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Other Pic Pages: Foundation - Radiant Slab - Geothermal Loop - Wood Framing - Mechanical Systems - Equipment Room - Monitoring - Interior Trim - Exterior Trim

Construction Timeline: (External finish/trim)
Framing is complete, so now watch the exterior get finished. (1/15/2003 - 8/21/2003)  

NOTE: Newest pictures at the top.
Click on any image for an enlargement. 

August 7  2005.
After two years, the wildflowers and herbs have taken over this retaining wall, and really add color that the butterflies and hummingbirds love.
October 12  2003. Well, we finally got our occupancy permit, so I guess we can move in now ;- ) 
Exterior view of Passive Solar home. Fall is in full swing, and you can see the completed exterior of our home.  We've started some plantings on the front slope, but it won't be until next spring that they really take off.  This photo was taken at about 10:00am, and the sun is already streaming into the South windows.  By Noon, there was no shade to disrupt the planned solar gain.
Exterior view of Earth Berm Passive Solar Home Here's a rear shot showing the earth-berm protection on the North East wall.  The view is pretty much the same from the North West side as well. 
August 21, 2003. All the outside construction is complete.  Now it's just up to Lisa and Me to do our thing.

Here's the final view, as you approach up the driveway.  There is a Rip-Rap drain down the side of the road, and mulch on the bank.  We've seeded all-over with wildflowers, and they're starting to peak out.

Here's the side view, next to the garage.  Plenty of room for two cars to park & turn-around outside.  I've started a rock wall/garden at the end of the retaining wall.  Once again, mulch and seed is used to blend the driveway to the scrub. 

Here's the final shot of the deck you can see under construction a few pictures down.

Just a better shot of the rock sculpture.  The birdbath is family heirloom :)


August 15, 2003. And now... somewhere to entertain outdoors.

Once we realized that we hated tracking mud inside onto our neat floors, we decided that the wrap-around deck couldn't wait.

The deck forms a 3'6" band around the South side of the house, with a few wider patios formed by the changing roof line.  Here you can also see the evolving rock sculpture.  Lisa had some river rocks trucked in to tie the larger rocks together. Kewel!

The other reason for starting the deck right away was that we needed a wheelchair access ramp built for the front door.  Now my buddy Ken has no excuse for not visiting.  From L-R are Chase, Greg & boss-man Randy.

ADA code requires that ramps have a maximum pitch of 1:12.  This ramp has a 5 inch rise over 8 feet, so we're sweet.  The area in front of the window in this pic will eventually hold a large rock to act as a splash zone for the roof valley above. (No gutters for me to keep clean:)
August 2, 2003. Major earthmoving comes to an end..

After Mike finished relocating all the piles of dirt, and re-grading the road, we had a load or two of crushed stone delivered.  We may think about putting down black-top on the driveway next year.

Can you say "four tons"?

While Mike was grading, he uncovered lots of neat rocks.  So we started a rock garden.  You'll see later how Lisa turned it into a waterless water-feature.
July 27, 2003. Time for some exterior beautification.
External image of house with Hardi-plank siding painted Sage-Brush.
The house is just about complete externally.  The paint is getting it's final touch-up and the external lights and outlets have been installed. Mike has been been back and started the final grading out front.  It seems like the weather is just not going to cooperate.  After 3 weeks of sun, the day after Mike started, it rained and turned the front into mud :(
Planting Blue Spruce trees with a Bobcat
Since we were anticipating Mike arriving to grade the front yard, we figured we'd better do any landscaping out back that needed machinery access.  Here are the guys from the "Outdoor Center" planting seven Blue Spruce trees.

In addition to the trees, we has some Rip-Rap formed into a small runoff creek, and had some Rhododendrons planted along the side of the house.


Here's Lisa sitting on "The Rock".  We have a lot of large stones on our property, and so we had the landscapers relocate this one to act as a cool sitting place in out new park.

Although this new area looks fairly pristine now, we intend to let it go pretty wild to act as an animal sanctuary.

July 17, 2003. Hardi-Plank siding is just abut complete.
The siding and trim is all done, except for the bottom row.  The guys need to make allowances for the deck boards before installing the last row.  Just for fun, I took a composite photo with about the same perspective as my first Computer Generated house image.  Click the pic to see the comparison.
July 1, 2003. Here's out first live Bear picture.
Although this Black Bear is just out of camera range, Lisa's first encounter was across a distance of about 15 feet.

Lisa was working on the downhill side of one of our retaining walls when something made her look up over the wall.  Well, imagine her surprise when she locked eyes with this large adult Black Bear.  The bear continued on as Lisa retreated at high speed.  By the time she called me and I got the camera, the bear had moved on to our neighbor's place.

June 26, 2003. What a cool wall color (colour)  :)

The tower got it's first coat of real color.  This is called Sagebrush.  The color matches the plant by the same name.  The white trim really sets it off nicely.  The same combination will be repeated on the main level.

Look out.  Lisa tried her hand at surveying.  The guys used this tool to find the level for the deck.
I guess this is strictly an "Internal" picture, but here's Lisa preparing the spiral stair treads.

We couldn't get the same dark blue color for the treads so they would match the ceiling.  So we got the next color down in the same tonal series.  Apparently the Step paint didn't come in a dark enough base color. 

June 8, 2003. Oh Joy... Broadband is here :)
OK, so I totally lucked out here.  Purely by accident I walked into the Mecca of satellite communications right here in my own backyard.

Sky Tech Services ( is a super cool local business where this family of guys specialize in  satellite TV, Internet and cellular phone services.  Here's my StarBand Internet dish, awaiting the addition of  Dish TV.  

June 6, 2003. Work starts on the soffits & Siding.
Once we got more than a couple of days of sun, work moved outside again.  My soffits are white aluminum to match the white fascia.  One in three panels are perforated to provide venting to the roof system.

I'm not having gutters, I'm providing natural anti-erosion around the perimeter, and a positive slope away from the house.

Rather than cedar siding, we're using Hardi-Plank, which is a fiber cement product.  It's durable, resists paint flaking and won't rot or warp.  BTW, did I mention it was invented in Australia??    

You need a special "Hardi" blade to cut it, and it produces a LOT of dust.  Respirators are recommended, and even Jim shed his macho image to save his lungs. 

The planks are produced with a wood-grain texture so once they're painted, it's hard to tell them from the grown product.

Seen here are the pre-primed planks and trim installed on the tower.  Click the image to get a close-up

May 10, 2003. Work has picked up outside with the retaining walls.

The rear walls have been exposed for a while now, but the soil has thawed and dried out (after heavy rains) so Mike's excavation crew came out to build two retaining walls.  These walls let us create an earth berm on either side of the house.

The walls are built from 6"x6" pressure treated timbers.  The timbers are staked together with galvanized spikes, and they have a substantial secondary "Dead Man" wall to anchor them in place.

Naturally, the day after the walls are installed, it started raining and hasn't stopped for more than about a day.  So the earth in front of the house has yet to be graded.

Here you can see how well protected the two rear walls are.  We needed to leave a foot or so between the eaves and the earth just to make it harder for the bears and deer to stumble up onto the roof.

Our temporary driveway has just about eroded away, so I'm praying for a dry week.

March 12, 2003. The snow has mostly melted, to be replaced by mud.

The exterior doors have been installed.  We're using a brand called Therma-Tru (Fiber-Classic style).  These doors have a polyurethane foam core covered with fiberglass outer casing that has an artificial wood grain texture. With the right stain they can be made to look just like real wood.  We'll probably just paint them :)

The Therma-Tru doors come in many designs with various class options.  We used a 2-Lite design for the front door, and a mostly glass design for the rear/side door to compliment the sun-room.

The front and side doors have R-Values of  4.76 and 3.13 respectively.  We're adding glass storm doors to both entrances to reduce air infiltration and increase the R-Factors.

March 2, 2003. This was the first time we saw the house after the "Blizzard of '03"

We figured that after the 52" of snow, our roof would look like a ski jump, and the Tower would look like the snack kiosk.

Since the soils is only a few feet below the eaves at the back, it's pretty likely that this scene will be repeated.  That's what earth sheltering is all about :)

Click on the image and see if you can see the footprints from one of our other visitors.

January 15, 2003. Despite the sub zero temperatures and snow, Owen got stuck into shingling.

We're using 30 Year Architectural shingles.  Here you can see the aluminum edge protection strip that is placed on the fascia board to support the first row of shingles.  With the rear wall so far below grade, it was an easy matter to just step up onto the rear roof.

Lisa braved the cold to pose for this picture.  The contractors here must have anti-freeze in their veins because I'm sure the wind chill was about 0F this day.  I'm sure it will be a while before the shingles warm up enough to seal against each other.
The perspective on this close-up of the shingles is not immediately obvious.  The photo is actually looking down onto the roof from a tower window.  The snow is actually at the bottom edge of the roof.

You can see the 3 Dimensional nature of the shingles, as well as the variation in coloring.  These are 30 Year "Architectural" shingles and their color is "Drift Wood" which comes from a scattering of brown colored grit pieces.

Other Pic Pages: Foundation - Radiant Slab - Geothermal Loop - Wood Framing - Mechanical Systems - Equipment Room - Monitoring - Interior Trim - Exterior Trim

© 2000-2018, Phil and Lisa's relaxed lifestyle home.
An exercise in Energy Smart, Not So Big living. -


This site is all about building a cool, energy efficient house, that makes maximum use of earth sheltered design, passive solar heating and cooling, geothermal exchange energy management, and right sizing of the house for it's designated use. The home's placement is on a south-facing hillside in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. This site describes the design process, the technologies used and the expected results. We also have a comprehensive Links Page for anyone who is also interested in designing a similar project.