Friday, September 30, 2005

New Shoes 2

I've known for a while that I'd need new work boots eventually. I don't know how many years ago I went down to Sears and picked up an inexpensive pair of steel-toe work boots. These boots have been out to Habitat countless times, lots of home-improvement projects here, four Mexico mission trips, and who knows what else.

The treads wore off a long time ago. The toe on one wore through to the steel some time back. They're covered in concrete, caulk, a variety of adhesives, and a lot of plain old dirt.

But the final straw was when I went past wearing off the tread and actually wore through the sole. I noticed it when I stepped on some gravel, and could feel the texture with my foot. Hmm, not a good sign. Then one of the laces broke, and it was past time.

I'd stopped by Sears in Oakland, but they didn't have my size in steel toe. Or at least they couldn't find it. Nice people there, but I don't think they know their store very well. So yesterday I stopped by Sears in Pleasanton since I was in the area for a trip to RLC and lunch with my friends Pete and Jim, and got what I wanted with a minimum of fuss for $34.98 plus tax.

I was going to pick up a pressure valve from my friend Rob at church for the DWV line inspection, but I found out that I can do either 5 lbs. of air pressure or a 10 ft. column of water. The latter is easier to find leaks with (not that I expect any with ABS and its gnarly adhesive), and I have what I need, so I'll do that.

Unfortunately the next available inspection isn't until next Monday, the 10th. Quite a bit longer than the first time, and than what I was planning on. There's other stuff I can do to keep busy, like pre-frame some of the walls, but it'd be nice to have that large space of the floor decking to work on. Oh well. There's more work to be done at Camron-Stanford House, apheresis again on Tuesday, and countless other tasks around the house that need doing. Like cleaning up the construction detritus in the basement. Not too long ago I had a nice work space there. Hmm...maybe I can try rescheduling for an earlier time :-) Or maybe I'll go out to Habitat. I haven't been out to the work site for a while, and I've been meaning to go back out.

Yesterday had some interesting other stuff besides new boots and lunch. When I stopped by RLC, I heard the office manager talking to someone about "blah, blah, fire marshal". Fire marshal? a lot of the sound and video equipment there is at least partly my responsibility, and the sound booth has a mess of cords to catch a fire marshal's eye, I asked what it was about.

No problems in the sound booth (I'd wired some new 4 plug outlets there so we didn't have chains of power strips plugged in to other power strips, a definite no-no), but this fire marshal is a bit more particular than the last. Instead of "no flammable materials" in the furnace room, he wants "no materials", period. As storage at church is pretty limited, there was plenty in there: ladders, folding chairs, tables, shelves with random bits and pieces (need some somewhat worn maps of the Holy Land?), and a large pull-down projection screen. Apparently that was purchased back when they started the contemporary service, and they used it for a while for projecting overheads of lyrics. But it had to be off to the side where nobody could see it easily, so it got taken down and stored. Anyways, I spent the next hour finding new homes for the things stored there, and got stuff cleaned up to what will hopefully be the fire marshal's satisifaction. But know anyone who needs a 10' wide pull-down projection screen?

I don't think the cleanup made any difference to safety, but one thing sure did: I found two extension cords in the janitor's closet that were hazards at best. One had the covering torn at the plug, so just the wires were holding it together. The other had the 3rd prong (the safety ground) broken off. Some people do that because they don't have a 3-prong adapter for a 2-prong outlet, but it creates a major safety hazard. The kind where people end up injured or dead. So I threw out those two cords, and bought a new one at the nearby OSH.

Then last night I went to Rooster's Bar in Alameda to take some pictures of a friend's band. Kautz plays guitar at RLC some Sundays and is a pretty good guy, so I took pictures of the band and will be designing a web site for them. Know anyone who has gigs for a talented heavy metal band? They had a gig after the shoot, but unfortunately they weren't going to be on for a couple of hours. And the bar was charging a $7 cover charge. I was pretty sure I didn't want to sit and listen to hours of heavy metal music, even if the bar does have Lagunitas IPA on tap.

And finally, to keep the people who want more pictures on the blog happy, we have a nice shot of the water supply lines. Kat envisioned it, but I took while she was at work. A nice composition for something otherwise pretty mundane.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Drain, Drain, Go Away

Yesterday I made a brief attempt at fixing the last leak, but I decided I was going to have to just redo that fitting and the nearby one. In the afternoon it was off to the Red Cross for apheresis. I watched Ocean's Twelve, the sequel to the remake of the 1960 film, Ocean's Eleven. Not a bad movie, but disappointing after the first one, which did a pretty good job of capturing the essence of the original even if they didn't have the "Rat Pack". I always wonder about movie remakes. If the original was great, why remake it? I know, I know...because they don't have any original ideas anymore. What will they remake next? Casablanca?

I started today by disassembling the problem fittings, which took longer than anticipated because there was some water lurking in the pipes. But I got things apart, prepped the new fittings, sweated things, and voilĂ ! It worked first try. Thanks, Jim. You're a good teacher. But my skills will probably be rusty again by the time I'm ready for working on the plumbing again, so don't go anywhere just yet.

After lunch I worked some more on roughing in the DWV system. I'd drawn out how things were supposed to go, but when you actually get to putting pipes in place, dealing with the proper slope (1/4" per foot), various obstacles like floor joists, water supply lines, and the foundation, it gets to be a lot trickier. Oh, and of course you need to start and end up at all the right points. Since I have the main sewer line out of the addition in a fixed location through the foundation wall, that end has to be exact.

I also needed to figure out how to cut the 4" DWV pipe. It was too big to fit in my chopsaw, and I'm not that accurate with a Sawzall, so I ended up building a miter box big enough to hold the 4" pipe. And then made the cuts I needed with hand saw. A lot slower than the chop saw, but it got the job done.

I got all the runs and changes figured out, but needed to make YAHDR (Yet Another Home Depot Run), which was only partly successful. They were out of 4" connectors to join two pipes together, so I'll have to make a visit someplace else to get one when I'm out tomorrow. But there are drain lines from the shower, sink and toilet now. They just need one more fitting, and gluing together, and I'll be ready for an inspection!

Monday, September 26, 2005

One Drip, One Run, Some Errors

Today I pressure-tested the water supply lines that I finished sweating on Saturday after Jim left. Not surprisingly, there were some leaks. After some cycles of drain the lines, re-sweat the leaky joints, turn on the lines, repeat I began to suspect that there was too much water still in some of the lines because the solder wasn't flowing the way it should. Jim suggested I cut out one of the problem sections and re-do as much as I could off-site, then install it. That worked like a charm, and the cold water supply line is now at pressure -- woohoo! There's still one small leak in the hot water supply line, but I'm confident I can fix that tomorrow.

I also laid out the DWV (drain waste vent) pipes, though I had to make a run down to the local ACE hardware for a couple of fittings (and some more solder for the water supply line fixes I was making). But I should be able to get the plumbing rough-in and floor framing inspected this week, and start moving foward with the floor decking and walls!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Plumbing and More Pictures

Jim came and helped me with the plumbing today as planned. I felt a little guilty about asking for his help (again), but then I remembered that I spent all yesterday afternoon helping at Camron-Stanford House, a volunteer reference Jim hooked me up with. It can be very tiring, as I've blogged about before, so now I don't feel so bad about asking for Jim's help.

Jim and his wife Brigitte came after lunch, and Jim made short work of the connections to the existing plumbing that had been giving me trouble. His sweated joints may not be the most beautiful, but they held the first time we tried turning on the water. Which is a lot more than I can say for an annoyingly large percentage of the joints I've sweated.

Below are some more pictures of the progress so far.

And for good measure, here's a picture of my neighbor Cynthia's (she helped during the concrete pour) cat Fritz. He was waiting in our driveway for some attention when I went next door to take the picture from above.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pictures, Plumbers and Pastors

I was told I wasn't posting enough pictures, so here you go. I still want to get a shot from above of the floor framing and plumbing, but this is a start. It's the addition wearing its raincoat (and more often fog and pine needle coat). It won't keep off a serious rain, but it keeps most of the water and pine needles out.

Today I worked on the plumbing some more, but I realized yesterday that sweating pipes is not my strong suit. I can do it when there's lots of room and only a few connections, but those "last connections" where things are tight and there's multiple joints to sweat give me fits. Fortunately my good friend Jim agreed to come give me a hand (again -- he helped me out back when I was remodeling the bathroom, and dielectric unions were giving me fits).

Jim is one of those interesting people who's been a number of things in his life. He doesn't have a lot of formal education, but he's very intelligent and has a lot of different experiences, so he's a jack-of-all-trades and master of many. I'm feel like I'm more of a dilettante in comparison. Jim once made his living as a plumber, and besides having taught me about the wonders of Wonder Bread, he's taught me other valuable lessons about being a plumber: shit runs down hill, and pay day is on Friday. So there you go -- now you've begun your education as a plumber, too. A lot of the rest is fairly easy, but sweating pipes well is the work of an artist. Jim is definitely an artist. Just check out his photography.

I just realized there might be some confusion about Jim. The above refers to a different Jim than Pastor Jim who helped me during the concrete pour. Though Pastor Jim has been a number of things in life, too: raisin farmer, electrical parts salesman, and pastor, that I know of. Come to think of it, I think he was singing and playing guitar when he and his wife Nancy met.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hooray for MAPP gas!

The "Sweets of the Soul" concert at RLC on Sunday wiped me out. Monday was pretty much lost to resting from that. The concert was a big success. People had a lot of fun, and we raised a lot of money for Hurricane Katrina relief and rebuilding. Let's pray that they don't get clobbered by Hurricane Rita in the mean time.

Tuesday I was thinking the forecast thunderstorms (thunderstorms? in the Bay Area? mooOOoo!) might slow down work, but instead it was taking one of our cats, Rosie, to the vet that did. She had YAAOHB (Yet Another Abscess On Her Butt), basically an area swollen from infection, usually caused by getting bitten by another cat. Since she's been indoors except for a few closely supervised trips outside on harness, the only possible source of that would be our other cat, Star. But as much as they tussle sometimes (mostly stalking and chasing each other around the house), we've never seen them get that violent with each other. Hmmph.

But along the way I've finished the floor framing, installed the duct work for the furnace, and gotten some of the water supply lines roughed in. I still need to finish those, and rough in the DWV (drain, waste and vent system), then get all that inspected. Then I can put the floor down, and start building some walls!

It's been a while since I sweated copper pipes. The last time was when I remodeled the bathroom. The window was rotten and the wall was starting to go, so I redid the whole thing, including replacing the galvanized plumbing with copper. I was almost driven mad by trying to solder di-electric unions (the special parts that connect galvanized pipes with copper), until my friend Jim told me to get some MAPP gas. It makes a lot hotter flame than a regular propane torch, and makes things a lot easier. But my skills were a bit rusty, so I practiced before sweating any joints that matter. We'll see how well I did when I actually pressure test things, but the MAPP gas made things go pretty smoothly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Yo Vivo En Home Depot

Monday I worked with Edis and we installed some joists and cleaned up the old stairwell that will be beneath the entry and dining room. It was nice to have him for the clean up (lots of hauling), but I'm not sure it was a net gain hanging joists with him.

Tuesday I worked alone, and spent much of the day picking up some double-wide joist hangers and then getting plumbing supplies at Home Depot. Net result, not that much done on the house itself.

Today I worked alone again, and got a lot done. All the joists hung in the entry and dining room area, a couple more in the bedroom, and I got a good start on the framing where the stairs and pocket door to the bedroom will go. But I needed to make another Home Depot run in the middle. Doh! But all in all, a very productive day.

Right now I'm at Resurrection for the worship team practice. I don't usually make it to practice because it's a bit of drive here and back, but this weekend we're putting on a song fest, "Sweets of the Soul". A mix of secular and Christian music, good times, and a key component -- desserts! There's a free will offering that will go to Hurricane Katrina relief. Probably Habitat for Humanity and their "Operation Home Delivery", which will have affiliates around the country pre-framing houses and shipping them in containers down to New Orleans and Mississippi.

Friday, September 09, 2005


I've added some pictures to previous entries, including some my neighbor Cynthia took during the concrete pour, and yesterday's entry about floor joists.

Today I worked alone, and started a bit later (well, OK, a lot later) than I do when I'm working with Edis or Naun. I installed the ledger board to hold one end of the floor joists, which involved putting in a lot of big self-tapping screws into the Simpson ICF ledger connectors. I also installed the rim board around the bedroom and bathroom level, and actually got 3 floor joists put up. I stopped there in part because to put in any more, I need to move the pile of joists I'm storing in the middle of the foundation, lest they get trapped. But it's looking more and more like a house!

And because Kat had never seen the loads I've carried on the VW Golf (and hinted at she probably didn't want to see), here's a picture of some 16' and 20' 2x10s that I brought home yesterday after dropping off Edis. I got them because a bad bit of planning. The ICF ledger connectors are for 2x material (1-1/2" actual thickness), but the rim board is only 1-1/4". So I needed to use regular lumber for them, though it's better to use manufactured rim boards when using manufactured joists, as regular lumber shrinks more than manufactured does, so it can lead to mismatches if you're not careful. So now I have too much rim board. I'm not sure if I can take it back or not, since it's a special order item.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Today I worked with Edis again. And joy of joys, we got to actually put in some wood that will be permanent! Some pressure-treated (PT) 2x8 for the sill plate, the wood that gets bolted to the foundation and the floor joists sit on. I also had Edis mix and place some concrete around a drain and a small area near where the heating duct passes through from beneath the dining room and entry way to under the bedroom.

And as scheduled, Economy Lumber delivered the floor joists, rim joist and T&G flooring I'd ordered. It arrived with a mighty thump! (They do the normal back up and brake hard, and let the load roll off the back type of delivery). Unfortunately, it arrived just as the lunch I was preparing was ready (Cuban-style black beans and rice -- yum!), so I moved some stuff down while Edis finished up with the concrete, and we had a slightly less fresh lunch.

We'd had tamales (from Trader Joe's -- yum!) for lunch the other week, and I found out that Edis (and by extrapolating based on other observations, Naun) doesn't like spicy food. The TJ tamales have chiles in them, and come with sort of spicy salsa, so it was no surprise that he picked out the chiles and ate the rest. So I asked what foods he does like, and intersected that set with the foods I like, and we had pasta with marinara sauce. This morning when I picked him up, Edis had two "Honduran-style" tamales for me. I asked if they had meat, and he said they had chicken.

Today at lunch, Edis asked if I'd eaten the tamales he'd given me (not sure when that would have happened, since we'd been working together since we'd arrived), and I explained that I didn't eat meat, and he asked why. to explain why I don't eat meat, given my limited Spanish? I started by saying it's very complicated. It takes lots of land and water to raise cows, and they produce a lot of waste. Many cows aren't treated well (not sure I actually said that, but I said words to that effect.) It's better for my heart (I couldn't remember how to say body, and wasn't sure that would translate anyway, since I meant health). But I managed to get my point across, for probably the most complicated thing I've ever said in a language besides English. And promptly found out his little brother (who still lives in Honduras) doesn't like meat. He likes beans and rice, and has managed to get a little gordo eating it. But the upshot is that Katarina will get to sample the tamales, and I'll report to Edis and his mom.

And in an odd bit of kismet, while Edis and I were moving the floor joists, et al, down to near the addition so they wouldn't be swiped or get wet, and a neighbor I've seen walking before was stopped by the pile of lumber. She asked if I was going to throw away the strapping from the lumber (the floor joists were in one bundle, the rim joists in another, and the T&G plywood in a third). I said yes, and asked what she wanted it for, and she said an art project. She said she'd looked into buying some, but it was only available in large quantities, and she only needed a bit. So I went and found the other straps and gave her those, too. I'm doing my best to reduce / reuse / recycle for this building project (some of the 2x8 DF that's going to be the joists for the 'floor' of the lofts has already been used 2 or 3 times), so this was a great thing for me. I didn't have to wrestle the metal straps into the garbage (I don't think they'll take them for recycling), and she ended up with exactly what she wanted for her project. How cool is that?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Tuesday morning I did some more filling around the foundation. Between that and Monday's work, my arms were pretty tired. I arrived at the Red Cross for my bi-weekly apheresis, and they told me they're not using lidocaine anymore. (Kat, skip the rest of this paragraph :-) It's a local anesthetic used to numb where they insert the needles. Originally I didn't use it, but as scar tissue built up, it started getting painful, so I had them use it. It stings like nobody's business when they inject the lidocaine, but it does deaden things enough that I didn't mind them inserting the needles. But there was a long letter from some muckety-muck at the Red Cross explaining they're not using it anymore, so it boiled down to... did I want to donate platelets without it? Given the ever-present need for blood platelets (and whole blood -- get out there and donate!), I decided to go ahead. Well, between my sore muscles from working on the house, and the lack of lidocaine...youch! OK, I'm a wimp, but it hurt. But I think that may also have to do with who does it. Ping, one of the nurses at the Red Cross, has a technique such that I barely notice. Sue, on the other hand, well, I definitely notice when she inserts the needles :-)

Today I went to Resurrection to work on the sound system. The speakers in the narthex and cry room have been out for a while. (Why does it always happen that the Baptists are using things that stuff breaks? Oh well, better they're using our sanctuary and stuff rather than running out to build or buy a new building that gets used a couple times a week). After some to-ing and fro-ing to try different things, I discovered that the speakers were the problem. So I removed them, and installed the other two (which I'd been planning to also install in the narthex at some point), and got stuff up and running again. And I did my usual other cleanup things, putting stuff away in the right place that had migrated, rewinding the cables that had been wound wrong (or not at all), and doing some general tidying.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Workin' For a Living

I worked with Edis yesterday, and we installed the foundation perimeter drain. Drainage board against the foundation. Filter fabric, gravel, perforated pipe, and mixed backfill in the trench. And a second, solid pipe to handle the drain from the uphill neighbors' driveway. At least we think that's what it is. The bottom was packed solid with dirt, so it's not clear (no pun intended) if that pipe is still connected to anything.

On my way to pick up Edis, I was struck by the irony of the scene. It was Labor Day, so the traffic was very light compared with a normal Monday morning, as people from lawyers to bankers to programmers took the day off. But the people who don't have work but are looking, the trabajadores, were out in full force as usual, waiting, hoping, praying for some work. Usually they're harder to spot in their clusters on the corners, as there's cars and people rushing about. But they were there, hoping to labor on Labor Day.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Apropos of Nothing

Wednesday and Thursday I worked with Edis. Naun is possibly in Florida to get work there. It seemed clear enough (given my limited Spanish) what Edis was saying, but unbelievable all the same. Even getting there by car would be expensive (especially given gas prices these days). But I'm guessing Naun doesn't own a car. I just read this interesting tidbit: only 8% of the people in the world own a car. Which is pretty staggering when you think about the huge impact that cars and all that goes with them has on our environment, and how relatively few people are part of that. And even if we can feel a little better because we drive a Toyota Prius instead of a huge SUV, that doesn't quite cover it, because we own two cars. Hmmph.

Anyways, on Wednesday, I had more concrete delivered, and Edis and I finished leveling the dirt inside the foundation walls, layed down plastic as a vapor barrier, and then placed concrete to cover that and for the rest of the thermal mass. Because the form for the thermal mass bowed significantly, I ended up with less concrete to spread over the plastic, so Edis and I made a Home Depot run, got a dozen 60 lb. bags, and mixed the balance by hand. And yes, my little VW Golf bowed significantly under the additional 720 lbs. of weight.

On Thursday we dug out the rest of the form boards from the foundation footing, pulled the remaining building stakes, and made more room outside the foundation for drainage.

Today I went to Economy Lumber and ordered floor joists, rim board, joist hangers, and some tongue and groove plywood for the subfloor, as well as the ever-important drainage board to go around the foundation and make sure water stays out. That was followed by a visit to Home Depot in Oakland for some drainage pipes, which was followed by a visit to Home Depot in Emeryville, because the one in Oakland didn't seem to have any of what I needed. The task was made more difficult by the fact the first Home Depot has its plumbing supplies spread out across the store: valves, fittings, water heaters, etc. on one aisle, and some of the pipes outside next to the gardening supplies. I never did find the drainage pipe there. If they carry it, it was hidden in a undisclosed third location. Probably for reasons of national security. I did eventually find what I needed at the other Home Depot.

On the way to Economy Lumber, I had one of those "God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes in ways that are pretty clear" moments. Since I didn't have to pick up or drop off Edis or Naun, I decided to take the freeway over to Economy Lumber. All went well, until I rounded the bend to I-880, and traffic was at a standstill. So I hopped off the freeway as did many other people, and took surface streets over towards High Street. As I was about to turn onto High Street, the car in front of me was stopped and suddenly popped open its doors. The woman driving gave a brief "help!", and explained her car had died. I put on my hazards, hopped out, and helped her passenger push the car through the intersection to a nearby gas station. So I ended up in the right place at the right time to help someone a little. If I'd gone my normal route, I probably never would have seen her.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


It feels weird to be blogging from the comfort of our house, while hundreds of thousands of people have suddenly been displaced from theirs. It's always felt a little weird to be enlarging our house, while knowing that millions live in substandard housing world wide.

I strongly encourage you to donate to the Red Cross (their website is currently busy, which is an encouraging sign) or other organized charity that is working on relief efforts. If you work at a company that's doing matching funding, donate through them to make your dollars go further.

And pray. The folks in Louisiana and Mississippi need all the help they can get.