Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another day in the attic

Today was a pretty productive day. I started by wiring up the two outside outlets and futzing with the gutter covers. Then we ate some breakfast and headed up into the attic.

We hooked up the skylight tube that had to be moved when the roof was redone, taped all the ductwork together and insulated it. Then we finished the ductwork for the new bathroom fan and vented it out the gable. Then we replace the crappy recessed lighting in the hallway with two air-tight cans. Finally, I added three sheets of rigid foam insulation to the addition attic access panel.

Now we're looking forward to doing some more "fun" stuff like flooring and trim.

Friday, January 23, 2009

All hail the trench!

The trench drain is yet another project I thought would be pretty easy that really wasn't. Sadly, the ground is so rocky that there were several areas the trencher wouldn't dig, and those areas had to be dug by hand. Then there's the (not so) little matter of making sure the trench is clear of loose dirt with a steady grade. All in all, it turned out to require seven days (a few hours each day) of very tiring work.

Our plan was to install a 6" wide trench, but the only one small enough to maneuver behind our house was at Home Depot, and they require a 3/4-ton truck to rent it. That's primarily because there's a TON of extra accessories they give you with it, and altogether it weighs a LOT. Because I couldn't round up a truck, I had to go with a 4" trencher from Sunbelt Rentals.

Using the trencher wasn't *too* bad, but you do have to manhandle it a bit. I wore a nickel-sized patch of skin off my palm trying to get it unstuck from the soft dirt a few times.

We had bought a bunch of 4" socked pipe and fittings, but they wouldn't fit in the trench, so we took everything back and got 3". Unfortunately, Home Depot doesn't sell socked 3" pipe, so we had to sock it ourselves. If you think this sounds easy (like I did), try socking 100' of pipe sometime. It's not particularly difficult, but it's awkward and takes a long time.

So... here's what we did to install about 200 feet of trench. First, we dug the trench with the trencher. This included extending the shallow trench for our driveway drainage pipe we started this summer.

Then we dug by shovel and hand where necessary and cleaned out all the loose debris, including countless large rocks.

Then we compacted the bottom of the trench with a 4x6.

Next we laid landscaping fabric in the bottom of the trench, followed by a 1-2 inch layer of gravel.

Then we put the pipe on the gravel, checked again for grade, and covered the pipe with gravel to within a few inches of the surface.

Finally, we put another layer of landscaping fabric on top and covered the whole works with dirt.

We worked in roughly 20 foot sections to cover the trench as quickly as possible so we didn't have to worry about cave-ins, etc. When it was all done, we moved a lot of dirt around to increase the surface grade away from the house on all sides.

Now we wait for the rain. We didn't get as deep as we wanted on the entire trench, but I've read success stories from folks who dug shallower trenches. For now, we'll remain hopeful that this will prevent water from making it to the crawlspace, or at least keep it to a much more manageable level. It's supposed to rain again next week, so stay tuned.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting back on track

Wow, it's been a stressful couple weeks. I did a lot of research online about roofing and insulating, and ended up calling a couple roofers to come take a look at our problem. I really needed to get back to work and decided it'd be better to spend the money to have an expert take care of the problem.

I ended up getting a fantastic deal with a referral from one of my dive buddies (thanks Marty!). Jim Fick (& Company) reroofed the addition almost in one day; they finished up in about an hour the next day. Now we have a roof that should be leak-proof and is guaranteed for 30 years if we have a problem.

Here you can see how the water ran down the valleys, hit the tips of the shingles and then followed the top of the shingles outward. That's how we ended up with water under our eaves.

While we were at it, we moved the tube sky light away from the valley so we don't end up with problems down the road. Jim put down Ice & Water Shield on the eaves and valleys (even though he said I didn't need it), removed the metal valley flashing and did a "California cut" shingled valley instead. I'll try to post some photos of that when I'm up there tomorrow finishing up the tube sky light.

With the roof finished, I took some time to go diving today, and then came home to start digging the trench for the french drain and downspout drain.

The trencher made fairly quick work of digging. It took me about 90 minutes to do all the trenching in the back of the house, but then it was too dark to see. I'll finish up the digging tomorrow morning, then we'll start laying gravel and pipe. With any luck, this will resolve our issue with water in the crawlspace, but the crawlspace probably won't completely dry out until summer.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Water, water, everywhere

You've probably been wondering why I haven't posted much lately. Well, the other day I poked my head into the new crawlspace and wondered why the plastic vapor barrier looked all smooth. I looked underneath it and about pooped my pants...

The water was just about to the top of the footing! Now, up to that point we had not put the gutters on because we were focusing on other stuff (like the kitchen). We've had lots of rain since we put the roof on five months ago, and the crawlspace was always bone dry, so I didn't think it was going to be a problem. When it rains, it pours, so to speak, because once the crawlspace started leaking it hasn't stopped.

Needless to say, we put the gutters up over the next two days. If you haven't put up gutters in the rain and dark before, you should try it sometime. It's a great time!

So then off to Home Depot for a water pump we went.

Pump #1: Small Utility Pump

The guy at Home Depot talked me into this little number. I misread "1/12 HP" as "1/2 HP". Heck, I didn't even know they made pumps that underpowered. This thing was really fun to use. The 6' hose that came with it was super stiff and kept wanting to coil up, and you had to put oil in it every time you started it.

It probably would have been fine if any of the following were true:
  1. It was submersible
  2. It had more power
  3. It could support longer intake and discharge hoses
  4. You didn't have to put oil in it every time you started it
  5. You didn't have to shut it off immediately when it started to suck air
  6. It didn't take 30 minutes to get it to prime
  7. You enjoyed crouching in a cold, wet, muddy crawlspace futzing with crappy pumps
We spent the majority of two days moving this little princess pump from puddle to puddle, Jen faithfully unplugging it when it started to suck air, and I moving the intake and keeping it clear of debris. Then we'd wake up the next day to find the crawlspace full of water and start the whole charade all over again.

Mercifully, the pump refused to prime on the third day, and I could barely get it stuffed back in the box fast enough to return it to the place from whence it came.

Pump #2: "Intellipump"

Boy, we were excited about this baby. It was so smart it could actually sense the water! Now we were cooking with gas!

As soon as I walked in the door, I unpacked our new savior and headed for the crawlspace. Ever so tenderly, I toed for the deepest spot and dunked this Einstein of pumps. It jumped to life and pumped with a fervor I'd never seen before, and then... it stopped.

"Hmmm, that's odd. I mean, it's nearly completely submerged," I thought. "Surely, it must be doing some kind of super smart start-up water sensing routine."

No amount of futzing would make the pump stay on for more than 15 seconds. The manufacturer was closed for four more days, and Home Depot was closed early for New Year's. We were left to make the best of it with our new not-so-intelligent guest.

Rather than just sit idle while the crawlspace filled up, and not willing to spend another several hours in the crawlspace, we plugged the pump into a power strip by the bed and took turns flipping the strip's power switch on and off every 15 seconds. The lights would dim slightly when the pump kicked on, and then would go bright again when the pump shut off. This was our signal to flip the switch again. We kept this nonsense up for about four hours until neither of us could stay awake anymore, but we manage to get most of the water out of the crawlspace.

Eagerly, we peeked into the crawlspace in the morning to see if the water had finally stopped. Sadly, that was not to be the case, so we packed pump #2 back up and headed to Home Depot.

Pump #3: Sump Pump

After four days of monkeying around in our new Olympic Mud Wrestling Pit, saving money was not really my first priority. I wanted this to be over. Our plan was to install a sump on each side of the crawlspace, which is divided in half by a pony wall sitting on a footer.

I decided 1/2 HP pumps would be overkill, so we got two 1/4 HP pumps instead. We also got two check valves and two 25' flex discharge hoses. The Depot didn't have sump liners shorter than 36", so we got those at McLendon's.

Once we got home, we headed straight for the crawlspace with our new pumps. We were able to very quickly get the majority of the water pumped out so we could start digging the sump holes.

The first hole wasn't too bad, and I was able to get about 18" of it buried. I drilled about 30 holes in the liner and surrounded it with gravel. We put the pump in, plugged it in, and everything worked perfectly.

Onto the second hole, and things weren't so easy. I hit very hard clay and rock after only 8", and the area around the hole was quickly eroding. I found it was better to just stay in the hole because standing around the hole hastened the erosion.

After about 90 minutes of digging with little headway, it because apparent we were going to have to make it work at a shallower depth. Here's me standing in the hole:

After hauling ten 5-gallon buckets of gravel (2 at a time) from the driveway, into the house, through the bedroom and down into the crawlspace, the second sump hole was as good as it was going to get. I don't know what a 5-gallon bucket of gravel weighs, but it's pretty darn heavy. Two of 'em at once is twice the fun.

Here's a parting shot of the first sump as we returned to the actual living space of our home:

The sumps should keep the water level in the crawlspace in check and allow us to focus our energy on preventing the water from getting to the foundation to begin with. I had 6 yards of washed gravel delivered today, and I requested a utilities check. As soon as the utilities are marked on Monday, we'll be renting a Ditch Witch and putting in a French Drain (a.k.a. trench drain) all the way around the house. If this doesn't stop water from getting into the crawlspace, I don't know what will.

As if water in the crawlspace wasn't enough, we're also having problems with the roof. We're getting water build-up under the eaves, and I thought it was due to condensation from the attic space, so I got the saws-all out and cut out the 2-1/2" hole vents we made...

... and used some leftover primed 2x2 to construct a custom screen that would allow more air flow.

However, after a little investigation, it turns out the water is probably making its way under the felt because of the way we roofed the valleys. More on that later, but it looks like I'll be re-roofing the valleys and eaves soon. =(

I'll end this novella with a funny story. In the middle of the night, Jen awoke to me reaching over her and fumbling around for some unseen object in my sleep. She asked me what the hell I was doing, to which I replied, "I'm looking for my tape measure." She said, "I put it in your tool pouch." Apparently that satisfied me, and I stopped looking for the dream tape measure. I guess slaving to the house doesn't stop when you go to sleep. =)