Archive for the 'ductwork' Category

Our Remodel: Now with More Electrical and Bonus Insulation!

I’m still playing catch up with blog posts vs. real life progress so bare with me. I have a bunch of posts half written so I’m not going to take the time to re-write them in the past tense. It’s my blog so I can do things like that. This all means there are many more posts to come and soon!

We’re now onto running the electrical for the main floor. Wiring the basement lights seemed to take forever but with our electrician being more available things are really moving along. Just like before we’re helping out the electrician in every way we can by drilling, stapling, and pulling the wiring ourselves. The electrician left us this handy tool to help drill in tight spaces.

Trust me this thing has a lot of power. Throw on a long drill bit and this guy will cut through anything it can reach! We’re also working on wiring up all of the outlets with pigtails (except for the last outlet of the chain which only has one wire and doesn’t need pigtails).

 

In a previous post I showed the tape outlines of the furniture we’re going to have in the space and they have really come in handy for deciding where to put electrical outlets. I had drawn up the general placement of all of the switches and outlets in the rooms to meet code but with the walls built I’m not reworking everything to make for an easier installation. Like moving outlets a little so they can be attached directly to wall studs without having to add extra bracing or sliding an outlet to be hidden by a piece of furniture. I’m irrational and would rather not look at a bunch of random outlets I needed to add per code if I don’t have to.

We’re hoping to get away with not needing an outlet on both sides of the short hallway/entrance to the bedroom. If the inspector considers it a hallway we only need one but if he considers it part of the bedroom we’re right at 12’ between the one side outlet and the other corner of the hallway (there is a much more convenient existing outlet right around the corner but technically it’s too far away to count). Putting an outlet right at a corner would look strange so we’d put it in roughly the middle of the short wall but that has existing drywall and electrical so it’s not easy to add. Plus having two outlets in a short hall that is so skinny I’ll never plug anything in there seems silly. We’ll see what the inspector says. I did add an extra outlet next to the chair in case I ever want to have a floor lamp there for reading and at the last minute I added a second switch there for the overhead light which I think will be more convenient to turn off at night than the one near the entry door.

The one exposed junction box we needed due to existing conditions and the outlet will be hidden by a nightstand.

The master closet will have two lights and a high outlet (for some fun task lighting…more on this to come) controlled by the switch. This ceiling is a hot mess because of the chimney removal.

Here is half of the area we refer to as mission control. At the end of the hallway has a bank of three switches on both sides of the hall. They control (1) the entry chandelier, (2) the hallway ceiling lights, (3) the hallway movie theater lights (downward facing night lights at the base of one wall), (4) the living room switched outlets, (5) the spot light that used to be on the fireplace, and (6) the flood lights at both the front and back of the house…this is the most random switch placement ever. Both flood lights can also be controlled by a switch in the basement next to the patio door.

We’re keeping the mission control area because there is no other good place to put all of these switches but we’re going to organize them a little better. The outdoor flood lights have been separated. The back flood light (pointing toward the fenced in dog yard) will be only controlled from the basement patio door switch. The front flood light will be controlled from a switch next to our front door for when guests are coming or going. No more accidentally hitting a hallway switch and having both the front and back flood lights on all day!
The two newly freed up switch spots will be kept for future living room lighting. For now though we just ran un-connected wiring up to the attic and left it coiled in a roll up there. The switch plate will be filled with some blank off pieces so the three gang is now only a one gang. It’ll look strange but it’s much easier to make these changes now when we have the wall open.

 

The bathrooms are where the electrical boxes need to be a lot more exact. Wanting to have sconces on either side of the mirrors, all of the switches in a neat organized group that doesn’t interfere with the vanity backsplash tile or wainscoting, and hidden outlets in some of the cabinets makes things more difficult.

Sorry to say but electrical is normally a bit of a hack job (ducks from tomatoes being thrown) with electricians having a lot of say on where things get placed. Most homeowners don’t think about every outlet or switch. When I was getting quotes from electricians they were shocked to see I had electrical drawings showing where I wanted things. Yes I know I should have “building design nerd” tattooed on my forehead. But like I mentioned before going with a part-time electrician where we acted as his assistants allowed us to make those placement decisions and it was our time that was spent working out all of those details and putting in all the boxes ourselves. There was a lot of dimension checking on my part between the CAD files I had drawn up and what the actual space ended up being (which was luckily not too far off). Then a lot of things we considered when we were placing bathroom electrical boxes:

 

– What size the mirrors will be and where they will be hung. You want the sconces to be in the top third of the mirror height but not all the way at the top and you need the light from them to be at a pleasing eye level for flattering/useful task lighting. In the main bathroom I picked out sconces with a glass shade that point downward so the electrical box is hung higher so the center of the bulb is at the right height. In the master bathroom I have scones that point upward and have a shade that diffuses the light. You want that around eye level as well because if they are too high or too low you’ll be able to see the bulb. Another thing we considered was that Flannel Man and I are about 6” different in height so we came up with a happy middle number to use as our average eye height.

 

– Where will the vertical storage cabinets be in both bathrooms and how far away should the sconces be from them? There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in placing these sconces (hmm should have thought of that before) so when there were wall studs in the way we had to go to shallow pan boxes that are only ½” thick. The wiring has to be run in a way so that you only have one wire into these shallow boxes (so they have to be the end of a daisy chain or each have their own separate line back to the switch).


Here we had to the left sconce before ending the daisy chain at the right sconce because it is only a shallow pan box.

 

– How high will the vanity backsplash tile be and how will the edges be trimmed out? In the master bath we’re going to use some type of pencil tile trim to finish off the edges nicely. We don’t have that picked out yet so we’re guessing on an average size for that. The three gang box of switches will be very close to where the tile ends so that will be interesting. In the main bathroom we’re using exterior trim for the wainscoting which will top off the vanity backsplash so…

 

– What height is the wainscoting running at and where do I want the light switches in relation to that? Turns out the wainscoting will be right around the average height you’re supposed to put light switches but I thought it would look stupid to stop the trim and put switches so I put half of the switches above and half below.

 

– I didn’t want the GFCI outlets for the vanities breaking up the pretty backsplash tile and Flannel Man didn’t want to cut them in the side of the tall vertical storage cabinets so we wanted to place them on the open wall space next to the vanities just below the lip of the vanity top. They will be easy to use right there but visually not right in your face.

 

– That meant we had all of the light and exhaust fan switches plus the electric floor mat thermostat (per the manufacturer this needed to be in its own single gang box) plus the GFCI outlet all in the few inches between the door and the vanity in both bathrooms. The means a double gang box + two single gang boxes for the main bathroom and a triple gang box + two single gang boxes in the master bathroom. I wanted this group of boxes to look neat and organized not just hap hazardly placed on the wall so that entailed lining up the boxes in as much of a grid as possible. Drawing them that way on a CAD drawing was one thing but installing them and running all of the wires to these congested wall cavities was another. Through some creative thinking we came up with the idea to construct some of supports and attach the boxes separate from the wall to make everything fit. We’ll see how it all looks with the switch plates on…I hope it looks OK!

 

– The grille and light/grille combos for the exhaust fans needed to be centered over the showers and in the case of our big master bath the toilet so final sizes needed to be known.

 

– The flushmount ceiling light over the roman tub in the master bath had to be centered…well that is what I thought until I realized it the tub needs to be a few inches off to account for the tub faucet being on one end. I know we could have avoided that little problem by putting the faucet on the front or the back but I didn’t want to half to crawl over the faucet to get in the tub and I didn’t want the faucet along an exterior wall where I couldn’t reach it. Having it on the side allows us to build a hidden access panel in the half wall between the tub and toilet. So after confirming where all of that would be we just centered the light over the window which is what it is closest to anyway. That exact spot was over a truss so we needed another pan box for the tight space.

An overall view of the master bath electrical:

 

We also started adding insulation to the exterior walls now that the weather is getting colder. For now we can only put insulation in the wall cavities with no electrical wiring until the inspector comes by to approve everything. Only after we stapled everything up did Papa Flannel point out that we had used the wrong type of insulation. We bought paper faced batt which is what we bought for the exterior wall in the garage. But because we’re trying to save energy by cutting down on infiltration as much as possible we’re using visqueen on these walls and any other future walls we open up. Visqueen is just a big plastic sheet that covers the wall from top to bottom with no seams. It is a vapor barrier and so is the kraft paper on the batt so we’re cutting lots of holes into the batt paper we’ve already hung up and bought.

(The floor in the main bathroom has to stay open until the inspector can approve the electrical for the basement sink lights.)

 

In a mad rush to get everything done before the inspector came over we quickly installed the bathroom exhaust fans and the grille/light combo boxes. We picked out some inline fans that will sit in the attic so that we can use the existing roof penetrations. We also loved the minimal appearance the grilles and grille/light combos have in the space and how much more quiet the system is since the fan is not in the space. So we went with a FanTech single grille with light in the main bathroom and a dual grille with one light in the master bathroom.

Cutting in the new small 4″ hole with the old 8″ exhaust fan hole nearby.

Up in the attic we installed the larger master bath fan (note the Y connection is simply resting on top of the fan in this picture so we don’t lose it):

And the smaller main bathroom fan:

Light/grille combo box shown nearby:

 

But really what would this post be without some more people falling through the ceiling?

Yup our electrician managed to stick his leg through the ceiling not once but twice in the same spot on the same day. The first time I was concerned he was OK. The second time I was just annoyed. His excuse was “the drywall is old and brittle.” Um I think the real lesson is you don’t weigh what you used to. And since when is walking on drywall OK? Seriously. We got no apology either for all of the mess he made. Now we have to replace most of the ceiling in the main bathroom. Luck for him that was the last day we needed him before the inspector came.

Ductwork & Plumbing Win

As soon as we had the floor up we started working on re-routing the ductwork. Though we are hiring out the plumbing and electrical I have experience working for mechanical contractors and can easily run ductwork myself. Just give me some sheet metal self-tapping hex screws and let me at it!

We needed to both add and re-route duct runs. Originally, there were only two runs for the master bedroom area; one under each window. With our new plan everything had to get moved. Unlike electrical or plumbing you can’t drill through floor joists with a 6” round duct you need to remove it back to the main and put it in a new floor cavity. That is why we went through all of the trouble to take up so much of the floor. Don’t get me started on those high velocity systems that can be drilled through floor joists. Just avoid those at all costs OK? Moving on.

Flannel Man had never worked with ductwork so our first duct run was kind of like Ductwork 101. We started with the easiest runs in the master bedroom where the floor cavities were relatively empty compared to the bathroom. The duct run under the south window was pretty straight forward.

 

Where we tapped into the main Flannel Man first tried a hole cutter that was in the ductwork aisle but all it did was dull and throw sparks. On the back of the package it clearly said for drywall only. So why was it being sold in the ductwork section? Who knows. For future reference the only ductwork hole cutter I’ve ever had good luck with uses a drill bit. With a dented circle in the main we turned to a spade bit and jigsaw for this connection. Then we added in a collar to connect the round to the main. It has bendable teeth on one side and a crimped round on the other.

 

When we got to where the fireplaces used to be and had angled floor joists. So we had to pop down below the ceiling which fortunately was a perfect height to tap into the supply main. We’ll eventually build a soffit around the duct to hide it but this whole nook of the basement will eventually be storage so it’s not a big deal. Of course in our rush to get it done we forgot to put in the damper at the end of run. Duh. So we had to rip apart the last straight section and reinstall it.

 

The second master bedroom was not too far from the old run so we were able to salvage a lot of straight pieces of ductwork. The boots and fittings get pretty tore up when we removed them. Everything was pop riveted together so it was a combination of drilling through those and just brute strength. The old ductwork was a nice heavy gauge (much thicker than today’s standard gauge) so I was glad we could reuse a lot of it. We removed the old run and patched the hole in the main then cut a new hole.

 

Because the main was run tight to the bottom of the floor joists we couldn’t just tap a 6” collar straight in the side like we did with the previous run. Instead we went with a top tap off boot which has a square end. Why square? Because cutting a square in a tight spot is a lot easier than a circle.

 

As we constructed the new and salvaged ductwork we sealed all of the seams with duct sealant. It’s a cheap and easy way to save energy and make your system more efficient. No need to dump air we’re paying to heat/cool in the floor cavity. I also sealed any seam in the existing ductwork I could get my hands on.

 

Before we could get the bathroom ductwork figured out the plumber came to do the rough-in. It was a nice change to pace to just hire a professional and let him do his job!

 

Progress after the first day.

 

Working on a new stack location (see the rags stuffed in the old stack and the new location in the upper left). On the right the main bathroom toilet.

 

Master bathroom. On the left a sink drain. On the right the toilet.

 

Almost complete after the second day. Initially, we really wanted all copper piping because we know how to work with it in case we ever need to change or fix anything. But the cost was significantly more for both materials and labor. So we ended up with a compromise of having extra copper used on the ends of the rough-in. From there we can use solid copper and easily solder on valves but the majority of the run is easier to install PEX.

 

Master shower drain.

 

New stack location in the 6″ wall.

 

On the third and last day the inspector came by an approved everything.

 

In the main bathroom we didn’t have to move the duct because one wall was staying. Yay! We also were able to fix the reason the basement bath (which is directly below this bathroom) has an extra low ceiling in the shower. Originally, the tub drain crossed over a duct which required the duct to jog down. Thus the claustrophobic shower I get to use everyday. With a little maneuvering we were able to straighten the elbows without even removing any of the duct.

That means that someday when we get around to remodeling the basement bathroom we can raise the shower ceiling. Someday previous owners we will have corrected all of your mistakes!

 

With the plumber gone and everything approved we were back on ductwork duty. Only this time we were in a real pickle. My plan got thrown out the window when we pulled up the floor and saw how many floor joists were already full of ductwork and later piping. With the size of the new master bathroom and the fact that it now had two exterior walls and two windows I needed to get two floor registers in the room which is difficult when bathrooms have limited floor area for a register. The old master bathroom duct would work it just needed to be extended a few feet. But on the opposite exterior wall there wasn’t anything and there wasn’t any way to add another run since every floor cavity was full with either ductwork, piping, or both. There was an existing floor register under the big 6’ slider that used to serve the bedroom but that is where our tub is going so that wouldn’t work. After a lot of hemming and hawing it finally occurred to me just change the basement registers around. So without having to change the majority of the runs we swapped the upstairs and downstairs registers.

 

The only problem was that the tub drain P trap came into that space and we had to cross the toilet waste pipe to get to the exterior wall. Hmm this calls for some creative ductwork…

 

Our nosy dog needs to be right in the action even if that action is on a plywood island in the middle of a construction site. See that guilty face? That is because 3 seconds after this picture she decided it was boring and wanted to get back off the island.

 

To get over the toilet drain we only had 3″ of height to work with. Two straight boots with a rectangular band bent to cover the joint. Lots of duct sealant and self tapping screws later:

 

Check out this sh*t! Ductwork WIN! Round to vertical flat oval. To round. To an offset elbow. To a round straight piece. To a boot. To an extreme short straight rectangular. To a boot. To a round straight. To an up boot. All done with the standard ductwork pieces Menard’s carries.


Yes this register will get less air because of the increased static pressure but I’m going to balance the dampers as best I can to overcome that and a low flow register is better than none at all.

 

Meanwhile the house is getting messier. Now I can answer all of Flannel Man’s “Hey Honey where is the _insert random tool here_?” questions with “It’s behind the couch.”


This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
DIY Savings