Monday, January 28, 2013

And on to the next step

We have finished insulating and passed the inspection. On to drywall! And the stairwell! 

For anyone wondering - we are not required to insulate interior walls. We did it for sound control and used inexpensive R11. We also didn't bother to fill every bay so it went up lickety-split. 

Pretty insulation

More pretty insulation
We now have a decision to make. We can install the drywall ourselves (as we originally intended to do) or hire it done . Time versus money, baby! With our old house sold and closing on March 8th we have quite a bit to do to move. It would be wonderful to hire a drywaller to have the entire new house done in two weeks. Two weeks! It'll take us at least a month. Per floor. Even that may be optimistic. Can't make a decision without data, so we'll wait on the quotes and see how that sways us. In the meantime, we're packing boxes in preparation for the move. We can always store everything on the second floor and do one story at a time. Hmmm, not a bad idea...

I finally got hit with a Blogger issue. I've been reasonably lucky - banged into the photo storage thing, but that's been it - up to now. For those folks who posted comments two weeks ago - sorry it took me until today to publish them and reply. I check comments regularly and even have alerts sent to my email so I'll see them. But Blogger didn't alert me until today. Argh!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cold snap

Apparently the insulating is paying off. When we left yesterday it was 56 degrees inside (fire in wood stove all day) and 19 outside. Dropped to 10 degrees overnight and when we arrived this morning it was still 35 degrees inside. Woot! And today the outside temps stayed around 15 degrees and we easily climbed back up to 58. I'd say it's getting close to time to start staying overnight again.

We got the solar hot water quote back and are moving forward with that. They're coming out Thursday to finalize the system layout and start the NYSERDA paperwork.

And we had the drywall estimator out today to figure out how much drywall we need to buy. Given our new timeframe on closing the Troy house (fingers crossed for early March) we think we're going to hire the first floor installation done instead of tackling it ourselves. We need some semi-finished space for all our worldly possessions. We'll finish the second floor later this Spring and use it for storage until then.

So everything is moving forward at a good pace. Next up is building the stairs and packing the old house. Glad I started packing back in the fall as I made good inroads on the amount left to put in boxes. Still, we've moved enough times to realize that you own way more than you think you do.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Forecast: Insulation with a chance of other tasks

Fortunately other projects come up while you're insulating. You get to a bay and realize that something else needs to happen before you can put a batt there. This is great because although insulation is necessary and I'm finding it strangely satisfying to install, it does get boring and repetitive. 

We do not have a direct heat source on the second floor. We're depending on heat making its way up from the first floor (we do this in our current house too and it works surprisingly well). We have a huge stairwell opening and we decided to add a couple heat vents to help circulate the air. We'll have the ability to add duct fans in the future if needed. We'll also have ceiling fans upstairs to help draw the air upward. 

One went into the bathroom floor and is positioned almost directly over the wood stove. There is so much air moving through this vent that the lint fuzzies shimmy and shake (it's been in storage and I haven't had a chance to clean it yet; don't judge). 

Bathroom vent
The bedroom vent is actually over the kitchen so it doesn't get as much air circulation. No fuzzie movement. As I like the bedroom to be cold for sleeping, this may work best for us anyway.

Bedroom vent
I picked up the vents at the Round Lake Antique fair last year and love them! The slats work and the filigree is wonderful. I've got two more vents that will be mounted in the ceiling downstairs to finish the look. Those aren't as ornate so I chose them for the ceiling where they won't be quite as visible.
Close up!
We also needed to figure out the frame and duct work for the range hood. I've always wanted one of these and finally have one. No more setting off smoke detectors when grilling steak on my panini! (Didn't we just talk about judging?).

Instructions said we could have a gap between 24 and 36 inches between cooktop and fan. We very carefully and scientifically measured (marked max and min on the wall and then I stood there and we went up a few inches so I wouldn't bonk my head when cooking) and then Hubbie added bracing. Gotta buy a length of ductwork, cut a hole in the wall (sob) and I'll be able to insulate that bay too.

Checking height
By the end of the day we'd finished one half of the downstairs. Awesome. We're also making inroads on heating the place. We got it up to 56 degrees inside and it was high 20s outside with sun and mild wind. We may actually be able to start sleeping up there again.
Satisfying end of day
One last note - we had a solar hot water guy come out Friday to give us a quote on installing a thermal water system. I'll keep you updated, but so far it looks pretty darn good. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Insulation progress

And the insulating goes on. And on. And maybe even on. Lots of insulating done and yet to do. But we're getting there!

I've got most of the second floor done now. Cutting in all the bays under the windows and fitting the thinner strips is really taking a lot of time.

Looking a bit tired...
Chris finished putting in all the dog ears (that's a plumbing term for those not in the know - they're the brass pieces that connect the Pex to the wall so you have a firm mount for your fixtures) and was able to start on the first floor ceiling insulation. This isn't for heat but for sound control. I hate to hear people walking above my head. And I like to have a sound absorber for rooms in general so they don't sound hollow. It's not faced as both the upper and lower areas are heated.

Ceiling insulation between floors
This part goes quick as you don't have to deal with facing or staples. We'll be starting on the downstairs walls by Friday. 

We tend to look three tasks ahead so that we don't get too far ahead of ourselves, but can still make adjustments if we need to. Insulating is obviously the task de jour, but after that we have the staircase and the drop ceiling in the hallway/bathroom. Looming on the horizon is drywall. Trying not to think too hard about the drywall though. Dust. Ugh. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Awesome doors

We went back to Historic Albany Foundation (a not-for-profit historic preservation society that sells donated salvage materials to support their preservation activities) to grab the doors we'd spotted last week. Fortunately they were still there - we hadn't put a hold on them or anything because we just weren't sure they would work. With some modifications to the door plans, we figured out that they wouldn't just work, they'd be awesome!

We bought two doors that were from the Albany courthouse. 7 1/2 feet tall by 40 inches wide and 1 3/4 inches thick. Solid oak, stained dark, and wonderful.

Big. Heavy. Oak.
The doors match and will sit across from each other - one into my pantry, one into the bathroom. We'd planned to have pocket doors in those positions, but these doors are too big for the frames. Rather than cut down the doors (heaven forbid), we're going to do sliding barn doors instead.
Backside of door (from pantry)
The pantry door says "Director of Finance" and "Private". If you know my history, you know how cool this is. If you don't know my history - accept that this is cool.
Front of door
The bathroom door just says "Private". We tried to find one that said Maintenance or Janitor but the other doors were all blank (they had eight doors in total). We'll need to do some DIY to cover the damage/holes from the old hardware and install handles and bumpers. I'm thinking something in leather. Chris mentioned heavy gauge rope. We'll come up with something interesting yet functional.

Did I mention the fun stuff has started?!?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Insulation anyone?

We're happily making progress on insulating the house. In fact, we hit 50 degrees inside today! A milestone unreachable in the pre-insulation state.

Reminder - the house outside
 It hasn't been all about insulation though. We also got the propane hooked up!
My poor husband posing for yet another photo
 They pressure tested the lines and I'm happy to report there were no leaks. Yeah Chris! The technician adjusted the burners on my wonderful new stove so that my sauce wouldn't burn (yes, he actually said that. Loved him!).
Isn't it awesome?
And he hooked up the stand-by generator. Did you know a stand-by requires a battery? A battery the size of a car battery? Yeah, neither did we, although once we thought about it, it seemed obvious.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a battery for the generator even though we had the technician there to hook up the propane lines. And he needed to test the thing so we needed to provide a battery.

Batteries are heavy
 So, once again, the tractor came to the rescue. We pulled its battery and used it for the test. Success! The generator fired!

The couple that insulates together...
 So we've successfully insulated the attic and all but five bays of the North wing. We'll finish those tomorrow.
Holding in the heat
Then I get to start on the walls and Chris will do road maintenance. Seems the road is giving fits to some of the delivery folks. The insulation truck got majorly stuck and the propane guy helped him get out. And helped us by trucking two loads of insulation from road to house (we didn't have the truck that day, figures). And today a different propane delivery truck had to back all the way in as he didn't think he could turn around. Funny how some trucks (regardless of size) seem to make it fine, but others have the devil's own time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Halfway there

We're now halfway across the attic with the insulation. Fortunately the batts are only four feet long so I'm able to do this by myself while Chris works on other projects. Yesterday while I was insulating Chris got out my new range and hooked it up. The propane guys come tomorrow and we need everything connected so they can do the inspection and adjustments. He also got to shovel out the ditch for the propane lines (it had filled with snow) and clean off the generator (snow again). Then he came and helped me, making the install go much faster.

Some minor trouble with the cellphone reception. And this is weird - multiple bars showing but when I tried to make a call, I got an error message saying "emergency calls only". So I've got reception but they're limiting the type of call I can make? Huh. This was a bit of a problem as I'd spoken with our realtor earlier that day and she told me we had an offer on the Troy house. Yes! But now I couldn't call her back to get the final details. Argh! Hopefully this won't be a recurring problem with the cells.

And I called the realtor on the way home - we're signing the contract today. There are some contingencies, but we're still not in any hurry, so we don't mind. At least this is a nice step forward.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


We passed our plumbing inspection! Many cartwheels ensued. Actually, we nearly wiped out the inspector when a foot of snow slid off the porch roof. Fortunately he's spry and managed to get out of the way when we heard the rumble. Interesting to note that we were all walking next to each other, heard the beginning of the slide, and all reacted differently. I ran under the porch and got out of the way completely. Chris and Inspector stopped to look up (?!?) and then danced backward. Inspector got coated to the knees; Chris chose to ride it out and snow surfed, getting knocked flat in the process. Fortunately we all had a good laugh about it.

So we're now cleared to insulate. We started immediately and got four bays of attic insulation installed Saturday afternoon. It's going up quickly and fairly easily.

R21 in the walls upstairs

Installing black pipe

R38 in the ceiling

Sporting my new super short hair cut

4 bays done!

Bugs is so happy

We also hit a couple of salvage places this weekend to look for doors and clawfoot tubs. Didn't find any tubs that were appropriate, but we did find some doors. In fact, we're changing from pocket doors to modified barn door hangers to accommodate the ones we liked. And that brought about today's realization - the fun stuff is finally starting.

Up to now, it's been work. Digging dirt, pouring foundations, building walls, installing plumbing, all the necessary but not necessarily fun things that go into putting up a house. And though we still have work ahead (insulation and drywall to be exact), the enjoyable things - finding salvage or decorative details and fitting them into our new home - are finally right around the corner. That is why you build your own place. So that you can make decisions on incorporating fun or meaningful items right from the get-go. Oh yeah baby, it's on!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Beginning to insulate

So we have permission to insulate anywhere there is no plumbing, venting, etc. Awesome. And our plumbing inspection is this weekend so we'll soon be able to start insulating the ceiling/roof. Since we're the optimist types we went to buy attic insulation today. We first priced it out at Home Depot and then went to a local business that sells drywall. We'd heard through the building grapevine that they also have good prices on insulation. Good? Try great! (oops, Tony the Tiger moment). We'll save roughly $400 on the house insulation by using them.

All we could fit in the truck was 17 batts of R38 attic insulation. That's a lot of insulation! And for some reason, I didn't take a picture. Wop-wop. We're going to look into getting the rest of it delivered, but wanted to get this stuff right away.

Used the tractor to get it from truck to bridge (no pictures of that either, what's up with us???) and will start to install as soon as we can. In the meantime, Chris finished running the black pipe and I installed 19 more batts of R21 in the upstairs walls. Oh, and it was -6 degrees this morning. Managed to get the house heated to 24 before we left, but boy, will we be happy when the insulation is in and we can start maintaining a temperature.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day

Everyone have a good New Year's Eve? Have you spent today resting on the couch, recovering from the prior night's excesses? Yeah, us neither. No, we chose to spend this day plumbing black iron and insulating! Oh yeah, we know how to party.

We did sleep in a wee bit, but since the night before was spent in the "dry" celebration that is Saratoga First Night, we didn't need to sleep off any alcohol. Note that a good time was had by all and we intend to find the Tartan Terrors at the future events. Hilarious.

We got started around 10AM and had to do some chain tightening on the tractor bling. One of the links was rubbing and we think we got that settled out. Then Chris resumed running black pipe (no picture as it just doesn't photograph well) and I started putting up insulation.

We haven't had our plumbing inspection yet so I can't insulate anywhere that has plumbing or vent lines, but that leaves a lot of house to be done. Got started upstairs in the master bedroom and installed one bundle (7 sections) of R21. Code only requires R19 but every little bit helps.

East and South walls
I'm focusing just on full bays to start and will fill in the cut bays the next time around. Makes the work go quickly if you don't have to worry about fitting pieces. 

North and East walls
The neat electrical lines are making this much easier. I confess I actually read the directions on the insulation packaging and managed to learn a thing or two. Hear's hoping the next bundle goes up just as quickly and easily.

Tractor bling

Happy New Year! 

The recent snowfall resulted in the first use of the tractor's snow thrower attachment. Worked great - but - the tractor had no traction. There is a good layer of ice under all that snow and our road is mainly dirt, not gravel, so the tires would lose grip and the whole machine would start to slide sideways. Not exactly conducive to effective snow removal.

Enter the bling!

Tractor bling
 Yes, the tractor is once again on the porch. Okay, technically it's in the carport, but still. Porch.
Laying out the chains
Chris and Dad did most of the work getting them on the tires.

Darn things weighed 50 lbs per chain
 I did my part though. While Chris rolled back and forth I pulled and tightened the chain before securing the link.
I managed to get them to pull together

Action photo!
Huge improvement! So we're now ready for the next snow storm.