Studio Rough Plumbing and Light Bulb Change

We’ve been busy decorating for the holidays so not many posts lately…and no I don’t have many decorating pictures to share tonight.  What has been going on is we made some progress on the plumbing for my studio project.  The pipes are rough plumbed now for my sink so up next I can start installing drywall and sub flooring in that area.  I just need to find the time.

One strange thing I discovered as a result of a burnt out bulb in the bathroom.  I reached into our fancy light fixtures to remove the T10 incandescent bulb and the bulb came undone.  It was just hanging there with the screw part still in the socket, but the glass didn’t break; it was kinda cool.  What wasn’t cool was the fact I didn’t know how to remove the glass shade.  Luckily I found the answer online at the Restoration Hardware website and it referenced using a tool to remove the nut way up inside the shade.  Well that explains the strange wire thing that was laying around when we moved in.  With the wire tool I easily removed the shade.  I then used pliers to remove the bulb base.  The T10 bulbs are hard to find in 60W so I’ll have to order some online.  At least I figured out how to remove the shade….and I didn’t throw out that wire thing.

here’s the instructions, highlighting the light tool.

Here’s my tool! You jam it up into my glass light fixture and turn. Then the nut comes off and voila! light shade is off and you can replace bulb.

Strange broken light hangs by a thread.

careful use of pliers make short work of removing the broken bulb.

New shut off valves installed as part of the studio project.

 

We bought a live real christmas tree. For now it’s planted in a shallow hole, we’ll bring it in ten days before Christmas.

 

Here’s the rough plumbing for my sink.

 

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Framing Walls (and Installing a Sink !!!)

I spent this weekend working on my office cabinet project.  The goal was to frame the two walls so that I could call the plumber and get the sink pipes extended.  All went well I can safely report tonight.  I even got a bonus project done with my free time on Sunday.  Before I go into the play by play, I’ll share something with you; throughout the process of building the house it seems a lot wasn’t going as well as planned.  As I work on each subsequent project, I have found that if I take my time, think things through and remain calm these projects are going easier.  And they don’t seem to take much longer (compared to just barreling through them), so there is value in taking my time.  Knock on wood of course.

The walls I’m building are add-ons so the first order of business is to get some solid nailing blocks in the existing exterior wall.  If I was smart I’d have had a “pocket” framed into the wall when we were rough framing the house, before the drywall went in, but realistically I wouldn’t have been able to devise where the pocket should be so the chances of getting it right back then are slim.  I spent some time marking out the location of my wall, taking into consideration my already made countertops, cabinets and even factoring in the existing steps in my studio.  Once I was comfortable with my marks on the wall I used my oscillating tool to remove the drywall and create two horizontal openings.  I devised my game plan on the fly and am fairly happy with it, looking back on my handy work.  The plan was to install two 2×6 blocks, anchored between two existing wall studs, to provide  a solid anchoring for my perpendicular wall.  After the drywall was off I scraped away the insulation inside.  Our insulation is made from recycled newspaper that was “damp” blown into the wall cavities.  Suffice to say I had to “scrape” some off to make room for the 2×6 blocks.  I then inserted the blocks and worked them down behind the drywall.  See the pics for my trick on getting a grip on the blocks.  I came up with that after scratching my head trying to figure out how to get the block into position.  The insulation, drywall and studs had a firm grip on my block so snaking it into place was tough, but the trick made it do able.  Once in place I mounted a 1/2″ block which I’d eventually mount the new wall stud to.  Finally I replaced the drywall pieces I’d cut out earlier.  Ha, after about two hours everything looked basically like it did when I had started.  But I knew I could now start building my walls.

I cut a couple treated 2×4’s, covered their underside with adhesive caulk, and fastened them to the studio’s cool cement floor with blue colored masonry screws that I picked up at Lowes.  I then cut all my studs, to about 98″ and mounted the first one to the exterior wall, screwing into the 1/2″ blocks and ultimately the 2×6 blocks I’d hidden behind the wall hours previously.  I used screws and a drill for the entire project.  I don’t have a nail gun and hand nailing is fairly quick but laborious.  Screws seemed to work just fine and I had a lot left over from other projects that I could use on this job.  Once that first stud was up I continued putting up the rest of the studs and finally the top plates.   The design I came up with meant that both walls would stop about a foot or two from the ceiling.  I capped the wall design off at the top of the upper cabinets.  This created that open air space above the  cabinets which will help keep the art studio feeling airy.  One bad thing with the design is that the walls are only attached to the floor and the one exterior wall so they’re prone to wiggling.  I nailed a filler board down low at the end of the one wall, where it meets the steps, and this helped stiffen and level the wall.  Putting in the new floor framing extension would stiffen the walls more.  Finally the drywall, cabinets and shelving should stiffen everything up as well.

One pesky task that I decided to tackle during this project was the “hidden air vent” buried under the office platform.  I knew it was there ’cause I had photos.  From what I remember it was there and no one ever hooked it up during construction.  They just built the platform over the top.  I’m not sure why.  I’m sure it sat there untouched, with some blue foam stuffed in it from when they poured the concrete floor (the foam kept the cement out during pouring). My concern was that the blue foam may have been pushed down into the air duct and was causing blockage, or maybe conditioned air was leaking into the cavity under my office.  Either way I wanted to fix it and possibly route the vent into the floor of my office and finish it off.  I started by prying off the drywall that capped the platform.  The platform is only about 14″ off the ground which meant that the 2×6 joists left only like 9″ of vertical space underneath the platform.  Ugh.  After finding a real flashlight (my boys seemingly steal all of the working flashlights and hoard them in somewhere secret) I peered under to find a mountain of insulation.  I guess when they blew the insulation in the wall cavities a  lot of it exited out down here until the cavities were full.  I chickened out a few times before talking myself into getting under there.  It was the right thing to do.

I crafted a cardboard insulation pusher on a stick and did just that, started pushing the insulation to the far side of the space under the platform.  Based on the pic I shared the other day I thought the vent was way in there.  I glance up at the exposed wall studs and decided to check my photo again; so I’d know how much insulation I’d have to push away. I was pleasantly surprised my sense of scale was off and it turned out the vent was about three feet in instead of eight feet in.  This was great news cause being under there was like being in a coffin.  And I was breathing heavy with the prospect of having to go way back into there.  So I brushed away the insulation and sure enough, there was my vent.

There was no way around it, I had to get in there.  My head barely fit and then my fat gut and waist did not fit.  Talk about hyperventilating…but with a twist I was in.  The wife handed me tools and the vacuum hose like a hygienist helping a dentist.  I pounded away at the cement overhanging the vent and carved away at the blue foam blocks inside.  Pulling the last one out of the metal vent shoot I reached in….and much to my dismay….I found…..all was for nothing.  They never cut the 8″ green air duct open at that vent.  They must have never planned on finishing that vent.  I could have just left it; I didn’t have to get all freaked out by the claustrophobic space, eat insulation or fish around for the vent.  Oh well, knowing that nothing was wrong from an air flow standpoint outweighed any frustration I would have felt going through all these theatrics. Back to the work at hand then.

I wrapped up the framing at this point by roughing in the “floor” extension.  I just used 2×4’s and set it up for a 1/2″ piece of OSB board to cap it off.  This area will just hold up the cabinets and should be plenty strong enough.  I’ll install the OSB and some 1/2″ flooring once the plumber is done extending the pipes.  So that’s it for that project for now.

With an hour to spare I decided to get the sink in Christine’s studio installed so the plumber could hook that up too when he comes out.  We bought a small stainless steel bar sink, that included a faucet and drain for only $109 at Lowes.  It was easy to install. See pics below for step by step.

Ok, I’m exhausted and need my beauty sleep.  Stay tuned, hopefully next weekend I’ll be doing some drywall.

 

Studio Plumbing Moved

Happiness this week is in the form of the plumbing in the upstairs studio is finally moved.  This means that I can finish up the cabinets.  The hot and cold water lines were inexplicably just poking out of the side wall, so I had them moved by a pro to go back behind the knee wall and resurface inside the sink base.  There was some debate as to whether the lines were in a freeze prone zone, but I contend that there is enough insulation behind the knee wall, in the roof and floor, and the heat ducts run through there, as well as an access panel that the space should be considered conditioned space from a thermal standpoint.  If it gets below thirty-two degrees in there then I have serious thermal issues, frozen water pipes would be the least of my worries.  Just to be safe the plumber used flexible water lines that are more forgiving to temperature changes than the yellowish white PVC plumbing pipes. Once complete the sink will be a great addition to the studio so our resident upstairs artists will be able to clean brushes, make coffee and water down apple juice.

I’ll have to patch up this drywall before the cabinet goes in. You can see the transition here from rigid white PVC plumbing pipes into the fancy less rigid hot and cold water lines. The fancy pipe is less prone to damage from temperature changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

here are the chrome tipped water lines emerging into the sink base. As soon as I finish installing the cabinets and countertop we’ll install the new sink in the studio.

 

Mantel Update

Tentative mantel location.

Tomorrow the masons will install the cultured stone around the fireplace.  I’m hoping it will turn out well.  One last item to take care of before they start was locating the mantel. 
 
As you know, we’re going to use a piece of cherry from a tree that was on the property for the mantel.  We’re attaching a 2×6 to the fireplace chase, and then we’ll lag the mantel itself to this 2×6. 
 
The EDGE60 installation manual defines some minimum clearances that affect how close the mantel can be to the unit.  The mantel in our current house is about 53″ from floor to the bottom edge and it’s about 4″ tall.  The guys mounted the 2×6 today at about 60″ from the floor.  I stopped out to take a look and it just feels too high for our liking.  I checked the manual and we need about 8.5″ from the top of the unit to the bottom of the mantel, assuming the mantel sticks out 6″.  I made a black mark on the wall indicating this level…..It falls about 3″ below where the guys mounted the 2×6. I left a note indicating we’d like to move it down that much.  I’m hoping it’ll all look good.  I’m sure it will.
 
The stonework should take two guys one day to do.  I left a note letting them know we want a “dry stack” look to the stone which means no mortar lines between stones.  We’ll see, hopefully it’ll look good.  The masons did say the stone we picked out was probably the most difficult to work with and get it to look right, plus the would have started from the top, and in fact they would have selected a different type of stone….not sure what kind.   Long story short, probably a good idea we’re paying them to do it since everyone will see the fireplace.
 
Elsewhere, the septic system got inspected and will be approved later this Spring once things dry out a bit.  The leech (sp?) field needs to dry out, be over seeded, and straw laid down.  I did ask the government if we could over seed with flowers or natural grasses….they said I need to use a typical sun / shade type grass seed.  But they also gave me a link to The Ohio State University website where I can get some additional recommendations.  Additionally there is a septic service that we’ll have to contract with for the life of the system.  They will be able to help guide us as well.  Planting or letting trees grow in the field is a no-no.  I just hope we don’t have to make it look like a manicured lawn.  We’re trying to minimize our impact and would like to minimize the amount of high maintenance lawn area.  I think a field of black-eyed susans or cone flowers would be awesome, but the government may have a different idea.  Long term (years from now) installing a “living machine” would be an intriguing option.  I saw one at Oberlin college and it’s pretty cool.  Living machine’s use plants and holding tanks to treat wastewater and sewage just like nature does (biomimicry essentially).  This would eliminate the need for a septic system (or rather is a type of septic system).  It would cost a lot but is a nice alternative to get back some of our real estate.  I could imagine a nice system in an outbuilding, maybe adjacent to a green house or something.
 
The water supply inspection has been put off, pending gutters being installed.  We need the entire collection system up and running, gutters are obviously a big part of that.
 
I’m getting grief from the gutter guys that we don’t have ice guards installed on the metal roof.  They’re guaranteeing that all my gutters will be ripped off by snow and ice sliding down, which is probably true.  I’m going to drag my heels because there are a fair number of options out on the market.  I need to research them and make a decision.  Then I have to talk to my roofing installer and see if they can install them.  Honestly, it’s nearly March and we haven’t had much snow this winter, with three weeks to go in Winter I don’t think we’re going to get anything substantial enough to destroy anything.  And if we make it that far then I’ll have all year to decide on something.  In fact if nothing meets my needs aesthetically and functionally, I could design a system myself and have it fabricated.  Maybe if it’s effective enough I could retire and sell ice guards.
 
Ok, that’s it for today folks.  Catch you next time.
 
-Chris

Christmas Vacation

Merry Christmas / Happy New Year.  I should be doing something productive house-wise but alas I’ve spent Christmas Vacation being a decidedly unproductive member of society.  Monday I, of course, had to spend the day playing with all the toys Santa brought me.  I at least stopped out at the house and changed some light bulbs.  Today I didn’t even make it down there.  In all fairness though I had the pleasure of watching our youngest whilst the mom / wife team member was out and about shopping.  Were I a good brother I’d have run down to the job site and helped to unload the cement board which will eventually become the foundation for all the tile and stone used inside the house.  And if I were a good homeowner I’d have installed 1/4″ fan board in all the knee wall spaces.  Alas I’m neither of those, nor am I a good whatever it is I am in relation to you….unless of course you’re my youngest boy, in which case I’m a pretty cool dad.  At least for a few hours today.

Things we’re accomplishing since we last blogged together…..let’s see.   We’re holding at about 60-70 degrees for inside temperature so trades are re-emerging on site.  My brother has been working out at the house this week.  First on the list is sanding down all of the OSB sub-flooring to level out the seams.  With the house being open for so long the sub-flooring started to lift at the seams.  The sub-floor needs to be relatively flat before the wood, tile and carpet can go down.  Failing to sand the seams will lead to creaky wood, cracked tile and carpet that wears un-evenly.  He used a simple hand-held belt sander; very loud so wear ear protection if you do it yourself.

Our Mercier hardwood flooring is getting acclimated to the house's environment. To be less harmful to our environment it's Greenguard Certified. This means it won't off gas harmful chemicals into our super tight house. It's also sustainably sourced.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tomorrow is drywall day 2.0.  We should have water online by 10am.  Until then I don’t know what they’ll do but the drywallers will be out there.  Within a few days we expect the interior walls to be mudded, taped and sanded.  Water will be necessary so they can mix their “mud” for the drywall.  Our septic system won’t be hooked up until the last-minute so any excess water, not used, will have to be routed to the sump pump or hauled out via a 5 gallon bucket.  The cistern should be electrified and able to pump water by early morning (as I said).  We had about 4,000 gallons of fresh water delivered today at a cost of $132.  Once the siding is done we can get gutters installed and stop paying for water.  Of course by then the world (at least our world) will be frozen so no water will flow down gutters.  I guarantee the first sub 20 degree day will be the day the gutters are finished.
 

Siding is almost done on main house. Awning over my studio is still missing. May be a Spring project I guess. Victim of dragging heels and cost overruns.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On the ordering front, we put in for our fireplace stone order today.  We’re going with a cultured Southern Ledgestone in an Aspen finish.  Stay tuned to see how that turns out and more details surrounding why we chose that.  We’re just stoning the fireplace for now, so it won’t be critical that we match the stone exactly when we go to do the exterior down the road. 
 
As far as picking out the rest of the lights and bathroom cabinets it’s been like an act of Congress.  Actually worse.  Just need to pick stuff out already.  In the craft room the electricians switched out the 4″ recessed boxes to now accept low voltage trims so I can order the articulating task lights we so desire.  Basically we’re down to just a handful of lights for the master bedroom and all the track lighting left to select.  Cabinet-wise we’ve found it nearly impossible to select a cheap $500 60″ white cabinet for the boys bathroom.  Picking out a divorce lawyer may be the simpler route but we’ll continue wading through the muck that is selecting finishes for our custom-house.  We’re gluttons for punishment.
 
I’ll keep you posted.  Should have more fun stuff to look at in the coming weeks.
 
I’ll leave you with some Christmas goodies that Santa brought the boys.  I thought they were nice designs, with some great packaging.
 

Go Car by Kid O Products. Simple design captures the essence of car-ness. Large handle makes it easy for little hands to race across wood floors, living room carpet and coffee tables. Packaging is 100% recycled paper. Car is BPA free molded plastic.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Automoblox once again capture the essence of the car shape to create a really fantastic toy design. The parts are interchangeable so the kids can use their imagination to create all kinds cards. Kinda pricey but well thought out and appear to be good quality. Wish they had this stuff when I was a kid.

Water, Water, Every Where

Nor any drop to drink.

One of the challenges of our lot, and we knew this going in, was that we’d have to rely on something other than city water or a well to provide all of our potable and non-potable water needs.  The irony is that you only need to walk our land after a rain storm to see how much surface water runs across our property (which we knew all about prior to buying as well).  We’re a fairly hardy lot so neither fact bothered us in the least.  We actually embrace both as they make our land and situation unique.  And frankly necessity is the mother of invention.

For our situation we’ll have a 10,000 gallon cistern and rain water collection system installed.  If our family of four is average we’ll use up to 70 gallons a day per person, or 280 per day for the household.  This works out to around 102,200 gallons a year.  Less if we conserve, more if I decide hanging out in the warm shower is more enjoyable than stepping out on the cold tile in the morning. 

We’ll have about 5,000 square feet of rain water collection area, give or take a couple hundred feet.  Every 1,000 sq. ft. of roof collects about 600 gallons for every inch of rainfall.  So our roof collects around 3,000 gallons every time it rains an inch.

Let’s see, not a math teacher but 102 divided by 3….carry the one…….we need 34″ of rain and melted snow equivalent to provide our family with water for a year.  I suppose more if we’re watering stuff, washing cars or running nude through sprinklers.  Akron, Ohio, the nearest large city near us gets about  38″ of annual rainfall / precipitation.  This year we’ve gotten 48″ of rain. 

So generally speaking we should have no problem with our water supply.  We predict the only times we’ll have to truck in water will be in the dead of Summer when it doesn’t rain and the dead of Winter when everything’s frozen.  Otherwise we should be right as rain. (pun intended).

I actually am looking forward to rain water as opposed to well water.  I don’t like the feel, smell, taste and stains that sometimes accompany well water.  Worst case scenario, we could drill for a well and have it slow feed the cistern.  We’re just not likely to get a well that will work for daily use.

Obviously city water would be nice. But the advantage of my system is that I’ll never get a water bill.  Yes there will be maintenance and I need chemicals to treat the water just like well water (or city water for that matter).  We’ll just be running our own water company on site.  Freedom and democracy at its best.  Air pollution is a concern but frankly I don’t think it’ll lead to any long-term ills.  Although you never know.  In that regard I’m at the mercy of which way the wind blows and what America is willing to put into its air.

We resolved the Western Red Cedar issue as best we could at this point.  As I noted previously, Cedar is a huge no no when it comes to rain water collection for potable purposes.  The natural oils and chemicals could pose a problem. On top of that if you’re using cedar shakes for your roof they’re treated with man-made chemicals which make them very toxic.  The State of Ohio Health Dept. won’t allow water collection on shake roofs.  What they don’t have on the books, yet, is cedar siding, namely on a dormer and how it affects water supply.  It’s something they’ll look into, quite possibly based on our inquiry.

Our house has cedar siding so we were concerned with run off getting onto the roof and into the water supply.  I checked with the lumber yard and verified the WRC is totally natural so we’re at least free of man-made toxins.  Alas though, Mother Nature does hate me because she makes sure cedar repels bugs through the use of her own toxins.

Long story short we’ve taken several prescriptive steps in short order.  The siding is going on as we speak.  1) We’re going to omit two gable end sections from our collection area, one isn’t critical and the other is a large dormer with lots of cedar on it.  The idea is that rain would beat onto the cedar and run down the laps onto the roof below. 2) We may make the cedar inert by painting or sealing it.  Down side here is we would compromise the look we’re going for; weathered grey.  3) Long term I can rip the cedar off and side the dormers and gables in galvalume metal.

Regardless, we’ll be fine.  If we all develop cancer or asthma then I’ll know why at least.

The cistern, downspouts and gutters should all be going in later this month.

Other than that, insulation is slowly going in.  Exterior insulation installation has slowed down, just as the finish line is in sight.  Not sure what’s going on there.  Also, this Friday we’ll have our second big tour, this time a local University will be sending a class out to take a look.  Last week we got a great welcome from our future neighbors.  I always enjoy showing off the house and sharing what we’re doing and what we’ve learned.

ProjectCam has a new memory card.  Tragedy of tragedies, the last card started lapping itself so I think I lost 200-400 frames.  Hopefully not much was going on at that time.  We’ll see.  This time of year, it’s dark by time I get out there.

Until next time, talk to you later.

-Chris

Autumn Road

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the new house is the drive up the driveway to the site in Autumn.  That alone is worth the price of admission. In just a few hundred feet the beauty of the valley encloses into a leaf lined country “road”, ultimately leading to our home, perfectly bookended by two stands of trees.  A day’s trials and tribulations give up their last gasp, having been worn down by a spirited charge down the valley’s wall and winding roads.  Leaves gently flutter earthbound through the glint of a lazy late season sun.  The crunch of gravel under tire is tempered by a week’s worth of leafy carpet laid down fresh.  Regardless of the temperature outside, one is virtually guilted into rolling down the window to catch the scent of Fall in the air.  Carbon cycling back to where it came from.

View of house with most of the metal roof in place. The charcoal grey color is great this time of year because it holds its own against the steely Autumn Ohio sky

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Most of the standing seam metal roof is now in place.  It has unified and slimmed the house considerably.  It does not look as expansive as anticipated.  The metal roof should last upwards of 40+ years and is fully recyclable when it does need to be replaced.  The gentle ripples between seams allow the metal to expand and contract, avoid oil canning and provide a gentle visual detail to add interest.  We’ve got nothing but compliments on the style and color. (pat on back, and a “thank you”, for the wife).
 
With the sun setting so early it’s impossible to get pictures of the inside.  Suffice to say, all the trades have roughed in the mechanical systems so we’ll be ready for insulation relatively soon.  The exterior insulation is being wrapped up as well.  After that we start finishing the exterior and interior with siding and drywall respectively.
 
Waste wise, we’ve employed our second waste container from Kurtz Brothers.  This time it’s a smaller one to handle the intermediate was being generated.  We should have one more container for end of project.  Maybe two.  Waste is something I wish I’d done a better job with but at least by using Kurtz Brothers, i’m assured that a lot of my waste is being recycled and made into other products.  This is better than randomly picking some everyday waste hauler; who knows where their waste ends up.
 
The interior framing is complete.  We’re making the kneewall areas our “line of defense” against air transmission, so we increased the roof thickness to 16″ by installing 2×4’s to match the interior ceiling plane.  This will give the roof an R-60 value throughout, saving a lot of energy and resources that can be used for something better than heating and cooling our house.  We also framed in transoms above the interior doors to allow for evening privacy AND air flow between rooms.
 
Fortunately the weather has been pretty good lately.  This is an encouraging change as we finish closing in the house.
 
Pretty soon I’ll have to go outside, or open a window, to get in the Autumn mood.  Maybe go for a walk down the drive.