Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The real work has started

We have finally been able to start the real work on the house!  That is, the real work that we're doing ourselves. My son Danny and I have been working on structured wiring all week. I think we've got a mile or more of wire fished through the rafters and studs so far. Just another mile or so, and we're done. 

We finished the video cables (two runs of RG6 to each location that could possibly have a TV), the audio-video controller wires, and the speaker wires. I also finished plumbing the central vacuum pipes. Tomorrow, we'll finish miscellaneous audio/video cables, and work on the ethernet cables.  We're laying cat6 ethernet cable to support gigabit ethernet throughout the house--every room will have at least one gigabit ethernet connection.

Danny has been a huge help! On the first day we were laying wires, he told me he needed the ladder I was standing on. But then, taking a look up, the break dancer in him came out. He climbed the wall and pulled the wires down without the ladder. I asked my brother Steve, who was also helping on the first day, if he could climb around just as easily.  His response: "When I was his age."  Danny and his friend Jake, spent the second day crawling around the rafters on the second floor, pulling video cables while I laid vacuum pipes. I certainly couldn't have finished it this quickly without them. 

Today, we had to take a cold day. Temperatures in the single digits are not compatible with running thin wires--the wires crack. And the 170,000 BTU propane heater I bought doesn't do a whole lot of good at that temperature without insulation. So instead, we moved machinery into the workshop. My brother-in-law Bill brought his panel van, and we were able to move the big tools today. We also picked up our garage doors. Bill will install them on Monday. 

Plumbing and HVAC are finished, and the electrician says that they'll be finished next Monday, and be ready for inspection on Tuesday. So it looks like next Tuesday is the big day--both electrical and structural inspections. I hope we can pass the first time through--although I won't schedule the insulation until a week from Monday just in case the inspector finds something that needs fixing (and to give me time to make sure we're really ready to close up the walls).  The carpenters should be here the same day to start the siding.  So we'll see some big transformations in the next couple of weeks. 

I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow.  Wires really aren't too interesting. But vacuum pipes? And Danny crawling around the rafters?  Certainly worth some pictures.

Oh. And Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Late Update

It's been two weeks since my last update. We've been busy with my daughter Linda's graduation from UW-Milwaukee, my dad's stint in the hospital (he'll be alright), about 8 snow storms leading to one the most snowy Decembers we've ever had, and Christmas preparations. In those two weeks, work on the house has progressed a little slower than I'd like, mainly because of the weather. The framers are still working on another job (the weather delayed them by at least a week) so the siding hasn't started yet. HVAC and electrical were both delayed by multiple snow and cold days.

So what's been done? Most importantly, I have a working workshop now. The framers finished furring out the walls, the electrician is done with the rough wiring, I have lights, and even a working Modine furnace dedicated to the shop:

My son Danny and I stopped by the house tonight, and the furnace has raised the temperature of the workshop to 45 degrees (where we had it set), and it takes about 5 minutes to raise the temperature by a degree. We still have to put some more insulation in the walls (more than the R-5 that's already installed on the outside foundation walls) and seal up the stairwell before I turn the heat up much higher. 

You might have noticed the stack of lumber in the picture above. Here's a better view: 

That's 2500 board feet of Wisconsin black cherry. I got a good deal from a local sawmill, who delivered it last weekend after straight-line ripping one edge and planing each board down to 15/16". The quality was better and the price was cheaper than I got when doing my kitchen in the last house seven years ago. I was worried about getting it unloaded from the truck, but Danny and I, with help from my nephews Jake and Joe, worked with the sawmill owner. It only took the five of us about an hour and a half to get it off the truck, down the stairs, and stacked in the workshop. 

Like I said in the last post, the plumber is finished with the rough plumbing, and we passed the plumbing inspection. The hvac guys have taken quite a bit longer, but they're done now as well, and I think we passed the hvac inspection. Here's the furnace and HRV installed: 

I chose a York furnace, manufactured by Johnson Controls which is based here in Wisconsin. It's a modulating furnace, which means that both the blower and the gas flame are variable. It can start out at low speed and low flame when demand is low, and increase both as needed when demand increases. They set it up as a zoned system, with one zone for each floor. Most importantly, it's extremely efficient:

It's supposedly the most efficient furnace on the market today. Since geothermal was too expensive to consider, I figured we should concentrate on getting an efficient furnace instead. We'll see how it impacts the gas bills.

I have to give the hvac guys some credit. They did a good job keeping the ductwork in the joist bays:

Since we're finishing the basement eventually, I want as much ceiling height as possible down there. So the theater and rec room will have 8'-7" ceilings--with no need to work around the duct work. In the bedroom, the ceiling drops to 7'-10" to accommodate the furnace plenum.

As you can see, the basement is all framed now, and the ceiling will look great:

The framers were able to follow the plans pretty closely. We'll have a rec room (with room for a pool table), a theater room, a bedroom/exercise room, and a full bathroom. I figured that as long as the framers were around, I should take advantage and get them to frame in the basement. They did a much better job than I could have, much quicker.

The electricians did get started late last week, as soon as the plumbing and ductwork were far enough along. They've still got about a week of work left to do, but I'll be able to get started on structured wiring tomorrow.

Even though we lost a week due to weather, I put a week of slack in around the holidays. So as soon as the electrician is done and we pass the electrical and framing inspections, the insulators can start. I'm hoping for insulation to start on Jan 5th.

We hit the 90-day point on Dec 23. When I look back at the original schedule, it isn't too bad. we can still hit our projected move-in date of the first week of May.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Passed the plumbing inspection

No pictures this time. We got a fair amount done early this week. The plumber is just about finished. He's done with the waste lines and the water heater, and we passed the first plumbing inspection today. The meter should show up tomorrow, along with the water softener. After the water softener, hose bibs, and a few more supply lines are connected, rough plumbing will be complete. 

The HVAC guys were diverted to another job on Monday, and we had a pretty big snow storm yesterday, so today is only their second day on the job. They made a lot of progress--second floor ducts are done, and they started on the first floor. Tomorrow they should be able to finish the first floor ducts and get started on the basement work--hooking up the furnaces (one for the house, one for the workshop) and the heat recovery ventilator. Next week, they'll set up the air conditioner. 

The framers spent the whole day in the house yesterday (staying out of the weather). They worked on the final framing on the first and second floor, started on the basement stair well, and on framing basement and workshop walls. Today I had three different trades on site at the same time: plumbers, framers, and hvac. It's kind of a mess right now. 

What else for this week? The framers still need to finish framing the basement, and installing the basement windows and the door to the workshop stairs. I have a walk-through with the electricians in the morning--so they'll get started tomorrow. It will take them two weeks to finish. I roughed in the central vac outlets last weeked. This weekend, I'll work on setting up the vacuum pipes. I should be able to pick up the garage doors tomorrow, and hopefully work with my brother-in-law Bill to install them over the weekend or early next week. 

Next weekend, I should be able to start the structured wiring. The framers will be back next week to put up the siding, and I have to call the roofers back to flash the roof penetrations for plumbing & HVAC. So it looks like the house will be completely roofed, sided, and all rough mechanicals will be done before Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And the work moves inside

Windows were delivered on Monday. Installed on Tuesday.  We no longer have gaping holes where the windows should be. Here's the south side of the house with windows installed:

You'll notice that the snow is back in this picture. We had about eight inches over the weekend, and another three or four inches today. But today, it didn't snow inside! I shoveled about 90 gallons of snow out of the second floor last night. But now no more shoveling.

The roofers came out today to finish the flashing. It took them about half the day, but we're all roofed now. The plumber and hvac guys also showed up and got right to work. I was worried that they'd have trouble finding good routes for drain lines and duct work. But it looks like we'll need very few modifications. I'll have to fatten up some walls in bathrooms and possibly drop a ceiling in a closet, but that's about it.

The plumber is just about finished roughing in the fixtures. He set up the laundry room supply and drain, while the hvac guy installed a pan that will give us more clearance for connecting the dryer vent:

They installed the cast iron tubs in the main bathroom upstairs and the guest bathroom on the first floor. The plumber said he hadn't actually installed a cast iron tub in ten years. And this house has three of them. That's one of the reasons we aren't going with a builder--we get full control over everything that gets installed. I'd much rather have a good, heavy cast iron tub than a cheap plastic one. The framing around the tub was perfect--not more than about a 1/2 inch of clearance at the front and back of the tub:

The hvac guys made good progress too. Openings for ducts and returns (each room--except for closets--gets its own return).  I wanted to avoid putting any duct work or plumbing supplies in unconditioned spaces (exterior walls and attic).  We got pretty close. We'll have the supplies for two closets run through the attic because there simply isn't anyplace else good to run them. I'll also have the supply for the guest bath toilet running through the exterior wall between the bathroom and the garage. 

Here is the family room showing our new windows, fireplace, and a whole pile of hvac materials:

The rough plumbing and hvac should take about a week--although the plumber may be done as soon as Friday. I plan to start installing central vacuum lines this weekend, so I'll be ready for the electrician to start next Wednesday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Roof is on...Windows go in tomorrow

Despite the long weekend, we made some progress. The roofers finished the roofing on Saturday. They just have a little bit of flashing to finish up and they're done. It only took them three days. 

And again, my timing was off. The roof was up on Saturday, but windows don't go in until Tuesday. So of course we got about 8" of snow on Sunday. I spent the day trying to put plastic up. And it held, at least while I was there. When I came back this morning, the wind had torn the plastic off the biggest windows.  So I had about an inch of snow covering the floors--both first and second floors. 

I waited a bit too long to order the garage doors. I got them ordered on Saturday, but they won't be ready until next Wednesday. The windows were delivered today, and it looks like they only missed one window: a basement window, which will be delivered on Thursday. I ordered other steel doors (service entrance to the garage, the workshop stair door, door between the garage and the laundry room, and the door between the basement and the workshop) about two weeks ago, and they'll be here either tomorrow or Wednesday. 

We'll be pretty close to closed in tomorrow, but it looks like it will be another week and half before everything is protected from the weather. 

The plumber stopped by today, only to turn around. With the wind, frigid temperature, and snow in the house I don't blame him. He'll come back on Wednesday--after the windows are in and I have a chance to shovel some of the snow out of the house. On the bright side, the fireplace did get installed today. So we met our first mechanical milestone. 

Just a single picture this time. I don't think I've shown one with the house from this angle. It does show the roof almost completed. And look at how well the roof matches the roof of the neighbor's houses. Yes, every house in the neighborhood has the same color roof.  Let's hear it for the suburbs!