Let’s Backup….You’re Never Going to Believe This One!

Apologies for leaving in such a rush last week. I went on vacation Saturday to Saturday this passed week and was thinking somehow I was going to be able to write a post before I left Friday night. Yeah, right. I don’t know what I was thinking. I hadn’t even packed yet and I also had to fight that summertime Friday afternoon get a way weekend traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway.

And so fans of Middle Earth we are going to have to back up because we haven’t worked at the Hobbit house the last two weekends. We’ll get to the balance of the title a bit later.

Now we left off, if you recall, with a picture of a piece of Styrofoam sitting on our roof deck. Now this is not your everyday run of the mill Styrofoam. The size, shape, and location of this stuff is critically important to the Passive House aspect of our little home.

Styrofoam used for thermal break.
Styrofoam used for thermal break.

What is going on here? Well it’s a little more complicated than a quick explanation…and I’m not too good with words to begin with. It really sort of gets back to what a thermos does….keeps the hot hot and the cool cool. Unless of course you’re my son Terence and you think that putting hot water in an igloo thermos will somehow make the water cold. As Terence said and I quote: “Putting more ice in is not going to help.” Like I said a few posts back. My son has somehow changed the Laws of Thermodynamics. A bright young lad but a bit misinformed. Gotta try to stay focused here. Sorry people.

Anyway this Styrofoam is going to create a thermal break between the concrete that is exposed to the elements and the concrete that is not exposed to the elements. So this 4 inch thick piece of Styrofoam is going to prevent the exterior concrete’s temperature from bridging itself into the interior concrete. Hence eliminating a potential thermal bridge. Which by the way is one of the main aspects of Passive House construction. It should be thermal bridge free.

So it sounds relatively simple but it’s a little more complicated because of the curvature of the house and also because of the way the retaining wall curb is set up. There is also a complicating factor in the fact that in order to secure the Styrofoam to the formwork I’m going to have to raise 2 inches of it higher so I can nail it to the form. (I’m starting to lose you I can tell….and forget about the editor. She’s saying: Man, why aren’t we still on vacation?) I’m not going to get too technical here but what happens is the raising of said Styrofoam exposes it to soil.

And what’s in soil?

The dreaded termite and ant infestations of the Second Age of Middle Earth that’s what! Why the heck do you think the riders of Rohan’s city was on that cursed rock of a hill? King Théoden moved it there cause his grandfather used poor building practices back in the day. Forget about Orcs and the Forces of Mordor.  Once those termites and carpenter ants move in it’s curtains. I mean the whole city fell in like two years.

Anybody do any research on Styrofoam and it’s interaction with ants and or termites? I didn’t think so. Good thing I showed up, huh? There’s this product called Foam Glass. Which has the exact same properties as Styrofoam but it’s resistant to insects and rodents.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. When you cut Foam Glass insulation it emits an odor. An odor that one cannot endure….and apparently either can the termites, rodents, or ants. I know most of you will not be able to relate to this but every once in a while that Mother in Law of mine will make a pasta dinner with her homemade “Gravy” or if your a Sicilian it’s called a sauce.  Approximately, and it’s a little different for everybody, 1 hour after this dinner your internal organs will clench. You know of what I speak. Gas….and horrible belly pain with it. And this is supposed to be a treat! When you cut Foam Glass insulation it’s, pardon the pun, like cutting the cheese. Badly. Like really really badly.

I think we might have really reached an all time low here at the Hobbit Hollow Construction Blog. I’m going to try and redeem myself here a bit. I let the boys cut all the Foam Glass. They had a blast….no pun intended.

They developed that stuff in the fifties I think. Imagine the scientists who were testing this stuff out? One of them must have dated my Mother in Law I guess.

So I’ll just walk you through what I did to set this up. Remember it’s a tapered slab so I had to lay out the Styrofoam on the layout deck and mark out a template that I could use. Check it out.

Tapering the Styrofoam for Thermal Bridge Free construction.
Tapering the Styrofoam for Thermal Bridge Free construction.

The Foam glass is going to go on the inside face of this styrofoam. The Foam glass has the same bottom curvature as the roof. The sides  have to be cut radially as well. This was done by pulling a chalk line from the center point of the Hobbit House centroid and striking a line along the edge of the foam glass. (It doesn’t matter that you don’t get it. All that matters is that you don’t have to cut the Foam Glass.)

Foam Glass layout on top of Styrofoam.
Foam Glass layout on top of Styrofoam.

That’s pretty much where we left off before I went on vacation.

Ah yes, the Isle of Spice. Grenada. Just a few words if you will. For those of you not interested you have my complete understanding.

Anyway we get to JFK International at 6 in the morning and you would think they’d have some breakfast stuff around.  Yeah, there’s stuff around but not the kind of stuff that should be around at 6 am. What’s up with that? I mean this is New York City. A little breakfast please? Georgia’s a vegetarian now and she had a hard time finding anything “normal” to eat. I think she got some kind of  mozzarella and tomato sandwich. My boys finally found something, too. Chinese food. I mean who would eat butterfly shrimp and General Tso’s chicken at 6AM? These two knuckle heads that’s who. (And Ethan, too…only he wasn’t in range of my picture)

Who eats Chinese food in the Morning?
Who eats Chinese food in the Morning?

So we finally get to Grenada and check in yadda, yadda, yadda and get a bit settled. Well, as settled as we can cause I forgot to mention: I had to bring that battle ax mother in law of mine along, as well. It was the first time in history that an undercover US Marshall had to reprimand a passenger on an airplane for (loud)back seat driving. Need I say more?

Anyway, we get there and we go up to the pool bar to have a drink. (The drinking age is 18 in Grenada so the boys were all excited.) So I’m walking over to the bar and I hear somebody calling my name. The bubble over my head is ” There’s no way anybody here knows me. There’s no way there could possibly be anyone from home here….nobody has even heard of Grenada.” I turn around.You’re never gonna believe who I see in the pool!





I’m just gonna be honest here. I’m not really a very nice man. But I was polite and did the small talk routine which was all well and good. But I immediately grabbed everyone and told them I do not want to be bothered with this guy for a whole week. Stay away from him and don’t go out of your way and be excessively friendly. I don’t need this guy chatting my ear off okay? Okay.

I’m not kidding,  within like 5 minutes my Mother in Law is gone. Guess where we find her?

These two yakin' it up at the poolside bar.
These two yakin’ it up at the poolside bar.

Like I need this….and it flies in the face of everything I told the kids not to do. She’s always trying to undermine me!

But it’s our first day there. Breath in through the nose out through the mouth. I’m fine. Count to ten slowly.

At dinner time Saturday night my wife sees that they have a bird watching tour at 7:30 AM Sunday morning.  (This is right up Sally H’s alley!) It sounds interesting and I brought my binoculars along as well. So I’m really looking forward to it.

We get out there and it’s Jodi and I and an English couple.  Yes! This will be great. The guy who gave the tour was really good. It was uncanny what he found there. Anyway he gives his initial speech and says we’re just waiting for one more person. Did a shiver go down your spine? I couldn’t even look. I mean I just knew he was going to show up….and he did. And the killer? The killer was the guy doing the tour starts going on and on about what a great a birder Bob is. Thank goodness I hadn’t had breakfast yet! I mean it was absolutely sickening.  Check out this picture!

Bob the Birder.
Bob the Birder.

Deep breaths Jim. Deep breaths.

Luckily this place has a huge beach. So the plan was to scope out the place where Bob was and go to another location. Simple. Bob is an early riser so it was quite easy to execute the plan. You know give him the big wave and the good morning salutation and all have a nice day. Badda bing badda boom. No Problem. But one day he wasn’t out early. Okay I’ll admit it I panicked a bit. But as you could probably guess it was well founded. He pulls right up to us and starts chatting away. It was extremely difficult to keep my sanity this particular day. Not only that but he’s reading the Hobbit!

Trapped on the beach with Bob.
Trapped on the beach with Bob.

Okay are you ready for this one? (You can’t even imagine what is going through my mind during this vacation if you can even call it that at this point.) They have a chalkboard up where you enter for dinner that shows you the days events  and also what the evening entertainment will be. So one of the last nights it says “Evening Entertainment…Guest Talent Show!”  Guess who comes up to me during dinner to see if we’re going to the talent show.

Bob the Entertainer!
Bob the Entertainer!

He actually did a pretty good version of Margaritaville  by Jimmy Buffet.

And he won the talent show.

Enjoy your week!


4 thoughts on “Let’s Backup….You’re Never Going to Believe This One!”

    • Sally: You missed a most excellent field trip! I’ve never been on a bird watching walk but it was really fantastic. My wife did see a hummingbird a few days later but we are not sure what type it was.

      That was a Great Blue Heron in the picture. (Bob is one of those guys who is always showing off.)

      We saw so many different birds in an hour it was unbelievable. I had to get my “Birds of North America” book out because I couldn’t remember the names.

      Mourning Dove
      Common Ground Dove
      Cattle Heron
      Green Backed Heron
      Black crowned Night Heron
      Yellow Crowned Night Heron
      Brown Pelican

      There were quite a few others but I can’t remember their names.

      Also on the last day I got a closeup look of an Osprey catching fish.

      Sorry it took so long to respond but we had a storm while I was writing this (Lost power) and then the following day I got home really late.

      I hope all is well! Thanks for checking in!


  1. Thanks for the laughs. Panda Express at 6am! What, no bagels at JFK??? Bob must be a blast when kids come to the door on Halloween!

    • Hey Mike: Yeah. Why was I thinking we could get some decent breakfast food at JFK? They did have one place but the line was like forget about it. I dropped $50 dollars for Chinese food when I thought I was going to spend $12 on a toasted bagel.

      Yeah, Bob is a trip. I think his wife is going to visit my mother In law this week. A loud Italian an a loud Uruk-hai. You’ll probably hear them down in Florida.

      Take it easy!


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