SO, we're cleaning. Things are getting there slowly, but it'll probably be to the point of the massive "load the tools back into the basement" step by mid-week. Once that's done and the windows have met with their annual plastic, I'll probably be ending up with a 18" aluminum christmas tree and a can of spray pine scent. (Just kidding, I'm thinking anything short of an 8' real tree would look cheesy in my living room.) She's already bought the decorations, and has been working on me for a week.
In other news, today was the Troy Victorian Stroll. While wandering around downtown Troy admiring the decorations, the various actors (Victorian labor movement protestors and a really amazing Father Christmas), and the food, we spotted something with signs up for a "Spring 2006 Grand Opening" that is actually applicable to this - Poulin & Sons, Inc. full service ornamental plastering. http://www.poulinsons.com for those who are interested. WOW.
Oh, the Victorian Stroll is one of the reasons to actually want to live in Troy, NY.
Yesterday was a bit of a shopping trip. John, Amanda, and I went on a trip around all of the fabric stores in the area (that we knew about) looking for curtain makings. I've got linings for the dining room, living room, and study, along with fabric for the dining room and study. The stuff for the living room will be in next week, they were out of the color I wanted.
In better news, I'll probably have heat to my bedroom either tonight or tomorrow. I got it mostly dry-fit last night, so it'll be fairly quick going once I break out the torch.
I picked up a stack of clearance sweatshirts to keep in the living room for guests to use. I expect we're going to keep the heat turned down quite a bit to try and save money. I also picked up a totally high-tech programmable thermostat to replace the practically new non-programmable thing I bought last year. This one is energy star rated and does things like figure out the thermal inertia of the system. It'll also let us turn down the heat automatically when no one's home or everyone is asleep. I expect it to pay for itself in the first two months at most.
On the other hand, I left enough air in a few radiators that they can act as expansion tanks and turned the blasted thing on. I have heat on the first floor.
Other problems have left me in not such a great position. The automatic air purger didn't survive this experience - it's a float in a sealed box, and when enough air gets in to the box the float drops enough to open a valve in the top to let the air out. It's designed for the float to be supported by water nearly all of the time - 6 months with no support and now the valve doesn't quite close. Changed from being an air vent to a very effective water vent. Damn.
Also, it appears that the valve on one end of the expansion tank is dead, and the threads at the other end (toward the furnace) are crunchy such that they won't seal. Tomorrow's project: buy a new air purger, pressure tank, and appropriate pieces.
Sunday ended up being 4 hours of useful time rather than the 8 to 10 I was hoping for. Got the first floor south zone extended a bit, and a bunch of work in on connecting it to the radiators in the dining room and kitchen. Today I attached that pile of parts I made Sunday and started working on the second radiator in each of the kitchen and dining room. The plumbing of that zone will almost certainly be done tomorrow night, I expect it is about 2 hours of work.
New pictures in the basement
Today I got all of the zones in the south side of the house over in to the south side of the house. I don't expect I'll be getting anything useful done tomorrow, but on Sunday I may be able to complete the 1st floor south side zone, potentially giving me heat on the entire first floor.
The only second floor zone that's done is Justin's room (3), as it was *easy*. The rest are a lot more involved, and thus are being brought close and left until I'm ready to handle the PITA part of connecting the new copper runs to the old cast iron risers.
Today was more progress, and more finding of stuff I need to buy. I've got 5 of the 9 pipes in the bundle worked over the main beam and on to the next part of the house. The foyer radiator under the bench is done. Most of the run to 3 is done, since that's also in the center part of the house. As soon as I get a coupler without stops (so it can totally slide on to a pipe) I'll be cutting in to the main water line to hook the furnace in. Then all the remaining 6 pipes will head in to the laundry room. I expect some of this will happen tomorrow, and all the rest of that will be Wednesday.
I've run out of 1" elbows and a few other pieces, so several things will have to wait until I make it to Johnstone again. At least my shopping list is shorter each time I go.
New pictures here
The only part left to be attached to the first zone is the boiler drain, and that's screw-in. Everything from the furnace to the furthest radiator is attached permanently.
I also started working on all the rest of the zones at once. Now that I know how some of the parts need to fit together, I could work on getting all the valves, drains, etc. for the other 6 zones going at once. I have pictures, but they're going to wait until I get back 'cause they take too long to suck off the camera.
However, over the 10+ hours of work today, I got the entire zone sweated together that I've spent the rest of the week building. All that's missing is the connection from the zone to the manifolds, but even that piece is made and sweated together. I'm in the process of sweating the manifolds to the furnace, then the whole thing will be completely done. Also, it turns out that while 1/2" boiler drains can take 1/2" pipe as a sweat fitting AND 1/2" thread as well, 3/4" boiler drains take 3/4" thread and 5/8" sweat. I was assuming that 3/4" drains would have the same characteristics as 1/2", so I didn't need anything else to make it work. So tomorrow I go buy more parts.
The one nice thing about where things stand - I've been working on one of the two most complicated zones. The other is the other half of the first floor. The other *5* heating zones are each going to be: furnace -> valve -> (maybe a drain) -> connection to piping to the second floor. Those will be *much* simpler and faster to put together. However, I think we're going to end up a bit... cold before I get this done. Damn.
First, the one non-plumbing thing. While up on a ladder working on plumbing today, I looked over at the main beam I've been trying to jack stuff off of and noticed that it had lifted off the column under its end. Great, progress! Wait... it isn't touching either the column under the end, or the column under the middle. So it's supported only at the end at the wall? That's just not possible. On further examination, I discovered that everything around that beam is nailed together - the lap joint between it and the next piece of main beam has nails all over the place and each of the beams I'm jacking up is toe-nailed in. But the beams are lifted enough, except right over the lap joint - I'll just give the end a couple cranks and I'm done jacking up the bathrooms. This, however, is currently NOT the priority until the heating system is put back together.
The first zone (north side of the 1st floor) is largely dry-fitted together. I'm missing 2 fittings due to a last-second design change (the plumbing is MUCH cleaner than it would have been) and couldn't do the piece between one of the trunk pipes and the manifold on the furnace until the manifold was done, so that's probably 15 minutes to finish both up. The radiator in the study is completely attached and sweated in to place. The first radiator in the living room is partially sweated in. It's starting to look like something real, finally.
I was also starting to look at how to attach the new zones to the upstairs, and am less and less happy with what is going to be involved. I wish I could just rip out all of the cast iron going to the bedrooms, but it's just not going to happen until I rip out the floors upstairs... and I have no plans to do that. However, I *can* rip out the runs up to 1 and 2, and am seriously debating doing just that. It would greatly simplify things around those rooms...
Tomorrow's plan - after caffeine, go to Johnstone and spend more money, then finish the first zone except for the connections to the manifolds - just dry-fit those. I'm figuring the manifold connections will be the very last things done, as I want the flexibility in the system while I'm still dealing with things.
Nearly everything I accomplished after yesterday's update masquerades as making no progress. Except that it very much was. I spent nearly four hours just sweating joints together. Nothing really looks different, it's just permanent. Unfortunately, that means that no additional radiators were attached, and no more trunk line was placed. Very frustrating.
Pictures: Living Room and Basement
One of the manifolds is sweated together, the other is not at all. I've got some of the 1" trunk for the north side of the house, 1st floor in, and the radiator in the study is dry fitted in to the trunk. At some point I'm going to have to go back and start sweating things together, and I'm really not looking forward to that.
Pictures later today, I'm not done for the day yet.
Also, I was at Home Depot today (new pipe cutter for 1.5" pipe) and priced a full layer of R38 insulation to fit into the attic. 1600 sq. ft. will cost me around $1200. Ow. I wonder how long it will take to pay for itself. I'm guessing it's measured in months, not years.
And another problem - my concepts of how to put the heating system back together, specifically right at the furnace itself, are proving... difficult to translate into copper. I covered 95% of the system design before buying all the parts, and I guess I convinced myself that I'd covered that last 5% as well. Now I'm staring at a furnace, a few bits of pipe, the wrong set of fittings, and realizing that I'm missing quite a bit to make it work. I'm *really* glad I started working on this NOW, rather than waiting until the week off I'm taking just for this purpose. I'll be heading to Johnstone some time this week to order more parts. Fortunately, it appears I only bought 2 fittings that are actually *wrong*, so I didn't waste much money. I'll even try to return them.
Another epiphany - I haven't had the furnace cleaned or tuned since I bought the house. I wonder how much of an efficiency boost I'll get when I get it all back together, then have it cleaned.
However, in the interests of not freezing our posteriors off this winter, I've begun the exciting project of putting the heating system back together. Nothing too exciting yet, just working on running new pipes from the radiators down through the floor so I can hook things together later. Actually, more of just getting the parts together, sorted out, and some bits of pipe cut. Nothing is actually sweated together yet, I figure that'll be more efficient if I get everything prepped and have a maraton day playing with fire. Pictures of the plumbing project at: Living Room, Study, Kitchen, and Foyer.
Thanks to Hurricaine Katrina, natural gas prices jumped 20% for a short while today, prompting me to think more than usual about heating costs for this coming winter. I think it is safe to say that I'm going to see the second 30% cost/CCF increase in a row. Last year I managed to seal up the house well enough to practically offset that, and I kept the Ni-Mo bills to within 5% of last year. I don't think that's possible to do again. I am currently setting aside all of my spending money in November for fabric and insulation to make curtains for the entire house. I expect there will be more money than needed for that, so caulking and insulation will follow. This is gonna hurt.
Update on jacking up the house - Justin noticed today that above the center post the main beam is lifting off the pillar, rather than the cross beams lifting off the main beam. I'm a lot closer to where I need to be than I thought I was.
I *just* figured out how to do this. I'm going to have a shutoff valve for each zone, and a drain to go with it. If I need to remove a radiator, I don't need to drain the entire system, just the zone. Also, the drain valves will be above head height in the basement, and the drain into the sewer is at about 4' off the floor, so it'll drain much more effectively than the valve off the bottom of the boiler (4" off the floor) does now.
They did the warrantee repairs on the two leaks in my roof, and gave me a bunch of advice that probably won't get their company any money at all. Even if it did, these guys were just roofers, not company sales/owners/etc at all so it's not like they were hard-sell pitching themselves. I'm looking at skylights right now to replace the windows at the top of the servants' stair, because one of the leaks was in the sill of that window. Yuck.
I also bought a gigantic A/C, it will be going into the living room front window and will cool off the Living Room AND the Study.
Now I could put the heating system back in tomorrow. Parts of it were in the way under the bathrooms no matter what, so getting rid of them is a good thing. But there is no longer a need for me to be able to pull the furnace out of the way. I simply can't put the beams in from that side. The original plan was to lift the new beams (14' long) under the north part of the house (14'3" wall to main beam) and slide them in to place under the middle of the house (10' wide, main beam to main beam). Since that can't happen, I was stuck.
New plan - I need to replace one of the main beams anyway, so instead of jacking up the whole swath of beams with a couple jacks to pull the main beam out, I will jack each and every one of them separately. Once the main beam is out, there is nothing in the way of just lifting the new beams into place, supporting them just so they don't fall on our heads, and putting the new main beam into place under them.
Problem with the new plan - I refuse to jack this end of the house up anywhere near that much with the concrete slab on the second floor just waiting to drop on my head. So I need to rip out the second floor bathroom in order to even start on this. I'll also need something like 14 jacks, at $35 each. I currently have 5, I think. They'll be useful again - when I'm working on the porch. And probably after the beams are in and I'm putting in the new floor beams for the second floor bathroom - those beams are pretty well shot, too.
In other news, I dealt with the electrical for the kitchen that used to run under the bathrooms. It's horribly ugly, but differently ugly than it used to be. And not in the way.
So why am I overwhelmed? Only 1 of the 7 beams that I need to replace isn't physically blocked by something. One is blocked on both sides by a chimney, so I simply can't replace it - I can't get the new one in. The next 3 are all blocked on the north side (where I've been expecting to get the new beams in from) by a cross beam that I uncovered when taking down the sheetrock. Not a brace between two beams, an actual crossbeam right at the edge of the chimney. The next one is clear, but only barely. The next 2 are blocked by the main gas line cutting from one end of the house to the other. From the other side (over the laundry room), a couple more are clear, but that's if I count having to rip out the water heaters as "clear". There's water lines, gas lines, electrical runs (both normal circuits and the subpanel feed to the second floor), and even the exhaust vent from the water heaters. I need to get these replaced, and I just don't see how...
And I got woken up this morning by someone coming by and taking the last of the pile of pipes, so I don't even need to deal with getting the city to take them away.
All the pipe is gone, the heating system is gutted. See the pictures of the Basement. Also according to my expectations, a couple guys came by and took the pile of pipe we were leaving on the sidewalk for the scrap value (last I checked, on the order of $1.50/100 lbs) so I don't even have much of a mountain out there now.
Yesterday was very simple. Cut pipe, haul it out, lather, rinse, repeat. There is nearly no pipe left under the center of the house, or the south section. One of 4 long runs under the north section is on the floor, but needs to be cut up in order to get it out of the house. There's only one run left attached to the furnace - pulling the furnace out completely will involve disconnecting gas and the pressure tank. We even pulled the vent yesterday in order to not drop a hundred pounds of cast iron on it.
On a very related note, whoever installed this in the first place (the current furnace, not the cast iron pipes) did a horrible job. Leaking joints everywhere, slowly corroding their way into oblivion. The vent going in to the chimney was held in by a small pile of loose brick and stone bits, slopped over with improperly applied mortar patching stuff. The whole thing just fell out in my hands. I guess I'm learning masonry, too...
New pictures of just the Basement.
There are no cast iron pipes sticking up onto the first floor any more, except where they are still en route to the second floor. Only two radiators on the first floor are still connected to anything, because those are ones I replumbed last year and haven't gotten to disconnecting yet. I'm more worried about the other ones, anyway.
I'm going through Sawz-all blades as though they come dipped in chocolate. I actually got one to last until it was dull today, and in the first 30 seconds of the new blade turned it into a pretzel. Damn.
I'm gonna be really tired of chili by the end of the week. I made a gallon and a half of it yesterday, and meals are filling, fast, good, and a bit repetitive.
A day in pictures: Kitchen, and Basement.
Pictures of the wreckage: Living Room, Study, 1st Floor Full Bathroom, 1st Floor Half Bathroom, and the Basement. The Living Room Pictures includes the explanation of the "pools lying in wait" comment.
I'm also now draining the heating system. I turned the furnace completely off for the first time (last year I left the pilot light going) so I'll have to find out in the fall just how much of a PITA getting the pilot going again is going to be. I'm expecting to actually have to disconnect the furnace from the gas lines and move it out of the way to get the beams into place, so I'm prepping for that eventuality.
Yes, I said sheetrock. I was convinced by the folks at Top Tile that the right stuff to put behind the wall tiles is bathroom grade sheetrock, rather than cement board. If the walls flex enough that it pops tiles (the usual reason to use cement board), the cement board would just break. But you need something that's water resistant, so plywood won't cut it. I haven't figured out whether I'll do plaster where it's exposed, but I'm definitely doing sheetrock behind the tiles.
My project for this week is to completely rip out the heating system and get the new beams into position, at least ready to be installed if not actually sitting on the house's main beam. We'll see. If the weather decides to cooperate and the heating system doesn't take TOO long I'm going to see about going up the front of the house to poke at the bay window... now that I have enough scaffolding to get all the way up to the roof.
I also still need: plywood sub-floor, copper pipe for plumbing, a sink for upstairs and the vanity for it to go in, medicine cabinet for same, medicine cabinet for downstairs full, just a mirror for the downstairs half, lots of lighting type stuff, and a plumber to handle the drains. And probably a bunch more stuff I'm forgetting still. It's turning out that my most recent cost estimate is at least three thousand dollars low. Not the end of the world, but ouch.
I got an email back from Danze, the people who make the fixtures I've been getting. "There are no plans to add a 2 or 3 handle shower set to the Opulence product line." However, it turned out there was a similar product line that included a 2 handle shower set that looks right, so I've got 2 of those. The handle style is a little different, but close enough. The faucets in that line are a combination of cool handles and post-modern spigots, so that's why I didn't go that route for the whole thing. The woman I dealt with at Curtis was very helpful, and helped me find these shower sets very quickly. I described what I wanted, and she just started ticking off manufacturers - "Delta won't have anything, Moen doesn't either, (someone whose name I don't remember) would look right, but you don't want them - they're crap..." until we came across this. It's all good now.
I've also spec'd out the shower stalls (preformed things that go behind the tile to slope all the parts correctly) and the heaters. I still need to figure out the rest of the tile - I haven't ordered any of the little squares for the floors, and haven't figured out any of the "trim" pieces. (Primarily for the tops and bottoms of the walls.) I also forgot that when you tile a shower, you don't stop at 4' up the walls like I'm planning to do everywhere else, and on one wall of the shower it's tiled both inside AND outside... so I significantly under-ordered the subway tiles. That'll be another couple hundred bucks... and another couple hundred pounds in the dining room entrance.
I put in for the week before Memorial Day off from work... that's when I'll be ripping out the heating system.
Why is it good to reduce the volume, you ask? If the furnace needs to heat 100 gallons of water in order to heat the house 1 degree (generally what the thermostat is asking for) it starts pumping heat in. By the time that heat actually reaches the thermostat so it stops calling for more, it's pumped in enough to raise the house 3 degrees and we overshoot. Now if I remove 50 gallons, it will take less time to get heat to the thermostat (less water in the system to heat, less time for it to circulate to radiators, etc). and thus overshoot less.
Other advantages - I'm going to prep the house for multiple loops. The downstairs will be one big loop, just because of layout. The bathrooms will all be separate (electric in-floor, actually). The bedrooms upstairs will hopefully each have their own loop, but I'm thinking there are some rooms that will end up in pairs (4+5, 6+7) because of how they're plumbed. The sooner I can get all of THAT working, the better - I'm tired of my bedroom being 80 in the winter because the heat is on for the downstairs, and I'm getting morning sun, heat from downstairs, AND heat from my radiator.
Oh, the other advantage of the place I found that'll sell me the pipe and fittings in the right sizes? They're 2 blocks from my house, right next to the onramp for the Rte 7 bridge.
Second, I picked up the subway tile for the walls - all 26 boxes, at 35 lbs each makes for an additional half ton of ballast in the doorway to the dining room. That got me an additional 1/2-3/4 of a turn out of each of the jacks.
Then today I went and ordered the bulk white wall tile. Until I figure out exactly what colors I'm using I can't get any of the trim tiles, but I'm just slowly accumulating all the tiles for all three bathrooms. So I've now got 325 square feet of "subway tile" coming.
I *have* gotten a couple turns out of the jacks under the dining room, slowly getting the house back onto it's supports there. I also finally got the tiles I ordered back in December and added them (~300 lbs) to the pile of weight over that spot. I've got a couple pictures of the pile and the one sheet of tiles we put out in the bathroom upstairs to look at.
Tonight I popped the top off the post at the bottom of my stairs, just to see what was in there. Turned out to be a few sections of newspaper from the early '50s, for no apparent reason. Also, a small placque that reads: "Expect a Miracle", from Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association. I figure none of it needs to go back in there, and I need to come up with something interesting. Maybe my mortgage, rather than burning it. Obviously, when it's paid off.
2004 Archived Commentary
2003 Archived Commentary