Sunday, December 12, 2010

Getting my ducts in a row, and some more snow

Last Thursday and Friday I took off to work on the house. I worked on a revised plan for the kitchen cabinets, bought my propane generator, and worked on the exhaust ducts.

Previously, we had run PVC pipes out into the overhang to allow venting the range, the bathroom fans, the radon vent, and the exhaust for the house ventilation system. I decided to start connecting them up to actual duct work. I started by looking at what it was going to take to run the radon vent out. For venting any radon from under the floor, a piece of drain tile was put down in the gravel under the insulation and the concrete. It comes out of the floor inside of a wall.

Here is the pipe coming out of the floor. Right next to the one stud.

Now looking straight up, I see where it would go. Right into a joist :-(

Ok, well that pipe will have to go over a little before it goes up there. The connector that I got, doesn't glue onto the drain tile, and I can tilt it over. I am going to use some of the scrap 3 inch conduit we cut, for the vertical part. Then I am going to switch to 2 inch pvc pipe. The 2 inch will be easier to work into the joist spaces, and this vent won't carry any real volume. It just gives gases a place to go, rather than into the house.

I had been looking over my kitchen cabinet plans, and decided to make some changes. I worked with a gentleman at Lowe's to redo the layout that I had previously worked out with them. I think the new arrangement will work fine, and will be a little simpler and less expensive.

While I was at Lowe's, I also checked into the generator that I wanted to get. They told me that they couldn't get quite the configuration the I had seen elsewhere for a couple hundred less, but they thought they could work the price down a bit. I like the fact that these guys know about the challenges of delivering to my place, and will deliver it right where it needs to be. The other place was going to have some unknowns. I told them I would think about the generator.

I picked up materials for my duct work and headed home for the day. Then Friday I headed out to see what I could install, and what other materials I would need.

I laid out the parts for the Radon vent, to make sure I had everything I thought I would need. It looks like I have all the materials. I have a couple things to do before I can assemble it. I have to cut the foam from the around the pvc pipe, since it was out of position when the sprayed the foam. Once I cut around the pipe, then I can rotate it, and run some caulk around it to seal it back up. I will have to cut the pieces of 2 inch pvc to shorter lengths, so I can fit them up into the joist work. I hate to have to cut material, just to join it back together, but I checked, and the 5 foot pieces will be almost impossible to get into position. But if I cut them to shorter lengths, I can slide them in place easily. It will take far less time to cut and glue the pieces, than to try to juggle the puzzle necessary to get them in position whole.

After looking that over, I worked on getting the flexible vent material laid out for the master bathroom ventilation fan. I am using flexible aluminum venting. It looks like it should work fine for this job, and it is easy to work through the joists. I want to put some material around it where it is sitting on the joists, to make sure the edges of the joist materials don't damage the ducting. Here is what the duct run looks like.

We had snow on the ground, and I decided to take a picture of the garage side with the snow.

I couldn't wait for us to be able to get siding covering that. However, when I looked at the weather forecast, it was not looking very promising for working on the house this weekend. So I took down some tools that I thought we might need for doing things like working on the vent house.

Friday afternoon I headed to my folks place for the weekend. That evening, dad and I worked on finishing up putting the outside Christmas lights on the bushes. Mom and dad felt that we could get some good work in at my house on Saturday, before the weather turned bad. They were predicting it would be 5-6 in the evening before things got messy. So we got up early on Saturday, with the intention of seeing how much of the siding we could get on the garage side.

We had previously cut all the pieces except the last one. I had put primer on the edges we cut, to seal them up and keep moisture from getting into the board material once it was installed. They were all ready to go on the wall. We started hanging the boards, and I wanted to get pictures as we went. Then I realized I had left my camera at mom and dad's house. Oh well, mom was always carrying a camera in her purse. What, she decided to leave it at home? OK, guess we won't have pictures of the work as we go.

We started on the right side, over beside the hobby room window. We put the first board in place, and used a scrap of lumber standing on the gravel to support it, while we attached it. We started out just standing on the ground, but soon we had to stand on the step ladder. I don't like standing on that thing when it is on gravel that can shift under the legs. We got that piece up though. Then we looked at the next one. We thought about bringing out the scaffold to provide a platform to work from. However, the scaffold can shift around on the gravel too. Also we would have to partially disassemble it to get it from where it currently was to outside. I decided to make use of the mobile scaffold we had brought up with us that morning. I got in the truck and dad stood by the house to direct me. I backed it up so that the tailgate and bed of the truck, were in the right position for us to work from. This makes a very stable platform to work from. However as we got up to the higher locations, it was not quite high enough. So there were times when we had one foot on the top of the side of the truck, and the other out on the unstable ladder. For working on the fasteners that were more centered on the truck bed, dad came up with a better idea. Use the step stool in the truck bed, to get enough height! Osha would have been proud. Actually, I think it was safer than that step ladder.

We got all the pieces put up that we had cut. Then we worked on measuring and cutting the last piece. We were going to cut it, and then prime the edges, and while they were drying, we would work on putting the drip edge on. It took us a little while to get the piece cut. The we took it inside, and about that time, I remembered. The primer was sitting back at my apartment, since I hadn't thought we would be working out at my house this weekend. Oh well, we couldn't hang that board, but we could get the drip edge on. It was now overcast, and I was wondering how long the rain would hold off.

We had quite a time getting the bags of dirt moved away from the edge so we could put up the drip edge. All of them were frozen solid into probably 50 pound mud bricks. A number of them were also frozen to the drainage material. We got out a shovel, and using it as a lever we were able to dislodge the remaining bags. Then we positioned the first part of the drip edge. Then we scratched our heads. We needed to drive screws in through the front of the drip edge and into the furring strips. But if we worked from on top, it was going to be very awkward. Remember the "ladder" from the spring time? The one in this picture.

Marcus loved the ladder that is in front of the garage.

Well, while I sat up on top providing guidance, and assistance, dad stood on the the "ladder" and ran the screws in. We got the pieces attached and put the dirt bags back in place. Then we packed up and headed out as it was just starting to sprinkle. It had been a very productive day. Now I need to get the last board for that side primed, so when we are able, we can slide it up under the drip edge, and fasten it in place.

We had quite a bit of rain last evening. Then overnight, the snow started. There wasn't too much this morning, but this afternoon it picked up. I wanted to check on a couple things at my house, and get some pictures. So I headed out this afternoon. Here is what it looked like.

Heading up the driveway

 The house from the driveway

Looking back down the driveway

Things were getting very well covered

The garage siding, almost done

Now I will have to see how the weather and work goes this week, to see how much I am able to get done out there.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Air, snow and solar

December feels like it is going to run by like a frightened deer! Thanksgiving was good. I ate too much, slept in, and enjoyed spending time in front of the fire at my parents place. My dad and I also continued to work on items for the house.

We worked on constructing the parts of the vent house. We got all the sides fabricated. The east and west side have a slope at the top for the roof to sit on. The south side will be solid. The north side will have the air intake.

West side with vent grill sitting in front of it.

North side, with the hole cut for where the air intake will go.

Later in the weekend, we went out and did a little patching. The ground has been settling around the house. On the north side, it was pulling the drainage material down the wall, and exposing the waterproofing. I wanted to keep the waterproofing covered. So we put in a scrap piece of the drainage material. The ground will probably settle more over the winter, so we will have to make some adjustments to keep things properly covered.

 Ground is settling.

Out where Adam had dug out dirt for backfill, it was becoming a pond.

We have been having quite a bit of rain, and trying to not track in great gobs of mud on my shoes, has become a challenge. I decided that since I was going to want a path around to the front from the driveway anyway, I may as well start putting down materials which would also help keep the mud off the feet. I put down weed fabric. This will get covered with stone in the future, but for now, it helps reduce the mud on the shoes at least.

A path begins.

This weekend we had a small snow storm move through. It was enough to cover things fairly well. Today though it got above freezing and started to melt and make things even messier. At least I got some pictures before that.

 Looking toward the solar array piers.

The view from the front yard.

The roof had a pretty good cover.

This afternoon, I started installing the aluminum for the solar array. I attached the base pieces on to the piers. Dad and I were going to install them last weekend, but found that the piers had move enough that the holes were not going to line up. So yesterday, we did some drilling and made the back hole, into a slot on each piece. I was able to install the base pieces today. However I did find that some of them are no longer level. I am not sure if we will have problems from that yet.

Aluminum bases bolted down.

I also am getting quotes on the drywall work for inside. The first contractor sounds like he has good experience for working with my house. I will have to see how expensive this is going to be though. Another contractor I was going to meet today, was having trouble with vehicles. Including the one he borrowed to come up to my place this afternoon. So, I will have to try to meet with him early this week. I am hoping that I might have the drywall hung on the outside walls, and in the garage before Christmas so I can start work on my electrical.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I have a pumper truck

I have been having people ask, when are you going to post? Why haven't you posted in three weeks? Well folks, I have been a little busy. Work has been rather hectic, and have had some late evenings working on the house. Some things have gone quite well though, so I guess I should be thankful, and fill you in.

Ok, for the summary, at this point:

1) pipes have been fixed
2) well pump is in
3) spray foam has been applied to the underside of the roof deck to seal it up
4) pieces of the siding have been cut for the garage side

Now, for the details.

Adam had told me that he was going to be out of town, and I thought he meant for about a week. However, I got a call from him on the Wednesday after I found I had broken pipes. He had run a marathon delivery job, going from here, to Texas, to Florida and back home, in about 4 days. He said he was tired. I couldn't blame him. I filled him in on what I knew, and he told me to check to see if we could get the excavator for the following weekend. So I called up the rental place and reserved the excavator for the weekend, and let dad know that I expected we would be spending the weekend fixing the pipes. I also ordered a truckload of gravel. This time we were going to put gravel in around the pipes, before we backfilled.

Adam picked up the excavator on Friday afternoon, and we met him early on Saturday. He had already done some digging where he thought we needed to be. We took a tape measure and checked. We needed to work over a bit more to the east. We also checked some of the photos I had taken when we had originally put the pipes together. We dug down next to the pipe in the well trench, and found where it had broken. Then we worked next to the house. That was much more challenging. We had to go down around 9 feet to get to where the pipes were coming out of the house, and we had a mixture of stuff that was all dry and just collapsed as it was dug, and wet stuff that wanted to stick together and was awful to dig. Well, we got the problems uncovered. In both of the breaks next to the house, it was at a coupler. Adam recommended repairing them with a rubber coupler, since that would have some give and not just break. I looked at what we had done with the communications pipe originally, with its curves it was going to be a pain to push wire through. I thought, while we have the excavator there anyway, lets dig a new trench, and just lay a whole new conduit. Adam agreed that that made a lot of sense. So he dug a new trench for that. While he had the excavator, he also dug more dirt up for backfilling the house.

New trench for the communications lines doesn't bend as much.

Mom, dad and I went and got lunch, and fittings to do the repairs. We got back, and spent the rest of the afternoon, getting the fittings put in place. It took quite a bit of battling with the fittings to get them on the pipes, but they should have good tight seals, especially after we tightened the clamps on them.

New fittings in place for the solar thermal pipes.

We went out early on Sunday, and worked on putting the new conduit sections together for the communications line. We got it mostly done before Adam showed up. Adam worked with the excavator, and the Bobcat to put gravel down around the repairs and to backfill. Later, he used the excavator to dig up some more dirt. He said, after things settle this winter then he will need to add more backfill, and so he got a pretty good pile loosened up, so he can work with just his Bobcat in the spring for backfilling.

Meanwhile, dad drove Adam's Bobcat a little, and got some gravel spread around where the generator will sit.

Ready to set a generator.

Adam had recommended that I not bother cutting the pipes for the future solar thermal, until after we finish the grading. That way they wouldn't end up too short. Right now though, they look like a couple of gun barrels sticking out of the ground.

I have the Bobcat in my sites!

Well, that took out that weekend as far as making progress. I decided that I needed to get the well in and get with the spray foam guys to find out when they could take care of my job.

Dad decided to take Friday off, and I thought I would to. I actually got a call from the well driller, and he was wondering if I had gotten the pipes fixed. I told him I had, and that I was interested in trying to get the pump in. He said that he was open on Friday. I told him that would work fine. Then I found out it wasn't going to work for me, but dad said he could be out there to work with the well driller to get it taken care of. OK, so that is set up. We will do the well on Friday, and spend the rest of the weekend working on the siding. Dad said he could also take Monday. So I scheduled to take Monday. We had things sheduled that meant we wouldn't have all of Saturday or Sunday to work, but I figured that would give us enough time to finish getting the place cleaned up, and that we might get the siding done on the garage side.

Then the guys from the spray foam company called. The were wondering when I might be ready. I told them that I had planned on having the place cleaned up that next weekend. They said they had a slot open on Monday. I told them that we would be ready. Then I told dad, plans changed. Now after the well pump was in, cleanup was going to be the top priority.

When I got out there on Friday afternoon, dad had a few things to show me. He had worked on countersinking the screws in the Trex furring strips on the garage side. We had done that side, before I thought of the fact that the screw heads sticking out of the Trex boards would cause problems in attaching the Hardie panels. He had also used his nail gun, and attached the pieces of foam insulation I had cut for the garage wall that week.

Now the foam boards are floor to roof.

He had gotten that all done after the well driller left. Dad showed me how the driller had connected the lines coming out of the conduit, into the side of the well casing. There were pieces of the casing, wire, and well line taped onto the well. He had left those, in case the county officials wanted to check what had been done and used. It was already almost dark when I got out there, so we didn't do much other than plan out Saturday before we left and got some dinner. The well driller had suggested burying the connection to the well, in sand, before we put gravel or backfill in. So we picked up some bags of sand to take out, and a couple other things we would need.

Saturday morning we got out there and the first thing we did was test the pump. This well pump is designed to run on 24 volts DC, not 120 or 240 volt AC. However, it will also run on 12 volts DC. That meant, I could just hook it up to my truck battery to see if it would run. I took out a meter to watch how much power it was drawing from the battery. I wanted to make sure it looked to be operating properly. I hooked it up. We watched the power usage climb as it pumped the water up the well and had do work harder to pump it higher and higher. I couldn't hear any thing from the end of the well line, but I could feel cool air coming out of it. When I put my thumb over the end, and then let go, there was a gentle whoosh as built up air pressure was released. I knew it was pumping. We kept waiting. Then...

I have water!
I have a pumper truck!

We sealed up the end of the conduit with spray foam and plastic, before we poured sand in the pit next to the well.

Ready to load sand in the hole.

Sunday, we had prior commitments, so it was almost dark before we were able to get out to the house. We had picked up some subs to have for dinner. Dad and I started to work on finishing up the cleanup and mom sat in the car and read her book. After a while, we decided it was time to eat. It had gotten pretty cold outside, but was just chilly inside. We lit up a portable heater dad had gotten to warm his garage in the winter when he is working out there, and used the box from the generator as a table. It was chilly, but much warmer than the car.

The first dinner eaten at the Hobbit Hole.

After dinner, we continued the cleanup for a while, but as it got late, we decided we were going to have to finish in the morning.

We got out there early on Monday. There were a few things left to do. We still had tools that needed to be moved into the garage, where they were not going to be spraying. We need to finish stuffing material in the joist spaces on top of the garage walls, so they wouldn't have foam spraying into the garage. We also needed to cover over the ends of some of the pipes, so they didn't get foam in them. Dad and I scrambled to finish, but then the foam guys drove up. I had expected a call, but there was no warning. Well, we weren't done, they would just have to wait a bit.

They didn't have to wait long, and they were able to get started. I found out that the job would have to be done on more than one day, since the fire paint couldn't be applied until at least 24 hours after the foam. They started to spray the foam, and dad and I worked on cutting more of the siding pieces for the garage side.

 They spray...

We cut.

We ran into two problems. First with the foam. When they bid the job, a guy came out, looked over the situation, and gave me a price. Well, that was for a certain thickness. The installers talked to me. They said that with that thickness, they were not going to be able to seal the roof, because they were not going to be able to seal around where the joists ran across a valley in the steel decking. Dad and I had suspected there might be a problem with that when we watched them start. The installers wanted to do the job right. So they said it would take more time, but they could apply it thicker so that it would be sealed. I told them to go ahead. I figured that since they had mis-estimated what it would take, that was their issue, not mine. I gave them a duplicate house key, so they could get in on Tuesday.

The second problem, was that as we were cutting one of the Hardie panels, dad's saw stopped. It would no longer run. It had given me troubles a couple other times, but this time it did not seem that it was going to work again. Well, the thing is around 40 years old. I went and got about the least expensive one I could buy. If it survives the house construction, that will be good enough.

Tuesday, we had rain all day, so I didn't go out. Wednesday, I ran out to see how things had turned out with the foam. The foam was done, and looked pretty good.

Foam is all in place, they got it well covered.

I didn't find my house key where I was expecting it though. I called the company to find out about when the spray painting guys would be going out. They said that the spray guys had already finished. They said the paint was light gray. Hmmm, I went back out, and looked. I noticed that some of the bar joists and studs now had paint sprayed on them. The foam was also a lighter color than I had remembered from Monday. OK, but where is my key. I talked to the company again and they checked with the crew. They told me where they left it. When I went out again, I found it. I went and payed them the rest of the original amount. They marked it paid. So looks like I got a bit more foam than they originally priced it for.

Now I need to find some drywall installers. Some of my walls need to be drywalled before I do my plumbing and electrical work.

Well, have a happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Having a bad day...

Well things were going well. We went out last Saturday, and worked all day, and got the overhang ready for the soffit material. We got the foam in place, and all the Trex boards were attached where they needed to go. Exhaust pipes are in place. We have wires run through the insulation over the wall to provide power to the front door lights, and the outside outlet.

This evening we were going to start putting on siding on the front. I got a call from the well driller as I headed out to meet my folks. He was wondering if I was ready for him to install the well pump. I told him that I was. He said he would need to know how far it was from the house to the well. I told him I would run a tape measure through the conduit so I could get him an accurate number and would let him know tomorrow what it was. Well dad and I started to fish the tape down the conduit from the well toward the house. It didn't go very far, before it seemed to get stuck. I figured it was just getting hung up trying to get past one of the joints. We went inside, and dad had the idea to take some wire I had bought and try to push that through, since it would be stiffer, then we could use it to fish the tape, or a string or whatever through the conduit. Ok, so we started pushing that in from outside. It seemed to get stopped a short distance in.

Ok, lets try pushing from inside. We had to move a couple things out of the way, and I got down, and started pushing the wire through, as dad fed it to me. It went quite a ways then it seemed to get stuck. Uh, oh, I was getting a bad feeling. I asked dad to go outside and see if the wire had gone all the way through. I told him if he didn't see the wire sticking out, he should try calling down through the pipe to see if it was still open. While he was head out, I noticed the pipe for the future solar hot water had a little mud sitting in the bottom. Dad had been gone long enough that he should have called to me by that point. I looked at the pipe for the communications conduit. It had a lot of mud in the bottom of it. This was not looking good. Dad came back in, and asked if I had heard him. At that point, I knew the well line was blocked. Most likely it had broken, and mud had seeped in and filled it up.

We got a flashlight, and looked into the pipes. I couldn't see a problem in the well line, but I knew it was well blocked. I could see water sitting in the fitting for the solar thermal and there was mud on the floor below it, so I knew it was broken somewhere. I not only had mud all along the bottom of the communications pipe but I could see where the pipe transitioned to the grey conduit, it was shifted out of place.

So my pipes have breaks in multiple places. We will have to go in, dig them up, replace the pipe, and bury them again. I have some ideas on ways to reduce the chance of another break, but this is going to be time consuming to fix and cost more money to redo things that I thought were done.

I was still going to pick up the well pump, so I could at least talk to the well driller about the sort of connection that would be needed. I stopped at my storage unit, and went to unlock it, and found that the key was missing from my key ring!

Mondays suck!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Burying a house

Last Saturday, Matt was able to go out with us. With Matt, my dad and I we were able to finish covering the north wall with drainage material. We also finished loading the scrap foam, and plastic, and extra drainage material into the ventilation/power trench.

The last sheet of drainage is installalled on the house.

The trench is now ready for backfill.

Adam had planned to come over on Saturday, but he found he had some prior commitments, so continuing to backfill would have to wait till Sunday afternoon. They were predicting some gusting winds, so we threw some dirt in the trench to help keep things in place. It wasn't much, but I figured it would keep the edges down out of the wind, and that would keep things in place.

While Matt was there, we got the pieces put together for the drip edge that will go over the garage side, once we have the siding on. Having three people to handle these big pieces for getting them on the roof, really helps. Matt also helped us move a number of the extra pieces of wood, up into the joists in the garage, where they are handy, but out of the way.

Sunday, I went out fairly early. I worked on cleaning and straightening up materials and tools. I was expecting to do that in the morning, then in the afternoon Adam was to come over and continue backfilling. Well, part way through the morning, I heard the Bobcat coming up my drive. Ok, time to work with Adam to ensure things got backfilled the way I wanted, and to answer any questions that came up.

 Adam filling in the trench.

After Adam had used up the dirt that had been excavated originally he was having trouble digging through the dry clay. We went and looked for places on my property where the ground might have more moisture, and so be softer. He tried a couple places. He found a spot in the woods that looked promising. As he started working on that, I went to get some lunch. When I came back, I saw that he had managed quite a bit of filling. He had also thought the the place would look better with a bush on the side of the house. It is a thought, but it wasn't even up to final grade, a little soon to be planting bushes.

Was he serious, or just showing off how good he could manipulate things with his Bobcat?

Adam finished what he could do until we had some rain to soften things up. So he left, and shortly afterwards, my folks showed up. My dad and I worked on getting the furring strips up on the front of the house. I wanted to get it ready for siding.
All the furring strips are in place on the front. Ready for siding.

Then we worked on the overhang some more.

Monday, Adam went out and got some more dirt moved. We were still waiting for rain to show up. They kept predicting it, and it kept failing to show. Then on Tuesday, we had a large line of storms come through and drop a good amount of rain. The storms brought high winds which looks to have knocked over another tree, but the rain was good. Adam went out this afternoon, and got more earth moved. The rain had helped, and he was able to move quite a bit, before he got back down to dry clay.

North side almost completely covered.

Adam was able to almost cover the whole north side. He still has a bit more to get it buried, and more fill is needed to get the grading the way it needs to be. He is going to do some more work on it tomorrow. Hopefully, when I get out there, my house will be fully buried.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A little oops

Monday, I called the inspector, and told him that the trenches with the conduit for the electrical, were ready for inspection. He said he would be able to inspect that day. I went out after work, and found he had left my inspection paper for me, indicating that the inspection was passed.

So, I worked on pushing some dirt into the ventilation trench. I wanted to get some dirt in, before I had Adam push a bunch in with the Bobcat. I talked to Adam, and he had Tuesday off. So he said he would come over and push some dirt into the trench so I could get the pipes covered, and he would also push dirt up against the North wall and around the pipes coming out of the house.

In the afternoon on Tuesday, Adam gave me a call. He had moved most of the dirt he could, until we finished filling the ventilation trench. However, there had been a problem. One of the pipes broke near the house! Not good, not good at all. After work, I went out to check on things.

Generator trench all filled in

Vent pipes partially backfilled

 Dirt in the trench, ready for me to spread

The pipe at the top, has a bit of an issue!

I found that it wasn't the pipe that had broken, but the adapter that goes from the 4 inch pipe, to the 3 inch pipe. I scratched my head a bit, on how I was going to connect these back together. I cut end of the 3 inch pipe with what was left of the adapter. That gave me a clean pipe end to work with. Then I saw that the adapter had only gone part way into the fitting. I carefully sawed the end of the fitting off, and took all of the adapter with it. Now I had two clean pipes, how to connect them. I wasn't going to be able to use the same adapter, since it wouldn't bridge the gap that was now present between the two pipes, and I wouldn't have been able to glue it in place without being able to move either pipe. I found that with the ends off various size pipes I had on hand, I could make an adapter that would have a chance of connecting the two pipes.

Marcus came out to lend me a hand, and any advice he could. He helped me cut the pieces I needed. Then I put them together. The fit between two of the pieces was not real good. There was a gap that would have to be filled in. I took it back and looked things over. Marcus did not feel that it was going to work vary well. As I looked at it, I decided that I agreed, this just as not looking like the right way to do this.

Today, I went and bought a different adapter, and a rubber coupling. The adapter went from the 4 inch pipe, to 3 inch pipe. The coupler allowed me to connect the two 3 inch pipes, without having to move them. I put the coupler on the one pipe, then lined it up with the other pipe, and slid the coupler over onto that pipe as well. I tightened the coupler, and it seemed to make a good joint between the two pipes. I now wish I had taken this approach originally.

Top pipe now has a rubber coupler.

To reduce the likely hood that there would be added strain around the pipes, I took some of the sand that was still sitting up on the roof, and brought it down, and packed it around the pipes after I tamped down the dirt that was under them.

Sand packed around fittings and pipes.

After I did that, I worked on getting the dirt smoothed out in the trench, and covering all the pipes.

Pipes are all covered.

Then I started to pull plastic sheeting, and foam pieces out of the house and the woods. I have quite a stock pile of foam and plastic that were cut off other pieces, but which are perfectly usable for in the trench. I read about covering the ventilation pipes with insulation and plastic sheeting, to make the pipes act like they are buried deeper than they are. The whole idea behind these pipes, is that they will moderate air temperatures all year long. To do this, they need ground that is significantly warmer than the air in winter, and significantly cooler than the air in the summer. With the ends of the pipes away from the house ending up only a couple feet underground, the ground will warm up during the summer and get too cold to have much value in the winter. To help isolate the ground around the pipes from the air temperature above ground, I am adding insulation. The plastic will reduce the amount of water that gets down into this soil, which would otherwise help transfer heat from the surface. This should allow the deeper ground temperatures to play a more significant role in the temperature of the pipes. That is the theory any way. If I had to buy new foam and plastic for the trench, I would probably forgo the expense, and just go with the dirt by itself. However, as we used foam for under the slab, in the walls, and on the roof, I kept the scrap pieces back in my woods, and some in the house. I have a large stock of foam pieces that wouldn't work for much else, but can be laid in the trench and then buried. Even if the foam has a minimal effect, it is better than just sending it to a landfill where it would just take up space. The same goes for the plastic that will go in the trench. I am using scraps that have been cut off the plastic that was used for the waterproofing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Installing an organ

This last weekend, we made some good progress. But before I get to that, I thought I would share some pictures of a little Fall around my house.

My neighbor to the east, is not building yet, and so is just letting his part of the field grow wild (this doesn't really contrast with what I have been doing but...). The trees put on quite a show before they lost their leaves, and we have some fall flowers showing a lot of vigor.

Quite a lovely display for the Fall. Other than where Adam and I have driven my truck and his Bobcat through, my leach field is covered in grasses and flowers. We haven't been having much rain, but the wild growing plants don't seem to be having that much trouble with it.

With the well and communications conduits installed in the trench, it was time to get more backfilling done. Dad took last Friday off, and Adam was also off. So mom and dad went up Friday morning, and Adam brought over the Bobcat, and worked on getting more grading done now that some of the ground was softer, and also worked to do some backfilling.

He worked on the area in front of the house, grading it down so it sloped away from the house better, and moved some of that up onto the area behind the retaining walls.

Adam worked on getting the grading on the east side smoothed out, and got most of the rest of the east wall buried.

He started the backfilling on the north side now that we had the first sheet of drainage material in place, and the well trench could be filled.

He filled in the well trench out to just short of the well.

 I am standing where there had been a trench with dirt piled on either side.

I went out in the afternoon, and dad and I worked on getting the rest of the pipes coming out of the wall connected up. We had a pipe that will eventually carry hot water heated by solar panels. That will be added after the house is lived in for a while, so I can get a good estimate of how much solar I need to install. So for now, the pipe just has caps on the end, so it will extend up to where the backfill will be, and can be connected into at a later date. It splits into two pipes. One will have an insulated pipe that will carry water to the collectors, and the other will carry hot water back from the collectors in a second insulated pipe. Other than where they come through the wall, they will be kept separate.

The well conduit is covered by dirt. The two pipes at the top, are for the future solar thermal system. The pipe with the sharp bend, is the communications conduit. The set of 5 pipes coming out, is for the ventilation. The gray pipe at the bottom is for the electrical power lines.

Sunset Friday evening.

Saturday, mom and dad could only spend half the day. So, we got up early and headed out. First we concentrated on finishing up the power conduit.

Power conduit extended down to where vent house will be, and where generator trench starts.

Then we worked on installing the organ. This house will have very little air that will leak through cracks. The walls are concrete, the roof is sealed and covered in dirt, and will be sealed to the walls with spray foam. The windows and doors will have some leakage and there will be some air flow through the fan exhausts. But most all the air flowing into the house, will come through a set of pipes laid underground. They will function as the wind pipe for the house. Allowing air to flow in to replace stale air. As dad and I worked on them though, we found they also acted like a giant set of organ pipes. If you tapped on them, you could hear a pitch, and multiple echos. When we had to trim the pipes that were already glued on, the noise of the hand saw played through them in an odd fashion as though they were 50 foot organ pipes. I think only an elephant would be able to actually appreciate those acoustics.

As pieces were added, we had to bend the pipes over, since the trench isn't perpendicular to the back wall.

After mom and dad left, I worked on shifting gravel, and putting pieces of pipe in the trench. It was too unwieldy to glue it by myself, but I could get the pieces all laid out so that we would be ready to glue them on Sunday.

All the pieces in position, cut to aproximate length, and ready to be glued.

Sunday afternoon, we got back to work. We took the pieces apart, and glued them each where they needed to be. We also took some of the foam board that was left from other work, and made pieces to hold the ends of the pipe in place. The foam blocks that were place in the trench to hold the pipes in place as they are backfilled, are packing that was from my garage door. Why waste it?

All the pieces assembled and glued, and bags over the ends to keep dirt out.

I was ready to have the inspector come out and check on the electrical conduit. That is the only pipe in the trenches that had to be inspected. I called the inspector this morning, and this evening I got out there and had a inspection approval waiting for me. Time to get the trench backfilled!

I worked on pushing some dirt from the side down in around the electrical conduit and the one vent pipe. It looks like Adam is going to come over tomorrow with the Bobcat, and work on backfilling more of the north wall, and the generator trench.

Adam is also going to push some dirt in the bottom of the ventilation trench, so I can get the pipes covered, and put in foam and plastic sheeting. I am going to put in a lot of the foam that I have left over from other work, to help with the thermal performance of the ventilation pipes. The added insulation should make them behave like they are buried deeper. This will help cool incoming air in the summer, and warm the air coming into the house in the winter. This way, I can also make good use of a bunch of the scrap foam that is left, instead of having it hauled off to a landfill.