Category Archives: progress

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.

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.


entrance steps and supplies

The front and back steps have been complete for about a week, and will retain this rustic look for a few years, likely. Apparently, if we try to finish the wood earlier, the anti-moisture treatment will cause any paint or stain to come off anyway. My kind of project! We can finish it when we are ready! Like 2020 or so. . . .
We also have tidy stacks of finishing products ready. The hardwood is curing, the trim and interior doors (not pictured. I forgot!) are hanging out, and the railing samples are awaiting the welder, who should be here tomorrow.



These are some of the windows that I think will need window coverings, in particular to keep the heat in in the winter and the heat out in the summer. The large south-facing windows (and to a lesser degree, the east-facing ones) will be contributing greatly to heating the house during the day, but we’d like to prevent them from heating the outdoors at night. The Mill Creek Net Zero house project looked into window coverings a bit. . . I’m wondering if the Hunter Douglas product might be a good one for us too.

The upstairs north- and northeast-facing corner windows (just behind the balcony in the first picture) are from the bedroom. Here, we would like something that can block the early-morning June 21st 4am sun, obscure the view from the outside in, and maybe also allow us to see out when pulled. A dream? Maybe. Isn’t there some kind of magic fabric that will do all this? While still having an insulating factor of more than R2? Just asking. . . .