Thursday, August 18, 2005

The House Project: Patio and Sidewalks, Interesting Water Problems, Management Headaches

We had to decide between using poured, colored, patterned concrete, or a plastic, and recycled wood decking material called Trex. Trex looks good, doesn't require the maintenance of a wood deck--but it would have been about $5000 more expensive--and our builder believes that it won't be quite as long lasting--so we went with the concrete for the patio out back, the front porch, and the deck around the east end of the house.

Anyway, we went up last night to take a look at the first pours. These pictures really don't show it off--as you can see, the concrete in the front of the house is still in needed of cleaning, and there is a glossy finish applied when everything is complete, so it still doesn't look so good.

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Here you can see the pattern that they press into it. We would have preferred another pattern called "castle flagstone" but the patterns really don't work for rectangular shapes so well. This does a passable job of simulating brickwork.

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Here's the patio in back.

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As inevitably happens, a little of the concrete ended up on the siding, so that will need to be knocked off before painting.

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I mentioned previously that we drained the water tank so that we could retest with presumably cleaner water. No water came out Thursday evening, and the temporary electric meter was showing so little current draw that the builder believed that the pump wasn't running. So we verified the current at the plug at the meter, where to wires went into the well--everything seemed okay. But no water was coming from the water tank, so it must be empty, right? Besides, there was no noise from the pump.

So we assumed that the well pump (which sits 160 feet down in the casing) must have failed. Well, this happens on brand new electrical equipment, sometimes, so the builder got the pump guy out Friday. The conclusion? The pump was running just fine--maybe the pump just hadn't put enough water in the tank yet to feed the faucet.

Suddenly in the middle of the afternoon today (while running errands associated with my father-in-law's death in the morning), I get a call from the builder. He has suddenly realized that someone left the power on to the well pump--and they have not yet installed the sensors that turn the pump on and off at the minimum and maximum levels of the water tank. "I'm on the far side of town. Could you run up there and unplug it, before it burns out the motor?"

I get up there, and discover that the circuit breaker is off--either someone turned it off (like there's any passers-by here) or the pump popped the breaker. But there should be enough water in the tank by now--it was running all morning, pumping at least five gallons a minute. But the faucet still gives no water--then a tiny trickle--then nothing.

Hmmmm. I climb up to the water tank, and notice that around one of the access covers on top there is a good bit of water. It has cooled off the last few days, but at this humidity and temperatures in the low 80s, this water can't have been here for long. It appears that the tank is so full that water is coming out around the rubber seal. So why isn't it coming out through the faucet down below?

At this point, the possibilities include debris that has somehow worked its way into the line, or a big air bubble. The problem sure isn't the well pump--that water tank is absolutely full. The builder's plumber is going to try and solve this on Friday--and I am expecting not simply a fix, but an explanation of why water isn't coming out. If this is an air bubble problem, it could come back, so we need not just a quick fix, but a long-term solution.

The roof trusses were supposed to arrive on site today, and a crane was supposed to lift them in place on Friday--but the truss company suddenly went, "Whoops!" so we won't see trusses until Tuesday or Wednesday. The concrete guys, who were told to come back Tuesday to finish their work (because they couldn't work while the trusses are being dropped onto the house) now have to come back Friday, and get their work out of the way.

I will be so glad to have this place done--just in time for dark sky observing, now that the sun is setting earlier each evening.

Last house project entry.

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