concrete counters and steps

Kitchen counter and step-pan concrete has been poured. They both turned out very nicely–no cracks (hurray!) and smooth finishes throughout. We opted for no tinting in order to keep the raw look of the concrete itself. After much deliberation, we also decided to go for the epoxy finish on the countertops, knowing that it would be slightly shiny. After the first round of epoxy had dried, though, the surface was sanded, and I really like that texture and look much better. There will be another application of epoxy, and we may still buff that final application slightly. From what we have heard, shininess will also reduce over time. And, I think that once we have the lower cabinet doors up, the overall look will be more integrated, even if the counters remain somewhat glossy.

The steps look and feel great. They, too, will be treated with a top coat, but in a more “flat” finish. We are considering adding some grit to the basement steps in an effort to prevent slips while hauling wood down with our boots on (is it easier to prepare for the inevitability, or change the practice? We think: prepare.)

In the chicken pitcher picture (say this ten times quickly! tongue-testing-twisters at the boreal modern!), you’ll see a potential backsplash that we’re trying out. It’s the same 12×24 charcoal-coloured tiles that we have used throughout the house now, in the bathrooms, entryways, and beneath the stoves. On the far left is this tile, cut to 6×24; on the near left, it’s 4×24. We may use one of these sizes and also integrate some of the 1×1 red tiles into the kitchen backsplash.
. . . thoughts?



We have some activity in the flooring department. . . about halfway finished the second floor!

We are very happy with the hardwood. From a friend’s tip, we found this Quebec maple at timbertown in Edmonton. It is pre-finished 2″ flooring. . . and because it is a non-standard size (2 1/4″ or 3 1/2″ seem to be the standards), we got it at an excellent price.
As you can see from the pictures, we also have stair railings now! And that little bit of red that you see at the right of the east-facing picture is a half-wall at the top of the staircase area. There is some tiling now, too. . . pictures to follow.

paint and pot lights

We have some of both.

About a month ago, we auditioned a painter.* He seemed really good, and keen, and asked all the right questions, and had a lot of experience, and came highly recommended, and. . . he ditched us. There wasn’t much of a conversation about it, but we’re not working together. So our general contractor pulled through again. We knew he would do a meticulous job, so here we are: he is at least three-quarters through the house, with the first and second floors now complete and just the interior walls of the basement left to do.

*Doesn’t that sound like more fun than, say, “meeting a contractor”?

We are using Benjamin Moore Aura paint. We tried it in our current house, and really liked it. It has great coverage, has low VOCs, and the colours come through as quite vibrant.

CC110 muslin/zen. This is our main colour throughout. It’s a kind of beige-ish cream-ish white-ish neutral, with pink-ish undertones in some light and yellow-ish undertones in others. Like a muslin zen. We really like it.
CC100 flurry/chanvre. Ceiling in the kitchen (all other ceilings are knock-down, so have not been painted). This is a white-ish white and looks far more like snow than hemp (okay, I had to look up “chanvre”).
C92 autumn leaf. This is on random walls: one in the kitchen, one in the living room, and a patch of wall up from the first-to-second-floor stairs.
2134 whale grey. Two walls in treehouse room.
HC51 audobon russet/ myrtille. This is an extra colour that we had in our palette, but have not yet used. Again–it looks much more russet-y than blueberry-ish. I would wonder what part of the “myrtille” was that shade of brown, and definitely not add it to my pies. We are considering a good spot for this colour, and until we find it, it will stay in the “ideas” file.

Pot lights
They are in. We went with black baffles and white “flanges” in both the kitchen and the living room. It’s a guess as to whether that’s best. An educated guess, but a guess nonetheless. We’ll tell you in a year or so, whether we have made the right decision.


hello. This is a potentially tasteless topic. So I’ll just come out with it.

Many of you have been asking about the progress of the Boreal Modern house. Some of you have also been asking how you might be able to contribute something to it. So we have had a little fun, and started a “wishlist” of things that we’d like for the house. Some we will need. Others–just plain fun. We welcome you to take a look and dream along with us. We may update it from time to time–again, for fun. And to dream a little bigger dream than the one we have been working on for the past four or five years.

Go to our wishlist.

blower door test

The house envelope is super-insulated and super-sealed. In a passive house, the objective is to seal the home envelope so well that heat energy created by the sun, wood stoves or the back up electrical heaters stays in the house (as long as possible) because there are so few air exchanges or leaks.

The blower door test helps you measure how well your builder/team sealed the envelope: “With a blower door, builders can quantify airflow and the resulting heat
(or cooling) loss, pinpoint specific leaks, and determine when a home needs additional mechanical ventilation.” Energy conservatory has a good article on the testing process.

Rob Gawreletz from Alberta Eco-Visors came the other day to do the blower door test.

blower door test from inside

blower door test from outside

After an initial first reading, Rob depressurized the house so that outside air would try to enter the envelope. Then we walked around and identified a few spots where there were minor leaks around doors and windows that had not yet been caulked for painting etc. We noticed that the plumbing stack, which wasn’t hooked up yet, was not closed off. Oops. And we felt some leaks around where the HRV intake pipe entered the box. Both were easy to fix with duct tape.

The test is helpful. You can correct any minor leaks right away with acoustical sealant or other types of sealants in finished areas.

I’m really glad we went with the spray foam on rim joists and the blown in cellulose walls too. They are sealed nicely.

The results were good: .63 ACH (after we sealed the obvious pipes) – .84 ACH before). Congratulations to Doug the builder and the crew. Excellent job.

An average home today is 1.5 ACH or higher. The net zero homes in the city are at about .7 ACH or so after much hard work. . . so we are in the ballpark.

Doug Hyde (DC Hyde Construction, Athabasca) and his team were meticulous and deserve all the credit. Doug told me that he was trained to always take much care when sealing his homes. But this was the first time in his long career that he ever had one of his buildings assessed with the blower door test. Now that he saw the few small errors and fixes, he is looking forward to the next home and next test. And that’s how your good builders become even greener.

I hope Doug becomes an ambassador of the blower door test for other consumers and other builders up north, where winter is long and cold. If there were more grants to reward smarter building standards, as there are in other countries and provinces like British Columbia, then Alberta would be further ahead.

Tomato Man

railing supports

Last week, welder #2 (not the stair-building welder, but rather the railing-building welder) attached the supports for the stair railings. This will prepare the way for installing the railings themselves, and increases the stability of the stair structure itself. And here’s what it looks like.

a cord of wood

We stacked a cord of wood on the weekend.*
One could say it was our pre-game warm-up. ha.

we will appreciate this at -40C

doesn't this stack look good?

*yes, there have been other changes at the bomo house. But they, like painting and a new! rail! on the stairs, are far less photogenic than a woodstacker and a pile of chopped spruce.