Note to self

Traditional order of dressing: Bra, then teeshirt. Not vice versa*.

* Limited applicability to superheroes.

Another bad decision

I increasingly feel like every decision we’ve made regarding housing and property in the US is bad. Our land is a fucking disaster area that’s sucked up half our money and is like some albatross around our neck that we can’t sell. Thanks Thurston for that shit.

Our house is turning into a complete pigging nightmare. Our contractor actually seems like a good choice, at last, but he’s small fry in a pool of bigger fish, I suspect. Why? Because our possible truss delivery date has gone from the mid-end of November to January.

I’ve called an additional 7 truss companies (on top of the 3 local ones he called) – and as we move further away, the cost for shipping gets insane, but so far the only place that could actually get them to us quicker is in Texas and would add $4500 on for shipping.

But the problem of the trusses means that:
– Ideally we should be doing windows after trusses, which means trying to do windows in January.
– We miss the deadline for a bunch of rebates that expire in December, meaning we’re possibly losing an additional few thousand dollars because we won’t have heating, or electrics installed and working by the end of the year.
– We’re stuck paying mortgage on a house we can’t live in.

So this is all fucking depressing.

Movement (of plants at least)

So, our arborist has been around and hacked down our holly tree, chopped it into bits and stacked the burnable bits (yay). He’s also trimmed the tree of unknown origin* at the front which is interesting. It’s one of those, I’m not exactly sure what he’s done, but it looks much better, things. I mean I can pinpoint some things, like he’s trimmed the low hanging stuff and I know he’s thinned out some dead stuff, but it’s still broadly the same shape and size, but somehow it looks much more cared for.

I’ve also moved two of the four roses (which is why I’m sporting a wrist splint again today). Something I did in the process upset my left wrist, which has been upset since I started hacking this house to bits.

Still, the two roses (which may or may not survive) are now quite definitely far enough from the house that they won’t cause any more damp. One of them also, will no longer be attempting to disrupt the sewage line out of the house, because the person who planted it planted it directly over the sewage line, and one of its roots had grown between the sewage line and a waste pipe that joins the sewage line, and was attempting to push them apart. Not an ideal state of affairs. The roses may or may not survive the transplant. The anchor root seemed pretty healthy, but there seemed to be very little else in the way of roots. I’m used to there being a big clump of rootyness and then a big anchor root. These seemed to have nothing much except the anchor root which might be why they look so sad, but also means that their transplant may not go well, since I certainly didn’t manage to get the entire anchor root.

There’s still two other sad roses that need to be moved, also we’ve some lillies we were gifted that need planting. And there’s some plants that we’re not sure we want to keep, that may be offered up for collection. At least one of them looks healthy, but we can’t decide if it’s the source of a smell we don’t like. Alternatively, it may just be endless, endless cat / rat pee.

Still it felt good to be out making the house look more presentable; at least until my wrist went crunch, at which point I rather rapidly wrapped up proceedings.

In a not entirely surprising turn of events, the soil around the house is absolute shit. I mean, it’s terrible. Almost like a mixture of sand and large pebbles. I foresee an almost infinite amount of mulch in our future, as we attempt to turn the almost completely ungardened space into a garden. I had, originally, thought that someone had done some nice edging of a disappeared bed in big pebbles they’d got from somewhere. It’s now become apparent that’s just what’s beneath the soil.

Another (interesting) difference between Britain and the US discovered today is that the sewer line from our house is PVC just lying in the earth. In the UK that would be surrounded by a trench of gravel. No such anything here. Just dumped in the ground. I don’t know if that’s “to code” (either now or at the time), since I’m just trying to learn enough plumbing code that I can do the in house plumbing right… The whole venting thing here is way more enthusiastic than in Britain.

On which note – the house is drying out! Not having water constantly oozing into the fabric of the building has led to a distinct reduction in dampness at the front entry. Although the temporary sink is leaking pretty badly from the drain. Given that it leaked before I moved it this is not entirely surprising.

The bucket placed underneath it seems to be doing an adequate job though.

Also, in interesting news, it turns out that we can submit what we have for a partial permit – with the final permit deferred for the trusses. This means exciting things could happen. Drywall can come down, electrics can be taken out, plumbing could actually start, repairs under the floor could begin.

I wish I’d known this a while ago, but nudging the planning guy at the city with another round of “what about doing this – can I take the drywall down now?”** led to him to point out that this deferment of the full application submission is a thing that can happen. So that gives me something to do this weekend.

* I keep meaning to ask him what it is.
** He’s so far been a very patient and incredibly helpful person. So yay.

So I accidentally created an open plan bathroom

Today I had a few little jobs planned. Turn off the water, cap off the leaking pipes, cap off the bathroom sink taps (where the valves didn’t work) so I could remove the sink and the rotting subfloor below and the leaking drain, cap off the leaking cold tap from the laundry area. I’d spent yesterday digging out my plumbing tools – although I can’t find my awesome little pipe cutter*.

Rothenburger self-tightening clip on pipe cutter

Instead I had one of the tedious manual-tightening one that seems to be all that I can see in the store here**. Still, with only 2 pipes to cut (I thought), it wouldn’t be so much of a problem. Of course, to use that pipe cutter meant that I had to remove great chunks of drywall, but I wasn’t too hassled about that. And so I set to on the shower. Having turned off the water at the main I started removing the drywall – and discovered exciting things like “oh, hey, you clearly damaged the mains wire running through the wall behind the bath when you remodelled, but insulation tape is a fine solution to that…

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And having a crossbar crushing it as it goes through the stud is totally not a problem.

As a side point, I am intrigued to know what the purpose of this string is…

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I suspect it’s “holding up” plumbing, or it was, it’s disconnected now :-/

Eventually it became apparent that the only way I was going to be able to successfully cut these pipes was to whip out the two studs. Since they were stood on rotting timber I wasn’t convinced they were adding much to the wall anyway… the only problem was I ended up having to disconnect the cable that was running through them. That necessitated removing more drywall.

Eventually I managed to get the pipes capped off – after scraping the pipes back to the metal to get a good enough seal – my wire wool was insufficient to get rid of the corrosion from the leaking, which wasn’t a surprise, but was tedious.

Success! Onto the next bit I thought. I whipped off the leaking laundry tap – and replaced that with a cap…

On to the the sink.

It rapidly became apparent that the sink cabinet was held on with hidden nails… and the cabinet was sturdier than the wall it’s attached to. Despite the fact that bits of the cabinet were well and truly rotten from the leaking pipework. Which was (is) faintly unnerving. Still, after a brief conversation with Mrs. Sledgehammer, the cabinet was removed. The sink and granite counter I managed to save so they can go to Habitat.

Then I went to remove the failed valves. Only… it turns out that they’d not screwed the adaptor to the crossbeam in the wall. Well, they sort of had. One screw however is not sufficient to hold it well against a possibly 40 year old valve being undone. So while I managed to get one of the valves off from the nipple, and replace it with a cap; the other copper-pipe-90-degree-to-the-nipple*** – that fractured at the soldered joint.

Which I suspected, then confirmed when I turned on the water. So then I had to run into town to grab another (expensive) cap – make a large hole in the wall to get the pipe cutter in (thankfully no studs needed to be removed for this one) and then lop the end off the pipe. At which point I discovered it’s not actually attached to anything under the floor – thankfully I had a good enough hold on it that it didn’t escape. It’s now held in place by the earth cable which I repositioned.

Then I finally capped it off and cleaned up.

And then realized we now have a very open plan bathroom…

Still, all that drywall will have to come down, but we’re waiting on the quote before we can get the**** truss diagrams so we can submit this permit. I’m beginning to feel pretty frustrated by the inability to progress, at all, because everything is contingent on the main permit. And the main permit is contingent on us finding a contractor.

And no one seems to have any urgency, except us. But you can’t be shirty with people about timeframes because there’s so much work available they don’t need to do it.

I’m really beginning to wonder if we should just have done the roof ourselves.

* For the sake of speed, I did have a quick look in the DIY shop today, but couldn’t see one… Do they exist in the US? Anyway, not finding it means I’m going to have to search harder.

** Though I haven’t looked very hard.

*** Whatever that’s called. There’s a whole bunch of bits of plumbing I’m not sure of the name of.

**** sodding

Craigslist Flake Syndrome strikes again

So yesterday we rearranged our afternoon to allow a craigslist flake to come and view the car. I actually quite liked him, despite the attempt to kill us both when while test driving we ended up with him going the wrong way up a dual carriageway (divided highway) after performing 3/4ths of what I suspect was a U turn of dubious legality. Still, seemed nice. However, he appears to be suffering from acute craigslist flakitis.

He didn’t bring money, though, or any way to get the car back (?!). This I only discovered at the end of the discussion, but being in a relatively good mood I was fine with him picking it up today. This decision is part of the reason I’m in a very grumpy mood now.

So today I got a message this morning saying he couldn’t get off work early – and eventually got a message that he couldn’t find someone to give him a ride down to collect the car. He lives up towards Seattle.

Which is more pissy because I’d put off someone else and said it might sell. Now that person’s disappeared too, which leaves me feeling really quite annoyed.

Then I made the mistake of going to Lowes, because they sent us a discount voucher and we wanted something to put down on the floors to try and prevent quite so much draft coming in. Partly because the void under the house is filled with rat urine, partly because it was beginning to smell pretty damp (like underhouse void), and partly because we want to heat it enough to keep damp at bay. It’s currently at a whopping 10C / 50F (which I didn’t twig was only 10C, so I might nudge it up a bit tomorrow).

Anyhow, so I gathered together some stuff (plumbing stuff here is suuuuper expensive, btw). And trekked round the shop in search of the underlayment which is what was in the house before… and which some people still seem to recommend. The idea in my head being what I don’t use up now would be useful on the house later…

Only I had an appointment at 10, so I needed to be quick through Lowes. After trailing around and not being able to find it, I asked an assistant. Who after looking blank, and eventually pulling out a tablet to try and locate it after I showed her on my phone what I was after, decided she didn’t know where it was. Then said I should find someone from flooring to ask (there was no-one in flooring when I walked through it), then informed me really helpfully that “it’ll be out on a shelf though”.

Uh hu.

And I thought it would be on the ceiling, no-fucking-wonder I couldn’t find it… I managed to restrain myself from saying out loud.

At this point I realised I’d be late if I spent any more time looking for this stuff and threw the stuff I had collected onto a shelf*. Then I made my way over to the appointment where the guy was late (but didn’t apologise)…

…although he seems competent and his quote is about what we’d expect based off other things.

And then, because I can’t get a remodel permit without the roof truss diagram (and we’re waiting on a quote from our fourth contractor before we can get those) I’m kinda stalled out. I spent the day installing the plastic sheeting, the hammer-stapler-thing is at least a bit therapeutic. But that and the little bit of plumbing is kinda it until we can get the contractors to do the roof.

The city were pretty hazy on whether we could take down drywall, but the job that really needs doing is removing the electrics. The drywall can come down in the demo party, but that party will be a million times easier if there’s no electrics in those walls to worry about. Similarly, lopping off the plumbing would be nice, but I don’t have my bucket of shitty plumbing parts available anymore, and again, pluming stuff here is super expensive, so I’m resisting doing more to that than I have to, keeping it to a really minimal leak-stopping.

Tomorrow I’m planning to turn off the water and disconnect the leaking pipework. But after that there’s going to be a bit of a mental debate about how much I can do. This weekend we might take down the carport – which is partly a shame because it’s handy to have, but it’s in the way of the electrician.

It’s irritating, because what I’d scheduled tomorrow was going to look at the car we’d like to buy. But again, because of craigslist flake syndrome I can’t.

Oh, but good news – our washer has found a productive home. It took a while, but freecycle worked :)

* I would not normally do this, but I’m not wasting my discount voucher on a few small items if I can get something bigger that we need, and after the lack of help I was feeling pretty pissed off.

And yes, it’s still shit

So I did the rest of the plumbing checks today – trying to work out where the water’s coming from. It does seem that the bath was the source of it all. I suspect that at some point in the past the water heater leaked pretty spectacularly, and no attempt was made to dry that out.

Pulling that drywall off revealed unpleasant, but dry drywall and timbers that are not as rotten as I’d expected. Pulling off the drywall around the kitchen sink…? Well, it looks like all the leaks were related to waste water (which explains the unpleasantness of the drywall that I ripped off).

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The highly observant of you will note that this ‘design’ of waste water pipe requires the water to flow in a non-traditional direction to exit the building. And it’s not merely uphill here.

It’s uphill here too:

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Also, there’s these two holes that I have no idea what purpose they serve:

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I mean, I know some traditionalists put screws into them. But that is very old fashioned. Clearly, now, they’re just used for kind of ritual purposes.

Still, despite its utter shittyness I hooked it back up. At least partially:

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Yes, the beauty of that is unsurpassed. I think it took me a whole hour to build.

The plan here was that I’d remove the bathroom sink today. This would allow us to get at another area where it looks like there’s been a fair amount of leakage. Again, I suspect it’s waste-water, not fresh water, related. But until I yank the drywall it’s hard to say. Unfortunately, while my hands were just beginning to feel sore again so I was feeling a bit hesitant anyhow, another problem arose. The valves under the sink, the ones to turn the water off? They don’t do anything.

Which means that, like the shower (which has no valves), I’ll have to turn the water to the house off completely, then I’ll have to remove and blank off the plumbing for those bits. I’ll have to go wander the aisles at a plumbing place and see what is available here. In the UK I’d have thrown a couple of compression fitting inline valves in, because they’re always handy to have around. I’m hoping something similar will be around and not too pricey.

The main reason for my little jaunt over there today (rather than resting my aching hands) was to ‘fix’ the broken piece of car decking for the asbestos people. Since I’m not meant to enter the rat highway crawlspace until after it’s de-ratted got a new vapo(u)r barrier, this ‘repair’ has been achieved by screwing a piece of 2×4 into the failing board and spreading the load across a bunch of other less rotten boards. This has pulled the board back up level with the others, and it doesn’t seem to move.

I couldn’t find hazard tape though (at least not obviously, and it really ought to be obvious!). I was probably not looking in the right place, but I ended up just slapping some yellow insulation tape on the edge of it.

Still, the good news is that after a few days off my hands are feeling better and not hurting just to move, even after taking down some drywall. I think I’m just going to have to be a bit careful with myself. Also, our ‘new’ chopsaw that we bought about 6 months ago seems to work (and has a really nice blade on it).

I’ll take an F from the top row and a U from the bottom row, thanks.

So, tomorrow I’m off to prep the house for the arrival of the asbestos guys. Mainly this is ‘repairing’ the floor where the car decking has rotted through and then broken. In this case, I’m just going to screw a chunk of 2×4 along the run next to the wall, put some screws through into the more solid bits and then some into the rotten one. I’m hoping that this has the effect of pulling the broken / rotten bit of car decking back up and in line with the rest of the floor. Also, that it holds it well enough while they strip the asbestos from the ceiling.

So at least we have have some progress.

We also have some progress in that we have a permit for plumbing. I’m only allowed to use it to try and stop the leaks that have been keeping the house damp and rotting (although it says things about installing new stuff, the deal with the permit folks was that they’d issue it while they were waiting for the submission of the remodel permit, but only if I was willing to hold off doing the rest of the work until the remodel permit is in).

I’ve found one of the damp-sources. The pipework that fed the shower/bath and the waste plumbing from the bath is a disgrace. The soldering on the fresh water side is terrible, and has clearly leaked since it was installed. The waste water side is loose and held in place with expanding foam filler.

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This explains the copious rot in this area.

I suspect a similar situation exists behind the water heater.

The kitchen sink I think has been leaking from the waste water side – this is because one of the waste water pipes had an ornamental nut on it. The actual join was just two pieces of plastic pipe telescoped one inside the other. There was no seal, no fittings, nothing actually preventing a leak. But the installer had taken the time to put a threaded metal ring that screwed onto where there should be some kind of seal. So that was nice. I’m still going to whip off the rotten and mouldy plasterboard – we need our temporary sink in there, and I don’t want that manky crap staying there through the build. So I’ll put my temporary sink supports directly on the exterior wall timbers.

Anyhow, so there has been some progress. Also, a media blasting company has come out and thinks they can strip the paint from our T1-11 siding which means we have some hope of being able to work out what the existing nail pattern* is – and not having to just renail the entire building, which would have made me ‘sad’.

And then we come to our disaster area.

So, let’s run through our contractor luck:

1) We just didn’t get on well. He quoted, I’m sure he’s fine, but we spent the whole time being mansplained to, and with him talking over us.
2) Quoted then disappeared for weeks with no response. Then suddenly popped up and said “oh hey, I just noticed your message”. Didn’t answer the question that was in the message, has never actually produced a quote for the rest of the work we asked him to quote for.
3) Produced a quote that was nearly the work asked for. Needed some minor additions before we gave them the deposit and so we e-mailed our questions (Wednesday), Thursday we all met up to go through the questions. Friday they said ‘we need to know the color for the roof’, we asked what supplier (Friday), Monday rolls around and we have an e-mail saying “We got deposits on some big jobs and won’t be able to start yours for at least 2 months”. Uh hu. So that doesn’t really work for us.
4) Quote did not match much of what we discussed (in terms of was missing big bits of job). We had them as our second choice, but on messaging them today they also have taken on a big job and wouldn’t be able to start until January. Also they seem unaware that engineered parallel chord trusses are a thing, and seems to think he’d have to build them on-site thus adding time and engineering costs. Gah.

For lucky number 5, who we’re meeting tomorrow, I’ve actually written a scope of work so we might actually get the quote right the first time (ha), so we could sign a contract, and thus be able to pay a deposit before they wander off and take more work from someone else.

Perhaps it’s not a thing here** for builder’s contracts*** to be faintly accurate. But I like to sign something that actually says what I want them to do and an agreement on payment and what happens if costs over-run.

But apparently writing down what you’re asking is hard. Or something. I dunno. I’m thoroughly bored of discussions where a contractor holds a pen and paper, writes nothing, is given some diagrams, and then fucks off home and produces a quote that includes a random 70% of what we discussed.

It never seemed to be quite so hard to find a contractor in the UK. Yeah, we had plenty of shitty, shonky contractors who did poor quality work, or tried to rip us off, and we learned a lot about what we needed to say or do to make sure work was an acceptable standard. But just to get someone to even start the damn job is proving to be incredibly frustrating.

So fingers crossed for tomorrow.

I’ve also left a message for our recommended electrician to ask about installing a new weatherhead / meterbox / panel. I’m hoping that he rings back. I realised that needs to be moved before the roof gets done, because the weatherhead runs up through the roof. That places some urgency on the job… Not least because I’ve now put in the request to PSE to move the power from the NW to SW corner of the building.

I’m also hoping that our arborist will get back to us before the power company turn up and ruin the one decent thing about the house, the tree at the front. But given how things are going at the moment, I’d say that’s pretty unlikely.

* my sneaking suspicion is that the word “pattern” may be misplaced here.
** Olympia? Washington? USA?
*** To be fair, there’s been a lot more push here for us to “just sign” things that were wrong. Sometimes materially inaccurate. Which does not go down terribly well.