Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I love the weight, the heft, the permanence, the indifference, and the irreversible finality of stone. Stone is. It was, and will be. Long past my exit. So it is good to place it. Once.

We found a quarry in our region that supplies lovely, huge granite curbstone to municipalities. It dawned on me that if they make it to run miles, it must be affordable. Bingo. It is. But you need someone to lay it.

Lengths up to 12' are available, in 4" x 12" dimensions. Rather than have our house telegraph its modularity, by showing a concrete foundation, we designed into the foundation a stone shelf on which to lay these huge slabs of stone. Thus, our house has an apparent stone foundation. It sits on stone, which gives it a sense of eternity.

After discussions with the mason, I backed down to 6' lengths, as 3 men can wrestle this into place. The job, in the bitterest cold, still went quickly and affordably: they had my foundation wrapped in 3 days. I had bought extra to use around the carport, but subsequent design changes meant I had a good deal of extra stone. In fact, I had enough to build one hell of a fireplace.

I counted up the stones, I drew very carefully where each stone and joint would fall, and compared it with published data on chimney draughting as well as with the mason's experience. I want that fireplace to suck like hell. Being large, this might prove difficult, but we arrived at a course of action, and he went to work for a few weeks. Part of this course of action included a tiny kitchen fireplace too, as well as wood storage within the stone work.

End of story: we hosted a dozen friends for a Thanksgiving meal in the yet unoccupied house. We had a ceremonial lighting - some people standing around with drinks in their hand - and I lit the paper under the first fire. Whooooooosh. As people who survive tornadoes often say, "You shoulda heard it - that thing sounded like a freight train."

I burn a lot of time and firewood here now.....


Smart people don't put a lot of glass at the Northern end of a house, reason being, glass is not a great insulator. In Europe, they have triple glazing, which is like a triple decker sandwich of glass and gas. This actually performs quite well. Here, we have to settle for double glazing. And, having the views we have to the north, northeast and northwest, we went for a glass end of the house. We found a local guy who could provide the large sheets we need at a surprisingly affordable price, so we placed our order and waited. It turns out, the largest pane we needed, a sheet 11'-4"W x 8' H, was the largest sheet the factory (we suspect Corning Glass) had ever done. Still hard for me to believe. So, the factory won't warrant the glass. The glass is tempered, so they are not saying it may break: they just aren't sure the glass won't delaminate, which leaves that foggy look one often sees in big sheets. It was a risk we were willing to take. (Update - 6 months in and some huge winds and sleepless nights, but no prob so far....) Three weeks after the order, a ragtag band of very brave locals showed up and wrestled the four sheets into place inside of 2 hours.
Suddenly the house grew quiet, and the sun bore in. The space warmed up from the heat gain, and I've never looked back. Just out......