Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sprucing up the ducting

The basement area that we spent almost a year excavating and lining with concrete is creeping towards completion. At the time of writing at that is left to do is install the LED lighting and electrical outlets, and paint the concrete floor and walls with the same epoxy or paint I used in the garage. And install the cabinet saw.

Well, it turns out there was one other thing: the insulation at the furnace ducting that passes through this area and through the workshop was in awful condition as you can see below. This is a good example of Project Creep: it was never our intention to do anything with the ducting, but it was so filthy it would have been more work to try and clean it.

After very carefully removing all the old fiberglass insulation, I discovered the living room duct wasn't even connected. And of course, the old white tape is basically asbestos

I re-sealed the detached ducting with modern aluminum tape, and wrapper the same tape around all the old asbestos tape - encapsulation is actually safer than trying to remove it. 

The replacement insulation is essentially plastic bubble wrap which has been very thinly coated with aluminum. We installed it with a lot more of the same aluminum tape. Amy Sheep was on hand to help with the first part of the project.

When I was working on my own, I had Wimbledon 2022 to keep me company:

All done!

I did the ducts which pass through the workshop at the same time.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Hose Bibs

A few weeks ago, I destroyed the hose bib that passed through the area that is now occupied by our front porch. Amy Sheep has been struggling to water some parts of the yard ever since.....

So....time to do something about that! I started off by attaching a new lead-free brass bib to a copper compression fitting (don't forget the thread sealer!) and then soldering that to an overlong section of copper pipe. I need four of these in total, but I just made one to begin with and then went into production later. I've actually never "sweated pipe" before, so it was fun to learn something new. 

The next step was to drill a one inch diameter hole in the wall. The pipe passes through brickwork at the exterior and the rim joist at the basement side, so I had to use a mixture of drill bits. i.e., 3/16 long series masonry all the way through from the outside, then expand the hole in the brick to one-inch from the exterior, and then come back the other way with a one-inch spade bit. The pipe is 3/4 inch internal diameter, so I have a bit of wiggle room. This is the view from the outside with the hose bib in place:

At the basement side, the copper pipe has been trimmed and connected to a new PEX supply line with a push-on brass 90-degree Sharkbite fitting. I used these fittings for all of the copper/PEX and PEX/PEX junctions. The brass clamp in the background is screwed into the rim joist and is designed to stop the hose bib from rotating.

I also installed a pipe which will serve the irrigation system in the front section of the yard. PEX pipe is light sensitive, so this section had to be made from copper. I sweated these joints since I don't want them to rotate like the push-on fittings do. 

I installed two hose bibs at the front of the house, either side of the irrigation line. Later I will install a third next to the garage and a fourth at the interior of the basement close to the sump pump. The plywood paneling that I installed in the basement a few weeks ago was primed and painted before the plumbing lines were installed. 

The opening you can see at the right side of the photo above is an access panel for the electrical junction boxes that I will be installing - this area needs lights, outlets and a 220 V connection for the cabinet saw. This is also where the cables that serve the exterior outlet and the streetlamp pass through the exterior wall.

Sam helped with the painting, and we did the wall between the basement and the garage at the same time:

This is the connection to the exiting plumbing line. The plywood shear wall is much stronger with the pipe passing through it than it would have been if I installed the plywood around the pipe.

That's all for now...

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day DIY Extravaganza

Memorial Day weekend means different things to different people. Years ago, it meant a trip to the INDY 500. These days it mostly means an extra day off work/school. This particular year I blagged Friday off work too and spent far too much of Wednesday at my local Big Box store, where I exchanged some serious moolaw for a couple of bags of plumbing fittings and a roll of masking tape. Unlike most entries in this blog, which are written days, weeks or more commonly months after the events, this post is a daily blow-by-blow indulge-a-thon of a very memorable Memorial Day long weekend.


As it happens, I had a light-ish week at work and I was totally done by lunchtime on Thursday, which is exactly when the latest 10-yard rock box was dropped off in our driveway:

I wasn't planning on doing much outside on this particular day, but since I was done with my day job and the dumpster was on site, I set to work on the pile of rubble that used to be our front porch: 

If I have any room left in the dumpster, I'll be adding the entrance path too:

First things first: I built a very sturdy ramp out of the forms I had left over from the basement project. I had to dig a passage through the pile of dirt that came out of the basement.

The ramp worked really well:

I found it worked best with a half full barrow - much more weight, and I struggled to lift the barrow upright at the top of the another example of "little and often."

By the close of play on Thursday, the dumpster was just less than half full:

I think I have reduced the pile of rubble by three-quarters or more, so it's looking good for the pathway.

While all this was going on, Amy Sheep was working on what will be out Prize Pumpkin Artichoke Patch. At the start of play it was looking a bit neglected:

This is later after all the weeds have been pulled and the dirt has been turned over with the jackhammer's spade attachment. The pile of ornamental rock in the foreground needs to find another temporary storage location.

The last little bit of our fenced-off enclave has also become somewhat overgrown in the last few months. If this was part of a golf course, it would be deep rough at best.

Most of the weeds were removed from this area just in time for the day's last over.


Friday was another somewhat dull day - perfect for what we had in mind in fact. After a quick breakfast of pain au chocolate and café latte, Amy Sheep picked where she left off with the weeding.

I carried on humping increasingly smaller bits of broken brick and concrete into the dumpster and by late morning I was done, and the tarps had been pulled up.

Next victim: the pathway between the street and the brick porch we don't have anymore. I started off by popping out the brick ribbons - this bit was a piece of cake.

About this time is when the folks from tut' Rock and Soil came by and dropped off four cubic yards of ye finest olde topsoil.

I was feeling pretty good about my progress with the path, so I took a break from jackhammering and helped Amy Sheep dump some of the topsoil on the soon-to-be pumpkin artichoke patch. 

This is later after the topsoil has been spread out to uniform thickness:

This is the downhill area after weeding and after we removed another half dozen or so barrows of infertile subsoil.

At this point Amy Sheep had to run to silly point for a couple of hours so I went back to demolishing the concrete path and transferring the debris to the dumpster. Most of the slab was six (6) inches thick so this turned into quite some effort.

The dumpster was starting to look a lot closer to full than empty by stumps; this is a legacy of the concrete path being so thick!


I was out on the pitch bright and early after just a quick piece of toast and got the ball rolling by building a ramp to the downhill area.

Then it was back to breaking concrete. This was hard work because the concrete was so thick, and I was becoming concerned over whether there would be enough space in the dumpster.

While that was going on, Amy Sheep was depositing more premium topsoil at the downhill bed. The exact moment when the dirt spreading was completed did not make it into the photographic record. What is most memorable about that instant is that it signaled Amy Sheep's rapid departure from the crease in the direction of the Nursery (or tut' Garden Center as my grandpa would have called it).

I carried on plodding away with the pathway. By late afternoon I had got rid of all the big chunks.

Eventually it was done! The pathway has left a scar in the landscape that is four feet wide and almost a foot deep. 

This is what a completely full dumpster looks like:

And this is what a driveway looks like when it is partially filled with broken up concrete:

By this point Amy Sheep had returned heavily laden with a variety of plants, but unfortunately no pumpkins. Looks like we missed the boat this year. Instead, we'll be growing artichokes in the uphill bed and a variety of drought-tolerant plants and flowers lower down.

It is very important to liberally water new plants:


After two and a half days of very hard labor, the plan for Sunday was take it easy. We kicked off by spending two hours on the couch watching the Monaco Grand Prix. After that is was time to pad up and head back to the crease.  We had some topsoil left over which we dumped in the area which until a few days ago was covered with broken up brick and concrete.

We also spread out some coarse gravel in the valley where the entrance path used to be. And that was it. The rest of Sunday was reserved for socializing and relaxing.


If you were paying attention at the beginning, then you may be wondering why I mentioned buying plumbing fittings. The answer is that when we built the porch a few weeks ago, I had to remove to hose bib that was in the way....and the time has come to replace it.

This is view of the hose bib supply line from inside the basement. I fitted a removable brass cap after I cut the pipe back.

This is the same supply line  viewed from further away - it passes through the stud wall which supports the porch. I've been wanting to strength this section of the foundation for a while, and it will be much easier to do so without the pipe in the way.

So....after shutting off the water and draining the system, I used my close-quarters pipe cutter to chop the pipe back a couple of feet in front of the stud wall, and fitted a new shutoff valve. 

With the pipe out of the way I was able to fit a plywood panel and install it with the appropriate nailing pattern. 

I also installed similar panels at the perimeter of the new section of the basement - these panels are not structural, and are just held up with a few screws. After that I decided the plumbing lines and hose bibs can wait until next time.  

There was just enough time left to to check on our strawberry crop - we have been getting tons more fruit this year.