Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chilling out on the roof, and sweating the "little things"

Well the last week has been very productive. It has made it a challenge to write about it, since I was coming home late and pretty tired.


I have still been contemplating the roof leak issue. The latest thought on the matter, is that what I am still getting in, is either from the dryer vent, or it is actually condensation forming on the inside of the flashing and running down inside all the waterproofing. To try to test the condensation idea, I needed to make the roof box chill. Like a cold drink on a humid summer day.
Ice packs around the roof box.

By the end of the evening, I had condensation running down the outside of the box, but I didn't get any water inside. I had plastic over the dryer vent as you can see, but that night, a pretty good storm blew through, and we got about half an inch of rain. When I went out to check on things, everything was still dry inside, and the plastic was gone. So, I couldn't reproduce the leak. At this point, I am done spending time trying to figure it out. I have a plastic dish washing basin weighted down with bricks over the dryer vent, and I am going to seal up the inside of the roof box so humid air can't get to the inside of the flashing to condense. Eventually I will put some other type of hood over the dryer vent to prevent it leaking if that is the problem, but for now, I just want it protected so I can continue the rest of the construction.

I had been unable to start my generator since Saturday, I pulled the spark plug, and found that it had a crack. Time to get a new one. I also worked on the radon vent.


Adam wasn't available to work on the retaining walls, so I worked inside. I replaced the spark plug and then the generator worked again. I worked on getting my radon vent finished. It now runs from under the floor to out through the overhang.


We got the second retaining wall done on the front.

We also got started on the first wall on the garage side.


Adam wanted some of the weeds cut down on the slopes so he had a better view of what he was doing as he went up them with the Bobcat. My trimmer doesn't want to start, so Matt brought up my dad's. Dad's trimmer is a little light for cutting down the heavier stuff but it made short work of the thinner weeds. I used a manual cutting tool that you swing like a golf club, to chop down the big stuff up higher on the slopes. It is very effective, but it gives you a very strenuous workout.


Dad, Adam and I got an early start last Friday. We wanted to finish the first wall on the garage side, and get a good portion of the second wall done. Dad had to run into town to get a couple new chains for the chain saw. The ties were just dulling the chains very quickly. While he was gone, Adam and I continued working, using the reciprocating saw, and my circular saw. We got the first garage wall done.

After dad got back with a new chain the work went much faster. We got started on the second wall, and got part way up before we ran out of rebar. It was getting pretty hot by that point so we stopped on the retaining wall.
 Here we had just gotten started on the second one.

Dad and I went into town, and got more rebar, and some other supplies. We took some measurements, dad scared a mouse up in my joists, and we did some planning then we headed home.


Saturday, dad and I continued to work on the second retaining wall. We needed some smaller pieces for the first bit of work, which we could manage without needing the Bobcat to haul them over from the pile.

I decided we weren't quite ready to stop when we needed some bigger pieces. We cut one that was about 5 feet long. In the process, we dulled the one new chain that dad had just bought, when we found a rock embedded in the tie. I finished the cut with the reciprocating saw, and moved the tie into place by myself! Dad had been changing the chain, and didn't see how I had done it. This piece was over a hundred pounds I am sure, and I don't lift weights. Dad had a concerned tone in his voice when he asked me if I had carried it over. I told him no I hadn't (with a grin). I can't carry a hundred pound piece of wood, but I can lift one end at a time, and flip it end over end across the ground. We managed to cut a few more pieces and get them in position, before it got too hot to work outside. 

There were a few things to start on inside. First I wanted to add more support to the beam over the entry to the family room. One stud under each end of the beam didn't seem like enough. It may be, but I didn't have the engineering papers for that beam, so I wanted to reinforce it. We cut treated lumber 2x6 pieces to go at the bottom and sit on the floor. Then we cut other 2x6 boards, to fit right between the treated lumber, and the beam. We nailed the new boards in place with nails that went almost through all three boards. That should add a substantial amount of support.

The other framing issue I had noticed, was that the stud on the end, up against the foam, had developed a horrible bow away from the wall. We found a 2x8 board and attached it to the stud next to the one that was bowed to reinforce it. Then we used clamps to push between the two studs and force the bow out of the end one. We then cut boards to fit between the two, and fastened them in place. After we removed the clamps, the boards all stayed where we had put them.

Next we started on some of the duct work. First though, we had to put on our hard hats and pose for mom.

I had learned early on, that I needed a hard hat for working with the ventilation and utilities up in the joists. I had banged my head against steel multiple times. We started with the run that goes to the hobby room, and the master bedroom.

 Outside the utility room, in the hall.

 In the hobby room, looking down the hall, past the master bedroom on the right, and the utility room on the left.


We worked in the afternoon to get the duct to the guest bedroom, and the kitchen/dining room done. We also had to get the vent for the guest bathroom run out to its vent on the overhang. It was not easy running these two across one another, but I think we pulled it off.


Monday night, Matt came out, and Adam came back, and we finished the second garage side retaining wall. There were some big pieces to move and get lifted up pretty high, and we dulled another chain when Adam hit rocks in a tie. It was hot and humid, and we were all dripping wet with sweat by the time we finished. But we got it finished, and no one actually collapsed.

There will be more earth moving work to finish this up, but that needs to wait until the ground settles again. Now back to inside work. Duct work will continue, and hopefully gas pipe will be getting started and maybe some electrical work as well for the next update.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The drill's revenge!

Friday and Saturday were quite productive. Friday evening, Matt came up, and helped me work on some piping. First we worked on the pipes going through the garage wall. A long time ago, holes were arranged to go through the concrete garage wall for certain pipes that needed to get to the outside. I am finally putting those pipes in, and getting them ready for their intended purposes. I debated how to support these pipes. On the outside, they run through the Hardie panel, but on the inside, there was just a large hole. I decided to just use some of the Trex scraps I had laying around, to keep space held between the pipes as I sprayed foam in and around them. I also filled the pipe that went through the wall that I decided not to use. There are also two cables that you can see. Those go to the outside garage lights.

The three pipes will carry four things. One will be a vent for the battery box for my power system. It will allow hydrogen gas to exit the house and disperse, rather than building up in the battery enclosure and causing a risk for explosion. One will carry the propane line into the house, and also provide a conduit for a ground line to get outside and to a ground rod. The last one will be the air intake for the water heater. The outsides need to be finished, they currently just have fittings pushed on the ends to keep weather out.

Matt and I also worked on getting the radon vent run started. This goes out one of the vents under the overhang. This needed to transition from black corrugated plastic drain tile, to PVC pipe. It will have condensation in it, so it also needs to go through solid PVC pipe to get to the vent, so that any condensation can drain. This required a hodge podge of adapters, and some inventive sealing techniques. The drain tile fittings don't seal to it. They just direct water flow. This is a radon vent, so I needed to seal it up good. The spray foam I have used in various places, such as around the windows and other penetrations through the wall, is supposed to provide an air barrier. This pipe won't be under any real pressure, so I used some of the foam inside the fitting, and around it to seal it up. Then I sealed the top end of it to the PVC pipe with caulk in that junction. It made for an interesting site.

The adapter that I could get, went from the black corrugated pipe to 3" PVC. Since I didn't have any PVC that would normally be used for drain pipe in a 3" size, I used some of the gray conduit. It should be completely overkill, but I had it on hand. Then at the top I transitioned through another fitting to 2" pipe which will run over to the vent pipe.

I had to angle the pipe over rather than run it vertically since if it ran straight up, it was going to run into a joist. The other option would have been to use a couple fittings to shift the pipe over. In this case though, since the connection on the bottom wasn't real ridged, it seemed more sensible to just tilt the pipe a little. If it was a vertical and solid PVC connection at the floor, I wouldn't do it this way.

Then I went home and got to bed. Adam and I were going to start early on Saturday so we could get some good work done before it got too hot.

We got a couple layers put on, and then I put in the tie back.

While I worked on the tie back, Adam did a little sculpting on the dirt at the end of the first retaining wall. He smoothed it out, so it wasn't a sudden drop. He left some of what he removed, up at the top to fill in as it starts to settle.

Things were a little muddy in places. The closest weather station reported almost 3/4 inch of rain on Friday morning. By the way, there was no sign of a leak Friday evening. I am just shaking my head pondering this.

Back to retaining wall construction. Adam and I continued to stack ties and pin them to one another. Then the drill decided to take another victim, it tried to do Adam in, and instead took out itself! Dad had a couple run ins with this drill. It has a lot of power, and a can rip itself out of your hands if the bit gets stuck. It has a lock that allows you to pull the trigger, and lock the drill on. Adam and I agree this is a bad feature on a drill this powerful. If I let go of the drill, it should just stop. Well, it got stuck in one of the ties, and Adam didn't realize he had pushed the lock. He got hit in the head by the drill (not sure what part of it hit him, he seemed OK after a minute). He had let go as it got away from him, but it sat there and spun, till it broke its own power cord! Well at least that stopped it. Adam had some crimp connectors in the truck, and I got the electrical tape. We spliced the power cord, and continued working. After that, most of the time then I held on to the plug while he was drilling so if need be, I could pull the plug, literally. We got a couple more layers on and backfilled before we called it a day on the retaining wall.

I did some more work in the afternoon. I was trying to get the Trex trim sealed to the windows, so that there would be less chance of bugs finding a gap where they could build a nice protected nest. I didn't have quite enough caulk though, so I had to get more today to finish the job. I am hoping that this week we might be able to get the walls finished up. We certainly should be able to finish the one we are working on right now, but I am not sure how long it will take to do the ones by the garage. I am expecting them to be shorter in both height and length, so they should take less time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A hot time at the house

It has been a fairly productive week. The generator conduit run is finished. It still needs to have wires spliced, but the conduit is all in place now.

Plants have been growing quite well.

Where's my house?

I have some plants with lovely little flowers that are providing a "border" to my driveway.

We were going to need more of the pieces of re-bar to hold the next retaining wall together, so I worked a while last Saturday, and turned a few long pieces of re-bar into many short pieces.

Adam had also removed some of the bushes that were in the way of my trenching, so as the ground dries out some more, I will be back to digging my trench.

Then Matt came out and helped me work on finishing the blocking on the support wall. We set up some shade for the generator. I think it has shut down before because of getting too hot with no wind and out in the sun.

With Matt's help, I finished the blocking.

I had also made a purchase. Every time I got up on the scaffold inside, at some point I would hit my head on the joists. So I got myself a hard hat.

It helps to keep the skull from hurting. I am sure it will be handy to have as I work on running ductwork, wiring and plumbing up through the joists.

Tuesday, Adam came over and worked on more grading around the retaining wall extension.

Today, we met out at the house, and started the second extension. We made some good progress with the ties we had left. By lunch we were exhausted and called it a day for working on the extension.

After lunch, I picked up the plates to put on the bolts for the tie backs. They turned out quite nice. I was thinking of painting them, but decided that with the weathered wood, it would look better to let them rust on the surface naturally.

With the current weather being pretty hot, I think Adam and I are going to work in the evenings, and weekend mornings on the retaining walls. Working during late morning or afternoon, just exhausts us.