A Work in Progress – Lighting

This weblog post is inspired by Friday’s shopping trip to Jula and Clas Ohlson, two Swedish equivalents of a hardware chain store, in Steinkjer, about 30 km north-east of Cliff Cottage, Vangshylla. On this shopping trip, I ended up buying a number of LED lighting components, not for any specific purpose but for playful learning. There was one impulse purchase, five meters of string lights with sparkly effect!

This is the walkway on the entry level of Cliff Cottage with Trondheim Fjord in the distance. String lighting illuminates the driveway, with 480 LED lights. Two hundred and forty string lights have been temporarily placed along the walkway, to brighten up November, while bags of insulation patiently wait to be fitted into the floor of the attic.

Lighting the stairway

According to my timeline, sometime in 2020, the house will be have a new main stairway. I intend to make it myself, using solid oak. It is difficult to buy hardwood, especially in rural Trøndelag. My solution will be to buy solid oak kitchen counter material which comes 26 (H) x 600 (D) x  2 400 (L) mm ( or about 1″ x 24″ x 96″) , and to cut it into suitable pieces, four treads to a countertop. Materials will cost me about NOK 4 000 (USD 500). Getting someone to make a stairway would cost at least five times that price. Here is a link to what I am thinking about. Biltema can be translated as “car theme”, and is the same in Swedish and Norwegian. It is yet another Swedish chain, even more dominated by male customers, than the two chains previously mentioned.

Before, I start building a new stairway, I want to experiment with lighting. Yes, there will be lighting from above, but I am particularly interesting in lighting each tread, so that old people can distinguish the nosing, and avoid falling. On the two bottom-most treads, I intend to drill holes and fit 4mm (Christmas) lights into them, at about 50 mm intervals. On the next two treads (three and four from the bottom), I intend to fit 100 lm spotlights, one on each side of each tread. If I come across new ideas, I will try them out as well, trying to put the most controversial closest to the bottom.

A Work in Progress

I have no intentions of living in a “finished” house. While the timeline for major improvements stretches over four years from 2018-01-01 to 2021-12-31, the intention is to allow continuous improvement, and to have the house serve as a laboratory in three areas: 1) smart house (computer control using sensors, actuators and communications components), 2) energy reduction with an emphasis on solar thermal energy, 3) assistive technology, including adaptive and rehabilitative devices for the elderly, as well as the general population.

Lighting – The Theory

A lumen (symbol lm) is a measure of the total amount of light visible light emitted by a source in any particular direction.

Lux is a measure of illuminance, how much light there is on a given surface area. One Lux (lx)  equals one lumen per square meter.

Direct sunlight32 000 – 100 000
Daylight10 000 – 25 000
Full moon1
Kitchen/ workshop ambient100
Kitchen/ workshop task500
Dining/ living area ambient50
General task300
Bathroom ambient50
Bathroom task300
Garage/ carport100
Detailed task1 000

Lighting Requirements

Here is a list of lighting requirements in lux for various household activiites. The list has been compiled without recording sources. There is considerable variation in what people need, and standard values will not suit everyone.

Ambient Room Lighting

1. What type of room is it? In this example, it will be assumed that the room is a kitchen.

2. Ambient lighting for a kitchen requires 100 lx.

3. What is the size of the room? For illustrative purposes, assume it is 4 000  x 3 000 mm (4 by 3 meters). This gives an area of 12 square meters.

4. To find the number of lumens, multiply the lux requirement from step 2 by the area from step 3: 100 lx/m² x 12 m² = 1 200 lm.

Clas Ohlson has a 450 mm diameter ceiling light that provides 1 500 lm that would be suitable:

Dot, a dimable 450 mm ceiling light to provide sufficient ambient lighting in a kitchen.

Dot, a dimable 450 mm ceiling light to provide sufficient ambient lighting in a kitchen.
Energy classA
Bulb typeLED
Power24 W
IP classIP54
Lumens1500 lm
Colour temperature2700 K
Colour rendering index (Ra)80
Lighting time1.5 s
Temperature range– 20 to +40 °C
Number of lighting cycles15 000
Lifetime30 000 h
Replacable light sourceNo

Task Lighting

1. Where is the task lighting? In this example, the focus will be on a kitchen counter top – the same one that the stairs were made out of, but this time used more conventionally.

2. Task lighting for a kitchen requires 500 lx.

3. What is the area where the task is taking place? The countertop measures 600 mm x 2 400 mm = 1.44 m², this could be rounded up to 1.5 m².

4. To find the number of lumens, multiply the lux requirement from step 2 by the area from step 3: 500 lx/m² x 1.5 m² = 750 lm.

I had hoped to find something equivalent at Jula, but found this set of downlights at Clas Ohlson: https://www.clasohlson.com/no/LED%20downlights/Pr365874000

As the specifications indicate, 4 downlights would be required to meet the task lighting needs of the countertop work area.

Downlights in a kitchen, but not quite how I would use them.
Energy classA+
Bulb typeLED
Power3.3 W
IP classIP20
Lumens190 lm
Colour temperature3 000 K
Colour rendering index (Ra)80
Lighting time0.5 s
Temperature range– 20 to +40 °C
Number of lighting cycles100 000
Replacable light sourceNo
Diameter: hole/ lamp60/ 65 mm
Depth15 mm
Transformer, able to attach up to six downlights.

A Work in Progress – The Attic

A month ago today, I wrote about construction  at our house. See: https://brock.mclellan.no/2018/09/22/a-work-in-progress/

Fjellheim (Mountain Home) as it once was officially called, Cliff Cottage as we refer to it, was built in 1963, to replace a log house set up on the same site the previous year, that had burned down.

The new house was undoubtedly financed by Husbanken  (The Norwegian Housing Bank) which set strict limits on most features of the house, including size and choice of materials. The original house was 10 meters by 9 meters, or 90 square meters (968.75 square feet for those wanting excessive precision, and non-metric units). In reality, the original house had almost twice that area because a lower floor occupies about the same area. Indeed, the main entrance to the house is on this lower level. The house is built on a slope, so that there are no windows on the lower level at the back of the house.

Norwegian Post-war domestic architecture.

After the second world war, Norway was poor, and had to rebuild after its German occupation. Even in the 1970s there were housing shortages, and the country engaged in a number of (short-sighted) short-cuts in its rebuilding efforts.

The original owner of our house had made provision for the house to be expandable towards the fjord. They added a 6 meter by 10.5 meter cement terrace extending out from the house. Underneath this was a walkway to the front entrance, a carport, and a storage shed.

When new owners purchased the property in the 1970s, they had different (and to my mind, inferior) ideas about putting on an addition, and built a 15 square meter structure behind the original in the early 1980s, with a deviating roof slope, and non-standard ceiling height.

We moved into the house as renters 1 March 1989, and purchased it 31 December 1990, after the death of the second owner.

Because of a sag in the concrete terrace above the carport, we had half of the terrace sawn out and removed. I then rebuilt the carport and walkway (and half of the terrace) using wood.

Cliff Cottage in October 2018, with new windows and horizontal siding. Prior to this incarnation, the house had vertical siding and some of the windows were considerably smaller. The concrete terrace was originally put in place to allow an expansion of the house towards Trondheims Fjord, behind the photographer. The parts of it covering the walkway and the carport were removed, and replaced with a wooden structure. In the living room there appear to be three large windows. In reality this consists of a large non-opening window, followed by a post supporting a knee wall in the attic. To the right of this post is a sliding door, first with an opening section, followed by a fixed section.

The Attic

A cold attic, with a knee wall on the left, a theoretical 150 mm of insulation between the floor joists, 0 mm of insulation between the rafters. Additional 36 x 198 mm joists have been placed at 90° to the original joists to avoid cold bridges. When the project is complete, these will be filled with 200 mm insulation. The white pipe will be providing cold input air to a wood stove in the living room. 

In Norwegian, this style of attic construction is referred to as a kald loft, a cold attic. What this means is that the insulation is placed in the floor, between the joists, rather than in the ceiling, between the rafters. Theoretically, this means that the attic is as cold as the outside. This type of construction is no longer used, and in new builds with i-beam and other types of rafters, insulation is placed between them. Truss roofs have their own system.

The original insulation was supposed to be 150 mm thick. While it is sometimes that thick, much of the time it is only 100 mm. Sometimes it is even less. I found one area, normally hidden from view with stored materials, where tradesmen had removed insulation to put in a vent, and then not bothered to replace the insulation when they had finished. This problem was noticed only when stored items were moved, recently, into the centre of the attic. This is one reason why I want to do most, if not all, of the work myself.

The attic is effectively divided into three, by the two knee walls.  The two outer thirds have had four additional 36 x 198 mm joists  placed at 90° angles to the original joists to avoid cold bridges. These will be filled with 200 mm insulation. This takes up much of the space, but there is room at the edge for heating ducts that will supply the living room, dining area and bedrooms with “heat exchanged” filtered air.

In the center third of the attic, additional insulation will be added between the rafters. Because the room slopes, the effective thickness from 200 mm insulation is 250 mm. This provides a total of 400 mm of insulation.

The white pipe in the photograph will be providing cold input air to a wood stove in the living room.


CAD (Compuer-aided design)? Not so much. This sheet of paper provides the necessary information for me to rebuild the attic so that the house will be better insulated. In addition, it points out how I expect the heat exchanger to function, but with specifics left to the imagination. There are still a number of decisions to be made, including the entry point for fresh air (underground?), and the exit point for exhaust air (vented through roof?). Hot air will also be transported down to the entry level of the house, and exhaust air will be extracted from there as well.

Balanced Heat Recovery Ventilation

This illustration shows many of the features that I would like to build into a balanced ventilation system, including its placement in an attic. The ground heat exchanger shown here, will have to be a much more primitive affair, unfortunately. (Illustration: Kobraklb, Wikimedia Commons)

According to several sources, the ideal (read: cheapest) construction system for the installation of a balanced ventilation system is a cold attic. That is because there are few obstacles in the way of piping.  The number and placement of new joists added in the attic, allows piping to reach the living room and bedrooms of the house, as well as rooms on the lower level.

In many cold climates, including Austria and Denmark, but not Norway,  it is common for supply air to be transported underground in a pipe for some meters, so that heat from the earth can warm up the air. Typically, the pipe has a diameter of between 100 and 600 mm (4 to 24 inch), and slopes upwards towards the house so that any water drains out. There should be a MERV 8+ filter at the entry point, but even 1 mm insect netting will prevent many bugs and larger life forms from entering the pipe with the air. Smooth-walled pipe is preferred to prevent condensation and mold. These can be rigid or semi-rigid plastic, plastic-coated metal pipes or plastic pipes coated with inner antimicrobial layers. These are buried 1.5 to 3 m (5 to 10 feet) underground where the ambient earth temperature is typically 10 to 23 °C (50 to 73 °F) all year round in temperate climates.

While vendors of domestic heat exchangers delight in showing their units housed in kitchens and bathrooms, these are not ideal locations. Thus, the system planned for Cliff Cottage will be located in the attic directly above the main bathroom, which is located beside the kitchen.


I remember fondly ads for a moving company (Allied Van Lines?) who were keen to announce that they would keep other people’s junk away from your valuable possessions. Yes, it can be difficult to separate trash from treasure. Fortunately, most of the items in the attic only hold sentimental value.

Soon, there will six short, insulated doors, one in the middle of each storage area that measures 3 meters in length, by 1.8 meters in depth. Height varies from about a meter to 10 – 25 cm, depending on how it is measured.

The main challenge is being able to find something when it is needed. This is why the storage spaces will lettered from A to L. Each of the four people in our immediate family will be assigned two letter sections.


A Work in Progress

It has now been over a month since I have published a weblog post. The reason for this is best described in the photograph below.

Cliff Cottage aka Fjellheim, 2018-09-19. Photo: Trish McLellan

Yes, construction work is time consuming, but provides healthy exercise. The goal of the construction work is to re-construct the house so that it is suitable for a couple of old people to live in. In March 2019, we will have lived in the house for 30 years.

The outer wall of the main level of the house has been replaced. From the outside inwards the new wall consists of 25 x 340 mm horizontal siding (cladding), 23 x 48 vertical nailing strips, a wind barrier, 36 x 198 mm (vertical) studs with 200 mm of insulation, a vapour barrier, 48 x 48 horizontal nailing strips with 50 mm of insulation, 12 mm inside paneling in panels measuring 600 x 2390.

The horizontal nailing strips allow space for services for power and communication. Potentially, other services such as water and waste water could also use this space, but they are not needed along this particular wall. Services are not permitted to penetrate the space provided by the 36 x 198 studs.

On blustery days, work is being done in the attic. Previously, ceiling/ roof insulation consisted of 150 mm of insulation between the floor joists of the attic. In the extension (added on about 1984, five years before we moved into the house in March 1989) to the right in the photograph, it was impractical to add any extra insulation. For the original house, two solutions were needed to upgrade the insulation. In the center third of the attic insulation is being added between the rafters, a 50 mm airspace is being provided to prevent moisture buildup (and wood rot). Then 48 x 48 mm strip is being added to the bottom of each rafter so that 200 mm of insulation can be added. In both of the two remaining outer thirds of the attic, 36 x 198 joists are being added at 90° to the original joists. These measures will provide a total of about 350 mm of insulation.

During the summer, Alasdair was of great help during the construction process. Since he returned to Bergen, I have usually worked alone, with help being provided by Trish as needed. Since the photograph was taken, scaffolding has been added to the wall to facilitate the replacement of studs and the window in the attic. A chain pulley block, fastened to the peak of the roof, will allow heavy objects to be freighted up and down.

A chain pulley block showing lifting chain (black) and control chain (gray).

Cliff Cottage in May 2018. The new siding will be painted the same colour as the old, vårgul (spring yellow). Rot in the bedroom window on the right is clearly visible.


Construction Technology

A 50 m2 office hotel in Copenhagen’s Nordhavn made with a 3D printer, 8m x 8m x 6m (Illustration: 3D Printhuset)

When I look at construction today (2018-07-03), fifty two years to the week after completing high school in 1966, and beginning work as a construction labourer at that very same location, Lester Pearson Senior Secondary School, the work looks surprisingly similar and the tools surprisingly familiar. Someone working in 1968 would have no problem working in 2018.

Pneumatic nailers have been in use since the 1950s, and can save a lot of time. They also give a superior join. Yet, this week, on a site some hundred meters from our residence, two builders were using conventional hammers to construct a cabin. The work was progressing slowly.

One of the main reasons I prefer to build, rather than to hire, is that too many builders are living in the past. Fortunately, I actually enjoy building construction. Yes, it can be tiring work. But it means that I never have to work out at a gym. Yes, it is necessary to take precautions to avoid physical injury, and to use personal protective clothing. Yes, at the end of the day, much of the work will be invisible, but that  isn’t too different from my previous work as a teacher.

Many of my first jobs involved working with wood. While still attending junior secondary school, I built a sabot sailboat out of two sheets of 1/4″ (6mm) plywood. Later, I worked clean-up on the weekends at Brownlee Industries, in Surrey. They processed alder into lumber and made glue-laminate products from it. Other summer jobs were with Bel-Par Industries in Surrey, where I worked as a cabinet-maker’s assistant.  This was undoubtedly the job in Canada that suited my personality best.

Somewhat later, I also working for Habitat Industries on Annacis Island, Delta. It was a pre-fabricated housing factory that has had other names, both before and since. It was named after the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Vancouver in 1976. John Reagan’s designs were anything but modular boxes. He designed octangular, split level and mineshaft buildings. They involved post and beam as well as platform framing. Here, I worked in the factory, not just framing, but other tasks such as electrical and plumbing installation, as well as in the office, mostly related to scheduling and project planning.

Pre-fabrication saved on build time and labour costs by moving much of the work to a climate-controlled environment. Part of the challenge is that these parts have to be transported, which means that the building has to be sub-divided into transportable units, with a maximum length, height and width. Modules are not always the solution. One compromise is to use pre-cut materials for flooring and roofs, but to make and transport walls in sections. Modules can work for bathrooms, less so for kitchens.

In February 2012, I watched an inspiring TED Talk, Contour Crafting – Automated Construction, with Behrokh Khoshnevis at TEDxOjai. After this, I expected there to be a surge of interest 3D-printing of houses. I am still waiting, but understand progress has been made by Khoshvevis in China. Not so much on the North American continent or in Europe.

AMT-SPECAVIA of Yaroslavl, Russia started serial production of construction printers in 2015. Currently, seven models are available ranging from a small format for the printing of small architectural forms, to a much larger scale, that allows printing of buildings up to 3 stories high. A construction printer was delivered to 3DPrinthuset, in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2017. This 8m x 8m x 6m printer was used to construct a 50 m2 office-hotel.

This is referred to as a Building on Demand (BOD) project. Only its walls and part of its foundation are printed. The rest of the construction is traditional. A time-lapse video of the project is also available.

I don’t think I will have an opportunity to build and live in my own 3-D printed house. However, I am encouraging my children to consider the potential this technology offers. I would enjoy helping them.

Measurements: Length & Volume

This post was initially written as a comment to a YouTube video by Steve Ramsey (WoodWorking for Mere Mortals) titled, Metric or Imperial Measurements: Does it matter in the workshop? 

It is standard practice on metric technical drawings to make all dimensions in millimeters. This eliminates the need to write mm everywhere, and it is assumed that the accuracy is within 1 mm. For metals, one should be using a metal measuring device that will automatically compensate for temperature changes, or work at a standard temperature.


One secret of using metric lengths, is to physically separate meters from the remaining millimeters. I treat these as fractions of a meter. My experience as a teacher, is that many people are blind to large numbers. They may be able to understand 36 mm, or even 254 mm, but at some point numbers go off scale, and are interpreted in that person’s brain as a big, meaningless numbers. Taking the video’s example of a table at 1676 mm, it looks and feels like a large number, too large to understand. Therefore, I separate the meters, and write the length as 1 676. The space after the meter measurement is a key to understanding. In this case, there is 1 meter, and about 2/3 of a meter (676/1000). The reason I use a space rather than a comma, is that I live in a country that uses decimal commas, rather than decimal points. Space, comma, period it makes no difference, as long as one can see the separation.

Steve complains that the individual markings for millimeters on metric scales are confusing because the millimeter lines are the same length. I have to agree that the imperial measures are more readable because they have different line lengths for feet, inches, half inches, quarter inches, eighth inches and sixteenth inches. Metric tapes tend to distinguish 10 cm = 100 mm, 1 cm = 10 mm, 5 mm and 1 mm.

A dual metric/ imperial tape. The imperial measurements can be easier to read!


The same approach can be used with metric volume measurements. There are two important volumes, the cubic meter and the litre, where 1 000 liters = 1 cubic meter. Once again, by separating out the value with a space after three digits, one is able to process the information better visually.

For values less than one liter, the millilitre is used. Here, I use a decimal delineator – a . (period) rather than a , (comma) to separate the value. Once again, both approaches are used in different parts of the world.

I try to avoid all conventional units such as teaspoons, tablespoons, cups and even the notorious dash.

An Amusement

Looking for suitable units to use when discussing volume less than one litre, I tried to find something familiar to work with – Root beer! At one site, I came across the recipe for California Root Beer, and decided to have a look. Using the site’s automatic metric converter, here is the result for 1 serving of California root beer:

28.35 g Coffee Liqueur

28.35 g Herbal Liqueur

56.70 g Club Soda

28.35 g Cola

1 Splash(s) Bitter Beer

This recipe is amazingly accurate, right down to 0.01 grams. There are no scales in the house that are that accurate! The original units in the recipe were liquid ounces, however, so these values should have been expressed in litres, except for the splash of bitter beer, that remains the same in both systems of measurement. With this recipe, the only thing missing is the root beer!

An Aside:

Yes, I have written my last measurement of grain expressed in bushels. For those fortunate enough to grow up with the metric system here is a summary:

1 imperial bushel = 8 imperial gallons = 4 imperial pecks = 36.36872 litres

1 US bushel = 8 US dry gallons = 4 US pecks = 35.2391 litres

In school, these values, minus the metric equivalent, were memorized, but I had no idea what a bushel actually looked like until a librarian, and subscriber to this weblog, caught me cutting the grass one day, and commented that I had put the cuttings into a bushel basket, to transport them to our compost heap. Finally, at the tender age of 21, I was able to visualize a bushel!

A bushel basket

Miracle Concrete

Concrete developed using graphene. Photo: Dimitar Dimov.

To experience a miracle just add graphene to concrete during the production process. Graphene concrete is twice as strong, four times as water resistant, with a smaller carbon footprint compared to the conventional processes. Graphene reduces the amount of materials needed in concrete production by nearly 50 percent and reduces carbon emissions by 446 kg per ton. Center for Graphene Science, University of Exeter, United Kingdom. See: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_654766_en.html

It probably will not be commercially available for fixing the terrace this summer.

Sealing Concrete

Part of the problem, a concrete slab poured as a foundation for a house extension, but used as the roof of a storage shed for the past fifty years.


I live in Norway in a house built in 1963. At some point in the 1960s or 1970s, a large concrete slab was poured with a carport underneath half of it, and an outdoor storage age under the other half. This slab was at first intended to be the site of a house extension. However, the extension built in the 1980s, was in a different location. Instead the slab was used as a deck or terrace. Because of a sway in the concrete, half of the slab – that over the carport – was removed in the 1990s, and replaced with a wooden structure. Now it is time to rehabilitate the rest of the slab so that the storage location underneath can be used more extensively (2018), with wooden terrace boards covering the concrete (2019). The concrete needs to be waterproofed, or sealed!


A concrete building is probably more waterproof than any other common type of structure to begin with, and only cracks, joints, or window and door openings require attention. Some people have suggesting beginning by approaching the problem from three different ways. First, grind rough, uneven concrete so that a waterproofing membrane or slurry has an even surface to adhere to. Second, fill expansion joints or larger cracks up to 6 mm, with polyurethane caulking. Third, fill joints larger than 6 mm, with a concrete patch, which must be completely dried before proceeding further.

Some sources suggest waterproofing only walls with soil on one side and habitable space on the other, but extending this waterproofing to adjacent surfaces by at least 300 mm. Others disagree, and suggest that all concrete surfaces (in wet climates, especially) should be treated.

A cast in place concrete roof typically uses roofing cement and fiber reinforced roll roofing to prevent water intrusion. The challenge with this project is that the roof was never built as a roof, but as a foundation. Other sources comment that if a structure lacks sufficient slope to allow water drainage a tar or synthetic or seamless rubber waterproofing membrane has to be used.

Another popular comment, is that waterproofing won’t work without adequate drainage. This may require a perimeter footing drain or other drain pipe system. It may even require  a sump pump.


Sweep the surface to remove dirt and debris.

Test to see if sealer has been previously applied, by pouring a large cup of water onto the concrete. If the water beads up and stays on the surface, it’s been previously sealed. If sealer has been previously used, it will have to be removed using an acid-based chemical stripper, requiring protective clothing, gloves and eyewear. Less toxic and more environmentally friendly products made from soy or citrus are also available, but take longer to work. Using a 25 mm nap roller spread a thick coat of the stripper onto the concrete. Wait. Scrape using a long-handled scraper to remove the sludge. Discard sludge.

If necessary, clean the surface with a stiff brush.

Scrub the floor with TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water to remove loose material, oil and dirt. Let dry.

Sealing/ waterproofing the concrete. Select one (or more) of the following:

1. Concrete repair sealant fills cracks and pitting using a putty knife.

2. Liquid membranes, polymer-based coatings that can be sprayed, troweled, or rolled onto concrete directly, are quick to apply and low cost, but give uneven coverage.

3. Self-adhering sheet membranes are large, rubberized asphalt membranes that are peeled and place directly onto the concrete. They provide even thickness, but are more expensive. They are extremely sticky that is impossible to un-stick it once it is laid. Pay attention to overlap, as improper installation can result in leakage. Cut lap joints properly. Two people are needed to install.

4. EIFS, Exterior Insulated Finish Systems, offer a durable, attractive and simple coating to exterior concrete walls, providing insulation and waterproofing. For a stucco-like finish, an EIFS finish coat can be applied directly to the concrete, filling voids and minor irregularities, and creating a good moisture resistant surface. It is applied with a trowel, and comes in 20 liter buckets premixed and tinted. Float with a Styrofoam block or rubber float to create a uniform surface and texture. Other EIFS products may be sprayed, brushed, or rolled on with a paint roller.

5. Cementitious waterproofing is easy to mix and apply. Mix with an acrylic additive for a better bond, and apply with a long-handled brush. It lacks elasticity, making it prone to cracking over time.

6. Sodium bentonite is a green approach to waterproofing. It is able to cover smooth as well as coarser surfaces.

7. Concrete sealer needs to be applied in dry conditions, because it won’t adhere to damp concrete. Temperature above 10°C during application and three day drying period. Apply two thin coats to ensure a smooth and even finish. Apply the first coat. Wait at least two hours before applying the second, at right angles to your first coat. Do not step on or otherwise use the sealant covered surface until it is completely dry. This can take up to three days.

Note: The information above has been obtained from various sources (online, written, oral) to aid in the solution of a particular construction problem that I face. Your problem is probably not identical, and you too will have to sort through a maze of opinion to find appropriate solutions.

I have not tested any of these proposed solutions, and cannot verify any claims about them. Risks associated with the proposed work have not been assessed, but construction of any sort can be a hazardous activity. Anyone following these instructions does so at their own risk. People who have experience with these methods are invited to share them in a comment.

Electrical Installation: A prerequisite to Technical Innovation?

Norway has become a consumer society. In the first few decades after the second world war, house purchasers were encouraged to put physical labour into house construction. This reduced the total price of a house. Today, this is not happening. People are simply consumers of houses, and have little understanding of how they are actually made.

In this post, I want to look at the consequences of this consumerism, but focus on just one area, electrical installation.

Everywhere electrical material is sold in Norway, one is met with the following or similar warning, in Norwegian:

Although installation materials, such as heating cables, can be purchased by anyone, only registered companies can install the equipment. Stores are required to inform the buyer about this before the purchase is made. It is also not possible to install the equipment yourself, then ask an authorized installer to connect it to the facility in the house. That is a breach of regulations. In addition, there are no serious companies that will take responsibility for a work they do not control.” (from Jula.no)

For many people from other parts of the world, this warning is an affront. Where are the electrical inspectors? Registered electricians are given carte blanche to install electrical materials, but their work remains unsupervised by public officials representing other stakeholders, including house owners. Some electrical inspectors do exist, but they are not public employees. Frequently, they are employees of a major producer of electricity, and they only visit a house every twenty years or so, to ensure that it is in conformity with regulations. When they do come, they have a vested interest in finding mistakes, because they can require a house owner to hire a registered electrician to make changes.

Contrast this with the situation in Canada. Here is a typical sign at a store:

Sign at Home Hardware, Essex, Ontario (photo: Brock McLellan)

There is no discussion as to who is will do the work. In essence, anyone can do it. The requirement is that all work done, has to be inspected. This treats professional electricians and talented amateurs as equals, which in many cases they are. Without inspections, electricians can be tempted to take shortcuts or do shoddy work.

Inside the Home Hardware store, in Essex, Ontario, there is a display that shows precisely how to wire specific items in a house, including the breaker box:

Electrical wiring display, Home Hardware, Essex, Ontario (photo: Brock McLellan)

Amateurs in Canada are able to take night school courses in electricity. Here is a description of a night school course, open to anyone, at Saint Clair College, in Windsor, Ontario:

“Electricity 200 is for non-electrical tradespersons and related. Emphasis is placed on safety practices. Electrical protection of motors. Basic test equipment, purpose and testing of fuses, overloads and circuit breakers. Basic relationship of voltage, current and resistance. Basic relays and A.C. 3 phase motor control, interpreting basic motor nameplate information. Introductory residential wiring. Introductory diodes and rectifiers.”

The course lasts 12 weeks, one night a week, for three hours, from 19.00 to 22.00.

One of the resources used by many Canadian home owners is: Ray Mullin, Tony Branch, Sandy Gerolimon, Craig Trineer, Bill Todd and Phil Simmons  2015 Electrical Wiring Residential, 7th Canadian edition.


Electrical Wiring Residential E7 Can

Despite having an electrical code that requires the use of professional electricians, Norway has a much higher rate of house fires caused by a failure in the electrical system, than many other countries, including Canada. This is to be expected. Without training and experience, a house owner is unable to understand where electrical problems can arise. Because of the high cost of using professionals, potential problems may be ignored, which puts lives in danger.

As a former teacher of Entrepreneurship, there is one other reason to encourage people to do their own home wiring. Consumers are not good at understanding how products work. With a society of consumers, there will be nobody working in basements and garages to develop new products. Garage culture made America great. Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, Harley Davidson, Hewlett-Packard, Lotus Cars, Maglite, Mattel and even Microsoft all started in garages. http://www.businesspundit.com/11-famous-garage-startups-that-rule-the-world/

Walt Disney was living at 4651 Kingswell Ave. in Los Angeles, California, when he started his company in a garage owned by his uncle, Robert Disney.

There is a trend in government to encourage coding, but most of the developments in the “Internet of Things” or robotics involve physical computing, a combination of electrical circuits, mechanical components including sensors and actuators as well as code.

It is possible for people to innovate without insight into residential wiring, but being able to wire will provide insights that will help a person to be more innovative.

Why Stucco? A concise summary

The Bo-Kapp area of Cape Town features colourful stucco houses (Photo: http://www.holidaybug.co.za/)

Here is a summary of the reasons why one should choose stucco as an exterior cladding. This is not a balanced article, it does not include the reasons why stucco should be avoided.

1. Versatile

Can be applied over many different types of surfaces including concrete masonry or wood framing

Can be applied seamlessly

Can be layered to creates a heavily textured surface

Can be used in new builds as well as renovations

2. Installs quickly

A conventional house usually requires between one and two days, including drying time

3. Energy efficient

Low U-value (or if you prefer the inverse, high R-value)

4. Durable

Expands and contracts as the temperature changes

Reduced risk of flaking, cracking or crumbling

Can last over fifty years with little maintenance

Rot, mildew and mold resistant

5. Enhances value

Earthquake resistant

Fire resistant

Sound dampening

6. Low maintenance

In warm and dry climates, little or no maintenance, except occasional washing to remove spots or stains

In hot and humid climates, little maintenance

In cold and wet climates, little maintenance provided

  • snow is cleared away from walls
  • eavestroughs direct water away from walls (that’s a Canadian word for gutters)

7. Reduced house insurance premiums (in North America)

8. Many options


  • Coarse
  • Pebbled
  • Raked
  • Smooth
  • Swirled


  • Pigment mixed directly into the mix
  • Can be repainted


My childhood home was clad in rockdash stucco. There are no rocks in it, only 3 – 6 mm pieces of broken coloured glass. It is a technique not favoured today, in part because it is extremely difficult to repair.

Pi House, 314 Ash Street, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. I last lived there in 1972. It looks as if the new owners have had to repair the stucco to the left of the entrance. Repairs are what makes rockdash stucco houses so problematic to own.

My wife’s childhood home was also clad is stucco, but in a form of roughcast, which is slightly less of a problem to repair because it adds stones to the mix, whereas rockdash puts them on top.

Despite the fact that there are numerous ugly stucco buildings, I still find it the most appealing method of cladding. It has only taken me forty years to come around to this view. OK, sixty five years plus. Wood rots. I’m not in a social class that uses stone – being neither a laird nor a crofter. I’m not brutal enough to appreciate massive concrete. Nor am I English, so brick doesn’t have much appeal either. I am stuck with stucco.

I had considered manufacturing cement fiber sheeting, but in order to make the sheets thin enough (4 – 8 mm), the process requires the use of expensive silica sand and even more expensive special purpose chemicals.

Wikipedia states that stucco is the predominant exterior wall material in both residential and commercial construction in five states: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stucco

While many stucco houses use a subdued pallet, this does not apply in all cases. Personally, I would like to have our house continue to be bright yellow.

My preferred colour of stucco, here combined with stone and wood, in a climate warmer than Norway’s. (Photo: http://thestuccoguy.com/stucco-colors-which-one-to-choose/)

There are many other colours available, some even less subtle:

Another attractive colour for a stucco building. I grew up with pink inside the common rooms, as well as outside our house. My bedroom was blue. (Photo: http://thestuccoguy.com/stucco-colors-which-one-to-choose/)

There is not an excessive amount of information about DIY stuccoing on the net. Here are three important sources:

  1. For restoration work: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/22-stucco.htm
  2. Text materials about contemporary methods: http://thestuccoguy.com/
  3. Videos about contemporary methods: https://www.youtube.com/user/StuccoPlastering

My plan for the spring of 2018 is to use stucco as part of Project Pumpkin, the construction of a ca. 15 m3 gardening shed, to replace one expropriated.