Stairs, Soffits, and Starting Mechanical Work

As the winter progressed, so did progress on the house. We got the ice-and-water membrane in on the roof, but a period of snow prevented us from getting the main membrane on for a while. In the meantime, the framing crew finished up some other odds and ends, like stairs and soffits.


After using a janky ladder to access the second floor for a while, it was nice to see our main staircase go in. We debated for a bit about how big of an opening to leave for the stairs. Ultimately, we opted for a somewhat closed-in staircase. The mudroom will feel fairly snug and warm, and the great room is going to be bright and full of light. So a fairly closed-in stair will give sort of a “wow” moment when you arrive at the top of the steps. We also decided to build a small pony wall at the top of the stairs instead of an open railing, in part to make for a bigger “wow,” and in part to provide for a little more security for the dining room chairs that will likely live along there.

We also needed to figure out how to arrange the space under the stairs. We needed to have the door to the little closet in the mudroom – if it was in the activity room, it would legally turn the activity room into a bedroom (which makes me think of the Mitch Hedberg joke (“I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don’t you? “Fuck you, real estate lady! This bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom’s got a lot of people sitting around watching TV!”).

Anyway, the plan was to use it as a small wine cellar. I think we’ll put in a little hobbit door and setup something snug.


One of the last pieces of exterior work for a while was the installation of the soffits (the space under the eaves of the house). This wasn’t something we had a real strong “vision” for when we started the project. But as we started to refine the exterior colors and materials a little more (more on that later), we realized that a lot of the house is pretty “clean” in the sense that it doesn’t have a lot of natural color variations. The one major exception will be the thinstone on the fireplace, but the exterior seemed to want some natural touches as well.

Enter beetle-kill pine. Colorado has a fairly serious pine beetle infestation, which has been helped along by some mild winters. The beetles can kill pine trees, but more importantly for our purposes, they carry on their bodies a fungus that also infects the trees and produces a blue-grey color. And by putting it into our soffits, we could show off the color without treating the wood since soffits are well-protected from the weather. It came as a somewhat last-minute idea, but it was within budget and we were very happy with the results.

Mechanical Progress

Meanwhile, our mechanical contractor got to work “indoors.” His scope of work was relatively wide – he’s in charge of rough plumbing, gas lines, and all of the in-floor heat, which would span the whole house. Just before he was set to start his son tested positive for COVID, but fortunately his tests came back negative (for both him and our timeline), and he was able to start as scheduled.

Overall, aside from hopefully getting some windows in soon, this will likely mark the end of rapid visible progress for a while. Mechanical and electrical work will likely take around a month and a half, and while the work is important, it doesn’t make the house look a lot different. Meanwhile, we continued to refine our exterior colors and materials, which would require another trip back to the HOA’s architectural committee.

Book Reviews

House Rules: This is a great book; sort of a heavily-photographed, cliff’s notes version of A Pattern Language, a favorite of mine. You’ll even see some of the “patterns” from A Pattern Language at work here. It’s nice to have a lot of visual examples of some of the “Rules” that can lead to good design.

Mountain Style by Whitesides: Soundly out of date at this point. 

Contemporary Natural: I need to stop reading books with “contemporary” in the name from the turn of the millennium.