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Stargate House: Construction

I recently posted a few photos of my house in a Facebook group, which kind of opened a can of worms. The limited number of photos led to a lot of questions about the design. People asked for both more photos and an explanation! While there is additional information on the Stargate page on this site, it's also pretty limited, so I thought I would make a few blog entries to provide more information, as well as move the discussion over here to my blog. Facebook got mad at me for commenting on almost every one of the 1.5K comments over there. I shouldn't have that problem here. It's easier for me to add more here in response to questions, as well.

This first added post was for general photos and descriptions. The second is on the design rational, followed by a third post with drawings and renderings. This post documents the construction, with minimal commentary.

Note that these pictures were taken by numerous people, with numerous cameras including a webcam mounted in a birdhouse, at various resolutions, at various times of day, so the quality is inconsistent, at best.

Original shed, with grid and lattices added for party purposes, already cleared out.

Demolition has begun.

The building has been


Excavation is under way.

Excavation is complete.

Pilings are on site.

Drilling is underway.

Pilings were placed 48' feet into the ground.

This is what the piling contractor left us with. Give me a call and I will give you their name so that you don't hire them.

Pilings were off their engineered locations by several feet in some cases, and there were other issues as well.

It's a difficult site, I get it, but really. Our lawyers chatted with their lawyers, believe me. We prevailed.

Nevertheless, we got it cleaned up, and for a while, it looked like an archaeological site!

24" square grade beams were formed and poured.

Slab insulation, gravel, and reinforcing were added.

The 8" slab was poured.

We took a short break and had a "slab party" while the wall form work was being placed.

I built and installed the form work for the decorative relief panels and window block-outs.

Forms included this carved plywood interpretation of Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.

Note how the pattern is coordinated with the concrete form ties and the form panel module.

Concrete was poured.

The forms were stripped. Contrary to my wishes, the form-tie holes were grouted by the concrete sub-contractor. By the time I found out, it was too late. The deed was done.

I didn't spend much time off site for the rest of the job.

The only internal steel beam was placed between the East retaining wall and the corner column.

The Element was parked on the slab for the first time. Yep, it fit. Yay.

Posts, beams, and joists, and sill plates begin to appear.

First floor walls are mostly shear walls, and so are covered in plywood. You will see those orange chairs again.

Second floor walls are being framed. That's the stair coming up from the lower level at the bottom of the image.

Marvin Wetzel (the General Contractor) celebrated a successful day of tipping walls into place by enjoying the view from the living room (and a cold beer).

Initial Stargate sidewall framing begins. The entire structure is a shear wall, tied back to the building with LVL beams.

The face of the Stargate structure begins to fill in. You can see the stairs to the upper level inside.

Interior stairway sidewalls and stairs.

Upper Stargate framing is underway.

See those steel straps above and below the window openings? I was the designated Tico Nailer, and I put every nail into every one of those straps. There are a lot of them.

Stargate framing is complete. Marcus Kellis comes from Idaho to check out the work.

Stargate sheathing is complete, windows are installed, and Tyvek goes on.

Final upper walls are put in place with windows installed and Tyvek already on them.

We have topped out, and Marvin goes up to hang the traditional Christmas Wreath.

Roof trusses are installed.

Note that there are both standard and scissor trusses, as some of the upper ceiling are flat, while others are vaulted.

Fireplaces and flues arrive on site...

..and are quickly installed and utilized. Even though we're not insulated yet.

These are real wood-burning fireplaces, and figure into the energy budget for the house.

That means I can use them, if I need to, even during a burn ban.

My brother Larry helped us source the red metal siding and all of the custom flashings and trims through his contracting company, C.R. Siding.

When he found out I was watching the delivery on the webcam, he thought it would be fun to moon the camera. I thought it would be fun to take a picture.

So I did.

Since we were now closed in, additional systems work could begin. Part of the fireplace surround is used as a mechanical chase.

While PVC waste lines and Pex supply lines were used,the plumber was a fan of bringing water from the floor to the fixture with copper, and we did not disagree.

Several layers of Grace waterproofing membrane were applied, skylights installed, and then the aluminum skin started to go onto the Stargate.

We installed the rolling door ourselves, since the door company refused to install it on an angle like this.

The red metal flashings, trim, and siding are installed. Due to the design of the windows, there are no openings to be flashed, except at the top of the panels.

Or, one might say, that's another reason why the windows are like that.

Either way.

I donned a respirator and goggles for several days. to fabricate the shingles myself, cutting Hardi Board with a diamond blade, first into 16" strips on a table saw, then cutting those strips into 16" squares on a radial arm saw, then nipping three corners to form a teardrop shape on a chop saw.

Marvin did an outstanding job of installing them. This was exactly the look I was after.

I am not crazy about the offset you get on the diagonal on commercially available diamond shingles.

While all this was going on, Rick and his crew from Elliot Bay Electric were hard at work on the wiring.

Before long, both batt (in the main parts of the house) and rigid (in the vaulted ceiling of the Stargate) insulation were installed.

Drywall on a vaulted, rounded ceiling can be tricky. In fact, the contractor who was supposed to do it bailed when they figured out how hard it was going to be, and Marvin had to finish the job.

Kitchen cabinets were installed.

I was told by my IKEA customer service representative that the warranty would be voided if I hung them like this.

I swear, these hanging cabinets are much safer in an earthquake than the ones hung on a z-channel according to IKEA standard practice directly on the wall across the room.

We went to the granite supplier to pick the slabs for the counter tops and fireplace hearths.

Kevin Tran at KT Cabinets was very helpful and patient in letting us look at a lot of slabs before making our selection.

Granite fireplace hearth and aluminum mantle are in place.

Based on this picture and the one of the kitchen above, I guess were were painted by now, as well.

I began fabrication on the panels that would form the upper decorative frieze in the Stargate section of the house.

This involved cutting OSB patterns with a scroll say, then forming the panels on a 24" x 24" vacu-form that I built for the job, then cutting them to size and painting with two or three colors (I forget).

Finished panels waiting to be installed.

Final panel installation. Trimmed out with aluminum stock. The circle in the middle of the third panel from the left is where a light fixture will be mounted.

As we can see here, the tile in the shower is in by now as well.

Some trim painting remains.

I assembled the entry bridge in the carport. The final design, which I had struggled with for months, was a collaboration between myself and the contractor.

Marvin broke the logjam by contributing some very useful ideas.

The installed bridge. It is exactly as long and as wide, and takes off from the maximum height off the ground allows by code for entry bridges in the front setback.

The Master Bedroom deck at Seidelhuber Iron & Bronze Works' shop in Seattle.

I worked with the owner to develop an efficient railing design that was easier and less expensive to fabricate than my original design. It worked out fine. I love it.

The Master Bedroom deck had to be lifted over the house with a crane, since it's on the far side of the house, opposite the vehicular access.

That's me guiding the galvanized steel deck into place during the installation.

The supporting brackets and steel grating were installed after we had the primary structure in place.

Me in the prison garb meeting with the owner and shop foreman at Seidelhuber to inspect the lower dining deck.

At this meeting, the foreman said to me "I'd like to see the house than hold this thing up".

This deck was also lifted into place with a crane, but at least it didn't have to go over the house.

After setting the deck structure into place, the diagonal braces were added, and the steel structure was complete.

Once the steel was in place, a secondary level of wood structure was installed to support the decking.

The Trex decking was installed in a radial pattern. Marvin insisted that I work on this part of the project as well, probably so that I could better understand how difficult it was.

At this point, the principal construction is complete, and the house was ready to move in to.

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