Hi, I'm Jess. And This is My Job

Last night the foundation we poured for the chimney had hardended, so we set ourselves to the second step - drilling a 6" hole in the basement wall where the pipe from the furnace will intersect the chimney.

After that was done, we had to drill matching holes in both the cement flue surround and the flue itself - a task that we thought was going to be so much easier than drilling the basement wall....

And drilling the cement flue surround was. Mike took care of it in less than 5min. But when we got to the flue - a terra cotta-like clay flue - all I could think about was Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe and the episode where he's smashing huge terra cotta pipes quite easily with a sledgehammer. Terra cotta is not tough.

And sure enough, we tried drilling it, chipping it, grinding it - but every time, the flue piece just cracked and broke.

After some research, we found out that only a diamond tipped tool will cut it without breakage. Unfortunately, we don't have one. But a way around it is to build a brick base for the flue and allow the furnace pipe to enter through the bricks. 

Hopefully we'll be able to do that tonight. We're already a few days behind on this whole chimney project and cold weather is fast moving in for this weekend....

Another Option

So after being all gung-ho for ISOKERN, thinking this was the most economical thing ever, I was shocked when Mike came home with a similar setup at a cost of under $300 for an entire chimney on Saturday.

He just went down to our local concrete company, asked them for a pre-fab modular chimney setup - and they had it! This one has separate flue and concrete surround peices. You just put on a peice of flue, slide a concrete square on top of it, put mortar on both, and stack another flue on top of the flue and another concrete square on top of the first concrete square. And after twenty feet of repetitions, you've got yourself a chimney. Plus, you can purchase all sorts of fassads (Wrong spelling, I know.) that just stick on the outside with mortar. Various kinds of brick, stone, stucco - you name it. (Those Mike didn't purchase, we'll do that after the fact.)

So.. we're saving about $1,100 with this system vs. ISOKERN. Amazing huh? Pictures to come.

Rock yo Widget Post Test one two

Guess what guys! I'm posting from a DashBoard widget! Isn't this the greatest thing since cell phone pic postings?


Housebloggers: Has anyone used ISOKERN pre-fabricated fireplaces and/or modular chimney systems before? And if so, how did you like 'em? Did you put them together yourselves? How easy was it? Mike and I had a modular type chimney system to vent our furnace previously - and we thought it was a nifty and likely cost effective, so I googled it.

ISOKERN came up as one of the only companies to make these pre-fab and modular fireplace & chimney kits. (www.isokern.net) Plus, they have an office in Auburn - which is relatively close to us. I printed out a brochure with all the types and measurement specifications, plus a sample of their installation instructions.

Now, theoretically, you're not supposed to f around and install these yourselves. But technically, Mike and I were probably not supposed to install our own heating, electrical, windows, etc. And we definately weren't supposed to rebuild our own second floor and redesign the layout of half the house. I think with the help and support of our many friends in the trades, plus our intimate knowledge in a variety of fields - we can do it.

Ok - so I ringaglinged ISOKERN this morn and told them I wanted pricing on a DM 44 appliance modular chimney for the furnace, standard 36" fireplace, DM 54 fireplace chimney, and of course, another DM 44 chimney for the wood stove.

The DM 44 is $54/ft
The fireplace is $1275
The DM 54 is $65/ft
Plus, we'd need their mortar - one big 'ol size at $60 per project

They don't really have a showroom, but they can deliver the goods within 1 to 2 days, depending on when you get your order in. (Major credit card required, of course.)

So - now we need to do some measurin' & calculatiing to figure out how many modular sections of DM 44 we need. We need this stuff like, toot sweet. I'm freezing my bum off and not feeling too good about it. I'm sick - seriously - I hope Mike doesn't need me to work on stuff tonight. *yaaawwn*


Laundry. The final frontier. Well... maybe not the final final frontier. Anyway, as you may have guessed, we got it hooked up! And let me be the first to say, woo hoo. I did two loads just last night! Very cool.

But, speaking of cool - we still don't have our heat 'n hot water hookyed up yet. The problem is venting - triple wall metal pipe is expensive. Chimneys are expensive. Professional help is expensive. Most of our pipes are still in place from the old system... so that's not the issue.

Mike's been talking to one of our plumber friends - getting his advice. I think we've decided on a do-it-myself modular chimney system. Truth be told - 30 feet of metal pipe on the back of your house is just fugly. And going chimney is really not that much more expensive when all's said and done, plus it looks better. We just have to head down to our local supply place and see what they have to choose from.

We'll still need some pipage to go from furnace to chimney - but we do have some that was gifted to us by a chimney sweep friend of ours. So that'll save a few hundred dollars.

If the chimney system is economical enough, we'll also purchase enough for a second chimney - for our wood stove. I'm tempted by the idea of a pre-formed fireplace. That would just rock out loud, but needs furthur investigation.

We plan to start on all this tomorrow. The first step will be to wrip off the old siding on the back of the house where chimney #1 will be and replace it with shingles. (Cause who wants to do that when the chimney is on?) Step two is to go down to the supply place and check out the goods. Step three... well, let's just see if we can get step one and two out of the way first.

Yes, I know that's not healthy.

On Saturday our awesome carpenter TJ had a cancellation, so he came to our house to give us back the mudroom.

You see, the story of the mudroom is a tale as old as, say, the wireless web. Or footless leggings. Once upon a time before we owned the house, there was a concrete patio off the kitchen. Circa 1930's. Well, the home's owners decided to make this patio into a room! (Circa, perhaps 1970's.) Normal people might think to hire a contrator. Do it yourselfers might attempt to build it themselves. But this depression era couple decided to save themselves a lot of time, money, and effort by simply attaching a pre-built shed to the house.

Yes, they just took a shed, plopped it onto the concrete, chopped 1/4 of the roof off so it would line up with the rest of the rooflines, and called it done. We know because of this weird roof line - plus they didn't bother to take the old roof (ie roofing shingles and all that jazz) off of the 1/4 left roof side that is now part of our upstairs attic. (I actually had to do this - imagine me in a dark, small crawl space attic in mid-august 2004, ripping off old roofing. I've never sweat so much in my life.)

Anyway - when it came time to lift the house, our housemover said the concrete slab below the mudroom floor had to be removed - it couldn't be lifted.

So we ripped out the plywood and then jackhammered the concrete until it was far enough gone to be able to lift the mudroom with the rest of the house.

And through these past months, the mudroom has been floorless through the entire procedure. Lift, dig, pour, set, tar, fill. And of course, it's been exposed to the elements.

So TJ came on Saturday to rebuild the floor. Almost right away, he and Mike made a discusting discovery. Moisture had seeped in behind the wainscotting and mold was growing - everywhere! Luckily, the wainscotting was only on the bottom part of the walls, but green and fuzzy drywall is never a healthy site. That's some cancer-causing action right there. They guys immediately removed all the wainscotting but continued building the floor next to mold. Gross.

Mike and I were super busy and lived with the mold until Monday. Couldn't hurt to live with it a couple days, right? Well, on Monday when I walked in, I could smell it. That was it. I grabbed a razor knife and started cutting. Mike gave me a hand and in less than a half hour, all the moldy stuff was in contractor bags and out of the house.

That's some sketchy stuff right there. But boy does it feel good to have the room back. We even moved the washer & drier out of the kitchen! Amazing to have that room sans laundry. No more wash-in kitchen! WooHoo! Hopefully we'll have both machines re-hooked up this weekend.

Window Pains

You know, we still have eight big 'ol basement windows to put in. And with the winter months nearly all up on us, that's a big concern. Without the windows, the pipes could freeze just as quick and easy as they did before we had a basement!

Mike tried cementing one in about a month ago - but plain cement is too juicy and rocky to really work well. It just flowed out the sides and made a big mess. So, naturally, we called a mason. He told us that the kind of windows we have are supposed to be put in before the foundation is poured. *sigh* And they're really hard to put in after the fact. The quote he gave us reflected that - $1200 to $1400.

No way did we want to pay that. That's waaaay too much. So, Mike got creative and fashioned a set of window forms made of 2X4's and plywood and bought some masonry concrete mix.

His plan was ingenious. First, he'd put in the window. Then, he'd tape off the interior border with good duct tape. (Not that junky job lot stuff - actual, for ducts duct tape.) Then he'd put on the exterior form, which covers the entire window hole, and feed through two long, thick screws through pre-drilled holes. Then, he'd put on the interior form, lining up the screws with the pre-drilled holes in the interior form.

And then he'd wrench a nut on each screw until the two forms were as tightly squeezed together as possible. This would prevent the concrete from leaking out all over Z place.

Once all that was in place, he'd mix the mason's concrete and pour it in over top of the forms - on the two sides of the window and on top of the window. He'd smooth the concrete on top of the window to match the level of the foundation. And then, leave it to dry.

With only two forms and a lot of labor involved, we can only do one window per day. Last night we completed the first one - a test. We'll see how good it works when we take off the forms today. But it seemed to work perfectly - the forms held in the concrete, none dripped anywhere inside or outside!

The only concern I have is the bottom of the window. Mike thinks that enough concrete will seep in there to hold it in. I think a layer of concrete should be put on the bottom before the window/forms are put in. Mike's also concerned about the masonry concrete forming a strong bond with the foundation concrete. If the bond isn't strong enough, he may have to rough up the surface of the foundation concrete in the window hole to allow for a better grip.

Tonight we'll see! If all goes well, we'll do another window - and in 7 days, all the windows will be in!

Out on a Trim

FINALLY! We are so lazy sometimes.... well, not that we're lazy. We just happen to start new projects before old projects are really completed. The countertop, the hallway drywall, the trim in the entire house, painting behind the kitchen stove, the second heating zone... god, I could go on forever on half finished projects that were inturrupted halfway through.

But - at least now I can say that the countertop is finished! Yay! Also, we painted our exterior window trim - it would not have survived winter elsewise.

Now if we could just get our heat/hot water hooked up. We got the furnace... now it's just a matter of pipes and vents.