Monday, March 07, 2005

Passing Muster

Today was inspection day, and I passed with flying colors. Because it is such a long trek to get to my house from Astoria, the county seat, I try to group the inspections together. On the list today were: drain-waste-vent (DWV) final, plumbing and electrical rough-in, and the footings for the porch posts prior to pouring concrete. In essence I was asking to be able to cover up the interior walls and proceed to finishing. In fact, I had already covered half of all the interior walls (the backs were visible) and, of course, because of the construction, the exterior walls arrive from the factory already sealed.

Code requires that there be the equivalent of a 4" vent pipe of venting total for the house. In most houses with two or three bathrooms, and perhaps other venting needs, this is accomplished by a collection of vents. But in my house, with only one bath and everything deliberately grouped close together, as in homes of yore, I have a full 4" stack running out of the house. The options for testing its soundness is to pressurize it with air or to simply fill it full of water. To keep the water from running out into the septic tank there is an inflatable plug that can be inserted into the system (not unlike balloon angioplasty) and expanded with air to hold back the water.

I bought one of these and stuffed it into the cleanout in the basement, pushing it up the pipe and inflating it with a bicycle pump. We filled the stack, about 20 feet high, and all the branch arms with water. As the water came gurgling in the pressure built on the fittings. As it filled to the level of the cleanouts, a few drips from the threaded fittings began to drip. Not crucial, but I decided that they should be refitted with some plumber's goo to ensure there were no issues. This meant draining the system. I took the bladder inflation tube and pressed the little pin of the schrader valve (like on a bicycle tire) and let the air escape. Pssssst WHOOOSH, water burst out of the opening in fire hydrant volumes, jetting up to the ceiling and soaking everything in its path. Jordan, acting swiftly, placed his two hands over the outlet only to direct the flow down onto his pants and boots. In a flash the whole episode was over and we laughed as water dripped down into the pool on the floor, making the dark, back half of the basement even more cave-like. Upon inspection it was clear that the plug had been driven down into the lower pipe, past the cleanout and thus effectively blocked the flowing water and directing it all into the pipe.

The Color of Electricity
There are two bundles of 11 wires each (5 pairs and 1 ground) that run in conduit up from the basement to the attic space. There the emerge from a junction box as Romex and spill down into the walls from above. I used up a full 500 foot roll of white (neutral) and black (hot) wiring just doing the basement, but when I went to Home Depot to buy more they were out of white. Instead I bought a very pale yellow wire. So pale in fact that it could be mistaken for old white wire. In anycase, I was sure that it could be "recolored" by applying a piece of white tape at each end.

Matt, my inspector, took one look at them and declared them "conductor non grata." It seems that only huge wire, larger than number 6, can be relabled. For size six and smaller the neutral must be white. What's really odd is that the off-white, pale yellow wire, which I think could easily be mistaken for neutral can be used for hot! The mysteries of the building code.

I've been living out of 5-gallon water containers again. The pump I had been using at the trailer to give me running water at the kitchen sink was called into service to pressurize the new house for testing. I simply put one end of the pump into a bucket of water and the other temporarily connected to the PEX lines. I had one leak and one hot-cold mixup, but otherwise everything worked splendidly. It was great to see water running into the tub. Ah, I can almost feel the warm water of a future bath.

Matt quickly approved the footings, which are built more like those needed for a highway overpass, and was about to leave when I offered him the spectacle of draining the DWV. He had remarked at the weight that my oversized lines were carrying, and wasn't going to miss this. This time I had drilled holes in a 4" cleanout plug to minimize any backwash. Again, and for the last time, I grabbed the pressure hose. This time i was determined to let only the tiniest puffs of air out until water could only seep around the side, and so let it gently drip out over time. Psst. Nothing. Psst. Nothing. Psst. Nothing. Psst - WHOOOSH. The cap didn't block the outflow of water, but instead concentrated it into a energetic jet of water that streamed out through the center opening. Everthing was soaking again, but at least for the last time. And more importantly I had a good laugh with Matt. And in the end humoring one's inspector is more valuable than a wet basement floor.

No comments:

Post a Comment