Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Weekend with Mom

After a Thursday off for a work party, we temporarily went our separate ways: John took off for Connecticut and I got ready to welcome my mom for the last of many weekends she's given us during her summer vacation this year. She waved outside my office window at around 5, and we had a little glass of wine and some bites at a downtown place before heading back to the house.

Now, I'd been hoping that she and I could work on running the rest of the attic pex. With all the time John and I had spent running pex, I felt like I understood the task thoroughly and it would certainly keep moving us forward even with him going out of town. I figured Mom and I would try it and, if it stumped us for some reason, we could work on something else, like turning that horse fence into a porch railing. The box of extra pex John had ordered was on the porch when we got home, which seemed like an omen.

Mom was game to try it. Saturday morning, after the requisite market visit and some breakfast, we went into the bedroom and stared up at the ceiling, where John and I had run most of the first attic circuit last week. It didn't take long to explain the basic principles: three runs per bay, always use two hands when passing pex through a joist, let it loop out big into the room so it doesn't twist. I put myself on coil duty. Mom requested an open window in the tool room so I razored away the new paint job outside that was keeping it closed.

And we did just fine! Ran the rest of the first circuit in under an hour. At first it was strange to do a familiar task with another person, but we quickly found our own rhythm with it. After finishing the first, we started on the second. This also went quite smoothly. Mom showed both patience and a knack for spreading out and un-twisting the pex; we started bringing the big loops way out into the kitchen or living room to let them relax before feeding them on through. "This is fun!" she said, after we'd really gotten the hang of it. We "finished" the second circuit by late afternoon -- I say "finished" because one small problem emerged with the map John and I had drawn, so we left the very last run incomplete. It'll be a 10-minute job to patch that up.

We felt very satisfied with ourselves and spent the rest of the day taking a little drive up to Wintergreen and eating fresh tomatoes, goat cheese and basil from the market. A great day! Being able to do the dishes the same day I ate from them, then reading for a while, felt like a vacation to me. But I had a premonition too: All evening, in my mind, I was rolling out twists in pex tubing.

Sunday, our intention was to run the entire third circuit before Mom would have to leave at 2. Ambitious but reasonable, and we did get an early start. However, something was missing--namely, coffee. I'd run out of beans the day before. We did have some tea, but well, you know.

It turns out that running pex without having had any coffee is a very bad idea. At least that's my theory as to why this circuit behaved so terribly. I was feeding from the coil again and the tubing was entering the first run in some very distressing twists. These persisted through all the subsequent runs, even though we kept trying to pull the big loops out into the kitchen to let them relax like we'd done the day before. Another theory might just be that pex is a mystical creature which defies any attempt to understand it. Recall John saying a week earlier, "I felt like I was over-thinking how to feed from the coil and thus we seemed to be experiencing more twisting in the runs than ever." Yep, I hear that! The more you think you know, the worse it goes.

We kept working at it, up to the midpoint of the circuit where I wanted to put a splice anyway, but it just didn't seem right. Once we got there, and I cut the coil off, we tried to work some of those twists through to the now-free end, but it just got worse. I was feeling like a dunce. By this point it was 12:30, we were both plenty frustrated, and we needed to stop so Mom could get ready to leave.

A tough note to end on, but the weekend was still way more productive than I would have been on my own. John, the coil expert, will be able to help me sort this out, I'm sure. Mom has really put in some long days at our house this spring and summer. Thanks, Mom! You're the best.

- Erika

1 comment:

yizzung said...

Hello there, Erika and John. I stumbled upon your blog while searching for information on radiant floor heating.... And now I'm hooked!

My wife and I are purchasing a 1906 Victorian and are soon to be knee-deep in a lot of similar projects. This is our second go-round, but this one needs much more work than our last home.

I'm actually planning to document my renovation in the blogosphere too, so I'll shoot you a link when it's officially begun. In the meantime, here's a photo of the "before":

We're are not builders or architects, and this project of ours won't be our "day job" either. So, I can appreciate all the hard work you're doing...