Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the fun continues

I can't really get these posts done on Sunday night anymore because I'm too cranky and sore and tired.. So let's see if a couple of days gives me more perspective and takes the whine factor down a notch or two..

<-- Dan and his new toy are cutting through the joists like butter. The holes can't be bigger than a third of the depth of the joist, and can't be any closer than 2" from the edges of the board, but it's a scary number of holes that need to be drilled to get the tubing everywhere it needs to be and then back to the manifold. It's a bit of an obstacle course of existing cuts and pipes and whatnot to find a clear path for the tubing. Any jogs make it much harder to pull the tubing through, but the most important thing is keeping the structural integrity of the joists that are, you know.. holding up the house.

<-- This is Ian. Ian came by to help on Saturday! Ian had loads of fun helping me pull the tubing through one of the runs. I tried to take better explanatory pictures of the process, but that's pretty hard to do when you're up in the joists trying not to kink the tubing or whack your head..

Basically, it needs to one single run of tubing that starts at the manifold carrying hot water out down and up each of the joist bays in the loop, and then back to the manifold. It's an easy enough concept, but the tubing is pretty stiff and if you try to bend it too much (or if it gets caught behind a giant beam while being pulled through a tangle of coils) it can kink. Which is bad, because even after unkinking it, it's not as smooth as it started out, and could impede the flow of water.

What we learned the first day was that pulling the tubing all the way through all the joists and back before pulling loops down into the joists made it really hard to start the loops without kinking the tubing. So the new-and-improved process goes like this:

1 - Pull the straight run of tubing all the way through all the joists in the run

2 - Pull out a loop in the very last joist bay in the run, then feed the tubing back into the next to last bay

3 - Pull a little loop out in each bay, working the tubing through from the big loop in that last bay, through each of the others until you wind up back at the manifold. As needed, pull more tubing through the straight run to the big loop at the end, because this is what gets fed through into each of the other bays

4 - When you get to the first bay in the run, run the tubing all the way down to the end, trying to keep it up in the bay (instead of dangling down towards the floor). This makes it gauging the length for each bay more accurate (because there's no estimating), and also makes it easier and faster when it's time to come back and whack the tubing into the channels.

5 - After the first bay has as much tubing as it needs, you can work back towards the last bay (where the big loop of tubing is getting pulled from), filling each bay with a full loop until you're back at that last bay.

6 - Whacking the the tubing into the channels starts at the first bay too, because the tubing going from there to the manifold is a cut end, that can't be made longer or shorter. Any excess can be pushed into the next bay as you go, or you can pull a little more from the next one if you're a little short.

7 - When you get to the last bay there's plenty of adjusting to do, either pulling a bit more through the straight run from the main roll of tubing, or pushing any extra back through.

Or.. in this case.. trying to make what seemed it like it might (hopefully) be enough tubing last.. until it became obvious that we were about 5 feet short

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.. Dan was tackling the last bit of thin fins to be put up under the kitchen

By the end of the weekend, we finished running all the tubing under the front part of the house

<-- This is the loop under the front room

<-- and this is the next loop over, which covers the entryway and the hallway, and the beginning of the bathroom loop (you can see the loops of tubing at the ends of the runs get a bit jumbled.. that's because there's more than one loop going through that spot)

Doesn't Dan look happy to be done with the weekend's labor?! Sundays definitely go a little slower than Saturdays.. but we've got a long weekend next weekend and we hope to get the rest of this phase finished.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

warm weekend of installing warmth

I'll spare you more pictures of Dan and I stapling thin fins up in the joist bays, but I just can't get enough of the pretty sparky pictures.

<-- This was me preparing the joist bays for the fins. There are nails sticking down from the floor everywhere in this house! One of 'em got me in the forehead before I got it with the grinder. I'll also spare you pictures of that (it looks like a bad attempt at a little zombie halloween makeup)

<-- This is Dan's new toy, a right angle drill. Neither of the drills we had would fit in the joist bays, and we have a million holes (give or take) to drill in the joists to run the pex through. This is Harbor Freight's version, for a fraction of what the DeWalts or Milwaukees cost

This is Dan's man-with-a-new-toy-about-to-take-on-the-beefy-joists pose

<-- And here they are in action

No sparks, but it cuts through the joists like butter!

And we finally were able to pull out the tubing and run a couple of the circuits.

In theory, you run the tubing through one hole, all the way down the circuit, then back through a return hole, then pull loops of it down into the bays and press it into the channels in the fins. That being the extent of the instructions we got, I searched online until I found a series of illustrations that finally made it make sense.. unfortunately, because the pex is pretty rigid and kinks easily, it didn't work at all. We wound up pulling the loops into the joists as we went, then feeding them all the way down the bays a little at a time.

I'm sure that's about as clear as the instructions were for me.. I'll try to take better pix next weekend to illustrate..

And the pressing the tubes into the channels wasn't as easy as one would hope either.. a rubber mallet worked perfectly, as long as there was enough clearance around the plumbing to swing it. For the spots where there wasn't enough room, Dan cut me a nice whacking stick to hold against the tubing and hit with a hammer, which is in my hand here. That went a lot slower, but was able to get into all the tricky spots.

While I was playing whack-a-mole with the tubing, Dan assembled the manifold, and even got it attached to the wall and a couple of the tubes plumbed in.

We made pretty good progress this weekend.. we got two full circuits done and there's only one room left to staple up the thin fin. With any luck by the end of next weekend we'll be done with this phase! We had a little reprieve from the cold for a few days, but at mid-November it's well-nigh time to turn the heat on.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

dreaming of warm..

The control panel for the radiant heating system came on Thursday, isn't it cool?! Everyone who sees it says it looks like something out of a WWII nuclear submarine!

The best part is, it came preassembled! The whole thing gets rotated 90 degrees, and the white backing board screws to the wall.

We need to read more of the manuals to understand what all the little knobs and dials do..

Sadly, we're not anywhere near ready to turn anything on.. there are still a ton more fins to staple up, and all kinds of obstacles getting in the way of that.

The bumpout had some reinforcing to be done.. Dan's nailing up joist hangers to actually transfer the load of the wall onto the joists in a more substantial way than the couple of face nails on each..

He also cut out a bunch of plumbing left over from the "original" kitchen (original to when we bought the house, but in no way original to the house.)

And then on to the next stop on the obstacle course that we call a floor.. Here's Dan and Henrietta consulting on how to deal with the spot where the fireplace was. We've just had some plywood sitting there to have a sort of level floor that the cats couldn't jump through, but we have to nail the heating fins to the underside, and to do that there really needs to be an underside.

<-- This picture taken after the piece of plywood was pulled up illustrates the problem a little better. Look ma, no floor!

Meanwhile, I was on staple duty..

Still more to do, but we made a lot of good progress this weekend!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Have you seen my zombie??

We've been on a mission to bring Halloween back to this side of town, and Dan came up with a great way to "advertise!" We made these posters and put them up all over town. A few people said they came by because they saw the posters, so it totally worked!

We didn't have as many people as were crowding the streets over on Bay, but we had about 100 kids which is WAY more than the 20ish we had last year. If that rate of growth continues, next year will be perfect!

We had a pretty good sized crowd a few times during the evening. The kids got a kick out of hanging back and watching the next group get scared by the Giant Floating Head of Doom (Doooooom), and his buddy the scarecrow.

And as much as the kids enjoyed it, the grownups couldn't get enough!

I kept trying to get pictures of people being scared, but this is the best I could get.. One girl jumped back so far she knocked me over! Which we both thought was pretty funny :)

<-- Bob, as our Mr. Floating Head of Doom wound up being named, is also very difficult to catch on film! We finally turned off all the lights and tried one last time and you can kinda get an idea of what he looks like. He can look left and right and up and down, and he has expressions and says the funniest things! (ok, that last part is Dan being witty through a voice changing software so he sounds spooky..) That's what people enjoyed the most I think.

And this winged demon really freaked the kids out too.. it really looked like it was floating over our graveyard. The wind whipped it around perfectly!

<-- This is us at the end of the night, in between bouts of rain.

And this is the sweetest thing ever! I found this slipped under the front door when I got home from work today.. it's a hand-drawn thank you picture from a kid down the street.

And that, folks, is what Halloween is all about.
Only 362 days to go!