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The Rain of Error

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Really I can’t complain. We had an entire January without rain. And… I know, we need rain in this drought afflicted winter in California. But man! we were SO close to getting our walls up before this rainstorm came along. So I’m a little sad. But overall I’m happy that we got as far as we did. The WarmBoard is in place and all the tubing has been stuck in the little channels and routed under the house to the main manifold. We measured out all of the walls and they are ready to be nailed together. All we need now is a couple days of dryness to build them and tilt them up. Anyhow folks, here are some photos of the first walls going up along with some other shots of our WarmBoard progress. Now that it’s raining I’ll work on all those websites I promised y’all.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

We finally began installing the WarmBoard today. It was a bit more complicated than I anticipated because we had to make a lot of cuts to get all the grooves to line up for the different loops. I think the plan that WarmBoard provided me was probably the most efficient use of material, but not the quickest to install. Another great thing that happened completely by accident is that all the plumbing in the wet wall managed to avoid the tubing runs in the WarmBoard. I think the mathematical odds of this happening with or without trying to plan for it are just about nil. You can see in the photos where the pipes and the tubing runs manage to miraculously avoid each other. Had they intersected I would have had to get a router and cut special grooves around the offending pipes. 

Oh, I should explain what WarmBoard is and why I’m capitalizing it weirdly. WarmBoard is basically a thick piece of plywood that has grooves cut into it in a squiggly pattern. A sheet of aluminum is then pressed on top of the plywood and into the grooves. One then lays out these boards in a specially designed pattern and runs PEX tubing through it and voila – one has radiant heat! The aluminum is supposed to radiate the heat upwards as well as securely holding the tubing in place. Basically, it’s fancy. 

Paxton came over to help today and I’m sure that his hands are covered in construction adhesive. Both of us were falling through the joists today, accidentally stepping on insulation while trying to carry the heavy-ass WarmBoard panels and not step on tools and make jokes at the same time. And everything is covered in the heavy duty glue that is used to attach the WarmBoard to the joists. The tools, our hands, parts of my face and hair, etc.

Also of note, I think Reggie is beginning to succumb to Ed time. It takes me ten minutes to think about just about every single thing – from where I left my coffee cup to figuring out which end of the board to cut to determining whether I should drive to Ferguson or Orchard for copper ells. That’s thirty minutes to do basically nothing. In that time Reggie can frame a wall or rip 20 pieces of plywood. It must be maddening for him to work with the likes of me. Tranquilo man, tranquilo. That’s his new mantra.

Sexy Plumbing Photos

Monday, January 12, 2009

We passed our rough plumbing inspection this morning. To commemorate I’ve decided to post some hot details of the copper water pipes, ABS waste pipes and even some shots of galvanized gas piping. This is actually a pretty big moment because it means that now we can insulate and cover the crawl space with our fancy radiant subfloor. It also means that the real building begins. We’re out of the mud! 

After the inspection I was drilling some holes in the blocking to allow for the PEX radiant tubing to be routed under the floor to the boiler area, when I accidentally drilled through my leg. Whoops! The drill bit caught my jeans, tore right through them and dug a nice little slice just under my knee. I yelped, dropped the drill, cursed under my breath and immediately saw my near future flash before my eyes. Not being able to work at this moment would be a very sad thing. Luckily I didn’t tear my kneecap out or cut any major arteries. In fact I hardly bled at all. I ran to the shed and pulled out the first aid kit that Rudi and Steph bought for us last year and started rifling for x-large bandaids. I rubbed some alcohol on the wound and managed to secure a big bandage to my leg hair. Then I drove to the hospital and got stitches. If you ever are feeling sorry for yourself I suggest hanging out in the emergency room waiting area for a while. A steady stream of sorry sorts paraded in front of me while I read year-old Newsweeks (looks like Hillary is gonna win it!). One old man had lost a finger on a table saw. Another guy nearly impaled himself while fixing his deck. A college age girl came in with a harrowing panic attack and scores of other people were just slumped in their chairs, clutching their stomachs or staring into deep space with cold sweats. Well, after nearly five idle hours of last years news I got 14 stitches and a prescription for percoset. 

Hopefully tomorrow we’ll start putting on the subfloor. I’m especially excited for you blog readers because finally I’ll start having some pictures worth looking at. 

DWV and Copper

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DWV is Drain, Waste and Vent. That’s the black plastic stuff where all your poo and hair and little ends of green beans goes after they hit the drains. I’m gonna upload pictures tomorrow, so for now you’ll just have to endure my lucid but verbose descriptions. We’re going to have two bathrooms in our house that are back to back. Some may think that’s weird but that’s because they don’t have fancy architecture degrees like we do. Anyway, the back to back bathrooms share a “wet wall” where all the plumbing for both bathrooms live. So, two toilets, three sinks, a shower and a bathtub all have their water and drains and vents running through that wall. Additionally we’re putting in wall-hung toilets (because their sweet-tuh) so that means that behind the toilets, hidden in the wall, are these big metal and plastic contraptions that hold all the tricky parts of the toilets so that the only thing you see is a bowl hanging magically off the wall. Minimal, small, and easy to clean. 

As it turns out, the trickiest thing about plumbing is venting. Venting is what lets the water go down the tubes without creating a vacuum of air behind it or a big pressure bubble in front of it. There are myriad building codes concerning venting and there are lots of little issues that crop up if you are not doing very standard style plumbing (like for instance if you installed wall-hung toilets). Also, the drains need to be angled downhill (because that’s which way poo goes) at a grade of one-quarter inch to the foot. The pipe needs to fall a quarter inch for every foot it travels horizontally. There is a bit of wiggle room there – you can go as steep as one-half inch to the foot – or in some cases as shallow as one-eighth of an inch to the foot. But you can’t go flat or any steeper than that range. If you go steeper, the pee will run faster than the poo and will flow over the poo rather than lubricating its timely exit from your castle. So just imagine all these plastic pipes, ALL descending very gradually and all having to hook up precisely so that each fixture is vented properly. That was a bear. It took two days of me just standing there looking at the joists and scratching my head and thinking and thinking and rethinking before I felt confident enough to actually start gluing the pipes together. The glue makes you high. It’s basically huffing. I’m high right now actually.

I must also take a moment to profusely thank George Williams. George is a master plumber who has graciously and patiently tutored me on the fundamentals of plumbing. He ordered all the copper, plastic and metal plumbing parts for me and even laid out how the plumbing would run in the house. You really don’t have an understanding for how much work that is until I show you one of his drawings. He makes these isometric drawings that detail every fitting, every bend, every corner in
exact detail. They must be seen to be believed:

So, thanks George, and I’m sorry for calling you every day at 1:15 sharp and bugging you with my daily question. 

The DWV stuff is done and today we did copper. Reggie and I laid it out and dry-fitted it and I started to solder it together. It’s pretty easy and fun to do. That’s what I’m saying now before I’ve tested it and found a million little leaks out of all my joints. Yikes! This morning I went online and found a ton of videos of varying quality that show you how to “sweat” copper pipes. Big Tony wasn’t the most informative, but he had the best style:

At this point we’re hoping to have our subfloor delivered week after next and then we’ll build the walls and install our roof trusses. We’ll tack plywood onto the outside of everything and then stick our windows in. We’ll wrap it in Tyvek and roof it with asphalt shingles and voila – we’ll have a weatherproof house that we can spend the next nine months fiddling with. If all goes well, we should be there by the end of February. Ha.

Hammer Elbow

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is “hammer elbow” a condition, like tennis elbow? If it is I think I’ve got it. Yesterday we installed the sill plate and framed the floor for the shack. Using a hammer properly is like swinging a golf club. Lots of people do it, but only a few do it really, really well. Reggie sinks every nail in two hits. If I sink one in four hits I feel like a smooth operator. Somewhere out there, there is a Tiger Woods of hammering who sinks every nail perfectly with one hit. He’s sponsored by Home Depot and he does the NASCAR circuit, demoing Stanley hammers and building eco-responsible show houses in 35 minutes flat. Bert Moulton is kind of a bigger, older, whiter Tiger, and he can sink a nail with the best of em. He came over to help after working a full day at his gas station. Thanks Bert! He and Reggie adding some blocking to the floor while I made a lumber run. On the way back he called and said, “Dammit Ed, there’s no beer! What the hell kind of working conditions you got goin on here?!” I pulled a u-turn and picked up a sixer of fancy Peroni Italian beer just to piss em off. 

Here are some pictures of the result of the concrete pour and yesterday’s framing work:


We have another inspection today and (don’t tell anyone) but some of my anchor bolts are a little too close to the edge of the sill plate. Hopefully he’ll let those pass. We’re gonna install some insulation, get the subfloor on, and maybe do some wall framing today. Hmmm, how many trips to Big Creek Lumber will that be today? Oh, speaking of which, Mary and Dustin over at Big Creek saw the blog! I guess they just stumbled upon it somehow and they told Reggie they saw it. How cool is that? I mean, c’mon, you think you’re gonna go to Home Depot or Lumberman and those people working there are gonna be stoked because they saw your blog? Thanks Mary and Dustin – you guys are cool!