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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 11/8/2010

Ahh... I see my last blog entry was 9/2009. Well... a lot of life happened in the meantime.

Our Teardown/Rebuild project turned into "my" don't tear-down, but renovate project. I ended up moving into a cold, empty shell of a house about a week after the last 9/2009 post... with the first goal to run a 200A feeder line from the meter panel to the house 200A panel... divorce changed plans.

Without going into too much detail, my Ex and I are still good friends, but no longer married, which changed the scope of the project. Instead of a teardown and rebuild from 1,700 to 3,000 sq feet, it was a renovation from 1,700 to 1,825 sq ft.

The timing was pretty good, as a few weeks longer and the livable house area would have been torn down, forcing a major build project with limited funds. As it was, the project to install radiant floor heating on the main floor of the existing house, completely re-wire the kitchen, and add 125 sq feet to the first floor was enough to keep me busy for the past year.   

The *BIG* task was the do-it-yourself radiant heat installation. I will post some photos. The materials were about $7,000 from But pouring a 1.5-inch "topping slab" over the existing slab-on-grade foundation/flooring is a big job when you are trying to live in the space you are remodeling.   

As I write this... I have carpet install scheduled for Wednesday... after which I can move my bedroom/office out of the dining room, and into... well, the master bedroom and the office!   

From September until about March, '10 I lived in the master bedroom, and the office/living room, while the rest of the home was torn up for wiring/electrical, and floor tubing. March, I moved my office/bedroom into the dining toom, and finished the tubing/concrete pours for the remaining two bedrooms. Then drywall texture... wood flooring, porcelain tile... and now we are ready (dust free?) for carpet.

The kitchen is the biggest before/after change.


Kitchen NE Corner "Before"
Kitchen NE corner "During" (Note clerestory high ceilings revealed after removing drop ceiling.)
Kitchen NE corner
Another Kitchen Before (S view)
Another Kitchen After (S view)

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 9/15/2009 6:31:35 PM

I mustered up the courage to call the "pre-construction" meeting.  This is a meeting with the county structural engineer, the structural inspector and the plans examiner, along with my architect and my structural engineer.   I am acting as the general contractor on this project, and am wondering if I'm going to be out of my element with all these professionals...

I have a couple of builders who can act as consultants on the project, so I'm planning to get their rate to be on site for this meeting just in case, unfortunately, I haven't found the "perfect" match between me and a consultant, but have a couple of good leads.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 9/6/2009 9:34:37 PM

These heat load calculations were based on the book, Modern Hydronic Heating For Residential and Light Commercial Buildings that I mentioned before.

I just found this excel file and was reviewing it.  There is a page for the "ASHRAE 97.5% Design Dry Bulb Temperature" for my location... you need to look up this value.  ASHRAE is like the Free Masons or the Moonies.  It's a club with a secret handshake, and a secret manual... (just joking).  But getting the ASHRAE data out on the Web is difficult... they want to SELL you the ASHRAE handbook with the data in it.

I can't say that any of the information in this spreadsheet is accurate, but you get an idea of the work a good HVAC contractor will be doing if they are going to plan your heating system.  A good heating contractor will have some type of software for calculating all this stuff.  I did it manually (set up the spreadsheet).  As I said, I don't know if any of this is accurate... but the idea is to share the information I extracted from the book to give you an idea of the "planning" on hydronic heat that can be done.

There are various tabs of the spreadsheet:

Room by room tab: The "Room by Room" is based on a table from the book.  

Rough square footage tab:
 Based on the plan views for our particular project.

Parameters tab
: is to figure out things specific to your area. What your average outdoor temperature is and your designed "temperature difference."

Wall R-value calculations:
I also have a sheet for calculating the R-value of your wall... this is a chapter in the book on how to do this.

I used the cross section of a typical wall type specified by our architect.  You have to consider the difference for the region where the studs are in contact with the drywall vs. the cavity on a stick frame.  I used R-21 batt insulation.  We may end up using spray foam to get a higher R-value... and/or I may add 1/4" foam to get a bit more R-value.

Foundation slab heat losses:
We have a slab-on-grade first floor, but this would be applicable to a garage/shop area as well.

Infiltration heat losses:
Again based on formulas in the book.

I expect that I am way off on some of these calculations... it's like being a freshman engineering student in college...

For my house, I have come up with a heat load calculation of 44,947 BTU.  This seems to be about one half of what two of my HVAC contractors came up with, so either I'm way off -- missing something, or the contractors are oversizing the boiler. I still have much to learn.  I'm fine getting a 92,000 BTU (27kW) boiler, as the cost differential isn't much, but every dime I save is a dollar I don't have to earn... so perhaps I should hit the books some more, and talk to some more HVAC contractors.

I think I would like to talk to the number one contractor on my list (whom I can't afford), and ask them what they would charge me to reevaluate my numbers... it's probably worth a few bucks to me to have someone knowledgeable check my figures.

I'm just happy I found the spreadsheet (on the computer)... I spent hours (possibly days) researching this and learning to build the data for the house.


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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 9/6/2009 4:29:22 PM

I'm wanting to order a final "rough-in" inspection on the electrical work in our shop space. This space will not be demoed as part of our tear-down remodel.  However, the mechanical for the heat will be in this space... so I really need to settle on a boiler solution for the hydronic heat.  We don't have natural gas where we live, and from all the talking I've done with neighbors, propane is expensive.   

The propane company will set me up with a "rental" tank and piping to the side of the house for about $160.  So I could go with propane, but at the moment we are leaning towards an all-electric hydronic boiler.  One of the HVAC contractors I spoke to talked about a hydronic heat pump and geothermal, but the initial costs for these units is greater... plus, there is zero information for the DIY'er on an air-to-water heat pump.   Seems to me there is a market for this.   

In my quest to figure stuff out for myself, I came across a book on hydronic heat and bought a used copy from Amazon, the book is: Modern Hydronic Heating, for Residential and Light Commercial Buildings it is written by John Siegenthaler, P.E.  P.E. means "Professional Engineer" which means he did lots of studying, and passed at least one state test to be a licensed "engineer", and I believe he can sign off on his own building permits... but I digress (again).

At any rate, this book has the calculations for the jump to light speed in it, so you can get to Alderaan, or if like me you need to figure out how big your boiler needs to be, you can calculate roughly what the heat loss of your house will be and size the BTU/KW of your boiler. Somewhere, I have sheets and sheets and a spreadsheet of these calculations, and can't find them... but I believe I came up with 26-28kW or around 96,000 BTU. (The conversion between BTU/kW is in this book somewhere.)

There is also a reference to "degree heating days" and some other stuff that isn't really well covered in the book, but I dredged through the Web.  I wish I had kept better notes, as there are not too many good websites with the degree-cooling day numbers you need, and it seems this is all designed to force you to be a member of some society of HVAC professionals so you can get the book with the secret sauce for your area in a table. I did find it once, but remember having a hard time to find it again.  You need that number to figure what your "average" and peak heat losses are.  All this was a great way to spend my time when I didn't have any $ to do anything else.  Certainly, if you hate algebra, you can avoid this book.   I did find that my 26-28kW was about the same as one of the bids for a boiler, so I figure I must have stumbled on the right answer.  (My other bids didn't specify boiler size.)

From that, I have found the following electrical boilers:
SEISCO-SH28 -- $1,200 (approx) Check (eBay store too)/Amazon
Electro-Boiler EB-WO-27 -- $2,419
Thermolec B-27U-M -- $1,943

These boilers are all (I believe) "modulating" boilers, this means they have the electronics to "modulate" the current (basically switch off/and on current quickly), this reduces the amount of heat generated when the "full on" heat is not really needed.  The nice thing about this is that it really isn't as important to worry about going "too large" with a boiler as it was in the past, as the modulating feature of the boiler will save energy that would otherwise be lost if you as a "DIY'er" choose too large a boiler.  That's not to say that having a HVAC engineer do all the calculations isn't worth the $80/$100 an hour... but I'm not too sure most HVAC contractors really have your particular house designed by a $80/$100 Professional Engineer who has done heat load calculations on your house anyway. I could be wrong, I mean the one HVAC company I talked with certainly knew what they were doing, but they weren't going to give me any "free" specs on my project, which is fair enough.

At the moment, the electro-boiler is looking pretty good, but the SEISCO wins hands down on having THE BEST web resources and suppliers for selling direct to DIY'er's.  I would say they are my number-one supplier, but there were some negative customer comments on a couple of blogs, so instead of selecting them hands down, I have been doing this additional research to see who else is out there, and what the damage would be if SEISCO turned out to be a poor choice and I had to redesign the mechanical room for the $1,000 more expensive boiler. If money was no object, I would go with a geothermal unit or the heat pump, and use the contractor who I discussed it with.  They do many "large" custom homes for Portland Trailblazer players, and other wealthy clients, and it's clear they have been in the business and have done hydronic heat a long time.  I'd love to be able to select them.  In the meantime, a $1,400 SEISCO slapped on the wall of the shop could very well heat my entire house for a time until I can afford to upgrade.  If I use quality manifolds, and lay out the zones properly, I think I can save $$$$.   We shall see... this is just a blog post of an idea at this point.

Back to the electrical, for these "point of use" water heaters, and electric boilers you need THICK copper cables and lots of them.  The SEISCO requires FOUR separate 40A double (range type) breakers to feed it.  If you have 200A service, make sure the electrical code in your area accept this as an "intermittent" load.  If not, you just used up 160A of your 200A to heat your home.  In my case I have 320A service, so I've got 2EA 200A panels to play with, just in case the county decides to treat the load differently.   

Most of the other electrical water boilers require up to 3EA 60A double (range-type) breakers, so plan your water heater close to your electrical panel to save on copper wire.


Electrical for the electric boiler will go "somewhere" on this wall. Need to figure this out before calling for a rough-in inspection as I want all the wires placed (if possible) beforehand.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 9/6/2009

One of the things I did last year was signed up for a Home Depot Contractor account. This is a net 30-day account.  They gave me a "reasonably" large max per month... I don't recall if I asked for the amount or not; at any rate, it's way more than I want to spend with Home Depot on materials in a 30-day period (i.e. for those amounts, I think I could get better deals at other suppliers).

For trips for plumbing supplies, wire etc... I use the contractor card. You have to show ID every time you use the card... annoying, but I like this. Also... each purchase is itemized by "invoice/PO"... so every trip to Home Depot gets it's own detail page on the monthly statement. I shop at three to five different Home Depots in the Portland Metropolitan area, so I can tell what I bought where. I like that. It also keeps me honest... I have to settle the account every 30 days.   

I keep a folder with the statements so I can keep track of materials and miscellaneous supplies purchased for the remodel project. I don't use this contractor card for home repair/etc. that we are doing on the house we are currently living in, to keep things separated.

-- Ross

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 8/8/2009

I joined the a year ago. They have a nifty "online plans room" where you can post your drawings and specifications, then send invitations to bid to contractors. I was able to get several bids through that service.   

To join, I needed a fax number. The easiest way to do that for me was to use They gave you a fax number, you get a 30-day free trial; then it is a for-fee service. For me it works well, as all faxes come in via email, so I have a permanent record. We have two fax machines in the house, but it's a pain to use them.  

And third, for the Portland Area, there is a firm called Blueprint Copies, and they print full-size plots for 99 cents each. I was paying two to three times that at FedEx/Kinko's before I found them. They found me from It appears they have expanded, and can ship your prints via FedEx if you ftp or email them the pdf's. I drive over to them locally, and they do terrific work, and have saved me hundreds of dollars on my prints so far.


The new design didn't use the as-built location for a wall... so taping out the floor showed that the bathroom couldn't be built as drawn. (Sigh). This picture is not related to the post, except that I'm waiting for updated drawings to reflect this ;).

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 8/2/2009

We are sort of in a holding pattern with respect to the full project, but I just found a terrific deal on a 30" Fisher-Paykel wall oven. We originally passed the brand by, as it was too expensive at $3,899 for the double wall oven. Today I was in Lowe's getting some mesh for the eave vents, and I thought I would swing by the appliances to see if they had anything on sale. Our wall oven was $1,900 off! This was one of those... moments where I did some thinking... and decided I couldn't pass this one up. I purchased the display model (last one) of this discontinued model for a bit over $1,966 with "six months same as cash" financing. Such a deal.


Original "wish list" photograph taken a year ago.
Same model on closeout for $1,900 less! Whee!

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 7/12/2009 7:45:27 PM

In the last two weekends, Nancy and I did some more "minor" work on the infrastructure. We were able to drain/flush the old water heater (former owners purchased it new in'03).

Put it up on it's new stand, and I was able to finish plumbing the hot water lines from the new water service to  the water heater in it's new location, and tie into the existing hot water plumbing in the house.  We are doing this so we have hot/cold water while we wait out funding before demolition... also if I lose my job, the house is marketable as it will have running water.  That was last weekend... all this work is under a separate permit from the main construction project.

The water service relocation permit includes an additional exterior faucet, which I completed installing today... $34 in copper fittings, and hours of sweating pipe later, I have a new outdoor faucet.  I only need to put the 2x4 bracing in the walls, and the metal protection plates, and I can call for the pre-cover inspection for this portion of the water utilities.


Faucet on the west side of the house.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 3/10/2009 10:28:18 PM

Second and third permit approvals went ahead without a hitch. Plumbing approval for buried pump water line + water service. Plus a second electrical approval and OK to cover trench. New Grundfos pump works like a champ! I highly recommend this unit. Worth every penny of the $1,200. Controller unit is well documented and works as advertised, although in my case, I'm using a larger pressure tank, which reduces the regulation a bit. It is much, much better than the old jet pump. Filling in the trench and working towards the next step... more planning. Budget and pondering the demolition. We need an Asbestos Pre-clearance to prove we removed all the asbestos last summer. And we need to know we can afford to finish, then we will pull the demo permit, tear down, and start building! The budget issue is slowing us down, but it just gives us more time to plan.


The owner-builder trophy case. Post it pins in the inspection "approval" tags for each stage as we go along. (These are managed in a computer database, so I feel it's OK to post them on the job board on the site).

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 3/7/2009 10:46:57 PM

Nancy and I had a good discussion this morning and we decided to eliminate about 6 out of the 12 French doors in our design. At 8' tall, it cuts our door/window budget by around $6 grand (approx.) Most of these aluminum-clad doors were over $2K-$3K each, which will now be replaced with casement windows. Our window budget was way out of whack before... it's still huge, but much better we think now. We decided we would probably never open half of them as depicted in the architectural drawings... so this was a good day of saving $.

Water service move. I've been working towards relocating the utilities service so that we can demolish the existing living space and still have water and power. Last month the 320-A electrical service was successfully moved, a year after the initial trench was dug... (low budget = long time). First off, if you have a well, it can be daunting to consider doing the work yourself. I had a $1,200 well service two years ago on this property to replace the original 40-year-old jet pump that went out, and also the "pressure foot" which goes down the well. I was pretty happy with the service (I thought), but today I discovered they didn't do quite as good a job as I thought. Here are some tips if you want to consider doing this work yourself... it's easier than I imagined it would be:

1) Research your well.
Our county here in Oregon has all the well logs online. We were able to surf the web and pull a scanned PDF document from the original well driller back in 1966. Our well is a "shallow" well, being only 62 feet deep, with the 6" iron casing going down 60'. When the well was originally dug, the static water level was 12' below grade. Good information. This was in August (summer) of 1966.

2) Prepare, and take small steps.
After months of preparation, I steeled myself to disconnect the existing water and pull up the well line out of the well. I had prepped the new submersible pump last weekend, and wanted to measure the existing line, figuring it would be at somewhere between 50' and 60' down the well, and I would just match lengths.
The pipes were only 30' deep. Only 1/2 the available well depth! A jet pump setup I have could have pumped water from as deep as 80' I understand, possibly not this pump, but generally I expected the hoses to be much deeper.

I was upset that I had paid $1,200 for well service two years ago, and that the lines were so shallow. I "expected" that since running dry was a possible cause of my pump problems, the well service company would have researched the well depth, and installed new line. Not so. I think I was ripped off. $1,200 was about what I paid for a submersible Grundfos pump. With another $200 for hose, and more$ for re-plumbing the house, but anyway now I will know it is being done right. I pulled plumbing permits two months ago, and started with digging a new trench. The old well had pipes entering the well casing.

Having said this, there are a few sites on the Web, (Wes's Water Well Service Store on eBay is where I purchased my system). Also; they have a wealth of information. In my case with only 60' of pipe, it was "waaay" too easy to pull and re-insert a new submersible pump into the well. I still have some plumbing to do on the pitless adapter (tomorrow), but the scary parts have been accomplished.

For the pitless adaptor, I found that Granger ( had a comparable unit for $10-$20 less than the big box stores locally. Also some of the other well supplies on their site are cheaper. Otherwise Lowe's/HomeDepot were reasonable. I found the stores farther out of town towards rural areas had better stock. There are three Home Depots between where I live and where the project is, so I visit them to figure out what they have in stock frequently. Plumbing/Pump supply stores have better stock, but their prices I find are higher, unless you have a contractor account and do volume business. I didn't have enough volume to get good pricing.

I will have to sterilize my well, there are some good websites from the Midwest that discuss how to do this with diluted chlorine. After that I will have my water tested. We have some iron bacteria and sulfur bacteria living in our well from before we purchased the property. I'm hoping that a good chlorine shock will keep this under control. There are also acid treatments, but I'm thinking professional for that if I need it.

Today I connected the old house plumbing to the new water service line, which I had previously air tested (and fixed leaks). It holds pressure with no leaks, so I figured it's time to get the new well in place. The only untested part of the line, is from the one-way check valve inside the house, out to the well head. That gets proven tomorrow. Once everything is leakproof, I can have the trench inspection and fill the trench... Muddy Oregon. Mud EVERYWHERE... I'm tired of mud.


Twin breakers with LED's are surge suppressors ($185 special order from Siemens at Home Depot). These come with a $20,000 warranty if any gadgets get fried in the next three years. Doesn't protect from lightning.
New plumbing is "PEX", I used "shark" fittings, $$ spendy, but I didn't need to purchase a crimp tool at $235 yet. This is a temporary new service to old house plumbing so we have water to toilets until we tear the house down. When we re-plumb, I plan to use manifold with a home run circuit per fixture.
Pressure tank holding water at 45PSI, the sediment filter is out until we flush all tne new lines. The old jet pump can barely do 50-60psi. The lines were all air tested above 80PSI so I could verify that the pressure relief valve (not shown) opens > 75 psi. All of this plumbing was DIY.
Had to re-dig these trenches so the county inspector can see the two lines, including the blue tracer wire on the 1" poly water line. (Plastic pipe requires a tracer wire so it can be located years in the future, to prevent a backhoe from cutting into your water).
Jet pump drop line on the left (two hoses), new submersible pump drop line on the right. Submersible is more efficient, and will run off less electricity than the Jet pump, providing more pressure and higher flow rates.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 3/2/2009 8:55:59 AM

Worked more on relocating the water service this weekend. Found a great thread at David Rose was doing an air line, and every one of his copper unions was leaking. I had the same problem with mine. After reading the above thread, I checked the mechanical alignment, and also got some Rotoseal. From the thread:

"[I used...]RectorSeal® No. 5® I also very carefully wrapped two layers of Teflon just past the contact point of the non-flat side of the union. Since that is how the plumber who loaned me the dope does in worse cases, I just treated these like "worse case" from the start."

It worked like magic!

The thread had several folks recommending to *avoid* using unions but rather use threaded fittings/couplings. I also liked Dave's approach to do it yourself. He said something like "My plumber friend wasn't really interested in leak checking some do-it-yourself sweated copper pipe." I appreciated his respect for skilled professionals... I'm appreciating it too, just don't have the $$ yet to hire any contractors yet.

For the framing detail, I'm working with Mike at Wallmax (, the level of detail from the drawings on his website impressed me, also that he is a working framer and appears to know what he is doing. I'm discussing having him work up detailed framing drawings from the structural engineering sketches. I'll post more, but think that Mike is an excellent owner-builder resource. Tell him Ross sent you.


Preparing Submersible Grundfos pump for insertion into the well. Still have to install the pitless adapter, but didn't want to play in the mud this weekend. (I live in Oregon).
Pressure test of new 1" copper water-service line. Above 75 psi I was waiting for a loud "pop" which would be the pressure relief valve, actually it just starts quietly hissing bleeding off pressure. So I know the pressure relief valve is working.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 2/15/2009 10:25:21 PM

This Thursday, I was finally able to be in town and on the job site so that PGE could switch over the power. We now have upgraded from overhead 200-A service to underground 320-A service. The old panel was Federal Electric, and they are notorious for fires due to their breakers not tripping. I've been doing a lot of work myself, so it was truly amazing to see the PGE crew make such quick work of swapping me over. The new panel has the shop power, so we can use tools, and I'm backfeeding the old house panel so that I have power to the jet pump for water.

We have a new trench and I'm working on getting a submersible pump into the well before the end of February. Once we have water, I'm pondering demolition. We don't have a clear path for funding just yet... so we will likely delay. I may just put in one of the new bathrooms so we will have a toilet. There is a portion of the structure where we are moving a bathroom to, where we re-use the walls and roof (only about 120 sq feet... mudroom/bathroom area). Having the power successfully moved is my first success. I have had a lot of setbacks working with the architect/engineer/county in the planning, so it is really a confidence builder to have the power swap go so smoothly.

The next large task is getting the new pump in and moving the water heater. For the well pump... I'm using a Grundfos 0.5 HP constant-pressure pump. Found a terrific deal from an eBay seller in Florida. I think I paid around $1,000 for the system. They retail for around $1400.


PGE Crew (Portland General Electric) Arrives to run Underground Service
Lineman Cutting Old Overhead service line, and connecting new underground service.
Power Applied
Trench for Water Utility (Moving Pump)
Overhead Power Line cut. ... all you see will eventually be torn down.
Grundfos Constant-Pressure pump controller. (This unit is designed to be used with a much SMALLER pressure tank). I have a 52-gallon tank I wish to try with it... it will not regulate pressure as well with this large tank, so if I don't like it... I'll sell the tank on eBay. (Tank is new) Had the tank before I found a great deal on the pump.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 1/29/2009

The economy has delayed our demolition... till June hopefully.   This week I was off work for some "extra" vacation as a cost-saving measure by our company.  This coincides with the Chinese new year, so many of our Asian customers are off enjoying the new year. At any rate, the time off gave me some time to go out to the project and get some minor work done.

Power and water utilities at our remodel project need to be relocated so we can have water/power during construction, and also to update the 44-year-old well & electrical for the extra 1,200 or so square feet of house we will be adding.   This week I was able to move forward on the electrical and water service relocation issues.

Well service relocation:
Two week ago my wife (Nancy) suggested that we just rent a small trencher to dig the water line for the new submersible pump.  I found a good deal from a Well equipment supplier in Florida for a Grundfos constant-pressure submersible pump system.  Our well is only 60' deep so a 1/2 HP submersible should be sized right, and according to our neighbors who have installed similar HP submersible pumps, it will outperform the 1 HP jet pump we had before.   I'm installing 3/4" conduit and THHN/WN 12AWG wire for 240V power from the Grundfos controller to the pump.  12AWG is good for about 20 amps (double-check the code)... but this pump only draws about 5.3A or so at 240V.  The run is about 80' to the pump, then another 60' down (shallow well).   The conduit will allow easily routing a different cable for a 3-wire pump or higher amperage later if the well has to be dug deeper... I know I could do direct bury, but who wants to dig another trench when you could just pull bigger wires through later?

In our area, water service has to be 12" below the freezing depth, and in Washington County Oregon the freezing level is 12".  Took a long time to research all of this, as the codes don't specify actual depth.  Then I talked with the county and they confirmed that 24" deep for the water service was the minimum.  

I had some concerns at the county, as our structural permit has an inspection hold until we have a "pre-construction" meeting.  This would involve the architect ($), structural engineer ($$), myself, and possibly the framer/concrete contractor ($) to all meet on the job site.  Until this meeting is held, we can't schedule any inspections.  I had pulled the Electrical Service relocation permit prior to the main building permit.  So when I went down to pull a permit to relocate the water supply, I wanted to make sure inspections would not be held up due to some snafu.   Washington County had it all separated, and there will be no delays getting inspections on non-structural activities. (Whew... I had lost sleep over that issue).

So, after pulling the permit for the water service relocation, I needed to finish digging 1/2 of the trench that the trencher couldn't dig because of the concrete I had placed there.   I spent a lot of time Tuesday cussing myself out for placing the concrete from the driveway back in the upper layer of the earlier trench I put the electrical conduit into.  You never know when your design plans will change, and you might want to re-use a portion of a trench you dug a year ago... <sigh>.  The electrical conduit is about > 4' down, the phone 3' down, and a portion of the water run will share this at 2' down.

I'm running 1" Polyethylene pipe 160 PSI in the trench.   This requires a blue tracer wire for the blue-state line locators so they can locate this pipe years later as the pipe itself is non-metallic.  I just picked up 75' of blue THNN wire at the big box store (Lowe's/Home Depot).  I taped this to the pipe about every 3' with black electrical tape.  (Haven't gotten an inspection on this yet). I'm planning on waiting on a live pressure test of the line with the pump installed to make sure it can hold pressure and doesn't leak before calling for the trench inspection and backfilling the trench.  This might take some time... I have to be out of town next week, and need the new power service to get 240V to the new pump... (well I could backfeed the new panel with 240V, but that's a bit more work than I want to do).

The Grundfos pump package came with a two-gallon pressure tank; these constant pressure systems are designed to work with a small tank.  However, we earlier found a 66% off sale on a 52-gallon pressure tank at a Lowe's store in town where no one needs a pressure tank because they have city water.   So I picked up a $275 tank for $64.   I've talked with the pump vendor, and read the manual, and as an engineer, I know that the system likely won't regulate pressure as well with the bigger tank, but I'm going to use it anyway... if I have issues, it will be my own fault, but I want to have the 52-gal tank in case the well can't keep up with demand in the summertime.  Based on the Grundfos documentation, I think I will see a +/- 7 PSI pressure regulation instead of the better +/-3 PSI regulation, as I'm sure the system is designed to work optimally with the faster pressure drop the smaller tank will provide.   The nice thing about doing this myself, is I can try out things less expensively.   I can always swap back to the two-gallon tank later if I hate the results.

Since the pressure tank is going into the shop off the garage, the next thing I'm dealing with is drainage in case the system leaks, or pops the pressure relief valve.   It turns out Google Images is a reasonable (not great) source for images on installations.  I'm looking for a really nice plumbing install that says "that's what it should look like".  I'm reasonably well versed in the pressure relief, gauge, boiler drain, ball valves, backflow preventers etc... what I'm looking for are piping routing ideas that look professional.  It's a lot cheaper to ponder this a bit and do it once nicely, than to rush into hooking it up and hate the way it looks.  If it were hidden in a basement, I wouldn't care as much, but it's in the shop... so I'll see it, until I wall it or closet it.

The other water code issue is getting the polyethylene tubing under the foundation.  One local Oregon plumbing code I found online indicated this tubing is fine for water service, but that it is not allowed under foundation/slab or within the foundation.   I believe that if I run it in a PVC conduit this would work.  The alternative is to use copper under the 3' or so from the edge of the house to the slab.  So I revisited the code, and it was possibly another site, but copper under slab is OK but any fittings need to be brazed not soldered.  I don't have a MAAP gas torch so I'd like to skip that..  This version of the code didn't say that polyethylene tubing had any issues going under the foundation, so I'm not sure if it was in the same section of the plumbing code.  I'll have to call the county inspector and ask about this.

Well, after getting the permit on Monday, and learning I could schedule inspections, I finished up the grounding electrode installation (two 8' rods).   There is a great Taunton Press book on electrical,  If you are considering doing your own electrical service installation, I highly recommend the book. The second grounding rod was the last thing I needed to connect, all of these have to be on a continuous run of copper from the electrical panel to the first, then the second rod.   My service installation was approved, with no comments from the inspector.  I don't know if this is good/bad/ugly, I didn't get much chance to chat with him.  He was halfway done looking over the inspection by the time I knew he was here, and about the only thing he asked for was the sticker to put on the panel.  

I then called PGE (Portland General Electric) and requested the service relocation from overhead to underground.   This will go to "Bill" who is the field engineer for the power company.  I've never met him, but we have talked a couple of times on the phone as far back as a year ago.  Over a year ago, I called the power company to get approval for the site I wanted to place the meter, then I pulled the permit, and started with a 200-A setup.   So someday... they will swap meters, and I can power up my new submersible pump.


Approval: "You Like Me, You Really Like Me"
6' apart)'>
Grounding Electrode System (two 8' Rods > 6' apart)
In The Trenches...
Back Yard
What you do the day *after* you dig a trench...

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 11/25/2008 5:35:30 PM

Well, I'm sort-of playing in the rain today.  I attached two photos, one of the new 320A Meter Socket panel for 400-A service. (It's a long story, but 320-A continuous is a 400-A service for residential).  When you jump from 200-A to 400-A service everything goes up $.

This panel lists for $2,500 or so.  The best price I was quoted was $1,200.  I was looking at Square-D, and Milbank.  The Milbank I found regionally at a distributor for $780.  Found this Siemens panel for $450 plus $115 shipping (It's Heavy) from eBay.  A distributor had two of them.   I also recommend Taunton's Wiring book, as it was the best source covering issues for a do-it-yourself service panel.  (I haven't gotten mine inspected just yet... waiting on the disconnect breakers to arrive).

Today I played in the mud.  The shop wall where the new electrical service is not going to be demolished so I decided to do a "trial" build of a 8' section of the rainscreen design proposed by the architect.  We are trying to decide on exterior siding options.  The photo shows clear grain Cedar which runs from $3.20 to $3.85 a lineal foot.  This I would consider a hedge for inflation or deflation.  Shown is Cabot semi-transparent stain.  This type of finish looks wonderful, but will need refinishing about every three years.  If you go with a more solid color stain, it gets better, but paint is the lowest maintenance.

Since the existing siding is cedar, we will be stripping it to see if any of it could be reclaimed, and we are pondering the costs of going with a semi-transparent finish, or just what type of stain would give us a good color match. 

The economy and finances have put a bit of a hold on the funding for our project.  The short-term plan is to get the utilities moved to this side of the shop so we would have power water and perhaps a toilet, after we demolish the house.  The garage and shop shown would not be demolished.

I did get a contractor to quote a price for a turnkey build within our budget.  I am not 100% sure that we are speaking the same language with respect to specifications, so I'm going to work on getting our specifications all written down, so we can negotiate further. I would want everything in writing in the contract if we were to go that route.

UBuildIt is also wanting to bid.  They asked for drawings/specifications to see if their network of suppliers would bid it.  Of course I would have to pay their fees and take advantage of their construction management team to realize the savings on materials.  But depending on the pricing, it might be worthwhile.

The bad part of working on a dream home with a runway in the backyard - if it's a nice day, you want to go flying instead of working.  Which is what I did Sunday...


Cedar Siding Rainscreen (1/2" thick furring strips and Core-A-Vent top and bottom venting) Prevents mildew; allows siding to dry.
Meter Socket 320A Siemens Meter Socket Base.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 11/2/2008 3:57:31 PM

It's November 2nd, 2008.
Just routed three lines of 3/0 (Three-Aught) copper cable for 1/2 of my 320-A service from the new Siemens Meter Main/Meter Socket to one of two 200-A subpanels.  It was fun, and it didn't cost much more (today's work) than the $120 for wire, and $38 for the large cable cutters.  We will forget about the $70 in 3/0 wire we have to sell on eBay because I had three lengths precut at Home Depot.  I spent $38 for a cutter this time and bought 40 feet of wire.  What was I thinking?  I recommend buying (or renting) the $59 cable cutters with longer handles... the $38 cutters I bought cut the wire, but it took a bit.  It was a Sunday, so I wasn't able to check my local rental place for rental pliers.   I just wanted to do some work on the project for mental therapy. 

I recommend  "Wiring Complete (Taunton's Quick-Access Guides)" for anyone who is considering doing their own wiring work.  I have years of DIY books in my bookshelf, and I scoured the bookstores for the last 6 months looking for information on service entrances.  The NEC and NEC code handbook are places to start, but its difficult for a DIY'er to wade through all the code sections to make sure all the bases are covered.  The book had several wonderful tips in it.

If you can manage your home with 200-A service, do so.  The costs rise considerably for 320-A service (320-A continuous = 400-A momentary (<3 Hrs.).   To go to a true 400-A service in my area would require re-trenching for a second 3" conduit, and adding a transformer.  Most single family residences that say they have 400-A service actually have 320-A service.  The meter socket prices jump from $50 ea. to $170 plus.  In my case, I needed/wanted main disconnects on the exterior of the house, and those ranged from $1,200 to $3,200 list price.  The best pricing I found was for a Millbank Meter Socket/Disconnect at $732.  Local supply houses were at $900 for Cutler-Hammer, and GE was near $1,000.  The Siemens meter socket/disconnect I chose listed at $1,200+. That was the price I was quoted at Home Depot.  The local supply houses didn't carry Siemens.  Home Depot has a Full 320-A panel for $575, which is the meter and all the circuit breakers on the outside.   I found the $1,200 flavor I wanted on eBay for $465 + $115 shipping.
The box is the same as the Home Depot 320-A service, but comes with mounts for 2 ea. 200-A disconnects, which is what I needed.

We plan to have 200-A service in the shop/hangar which will not be demoed, and when the house is built, run a second 200-A line to a subpanel in the second floor laundry room.  All the copper runs for dryer/range will be shorter and save $.  Plus, we won't have to go all the way to the shop if a breaker trips in the living space somewhere.

I uploaded the project to "" site. I recommend folks get an eFAX account and local fax number, so you can sign up for this service and have tradespeople just fax you with bids.  You then have an "online" plans room and you get reports of what companies download your drawings.   ALL FOR FREE!  I uploaded my project plans in PDF format to my "Online Plans Room", and began working up specifications for framing/masonry/foundation work.  I don't have all the trades done, but I have several bids in already that I have not had to go fishing for.  Of course, I still need to interview subs, but I can interview the ones who have bid.

I haven't gotten any foundation or roofing bids just yet, but have several of the other trades.

One note, I generally hate being up against a deadline, so posted a 10/31 date for bids the beginning of October.  It appears that most of the trades wait until the very last minute, and I received many calls/bids on Friday 10/31 (the deadline).  So I recommend that you work from the foundation up and develop specifications in each area, then when the spec is available post a "call for bids" with a two-week deadline (or less).  Giving the subs more time to bid just means they wait until the last minute to call you with information. So check out "" and take advantage of their services.

Getting Full-Size Prints:
I had one other bidding company (NWBID something), call and based on the Blue Book information, said they would also like to host my information.  They also offer printing service.  Prior to this I had paid $4.50 a sheet for full-size prints from PDF files my architect had provided me.  They print pages for 95 cents each.  So this is a tremendous savings.   There are several "reprographic" companies that will print plots for you.


Meter Socket (Siemens 320A continuous) 400A service is VERY EXPENSIVE. Go with 200A if you can. The 2EA 200A circuit breakers are not yet installed. This set of wires will route to the bottom breaker when it is available.
200A Electrical panel (40 CKT) (Wiring of GND not yet completed) This panel will handle: Water Pump Water Heater Electric Boilers (Hydronic Heat) Shop & Hangar Lights Electric Hangar Door Motor (Airplane Hangar) A second panel about 2/3 this size will go into the second floor laundry area and will be fed from the top breaker.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 9/4/2008

After 6-1/2 months (It's September 5th today... I submitted the plans back in February...)   We finally have our structural plans approved.  This is a rather complex structure with a 3" stack of 8-1/2"x11" structural engineering drawings. What started as a fixer-upper remodel, grew into this really cool house, but was $$$ to have designed.   If I had it to do over again?  I don't think I could go back in time and convince myself that we would be better off not spending the money.  When we started, we were planning a $200K remodel using equity from our existing home to fix the place up... now it looks like we will need to expand the first mortgage to get enough funds to build it... that's where I'm focusing on now... getting accurate bids, going to the bank, etc. etc.

Normally you do that first, but we put this process on hold back in February while we waited to see how much structural modification we would need... we figured we would know in 2+weeks and we could pick up the financing in March... it was late July before we had feedback from the county structural engineer on what needed to be done to fix up the project. (Perhaps I'm repeating myself?).

At any rate I have a permit for the structure.  Need to pull plumbing and electrical (at least apply) and have a "pre-construction" meeting before we can have our first inspection.  The existing footings also need epoxy inspections for many 10" 5/8" holes that have to be drilled for epoxying in new threaded anchor bolts to meet newer tougher Oregon seismic code.  (We are told we could have a major earthquake someday, and I believe it, so this isn't a pain, just something more to learn about). 

We have several "Special Inspections" for this project.  There is a third party "epoxy" inspection which needs to be done by a OBOA (Oregon Building Officials Association) certified inspector.  This will run $350/day or $44/hr roughly to make sure the epoxy anchor bolts to be added to the existing footings are done properly.  This needs to be scheduled with the trade that will do that work (or me if I do it myself).

Also we have multiple inspections by our Structural engineer for the foundation rebar and also some internal sheer walls that basically hold up the third floor control tower.  This third floor room is 8x10 and has large windows on three sides facing the grass runway that the property shares with 14 neighbors.  The large glass area of this "tower room" invoked some seismic code that our structural engineer failed to comply with, so $1,900 later, the design is updated, I get 10' more 24" deep footings in the middle of the house, three new sheer walls, and some nifty steel glue-lam beam brackets that showed up on the structural details of the plans. All this is great fun for me... but $$$; haven't added all the new costs up yet.

Should have stuck with the original idea... two bumpouts and some carpet I'm thinkin'!

I've got a contractor visiting the site Friday for demo, although we may do that ourselves.   Another demo contractor Monday.  I hope to get three bids minimum, then move to the next trade.  One foundation contractor said they did foundations, then the estimator said all they did is flatwork... don't know what that is all about.

I discovered that if you go to you can set up bid requests via fax for FREE.  Go to the for info. I checked out a copy of The Blue Book for the Pacific Northwest; it's a source for contractors of all trades, and all materials suppliers.

I also found Atkin Ford Lumber in Eugene,  They wholesale lumber by truck to contractors on the west coast.  Their prices were similar to prices I was quoted by Home Depot six months ago.  They have a pricing sheet for lumber by MBF (Thousand Board Feet), basically a truckload, but will quote smaller orders... looks like they want contractors.  Lumber prices are volatile these days, so with my Home Depot prices being six months old, it's not fair to compare there current prices but it's very close to Home Depot. And Home Depot was the lowest price for Glue-Lam beams so far... Their stick lumber is close to Atkin Ford. I recommend Atkin Ford just because they post quantity pricing on the Web and it helps you start estimating... if you bother to convert from thousand board feet to lineal feet.  I have no idea what the smaller quantity pricing from them would be... just like the website.

I'm riding the train from Seattle back to Portland... I'll post more photos and details of bids when I get more information on where we are going... $$, sigh.



One of nine structural detail pages for our project

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 8/14/2008 9:25:00 PM

The county called, and it is possible our plans are approved... I am supposed to call the county structural engineer and schedule a meeting with the architect, our structural engineer and myself (contractor) to go over the "Special Inspection Plan", due to the complexity of our structure design, we need to have "special" during construction inspections done by our structural engineer during construction to verify concrete anchor points, sheer wall nailing patterns etc.  I get to pay $100/hr for the inspections by my structural engineer (something like this), but actually I'm kind of happy about this because I trust our structural guy, and think this is a good thing.

So hopefully I can schedule this meeting, and with the signed inspection agreement with the county we pay our "truckload of money" as the Plans reviewer indicated, and we will have a Structural Building Permit... perhaps before the end of the decade, or even before the end of the month!  Whee!

Did some code research and learned that our 200-A 3" underground conduit can handle 320-A continuous cable from PGE (Portland General Electric).  I need to research getting a 320-A Meter socket with disconnect switches so that we can wire the existing panel to one 200-A disconnect, and the new (shop) 200-A load center to the second 200-A disconnect. (2 ea. 200-A panels long term).  I did some calculations and for all-electric hydronic heat (with solar backup) 200 Amps wasn't going to cut it for current capacity... so had to re-think the existing 200-A meter socket.

Called Verizon this week, and they are going to move the phone from overhead to underground to the conduit I provided on Monday (Whoo Hoo). $30


Architect CAD model of house (From driveway)
CAD elevation of house (from street)
Existing driveway shot (Car in similar position as first photo)
Existing street view (Door is where large picture window at right of CAD drawing is)

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 6/4/2008 1:36:47 PM

Last week on Tuesday (after Memorial Day), I went down to the county to find out how much longer my remodel plans would be in for structural review.  My architect expected 2-4 weeks... and then it's 16 weeks.  The plans examiner and the structural engineer reviewing the plans were on vacation... but I was told to call them the next day.  I wasn't happy with that, so it turned out there was a county commissioners' meeting that night.  I wasn't sure how to approach that, but decided I would make my concerns about the lengthy review process known.  If I were paying interest on a construction loan, this delay would have cost thousands of dollars.
At the meeting I was one of two citizens to speak beforehand.  (That was scary, but seems so far to have been worthwhile.)  I stressed that all my contacts with the county had been positive except for the delays.  The results have been promising. Last Saturday I received an apologetic letter from the plans examiner with a list of issues.  I went to the architect Monday (two days ago), and he is working on those issues... hopefully I can get permitted in a couple of more months! (sigh... hopefully by the end of June).

So the good news is I didn't want permitting to be on the critical path, so this delay is acceptable.  (There are financial reasons why this wait is OK... if I had $$$ I would be more peeved than I am.)  Part of the "time, money, quality" triangle.

We have received two more bids from generals for the entire project... and now are weighing the costs.  If we owner-build, we are unsure if we can secure financing... if we go with a general... we might be able to get financing, but it would be painful to make the payments.

'Til next time!


Backyard view to the runway.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 6/4/2008 1:27:23 PM

Just hauled 33 hazmat bags to the landfill last weekend. The local landfill requires a 24-hour advance appointment and only accepts the waste Tuesdays and Thursdays. Other than that and a brief wait at the landfill, I paid $115 to drop the waste off. We removed a houseful of popcorn ceiling for about $600. This includes the $50 we paid to test to see if we actually had asbestos before starting. We used about 6 Tyvek suits, and had to purchase a second respirator and new HEPA filters. $80 at the safety store to get the required 6-mil hazmat bags. Double bag a yellow bag inside a clear bag... You will eventually decide that double bagging is a good idea as you move the darn water-soaked bags filled with muck around. We don't know what we saved, but estimate it to be $5,000-$7,000 that a licensed hazmat team would charge. The states of Oregon, Utah and Washington had good information on procedures on how to do this.


Nancy wetting down living room.
Seems a shame, but all this structure will be torn down for the addition of a second story. The wall with cabinets will be removed making one larger first floor kitchen.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 5/24/2008 11:41:29 PM

We have filled about 21 hazmat bags (42 if you count double bagging). Learned a lot about asbestos and popcorn ceilings over the last four weekends. Economics forced us to do this ourselves. In Oregon, homeowners are allowed to do this. Built plastic containment areas for all rooms, two 6-mil floor sheets. Used a garden hose to wet down everything. A @$#%* of a messy job & cleanup. Now we can do some minor interior demolition while we wait out the lengthy permit review process.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 3/20/2008

    Finally received plans from my architect (Michael Lewellan in Portland) on February 12th and ran them to Washington County. The preliminary plans review fee was around $590 and should be 4-6 weeks. I should hear from them soon. The word is that Washington County is one of the tougher counties for permits... so we shall see how this goes.

   I also ran a set to the fire department for approval of a fire wall. Our combined square footage of building, garage and airplane hangar will exceed 3,000 square feet, and we are on a well, so they may require water storage and a sprinkler system. Our architect thinks a one-hour fire wall between the hangar and the house will do, and my initial phone calls with the fire inspector seemed to concur, but that was weeks ago. I need to talk with him and make sure things were approved.

    So far the most difficult task is project management and forcing myself to do the phone calls to line up subcontractors. I have had terrific success with getting fast turnaround on materials bids with spreadsheets called "take-offs" which is the term used by the trade to refer to the estimates - or in my case hopefully accurate materials requirements for beams, joists, plywood. Some of the materials vendors have called now that my permit application showed up on the Web.
   In our case so far, the architect's and the first GC's cost estimates are very rough, since we have no detailed specifications, but both are in the stratosphere for us - $450K-$500K, which is over our $200K-$300K budget for the remodel. Using The Owner-Builder Book, we are hoping to get the best information on costs before we start slashing our plans. Architects can be great at design, but it seems they lose sight of the budget. On the other hand, our first architect was good on budget, but bad on creativity and listening to what we wanted.

   Since we have 2,000+ square feet of flat roof to view from the planned second-story room addition, the architect suggested a green (live plants) roof.  How much? was the question... oh, an additional $7-$9 per square foot. Hmmm, OK. But we learn that the structural engineer added the weight of snow load, green roof (soil, water), and a live load of people for a total load of 165 pounds per square foot. This meant that all the portions of our home that we didn't want to remodel (garage, shop) get reinforcing joists, beams, posts, and concrete piers... UGH! So this is being redesigned OUT of the plans for cost reasons. Some of the glued-laminate beams spanning the 45' hangar are $3,500 each (pressure treated)... the beams are custom made someplace in Oregon, then trucked on a semitrailer to a pressure-treatment plant, then to the job site. I need four of these babies... so $14K just in big beams. The new beams should be smaller, but may still be too large. 

    So far we have spent perhaps $13K on architecture/design work. Much of that was spent prior to purchasing The Owner-Builder Book. The first $3K was on the first architect to get as-built drawings and some initial design ideas. She was great, but we had problems getting a walk-in closet to appear on any sketches... so we found the new guy who was wonderful, but slow, and not as detailed-oriented as I would like. He is more $$$, so I'm torn between thinking I'm getting a great deal for his time, or thinking I overdid things in choosing him. We knew up front from discussions that architectural design costs would be 8-10% of our estimated budget of $200-$300K. But last year in March, '07 when the budget came in at $531K, we started thinking the architect wanted 10% of that amount, which was 25% of our initial construction budget... buyer beware. I don't think this is done on purpose... it seems more that the people who can really afford an architect don't care about the costs... and pay it. From my research, Frank Lloyd Wright was similar, very creative, and always over budget and late.

    In retrospect, we could have spent the first $3K on demolition of the entire house, and $2K on house plans, and saved $8K. But where is the fun in that?

   Now we are deep into budgeting. We have materials quotes for lumber, which look reasonable. And are looking at windows. The design has 8 double French doors. Those babies are Expensive $$. Vetter windows are $2,800 EACH, which is what the architect specified. The local Vetter window rep can just substitute standard (possibly non-Vetter) all-wood double French doors for $1,500. So in areas where we don't get direct driving rain and are sheltered by a roof, we will go that route. Sliding doors are even cheaper. I have priced Andersen doors and windows; you can get list pricing from the Andersen website... very tedious, but do-able. Generally, based on list pricing, the Andersen 200 series windows are 25% cheaper than the same 400 series window. And they share the same base part number (at least from the website data.)

   Also... for French doors that open outward.. these are $$$ more than French doors that open inward. There are security issues (hinges on the outside, so more expensive), and rain/water control issues with the seal. We have CertainTeed vinyl windows and an open-out CertainTeed Fiberglass double French door that we had installed in our current house. It has the internal shade and looks fine for this house, but for the new house we are hoping to spring for wooden doors. The CertainTeed double French door was about $1,300 or so, if I recall, installed (this is a fuzzy recollection).  

    We have also looked into kitchen cabinets and appliances. We are looking at the Kenmore Pro Line, primarily because Kenmore has the best deal on an electric induction cooktop, and the dual oven is well priced and has KNOBS. We spent a lot of time in a nice local appliance store (Standard TV and Appliance in Beaverton, OR)... most of the mid/high-range ovens have touch panels. I work with computers all the time, and when I get home, I don't want to fuss with a touch pad that gives me no tactile feedback... we looked for KNOBS. Fisher-Paykel and Sears have the best knobs on the ovens... that was our take on this.

    The other activity... I worked with PGE (Portland General and Electric) to arrange relocation of my 200-amp electrical service to underground. PGE has a great ESR (Electric Service Requirements) PDF file that discusses how to go about digging a trench. I rented heavy equipment, and we have a web album (private) Picasa that shows the fun of renting a backhoe (first time), then later renting a front-end loader (first time), having that break, and driving a BIG front-end loader (first time)... it's amazing what the rental company would let me play with... total Tonka Toy Fest. About $230 for the backhoe, including delivery/pick-up and replacement of fuel ($30) that I didn't top off. The loader was about $150. The bids I had for excavation were at $2,500, so I had way more fun for $500. I probably could have gotten lower bids for excavation, but where is the fun in that?

      PGE approved the trench, and we filled it in. One contractor mentioned that for a house as big as we are planning, we probably should have gone for a 400A service. I'm going to pretend that as an electrical engineer I can manage this issue, but basically he was 100% right; I failed to do my homework here... guess what, moving to 400A means re-digging the trench, as that requires two separate 3" conduits... so I think I will be happy with 200A. has a great site, with info on how to calculate your amperage. I should have reviewed this. Actually I think I will be OK, but if I choose point-of-use water heat for both hot water and hydronic heat boiler... I could be at or close to the 200A panels limits. So this may force the use of propane for heat.

     I'm going to have some electricians come out for bids, and can chat with them on this.


The grass runway in this photograph is shared by 15 homes... third from the far end of the runway is where this remodel project is ongoing.

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Posted to AirparkHome-Remodel by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 8/3/2007


  Love the book (still reading it).  We are in the early phases of a near-full teardown remodel of a 1966 "rambler" modern-style house based on a grass airstrip in the Portland, OR metro area. Working with an architect the last six months we have beautiful plans. (Three stories), but the estimated cost for a turnkey build is $531,000.  We are hoping to get as much done as possible for around $350,000-$400,000.
  I found this home last year when my airplane was at my mechanics for the annual inspection. Unfortunately, it is rather dark and dreary, other than having this really nifty runway thingy in the back yard, there isn't much to say about it, other than it is "interesting".

   Our addition involves rotating the airplane hangar (35x40 roughly) so you don't have to taxi the airplane onto the patio (nearly into the kitchen window) to get it into the hangar. And we are adding a second-floor master suite, with bathroom and laundry room, and a small third floor 70 sq ft crow's nest.  At least that's the wish list.


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