So we're completely exhausted.

No really, both of us, just completely exhausted. I know a lot of people say it a lot, but we're running on fumes.

Lately work has been absolutely crazy for both Wendy and me. I'm talking 80-100 hour weeks crazy. Couple that with the extremely stressful endeavor of trying to oversee a major overhaul to our plumbing and HVAC at our house that we're not able to live at (because it has no functional plumbing or HVAC), and you've got a great recipe for periodic neurotic meltdowns, mild adult temper tantrums, and copious amounts of wine and ice cream.

Let me start by saying, as much as this may sound like complaining, I'm not complaining at all. Work may be crazy for us, but it's also very challenging (in a good way), and we're both doing something we enjoy quite a bit. Really, you can't beat that with a stick. And the repair process to our house? Well, we keep reminding ourselves that this whole effort is manic and stressful, but it's temporary and will leave us in a much better position for the future. Before we know it we'll be enjoying our house and looking back on these first months in our house where we had to make it work.

All that being said, we've not had nearly the time we need to write blog posts to keep you all updated on our progress. Sorry for the slow updates on our projects. There's so much happening that I want so badly to write all about, but there are not enough hours in the day, and that makes me a sad panda.

But enough about the craziness. I want to get you all caught up on the progress of it all. While I wish we had tons of time for blog posts to break down every little detail of the work, let's face it, that would be boring for almost everyone. Instead we'll give you a quick overall progress breakdown between the tears we're wiping away and wine we're pounding.

While we can't stay at the house for several day long periods, we have been going as often as we can for short stints. We work on projects, demolition, and prep work, and we try to enjoy the beautiful view, relaxing setting, and osprey calling to each other all day (in the 15 minute or so breaks we take to eat).

Typically we'll pack up a bunch of tools, several bottles of water, and snacks or meals for the day. Then we'll all pile into the family truckster and head down to see what sort of progress the contractors have been making, and what sort of stuff we can get done.

Lately they progress has been fast and furious on both the HVAC and plumbing. We kicked things off a few weeks ago by preparing the utility room for all of the new equipment. The old equipment was large and honking, and it took up the entire back wall of the room.

What's worse is that the water header and boiler items had leaked periodically over the years, and during our freeze, which had damaged the sub floor. 

So we spent a whole bunch of time taking up parts of the old floor to make repairs. As much as I really, REALLY wanted to keep the old flooring and make the utility room look amazing, due to the softness of the floor and anticipated weight of the new equipment I had to acquiesce and put a new layer of sub floor down to stiffen everything up.

Once the floor was prepared we decided to do what we could to quickly freshen up the dingy room that had been largely masked by the old utilities. A quick and easy coat of primer and white paint later and the multiple colors, dirty walls, and water stains were a thing of the past. It was far from perfect, but it was certainly better, especially given how little time we had to get it done.

(After two coats of primer)

Since this project is not without its ongoing difficulties, that same day we were painting there was a huge thunderstorm in the area that included a tornado warning and nearby tornado on the ground. It was pretty intense, and lightening even struck our neighbor's house. I've never been so close to a lightening strike and it literally made the hair on my arms and legs stand up. Luckily the neighbor's house was okay. Without a basement or an interior closet to speak of, we ended up taking shelter under the stairs and watching Twitter for updates. I think we might want to get a lightening rod installed on our chimney.

That photo was taken during the day. That's how dark it was outside.

Okay, back to the work. After we had the room prepared we worked to build a partial partition wall next to the chimney. While the old boiler was large, geothermal equipment is much larger. And since we're doing a ducted system, the duct work extends away from the unit, taking up even more space.

In short, the geothermal units will take up a ton of room, and our plumber needed somewhere to mount the distribution manifold. So this wall is simply a partial wall covered with a sheet of plywood where the plumber will be able to mount all of his stuff. Without it he wouldn't have anywhere to put everything.

Once our utility room shell was set, we sort of took a back seat to our great HVAC guys doing the whole install. It was great to arrive at the house and see a giant pile of duct waiting on the porch.

Every time we went back to the house a little more work was done. Some things went smoothly and as expected, like the air return we're going to tuck under the stairs. It made me a little sad to lose space under the stairs, but we have a great idea to work it in so it looks like it's always been this way. (We'll get a photo of this up here soon.)

And sometimes things didn't go quite as smoothly. 

Like the need to place the main large geothermal unit in the middle of the room due to the floor joist location, where the duct needed to run, our electrical panel's location, and the location of the large cement and cinderblock pad that was put below the old oil boiler.

The moral of the story is a well known fact. No matter your plans, when you're working in a house that's over 100 years old (or really any "older" home), even the best laid plans often need minor changes.

While the HVAC team was working to run duct through the whole house, the plumber was working to re-plumb everything. I had a lot of internal debate about the best way method to re-plumb. Specifically the best material to use. The options I was considering were copper vs PEX. Several people recommended CPVC, but I personally don't prefer it, so I tend to not use it in my projects. After all of the debate and quotes, we opted to hire someone to do all of the work in 100% PEX with home runs to a single distribution manifold.

I know the copper vs PEX is a topic many people feel very passionately about. For us the decision didn't come down to cost, but rather to flexibility of the system, how it could be run in a minimally invasive manner, and ease of future change/expansion.

We also purchased a new very high efficiency Marathon electric water heater since the old one we had was near the end of its life. This will be combined with a geothermal storage tank to help our hot water efficiency ever more. I'll write more about this in a later post.

I worked closely with our plumber to come up with a pretty cool plan. With our planned approach we will have all of the toilets in the house run off of a single supply line that is not shared, in the event we want to install a gray water system in the future. We'll also have multiple shutoff valves at various locations. This way we can shut the water to the house while we're gone, but will leave the hose bib/outside water functional in the event we want an automatic watering solution if we do a garden in the future.

In order to get the plumbing up to the second floor we came up with a plan to run all of the PEX in a bundle in the corner of the kitchen. This will allow us to hide it in the future, and will also take care of all of the old pipes that were run on the outside of walls in every room. However, this meant we needed to do some demo to the ceiling of the kitchen to allow the plumber to run the PEX where it needed to go.

That little strip of ceiling and a one foot by two foot hole in the living room's ceiling was all we needed on the first floor to get the plumbing up and into the bathrooms. Minimally invasive all thanks to PEX.

As of today the plumbing work is nearly complete, as is the HVAC. The house is slowly starting to feel more like it may once again, some day, be a house. We have a TON of work ahead of us, but hiring really good people to help us get to where we are now has been a great start. It's been a very long process to get to this point, and we never thought we'd still be getting HVAC and plumbing repaired over five months since the major freeze, but we're moving along and that's what's important.

At the very least, Lulu loves going out into the water every time we take her. She bounces out to the pier, runs right in, finds a stick, and then just lays there to cool herself off.

Can't wait to update you on more as more things are finished up and we can once again think, speak, and write coherently.

Comments 2


Holly Laffoon
7/29/2015 at 1:34 PM
Fascinating - I love reading about all this!
Margaret Schleicher Bjorklund
7/29/2015 at 7:54 PM
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