Monthly Archives: May 2015

Windy House and Power Plants

May 30, 2015

Prior to tearing down the old bungalow I had the air leakage tested by H&H small space solutions.  I posted the full results of the testing on my Path to Sustainability blog.

On further reflection of the topic, there is one addition reason I believe would be grounds for performing either deep energy retrofits or building new construction to a much higher thermal resistance than current building codes require.

North American energy use continues to climb and has been placing a huge burden on the energy generation providers.  The generation infrastructure will need to be increased with more generation plants in the very near future if we are not able to reduce the overall energy use of the populace.

A very large percentage of electrical generation, often used for the space and water heating in dwellings, is also provided by coal which contributes heavily to the global warming of the planet. Unfortunately, the current popular replacement for coal generation is natural gas. But this too has been shown to be almost as dirty as coal as more and more of the gas is coming to market by means of fracking. Fracked wells are presenting with very limited life spans and test have shown that a significant loss of gas from around the well heads are also occurring (read http://richardheinberg.com/bookshelf/snake-oil for more information on this subject).

As building space and domestic water heating accounts for a huge share of our population’s energy use, the reduction of this use would go a long way to reducing global warming, habitat destruction, health care loads related to asthma and similar ailments, and most importantly could reduce or eliminate the need for new power generation plants.

The only way we are going to significantly reduce this sector of our energy consumption is to upgrade our existing housing stock. Yes, improving the requirements for new builds will help, but it is the existing housing stock that represents the lions share of the energy use.  But as the blog article discussed, a deep energy retrofit of a dwelling is expensive and there is no reasonable payback to the home owner undertaking the renovation.

It is my opinion that we need another form of financing structure for these renovations to meet societies goals of reducing energy use and global warming. The only way this is going to work and gain traction is if the grants available from governments and utilities are much larger, to the point where they cover a larger percentage of the renovation costs.  The money for the grant would come from the utility or those parties that would otherwise be financing the creation of new generation plants.

Of course I do not have the numbers and cannot speculate if this type of scheme makes financial sense.  Another possible financing scheme would be a classification system of housing stock.  Every house would be tested and given a energy efficiency rating (just like appliance are today).  This would have to be in place prior to the sale of any dwelling.  The basis of this type of scheme would be the hope that the marketplace would see value in dwellings of higher energy efficiency and as a result those homes would be worth more money when sold.  This would provide the home owner with incentive to upgrade the home prior to sale as they would then by financially compensated with a higher selling price.  The would work much the same way as cosmetic upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms currently upgrade the marketability of the home.

But unless some form of financing schema can be created, it is highly unlikely that a vast majority of housing stock will ever be upgraded and we will continue to escalate our burden to the utilities and energy framework of the continent.

Thanks for visiting and please contact us with any comments you may have.

 

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Just broken

May 25, 2015

Well I received the good news from the surgeon.  It was a clean break and there does not appear to be any nerve or tendon damage. So no surgery! Just a min of 6 weeks with no loading on the arm.

I am going to lay low this week and already had a trip planned to Penticton on the weekend.  Next week I will re-group and figure out how to proceed at least on some things.  Will start by hiring labour to finish the gravel and move the insulation down into the pit

My next step is to determine how level the internal footings are and make any required adjustments before starting the wall framing.  What I may do is mark out the bottom and top plate and then hire labour to cut down the studs and build the wall.

Should be an interesting ride.

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Out for the count

May 22, 2015

The last week has seen reasonable progress in the ‘hole’.

I finished cleaning out and re-attaching the bag footings on the inboard side of the foundation and then worked with Pat from embers to level the gravel for the first 48″ around the inboard side of the foundation to allow for the double thickness of sub-slab rigid foam.

I then prepped the interior footings (I again had to clean out the debris between the poured concrete and poly to prevent the poly from being torn, as this acts as both the water and air barrier), before back-filling the gravel around the footings to the finished height needed for 1 layer of sub-slab foam.

With all of the prep complete, I called in RRR Slinger Services for two loads of 3/4 crush ($930 + tax for both loads). Boy what a difference between RRR and the previous slinger I hired a couple of weeks ago! The RRR operator’s fingers were constantly moving, adjusting the conveyor speed, and exit angle in both the vertical and horizontal plane.  The result was a nice smooth, evenly distributed layer of gravel across the pit floor. The only issue was how high to tell them I wanted the gravel, the slinger was too loud to hear the beeper on the laser level, so I went by eye and ended up a couple of inches too high in spots.

With all the stone delivered, I started systematically setting the finished gravel heights throughout the pit using the laser.  I hired Calvin from Embers yesterday to move the bulk of the gravel while I did the final adjustments with the rake.

Fortunately most of this was completed by noon, because at about 12:10 PM, my life went sideways fast.  Another task that Calvin and I were to complete Thursday was to unload 102 bundles of Roxul Comfortboard IS – Semi Rigid Mineral Wool – that will be applied to the exterior side of the foundation after waterproofing. The 52′ Semi had arrived and I was just opening up the gate when I tripped backwards on a piece of broken concrete curb at the side of the road.  I reached for the construction fence behind me to stabilize myself, but because the panel was now unlocked, it just pushed further away from me and in the process I dislocated my left shoulder.  I then completely lost my footing and rotated towards the ground where  I fell on the same shoulder popping it back into place but in the process I fractured the head of my humeral arm bone.

I was done and the pain was unbearable.  My neighbour Gail took me to the hospital where I spent the rest of the afternoon with X-Rays and getting the pain under control.  Calvin and the truck driver spent the next 2 hours unloading the insulation by themselves.  I was so lucky that Calvin was there that day and am extremely appreciative of the truck driver for his herculean effort in unloading all of those bundles.

I see the specialist on Monday but suspect I will be off at least 6-8 weeks.  At least it was not more serious, we have received the first draw, and I am at the end of a stage where stuff can just sit for a bit.  But boy does this suck (and hurt).  I am thankful for modern pain killers!

RRR have skilled operators and a great value.

RRR have skilled operators and a great value.

He was able to thread the eye of the needle, getting through and around the scaffolding to deliver where needed.

He was able to thread the eye of the needle, getting through and around the scaffolding to deliver where needed.

RRR also utilizes much nicer gravel with very few fines. Gravel on right was delivered by Tupper and is coarse, sharp (so it is very hard to shovel or rake), and had a lot of fines.

RRR also utilizes much nicer gravel with very few fines. Gravel on right was delivered by Tupper and is coarse, sharp (so it is very hard to shovel or rake), and had a lot of fines.

The dark debris is the fines in the Tupper load that caked onto the foundation and needed to be chipped off.

The dark debris is the fines in the Tupper load that caked onto the foundation and needed to be chipped off. In contrast, you can see the very small fines trail on top of the plywood that resulted from two loads of RRR gravel.

In contrast, there were very few fines in the RRR gravel and they themselves were much coarser in nature and did not form a solid.

In contrast, there were very few fines in the RRR gravel and they themselves were much coarser in nature and did not form a solid.

Shipment of Roxul for the exterior foundation insulation.

Shipment of Roxul for the exterior foundation insulation.

Thanks for visiting.

 

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Rim Boards Complete

May 13, 2015

As hoped, the rim boards started to progress more quickly once I had the right drill bit.

Friday saw the west wall and jog at NW corner complete before I stopped to pick my cat – Blackberry – up from the vet after dental surgery (two teeth were removed as he had broken them off in a fight with something – another cat or something bigger – almost two years ago). We then started two days of tense babysitting as Blackberry really does not want to be a full time indoor cat.  Even on Friday when he was still tipsie from the anaesthesia, he was still trying to rip through the now screwed shut inner cat flap.

My wife and I got very little sleep Friday night as he continued to cry well into the night and then again early in the morning.  Other than a couple of quick get-away’s on Saturday, I spent the day trying to calm him and ensure he did not rip the place apart trying to get out.  This started with telling the vet in the morning that the soft collar was coming off as blackberry was just getting it caught on everything.  Saturday night was marginally better than Friday, but by Sunday AM, we were all frazzled and gave up trying to keep him in (originally he was supposed to be in till Monday or Tuesday).  This meant no more pain meds so that he was lucid when outside.  This was a risk because if he was in too much pain, he would not eat.  Fortunately we got away with it and peace was restored in the land. Monday AM follow up vet visit showed all was A-OK, and although he still needed to finish his antibiotics and stay on soft food for several more days, the rest of his routine (and MINE!) could get back to normal.

The rest of Monday saw rim boards mounted on the south and east walls of the house. On Tuesday I attacked the last of the form work on the garage west wall and removed it as well as the pipe penetrations in this wall.  Some of these I had not tapped soon enough after pour and they were well and securely fixed into place. SO I just cut them out lengthwise with the recip saw and will drive in new pipes later.  The day finished off with cut and mounted rim boards on each side of the stair well on the north wall.  Before I could fully drill and insert all of the anchor bolts, my hammer drill giving up the ghost. Fortunately a disassemble last night showed two contacts had come loose from the circuit board.  A quick solder job and we were back in business.

Today saw the last rim board on the garage west wall mounted into place.  As this was on the outboard side of the wall from where the scaffold was, and the board was over 22′ long, I needed to figure out how I was going to get it in place myself.  I installed two cleats that would capture the board as I lowered it over the edge and then tied a rope to the south side to aid in lowering it down.  The north side was supported with the scaffold.  In 5 minutes the excitement was over and the board was in place with two anchors securing it.

Two cleats were all that was needed to hold board in place until I could secure with wedge anchors.

Two cleats were all that was needed to hold board in place until I could secure with wedge anchors.

Rim Board is in place and I am putting in first wedge anchor.

Rim Board is in place and I am putting in first wedge anchor.

I spent the rest of the day blowing all of the debris off all of the scaffold and foundations before starting the clean out the footing bags and refasten to the ICF in preparation to the final pit gravel.  I realize now that it was a mistake to loosen the footing bags (I did so to drain the water that was accumulated in them).  It took several hours to blow the debris out of the inboard side of the footing bags so that I could re-staple to the ICF wall.  If you are going to drain them, then attach them back to the wall right away after.

Tomorrow I will patch all of the holes on the bag footing.  I was very careful, but there are still a lot of cuts and holes that need to be sealed.  Especially on the north wall where I was jack hammering the concrete in the blowout above.  I did not expect these chunks of concrete to create so much damage when they fell (pieces were all smaller than 2″ in diameter), but they sliced it up pretty good and I will just put a continuous peel and stick membrane on this section to seal it up again.  I will then need to rake the gravel to the right levels against the foundation (the outboard 4ft around the perimeter will have 4″ of rigid foam where the rest of the floor field will only have 2″) and then prepare for some more gravel to be slung into the pit.  This will be the last step before actually starting to frame the basement.

Before going, I wanted to acknowledge all the wonderful readers, around the world, that regularly visit the site.  I am up to 8600 unique visitors for a total of 21,600 visits to this site (my blog is now at a whopping 27,600 unique visitors!) since I launched it just a little over a year ago.  The readers are from all over the world with my top 25 countries per lsit below.  I would like to make special mention and thank Håkan and Carita in Sweden (my wife’s relatives), for their continued interest.  I would love to get a lot more comments from all of you visitors out there.

Top 25 Countries of visitors

Top 25 Countries of visitors

Finally, a shout out to Ed in Winnipeg.  I understand you may be enticed to come out in a few weeks to go with Ron and Gail on a trip.  It sure would be good to see you again.

Many thanks to all for visiting!

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” —Fred DeVito

“An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.” —Ernst F. Schumacher (1911-1977) Economist

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Trouble getting Anchored!

May 7, 2015

Well, so for this has been a frustrating week with very little progress.

It started off OK Monday. Ted came by and we measured all of the as poured foundation so that I can update my AutoCad model with the actual dimensions.  We also finished prepping the pit for Tuesday’s gravel delivery.

But Tuesday started a slide that continued to today.  I decided to try a different stone slinger that had a larger truck than the one I had used in the past.  This would save some money and expedite the process of filling the basement up with the required crushed rock (less loads).  Well, it certainly did not save time or money.  The operator failed to come close to evenly spreading the rock (did not help that there were problems with the control box) and I ended up with generally a bunch of piles.  The rock was also a lot bigger and sharper than past, so really difficult to shovel or rake out. Finally, there was a lot of fines that coated the sides of the foundation and scaffold and turned hard like grout and took forever to scrape off.

Fortunately, I had labour already booked for Wednesday, but this was not a task they were supposed to have on the list.  I will have to go back to my previous slinger for the balance of gravel needed and beg forgiveness. Wednesday was a bit better in that Shane from Embers and I got some good work done.  I had the rim boards, basement studs, and first floor assembly beams delivered from Standard Lumber.  Shane and I laid out the rim boards on the scaffold around the foundation in the areas I will need to mount them to the side of the foundation wall. Shane also move and stacked all of the stud material for the basement down in the pit and brought up a bunch of garbage and put in trailer for my next dump run.  He ended his day raking out most of the piles of gravel that had been deposited the day before.  This was all a huge help that saved my back a lot of grief.

Once we set the rim boards in place, I was supposed to start mounting the rim boards but discovered that I had been sent the wrong anchor bolts.  A few calls and emails later, and no dice.  The special sleeved anchor bolts called up by the engineer were not readily available. I spent most of the afternoon following up on the bolts and also scrapping the gravel fines off the scaffold (slip safety hazard).  After dropping Shane off at the SeaBus and returning the wrong bolts, I came back and was at least productive for an hour or so as I knocked out most of the pipes that I had put in as foundation penetrations (I had given these a whack a few hours after pouring to ensure the concrete would not bind to them). By removing them, I will be able to mount the rim boards and then drill the boards from the back-side and then re-install the pipe stubs through the foundation and newly mounted boards.  This will save many hours of work and much frustration trying to accurately mark their location on the rim boards and drilling out the holes in advance.

Today I had to go to Coquitlam to pick up some Sopraseal Stick 1100T by Soprema, to install onto the back of the rim board as a capillary break between the foundation and rim boards (best practice), from a vendor who would not take visa over the phone. Fortunately, Standard also tracked down 40 of the 140 anchor bolts I needed at a vendor also out in Coquitlam.  I headed out after going to the Lawyers to sign the paperwork needed for our first draw first thing this morning.  More on that in a bit.  The road trip took most of the mourning and I finally got back to the site at 1 PM.

Over the next 3 hours I did my best to install three anchor bolts.  Yes you read right – only THREE bolts, and in the end none of these would bite into the concrete.  I was installing 5/8″ bolts and the instructions were to use a 5/8″ masonry bit.  There was no marking on the bit (ground off), but it was bigger than the 1/2″ and smaller than the 3/4″.  Should be golden – right?   But the bolts just kept spinning in the hole.  Thought I was doing something wrong with the sleeved anchors (a style I had not used before), but checking the Simpson Strong-Tie website showed there was nothing novel to installing these puppies.

I finally gave up as it was getting close to time for my weekly back stretch anyway.  I brought a bolt and the drill bit back to the office and put the micrometer on it. AHHHH – it was a 11/16″ bit.  WHY would I have such a beast?  I do not think you can even buy 11/16″ anchor bolts!  On the way to chiro I bought a 5/8″ drill bit and also 3x 3/4″ bolts to put into the existing holes now that they are too big for the 5/8″ (yes I do have a confirmed 3/4″ bit as well).

So all in all – a very frustrating three days with no real progress on my part.  On the other hand, a crew of about 7, framed the crawlspace, first floor assembly and most of the first floor walls on a new house down the street since Monday.  As my neighbour would say – Poor!

A final frustration relates to the construction loan.  In our talks with the bank, we were approved for over $450K for our first draw, being 40% of the property value.  But we did not need anything near that much now, so were going to take $200K and have the rest forwarded later as needed so we would not be paying interest on money we did not yet need.  This seemed doable, but the bank told the lawyer different, and we are now having  to take the full draw.  Go figure – they would not give us any money up front when we really needed it, even though we have a $1M property as collateral, but now are willing (and insistent) and giving us a huge first draw that will in fact probably finance the full build or pretty close to it.  It is a weird world.

Tomorrow will hopefully be a productive day and I should be able to mount a large number of the rim boards in place.  But I am taking my cat (Blackberry) in to the vet for tooth surgery in the morning, and dreading what else this week may be capable of sending my way.  Think positive thoughts (he is 11).

Thanks for visiting.

Peel and Stick Membrane applied to the back side of the rim board before it is mounted to the side of the foundation. This prevents moisture transfering from teh concrete to the wood (something pratically impossible on my build anyway because my foundation will be so well wrapped up and waterproofed,

Peel and Stick Membrane applied to the back side of the rim board before it is mounted to the side of the foundation. This prevents moisture transferring from the concrete to the wood (something practically impossible on my build anyway because my foundation will be so well wrapped up – including footing bags – and waterproofed)

 

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Roving Cam Time Lapse

May 3, 2015

March and April Time Lapse from the roving cam have been uploaded

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Curb Appeal

May 2, 2015

Now that I have finished stripping both sides of the forms, I have to say I am quite pleased at how well the top curb turned out using the Roxul ComfortBoard IS inserts.  They did not compress at all and created very nice pockets that will allow their re-insertion once the foundation has been waterproofed.

Once again, these inserts are to allow the thicker thermal barrier to start slightly below grade to prevent thermal bridging.  Most houses have very little sub grade insulation which is OK below the frost line but represents a high heat loss potential as the foundation wall approaches and projects above grade.  I have designed this dwelling with a R30 effective wall assembly and am carrying this level of insulation down below grade about 18″.

Heaver thermal blanket extends down below frost line to prevent thermal bridging through the top of the foundation

Heaver thermal blanket extends down below frost line to prevent thermal bridging through the top of the foundation

I used the contractors table saw to cut the panels.  I would not recommend this unless you are outside, and are wearing a very good quality face mask, and eye protection.  It did throw up a lot of ‘shrapnel’  but it made a really clean and fast cut.

I cut the Roxul panels on the table saw.

I cut the Roxul panels on the table saw.

This stack took about 3 minutes to cut on teh table saw.

This stack took about 2 minutes to cut on the table saw.

I then used fishing line to secure them to the outside plywood form panels.  The outboard Roxul panel sat directly on the top of the last ICF row and the inboard shorter panel was suspended using the fishing line. I used fishing line because it is cheap and easy.

Most of the house had two layers of 2" Mineral Wool

Most of the house had two layers of 2″ Mineral Wool

Shorter inboard Roxul panel secured with fishing line.

Shorter inboard Roxul panel secured with fishing line. Whole assembly was wrapped in poly to prevent fouling from the concrete and aid on the insulation panels removal after pour.

End result was a thing of beauty!

End result was a thing of beauty! Grey pipe penetrations are for the tel/cable from the street and for the two foundation lab instrumentation wires to penetrate back into the interior of the dwelling where they will join the labyrinth of other wires heading back to the control centre.

This is the south wall.  The step down is for the door out of teh office which will have a sill that is flush with grade.  The rounded profiles was caused by the poly that I wrapped the Roxul with.  It adds a nice 'Art Deco' vibe.

This is the south wall. The step down is for the door out of the office, which will have a sill that is flush with grade. The rounded profiles was caused by the poly that I wrapped the Roxul with to aid in its removal after the pour (I will reuse the same panels and put back in place once foundation is waterproofed). It adds a nice ‘Art Deco’ vibe to the foundation top curb.

Garage only had one layer of Roxul Panel so it was a simpler forming.  The vert bars and hooked dowels will be embedded into the garage slab once poured.

Garage only had one layer of Roxul Panel so it was a simpler forming. The vert bars and hooked dowels will be embedded into the garage slab once poured.

Only mildly difficult part of removing forms was on the outboard side of the west wall.  The vertical supports were also used to splice the plywood sheets together (plywood was screwed to supports from inside the form).  This meant I could not remove the uprights until the form had been pealed off the foundation.  But this left the form and the insulation inserts dangling 12ft into the air.  Made for some great jungle gym antics to disassemble!

Only mildly difficult part of removing forms was on the outboard side of the west wall. The vertical supports were also used to splice the plywood sheets together (plywood was screwed to supports from inside the form). This meant I could not remove the uprights until the form had been pealed off the foundation. But this left the form and the insulation inserts dangling 12ft into the air. Made for some great jungle gym antics to disassemble!

Today saw the end of almost all of the form disassembly and stacking of the resulting wood.  Monday I will finish cleaning up the pit floor and hopefully will be able to get the gravel blown in on Tuesday.

All my forming wood is stacked away ready for the next use.

All my forming wood is stacked away ready for the next use.

At the end of the day, Blackberry had the right idea - it was time to soak in the sun and just enjoy!

At the end of the day, Blackberry had the right idea – it was time to soak in the sun and just enjoy!

Thanks for the visit.

 

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