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Also including the celebrated email that started it all, Adventure Awaits...
My dear friends: I am writing to beg for your aid in a Great Adventure: the reckless, wanton, and dare I say cataclysmic destruction and subsequent rebuilding of most of the ground floor of our house! You have all been in our kitchen and nodded vigorously in agreement when we discussed our plans for knocking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, removing the coat closet, updating the lighting and the floors, installing radiant under-floor heat, and installing new cabinets and countertops. Well, here is the chance you have been waiting for to put your money (or in this case your time) where your mouth is! The plans are complete. The permits have been obtained (well, almost). The dumpster has been ordered. (As have the cabinets, the lighting, and the heating system.) The time for action is upon us! The schedule of events will be as follows: Nov. 12-13 prepare for demolition. Boring. Mostly involves packing things and taking furniture to storage. If turnout is significant, might get into minor demolition on Sunday. Nov. 19-20 Drop the Bomb! Everything -- floors, walls, ceilings -- must go. Bring hammers and crowbars; breath masks, gloves, and safety goggles will be provided. Nov. 25-27 (Thanksgiving weekend!) The floor! Sister joists to level floors where necessary, screw down new plywood subfloor where necessary. If we have time and enough help, drill holes for and start stapling up radiant floor tubing under the second floor. If anything needs to be done to get ready for the Mason Guy to come brick in the new back door opening, do that. December 3-4 See the Light, Feel the Heat! Staple up all the radiant floor tubing. Install overhead lighting fixtures. Observe skeptically (and stand well back) while Hugh hooks up the new heat system. Regard the handiwork of the Mason Guy with awe. December 10-11 I was Framed, your honor! Frame in cabinet soffit and basement door extension. Install new pre-hung basement door. Run new ductwork inside (and the vent for Kim's amazing stainless steel stove hood!). Watch Hugh lose his mind wiring up all the fancy new light fixtures. If time, install furring strips on the ceiling joists to level out the ceiling. December 17-18 Christmas Party (not)! Move sink and dishwasher plumbing into place; add bar plumbing; Finish That Which Has Not Been Finished in preparation for the Drywall Guys. December 24 - January 9 Happy Holidays!! January 14-15 Paint By Numbers! Don't miss this exciting weekend, this is when everything suddenly starts to take shape. Hopefully by now the Drywall Guys have already come and gone and done their magic... January 21-22 Floor It! Time to lay the bamboo floor in the harp room and put the baseboard back. With any luck we'll be able to start working on hanging the new cabinets this weekend too. Install bookshelves in the harp room -- harp ensemble is back in business. January 28-29 The Worst Is Behind Us! Finish hanging cabinets. Get everything ready for the Amazing Concrete Countertop Guy who will arrive the next week. February 4-5 The Worst Is Behind Us, Really! Install floor in kitchen. See Hugh very carefully drill holes for handles in brand-new expensive cabinets. February 11-12 I have An Appliance and I'm Not Afraid to Use It! Install the appliances. Make some ice. POUR EVERYONE A GREAT BIG COCKTAIL!!! (needless to say the rest of February will be spent tidying up...) What do you get in return for your participation in this great adventure? 1. A learning experience! You will learn what it is like to see a grown man cry when he realizes that the piece of ductwork he just cut for the third time, still does not fit! 2. Lots and lots of free refreshments! 3. Our undying gratitude (and Hugh's promise to help out should you ever need a kitchen destroyed), plus the satisfaction of a job well done! OK folks, seriously, enough hype. I know this is a Big Request and that weekends are precious, but what I'm hoping is that each of you might be willing to come by for a few hours on the odd Saturday or Sunday when you can (with the exception of Demo Day when it really would be nice to have a ton of people, but everyone likes demolition so I don't think that'll be a problem). I promise in each case to have Fun Tasks (as fun as construction can be, anyway) ready for you, and just the right amount of beer at the appropriate moments. And BOY is it going to be cool when it's done!! Take care, --Hugh
Good morning all! Several of you have said you would be able to help out with the kitchen this weekend or next weekend. With that in mind, here is the schedule for this weekend: Saturday 2-6: Pack the kitchen. Most dishes, pots, pans, non-perishable food go into boxes. Furniture from kitchen and basement goes to storage locker. Refrigerator goes to basement. Sunday 1-5: Pack the harp room. Books and non-essentials go in boxes, music goes upstairs. Number shelves (so we can put them back) and remove them. If time, unscrew bookshelves from wall and take them to storage locker. Lunch and refreshments will be provided in both cases. If you can spare a few hours on either day, please let me know so I can plan quantities. Thanks, --Hugh
And so on to round two... First of all many thanks to Cathy Wyse, who can pack books into boxes faster than anyone I have ever seen; Kyle Reese, the man with the muscles, who has now helped me hoss 4 substantial pieces of furniture up and down our stairs; and Alison Reese, the box-movinest harpist in Philadelphia. Also many thanks to the good folks at Settlement Music School who were kind enough to accept my anonymous midnight donation of music stands to their cause. At least, I hope they accepted it... With the successful pack-up of the kitchen and the harp room, the stage is now set for this weekend's DEMOLITION EXTRAVAGANZA. The fun will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue all the way to 5 p.m.; we'll resume at 9 a.m. Sunday and go until we can't take any more, or the Eagles game starts. On the task list: 1. Hang dust protection at stairway; 2. Block ground floor furnace returns; 3. Number shelves in harp room bookcases, bundle, and take to storage; 4. Remove the bookcases from the walls in the harp room and take them to storage; 5. Move the refrigerator and the dishwasher to the basement; 6. Remove and dispose of wall cabinets; 7. Disconnect sink plumbing and disposer wiring; 8. Remove base cabinets and countertop; move as much as will fit to basement, dispose of the rest; 9. Remove and dispose of range; 10. Remove partition wall and dispose; 11. Remove coat closet walls and dispose; 12. Remove lowered harp room ceiling and dispose; 13. Remove lowered kitchen ceiling and dispose; 14. Remove all old plaster ceiling and dispose; 15. Remove kitchen soffit, HVAC stack, block HVAC vent and dispose; 16. Remove existing flooring and dispose (up to basement stair threshhold); 17. Remove subfloor where necessary for floor leveling and dispose. Provided: breath masks, safety goggles, implements of destruction (hammers, crowbars, etc.), food, drink, tunes. Needed: additional crowbars, an additional cordless drill, an additional sawsall if anyone has one. Sledgehammers not really necessary, I want to remove the kitchen not tear down the house... This is the big weekend, so any time you may have to help out will be GREATLY appreciated, even if it's just a few hours. Any friends you may have who are good with hammers and would like me to owe them a favor in the future, will also be welcome. If you can, just let me know if/when you're coming so I can plan accordingly. Can't wait!! Take care, and many many thanks in advance, --Hugh
They said it couldn't be done in one weekend, folks, but we did it. Save for a wee bit of hardwood floor in the harp room that we couldn't remove because there's a piano (still) on it, we completed THE ENTIRE DEMOLITION TASK LIST this weekend, filling an entire 15-yard dumpster to the brim in the process. To wit: Number shelves in harp room and remove them Remove bookcases from harp room and store them Move refrigerator to basement Remove and dispose of wall cabinets Remove base cabinets and countertop and move to basement Remove dishwasher and move to basement Remove and dispose of range Hang dust protection at stairway Block ground floor furnace returns Remove partition wall and dispose Remove coat closet walls and dispose Move electric in coat closet walls to temporary location Remove lowered harp room ceiling and dispose Remove old plaster ceiling and dispose Remove lowered kitchen ceiling and dispose Remove old plaster ceiling and dispose Remove kitchen soffit, HVAC stack and dispose Remove existing flooring and dispose (up to basement stair threshold) We did IT ALL! The cast of characters: Yours Truly -- "OK everybody, break's over, back on your heads" Kimberly "Red Line" Rowe -- Who knew a girl that light could swing a hammer that heavy? David "Demolition Man" DePeters -- you need a plaster ceiling removed, you know who to call Kyle "Sanitation Engineer" Reese -- packs a mean dumpster Nancy "Tasmanian Devil" Houtz -- just keep your hands and feet away from her crowbar, folks Kathleen "Mad Dog" Monahan -- "Wasn't there a floor here a minute ago?" Alison "Bruiser" Reese -- "Yeah, the fridge'll fit..." Many Many Thanks to the entire crew, and especially to Elizabeth "Break Truck" DePeters for showing up with beers at critical moments and putting out the major spread for the crew at the end of the day. Now for those of you who couldn't make it, please rest assured that there are plenty of opportunities to help remaining, including as much as you may choose to devote of your THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY. (What better way to burn off that extra turkey weight than standing on a ladder drilling holes in joists?). This weekend's program is as follows: Wednesday afternoon: Remove floor from harp room (assuming I can get the piano out of there). Begin patching subfloor in kitchen area. Friday: Continue subfloor work. Drill holes for radiant tubing in 2nd floor joists. Staple up radiant tubing. Saturday: Finish subfloor work. Drill holes for radiant tubing in ground floor joists. Staple up radiant tubing. Sunday: Finish up from Friday and Saturday. If a miracle occurs and we're ahead of schedule, do basement plumbing for radiant heat boiler. In practice I can only use two or three extra people over the holiday weekend, so reserve your spots now! Take care, THANKS AGAIN TO EVERYONE, and I'll see you all soon, --Hugh
Happy post-thanksgiving, everyone! Nancy "The Nail" Houtz, Kim "Krowbar" Rowe, and I celebrated our pre-thanksgiving afternoon off by ripping up the floor in the harp room. Well, we thought we were ripping up the floor... actually we were ripping up the first of 3 floors, each of which proved to be more horrid and frightening than the last! Here's how it went: Wednesday afternoon: Rip up floor one. Gag at the smell of cat pee. Make note to self to kill cat. Think better of it later. Thursday morning: Rip up floor two. Get over gagging at cat pee smell, only to recoil in horror from bits of floor obviously rotted by cat pee. Make note to self to kill cat slowly. Think better of it later. Begin wondering how many floors it will take before the parking space is completely filled up with stinky flooring. Friday: Drive out to Ron's to borrow his rockin' air compressor (thanks Ron!). Pick up lighting order. Drop by Lowe's to purchase air-driven framing nailer and nails (yes folks we have now joined the big leagues). Rip up (mostly with hands, it's so rotten) floor three. Discover that rot, while encouraged by cat pee, is actually much older than cat. Forgive cat for the moment. Shriek in terror on discovering that 5 joists have significant rot. Call David "Joist" DePeters and yell "Help!" Saturday: Grab Joist DePeters and Nancy the Nail (whom I suspect might have been a bit hung over). Pull thousands of ancient nails out of joists. Sister rotten joists with 16-foot 2x8s. Recoil in horror at the hacks perpetrated on the framing in the room over the years. Fix as many hacks as possible. Marvel at the coolness of the crazy forklift on the delivery truck from Lowe's, bringing us 24 sheets of brand-new plywood Sturdi-Floor. Marvel at the coolness of my brand new air-powered framing nailer. Everyone should own one of these. Seriously. Sunday: Clean centuries of filth off old joists. Spread subfloor glue on an 8' x 4' section. Nail down first subfloor panel. Jump for joy. Hug cat. Spend the rest of the day cutting and nailing down the rest of the subfloor (who knew this could take this long?). Wonder if my hands will ever stop aching. In short, folks, we got a little set back over the weekend, but we rose to the occasion, and if I can ever get the 3 inches of dirt and wood splinters out of the basement the harp room floor will be better than new. Unfortunately this means we are now officially behind schedule -- I had planned to patch both subfloors as necessary and start nailing up hot water tubing over the holiday, instead we replaced one entire subfloor and are looking at doing the same to the other, having stapled up no tubing at all! WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU weeeelllll at the risk of going to the well once too often, this coming weekend would be a really great weekend for a massive turnout. I am working on incentives at the moment (anybody want a free cat?). Our plan will be to try to get back on schedule by deploying THREE CREWS AT ONCE rotating over the following tasks: 1. Move the pile of wood in the parking space into A SECOND dumpster; 2. Remove and replace the subfloor in the kitchen, along with some plumbing and some pesky no-longer-needed ductwork; 3. Drill holes for and staple up the radiant tubing in the harp room ceiling and below the shiny new subfloor. So, if you have some free time this weekend that you would consider donating to the Kim and Hugh's New Ground Floor project (it is now too large to call it the New Kitchen project), it would be much appreciated and I promise you will be richly rewarded in some way. Feel free to extend this offer to your friends and recent acquaintances. I am considering offering free subfloor replacement to anyone who needs it since I am now an Expert in this... heh heh... Many thanks, and I hope your thanksgiving was more restful than mine, --Hugh
WE'RE BACK ON TRACK FOLKS Yes, you heard right. After a weekend of backbreaking labor by yours truly, Nancy the Nail, and Kyle "Hole Everything" Reese, we are on the original plan having lost only a week to the Cat Pee Disaster. Here's the blow-by-blow: Thursday Night: All about me and the vacuum. Basement floor goes from horrifying to pristine (well, almost) in an amazing 2 hours. God I love this shop vac... I get choked up just thinking about it... Friday Night: In the freezing cold, Nancy the Nail and I heft 3 music room floors' worth of wood into the dumpster in under an hour, *filling* the 17-yard dumpster. Wood still stinks of cat pee. Unbelievable. Saturday: Kyle "Hole Everything" Reese arrives and we begin ripping up the one layer of subfloor in the kitchen. Fortunately for my sanity this goes much easier than the music room and by 2 p.m. we are done. Meet an interesting neighbor who is pulling the subfloor out of my dumpster as I put it in -- turns out he's redoing his floor in old random-width boards like the ones I'm pulling out... and adding radiant heat. In the afternoon, start on joist repairs under the kitchen while Kyle earns his nickname by punching what seems like thousands of holes in the joists over the music room with the right-angle drill. These will be filled with hot-water tubing for the heat. I nail down the first subfloor panel in the kitchen, yahoo! Sunday: Find 2 joists in the kitchen that are more than a 1/2 inch lower than the others. Odd. Sister them up with the extra 2x8s I purchased against just this eventuality. Continue adding subfloor. Finish with all the subfloor I can currently do (the edges will have to wait for the new back door and the ductwork) around 6. Jump for joy and pat myself on the back. Retire nail gun (now affectionately known as "Peter Gun") for the evening. After a short dinner break, pick up where "Hole Everything" Reese left off. Make note to offer him a free massage gift certificate or something after realizing what backbreaking work this is (you have to get up on the ladder with the right-angle drill, brace your shoulder on one joist, and then kinda bench-press the drill through the next joist). Finish the holes and open a beer in celebration. INSTALLING TUBING This merits a special section because it is so wacky (and so much easier than I thought it was going to be). So first of all once you have all the holes drilled you take a 500' roll of tubing and put it on this crazy tubing spooler they send you that consists of a round piece of particle board, a little turntable thing, and a 5-gallon bucket. You bolt all this together and drop the tubing onto it so that it will unwind off the reel rather than pulling off (and twisting and kinking in the process). Next you start looping the tubing through the holes in the joists. The cool thing is the tubing is stiff enough that you can actually do all this from the ground. So the entire job of getting the tubing loops ready to staple up in the joist bays takes all of about 30 minutes, yahoo! -- and this even though you have to pull almost 500' of tubing through the first hole (think about it). You have to see it to believe it really; I will post photos at some point. However: In the home renovation business one learns quickly that an unexpectedly easy thing will soon be followed by 2 unexpectedly hard things. First hard thing: Try to cut out this ancient gas line (for gas lighting -- they weren't sure if electricity was going to catch on) with the sawzall. NIGHTMARE. Pipe rattles around all over the place and I think the saw is gonna break my arms. Give up in disgust; the tubing can damn well run under the gas line where necessary. Second hard thing: Stapling up the tubing. You take this staple gun-like thing, hold it over the tube over your head, and pump it three times per staple. After ten of these (with debris falling in my face) I have worked up a world-class sweat. KEEP IN MIND THIS SIMPLE RULE: If you are ever doing a project like this and you have a choice between an inexpensive hand tool and an annoyingly expensive power tool for a job, BUY THE POWER TOOL. Your back will thank you. Monday morning: Order air-powered staple gun delivered fedex. By the way, did you know dirt can still be in your ears, even after two showers in which you explicitly wash your ears? It's kind of amazing... So that is the story of the weekend. As always, extreme gratitude to "Hole Everything" Reese and the always-game-for-a-little-backbreaking-labor Nancy the Nail (when asked why she came over to help me load up the dumpster, she replied "I don't think I'm getting enough exercise"). I hope to finish installing and stapling up the tubing during the week this week, which will mean this weekend is installing new ductwork and framing in the new ceiling, with some time taken to get the water heater hooked up in the basement (apparently I'm not supposed to crank it up until a technician is there to check the flame and so on, so that will hopefully be next week sometime). As always volunteer assistance of any kind this weekend will be much appreciated, even if it's just an extra pair of hands to hold up the other end of something-or-other. And look for an updated schedule of events in your mailbox soon! Yours in construction, --Hugh
Hey folks, know what time it is? It's time to finish off the new heating system, yahoo! The plan is: 1. Loop and staple tubing in music room (kitchen is already done). Hopefully I'll have this done tonight. 2. Drill holes, loop and staple tubing in basement. I wanted to get this done evenings this week but it wasn't in the cards. Should be considerably easier than on the first floor since no ladders will be involved. 3. Hook up tubing to manifold and pressure-test it. 4. Staple up foil-bubble-foil insulation under tubing on first floor and in basement. 5. Do water, gas, electric hookups for new boiler. 6. Throw the switch and let the hot water flow! Volunteers who choose to attend this weekend will have their choice of hole-drilling, tubing-stapling, insulation-cutting-and-stapling, and basement-cleaning activities. In addition if we have crazy amounts of extra time and people, we may have a look at framing up the ceiling in the kitchen. Anyone who wants a quick lesson in copper pipe sweat-soldering (it's MUCH easier than it looks) is welcome to it. As always, please let me know if you are planning to attend and when, so I can be prepared with refreshments. And MUCHAS GRACIAS of course in advance for any time you may have! See you on the weekend, --Hugh
Good morning everyone! The weekend update you have been waiting for has finally arrived. As you may recall, the agenda for the weekend (see http://kimandhugh.org/kitchen/schedule.html) was December 10-11 With all tubing installed, we can start insulating under it. Staple up radiant barrier insulation (it's foil, no holding fiberglass over your head!) under second floor and under first floor. Do plumbing for new Polaris heater. Install new ductwork in kitchen and music room. Unfortunately, although the weekend was fruitful and productive, the schedule was a bit too ambitious (and once again we tripped over a mostly unexpected subfloor repair issue). So I am once again going to have to sweat during the week to make up time. Our accomplishments were nonetheless impressive. Here they are: SATURDAY 7:30 a.m. Head down to Lowe's (the cashier at the contractor's counter knows me by name) to pick up an angle grinder and some other supplies for the day's activities. 9 a.m. Roadblock! Remember I have promised to help Kimberly load up the harp and do various other non-construction activities in anticipation of her Day from Hell in Asbury Park, N.J. 10:45 a.m. Hole Everything arrives and we get down to business. After consultation, he commences drilling holes for tubing in basement joists while I deploy the new angle grinder for cutting the ancient gas lighting pipe in the music room ceiling. 11:00 a.m. Marvel at coolness of angle grinder amid showers of sparks. How did I ever live without this tool? Everyone should have one. 12:00 p.m. Begin stapling up tubing over music room. Curse tubing, which has gotten twisted somehow and wants to kink all over the place. 2:00 p.m. Roadblock! Hole Everything gets to the foyer and we remember that a. I have to replace a joist there that I, um, cracked in half with a sledgehammer during the demo; and b. I have to lower the subfloor level and double it so we can put tile down without it ending up a foot above the floor. Curse the fates. After some contemplation, drill as many holes as we can while ripping out the broken joist (where the hell did they get all these nails). 3:00 p.m. Decide we might as well go ahead and pull up the damn foyer subfloor, it's got to go sometime anyway. Of course it comes out in splinters with nails everywhere. Who were the cretins that put this in 20 years ago? With this done, Hole Everything departs to wine and dine out of town friends, with kudos for a job well done. 4:30 p.m. Head up to the hardware store on foot (car is in Asbury Park, N.J.) to buy 6 8' 2x4s for the ledgers for the new subfloor. Cashier at hardware store not only knows me by name but is inviting me to family get-togethers. Hardware store only has 10' 2x4s, more than I can carry in one trip. I make 2 trips. 6:00 p.m. Take measurements and discover old subfloor is not just off level, it's basically warped. Won't do for tile. Tie leveling string all over the place and install 2x4 ledgers on either side of each joist. Install new joist. Thank god for joist hangers. 8:00 p.m. Glue and nail down first layer of new subfloor. Thank god for Peter Gun. 9:00 p.m. Glue and nail down second layer of new subfloor. Jump up and down on it, it's rock solid. Pat self on back. SUNDAY 9:30 a.m. Roadblock! French lesson this morning. But Igor (my French teacher) is staying to help for the afternoon. 12:00 p.m. Arrive at house. Igor "The Hammer" Shvayko pulls millions of tiny lath nails out of kitchen and music room ceiling joists while I unpack the super-gonzo new water heater. Discover super-gonzo new water heater is missing installation manual. Curse all suppliers and delivery people. Get out laptop and find installation manual on web. Thank god for web. Read installation manual and discover I need additional parts from water heater company. Curse all suppliers and delivery people, *again*. Start making list of parts I need. 2:00 p.m. Pressure-test kitchen tubing loop and fix pinhole leak. Begin unrolling and stapling insulation under the tubing with nifty new electric staple gun. Three big strips of insulation covers most of the ceiling. Kitchen ceiling looks like the outside of a lunar lander, crazy. 3:00 p.m. Install insulation under tubing in music room ceiling. Remember I haven't pressure tested the tubing yet. Pressure test tubing, discover it has a very very very slow leak. Drat... will have to fill the tubing with water to find it. No big deal though. 4:00 p.m. Take The Hammer home, run to Lowe's to pick up plumbing supplies for heater install, come home, call it a night by 7 p.m. So we had a few setbacks but it was nonetheless a productive weekend. Don't miss next weekend's activities, which will include actually firing up the water heater, yahoo! Many thanks to Kyle and Igor for all their help. As ever, if you have some free time next weekend (the last shopping weekend before the holidays, oh sure, right), I guarantee an entertaining couple of days! Yours in construction, --Hugh
Wow I can't imagine how I have let two months go by without updating this site! You must all be breathless with anticipation.
My only explanation for my delinquency is that I have been spending every free moment (that is, the moments I haven't been spending working on the kitchen) working on the brand-new harpcolumn.com site, which went live last week. Hurray! My long-suffering wife Kim is now free to find another set of features to request for the next version. And I am free to return to informing all of you about the kitchen project, which grows more and more massive with each passing weekend.
First, a brief summary of the intevening weekends:
You may recall that when we last left our story I was trying to work out how the heck to install this fancy Polaris water heater to heat a. our domestic hot water and b. all the water to go into the flooring tubes. Moreover, I had to download the installation instructions for the Polaris off of the web. Fortunately for me the installation instructions were very detailed and I was able to work out exactly how to install the thing.
Unfortunately, in working this out, I made a few fundamental miscalculations. My friends, there will come a day in each of your lives when you have to ask yourself a very important question: "What is the best place to put a big white plastic water heater intake/exhaust pipe through the wall of my house?" I cannot tell you the answer to this question, but I can tell you what the answer is not: "Just above and to the right of your front door!" Yes, folks, I called a guy to have him come out to my house, remove a brick from the wall, and install a big white plastic thing sticking through it. You can imagine my consternation when I got a call from Kim that evening saying "You know, this big white plastic thing sticking through our wall is really ugly," especially because I knew instantly that she was right...
So I spent that evening working out a better place for the pipe (sticking out the back of the house, duh...) and called the guy back the next day. He was a bit unhappy about having to move the pipe but I guess he was happy to take my money anyway.
So having taken care of the big hole in the wall of our house, the weekend arrives and Nancy the Nail and I set to work doing the vent plumbing for this big fancy heater. Things start to get complicated ("wait, this pipe can't go there, there's a heating duct in the way"), but we finally get everything hooked up like it should be and Nancy does an excellent job with the glue putting everything together. Things are looking up.
The next day, with the vent plumbing ready, I decide I am going to install the damn Polaris come hell or high water. So I set to it. First task is a new 15 amp circuit with a switch. Done (but not without noticing there's a wee piece of my main electrical bus that is, shall we say, a wee bit scorched... I don't even want to know...). Next task (deep breath): Cut off the water and the gas to the old water heater and drain the sucker. Done. No turning back now. Did I mention that Kim and I have to go to her mother's this evening to visit the Ant-Tourage, which has arrived for the holidays from the Midwest? Next task: Move the Polaris into place and hook up the intake and exhaust vent plumbing. Done (it's just plastic, thank god). Next task: do some serious and frantic calculation to determine everything I might possibly need to hook up the gas and the water to this beast. It is now 2:30 and the hardware store closes at 3, so after that hour if I don't have the parts in the house, the job doesn't get finished. Go to the hardware store and buy 2 of everything on my list. Come back. Next task: Turn off the gas to the entire house (did I mention it's wintertime?) and do the gas plumbing for the water heater in record time. Check for leaks. No leaks, thank god. Good. Turn the heat back on. Get out the torch and start soldering pieces together for the water plumbing. Finish in record time (damn I'm good). Turn on the water and fill up the Polaris... no turning back now... check for leaks. Damn. One tiny drip from a screw-in brass fitting. I can live with it for now. Hold my breath... and... throw the switch.
It works! Hurray!
And I kid you not, 15 minutes later, we have hot water and I can take a shower. Any of you who have had a hot water heater installed before are aware this normally takes like 4 hours. This beast just rocks.
Install the main plumbing panel for the radiant floor heat. I am absolutely determined to get this heat thing working before Christmas.
Connect the first loop of radiant heat tubing -- under the living room floor -- to the main plumbing panel. Go through a huge hassle trying to get the thermostat wired up. Much confusion. Finally water starts flowing... hot water... and in about four hours I'm walking through the living room in my bare feet, soaking up the heat. Cooooooool.
Finish insulating around the tubing under the guest bathroom and bedroom and hook that up. We're getting serious about this now, folks.
Aid arrives from an unexpected quarter! Khalil "Shoulders" Meggett (he does have some broad shoulders, folks) turns up and with a mighty shrug threads all of the heat tubing under the kitchen. This btw all with a bad back that was paining him greatly. Meanwhile I am trying to finish the remaining subfloor in the kitchen, which is turning out to be a huge pain because the joists are largely unattached to anything and at weird random angles.
The caribbean, with "Shoulders" Meggett (back still hurts but is apparently worth it) and his lovely companion Doctor Monica. Spend hours wondering why we still live in Philadelphia.
The heat. Done. Finally. I run all the tubing under the music room, insulate under the kitchen (from the basement, which turns out to be a roaring pain in the ass), insulate under the music room (less of a pain but still intensely annoying), insulate the remaining exposed tubing, connect thermostats, fire everything up.
OK, so about this heat business, yeah, it took a hell of a lot longer than I was hoping... but it sure is nice... I would recommend it to anyone, but only if you have a lot of time and a reason to rip out your ceilings anyway.
Ductwork. Gotta make sure I can get air conditioning up from the basement and into the kitchen. Also gotta (finally) finish the last of the subfloor in the kitchen, which I have been holding off on until I got the ductwork question answered. So Saturday: rip out remaining ductwork, easy enough. Get crazy with Peter Gun and nail down remaining subfloor except for the little bit by the back door which is waiting for the door guys. A good day's work.
Sunday: Go to Home Despot, find the odd-shaped ductwork parts I need, start screwing it together. Channel my paternal grandfather who was a sheet metal worker by trade. Still manage to screw up just about everything. Nonetheless, I have the main stack done and am starting on the line that will feed the second floor, when...
DISASTER! (narrowly avoided) Trying to balance on a ladder and hold up a piece of ductwork on my shoulder while holding a screw in one hand and my drill in the other, I -- for the first time in my life -- take a complete header off the ladder. I mean, on my face. Owwwwww. Spend the next day terrified I broke my right wrist, but by Tuesday it's apparent it's just a sprain.
Take the weekend off to visit my nephew in Providence, who is turning 5. Go duckpin bowling where my nephew amuses himself by adding up the (double-digit) scores of each team. Scary.
Finally folks the time has come to start *building* things, rather than just destroying or repairing them. Mad Dog "The Engineer" Monahan arrives from New York and totally gets into helping me put up the top and bottom tracks of new west wall of the kitchen, plumb and square. Then she and Nancy the Nail go crazy cutting the steel studs that will fill it out. It is amazing how quick this metal framing stuff goes. While all this is going on, we get more help from an unexpected quarter: Andrea "Door Devil" Chieffo, one of Kim's students, arrives looking for work. I set her up removing the basement door, which is to be moved out a few inches and replaced. She makes short work of it despite evidently never having used a crowbar before. Some people are just naturals.
Sunday, Andrea's dad Chris "Sitting Bull" Chieffo arrives to help. Between us, we remove the old sliding glass back door, insulate all around the last bit of open subfloor, pull down a bunch of the north wall (not worth saving, as it turns out), and put the final really honest-to-god *last* bit of kitchen subfloor down. We are now ready for the door guys to arrive with the fancy new back door. Very exciting.
Cathy "Counselor" Wyse arrives to help with the ceiling framing in the kitchen. Using the amazing laser level, we line up metal track all the way around the room (discovering in the meantime that the original ceiling was well off level). I then continue by drilling hook eyes into the joists and suspending something called "U-channel" from them; the metal "furring" for the ceiling clips to the u-channel. In a burst of exuberance I go ahead and start clipping up ceiling furring, forgetting that I still have to build the soffit framing for over the cabinets... no big deal. Things really are starting to come together here.
So Joist Depeters and Hole Everything Reese made a much-appreciated surprise visit this past President's Day weekend and with their usual aplomb finished the ceiling framing! We really ploughed through it and by Sunday evening we had finished it all up. It's really pretty impressive if I do say so myself. With the framing out of the way, I got to spend Sunday night and Monday planning my electrical install and making the following discoveries:
Having said all of the above the lighting folks were nonetheless very helpful with refunding the overcharge and finding the bits of the order that were missing, so I still highly recommend them.
In the cards for this weekend: pull lots of wire. I have exactly 8 working days until the drywallers show up, time is getting short...
Well this is very exciting I must say. The rough-in on the wiring is very close to done, I have built the framing for the furniture-next-to-the-stairs, fixed the bizarre bulge in the wall due to the oversized sun porch floor drain (replaced the drain with a smaller one), the bookshelves in the music room are back up, and I've identified the reason the plumbing to our third floor freezes whenever it gets below 10 degrees outside. Which leads me to the following quiz for you all.
Which of the three choices below would you say is correct for the order to arrange things inside your wall:
If you guessed 3, you are correct! The thinking builder puts the plumbing as close as possible to the heated area of the home, so as to avoid issues with freezing pipes in the winter. If you guessed 2, I'm guessing you grew up next to some of my poorer cousins in rural Georgia. If you guessed 1, you're not very smart, but don't feel bad -- you're no dumber than the IDIOTS WHO REHABBED OUR HOUSE in 1980. Not only did they put a nice thick blanket of insulation between the pipes and the inside of the house, they left a lovely big hole in the cinderblock wall they built, just next to the hot water pipe. The gale blowing through this hole is like a storm at the South Pole. I expected to see a penguin in there. Seriously.
The good news is that in uncovering this problem I also found a lovely big place to put the conduit(s) I'm going to use to run lighting power and control up to the second floor, to facilitate the second floor lighting redo that is our next project... So next chance I get, I'll fill in the South Pole Hole, insulate liberally behind the pipes, run a couple pieces of 1" conduit up that chase into the guest bedroom closet, and we'll be good to go.
Many many thanks to Hole Everything Reese, who donated a good part of his Sunday to run the feeds for the counter outlets and appliances in the kitchen and help me put the bookshelves back up. Things are moving along rapidly, but there are only 4 or 5 working days left until drywall!