Back Side Yard, Front Side Yard, Electricity and Ice Road

There were a gob of issues to consider when siting our house including views, energy efficiency, external visual impacts, impact on neighbors, drainage, landscaping and outdoor use, and overall aesthetics. And then there are regulations on top of regulations to contend with.

Our new house is a bit bigger than our former ‘cabin’. And while size wise it’s in line with others in the neighborhood we still wanted to reduce its visual impact as much as possible, especially for our neighbor to the north who are our ‘back side yard’ and so get the long side of the structure. We wanted to site the house as low as possible both to reduce its impact on our neighbors and to nestle it in to the geography and reduce its visual impact from the lake. In the end the city wouldn’t let us build at the same level as our neighbors but forced us to build a few feet higher. This isn’t huge but it would have been nice if it had been 4’ lower and so less impacting to our neighbors and others.

Back Side Yard, Front Side Yard

Something interesting that we learned is that lake lots have a back side yard and a front side yard. In our case our northern lot line is ‘back’ and our southern lot line is ‘front’. Each lot being a mirror image of those on either side. This makes space more useful for everyone and more aesthetically pleasing. Typically the longer side of a house goes along the back side yard, this is the side where wheelbarrows and and stuff are stored, and  mechanical systems go here. The front side yard is larger, more appealing and where a path around to the lake will usually be.

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Heat vs Frost

I learned this week that our builder has to keep the furnace in our basement running continuously. Otherwise the interior footings could freeze and crack. All of the purely exterior footings go at least 6’ below grade so that they will remain below the frost line.


Over the past few days we got a trench cut between our house and the detached garage. A water line went in the bottom to keep from freezing and then up closer to the surface are a number of conduits and a natural gas feed. Mike, our electrical contractor, recommended that all power feed to our detached structure which will have Tesla solar shingles and Tesla Powerwalls for backup power and then feed from there to the house. The result is that we’ve got 3 200 amp feeds from the detached structure to the house; main feed, critical circuits (that are on the solar and backup system), and a time of day (TOD) circuit that has lower rates at night (and much higher during the day) that we’ll use for charging our cars, boat and lawn tractor.

Mike (far right) and his guys installing the meter panels and transfer switch (to switch to backup power when grid power is out) on the detached garage.

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Conduits to the house. Three are for low voltage stuff like network and security, one is for compressed air and three for power.

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You can just barely make out the conduits below. The yellow pipe that Bob has just uncoiled is natural gas.

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Bob wrestling with a cold and stiff gas line that needs to be buried.

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Entrances to the house are sealed well against water and mice.

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A bit of winter.

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Mike and Shawn tied a baggy on to a string and then used a shop vac to suck the baggy and string in to the conduit. That was used to pull a rope through and then the cable puller (second photo below) pulled the cables through w/ the rope. We use to have to use a lube or soap on the cables to get them to go through but the newer cables have a super slick coating on them that makes pulling easier.

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Mike and Shawn connecting the feeds to the panels.

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The city and county keep our bikeways clear all winter. It’s about 2 miles from our place to where I get my morning cappuccino and porridge. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden it without seeing at least one other person and frequently, even when it’s only 10°f, I’ll see several others. We’ll ride to the village almost every day above about 15°f unless it’s snowing or raining really hard. Below 15° depends on wind and sun. If  there’s no wind and lots of sun then somewhere around 0° to 5° is my lower limit for this ride.

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Almost every day I’ve been at the house I’ve seen people out on the lake. One of our neighbors keeps a road plowed around the lake all winter. More than a few people have dreamed of getting our own Zamboni to make a smoother path 🙂  Here, she’s skating and he’s walking behind.

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Chris has been plugging away at the finish trim. There’s a lot of it and it’s looking quite good. Murphy & Co’s design and Chris’ skill and craftsmanship make for a good combination.

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Another day, another person on the lake. He’s skating while his dog runs all over around him. I’m guessing his dog will get about 5 or 10 times as many steps.

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