Two Pronged Attack

So when at the house by myself (and a little bit of the time that Kathryn’s been there), I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that the weather’s been both warm and dry to enjoy the awfulness that is the underside of our house.

I say awfulness, because there are still rat deposits that are fresh, and despite being submerged in nearly 6 inches of water before the sump pump was working, the old rat droppings are also still around. In addition, because of the water issues, the moisture barrier (ha) is covered in a layer of fine powdery silty dust, which kicks up whenever you’re under there.

So I get to wear a mask and come out looking like I’ve been dumpster diving in the desert, which is a delight.

Annnyhow. I’ve been doing plumbing. A lot of plumbing. Some of it’s pretty good, and has worked out the way I intended.

Drain and Waste Plumbing, ignore the spaghetti of PEX

Some of it is truly shit – there are definitely two joints that are highly suspect. If they fail in testing (or at inspection) I may have to replace them with flexible joints. I ended up a few degrees off in my run from the far corner of the house to where the sewer/drain exits the building comes in – and also managed to paint myself into a corner where neither side wanted to move, so ended up with a joint where there’s not the proper overlap of the pipes. And the alignment is a bit crappy.

Still, we’ll see if it tolerates being ‘pressurised’* I’ve got a couple more joints to make in the house on the venting (so currently any sewer gas is venting into the house, which I’m not happy about, but I just couldn’t quite make the last few joints today, but at least now any water that runs into the dwv vents will actually run down into the sewer, and not into a bucket, which is what it has been doing).

I’ve also started to insulate the PEX under the floor because while it was 19°C on Monday, it’s going to be back down to freezing in the next few days, and that up-and-down means I’m wanting to be sure the pipes don’t freeze when we test the plumbing. Thankfully, as it stands while the manifold has some water in, the special run I put in to the garden hose pipe is the only one that actually has any water in. The rest of the runs have not been opened yet.

But what have Kathryn and I been up to?

Well, we’ve continued our quest to remove any remnants of the house we bought.


We’ve pulled out the old french door and framed in one of the two windows. The other of the two windows is currently not framed in (but has the original wall studs there).

We’re getting quicker (and better) at framing, I think.


There’s still some more nails to go into the siding – as it was getting pretty late when we stopped. But… the finish line is inching closer.

* Here they pressure test the waste plumbing by blocking the exits, then filling the system and the vent stack with water.

Parlez-vous Français?

When you look at door installation information – as in, how, as a newbie to install a door – there’s one fairly consistent piece of advice. Don’t start with a French door. We are now in a position to understand that more.

On Monday we framed up our French Door’s rough frame – it ended up taking much longer than expected and we ended up getting home much later than intended, with the door still sat next to the hole. Part of that was the amount of time it took us to buy supplies – because while there’s a lot of variation in suggestions of how you should do it, a lot of that debate was made moot by the fact that around here when we tried to find the right kind of flashing no-one stocks it. No-one stocks the corner reinforcement that’s recommended. No one stocks about 3/4ths of the items we’d put on our list.


So then yesterday I spent the morning boning up on how to install a French Door – again – and trying to munge together items from the list of things we could buy, and how to create something much like what was recommended. Then I headed over to the house and prepped the frame for installation. Kathryn arrived after work and a mere SIX AND A HALF SODDING HOURS LATER we had the door installed.

There was a moment about 4 hours in where we both experienced premature celebration.

We’d screwed in both sides of the frame. It was level, plumb, square, true. We shut the doors and opened them with great pleasure. And then we thought we’d just ‘pop’ the screws in the top of the frame having shimmed it to keep it where it was…

…and lo, everything twisted and changed. The doors would not close properly. The gaps were all off.

An hour later we’d managed to get it all back in shape. Then came the joy of putting in the locking mechanisms.

And finally.

Fina-fucking-ly, it was done.


Today has been similarly traumatic. I attempted to drill a hole to run a pipe through – the only stretch of vent pipe that has to run through an exterior wall. Half way through I thought it sounded ‘odd’ – looked – and I’d managed to find a nail (that holds the siding on). Much drilling with my metal drill bits later, I managed to (using a combination of grinding with the drillbit – totally inappropriate use of it, and my tin-snips) cut the nail out and get it sufficiently out of the way that I could finish making the hole.

Our 90° drill is dead, so that needs to go back. It just stopped turning.

Then the toilet.

Now, see, our house as we may have mentioned appears to have been built by people with only a passing acquaintance with common tools, like measuring tapes and levels. And as a result, one of the ‘quirks’ is that the first beam is 4″ out of place. Approximately. I realized this when I was trying to cut new floorboards and that last section, by the front door, is 4″ longer than all the others.

Now this becomes important, because we left our bathroom wall where it was, and previously, the toilet seemed to be curiously further from the wall than you’d expect.

Now, today as I drilled my tiny pilot holes to work out where to put the new toilet flange* I kept going “what the hell”.

Because I realized that the reason the toilet was weirdly far from the bathroom wall is that if not, it’ll run into the beam. It took me a while to work that out because also, it turns out, where we’ve chosen to put the toilet is right on the join between the old flooring and the new, where I’d put an extra reinforcing 2×4 screwed under the floor.

Eventually I worked it out, chopped the hole in the floor and managed to get the flange in. The toilet is going to be irritatingly far from the wall (or we’ll need a special toilet). But… there’s not really a lot of choice. I considered rotating it, but I’ve already run all the other plumbing to there.

Still, it’s done.

One more toilet to go, the laundry floor drain, and I need to come up with some way to indicate under the floor roughly where the shower and bath drains will be; then I get to go grovel under the house again. I just have to connect up the dots, then cap the whole lot off so it can be filled and tested, along with my fresh water plumbing.

Which is to say, progress.

*toilets here sit on a plastic ring on the floor, on which is deposited a ring of wax, and then the toilet sort of… squishes it to make a seal**.
** Yes, I agree.

And a delightful time was had by all

…who weren’t there.


Yeah, it’s been a day of plumbing – so all the runs under the house are complete. Ish. Insofar as they go from the place where they’re meant to start, through the floor, along under the floor and then they pop out in what will, at some point, be our furnace cupboard.

It’s sort of a hybrid of a manifold and a series run system. Each bathroom has 2 feeds of hot and cold – the shower (and in the main bathroom the shower/bath), and also the toilet* & sink**. The kitchen only gets one run (which feeds the refrigerator, dishwasher, pot filler and the main kitchen sink. It’ll also feed the outside hose for the back garden). The laundry gets its own run too – from which I intend to vamp the front-garden-hose tap.

That should mean that, for the most part, the hot and cold water demands don’t lead to massive fluctuations in temperature anywhere where we care. Although I refuse to get non-temperature controlled showers anyway. Having lived with them as a student and as a kid such barbarism is unacceptable in a house we build. I squeal for no-one in the shower***.

So the next step in our JIT purchasing is that I’m ordering a nice adequate manifold, and shall install it in such a way as we can just unscrew it and pop the drywall behind it. Then I need to finish the rough-in and get it checked. Much of it is done to the point of the nipple on which the taps will go. There are however a few bits that still need doing, and I need to get the laundry and fridge boxes bought and installed.


I do feel sorry for anyone who wandered past our house today and heard the crawlspace shouting “You complete bastard, why do you keep coiling that way!”. It turns out that while PEX is way easier than copper in many regards, its persistent desire to be a coil wrapped around you, under-floor posts, itself, other bits of pex, any random bit of anything it can find… is quite irritating when you’re working at 3< °>C / 37< °>F. Mind, I was warm enough under there because I was scrabbling around and trying to hold my head and neck out of the ratshit.

And yes, there are fresh, err, deposits, down there.

I was very glad for my filter mask.

Anyhow, I said mostly done because I ran out of clips, and all that pipework needs insulating. Oh, and (of course), there’s still the soil (DWV) pipe to run. I pulled out a section of the old today, and am starting to ponder the new. But most of that needs the top-plates installed on our walls and we’ve only installed one layer of top plate (because then we can use the second layer to help tie things together).

I’m hoping to hell that we’re doing this right. I will be really, really f’kin sad if we’ve got any of this wrong, but the inspector looked at our work and said “just keep doing what you’re doing”. So we are.

* Yes, hot *and* cold to the toilet because I think a bidet is potentially a good idea. But only if it has warm water.
** Which I still refuse to call a lavatory, despite what I wrote on the plans for the building, because that’s just wrong.
*** Uh, I’ll just leave that there.

Yesterday was a good day

We spent much of the day on Sunday doing calculations and measurements. We worked out the height of the wall in our bedroom, we spent a lot of time working out what bits we needed to cut to what angle. We spent a lot of time thinking about how the walls interlock, and how that works for each joint. Then we spent a lot of time carefully marking and cutting…


Then yesterday we took those many pieces of wood and nailed them together, and despite it just being the two of us, and us not being hugely strong, we used physics to get the 13′ high wall up and nailed in place.


We fought with the unsquareness of the house, the squareness of the roof, the unevenness of the floor, and the bendyness of 16′ lengths of stud-grade douglas fir. We read and researched and despite it being a a cathedral ceiling, with our joint being made on a slope, we did that all and we won. Yesterday was a good day.


Today was a crap day, in contrast. We had a small (1.6m / 64″) section of wall that sits atop the doorframe between our bedroom and our en-suite. We’d calculated this, but didn’t realize that in our adjustments to make the wall sit right(ish) in the unsquare house we’d made one of our measurements wrong. We realized this after we’d manoeuvred the wall up to the top of the door frame and it wouldn’t fit. We took it up and down several times before conceding that there were problems in more than just that direction. We ended up dismantling it, cutting it shorter, reassembling it in situ (with toe-nailing). And in the end, it still didn’t meet the standards we’d like it to. No matter that we can hide all the problems (we think), because they’re in a storage area, not in ‘the house proper’. No matter that the house is a honking pile of unsquare crap and that’s a part of why this is such a mare of a job.

I hate it when we don’t meet our own standards. I hate it when we’re left with something slightly shoddy because we couldn’t get it to sit right. And I’m frustrated that it took us four hours to put up 7 bits of wood.

I shall take this and put it in the place of – we’re learning. But it’ll take me a day or two.

Tales of the crappy house

So, I’ve been kind of quiet recently, in case you hadn’t noticed. That’s partially just sheer busyness and partially that my mood’s been kind of up-and-down. I continue to feel somewhat rootless and vaguely unsettled. A feeling which doesn’t seem to be going away particularly. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that, or what to do with it. It nibbles away at me in a way I’ve not worked out how to address.

Anyhow, so. In other news, I went to CES for Transport Evolved.

A week in Las Vegas*… yay?

CES was incredible though – lots of interesting tech, must be great if you have time to just wander… Anyhow, I had fun, learned loads, had the pleasure of my good friend Nikki’s company and also of meeting Brandon, our epic camera man. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do it next year too :)

The house, though, is the main thing that’s occupied our time. First up there’s the roof – which has been a tedious experience. The roofers are crap, that’s basically the summary. They’re careless and rushed. Which means that the quality of their work is really, really poor. They came back today to fix the mistake they made last time – where they put the skylight in the wrong place – because they “didn’t measure it”. That seriously was a component of their excuse, and I don’t think it’s half-as good an excuse as they seem to think it is.

In the process they damaged the brand new guttering.

They’ve also left seams that are very poorly bonded.

So they’ll be coming back again (more’s the pity), but we can’t really afford someone else to fix it.

On the plus side, the guttering is up and looks nice (except where they scraped it), and the catch pits for the rain water drains are in place front and back. We concreted them in, and it looks a lot nicer than the old bit of plastic tube sticking out of the ground. Our dry-well is still laughably far from dry, and we’re planning a much enhanced drainage system involving a rain-garden at the back.

We have also started work on framing – framing in the old back bedroom window and the kitchen window. The window was pretty simple**, the kitchen window was such a shoddy bit of wall that we decided to rip the whole thing down and reframe that entire section.



Unsurprisingly, since the house is car-decking*** basically stacked on a ring foundation of concrete, the edges of the floor are hideously damp (has no one heard of a damp proof course?). Hopefully it’ll improve with the new (improved) drainage system (the pump being connected and the water being transported away from the house). Also, having functional gutters may help.

We’ll see.

We’ve also started framing up for the new windows – which we are doing without actually cutting out the old siding yet. We haven’t got the windows yet because we haven’t heard from our window supplier (who I really should call tomorrow)… but it’s fun to start to imagine it.


We’ve also started replacing the rotten car-decking and removing the old plumbing. Discoveries:

– The bath leaked because the drain pipe had corroded through. Their solution to this had been to wrap the pipe in a plastic bag and fill the space with expanding foam sealant. No, really.


– The floor was rotten underneath the bathroom wall because the bath leaked.
– Apparently it was considered perfectly acceptable by the previous owner / contractors to use the tongue-and-groove bit of the flooring to support the floor when they cut through the floorboards not above any beams. There was a three-floorboard stretch which was just floating in mid-air.

Mainly we’ve repaired that front section using salvaged bits of floor. They’d used short sections of car decking in the walls and ceilings, and by sorting what we found we’ve ended up with enough to do a chunk of floor…


There’s still an enormous chunk that needs new flooring, but we’re currently leaving that open so I can go and play in the rat poop do the new plumbing. In the mud and ick.

Anyhow, tomorrow I’m off to work, then Thursday I get the joy of taking our new (used) car to the dealer to fix the 3 faults that appeared between us buying it and the end of the week after we bought it. I’m glad we sprung for the painfully pricey warranty.

Our Rav 4 EV has also been to the dealer this week for it’s 4th iteration of a door lock repair. Here’s hoping this one works.

* ugh. I am not a fan. My main Las Vegas memories are rude people, the stench of stale cigarette smoke, and general grottyness. CES was interesting, and I enjoyed the stuff I saw, but the place itself I’d say I can take it or leave it, but really I’d just leave it.

** apart from me buying the wrong sheathing, us nailing it in, then having to remove it and replace it with the right stuff. Meh.

*** 3cm thick floorboards, for those not in the US

Progress Report: It’s going somewhere

This past weekend was utterly exhausting – we did, however, get the house enclosed. Sorta. See we managed to get all the sheathing up, but the cordless nailer I bought got part way through the day then decided it was time for a nice rest.

I’ve given it a “clean” (which involves cleaning the barrel) and will run it back tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

But the nailer deciding to have a rest meant that the sheathing is attached with fewer nails that would be ideal – most of which have been hand driven. So we’ll see what happens with that.

Anyhow, so… Taking a step back. Kathryn, Liz and I managed to get all of the asphalt shingles off (and into the dumpster); along with all of the black paper. Our amazing builders managed to get the old trusses off (mainly intact – we need to come up with some way of protecting them), and managed to get the new trusses on*. The new sheathing went on (except for the bit around the weatherhead), and lo, they came to dry in the building.

The one spectacularly large fly in the ointment was that the siding couldn’t just be stuck on because the new trusses are stepped in by between 0″ and 5/8″ depending on where on the wall they’re sitting. Because we own a trapezoid, not a rectangle.

So Kathryn and I spent the entirety of the weekend making little furring strips (or shims, as I’d call them), to space each section of siding out so it would align with the siding below. Which was clearly cut by someone who didn’t give a rats ass – because it’s all at different levels and the word straight cannot be applied to it. So each piece of siding had to be cut – and then often slightly trimmed – to get a fairly close fit.

Then we could nail them up.

Only part way through the nailer packed up.

But since the house is now sort of enclosed, we could at least take a breather…only not, because we were expecting the roof to go on this Wednesday. Only today I found out that it may not happen Wednesday, because clearly there was some question I needed to ask that I didn’t. See, the electricians came today to install the new panel and weatherhead. It’s huuge. And clean. And doesn’t look like a pile of electrocution waiting to happen.


There he is, installing the panel, and he cheerfully explains he’ll be back after PSE have moved the power across. Which is happening “this week”.

I’m confused, and after some discussion I grok that the panel installation is separate from the PSE visit – and the twain shall never meet. Now, the problem is the old weatherhead is in the way of the roof. So I call our roofers and go “uh, the weatherhead is still in the way” and have yet to hear an answer on what’s happening there.

Also, today we tried to let in all the vents – and failed. So we’ll have to carry on doing that tomorrow.

I shall be glad when we’re off everyone else’s schedules, and back to “this is what we want to accomplish” and the only people who gets pissy about it not happening is us.

* after an utterly panic inducing period in which a failure in communication between the old contractor, the truss company, me and the new contractor meant that we had noooo idea that the trusses were not meant to be a perfect fit. Indeed, they’re a fairly poor fit. But that’s the way they engineered it.

It’s getting a little more optimistic

So after much frantic calling and meeting, we’ve lined up a general contractor and the truss delivery. Signed contracts. Handed over large scads of cash (in cheque form). And…the new roof should be going on starting the 11th Dec. With that looming deadline we’ve kicked things into high gear…

Myself, Kathryn and Liz have been hard at work gutting the inside – there is now virtually nothing left except a 904 sq ft toilet. All the ceiling is down, all the internal walls have gone, all the insulation is gone… Nearly all the wiring is out – there’s a few straggly strands, but nothing above wall height. This afternoon we stripped the shingles off half the roof (except for a teeny bit around the satellite dish – which we need the socket set to remove before we can take off the shingles) and we took down the car port.

On Thursday plan is – remove the other half of the shingles. That’s a more tricky side because that’s where the weatherhead is.

Unfortuantely, our electrician can’t get in before the 18th Dec – so he’s going to be in on that morning moving that and we’ll then need to quickly replace one section of plywood before they dry in. The roofing contractor should, hopefully, be there to dry in the roof on the 18th, also. Then coming back a week or two later to put on the metal roof.

We’ve also finally ordered the windows and doors (except the front door). This turned into a bit of a journey with us having to change the spec on the window sizes twice – the person I was originally getting the quote from leaving the company – and having to get our drawings approved again after tweaking the window sizes. First up, Kathryn realized that the kitchen window was too tall and would stop below the level of the work surface (bad). Then our window person (the second one) realized that our two egress windows would not meet egress requirements (insufficient clear glass space). Still, it was eventually done.

In other housey news we have gas! They fitted the wrong meter, then came back and fitted the right one. I’m sure our neighbours loved the 2 days of stop/go traffic on the street, but I have to admit, the end result is pretty invisible.

We’ve also got a trench in the garden to what was intended to be a dry well, but is currently a very wet well. We’re going to do some more experimental digging to see if we can turn it into a dry well by getting through the clay layer, but it may be that the clay layer is too thick. In which case it’ll just all have to drain into the road, which’d not be ideal.

Uh, I think that’s it….

I do have a bid lined up for supplying the kit for our heating / hot water system, and the rest of it I think is just us going round to various building supplies places and forking out cash… Oh, and me learning how to plaster on drywall, not on lath. And then a lot of plastering. Oh dear god the amount of plastering…

But for the moment, it’s fingers crossed time until a few weeks from now when hopefully we get a new roof :)

(No pictures today, because Flickr is broken on my computer).

Sometimes I do wonder if the world is picking on us

Now realistically I know that we are not the centre of the universes, and as I don’t believe in any deities, it’s pretty hard to imagine the random nature of the universe coinciding to pick on us, specifically.

But it sure does feel that way sometimes.

Let me walk you through this…

Yesterday it became apparent that our house actually came with a swimming pool. The insulation contractor came, looked at the house, and in the process of preparing to go into the crawl space we discovered that the house was actually standing in about 6″ of water.

This did not make me happy.

However, the house does have a sump pump and so with some trepidation, I pulled an extension cable through the window and plugged it in. In an astonishing first of its kind experience, the pump worked.

However, it demonstrated why the crawlspace is flooded, and the pump disconnected.

Water pours from the leaking drains

Yes, in another fine example of “why do something properly if you can do it both cheaply and badly”, our gutters drain in to above-ground soak-away pipes which… are completely blocked once they do get in to the ground. So while the pump did pump the water out from under the house, it immediately leaked out of the pipe and then poured back in through the crawl-space hatch.


Cue much faffing and, in the end, abuse of the vacuum cleaner hose, which allowed me to at least get the worst of it out and turn our garden into a swamp. Of course, the pointfullness of this activity was somewhat reduced by the fact that it rained overnight, and this morning.

So I got to the house today having bought 20 feet of soakaway drainage hose. My thought being that it would probably be okay if it was not full of leaves and mud, at least until we get the new gutters and get some soakaways (or drywells, as they seem to be called here) built. I ended up pulling the one out of the ground in the front garden and replacing it with one of the new 10′ runs. I also created a new connection for the sump pump that allowed me to leave it connected. Don’t ask*.

Then I tried that at the back, but it rapidly became apparent that the water was just running out of the soak-away hose and back into the crawlspace.

So I unplugged the pump, got in the car and headed back to the hardware shop. As I drove off, one street away, I pulled aside to allow a fire engine to go flying past. I had the usual momentary thought of “I wonder if they’re going to our house, nah”.

And I continued on my way.

And I was away for all of, maybe, 20 minutes.

I returned with 10′ of non-perforated hose (I should have got twenty foot).

And then I found this note on our door…

OFD forced entry to check for a death...but it was the wrong house

And then I nudged the door and discovered that the frame was split, and the door no longer locked. Thankfully, because I wasn’t gone long, it doesn’t look like anything was taken. I pulled some nails out from the trim and used them to put the door-frame back into some kind of holdable state, then fished in the giant box of pulled nails and screws (for chucking in metal recycling, conceptually), and pulled out a couple of long not-too-rusty screws. Using them I could fix the latchplate into the building frame rather than just the door frame.

And it at least sort-of locks. Oly Fire Dept are coming tomorrow to replace the door and frame.

But seriously. Seriously!

I was gone 20 minutes. If they’d have arrived 5 minutes earlier I’d’ve been at the house. And it was the wrong house anyway.

The world is laughing at me, I swear it.

And of course, because the house is only semi-secured I felt I needed to pull all the tools and my bike out. So they’ve all come home, but in the process of arguing my bike into the car, I managed to smear oil onto the backs of the seats. Which is pretty irritating.

* Did you ask? *sigh* Okay, I drilled a hole in the siding, in a section we’re planning to cut out, fed the cable through and duct-taped over it.

Nibbled to death by ducks

My aged laptop (9 years old) is apparently attempting to gradually consume my money. In addition to its already irritating tendency to reboot itself at random moments, the replacement (used) power supply cable is starting to break (but I’m really unwilling to pay for a new one for it), and… now the right speaker has failed.

Not in a “oh, the right speaker isn’t working” way, but in a “oh, it’s horribly distorted” way.

Problem is I don’t really feel like I have the cash to throw at a decent replacement. Indeed, my broad intention was not to replace it. And perhaps that’s the path down which I need to go. I have the Pinebook I can use for things where I need to do a decent amount of typing, and the Yogabook for things where I want to do only a little typing.

But trying to research stuff for the house on either of those is less than ideal. While the Yogabook is adequately quick, it is at the end of the day a tablet, and while the pinebook is more laptopy, it is at the end of the day a Raspberry Pi in a posh box.

The reason I don’t want to replace the mac is a two-parter. One is that I am intending to get a decent PC when we have the house finished, and the other is that if I were to replace this I’d want to replace it with something actually good.

But I’m disappointed Apple. My last laptop, the ever disintegrating Dell, beyond its murderous approach to battery management never actually had component issues. The case gradually broke, and it got painfully, painfully slow to use as software requirements got greater. But it always actually worked. And I sold it at about the same age as this Macbook is now.

But the Macbook I can’t sell as a working computer (not that it’s worth much) because of its faults. *looks at Apple*.