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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:

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.


1st floor ventilation details

You may have read about the ventilation planning and looked at plans that did show the system. It is always interesting to compare the planning with the actual installation. In this spirit I put a number of imaged together that document the ventilation system.

Ventilation central is the ventilation closet where the Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) will be located. This is where all the supply and return ducts come together.

To get an idea of how the ERV would fit and where to terminate the ducts, I built a one-to-one scale model of the ERV. It was very helpful and easy to move around, unlike the real ERV, which weights 70 pounds.

One side of the ERV will connect to the “inside.” The fresh air supply connection is at the bottom with the stale air return at the top.

The other side of the ERV will connect to the “outside”. The fresh air intake connection is on the top with the stale air exhaust at the bottom.

The stale or exhaust air duct runs into and then up the chimney. Right before the duct enters the chimney is the butterfly damper that I had to track down. It should reduce any back-draft problems, as it only allows the air to flow up the duct and out to the roof.

The fresh air supply begins with the wall hood that was so hard to find.

Right on the other side of the wall hood (inside the building) is another butterfly damper, which in turn connects to the fresh air supply duct leading to the ERV location. The duct is already partially covered with spray foam insulation.


Because this duct will convey very cold air during the wintertime, we need to insulated it property. This is not only to reduce heat loss from the building, but first and foremost to prevent condensation on the duct itself. Such condensation can quickly lead to moisture problems and the subsequent risk of mold growth.

Let’s turn our attention to the ducts that lead into and across the 1st floor from the ERV.

Looking toward the back of the building we have the supply line, and next to it the return line.

The supply line feeds fresh air into the master bedroom and the guest bedroom in the back.

The future half bath in the very back of the building has one of the two returns. The line has a branch to the west, leading to the other return in the main bathroom.


While the two returns are toward the back of the building, there are two more supplies, which require another supply branch toward the front.

This branch feeds fresh air into the third bedroom (or office) and the hallway.

All these ducts will have to be hidden behind a drop ceiling. That will require some additional and interesting framing work.

Did you know…

… that the “E” in ERV (Energy Recover Ventilator) actually stands for “Enthalpy” and not “Energy”?

It’s just that most people don’t know (nor did I at the time) what Enthalpy is. To make the product less complicated and intimidating, “Enthalpy” was changed to “Energy.”


Front porch roof – starting over

The front porch itself is in pretty good shape, with the exception of the roof!


It is falling apart (or down for that matter), has some water damage and does not drain properly. In fact, the roof slope is draining the water towards and then into the building. I discovered the associated water damage in the basement back in May (see also 06/09/2009 post). Fixing won’t suffice! We decided to start over.

There were a couple of items we wanted to get out of our new roof. First, it was important to us to adjust the roof drainage. Water should flow to a low point at the west side, where it is drained through a small pipe, downspout nozzle, rain chain and splash pad into the front yard. Drew, who volunteered to help me with some work, suggested the west side, where the nozzle, rain chain and splash pad would not interfere with architectural details, such as along the north side.

I also wanted to have the opportunity to install a small green roof or planters in the future. We substantially upsized the framing and mounting for that reason. Last but not least, we would like the option to install and swing sometimes down the road, which the new framing would allow us to do.


A visit to the recycling facility

In Chicago, we do things our way – we commingle our construction and demolition waste only to have it in some cases sorted, separated and recycled later (see also 07/17/2009 post). I still can’t get over this thinking that separating materials at the source (the construction site) would be so much more effective.

My friend Ted Krasnesky at Pepper Construction had the following advice for me:

“…I’d recommend you visit their [the waste hauler’s] transfer station and watch it [the recycling process] in action.”

Why not? Maybe this will put my mind to rest. I pitched the idea to Kevin Loeffler at WasteBox, Inc. (the waste hauler I use). He offered to come out to my project site to look at the construction waste management set up and advise me about the various materials and their processing, and also to arrange for a visit to the transfer station (or recycling facility) he uses.

Fast forward a week: Kevin introduced me to Joseph Volini at the Heartland Recycling facility where we got to tour the recycling operation. Joseph was generous enough to let me take some photographs for this blog.


It all starts with a big pile of commingled construction and demolition waste. Yes, I was tempted to start looking for one of my Dumpster loads, but did not want to waste Kevin’s or Joseph’s time.


Once we walked around the 1000 cubic yards of debris we got to the (mostly) automated recycling facility. Let’s follow the process step by step from the beginning.


The debris is moved from the pile onto a large conveyor belt that transports it into the processing facility. Joseph indicated that a lot of recycling is happening right at this point. The key is to have a good equipment operator who has the skill to use the claws on the equipment like tweezers. Rather than dumping stuff indiscriminately on the belt, the operator carefully picks through the piles and pulls out any larger and heavier recyclables such as concrete, wood pieces, cardboard, metal, etc.


What remains is transferred onto a giant sieve (to the right in the image above), where coarse and fine materials are separated.


Anything smaller than two and a half or three inches will fall through the sieve and is transferred onto another conveyor belt (to the left in the image above).


In that process, a large magnet pulls and collects the ferrous metals such as nails, screws, pieces of metal piping, etc. and dumps them into a collection container.


The remaining fines are now largely free of ferrous metal and are deposited in a stall. Joseph explained that this material is mixed with the slush from catch basin cleanouts to solidify the material. It than is transferred to landfills where it is used as a cover material at the end of each day.

So much for the fine material. But what happened to the coarse stuff that did not fall through the sieve?


A conveyor belt transports it to what Joseph called the mezzanine, where the manual separation takes place. The belt is loaded with materials when entering the processing area (see image above), but not much is left towards the end of the mezzanine (see image below).


Along the belt are several workstations that are placed between chutes – the rectangular openings along the conveyor belt. At each station the handler scans the belt for recyclables that belong into his/her respective chute.


The first material that is pulled out is non-painted, non-contaminated wood (also referred to as “clean” wood) that is thrown onto another conveyor and transported to a wood chipper. The chips sometimes enter into the landscape trade, but are more often used as bedding for animal feed stock.


Next, cardboard and paper based waste is collected in a Dumpster under the chute…


…followed by non-ferrous metals one chute over. The more valuable scrap metal such as copper and brass is not thrown down the chute but is actually collected in bins at the mezzanine level.


Last but not least, chunks of concrete and other masonry pieces are collected. This is basically anything that can be recycled into road base or other aggregates.


If we look below the mezzanine, we find the stalls that line up with the chute openings. The red equipment to the far right is the wood chipper, followed by the containers for the cardboard and non-ferrous metals and the stall for the coarse aggregate and masonry collection.


The really sad part is at the very end of the mezzanine, where anything left that cannot be recycled or had been missed is dumped into a large trailer, destined for the landfill.

How much material is actually getting recycled in an operation like this? According to Joseph, between 65 and 70%. This number includes the fines that, after solidifying the catch basin slush, are used as a landfill cover. Joseph indicated that there is some controversy to whether this qualifies as recycling. It apparently does in the eyes of the U.S. Green Building Council, who prefers to see this material with its high waste content being used as a cover, rather than virgin soil.

Kevin (WasteBox, Inc.) explained that some Dumpster loads he hauls are directly transferred to the Heartland Recycling facility. This applies typically to single material loads, such as my plaster from the deconstruction.


Commingled loads, Kevin continued, go to his yard first, where his crews empties the Dumpster to pull all major recyclables. It is a much simpler operation because WasteBox has not the amount of real estate that Heartland Recycling has.

Kevin indicated that he diverts up to 75% of the construction and demolition debris he receives. He can sell off the salvaged cardboard, clean wood and metal scraps, which helps him to keep cost down and pass the savings on to the customer (yes, that is me!) by keeping his Dumpster rates low. Most remaining items he cannot recycle are transferred to the Heartland Recycling facility.

I am somewhat impressed by the recycling operations and the amount of content that gets diverted from the waste stream. That said, I still cannot shake the impression that separating materials at the construction site is the more efficient way and could probably result in even more waste diversion. That is, however, an item that Kevin or Joseph cannot control. They do the best they can on their end. It would be up to the construction trade and contractors to separate materials before they get to the waste hauler.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to visit and learn about the recycling process for my construction and demolition waste. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you Kevin Loeffler (WasteBox, Inc.) and Joseph Volini (Heartland Recycling LLC) for their time and patience.

WasteBox, Inc. (http://www.wasteboxinc.com)

Heartland Recycling LLC (http://disposall-waste.com)