Monday, February 28, 2011

If It Walks Like A Duck Or Freeze Frame


    We made a run to town to (where else?)  Home Depot to pick up a few more space heaters so the fire sprinkler pipes wouldn't freeze. It looks like winter. It feels like winter. It acts like winter. It MUST be winter! Not according to the wonderful world of mass marketing. They had all their heaters off the floor, and were pushing dahlia bulbs like crazy.
    After a frantic phone call to Lowe's, we were able to buy three space heaters. And as added insurance, we borrowed the Big Boy heater, a propane torpedo heater, from a neighbor.
    That evening Ed made out another list for the upcoming week. He finds it really helps him keep organized.


   We think we'll be ready for insulation next week, that is, if Ed can get this darned list whittled down. He boxed in the vent for the fireplaces, so that when they blow in the attic insulation, it won't touch the pipe. No Touching! That's the rule! 

He also had to drape all of the fire sprinkler pipe that was in an attic space with black plastic. This does two things: It keeps the insulation from directly resting on the pipes, which apparently are very sensitive to other chemicals, and it helps trap heat rising from the house,keeping the water pipes warmer in the winter. As our weather progressed this week, each night was colder than the last. Ed got up at 2 a.m., dragged on several layers of clothes, navigated icy stairs, and checked the inside of the house.

Tuesday :

     Ed started building soffits to box in all the ducts, waste lines and wire in the basement. He made the ones in the theater room at an angle to make an easier transition for the sound. Surprisingly, it made the huge room look even bigger!
   We kept a very close eye on the ever-changing weather report. When they said the nighttime low would be around 18*, Ed threw in the hat and drained the sprinkler lines. There was still water in the sprinkler heads, but hopefully the pressureless lines and the multitude of space heaters would prevent a disaster.


    We woke up to record low temperatures and a little snow. The sprinkler pipes seem to have made it through the night without freezing. Ed went back to work on the soffits. He was getting a little punchy because every night he gets up out of a dead sleep, gets dressed and goes out to check the house.  By the end of the workday, he was confident that he would be ready by Friday, and called for his inspection.

  Sunset Wednesday night was stunning. The winter sun came in low and lit up the naked alder trees. The snow on the ground and the wisps of valley fog on the hills was a beautiful contrast to the blue sky. Just as the last light faded, a herd of elk stepped out of the tree line and began to feed.


   When we got up Thursday morning, our valley had been transformed. We've seen snow every year that we've lived here, but I am in awe of the beauty every time.
   Ed continued working on the soffits and the last bits and pieces that needed to be done before the county building inspector arrived Friday.


   Chuck-The-Building-Inspector arrived, as expected, and signed off the Before-Sheet Rock portion. This was a major stepping stone for us. Ed was confident he could finish the few details needed for the state electrical inspection, so I went on-line and called for that inspection at the beginning of next week. It's still really cold.


   Our kitchen stove will be that old Magic Chef 1000, converted to propane, so it needs to be vented. Saturday, Ed put in the vent, only to realize the piece of flexible Type B (double wall) pipe we got for the attic portion was too long. We'll need to order a 3' piece.
   The space heaters are still on full blast.


     After church, Ed and I went into town again...more hardware, more lumber.
   Finally it began to rain and the temperature came up. Ed turned off the space heaters.


     This is indeed a Red Letter Day! Doug-The-Electrical-Inspector signed off the electrical work. That means we can proceed with insulation and sheet rock. Unless you have done a project like this you can't understand the enormity of those little green stickers.

   I wanted to do something silly like dance around the entire interior of the house, but Ed has a stronger sense of priorities and went back to work. We expect the insulation team here on Wednesday, and he wants to build a closet wall around all this electrical stuff.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

We're Under A Lot Of Pressure

    There are a huge number of cabinets in this house. Bathroom cabinets, kitchen cabinets, craft room cabinets, entertainment and TV cabinets. And desk, upstairs library bookcases. All I thought about was now nice it will be to have all that lovely storage, and to be able to finally put my books in an orderly, assessable place. I didn't really think about how much all that storage would cost to build. Silly me. The numbers were sobering and have me scrambling to come up with a more reasonable plan. I think we'll stick with the top of the line for the entry, living room and kitchen. We'll go for moderate for bathroom cabinets. I'm still plotting and planning for the rest.
    Ed is scrambling to finish the wiring details. We'd like to get insulation and sheetrock in the first part of February. He wired the doorbell and alarm system this week, and is finishing up the theater wiring. He gets frustrated by that one or two few parts he doesn't have yet that holds up completion, but all of those should be here next week.
   In the meantime MASCO came out on Monday and gave an estimate on insulation that was acceptable, so that we will have that done as soon as possible. Chapter two of this story in a moment.
   Wednesday I drove into Longview to pick up (more) alarm system wire and a few other parts, then up to Chehalis to pick up our light fixtures from Steel Partners Inc. Normally one would buy them from the retailer (plenty of places on-line) and pay the shipping. Well these babies are HEAVY and since the manufacturer was just up the road, I saved myself a bundle on shipping by picking them up myself.
   We bought two chandeliers, one for the entryway and one for over the dining table. We also got a light fixture for over the kitchen island. Let me tell you, these guys filled up the back of my Jeep!
  While I was up that way I drove further north and made a quick run through the antique stores in Centralia. I love these stores, and one of my favorites is the Shady Lady, housed in a former brothel. I found a very nice Belgian cabinet that will make a perfect linen cupboard for our master bath, and a very rustic cabinet that needs some love, but will go in the guest powder room.
   Thursday Simplex Grinnell came out to pressure test the fire sprinkler lines in preparation for our systems inspection prior to insulation and sheet rock. This means they fill the sprinkler lines with water under pressure and check for leaks. As you can imagine, this is very important. You do NOT want to find a leak after the sheet rock is up. The water went in, everyone walked around looking for leaks (there were none) and we were happy. Until.....Ed checked the weather forecast.
   Now the inspector has to check the fire sprinklers under pressure also. That means the water needs to stay in until  Chuck-The-Inspector comes out. Monday is a holiday, and we're gone on Wednesday, so that means Tuesday or Thursday. Nothing is insulated, and there is no heat. If the lines freeze,the fittings will leak and the whole system is garbage.
    Friday night the temperatures were supposed to bottom out at 30*.  Ed turned on the halogen work lights and left them on all night. He probably got up three times during the night, got dressed and went outside and into the house to check the temperatures.We managed to get through it without any damage. Last night was supposed to hit 29*. At 3:00 a.m. it hit 24* outside, although it was warmer inside the house. Ed stole the little heater from the garage where the cats sleep, and anything else he could think of that would generate heat without burning the house down.
   The weather forecast is for freezing temperatures at night all week. Ed and I will drive in and see what kind of space heaters we can find at Home Depot today. Maybe then he can get some sleep.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We Have Ignition or This Sucks

   Finally, Ed is finished with the electrical rough-in. I wish I had kept track of how many miles of wire have been pulled through the whole house. Every circuit, in both boxes, is used up. An octopus of wire slithers through the walls. 60 circuits in all. 58 circuits for the house, and two for the emergency generator.

 But there is no stopping now. Ed went right to work on the ongoing list of tasks.
Bath vent:    √
Kitchen gas vent:    √
Propane to stove:    √
Phone wire:     √

  And so it goes until he gets one list done, and starts another list.

Ed ran wire for the smoke detectors and tied them into the fire sprinkler system, all to be run into the alarm system. If the fire sprinklers activate, it will set off the audio fire alarm inside, and send a water flow alarm for a fire response. There is also a water flow bell at the front of the house. Of course we're a long way from anyone who could actually hear it, but it's all good in theory.

   One thing that is as good in practice as in theory is my beloved central vacuum system. When I ordered this bad boy, I told the customer service representative at Central Vacuum Stores that I wanted something that was a hazard to small children and farm animals. Something that would suck the wallpaper right off the walls, just like the cartoons when we were kids.  The folks there are very helpful in making sure you have all the necessary parts for the project. See that rectangular box on the PVC pipe? That's a muffler! I also bought a 40' hose for each floor so I won't be lugging a hose up and down the stairs. I'll have a kickplate in the kitchen and craft room so I can just activate it and sweep crumbs right in. Ed turned it on for a test, and it was music to my ears.
   One of the most difficult things about building is trying to anticipate every possible current and future need. Ed has also been wiring for the theater in the, speakers..TV, DVD, Xbox..Someday this work area will be TRANSFORMED....... into...... I have no idea... but you'll be able to hear whatever it is straight through to your bones.    
    Tomorrow the insulation company will be out for a bid, and by the end of this week we should be ready for our electrical inspection.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Ed is finally finishing up the electrical wiring this week. He's really tired of it too. He's been working on in one form or another since the end of November, with a multitude of interruptions. He just keeps reminding himself of how much money he's saved by doing most of it by himself. Now he's starting to gear himself up for the central vacuum system, the alarm system, and the structured cable. The structured cable is bundled wires for all the things we think we need in this modern world. ...satellite, phone, computer, stereo, games, and a million things I don't even understand. Who knew there was a scanner thingie you can put in your pantry to scan bar codes so your computer will make a grocery list for you? Well, there is!
  In the meantime, I've been playing with paint chips. As of this moment (all subject to change) the paint list looks like this:

Sherwin Williams Paint

Biscuit 6112 Ceilings
Interactive Cream 6113 Guest Bedroom walls
Bagel 6114 Living room, Dining room
Tatami Tan 6116 Foyer, stairwell
Sensational Sand 6094 Guest baths, craft bath
Crabby Apple 7592 Kitchen, Living room accent
Downing Earth 2820 Family room, powder room, Craft room
Quicksilver 6245 Ceiling East bedroom
Mild Blue 6533 Walls East Bedroom
Jubilee 6248 Bath East Bedroom

   In keeping with the flavor of the Arts and Crafts period, most of the rooms will be some form of earth tone. Crabby Apple is a dark red, deeper than a brick red, and far far away from pinks. Then in the upstairs bedroom, I'll step out of the box and use a very light blue, with a dark grey for the bathroom. Or.....the whole color scheme could change in a flash. 

   We took advantage of some dry weather and beautiful sunshine to plant some new little trees and take out an old one.  It bothers me to take out a living tree, especially a fruit tree, but this apple tree was leaning like a drunken sailor and gave no fruit. The blossoms in the spring were spectacular but other than that it had no redeeming value. Having said that, I thanked the tree, apologized profusely and gave the signal to rip it out. It was surprising how little root structure there was.  Ed cut the apple wood up for BBQ and smoker wood. 
 We also planted the three trees we bought in November. The larger center tree is a dogwood. I may need to screen it for the deer for a few years. We'll see. the other two smaller trees are Japanese maples. 

  So things are moving along nicely. Ed is really glad to be done with the electrical work. He is looking forward to finishing the in-wall stuff. We think we'll be ready for insulation in four to six weeks. That'll change the look!