We wait

Today I spent some time atop a ladder (steadied by my beloved) waving an enormous long pole with a hosepipe hooked on the end of it. Eventually I managed to land the hosepipe in one of our plumbing vents.

So then I called today to try and schedule a plumbing appointment. Unfortunately our inspector was away from his desk.


Hopefully things won’t go disastrously wrong tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be able to fit us in.

We also tweaked our design – we now have a built-in seat for shoe on-and-off-ment*. And we have a cupboard in which to hang coats. It’s hideously unsquare largely because it’s attached to our porch framing, which the original builders put up while blindfolded and drunk**. But we *think* we can cover it with shims in the framing of the final trim pieces.

We’ve also decided how we’ll frame up the other cupboard.

And tomorrow I’m back to drilling holes.

* We are both overly excited about this.
** I presume.

Break out the hot melt glue gun.

Well, okay, it’s (poxy) epoxy resin. But I’ve started putting the bolts in.


It’s a slow process – cutting them down to size and drilling the hole, then cleaning the hole, then pumping in the epoxy before leaving it to set for three days. I’ve not yet had the nerve to tighten up any of these bolts, but I really should. There’s a bit of depth variation because I’m not very cautious about cutting the rods down to size. As long as they’re at least 10″ long I’m happy*.

We’ve also cleaned the North side of the house and started on wrapping the south end.


The weather was against us yesterday, though… so we couldn’t do the tyvek that goes above the black, which is a shame. We were hoping to get the house wrapped before our holiday, but that’s not looking that likely. The black lower strip we put on on Sunday; yesterday’s work was all inside instead.

So yesterday I finally turned on the water and astonishingly, there were no leaks. To be fair, the first time I turned on the water (just to our front garden tap) there was a leak, but that was because I had to reuse the nipple* from our old plumbing as the one I’d bought was too long (and we needed water). Having replaced that with a new one, there was no leak.


Of course, we’ll see how it looks when we get there today.

I also filled the under-floor section of the waste water side with water (per the city testing requirements)… it also didn’t leak. But I’m waiting to see if the joint fails. If the weather looks acceptable I’ll run up on the roof today and put a hose in the vent and we can then fill it for inspection.

Which has to happen before we go on holiday, because otherwise our permit will expire, which would suck.

…and we’ve started putting up ceiling joists in the small sections that have ceiling joists…


And lurking in the background are electrical boxes.

We’ve also booked in treatment for the beetles that are eating the posts, and for the mould that’s ruining the trusses…

It’s not quick, but it’s starting to creep towards being housey.

* For limited meanings of ‘happy’.
** Double ended threaded tube, used here to connect between the tap and the pipework.

Well that turned to crap really quickly.

So, yesterday we managed to get some good news. Despite a wasted morning as I toured stores asking for things that didn’t exist – spending more of the morning hunting for things to attach the house to the foundation – discussing things with our engineer – realising that we’d missed something important on the diagram – rediscussing things with our engineer… before giving up at lunch time and meeting with Kathryn for the afternoon’s two person works…

…which went pretty well.

We’d finished framing up the back wall on Monday


And I’d then finished off the last bit of flooring yesterday morning before heading out on my (failed) quest. The other thing that had happened yesterday morning is that the inspector popped around (at our request) and okay’d us to wrap the back and the sides of the house. He asked for us to do some rectification work on the work that was done when the house was constructed where they’d not bothered with some of the nails (surprise surprise), but once that was done we were clear to go.

And so on went our combination of UV-protected open-joint cladding specific black wrap and tyvek. Thus making the house look wayyyy more respectable. From the back at least.


And so today I was feeling pretty good.

And then I set to on the bolt issue again. Having got a final answer from our engineer we I headed to the store – who didn’t have some of the stuff but who pointed me to a store that would. 15 minutes later I discovered, again, that our engineer had spec’d something which apparently doesn’t exist – but if I overengineered it (switching from the 1/2 to 5/8ths inch) then I could get a 10 inch long expansion bolt.


So I get the bolts. I have the threaded bar. I have the Simpson HDU2s. I have the tools to drill the holes. I have the epoxy to fix the threaded bar into the holes for the Simpson HDU2 holddowns. I have the impact socket set to allow me to quickly tighten them up.

All is ready.

So off I went and installed three of the epoxy anchor bolts. To do that, I also have to install an extra stud because – and this will astonish you – they didn’t bother with double studs at joints. I know! You didn’t expect our house’s builders to have cut corners like that, but they did. *sigh*.

So, each bolt requires me to cut, glue, screw then nail in an extra stud. Then to drill the hole, clean the hole, fill the hole with epoxy, then place the bolt in the hole, then wait 3 days for the stuff to set before I can actually attach the damn anchor.

Anyhow, after 3 of them my hand was pretty tired from the pump action on the tube, so I figured I’d try doing some wedge anchors. And lo, things went to shit very rapidly. The first one didn’t seem to want to tighten, no matter how far I hammered it in. I thought that perhaps I’d made the hole too deep (despite measuring it).

So I did another one. And that also wouldn’t tighten and disappeared further and further into the hole.

It was at this point I went outside and looked at our foundation and discovered


It turns out our foundation is made of crap mixed with shite, producing a substance with roughly the same integrity as the 45th President of the US.

Now, I can’t say what concrete should be like here. Perhaps it’s meant to be like powdered sand stacked artfully in a heap that if you nudge it too hard falls over. But I suspect not.

My first thought, because I’m hypercritical of myself, was that I’d drilled too near the edge. So I tried once more, attempting to direct the drill more inboard and having ensured that (contrary to the planning statements) it was as near to the front edge of the mud sill as the 3″ plate washer would allow. This, it turned out, had absolutely no fucking effect whatsoever.

Suspecting that the answer to this is “you’ll have to use epoxy everywhere” I called back our engineer for the billionth time. That was the answer, at least – that was his better answer than “well, you could replace the foundation”. Uh hu. Or we could hope that a particularly large ant walks into the foundation and the house collapses when there’s no one in it, and we escape from this fucking albatross of a money pit.

At this point I was so pissed off with the whole house, and the futility of it all, and the process in general, that I was largely hoping that the wood delivery truck might accidentally back into it and cause the whole fucking thing to collapse, so I decided to call it a night.

It’s not that it’s unfixable. We can – and will – do it. It will be expensive, and way more time consuming than it should be, like everything we’ve touched on this house.

It’s not that that bugs me the most. It’s that it feels completely pointless. Why am I strapping it to the foundation? I suspect the only reason it survived the Nisqually earthquake in 2001 was that it flopped around on it’s shitty foundation like a dying fish on the shores of a river. Tying it down will, I suspect, just mean that in the next quake the shitty foundations it’s on will crack and crumble like the substandard-low-grade crap they are. We’ve managed to make the rest of the structure more solid, but there’s very little we can do for the foundations – which to be honest were half the fucking reason we bought the place.

I also, it must be said, am starting to resent having to pour 1000s of dollars into bringing the place up to code, knowing how many shitearse ‘renovations’ we looked at when buying our house, that I’m damn certain were not up to code in any vague respect.

So I’ll try and dig up some positivity tomorrow. I’ll try and find some enthusiasm to care. But I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Instead, like much of this process, I’ll just plough on in the vain hope that at some point, it’ll feel like a house not a disaster.

So, today was a day

Today was one of those days that was a battle – and I feel a bit like I lost. We have been working on several jobs – there’s the framing at the back where we’ve replaced the sheathing and framed in the new windows. Kathryn finished the nailing on that today, so that at least is good.

There’s the everlasting pain that is the plumbing. I’m now down to one join – which is probably going to be made from two 22.5s stuck together – because it’s not 45 and it’s not 22.5 degrees, and there’s a subtle misalignment between the parts I precut a while ago, and where the vent exits the roof. I have at least managed to get the rest of it all connected together so when the plumbing test stuff finally arrives I’ll actually be able to test it.

I’m suspecting there’ll be at least one leak from one of the crappy joints. Still, we’ll see how it goes.

Anyhow, that was a complete arse today because I thought it was a 45 degree turn. It *should* be, but something I’ve done somewhere means it’s not. And I dry fitted stuff and it went together in that way that things sometimes do when you dry-fit where it clearly wasn’t going to work. But having tried my spare 22.5 turn in there that dry-fitted well enough that I thought it might work. With a bit of brute force and holding.

But I’m using different glue (because they only had multipurpose glue, not the plain ABS glue, and I figured that might be handy as I come to actually installing finish plumbing which may be PVC). It turns out this stuff takes *way* longer to dry, so as I tried to brute-force the joints, the other joints came apart. It ended up being a bit of a tedious disaster, more frustrating because it’s so close to finished and also it’s ladder work, so I can’t do it when Kathryn’s not there.

So I’ll attack it tomorrow, and hopefully get it to work.

Now, to be fair, if my morning hadn’t been so shoddily unproductive, then I would probably have had the patience and common sense to know that it wasn’t fitting well enough to work. But the morning went like this…

Our reading of the plan is that we need 40 5/8″ x 12″ anchor bolts made from galvanised steel.

Call places.

No one has them.

Call company A (poor sodding company A) who say they can get them tomorrow.

[Nip out to get plywood]

Place order with company A.

Visit Home Depot to look at what they have (and because I know I’ll need a 5/8″ SDS drill bit, because I don’t have one and an impact driver). They don’t have them either. Buy tools in readiness for installation anyhow as they are on sale and only have 2 of the impact driver, but hold off buying bit for impact driver as I’m not yet sure what size I need.

Call back company A because have moment of realisation that the price didn’t feel right. Discover that there has been miscommunication, they are ordering bolts to go in before concrete is poured. As we don’t have a time machine, cancel order.

Long discussion with company A where we discover that they can neither get, nor believe exist, 5/8″ anchor bolts made from galvanised steel.

Call engineer. Discuss plans. Identify that what we can get – which is adequate – is 36″ lengths of zinc coated threaded bar, which we can then cut to length, then epoxy in place, then screw down.

Drive back out to Company A (poor, poor sodding company A). Company A order pick for us, 20 threaded bars, 40 washers, 40 plate washers and 40 nuts in 5/8″… and 5 tubes of painfully expensive epoxy.

Drive to Home Depot, return the drillbit which is the wrong size for the 5/8″ bolts when epoxied in (you need a 1/8″ larger hole, apparently).

Literally as I’m leaving home depot get a phonecall from the engineer who points out a paragraph on the plan which indicates an alternative bolt pattern – at the end of the section after the main shearwall hold down section…after the nailing pattern… after all of that.

He explains that this is actually adequate for attaching our house as our house has got existing foundations. This requires approx 40 1/2″ x 10″ long expansion bolts.

I resist the urge to scream.

So tomorrow I get to return the stuff I bought from (poor, poor) Company A, and return the new drillbit, and replace it with the previous-fkin drillbit, and hopefully, gods hopefully, actually fix the house to it’s damn foundations once and for f’kin all.

I’m very grateful that he called, because it’s going to save probably at least $100 – and lots and lots of time, and also save me having to deal with the hideous epoxy. But…augh!

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 Fran├žais?

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.