Monday, April 28, 2008

Heatin' Up.

A nice, warm spring day here in the Mohave Desert. This thermometer usually hits 125 degrees in the early afternoon starting in June. We have three feet of dirt on the roof. The back and sides are buried, leaving only the south face exposed. Our house is basically a 12-inch-thick concrete box, wrapped in styrofoam and buried in dirt. The roof has 6 inches of styrofoam and the sides have 3 inches. There is no R-value in either concrete or dirt, so the only insulation comes from the styrofoam. 6 inches X R4.7 = R28.2. I'm counting on the thermal mass of the concrete and dirt to even out temperatures. Instead of battling temperatures from 30F to 125F, the dirt around the shell of our house will be a nice, even 75 degrees(I'm guessing. I don't know for sure.)
We still haven't moved in and we have not turned on the heat pumps since they were installed and briefly tested in January. We now know that the sun will completely heat our home during the winter. We won't have to turn on the heat pump at all during the cold months. Summers here are a brutal test of a dwelling's energy efficiency. We'll closely watch the performance of our home. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Master Bath

Ralph, our director of security here at the Underground Carpenter Mega-Complex, checks the master shower/vanity area. Notice the wood top on the vanity cabinets has been "scarred" with a rough belt sander to improve adhesion when the granite is glued on sometime next week.
Freshly installed vanity cabinets. I'll put the doors and drawers on tomorrow.
These are the two medicine cabinets. They have wood doors which I'll put on tomorrow. The blue tape tells me to look for the door with blue tape on it to make sure I'm putting the right door on the right cabinet.

Front Decor

We've been storing our yard art in the garage, but we had to put these outside to give the plumber room to hook up the water heater, etc... This cactus and the other metal sculptures are creations of Steve Novak, a former Arizonan who now resides in Washington State.
This is Bert the Buzzard. It's the first artwork we bought from Steve. The bird's body is an old Harley-Davidson gas tank. The Tree is rebar.
These guys will go out in the center of the turnaround drive after we move the temporary mobile home.
This one is named Pedro Glyph. He's our Sentry.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We Were Floored!

Setting the floor piece in front of the shower. I was so taken with the beauty of the granite that I neglected to stand back enough to get Richard, Justin and Steve in the picture.
Here Richard wipes off excess silicon caulking around the edges of the floor piece.
Here's Steve doing likewise.
A closeup showing how the "movement" in the granite carries through into the shower floor tiles. Now that's attention to detail.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Progress

After grouting, this is what our granite shower floor looks like.
Kenny installs the shelving in our pantry. Since this back wall is 12-inch-thick concrete, we had to drill holes and use plastic anchors.

Larry starts to install the laminate clothes-folding table in the utiltity room.
Leon fine-tunes the fit of the sink top that will go next to the washer.

True 'Toons

Click on a cartoon for a larger image.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Granite Shower Floor

The granite floor of our shower was cut up into these tiles for two reasons. First, the floor slopes from the edges to the center for drainage, so a big, flat piece of granite wouldn't work. Second, granite would be too slippery for a floor without these grout lines. Mrs. Carpenter would rather slip and fall than stick on some safety appliqu├ęs. The granite is so beautiful, I agree with her.
The granite was cut up into these tiles and numbered to re-create the pattern in the large piece.
Rudy, our tile man set the granite tiles in sequence and he used these silicon spacers to make the grout lines even. I'll try to get a picture of Rudy tomorrow when he grouts this floor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Ted Rall is one of my favorite cartoonists. I get to see his most current cartoon on my home page every day. He's always spot-on. Here's his website.

I wish every American could see the connection between war and inflation. When politicians "borrow" to finance a war, they're not passing the costs on to our children. They're slugging us in the gut right now. Inflation is just one of the consequences of endless war. Unemployment and recession are right behind it.

More Pix of the Island Cabinet

These are just some additional photos of the island cabinet in the middle of our kitchen. Mrs. Underground Carpenter and I have been sick for a few days, so posting here braked to a halt in the last week. The above photo shows the back "skin" of the cabinet being glued on. I use PL400 construction adhesive. It works better than whatever the factory tried to glue theirs on with. Oops, I ended a sentence with a preposition. Now I'll have to rap my knuckles with a ruler.
This is a "remodeler's box". It has a toggle-bolt-like fastening hardware to secure it to the cabinet.
The back side of the remodeler's box and the inside of the cabinet. You can see the clip that holds the box in place.
The wire comes up through the bottom of the cabinet and into this mounted box. From that box our electrician will run a lead to each of the two electrical boxes on the cabinet. He'll use MC cable which is a metal-sheathed wire.

Monday, April 7, 2008


This is Justin and Steve from Mother Earth Granite of Lake Havasu City. They're templating the tops of the cabinets for the cut man to start sawing up the granite slabs that will become a beautiful granite countertop.
These strips of thin plywood are hot-glued together to make a template of the cabinet tops. Mother Earth will start sawing the pieces tomorrow. Mrs. Carpenter is very happy.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How To Install An Island Cabinet

First thing is to lay out where you want the cabinet and where to put the vac-pan in the toe kick space. The vac-pan is activated by foot. You just sweep floor dirt to it and it sucks the stuff into the central vacuum.
I like to use blue painter's tape to draw layout lines. It's easier to peel up tape than to clean pencil marks off floor tile.
You need a way to fasten the island cabinet to the floor. For this install I'll fasten two plywood squares to the floor with Tapcons. I love Tapcons. Since the structure of our house is concrete, we've used a ton of these fasteners. The beauty part is that if you make a mistake, you can just unscrew and start over. Glue and nails are tough to undo.
I looked at the cheesy bottoms of our two island cabinets and said, "No, no, no." Way too flimsy.
Does this crappy little connector inspire confidence? Hell, no!
I'll start the modification by gently taking off the cheesy toe kick on the cabinets.
Here I've rebuilt the toe kick with some 3/4" form plywood I had laying out in the yard.
I've joined the two cabinets together and I'll tip them up and over the plywood squares on the floor for a test fit.
This is a close-up on the vac-pan. It's one of the coolest inventions ever.
The cabinets are tipped up. Now I'll screw the cabinet bottom to the plywood squares (after checking for level). There's more work to be done on all the cabinets, like applying the toe kick skins and scribe mold, and putting the plywood tops on the cabinets for the granite countertops. Tomorrow.