Archive for the ‘Plumbing’ Category

Finally…A Shower!

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

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Let’s see… we started work on this shower back in, ummm, 2005, I think. Back in the day, the shower was in what was the “hot tub room”. Those “in the know” know what happened to THAT room and the hot tub that was in it. Two words: Dorothy Sawsall. Don’t ask.

But I digress… back a half decade ago we started to “finish” the shower stall. It’s around 8 feet long by 3 feet wide. A couple of years ago Dorothy did an amazing tile job in there. And there it sat. We did have a funky shower-ish thing surrounding the 2nd story bathtub, but that went away when we replaced the plumbing. If I wanted to have a shower I’d finally have to get around to finished the work down there. Dorothy had done her part…now it was my turn.

The big problem was that the trim ring didn’t sit well on the new wall, and there were some big gaps. I pulled off the faucet head, removed the crescent retaining spring, and removed the handle. That let me pull of the trim ring. Next I got a hunk of sheet rubber and fitted around the parts so that no water could get into the wall around the faucet cylinder. Lots of Silicone Rubber made sure of that. Next the trim ring went on. Move silicone goop. Finally it was time to put the faucet cylinder and handle set back together.

Oh Joy.

The retaining ring just wouldn’t go in. It had two little holes that looked like they fit a Special Tool. Only one place to look for that: Seven Corner’s Hardware in Saint Paul. And, indeed, they had the tool. For $50. *gack* I finally decided that I could probably do the job with a bent-tip needle nose, so I got one of those. With some tweeking, and more than one coarse word, I finally got the ring back in. A little more silicone rubber to hold it in, more on the cap, and the faucet was done.

After 12 hours it was all cured and I had a shower this morning. I like a tub for soaking…but I really like a good, hot, shower.

About that photo. It’s a mosaic created with Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor, “ICE”. It’s a freebie download and does an AMAZING job.

It’s Alive!

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

The house is coming back to life. Yesterday we moved furniture back into the living room with the exception of the piano and the Victorian sofa. The former needs no explanation. The latter…well…those Victorians must have used cast iron in the couch frame. We’ll have the piano movers (see former) handle it.

The kitchen is alive with cooking smells, albeit cooking on a hot plate. The stove was supposed to have been repaired on Friday but the repair place (who shall remain anonymous for the nonce) sent out the wrong parts. At least its not been raining so we’ve been having delightful meals cooked on the charcoal (chunk, not briquette!) grill. A French baguette crisped up over a smoky fire is quite tasty!

And… this morning I took a bath in the 2nd floor bathtub. It took me about a half hour to scour out all the gunk that was left on the walls of the tub. As I was lying there in a deep pool of water (they don’t make ‘em like that any more!) I reflected on this being the tub that was the cause of all the work over the last six months. Amazing.

Today we’re off to buy some new faucets for said tub, and a new microwave.

Banks ‘n’ Baths

Friday, September 24th, 2010

First off, the good news: I just got off the phone with the One Person at US Bank (Mortgage) that seems to actually listen to me. He said that we should have a check for the full amount of our escrow funds via FedEx Tuesday morning! Woot!

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Were in the final cleanup phase now. Things are getting dusted down, and the “Punch List” is being attended to. About all the second floor bathroom needs is a bit of paint on the wall. Two of the three new toilets have been installed. The third one, down on the first floor, was damaged in shipping, so that’ll be showing up next week. There’s even a nice, new, light fixture in there.

It’s hard to believe that this is where the whole event started. I almost put in a “before” picture of the bathroom taken On The Scene…but it was too depressing…so I’ve put a couple of shots on a secondary page you can see here.

Tonight is the Last Night over at the Babylonian Captivity! Dear Kitty Mabel is going to be hanging out in the garage for probably another week until we get all the furniture moved around.

US Bank… This One’s for YOU!

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The Dot and I rolled over to US Bank yesterday with another Big Check from the insurance company. I can’t say enough good things about Western National Insurance. US Bank? Again with the roadblocks! Yes, they are trying to “Speed things up”, but we get caught in a morass of “This Is The Way We Do Things”. I guess I’m supposed to be happy that they are working very, very, hard to make things nice for me. The trouble, however, is systemic. The basic system is wrong. When I present a set of receipts from my contractor along with the Visa receipt showing them that I’ve shelled out my own cash… they should smile, salute, and say “don’t worry…we’ll cover that right away!”.

That isn’t the way it’s working. My contact, nice enough guy, has to “get approval” for an “exception”. Now they want to have an inspector show up and make sure that the work is actually being done. Hello??? If US Bank would have been reading the blog I pointed them to they would have seen it happening.

I have now made sure my US Bank contact knows about this blog. I just did a bottom-to-top walk-through that includes Real Live Electricians doing Real Live Wiring. New Plumbing! New Walls! Of course, this could all be a Potemkin village constructed out of pasteboard and utilizing some very clever green-screen techniques to insert the workers. Judge for yourself…

Oh… and some other great news. We won’t be getting back home at the end of July. Now it’s August. Between the plumbing inspection delay and having to wait for the nasty fumes from the floor refinishing to dissipate, it’s another 30 days. Oh well…

Monkies & Plumbing

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Now that The Dot’s teaching morning summer school, the Cheeky Monkey has become our standard late-afternoon pick-me-up place for a bowl of soup, coffee, macaroon cookie… whatever! Matt consistently comes up with delightful taste-treats that always make the day go better.

Walking back was nice. Remember when you were a kid and you’d run through the rain? Remember that wonderful smell right after the rain stopped? That’s what it was like this afternoon. I could almost smell the old vinyl swimming pool…

The plumbing is now in it’s “awaiting inspection” phase. All but 3″ of the original plumbing in the house is gone, replaced with new. The only thing that’s left is the plumbing that was attached to the radiators, and we’re hoping to replace a bunch of that…especially the Big Fat Pipe that’s just at forehead height in the basement. Here’s a walk-through video of the current state of the house:

The Pressure is ON

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

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Remember that rat’s nest of Weird Piping? It’s been replaced with a NEW rat’s nest of piping. At least this stuff is consistent and meets code. It’s always fun retrofitting a bunch of pipes into a constrained space and maintaining the appropriate drop-per-foot for the plumbing.

The drain part of the plumbing is pretty much done. These last two pictures show the pressure testing. Down in the basement an inflatable ball seals off the pipes from the sewer connection. With all the other openings sealed off, a seal with a hose through it is used to pressurize the system. “Theoretically” there shouldn’t be any losses. Theoretically.

Of course, it’s not a perfect world and the plumber has to wander through the connections looking for leaks.

Tomorrow should see the installation of the supply lines. By this weekend I need to figure out where I want to string network and phone line and do some cable-pulling.

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See… I can write a note without a rant! Good Gary!

Don’t Bank On It

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010


Their service motto is “All of us serving you”. It seems that US Bank treats that more like “To Serve Man” in the sense of the classic SF story by Damon Knight. The insurance company has been a gem. They’ve gotten a check to us in short order. However, it needs to be co-signed by the bank holding our mortgage. That’s US Bank. All well in good… the bank needs to make sure we’re not squandering their money. The Dot and I go down to the local US Bank office.

They are clueless. They have to look up the procedures in their Big Book of How to Do it. They take our information and say “we’ll get back to you on Monday”. OK. It was the end of the banking day. I can handle that.

Comes Monday and it’s “Sorry. We can’t handle that here you’ll have to call the Insurance Claim Group.” Oh great, we think… here we go.

I call up the 800 number. “Sorry. We can’t pay that out without full documentation.” I look at the PDF files they direct me to. Good Ghu. Ten or so pages of onerous type. If it’s good enough for insurance company it should be good enough for them. Results of talking with the Worker Bee: ZIP.

Call back. Ask for the next level up. This time it’s “Well, we can’t pay until it’s completed.” “Uh.. this is a partial payment for what I’ve been invoiced already. I’m paying interest on this…” “We need documents…” So, I email them a wad of stuff documenting things. “Well, we can pay 1/3 of it. Maybe. You’ll have to mail the check to us and well send something back.” Like I’m going to send them a check. With them holding THAT paper I have no power to get any money. I ask to talk to the next level up. Results of talking with First Level Management: ZIP.

I’m now playing phone-tag with the next level up. They work from 8-4, eastern, so it’s nothing until tomorrow.

Bottom line in my book: If you’re looking for a loan, steer away from US Bank. If you ever have an insurance claim that requires house repairs you’ll be treated like someone out to rob them.

And Up and Up and Up…

The drain plumbing is now up to the 2nd floor and should be finished by tomorrow. Next up comes the water supply piping. I’ll make myself feel better and have pictures of that tomorrow.

From the Bottom Up

Monday, June 14th, 2010

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Take THAT you nasty rats! Ken has smashed out the middle of the old basement floor, and our plumber has put in a nice, new, shiny plastic, clean-out and line! The Wee Beasties used the old floor drain to get access to the house. We had a stiff screen over it. The new clean-out has got some sort of a nifty floating-ball gizmo in it that prevents back-flow of water and keeps the creepy-crawlies out. Cuel!

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The kitchen is now full of all sorts of pipes and joints. I looked at those guys, and the first thing that came to mind was Spud Gun! They’ve got some pipes down in the basement that would take a small watermelon. Spud gun? Heck no… Spud CANNON!

And now… the bank…

The insurance company has cut us a check. No problem there. The check, however, is made out so that both The Dot and The Bank that holds the mortgage have to sign the check. You’d think that wouldn’t be problem. We go down to the bank, they sign, and I can pay off the nasty credit card charges that are accruing.

No such luck. They have a procedure. They have a policy. They have the Bank Way Of Doing Things. Now I understand as well as the next guy that the bank and the insurance company wants to make sure that we’re not going to take the check and blow it on a 60″ LCD TV. That’s fine. I, on the other hand, have outstanding invoices to pay, and more on the way. The bank only wants to cash 1/3 of the check and hold the rest until Everything Is Done.

Per their request I fax’d them a pile of documentation. No go. I do have a higher-up to talk with tomorrow, and maybe I can get the insurance company to word their cover letter differently…but for now I am Not Pleased with the bank. They seem to have forgotten that We Are The Customer and that They Work For Us.

Maybe I can get some of those pesky sewer rats to pay the bankers a visit, eh?

Lumber on Deck!

Monday, June 7th, 2010


2×4’s, 2×6’x and MicroLam are all on deck for kitchen reconstruction. The 2×4’s and 2×6’s are going into the new walls for the basement and kitchen. The MicroLam is going to be the ceiling of the kitchen.

After all was said and done, there was just no way that the replacement plumbing was going to fit into the space between the old joists. In addition, those old joists couldn’t’ be be drilled. So… out they go!

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Remember that rats-nest of pipes under the 2nd floor? Here’s what’s left. That black-iron pipe is going to be going, too. Upstairs in the 2nd floor bathroom the toilet and tub are gone. We’ll be putting the claw-foot tub back (no way THAT’S going to be replaced), but we’ll be putting in a low-volume dual-flush toilet.

Now that the ceiling of the 2nd floor bathroom is out, more interesting stuff is coming to light.

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More pipe, more interesting connections, more weird wiring. But, as I was looking at the stuff, I thought “This was state-of-the-art” and the guy that put it in was good at what he did. I wonder what the guy who rips out OUR stuff in 2110 is going to say!

PS… *sigh* I’ve been so caught up with this stuff and getting ready for the PLATO@50 conference that I totally missed that WootStock was going to be in Minneapolis tonight. Alas, sold out. Next time…

Creaking & Groaning

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Short update…

The jacks are in place and the house is a creakin’ and agroanin’. Lots of interesting looking cracks are showing up in the walls, but that was expected. It looks, though, that it’s probably going to take some creative construction techniques to keep everything in the right place once the jacks are removed.

The old beneath-the-second-floor joists have been under stress for so long that they don’t want to stay in place once jacked. In addition, a wee bit more space is needed to fit in the up-to-code plumbing from the second floor bathroom. Discussions are trending to the use of microlam beams and replacing the current mid-house support wall with 2×6’s instead of the existing (and warped) 2×4’s. Of course, this makes the kitchen a bit shorter which makes it a bit of a challenge to re-fit the custom cabinetry back into space.

I’ve got faith that the Beloved Contractor will make it All Better.