Archive for the 'Emergency Repair' Category

Foaming at the Basement

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Our umpteenth winter storm this year prevented the guys from coming yesterday to finish the insulation job, so they came today. The bulk of their time was spent prepping as they covered the basement in plastic sheeting. They applied open cell foam in the basement which is very different from the closed cell foam they put in the attic. The open cell foam is lighter, much, much to cut, tear, fold, spindle, and mutilate. It’s also a lot less sticky–it’s remarkably like angel food cake (no, I didn’t taste it).

They covered the furnace with sheeting, so I turned the heat off and kept an eye on the thermostat to see how the house reacted. Before having the attic insulated, on a day like today (20 degrees out and windy), it would take about 50 minutes for the temperature to go from 66 to 62. In our post-attic-insulated world, it took almost four and a half hours for the first floor temp to drop from 66 to 62, and the second floor thermostat still read 64. When they were done, I turned the heat back on and the house was back to 66 in about 90 minutes.

So clearly you can see why I’m so excited about this whole insulation thing.

There’s not a whole lot to see with foam injection–just the same wall that was there before, but with holes in it. However, looking up into the balloon framing, you can see the insulation (and lack thereof). Here are some before and after photos:



I managed to get some really cool video of both the closed-cell foam and the open-cell foam being applied, and I’ll try to post those in the next few days.

So, after having gotten six separate quotes for fiberglass, cellulose, and foam, I chose Innovative Insulation Solutions to do the job, and I couldn’t be happier with the work they did. Martin and Mike are the guys who did the basement (Martin was one of the four who did the attic), and they all did a fantastic job–they took their work seriously, but were exceptionally friendly and very patiently answered my (many many) questions. There’s nothing better than contractors who are willing to talk to you about what they’re doing to your house. Here are Mike and Martin standing out front after another day in the foam mines:

If you need insulation and you live near area code 847, give Innovative a call.

Moen Can Bite My Ass

Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

[[This took place on December 23rd, but it’s part of my “catching up” on stories about the house that occurred before and after we moved in.]]

M. had spent the whole day baking cookies (mmmmm… cookies…), so I ran out to pick up dinner while she washed up in the kitchen. I came back, and when I walked in the door, she had that look on her face that just screamed “Something Bad Happened Just Now, And I Don’t Know How Bad It Is, But It’s Bad.” Turns out that when she went under the sink to get something, she found a lake of water.

A little history: When we had the inspection of the house, the kitchen sink was leaking. The owner fixed it before we closed (where “fixed it” means “encased every pipe joint in glops of silicone caulk”), and sure enough, when we moved in, there was no leak down there. However, not everything was right:

  • First, while the hot water worked fine everywhere else in the house, it ran pretty slowly in the kitchen sink.
  • Second, under the sink was a mess of copper tubing where they had hooked in the dishwasher line, and where the copper tube came out of the supply line, it had a bit of a kink in it.
  • Third, just for good measure, the faucet was piped backwards (the cold side was hot and vice versa).

So when a few days before, the hot water in the kitchen slowed even further to a trickle, I bit my lip and wondered when I was going to find the time to do something about it. Well, at least I didn’t have to wonder for too long.

It turns out that it wasn’t the sink leaking at all, it was the faucet. The faucet was a Moen brand faucet–you know the commercial: “Buy it for looks… buy it for life.” Before we moved in, we had a condo with a Moen faucet in the kitchen, and, sure enough, it leaked too! I managed to fix that by getting a new part, but this just put me over the edge. MOEN CAN BITE MY ASS. I AM NEVER BUYING ANOTHER FAUCET FROM THAT COMPANY EVER AGAIN.

This is just great. We’ve got to cook dinner for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and start prepping for having 30 people over on Boxing Day. There’s no way we’re going to do this in a kitchen that has no running water.

It’s 9:00PM at this point, but I grab my toolbox and remove not only the faucet, but the mess of copper tubing as well, and I high-tail it down to the Home Depot* while M. watches in atavistic terror, wondering if she’d ever have running water in the kitchen again. I mean, who in their right mind starts a plumbing project at 9:00PM? Me. That’s who.

Arriving at Home Depot, I quickly find a decent Delta faucet and, with the help of a very knowledgeable employee, compose a replacement for the whole copper tubing mess using just two flexible hoses and a tee connector.

I get home by 11:00PM, install the faucet, repipe the hot water under the sink, and not only do we have a non-leaking faucet, but we have glorious glorious hot water pressure in the kitchen! Oh Joy! Oh Rapture!

By Midnight, I was in bed. And Moen can still bite my ass.

* You know you’re a homeowner when you know which Home Depot out of the half-dozen in the city is open til Midnight, and which one is open 24 hours.

Installing a Fountain in Your Bedroom

Monday, October 11th, 2004

Today was the first day that it felt cool enough to turn on the heat in the house. The thermostat claimed it was 62F, so we set the heater for 68 and turned the system to “run”. I went around and opened the radiators that would open and skipped the ones with frozen valves. The valve on the radiator in the master bedroom just spun around and around without moving, so I left it alone, hoping that it was broken in the “open” position.

I would like to note that our radiator system does not use steam to heat the radiators, but instead uses hot water. This detail is vitally important to the next part of this story.

A few hours later, M. called down to tell me that the radiator in the master bedroom was still ice cold. I went up and fiddled with the valve a bit, and upon noticing that it didn’t seem to be going up or down, which I’ve always assumed is what valves did as they opened or closed. So, feeling clever, I pulled the valve upwards as I turned it up. I then found myself standing straight up with the valve in my left hand, and a lovely seven foot high geyser of water coming straight up out of the radiator, me thinking, “Hmm, that’s just a bit unusual.”

I hurriedly jammed my thumb onto the open hole where the valve recently sat, yelling at M. to run and get some rags. After stopping the flow (the pressure in the system is only about 14PSI), I thought about how to restore valve A to orifice B without flooding the bedroom. I decided that a quick-change maneuver was in order, and held the valve knob and stem near the valve opening. I counted to ten, pulled my thumb off the opening, and jammed the valve stem back in as hard as I could–it stayed in place, but to be safe, I wrapped it down tightly with plastic wrap and tape. I made a mental note not to pull on any more radiator valves.