Thursday, December 28, 2006

Second Anniversary at Home

The end of the year is a natural time to pause and take a moment to reflect on the past. For us, this also signifies the end of another year at Humphrey House. Yesterday, we passed the two year anniversary since we purchased our house in the last week of 2004. With this spirit in mind, I've put together a brief summary of things we've accomplished (or not):

Looking back through all that we've done is downright provoking. Perhaps it was the foolish naivety about what the Humphrey House project entailed, or just the sheer number of adventures we've encountered, but it certainly does not feel like only two years have passed us by. Thinking back to those early days, when we still lived in our condo, seems like a decade ago.

Anyone familiar with home improvement will tell you it could easily last indefinitely and never be "done", especially with some of the other things on our wish list (like our kitchen remodel, removing carpeting on the first floor and sanding the floors, etc). But with luck, the next year in Humphrey House will bring more fortune and a semblance of completion to our house, bringing it closer to returning to a home.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wall covering has come

Drywall started magically appearing on the walls of our attic. At least, that how it seems when you leave for work and come home with new walls! What a difference hiring the pros makes - talk about the ultimate Easy Button!

Our garage was full of drywall - 70 sheets! - at the beginning of the week and we're down to about 10 now (sidenote: always buy extras for any project. Going back to return unused merchandise is so much more rewarding than running out to get more of something in order to finish the job!). We're installing several different types of drywall:

  • Standard 1/2" 4-foot by 8-foot sheets on the walls

  • Standard 5/8" 4-foot by 8-foot sheets on the ceilings

  • Standard 3/8" 4-foot by 8-foot sheets on top of older damaged 3/8" drywall in our stairwell

  • 1/2" 3-foot by 5-foot cementboard (Durock) in the shower and tile area surrounding the bathtub

  • Moisture-resistant "greenboard" 1/2" 4-foot by 8-foot sheets in the bathroom

The most interesting is the cement-board and greenboard in the bathroom. When Sara came by and saw the greenboard the other day she said "wow, you've already started painting in here!" Sorry Sara, but not quite. "Greenboard" contains an oil-based additive in the green colored paper covering that provides moisture resistance. Since we're adding a steam shower in our bathroom, we're making sure every surface has this installed.

The cement board, while difficult (and heavy!) to work with, is much better for wet water areas like our custom sized shower. Greenboard is not suitable for backerboard in this instance, and as of 01/2006 is no longer accepted in building code (International Residential Code R702.3.8). So grudgingly, I admit that building codes have their uses. I don't want to lean against the wall while taking a shower and have my hand fall through it like others have done.

So now that most of the wallboard is installed (only cementboard to go), our crew is working on the next step - plastering all the joints and screwholes. And then comes the messy part - sanding. I'm already trying to seal off the rest of the house so we have at least some kind of dust-free zone.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stud-ly help before the drywall comes

Monday morning, we had our drywalling contractors come to begin finishing our attic. The only problem was, we weren't ready for them yet. There was still the shower to frame, closets to build, and several other punchlist items to take care of. I knew it would be a long hard weekend.

Shower PanSaturday began early with John showing up at 8:30 to reroute the plumbing vent for the shower drain (which was finished before the wall was built, and was inside the shower area). He also brought some thick 40 mil liner that we lined the bottom of the shower with to create our custom shower pan. This liner will be the last line of defense for the ceiling below in case any water gets underneath the tile that will be the base of the shower. Due to the zoning setback requirements, our bathroom addition got squeezed a bit, and it will likely be most noticeable in the shower, which will be 30" wide. Hopefully making it 42" long will help compensate for the narrow width. It will be tight, but I think we can make it work. While John was here, we also ran a 1/2" copper line from the basement to the bottom of the shower area. This will be for the steam generator we purchased that will give us a much-needed retreat after a hard day's work! I can't wait for to try that out.

Saturday bonus: Our tub came in earlier than expected so we received it with the drywall delivery on Saturday, so while John was here we moved the tub up and mounted it (screwed) into place. We didn't have all the parts to hook up the drain yet, so there's still some work left, but at least we know what we have (and what we need) now!

Shower with plastic vapor barrier, from the outsideSunday was the big day that was our deadline. There was two day's worth of work to do in one day, so I did the only thing possible to help: I hit the Easy Button and Scott and Julie came over to help us wrap things up. They began by wrapping the interior shower ceiling and walls in plastic sheeting that will keep moisture from the steam getting to the wood underneath. We also carved out a niche for shampoo bottles, ran some speaker wire, put interior glass block windows to brighten the rooms, and Julie got to play stud-finder and marked stud locations on the floors for future reference. Of course, we had to clean everything up and move everything out so the drywallers had room to move.

But we did it. We wrapped everything up by 8:00 and we were ready for the drywallers to come on Monday.

And then at 10:30 sunday night, after looking over everything one last time, Jen asked, "So, how do we turn the steam shower on and off?"
"There's a separate control," I replied.
"Oh ok. Where is it?"
"It will be on this wall of the shower, and goes on after the tile is installed. Then you just connect it to the control cable right here... Oh wait a minute. The cable isn't there! Ahhh..." I screamed, realizing I had to run the cable really quickly.

So, we were finally ready just before midnight. But hey, we still met the Monday deadline!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stop the press - before they catch on fire!

So we're passing a big hurdle in the way of renovating our bungalow attic. The last month or two have dragged on as we did a lot of the finish framing, and the insulation. My god, the insulation. No wonder contractors bidded it out so high. Dirty, time consuming work that never seemed to end. At least it was cooler as winter approached.

But significantly, we're about ready to have a drywall crew come in and cover up the walls at long last. We just needed to have the inspectors come by once more, for an insulation inspection. This is to verify that we actually did put the right levels in the building before closing up the walls. Initially, he liked what he saw - R19 in the kneewalls, and R38(!) in the ceilings. So we passed. Almost.

The insulation also includes a firestopping inspection, which requires a ASTM-rated caulkto be applied around openings between floors (conduit , plumbing, speaker wire, etc.) I know Mark's getting excited, but this is a special type of caulk that, when exposed to high
temperatures or direct fire, releases water vapor and forms a solid char and retards the spread
of fire. Otherwise, a fire on the floor below can get sucked up through the wall cavity like its a chimney. Plus, I got to caulk more over the weekend!

So anyway, today we got the official approval for the firestopping, and we're almost ready to move on. A few final pre-drywall punchlist items this weekend, and we'll be having 65 sheets of drywall dropped off before Monday.