Friday, March 16, 2012

Plumbing and electrical top out, water heater selection, cable rail, HVAC and more

This week saw the HVAC, plumbing and electrical trades complete their top-out in preparation for the certificate of occupancy.  We also uncovered the floors for the first time in months so they could get their final two coats of Bona High Traffic finish.  The stair railing components have now been cut to size and fitted so once the floors have hardened sufficiently we will install the final railing for the inside.  We strung the cable rail on all but the stairs for the deck as well - it was actually not too difficult but it did take time.  We drilled the holes in all the 6x6 posts and then constructed the 2x4 pressure treated upright 'spreaders' for the cable. After that we stained all the critical parts and then installed them.  The process we used was to cut the spreaders to length (high and low versions are required to prevent the cables from hitting at the corner posts) and then we strung the cables, tightened them, and after checking for plumb and centering we attached the uprights to the rail and the deck using screws.  We have not yet cut the cables off so that if we need to make adjustments we can still do that.  The tool that allows the quick-clamp to be released from the cable is only long enough to use if the cable is not inserted in the post so we would have to remove the threaded end of the cable assembly, release the quick-clamp, and then make the necessary adjustments.

  A couple weeks ago we were in a debate over what type of water heater to use.  We originally had a tankless LP unit in the plans but when the "dry hole" of a well appeared on the scene, we switched to a ground-source heat pump including a desuperheater (hot water by-product of heating and cooling) and a resistance water heater.  The water heater that we had initially delivered was very affordable but the annual costs of the unit were at the top of the category for their size ($520 for a 50 gallon heating tank) - which in actuality is a pretty small range.  We again went into the debate about tankless (which we were leaning to), resistance (typical water heater) or one of the new hybrid units.  After a bit more research on the tankless whole-house unit we found that the lag-time before getting hot water in the bathrooms would be unacceptable and the cost of operation was HIGHER than the resistance unit (200 gallons of LP a year, current rate is $2.79 per gallon) so we started researching the Hybrid heaters.  We read all the reviews and settled on an AO Smith Voltex heat-pump water heater.  The cost of the unit was slightly more than our budget line of the tankless whole-house system but the expected annual energy consumption was less than half of the estimated cost for the resistance unit and about 40% of that for the tankless.  The HPWP was delivered and due to the size we reconfigured the mechanical room a bit - the small 40 gallon tank for the desuperheater was moved over to the opposite of the room and the HPWH was placed next to it.  This provided a single drain solution for the pans and condensate pump (required for the HPWH).  Another condensate pump was installed for the ground-source heat pump since it generates a fair amount of water as it cools.  Rather than dump all that water into the septic system we installed two Little Giant condensate pumps that run the water out to the South West corner of the house - where they will be in our rainwater harvesting tanks so that in the rainless months we can continue to add to our tanks.  Pictures of the reconfigured mech room to be posted at a later date.  Oh, and the heat-pump water heater is a great air conditioner for the mechanical room - it cools and dehumidifies the air which our HVAC engineer plans to harness with a manual diverter to allow the cool/dry air to enter the living spaces in the summer months.  One other side note about the HPWH, when it's in hybrid or economy mode the condenser and fan can make a fair amount of noise so we plan to sound-proof the mech room (which we need for the ground-source heat pump and other mechanicals) in the near future.

  Here are pictures of the house in near-final stages.

No, that bird is NOT on the outside.  She decided that the open door was a good place to fly - she was in the garage (collecting next materials I think) and we managed to get her out by opening the french doors and then the clerestory window.  using the long pole scared her down and she miraculously flew out the door.

Convection/Microwave installed (and tested on pizza).

Workout room with paper removed from the floor - still a bit dusty but that will be remedied in the coming days.

downstairs bath - the hint of a reflection you see is the Optiplex (plexiglass) splash guard we installed over the knee-wall.

Lower stairs with stain and the first coat of finish on them.  you can also see the stairway light with the cover painted the same color as the walls.

It's all coming together - the range hood and duct cover are installed but the protective plastic is still on and the glass hasn't been installed yet.

Another view of the kitchen from teh family room - the soapstone looks much bluer here than it does in reality.

And here's the money shot - the only thing missing at this point is the railing but we're waiting to install that until flooring is finished.

Bedroom hallway in near-final state.  

The "relaxation room" with a view.

View from the niche end of the main hall upstairs

Living room doors - closed and yes, they still have the plastic protective film on them

Looking towards the west - the cable rail is installed at this point - hard to see in the small version but it is indeed there.

View looking from west to east - the very green section is where we  put down 50/50 compost/soil mixture and the less green section is the soil left after excavation (e.g. not the topsoil)

Here you can see the tails of the cable waiting to be cut and capped off

This is the other end of the cable system - a threaded rod which allows you to tighten the cable once the quick-clamp is in place and tightened by pulling the cable as tight as possible.

West ent of the deck, looking toward he south.

View of the deck from the Southeast corner of the clearing.

A bit wider angle

And looking due west - you should be able to tell what time this photo was taken by the shadows if you have ever used a sundial. We're thinking about putting a mariner's compass on the deck boards but maybe a sundial would be more appropriate!

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