Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drywall is on the way.

It's been a week, and we've been putting up the remainder of the furring strips on the ceilings for the drywallers, picked up the last of our windows for the third floor and have been building new window stops.

The spray foam insulation guys came by today to finish up the cutting back of the foam to meet the wood framing & furring, and left us tanks of extra stuff to spray should we find additional areas we want to cover. We have a few issues still remaining with the spray (and some accidentally cut wires) but I'll focus more on that later.

DH has been drilling 2 1/4" holes in our wet walls and closets, and anywhere he can stick the darned hammer drill with the hole saw to accommodate the new pipes we picked up for the Nutone central vac system. It's partially installed as of this evening. If you're at all interested, and you're doing a rehab where the walls are exposed, you may want to think about this option. Absolutely everyone I have heard about who has one, absolutely loves it. Especially the toe-kick vac. Drop food on the floor in the kitchen? No problem, scoot it over to the toe kick and sluuurp-- there it goes. This is going to be very cool.

The central vac system uses pvc pipes, but special diameter pipes to have enough power to suck the dirt off of the floor on the third floor, so don't just run out and get regular plumbing pvc pipes. It won't work half as well if you do.

The big news is that we have hired a crew to put up our drywall, and we placed the drywall order this afternoon. It's arriving tomorrow afternoon. All $2,500 worth, including mud, tape, screws, nails - everything. The company is Skyline Materials based in Mt. Healthy in Cincinnati, and they'll not only deliver, but they'll bring a boom and lift the sheets in through the window. Also, for an additional $1/board, they'll carry boards from one floor to the next. We needed this additional service because they can only deliver through our 2nd floor window, so all of the boards headed to the 3rd floor have to be carried - and not by me. My back is killing me. Twitchy, painful, nerve pinching type stuff, but as long as I don't over do it, I think I'll recover.

I still have those pics of the firebreaks to upload, I haven't forgotten- just too busy to get to them....

And we still have a fallen tree in our yard. > :-(

Thursday, September 18, 2008

We PASSED!! (The framing inspection)

Okay, looks like second time's a charm for us once again.

I still plan on uploading a bunch of pictures regarding what constitutes a fire break (because it was somewhat confusing, I know) and some specific fixes, but right now it's back to the site to finish up the ceiling lath strips so the drywallers can get started hanging drywall.

It's hard to believe we're almost there.

Anyway, there's one snag in regards to framing-- apparently we need a tempered glass window sash at the bottom of our staircase from the third to the second floor. I knew about the bathrooms needing the tempered glass if you have a shower within 10 feet of the window, but if you have a window in a 'hazardous condition' then it needs to be tempered glass. In our case the lower sash is evidently in a hazardous condition at the bottom of a stair, while the upper sash is more than 60" above floor, so now we are going to have a spare sash. Great. At least we only need to replace one sash and not both.

Also, something I hadn't realized in regards to venting and smoke detectors: You can't have a vent within three feet of a smoke detector. It would blow the air away from the detector, which makes perfect sense. We have an air return within two feet, and that's okay. Maybe even better than not near any HVAC at all.

(note from DH: The inspectors may have saved our lives. People complain, but unless you run into a real jerk, these folks are trying to make you safe. You may not realize it, but they are. Had we not put in adequate fireblocking and breaks...well, in a fire, we might have been dead instead of collecting insurance. the worst kind of fire spreads quickly without setting off your in your walls and ceilings. We'll be doing more on this.)

Now maybe we can get our fence up.

As soon as we get the neighbor's tree out of our back yard...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Insulation, Part two.

Still no electric at the house.... so here I go with another installment of Insulation and You.

This time it's insulation for the walls for the main purpose of keeping the warm side warm and the cold side cold.

Priority One spray foam insulation came last Thursday with a big trailer and long hoses to start the process. They're spraying 2# foam on the brick exterior walls, and 1/2# (quick expanding, but more flexible) foam on the roof rafters. We were barely a step ahead of them, finishing up the furring on the windows and walls from all those times we knocked off at 9PM thinking, "I'll get that tomorrow" and then promptly forgot to finish it until now.

The stuff, once sprayed, hardens within a minute, doesn't smell bad at all, and it really very cool.
They sprayed it inbetween the 1x3 and 2x4 furring strips on all of the walls, and then, when it hardened, would scrape off the excess off of the wood.

It's a light, pale yellow color and when they finished a room, it looked like they buttered the house.

The guys wore full body coverings and masks, and if you decide to do this yourself, I also recommend you do the same.

It took them all of Thursday and Friday to spray the exterior walls and the rafters of the third floor. They'll be back on Tuesday with smaller tanks fill in the small missed areas with slower rising foam that they can use to get in the tiny cracks.

They suggested we get a can of spray paint and mark all the areas they missed in order to speed up the process.

They would've been here today, but apparently a few of them have to repair tree damage to their homes and cars.

I understand completely.

See you tomorrow, guys. ;-)

(Addendum by DH: I am going to recommend these guys, from what I've seen so far. Dilligent and responsive management and lots of responsibility. They WANT you to have a tight home. By doing this process I get significant insulation in my walls without losing a full 3 1/2" on all four walls. That's more than 70 square feet (and nearly 600 cubic feet), if my math is correct -48' long house 16' wide, 2 1/2 stories- I get a perfect vapor barrier and insulation that never settles, never falls out of place, never lets cold air through it, and provides R7 per inch. The alternative without building out the walls is not much insulation at all.

Without spray insulation on the walls, I can't imagine that we wouldn't pay $100/mo. more in utilities. Probably more. Plus, we'd STILL be spending a goodly penny insulating and building out the attic and basement to try to get some decent insulation. At $1200 year, the whole job pays for itself in 5 years. Not the price differential--the whole job. It's a no brainer. The house is sealed up tight like a big igloo cooler and it's done. We can move on once the last holes and missed spots are foamed in.

Now, I COULD have done this myself, but my estimate was not that much less (maybe 20%) than my bid to have someone else do it, take all the risk, and do all the work and all the clean up. I'm an optimist, but I'm pretty confident that I'd waste quite a bit and that I might underestimate things. It's possible that I'd screw up badly too. I don't have to worry about that and I've got time to push other aspects of the job forward.

I think that anyone who's insulating bare walls needs to consider this. If you're local, know that I found this company's bid to be the most competitive, too.)

What's been going on INSIDE the house

In a word, Insulation.
Two different types, and two completely different projects, though.

The first is the firebreak insulation, mainly the rockwool that we needed to fire block the framing that we oh so messed up big time.

We originally thought we just needed the fire caulk (bright orange fireproof foam) to fill the gaps around pipes and such. Nope. We needed more.

Areas like around our soffits, and on the third floor in the ceiling joists needed a lot of help.
Below this soffit (see pic) in our kitchen, there's an area to the side of the wall that has a gap. This is where a fire (or in my silly mind, a mouse) could crawl from one area into the next. If a mouse can crawl through it, a fire can, too and it needs to be plugged with firecaulk or rockwool (rockwool is cheaper, but a lot like fiberglass and is itchy - be sure to wear long sleeved shorts and respirators). Jeff also said OSB is a good barrier. We'll have to use that on the other sides of the soffit.

In this case, we just stuffed a bunch of the material into the area with a shim. That's all it takes.

Jeff Bechtold at NKAPC said we could use two bundles of the rockwool for the whole house, so we went to go get them. They were $35 each and they were MASSIVE. One fit in the back seat, the other one we had to strap in the trunk, making visibility um... bad.

We ended up bringing one back, as we really didn't need that much after all.

We had NO idea they were this big. We paid for them first, then went out to the yard to pick them up. Sheesh.

In the last picture here, Jeff even noted that where the framed walls pulled out from the plaster in the kitchen and created a gap-- that needed to be stuffed with rockwool, too.

There are little places like this all over the house. I can't even take pictures of all of them. It's dizzying.

I thought at first that we might have really screwed up by not installing our soffits BEFORE the furring strips, which would have solve a majority of our problems, but then I thought I really wanted to have the furring strips in first to add stability to the soffit.

I guess it's just a matter of opinion.

Anyway, we were really disappointed that there wasn't much information available anywhere we looked on fire protecting a house like this, so we'll be adding more information on this later, along with before and after pictures of where you need to look for fire break problems.

Just remember to think like a mouse, and if you can connect a vertical space with a horizontal space (like climbing up the wall to get into a soffit) you too can fail a framing inspection.

The second insulation project deserves it's own post..... and now on to Insulation, part 2:

Wind Damage - Part Deux

Well, there are still about 600,000 people in the Cincinnati/ NKY area without electricity. Including the rehab house. Funny thing is that where we live only seven blocks away from the project - the electricity never went out, which is why, of course, I'm able to update the blog :-)

We dropped by the house to see the condition of the fallen tree in the backyard -- more specifically, on our neighbor, Jim's house. It pretty much took the brunt of the cracked tree on both sides of his house.

This first picture is the *tree of concern* and you can see why. Half of the dead branches are hanging from the others. There's a whole section that's hanging upside down.

But really, most of it's being upheld by the roof of the yellow house behind us.

The bad news is he's the caretaker for the rental property with the *TOC*. And now, more than ever, he understands how heavy this burden is.

You can see the huge limb that would have crushed our car in our backyard.

I just got word that most of the traffic lights in Covington are still out, there are power lines still dangerously hanging in the roads, and even telephone poles have been knocked down.

I cannot express how thankful I am to have taken down that massive catalpa tree in our backyard when we did. I have no doubt the damage from that broken down hollowed out trunk would have been more than I could take.

Even down the road from the house, a smaller tree was just completely blown over, taking the power lines with it.

It's gonna be tough working on the house without electricity.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Windy day in Covington. A little TOO windy.

It started about 3PM. It's still going on. They say gusts of wind of 50 MPH.

I say they underestimated. This is Hurricane Ike.

The Ohio River had white caps and a lot of people are going to be calling their insurance companies tonight.

We've been worried that a nearby tree on the property next to us (our neighbor to the West) was old and could fall apart at any time. When we cut ours down and found out it was hollow, we were even more concerned about hers. It became the *tree of concern*.

Today, after the winds started picking up, we drove by the site to see if there was any damage.

There was.

If our car had been parked in the parking area, it would have been crushed by a huge branch. I didn't have my camera with me at the time, so I didn't get a shot of the mess, but when we got home, I grabbed my camera and walked around the neighborhood in the wind, with sand and leaves whipping around so much, it stung the backs of my legs just walking down the street. These are those pictures.

The caretaker of the property (next to our rehab) with the *tree of concern* called us about a half an hour ago to let us know that the tree was blown over even more; not just branches this time. The tree cracked.

It landed on HIS house.

I'll take pictures tomorrow. We're told our house is ok for now.

I'm just thankful that we hadn't put up the fence in the backyard yet. It would have been trashed.

So on our walk within a 2x5 block swath around of our current house, we found about 40 cracked or collapsed trees, 8 damaged cars, many many live wires pulled into the streets, shingles in the streets, store signs pulled off the sides of buildings, siding being ripped from the sides of houses, awnings flying down the streets, broken windows...

And I don't think we've had a moment of silence since 3PM. The ambulances and fire trucks and police cars have been non-stop.

We parked two blocks away from our house.

In a parking garage.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Firebreaks: The new way to fail a framing inspection

OK, I gotta tell you, we were thinking about firebreaks completely differently than the way we were supposed to. Jeff Bechtold from NKAPC gave us an early inspection this morning (A very nice guy, btw- lot of information and very helpful) and pointed out a lot of ways we need to make new fire breaks in our walls. There are LOTS of them needed.

The good news is that we can fix all of them with rockwool (mineral wool) and 1/2" OSB in hopefully under a day.

I've got a lot of pictures to take of the right way and wrong way to make a firebreak, which should be helpful to anyone going through this process.

Jeff kept repeating that "the horizontal and the vertical [spaces] can't communicate." Meaning that if you have a space going from a wall to the ceiling (the way a fire would normally travel) if the horizontal space meets with the vertical anywhere, that's bad.

I put it in different terms.

You're a mouse. You're climbing up a space in the framing (or wall) and if you can get through to the floor above, so can a fire.

You have to think like a mouse.

Unfortuantely this means we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and effort building this aspect into the framing while we were doing it, but now that bthe framing is up, we're going to be making a lot of small OSB cuts to fill gaps in the framing and we're off to buy 2 bales/packages of rockwool.

*Jeff mentioned that if we got an old butcher knife to cut the rockwool it would be easier to get into small pieces that we could then use a shim to poke into the small mouse-sized spaces that need filling.

As to the firebreak spray foam: rockwool is cheaper.

Oh, yeah, and he said the third floor attic/storage wall was just fine. :-)

OK, we're off to the insulation store!! (Jensen's Insulation in Erlanger.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Good news / Bad news

Yup, we passed. New 1/2" copper ground 6 feet away from the first two (but daisy chained together - someone help me on the logic of this one, because I really don't get it at all) ... new outlets installed... woot.

The bad news is after the inspection, Bob called and told us that the re-inspection fee wasn't waived after all. :-( (He probably waited until he was out of range to let us know.)

Now we have the framing inspection tomorrow, and the insulation spray foam guys are coming by to do a run-through on the house to see if everything's ok to spray foam this Thursday and Friday.

The real problem will be finishing up all of the furring by Thursday. If we don't pass the framing inspection or don't get all of the furring done by Thursday, it could put a massive twist on the whole project. You see, the insulation guys are going on vacation for a week, which would leave us stalled until they return.

Since we're planning on being in the house by October 15th this is really cutting it close.

BTW: this is the picture I meant to add top the previous post; I figured I'd just add it in here. This was the wall that needed the outlet.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday night update - 2nd electrical inspection tomorrow

Argh. It's 10 PM and I just took a shower. One of these days it's going to be nice to not expect a muddy runoff down the shower drain.

Anyway, we've been working on the 3rd floor most of the day today. Mainly we've been furring and framing in the storage area, getting it ready for the spray foam insulation, and building a new partition wall so that we don't need to have an electric outlet on it, but wth, we're putting one in anyway. I'll get a picture soon and update.

Why all the fuss? Well, we're having the second electrical inspection tomorrow. The good news is that when we were trying to figure out whether we really needed an outlet along this 6' wall, we talked to Sheila Spradling at NKAPC, and she waived the fee for the re-inspection. Very cool lady there.

So we put in a bunch of new outlets (five to be exact), rewired another smoke detector on the 3rd floor (a full 12 feet from the one at the bottom of the stairs--harumphf) moved some light boxes and a wall.

Heck, at least I got all of the gunk out of my hair in the shower. If I knock my head on an attic joist one more time I'm gonna scream. If I knock my head into another NAIL in an attic joist I'm gonna scream bloody murder.

I'm tired. And we haven't had dinner yet. I need a glass of wine.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A piece of good news - the fireplace.

The old "livingroom" which will now be our dining room has always had a tacky fireplace in it. The mantle was made of crappy mismatched trim board, had 1/4" fake brick (yes, FAKE brick) facade and a gruesome glass and metal front.

We've been avoiding touching it for almost a year now.

But now that we're finishing up the furring in the new dining room, we decided to fur in the fireplace as well.

By this time, the mantle and the plaster were long gone. (The original picture is from before we bought the house. Love the carpet, no?) All that was left to do was to attach the 2x4's flat to the wall and basically encapsulate the fireplace.

I started by attaching two 2x4's together to make my corners and attached them to each side of the fire place.

Then I tore out was the metal grate. It loosened the fake bricks. So I pulled them all off. That took some of the plaster with it. So I kept going.

Eventually, the room was filled with dust, my cleavage filled with sand, and an hour later, I noticed this cool brick archway.

So THAT'S what was under there all these years.

I'm gonna keep it.

Aw crap. Failed the Electric Inspection.

And we worked so hard, too.

I don't think Bob from the NKAPC even looked at the jbox wiring or the connections, which is where I figured they'd be focusing on. Noooo. We lost it on NOT HAVING ENOUGH OUTLETS.

Apparently we missed that part where any wall that is 6 foot or greater must have an outlet. So the wall that covers over the fireplace in the kitchen (which isn't 6" but was close, and is 42" away from the island, which will have 2 outlets) needs one. And the knee wall on the second floor stairs in the office. And the fireplace in the office. And the third floor? Three more. (Two in areas that may never be even reached).

The breaker boxes were replaced and look GREAT if I do say so myself. I thought that would be the most excruciating part of the inspection. After all, it was the hardest. (For me anyway.)

I mentioned before that we wanted to move them from the basement (where they were split into two boxes for the two apartments in the house) into the first floor dining room. Here's where we started:

And here is what we ended up with. I think we should've scored points just for cleaning the darned thing up, y'know?

But that wasn't all. Noooo. There's this code that says we can't just ground the house by connecting the grounds to the copper plumbing pipe and the 10' copper rod embedded under the basement. No, we need a SECOND 10' copper rod embedded into the foundation six feet away from the first one. Sheesh.

The guy gave us our NKAPC sheet with the list of needed outlets and the grounding rod, then checked the part where it said did not pass, needs re-inspection. He also checked the part where we now need to pay a re-inspection fee. I think it's like $30-$50

So it'll take another day to order the NEW (6%$#@*&) copper grounding pipe and dig a hole into the foundation, and run new wires for the six *^&%$#@&^%$* outlets that will never be used, but just in case someone 30 years down the road wants to plug in a vacuum cleaner in a crawl space in the third floor attic, they'll be able to.

Moo. I'm the new cash cow.