Construction week 51: the final countdown

The one week (less than!) countdown begins. Our official move day is Friday, September 2nd. My daughter's 4th bday. Sure to be a memorable one.

Our ceilings aren’t the only destination for wood in our house. Wood on the outside, wood on the inside. I’m starting to think of our house as the ‘wood box’: where a simple, honest shape meets a simple, honest material. Anyways, this week was focused on floors and stairs. Both receiving the full white ash treatment. 

Our super-awesome-carpenter-guy Graham was tackling stairs. The stairs are three inch thick slabs of white ash (from the Wood Source). They have been designed to be supported by the stair metal brackets Mark had made and installed. The wood requires a small channel carved into its ends, so it can slide onto the bracket, sandwiching it, and hiding it so that the wood ‘floats’.

And this is where I segue over to Graham praise. He goes above and beyond. We are incredibly lucky to have him on our project. He possesses the same passion and care for quality and craftsmanship as does Mark. For instance, in order to carve our stair channels, he needed a better tool for the job, a Festool. He couldn’t find one in Ottawa, so he drove to Kingston to purchase it (hour and a half drive), drove back, and took a lesson on how to properly use it that same night. He was on site the next day figuring our how to precisely carve these channels at varying subtle angles, in order to get them just right. And he did. He also makes a great DJ. No Chez 106 on our site.

The only stair hiccup was a small mistake made by Mark with measurements. One floor riser was ⅜” taller than others, which apparently isn’t ‘to code’. I’d bet none would be the wiser if we kept the ⅜” difference, but to the uncompromising Mark Rosen, this surely wouldn’t do. So we had all the stairs planed down ¼” so that each step is now at 100% equal height. Unfortunately, we had to bring them back to the Wood Source to get them done. So all the work on the stairs won’t pay off until early next week and the temporary stairs had to get reinstalled. Wah-wah.

Stairs go in

Stairs go in

Stairs come out

Stairs come out







No squeaks! Rejoice rejoice! 

A full glue down was the trick for our 5” white ash, site finished hardwood. We used two different polyurethane flooring glue because the local supplier, Dragona, didn’t have enough in stock to do all in one brand. We used both Maipei ultrabond eco 995, and Roberts 1540. We also stapled, but only when necessary to keep the boards toight. 

Mark, Graham and Sebastian have been working on the floors, burning the midnight oil. Working until midnight the last three nights in a row. We rented some machines to sand the floors down ourselves too. We were going to hire out the finishing job, but we’d have to wait until Wednesday to do so. And with our September 1st move-in coming up, we just couldn’t. 

Everyone unanimously vows, repeatedly, that this would be their first and last glue-down hardwood floor + finishing install. The glue was the worst. Thankfully, they are also in unison upon the fact that they look bloody fantastic. 


Oiling the floors happens this week.

With the exception of our laundry machines (because the wood floor has to come first), all our appliances have been installed! So what appliances did we choose for our Passive House build? I’ll write a separate post on this. For now, just know they are in. Mark was boiling water every 10 minutes, and timing it, on our new induction cooktop. He even took video to show me, on the first night in was installed, and now I’m posting it here for everyone to see. It's just about the least exciting 4 minutes of your life, but not for Mark. lol.

Our downdraft ductwork. Yowzers!

Our downdraft ductwork. Yowzers!

Temporary railings
We had to install some temporary railings to get occupancy. Must admit, we cried a little on the inside putting the hideous, weathered plywood up on our mostly finished house. But at least it’s safe and will get us to permit. It should only be a few weeks of us living with them in this state until the permanent railings are ordered and installed.

It hurts!

It hurts!

Yard cleanup
I wish I had thought of Kijiji earlier on in the build. I used it to get rid of all our extra building material. And it was so easy! People will take anything. Especially if you say it’s free. It would have saved us a whole dumpster of waste, at least. Lesson learned. Now that most of the extra building material is off the lawn, it’s starting to feel like a proper house (our landscaping is on hold, so it’s a massive weed garden, but it’s better than a building supply lot).

Toilets, faucets, showers, bathtubs, drains, heat exchanger connections, floor drains, condensation traps, backflow valves. We’re ready to pass our plumbing final inspection, which will take place on Monday. Our diswasher and espresso machine still need to be hooked up, but aren’t required for occupancy. I’d like to take a moment to admire Nathan’s skills. Our mechanical room is a work of art. Look at all the cool copper handiwork. It really adds to the engine room feeling of the house. Of all the beautiful spaces in our house, it might just be Mark’s fave :)

Check out our sweet stack

Check out our sweet stack

And finally, our occupancy. We called for the city to come on Tuesday. Usually they are required to come within 24 hours of a request. But for some reason, they were overbooked, and we couldn’t get anyone out this week. So someone should be coming on Monday. We were really hoping for someone to come on Friday, to give us an idea on what our weekend ‘occupancy to-do’ list would but unfortunately, no dice. 

Meanwhile, while Mark’s working on site into the late hours, I’m at home packing boxes. I pulled the trigger and managed to find a moving company less than a week in advance of the move date. The thought of moving all the boxes and furniture ourselves, with all the work remaining at the house and all the work to date, was enough to shatter me into a million pieces. Phew! When my mom was visiting last week, she was with her Australian boyfriend, who trained with their military once-upon-a-time. He expressed concern that we were starting to show signs of severe exhaustion akin to his military training where they push you until you break, and then keep pushing. Maybe. But at least we have our new spa to unwind in at the end of the long day :)



Passive House Appliances

Exciting times – appliance showrooms

Exciting times – appliance showrooms

Choosing our Passive House appliances was no simple task. Our decisions we were largely garnered by a couple very important Passive House principles, in addition to the normal stuff you’d look for in an appliance: cost, performance, reliability, aesthetics, noise level, etc.

1. Low energy use

We have to ensure that our house’s energy demands are under a certain value in order to meet the Passive House standard. We calculate this with the help of the energy modeling software, which requires many different input values. Some, of which, are the EnerGuide ratings for our appliances. They tell you the annual energy consumption of the model in kilowatt hours. The EnergyStar program publishes a ‘most efficient’ list every year, which is a good place to start looking.

2. No external ducting

Here’s where our list of options gets dramatically reduced. With our house, we are not venting to the outside (heaven forbid we penetrate the air barrier). As a result, we must find recirculating options for appliances that otherwise would (vent to the outside), such as the range hood ventilator and our clothes dryer. Oh, and since we have no external ventilation, this precludes us from considering a gas cooktop because open flames without external ventilation is a ‘no-no’ for building code.

At first these may sound like Passive House trade-offs, but in fact, Mark and I are seeing them more as ‘trade-ups’. Because why would you want to throw all that warm air (aka. Heat, aka. Energy) out of the house when you could recycle it and feed the energy needs of our house from within rather than pull from the grid? I sure wouldn’t.

With that in mind, here’s what we decided to go with:


Whirlpool 7.3 cu ft. HybridCare™ Ventless Duet® Dryer with Heat Pump Technology

The most efficient dryer on the market also happens to use ventless heat pump technology. The same heat pump technology that operates our domestic hot water tank. Bam.


We’re simply getting the matching Whirlpool washing machine.


Bosch 500 series - SHP65T52UC

Bosch dishwashers also use heat pump technology, making them pretty darn efficient. This one is whisper quiet, which we like, especially considering our main floor is rather open-plan.


Bosch 500 Series 30” Induction Cooktop

We are so excited that induction technology has made it to the consumer world! There are so many great things to say about induction. It uses magnetic conduction, which is instant, consistent, precise and significantly more energy-efficient than ol’ thermal conducting cooktops (gas and electric) which throw away much of the heat they produce. And best of all, you can put your hand on the burner immediately after taking the pot away. Who hasn’t wanted to do that before?! Well now you can.

Wall oven

Whirlpool convection 30” white - WOS 92EC0AS


Best Cattura Downdraft 30” - D49M30SB

This was by far our most complicated appliance to figure out. Our cooktop is in the island — we like to cook and be part of the action. We have a very large, very beautiful window spanning the length of our kitchen. The last thing we wanted to do was to put a space-aged, over-the-island range hood hanging down from the ceiling, disrupting our lines and views out the window. In order to avoid this, we needed to find a downdraft ventilator — one that sits in the island itself — with a recirculating kit.

Downdraft ventilators are widely regarded as inferior to mounted-above styles because they aren’t able to catch as much of the steam, smoke, and heat, that naturally rises. Even though downdrafts are not quite as effective at removing air, this is less of an issue for us thanks to our induction cooktop. A gas cooktop uses combustion to heat, a natural byproduct of which is smoke (which is why you’re required to vent to the outside with a gas cooktop). With induction, smoke and other pollutants are only a byproduct of forgetting the pot of boiling pasta on the stove too long, which reduces the number of contaminants our blower has to extract from the air. For the most part, our ventilator will only have to remove steam and smells. Any pollutants will be cleared, prior to recirculation, with a charcoal filter.

There are several companies that make these downdraft ventilators, with recirculation kits, that actually pop-up out of the counter to heights as high as 18”. They are all luxury brands. I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that our downdraft vent, which is inferior to overhead vents, was going to cost as much as the cooktop and wall oven combined. This is one case where design has trumped all other options.

On the ‘up’ side, however, we can take advantage of the recirculated air and improve the overall experience of working in our kitchen. How, you ask?

We will be mounting the fan blower and charcoal filter in our mechanical room, effectively removing any noise from the kitchen itself. No more shouting over a noisy fan motor. And by moving the warm cooking air into the mechanical room, we will be augmenting the energy source for our domestic hot water heater. Our domestic hot water tank is a heat pump model, which pulls heat in from the surrounding air through a compressor and into our water. The surrounding air (in our mechanical room) becomes slightly cooler as a result. Our downdraft air supply will help make-up some of that heat lost to the hot water tank, and reduce our requirement to pull from the grid.

Make sense? I’m not surprised if it doesn’t. I’ll be posting a video of Mark explaining this to me with helpful diagrams likely tomorrow....

So there you have it. Some big decisions made. Each decision turns out to be more of an ordeal then at first glance. I know more about dishwashers now than I ever thought I needed to know. But I'm glad I took the time to do the research and understand. As we are doing with every aspect of our build.

I should also note that we purchased a Consumer Reports Online subscription for the duration of the build to help us with some of our research. It’s been most helpful so far in choosing our appliances.