Hobbit Hollow Construction Blog

Welcome to my Construction Blog! I've created this blog to document the progress on a Hobbit House that I am constructing in New York. I will periodically be posting pictures and anecdotes throughout the process. Enjoy, Jim.


Lets Backup Before we Go Forward……Shall We?

Welcome friends of Middle Earth!. Yes the story continues……as did the quest to destroy the Ring. As does the quest to finish this house.

We’re going to finish it one nail at a time people. That’s how it’s going to get done. We’ll get it done. Patience is a virtue people. Hang in there for me.

Still having trouble downloading my pictures. I got rid of a bunch stuff on my phone and still no results. It’s getting excruciatingly annoying. I started trimming out the front door this weekend and I really wanted to show you what I did. It’s a multi step process. Took step one this weekend. Next week another.

But like I said lets backup before we go forward.

So did you ever do something that you thought was a good idea but at the same time you know somewhere in the back of your head your thinking this could really backfire? Like you’re really going to regret doing this later on.

Had one of those moments this weekend.

The idea was, and it was a good one, to make an oldies playlist for the barbecue this weekend. You know on my phone. The Editor’s father flew in from Arizona this week and we were getting together. He’s 85 and I figured he might like to  hear some of the oldies songs from the fifties that he grew up with. I mean those 50’s songs are classics. But there was one critical element that I kind of miscalculated on. You know  of what I speak ……That Mother-in-Law of mine was there too. I mean what was I thinking. And I knew she was going to start singing I just wasn’t thinking that it would be with that kind of volume. You want to talk about off key. Forgetaboutit! I actually brought a wheel barrow out to help her  carry a tune. Didn’t help. It didn’t give her the hint either. It only got worse after she drank a half a pitcher of margaritas.

Roy Orbison will never be the same for me.

Oh yeah here’s Rocky.

Rocky trapped in the bathroom out at the pool.

I really felt bad for this guy. We got him out safely after a bit of a struggle. (See blog post from two weeks ago.)

Oh and guess what the trade winds blew across the Atlantic the other week? Georgia flew in from Spain and arrived at JFK! She took the New York City subway to our little job on 61st street and her and I had a little snack at an outdoor cafe to celebrate. And was it nice to see my daughter again. So glad she’s home!

Georgia’s back from Madrid, Spain.

Boy it’s good to have her back.

So one of the things we did the previous week was the infamous blower door test. Very interesting. So for those of you who are not learned in the ways of blower door testing let me enlighten you.

Hmmm. Not really that easy. What a blower door test does is measure the air infiltration rate of your house when it gets depressurized.  In simple terms it measures how much your house leaks.Why is this important? Because a leaky house creates drafts. If your house is drafty the insulation you put into your house will have a limited effect on either your heating or cooling bill. So this is a huge component of Passive house design. Your air leakage rate has to be extremely low. The rate we are looking to get to is .6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals of pressure. Most houses built in the United States are probably closer to 6.0 or ten times the rate that we are trying to achieve. Actually, the new energy code for New York is 3.0 someone told me. So we are trying to get to 5 times better than that.

So how is this all done. (And I’m going to run out of time so I’ll be brief.) So you hire a guy who does blower door testing that’s step one. So what he does is seal off an exterior door to your house and hook up a fan to the shroud he’s put over the door.

Check it out.

Blower door test setup.

Once this is secured he turns on the fan and the fan is blowing air out of the house. So as the fan tries to blow air out of the house air has to get sucked into the house through any openings in the house that air can get through. It’s that simple. There’s a monitoring device attached to the fan that measures the air flow rate.

So he starts it up.

I was actually pretty excited to see how we would do. …and kind of nervous too. I mean this is huge. If we fail the test it’s like getting punched in the gut. Like getting the wind knocked out of you. Like how did we get it all so wrong kind of thing.

So yeah I’m a little nervous.

So Terence and I are standing behind him as he is watching the monitoring device. He turns to us and says, “I’m not really getting a reading.” Terrence and I look at each other and grin. Yes. ” Open up a window I need to check something.” Terence opens a window and air rushes into the house.

He shuts off the fan. “I need to go to the smallest ring” he says. What he does is make the opening for the fan smaller so that it creates a greater sucking force on the inside of the house. Check out the opening on the fan now.

Fan diameter reduced

So once he sets this up he says, “Man you’re not going to have any issues heating this house. There’s barely any leakage.” Then we start trying to find a leak. We eventually found some minor leakage in each of the 4 skylights. 3 of them had a single leak and one had 3 small leaks. So our blower door results were great. (.69) Just missed getting to (.6). The good thing is we know where the leaks are. Once we seal these up good we should definitely get to the number we are trying to achieve.

On another note Terence started the insulation on the outside of the house. Check it out.

Exterior insulation started.

We are going to put 4 inches of this stuff on the outside. One layer at a time. We used 2 and a half inch screws with metal washers to hold the styro to the sheathing. It worked really well.

Terence securing styro to the sheathing.

We left a gap between the windows and the styrofoam to be spray foamed after we were done. I’ll show you next week what I’m talking about and why.

Figuring out the door trim

I made a mistake with this trim and it broke while I was installing it.

Terence routing out the door trim.

Out of time people. Gotta go.

Oh yeah and guess who took home the biggest piece of cake at the end of the BBQ?

Need I say?

Have a great week!


The brothers working at 1865 Broadway

A Quick Update…..

Sorry people went to a Rhode Island State Beach this Sunday. Will update you on the blower door test and a few other things next weekend! Take care, Jim

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