Friday, September 20, 2013

Plumbing the Sauna

Plumbing the sauna was something of a testbed of ideas.  After the multiple failures of the water system over last winter in delivering us consistent flow (or any flow whatsoever!), I had spent many brain cells trying to come up with an alternative system that was still very energy efficient.

It was Grandpa who suggested that I could store water in the sauna to use in the cabin.  This had the advantage of keeping the water tanks in a building that was designed to handle "wet" situations.  It also meant that I could utilize the loft of the sauna to create some gravity pressure for the water to flow.

I also like to believe that if we take steam on a somewhat regular basis (every second, third or fourth day), we will be able to maintain the water temperature in the tanks above freezing, thus allowing us to keep pumping water throughout the winter.  

The first fixture I set in place was our laundry tub.  I shortened the legs on it by almost a foot to help it to have a bit more head.  I also had the cunning plan to hook up the tank from the sauna reservoir to the hot water tap of the laundry tub, thus giving us the illusion of hot AND cold running water.  

This worked well in some sense.  The pressure generated from the elevated sauna reservoir to the tap only a few inches below it was anemic.  You can put a basin in the sink and turn on the tap, and then take a fair bit of steam before your basin is full.  In fact, just the time taken for the hot water in the reservoir to warm up the basin is pretty lengthy on the first run.  I can accept this though, as running water is pretty special no matter how you slice it.

After the laundry tub came the washing machine.  This seems to work pretty good.  I placed a quick connect connector on the tap from the laundry tub, so we can easily hook up the washing machine when it is time to do laundry.  There is a pretty cool advantage of this.  When you disconnect the washing machine hose, my connector cuts off the entire flow of water.  By having nothing connected, and both hot and cold taps turned on, the sauna reservoir refills from my storage tanks.  I don't have to shlep buckets!

Sadly, pressure at the laundry tub is a bit disappointing.  It takes a good five minutes or so to fill the washing machine, so that must be taken into account when one is working on that.

At first I felt that perhaps the problem was the narrower PEX hose that I had run to the laundry tub from off of my main poly pipe.

I removed the PEX and replaced it with poly pipe, and the result was even worse.

Note to self - be prepared for water to come gushing from a water line that you cut through with a saw!

My trickle continued to diminish until it became nothing.  My father-in-law examined the situation and felt that perhaps the problem was in my taps.  I puzzled at great length, and decided that instead there must have been a bubble in my water line, at a spot where it rose up from the water tank before dropping back down to the faucet.  I massaged the poly pipe up and down until finally a squirt of bubbles made itself known in the water tank.  The flow to the sink began again, albeit not anything spectacular.

I tried to reroute the line with a more direct route to my auxiliary tank, but this doesn't seem to have boosted performance notably.  I'm of the mind that right angles in a low pressure water line are death to pressure.  In any case, the water does flow here, and I hope that we can learn to live with it.

 Ahhh, the bliss of a filling wash machine!

 I tried to raise the machine off the floor a bit with some cinder blocks and a nice cedar edge.

 I wish that I had a door on the sauna though, as unexpected guests with cameras are a bit off-putting.

Nothing like two full water tanks!

The Floor In The Sauna Change Room

The floor of the change room didn't need to be quite so waterproof as in the "wet" areas of the sauna.  As such, I opted to finish it off in red pine.

 Unlike V jointed lumber, tongue and groove boards fit together nearly flush for a perfectly flat finish (or thereabouts).  Otherwise, installation is the same as for V joint.
I lay down a double layer of my OSB and then put down the V joint over top of that.

Also in the change room I provided a trap door to gain access to the crawlspace under the sauna.  Instead of any fancy fittings to lift the board, I simply drilled out two 1" diameter holes at each end of the board.  No hinge or anything showy, just lift out and climb in.

The floor looked great for a few hours, until continued construction traffic dirtied it completely up.  I'm hoping that once construction in the sauna tapers off, I'll get a chance to clean, sand, and treat it.  In the meantime, I suppose it is developing some character!

Testing The Sauna Stove

Things were far enough along now that we could bring the sauna stove over closer to its final position.
Grandpa and I loaded it into the bucket of the tractor, and then I followed along while he drove it from the dojo tent to the sauna.

With a clunk, it unceremoniously dropped from the bucket as soon as I tried to adjust the ratchet straps.

Fortunately it was close enough to where we wanted to fire it that we didn't really have to move it again.
I filled her up with some chunks of surplus building materials, and then went back to work.

Returning later, I opted to help it along with some vigorous blowing.  It wasn't that my fire went out (that's not to say my fires never go out - on the contrary, they often do!) - it just needed a bit of a boost to burn in a hot and timely fashion.

It smoked merrily away, and the paint on the outside cured with a nasty stink that I was glad wasn't deposited inside the sauna.

We got it up to what Grandpa deemed to be a decent burn, and then let it go out.  Soon we would be prepared to actually get it installed in place!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Repairing The Tardis Roof

When originally constructed, the Tardis was done on the cheap.  I tried doing the roof with some scrap aluminum siding that Grandpa has directed me towards at the dump.
This worked fine in all weather except for rain, snow, sleet, etc.  As long as it was dry outside, we were dry inside.
Donna didn't really approve of that situation, and I recently learned that my own mother also was put out by having icy cold water dripping on her while she was enjoying some solitude on the throne.
One of my first attempts at a solution was to purchase some of that "tar in a can" type of product, and heavily spray down the seams in the siding.  This didn't do anything to help the situation.
Using up a few tubes of latex caulking also didn't seem to find the location of the leaks.
At last the solution presented itself in a serendipitous manner - the steel roofing for the sauna came with two brown "cover sheets".
I aired myself out on a particularly warm day, and then set off to redo the roof.

It took a fair bit of coaxing to remove the lantern from the middle of the original roof, but after that, I was able to lay down the sheets, install them, and replace the lantern with a minimum of fuss.

I wasn't able to get the lantern to sit perfectly flat, so I just goobered on a tonne more of caulking as an adhesive, and things were good to go!

So far, everyone has been quite pleased with the solution.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finishing The Sauna Floor

After listening to a discussion between Leo Laporte and Grammar Girl, I decided to follow the TWiT network's policy of capitalizing every word in the title of an episode :).

With the wiring in place, I realized that it was getting increasingly difficult to pussy-foot around on the exposed joists of the floor, and so I opted to make the next step finishing the sauna floor.

First I boxed in and cut holes for the spaces where the floor drains were to be.

Then Kenny and I cut and fit batts of Roxul insulation in between all the joists.  The Roxul seems to cut reasonably well using my handsaw.  They specifically recommend against using a non-serrated knife on the packaging.

Knowing that the steam room and the washing up room were going to be subject to lots of water and moisture, I opted to put down a vapour barried under the floor.  I've heard a bit of conflicting opinion about whether or not to put down a vapour barrier under a floor - and would like to hear real thoughts.  Does plywood act as a vapour barrier?

In the steam room and washing up room, I strapped around the outside edge of the floor using .5" to .75" slats.  Then put down the plywood and screwed it down tight.  Lots and lots of screws because it was deformed by the straps.  The strapping ensured that the floor sloped away from the walls and down towards the centre of the floor.

Kenny tested the slope with some of his marbles.  I suppose one could infer that Daddy has lost his.

I drilled out a hole for a floor drain in the middle of the steam room, and then another one in the washing up room, although this time I placed it more towards the far end of the room, where we are theoretically going to be doing most of our splashing.  (I decided that at the laundry end of the room, we shouldn't be splashing much water.  This has so far turned out to be an incorrect assumption!)

Over the course of a few days, Kenny and I painted over the plywood with Rustoleum's "Restore" deck treatment.  It is some sort of really heavy and thick "paint" that seals wood and gives it a rather rough texture.  It is expensive, and doesn't go far.  I needed about 8 gallons to put on two coats.  I still have about 2 gallons left, but I will save that to put on my baseboards when I come to install the final versions of those.

As I put down the second coat, I ran a bead of alex plus around the base of a drain, and pushed it down into the wet paint.  I even used my finger to run some of the paint up onto the edge of the drain.

Surprisingly, I don't believe I ever got any paint onto my socks!