Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Thing About Infrastructure

Even as I write this, I know it will be the least read of all the posts on this house.  I guess infrastructure is boring!  But in many ways, it's the most important thing we do.  Sure, this house will have lots of pretty finishes and features, but it's the stuff behind the walls and in the basement that make it function well.

And we're changing a lot of that stuff!  Let's start with plumbing.  Can you believe this mess of pipes taking waste water out of the building?  Do you see the electrical panel right above it?  That's a big no-no.  We all know water and electrical don't mix and having them right next to each other like this needs to get fixed.  For example, see how the washing machine drain goes up high - right in front of the panel?  Imagine what would happen if it came loose and sprayed the panel.  A disaster!  

So we're starting from scratch on the plumbing.  All that old cast iron got torn out.  We also ended up pulling out the old water lines.  With two new bathrooms and a kitchen going in, it was easier to just start with new, modern materials than try to tie into all the old stuff.

Farewell old cast iron pipe!!!

The guys got the rough in plumbing installed, so we are well on our way to having brand new bathrooms. See all that new white PVC?  That's the waste and vent piping.  The red and blue lines are all new water lines.  

Look at all those new water and drain lines!

They also plumbed in a new laundry room in the basement, including a utility sink (something I've always wanted in my house but never seem to get!).  Won't that be nice?  And a south facing window will bring in lots of light.

It's the same story for the electrical.  We need modern conveniences in this house and that requires a lot more power.  Forget about the bedrooms with one ungrounded outlet each (the bathroom didn't have a single outlet!) - now we will meet new building codes with grounded outlets everywhere and integrated smoke detectors.  So the old wiring gets torn out and new wiring gets installed.

  And that means we need a brand new electrical panel, which gets relocated away from all the plumbing!

Look at all those new electrical lines running into a brand new panel

Figuring out lighting plans always takes a bit of trial and error.  For example, I want recessed lights on the 2nd floor, but with a steeply pitched roof, that was a bit tricky.  If you use a standard light, it would point the light at an angle - not a good look or function!   Luckily I found a recessed gimbal light that looks like it will work when we tested it out on the bathroom. 

Heat pump with heat and AIR CONDITIONING!!!
We're also getting another big upgrade - a heat pump which will provide heat to the new 2nd floor, but it will also provide air conditioning.  There will be an additional head on the first floor, which should keep the majority of the first floor warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  The steam boiler in the basement will stay - I'm still old school and want that back up system for the winter.  This is Maine after all!

Speaking of heat and air conditioning, we will talk a lot about insulation and energy efficiency in a future post, but we're getting everything ready for that now.  Unfortunately, there is a huge insulation material shortage, so we have to wait through an 8 week lead time for insulation!  It's crazy how slowly everything moves forward now.  

What else?  Supporting all the structure of the new dormers meant we had to carry the load down to the basement.  The concrete of the basement floor wasn't thick enough for all that load - so we had to have 6 holes cut and dug into the floor, to provide a big concrete footing for the posts.  A big job, but critical!

All these changes remind me that renovating isn't for the faint of heart.  It takes an enormous amount of work to bring a 1920's home into modern living standards. But it's worth it, the result will be a wonderful home for the new owners.

We hope to have all of our city inspections next week.  And then we sit in a holding pattern, waiting for the insulation guys.  Patience isn't one of my virtues - but I'll do my best to twiddle my thumbs for a few weeks!

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  1. Love the picture of the laundry plumbing - so neat & orderly! My last house was built in 1926 & had a mish-mash of knob & tube, new wiring, cast iron, PVC and zero insulation. I spent 8 years fixing up everything and was sad to leave. I'm not physically able to do this kind of work any more so I do enjoy this post!

    1. Sounds like the same house! So much to do, but so satisfying 😀

  2. I couldn't agree with you more that the bones of the house are the most important considerations when making a home buy. Worry about the paint and deco later. Or you could end up with a house of cards.
    This was an important post, thank you.

    1. WellI still worry about paint..... but make sure the important stuff gets done first! :-)

  3. I'm not surprised the quotes are high! PVC pipe has doubled in price. Copper shortages abound, with huge price increases as well. If you could wait a bit until things calm down, it would probably be much more affordable with predictable lead times. It's crazy times right now!

  4. I am sure the new owners will appreciate all of your hard work! This will be a great peace of mind for them. Not pretty, but so much better in the long run!


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