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This and That

While I comply with my medical team’s instructions and have some down time after my latest cortisone shot, I thought I would address a few questions/comments/concerns that have been raised about my construction methods and build in general.

Q: Why don’t you wear a construction apron for your hammer and other tools?  You would be a lot more efficient.

A: Great and very true point – BUT, my back is under enough strain and I am doing everything possible to baby it during this extended building process.  Around the waste aprons are actually very hard on your lower back and foolish for those with discs that are already bulging.  I could wear a vest for the tools which would help as it distributes the weight much better across the whole upper body, but they are very hot, and I would rather take a small hit in efficiency and be more comfortable as a result.  I am getting better at remembering to grab the appropriate tool as I move about the job-site and have it sitting close by when I need it.

Q: How did your dehumidifiers do and can you advise the make and model.

A: They have performed flawlessly except for the fact that they do use a lot of power (7A – less than commercial units but still a lot).  When I had all three running, my power consumption per month was averaging 1100 – 1600 kWh or $160-$230/month (compared to <$50 for normal month).  But this is a small price to pay to keep the basement dry.  When I compared the output (amount of moisture removed from the air) under identical conditions (both units running at same time) between rental and my ‘cheaper’ unit, I was shocked to see my purchased consumer unit outperformed the industrial unit.  In a period of about 14 hours, the rented KOMPACT model 10240KP-US removed around 4.5 Litres where the purchased Ecohouznd 33.1L Dehumidifier removed 7 litres of moisture from the air.

Q: Why did your basement get so wet since you had a tarp?

A: I still do not understand all the factors that played into my wet-up of the beams in the basement.  Here is what I do know.

  • A lot of moisture was present in the gravel drainage plane at the bottom of the excavation helping create a very high humidity in the basement (89% RH)
  • The sap wood in engineered products absorbs moisture more readily than heart wood and also provides a better food source for fungi growth.
  • The micro environment created between the tarp and the floor deck (tarp was between 12″ and 5′ above the deck) allowed an even high vapour pressure that contributed to condensation and frost on the underside of the tarp.  This moisture then dripped back down to the deck and wetted up the floor sheathing further contributing to the basement moisture levels.
  • I unfortunately had several reoccurring bulk moisture leaks (holes in tarp) at key locations that were directly wetting some of the beams.  This moisture would then travel quickly down the length of the beam do to capillary action.

Recommendations for others – A tarp is still a great idea to keep bulk water off of the floor deck, but expediting the placement of the basement floor slab is also critical to cut off the large moisture source below the dwelling.  If you do find yourself with fungi growth, I can heavily recommend the Concrobium Pro Mold Stain Remover to remove any stains that develop and the Mold Control to ensure fungi spore is eradicated and prevented in future during subsequent wetting events.

Q: What happens when you loose power, are you going to flood?

A: I could but not likely.

In many parts of the Lower Mainland, basements are built below the municipal storm sewer lines.  For an example, my storm sewer connection is only a couple of feet below grade.  All of these houses are consequently built with a collection sump (concrete tube that extends below grade to a point below the deepest floor slab of the dwelling).  This sump collects, by means of the perimeter drain pipe, any below grade ground water (so generally should not be huge flows unless an underground stream or spring is present).  The collected water is held in this sump until the height gets high enough to trigger a pumps float switch and then is pumped up generally to a shallow sump that gravity feeds into the storm sewer.

On my build, my installation of a very thick granular drainage plane below the structure means that I have close to 100 hours of buffer during a power outage before the water level would raise up high enough to impact the basement floor slab.  Power outages this long are highly unusual in my region (we have never had one in the 17 years we have lived here).

I also plan to have a backup diesel generator for the dwelling (I am choosing diesel so that I can convert it to a duel fuel system that can also burn waste vegetable oil). This will provide backup power to the sump pumps when needed in extreme circumstances.

My foundation is also waterproofed to a much higher standard than 99% of residential buildings.  Instead of ‘damp-proofing’, I have waterproofed my foundation utilizing a   bag footing system sealed to under slab poly and a torch on membrane on the exterior of the foundation wall.  In essence, I have built a boat. So even IF the water level rose high enough, it would unlikely ever be able to penetrate the sub grade building envelope.

Q: Why don’t you hire people to help and get done faster.

A: I have addressed this question a few times before and the short answer is because it still does not pay.  An unskilled labourer would cost me over $3200 per month and improve my efficiency by maybe 25% to 30% max.  But my holding costs including financing, site utilities, rent, temp storage, property taxes, and insurance are only around $40K per year (some of these costs like insurance and taxes will be even higher once structure is complete).  So it would cost me $3200 to save $1000 per month ($40K/12*30% increase in efficiency).  The bigger picture is that I should save somewhere between $450K and $500K by doing almost all of the work myself (both bank and insurance company estimated build costs at close to $1M and I am budgeting well below $500K). At this point it is looking like it will take me an extra 2.25 years to complete compared to a standard build of 1 year that is common in our neighbourhood for most builders.  So if I subtract 2.25 * my yearly holding costs of $40K from say $450K savings, I am still left with a $360K in expected savings.  If instead, I looked at just framing entire tasks out to subs, my potential savings would be whittled down very quickly and my tress level would go through the roof as I struggled to find contractors willing to meet my build schema in terms of quality and building science best practices.

Of course, this level of savings is only possible if you possess the skills, stamina, and perseverance to do all of the required tasks yourself. I believe I do, but warn you that it is not for the feint of heart!  You must possess a lot of stubbornness and patience to push through all of the setbacks and hurtles you will face during the process.

Q: When DO you expect to finish?

A: I get this question the most often.  It is my strong belief that the construction will be complete enough for us to move in by this time in 2017.  This means that most of the basement will still be unfinished (my shops and storage), and there will still be almost all of the landscaping to complete.  But the above grade main living space will be complete and ready for occupancy. I would spend the summer and fall of 2017 starting the landscaping of the side and rear yards and then move into the basement for the winter of 2017/2018 before continuing with the extensive landscaping plans in the spring of 2018.

I have of course been misguided in my schedules many times before on this project, but I am convinced that the hardest part of the build is behind me and I am starting the tasks that I truly enjoy, have experience with, and quite frankly – are good at.  This includes framing, and electrical/plumbing rough-in’s.  Because I do not dread these tasks, I should find that they proceed much faster as I am willing to put in the long days to see them through.

Q: Are you really doing EVERYTHING yourself?

A: Pretty much.  At this point, the only tasks I plan to sub out are as follows:

  • Drywall tape and filling because who really likes this task
  • Installation of metal raised seam roofing
  • Installation and commissioning of air source heat pump
  • Installation of the 7 heaviest of the triple pane windows
  • Pouring of basement walk-up stairs
  • Fabrication of two storey metal post that will hold up the east end of the beam holding up the centre of the roof structure
  • Possible stamped concrete driveway (still trying to decide what we will do re driveway – I want something a lot more permeable and with a lower embodied energy)
  • Commissioning of possible photo voltaic panels

Tasks that I will hire labour to assist as needed:

  • Lifting engineered beams into place (may be able to do most of the first storey with Alfie and my wall jacks and second storey with delivery crane).
  • Any significant lifting activities of large objects during build
  • Moving bulk materials (lumber, gravel, etc.)
  • Any key activities that are just impossible to do with only two hands.  Not sure yet if I will run into this situation.

Q: Where did you get that tarp???

A: The B.A.T. (Big Ass Tarp) is my design and fabricated by the very capable gents at Fraser Valley Tarp and Tie.   It is a very light but strong poly based fabric.  It acts a lot like a boat sail fabric.  The latest iteration (B.A.T. 3.) was almost perfect.  IF I was doing this again, I would change up the location of a few of the rope pockets and also ensure that all of the sewn seams were waterproofed with a applied liquid or the application of strips of tape over the seams.

Well this addresses the collection of comments I have so far.  I encourage you to keep the questions coming.

Thanks for visiting.

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