Monday, December 22, 2008

Progress Illustrated

Here is the shop wrapped up in Tyvek (from the southwest corner). The top 9' strip along the south and west walls is what Joel and Troy put up last week. Troy and I then added the bottom strip. The hunched over figure is Isaac working through the cold.
Here is the north wall where Troy and I put up the bottom strip. I think this is all we're putting up until spring. It's very hard to get in there (scaffolding doesn't fit back there) and very difficult in the winter. And Troy is thinking the worst of the weather would hit the bottom of the wall; the overhang will help protect the top portion (we hope). Obviously the peak areas still have to be done as well but I haven't heard what the plan is for that. (I suspect more time spent in scaffolding and less time spent knitting for me...)

We put in a lot of these cap nails. I ruined a lot too...
The new garage door:
and Troy's drywalling work too. I was surprised to see how far into the room he had to go on the ceiling. Here's a shot of the big-a** spring used to run it:
The garage guys still haven't come back to hook the motor up so Troy lifted it manually the other day. Apparently it is almost over balanced, and once you get it two feet up it practically lifts itself. This is good since Troy plans to add some more insulation and has no inclination to readjust the spring himself. (He had a shot to the head from a different big spring but that is another story.) The door runs very smoothly because when you order the high-end insulated version then you get all the other upgrades on hardware automatically.

The view out the north window:

And that is all. I'm trying to finish this up tonight while my sister is doing an origami project with Isaac (so I'm bored watching) and because I'm leaving in the morning. I didn't want to keep you waiting...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We're Bad Neighbours

Friday night Troy said it was the night for us to finish up some more Tyvek. (Could you hear my little, "yippee"?) A friend had come by to help the previous weekend and he and Troy got up one strip along the top of the south and west walls. And they had to do it in very high winds which threatened to carry them away at every moment. (I was inside minding the fire, in case you were wondering.)

Well Friday Troy wanted to get the four foot strip of Tyvek done on the north wall...and more if we were good. He argued that it wasn't windy. (It wasn't.) It wasn't frigid. (But it was cold.) And there wasn't 2 feet of snow on the ground. (Now, only about 6 inches, but it was covered with ice so easy to walk on...?) In any case, out we went.

And not surprisingly, it went fairly smoothly. We did get the strip put on the north wall and then proceeded to the south and west walls. For that we had to lift the bottom of the strip put up previously to tuck this one under, but it all just takes time. Nothing hard about it, I mean. Troy got it cut out around the door and windows and I just kept hammering in cap nails. After a couple tries (i.e. time to warm up in front of the fire) we each found the right glove combo to keep our hands warm enough.

I told Troy he would be in trouble if all this hammering adversely affected my knitting. Troy optimistically said that maybe it would help my knitting. And although it did tire my forearm, I did not notice any negative impact. (Did I hear a "Phew!" from you? Why thank you!)

Oh wait! Why are we bad neighbours? Oh yes, that is because we were hammering those hundreds of nails in from 7:00 to 9:30. Now a good one would take a tap, BAM, BAM and it would be in. But a bad one would take up to a dozen hits (bouncy plywood). I'm sure the neighbours did not enjoy. But I'm sure they're learning that if it's not one noise with us, it's another. Troy at one point wanted to bring over some of my canned pears to make nice with them, but I told him that he could spend all day canning his own pears (and only getting 5 quarts out of it) to bring to the neighbours. I know, I'm not very nice, but I do shingle. Keep that in mind before you tut tut your condemnation.

The temperature now IS frigid so not much work is going to be done outside. Not much work is getting done inside, actually, besides keeping the woodstove stoked. The living room (where the woodstove lives) is having trouble getting above 60. For fun, Troy took out his remote infrared thermometer and started measuring temperatures in the kitchen. This is with the oil stove in there going. Various places in the room read in the 50s and 40s, but the coldest temperature was measured on the floor near the west wall: 36 degrees. **36**!! That's cold. No wonder the heating pipes there froze and burst last year.

Anyway, enough of that. Troy says he is working as fast as he can and I don't mean to give him a hard time.

Take care. Keep warm. Pictures to follow tomorrow if I can leave the living room.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tyvek excitement

As we press on to weather-tightness, we get excited. The garage door is about 90% done and should be finished today. So that plugs the big windy hole, then there's just three small ones, two windows and a man-door.

We can't put those in until we get the tyvek house wrap installed. Joel volunteered to help out on that a few days ago. You can see it in the pic of the garage door, the shiny new white stuff on the wall. The rolls we are working with are 9' x 100'. Now I have to make a little detour before I can fill you in on the rest of the tyvek story.

Airplanes were not the first method mankind used to get airborne. Prior to that, both balloons (thanks to the Montgolfier brothers in 1783) and kites have been used to put people up in the sky. There are sketchy reports about the Chinese doing this centuries ago, but the details are lacking about exactly when and how.

Samuel Franklin Cody was probably the most visible and famous proponent of the "man lifter" kites. The British army and navy both paid Cody a substantial sum of money for both the hardware and the expertise for raising a person into the air with a big kite. See photo above. The lucky person in the basket could look for enemies, or torpedos, or make signals with the wireless telegraph and other tomfoolery. Airplanes pretty much put the manlifting kites out of business.

And now for the rest of the story. The day we chose to install the tyvek was not too bad. Not really cold, not snowing, not raining, that's all good. Not much snow on the ground. But man was it windy! We tried to roll it out and nail it down as we went, pretty successfully. But there were a few moments where Joel almost couldn't hang onto the roll, and/or almost got airborne. Tyvek is a lot like a 9x100 foot kite if you don't restrain it just right. Eventually, we got it all properly subdued and nailed down tight. A little excitement every week or two is a good thing, provided there is no arterial bleeding and no stopage of breath. Only 3 more rolls to go.

Finest regards,


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Overhead Door (sneak peak)

This is the view that welcomed me home tonight.

(And no, the shop is not imagining life in Pisa--blame the photographer who just got back from a Christmas party.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Overhead Door Preps

No pics today (I was too busy knitting and keeping the fire going yesterday) but just a quick update on what Troy's been doing. He got far enough along that he scheduled the overhead door installation for next Tuesday. So now he's got a deadline looming for the rest of the work that has to be done before the door goes in.

Thanksgiving weekend we hung a couple strips of moisture barrier along the ceiling and walls. (Ok, Troy did most of that too b/c I got interupted by company.) Then Troy got the drywall on the ceiling. Not the whole ceiling, just the part in front of the door. His new drywall hoist (correct term?? drywall lift?) tried to kill him but fortunately was not successful. The new one has been behaving and has been working well with the modifications Troy made. (Funny how a 12' drywall lift doesn't really reach 12'.)

He is trying to finish some drywall on the east wall as well, and I don't know what all else. But that is where we are at...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Adventures in Biodiesel or How We Became a Push-Me-Pull-Me

So tonight when I got home from work, the message blinking at me on the answer machine was from Troy...he's stuck in the parking lot because his car conked out. Could I please come pick him up and bring the ~~~~~ (that's static on the machine just at the spot where he tells me what to bring)? I must have listened to the message 6 times and could get nothing better than some consonants lost in static. And, he added, his phone was dead, so I couldn't call him.

I decided to leave without taking the ~~~~~. Not a hard decision since I didn't know what it was. But on the way out I turned on my cel phone so I wouldn't forget later. (We don't get coverage til about halfway to town.) Except today...I'm barely 1/2 mile from home and I have 5 bars and a message coming through. It's Troy and loud and clear I can hear the he wanted an empty gas can. Ohhhh....that makes sense. So I turned around for the gas cans, found them in the garage, and off I went to my poor waiting and chilling husband.

I make it to town and am driving around the parking lot looking for him in all the usual places. Just then he calls me [he bought himself a new charger] and we figure out that I am at WalMart and he is at Target. Ohhhh.... so off I go to Target and find him easily once I'm at the right store.

We head off to buy some regular diesel and come back so Troy can put it in the tank and change the fuel filter and hope that it starts. While he's doing that I head into the Super Target for some pizza and bring back some mediocre warm "hot" chocolate for Troy. The poor boy is frozen.

The car does eventually start. Cautious Troy drives around the parking lot a few times to make sure it's ok. The car quits twice and that's that. On to Plan B.

Plan B is for my Corolla to tow his Jetta. Troy has tow straps and gets it set up. We are hoping my bumper doesn't get pulled off, among other things.

I have never towed a car before. Troy can't see out of his windshield [ice/frost]. We've got 25 miles to get home.

I learned a few things: 1. Corolla's aren't really meant for towing. 2. Christina isn't really meant to drive 30 mph for 25 miles. I mean that is almost school zone slow. Ahh! Except one spot when we turned onto a secondary road that didn't really have the ice and snow cleared off of it. And we started going down the first clear shoulders...icy looking road...then 30 felt like a roller coaster at Six Flags!

The trip went well, though. I mean, we didn't hit anything, or each other. We made it home. Traffic was able to get around us and didn't get backed up too far. No deer appeared and made it more exciting than it needed to be. The experience did make me think of the Push Me Pull Me in Dr Dolittle. Anyone remember that film (the 1967 version, I mean)? It was a two headed, or two "fronted" llama-like animal. No back legs, just two heads with front legs attached in the middle and going opposite directions. Anyway, I was obviously pulling Troy; but then whenever we had to slow down, Troy would do the braking and he would be pulling me [back]. It was a bit of an odd experience. Perhaps it would have been easier with some walkie-talkies or something, but I'm not sure I had enough hands to manage that, the steering and the shifting. (Yeah, and really fast shifting helps in towing too.) And don't get me started on keeping your speed steady; there's a reason someone invented cruise control! It's really hard to keep your speed constant. You can be pretty motivated, though, when there's a big car strapped to your behind, so to speak.

We saved the most exciting part for last: getting up the driveway. I had a fun enough time getting up the initial hill when I got home the first time, just in me in my car. Now towing Troy behind, we had to make sure we had enough speed to get up the hill, or at the very least to get Troy off of the highway, but of course not so much speed that we wiped out. With me controlling the speeding up, and Troy controlling the slowing down. And remember: no communication. Anyway, that all turned out great too, especially since there was "mysteriously" no traffic right then on our busy highway.

And if I may gloat in my marital bliss: this whole evening of adventure was accomplished with nary a snarky tone, unkind word, deep sigh, or hint of recrimination. How lovely.

I will say I am very happy to not have to go to work tomorrow after this long night. Troy will be driving the truck in to work and we will see how that goes. I don't think I will be towing that with the Corolla (although I seem to remember a friend towing it with his Taurus...) Troy will also be buying regular already-winterized diesel fuel for the car through the worst of the winter.  On the up side, this means there will be more fuel to burn in the oil stove. (This makes me happy.)

All for now, it's time for me to snuggle in bed and try to soak out the last of this chill. Take care,

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Keeping your walls dry, a tutorial

Keeping your walls dry on the inside is important for all buildings, including our shop. I noticed from Christina's last post, that there is a slight inaccuracy, which leads to this brief and important tutorial.

Most residential structures are built using wooden framing. A few use steel studs. Neither one like moisture inside the wall cavity and both can be totally ruined due to moisture problems. Here's how to avoid that.

In the old days, they just built houses that were really leaky to air infiltration. In an old farm house on a windy cold winter day, it is entirely possible to replace all the air in the house ten times an hour. These houses are about impossible to heat in any affordable fashion, but they were very resistant to moisture damage. Any moisture that got inside the wall got dried out by the huge volumes of air passing through.

These days, for energy and comfort reasons, most houses are considerably tighter than the drafty old farm house. The good news is that they use far less energy and are more comfortable and far more affordable. The bad news is that if moisture does get inside the wall, it will takes weeks or months to dry out. This can cause the wooden framing to rot in a year or two, or cause scary amounts of mold to grow, which can make a house unlivable and is very expensive to fix. The moisture also usually damages the insulation so it never works right again, raising energy use and cost forever. So, what to do?

In new construction, we use two different sheet plastic products. On the inside (warm side in winter) we install 6 mil (that's 0.006", or six thousands of an inch thick) polyethylene plastic sheeting. It's installed on the studs right before you do the drywall, and right after you do the wiring and plumbing inside the wall. Polyethylene is, for all practical purposes, impermeable to moisture, either liquid water or gaseous water vapor. It is commonly called a vapor barrier for just that reason. It prevents warm moist air from inside your house from migrating out through the nooks and cranies in your wall. If we do not prevent that moist air from getting inside the wall, the warm moist air eventually gets cooled off as it gets closer to the outside cold part of the wall.

When it cools off sufficiently, it suddenly can't hold all that moisture and water will change from a gas or vapor into a liquid. Now we have cold liquid water inside our wall where it can do its damage. A good vapor barrier prevents it from ever getting inside the wall in the first place.

A good installation will have every seam/overlap sealed with caulk and stapled. Every penetration (electrical wires, plumbing) sealed with caulk, or mastic or something. This is where good workmanship really pays off.

But, in this world, hardly anything is perfect. There are always little holes and tears and gaps, and perforations from the staples. So we must assume that small amounts of moisture can still get in the wall. That brings us to Tyvek or house wrap. That's the plastic sheet material on the outside, installed on top of the plywood or osb, just before the siding or bricks go on. House wrap is a peculiar polymer. They have discovered ways of manufacturing it so it has pores. The pores are generally big enough for gaseous water molecules (water vapor) to go right through it. Like heat, water vapor tends to go from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. In the winter time, the area of high concentration would be the errant water vapor inside your wall and the area of low concentration would be the great dry cold outdoors.

Tyvek allows any trapped water vapor to escape to the out doors. But the really neat trick is that the pores are generally too small for liquid water drops to penetrate much. So, liquid water can't get it, but water vapor CAN get out. Tyvek also serves as an air intrusion barrier, to prevent cold air from entering the wall, and discouraging warm conditioned air from leaving the house.

So, Polyethylene on the inside (which is what we are doing now, in prep. for drywall) and Tyvek goes on the outside, which we will do right after we get the big garage door installed.

If you have an old house, there is no good way to fix this without tearing into the walls. You can vent moisture pro-actively from the kitchen and the bathrooms. You can buy special "vapor barrier" paint. You can caulk every crack and hole you can find, inside and out. That will all help, but will not be a guarantee. You could also do an air-to-air heat exchanger in either the old remodeled house or the new-construction house. Both help control humidity levels to (help) prevent moisture damage.

I am very happy to have the roof done and hope to never do another in my life. We'll see, I am generally cautious about using the "never" word, as you never know what God will send your way. I'm totally convinced He has a sense of humor.

Finest regards,


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