A warm, waterproof blanket

A warm, waterproof blanket

Neal and I took the insulation from the temporary wall and started filling the 2X6 walls with Roxul bat insulation. I'm happy I went with Roxul stone wool insulation. Not only is it fireproof, it doesn't itch when you touch it. It literal took a mountain of insulation to fill all the walls. To insulate the flat ceiling of the office/retail space, I went with spray foam insulation. I decided to go with 6 inces of insulation to match the R36 insulation value of the SIPs in the distillery space. The spray foam team arrived in a truck filled with vats of insulation that looked like something from Breaking Bad. One hotly debated issue was how to vapor barrier the SIPs. Normally, a sheet of plastic is put on the warm side of the roof to prevent moisture from getting into the insulation cavity. But SIPs are made up of a sandwich of OSB (oriented strand board) and rigid insulation. Since OSB is a vapor barrier, Paul worried that putting plastic over it could trap moisture between the two vapor barriers. I asked my building inspector, Michael, for his opinion. He agreed that OSB can be a vapor barrier provided that the joints are properly sealed. He suggested I use a high performance European tape to seal the joints and gave me the name of a supplier who might have some. Paul agreed with Michael's suggestion, so I sent Neal to Herrmann Timberframe to get some. I wish I got to make the trip because Neal said that it was quite the place. Andreas, the owner, immigrated from Switzerland in the 1990s and started building timber frame homes in Ontario. He saw an opportunity to bring Swiss and German construction products to Canada. Neal purchased his SIGA tape to seal the SIP joints of the distillery roof. It took Neal and I a whole weekend to tape all the joints but I feel the effort is worth it. The only time SIP panels have failed is when vapor entered the joints and condensed causing the OSB to rot. By sealing all the joints, I won't have this problem.

A step closer to power

A step closer to power

After buying our still, my dad started looking for a transformer to provide American 3-phase power to its control panel. He found an electrician selling one on Kijiji and told him about the distillery project. Sean told my dad to get in touch when we were ready for an electrician and we did just that. Sean took Ian's electrical plan, made a few adjustments and got to work. His son, Ryan, who is doing his apprenticeship with Sean joined him on the project. I wanted to keep the electrical wires concealed so Sean ran conduits from the mechanical room to different locations in the distillery before the slab was poured. After the pour, Sean returned to install the myriad of electrical boxes for the 3-phase and standard circuits. While Sean was working inside, Merv and his crew were digging a trench to the new electrical pole Jody and his team installed a few weeks ago (the old pole couldn't accommodate the weight of 3-phase power cables). Merv's huge digger had no problem getting through the earth and he had the trench dug in two days. The road cut was more challenging since the frost had penetrated down to the bedrock but after a day of hoe ramming, the path was clear. Since I had the road open, Merv recommended I install some extra conduits. So he ended up putting in four 3" conduits for electrical and two 4" conduits for Bell. The conduits across the road had to be encased in concrete to prevent the wires from being damaged by frost. Sean connected Merv's conduit to his pipe going to the mechanical room. I now have a pipe from my new electrical pole to the building.

Rough time roofing / RIP Brian

Rough time roofing / RIP Brian

Despite his religious aversion to alcohol, my friend Todd agreed to roof the distillery (he also did the roof at my house 12 years ago). Todd is such a good roofer that he was able to retire early and now mostly manages projects. Paul specified corrugated metal for the distillery. I like the modern look of corrugated and wanted to run it horizontally on the roof. Todd had never done it that way but didn't see any problems doing so. He was able to order panels that can span the length of the roof in two sheets. This reduces the number of seams and gives a cleaner look. It took a special flatbed truck to deliver the extra long panels. Todd's partner, Omark, who he calls "God's gift to roofing", was assigned to my roof. Omark is a mercurial character who's very picky with whom he works with. This pickiness resulted in him setting out to put the panels on the roof by himself. A seemingly impossible task but he slowly chipped away at it. Using an ingenious pulley system, he started putting the panels in to place The Rube Goldberg of roofing. Omark did have occasionally have a helper. His name was Brian and he wore a toque that I thought made him look like a gnome. After his second day helping Omark, Todd called me to say that Brian passed away in a car crash. While driving to work that day, I heard a CBC report about Brian on the radio. He was a renown sculpture who was responsible for many of the beautiful snow sculptures at Winterlude. I wish I got to spend more time with such a talented and kind person. You can read more about Brian in this CBC report. While Omark was putting up panels, we discovered Almonte is one of the windiest places in Ontario. The wind was so strong, that it lifted the 50' corrugated panels waiting to be installed. I got a call from my neighbor Matt telling me that panels were blowing into his yard. A couple of Merv's team were on site and they tried to stand on the panels to keep them down but were blown right off. Omark quickly arrived on site and secured the panels with large straps. Seven panels were damaged and had to be replaced. A lesson learned. The wind in Almonte is strong.

The road to a slab

The road to a slab

Despite the cold, the team pushed on to get ready to pour the slab. I originally wanted polished concrete floors at my house but ended up hiring a bunch of clowns that did such a bad job, I had to cover the concrete with slate. I didn't want to repeat that mistake so I hired Duron, the best in the business. Andreas, the project manager responsible for my slab, gave us the following tips for a winter pour: We had to build heated canopies at the front entrance and garage door to prevent the concrete from freezing. Neal did an amazing job tenting the area with our thermal blankets. We had to rent an indirect fired heater rather than the salamanders that are usually used for construction heat. Apparently, CO2 will interact with the surface of the curing concrete and make it brittle. We put 2 inches of rigid insulation down to insulate the slab. Rob attached his hydronic heating tubes to the insulation with staples. The ICF and rigid insulation creates a bathtub of insulation that will retain the slab's heat. Andreas insisted that we brace the rebar with bricks rather than the usual plastic chairs. For the distillery slab, Jason specified two layers of 10mm rebar in a grid pattern at 16-inch spacing. A crazy amount of rebar for an 8-inch slab. I can park an Abrams tank on it! I had to make several trips to the Home Depot to dig out bricks from their frozen yard. Perry completed the spill containment tank by pouring its floor and putting in temporary framing to support the slab above the tank. Once cured, the slab will become the ceiling of the tank. Merv was concerned that the frost in the compacted gravel will crack the slab as it thaws. I called my geotech engineer, Dan Morey, and he said that the volume of compacted gravel barely changes when frozen. So I'm good to poor. Pour day fell on Sonya's birthday. I had to leave the house at 5AM so I didn't get to wish her happy birthday. When I got to the site, I cranked up the heater and waited for the crew to arrive. And did they ever arrive! By 8AM there were 15 guys with Andreas preparing for the concrete trucks to arrive. Andreas complained about the amount of light in the building. I got some construction lights from Levi's but they still weren't happy. So I went to Home Depot and got some massive LED lights on stands. No more complaints after I lit those up. The pumper setup and the concrete trucks started to roll in. Each member of the team knew their role and the pour proceeded like clockwork. By noon all 75 meters of concrete was placed. The original crew was replaced by the concrete finishers who worked till midnight troweling the concrete. Before they left, they cut relief joints to prevent uncontrolled cracking. I finished the day at the Heirloom cafe for Sonya's birthday dinner. Who could ask for a better birthday present than a concrete slab.

Winter Woes

Winter Woes

The weeks of -20C temperatures has taken a toll on my schedule and moral. Merv's team spent a week digging the plumbing trenches with both a hoe ram and excavator. The frost in the gravel made it like chipping through concrete. I planned for the curtain wall to be installed before Christmas. This would have enclosed the building making it easy to heat. To my dismay, Tony at Albion glass can't even give me an estimated delivery date for the glass. So I had to ask Perry and Claude to build a temporary wall to fill the void. Time and money wasted due to commitments not being met. Getting temporary heating was even a challenge. The concrete installer told me to use an indirect heater that vents it's fumes outside. The reason being is that the carbon monoxide produced by standard construction heaters will weaken the concrete when it is curing. Took me two days to find a heater in the coldest winter since 1974. The cold finally wore me down and I spent the last days sick in bed with the flu. Thankfully they are calling for warmer weather next week.

Pressing on

Pressing on

The brutal cold continues but the team pushes forward despite it. Len from Valley Rent Rite brought us the scissor lift again so we can get the Tyvek and exterior insulation on. Paul called for a sheathing insulation (Roxul ComfortBoard) that gets attached the chipboard with metal disks (25 cents a disk!). This is in addition to the bat insulation that will get stuffed in the 2X6 walls. The sheathing insulation will prevent any "thermal bridging" across the studs and metal posts. To accommodate the sheathing insulation, we had to extend the roof so the insulation would sit under it. Perry did this by cutting down a 4X4 post to create a triangle piece that extended the roof by 2 inches. We wrapped the corner piece with a waterproof membrane (Blueskin) to protect it from water. Luckily the temperature got above zero so we were able to glue the Blueskin down.

Winter is here

Winter is here

I built my house in the winter and was scarred by the experience. I didn't want to be working in the cold again and pushed hard to get enclosed before winter. Unfortunately, we started a month later than planned and winter has come. The snow and cold makes everything harder. Ice has to be chipped off wood before it can be used. Batteries run out much faster and motors don't want to start. Hands can't do detailed work without freezing. But these obstacles can be overcome with the proper equipment, planning and determination. But this is no normal winter. The day time highs have been below -15C for the last week. Records have been shattered with record lows. Neal and I tried braving -27C but could only last a couple hours at the cost of feeling in my big toes. So we wait for warmer weather in the New Year.

It's a slippery slope

It's a slippery slope

No sooner than we were done with the SIPs, the trusses for the flat roof arrived. The design called for 16" open-web joists on 16" centers to accommodate for snow falling from the pitched roof. The canopy at the entrance of the retail section was built with "glulam" beams which are strips of wood glued together. Paul wanted the canopy to depth to be minimal so we used 9.5" glulam beams and doubled them up. Complete structural overkill but I won't have to worry about snow load. We had to slope the roof towards scuppers at opposite ends of the roof. This is usually done with custom made insulation which is costly. I had a similar problem when building my house 15 years ago. To create the slope then, my dad calculated how to rip wood studs for reach truss. He did the same calculation for the 48 trusses on this new flat roof. Neal was tasked with the difficult job of cutting down the studs with his table saw. It took him three tedious days. The moment Neal delivered the pieces, Perry got to work nailing them to the tops of the joists. After covering 10 joists, we could see the slope emerge. As I was passing Perry pieces I stupidly stepped on a piece of plywood that wasn't sitting properly on the joists. I fell but luckily for me I'm thicker than the 16" joist spacing so I ended up getting stuck between two joists with only a few bruises. After installing the sloped pieces, we sheathed the roof with plywood and finished the parapet wall.

Taking a SIP

Taking a SIP

Tricky trusses

Tricky trusses

My architect, Paul, originally called from the pitched roof to be supported by timber beams and posts. I didn't like the idea of posts since I figured they would get in the way of our equipment. I did love the idea of timber and suggested we use a scissor truss.  Scissor truss I found a company in Perth, Gibson Timber Frames, that could make them. Unfortunately, the price was beyond my budget so I started to look at different options. While surfing the web, I came across a design known as a composite truss which uses steel rods for the lower truss members. The rods are tightened with a left and right turnbuckle. I found this a much more elegant design and hoped it would save me money.   Neither Gibson or my engineers had done a composite truss so it took weeks of persuasion to have them consider it. Once they came up with a design, I had to source the parts. The steel rods are connected to large steel plates inserted into the timbers. I found a company in Carp that could make the plates but they couldn't rust proof them. So I found another company in the east end of Ottawa (Zincon) to coat the plates in zinc. I couldn't find anyone local to supply the rods and I ended up ordering them from Portland Bolt in Oregon. The stainless steel bolts were custom ordered from Fastenall. I was counting on five different suppliers delivering correctly and on time. A big gamble but Paul had modeled all the parts in AutoCAD and was confident it would work. Today, the gamble was put to the test. Gibson delivered the timbers and we started to assemble them. Not an easy task given each timber weights over 500 pounds. But with four people we were able to move them and the pieces started to come together. The steel plates fit as planed with the help of a sledge hammer. The rods lengths were right on and the turnbuckles worked as advertised. We uncovered a couple mistakes. Gibson forgot one of the trusses and worked overnight to deliver the missing one. I ordered the wrong number of bolts but luckily was able to get more delivered the next day. My friend Pat and his son Conor dropped by to watch and I put them to work assembling the trusses. As we finished preparing a truss, Perry used a crane to lift it into position. The trusses were to sit in a saddle at the top of the steel post. Holes were pre drilled in both the steel saddle and trusses for the bolts. After lowering the truss into place, Perry was having trouble inserting the bolts. He discovered that the solder joint in the steel saddle was the culprit so we chamfered the edge of the timber and the holes aligned. Things went smoothly after this adjustment and the trusses were in place by the end of the day.

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