Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sledgehammer vs Concrete

The hole in our floor is getting bigger! We're about half way with the concrete, I think.

Tonight I hauled buckets while Troy whacked apart the concrete with a sledgehammer. He's discovered that the sledgehammer is faster than the jackhammer. More work, but faster. So out with the jackhammer!

This was the first time I helped him with this job. I carried out two buckets to dump by the shop driveway while Troy whacked off more concrete pieces.

For some reason I had the idea that I would be waiting for Troy--that I would be able to haul and dump the buckets faster than he could fill them. That was wrong.

As I realized this, I didn't think I was going to be able to keep up the pace. The buckets were already a little heavier than I could manage to do all night, and if I didn't fill them as much, there was no way I could keep up with Troy.

Then I walked into the kitchen and saw Troy leaning on his sledgehammer breathing hard, and he said, "I don't think I can keep up with you, honey." Ha ha ha. We weren't competing, but obviously we were pushing each other all the same!!

We both managed to keep going and put in an hour or so. A couple more nights like that and the concrete should be out.

Wow. It seems so easy when you write about it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Word on Cold

Last week we ran out of biodiesel. We've been using more than Troy's been able to produce. (That would be a pretty common way to run out of something.)

This meant that the oil stove in the kitchen couldn't run for a day or two. And it didn't happen during a peculiar January warm snap. So things got cold.

The living room was 44^ when we would get home from work. Cold.

To deal with the problem
  1. we wore more clothes,
  2. I tended the woodstove even more diligently, and
  3. Troy stole some biodiesel from the shop stove. (Now the shop isn't being heated, but I don't feel bad about that at the moment.)
We're back in business, the living room is usually in the low 50s when we get home and Troy is making more fuel as quick as he can.

I made a posting on Facebook at some point about the cold and got a number of responses. (44^ being colder than your average home temperature.)

But it got me to thinking and comparing to last year. Last year Troy couldn't make more biodiesel because he wasn't set up in the shop yet--it was strictly a warm weather activity. So he stored up as much as he could and we rationed.

Last year we only ran the oil stove overnight. That way the house was a little warm when we woke up. (And even more key is that the shower is off of the kitchen and the bathroom wouldn't be frigid.) We turned it off during the day letting the house cool until we got home when we could heat it back up with the wood stove. During cold weather, the living room was regularly 42-44^ when I got home. It was a cold winter.

And it also go me to thinking about how it was when I was growing up. We used wood to heat and Dad would stoke it up every night before going to sleep. But I can still remember many nights when the air was so cold in my bedroom that my nose would feel numb. I would lie awake trying to choose between a frozen nose or breezing stale air under the covers. Neither was very appealing!

Anyway, I guess my point is that even though we got ourselves in a pinch for a bit, things are still improving. We've had the luxury this year of running the oil stove pretty much full time and it has made a big difference.

I still look forward to the day when this house is insulated and I can come home to 65^ and raise it to 75 with the wood stove!! :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tearing it Up

Troy has been working in the kitchen again (still). He has the south support done for the beam:
The north one is started but needs a little more work.

You can see the nice solid base he made for them. Underneath the 2x6 is a lineup of 2x4s pieces all secured in place to fill in the gap above the foundation wall in between the floor joists.

We have also cut out the concrete of the kitchen floor. Troy traced a line,
and we followed it with the saw and a vacuum.
He did some on his own, but it really is a two-person job. Troy handled the skilsaw and I went right along side with the vacuum. We went through one blade and had to clean the vacuum filter twice. As expected, it was dusty.

And just like colouring and puzzles, now that the outlines have been established, the interior can be worked on. Troy's been running the jackhammer and hauling material out.
He is planning to reuse the gravel in the reconstruction and is hauling the large pieces out to the shop driveway to fill in a slope.
The plan is to do one half at a time so we can pile the gravel on the half of the floor we're not working on.

Which means, in addition to everything else it's been, my kitchen has become a gravel pit.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The turning point on the kitchen, and, how cement sucks as an insulator.

As noted by my lovely wife, destruction has commenced on the old cement floor of the kitchen addition (the old porch).  When we moved in, the kitchen was basically unlivable in the winter time.  It would have made a great textbook illustration of all the things to do wrong on a house in the North Cold Country to make it unheatable.  Here's a short list:  crappy insulation job, and many spots with no insulation at all.  Cement floor, with the cement being exposed on the outside.  (r-1 per FOOT, I think of the wood framing as crappy insulation because it's r-1 per inch.).  The cement floor functioned as a giant ice block four months of the year.  Big crappy windows with aluminum frames, poorly sealed. No vapor barrier, no tyvek/house wrap, no caulking of joints or cracks.  We're going to fix all that.  The outside sealing has nearly been done.  The crappy windows are gone, replaced by one small efficient triple glazed, double Low-E vinyl framed window.

In order to isolate the cement floor/slab from the living space, I have to "lower" the surface of the cement about eight inches.  Then I can put 2 x 8's in there, with room for foam insulation board, and room for plumbing drains and whatnot.  My first exploratory hole revealed the best possible news, a thin hard 3" shell of good quality cement, over good gravel fill.  I was concerned that maybe they had poured one gigantic block of solid concrete, which would have been tedious in the extreme to "lower" eight inches. 

So, I have to make a defining cut around the perimeter, leaving my solid hard old concrete for the new inner wall to stand on.  We do this with a diamond edged cement blade in our cheapo Harbor Freight circular saw, cutting about an inch deep.  Don't use your nice Makita saw for this, since it will be inhaling abrasive dust into the motor the whole time.  Ideally, you have somebody standing right there with a shop vac, with the nozzle sucking up 90% of the dust since it makes copious clouds of it.  And use a respirator/mask, since you don't want silicosis.

Once we make that defining cut, then we break out the cement inside, and also dig out the gravel until we have a nice flat base to pour our new concrete on.  This will be precisely leveled using a water level, the best thing since sliced bread.

Or you can make one by buying 25 feet of 3/8" vinyl clear tubing, and affixing it to a plastic quart jar some how, but the vinyl tubing alone was about half the cost of the whole finished product, so I just bought it.  Great precision, only needs one person to operate.  Works around corners (which laser levels can't).  Setup time is about a minute.  Slick product and pretty cheap.

We will reuse the gravel to make the new cement.  Once we pour the new recessed or sunken floor at the precise correct height, we add our new floor framing.  This will beautifully line up with the height of the main floor, removing the 2 1/2" tilt we had in the old floor. We will redeem this old house in every way that we can.  As usual, redemption is an expensive and time consuming process.  And worth every bit of it.

Excuse me while I go make a mess...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Two Things of Note

First I should say that Troy and I finished up the support beam this week by adding the 2x10s to each side. He has worked on making a place for the upright supports to rest on. (You're not surprised to hear that what was there was completely inadequate, right?)

While he was cleaning up the beam, this happened:
Troy, 1; hammer, 0. Fortunately, nothing actually went flying and Troy was not hurt.

THE OTHER THING OF NOTE IS THAT TROY STARED ON THE FLOOR TONIGHT. Oh sorry, I don't have to yell when I'm typing, do I?
It's been a little loud, but well worth it.
I'm going to let Troy give you all the details so look for a post from him soon.

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