Home Improvement

The Mighty Ducts

By the time Monday’s post was going up, David the framer was here putting the finishing touches on our new laundry room by adding that fourth and final wall (the one that will have the door that leads to the hallway).

He also added the wall that will eventually house the frosted door to the current storage / future TV room. I took the picture from this side to get around that lovely plastic sheet, which helps us keep some of the attic heat at bay.

Here’s a full shot of the completed framing. I propped up the door just to give everyone an idea of how much it will swing into the room (it’s 8′ deep, so there’s plenty of room for that door to swing without interfering with our washer/dryer/cabinetry).

But this post isn’t really about framing. Why would I make a horribly punny reference to a 22-year-old Disney hockey movie if it were? Nope, this is a post about some of those little annoying tasks that you sometimes forget about in all of the excitement of a big project. Annoying, but no less important. So here are the three items we checked off our list before drywall could begin. They’re not the most exciting, but I hate to skip over them for anyone else facing similar projects… so prepare yourself for lots of photos coming your way.

Let’s start with the new dryer vent. I read that for proper function (i.e. getting clothes dry and not starting lint fires) a dryer vent pipe should be no longer than 25 feet and for every 90-degree turn, you should subtract 5 feet from your length. Here’s what our old set-up looked like, which I think was about 10 feet too long or had about 3 too many turns in it.

The good news is that by putting our dyer on the back wall of the new room, we were much closer to the exterior wall. But when we initially mapped out where the new vent could go (Plan A) it wasn’t faring much better. To keep the pipes up and out of the way, it took nearly as many turns and almost as much length. Boo. So we found a new path (Plan B) that was MUCH better and shorter by going under the attic steps… only it involved cutting a new hole in the exterior wall. That doesn’t top my list of fun activities, but it had to be done. And I’ll explain later why we chose to still take it up the wall rather than exiting the house under the stairs.

To start, I needed to make a path under the step for the 4″ vent pipe to go. I used my Dremel Sawmax to cut the plywood top along the step joist so that I could easily reattach it later. Then I used a reciprocating saw to cut a 4″ wide section out of the 2×6″ for the vent to rest in.

I was planning on reusing the existing metal vent pipes since they were in good enough condition and I had a lot of pieces to choose from. All they needed was a good cleaning first, which I did by taking them all apart and using a long bristled brush to scrape them clean along with my Shop Vac.

Then I started piecing them back together. Pipes like these have a crimped end that makes them easier to fit together. I read once that you want your crimped ends facing the same direction of the airflow so that air doesn’t escape around the crimping. Once fitted together, I sealed everything with metal-faced duct tape (note: not duck tape!).

Once I had all of my pipes fitted together, I started to position them to run them under the stairs and up the back/exterior wall. You can see that I made an opening in the side of the step for the duct to pass through there, and I held everything in place with some steel hanger straps.

That bottom pipe extended way too far into the room, so I cut it down using my metal snips. I left it a little long so that I can cut it to its final size once the room is more finished. The green painters tape is just so we don’t cut ourselves on the raw edge while working.

Next up was putting the new hole in the exterior wall. Fun. I started off by drilling a pilot hole from the inside to mark roughly where the new vent hole needed to go. This was mainly to make sure I placed the hole directly above the pipe that I just installed.

Then I headed outside to start making the big hole in the siding. More fun. Especially the ladder part. Yay. Anyways… I did this using a 4 1/8″ hole saw (which you’ll see closer in a moment). I wanted to start from the outside to make sure I was placing it in the middle of a siding board (and not awkwardly spanning two of them). The pilot hole I made from the inside helped me make sure I was drilling in the right spot.

Outside I only made it through the hardboard siding (not the plywood beneath it). I didn’t want to spend any more time up on that ladder than I had to, so I came back inside to do the rest. The 4 1/8″ hole saw bit made a fresh pilot hole for me to follow so I could be sure everything lined up.

With the hole cut all the way through, I could install the new dryer vent on the outside. I bought one that resembled the original one, since they’ll both be living up there until we go through the trouble of removing the old one and patching the siding (we’ve just capped and sealed it from the inside for now). Oh and Sherry painted the new one to match the siding before I installed it so there’d be less work to do up on the ladder.

Before climbing up I put a ring of silicone caulk around the back of it, that way it’d have a nice weather tight seal from the get -go.

It took a bit of finagling to get it in (the 4 1/8″ hole took some sanding down to get the 4″ pipe through) but eventually it was in and I could screw it to the siding for a nice firm hold. And this photo shows why we chose to put the new vent as high as we did, rather than exiting the house under the attic stairs. That would’ve put the vent barely above that bit of roof below, meaning lint would’ve built up on the shingles. So because we had to take it higher no matter what, we figured we’d put it in line with the old vent, just so things would line up (and not look all diagonally janky until we patch that one down the line).

Back inside I trimmed off a bit of the vent pipe that stuck into the room and connected a semi-rigid vent pipe to it, complete with more metal faced duct tape and another ring of silicone caulk.

Then I just had to reattach the section of the stair that I had cut off and we were back in business. Well, I guess we need the dryer installed to truly be back in business – but you know what I mean.

We’ll take a brief interlude from duct talk to address the floor for a second, which you’ll notice is quite a bit lower in the new laundry room at the moment. We want the tile that’s going in there to be as flush with the hardwoods as possible, so we needed to build up the subfloor a bit.

I did some math and figured I’d need a 3/4″ layer of subfloor, a 1/2″ concrete backer board (for tiling on), plus the height of the tile & thinset to get myself flush with the hardwood floor. Since I wasn’t going to fit two 4 x 8′ pieces of subfloor in our car, I took this as my cue to rent the $19 Home Depot truck and get lots of my big materials – including all the drywall and insulation.

The 4 x 8′ pieces of 1/2″ OSB subfloor took a bit of trimming with my circular saw before bringing them up to the room, but all things considered it wasn’t too hard to get the two sheets to fit  nicely, and then I glued and screwed them down (gluing can help cut down on any creakiness down the line). Here’s the first one going down.

Now let’s get back to ducts. This time we’re talking about the HVAC variety, since this new laundry room has zero heating or cooling coming its way… despite the main trunk line being so close (and the old laundry nook having its own dedicated vent).

I’m certainly not a pro in this department and I had a bit of trouble finding help online in this arena – but eventually this series had enough explanation and photos to give me the confidence to tackle it. Also, I noticed that Home Depot sold this “Add A Vent” kit – complete with materials, a tool list, and instructions. Perhaps this would be less scary than I expected?

Buuuuut… I didn’t actually use the Add-A-Vent box. After purchasing it (it was $67) I realized I already owned some of the items that were included, and that I could buy the others for about $54 instead. One of those items being this “Speedi-Boot” that makes nailing in the new ceiling vent between two joists really easy. So I just returned the boxed set and used my a-la-cart purchases (but wanted to call out that kit here in case it helps someone else who might not have some of the supplies I already did).

The part where I got nervous was cutting into my main HVAC trunk duct. But with some guidance from this post, I traced out where I wanted my new collar to attach…

…and used a utility knife to cut out the insulation, exposing the metal vent beneath.

The tutorial I was following didn’t really help me when it came to cutting the hole in the metal, but this video did. Basically I hammered a flathead screwdriver in to puncture it, then used my metal cutters to go around the circle. There are probably better snips for cutting holes than mine, but they did the trick well enough.

The collar has a ring of tabs on it, half of which I bent outward (to rest on the outside of the vent) while bending the others inward (to go into the hole). Once I placed it in the hole, I reached through the top of the collar and bent the inward tabs the other way so they held snugly against the inside of the vent.

Then I pressed some foil duct tape firmly around the whole thing to create a tight seal.

Next up was attaching the insulated flexible duct that would connect the collar to the ceiling vent. It’s pretty easy to cut to length using a utility knife, but you will need wire cutters to get through the inner wire coil. I held it in place with a zip tie, followed by more duct tape.

I used more zip ties to hang the flexible duct from the ceiling a bit so that it didn’t have any kinks or anything, since I didn’t want anything that might restrict airflow.

I’m gonna leave that cardboard “dust shield” (their words, not mine) in the ceiling vent until we’re ready to heat and cool this room, but I did quickly kick on the A/C  just to make sure it worked. And in case you can’t tell by my thumbs up or cartoon air arrows, it did!

I realize that wasn’t the most fun post in the world, but I’m very glad to have gotten that stuff out of the way so this room can start to come together in more significant ways… like drywalling, which we have already started! It’s actually starting to look like a room in here.

But I’ll share all the drywall-hanging details when it’s done, which will hopefully be by Monday if all goes well. We’ve got book photoshoots today and tomorrow so we’re forced to switch our brains off Laundry Room Mode until Saturday, but at least we were able to get some laundry done at my parents house yesterday so we won’t be stinky for the photographer.

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Well That Escalated Quickly

For two weeks we had virtually no progress in our laundry area, except for rethinking our approach and considering contractor bids. So by comparison, things happened so swiftly over the last few days that it nearly put our heads on spin cycle. What started out looking like this…

…is now looking a bit more like this. Yowza.

Let’s rewind to early last week, when it clicked that maybe we could do more ourselves and sub-contract certain jobs out instead of relying entirely on one contractor and his team. As you may recall from this post, Option 4 is our goal:

We put together a to-do list for all of the tasks ahead of us and decided to take this approach: do what we’re capable of and when we get to a line item that’s outside our comfort zone, call in a pro. Here’s what that list looked like (I added an asterisk to the items we’ve hired out or are considering hiring out):

You already saw that we moved the appliances, so let’s talk demo – which started on Tuesday, with a careful prying off of all of the baseboards and trim so that we can hopefully reuse some of it.

Next came drywall demo, which only involved the cased opening at this point (we were trying to leave the walls to the storage room intact as long as possible to keep the A/C in).  As for the actual demo-tools I used, I knocked things out with a rubber mallet and pried things off with a crowbar.

As for clean-up, I have been sweeping small stuff into garbage bags and collecting a pile of the big stuff in the attic. At some point I’ll get either a small dumpster or another Bagster (I very much look forward to hurling things out the storage room window into the trash bin below – although we can reuse some items, like some studs and trim).

Next on the demo list was removing the old cased opening framing.

This probably required the most brute force of anything – lots of hammering at 2x4s and prying nails apart. Slowly but surely things came down.

Once that was all out of the way, we removed the upper cabinet so the space was officially empty.

Demo was not just limited to walls, though. I also had to remove some of the hardwood flooring since the framing for our new laundry room wall needed to be attached directly to the subfloor. It was a little weird to be tearing out floors that we had laid just last year, but whatchagonnado?

Since we used Elastilon to lay our floors (basically a big adhesive sheet) it wasn’t the same process as prying out nailed planks. I managed to pry off the first few pieces with a flat-head-screwdriver-turned-chisel (that Elastilon is ridiculously sticky) and then it started to lift up in sheets.

At that point I was able to separate it enough to get my knife in and slice through the Elastilon layer underneath, and eventually I could remove the exact section I needed. I also removed the particle board subfloor so that the plywood was ready for framing. Looks awesome, no?

The process of removing the floor confirmed one change to our plan that we had been contemplating for a few days: bumping the frosted door to the storage room (aka: future bunk/TV room) forward a bit. So rather than it sitting in the existing back wall, it will be framed to go right where the hardwood floors end. Not only does this save us from having to extend the hardwoods (we’re thinking we’ll do carpet in the TV room) but it also shortens the already-quite-long hallway a smidge. Thirdly, it will create a small vestibule at the entryway of the TV room for the door to swing into (rather than into the middle of the room), which may make furniture placement in the room easier down-the-line.

My last demo step before framing began was prying (and cutting) out the single attic step that was in the way. I’ll rebuild it on the other side of the platform later.

That was as much demo as our framing guy recommended doing before he arrived (we used David of Chicas Construction, who helped us raise our sunroom ceiling last year). Obviously there are still more walls that need to come down, but we all agreed it would be best to leave them up for as long as we could (again, to keep the hot storage room from overworking our AC). The last half of the framing couldn’t be completed until the plumbing and electrical was moved anyway (which couldn’t be moved until the first part of the framing had been completed) so we always knew framing would be tackled in two parts. So it just made sense to do demo in two parts to go along with that.

On Wednesday morning it looked like this…

…and less than three hours later we had two new walls thanks to David.

After observing him work his magic, I’m pretty sure it’s a task I could’ve managed, but it definitely would’ve taken me MUCH longer. And since he was so speedy, we were able to have the plumbers (Scott & Mike’s Plumbing Services) out just hours later to disconnect the old hook-ups and add new ones.

It only took them about 3 hours to make the change, especially since all of this sits above our garage – giving them easy access to everything without making a big mess inside the house. Of course, they still had to cut out a big section of our garage ceiling, so we do have that repair on our to-do list. But we have been talking about drywalling the whole garage (two big side walls are unfinished anyway) so we might try to get it all done at once.

Having that area cut open actually made life easier for the electricians (S J Ryan Electric), who arrived the next morning. They were able to move the laundry outlets in a flash, but there was still lots to be done in terms of moving light fixtures, switches, and outlets.

For instance, putting a ceiling light in the laundry room (with a switch at the future laundry doorway) and moving some of the storage room lighting & switches. Sherry and I brainstormed where we wanted everything to be moved ahead of time (time is money when people work by the hour) and were able to come up with a nice solid plan for relocating everything so it makes sense. For example, now we have a light above the attic stairs, an outlet in the future laundry room to plug in our iron, and a fixture box in the laundry room that will be centered in the room after we add upper cabinets (if we hadn’t been thinking we would have just centered it in the room but after the upper cabinets were hung it would have felt off-center since it would be closer to them than the other walls).

 

That was all done by Thursday afternoon, so we called our framer to come back out to finish framing on Friday buuuuuuut… he had food poisoning. He’s like the nicest guy ever so he was saying he would come out on Saturday or Sunday if he was feeling better, but we told him not to worry. We wanted him to focus on feeling better and, well, we had other messes to make over the weekend. The good news is he’s here this morning (feeling much better) to finish everything up so we can hopefully start hanging drywall soon!

With the plumbing and electrical stuff relocated, it was time to proceed with the second phase of demo, so I had some fun with that over the weekend.

 

First I bashed down some drywall, which fortunately came down in pretty big sheets for the most part (hence my growing pile of trash/reuse items that you can see near the window). Speaking of the window, here’s our first peek at the daylight we’ll be getting into the hallway now.

I could also take down a bit more of the framing too – namely the old wall with the storage room door in it, which would give us our first real feel for what the new laundry room will be like. Don’t mind the dangling outlet boxes. The electricians added them in a way that makes them easy to be set right into the freshly framed wall that David is working on right now for us.

Here’s the same area with the framing down (and white lines added to remind you where the last wall will be framed in). It’s feeling ever-so-slightly like a room.

I could also take out part of the other wall, since the area with the old washer hook-ups will now just open into the storage room. The plumbing was all disconnected already, but the plumbers left the old pipes in the wall for me to remove during demo. All it took was some cutting with my reciprocating saw and it all came down…

And that, my friends, is how we got to the picture that you saw at the beginning of the post.

The next step construction-wise is going on right now, which is getting those remaining two walls framed – both the one to close off the laundry room, and the one for the frosted door into the storage room. I whipped up a little GIF to help show what I mean (David does it almost this fast):

I realize that’s still not crystal clear, so I’ll make one last attempt by showing you an updated version of the floor plan. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to change the “Current Laundry” label to “Former Laundry.”

Once framing is complete, we’d love to hop right into drywalling (which we’re going to give a go ourselves – although our mudding skills could use some practice) but we need to cross of some other little items first, like rerouting the dryer vent.

I’ll leave you with the last shot I took before taping up a few big drop cloths to keep the hot attic air at bay. It’s some glorious, glorious natural light that’s finally shining on that end of the hallway.

Oh, and we owe you a cost update too. Maybe in our next post once we have the final bill from the framer? So far his estimate, plus the totals for the plumbing and the electrical help are looking great compared to the line items in our two contractor estimates.

What did you guys do this weekend? Did anyone else wield a rubber mallet and tell some drywall who’s boss?

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