Front Yard Landscaping

After moving into our new home our focus turned to landscaping the front yard. Given the size and slope of the front yard we wanted a retaining wall in place before the winter rains. We went with two 4′ boulder walls for the natural look and lesser cost compared to a masonry wall. The two walls divide the yard into three terraced levels. To give some color to the front yard we added grass on the lower level and on the top level beneath the porch. The other areas will have plants and shrubs to be planted next spring. By then we should have a good idea of what to plant. In the meantime to help retain the soil a bark mulch was blown in to provide cover. To keep with the natural look we went with stone steps and pavers for the level areas to create a walkway from the sidewalk to the front door.

On the strip by the street five autumn blaze maple trees were planted. The other houses on the same side of the street have the same maple trees. The remaining boulders not used for the front yard are being used to define our backyard property line while we decide on how to landscape the backyard and west side of the house. More pictures can be found in the Landscaping Gallery.


A centerpiece of the great room is the fireplace and chimney. The fireplace is a gas fireplace with an exhaust vent that is above the porch roof. Virginia Ledgestone was selected as the stone veneer since the colors were a good match for the kitchen countertops. A metal mesh frames the chimney with each stone piece placed individually to the mortar base. A spare beam was used for the mantle with the decorative corbels below the mantle coming from Amazon. For the hearth we used the same granite as used for the kitchen countertops except in a stone-cut finish instead of a polished finish. See the Fireplace Gallery for pictures of the entire process.

After completion of the fireplace we moved into our new home on October 30. We had met our goal of moving in for the holiday season.


With the cabinets and countertops in place it is time for the finishing touches to the kitchen. The backsplash has a Tuscon look to complement the granite countertops and the ceramic vineyard painting directly above the cooktop. For lighting we have 3 pendant lights above the island and a chandelier above where the dining table will go. The refrigerator came with us from CA and we added a new oven, microwave and 5-burner cooktop. The kitchen sink is in the island to allow a view of the great room while doing dishes. More pictures are in the Kitchen Gallery.

Sidewalk Pouring

As the house is nearing completion it is time to pour the sidewalk. After staking the sidewalk and driveway outline the concrete pouring was completed in one day. The excavated dirt was then pushed away to create a smooth grade. At a later time the front yard will be terraced with boulder walls. Check out the Sidewalk Gallery for pictures.

Guest Bathroom

Denise has always wanted a subway style bathroom so that was an obvious theme for the guest bathroom. The bathroom has a walk-in shower and a single sink cabinet. The wall paint color has a tint of grey and the trim color is grey to complement the black and white tile colors. Details are shown in the Guest Bathroom Gallery.

Kitchen and Bathroom Countertops

With the kitchen and bathroom cabinets installed it’s time for the countertops to be set. A high precision digital countertop template is created using a laser measuring device. The digital template is overlaid over a digital picture of the granite slab to select what portions of the slab are used for the countertop. The L-shape of the kitchen countertop required that two separate pieces be sealed together. The seam was chosen to lie through the middle of the cooktop so that its is hardly noticeable. After the countertops are glued to the cabinets holes are cut for the cooktop, island sink and bathroom sinks. The Countertop Gallery contains more pictures.

Exterior Painting

With the porch railing completed and the gutters added everything is in place to paint the exterior. We decided to use Muddled Basil (a dark green color) for the vertical siding and Messenger Bag (a lighter green color) for the horizontal siding. Green is a classic craftsman exterior color. We selected Maison Blanche (a cream color) for the window trim and the wood trim that separates the vertical and horizontal siding. We considered using a tan trim that matched the vinyl windows, but the tan color was not a good trim color to go with the green siding.

For the shake at the top of the entryway we went with Sommelier (a red wine color) to provide some pop as an accent color. The front and back doors will also be painted Sommelier. Maison Blanche was used for the railing and column trim. Muddled Basil was used for the vertical siding on the lower half of the railing columns. Sommelier was also considered for the column siding, but after trying out both colors on a column we went with Muddled Basil. All the exterior colors are Sherwin Williams colors.  The Exterior Painting Gallery shows all sides of the house after painting completion.


Hardwood Flooring

The original plan was to use tile that resembled wood as way to reduce costs. However the cost of installing tile turned out to be significantly greater than wood so we switched to using engineered hardwood flooring. Unlike a natural wood floor engineered wood flooring is made of several layers glued together. This makes for a stronger floor that may used on top of concrete and radiant floor heating.  A maple wood was selected to go with the kitchen cabinets. After floor installation is completed a protective wrap is taped to the floor and lower cabinets to prevent any damage while the house construction is completed. Floor installation pictures are in the Hardwood Flooring Gallery.

Porch Railing

Before building the porch the porch columns are created by wrapping the beams in wood trim. Siding is added to the lower column half which will be painted a different color from the trim. The railing is made of cedar with vertical slats to provide a craftsman look. With the addition of the garage doors and gutters the exterior is completed and ready for painting. See the Porch Railing Gallery for pictures.


IMG_1983The first thing to go in after the walls are up are the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Installation was quick as it took only 2 days. A chocolate stain was chosen for the kitchen cabinets that would go well with the maple floor selected. The bathroom cabinets were painted white to blend with the different bathroom color schemes. Cabinet installation is shown in the Cabinets Gallery.

Interior Walls

With insulation in place it is time for the interior walls to go up. The drywall, also known as gypsum board, is nailed to the wood framing. The nails and seams are covered with a finishing compound often called “drywall mud” and tape. The goal is to create a perfectly smooth surface, where the nails and seams are invisible, making the wall look like one solid sheet. The final step is to apply a drywall texture with an air powered texture gun. Check out the Interior Walls Gallery for pictures of the process.

Exterior Siding

IMG_1941With window installation complete it is time for the exterior siding to go on. Our architect, Nathan Cooprider, designed an interesting exterior that uses vertical siding, horizontal siding and shingles. The siding used was a fiber cement product called Hardie board siding. Some areas of the house have both vertical and horizontal siding which is separated with wood trim. The thickness of the trim requires that the vertical siding be bumped out. Trim is then added to the vertical siding to create a board and batten look. Hardie shingle siding was used for the shingle area in front above the entryway. The Exterior Siding Gallery shows the various installation stages which took three weeks to complete. The next step is selecting the exterior colors. But that is a story for another post.


Before  the interior walls and ceiling go in it is necessary for the insulation to be in place. The exterior walls have a blown-in recycled cotton-like product (shown on the picture right) which provides a R30 rating. A plastic wrap is used to contain the blown-in insulation. The interior walls use a fiberglass insulation product (shown on the picture left) which is installed by hand. See the Insulation Gallery for pictures.

Materials Selection


Floor tile, countertop granite and chimney facade
Floor tile, countertop granite and chimney facade

An important aspect to building an house is the selection of materials. One of the more challenging tasks is the coordination of the great room floor, kitchen countertops and kitchen cabinets. The consensus view from talking with others is to select the kitchen countertop first as it is easier to find cabinet colors and floors to match the countertop than vice-versa. But what should drive the color selection of the granite countertop? The answer for us came when we saw a vineyard ceramic tile painting by local artist Shannon Ray (see Materials Gallery). We purchased the tile painting to be used as the backsplash above the kitchen cooktop. To match the blue, brown and gold colors of the tile painting we selected Persa granite for the kitchen countertop. Our chimney will have a stone facade which has similar colors to the countertop granite. We will have a tile floor (still to be selected) which is a good conductor for the radiant floor heating. The kitchen cabinets will have a cocoa stain.

Interior Electrical and Plumbing

With the interior studs in place the in-wall electrical and plumbing must be completed before the drywall goes up. Wiring is required for lights, switches, plugs and Direct TV. Plumbing is required for the bathroom sinks, showers, toilets, bathtub, interior sprinkler system and radiant floor heating. Ducts are installed for the HRV ventilation system. This system exchanges stale inside air with fresher outside air. The Interior Gallery contains more pictures.

Window Installation

With the exterior framing completed the windows are installed next. We selected Milgard vinyl windows that are tan on both the inside and outside. The only other inside color option was white which we felt would not go with the floor and furniture. The Window Gallery contains pictures of the house with the windows installed.

Septic System Installation

IMG_1823Driving by the lot one morning we noticed that the excavator had returned and was digging up the back yard for the septic system. The septic system consists of the concrete septic tank and green wastewater treatment tank. The treated wastewater disperses into the soil via the leech field. I did not appreciate the size of the system tanks until I saw them in the backyard. System installation pictures are the Septic System Gallery.

Pouring the Garage Floor

Leveling garage floor cement

When the concrete slab was poured the garage floor was not poured. The reason was to wait until the rest of the house was framed so as to minimize possible damage to the garage floor during framing. After the garage floor was poured the upper driveway was also poured. Once the garage floor cement had set the storage room and wine room were framed. Check out the Garage Floor Pour Gallery for more pictures.

Framing Completion

With the porch roof in place the remainder of the west wall was framed. This completed the exterior framing. Except for some small items the interior framing was also completed. Exterior and interior views are shown in the Framing Completion Gallery. One of the challenges of this house design was to create an interesting roof design for a single story house. Our architect, Nathan Cooprider, addressed this challenge by inserting non-aligned roof ridges. The roof ridge for the great room and the garage are non-aligned as well as the roof ridges for the master bedroom and entry/office. This creates interesting intersections and avoids large stretches of straight roof.

Installing the Roof Trusses

The framers had one week to frame the house to the point that the roof trusses could be attached. If the truss delivery date had not been met delivery would have been delayed for six weeks. The truss delivery flatbed includes a crane to place the trusses atop the house. After the trusses are attached to the house frame plywood is nailed to the trusses. The Roof Truss Gallery contains pictures.

Framing the House

The concrete slab was poured on a Saturday and framing the house started the next Monday. Winsome Construction uses advanced stick framing as a means to improve the energy performance of the house. Advanced stick framing includes the use of staggered studs. The studs do not touch both the outside and inside of the exterior wall preventing a thermal bridge and the loss of heat. The increased space in the wall cavity allows for more insulation which further increases the energy efficiency of the house. After the studs are in place plywood sheets are nailed to the framed walls. Check out the Framing Gallery for pictures.

Pouring the Slab

It was a perfect day for pouring the concrete slab; overcast in the morning for pouring followed by rain later in the afternoon which aids the curing process.IMG_1645 With the radiant floor heating coils in place and the porch and backyard patio staked the pouring can begin. The pouring process requires the coordination of everyone involved from the person who remotely controls the flow of concrete to the persons who spread and level the concrete. It requires strength and coordination to deliver a finished product especially when on your hands and knees for the final leveling. Pictures are in the Slab Pour Gallery.

Underslab Plumbing & Radiant Floor Heating

Before the slab can be poured the various underslab tasks must be completed. The various hot and cold water lines are laid in and pressure tested.

The heat source for the house is radiant floor heating. Underslab #13Water, heated by a boiler, circulates through tubing under the slab turning the slab into a radiator. Compared to furnace heating the temperature obtained with radiant floor heating is more constant and totally silent. The tubing is held in place during the slab pouring by tying the tubing to a metal mesh. The wire mesh sits on styrofoam which is on top of a poly vapor barrier to restrict moisture vapor from coming up through the concrete slab. More pictures are in the Underslab Gallery.

Laying the Foundation

With the initial excavation complete the pre-foundation work begins. Staking and putting wooden framing in place proceeds the concrete pouring.IMG_1577 The finished product is shown in the Foundation Gallery. Gravel is used to fill inside the foundation. The gravel is compacted and leveled even though the next step is to dig into it for the underslab plumbing.


Staking the property was done on a foggy morning on April 1. This provides the footprint of the house so that the excavator knows where to dig for the foundation. IMG_1539I was surprised to see laser technology used to set corner points of the house and the slope grading. In the picture to the left, laser hardware is on the tripod. The following day excavation started. The Excavation Gallery shows photos of the groundbreaking.



Welcome to Construction Corner

In February 2014 I retired from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory after 39 years. A week later my wife, Denise, and I were on the road for our long planned move to McMinnville, Oregon. McMinnville is about one hour south of Portland in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country. We first started seriously thinking of McMinnville as our retirement location in 2008. In 2010 we purchased a half-acre lot west of town. It was the ideal location for us with beautiful views to the west of hills and trees.

IMG_1201 The development location was formerly pastureland so our lot is fairly flat. The lot is a corner lot as reflected in the blog title.

In 2011 Denise started the house design process using a program off the internet. A year later in the spring of 2012 we enlisted the services of Nathan Cooprider, a Portland based architect, to help us bring the design to completion. Along with our builder, Shan Stassons of Winsome Construction it was a two year process to achieve the final design that is currently under construction.

Our house plan was driven by a desire to capture the views to the west. Therefore a wrap-around porch and a great DIEHL-3room (living room, dining room, kitchen) and is located on the west side of the house with lots of windows. The master bedroom and bath is located on the south side of the house for privacy from the street leaving the other two bedrooms to be located on the north side. For some architect generated views of the house check out the House Plan Gallery.

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Building an Oregon retirement home on a corner lot