May 18, 2011

I never thought I'd be in love with a "plumber"... but don't quit your day job Kevin!

We decided to go with a somewhat new plumbing system called Pex, which is a flexible polyethylene tubing. It is easy to install and requires fewer fittings compared to copper or PVC pipe systems. The other major advantage is that all fixtures (i.e. sink, toilet, shower, etc.) have a “home run” water supply, meaning a single Pex pipe runs from each fixture all the way back to a manifold. The result is evenly distributed water pressure with no pressure drop when a fixture is used at the same time as another, and no temperature change (like when the toilet is flushed and you’re in the shower!)

This is our manifold installed on the ceiling in the laundry room. Cold water enters on the right (orange port), it's sent to all the blue ports and then out one of the orange ports on the left. After leaving the manifold, the cold water goes upstairs to the water heater and loops back down, entering the bottom orange port. Hot water is then distributed evenly through the red ports.

Pex tubing is connected by crimp rings to various types of fittings. Here you can see the connections to the washing machine supply valve. The crimp ring is placed on the end of the tubing, then the fitting is inserted into the pipe, and the ring is crimped, making a permanent water tight connection.

Here are the supply lines stubbed out for the kitchen sink.

Here is a shot of the master bathroom shower connections. We decided to have two separate shower controls in order to be able to regulate the temperature independently. Many fancy showers these days have multiple shower heads but water pressure is often sacrificed. The way this shower is plumbed (and thanks to the manifold system) we won’t have that issue here!

This is a picture of the manifold after the connections were made. Blue=cold water/red=hot water….except for the two in the top left of the picture. I ran out of blue pipe and had to use the red for two fixtures. All the pipe is ½” except for the white pipes, which are ¾” supply lines which maintain high pressure to the manifold, about 80 PSI.

Kevin also ran all the gas piping for the natural gas system. We will have a gas range, furnace, on-demand water heater and an outdoor connection for a grill.

Here you can see Kevin starting to cut threads on a piece of pipe. A large ratchet with thread cutting die is wrenched around the end of a blank piece of pipe, cutting the threads as it turns. Super fun work! Now we know why pipe fitters have Unions…not an easy job!

This is a close up of the ratchet head and the cutting die. You can see the steel pipe shavings curling away as the die cuts the threads. Oil is applied generously throughout this process to reduce friction. The end of the pipe is still pretty warm when it’s finished.

The gas system comes in and splits here. Normal gas systems have 0.5 PSI but we have a fairly high demand because of the water heater so we raised it to 2 PSI. The pressure is reduced near the points of use via in-line regulators, dropping the pressure back down to 0.5 PSI. Long runs of pipe cause pressure drop so this way the pressure remains high even when multiple fixtures are using gas at the same time.

To ensure there are no leaks, we pressurized the whole gas system with compressed air and monitored a temporary pressure gauge. Each joint in the system is then checked with a soapy solution. If it’s leaking, bubbles will appear and the pressure gauge will not remain steady.

Here you can see our on-demand tankless water heater. This is a Navien condensing unit that is 98% efficient and will deliver up to 8.5 gallons per minute of hot water….forever. Here you can see the ¾” white pipes that come up from the manifold with cold water and hot water to be distributed.

Finally, we had Washington Gas come out and replace our old gas meter (right) and the regulator (left) with new equipment. The regulator allows us to have the higher gas pressure I discussed earlier. Once the plumbing inspection is passed this will all be hooked up to the stub out on the wall just behind the meter. We have also made provisions to add a natural gas generator in the future for when the power goes out but for now that will be shut off by the red valve on the right.

May 8, 2011

Vinyl records may be out of style but vinyl siding will always be hip!

The same crew we hired to install the shingles came back to install our siding after we wrapped the entire house in Tyvek and installed all the windows. First they put up all the corner pieces around the outside of the house and the J-channel pieces around the windows and doors. The long strips of siding fit into these pieces.

They hung the siding from the bottom up. Here they are working on the side of the house.

They had to cut certain strips of siding to make sure it fit all the way up to the peak of the roof.

Here is the siding finished on one of side of the house. At this point they still needed to hang the fascia which is aluminum that is bent to fit over the rake board (the wood that you see here on end of the roof).

Then they began working on the back of the house, fitting the siding around the back door and windows.

Once the first floor was completed they moved on to the front and rear dormers.

Here is a picture of the back of the house with the rear dormer siding completed. Kevin's dad was busy helping us as usual.

Here you can see the soffit (white part) installed on the underside of the rake board. Soffit is installed to cover the overhang of the roof.

Here is the crew working on the driveway side of the house. You can see the temporary electrical meter on a post. It's been 7 weeks and Pepco still hasn't been out to hook our power up. EPIC fail on Pepco's part. We're considering paying all our electric bills 7 weeks late as a token of our appreciation for their outstanding customer service.

The siding on the front of the house was partially done at first while we waited for the fixed panel window to arrive.

Once it arrived we attached the last two casement windows to either side of it.

Then Kevin and I hoisted it into place and secured it to the house.  What a big beautiful window! This will allow a ton of light in to our living room!

This is the driveway side of the house.  Here you can see the completed fascia I mentioned earlier. Take note, the temporary post is now gone however Pepco is still nowhere in sight.

This is the other side of the house.

And finally, the completed siding on the front. Don't let this fool you though... we still have a lot of work to do on the inside!