Not exactly a resounding success

Today’s been a three-Bob day. They’re never good. They’re never good because I get frustrated at wasting the roughly an hour and a half in travel and futzing around (each trip ends up taking about 45 minutes). It also almost invariably means something broke, I forgot things, or a job didn’t go as planned.

So today, it turned out I wasn’t paying enough attention when I picked up the angle-stop valves for the taps. Because I picked up one angle and three straight. So that’s annoying.

It also turns out the stupid little brass nipples I got are too short (I need 3″, not 2.5″). I also didn’t get more 3/4″ PVC pipe, which I should have. Thankfully I realised that before I got under the floor.

And I needed an extra 3/4″ 90 degree turn.

Unfortunately, I realised that after I got under the floor (when it became apparent that my planned pipe route wouldn’t work).

So. First thing I did today was turn on the water to fill the boiler. This was not a raging success because a bunch of joints leaked. These are the threaded joints (as opposed to my solder joints).

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Eventually I had to dismantle several of them and trade the PTFE goop for PTFE tape. That done, and the joints retightened, and things seem better. I even turned on the boiler and pump controller for a few minutes, and everything seemed to be working (apart, obviously, from the fact there’s no gas supply to the boiler).

So eventually it was positive, but it took quite a while to reach positive.

Then I went and grovelled under the floor. The changes we’ve made to the guttering (with the water now actually draining away from the house) seem to have worked. The surface of the black plastic was dry and didn’t look like it’s had pooling water on it. And a quick check showed the sump-pump is working. So yay.

As I revealed in my spoiler above, it turned out that I needed a second 90 degree bend, in this case because the only bit of the soil pipe that wasn’t completely covered in insulation (and which wasn’t in the hideously complex bit where all the bathroom and kitchen pipes join) was in a place that wasn’t…ideal. Which meant putting an extra bend in the condensate pipe. Which meant crawling back out from under the house, closing everything up (because I don’t want to shut a cat in there), changing, driving to Bob, buying one part at a total cost of around 50¢, then driving back, changing, reopening the crawl space, crawling back across the floor and attaching the pipes together.

It felt deeply worthwhile and pleasing. ;-/

That done, I and because I’ve been doing sooooo well on the plumbing today, I decided to tackle the sink.

So the extra long drain that I managed to find has – I think – exactly the minimum number of turns required to clear the Crane Drexel sink’s extra long overflow and have juuuust enough to attach to the U-bend (or P-trap).

Incidentally, if you’re wondering which one it is, because you’ve got a Crane Drexel sink and you don’t want to spend $300 on a replacement drain, it’s this one: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001VJ7PKC/

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However, the seal that came with it didn’t work very well with the sink. Also, because the crane sink’s overflow drains much lower than modern ones, it doesn’t line up (at all) with the drain holes in modern drains. So having assembled it, it sloooowly developed a leak.

The solution to this was, I think, to drill a hole in the drain at roughly the right height for the overflow. This seems to have worked… at least, it had when I left.

Irritatingly, the amount of time this took meant that I didn’t end up putting up a single tile yesterday. So the plan for tomorrow is to sprint to Bob to rectify the incorrect length pipes and the incorrect (straight instead of) angle valves… then sprint to the house and start hurling tiles on the wall. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get them up before our plumber arrives, which would be nice. Or at least, before he gets to a point where we might want to test the hot water.

So. That’s where we’re at.

Plagues and Perturbations

So I appear to have entered the arena of the unwell. This is irritating because even were I in Europe, where being ill and off work is not seen as some sort of moral failing, and where workers are, for the most part, encouraged to stay home when they’re sick; I have training the next few days.

And that training is an expensive course that work paid for, so I damn well better be there.

Bother.

It’s hard to say how much of this is unwell, though, because I had another delightful night of insomnia. I got to enjoy the hours of 1am to roughly 4am. Which, it turn out, are very unexciting.

Also, this weekend, I booked tickets for us to go to gig. Which I really do want to go to. Although if Kathryn’s okay with it, it might involve me resting on the way down so that I can make it through (and, obviously, spread my plague).

Despite the cold I headed over to the house today – there were three reasons for this. One, obviously, is that I’m a stubborn so-and-so. We’ll skip over that one. The second was that our washer and drier were being delivered today. They arrived without incident, which was pleasing. And they’re now sat in our house.

We still haven’t actually paid for them because Best Buy’s policy seems to be to randomly put a hold on our card for days, or indeed weeks at a time. Then remove it without actually taking payment.

I’m unclear how this is sensible, or helpful.

Anyhow, a payment hold is on the card (again), and the washing machine and drier are in the house. Now they just need a floor to stand on, and to be plumbed in. Oh, and wired in. Because US driers don’t come with a power cable. It’s quite exciting. We’re now down to just the cooker and the fridge to order and arrive.

Since I was going to be at the house, I had a delightful morning of tiling. I didn’t quite get the bits I really want to finish done, but it was close given how lousy I was (am) feeling.

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I really want to get the cubby/shelf finished and the entire shower/bath area done because once that’s grouted I can clean the bath off – and then prep and re-coat the bath. I am starting to get a liiiiittle nervous about the number of tiles we have. I’ve made quite a few errors cutting the tiles for the shower cubby, and BOB no longer sell the tiles that we bought.

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The current plan is to finish the bath area, then finish the wall you see when you walk in to the bathroom, then work from the door back to the toilet. My theory being that if I have to get some not exact match tiles they can go behind the toilet where they’ll not be so visible. Unfortunately, because I forgot when I started that I wanted to have a half-cut tile when I got to the three walls with lime plaster on, now I’ve reached them they’re irritating sizes that don’t cut easily from one tile. On the other hand, I really like the look of the half-tiles at the joints that you see around the bath, so….

Anyhow, we’ll find out when we get to the end, I guess.

I think I added 20% overage when calculating, so *hopefully* it should be okay.

So I cut tiles until they arrived with our appliances. Then I took a break for lunch before attacking the third reason I went over. Putting antifreeze in the hydronic heating system.

The antifreeze arrived a few days ago, but I had to wait until after the weekend to get the pump from the attic, then yesterday I was tired and grouchy (probably because my body knew the lurgy was lurking). Today I was tired and grouchy too, but I didn’t really want to risk leaving it any longer. All it would take was a decent power outage, or the radiators tripping the fuses, and the house would end up freezing.

Sooo. I gave the system the required flush (a minute for every 100ft of pipe, apparently); plus a goodly chunk extra. Then I pumped in 6 gallons of antifreeze. Well, due to a slight act of idiocy*, I pumped in-and-back out about 1/4 of a gallon. But I then pumped in the rest of it.

Hopefully I’ll be feeling better on monday and can run through the rest of the boiler filling procedure, maybe get some grout around some pipes and we’ll have hot-and-cold running water. Which will be a f’kin miracle.

*I left open a valve that I didn’t mean to meaning that the easiest route for the fluid to take was in-and-back-out.

Less than stellar progress

Today’s been hard. It’s not even November yet, and this morning we heard the whooshing noise of another self-imposed optimistic timeline whizzing past us and crashing into a wall.

We’d been quietly working towards moving in at the end of November (this being the missed deadline from the end of October). With the arrival of the kitchen we’ve started looking at our dates – thinking about when we can hand in notice on our apartment… And we realised that my work trip, Kathryn’s busy work month and the decision we made (at my enthusiastic behest) to see Marika Hackman this month mean that… we won’t be in by the end of November.

It would have been a substantial push, anyway, but sitting down and looking at the calendar, and thinking realistically about where stuff needs to be stored (fundamentally: in the garage); resulted in us reluctantly concluding that November won’t be our move in. December’s a possibility.

In other news, as predicted, the self-levelling compound has started to develop hairline cracks. I initially thought these would be related to the metal plates underneath, but they do just seem to be random. So the vague thoughts of “do we need an antifracture membrane” have been put aside, and we’ll be ordering and applying much goop to our floor before the top-coat of epoxy goes on there. I just ordered what appears to be a somewhat vapour permeable, low VOC antifracture membrane. Let’s hope it works.

With all that in mind, today did not turn out to be hugely productive. We’d intended to put down the marmoleum flooring that covers the floors in front of the two attic accesses (which, it turns out, has an somewhat more complicated installation method than I’m used to with cheap old lino). However, it was not to be. Despite us renting the 100lb roller in preparation, and turning up at the house all excited like, when we got to the house we realized I’d been a bit overzealous in turning down the thermostat.

The special marmoleum glue specifically states that it must not be applied below 65°F (18.3°C), and the house was at a whopping 54°F (12°C). Which obviously wasn’t going to work out. Thankfully, because we returned the roller quickly enough, we managed to get a full refund.

Instead we put together our pendant lights for the lounge and dining room. Unlike in the UK where it’s pretty simple to get a complete kit for this, over here it seems to be pricey and involve you knowing exactly what bits you require. It’s taken us a couple of goes to get all the required bits.

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You can’t really see it in the photo, but the light cords are baby-blue, which has turned out to be very pretty. Don’t tell anyone, but it’s Euro cable (so the colour code is all wrong). This is because there’s a nice company in the UK that make 3-core cable that’s the same diameter as vintage 2-core cable, using a rather complicated twisting scheme so that it still looks like two-core, but actually has three – meaning you can ground your metal lights without getting a larger diameter hole’d light socket. We did get some US fabric covered cable, but it’s hilariously over-large for the hole it’s meant to go into. I’d worry, but frankly, this stuff is rated for a few-hundred watts at 240v, and we’re using it for 7-10W at 110v, so yeah, the current is roughly doubled, but we’re so far under the max rating it’s ridiculous.

We did temporarily mount one of our unsprayed shades, and having seen that it does, indeed, look lovely… we took it down. The shades, when they’re sprayed, will be a sort of navy blue with a creamy white inside. Again, this process changes the inside space quite dramatically, making the main room of the house feel warm and cozy (even when it’s not very warm in there). As autumn’s rolled along it’s slowly got quite dark in there, so it’s a nice change to have lights.

Sadly, that was all that we did today, though. The frustration of having to move everything around the house to get the scaffolding into place continues to niggle at me, and while it’s (really really) frustrating that we won’t be in the house when we planned, that shift does mean that we might get the floor down in the bedroom before we actually move in. Which would be nice.

Anyhow, so that’s where we’re at. Frustrated, slow moving, but progressing.

We have floor. Well, prefloor.

Our floor is down. We’re exhausted. It’s been one long-arse weekend, which we started on Saturday with buying a small amount of self-leveling compound:

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Actually, this isn’t all of it.

Unfortunately, despite promising they did have the primer, Bob’s website was wrong again and they did not. So we trekked to one of the other Bobs, where they did have some. And we got lots of primer.

And then we set to.

Approximately 5000 staples later (literally, about 5000 staples) we got the floor poured except for a section by the back door.

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And then today I poured the final section.

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I am, it must be said, spectacularly tired. Tired enough that the work-self-defense class I have to attend is seeming like quite a nice rest.

The other thing that happened this morning that’s quite exciting was this:

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Yes, those are our kitchen cabinets. In our house.

How odd.

It is starting to approach the point where we’ll be able to move in. Unlike every previous renovation where we’ve kept the house more-or-less habitable for the process of renovation..and we’ve lived there (although, to be fair, our level for ‘habitable’ has been preeeeetty sketchy, sometimes). This time, the building was barely habitable when we got it, and we rapidly moved to completely uninhabitable.

And it’s stuck resolutely in that place. We still can’t install a toilet, not until the tiles are in on both the walls and the floor. Which would be easier with water in the house. Especially since the tiles we got for the floor have been stored (by the previous owner) outside, and need cleaning before laying. I am planning to wash them in the bath, but it would also be nice to have soap, water, hand washing facilities in the house…

Of course, it turns out that the drain that I ordered for the sink is marginally too short. Our vintage sink has a really, really deep overflow, and it turns out the standard height drains don’t fit. The original drain was completely shot, having been cut off badly by someone, and also having lost most of its stopper mechanism. So I removed that… but finding a replacement is proving to be a challenge (short of paying the $300 for the remanufactured original, which seems rather more than we can reasonably afford for a sink in our spare bathroom).

I think I’ve found a sink drain that’s maybe 2cm longer than normal, which would be long enough, but no-one seems to give that flipping measurement – because unless you’re trying to match a sink drain to a random vintage sink, why would you care? So I’ve resorted to counting threads in the pictures :-/

But anyhow, it leads to this odd thing where over the period of maybe a few weeks, we’ll probably move from completely uninhabitable with no hot water, heating, etc; to hey – we have plumbing and heating and an indoor toilet…and a kitchen and woot! We can move in!

Those few weeks are rapidly approaching; I got a call from the plumber today and we’re waiting to schedule the appointment – so that should mean heating and hot water. Once we have that and the kitchen in…

Of course, that does require the floor being finished, which means that we need to order it….

Well, that went…

I started off today with some goop that’s meant to be not-levelling. Theoretically, it’s a substance you can get smooooth, but not level. Now, it does say on the bag to consider adding it slowly and while mixing to get a ‘smoother’ mix. What it doesn’t say is that if you don’t you’ll end up with something with roughly the consistency of pebbles in thick cream. So I kind of did battle with the first bag (which, incidentally, also has a workable time of just 15 minutes). The second bag I adhered to their optimistic suggestion about doing it slowly and mixing.

It was smoother. I mean, not smooth. Not like actual smooth stuff. But more like small bits of grit in thick cream.

So I did my best with that, which it turns out is ‘not good’.

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Fortunately, a good two thirds of it is below the level of the self-levelling compound, so I think that with that, plus maybe a little more (perhaps pre-mixed) skim -non-levelling-compound we should be able to get it looking servicable. I mean, it’d be fine if we were tiling. Only we don’t have enough depth of floor for tiles.

Hopefully there’s going to be enough space for a mat once we’ve put the epoxy/concrete floor finish on.

If not, then the mat lives outside :)

If I’d’ve realized what a mare this would be, and that I’d want to hurl the stapler out of the window, then I might have been more open to just putting down plywood over the entire floor and calling it good.

Or coming up with some way to tile it. Or something.

But I battled through the 3 hour drying time limited coat the floor, staple down the mesh (every 6 inches, without stapling through the hydronic / heating pipe), pour the goop (which comes in 23kg / 50lb bags) enough to get down most of the lounge today. I’m hoping that Saturday – when I’ll be spending the whole day on gooping, I might manage one side of the hall and some of the kitchen, and then Sunday, when Kathryn’s hopefully free to help with gooping we can maybe manage the other side of the kitchen, the other hall and the dining room/laundry/pantry.

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It looks pretty good from there.

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Does look less impressive from here.

Still, that’s 250 lbs / 115kg of material (plus, I suppose, the water, which will make it roughly 140kg).

I also cleaned the excess tile adhesive off the tiles – and I think that’s looking pretty respectable.

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Between that, knowing the antifreeze is en-route for our hydronic heating, and having ordered the drain for the sink I’m quite excited. If tired.

Very tired.

But, we must keep going because… our kitchen is being delivered next week. Woot!

And so it was that they (nearly) had heating and hot water.

We passed our plumbing inspection for the boiler. Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha hahahaha. (Manic laughter continues for some time).

Annoyingly, after I pressure tested it the first time it leaked when filled with water. Not sure how, the water is meant to be less leaky than the air, but it did.

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Actually, the joint that leaked when it was filled with water was the next one along. This one, which I found a leak in pressure testing with air was reflowed beforehand and was fine. But it was the same frickin stretch of pipe.

Also, it turns out that 1 1/4″ pipe is right at the limits of what my little torch will manage to heat. It took about 25 minutes to get the pipe hot enough for solder to flow (not helped by the fact that the lower pipe was full of water and acting as a giant heatsink). It looks like someone dumped about 40 tons of solder onto it, but it held pressure for a couple of days, so I think it should be fine.

I’ve not actually filled it with water because I’m waiting for the antifreeze to arrive. Then I’ll flush the system properly and can run through the boiler priming with water routine. All quite exciting.

Also, in rapid developments, the came, they dug, they poured concrete in the hole.

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There will be some nice little slopey bits to get in. They’re not done yet. Because it’s raining. A lot.

Come November, we’ll have a garage. Hopefully just after we move in. I mean, ideally, before would be great. But that’s not happening, so afterwards it is. I’m just checking in on when we can paint the garage floor because Rebecca has already cheerfully marked up the driveway. But it seems like I could do that before they come put the garage on it’s foundation. Feh.

And… we have a sink.

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It’s not connected to anything, and doesn’t have faffy little things like drains, or pipework to the taps. But we have one. And it’s hung on the wall.

But the biggest change in the bathroom (drumroll, please) is…

(long suspenseful pause)

We have a floor!

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Hoo-fuckin’-rah!

So that’s now ready for tiling (or will be tomorrow). We have to wash our tiles (they’re second hand and have clearly been stored outside). But… the self levelling compound seems to have gone down without trauma. There’s one spot where it’s a bit thin, so I’ll prime it when I prime the next section of floor that I’m doing and throw a bit extra on it; it’s literally a few teaspoons short, weirdly).

I’ve sealed around much of the rest of the house, so we should be good to pour the rest of the floor. The original plan was to do it in one go, but the choice I made to switch to a different self-levelling compound (which only needs to ‘encapsulate the mesh’, it doesn’t need 1/8″ minimum on top of the mesh, meant changing the primer. Changing the primer to the matching one for this compound, it turns out, means that the floor has to be both primed and covered in mesh in a three hour period. If you leave it more than three hours, you have to re-prime. Which is difficult if you’ve got mesh on the ground.

I assume this is just dandy if you’ve got a big team of people. But we’ve got a team of us. So that ain’t happening.

Anyhow, more floor covering, that’s the plan for today. Yay.

Rock on you crazy plumber

Yesterday I arrived to find a confused looking driver sat in a big truck with rock in it. He was peering at our house, cars were working their way around the lorry, and when I pulled up he looked expectantly at me.

Eventually it transpired that he was meant to be delivering it today, but since he was there yesterday morning he managed to contact our garage groundworks person, and they agreed to let him drop off the enormous pile of rock. Although it turns out our groundworks guy is less than thrilled, because the city are mandating landscape fabric under the rock. So they’re going to have to move the rock onto the fabric.

Still, we wanted rock for around the house, and we now seem to have quite a lot of it.

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Our groundworks guy then contacted me in somewhat of a rapid manner, because we’d not actually agreed the price for the work with the construction entrance, but since we’ve ordered the garage (and it’s going to be delivered and assembled in 5 weeks time, come hell or high water), there were distinct limitations on what we could do about pricing anyway.

So, yay. The garage is finally moving towards being an actual building. That’s good.

We also worked all weekend on the plumbing. To say I vastly underestimated the timeline for the plumbing would be fair. I think time-wise on the floor it went much better than expected, but the actual plumbing in for the boiler’s taken waaay longer.

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Still, it was finished enough yesterday that I could pressurize it with air, and it doesn’t appear to be leaking (except that the pressure-cut off is so close to the maximum pressure I can achieve with the little yellow pump, and the time it takes me to remove the tyre-valve from the adaptor to is long enough that the pressure drops to zero in the process, so all I can do is leave it on – and it slowly leaks the air out. But I’m fairly certain that it’s leaking through the pump, not anywhere else.

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It took two trips today, but I got the bits required to connect one side of the central heating circuit; I actually have nearly all the bits to do the other side, but was short two 90s and a chunk of copper pipe. I’m starting to have to do battle a little more with the fact that the pipework has large sections that were pre-assembled, and our space really doesn’t fit them that well. It’s a pretty tight space (as you can see in the fetching photo which sadly predates the ridiculous U the plumbing does to get around from the outlet to the outlet manifold.).

I’m sure that the professional plumber who comes to connect the boiler will weep, or laugh, or both. But it’s together and not leaking (afaik). I’ll take it.

Hopefully I can get the heating and hot water side finished tomorrow. I made a list… maybe this time I’ll manage to get all the bits. Once that’s done we can fill it (although I didn’t get antifreeze yet, because I’ve not calculated the volume of antifreeze required). The system wants flushing first, anyhow…

My other time filling activity has been tiling. I need to find our tile-hole-cutter because I’m really not willing to pay the prices I’ve seen for tile hole cutters over here (especially since our £10 pack of 3 sizes will do fine for this job… if I can find it).

The tile saw I picked up from second use is very nice (but the guard retaining screws are missing, so I can only really use it outside because it flings water a great distance). It’s way nicer than the crappy moulded plastic one we had before. I’ve also got a scorey-snapper tile cutter, and that seems to be working way better than last time I tried one.

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So far things seem to be going on okay on the tiling front. It certainly looks the way we wanted it to… and is progressing reasonably quickly. If I can find the tile hole saw then give it a few more days of work and we should be done…

The never-ending mandelbrot of a single change

So, when we made the decision to switch our boiler to one available off-the-shelf (kinda) locally (it had to be ordered from the warehouse – but it was a next-day job); I knew that it might result in some changes. First, I knew that the new boiler has a 2″ flue, and the flue we installed was 3″. But slapping a reducer on it was acceptable, although I was unclear until it arrived whether that was an option you could switch on the boiler, or whether you had to buy one. You have to buy one; I now know having stared at the manual and the boiler in person.

But the ever deepening spiral of things that change as a result has just continued and made today a very frustrating affair.

To be fair, partly it was frustrating because I rapidly realised that I couldn’t lift the boiler into position. I did lift it – both into the house and in an experimental “can I lift this” way. It’s only 30kg (66lb), but it was instantly apparent that “this was a terrible idea” was the title on the “Kate tries to mount the boiler by herself” blog post.

So instead I did what I could.

So the morning had started well enough, I collected the boiler and the fitting kit, and bought some of the bits from Ferguson. Then I headed over to Home Depot to get more – mainly because Ferguson don’t appear to post their prices in the store – you find out at the counter how much things are, and I’m not monied enough to think that’s a reasonable way to go about things.

Having got to the house, the first job was working out where to put the mounting for the boiler. Now, the first thing is, unlike the nice Bosch boiler we were going to get, which comes with a full-size fold-out sheet with drill hole marks, and pipe alignment marks that you can just stick on the wall and then have-at-it, the Navien instead comes with a manual that has some – but not all of the measurements you might want. For example, the minimum distance between the top of the boiler and the ceiling – in the manual. The distance from the top of the boiler to the hanging clips on the back of the boiler? Not in the manual. Having spent some time (and tea, and an Eccles cake), I realised that the house’s flue also no longer lines up with the newly chosen boiler’s flue. And that I would need to shift the flue across to line up. And that means… that the boiler has to sit lower to allow room for that sideways shunt.

After some experimentation and footling, plus a bit of “well, let’s add an inch or two spare”, I concluded that I knew where the hook was going, and lopped the flue pipes off (leaving plenty spare), marked up the walls and prepped to drill.

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Incidentally, the silly little junior hacksaw is because we never took the main saws out of the attic…

I mean, it’s not scary at all drilling into our walls. No.

Lime’s not fragile. Not at all. Noooo.

Okay, so holes drilled, mounting bracket on the wall. Time for some more checks.

Now, I opted to get the connection manifold, partly because I’m a big scaredy cat, and partly because I am not that good-a-plumber. As any plumber looking at the rats nest that is the cold/hot water manifold will tell you.

Anyhow, the manifold is clearly intended for American size houses. None of this 3/4″ m’larkey that makes up the rest of our manifold. Oh no, no, no. That’s not big enough. It turns out the heat/return/mixing zone pipe is a massive 1.25″ pipe. I don’t even have any connectors that big. Home Depot don’t carry them. (I assume Ferguson do, since the manifold is an actual off-the-shelf item).

It’s f’kin HUGE. We could more or less just bathe in it. Frankly, we could more or less have skipped the underfloor heating and just used this. I think it nearly doubles the circulating volume of our heating system.

I might be exaggerating, but just a little.

Anyhow, so I have this massive manifold sat on the floor in front of me and there is the slow dawning realization that there is no way on this earth that it’s going to fit above the aforementioned rats nest hot/cold water manifold.

After much measurement, repeated admonishments to myself to take this as a learning experience, I concluded there’s nothing for it but to cut the manifold out and move the whole damn thing down as low as it can reasonably go.

After staring at it some more I headed back to Home Depot and bought a bunch of bits that I felt would be required to achieve reconnection and rerouting stuff to feed the boiler.

Then I started taking the manifold out. After a while it became apparent that I don’t quite have the strength to just cut off all the pipe-clips that hold the PEX together. And then I got my grump on, headed back to Home Depot for the third time to buy the PEX clip remover, which it turns out is just a very overpriced socket wrench with a slightly sharp doohickey on it that slides over the crimped bit of the clip and allows you to snap it off. Then begins the battle to remove the pipe from the PEX tubing (because I don’t really want to waste that many PEX bends).

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As 5pm rolled around I decided I’d had enough for one day. I’ve managed to reconnect a grand total of three of the 12 circuits, and will be sorting out the rest on our next visit to the house. Along with hopefully mounting the boiler and hooking it up.

We still need to connect the flooring pipes to the manifold, hook all that up and pressure test it too. Unlike the hot/cold water system which shouldn’t be too bad, the heating will need a good flush through as it’s got a lot of copper in it – much of which is soldered using lead-free solder (which I’ve not used before) and proper solder joints (which I’ve very rarely used before – I normally use Yorkshire joints, aka solder-ring-joints, because I’m lazy and…uh, yeah, that’s it really).

We won’t be able to hook up the hot water side until Tuesday anyway, because the hot-water / cold water feed valve kit isn’t included, and is, it turns out, complicated, and so I ordered it after the fact. Adding another $90 to this journey.

I continue to wish that we’d opted for electric underfloor heating, or a heat-pump hydronic system, although I still can’t think of a way it could have worked (other than building it a little shed on the end of the building, or completely changing the interior layout, or perhaps having the hot-water tank for the heating in one of the attic voids, which seems crazy).

Installing gas, right now, seems like such a terrible environmental idea (it really is); still, we’ve decided pretty much that we are going ahead with solar, we think, so perhaps we can offset it a bit.

The most frustrating thing about this whole installation process, though, is that it means we can’t get our floor down for 2 more weeks (it’s a two-day, both of us job). Although I guess I might be able to do the bathroom floor earlier, since it’s tiled. And as soon as the hydronic bit is approved, we’ll be able to cover it. Meh. Maybe that’s a plan.

Anyhow, I’m less grouchy now and more tired. More news from the field of crazy DIY housebuilding after the weekend, I suspect.

And we’re back to terrifyingly expensive jobs

So, we’ve had a phase where we were mainly doing things that we’ve already paid for. Which has been relatively low spendy and while there’s been stress it’s been much more… task focused stress. As of yesterday, all of the pipe is down.

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And we’ve fixed my bathroom error…

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The bathroom is fixed, but we do still need to whack a billion nails into the mesh – every 8″ :(

And so we’re progressing to terrifying but exciting things like:

  • Pouring the self-levelling compound.
  • Trying to work out how to deal with the front door area which is nearly 2.5cm higher than the rest of the house (because self-levelling compound will run away from it).
  • Installing the boiler

Yes, we are still going with a gas boiler. Yes, I feel insanely guilty about it. Yes, we should have done something different. But there’s no room in the house for an expansion / water storage tank (as required by a heat-pump hydronic system). We should have stuck with electricity, and perhaps got the supply uprated to 400A, and put solar on in the first place. I realise that now.

I didn’t at the time.

It would also have meant I didn’t have to deal with this mess:

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On the plus side, I managed to order the boiler this morning. Most places won’t sell one to some idiot child like me, needing a contractor licence and account before they’ll flog you one. But I found a company that doesn’t care, which is handy. It’s not like I’m going to actually connect the gas to it. I’m going to do the plumbing and electrical side, then call for our gas-engineer to come back.

That should be arriving tomorrow afternoon.

It would, I suppose, be nice if we could have timed it to have the gas cooker here at the same time. That’s clearly not going to happen though. Or most likely not going to happen.

I also ordered the ‘I have no clue what I’m doing’ primary manifold, that most plumbers would probably make from scratch, but if it’s available as a kit for me to install, let’s have it.

The floor, however, is proving to be more of a challenge. There’s one brand (Henry) that makes a self-levelling compound that doesn’t require reinforcement over wooden floors. As you might imagine, that’d be nice. I’ve spent much time chasing around trying to find it – and yes, I can get it from Home Depot – but not for a week.

There’s another, Bostik, that makes one that requires a fiberous mat that ‘breaks down into fibres’ when you pour the self levelling compound on it. The underlayment is available here. Locally. In stock.

They can’t get the mat, and had no idea it exists, despite being listed on their website as “you need this, too.”

I’ve also found Sika which doesn’t say anything about a metal lath. It looks pretty much perfect. It also, is not available locally.

I think, if we go with the flooring we’ve been planning it’ll be the henry. I’ll have to run around and fill all the voids with the Henry crack-filling stuff, then pour the self-levelling compound over the top. Which is much less nice than just throwing the damn stuff down in one go, but as is often the case, renovating a house means doing 80 steps where you’d only need one in a new house.

Alternatively, we can put down the mesh, but that means staples every 6-8″, which is a fuck-of-a-lot of nails, especially over the areas of the floor where the hydronic radiator pipes run. On the other hand, it’s tempting because I’m beginning to think that if we use Custom LevelQuick RS we can probably get away with just pouring it over the whole of the floor in the main room, without futzing around with filling the pipe voids.

It’s one of these terrifyingly large decisions, where we just have to spend the money and do it. Because the cost of getting someone else in is way more than we can afford or justify. But it’s not something we’ve done before, so having read everything we can reasonably find… off we go, into the abyss.

Sometimes this is fun, sometimes it’s just terrifying.

Oh…and the plumbing? It turned out there was another box that I’d missed – it’s been a year since this stuff arrived, that’s my excuse. I’m going to look at that after lunch.

It’s been a little irritating

Today was one of those days. A somewhat irritating, less than successful day.

Partly I set myself up for failure. I was planning to finish the office floor’s pex pipeguides for the underfloor heating. This, actually, would be a reasonable target for a day; even for a bit over half a day as it’s a fairly simple layout section, but I was also expecting two separate permit inspections and also our plasterer was coming to fix some minor issues that we’ve noted.

So he arrived first, and while initially I was able to get on fine, eventually he hit the room I was laying the floor in, and… so I switched to putting up an exterior light.

It was at this point that I discovered I’ve installed a lightswitch upside-down. I’m not sure how, but I do need to fix it. Thankfully I discovered this with the voltmeter, not with my fingers.

Now it turned out that the light we ordered was about 1/2 an inch too tall. Having dismantled it and applied some gentle force, it fit, but the process was quite frustrating.

And then things started to go awry. So, our permit inspector turned up, and looked at the floor. Fine, he said, carry on, call him back when we’re done laying it. Which was the plan for that inspection – because we’re not done, but are running out of time on the permit. But then we had a very cross-purposes conversation where I misunderstood what he was talking about, and he, I suspect, misunderstood me. I didn’t realise he was there to do both the plumbing and the pre-hole-digging permit inspection for the garage. And from what I understand, he was confused because I took him to look at plumbing, when he was expecting to look at the ground, and couldn’t find the attached permit.

I think that’s it.

Anyhow, on I went with my day, and looked at the room where our plasterer had been working. The floor, unsurprisingly, was quite wet. Which is not ideal for gluing and screwing things. So I decided I’d switch to looking at the installation of the manifold and such for the plumbing.

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It took me a long time to realise that half the bits listed in the generic instructions are not included in our kit. Mainly because I kept trying to keep a list of what I’d identified in my head, rather than on paper, which would have been more sensible. Also because this is more complex stuff than I’m used to plumbing, so working out what things are is more complicated. I’m guessing this is because we’re using a combi, not repurposing a regular water heater. And because it’s designed for purpose, I’m thinking that many of the bits just aren’t needed.

But there’s no specific instructions, and no indication how they’re expecting it to be laid out. Having battled with that for a couple of hours, comparing mismatched diagrams from the boiler company, the makers of some of the parts, and the generic install instructions I threw my hands up in frustration and decided I’d cut the bits where it says to cut them so I can lay them out in front of me and work out what’s missing and what I need.

Only…

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Now, I knew that lump of adhesive had ended up on there, because I’d fished out the leaking container of glue. However, what I didn’t realize is how well it’d bonded to the thing – and nothing I did could remove it. And my final attempt ended up with it cracking.

Having stared at the plumbing some more I concluded that I might as well go and get a pipe cutter… and since it was now apparent that I would be doing some proper copper plumbing, a new gas cylinder for my torch. A quick google led me to the useful information that Benzomatic is a US-available brand, and it was stocked in BoB. Good.

Then while I was making my list I ran across a rather important list – things for the shower base in the 3/4 bath.

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And was struck by a slow-dawning-fact. We’ve put down the PEX plumbing in the bathroom, but I’d forgotten that before that went down, first there was meant to be metal lath, and underneath that, waterproof felt.

Well, bollocks.

At least the pipe’s just screwed down.

So I added the ‘stuff for the shower base’ to my list, and prepared to head out. I got out the door before twigging that I couldn’t leave. I called the permit inspector and finally worked out one- that I’d got him and our other permit inspectors’ names backwards, and two- what our cross-purposed discussion was about. He’s going to come back tomorrow (yay), and I now knew that I needed to lay out the footprint for the garage. Adding that stuff to my list I headed to BoB.

Having got there it became quickly apparent that despite Benzomatic selling blowtorches both here and in the UK, the European one is a completely different thread to the US one. So yay to that.

New torch, and lead free solder acquired (I have no idea if my other solder has lead in it, I’d guess it does, it’s not legal here). I also picked up a pipe wrench, so I can see about separating the sink from its broken drain, and the shower stuff, and a new blade for the battery-circular saw (which was struggling to get through the plywood today).

And then me and pythagoras made friends.

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It took a distressingly long time and was startlingly hot in the sun, but eventually, with the help of the inspirational moment when I worked out that if I tied all the posts together with the flagging tape in the right lengths for the sides of the garage and the diagonal, then I could futz about repositioning the corners until it was roughly parallel to the house (made more difficult, because Rebecca is sat right where I need to measure) and so long as all the sides and diagonals remained taut, it should be a rectangle.

And so, it was done.

And it is pretty much the only thing I achieved today.

In other news the Tuff-Shed 5-6 weeks for delivery and assembly has become 8 weeks. Which puts the arrival of the garage…after we’re hoping to move in. Which is…unhelpful.

Some of the lights we ordered came with bases that don’t fit US plastic wall boxes, which means we either need to make new bases, or make plates to go on the wall. Either way, it’s effort we didn’t want to put in. Also, some of them arrived damaged, and they came from a company we won’t be ordering from again (called Beautiful Halo), who’ve offered us a 5% discount (ha!) and told us to spray the one we complained about. Since the discount doesn’t even cover the cost of paint, that’s… not impressive.

It’s all very privileged stuff to be stressing about, and I’m well aware of that. But it wasn’t a good day, not after what’s felt like really good progress on the floor up until now. It’s somewhat of a come-down.