Construction Diary

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Hi there! I'm Merry, married to Husband for 39 years, 2 grown daughters, 1 dog and 3 cats, living on a little acreage in the Midwest. I am a Christian and like writing Inspirational Christian romance (I have several books out) travel, reading, history, archaeology and writing.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Everything but the kitchen sink...

Not anymore! I have a sink installed. No plumbing to it, but definitely a sink. Progress is being made.

In the on-going porch leak saga we now have 7 passive vents on the south side of the roof. Richard has logged the temperature for the last 3 days...and nothing has changed with a full 24 hour rotation of new vents.

Wednesday the insulation folk are coming out to see if they can figure it out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Of roofs and vents and sealing glue, of airflow through the seams...

Despite never having constructed a house before, Richard and I had tons of expert experience around us. Pa was ever helpful and went way beyond to make sure we did things right and well. We talked to contractors around the area, chose men and women recommended by others. Richard and I acted as our own contractors and therefore all our expert help were our subcontractors.

Only in one case did we decide arbitrarily that we could do something none of us had ever done. Even our framer and roof man had never done it. That something was to put in a ridge vent and ice dam material on the roof rather than going with typical vents or the turbine vents you see on most roofs. Ridge vents are relatively new, and a lot of contractors in this area still don't use the new technology. Ice dam material goes on from the edge up 18 inches of the roof. We put a second layer up there, bringing it to 36 inches covered in the material.

We put 20 soffits in the eaves for airflow. There are three ways to control airflow from bathroom and stove vents inside the house. You can vent to the attic (about 50% of home builders in this area do that), or vent to the outside - either through the roof or the sides of the house.

We decided the bathroom vents and the stove vent could simply go into the attic since we had a ridge vent and plenty of soffits. Also, our attic has a lot of space as it is higher than most peaks due to our 9 foot walls inside the house.

After reading up on ridge vents and ice dam material on the Internet, consulting the store where we bought the materials and going over the instructions that came with the package, we were confident it would be done right.

Our roof is an inverted V, supported solely by the trusses. The beam under the porch is fake, and the porch pillars are for looks, they do not support the roof at all. After the ice storm last week, we noted the roof had a lot of snow (which means insulation is good) and that it was steadily melting as it should when weather warms up.

One day, Richard took Echo out to run in the yard and stayed up on the porch. And that's when he noticed the fake beam UNDER the porch was dripping.

Roof leak? Condensation? The ice dam material not functioning?

And so began a saga in which we and a series of experts started examining the roof, the shingles, and the attic.

Richard went into the attic and found a mess. All the insulation over the porch was wet. Soaking wet. When he lifted out the soffits, water just drained out. The rest of the attic was fine. Only the porch part of the roof was affected. The ceiling above (underside of the roof) was slighly damp, but only over the porch. The baffles between the house attic and the porch attic were covered in condensation.

We had intentionally separated with special baffles the porch attic and the house attic. This was a recommendation of the insulation company so we'd not lose heat and insulation creeping over to the unheated part of the porch attic.

After much examination of the roof, every single expert said the problem was condensation. But what could have possibly caused it? Venting bathroom and stove vents to the attic? But we KNEW of other houses in the area vented this way, in fact, the very man who did the bathroom and stove work did his own newly built home this way! And there was so much water! We'd moved in November 4, the ice storm happened last week. Another examination of the roof should no leaks in it. The problem was condensation.

Everyone had a solution. The roofing folk had one. The insulation guys came out and had one. The various subcontractors - roofers and ventilation folks both, had one.

1. Insulate around the attic access door
2. Insulate above in the attic and put a cover in the house over the whole house fan
3. Vent the bathroom and stove to the roof, rather than the attic
4. Put in more baffles between the house attic and the porch attic

Richard spent a couple days doing the first two. These two things we meant to do ANYWAY, but had put off as we dealt with other issues.

All of these solutions made sense. But what CAUSED the problem in the first place? Why wasn't air flowing in the attic when we had a full length ridge vent and twenty soffits? In normal circumstances, twenty soffits are overkill. But we had trouble before with houses that had ventilation problems so we wanted to be sure we'd have plenty of air circulation in the attic.

Richard went and consulted with the roofing materials people again. While there, a young man who worked there on the side and had his own roofing company suggested we test the vents and airflow. He'd bring out a fog machine (yep, just like those Halloween fog ones!) and he'd test the airflow by releasing fog from outside into the soffits, then releasing fog in the attic to see where it went.

This morning, after about 2 hours, we discovered the ridge vent has completely failed. No fog went in and no fog came out. We're not sure why this has happened, since appears to be properly installed. The mesh style fabric inside is taut, and it appears the baffles are fine.

The young man said we had two choices. Take the ridge vent off and reapply it, or simply put in 7 new regular vents across the south side of the roof. The south roof faces the back yard and the vents won't be visible.

We decided to do the second. Although the young man has experience installing ridge vents, its failure and the fragility of the material has caused us to re-think its application.

So tommorow the young man and one of his helpers will be coming to install roof vents.

We will also take the bathroom and stove vents out via the roof. A subcontractor has already been hired to do that job, too.

See the ice melting at the left corner? That was the first indication something was wrong. The ice should've melted evenly across the roof.

A lesson learned. Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Ridge vents may be right for some, but not for others.

Fortunately, we discovered the issue early and remediation will not be as expensive as it could've been.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Kitchen, ad nauseum...

I'm sure everyone is sick of every step of the kithcen pictures, but that's where we still are. Its not being put together as fast as the rest of the house.

The sink is not yet under the double windows. Richard anchored the cabinets and we put the temporary stock formica counters on for Christmas dinner. We'll probably keep the counters a few years until I decide what I really want. The stove will have cabinet doors above and tiling and a shelf between the appliances.

My baby dishwasher (only 18 inches wide) will be on a platform and hanging from the cabinet.

The table with the antique sewing machine legs is temporary. My lowered lunch counter will go there with matching chairs.

I still have not found the perfect lights to hang over the dining room or the lunch counter. I want something like a Tiffany, but more Frank Lloyd Wright - sort of a stained glass prairie Southwestern look.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lifting my end...

We have started moving our belongings into the house. This event was preceded by Richard putting baseboard on the walls.

Yesterday we moved the pie safe and the rolltop desk in.

Today we decided to move the china hutch in. I needed a place to store the dishes that I continue to unpack.

After clearing the way in the garage we discovered the piano and the entertainment center were in front of the china hutch. It would require someone stronger than me to help Richard get it out of the hole. So I called Pa.

Pa came up and between the guys, they decided to move the piano AND the entertainment center into the house before they brought in the hutch. We especially DREAD moving the piano. Its front legs are curvy Queen Anne useless things and if stressed might snap right off. The entertainment center is a big oak cabinet that weighs a ton. Pa brought the dolly down and they used rachets to make straps to grab. They rolled each unit over, then gently dropped it on its back onto the porch, then uprighted each one and rolled it into the house. Then they carried the two pieces of the hutch in one at a time.

From having no furniture and thinking it'd be days before I could empty boxes, I now have the full complement of the heavy stuff in the house!

I've found the Lladros, the Waterford, the Galway, the table lamps and shades. I also found the pole lamps, but not their shades. I've found all the pan lids, but only one pan. The piano bench is still missing. I found kitchen dishcloths, but not kitchen towels. I have glasses, but no plates.

I have box on the porch labeled "kitchen" but when I opened it, my planter stands from the back patio were in there along with some terra-cotta pots.

I'm hoping the one labeled "bathroom" has the good towels in it.

Tomorrow will be interesting.