Music Projects

lists, not Franz

I love analog lists. I am unable to use a “phone” to keep track of critical path activities. I am unable to keep them in my head, either. So I scribble notes on whatever is available. I can check activities off as they are completed, and then send the other activities to a new list.

Franz Liszt, was a Hungarian composer and pianist, He wrote impossibly intricate and technically challenging piano music. His music, to me, is just a head game though. He was a “romantic” in music history- music history being a bunch of non-musical people inventing labels for college courses.

Just give me some baroque. Johann Sebastian, for example:



every decision is agonizing. waking up in the middle of the night to mentally review details to be completed in the next days/weeks. then, second guessing every choice. want it to be exceptional and fear that it will be average. nothing fits together perfectly. every new step involves a learning curve. and this old dog… oops, wrong metaphor. much of the work is high off the ground and everything is heavy. the wind, rain and snow aggravate the situation and my attitude. money is as limiting as the wind and rain and snow.



One of our balconies is over the master bedroom. We needed a way to make the floor of the balcony completely waterproof. Talking to local roofers and roofing supply companies was unproductive. It was hard to get advice and the supply companies seemed reluctant to sell to owner/builders. There is a company in ST. Charles, MO. which had the supplies and the guidance we needed. They put together a package, we paid for it and then they shipped it to us.

Installing the sheet in one piece eliminates seams which mitigates, or eliminates, leaks.
The sheet waterproofing turns up the wall forming a curb at the door opening.
Hows EPDM waterproof membrane
The finish balcony deck will “float” on the waterproofing and will be even with the bottom of the siding.

Scaffolding and Trusses

A local person, who is a former building contractor, agreed to let us rent his scaffolding, which we could use to finish the sheathing on the second floor walls, and to finish the soffit and fascia. This ain’t no bamboo, lashed together, boards for planks-laid loose over sketchy frames-meet your maker type of scaffolding. The frames are 5 feet wide, spaced 10 feet apart by diagonal braces. Planks consist of 2 aluminum beams about 18 inches apart with plywood attached to the top. The plank beams have c-shaped brackets on either end which hang onto the tubes in the frames to create a walking surface.

His place (the local person) is about 15 minutes away. We can either use a trailer he owns, or borrow our neighbor’s trailer to haul the scaffolding back and forth. You’ll have this “in the country”.

We scheduled a crane to lift the trusses. They cancelled the day they were scheduled to be here. You’ll have this “in the country”. A few tense moments, and a few phone calls later, we found a company in Tucson which had a crane between jobs. One of the good things about a big city is that you can get almost whatever you want.


Second Floor Walls

Second floor walls get built on the first floor deck, which, in this case, is about nine feet above the ground. Three of us need to be able to lift the walls after they are framed. Nailing the exterior sheathing to the walls before standing them will make them super heavy. Nailing sheathing after they are standing will require working 12-18 feet off the ground. We need a way to sheath the walls laying flat on the deck and to be able to raise them with that extra weight. Wall jacks solve that problem.

How to use a wall jack
I wish I had a patent on these.
We had a bit of difficulty with the wall on the right of the photo. The wall is 18′ tall and very heavy. Called balloon framing, in the parlance. We used tow straps and come-alongs to raise it into place.
Framing boards, used as braces, which will be used later, maybe two or three times, hold the walls temporarily.

After a few more gyrations, we will be ready to set trusses, which is a whole other thing.


Rolling The Floor

Sounds sexy and easy. But it’s not.

This beam was heavy. Our neighbor’s Dad had a backhoe and didn’t charge us to raise it.
Making sure we are plumb and square.
The center bearing wall.
All the I-Joists are in place and ready for sheathing.
No, this is not a Kansas landscape. It is the floor sheathing completed.

Framing The First Floor

Bryan volunteered to travel from Idaho to help us frame the walls. We started out, randomly, on the north side. For the first wall we cut slots into the pressure treated bottom plate lining up with the anchor bolts in the concrete slab, thinking that this would make it easier to stand the walls. Turns out, it was just as easy to take a couple measurements and drill holes for the anchor bolts.

nailing the bottom plate
Bryan nails the first board. We should have been using galvanized nails to nail through the treated sill plate, because the treated wood can corrode nails. I went back after the walls were up and toe-nailed the studs into the plate (code approved) with galvanized nails.
This is the easy part. Everything looks simple and clean.
The beams to carry the second floor framing can be seen. The OSB sheathing panels on the corners will keep the walls square and plumb.

We worked our way around framing the exterior walls. Then we went back and stapled OSB sheathing on the corners to keep everything square. The next phase is laying out the second floor joists and rolling them into place. Holderness Supply in Tucson designed the I-joist floor system and sent the whole package, including beams, hangers, layout drawings and, the 3/4″ sub-floor.


Slab Prep and Pour

February 2023. Bryan and I built the form work for the slab and we got all the reinforcing steel for the footings in place.

After some major weather inflicted delays, in early March the plumbers installed the ground work (all of the drain pipes and vent pipes for the eventual plumbing fixtures) which will be buried in the ground under the concrete slab.

With that work finished, we were able to backfill the trenches and bring in the ABC material for under the slab. ABC means aggregate base course and it is a mixture of course and fine gravel and dirt. It’s called different things in different parts of the country, but it’s used under slabs because it’s easy to get level and smooth, it compacts nicely and it provides drainage.

At 5000′ elevation it gets cold here during the winter, even though we are 30 minutes from the Mexican border. A heated slab is the most comfortable and quiet way to heat, at least the lower level. We decided on a hydronic system which uses heated water running through loops of pipe buried in the concrete. A propane boiler will heat the water and pump it through the embedded pipes via a manifold system which feeds five circuits and two separate zones. There will be two thermostats regulating the two zones.

We were lucky to find a good crew to place and finish the concrete slab. Originally I was going to place a 6 mil poly vapor barrier under the slab, which is standard practice in some parts of the country. Luis convinced me that doing that here would create more problems than it solved. Namely, the top of the slab would cure more quickly than the bottom which would result in cracks. All concrete will crack, but we might as well mitigate it as much as possible. He also helped layout the control joints which are tooled into the wet concrete rather than cut in later. The slab will remain exposed in the finished house, so this was an important design element. ( editor’s note: 10 months later the slab still only has one minor crack outside the control joints)

Getting the slab poured was our goal for this winter, and we barely made it! Now we get to go back to our summer jobs to make some more money so we can carry on in the fall.



I learned from one of the first general contractors I worked for after college that every time you start a new job you are preparing to go to court. I learned to keep a daily diary recording the weather, who was on the job, and what happened. I was never in court (for that) but it’s a practice I try to keep now.

Today is February 22, 2023 and it is starting to snow in southern Arizona, after a night and day of winds at 35 m.p.h. with gusts that might blow a man down. We have the footings excavated and the form boards in place for the slab on grade. The plumber is scheduled for Friday to put in all the drain pipes that need to be under the concrete.

I rented a mini excavator on Saturday the 11th and Russell came and finished the footings Sunday. He makes it look easy, but trust me……it’s not. The outside edge of the footing trench wants to be in line with where the form boards will go for the outside edge of the slab in order to minimize wasting concrete.

mini excavator digging footings
Giving new meaning to the word “mini”
slab form in place
This is the objective, even though there may be a little bit of hand-work left at the end. These 2×8’s were left over from building the chicken coop and we will be able to re-use them in the house.

Steel was delivered on Thursday, the 16th and we finished the forms, 99% anyway, on Friday. After the plumbing inspection we can lay down the 4″ of gravel sub-base and finish tying the reinforcing steel.

image of forms for slab on grade construction

Rough Grading

Santa Cruz County has approved our application for a building permit. Bless their hearts. $2000.00 for a house smaller than 1400 square feet seems reasonable.

Because contractors here are either unresponsive or terribly expensive, we will be doing most of the concrete slab work , and, probably, as much as we can after that, ourselves. We know a former general contractor from the area who is very generous with his time and skills. He has another day job now, and does this kind of thing on the weekends, so we are sort of at the mercy of his schedule.

Skid-Steer Savant
Scraping Off The Organic Material

“The First Cut Is The Deepest”

To my surprise, the first couple of feet of soil on this part of the lot were clay, still saturated even though that far below the surface. Last year, when we excavated for the chicken coop and for the septic tank, the soil was more of a granular sand and gravel type, and that’s what I expected.

Montmorillonite, smectite and bentonite, oh my. Expansive clay is bad for supporting any type of structure, because when it gets wet, it expands with a force that can break dreams.

The next morning I reserved a skid-steer tractor from a local rental place. I was able to dig out the cohesive clay material down to a more granular, and more predictable, substrate.

Here we have the batter boards and string lines which define the outer walls of the new house. The strings locate the top of the slab floor. 18″ below that the bottom of the thickened edge resides, well into durable native soil.
This corner is the lowest elevation and the control point for the top of the slab and for the excavation of the thickened edges.

Next weekend we hope our guy can dig the thickened edges and interior footings. The week after involves setting the forms for the slab, which we will do. The plumber is on notice, since then it is his turn to put in all the drain and water supply pipes.

That’s the way it is. February 6, 2023.