Sunday, December 20, 2009

Building Drain

The building drain is the lowest point of a home's plumbing system. It's where all of the other drains (sinks, showers, toilets, etc.) meet up. I've installed a back-water valve (aka back-flow preventer valve) in the building drain at the point just before the drain exits the basement underneath the footings.

If for some reason the septic tank ever gets full, the back-water valve will prevent any nasty stuff from coming back up the building drain and into the house.

When I pour the basement slab, the back-water valve will be left accessible for maintenance.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rough Plumbing Work

I'm spending a bit of time on the Drain/Waste/Vent system again. I have to run some of the vent pipes up the exterior walls, so I have to cut some wide slots in the styrofoam.

There are hot-knife tools that are made specifically for cutting styrofoam, and I've also heard of people using electric chainsaws to cut away the foam. I don't really have that much to cut, so I can't really justify buying either a hot-knife or an electric chainsaw.

I've improvised by using my reciprocating saw with a very short blade. I make a couple of passes down each side of the slot, and then I use the claw end of hammer to hack out the foam. It does make a bit of a mess (that's where the hot-knife is better), but it works just fine.

For the tight spots where I have to take the foam out behind a floor joist... I just put a 12" blade in the reciprocating saw and make the cuts at a really shallow angle up behind the joist. Then I just poke away at the foam with a long screwdriver until it all comes out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rough Wiring and Half-Sistered Joists

Lately I've been trying to get some of the rough wiring done, but this is another one of those jobs where I can't do the main task-at-hand until I finish another seemingly non-related task.

I'm planning on putting ceramic or porcelain tile throughout the house. One of the prerequisites for laying tile is a strong, stiff floor. If the floor flexes, the grout between the tiles can crack. In order to help stiffen the floor, I'm reinforcing all the floor joists by screwing and gluing a 12" wide piece of 1/2" plywood to one side of each joist. (When renovating existing homes, sagging floors are often fixed by installing new joists directly beside existing joists. That's called "sistering the joists".)

Since a lot of the wiring will run through the floor joists, I need to get the joist reinforcement done before I can run any wiring. Once the joist reinforcement is done, I'm able to drill some holes and run my wire through the joists.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Framing A Fake Roof Girder

Although there is no main roof girder in the bedroom area, I wanted to frame it up so that it would look like there was. That way... when the ceilings are all finished (i.e. drywalled & painted, etc.), the ceiling in the bedroom will be consistent with the ceiling in the main part of the house.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Main Stairway Finished

I finished the stairs to the loft today. All in all, they turned out well and I'm very pleased with them.

I used my table saw to cut the dadoes in the stair treads and the risers. I don't have dado blades, so I just make several passes; moving over 1/16" each time.

The top of the riser fits into the bottom of the stair tread, and the back of the stair tread fits into the bottom face of the next riser.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stairway Progress

I've got the steps up to the second landing done. If anyone ever tells you that stairs are easy to build... they're lying.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Electrical Service Panel

I've got my electrical panel installed now. The electrical code says that the electrical panel must be installed "as close as practicable" to the service entrance (i.e. meter base on the outside), so I've installed the electrical panel just on the other side of the wall from the meter base.

I've used 2" PVC conduit to go down from the meter base and through the wall to the electrical panel. There are three 2/0 gauge wires that run through the conduit. The wire is very stiff and difficult to work with, and it took me an hour of pushing and pulling and cursing to get the three wires through the conduit.

The center wire (white tape) is the neutral wire and the other two are the "hot" wires.

Oh yes... there is no power on any of this yet. I wouldn't be doing any of this if there were. Once I have everything installed the electrical inspector will have a look at it, and if he approves it then the power company will come and install my electrical meter and hook me up to the grid.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Second Landing Done

I've finished building the second landing for the stairs up to the loft. This one was a bit more difficult because of it's shape.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shingling All Done

With the help of some good weather and despite a seemingly endless list of other things to do, I've finally finished shingling the back of the house. My days as a roofer are done for now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Few Steps Done

I've finished building the first few steps up to the landing. So far everything is working out well... all the steps are the same size and they're square and level.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Building a Set of Stairs

I've started building the main-floor stairs. Although it appears simple enough, building a set of stairs is definitely not an easy task. Getting all of the "underneath" parts to fit together so that the rise (the distance from the top of one step to the top of the next step) and the run (the distance from the front edge of the step to the back edge) are all correct is pretty tricky.

I'm using LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) for the stringers. It's very strong and won't warp or shrink. The steps will be made of two layers of 3/4" plywood. Everything will be glued and screwed together. When they're done, they should be strong and squeak free.

The first task was to build the landing. It's constructed of 2x8's and is supported on the outside walls by the same ledger beam that supports the floor. The inside corner is supported by a stub wall. There is a post in the basement that sits directly below the stub wall; so the corner of the landing is supported all the way down to a concrete footing in the basement. The floor of the landing is made from two layers of 3/4" plywood.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Plumbing Vent Details

This plumbing vent stack is made from 2" ABS pipe that protrudes up through the roof. A plastic and rubber flashing goes over top the vent pipe. The rubber top on the flashing is supposed to be self-sealing around the pipe, but because of the steep angle of the roof, the rubber didn't fit tightly around the vent pipe. I put some silicone around the joint, then put a second rubber flashing over the vent... similar to the storm collar that goes around the chimney.

The vent flashing is also just like the chimney flashing in that the shingles sit on top of the flashing on the upside of the slope, and the flashing sits on top of the shingles on the downside of the slope.

On underside of the roof, the pipe is secured to the roof framing with pipe strapping. The bottom end of the vent stack will eventually connect to the rest of the DWV (drain/waste/vent) system.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Electrical Service Entrance

I've been spending a bit of time building my electrical service entrance. The service entrance consists of the electricity meter and the associated conduit and wire... basically all the electrical stuff that's on the outside of the house.

The meter base is mounted on a piece of treated lumber. It has to be anchored securely to the house, so I drilled holes in the concrete wall and used 1/2" galvanized lag bolts and anchors. The service conduit is a 2.5" galvanized steel pipe, and it's mounted to the wall in a similar fashion.

I was worried that it was going to be a huge, ugly task drilling large holes in the concrete, but I rented a rotary hammer drill and it was a piece of cake. You can drill a 3/4" hole through an 8" concrete wall in under a minute. I used a block of wood attached to the outside of the wall as a guide. It helps to hold the drill bit straight so you don't end up with a wobbly hole in the wall.

I'm having a 200 amp service installed, so the specified wire is 2/0 guage. It's about 7/16" in diameter and very hard to bend. It was quite a task getting it to bend and fit through the weatherhead on the top of the conduit.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Front Windows

A very good friend of mine visited me on the weekend and we put in a couple of the large front windows. They're a bit big for one person to handle, so I really appreciated the help.

They were installed using the same method as previous windows... peel-and-stick flashing goes in the opening first, then a bead of silicone is put on top of that, then the window is nailed into place. Finally, another layer of peel-and-stick flashing is put on top to seal everything up. (I still have to do the last step on these.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Main Ridge Vent Finished

Today I finished the main ridge vent and have the top three feet of shingles installed from end to end now.

In a post about a week ago, I talked about the details of installing the ridge vent and cap shingles, and I mentioned briefly about nailing the last cap shingle down and covering the nails with silicone.

All along the ridge vent, each shingle is nailed so that the next cap shingle covers the previous shingle's nails. That's why you can't see any nails along the top. However, when you get to the end, obviously you still have to nail the last shingle down, but because it's the last shingle, there won't be another shingle to cover those nails.

So, you cover the nail heads with a bit of brown silicone, then you sprinkle a few shingle granules on top and press them lightly into the wet silicone. (There's always a bunch of loose shingle granules inside the plastic wrap from the bundles of shingles.)

The nail heads all but disappear, and from ground level you won't be able to tell at all.

Here's with the nails showing.

Here's with a bit of silicone.

Here's with the shingle sprinkles.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ring-Shanked Nails

For the roof platforms I use for shingling, I usually tack everything together with hand-driven 3" common nails because it's easier to pull everything apart when I need to move the platforms. Today I was reassembling one of the platforms and I didn't have any of the 3" nails within reach, so I grabbed my framing nailer and used it.

I use ring-shanked nails in my framing nailer. The rings are like little ridges on the nail. There is also a red coating on the bottom half of the nails, which I imagine is something to increase adhesion.

Anyway, after I was done with the work platform and started tearing it apart, those nails held so well that when I went to pry the top board off, it pulled the heads of both nails right through the top board. The nails stayed stuck in the bottom board. This has actually happened to me several times, and I'm continually amazed by how well those nails can hold.

Click on the photo below to enlarge it. You can see the two nails are still stuck in the bottom board after I've pried the top board off.