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"plumbing" Category

Video Killed the Blogging Star

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hey folks. Enough with the chatter already! If a picture says a thousand words, then HD video says about 720,000 words per minute (at a relatively paltry 24 frames/sec).

Thank You Inspector! May I Have Another?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We passed our rough inspection. That sounds slightly dirty, but it just means that the city inspectors have approved our framing, electrical and plumbing work. This is a BIG deal. It means that all the work we’ve put in since finishing the foundation has been approved. The next major inspection is the final. That’s the one that will allow us to legally move in. And really, the final is more of an i-dotting, t-crossing thing than a real inspection. The rough inspection is the one where they check the bones and guts of the house before you cover it all up with insulation and drywall.

When the inspector showed up, I was suffering from high anxiety. Literally months of work was being examined. It seems so strange that they let people get so far without checking their work. The day before the inspection I called the building department and asked them what I needed to have ready. They told me that our plumbing system should be full of water at city pressure and that the vents and waste pipes should be full of water as well. I hadn’t counted on that. So I hung up the phone, freaked out, mumbled incoherently and ran to the hardware store to buy stuff. I think that was some sort of Pavlovian response to building stress, since I hadn’t really evaluated what stuff I needed to buy. I walked aimlessly around Orchard Supply for about 10 minutes before snapping out of it and returning home.

In order to test the water system I first attempted to pump it up with air. If the system can hold 20lbs of air without losing pressure, then it will probably hold water. Unfortunately I couldn’t get 1psi of air into it. I ran around the house looking for leaks but couldn’t find any. My heart started thumping and I sensed pieces of the sky beginning to fall. Major leak. Major, unfindable leak. Major, unfindable, costly leak that will take days to repair. I called Bert, my voice trembling, asking him to come over to help. I figured I could pump in the air and he could run around listening for where it was escaping. After hanging up I realized that I had simply forgotten to look behind the fridge where we have pipes that lead to the outdoor shower. Hadn’t plugged those. Doh! Never mind Bert! Sorry! After that, (and after a few more unnecessary freak outs concerning maladjusted valves and a couple more spazzy calls for Bert’s assistance) the system pumped up fine. After days of soldering copper pipe together, I figured there had to be some leaks somewhere. Hundreds of joins are involved here. Either we got lucky or there’s gonna be a surprise water slide in the hallway a couple days after moving in.

Next were the toilets. They are installed in such as way as to make testing slightly difficult. Ditto for the way I had set up the washer dryer. Oh and I had forgotten to link the hot and cold water sides of the plumbing for testing. Oh and did I mention that this was the morning of the inspection? So at 6:30am I had three hours to fix all these problems before the city man showed up. Running. Running. Actually, normally I’m a fairly level headed person, even under stress. Sometimes too calm in fact. But that wasn’t the case this time.

The inspector showed up while I was hooking the hose up to the water system. I had to slowly flush it before applying full pressure. So while he walked around counting roof trusses and matching them to the engineering drawings I filled up several buckets of water from the ass-end of the system. He would ask me about whether we were planning any additional counter space, and then I would run out and see if the water was sputtering out or flowing out smoothly – showing that the air had been fully evacuated from the pipes. He knocked on the vents to check that they were full of water and walked around looking for any leaking water. He checked the bolts on my hold-downs (metal brackets that keep the shear walls from distorting). He told me he was going to make a list of all the things he wanted me to fix in order to pass. I asked if he would return the next day to check. He said I should call him when I’m done fixing things and he’d return to sign off on the inspection. In the end, there was no list. He wanted me to move one of my grounding wires over a few inches so that it was more protected on the wall. After signing the permit sheet he said that he almost never passes anyone on their first attempt. I thought I was going to pass out at that very moment. In the end I didn’t finally relax until the next day.

We’ve got some insulation dudes coming to insulate our house on Wednesday. Why are we hiring that out? It turns out that hiring people to do your insulation is cheaper than buying the material and doing it yourself. Weird, but true.

After that is drywall. This is also being hired out. Because hanging drywall sucks. And taping and texturing it is hard. Every single person I’ve talked to about this has strongly recommended getting a subcontractor for this.

Hopefully we’ll have real, non-see-thru walls in a couple weeks. After that… man… we start a new phase of finish work – installing the radiant system, kitchen cabinets, hardwood floors, interior doors, trim, and painting. And we gotta wrap this baby up before the real baby pops. Um… wish us luck – we’ll need it.

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.