Monday, October 15, 2007

Shiny side up

We were encouraged by how easily the foil insulation went up in the basement. Encouraged, you might say, and even energized. Seized by an obsession, even, you might say. I'm speaking for myself here. I got the idea that we'd get all that foil up by the end of Saturday and I was not about to be deterred.

This meant Friday night we'd attack the middle crawlspace. We dragged the big roll of foil in there along with scissors, tape measure, and stapler. As John said, it was kind of like Christmas in there--except instead of pine scent and candles and hot cider and presents, we have rocks and black plastic and mold and rat nests (yeah, still: bundles of pink insulation mounded in a few corners). Yep, just like Christmas. We went all the way in and worked our way back out. We'd measure, John would roll out the foil, I'd cut, and we'd get ourselves on either end of a joist bay and staple cooperatively. It took about 3 hours.

Saturday morning we went to the farmers market, which we haven't done in a few weeks. It was the last one of the season so we (well, I) went a little nuts buying apple butter, goat cheese, and a whole bucket of apples. We almost got talked into buying a bushel! Our friends the Avagyans said they wanted to come over after the market and see our progress on the house, so we hustled home to clean up. With the house guest-ready (why do we worry so much about this when we don't even have ceilings?), we thought we'd get something really nasty out of the way: killing the mold we'd discovered on the floor joists under the bathroom.

We are believers in white vinegar as a mold-killer, and even if we were bleach enthusiasts, it would be way stupid to go into the smallest, least ventilated part of the crawlspace and spray bleach all over the place. So we filled a couple of spray bottles with vinegar and crawled back in there with sponges and rags. The mold actually looked a little less vigorous than last time we looked -- maybe because it's been so dry around here. (Our creek is completely dry.) But we gave all the joists a good soaking nonetheless. Vinegar mist burns your eyes. I felt a little ill by the time we came out. With a little more time to kill, we worked on blocking between the ceiling joists over one of our beams--just cutting and knocking them in. This will keep the joists from shifting side-to-side and distribute the weight of the roof and ceilings more evenly over the beam. We shimmed too because many of the ceiling joists actually weren't resting on the beam! Must be magic.

After our friends had come and gone, it was 1pm. I was still holding out for finishing the foil that day. We knocked out the living room and then the dining room, cutting long pieces that spanned the entire room. Next up: rear crawlspace. We contemplated how tough it would be to cut pieces off the roll while laying down in there, with nowhere to lay it flat. Instead we'd go in and measure for a bunch of pieces, cut them outside and drag them back in for stapling.

Foil factory! Measure, measure, measure. John kept notes on a little piece of cardboard. There are lots of little bays under the bathroom because of our over-engineered floor frame; we measured up to the old chimney, about a third of the rear crawlspace. Wiggled back out and set to work a-cuttin' on the concrete pad behind the house. 15 or so pieces, cut, folded, numbered and stacked. Back in the crawl with the tools. Stapled them up, then measured the rest of the bays from the chimney all the way to the entrance. 21 more pieces. We had a good rhythm going and the cut-all-at-once strategy is definitely a big time-saver. (Someone should tell the captains of industry about this!)

Done before dark! Just two upstairs rooms left: our bedroom and the tool room, which had become a complete disaster. No way we could get ladders in there and move around; you could barely even walk. While John put in some last-minute transfer plates over the closets between the bedroom and tool room (we'd skipped those spots before because they're so hard to reach, and he bloodied his knuckles getting them in now), I scurried around cleaning out the tool room.

Tool room. Measure, cut, staple. Those scissors had walked a long, long way over the roll of shiny foil. We were getting tired and couldn't seem to remember that the shiny side of the paper goes up, next to the tubing; kept feeding it over the braces upside-down. We had a role-reversal here--usually I'm getting cranky toward the end of the night and John has to keep me going, but this time he was just getting quieter and quieter while I kept buzzing around like a maniac. Bedroom! We realized that our supply manifold for the attic heat zone travels through here and should be wrapped in insulation before we put foil wrap over that bay. This was not a task we could face at 8:30 on Saturday night, so we decided just to skip that one bay for now. That left 6 bays. We knocked 'em right out, only showering a little debris onto our bed in the process. Moved everything back into the tool room. Took showers. Made risotto and salad. Ate and descended into a comatose state. G'night.

I think I wore John plum out that day, but it's really awesome that one phase, at least, of this *&!#@ heat system installation did not drag on for weeks. We showed that foil who's boss! The funny thing is we both felt kind of sad about covering up the orange tubing and heat plates that we worked so hard on, and have been gazing at since August.

I'm sure we'll get over it.

- Erika

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