30 May 2011

Exterior Walls

     It's been raining continuously in Tokyo for the past few days, and it looks like it will be that way for another week or so.  Things are still moving along nicely, but we are worried that all this rain will impede progress with our exterior walls. 


     A few weeks back, the house was covered with a special kind of paper shield called "Toushitsu Bousui Shi-to" (透湿防水シート) - literal translation: " Breathable Waterproof Sheet".  This protective layer allows for humidity to transpire out of the walls but does not let water to come into the walls.  This particular product is スーパーエアテックスKD manufactured by FUKUVI.



      On top of this waterproof sheet, wooden beams (furrings) called "Doubuchi"(胴縁) were installed.  These are long thin strips of wood (or occasionally metal) used to make backing surfaces to support the finished surfaces in a room.  Furrings allow for air to circulate between the wall and the mortar.




     Last week a team of two came in to install the iron lath that will serve as a foundation for the mortar.  No need for a large truck, a small van did the trick:



     This is what "Tsuuki Nishiyama Lath" (通気ニシヤマラス) looks like close up. 通気 (つうき)means ventilation.  The mortar will be applied right on top of this lath which looks a bit like meshing.  The brown paper at the back also serves as a protective shield against water.


     The lath sheets are simply laid out onto the surface of the wall and secured with large staples.



     According to the tentative work schedule we were given, the mortar should be installed sometime next week, after which there needs to be a period of curing.  Following that, the final stucco finish, "Jollypat" (by Aica), will be sprayed on.  We're looking forward to watching the workers in action during that process!  Amazing what we learn just by watching!

29 May 2011

Adoption


     We could not resist bringing another little creature into our home...  An acquaintance was looking for a new home for this sweet little hamster and we decided to adopt him, even though we already have Pompom! 

Meet Sweety!


     Today we welcomed him into ours and although at first he seemed a little agitated, he now seems better settled.  Our daughter insisted we spotlight him on our blog, like we did with Pompom...  Cheers!

26 May 2011

Still a long way to go


      We visit our site as often as we can, and we are astounded by all the detailed work that is being accomplished.  Most of the time, its just the two Fukuzumi Brothers, working separate floors, and moving a long from one task to the next.  It just dawned on us that even though so much has been done,  we are still so far from the finish line!

     We happened to catch Fukuzumi-san Junior yesterday as he prepared to install insulation in the wall between the kids rooms.  We are also adding insulation in the wall between the Master Bedroom and the Bathroom.

     For these walls, we're using Fiberglass.  The brand our builder ordered is "Magmat": マグマット.  The reason we requested insulation in these interior walls is for soundproofing.

Here's what Fiberglass looks like when it is delivered on site.

  
The Fiberglass comes in batts that need to be unrolled and cut to the right size. 


Fukuzumi-san installed the batts and fixed them with large staples.  The batts were smaller than the gaps between the beams, and we wondered why...  Would he leave huge gaps?  Would he cut other thinner sections to add on either sides?


This is how he did it: he installed an extra batt on top of the beam
which he then he riped open this third batt to expose the beam.


When the wall was completed covered with Fiberglass, the plasterboard was installed.


     On the exterior of the house, another detail we noticed was that they had installed a rain drainer around the base of the house and the pillar supporting the balcony. 


     At first we didn't know what it was but then we noticed all houses have this! There is a base of concrete a the bottom, then this drainer, then the finished exterior walls.  This drainer is called 水切り "Mizu Kiri" and is made of steel covered with Galvalume which is the trade name for a metal alloy composed of aluminum, zinc and silicone and applied to sheet steel for corrosion resistance..  Another discovery for us!

25 May 2011

Window Frames & Moldings


     While our carpenters continue to install the plasterboard on the walls, they are also adding the window frames as well as the moldings.  We had a chance to see how window frames are put together and installed. 

The wood comes in slats.

These are then cut to the exact dimensions.


And they are then joined together into a perfect frame.

This is what the window looks like once it's been framed.

The frame is fixed onto the wooden beams.

And here's the final look after the molding's been installed.

     We were surprised to see that the moldings are installed before the wall is finished.  We will be sure to check what precautions they take when they apply the putty and start painting, to see how they manage not to color over them!


     Meanwhile, the Loft has been completed - windows, ceiling and walls and even the baseboards:



It looks even larger than we thought, now that it's been cleaned up of all tools and materials...


Now we just have to think about color...

23 May 2011

One-day Roof

      Saturday morning, as we rode up our road toward our house, we noticed a big change: part of the roof had been installed!  We talked with the Subcontractor and found out that he had just started that very same day, probably at 8am. 



     So from the early morning, he had been busy bringing the tiles, securing the frame of the roof and finishing off the front part of the house.  Pretty impressive!

The tiles come in packaged and piled up as shown below: 


There are also other parts for the frame of the roof that are packaged separately.

 


     We watched our expert in action and noticed how agile he was climbing up, transporting several tiles at once, moving easily from one side of the roof to the other. 

Here, he is using a slider to bring several tiles at a time up near the roof.




The device up on the roof is called a Single-cutter (しんぐるかったー) 
and, as the name implies, is used to cut the tiles.


     And if you take a closer look at the roof, near the edges, you can see little devices protruding.  These are called "Yukidome Kanamono (ゆきどめ かなもの) which serve the purpose of stopping the snow from falling down on passers-by.

     And sure enough, he covered the entire roof surface in a single day as we were able to confirm the next morning! 


     Installing the roof involves several stages, and the only way you're going to finish the job in a single day is if you're a Pro.  DIY advice on installing or changing a roof all agree on the fact that, yes, it can be done, but it's a difficult and laborious process.  Aside from material and equipment, it requires physical strength, a high tolerance of heights, and the ability to stay balanced on a an inclined surface. 

    Now, we would have preferred to have a lighter tone roof from Kmew's Quad Series, but to this date, the firm has not resumed its normal production of roofing tiles.  So in a sense it was a good thing we upgraded to Glassa Tiles and avoided further construction  delay.  



      The Glassa line has a special top coating that prevents dirt from adhering to it and discourages color fading. The various layers are also engineered so as to resist the elements over a longer period of time than acrylic-coated tiles, reducing the need for and frequency of maintenance.

21 May 2011

Installing Plasterboard


     On our visit last Thursday, we noticed that our carpenters had started covering the ceilings with plasterboard. This is called "Sekkou Bo-do" (石膏ボード  /  せっこうボード) in Japanese.  It goes by various other names such as Drywall, Wallboard or Gyproc (in Quebec).


     This particular plasterboard is manufactured by Yoshino and goes by the name of  タイガーボード (Tiger Board).  Plasterboard basically consists of layers of paper that has been bonded to a gypsum plastered core; it is a noncombustible material that is used mainly in the construction of walls and ceilings.  According to Yoshino's website, gypsum is extracted in one of their mines in Yamagata prefecture.



     One of the key features of Yoshino's Tiger Board is its capacity to rapidly absorb and decompose formaldehyde emitted from building materials in newly-built houses.  Sounds good!

     We happened to be there when Fukuzumi-san was cutting and installing the plasterboard surrounding the circular-shaped reclined ceiling in the entrance.  Not an easy task, but we could tell this wasn't his first time doing this type of detail.

1. First cut the board to fit the area and secure it lightly.
 2. Then, using a pencil trace out the circular shape from the inside


3. Remove board and cut it manually along pencil tracing


4. Secure the board along beams using screw gun


The thickness of the Plaster Board placed on the ceiling
is 9.5mm, and that placed on the walls is 12.5mm.


The automatic Dry Wall Screw Gun our carpenters use facilitate the job tremendously. 




      Given that a large amount of Plasterboard remains unused and must be discarded after construction, it is good to know that Yoshino's products can be recycled.

        After applying plasterboard, joints need to be strengthened with special jointing compound (putty) and tools.  After that, the wall can be finished with either paint or wallpaper.  We'll try to visit the site when they apply the putty to the walls and ceilings.

19 May 2011

Floor Protection & Underfoor Storage

      Now that Flooring has been installed on all floors, it is time to protect it from scratches as the work continues.



      Flooring on the first floor differs from that of the 2F and Loft on account of the fact that we have underfloor heating and needed a special kind of engineered floor. We are very pleased with the wood we selected and can't wait to see it when it's all polished and varnished.
 

      To protect the flooring, our carpenters installed fairly thick sheets of what looks like pressed cardboard.  Just protecting the floors took a couple of days, but things moved along faster once their assistant arrived!  Here's how this works:




     With all the tools around the site, it's easy to see why protecting the floors is imperative. Accidents can and do happen during construction, even by conscientious professionals, and protecting the house throughout the project is really a wise idea, as emphasized in this Article by Gary Gilbert and featured in Fine Homebuilding.


         Now onto a different area.  We happened to be there when Fukuzumi-san was installing our underfloor Storage Unit in the kitchen.  This was a good thing because he needed to know what side we wanted the unit to open from.  The lid is not heavy and can be removed entirely for easy storage.



      We changed our minds about the flooring in the kitchen and decided to use flooring instead of tiles; that was a wise choice because otherwise the lid might have been a bit heavy to lift with tiles.  The frame of the unit is thin and discrete and the top is covered with the same wood as the flooring.  Since the unit is not in a visible area of the house, it will hardly be noticeable, which is what we wanted.




      I could just anticipate Yani's excitement about this new 'hide-and-seek' spot so I showed him the manufacturer's warning: no kids inside!!

17 May 2011

Showrooms Worth Visiting

      A while back, we went to Aica’s Showroom located in Nerima mainly to check out their Melamine samples. Aica makes Exterior Wall Finishes, Melamine, Kitchen panels, and countless other indispensable items for the home. 

      We were easily able to confirm our melamine choices with the large panels on display. We had previously received Aica’s Catalog with tiny swatches of melamine boards, and had made some preliminary selections.  But of course, it is much easier to decide on or reject a sample when you can actually see a large enough sample that allows you to visualize it in your home-to-be. 

     To visit Aica, there is no need to make an appointment; you can just walk in freely and contemplate to your heart’s content.  We were able to try out various combinations freely since customers can simply pick up coded samples from the long row of melamine sample drawers to test them out. The staff was helpful and knowledgeable.



      We never thought we would be choosing melamine instead of wood, but considering the fact that it is apparently so easy to maintain, we finally conceded it was a sound choice. Also, I might be mistaken, but I think that wood tends to expand, as I remember Dad sanding some of our doors so that they would close better. In any case, we'll be using melamine for some of our storage cabinets and counters, but not for room doors (these will be from BLC).


      For home accessories and cabinet handles, we went to Kawajun which is located within the grounds of the former City Air Terminal at Suitengumae Station (Hanzomon Line).   The choice was impressive and we finally made our selection after going back and forth between various options. 



     We noticed that the offer in Japan tends to be quite modern and we had a hard time finding accessories with a more European touch.  But we are still quite happy with the choices we made.




14 May 2011

Insulation and Flooring


      Despite the relentless rain, we made it to our site last Thursday.  We were so thrilled to see the advancements ! All of the insulation had been done.


In the roof, we have 16cm of Moko Foam, a foamy-type insulation. It looks like sprayed snow or whipped cream, but firmer! On all external walls, we have 8cm of the same insulation.


The thickness is verified using a thin blade inserted into the foam.  The foam flowing outside of the wooden frame is then cut out, leaving a flat surface.  The great thing about Moko Foam is that it doesn't leave any voids.  This VIDEO explains the properties and installation of this type of insulation. 


      We were also real happy to see that the flooring was being installed. This time it was Fukuzumi-san Junior who showed Yani the ropes: spread bond-type glue to the slat, place the slat so that that it interlocks with the previous one and adjust it with a piece of wood, place a few tacks and done!

Watch the experts in action!

11 May 2011

Piping and Wiring

After Jotoshiki, the electrical wiring and piping work  started. 


      Here is Shibata-san and his Assistant wiring up the second floor.  The piping was done last week: blue for cold water, red for hot water, grey pipes for sewage water.  Finally, the green is for the water running through our underfloor heating system.



      A couple of months ago, our architect provided a basic electrical plan, and we then studied each room carefully to decide on the placement and number of consents, switches, TV and LAN ports.  We think we've covered our needs well, at least we hope so. 


      Because we will mainly be working, studying, doing family finances, etc. on the first floor, we thought we would place the main hub in the Studio.  Efrain drew a fancy layout of a small cabinet with shelves that he wants to be built within the wall, below the cabinets, and that will hide cables, routers and all that other stuff we need to be properly connected.


      We want to see a minimum of cables, especially in the Studio and the Living Room.  Hope the electrician got it right!

10 May 2011

Fussing over Roof and Windows

     Golden Week was pretty eventless on the New Home front.  The site was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, for a well-needed rest for the Building Team. But on Thursday we were surprised to see both our Carpenters hard at work! We noticed they had installed the base for our heated flooring (Yuka Dambo) and finished placing all windows in the Loft. They had also hung a makeshift front door to ensure the safety of all equipment.



      We brought a couple of items to the attention of our architect. The first was the shape of the roof for the front part of the house. It was executed exactly as planned but somehow we had envisaged it differently. This is why planning a house on paper is tricky. We had failed to see how the shape of the roof of the front part of the house would blend in with the shape of the roof in the back of the house. A bit hard to explain.



      At this point in the construction, any change in our plans to rectify this would put us at risk of a lengthy delay and additional costs. Our architect suggested we think about placing an addition to the roof that could be held with a pillar on the second floor balcony. This part can be added after the construction is finished, so we will take the time to consider it.

      The second item we started fussing over was the windows in the Master Bedroom. We had hoped to have two small windows above the bed, but instead, our plans called for two windows joined together in a single frame.


      We had not noticed this on our paper plans - and I supposed we had failed to express our wish clearly to our architect. After consulting with our Builder, Yakushiji-san explained that at this point in the construction, any changes in the windows would throw our schedule off by at least one month. Not a good idea!

      In short, YKKap would need about that much time to produce and deliver our new windows, and this would also translate into additional costs for us as we could not return the current twin windows.  Plus, the insulation is supposed to be installed this week, and after that the dry walls will be done. Everything else also has an assigned schedule, so there is no way we are going to disturb that since our priority is finishing on time. So we will try to make the best of this window. We're now looking for a good drape solution...

      All of this is showing us again and again that the whole process of planning and building a house is not smooth sailing.  Sure many aspects of the house will be exactly as we had hoped, but others, that we were unable to foresee, may remain to haunt us...  But we will just have to adapt and find creative solutions: if you can't change something, learn to live with it!
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