Archive for October, 2011

Snow Fall

Yes it snowed, twice, in October. But we were lucky, only about 3 or 4 inches both times. The roads were clear and we didn’t lose power. Many were not so lucky and are still without power.

This weekend we were also treated to a sighting of two foxes frolicking in our freshly hay mulched yard. They pounced and dined on a few mice in the process. It was a nice distraction from all the work going on inside the house.

Friend or Foam?

Many spray foam kits are targeted for the ‘do it yourself’ crowd, but if you do it yourself and you encounter problems, be prepared to remove bad foam.

The good news

Foam is great in spots where nothing else will work quite as well. We used foam primarily for air sealing in odd spots, but also for insulation value in areas where it was difficult to blow cellulose. See our previous post on this topic, “Foam continued…“.

The bad news

Foam can be fussy. Foam itself must be within a specified temperature range, the surface must be clean and within a specified temperature range, the hose and gun must be in perfect working order, and once you start spraying you can’t stop for more then a few seconds without gumming up the spray gun. In addition, you must provide adequate ventilation and wear protective clothing, breathing gear and goggles. Does this sound like a DIY project? I’m guessing most applications of spray foam are successful. We had used about 6 kits before we ran into problems, but sometimes things go wrong.

In our case, since we are not professional installers we were not immediately aware that something was going wrong. The foam did not appear to be expanding as usual or curing properly. It looked a little more yellow than white and felt rubbery when poked. By the time we realized something was not right, we had sprayed some 40 linear feet of band joist area in the basement. We’re still not sure what caused the problem. Was it a bum kit or bad hose and gun? We had followed all the same precautions as before, but we had very different results.

At first the manufacturer told us to just let it air out, it would cure on its own, it just might take longer than usual. So we vented and waited a month. All we had was a sticky smelly mess.

After several conversations with the manufacturer, we were faced with two options. A. Remove the bad foam. B. Spray over it with a (hopefully) good layer of foam to seal in the bad smelly stuff. We decided to remove the foam. For more background on why we chose to remove the foam, see Martin Holladay’s post on GreenBuildingAdvisor, “Spray Foam Jobs With Lingering Odor Problems“.

The ugly

Removing bad foam is a nasty job. In our case, removing foam from a roughly two foot deep cavity at the rim joist area around 12 inch deep trusses with sharp metal plates. Not an easy job. My arms ached and even though I wore a mask and ventilated the space I still woke up with headaches the next day.

When I started pulling out the foam, I realized there were several areas where the foam had shrunken away from the sheathing by as much as an inch. I’m a bit concerned about this. Was this just due to the bad foam, or had this happened in other areas?

I tried to remove as much of the bad foam as I could, but there were areas at the corners where I couldn’t reach and areas behind ducts and wires that I didn’t want to be poking around with the serrated knife I was using to cut the foam into sections for easier removal.

I was able to remove roughly 80% of the bad foam. For the remaining areas, we just foamed over them.

Mostly happy ending

So far, our re-foaming efforts have been positive. The replacement foam kit provided free by the manufacturer yielded nice expanding foam that cured normally. We’re not quite finished, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we won’t encounter any more problems. I’m also hoping that we don’t encounter any more smelly issues when the temperatures begin to rise next summer.

Fall Uphill

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First floor sheetrock

Last week Warren and crew sheetrocked the main room on the first floor. Before they could do this, gaskets were installed along the exterior walls and furring nailed on the ceiling, same as the second floor. The main objective of the gaskets was to seal the exterior walls from air leakage originating from inside the house.

The only remaining areas to sheetrock are the two small rooms off the main space (pantry and study), the window returns and the 1st floor stair area. Hopefully Howie will begin taping later this week. We’re in a race to finish taping and painting the first floor before the wood floor and kitchen cabinets arrive in 2 weeks.

Leach field approved

Joe and Warren finished digging the trenches and installing the leach field components last week and the inspector gave us the thumbs up. Now if the rain will just let up for a few days they can bury the leach field and finish grading around the house.

This was the next to last inspection by the county before the final inspection for the Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.). We will also need a final electrical inspection from a 3rd party.

Septic tank buried

Our excavator Joe, started working on our leach field and septic tank this week. Warren helped set the elevations and dig test pits to make sure we were clear of all boulders and ledge. Today they dug the hole for the 1,000 gallon septic tank and buried it next to the house. Weather willing, they will be able to dig the trenches and finish the leach field this week.

Plumbing stuff and water usage

Our plumber came out last week to set the bathtub and install the tub faucets. He also connected the drains for our tub and shower. Meanwhile, Warren has been working on the home run manifolds for hot and cold water.

Part of the plumbing setup in the basement involves the installation of two DLJ single jet water meters. We get our water from a well, and homes that use wells don’t typically monitor water usage since they are not paying for water from a public supply. But I wanted to be able to track our total water usage and hot water usage separately. That’s why we have two meters.

The first meter is positioned after the pressure tank before the cold water manifold. This measures the total water consumption. The second is positioned at the hot water tank intake (cold water meters can’t be used for hot water). This will measure the total number of gallons that goes into the hot water tank to be heated.

These meters are very compact and we’re using the ones that enable remote data collection which I hope to setup in the future. Thanks to Erik at Erik’s Blog for the tip on the DLJ water meters. See his post, Got Monitoring? for more references to monitoring equipment.

Blowing cellulose on first floor

Yesterday our insulator, Don Patten and family, came over to finish insulating the house. They stapled up netting and did the first rough blow in roughly 6 hours. They are back today to do the second dense pack blow and top up the attic insulation in areas that settled. This will be the last of the cellulose insulation work. The remaining north and south rim joist areas between the first and second floors will be foamed later this week before the final sheet rocking begins.

In other news, Joe Bates, our friendly local excavator will be installing our septic tank and leach field today.

Yard

Unbeknownst to you (but beknownst to us) all our photos of the house have been carefully chosen to avoid the rather large brush pile that has been sitting in front of the house since the site was cleared 17 months ago. All that changed yesterday. In preparation for the leach field, the brush pile was moved to another location down hill to become a habitat for birds, chippies, and all manner of wildlife. We now have a yard, that will become a garden next year.

Interior Painting

Howie finished taping and sanding the drywall on the second floor on Sunday, so while we’re waiting for the first floor to be insulated and sheet rocked, we’ve started priming and painting upstairs.

We’re using Benjamin Moore’s zero-VOC Natura line. I read a few reviews on other brands that complained about needing 3-4 coats to achieve the desired color, and only saw good reviews for Natura’s coverage. We’re using some pretty saturated colors upstairs, so coverage was key and so far the it’s been wonderful to work with. It’s a little pricey at about $50/gallon, but not only does it cover well, it also goes on smoothly, dries in 1-2 hours, and it’s odorless. In fact, it’s so odorless that I could smell our dog over any paint smell when she came into the room. Time to give Bernie a bath!

I’m debating using some sort of geometric allover stencil on an accent wall in the master bedroom to break up the orange a bit. Any thoughts?

In other upstairs news: The tub was installed yesterday and looks great in the marble surround! All of our bathroom tile has now arrived, so as soon as Larry finishes installing the Schluter membrane in the shower we can tackle bath tiling next.

Bathroom color & tile: Walls are B.M. Natura Goldfield, shower walls and tub apron are tiled with Ann Sacks Lucian field tile in Oxygen, Carrara marble tub surround and vanity top, and 12"x24" Anthracite floor tile with matching pebbles on the shower floor.

While there’s nothing particularily “green” about the tile choices, we are using a no-VOC stone and grout sealer.


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