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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/12/2010

Today was what one could reasonably called "a busy day".

Two fairly big and one small-but-still-important thing happened today. Perhaps of most importance was the installation of Tanglewood's basic gutters along the roofline. We'd been wanting to get these into place before the summer monsoons begin (we're due) so as to control the water somewhat and push it away from the house as much as possible. We'd picked out a nice dark-gray color that matched the recent fascia install from some samples Builder Dale had provided a few days ago.

Turns out that gutters for most houses these days aren't put together from the 10-foot to 12-foot lengths you see at Home Depot. Nowadays in order to avoid leaks, they're extruded in one long continuous piece, using a roll of aluminum that's fed into a specialized metal shaping machine called (naturally enough) an extruder. The crew brought all of this up early this morning (yes, on a Saturday) on the back of a large flatbed, which seemed oversized for our job to me. They set to work quickly walking around the house to inspect the fascia and double-check the measurements in the blueprints, then proceeded to crank out lengths of gutter custom-made for each roof edge. Each length was seamless and (where appropriate) had an end molded into the gutter as needed. It was a relatively quick process (though noisy as heck), with a couple of guys carrying each finished piece of gutter to the appropriate house side as they rolled off the truck. When they dropped them at the right location they took a few moments to cut drain holes in the ends.

After this was all done they had to install them, and that took a bit longer. Two and sometimes three ladders were set up and some of the crew lifted the gutters up to a couple of other guys partway up the ladders, who then coordinated their climbs holding the gutter under one arm and the ladder with the other.  As one might expect, this was slow-going since they were a couple of floors up in most places and that's not particularly a place you want to fall from, but once they reached the top they were able to set the gutters on little shelves on each ladder so they had a moment to get their tools ready and whatnot. After that, it was a fairly straightforward matter to attach the gutters, using some large screws that mounted into the fascia itself.

Once all of the straight edges were attached, they then went back up with gutter drops and little bits of gutter they called "kickouts". This machine didn't do "corners" very well and those would have been weak spots with joints in them anyway, so instead where one gutter might join another it was slightly offset to allow for the installation of a "drop"--basically a very short bit of drainpipe--to drain the upper gutter into the lower one. Tanglewood's rather usual roofline made this fairly easy, fortunately. Where there will eventually be drains from the gutters down to the ground (where they'll be buried and conduct water safely away from the house) they installed temporary bits of drain three or four feet long called "kickouts" which basically just serve to push the water away from the house. Once we're near the end of construction (probably after the exterior finish is done) they'll come back and more properly install the underground system, but these kickouts should serve for the short term.

They were done right about noon, and the timing was nearly perfect as another truck pulled up just as they were wrapping up and let us start the Other Big Thing of the day. This guy had big pallets of rigid-foam insulation intended for installation under the slab of the first floor.

The story here is fairly interesting (well to me anyway, but I'm geeky that way). There are several sites around the Web that praise the installation of insulation under the slab of new houses and intuitively their reasoning makes sense. After all one insulates walls to keep heat in and cold out (or vice versa in the summertime), and since a first-floor (or basement) slab is resting on the ground, you find yourself in a battle against the Earth itself to heat and cool your abode. Odds are that the Earth is a wee bit bigger than your house, so that's a fight you're going to lose to one extent or another, so putting a nice bit of insulation between your house and the planet makes sense if you're anywhere that has wide temperature variations.

Here's where (I didn't know this) things seem to get a bit quasi-religious. It appears that the pro-insulation camp falls into two broad categories, those who prefer to use rigid-foam insulation and those that prefer to use more flexible, foil-backed bubble-wrap styles. Both are pretty neat and have their advantages (rigid foam is fast to put down and generally has a higher R-value per inch, whereas the wrap styles are easier to shape around odd corners and ground penetrations like drains); and disadvantages (rigid foam can break if you aren't careful walking across it; wrap tends to have lower R-values and you can pop the bubbles if you're not careful). I pondered both and generally wasn't sure which way I wanted to go...

... until Builder Dale checked the county code, where the decision was made for us. County regional building codes required that insulation that was "at least" R-8 be installed under all living areas, and as it turned out the supplier that Builder Dale uses had the wrap in R-6 and the rigid in R-10. Different counties have different codes, but those are our guidelines, and so the choice was made--rigid foam for the win!

(Let the record show I was leaning towards this anyway, but never mind that.)

So the truck showed up to drop off these big pallets of blue-foam boards, measuring 4' by 8'. Installing it was almost faster than getting it off of the pallets, since you can just start on one edge and lay them down side by side, and that got done fairly quickly. Once the easy parts were done, we had to begin cutting the oddball shapes and whatnot to go around corners and drains and the like, and we ran out of daylight before we got all that done. We'll also hold off on doing the garage just yet so we don't have to risk breaking insulation by walking across it as we do all the other work.  Still we ought to be able to finish up in the next couple of days, and then we can lay down wire mesh and look down the road towards starting to install the first-floor radiant-heat loops.

Towards the end of the day, I peeled off from the insulation work to finish up the removal of wood from under the wall. This was a job I'd only partially finished when I was working on it a few days ago and I didn't want to try to do major digging while the rigid foam was in danger of getting whacked by a shovel. I got one picture early in the process, but honestly forgot to take any others, being too busy digging--still, this was an important thing to finally get done, and I was glad I took the time.

Pics and movies for all of this juicy fun below. We're making good progress now--time to review my radiant-heat installation notes from January and get ready for the next big push!

Steven in Colorado Springs


I think DOW makes dang near everything... for example, this underslab insulation.
Closeup of the handy R-value chart on the board. I assume they print this on a variety of thicknesses that they make.
The first piece of insulation goes into the master bathroom. It looks so lonely out there by itself.
A little bit later. There's a LOT of the stuff in here now.
Insulation awaiting installation in the apartment garage. You can see one of the garage drains coming out in the foreground.
The living room is all nice and blue now.
Once we got to the odd corners in the master bathroom, we had to get more creative.
Working on the apartment.
We put down plywood, rebar, and 2x4s wherever the insulation was subject to getting blown around by the wind.
And ladders. Ladders work pretty well too.
The kitchen area is almost done.
The fully-insulated apartment footprint. This was pretty easy, since it's basically rectangular.
Organizing the gutter-making equipment.
Lifting the roll of aluminum onto the extruder.
Lengths of gutter awaiting installation.
An errant 2x4 under the edge of the garage wall. This puppy was a good two feet long; I had to do a LOT of digging to get it out.


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