Exploring the Space

The heat is so bad this past week, and expected at least through this and next. Little rain, and nighttime temps are in the 70s. That means the crew working on the addition is getting a lot of heat reflected back from concrete. They are going to start coming over about first light, around 6am for now. They may even consider working shorter days and on Saturday. Once the shell is completed, it should be an improvement working inside 7 inches of extruded foam, even if the windows, doors, and A/C are not in place.

I gave up my parking spot at the front and we now have a concrete storage and mixing space, with the sand pile on the old patio. It is conveniently close.

concrete work area

I went out my current front door to wander around the slab. The picture from my future front door across the new living room space and connector hallway seems so big. It’ll be different when walls are up, both interior and exterior, but it is a long stretch.

view from new front door

will be the four piece master bath

Living room will be basically a half-circle shape, with the flat side as the wall between it and the master suite. There will not be anything special about it, except size, with three different seating areas, one of which is my reading nook, with a recliner, bookcases, and charging place for my ereaders. The opposite corner will have a sofa (bed) and chair, with shelves for yarn storage. That will be a nice knitting corner. In the center will be my couch, two chairs, and an entertainment center, eventually with a new television that I plan to also use as a monitor for my computer. There will be various shelves and probably a microwave, as I’ve saved an old one that always popped perfectly unburned popcorn. Since the exterior wall behind the entertainment center faces the back of Sharon’s house, I don’t have any windows in it to provide privacy to both of us. And besides, who wants the glare behind a tv screen? I will have a double French door and a long window beside it at one end, and an open doorway to the connector at the other end, and a 22 inch solar tube in the center. I love the amount of light I get from the 10 inch tube in my current bathroom. It does not need any direct sun to brighten a space. The ceiling will be open to the top of the dome, about 18 feet. This means I won’t have any overhead lights, but I didn’t have any in my last house’s living room, either. Well, I will be moving the small chandelier from the old dining area to the new front door. I already have floor lamps and wall sconces. I plan to use my old furniture, all in good condition, and I like it. May need some sofa tables later.

I’ll describe other room plans later.



Pouring Concrete

Pouring concrete today. Two trucks and not quite enough. Third truck brought it up to about 27 cubic yards. They poured the footers and slab all at the same time, with dividers at approximately where one truckload would reach. The crew stayed late to get it all finished since Morgan Concrete was able to get the third truck to us. It has been such a hot day, but since I’ll have a subfloor and hardwood installed over this, it does not have to be too smooth, just enough that no one trips while working. And they have it plenty smooth for that.

Starting pour of footers

I know there are 7 inches of edge where the walls will sit, but it is finally looking large. Strange how the dirt and forms look smaller than an expanse of concrete in the same space. There is run of 45 to 50 feet from my current front door to the far end where the new front door will be, and that seems like a lot.

approved, ready for pour

concrete done and curing















I’m going to be able to go out the front door again – even though it is a construction site, sometimes I need to talk to the crew, and wandering around from the back is not convenient.

Sharon got the pieces of my front patio that had to be removed for the addition. She decided to use it as a potting station near the garden shed. That’s an area which has frequently been a bit muddy. The leftover concrete today went in that area to smooth the edges and fill the crack between 2 pieces.

Sharon’s workspace

First Inspection

We got approval on our first inspection – plumbing for waste lines. That has all been covered and lots of steel wire and rebar in place, with heavy plastic. We expect the inspector to look at this on Friday. It should be okay, so we scheduled a concrete delivery for Monday morning. It will probably take two. At least it doesn’t have to be super smooth, since I’m planning for hardwood flooring above it. The concrete floors did not work out here for me. I plan to cover the old section in sheet vinyl after everything is done on the new. The two sections will mesh up at the same height.

site ready and sand delivered

This morning I got a surprise, was in the back of the house and ignoring the construction noises, when a really loud back-up beep made me look up. All I could see out my kitchen window was dump truck. Then I remembered we were getting a load of sand, and that was the spot near the mortar mixer and mostly out of construction way. It is on what was my front patio, but that will help keep it clean.

dump truck at patio

It is still predicted to hit 90s next week, so the crew will have to work to keep the pour a bit moistened. One of the new guys Doug hired has a good bit of concrete experience, so this should help. I’m getting anxious to see the panels start going into place. Plus, before we start the second row, we will have the wooden support in place and get a good sense of how tall it will be. That structure will stay until all panels have been set, steel mesh connected, and concrete covering it on the seams. It will have a while to fully cure. The link between the old and new domes is not as tall, so less weight and no need for the support structure.

I have gained quite a bit of construction knowledge since the first dome went up. It helps me know what to ask for and about.

Ageing in Place

This is a trend that has become popular as baby boomers are becoming seniors. I am definitely trying to find and design things for my addition that will help me stay in my house if I develop mobility issues. I am also keeping safety foremost, to prevent injuries that might make me immobile, even for a short while. I am so aware since last year’s injury of my rotator cuff took away months of normal behavior, and I’m still not back to full range of motion and strength – but I’m working at it. Think about what you’d do with only one arm or with a dozen staples in your belly for a couple of weeks (they hurt to move much).

Looks like this is going to be a long post, as I have a long list. Here’s what I’m doing for both convenience and safety.
I already have days with painful knees and hips, so single floor living with no steps at entry are obvious to me.
I’ve never been a big fan of carpeting, and no small rugs that might slip, bare hardwood is safer. I have been disappointed in the concrete floor, so am looking at possibly cork.
All electrical outlets at least 24 inches from floor. The electrician who worked on the original dome suggested this and I really like it.
Plus, plenty of outlets to prevent the need for extension cords.
A convenient shelf with outlets for a charging station – nearly everyone has a cell phone or other electronic devices, and they usually need daily charging. A handy location out of the way of other activities is good. Some of my family had a vacation in a place with a convenient kitchen bar, but by the time we all plugged in, it was hard to cook.
It’s good that I’ve never been a big fan of pot lights in the ceiling, as those would require a ladder to change bulbs. So, no lights in the ceiling and any wall mounted light won’t be too high for lightbulb change from a small stepstool or tall friend. Some of the LED Ikea spot lights I have bought have the long-lasting bulbs built in, so the while fixture will eventually be changed. I have mixed feelings about this, as it seems like too much throw-away, but they are not expensive and last a long time.

Ikea Rymden light bar I already have and have bought more. Mine hang on the wall.

Both Sharon and I have already been happy with raised legs on furniture. Without short-legged children around, we prefer helping ourselves and friends to a couple of extra inches to get off a couch.
I even had made a to-scale diagram of my new place, making sure I had 3 to 4 feet of room around seating groups in the living room. This is in case I need mobility help in the form of a chair or scooter (or any visiting friends who might need the space). I got rid of furniture that I would not use before I left Roanoke. The powder room will have sufficient space and a pocket door to help.

In order to make cleaning easier, I will have wall-mounted toilets and sinks. Just running a duster or mop under without contending with legs will be better.

Kohler wall mounted toilet

I am looking at grab bars for both the powder room and the master bath, as I found them invaluable during both hernia surgery recovery and the rotator cuff injury and surgery recovery. Also along these lines, a fold down seat in the shower is on my list. A walk-in shower makes sense, as stepping over a curb while balancing on one wet foot seems like asking for trouble. And again, if a wheelchair is ever needed in the future (even temporarily), easy shower access is good.

Moen grab bar folds up and out of the way.

I’ve long been a fan of a handheld shower head, for speed alone, but if a person has to sit for a shower, that is necessary. I realized I don’t like the location of the current shower drain, as the slope is hard on ankles and knees. I am going to try for a slope forward, away from my feet instead of between them.
A jetted soaker tub – mostly to ease aches, but I’ve found a nice grab bar designed for a hot tub that looks good for a bathtub surround, and will swing out of the way when not in use.
I am a big fan of timer switches on fans. It makes sense for everyone – children forget to turn off fans, my mother was getting rather deaf and I often found she’d left her fan on for long periods of time.
I am already using lever handles on doors.

bathroom fan timer switch

I am splurging on decent heating, so I will be comfortable in winter. I am not a fan of heat pumps, but have had radiant heating for most of the last 35 or so years. They may be an oddity around here, but I will have hot water radiators – efficient and very comfortable. Since it will be powered by natural gas, I am having a small utility building constructed outside of living quarters, that will house gas burning appliances. This will keep any potential for carbon monoxide away from living areas.

As we were planning the design, a bedroom egress window was required. Until A I Domes folks suggested using a different dormer/entry that would take away a few feet of floor space, I was having trouble picturing myself ever getting out the size window available. Not that I ever expect to need it, but I now will have a window low enough and wide enough to just about step through. Small, higher windows are for younger and more able-bodied people.
I have already bought a wheeled cart for moving clean laundry (even has bars for hanging clothes) from the laundry room to the far end with my new bedroom. No worry about dropping and tripping on clothes.

I am regretting the extra row of kitchen cabinets that are too high for me to reach, but I will have a pantry that should handle the space problem. The top cabinets can sit empty and just look good.

We have been happy with reach extenders, so convenient for the additional inches. When I was not allowed to bend for a few weeks after hernia surgery, they allowed me to pick up what I dropped and not have to wait for Sharon to visit. She keeps hers ready to slide curtains across the window, as the rods are just beyond her reach. This is what we use.

reach extender

Handi Grabber

Eventually I plan to follow Sharon’s example and plug my computer into a large screen tv, so I can see my monitor from across the room. I don’t watch much tv now, so it is low on my list, but I will get one. Feet up in a recliner, cordless mouse and keyboard, what luxury!

For outside, I have a bench to put next to my door where I can place items while opening the door. This is not a big deal, but has been very handy, besides being a nice seat. I am planning for a few more exterior outlets and faucets, even a 220 outlet for family and friends who might visit with an RV. My sister and her husband had to choose between staying in a campground, or parking in the yard and not having air conditioning. They went to a campground, and I can’t blame them.
A poured sidewalk around the house is desirable, as rough ground and grass is not always easy to walk on. Also not at the top of the list, but eventually I want this.

I may be adding to this as I find good products, or problems to solve.


Well, I was not paying attention to where I stopped in the yard and stood on a fire ant nest. To those who don’t live in the area they are found, it does not take long for them to swarm out and let you know how unhappy they are. I learned after moving here (Roanoke does not have them), to wear slide on-off shoes and no open toed sandals. I just wasn’t careful, as we were out pointing at the site and waving our arms about where pipes were going. The ant nests are small and not very visible, as they have done a lot of moving with the equipment stirring up their nests. Antihistamine and some soothing cream really helps. Good news is that I think I’m developing a tolerance, as the welts and itch were gone in 4 days. They still hurt when they bite, though.

We got bad weather from the early tropical storms off the gulf coast, had enough rain one day over the weekend that part of the foundation looked like a moat. When we built the original dome, the winter was one of the rainiest in a long time. I seem to have this thing with water problems.

I think this is a spot I will use to take pictures of the progress at least each week.

We won’t be pouring the foundation and slab until next week, after the holiday. Too bad it wasn’t ready this week, as temperatures were much better. We’ve been continuing a series of small delays, but nothing as serious as the truck accident. We have the plumbers tomorrow to put in the pipes needed to set in concrete. The inspection by Building Codes is scheduled on Monday.

Still a good drop out the front door with 6 inches of gravel, but soon to have concrete

I sure hope we get the shell up in July. The small delays start to add up to bigger costs. I’m already making alternative plans if the budget gets too tight. I grew up in a house that my father worked on constantly, so a partially finished place I could tolerate, but really wanted it done and settled. As long as I can pass occupancy, I’ll be okay with waiting. It’s going to be so nice when finished. Only the bathtub is a luxury item (and that’s debatable with our older achy bodies) Sharon and I both plan to use the soaking tub. She claims visitation rights until she can redo her bathroom. It is more convenient and not more expensive than a hot tub. Most of the cost is in items I want for ageing in place. I want a safe and comfortable old age. For example, I have a modified drawing for the electrician with what I want, and in the 800 square foot addition I have 32 power outlets between indoors and outdoors. We have so many things that require power and I certainly don’t want to have the tripping hazard of extension cords. My old house in Roanoke had no outlet in the bathroom when I moved in. But in 1940 when the house was built, there just weren’t the small appliances like hair dryers and electric razors to need it. Times change. I plan to have a charging station for electronics, too.


I truly am an introvert. It surprises me how much I hate having ‘strangers’ around my house. I know these are guys working to build my addition, but some days I feel like my cat, ready to growl when I see someone outside. Weekends are so relaxing. And this doesn’t have anything to do with my needing to get up really early. Since I retired I keep later hours, but I know with the heat of the summer the crew wants to work as early as possible and quit when it is too hot. That is fine with me, especially since that would also avoid the ‘possibility of afternoon thunderstorms’ that seems to be every summer afternoon. I have been adjusting my schedule.

foundation work

Even with afternoon and evening rains, the crew is making progress through the red clay mud. It’s quite a challenge, translating the plan with all of its ‘normal’ angles of the dome, plus the special link to connect the old and new is a whole weird set of angles itself. Doug did a good job with the first one and is making sure this one is accurate. He had to reset things just once today. He has also set a pipe under the foundation to drain off the rainwater that has gathers in the driveway and runs through that area. It will prevent washing out in the future, and likely keep standing puddles out of the drive.

view from my front door

Tomorrow we get a load of gravel so they can continue to prepare for the foundation pour. After that is the slab. That will still have a height difference from my front door of a few inches, as the flooring in the new part will be different. That’s better than the couple of feet currently outside the door. I’m parking at the back of the house and using the back door for the duration. I know there is always debris that may puncture tires. I’ve given them my parking spot for the mortar mixer, convenient to power and water. Since I have crushed concrete for the drive, it won’t hurt to drip there, either. Sharon did not like mowing over chunks of mortar drip.

We were lucky with the first build, as Doug easily found an electrician to work on it. He was semi-retired and passed away a year or so ago, so we are looking. So many people are leery of the dome, even though most of the wiring goes through the interior walls, which are standard construction. This is nearly the last licensed subcontractor we need, chronologically, so we aren’t excited yet, just frustrated.


scary damage to the truck

Truck arrived Wednesday and was unloaded within 3 hours. Only a couple of scrapes in foam on a couple of panels and one broken corner. Nothing serious, all easy to fix. The poor truck has a lot of scrapes, and it showed how lucky everyone was to have no injuries. If the driver had rear-ended my driver’s truck, we would have had quite a set-back on the schedule, probably having to get a new place in the production line.









stacks of panels spread around the meadow

The crew had a concrete saw and cut up and removed the part of my front patio that will become a true foundation under the addition. For the duration of the build, I will be parking in the grass and using my back door. And it is now loaded with everything that used to be in front. They stirred up a couple of ant nests, so I’ve been spraying where they were climbing the outside wall. After I had an invasion last year, I do not want any ants inside.


patio removal prior to new foundation

Thursday was unscheduled, as the bobcat driver (with the great laser level) was not available until Friday. I headed to Charlotte to pick up a waterproofing compound that will go into the mortar in the seams between the panels. I heard about Kryton on a This Old House show, and it sounds like it will prevent any intrusion of water. Even though the last paint we used is very good, I’d like to have an additional barrier. It’s expensive, except considering what can be saved if it works as promised: frustration at leaks, more expensive paint, and more labor to deal with it. I will report on the results, but probably won’t know until another winter/summer temperature cycle.