Monday, March 5, 2012

Electrical and Plumbing, countertops, slat ceiling, closet system grass

A long time between posts again - Been pretty busy (I think yesterday was the first day I have not visited the site in about 3 weeks).
Snow happens!  We got a light snowfall and when I arrived the next morning the roof proved it was well insulated.  The house was set at 62 degrees overnight warming to 67 starting at 7:00.  This picture was at about 7:30.
Someone has been visiting while we're not there! Cat? Raccoon back? ...
 Since my last posting we have made significant progress including nearly completing top-out of the electrical and plumbing.  Electrician has a few fixtures to install and the Almond outlets - which is a story in itself.  The sub ordered Almond outlets to match the covers and began installing them on Thursday. It turns out they received Light Almond instead of Almond which are quite different in color.  Now here's the rub, the product ID for the Almond and Light Almond outlets are the same - they only difference is the use of AL for almond and LA for light almond.  Easy to figure out which is which isn't it?  It sure is nice to have electric light other than the florescent drop light we've been using when we need light!

The plumbers finished all of their top-out except one hand-shower bar and the hot water heater.  The shower bar requires drilling through that Italian tile which is very time consuming to say the least and it's nerve wracking so nothing cracks.  Installing the tub in the master bath also proved to be a bit of a challenge since it wasn't sitting on the floor.  When the granite installers set the tub deck, they did not set it high enough so we had to remove the mortar bed and redo that - but the worst part was the overflow vent needed to be dropped and it's very difficult to access.  After about 15 test-fits we finally got it into place.  It looks great and is going to be a wonderful place for a hot soak after a long day at work or long bicycle ride.  For the hot water heater we had originally budgeted for a tankless gas unit but with the installation of the geothermal, we had "downgraded" that to a standard electric.

  When the mid-grade resistance water heater arrived it was pretty enlightening to note that the energy rating label noted that of the class, this particular unit was at the top end of energy use for the year at $520.  That generated some healthy discussions regarding the cycle time of the ground source heat pump, the need for HVAC in the "shoulder seasons" and the amount of real hot water it will provide.  In the discussion we were heading towards getting that tankless whole-house unit again until we did a bit more research on the Heat Pump Water Heaters (a.k.a. Hybrid water heaters).  These units use a heat-pump to convert heat in the air to heat in the water and as side benefits they dehumidify the air and cool it.  We gathered all the information we could find and decided to go with the heat-pump water heater by AO Smith.  It gets good reviews and has a good warranty program.  We've read reviews of other manufacturer's heaters that have significant problems and they don't cost much less.  The attraction here was that we don't have to pay for LP to heat water (which is currently $2.79 a gallon and the estimated use is 200 gallons a year - or at current prices $558.00) and the side benefits might pay off.  Since the water heater is in the basement spaces and at present it will only cool the storage area and mechanical room, it seems like a good compromise.  Estimated energy use of this tank (which by the way is 60 gallons instead of the 50 gallon resistance heater unit) is about $250.  The unit does cost about 4 times as much as the resistance unit but that's only a 3-year payback period with a 12 year warranty so we feel confident in this decision.

One thing we did discover during our hot water heater investigation is it appears the larger hot water supply line for the house is now buried above the GSHP unit so we'll have to reroute it before the plumbers can connect the water heater.  We have a significant mechanical room with most of the mechanicals on one side of the room.  The one exception is the Energy Recovery Ventilator unit.  We also have found the GSHP transmits a significant amount of noise to the house which we believe is due to the unit being in contact with the floor joists above it - due in large part to the isolation blocks placed under the unit.

We ordered Soapstone for the kitchen counters from a supplier in NJ and had it delivered to our fabricator. The soapstone is "monsoon wave" and it isn't your high-school lab soapstone color or texture.  They fabricated it with a honed finish and brought it to the site to install a week ago Saturday.  The one glitch here was they had edge-finished two sides of the piece that goes between the range and the refrigerator.  The problem being that only the front was supposed to be edge finished while the sides and back were to be square cut.  The fabricator is still on the hunt for a local supplier for the soapstone but we believe they will end up going to our source to replace that one 25 1/2 x 27 piece.  When the soapstone is "dry" and not oiled it has a blue coloration but after oiling it turns deeper in color and takes on a deep green coloration.

Soapstone installed and oiled - but the bar top has not been installed nor have the fixtures.

View of the island sink up close - olied

Lengthwise shot of the island
This is the soapstone after a week of no oil - the tile was an experiment for the backsplash that doesn't work for us since it's too busy

The cabinet makers returned after the countertops were installed to install the bar top in the kitchen, the master closet shelving units, and the "DIY-install" pantry components.  We chose a solid cherry bar top for the kitchen which really sets off the cabinets and soapstone.  Both the bar top and countertops need to be treated the same with mineral oil.  Today I applied another coat to both and to show the difference between oiled and non-oiled I did half of the island soapstone and took the following picture.
Left half is "dry" and right half is oiled with straight mineral oil.  As you can see, this is after the plumbers have installed the faucet and soap dispenser. This picture was taken with the flash.

Here's a similar view without the flash - note the blue that this brings out...

Looking down at the half oiled surface.

Cherry bar top installed - the range hood cover is still a project in the works 
Some great looking cherry - and it is 2" thick.  The top is through-bolted to the island wall so it's sturdy (though we're still not letting anyone stand on it to do their work!)
View from the entry hall into the kitchen/family room

Grass is coming up - and it makes a real difference when approaching from the street. The house looks finished.

Garage at daybreak - lights on inside are only the garage door lights and not the florescent light.

View of the slatted ceiling from entry hall towards bedroom end of the house.

Same view with the lights turned on.  The ceiling is 3 1/2" hickory boards spaced just under 1/2" apart to fit the beam-to-beam space.  If you remember there is drywall painted black. The slats (with the light fixtures installed through the 2 center slats) are suspended about 9" below.  The design is meant to allow the panels to be lifted should any access be required in the future - though none is expected.

"the Money Shot"

Front entry hall - living room doors still have protective plastic on the glass and paper still on all the floors.

Living room door and hallway leading to bedrooms.

Looking down the hall from the niche end.

Master bedroom - this is a "Fan-away" where acrylic blades retract when the fan is off and spin out when it is running

View of the kitchen from the family room end.  

A bit of rain fell this weekend (about 1 1/4").  We now have 730 gallons of stored rainwater (+/-) and there was much more than that  that traversed the drainage system.

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