Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Build-a-thon

wall going up

I spent the last four days framing houses at Habitat for Humanity East Bay's Earth Day Build-a-thon. We've had unusually hot temperatures for this time of year (Monday was in the upper 90s) which slowed down progress, but it was a great event, raising over $200,000 and getting a ton of progress done on 20 homes. You can read more about it on the Habitat for Humanity East Bay / Thrivent Builds blog. We also had a little excitement, with a truss delivery crane falling over at the end of the day.

I'd like to give a huge thank-you to those of you who donated money to support my efforts. THANKS!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pricing Puzzlers

We seem to be running a home for wayward deer. We spotted another pregnant doe today, along with what's probably one of her offspring from a previous year. More exciting was seeing four Cooper's hawks flying around, sometimes chasing and being chased by a crow.

I've pulled all the wire except for the new range fixture, and that I got pulled into the kitchen wall and started running up towards the main panel. Another couple hours of work and I'll be ready for an inspection. I might have been done today, but I ran out of 12-2 Romex on Wednesday and had to get more yesterday. In a curious bit of pricing at Home Depot, 100 ft. was about $30. A 250 ft. roll, rather than 2.5X as much, was $39. The 6-3 cable for the range (8-3 would have done, I think, but they didn't have any) had a similarly puzzling pricing scale: 50 ft. cut off a spool was the same price as a 125 ft. roll. I wasn't sure exactly how much 12-2 I'd need so that was a no-brainer. The 6-3 I pondered for a bit, but I figure the good folks at Casa Decrepit will be able to use the leftovers when the move their kitchen into what's currently the dining room.

During the week I plugged the DWV stack and left it filled with water for a couple days, so that's good to go, too. Thank goodness for trade-specific stores like Moran Plumbing Supply. They not only had the riser clamp I needed a couple weeks back, but they knew what I was talking about and had an extension hose for my test plug.

But any inspection will have to wait until next week. Saturday through Tuesday I'll be at the Habitat build-a-thon, all day and then some since I'll be a crew leader. Not only will this be the biggest build-a-thon that East Bay has done, but I think it will be the best organized I've seen, too. Hopefully that'll be the case...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Kids! Kids! The Slugs Are Back!

one slug, two slug, green slug, ewww slug

The slugs are back, and the deer are gone. The doe has been very vigilant, and our neighbor reported last seeing them yesterday afternoon. I didn't see them at all today, though I was down into the basement and around the other side of the house to the main electrical panel several times. On one of the last trips I spotted this handsome fellow oozing along.

I made a lot of trips between the kitchen, the basement and the main panel. That was because after wrestling to get the exceptionally large wires into the new range outlet, I tested things, and got nothing. I went to the main panel, shut off the power, and noticed that the wires at the panel end were smaller than the wires I'd been wrestling with. So I went into the basement and under the house and traced things, and discovered that there was a one junction box where the fat copper wires were joined to some other fat wires (probably 4 AWG) with cool bronze screw clips. And from there it lead to the mystery subpanel on the other side of the house. There it joined to the smaller wires with some huge wire nuts, and then up to the main panel. The mystery subpanel on the side of the house is also where the old dryer circuit of very dubious merit ran through. The thing is, the 4 AWG wire doesn't appear to be copper, and is in the old cloth insulation. Regardless, there's a problem somewhere along the line between the mystery subpanel and the kitchen. So even though we won't be using it any time soon (our antique stove is gas), I'll be pulling new wire for the range outlet. Sigh. I'd been hoping to just hook that back up and be done with it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

'Tis Spring...

...and the thoughts of a young doe turn to "Why did I trust that handsome young buck last October? I haven't seen him since that night. He hasn't even called or sent a card."

In something fit for Cute Overload, a deer gave birth last night in our neighbor's yard to a pair of fawns. They're only about 15 feet from the corner of our house, but because of a tree and a rhododendron (and of course their great natural camouflage), we can't see them unless they get up and wobble around. No pictures yet, but I hope to get some in the next couple of days.

I'm busy prepping media for tomorrow, which will be my last Sunday at RLC. K and I want to be able to worship together and be part of a church community closer to home. And after 9+ years there, 7 of them creating and growing the media ministry, I decided it was time to move on. I'll miss the heck out of a lot of people, but I won't miss the late Saturday nights prepping things, and having to be there almost every Sunday. This afternoon there's a brief crew leader meeting for the Habitat build-a-thon next week, and I hope to get a little time in on the kitchen, so I need to stop fawning over the little deers in the back yard and get back to work.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Week So Far...

Monday I ran the new supply lines for the kitchen sink. The process re-emphasized my love of the headlamp I bought last year. When sweating copper pipes, you generally feel like you need a third hand anyway, and if you're in a tight space under the house it's doubly so because even if you had a third hand, you'd be in the way of the light when you held it. The headlamp has no such problems.


The rest of the week I've been pulling wire for the various kitchen circuits. Mostly an easy task, as it's in the ceiling and walls, but it has required a number of trips under the house for the home runs, too. One unplanned for task was moving a switch for an outlet in the living room over to make room for the kitchen light switch (a 3-way switch outside one door; the other is on the half height wall by the other entrance). Because the existing wires from one side weren't long enough to reach the new location, I decided it was time to start a new circuit. I hadn't planned on doing any work on the living room until the far distant future (e.g., after the kitchen is done and the lengthy list of other tasks is completed), but with the wall open, it's a lot easier now. When I pulled the old switch out of the box, I was afraid I was going to find some dodgy wiring job with things just twisted together like I've read about on other blogs, but they'd actually soldered the splice before smothering it in tape, so it wasn't too bad. But now the living room has its very own 15 amp circuit, though only the newly replaced outlet has a proper ground. That short hall in the middle of the house as the only thing on the old house-wide circuit? Maybe the closets? With this house, you can never be sure.

Today I was out to Habitat, and for a change I wasn't cutting stair stringers, or even doing anything related to stairs. Instead I was helping inventory the beams for the different house models, making sure each had the correct set in its pile. That meant pulling out a few that were too short and cutting new ones, and pulling out a few that were too long and cutting them down to size. In case you're wondering, 4x12 LVL beams are heavy. We also ran some temporary electrical for the speechifying and such that will go on during the build-a-thon. Finally, we repaired an extension ladder that had been smooshed on one end. It's now in better shape than it's been for a while, though it is about 4' shorter.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Little Blue Boxes

This week I worked on the kitchen, and actually moved forward with things. I finished placing the boxes and fixtures for electrical, which if you've ever looked at the code requirements for a kitchen, are substantial. Two small appliance circuits, dishwasher, disposal, lighting, and a 240v range circuit, and it all adds up. Plus there's the refrigerator, a 120v outlet for a newer gas stove (we don't need it, but it's easier to add now than later), range hood, under cabinet lights, and for good measure, we have a couple of recessed fluorescents above the sink and the adjacent countertop.

I ran the pipes for the vent stack for the kitchen sink. After puzzling over it repeatedly, as I was doing it I figured out how to run it using more of the fittings and pipe I already had on hand. So I returned one riser clamp and $25 worth of fittings, which is always a nice thing. And for good measure, I added a holder bracket for the pipe to the shower in the bathroom that I'd neglected to include back when I redid the shower a couple of years ago.

When I was at Home Depot to return the fittings and pick up a few other things, I was pleasantly surprised at how much better the service has gotten. Maybe they're training them better, maybe they're just afraid of losing their jobs, but whatever the cause, I'm liking the results. It was even quick and painless at the returns desk.

many stringers

I don't have any interesting pictures of the progress on the house to show you (wanna see a bunch of blue boxes nailed to studs?), so I'll include a picture from today's work at Habitat. I once again cut stringers for stairs. That means a lot of very careful identical cuts. "Sloop" John B. is the Americorps member who's been doing this week in and week out in preparation for the upcoming build-a-thon, so once a week isn't so bad. There's a lot to do -- 20 houses * 3 stringers per stair section * 2-3 stories per house adds up.