Friday, March 16, 2007

This is Working Too

When you spend a lot of time reading accounts of amateur builders' mistakes, it freaks you out and can rattle your confidence. When you follow Internet forums that are packed tightly with experts and then make the mistake of digging even deeper (for example, into a forum where actual building inspectors hash out the details of an acceptable/unacceptable light switch), it might even drive you close to the edge. Sometimes all of a sudden, the reference books you own seem too basic. You wish you didn't have that extra afternoon cup of coffee.

We arrived at the house feeling a little bit uncertain. The mission was fairly light - finish digging out the section of crawlspace, make a few observations about wiring paths, and work out exactly what items should be on the task list for the weekend. We also wanted to quit early enough to leave time for laundry and an extra hour of sleep (ah, seven hours of sleep feels much better than six).

The garbage pail was filled with dirt from the final round of shoveling the night before. We had simply run out of strength to empty it. Erika made short work of the remaining shoveling while I examined the routing of the old wiring that was never switched out of the house. There's not much of the old stuff, but there are several receptacles that need to be updated, and we'd like to add several more. It would be nice to have the studio on its own circuit, too.

Energy was low. Nerves were a little tight. We had hit our first stopping point. The bathroom plumbing simply needs redone. The soil stack needs to be replaced, a venting configuration for the sink needs to be figured. The existing drain pipe from the tub is 1.5" and should be 2". Will the toilet be too close for code approval given the current configuration? How are we going to line up this drain again once we swap out the old iron for PVC? How can we rough in the plumbing if we don't know where the sink is going to go? Light fixtures? Where is this wall going to run, exactly? Oh my.

We stepped back and thought things through a bit. A sink against the outer wall, as opposed to the corner, will give us more counter space. We want the wall to end at that stud. I tried to keep from staring down into the plumbing and twisting my lips in contemplation.

Took a stroll into what will be the temporary bedroom and gazed up at the ceiling. Haha, I mean, into the attic. There should at least be a ceiling in this room if we're going to sleep in it. But before we can put a ceiling in we need to add joists up there to support what will be a master bed in the attic and we'll need to run and insulate the radiant tubing under the attic floor for the upstairs zone, which means we'll need to layout the radiant system and determine where the hydronic line will enter the house - which means we need to dig the trench - and determine where the outdoor furnace will go. The house as a system. It's all tied together. We can't even think about something as simple as putting up a ceiling in a bedroom without first knowing where the furnace is going to go. Can you believe that all this even led to making a decision not to use stone on the floor of the kitchen? Trust me when I tell you that it all comes back to needing a ceiling on this bedroom before our lease is up back at the farm.

But this is working, too (titula'!). I was about to type something like, now we transition from hard physical labor to skill and systems design, but then I remembered Erika telling me that while I work on the plumbing with my Dad this weekend, she might head back into the crawl space to pry away the original wood forms from the foundation and chimney.

Perfect timing that my parents are coming to help us this weekend. They have experience with this stuff and don't seem too worried about our plumbing or electrical issues. We tried to relax and leave it at that. We gave some thought to what needs to be done next and tried to feel good about knowing we should have more answers the next day.

Rain drops were tapping the metal roof. "Our first rain," Erika said. It felt nice to hear these sounds in the house for the first time. And, I was able to spot where the roof is leaking from.

- John

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