Back porch tear down

I had scheduled the removal of that eyesore that was attached to the back of our building – our old back porch – back in late March. We had to wait for the snow to clear but finally proceeded with the cosmetic surgery.

The surgeon’s tools of choice: Crow bars, sawzall, large scrapers and sledge hammers.

Revealing

It got interesting from the get go!

The first job was to separate the porch roof from the main roof. The crew cut through the existing roofing and began to scrape it off.

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We knew the porch was in bad shape and not safe. But I now got to see what “not safe” meant, as the decking along the porch edge was partially rotten. That’s the kind of skylight you don’t want!

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Looking at the cross section of the roofing threw me back to the deconstruction days of our deep energy retrofit, when I felt like I was conducting an archaeological dig, peeling back the construction layer by layer.

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We have an impressive 2 ½ inches of very old, pretty old, not so old, and newer roofing on our building. One layer after another. Can you imaging the weight of this? If I assume 90 pound roll roofing at ?” per layer, we have a least 18 pounds of roofing per square foot. That is about ¾ the weight of an extensive green roof!

Destruction

One and a half days, and our eyesore was gone, including the clean up.

Why is it so much fun to watch this planned destruction? It was fun watching it while it was in process, and I still have a blast revisiting the time lapse. Or even just this little video of the west wall coming down.

Waste reduction?

I spent some time walking through the old porch, looking for items that could be salvaged, reused, repurposed, recycled or otherwise diverted from the landfill. Because pretty much everything was painted, the majority of the porch was in a non-recyclable state. I managed to pull out a handfull of items, such as a door and some two by fours, along with a number of floor joists and some nice posts. I’ll either find a use for them or see if I can find a taker, despite the paint on the lumber.

The one thing that surprised me is that our contractor fit the whole porch into two trailers, with which he hauled it off site. I would have ordered a big dumpster, and it would only have been half full.

Related posts:

Saying goodby…

Back porch prep touch-ups

Finalizing sump-thing

Sump-thing afoot…

Connecting sump-thing

Thinking about sump-thing

Sump-thing pretty heavy

Digging for sump-thing

Terminating the temporary

The back porch project

Deconstruction (or rückbau)

Sweeping it under the carpet

Linoleum tile must go

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Saying goodby…

We had a false start on our back porch project late last year, and I used the winter months to get it back on track.

It was time to say goodby! Goodby to our old, ugly, shaggy, and crumbling back porch. This was an easy goodby…

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Back in late March, we were waiting for the weather to break and for the demolition crew to move in.

Relates posts:

Back porch prep touch-ups

Finalizing sump-thing

Sump-thing afoot…

Connecting sump-thing

Thinking about sump-thing

Sump-thing pretty heavy

Digging for sump-thing

Terminating the temporary

The back porch project

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Do-over dilemma

Project specific factors usually determine what insulation method would be suitable. For our roof those factors were a target R-value of 60 or more, the existing low slope roof with its ten inch roof joists, the spatial constraints of the south attic, and the need for some roof deck repair down the road.

We reconciled these sometimes conflicting factors with an insulation assembly that started with three layers (total of 10 1/2 inches) of rock wool batts (R-45), followed by four inches of XPS foam boards (R-20). That should give us an R-value of 65 anywhere between the roof joists.

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It looked like we had the perfect roof insulation for our project. Yet, it was also risky, which suddenly made it a lot less perfect.

What I neglected to consider in my schedule and material driven decision making, was the building science – the issue of moisture management.

From cold to wet to rotten

The current insulation assembly is so effective that I created a cold roof deck. During winter time, its temperature will be close to the outside air temperature. In other words, it will be around or below freezing.

Any water vapor in the assembly is likely to condense at the cold roof deck – or, to be more precise, the water vapor will be absorbed by the boards and the upper (cooler) sections of the roof joists.

That could drive up the material moisture content. Once the moisture content rises above 28%, rot or biodegredation may set in. This could compromise the structural integrity of the roof deck and roof joists.

See also: BA-1308: Moisture Control for Dense-Packed Roof Assemblies in Cold Climates: Final Measure Guideline

We did fairly successfully airseal the 2nd floor, including the roof plane. That is, however no guarantee that the roof assembly is vapor tight. Plus the stack effect will constantly pound the insulation assembly with warm and moist air. Some of it will get into assembly. But I am not sure if it has an effective way to get out again.

The accumulation of moisture in the assembly would probably be a slow and gradual process. To get to and sustain a risky moisture content would probably take years. So should I lose sleep over it?

Yes. And I already lost a lot of sleep over it! We plan to be in this building for many years to come. The aspect of durability is very important to us. It makes economic sense and is sustainable. Plus we plan to put us a green roof. I don’t want to ignore the problem now only to risk costly structural roof issues 5, 10 or 15 years down the road.

The fix

Our current insulation assembly is upside down. If I move the XPS insulation on top of the roof deck, I should be able to keep it warm enough to reduce the sorption risk (often referred to as condensation).

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The rock wool insulation can stay in place as is. It is vapor open and allows for seasonal drying of the now much warmer roof structure. With that, the moisture content of the roof deck and roof joists should remain in the safe zone, which would be below 20%. (Mold growth is likely to occur if the moisture content is in excess of 20%)

I don’t like doing things twice. But in this case it is the lesser evil. I will now spend a few days taking down our carefully installed XPS insulation. Reinstalling it atop the roof deck will happen sometimes down the road.

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Trying to determine how to insulate or ventilate a roof isn’t easy. Here is a list of articles that guided me in the process:

Related posts:
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Sprouting joy!

At the beginning of last winter, I invested some time in seeding native sedges. For the plant geeks among you, the two species of my choice were Carex sprengelii and Carex vulpinoidea.

My intent was to grow enough of them to start turning our parkway, which is currently covered in turf, into a rain garden with an ornamental yet reasonably rough and tumble selection of native prairie species.

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Getting some native species to germinate is not easy. But throwing my research and horticultural background into the mix, reading up on the science, plus trial and error led me to a reasonably successful method: Potting soil plus sand bedding plus stone chip mulch.

Timing is also critical. Seeding the sedges at the onset of winter puts nature to work. The frigid winter months allow the seeds to imbibe (slowly absorb moisture) and they get cold stratified. This should ultimately break the seed dormancy, and lead to a reasonably successful germination rate.

Does it?

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I started peeking into my trays and noticed a tender green fuzz emerging! Success! I just hope that enough of the pots will produce sedges so that I have enough material to plant out the parkway.

Related posts:

Seeding sedges

Garden reflection and scheduling realities

A timid start

Front yard clean up

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Basement kitchen bragging

Oh yes! I will once again invoke my bragging rights and tell you how much of a cheapskate I really am…

The big secret: You don’t need to buy new. If you schedule it right (by leaving yourself enough time to go scavenging) you can save a lot of money and resources by turning to the salvage and reuse market. You can begin to reshape your own footprint.

Take the wall and island cabinets. The former was a steal we found on Craigslist, while the latter was purchased at the ReBuilding Exchange. Ok, the island cabinets needed some work (cladding on the back and side). But I took care of that with our salvaged old growth lumber.

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While I am on the subject of salvaged old growth lumber: It also provided us the material  for the open counter top base to the left and right of the stove.

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The stove was a Craigslist purchase, whereas the dishwasher came from the ReBuilding Exchange.

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As you have recently read, the solid surface counter top was a purchase from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The heavy duty, cast iron sink with white enamel also came from the ReBuilding Exchange, while the backsplash stone tiles were a salvage item from our 1st floor kitchen installation. They were also bought from the ReStore.

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Some items are more difficult to purchase from the salvage and reuse market than others. This can be due to scheduling constraints (i.e. I need that thing now!), or availability. Here is a list of the items that we had to purchased new:

The items we were able to source from the salvage and reuse market are:

We spent an estimated $1,880 on materials for the basement kitchen! If I add the miscellaneous hardware items, we may have spent as much as $2,200.

That is our kind of price tag and our kind of kitchen!

Related posts:

Buttoning up the basement kitchen

Countertop fitting

Open counter top base fabrication

Back to the basement

New and salvaged cabinets

Kitchen island installation

Dishwashers

A (back)splash of salvage

Range hood preps

Plumbing – water conservation

Separating materials

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Buttoning up the basement kitchen

With the counter top installed on the sink base, it was time to get the leftover stone tiles from the 1st floor kitchen and start installing the tile backsplash. I was in a hurry to get to it so that tile thinset had time to cure before we got to the grouting.

In the mean time, we glued the remaining counter top pieces to the plywood base and clamped them down until the low VOC adhesive had set.

Next on the list was some plumbing. We needed to extend the hot water line by five feet for the dishwasher connection. I decided that hard piping was the safe route to take.

By now a day had passed and we could start with grouting the tile backsplash. Because the stone tiles are porous, I had to seal them. I still had some of the low VOC sealant left over that I could use.

Installing the sink was next, followed by completing the dishwasher installation, putting the cabinet doors back in place and cleaning up. I now could put my attention to a couple of details.

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I dug up a nice piece of old growth lumber that I milled down and intended to use as a cantilevered mini shelf right above the tile back splash. This will be a useful storage surface, and a nice finishing edge to the top of the back splash

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I also got a handful of the salvaged maple hardwood floor boards out, cleaned them up and sanded them so that they were nice and smooth. These were perfect pieces for the cabinet toe kick.

Et voilà, we finally have a finished kitchen in the garden unit!

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I now have to find an answer to an important question from Cathy: “Why couldn’t we have had a nice kitchen like this when we lived here?”

Related posts:

Counter top fitting

Open counter top base fabrication

Back to the basement

A (back)splash of salvage

1st floor kitchen counter top installation

Kitchen island installation

Counter top fabrication

Treasure hunt counter tops

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Countertop fitting

Despite the awkward angles, our two open couner top bases fit right into place. I put it down to the cardboard templates we used, and which will come in handy again.

We also put the sink base and island back into place and started cutting and fitting the ¾ inch plywood support. It sits on top of the cabinet or open bases, and under the ½ inch solid surface counter top [LINK]. The plywood adds extra stability and is the medium to which we glue the counter top.

Cutting and fitting the solid surface counter top material took a little research. The recommended method we came across was using a circular saw with a triple chip saw blade. And that indeed gave us smooth and chip-free cuts. To cut the sink opening, we used the jigsaw with a metal blade.

Our cardboard template proved to be indispensable when it came to cutting the counter top for the two open bases. It allowed us to get the angles right and a square connection to the sink base and island.

We ended the day by glueing down the sink base counter top and backsplash. That would allow us to get started on the tile back splash the next day.

Related posts:

Open counter top base fabrication

Back to the basement

Kitchen island installation

Counter top fabrication

Treasure hunt – counter tops

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Open counter top base fabrication

L-shaped kitchens are nice, but I find U-shaped ones to be even more functional. And the basement kitchen space has U-shape written all over it. One could sort of detect the beginnings of it when we moved into the garden unit.

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We had two functional plywood counter top spaces. But to complete the U-shape, we need counter tops left and right of the stove. And this is where it gets unconventional, due to my favorite topic: moisture management.

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Maximizing air flow

I did not want to use base cabinets left and right of the stove. I am concerned that they would restrict air flow across our exposed limestone foundation wall. If so, that section of the foundation wall may have a difficulty drying out. And that in turn increased the potential for indoor air quality (IAQ) issues and mold.

Instead, I had planned for an open counter top base and wire shelves, thus maximizing the potential air movement across the foundation wall. That means I have to test my carpentry skills and fabricate an open base, which is nothing more than a table without the table top. Well, there is the awkward angle shape on the ends…

Resource efficiency

“Cradle to cradle” comes to mind. Years ago, when we deconstructed the basement, I saved all the old growth lumber because I had been told it is good material for furniture making. Now I can clean up those studs, de-nail them, and mill them into the needed shape. The de-nailing part is somewhat tedious, because it has to be done very diligently, or it will dull our saw blades during milling.

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Building the base

Drew found a simple table base template online that suggested to use a combination of wooden dowels and screws. We cut and fabricated the legs and horizontal connectors and used a cardboard template to make sure the base was assembled correctly and at the right angles.

We had a little difficulty getting started, but ended up cranking out two bases in no time. They turned out to be a surprisingly sturdy construction. Next step: taking them into the basement kitchen to see if they fit.

Related posts:

Back to the basement

Following the control layers

Moving in…

Kitchen island installation

Basement progress

Counter top fabrication

Treasure hunt – counter tops

Separating materials

Deconstruction (or rückbau)

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Back to the basement

When we moved into the garden unit in early 2011, we did so in a hurry. I managed to get the kitchen functional with a stove, a sink and a few kitchen cabinets.

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But I didn’t get to install a counter top or a back splash. Instead I put down ¾” plywood to tide us over.

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In order to rent the garden apartment, the plywood must go. And timing was on my side. Someone had dropped off two crates of solid surface counter top sheets at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Addison. Most of them had hideous colors or patterns, but I found a few sheets that were rather nice and would nicely fit into the garden unit.

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This made me rather happy as it did not only fit our budget, but also our philosophy of relying on salvaged, reused or repurposed materials. Plus, the solid surface counter top is relatively easy to cut, fit and work with. I could fabricate the solid surface material myself, unlike the limestone we used for the 1st floor kitchen.

With the material on hand, it was time to put the finishing touches on the kitchen. Our first step was to remove the sink base and extend the cement board upwards to accommodate a tiled back splash, similar to what we have on the 1st floor kitchen.

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Before we got to play with the new counter top, I had to think about layout and test my furniture making skills. More on that in the next post.

Related posts:

Moving in…

Counter top fabrication

Treasure hunt counter tops

A (back)splah of salvage

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A set of fresh eyes

Most of my posts and certainly most of the imagery I use is of a rather technical or documentary nature. And for a good reason. I try to explain, and to share the knowledge.

That leaves us, however, with a documentary focused on a rather narrow-angled view of our deep energy retrofit. But I have a friend, David Pierini, who has a nice wide-angle lense. He is an excellent photographer and recently shadowed Drew and me while we were framing on the 2nd floor.

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His images surprised me. It was like looking at someone else’s project. His focus and what caught his eye was very different from the things I notice and pay attention to. I enjoyed his visual narrative so much that I would like to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it, too.

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