Construction Journal Entry Week of 11/28/10

11/30-12/2/10 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

The trip over was long and slow. There was snow on the road almost all the way so I stayed in 4wd. I was delayed for 2 hours at the railroad overpass between Index and Baring while they moved an Oak Harbor Freight Lines double-trailer rig that had jackknifed across the road.

The truck had been coming up the hill and just as it got to the bridge, the tractor did a 180. It ended up heading downhill and right up against the guard rail, which it pushed out about 3 feet. Both trailers stayed connected to the tractor and the first one ended up crosswise on the road so that the end of it pushed the opposite guard rail out about 3 feet too. The second trailer was still attached and stayed in its lane heading up the hill.

I was near the front of the line with only six or seven cars and trucks ahead of me, so I walked over and watched the whole 2-hour recovery process. It was pretty interesting and amazing.

While I was watching, I got to talking with a truck driver of a big dump truck-trailer rig. I had seen dozens of those rigs on the road, both coming and going, for the past few weeks so I asked him what they were doing. He told me that they were moving contaminated dirt from Anacortes to East Wenatchee and that they had over a hundred trucks on the road at some times. Today, he told me, there were only 65 of them. That has to be a huge expense for someone ultimately probably us taxpayers.

I finally arrived at Camp Serendipity at 2:30. It was 22 degrees out and there was about 18 inches of new snow on the ground. Since I hadn't taken the gate down yet, Mike had not plowed out my driveway. So I spent about an hour shoveling the driveway out and getting the truck about halfway up to the trailer.

I used snowshoes to make trails up to the trailer and the cabin, and then carried my gear and supplies up.

The thermostats in the cabin had been left at 50 degrees and the temperature inside was about 60. It felt nice and warm coming in from outside. I reset the thermostats to 70 as an experiment to see how fast the cabin could be warmed up without a wood fire.

Since it was already late and would be dark soon, I skipped lunch and went to work taking the gate down. That went smoothly, but instead of screwing the wand to the gate post, as I usually do, I just jammed it into the snowbank. We'll see if the snowplow knocks it down or if it will stand there.

By the time I went to take a shower, the cabin was nicely warmed up to about 70 degrees. Those little heaters really do work well.

On Wednesday there was only about an inch of new snow so I wasn't worried about the truck getting snowed in up where it was parked. The temperature was 26 degrees.

I went right to work feeling a little pressure. Today was the day I planned to reconfigure the plumbing and I would have to shut the water off to the cabin until the job was done. If I ran into any problem that might prevent me from completing the job, I would have to leave the plumbing in a state where the water was not circulating and there would be a possibility of the pipes freezing. My plan was to devote the entire day to the job and have the next morning as a cushion if I ran into trouble.

The plan involved shutting the water off, cutting the Pex plumbing apart to salvage the Pex-to-copper adapter and the shut-off valve, plugging the fitting where the adapter had been, installing the salvaged components using Shark Bite couplers to connect the Pex plumbing to my new copper loop, opening up the existing copper loop, installing a new shut-off valve in the return side of the new copper loop, joining the new copper loop to the existing pipes going to the outside, and then turning the water back on.

Since I had never worked with Pex pipes or Shark Bite couplers, I was a little apprehensive. I did a little experimenting ahead of time and decided that it would be best to chamfer the inside edge of the pipe so that the little sleeve inside the Shark Bite would be sure to go inside the pipe. That sleeve is loose and I was afraid that it would run up against the end of the pipe and not allow the pipe to seat all the way. The very last connection would be the tricky one since I wouldn't be able to change the orientation of either member and they would have to slide together straight on.

Rather than go up to the spring and turn the water off up there, I decided to disconnect the hose connection to the copper pipe at the bottom of the hill. That way, the flow from the spring to the disconnected hose would continue and simply run into the creek, and the open copper pipe would allow all the water to drain out of the pipe all the way up to the cabin. Otherwise, if I shut the valve off at the spring, there would still be water in the pipes I needed to solder. Plus, this way I wouldn't have to snowshoe my way all the way up to the spring.

With the water out of the pipes, I proceeded on with the rest of the plan. Everything went smoothly. I needed to use a little ingenuity, including ropes and bar clamps, in order to get the slack in the plumbing so I could get that last Shark Bite in place, and then to reverse the process to squeeze the plumbing together that last inch to seat the pipe into that last Shark Bite. But it all went well.

Sweating the copper was fun. I am pretty good at that by now so there was no apprehension and no problems. It's always gratifying to me to use my magnifying dental mirror and a trouble light to inspect the solder joints afterward and see that there is a nice even flow of solder all around the joint. Great fun.

I reconnected the water supply hose, ran the shower to let the air out, and inspected the joints for leaks before I broke for lunch at about 12:30. All the joints were nice and dry and after the air had gurgled out, I saw that the pressure was a little better than before. It will ultimately be even better once that last length of hose is replaced by copper. That will probably be a project for next fall. We'll see.

During the morning's work, I was visited by three gray jays. I wondered what happened to the fourth bird. Since I can't easily tell them apart, I don't know which one was missing. I hoped it was Junior who decided to take off and establish his own flock, but I suspected it might be Nellie, who was the lowest on the pecking order, and who might have been nailed by a hawk or something. Or, better yet, maybe next time all four birds will be back. We'll see.

After lunch and a nap, I fixed a wooden chair that had gotten loose. The scouts seem to have a way of destroying these chairs if they become loose like that, so I took it apart, re-glued the joints, and clamped it back together. With that done, I took some pictures of the new plumbing, and then covered it up with pipe insulation. Since there is always cold water flowing through the copper pipes, I wanted to prevent condensation on the pipes. The pipe insulation I installed should do that.

At the end of the day, I used the new valve I had installed in the copper return pipe in the crawl space to provide the pressure for the plumbing, rather than use the valve down at the trailer as I used to do. It was when I took my shower that I could see that the pressure had increased. Previously, water would at best just dribble out the top hole in the big shower head. Now, a pretty strong stream comes out of that hole.

With the thermostats set at 70, it was extra warm in the cabin. That made it very nice getting out of the shower, but it was too warm otherwise. I decided to try setting the thermostats at 60 while I am there to see if that might work better. The temperature outside was 33 degrees when I went to the trailer for the night.

On Thursday morning the three gray jays were back. Instead of taking as many peanuts as they could hold and flying off, like they usually do, they would each take just one peanut and then fly a short distance away and completely eat that one. Then they would come back for another one. I think they must have been hungry. Their feathers were all fluffed up so they appeared to be twice their normal size. They were evidently not only hungry, but also trying to keep warm.

After feeding them several times from my hands, I ended up putting the tub of peanuts on the front porch and letting them work on them while I went to work to get something done.

I started by unclamping the chair and testing it. It is nice and sturdy now. Then I went to work on the next major project: to install the replacement/combustion air vent from the outside. I found that the firewood rounds that the Boy scouts had stacked for me allowed me to reach the Grid 3 sill log from the outside without any other scaffolding. That saved a little time.

I checked and measured from the inside to determine where I could cut a six-inch hole through the sill log without hitting a rebar. Then I mounted the six-inch hole saw in the drill and proceeded on to drill through the log. I had just gotten in one saw's depth and had begun to chisel away the wood so I could make the next cut, when Phil Leatherman stopped by to get some water. We toured the cabin so he could see my recent progress and we had a nice chat.

When he left, I put away my hole-cutting tools and switched to another project. It was about 11:30 and there was just enough time to varnish part of the bathroom wall before I locked up and quit for the week.

It had occurred to me that the log wall next to the toilet was subject to being splashed as careless men and scouts used the toilet as a urinal, so I decided to put a few coats of varnish on that section. The logs were already varnished, but the chinking is not. Since the chinking is porous, I figured that it would be hard, or impossible to clean if it got splashed. So the plan was to varnish the chinking there as well as the logs. I will also fill the checks in that area with caulk or something.

After varnishing, cleaning my brush, setting the thermostats back down to 50, locking up, and having lunch, I headed for home at 2:00 very happy that the plumbing was done and that I was moving on to ventilation.



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