Some of the original framing of Emerald Hill was anchored to the slab when it was built in the late 1960s. That was then; code has changed. As Ron Dahlke explains, we are now required to install anchors at every corner of every exterior wall, and the floor plates must also be anchored every x feet down the length of the wall.
The original staircase was not built correctly. There are 15 risers. There are eight different heights for the risers.
Steven was told by a previous owner that when they bought the house it was carpeted — orange shag. That owner ripped it out and put in the wood floors, possibly also refinishing the stairs with oak treads and risers made of MDF painted some off-white that yellowed over time. The oak was glued to the top of the staircase framing, instead of rebuilding that framing to compensate for the additional height of the one-inch thick treads.
As a result, the stairs do not meet building code. We’re way outside the permissable variables — not with all the changes in elevation. Your foot does not know where to plant safely.
To fix this, we need more run — the horizontal distance the stairs travel from first riser on the first floor to the landing in the hallway at the top of the stairs.
The only way to get that additional run is to extend the front of the house forward about four feet. See the first floor plan. This is the only place we are adding square feet to the house.
Today, Cris and Kevin from Ranserve pried off the oak treads using pry bars, hammers and human muscle. See photo above.
Ranserve is leaving in place the rough framing of the staircase until after the electrical inspection that is called for Thursday/tomorrow. After that, Ron, Cris and Kevin will dismantle the staircase and build new. To code. Correctly.
Above … Ron Dahlke guides Kevin Rehberg through how to properly toenail studs. Apprentice Kevin is building a new section of wall where Aaron Pratt needs structure for the cabinets he will design, build and install — and for the electric and plumbing lines that will weave through the new lumber. At the back door, Cris works out the door trim he will nail into place — brickmold PVC that will never rot, trimmed into flat stock on the table saw, flipped to put the cut side up against the flashing, leaving the finished side exposed for paint.
Notes from the day:
- Ross Britton walked Emerald Hill with Ron, auditing the installation of the HVAC ducts.
- Ron and Steven talked about the staircase demo and rebuild that is planned for later this week — and removal of the oak flooring, in hopes it can be donated to Habitat for re-use.
- Cris found the wires to the sprinkler system at the back of the garage — this will be important when it’s time to rebuild the sprinkler system.
- And a series of inspections might start Wednesday this week.
Ron Dahlke took the day off. He missed “Multitasking Day.” Patrick Welsome from Ranserve stepped in to provide “adult supervision” and keep Steven operating within the lines.
Above … electricians, plumbers, cabinet makers at work.
Electrical. The electrical walk continues, locating switches and outlets in the house. It’s day 3 of the electrical rough-in. Steve from Capstone Electric, Ron from Ranserve, and Steven focused today on the family room, kitchen, pantry, office, mudroom, garage, exterior lights.
Steven has homework — a run to Ikea over the weekend to purchase samples of the LED puck lights that will be used in display niches in the entry hall, and linear LED light strips with motion sensors that will be used inside closets. Steve the electrician needs one of each to figure out how to wire them up properly — “because no LED light fixture is wired the same as another.”
Almost two hours. With 10 minutes left over for Steven and Ron to talk about the flooring and building of stairs. Ron thinks he has it figured out. More detail to come.
Plumbing. Albert and the team from Custom Plumbing continue to install red, white and blue PEX tubing for water lines, while also pressure testing the gas lines.
Painter. Ron has the painters working in the house for the first time, caulking all the holes and sealing open joints in the exterior framing and siding, preparing the house for expanding foam insulation that would escape through any punctures in what will become a “sealed envelope.”
Habitat donations. Steven contacted Habitat at Ron’s request to ask for a fourth pickup — we have more stuff pulled out of the house for Habitat to recycle.
Draw 2. Larry at South Star reports the wire transfer payment by the Leons to Ranserve executed today. Kathleen at Ranserve is cheering.
Above … Ron Dahlke from Ranserve, left, Steve from Capstone Electric, right, and Steven, not seen, because he is taking the photo, convene for day 2 of the electrical rough-in walk through the house upstairs, in bath 3.
See the “can” — a rectangular metal box – mounted at the rafters over Steve’s head.
Wikipedia defines a “can” as a “recessed light or downlight (also pot light in Canadian English, sometimes can light (for canister light) in American English) is a light fixture that is installed into a hollow opening in a ceiling. When installed it appears to have light shining from a hole in the ceiling, concentrating the light in a downward direction as a broad floodlight or narrow spotlight. There are two parts to recessed lights, the trim and housing. The trim is the visible portion of the light. It is the insert that is seen when looking up into the fixture, and also includes the thin lining around the edge of the light. The housing is the fixture itself that is installed inside the ceiling and contains the lamp holder.”
The “can” over Steve’s head is in the wrong location. Instead … see the “can” over Ron’s head at left, and the box for an HVAC vent above where Steve is pointing? All three fixtures should instead align in that one bay between the two adjacent rafters. To make this happen, the HVAC vent needs to shift closer to the can over Ron’s head. Then, on the other side of the vent, opposite the first “can,” Steve has to remount the “can” that is currently located over his head. This second can must be located outside the tub shower that will be installed at the back wall. Why? It’s actually a can that combines both a fan and light. We need two lights to illuminate the bathroom. We need the fan to exhaust humid air from the bathroom when someone is taking a bath or shower.
Why this alignment? The bathroom vanity will be installed on the wall at Steve’s left elbow. There will be two sinks. The HVAC vent should be aligned with the center of the vanity, and the LEDs that are to be installed in the “cans” should be aligned with center of the two sinks in the vanity.
Meticulous detail. Careful planning. Explanations of logic. Compromises with electrical codes. Step by step, we work this all out over 20 minutes.
But we’re not done.
See the white tube running across the ceiling and down the wall. That’s PEX — defined by Wikipedia as “an acronym for crosslinked polyethylene. It is a flexible, durable, proven piping product that has been used in plumbing systems for more than 20 years. PEX tubing won’t pit, scale or corrode and, because of its flexibility, it also offers potential freeze-damage protection.”
The PEX line currently runs over two silver HVAC ducts and the exhaust fan duct in the ceiling, potentially restricting airflow. It will be relocated under the HVAC ducts. The fan duct will shift when Steve the electrician shifts the combo fan/light can.
Also, Ron is going to audit the installation of the HVAC ducts. Steven sees kinks, compressions that will reduce airflow, and too many ducts crammed into too small a space.
From bath 3, we shifted to the laundry/utility room next door, then the master bath. More than an hour later, we made it downstairs.
It’s not just a can light. It’s also an exhaust fan. With a humidity sensor that automates operation. Take a shower, it turns on the fan and blows the hot, humid air out of the house. When the humidity level drops, the sensor turns off the fan. Human interaction is not required. Which is important, because Jadin is a teen — and teens take long, hot showers.
See the silver exhaust duct? It takes a tight 90 degree turn out of the can, which constricts airflow. Then the duct rises up to clear a rafter, continues up over a run of pipes that vent the plumbing stack, to provide air behind water — the venting that is needed for water an waste to drain down pipes and out of the house.
So far, so good. But … where the duct crosses over the plumbing stack, it dips, and then it rises to the vent stack in the roof, which is where the wet air would vent out of the house. Except … because the duct dips, water is going to collect in the dip, plug the vent. No air is going to escape the house. And the duct will just collect more and more water over time.
This is wrong.
Ron says he will audit all the HVAC ducting for errors.
Above … Ranserve today erected a temporary fence around the house. It’s a signal that framing is nearly complete and a new construction phase begins, focused on systems inside the house.
The electrical team from Capstone Electric is first to arrive, pulling spools of cable through the second floor, tracing the electrical plan to rough-in outlets and switches. Steve from Capstone, Ron from Ranserve, and Steven walked each room upstairs, talking through which switch in what location turns which light on or off, whether outlets should be 42 inches above the floor at the countertop planned for the utility room, how high on the wall the TV will be mounted in the loft with a corresponding outlet, where to put how many outlets at the vanity in the master bath, which ceiling cans are actually integrated units that include LED lighting and ventilation for the bathrooms — item by item, detail by detail, getting it right with the walls open …
Separately, Jacquela and Steven met with Dale Markel at Landers Premier Flooring to explore options for wood flooring. Can we save the existing oak? Probably not …
Also separately, Steven approved a quote from Kyle Bacon at Elite Heating & Air Conditioning for what will be come a change order to the HVAC system — adding dampers and thermostats to the master bedroom and office, putting these two rooms into their own heating/cooling zones. This will help to make the master bedroom more comfortable and controllable at night, and help to deal with the heat generated by the computers and other equipment in Steven’s office.
And, Ben Feldt, structural engineer, reports he walked the framing late last week. He will complete the documents “saying you passed” for the pending inspection by City of Austin.
Above, Cris from Ranserve finished hanging plywood on the walls of what will be the library/dining room — both side walls. Drywall will cover the plywood. Steven will use the plywood backing behind the drywall to support bookshelves.
Look how clean this room is — swept, with no building supplies and brick rubble laid out on the floor!
Kevin Rehberg, apprentice builder, son of Mark, the president of Ranserve, the builder at Emerald Hill — Kevin cleaned up the house after an intense week with framers, plumbers, electricians, HVAC and other teams working in the house, quality-control inspections, and multiple deliveries. The house looks superb. The floors are swept. Lumber is piled neatly. Shattered brick is shoveled out to the boneyard. All the HVAC peel-and-stick trash is gone. This attention to detail should not go unremarked, unrecognized.