums of money, which is anything over $50. It still amazes me how much supplies to build a house cost, and even more incredible is the cost of labor. So we're coming out on top with that, even if it takes ten years to build this thing.

I've ordered the rough cut wood for the framing, which is slated to arrive on Friday. We're talking hundreds of feet of boards, but they deliver, and since it's rough cut, it's pretty cheap. Word has come from above that it's time to order doors and windows, as well as the exterior siding. Again, big ticket items, but I've also learned that building supplies are supposed to increase significantly in price in the next year, so the time to buy is now. Installing the siding can occur anytime over the next year as long as the sheathing and Tyvek are on, and they need to be treated, which I've been told I can do over the winter in the basement. I can't wait.

Wow, I'm feeling like a real man already. Next step will be the septic system, and once we get all the sheathing on, we can move on with our lives. Thanks for reading, and thanks to David Siqueira for the pic.

rough cut
windows and doors
more boards out, sheathing in
can't do it alone

Taking the Reigns... sort of

Something that is really been weighing on my mind is this concept of taking the reigns and being deliberate about one's life. I've been reading a book that is similar to Malcom Gladwell's book Outliers. The basic premise is that natural ability is just part of the story, if not an insignificant part, in terms of people's success. They go on to describe the life of Tiger Woods or Mozart (they always use these two guys) and how their lives were about practice and hard work, not simply genes. The book I'm currently reading, Talent is Overrated, goes so far as to say genes have nothing to do with success. While I don't buy that, it does bring up the concept of not just practice, but meaningful practice that accomplishes something and establishes a foundation. This I sort of accept, especially when it comes to things like playing guitar and karate.

Especially those two. I've been thinking a lot about karate and how I feel the need to spend more time each day in order to groom myself into the next Bruce Lee. At the very least I'll get into better shape, and there are countless benefits to dedicating yourself to something that has meaning in your life. Music falls into this category, as well as writing.

Anyway, it also got me to thinking about the barn, and various other projects around the house. I have a tendency to sit around and wait for things to happen, or for someone to tell me what to do, when in fact, the answers are right there in front of me. Just build the damn thing, you idiot. So, I think I need to assert myself a little more and just start doing things, at least the ones I can accomplish, which are more than you realize.

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I've sort of been waiting around for my Mentor to tell me what to do, when in fact I'm sure he'd be pleased if I just took the reigns and did it. So I will... sort of.

Stay tuned for more on this, and thanks for reading.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall is in the Air?

Fall? It feels more like winter. The temp is hovering around 29 degrees, and there's predictions of snow. Can you believe it?

With this in mind, I'm thinking it's time to put up the storm windows and break out the rake. I'm not sure how much more mowing I'm going to be doing, but I'll ask my mentor.

Speaking of which, I'm beginning to wonder how far we're going to get on this barn. At the very least I'd love to get the sheathing and Tyvek up, but we shall see. I think the ball's in my court. I need to order rough cut, as well.

Then there's the issue of the front porch. So many projects, so little time. I think I'm in need of a conference with my Mentor. Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Siding and My Mentor Taking the Reigns

Spent a somewhat fruitful day with my Mentor actually doing work on the barn. Sure, we only accomplished about 10% of our goal, but that's 10% more than we'd done before. We had to squeeze in the work between him doing his real job and me doing mine, which meant making lunch, homeschooling, and taking the kids to assorted activities.

My Mentor came over around noon and there was no time to waste. We got to work and it was amazing to me how he just does it. I tend to ponder and torture myself over details, whereas he just does it. Chalk it up to experience.

Case in point, the sheathing. We went with Advantech, which is a relatively new product, and one which my Mentor did not have a huge amount of experience with. His first question to me - what side faces out? I think he rolled his eyes when he saw the clueless look on my face. You mean there are two different sides to this stuff?

I should have done my research properly. This is a classic example of a situation that would have paralyzed me. Upon learning that I needed to know which way to install the boards, I would have panicked and immediately called the experts, but my Mentor was up to the task. He looked over boards, read all the relevant information (it's all written on there), and came up with a plan. No need to waste time panicking. He figured it out and just dove in, head first. It was amazing.

It turns out that there is a recognizable waterproof side to Advantech, and we got it right, or should I say he got it right, I simply rode his coattails? The outer side appears waxy and has a definite coating on it. I learned later that if you put it on backwards, it wouldn't be the end of the world, especially after the Tyvek went on, but even still, it might get some rain exposure. We measured out the rough openings of the windows, cut the boards with a circular saw (actually, in the interest of time and accuracy, he did most of the cutting), and we nailed them in.

Two things came to light to me. First off, I need more nails (25 in/8d galvanized), a lot more. And secondly, putting up sheathing is a job for two people, at least. I toyed with the idea of doing it myself when my Mentor was not free, but I got over that one quickly. Those boards are heavy and cumbersome.

Either way, we got about a quarter of the exterior done. Not bad for a neophyte like myself. In fact, I feel so emboldened, I'm ready for more, except that we'll be away for a couple of days, and it's busy season for my Mentor, with foliage and all.

Oh well, I can always look forward to next week. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Next Assignments

So word has come from above for me to accomplish several tasks. First, I need to decide on what sort of windows to use. Second, get prices and availability on rough cut lumber for framing. Third, contact the excavator about our plans for where we want the drain pipe to exit the house. Fourth, decide on and locate siding, i.e., shiplap. And finally, one that my wife can fully appreciate, clean the barn. It is now an official working space.

If I accomplish even one of these, it will be a miracle. If I pull off two, fabulous, and if I can get to all of them, then I know it will knock my Mentor onto the floor. Here's to a gentle landing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Which Siding?

How's this for serendipity, or divine intervention, depending on how you see life?

I had decided, after much conferring with those more in the know than me, which is pretty much everyone, especially my Mentor, to used T&G boards on the side of the barn. They are a better product and provide a better seal against the elements.

I, of course, was leaning towards going with cheaper, which meant shiplap, but finally decided to go for better quality in the interest of building a better house.

Well, after talking to PD about it, he actually recommended against T&G for assorted reasons, as did the people at Bethel Mills. The reasons made perfect sense in retrospect, but took an experience voice to inform me.

The significance of this turn of events cannot be understated in light of the following: when I bought the sheathing two days ago, I had fully intended on buying the siding as well, figuring that it was more convenient to ship everything at once. When I went to LaValley's, however, they were sold out of the sizes I wanted, so I didn't buy any.

Then, a day later, I learn that T&G is not the board of choice. Hmm, someone is looking out for my back. Thanks, BTW. I'll leave it at that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Andrew Beierle for the pic.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Familiar Faces in Hostile Places

I'm fully aware of the fact that serious building and supply stores like LaValley's and Home Depot don't have time for Johnny Come Lately's as myself, but you'd think they'd put a little bit of effort towards taking our money. It's intimidating enough to go into these places and talk shop with experts, who are all real-men in the truest sense of the word (the parking lots are like Ford Truck dealerships), but then you go in and they make you feel like a loser. You have two choices in this matter. Either you go to Home Depot and get no service, or you go to LaValley's and they are incredibly cold and unfriendly. I, personally, would opt for the former. Home Depot works well if you know what you need, can find it, and get out with little to no interference.

Then again, it helps to know what you need, and I'm not that sort of person. So I have to ask questions, and that's the problems arise. I'd avoided LaValley's in the past because I hate asking questions. They are so unfriendly there. When I went to Home Depot, if by some miracle I could even find someone to help me, when I asked a question, I would get the Circuit City effect-they would not know what they were talking about but would try to pass it off like they did.

To their credit, Home Depot has improved their customer service significantly. Now when I go there, I get the Walmart effect, with someone waiting at the entrance to smile and greet me and ask me if they can be of assistance. It's nice, but in most instances, when I do have questions, I got right back to the Circuit City effect (you know the one, where you ask about a piece of stereo equipment and they simply read the information card on the display). This happens quite frequently, though every now and then, you'll get lucky.

Anyway, back to LaValley's. They know their stuff over there, and they have good pricing, and what I perceive to be better quality. They are just used to catering to professionals who know what they are doing and talk the talk. That excludes yours truly.

I went in there the other day to buy lumber and supplies, and of course got the cold shoulder as usual. Sometimes I think if I quietly stood there, they'd ignore me all day. Well, from the darkness, a ray of sunshine appeared, as I mentioned before, in the form or H from Britton's. I used to go there solely to get H's advice on things, he was knowledgeable, friendly, and always willing to help. He must have recognized my cluelessness and felt sorry for me.

Whatever be the case, he's now at LaValley's because Britton's in on the verge of collapse. It sure makes shopping there more pleasant. Now, if I could just get the cashier to look at me (I've given up on getting them to smile), life would be good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Peter Miller for the pic.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Siding Decisions

If you can believe this, I've managed to get a fair amount of siding off the barn. Mind you, there's still a long way to go, but just the fact that I've gotten any off is a small miracle. AND, best of all, it's something I can do with our son, N, because he loves to work with tools and do things like remove nails and chop things up. He also helps me chop kindling, in a limited fashion, of course.

I started out gangbusters on the removal, and it was more doable than I thought. Some of the boards are really resistant, and I've destroyed a few. My apologies to my Mentor, but some things couldn't be helped. While I fully acknowledge that I don't always have the softest touch (an understatement if there ever was one), I have been careful but some of those boards were just destined to crack or splinter. I would say about90-95% of them are fine, but a few just wouldn't let go, and I had to go in there with my bear claw and rip out the nails. Also, near the bottom where the most water exposure occurred, they were already cracked when I went to work on them.

Anyway, I started out on the front under the assumption that we would replace sections at a time so as to not compromise the structural integrity of the barn. There is a possibility that removing all of the siding at once could weaken it, so we're not taking any chances. I was cruising along at a good clip when I was informed that we would be actually doing the back of the barn, first. The reason is that since this is a learning experience and I'm all thumbs, we should start on a less visible section and do the learning part of this exercise there.

I put on the brakes and started on the back. The way I've been doing it is with a 5 pound drilling hammer and several pieces of 2X4's of varying length. The scrap absorbs the force of Thor's Hammer and the siding is fairly cooperative in terms of popping out, though as I've mentioned, it has given me trouble at times.

So I think I've managed to get the back quadrant done, and I've even removed a window. It was not intentional, but necessary to get the boards off around it. Those things are heavy! I was extremely worried that I'd drop one, and then my Mentor would make me write "I will not drop windows" a hundred times on the back of a some plywood.

Either way, we are ready for the next stage, which is to purchase the sheathing, waterproofing, and siding and get to work. We also need a couple of tools, I believe, namely a table saw and a reciprocating saw in order to cut our the windows and frame them (listen to me, as if I knew what I was talking about.) These are all things I think I can do on my own, a key part of my real-man training, though it sure is nice to have my Mentor there holding my hand... figuratively speaking, of course.

But we're busy people, so we have to do what we have to do and make our decisions (and by extension, chart our own course in life). My Mentor, I think, is cognizant of this fact and tends to make suggestions and then await our decisions, when in fact life would be easier if he just told us what to do. Then again, that's not what being an adult (and a real man) is all about, is it? So perhaps today, if we have time, I'll head over to LaValley's and order the wood and if I'm feeling really crazy, get some needed tools. It's never going to happen if I don't, so it's time to just do it.

Yikes? Did I just say that?

One final note, we had to come to some siding decisions. My Mentor and I went back and forth on the type of siding. Being the good Asian that I am, my first impulse is always go cheap. My Mentor, on the other hand, is a firm believer in quality and getting it right the first time. While he thought tongue and groove would be better because it provides a better seal, I was leaning towards shiplap because, of course, it's cheaper. After talking it over and realizing the difference would not be huge, I sided with my Mentor, because he is right, and he's my Mentor.

We were going to use OSB sheathing, as well, because, you guessed it, it was the cheapest siding you can get. It would in fact work but we would have had to sealed it from the weather immediately, because it acts like a sponge and soaks up any sort of moisture. I've been told it also has high vapor content. Whatever be the case, this was a good instance of cheaper not being better. Funny how that works. The guys at LaValley's also strongly discouraged OSB because of the water issue, which will most definitely be an issue in New England. Sure, we could protect it from the rain, but there's no protecting it from the temperature fluctuations that create moisture in every nook and cranny of your life.

We are therefore opting for CDX, which is a little pricier, but a much better product, more like the plywood that we all know and love. The difference, however, is not huge. Just to complicate matters, our good friend KB said he likes to use Adventec, which is higher quality compressed board like OSB but has many good attributes and doesn't suffer from water exposure. Nothing like more information to confuse the issue.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

spared most of the boards, which we will reuse for some other constructive pr