Well, I’m glad I did some yoga.

I’m not good at it, but I enjoy yoga. It works fairly well for me, for setting me into a better frame of mind to face the day. I have, on and off, for years, been doing bits of Yoga with Adriene which I find not too woo-ey, and she offers many variations for those of us who are… shall we say, less flexible. And I’m glad that I did some today, because it was one of those days just filled with a myriad of minor irritations.

I got over to the house and realised I’d forgotten my rain jacket. I realised this because it promptly started raining. Since my plan for the day was to try and reduce the enormous pile of bits of our poor tree that came off during the storm down to something more manageable, then run it to the tip, this was somewhat of an irritation.

Instead I spent some time putting up insulation – which was a productive experience, and means less of the itchy to handle later. It also means that for the first time, you can see our bedroom-door-wall. Which is interesting.

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Anyhow, the rain stopped, so out I went and gradually reduced our pile of wood down to some faintly useful burnable bits (which will sit and season, slowly)… It took quite a while but eventually it was whittled (or sawn) down to wood that should work fairly well in a stove, and many many twiggy bits.

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So I called up my father in law and arranged to go borrow their truck. At which point I realised I’d not brought the keys. Never mind, I thought, I’ll grab lunch – and money to pay our arbourist who’s going to come and trim the rest of the broken bits off the tree…. and I can grab the keys at the same time.

So I pootled off, stopped to get lunch and realised I’d brought a random dirty cup with me, not the clean cup for coffee I’d planned. Still they rinsed it out… but the lid was a bit suspect for just rinsing.

And then I popped and got the keys, collected the garage opener, and drove back to my father-in-law’s house, where I discovered battery was flat on truck. Feh.

So I pootled back to the house via BOB and removed some of the waste from inside to outside. Which felt good. Paid the arborist who’s made our tree look less like a storm battered pile of spinters (and who kindly agreed to take away the rest of the twiglet pile), and then headed home. Not the most productive day, but still more positive than it could have been…

My queendom for a flange

Well, not really.

But if you heard an anguished wail from the general direction of Olympia at about 2 o’clock today, that was me. See, it’s been so long since I’ve driven her, that you may not remember I have a Morris Minor. I’ve been planning to convert her to electric for about 4 years now.

But I’ve not had her on the road <em>at all</em> for…lord knows how long. There was a brief, <em>brief</em> period when we first moved to the US when she was running. And then… it all went wrong.

The very brief summary is that the brand new differential failed. The one rebuilt and inserted just before we moved to the US. The one that I got maybe 1000 miles out of, perhaps, before it disintegrated.

Eventually after much back and forth with the company who rebuilt it for the company that restored her, it turned out they decided not to honour any kind of warranty on it, and I ended up carrying it back in my luggage to the UK. Then I popped it in the mail back to JLH, who’d rebuilt the car and sent the diff off to their favoured specialists (the ones who were now declining any kind of liability because it was >6 months since it was rebuilt. The fact it’d spent 3 of those months in a shipping container not moving seemed not to interest them). He found someone else to look at the diff who proclaimed it beyond salvage. Then we found a replacement diff which was (again) rebuilt – this time to a much higher standard (we hope).

It was shipped to the US – where… we found they’d installed the wrong flange on it. It wouldn’t mate to the propshaft (driveshaft) that was with the car.

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Cue a year of struggle by the lovely folks at the garage where it’s sat having missed connections with JLH, and trying local people to find a solution. But it’s tricky, because the car has a back axle from a modified Ford Escort, and a Type 9 Ford gearbox all made bespoke for JLH.

And after a year the garage called and said ‘we pretty much give in’. So then I took the measurements, and I called Jonathon, and I sent e-mails, and I got what we all thought would be the parts ordered.

Only someone, somewhere fucked up. And what they sent is the same bloody flange we’ve already got:

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At the moment I’m $360 down, and no further along.

I e-mailed Jonathon and he got right back to me with a “oh, no… I’ll come up with a plan” e-mail. But at the moment I’m super frustrated. Probably not as frustrated as the guys who’ve had my car sat in their garage for a year, but still, super frustrated. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some good news.

2 steps forward, 2 steps back

Having struggled to the house through the snowpocolypse a couple of times, in true PNW style, it’s rained and the snow is mostly gone. What’s left is a reminder of just how filthy internal combustion engine vehicles are, with a layer of dirty soot covering the white frozen remnants at the side of the road.

Our trips to the house have yielded some significant progress on some of the most complex bits of plasterboard in the house. Unlike most builders we have not simply cut a hole in the roof with a tube down to the ceiling. Oh no. That would be faaaar too simple. No, ours is a funky shape with the ceiling the bare minimum thickness that’ll allow us to keep the R-48 requirement betwixt ceiling and underside of the roof vents. It slopes back at a not-quite horizontal angle (why would you want horizontal), and allows light to flood into the corridor. At least, that’s the theory.

It also carries the ‘letterbox opening’ theme which we’ve carried around the house from the front windows to some of the storage… There’s architecture hiding in our little box. At least, in our heads, there is.

Anyhow, so we’ve completed one of them and the other is about half done.

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There’s some finessing to do with a rasp along the edge, but otherwise it’s looking pretty nifty

The really nice thing about this is how much we have come to like the place we’re building. Both of us have separately commented on how we enjoy the light, and the space, and the general feel of the building. The time we’ve spent finiking with the design has made a place we both enjoy being in. When we’re not itching from the exposed glassfibre / mineral wool.

We’ve switched from skylights back to doing bedrooms, though, because having started with, we thought, 4 extra boards we’re now down to the wire on boards. More so after our frankly disastrous day today.

See, we had the board cut. So we thought. We’d cut it back at the beginning of this odyssey, when we first discovered the lift wouldn’t reach the ceiling. We had, however, put up the thin strip up that it’s meant to mate against. At least, so we thought.

Cue the struggle that is getting a near 12′, 60kg, floppy and fragile board onto a lift that is about 4′ in the air, in a room that is only half an inch longer than the board is.

After much shuffling of the lift, the two scaffolds, the bench and a folding chair it was up. Aaaand, about half way up we realised it was maaarginally too long. Like, a few mil needed to come off each end. After some debate we concluded that we’d shave off a few mill just where the studs were on the exterior wall end, and just where it was touching a stud that’s marginally further out on the wall we built.

Down

Up

Down

Up

Finally with some shoving and tweaking we got it lined up along the bottom edge. We got it most of the way up and concluded that it looked pretty good…

…and so we put the glue on it and up it went…

…at which point we realised that it didn’t fit. I mean, it fits side to side, and the bottom edge lined up just dandily. The top edge, where it was meant to meet our thin-strip-of-correction…not so much.

It met in the middle. It was not-awful in the middle. I mean, it wasn’t great, but we could probably have got away with it.

But at the south end the gap became about 1/2 an inch…and at the truly abysmal north end, it overlapped by probably more than an inch. There was some panicked debate. The thing had some screws in already – part of a technique we’ve developed for getting the damn things aligned when we have neither the strength nor the number of people traditionally required for this kind of affair.

It had glue that was already drying.

We both felt totally demoralised by going from “we’re going to have our first room with a finished ceiling where we can move onto the walls” to “oh, shit, at least part of this needs to come down”.

We started by backing off the board a bit and taking down part of the thin-strip-of-correction. But after some more looking at how terrible things were Kathryn voiced it and I agreed. It’s got to come back down.

Defeat poured over us as we winched the bloody board down from the ceiling.

It’s not really the board’s fault. Early on we had a bad day. A really f’kin bad day. One of those days where you wonder why in hell you’ve put yourself in this situation and wonder whether any of it is worth it (there are always days like this, it seems). You curse every rotten strand of xylem and phloem that make up the timber that you’re inexpertly wielding.

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On this a’cursed day, we were putting up the short section of wall that goes over the master-bathroom door. And nothing, just nothing went right. It was too heavy and unwieldy. We hadn’t realised how unsquare the house is and the measurements we’d made beforehand so I could make the parts – or the parts I’d made – one of them wasn’t right. It wouldn’t line up the way we wanted. It didn’t sit square with anything we tried. We knew it wasn’t right.

We should have taken it down.

We didn’t.

We thought it would be okay… that we could kind of hodge it and bodge it and make it work… but it has come back to haunt us.

The lounge side we’ve come up with a fix for, but this bedroom side?

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Well, the widths are all over the shop.

We lose a full inch (2.5cm) across that last 4′ (2.1m) run over the door. Part of that is that the house gets narrower at the end and we didn’t take enough account of it earlier. Part of it is that the roof is not exactly centered over the house, and part of it is that we fucked up.

It is going to be 18 different kinds of nightmare to make something that lies like a sufficiently fringed Persian rug and makes it look straight. We’re going to have to have to make things mate…with curves…and angles…and trying to make things look like they are a constant width…when they’re not.

Which is miserable enough in itself, but taking it all down and staring at it today? That truly sucked.

I am trying (we are both trying) to look on this as a learning experience and with more equanimity than some previous issues. I think we’re both doing better… it’s a sod. No doubt it was very, very disappointing. And it <em>is</em> going to be a pig to sort it out. <em>But</em> we have got better at this than when we started. It is within our capabilities to make this right.

Sneh

The average snow-fall in Olympia is 12″ (~30cm).

Over an entire year.

Over the last week, outside our house we had about 8″ (~20cm) (which we cleared from our drive), then a day later another 12″ – and then another ~4″ (~10cm)…in the 2 hours after we cleaned off the 12″. The road outside our rental has been more or less impassable unless you have a large vehicle with 4 wheel drive… probably with chains on. Or real winter tyres.

Being a tiny little road, while it isn’t a private road, it doesn’t even manage to make it onto Olympia’s “we’ll plough this when we get round to it” list.

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Continue reading “Sneh”

As usual, our timing is off.

So we’re trundling along with the drywalling of the ceiling, still. It’s getting closer:

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Just the irritating narrow strip at this end, and the skylights, oh and….
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We’ve actually got about 8′ of completed ceiling on one side of the house which is super exciting. We’re going to go and try and put up some more this afternoon – and once we’re done with that, we’ve got some super fun bits in the shape of the skylights.

They are a bit of a nightmare approaching, but what can you do, other than, I suppose, not design your house to be a billion angular nightmares in one.

But it’s definitely getting there. We’ve still got a small bit of ceiling in the main loft space, and all of the tiny bonus loft space above the laundry to do. Once that’s all done we can move on to walls.

But our timing is off. Because if we were a month further along we might be at the point of having, say, flooring down. With heating in. Which would be good, because the temperature here has dropped to -8C (~17F). Which means that our poor little oil filled radiators are working flat out to keep the house warm.

In fact, I was just pondering as I was sat at home, that we are actually maxing out the circuit two of them are on (as there are only 2 live circuits in the house) – so I’ll have to revisit that when we get to the house. I’m trying to think if there’s another circuit I could make live.

But it was 11 C in the house yesterday, which “isn’t enough”. Well, it’s enough, but not comfortable to work in.

It is impressive that two small oil filled radiators are keeping that house at 11C, but… yeah, I’m going to have to revisit that and see if I can sort out a third circuit. I think the hall outlets are independent of the rest, and so I’d only have to blank off one outlet to make that live.

Unduly positive

We have spent the last week getting a 6 3/8″ wide strip of drywall attached to our ceiling. Why? Well, because we’re insane. And rather than accept splitting the house perfectly down the middle (which would have been relatively easy), we instead made it so the ‘great room’ (Lounge, kitchen, dining room) has the peak and about 7 inches of the other side of the slope of the roof. The bedrooms, in turn, stop just short of the peak.

This seemed like a fabulous idea at the time. That time before we really understood what a nightmare an unsquare building was, and how incredibly heavy plasterboard is, and, obviously, the limitations of our abilities.

So, cue much research, discovery of Straitflex’s X-Crack (which allows for uneven framing and helps reduce the risk of cracks at the top of cathedral ceilings). And then cue a solid week of finicking, making shims, working within the bounds of our design to try and bridge the problem areas.

And after a solid week, and some rather painful holding up heavy things at awkward angles…

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We are both, I think, honestly amazed at how good it is. And how level it is. Of course, just to make things more tricky because the wall is parallel to the other walls – it’s not straight along the ceiling. So the pitch of the slope changes slightly, which meant we spent a cheery hour yesterday working out how to adjust for *that*.

But it’s done. I think.

I’m off momentarily to start cutting the shims for that.

But despite the frigging nightmareishness of it all, and the fact that while we do have an extension for our drywall lift it now means that we have to get the damn drywall up 18″ higher than we used to. Which is higher, I think, that either of us can easily lift it, it actually all feels doable again.

We sat down and calculated the drywall requirements for the walls in the other rooms.

I also – because I was feeling astonishingly positive (and the sun is out) actually washed the Rav:

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Yes, it really is ours. I know it’s normally more moss-covered than that…

Which looks pleasingly shiny. At least for a few hours :)

Still need to clean the inside, but it’s a step forwards.

Well, bother. Again.

We wanted to rent a nicer lift – because our lift doesn’t reach the heady heights of the peak of our ceiling. And so we looked at the local rental place that claimed that they had one. And then I called them. And it turns out they don’t.

They don’t think anyone else local has one either – although apparently some places have the same shoddy lift we have with the extender. Given that isn’t really an improvement, we forked out for the 18″ extension for ours. That is a frankly terrifying almost certainly badly welded object consisting of a pipe with a bit of metal rod sticking out of it. I’m assuming. It’s not arrived yet.

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I very much doubt ours will look this nice when it arrives

Of course, the problem with this is that it means that we have to raise the 12′ sheets of drywall up an extra 18″ to get them onto the lift. Which means, I suspect, a fun game involving a step stool and a giant heavy sheet of drywall. Fortunately, I think that we only have 5 sheets to do.

While we’re waiting we’ve been doing the bodgy bit – making the altered-pitch bit at the peak of the ceiling that covers for the fact that we didn’t manage to get the top-plates at the top of the wall perfectly aligned all the way along. I sometimes wonder if we should have done them differently, but I’ve absolutely no idea how we could have got it better. At any rate, we think we’ve come up with a method which should allow for the flexibility of cathedral ceilings, keeps the ceiling looking right, and doesn’t lose too much height. I also think we have just got enough of the x-crack (which is the stuff we use for the joins between the changes in angle sections of the ceiling, because you’re meant to use something that allows a little movement).

We have also ordered some super-duper-posh corner stuff for the corners of the wall, which I think is made by the same company.

And after Kathryn cut the 4″ strips of 3/4″ ply to go around the edges of the wall, I’ve been working my way around the edge of the house laying that and trying to work out pipe-routing around some of the more complex bits. Most of it was done for us, but there’s some quirks to our heating-system-manufacturer supplied PEX plan… like it going through walls. And there’s also some changes we made – like not having the heating under the bath (because the bath had to go in before the heating), and changing the cupboard layout by the front door…

All of which means it’s not exactly a straight transfer from their map onto the floor, and there’s quite a lot of concentrating and staring at things to work out where the pipes will run. I’ve done the space where we’ll have a bench and the cupboard next to the front door – both of which were very fiddly bits. There’s the two bathrooms to do next, but we don’t have any more 3/4″ ply.

In other news, the place we were going to get our wall finish material… has closed… both of its West Coast operations. So we’ll have to find a different dealer – but it’s a shame because our friend recommended it as a good resource for eco-friendly building materials.

But in good news, we managed to score bathroom wall tile for ~$1/sq foot. I’m sure, like last time I used B&Q cheap tile, it’ll be a nightmare to install. But pulling random ones out of the box, they looked fairly square and uniform. And I’m much more used to tiling than I was back then, so hopeeeefully, it should be okay. It’s nothing exciting, just white subway-stile 3″x6″ rectangles. Not the really nice bevelled ones. Just plain. But they look okay…

We just need to get to the point where we can put them up.

Well, it’s 2019.

So I can’t say that I’m entering 2019 full of hope. I’m hoping that it’s less miserable than 2018 was. I normally do a year in review; but the beginning of 2018 I think I more or less skipped it, 2017 having been so much of a car-crash.

2018 hasn’t been a lot better. I mean, it has in that by changing job I managed to pull myself out of the pit of burn-out and depression that I’d spent so much of 2017 in. I’m not going to rehash the awful political situation, and I’ve spoken enough about how unsafe I feel outside Olympia thanks to the rampant white supremacism, bigotry, and the insane availability of guns. I don’t feel we really need to rehash that. Politically? Socially? 2018 – in a nutshell – sucked.

But 2018 has also run by in a blur of missed deadlines and frustration over the house. A frustration which has, unsurprisingly, spilled over into 2019 as we wonder when the house might, just possibly, be finished. And how we’re going to get to that finish line. The list of jobs is both much more managable and simultaneously, so massive as to be terrifying. Partly because while I can start work on the floor in some areas, much of the work that’s left to do requires two people. And that is kinda restrictive.

There’s still the exterior work to finish, which is at least partially single-person-doable, except that… we have no on-site storage except the house. And for the exterior stuff we need wood; lots of it. So that puts somewhat of a crimp in that. And the move-in readiness stuff? That’s mostly two people for the forseeable. Which is fine. Which we’d talked about. But right now it feels kind of overwhelming.

Part of this is, no doubt, that I’ve just got back from CES. And that was an all encompassing, all consuming event. We filmed, we talked about filming, we planned filming, and then we (well, Nikki) edited late into the night. We ate, drank and slept CES. And coming back to the real world after that kind of event is actually kind of strange. I’d not really thought about the house – or the mortage+rent situation. I’d not really thought about the complexities of the things that need to happen.

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CES, incidentally, was a blast this year. Last year it was a hard slog. This year it was hard, but we actually properly had fun, we knew a bit more what we were doing, and some of my stuff in front of the camera felt more – well, I felt better about it. I still need to get better at interjecting when I have something today. But that’s on me.

And the road-trip turned out to be exhausting but awe inspiring. We crossed the high desert, we went up and down mountains, we drove through cities and towns and near deserted villages. We saw tumble-down houses and massive skyscrapers.

TBH, it was really cool.

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Granted, I could have done without the 3am arrival at Las Vegas, and the 2am arrival back in Portland. But – all of that was done in an EV, fully laden, with essentially an entire studio.

And that whole thing really cements the functionality of EVs. More charging stations would have made life a ton easier. But it’s doable now.

But having arrived at home? Suddenly, all that real world stuff is back.

Bills – distressingly large ones – have arrived. And the phone call this morning – in the middle of my yoga routine (and I rarely give myself time for yoga, so: Really world? Really?) – from the garage that has my minor – saying that they have not really managed to come up with a solution to the missing / mismatched parts and they’d like to look at shipping her off to a different garage… and I’m left suggesting that I’ll call JLH back in England and beg them to send as many bits as they can think of that might fit and I’ll pay for shipping them back…

Well, it’s disrupted a fragile equilibrium.

Or, to put it another way, has left me feeling quite shit.

Hey, is that a weird cube in your kitchen or are you just pleased to see me?

Okay.  So after much cursing, poking, peeking, and prodding. Also after hitting it with a hammer and something that was definitely not a screwdriver being used as a sort of chisel. And spraying it with lubricant… the lift seems to be working again.

However, because it wasn’t working we planned other things. Namely walls. And we got stuff to do them. And now we have a delightfully weird cube butting out into our kitchen. This was expected, but actually encountering it is quite different to “we’ll have a cube sticking out into our kitchen when we’re done”. 

It’s quite fun, and very angular. We, it seems, have all the angles.

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Many angles. Some of them are quite close to 90 degrees. Not many, though.

We’re almost all the way round the bathroom cube, then there’s many cupboards to attack. Well, one and a ‘sitting to put shoes on’ space, and one that I was a teeny bit short on when I was using up spare drywall. We’ll probably go back to me attacking cupboards, and Kathryn and I attacking ceilings now that the lift at least appears to be working. 

We stood around today at the end of the day talking about the cube. It’s very odd. We built this. On the exterior walls – so in every other space in the house – there’s some of the original house hiding. It may be patched, it may be modified, but it’s there. But the main bathroom has no walls that existed before we came. It even mainly stands on a sub-subfloor that we put in because the old floor was so rotten. There is no part of it not built by our hands.

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Look, more angles.

From the plywood subfloor, to the studs, to the ceiling joists, to the ducting, to the heating, to the plumbing, to the cast iron bath, to the electrics, to the drywall. It is our sweat, tears, time and effort that have made that little space exist.

It’s quite cool.

Also, angles.

Careful now, that looks like a room. If you squint.

Today was a bit of a tough day. I’m not sure why. I think something about the headspace I was in. Something about our car being broken (now allegedly fixed again), and the inordinate amount of time wasted on travelling up and down to Tacoma to get it fixed… I dunno.

This morning progressed okay. I put up some more furring strips (two more left on the back, five on the front, and that’ll be it), planed and put more cedar up on the back.

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There’s just one more full 12′ stretch and then I’m on to the bit by the back door. Then the other side of the back door. Then the front porch (which is, to be fair, a painful one with a billion nails and a complex pain-in-the-arse L-shaped bit that has to be installed (almost certainly) as one piece. Anyhow, that took up my morning, then I broke for lunch, and then feeling somewhat chilled from the morning of mizzle, I decided to put up some bathroom concrete board.

That actually went okay, although the edge by the door is a bit rough (it doesn’t like being cut with a drywall saw).

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By the time I’d finished there’s just the bottom strip around the back and right side of the room to do, and a couple of bits on the sliding door. It actually looks like a room (or perhaps, a large cupboard, or what it is: a very, very small bathroom). At any rate, when Kathryn arrived we were able to start on the laundry room ceiling. However, the minor mistakes I’d made in the morning were not quite so significant as the ones I made in the afternoon. I’ve still not quite got the hang of the roto-tool which cuts around the outlet boxes. I still don’t have any real feel for when I’m correctly following the box, or when I’ve wandered off into space.

And the first box I wandered off into space.

After a monumentally ridiculous amount of grumping on my part, we managed to continue, whereupon I promptly cut the hole for the fan in entirely the wrong place. I thought I had hit the inside edge of it, hopped a bit across and then realised I’d actually started on the outside edge, and was now cutting an enormous hole in our just put up drywall. We haven’t bought any extra of the special mould-resistant, fire resistant ceiling drywall, so Kathryn hatched a cunning plan to use some offcuts to do the job. Which we’ve done. Because frankly it’s going to get slathered in joint compound and smoothed down afterwards, and hopefully we can hide that shoddyness, and if not, it’s the fracking laundry cupboard.

At any rate, after the mistakes, that was all that we managed to get done. Well, I precut the tiny bit that goes above the pull-out-pantry. But other than that… Which didn’t feel like a lot. But given that we actually did it twice…

See, a good friend recommends that if you make two mistakes, that’s when you should stop. Which I try to stick to, or at least, switch activity. But today we didn’t…and that was an error.

But still.

This:

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is now this:

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It doesn’t smell of cat urine, or of some sweet smelling stuff to cover up the scent of cat urine. It’s not rotten and the hot-water system is not about to drop through the floor. The dryer vent actually exits the building, and the plumbing does not (at least does not appear to) leak (touch wood). The electrics are all new. The windows are actually attached to the building. The drains run downhill.

Progress has been made.