11/26/15, I’m Thankful to be Done Cutting Insulation

I’m pretty sure this was the pilgrims’ sentiment as well.  Kidding aside, I have much to be thankful for this year and it’s very humbling.  I don’t know what I would’ve done if my parents hadn’t agreed to help me with this dream.  They’ve gone above and beyond what I ever could’ve expected, giving their time and health and experience.  I am also grateful for family, friends, and neighbors who’ve offered help and tools and support.

I will be adding a separate post on plumbing very soon.  I filled the voids around the PEX in the floor with 1-inch foam and glued down the subfloor.  It’s so nice to have a solid floor to walk on again.

Last week we put up the interior walls for the bathroom and closet and made a small loft over the closet and washer and dryer for storage.



The temperature has dropped significantly (even down in the 20s a couple of days) and we got our first snow last Saturday.  It has been bitterly cold working in the house.  I’ve tried using a small electric space heater and it’s fine for warming your feet but doesn’t heat the air.  I think the work  light gives off more heat than the heater.  Of course, my door consists of a holey tarp, which doesn’t exactly help.


I’ve been consistently plodding away at insulating and finally finished up last night.  For the ceiling, I put a layer of the 3-inch foam against the 1-inch furring strips and held it up with finish nails.  I filled in any gaps with spray foam and then added a layer of 1-inch foam and filled any gaps in that with spray foam.  This may be overkill but I wanted to snug it up.  I still have 3 bays to fill, where the lights go, I’m just waiting for the electrician to wire everything.  For the walls, I pushed the 3-inch foam to the sheathing, which will leave a half-inch space between the foam and the drywall, and then I will seal around the edges with spray foam.

I ended up only using about half of the amount of foam I originally purchased.  Definitely overestimated on that!  I will be using some of the sheets for the skirting and then listing the excess on Craig’s List.

I’m still waiting for the feeling to come back in my thumb but it has returned to my other fingers.  Unfortunately, my right thumb is now numb, as well, but I have high hopes for things going back to normal this week.


We hope to put the siding up tomorrow and I’ll be working on the trim this week.  Hopefully the wiring will be finished this week.  We are optimistically planning on moving the house to the slab next weekend.

In conclusion, I’d like to wish everyone a happy thanksgiving and thank you for your encouragement!

Mike Mulligan Saves the Day… It’s What He Does.

First off, the Safety Supervisor came home this past Friday and resumed his position.  He is doing much better and is taking it easy until he can have surgery to remove the gallbladder in a few weeks.  The latest safety summit focused on keeping warm in the winter workplace.

Because of the drop in temperature, we had to postpone the siding so we could work on getting the slab in before the frost.  We started with the funny corner fence posts, called batter boards, which we have Mike Mulligan to thank for.  Sure, I read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel when I was little but it wasn’t one of my faves; I much preferred Katy and the Big Snow!  However, the book apparently resonated with another member of the crew…  Dad told me that is where he first learned how to lay out foundations.  What kid picks up on that and files it away for later?!  Well, I’m glad he’s the one doing the thinking because I didn’t have a clue where to begin.


We took down the staging brackets and made a box, the width and length of my house, from the staging planks.  We drove stakes in the ground so they were level all the way around and then we dug around and inside the box until it sank down to the level of the stakes.  The perimeter was a foot deep and the middle of the box was 4″.  Mom was helping us with the shoveling but took breaks to get pictures.DSC02912

Next, we bent the rebar to make the framework.  Dad put a pipe in the square tubing I was using to bend the rebar so it stopped at the same spot each time and was uniform.



Mom and I tied the rebar while dad welded the eyes we are going to use to tie down my trailer to the foundation.


Tying rebar… it’s what we do.



Tie-down eye.

We screed (another new term I learned) the concrete, which was slightly difficult around the eyes and boxes.  Dad finally explained how the boxes work…  We will be cutting them out and the lip I added around the edge will have made an indent that we can rest covers on for the pipes if the pad is ever left exposed.



Later in the week, mom and I dug around the box and dismantled it, and I packed the dirt back in.



Mom left her mark.

I cut all the insulation for the ceiling and am ready to put it up.


I also started preparing for the plumbing before dad got home but just ended up making a lot of unnecessary work for myself and, well, I don’t want to talk about it…  Dad welded in the triangle pieces of steel that we had made templates for so long ago to strengthen the tongue.

We did get around to laying the PEX but I’ll cover that in a new post, once I get more pics of it.



Dear Readers, you may want to skip this post (unless you are planning on tackling a large insulation project in the near future), as it does not contain actual house progress.

Apparently, no human being has ever cut a substantial amount of 3″ rigid foam insulation or, at least, none have lived to write about their endeavor on the internet.  I have fruitlessly spent weeks researching the best way to cut rigid foam.  And, by “researching,” I think you all know I mean Googling…

If you search “how to cut thick foam,” you may come across the electric carving knife.  I have tried this.  It works much like a weak Sawzall.  The blade is not sturdy enough and tends to bend, so you’re cutting at an angle, and then it freezes up about a foot into the cut.  It also creates a lot of pink “snow.”  I think this method would work best for cutting upholstery foam.

Should you search “saws for cutting rigid foam,” you will probably find the CenterFire Foam Blade from Bullet Tools.  This looks like something a magician would use to saw someone in half.  Dad tried a regular table saw on the foam and found it hard to control.  We thought this blade looked like an accident waiting to happen.  It’s possible that this was the answer all along.  Theoretically it makes sense but I don’t want to risk losing a limb.  Bullet Tools also makes a straight blade that fits in a utility knife holder or a Sawzall but the blade itself isn’t deep enough for the 3″ foam.  A few people suggest using a heavy-duty snap-off utility knife.  I do use one of these to shave off the edges if they’re uneven but I haven’t found one strong enough to make the main cuts.  Festool makes a foam-cutting jigsaw blade, which I did end up purchasing.  It makes a clean cut with no mess but the blade is too flexible and ends up bending, so you’re cutting on a slant.

Traditional saws will also come up in the above search results and don’t think I didn’t try them!  Again, the table saw grabbed the foam and made it hard to control.  A reciprocating saw works but makes a terrible mess of foam snow and cuts on a slant (though, this could be the operator’s fault…).  A handsaw works but, also, makes a mess and I had a hard time keeping my cuts consistent.  A drywall saw works a little better, as I have a bit more control over it, and I do use this occasionally, but it makes a snowy mess and rough edges.  I haven’t tried a circular saw.  That may work if you have a way to keep the foam secure as you cut and can keep two hands on the saw.

Some people recommend a hot knife or wire but I found mixed reviews on this and didn’t want to spend so much money on something that may or may not work.

A sharpened putty knife is the most common search result and it is my method of choice but it has taken its toll on my hands.  The cut is fairly straight and it doesn’t leave a pile of snow but it takes a lot of muscle to push it through the foam and pull it back out.  Actually, I’m not using the knife as it was suggested in the search results because the suggested method is more for thinner foam and would take forever.  I score a line down the foam with the side of the putty knife against a T-square and then wedge the straight edge of the knife straight down into the line, rocking it side to side until I hear it pop through the bottom (a very satisfying sound, by the way) and then wiggle it back out, and continue like this along the entire scored line.  After cutting 200+ pieces of foam this way, I’m now wearing a wrist brace and haven’t had feeling in my thumb for 4 days.  The floor and upper walls are insulated and all the pieces are cut for the ceiling.  I just need to finish up the walls and then I’ll see my doctor.  Hang in there, thumb, we’ll make it!

All of these methods go a lot smoother if you use both hands…  Alas, I didn’t have a tripod to hold my phone while I recorded.