Monday, November 30, 2015

Tweaking And Testing The Plumbing

I didn't accomplish much the day following the installation of the water tank.  I spent much of the morning doing a bit of laundry, and washing up the dishes that had accumulated while our water supplies were so diminished.

I did remove the water filter (after much cursing!) and re-wraped the threads of the connectors with much more teflon tape than previously.  I did a bit of research, and the most sensible advice seemed to indicate that you should put only one or two wraps at the beginning of the threads, but then build up larger and larger amounts as you get further up the fitting, so that you can be sure that it is getting tighter, the further you are twisting it.

I did manage to also get the water sight line straightened and clamped up the wall, installed a bit of sponge in the end to keep dust or anything else out, and then Grandpa showed up with the mail.
I added a second strap about halfway down, just to be sure!
We observed the tank and I showed him that I had already pumped it a bit.  I related that I was too scared to pump the tank completely full.  This was irrational, as if it was going to fall off the wall, the sooner it happened, the better, as I was always adding stuff below it that I wouldn't want crushed.

So, with Grandpa and myself watching, I punched in five minutes on the pump timer, knowing that the tank was already almost half full with two minutes of pumping in it.
The water level is almost at the critical spot!  Tension is building!

Kenny came down to supervise, and Grandpa and I both watched the water climb higher, and higher.

Finally, it reached the top of the tank, and I could hear water start to gush through my emergency overflow pipe and down the drain.  At the same moment, the water moved rapidly up the last few inches of the sight hose and stopped at the sponge.

I wanted to make sure that water wouldn't actually rise above the sponge - that would negate the usefulness of the overflow pipe and would still be a terrible tragedy - I didn't want squirts of water to be shooting into the cabin!

Craning our heads upward, Grandpa and I were both mesmerized by the sight of the water stopping at the sponge and holding there, listening to the water gurgling down the overflow pipe.

Suddenly Kenny broke the magical moment by asking "Why is there water all over the floor?"

(Photographic records of the next few minutes are unavailable due to the aiki photographer being pressed into emergency service...)

My eyes snapped down to the gushing flow around Grandpa's boots, and for the second time in two days I found myself desperately mashing the off button on the pump while scrambling for towels (all of which are of course, in the sauna) or anything to dry up the mess.

I grabbed all the mats in the house and threw them down.  Kenny got tremendously excited, and threw all our kitchen sponges on the floor to help soak up what he could.

Grandpa made himself scarce again as Kenny and I cleaned up the water and I put on an early fire to try to dry things out as quickly as possible.
The aftermath.  All our mats are outside dripping and awaiting a good cleaning and drying session.
What could have allowed all that water onto the floor?  I was going to have to CSI the heck out of this!

Working my way down the system, I knew that the overflow hose was in my drain.  I looked under the counter at my drainpipe system, and that's when I saw it...
Gosh, even the arc of the side of the T was working against me in this case.  Kids, don't half-finish your jobs before testing them!

I hadn't completed the other half of the drain system - the part where the washing machine hose would ultimately be placed in a P trap.  Instead, I had decided to just jam the hose down my drainpipe and leave the T open.  Water coming in from the emergency overflow to the right of the picture just ran right across the T and out the left side, around the washing machine hose.

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Plumbing In The Kitchen With Our Gravity Fed Tank

After completing the electrical work and seeing that the pump and everything seemed to be working just fine, it was now time to press on with getting the cabinets and plumbing aligned.

With Kenny's assistance, I dismantled some of the old plumbing arrangements, and realigned them for the new system.  I had to drill three holes through the base of my corner cabinet.  One for the water line coming from under the cabin, up through the cabinet and into the water storage tank up above.

Another tapping into the feed line coming down from the storage tank to the sinks.

And a final, larger one for the drainpipe.  Under the cabinets I have mounted a T fitting into this drain so that I can also extend it out beyond the counter and up to the washing machine.  I will install a P trap for the washing machine, as well as for the sink - something I hadn't previously done, but now can see some value in, either to keep any possible fumes from the greywater system from coming up through the sink, or to help retreive any tiny but important items that may inadvertently go down the drain.

As easy as these things sound, they still took us into the early afternoon.  Grandpa showed up with the mail and I immediately had him take off his boots and assist me.

Kenny made himself a hard hat out of paper, and then with Grandpa and I holding up the corner cabinet high, he crawled underneath and tried to guide the pipes into their proper holes.

Part way through the process, the cabinet got hung up on the switches for the water system.  Idly I wondered if the cabinet was close enough to actually press the switches, and a moment later, Kenny hollered and scrambled out from under the cabinet as I heard water gushing onto the floor - ACK!  We had actually pressed the pump switch and the hose was just fountaining out into the cabinet!

Scrambling madly with one hand, mashing desperately on the off switch, I managed to hit it just as the cabinet pulled the buttons off the other switch.  In hindsight, it would have been a real smozzle if the buttons on the pump switch had come off before I had a chance to stop it!  Next time (there will be a next time?!) I would try to switch off the power here - but then again, I wanted the lights.

With Kenny walking off the project and refusing to return, I had to try to support the cabinet and still get the pipes to align underneath.  It wasn't easy, but at last we did manage to get it down.  I covered the floor in mats to soak up the water, and Grandpa returned to his nice, dry, finished home.

Working quickly now, I installed the last of the plumping up to the storage tank above and tightened all my fittings as best I could.

Still worried that I didn't put on enough brackets.
Particulate filter ready to do its thing!
Please no leaks, please no leaks, please no leaks....
I'll have to trim that down in editing.
Criminey!  I couldn't find a normal tap to hook up a temporary system, so I had to dust off one of our old bathroom taps.  Looks pretty professional eh?
With the supper hour rapidly approaching, I pulled Kenny away from Minecraft long enough to get him to press the pump switch.

It took a surprising amount of coaxing to convince him that this was safe.
I allowed a little bit to go into the storage tank, then realized that there was a pretty big leak coming from the particulate filter.  This filter was a new addition to the system.  It was a fine mesh screen that was washable that hopefully would keep larger pieces of grit from getting into the tank and my pipes.
I'm a blur of motion trying to wipe up the leaks.
Maybe if I just leave a rag under the filter, that could be a permanent solution?
I dismantled this filter, and saw that there was some hard blue smutz on the sealing ring.  I scraped this off with my fingernail, and then greased the ring with some peanut oil.

Reassembling it, I could see no new water leaking from that spot.  Of course, then it started to drip from the threaded fittings.  I will try to re-wrap those fittings with the plumbing tape later today and see if I can take care of the problem that way.  Otherwise, nothing else leaked noticeably.

As expected, I could see that the water line from the tank started to form condensation.  I had a number of lengths of pipe insulation already prepared for this - for once something was expected, and I had a possible solution!  Amazing!

I wrapped the feed line from the tank in insulation, and now the problem is either solved, or at least, out of sight.  I also decided to wrap the incoming lines from the well pump.  I'm not sure how much of a problem they will be.  The pump shouldn't run more than five minutes at a time according to my guestimate (two minutes of pumping filled the tank to about 35-40%.)  With water in those lines for such a short period of time, I'm not sure that condensation will be a real issue.  Same for the emergency overflow line - it theoretically should NEVER have water in it.

Took a little finagling to get the foam up between the tank and the wall, but it wasn't horrendous.
Foamed up the pipes down here too.


How does he know that the tank was 40% full?  It's in a plywood box!  Does he have x-ray vision?  Some sort of electronic water level detector?  Ultrasound?  Radar?  Infrared?

No, I just can fake smarts...  I installed a small T connector coming out of the tank, and then boiled the end of a 10' clear nylon hose until it was nice and soft.  I pushed this onto the side junction of the T fitting, and then ran the hose up the wall.  The water flows into the hose and rises along it until it matches the level in the tank.  You can see the level just by looking up at the hose now.
Close up of the T connection
And halfway up the tube, you can see the water level line!
I'll mount it fancy once I get some proper sized screws to attach the brackets.  Serendipidously, the hose I purchased was 1/2".  Same as the electrical conduit I purchased.  I only just noticed that, but now I realize that I can use the same brackets to mount both the conduit AND the hose!  Nice!

The spice, er, water must flow!
I put everything in place to see how it was fitting.  Looks good!
Of course, having this part of things finished allowed me to get started on doing the laundry.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Adding Surface Mount Electrical Boxes To Our Log Cabin






I am not often a smart man.  This is another tale to illustrate my point.

In the kitchen, which is an outside wall, I had previously just put up my electrical very ramshackle with the intent of hiding it behind the cabinets and eventually some sort of wood panel "cover" to bridge over any exposed areas.  Oh, need I remind you that on outside walls, which are log, I don't have any space to hide the wiring within the wall?  (Notwithstanding people who do pre-drill metres long holes for wiring as they assemble their homes, or companies that have pre-prepared (is the first pre redundant in the word pre-prepared?) spaces for wiring...)

On this go though, I realized that it would be more convenient to have the boxes located where they were - you guess it - most convenient!  Less important became how I could hide the wires.  So I started to prepare myself and Donna for the notion of surface mounting the electrical work there.  First I talked about the almond coloured conduit boxes I grew up with in my public and secondary schools.  Those passed her approval quite easily.


Then I realized that I was going to need a fair number of conductors in the conduits, and had to go back to her seeking permission to go with the more "industrial, loft-type, reclaimed factory" look of galvanized conduits.  This too met approval (it's all in how you sell it perhaps?  Then again, she's a tremendously understanding person!).  So that's what I purchased, and the other day layed out and mounted.

Looking good from this angle.
Working my way around the corner.

Timers for the pump and well heater.
GFCI outlet for kitchen appliances


Outlet for the washing machine, and light switch for the kitchen and stove.
Now it's coming together!
The next day, bright and early, I added in the switches and recepticals, and headed back down under the cabin to wire it in.  With Donna up above, and me down below, I called out instructions for her to flip various switches and report back with the results.
Ugh, It's a challenge not to be crabby coming out of here.
The good news - the breaker never popped!

The bad news - the GFCI outlet would pop whenever it was hooked up to the well pump.  I suspect that the very humid conditions there are allowing a few mA of current to seep out.  When I get a chance, I will revisit the connection between the wiring and the pump itself, and maybe spray some plasti-dip over the whole thing to really try to make a nice dry connection.

I removed the well pump as a "load" from the GFCI outlet, and everything worked just fine!
Yes, the Naked Electrician is available to rewire your next party!
Later in the day, with Kenny helping on my next project, I asked him what he thought of my conduit wiring.  As children often can do, he cut right to the heart of things.  "It's okay, but I think you should have put the wires in the walls".  I took a breath to explain about the outside walls being solid and not realistic for me running wiring in, when I realized that I had only recently finished strapping and adding paneling to these walls.  It would have been quite manageable to have hidden the wiring in behind that layer!  Oh hindsight...

As a consolation, I proceeded to add an extra LED "work light" over the stove for extra lighting there when we are cooking or working on the fire.  That has always been a challenge in the dark.  At the moment though, I'm thinking of switching out the work light for puck lights again, as I wouldn't mind having the light spread out a bit more over there, rather than all focused right on the stovetop itself.  I'll run it by my ideas girl later and see what she thinks.

Sandy, please don't let George see this!  (My excuse is that it isn't finished yet...)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ugh. Plumbing In The Crawlspace.

I headed to Home Depot first thing in the morning and dropped more money than I care to admit on plumbing supplies, electrical supplies, and a countertop.  It took me two trips through the checkout and then another trip to Maier Hardware to finally get everything I was going to need.  Basically blew out the morning!

I arrived home to literally pass Donna on our driveway as she left to take Kenny to a homeschooling meetup at the Makerspace at the Waverly Library.

I had a quick cup of tea to gather my thoughts, then began the hard work that was going to be needed to get things done under the floor of the kitchen.

Let me assure you that I was not looking forward to returning to the crawlspace.  It is not a pleasant place to be.  Thankfully, I didn't listen when someone suggested that I could get away with half the cost of the foundation for the cabin by only putting in a single layer of cinder blocks.  Even the double layer I insisted on makes for a very tight fit to get any work done.

Not to mention the dust.  And gravel just calling out to destroy my knees and back.

Anyway, I pulled out the existing drain connection from the kitchen.  It was a hacked together frankenstein where I had the sink draining into 1" poly pipe, and then an adapter down below where the poly pipe drained into a regular 1 1/2" ABS drainpipe.  I replaced this with standard ABS - but I did have to drill a new, larger hole through my floor.  Yuck!

My first chore under the cabin was to add the final pieces of foam insulation along the outer walls.  This was not too bad really, and it's nice to know it's finished.

Next I used some screws to put up a piece of veneer that had come loose and was exposing the insulation in the floor.

Then I cut off the main water line from the sauna.  The Rubicon had been crossed - we were no longer going to be getting water from the tanks in the sauna - we had to fend for ourselves!

I did take the time to cut that line shorter, fold it over and clamp it, so that if or when sauna water returned, it wouldn't drain out into our cabin crawlspace.  At some point in the future I can go down under the floor of the sauna and cut the line there as well.  I'll probably even try to pull out that line at the same time, but we'll see.

I drilled a new hole for the new waterline in the corner of the cabin, carefully arranging it so that there would be room for it to pass through my particulate filter before continuing on up to the holding tank above.  I also took this opportunity to drill another hole by the south wall close to the patio door to feed the electrical line up to the receptical that we've opted to place there.
Getting dark outside.
Back under the cabin I cut the water line from the new well a bit shorter, and with Donna's help, pushed the off-cut up from the crawlspace and into the cabin.  She pinched her finger but managed to stick with a challenging job - kudos!
See that light far off over there?  Yeah, that's me!
I then threaded the new water line through the stiff grey pipe I had bought to lend more support to the poly pipe.  This proved a challenge as the grey pipe was a ten foot length and there are lots of obstacles down there.  I ended up cutting the second piece of grey pipe down to about 7 feet, but everything looks well aligned.

In a burst of energy, I connected the feed line from the well to the line we had just put in through the floor.  And then in a moment of inspiration, I connected the power for the kitchen directly to the well pump (when I removed the wiring in the kitchen, I turned off its breaker.)

So, upstairs, I made a systemic loop by pushing the end of my poly pipe from the well into the open drainpipe.  Then, with fingers crossed, I asked Donna to flip the breaker for the kitchen circuit.

Wow!  I could feel and hear water flowing!  Something worked!

I then pulled out a bucket and Kenny photographed proof of my concept!
We have water!
Yes, that's just how filthy my butt gets from scootching around in the crawlspace.
That was enough for one day...  A submarine sandwich and a trip to sauna rounded things out.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Assembling Ikea Cabinets

In an effort to streamline the kitchen, we opted to purchase presized and made cabinets from Ikea.  This was also facilitated because Ikea had the best deal on a corner sink that we were able to find.

Our existing sink was placed directly under the kitchen window, which at first made sense to us, but as it turns out, the driveway runs away from the front of the cabin at an angle, and so standing at the sink put us in the wrong position to look out and down the driveway, which feels like the more interesting and important view.

With a sunny day dawning, I began unpacking the boxes.  I even opted to follow the instructions as carefully as possible!

First up was the small cabinet on the south wall.  This was to cut my teeth on the process.  It went just fine!
Kenny?  Can you take a break from Minecraft to help me?

Kenny?  (...crickets...)

This doesn't look like an allen key!
Then I did the larger cabinet for the east wall.  I found it curious that while this was an identical cabinet sizing notwithstanding, putting one set of brackets in place was in a different order from the previous cabinet.
Yeah!  My favourite assistant appears!
Finally, with Donna's help at certain key points, I assembled the corner cabinet.

We flipped the sink upside down and placed it on the corner cabinet to get a feel for positioning.  I fear that the sink may be set in too far, but only using it will really tell us for sure how it is.
Won't fit this way, time to flip it!
Next I removed the existing sink and counter that Grandpa had so nicely built for us two years ago.  It has found a new home on the porch, but I'm sure that's not the last we've seen of it.
Hrm, that wiring doesn't look like it meets code.
Donna helped me to push the units close to their final positions just to get an overall feel for how tiny the kitchen would be.  And yes, it will be tiny!  But still will have far more space than what we've been use to.
I can already imagine the delicious meals that will be prepared here!
Now it's time to move on to the plumbing and wiring...  Not to mention trying to cut my teeth on a countertop!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Installing A Bit More Paneling, Reminded Of The Law Of Unintended Consequences.

The arrival of the kitchen cabinets from Ikea the other day prompted even more pressure on me to find space in an already overwhelmed cabin.

Luckily the way Ikea flat packs all their products certainly takes up far less space than one would even expect.  22 boxes and a sink prompted me to bring the truck to pick it all up, and then it was with bemusement that I realized that even our little Echo could have easily handled the entire load.

Even with the pressure to get the kitchen installed, I decided that perhaps my time would be better spent trying to slightly reduce the pile of siding that had been sitting in the middle of the cabin floor for a few weeks now.

I worked my way up higher on the west wall of the cabin, eventually matching the height of the panelling I had installed on the wall beside the stairs.  This made me realize that the boards on the staircase wall should be installed before the ones on the west wall, as the strapping in the corner was arranged with that order in mind (If I installed the west wall first, then the staircase wall wouldn't reach the strap in the corner for nailing or support).

And so I decided to put up a few boards on the staircase wall, leading up past the loft floor and one or two boards up the outer wall of the guest bedroom in the loft.

This had the side effect of covering up the gap between the loft floor and the top of our bedroom wall.  Donna had been complaining gently for some time that at night the gap was allowing light from the staircase light to come into our bedroom, disturbing her sleep.
You can see the gap about to disappear forever!
It was also easy to see how the existing paneling had darkened over the years, compared to the new paneling I was installing.
A whiter shade of pale for these boards!
One thing I have been doing as I panel interior walls is to add insulation between the studs.  This has the hopeful effect of reducing sound from room to room, as well as allowing us to better regulate the temperature by simply shutting doors.

As I started to put down boards over the studs of the loft wall, I was annoyed to discover large gaps along the sides of the batts.  I was taken back to when I was first building the wall and succumbed to the suggestion to space my studs out slightly wider than normal so that I could save myself the milling or purchase of any extras.  Sigh.  Unintended consequence.  It has put me of a mind to stop skimping or trying to do things non-standard (entire lifestyle notwithstanding :).
Ugh, these gaps are annoying!
Readers know that I seem to have lots of extra insulation from other projects, so I packed the gaps with closed cell foam, and will do so up to the top of the wall, so it shouldn't be a huge problem, although I have to admit that it is a challenge to get the batts to stand up without a friction fit.

I managed to get enough boards on to keep the batts in place, and then repiled the remaining pile against the shelf under the television.  Now I had enough space to move on to assembling the kitchen cabinets!  But that, is another story...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Boxing In And Mounting The Water Tank

A day or two ago I got the telephone call letting me know that our kitchen cabinets (courtesy Ikea) had arrived in Thunder Bay.  I arranged to take delivery this Friday when I am scheduled to be close to the city anyway, and then figured that I needed to keep up my pace on getting the plumbing ready to go.

The next logical step was to finish getting the water tank operational.

I had already managed to sheath the tank in 1/2" foam on all four sides and double on the bottom.  Now I wanted to protect that insulation and give the tank some support.  From experience, the tank, while very rigid, still tended to bulge when full of water.  This would be a bit unwieldy when it was up on the wall, so I needed something more structurally sound.

I measured the sides carefully and began cutting my plywood.

A snowy day, but still quite comfortable to be outdoors.
With Kenny's help and some green Robertson screws, we managed to get the sides assembled.  I also enlisted the help of some sliding bar clamps, as the fit was really tight and I wanted to minimize any air spaces if possible.  I think that keeping things nice and tight should help with the condensation situation.










Accompanied by huge trepidation, I sanded the end of my T fitting and covered it with soap to get it to fit into the end of the tank.  Employing my deadfall mallet, I tamped it completely into the molded fitting on the tank and tightened down a pipe clamp on it.  I don't think I really needed the clamp, it was VERY tight going into the tank, but thankfully, the LDPE of the tank didn't split.


Due to the fact that I had used a T fitting, I wasn't able to fit the bottom plywood plate onto the box, and had to cut a slot into it.  The fitting should allow me to attach a length of nylon hose to the outflow of the tank that theoretically will be able to act as a visual cue as to the actual water level inside of the tank.  We'll have to see how this works in the real world.

Tightening up the bottom plate finished off the box and the only thing left was to get it up on the wall.

Measuring twice to ensure that I wouldn't have to drill unneeded holes in my walls, I first checked the height of the box.  Then I measured down from the corner of the wall that distance.  Since the ceiling at that spot is sloped upwards at 45 degrees, I figured that I would have sufficient room to get above the tank for installing the overflow and inflow fittings.

It may be hard to see my pencil lines in this picture.
In addition to this, the line I used at this level became the line where I actually installed the lag bolts of the brackets - and the holes for those were already an inch above where the bracket curved out to support its load.  This meant that the tank was dropped a further inch down from the corner of the ceiling.  I really felt that should be enough room for me to access the fittings - additionally, it looks like it will also let me install my corner trim above the tank (something I felt was somewhat optional - it wouldn't be visible from the main room of the cabin).

Before proceeding, I decided to remove the drying dishes that were directly underneath the tank.  While I knew that nothing could have gone wrong, it's best to be sure.  It actually made installation easier, as Grandpa showed up as I was removing the dishes and it gave me a surface to stand on during the final phases of installation.

Nothing could go wrong - could it?
Next I installed three brackets along the long edge of the tank, and then a fourth on the short edge perpendicular to the others.  I also spaced the tank out 3" from the east wall of the cabin to allow me to run my overflow and inflow pipes right in the corner of the cabin.  This still allowed me to have 4" of bracket under that side.


Up towards the top of the tank I installed two small wall brackets to hold it against the wall.  I'm confident that this should be sufficient to ensure that the tank can't tip off the base, but this morning I'm of a mind to install a strap up there that goes right from the south wall to the east wall.  This strap would be hidden when I panel the tank, and would completely eliminate any chance of the tank tipping away from the wall.  It would be cheap insurance.


Underneath the tank, I used 1" lag bolts to fasten the tank to the brackets.  With the plywood only being 3/4" thick, I added two washers between the plywood and brackets.  While I'm quite sure that it would be impossible for the double layer of insulation under the tank to be completely compressed and expose the base of the tank to the tips of the bolts, I figured it didn't hurt to be sure that it couldn't be subjected to those points under ANY circumstances.  From my observations, the bolts come flush with the plywood once they are tightened.



Now it's time to hook up some water lines, but that may wait a bit until I have the new cabinets installed underneath and can see how they are to proceed.