2013 Begins

It’s 2013.
It’s 6 below and windy out.
The tarps in the ceiling are doing a better job of keeping the cold out than keeping the heat in, and we almost ran out of fuel oil. Mary had to sweet talk Bourne’s into a quick delivery. The woodstove is a little too full of glowing coals, and adding wood only suffocates the fire and smokes up the house, so when I returned from a walk outside, I kept my heavy coat on while I sat in my chair and read. Our microwave died and the next-best way to heat up leftovers and chocolate sauce is a lot of work. Mary was sick for 2 weeks and is still coughing.  Until yesterday, I seemed to be immune.

We were supposed to be moved by now, but slow seems to be the norm, and as long as there is forward progress, I suppose we should be happy. Here is a rundown of some of the progress we’ve made.

You may recall the fiasco with the propane tank. The gauge didn’t work – nor the replacement – and we were left with a half-full tank and no way to know how much gas we’d burned through. Mary took charge and shamed the dealer into fixing it, and the fix was to exhume the tank and put in a new one. It was a big mess, but the new one seems to work.

And then there was the problem with the well pump. It works fine, but since it services 2 houses, the State requires that it have 10 gpm flow rate, so it had to be replaced. I’ve always wondered how they get the pipe through the casing below the frost line and still be able to pull the pump to work on it. Turns out there is a cool gravity-cinched wedge coupling that the pump dangles from. So now I have (another) spare pump to play with if I ever get serious about doing work on the pond.

Once the siding went on, the last thing we wanted the builder to do was to put in a cement-board underlayment over the radiant slabs wherever we plan to put tile. This gives a reasonably smooth surface so the tiles won’t crack. It was interesting for me to watch, because I have never worked with cement board OR used thinset mortar.  Between the supplier running out of cement board and Les splitting his time between jobs, this dragged out for 2 solid weeks. The good news is that now the builder is more or less out of the picture, and I can do whatever I want.

And there’s plenty to do.
I started out by roughing out some cabinets for the kitchen. Nothing like seeing some plywood boxes against the walls to help Mary visualize what it’s really going to look like. I’m using the same plywood-box construction I used in Westford and the Green house, but since I am trying to keep the dust down in the basement, I hooked up Mary’s dust collector to the table saw and built myself a little sanding hut with a tarp hung from the joists, and evacuated the dusty air from it by running a spare duct to the collector. Very effective.

 I ran out of plywood, but got enough built to find and fix a few problems.

The heating system is fabulous. With radiant heat, all the surfaces in the house are warm, so even when I left 2 doors open on a cold day to purge the dust from the house, it was more like a cool breeze in a warm place than the catastrophic heat loss it would be in other houses.  That said, it’s also a pain in the butt. Not only did we have to put in cement board underlayment, but the entire surface had to be checked for bumps and planarized. I started off with a hammer and cold chisel, but quickly got wise and bought a wide chisel for my hammer drill and spent a long day taking off the high spots. Whew.

 The entry from the garage was downright dangerous, so I built a better platform.


Pretty soon, I’m going to have to start working on the wood for the Master bedroom floor, which we reclaimed from the upstairs of the Green house. Half of it was still stacked up in Chuck. I moved it into the basement to acclimate along with the rest of it. I hope we have enough.       

This batch of wood hadn’t been de-nailed or cleaned, and was still covered with a century worth of crud on 3 sides. It took a whole day to scrape them clean enough that I can run them thru the planer.  



And then there was some plumbing to do. For years, I’ve been accumulating an impressive collection of assorted copper fittings and I looked forward to using them up. Back in the ’80’s, Hilson’s Home Center was the best place to get building supplies on sundays, and I made many visits when I was working on my house in Winooski. More than a few of the fittings I used had Hilsons price tags on them. As it turned out, though, my collection of spare fittings was bigger when I got done than when I started.

Most of the plumbing I did was just adding threaded fittings to the pipes poking thru the sheetrock, but the master shower turned out to be quite the project. I wanted to test for leaks before I closed in the shower, and last week, I pressurized the house. No problems found.



So I went ahead and closed it in with a layer of PT plywood plus a layer of Hardiebacker. I had never worked with cement board before, but it’s a lot like sheetrock, and I’m no better than I ever was at getting my penetrations to line up centered in my holes. It turned out good, though, and by the time I got it done, I had tools and offcuts everywhere.


So we’re making steady progress, and I feel like I’m re-living the 80’s, but without the job or the learning curve.

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