Sunday, October 20, 2013


Another busy weekend working on the new extension, after an equally busy week at work. We called Home Depot on Friday night, to hear that our flooring had arrived. Saturday I put the second coat of mud on the drywall tape in the bathroom, then I went to collect it.

We planned for a dark colored floor and dark colored rear walls, for passive solar effect. It was a sunny day and so all this heat absorbent surface began working well soon after I started laying the floor. I had to go get a bandana to use for a sweat band.

Altogether I laid 32 boxes at 18.5 square feet/box. Two boxes were kept in reserve in case we have a spill or some other damage. This kind of floor can be fairly easily repaired that way, one board at a time.

All the time I was doing this, Aimee was tiling the new shower stall. She's never tiled anything of this magnitude before, but she seems to be doing a fine job. The dayglo pink color is "RedGard," a waterproofing product that can be tiled over.

It won't be long now before we can move some furniture in and use this new building. 

But I'm pretty tired now, and my knees are pretty sore, from all that flooring.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Let there be light!

Saturday marked the first day of a four-day weekend, which the college calls "October Break," but is really a half-term holiday built around the federal Columbus Day weekend.

I've read some of the history of Christopher Columbus, and I'm with Indian Country Today, who published an editorial listing some of the rapine and murder he was responsible for. It's amazing and disgusting what some human males will do, if given overwhelming physical power over other people, particularly women and children, or other men whose humanity they are somehow able to abstract away as untermensch. Examples abound, from Auschwitz to Rwanda to Homs.

I wasn't in a mood to reflect on the inhumanity of humanity, however. I had some work to do, to begin to get the new extension ready for occupation.

My weekend really began Wednesday, when I was able to get the plumbing inspector in for an intermediate-level check-up of the bathroom plumbing. These kinds of inspections go in stages because the work gets permanently covered up. In this case, we needed to drywall the bathroom, covering up most of the pipes. 

We easily passed inspection, and I even won some praise -- apparently I do "good work"  -- a very male kind of affirmation, but it made me happy. This made my day Wednesday. It's amazing what even a little praise does for a fellow. I won't let it go to my head.

It would, however, be a lot easier to drywall the bathroom if there were light, so Saturday's first job was to finish up the wiring. Aimee, earlier, during a break from sabbatical research, had learned to pigtail and wire the 15 and 20 amp receptacles, so all that was left was bathroom wires, and light switches throughout the extension.

I fitted temporary light fittings with 60w incandescent bulbs. Compact florescent or CFL bulbs are not great to use in temporary construction lighting because of the mercury content. If they are broken, a toxic hazard is created, which requires special clean-up. (Newer bulbs are less toxic than older ones.)

It was nice to be able to look around the new building after dark. Previously the entranceway from the kitchen became a kind of black hole each day after the sun went down, not very welcoming. Now, when the lights are on, the new space invites exploration, perhaps even a little light work (pun unintended) after dinner.

Wiring took until Sunday, including a trip to the hardware store for parts.

The next job was drywall. The bathroom is small, only seven by ten feet, but it needed a lot of utilities. In addition to the plumbing, there were two vents needed, one for the dryer, the other for water vapor, as well as a 220 volt outlet for the dryer, and the thermostat for the hot water boiler (or what Americans would call a "tankless" hot water heater).


Once the drywall was in, the shower needed to be replumbed. The inspector made us switch out our faucet for one with an "anti-scald" valve. Apparently the simple two-handled faucet Home Depot originally sold us is illegal in Maine.

Of course, this made Aimee, the hyper-consumer rights activist of the family, hopping mad. She even consulted the plumbing code, to get the right data for her complaint. Sure enough, they've been illegal to use in Maine since 2009, but the plumbing 'expert" at Home Depot, otherwise a very bright helpful guy, did not know this. Aimee took the faulty faucet back to the store herself for a refund, succeeding easily.

Never underestimate the power of a German-American woman, even if said woman is only five feet and one-half of an inch tall.

Finally, our plumbing now correct to code, we could hang the "Durock" wallboard and tape and "mud" both it and the drywall. I'm not a "good mudder," but I will say, my mudding has improved dramatically with practice this year.

Remember, you should always be good to your mudder. Hopefully Aimee takes that to heart.

But probably not, since my efforts in this extension have so far won more praise from the plumbing inspector than from her!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Zombie sheep and jobs that won't die

AAARGGHHHH! The zombies are after us!!!!

Or maybe not. On closer inspection, it turns out to be Nellie-sheep. She, and all the others, were a little started when I opened the new sliding glass door to the as-yet non-existent deck on the extension. The flash on my camera happened to be "on" and it was just dark enough outside for the light to travel to their retinas and back.

(That what you get when you teach freshman physics -- you develop perfectly good explanations for everything, even when, with Hallow'een approaching, you might have used the picture to good effect.)

Here they are, a whole durn flock of zombies. There's even a one-eyed one at the back. Click on the photo to see.

I also got a zombie cake for my birthday -- Aimee found some old icing in the cupboard and decided to use it up, but it ran like blood! 

It was a parsnip cake, and tasted very good, like carrot cake only sweeter and denser.

The weekend -- a whole two-day weekend, for once -- began with efforts to finish up the plumbing jobs and get ready for inspection. These plumbing jobs, it seems, never end! Even after inspection there will still be more to do. 

Our local plumping inspector is in his sixties and a tad rotund, so I decided it might be best to crawl under the floor myself and get pictures of all the important details. Unfortunately, that may not work for me.

Here's the picture that supposedly shows we have a properly plumbed drain trap on the shower drain. Unfortunately, there isn't a clean-out plug on this trap. I managed to pick what was probably the only trap in the bin at the store that didn't have a plug! This particular store, the closest one to the farm at about eight miles, closes at noon every Saturday and doesn't open until 7am Monday, so I'll have to wait until next Saturday to go back and complain! In the meantime, I hope to get the inspector around one evening this week. Do you think he'll notice?

Here's the picture that's supposed to prove that we have the requisite slope on the drain. You can't really see the bubble in the level, so it proves no such thing. I may need to get back under there with a trouble light and take it again without the flash. 

Here's the exit of the pipe from the new building to the old. All very well sealed up, not a scrap of daylight anywhere, which is very satisfying. And despite all the weight we've added to it since, there isn't a single crack in the masonry. I find that very satisfying too. A much better result than my first attempt at a block-work foundation, over at the Bale House. That wall almost cracked right away. 

But that one was was built on a rubble-filled trench, not solid rock, like this one is.

Once we were done with plumbing, or at least ready for inspection, we turned our attention to the floor. I laid down two inch foam "blue board" insulation, then place 7/16ths OSB over that for a second subfloor. We'll add a layer of airtight bubble wrap and laminated flooring soon, perhaps as early as next weekend, if Aimee manages to buy the flooring and get it to the house somehow this week, while I'm working.

Finally, Her Royal Wifeliness tried her hand at wiring a receptacle, to good effect. She liked the result so much, she posted it on FaceBook.