Tree house updates

I started a post about the treehouse but it’s not up to date. Since that one is so long as is really in the early stages, I wanted to start another one.

Despite not having the time I’d like to spend on it, it is going well. It is really ok that I don’t have time as I’m busy with work and kids and just living life.

I finally finished the roof. I’m not sure what order the roof is really done in a construction project. I had the assumption that once the sheeting was on it could just hang out like that for a while. But maybe the framing gets done then the entire roof gets done to keep everything inside dry. Not sure. Anyway. I’m just doing what makes sense. Platform first. Then floor. Stud walls, two of which (front and back) were built on the ground. Filled in the other side walls in place between front and back. Things were a little jibbly jubbly wiggly so I decided to do the siding plywood to stiffen things up. I sorta did the roof rafters along the same time to tie the front and back walls together and further stiffen.

I think it saw like that for a bit until I decided how to do the roof plywood – in two-foot strips. I couldn’t imagine how to get two 4 x 8 sheets of 1/2-inch plywood up onto the roof easily or safely. Ripping sheets in half was easy. I had bought some clips that go between the sheets of plywood. I assumed this was to provide a gap, which is necessary, but also to provide some stability between the edges. But the clips didn’t fit. They were probably exactly 1/2″, but the plywood was slightly larger. So I ditched the clips and used some blocking instead. Ideally I would have used two full 4 x 8 sheets because all the blocking was a good bit of work. But it was safe, anyway.

The next issue was I left the plywood exposed to a couple rain events. I just couldn’t get to it soon enough. I was concerned as the plywood was warping a bit, but was easy to push into place. After I got the blocking in along the seams it was easy to get everything very flat in order to apply the felt/tar paper to prep for shingles.

I had planned to get the tar paper up and leave it for a while. And if this was the case, everyone recommended plastic cap nails. It ended up that we have an entire week of great weather, so I was able to get the felt up and shingles down before any rain. It even got up to 80 the day I finished and the adhesive on the shingles was definitely ready to be sticky. I’m glad I got it done when it was warm.

Another thing I did was purchase some climbing gear to use as fall prevention. After I leaned the extension ladder up and tied it to the house with a ratchet strap, the ladder was very secure. I didn’t feel very secure up on the roof, though. It felt way up there. When I was installing solar power systems, I don’t remember having much problem being up on a roof. I don’t think most of them were this high, though. And I also didn’t have kids then. I researched this fall prevention / fall safety gear a lot. Initially I thought the full harness systems that seem to arrest a fall were the way to go. But they were expensive and only had one use. I never did really find someone specifically talking about climbing gear for roofing safety. But … it is really very similar to rappelling. Except you are just stationary and moving laterally. Then progressing up, but keeping yourself from falling down. I didn’t want to get into the gear that arrests your fall. I didn’t want to fall at all. Which is the goal in rock climbing. Or, for your fall to stop very quickly, which is fall prevention. Anyway. The basic rock climbing gear worked extremely well. I would definitely recommend it if you have a small job. Now I can take up rock climbing again … something I haven’t done since my teens, but have always been interested in doing.

I probably spend just over $200 on a harness/belay/rappel “kit” a couple carabiners, way too much rope and some short accessory cords. The rope was probably the toughest part. Search amazon brings up gobs of “climbing” rope, but most of it is static rope not meant for climbing. Climbers us “dynamic” rope which has some give to it in the event of a fall. Static rope doesn’t have this same give to it that is important.

Anyway. I enjoyed the roofing. I’ve not ever laid shingles but it was easier and quicker than I thought. I do like the look of these Owens Corning TruDefinition Duration shingles. We had them installed on our house in Teak and I asked the roofing company to save me a bundle.

For the most part, I went with this youtube video as instruction, along with many many minutes of perusing other outlets too (including Fine Homebuilding).


Trying to understand

In an effort to try and understand at least a little bit of why or how someone could possibly vote for Mr. Trump after the last four years and after the recent mishandling of just about everything, I’m making this post. I don’t know many people who have or would vote for Trump. Recently someone mentioned that they were still considering whom to vote for.

I won’t say who the person in question is. Surprisingly, they indicated in an email that they are worried what Biden and the Democrats would do to the “stock market.” My initial response to this was that Biden and the Democrats themselves wouldn’t do anything to the market – it’s the stupid investors creating this huge unsustainable bubble and their reaction to a change in leadership that will potentially cause problems.

I don’t see anything to worry about – from what I can tell, Biden will bring logic and reason back to the government. Possibly they will re-enact some of the common-sense regulations that helped us get out of the last recession caused by a bursting bubble – to hopefully minimize the impact of the next bubble bursting and yet another recession happening. The market is where it is at right now partly due to Obama and legislation correcting those mistakes, and partly due to various things the Trump administration has done.

It’s debatable how much a single president can really do to impact the market. It seems to me that stepped into the office in the middle of a huge turnaround that simply kept going and possibly was helped a little by his actions. The Democrats aren’t really in it to dismantle all that. But, they will most likely focus on other important issues, rather than seeming to make the stock market central in order to help the rich get richer. The stock market is not the economy and only helps a limited number of people.

From my perspective, things are currently very messed up as a result of the current administrations inability and incompetence. So, I said to them that I hope they isn’t voting for him as he’s been the worse president in history.

A list of things from a mass/group email was sent to me, probably from a far-right Trump supporter no doubt, that I’d like to look more into. Mainly because – for sure – the news that I read is for the most part solely what the president is doing and usually doing wrong.

There had also been mention of past relatives changing their party affiliation from democrat to republican due to some increase in taxes long ago. I certainly don’t have any context of the claim. From what little I actually know about the relatives they are or were mostly farmers in rural areas. And, I certainly have heard that those outside of cities in rural areas don’t always agree with the taxes levied to pay for roads, schools, infrastructure, etc. And, because most farmers never see the benefit of these things they are usually opposed to them. Taxes are a social thing and certainly far more are collected from cities. And if you aren’t social … well, you wouldn’t want to pay them. But I certainly think everyone needs to pay their share. Taxes are a very typical conservative thing to not like. But they are necessary and are the reason most of the services we all use exist.

I still have to do my homework on Biden’s track record.

I am unsure why someone would need to do homework for Biden, the only option against someone like Trump, who’s track record is horrid across the board (unless you are rich). Recent news points out that he isn’t the businessman he has made himself out to be. He handled the coronavirus pandemic terribly. His approach to immigration and the border wall is appalling. His failure to consistently and immediately denounce white supremacy is criminal, really. I could go on but want to get to the list …

Here’s what a friend sent to me

So yeah. It was quite a block of text. I love how there is always seemingly no formatting to these things. I’m going to break it up, though, so that I can fact check it and break it down. Certainly, in my quest for knowledge, I do not frequent web sites or news sources that seem to report on what good Trump has done. It is hard to find the good. So it was kinda bewildering that this was apparently a list of what he has done and that the author things people should appreciate.

But right away, it gives me the impression that maybe this is stuff other people have done, but Trump has just signed. That doesn’t mean he’s done anything.

Do you dislike that he made cruelty to animals a FELONY?

Trump did not do this. It is an act of congress. He signed the bill. That’s it.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT) is a bipartisan initiative that bans the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impalement or other serious harm to “living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians.”

Do you dislike he gave billions to stop the opioid crisis?

Yes, he has done some work on this. First announcing money in a budget, which wasn’t enough to do much to the problem. Later, he announced more money devoted to the problem. But also has allowed the real criminals to run free. On the surface these announcements sound good. But it seems some good sounding actions distraction from the real aim,  making or keeping someone else rich. Not about helping those addicted to opiods.

He destroyed ISIS, killed how many terrorists without going to war and oh wait, everyone said we’d be in World War III by now with North Korea?

First of all. Nowhere have I ever seen that we were at risk of WWIII with North Korea. Overblown. In fact, there has been far more worry about WWIII with Iran. Or with Russia and China.

Trump didn’t destroy ISIS. He has talked about it a lot and there’s been a lot of talk about it. But I think he’s about the only one in power claiming that 100% defeat.

Do you dislike him because we are the Largest producer of oil?

In my opinion, being the biggest producer of oil is not a good thing. We need to be moving beyond oil. We would be farther ahead if we were taking leadership and being the world leader and biggest producer of alternatives to oil. Fracking “changed the game” but fracking is horrible. We don’t even know the long term costs to this “technology innovation.” Just what happens to that “flowback water” that is hauled off? We need to be working on phasing out fossil fuels, not being the leading producer of them! We will get behind and be playing catch up for years if we keep investing in fossil fuels and not new technologies. We are almost in 2021 and we are still completely dependent on oil!

Do you dislike him because he wanted to build a wall to keep criminals and drugs from coming in?

This is a complicated one. It is not as simple as just keeping criminals and drugs from coming in. I certainly don’t know all the issues or have all the answers. Would a wall help prevent criminals and drugs? Well, a wall would help anywhere to deter people. Will this massive wall keep criminals and drugs from coming in? No. Most of the drugs and criminals are not just coming across easy places in the border. People trying to escape, seeking asylum to find a better life come across easy places in the border.  Are there some criminals mixed in along these people? Just like in the White House and in most neighborhoods, there are criminals among the population. The way Trump went about it, claiming Mexico would pay for the wall was just asinine. This is not one of his accomplishments. One thing that seems to me is that there are some construction companies looking to cash in on building this wall. The amount each “prototype” section costs seems astronomical. I haven’t researched it, but what exactly did nearly a half million dollars go into when building these each of prototypes? That is a lot of money for a useless prototype section of wall!

Do you dislike him because he just slashed the price for medications and some cases 50%, which is driving big Pharma nuts? 

He likes to talk and mislead. And is very limited in scope. This does not apply to most Americans. A talking point, that’s it. Not an accomplishment.

Do you dislike that he signed a law ending the gag-order on pharmacists that prevented them from sharing money-saving options on prescriptions?

Another bill or two passed by congress that Trump signed. Was it his idea to begin with? or was this something already in the works? He wasn’t an author for either one. Just the signer – but he can take credit for supporting the legislation. Certainly lower drug prices are a great thing for those who buy them often. I don’t dispute that. It is a week addition to a list of this sort.

Do you dislike that he signed the Save Our Seas Act which funds 10 million per year to clean tons of plastic and garbage from the ocean?

A much needed action, and yet another bill passed by congress, simply signed by Trump. It partially re-authorizes money to NOAA that it was previously getting. It was also apparently bipartisan and not opposed by a single congressperson. So this was hardly a huge win – it is an obviously, duh, kind of thing that Trump can’t take credit for.

Do you dislike that he signed a bill for airports to provide breast-feeding stations for nursing moms?

I’m not even going to find any fact-checking about this. Cool that he signed it. But also a huge duh kind of thing airports and other public places need more of.

Do you dislike that he signed the biggest wilderness protection and conservation bill in a decade designating 375,000 acres as protected land?

Hmmm. Take the good with the bad? He’s signed a bill to protect this acreage, but also opened up millions of acres to environmental ruin by stripping away their protections. He’s also taken giant leaps backwards on other environmental issues. The Trump administration and Republicans petty tit-for-tat with the Democrats described in the NYT article is immature. Touting a measly 375,000 acres is completely misguided and ill-informed.

Do you dislike that he loves America and puts Americans first?

Trump’s response to and handling of and leadership during the coronavirus pandemic is telling of just how he puts Americans first.

Do you dislike that he made a gay man the ambassador of Germany and then asked him to clean up national security and unclassified as much of it as possible for transparency?

I can’t wait to look this one up.

Do you dislike that he’s kept almost every campaign promise (with ZERO support from Congress who work against him daily!) plus 100 more promises because Washington was much more broken than he thought?

This is just a baseless claim. Without details it is easy to say he’s kept promises.

Do you dislike like that he works for free, donating his salary to different charities?

Do you dislike that he’s done more for the black community than every other President?

I definitely want proof for this one …

Do you dislike that he listened to senator Scott and passed Invest In Opportunity Zones to help minorities?

Do you dislike that he passed prison reform, which gives people a second chance and has made quite a huge difference for the black communities?

He passes things like this – it’s not his idea. He touts them solely to make himself look good.

Do you dislike that he passed VA reforms to benefit the very people who served our country and defend our freedom?

Do you dislike that he’s winning and signing new trade deals that benefit Americans, instead of costing us more?

Do you dislike that he loves his flag and his country?

I’m not sure he really loves this country. He says he does because he’s president and if he didn’t, he’d have problems.

And in closing the email, this person says I certainly don’t like the mud-slinging. I certainly don’t either, but Trump sure does. (link to the debate)


The treehouse project

This is one of those things that I want to have on this blog. It’s a unique project that is both something for my kids to look forward to and something I enjoy doing. It was started in early to mid 2020 while we were stuck at home. I had been hoping to build a treehouse for years and years and we had a tree that really needed to come down, so it is working out. Here’s my notes (originally kept in Apple’s iOS Notes app. By the date of the note creation this project started February 18, 2020 @ 8:42 pm. This post is all of my notes, from newest at the top to oldest at the bottom. From here on I’ll make a new post for each updates. This is the backstory, I guess.

9/12/20 – update

Floor of treehouse and deck is done. Ready to build walls and guard rails. Hopefully will pick up hog panel this weekend.

Finished floor dimensions, which determine the walls:

Other previous thoughts:

Secret compartment under floor above main supports on one side?

Trap door entry? Ladder on deck (rather than inside the house part) would be better for slide. But maybe not safer? Either way a kid could fall through trapdoor or off the opening in the deck for the ladder.

Platform deck plan

  • South 27” or so inches 5/4 x 6″ decking
  • North 70” 3/4 plywood cut around trees for house floor

Siding thoughts

South – 3/8” plywood, wall will be 6’ tall. Two vertical 4×8 sheets cut to length? Door will be 32″ wide.

West – milling cuts from locust? (Would need to mill all to have enough?)

East – 4” cedar fence pickets? Need 18 4” boards to cover front to back. 5 5.5” -6’ 5.5” tall.

North – 3/8 plywood, 5’ tall. Would use a 4 x8 horizontal and the two off cuts from the south to fill in.

Other fun stuff:

Monkey bars 21 1/2” long. 20 1/2+” between holes. 6 bars.

Platform finish:

Cut joists to length.

Stick remaining rim joist members up with 2-3 lags each end.

Lay out joists between trees.

Nail front side rafter ties in place.

Mark and nail rafter tie tabs to back side.

Install joist hangers.

House siding (original thoughts)

1 x 4 fence pickets?

8’ wall = 96”/3.5=28 pieces * $1.33=$38. Not bad really. Fastened with nails? House wrap first? Plywood? Overthinking this …

Platform deck safety railing and other ideas

Lots of inspiration from this project: Treehouse Update – M O D F R U G A L

Platform initial thoughts:

Thinking of cutting some of the support into the tree to cradle the 2×10 supports. At least to get through the bark so the lags have more wood to bite. Not sure if we need oval cutouts to allow tree movement, but this would allow wiggle room too when fastening boards to the tree.

If we cut notched/cradles we can get away with smaller bolts as the cradles will support a lot of weight. Based on the info below on lags we could use 5/8” stuff locally and be good With multiple lags.

>> ended up using six 5/8” lags and the threaded rod. Plus three 1/4” spax construction lags.

9/12/20 update: After these notes I have also added two 45-degree supports from the south edge of the platform to the base of the tree. So this supports a fair amount of weight, but most weight is/will be centered over the two main 2 x 10 tree supports.

Big question is how to make the platform. Two support boards and a platform on top? Or integrate the support boards into the platform? I like the look of the integrated platform/support but I think the platform on top of supports is easier.

> now that the two main supports are up, I think to take advantage of the support they provide, the platform on top makes the most sense. And is easier. Especially since they are at such a great angle to each other. (I had originally cut the ends of the 2×10 to 5.5″ to meet up with a 2×6″ but decided against that. It might look funky but I don’t mind it.)

Finally some lag bolt info:

“The half inch lag bolts are more than sufficient and can usually hold more than 200 pounds per inch of thread, if you use 3 lags that have 6 inches of thread biting into the tree and a factor of safety of 2, your weight limit is 1800 pounds. Also, same as above with two lags would be 1200 pounds.”

Tree house attachment lag size? – DIY

Not that I should be basing my decisions on internet posts, but I think the info is sound. I’ll be using 6 x 8” long 5/8” lags. Probably at least 3-4 inches of thread biting into the tree. And one 5/8” threaded rod all the way through the one tree.

Also will ideally cut a notch/shelf into the tree to support the 2x10s. Did not really do this. Just the lags, conservatively using the info above would hold 6 lags x (3″ x 200 lbs = 600 lbs each) = 3600 lbs. The threaded rod isn’t supposed to be as strong as lags for sheer, so maybe call that 400 lbs? It goes all the way through so there is no “pull out force” associated with that, all it is is sheer. I think we are good for almost any size platform house or whatever. (Calculated weight.)

Interesting treehouse similar to what our tree is like.

Hmmmm …

I was out looking at tree house stuff and realized the project is very close to the power lines … I’m not sure why this didn’t dawn on me before:

No temporary or permanent structures, buildings, in-ground or above ground pools, playground equipment or other fixed im provements should be erected in the right of way.

What I don’t know is if this applies to our power line … as I do not think the area is a “right of way.”

I am quite certain it does not apply. Looking at aerial photos there are many neighbors who have build structures, such as sheds and other things directly under the lines.

⁃ what I want to be careful of, then, regardless, is to not get too close to the lines.

⁃ Will reduce the height from 8 to 6 to help with that.

⁃ Probably will want the bottom of the platform just over 6 feet? So I can walk under it without ducking.

⁃ 6’ + (5.5 + 1.25”=6.75”) platform + (6’ inside + 1’ roof rise?=7’) = 13.5’ height.

⁃ Estimating power line height, trunk is maybe 9’ high. Power lines are at least double that. Let’s say 20 ft

⁃ 20-13.5=6.5 if the lines were directly above.

⁃ North Base of tree is about 10.5 feet from power pole. Pole leans slightly towards tree. Probably at least a foot closer. Call it 9 ft.

⁃ Alter plans so house is mainly south of tree? Tree is main support but on one end. Would rather not have and ground posts other than monkey bars. Angle 2×6 to support south edge (6’) of platform. Tree house would be over trunks.


Quite a year

My last post was years ago. Four years ago. I thought I’d come back to writing on my blog again after that last post, but I didn’t. Too hard to make time. Also at some point, shortly after my last post, my WordPress install got whacked. More whacked than I care to find out. So I couldn’t actually post. Until today – when I just took an hour and figured it out. I’m glad it wasn’t that hard to get going because I was about to throw in the towel and shut the whole thing down. Let the domain name expire and move on. But I have so many years of posts that I didn’t want to lose. And I like to write. So this can still be an outlet. If I can find the time.

I mentioned in the last post it was just after the 2016 election when I published it. It is hard to believe it’s been four years. Things have changed so much, in so many ways. And they haven’t changed more in the past four years as they have in just the past six months.

Besides Trump being the absolute hands down worst and I mean worst president in history by a long stretch, it has been a pretty good four years. Unlike some, I do not believe there is a single good thing Trump has to his credit. Even if he had done something good for society, it is so far outshined by the questionable things he’s done. He is (trying) to take this country down a troubled path and I really don’t think any of us want to find out where he’s going with it. I don’t think we can get him out of office soon enough. I do fear that the next months until he is out of office will be quite terrible. I wouldn’t put it past him to really do something extreme and drastic. But I really hope he doesn’t.

On to the good:

We’ve been in our house for 5 years now. And it is really a wonderful place.

Theo was born in 2017 and he is really becoming a character. Emma started school the same year at a French immersion city school.

I changed jobs in 2018 and couldn’t be happier. (Well, I’m sure I could but this position is pretty great.)

My wife changed jobs in 2020 and she’s in a better place in a lot of ways. She’s at least more where she wants to be too.

Emma is a third grader! Insane! She’s an amazing, wonderful girl.

I bought a different car. Maybe two cars since 2017? Got rid of the big red Ford truck. I didn’t post about either (any?) of them … a 2013 Nissan Leaf in 2016? 17? And then when that didn’t work out a 2011 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI which is maybe the best car I’ve ever had. I looooved the Leaf too. But the battery life and range was dismal.

We bought a 40″ tv. And a wii. And subscribe to several streaming services. Such a change from how I grew up and lived my life for so many years.

I got an electronic drum set this year. It was something I always wanted and I’m thrilled to have a drum set. (Now if I can just find time to play it.)

I built a deck. And started building a treehouse. This after mostly finishing the renovation of our master bath (just need to build a frame for the mirror.)

Had our roof replaced in 2020.

Bought a bunch of word working tools.

Planted an awesome garden that gets better every year.

And in 2020 had the toughest, most challenging and stressful year ever. Along with most of the planet.


Shifting here and there

I haven’t updated my blog in a long, long time. And this isn’t the first post I’ve ever done that states something similar. I’ve gone through various shifts to and away from my web site over the years.  I’ll probably shift back and forth. Again.

Another reason for the shift is getting away from Facebook. I’m just really not enjoying it anymore and have loads of better stuff to do with my time. Especially with the current presidential election cycle and the crazy amount of shit going on with that – I really don’t want to see the news, or what other people think is news. Especially when it’s about one absolutely f’ing ridiculous person who has no business being a presidential contender. (I started writing this post before election day. At this point the unthinkable has happened and we are all trying to figure out what to do about it.)


I still want to keep a log of some things, some time. I just don’t need to post really regular updates to Facebook. And then wonder if anyone sees or cares anyway. Because I don’t care if they care. If I want you to care, I’ll contact you directly and we’ll talk about it (hopefully).

A LOT has changed since I was regularly updating this site. (oddly enough I was active posting a lot when the last republican president was in office. Maybe it’s time to post more again…)

I am no longer a graphic/web designer. I have finally moved so far away from it in my new career and life that I can say that! It is a really good thing. I am so happy to NOT be doing that work any more.

I am a farmer. A small-scale, urban farmer, using organic methods and practices to grow vegetables. (We call it biologically intensive, since we aren’t “certified” organic and have no plans to be.) The place I farm is called Franklinton Gardens. I am the farm manager.

As I said at first, its been a lot time since I’ve updated my site. And then I said I started writing this post before election day – June 15, 2016. It’s November 12 today …

This site still matters to me. I started posting over 10 years ago. And over that time it has been a loose track on my deviation from being a corporate graphic designer to a farmer. In some ways I feel like 10 years ago is about when I started to wake up. But, really, I just started living a more aware, intentional, thoughtful life. Paying more attention to how I was living rather than how well I was living. I happened to focus on food. Initially on what I was eating, but then became aware that the whole food system is kinda whacked and wanted to become a part of it. I am now, and it is a real challenge. Not one that any farmer, or any person should take lightly. But I love it, and wouldn’t do anything else.


car2go and car seats

I signed up with car2go quite a while ago. It is a really nice service to have around, but not one that I’d use with any regularity. One of the main reasons is because of transporting the little one. After much poking around the internet trying to find the answer to whether you can use a car seat with a 3 year old in a car2go Smart Car, I finally have the answer, officially, from car2go Member Services:

Thank you for contacting car2go! The smart car owner’s manual states that only children 12 years or older should ride in smart vehicles, with some exceptions made for children in booster seats if the passenger airbag can be turned off. Unfortunately, car2go’s passenger airbags are triggered by a weight sensor in the front seat that cannot be turned off, and therefore we highly advise against any children under the age of 12 riding in our vehicles. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please let us know if you have any additional questions or concerns, and have a wonderful day!

There was a lot of misinformation around on various web sites (typical). Hopefully this will come up in a search for someone else trying to find the answer.


The Events Calendar and me

I have been trying to figure out an easy way to list upcoming events on the homepage of a web site using The Events Calendar. I won’t say I’ve been pulling my hair out over it, but close.

For such a great plugin, it is strange to me why the makers of this don’t include what I consider very basic functionality: insert a list of upcoming events using a simple wordpress shortcode.

I am not new to WordPress. I am not a full-fledged coder/programmer. This took way longer than it should have. Here’s what I’m doing:

This was the start of my solution. I initially thought I would find a way to add a sidebar with a short code. Then, I could just use The Events Calendar sidebar widget. What I found enabled me to skip a step, and just insert a sidebar widget anywhere with a short code.

Some CSS styling and we are off.

In general, I try to avoid solving problems with plugins. I think this does it for me for now.

If you aren’t familiar with a theme’s functions.php file, read this:

Camden House Miscellany

The Air Conditioner

2012 Was a HOT year. I haven’t lived in a house that had air conditioning since I lived in Phoenix – 2002. This past summer, it was unbearable. The Camden house has an A/C unit, but in my crawl space inspection I found the air handler had a significant mouse nest in it. We didn’t want to turn on the A/C until the problems were fixed and the ductwork completely cleaned.


So, that’s what we did. I replaced the sheet metal on one end of the air handler. In doing that, I found the condensate drain was mostly clogged with mouse nest stuff, which caused water to back up in the bottom of the air handler and rust it out. I patched all that up and made up a new duct connector. We put in new flexible ductwork as well. The old stuff had mouse holes chewed through it.

We also used duct mastic to seal up as many return lines as possible. The crawl space isn’t the most habitable place (though it is 1000% more so now) and I didn’t want the return lines sucking air from the crawl space. I’m sure it isn’t perfect, but it is better now.

After we got that all repaired, we called some duct cleaners. I shopped around a lot. The problem in the end was most places didn’t serve Camden. We ended up going with a company called Hi Tech Duct Cleaning. It ended up great. In doing research, duct cleaning has a bad rap. There are lots of scams and false advertising out there. Their web site was reassuring to me that they weren’t a scam. That, and talking to the owner of the place on the phone. We were really happy with the results.

It was nice to finally have A/C!

Camden House Miscellany

The crawl space

One of the major projects we’ve worked on since living in this house on Camden Sugar Valley Rd is the crawl space. I had never really lived in a house with a crawl space. And, had only been in one a time or two. In my continuing interest of learning how things are built, I was really into the idea of improving the crawl space. By the end of the project(s), I was sick of the crawl space.

Having thought about it for a few months, though, I do like the idea of a crawl space. They just need to be done right. It allows you to do all kinds of things you can’t with a slab or even a basement. Repairs are easier. And, if the space is done right, it can serve as long term storage.

Here’s a basic list of what was wrong:

  • Drainage problems around house
  • Incomplete vapor barrier on crawl space floor
  • Air conditioner condensate drain not properly plumbed
  • Rear deck installed without flashing of any kind
  • So-called crawl space vents inadequate

The house and surrounding property suffer from the typical “false water table.” This is where the backfill next to the house is not as compacted as the undisturbed soil both underneath and farther away from the house. The water quickly percolates through this semi-compacted backfill (which also usually contains a lot of gravel) and hits the undisturbed and more compacted sub-soil. If there is enough water, it accumulates because the clay soil we have doesn’t let water drain very well. This problem is made far worse if the grade around the house is incorrect. And, even worse if your house is down slope from higher ground.

One side of the house we completely re-graded as it was positively sloping towards the house. And, had a flagstone pathway directly touching the house. This stone pathway shed loads of water right at the foundation. We took up the stone pathway and regraded the area to drain away from the house.

We also installed a partial perimeter drain around the wettest sides of the house and installed a sump basin and sump pump in the lowest spot in the crawl space. This was a major pain. Even though we really only had to dig down at most 6″ to get to the bottom or below the footer – try digging in hard clay with only 3 feet of clearance. This was much more difficult than I had imagined. But, the drain and sump work really well.

On my very first inspection of the crawlspace, I simply dug through the 3-5 inches of pea gravel to see what was underneath. Some places I found a black vapor barrier. Some places I did not. Where I didn’t I dug until I found it. Sometimes it was 3 feet away from where it needed to be. An incomplete vapor barrier is almost as bad as not having one at all. Vapor rises absolutely from the uncovered areas.

The other problem with the vapor barrier had to do with the air conditioner. Whoever installed the A/C plumbed the condensate drain straight down, not outside like it should have been. Or, at the very least, they should cut away the vapor barrier so the condensate didn’t collect and spread out on the vapor barrier. After we finally got the A/C in working order (that’s another story) we, of course, ran the unit. After about a week I checked it out. There was a wet pea gravel area at least 20 feet in diameter. This was obviously bad and contributed greatly to the moisture problems. I re-plumbed the drain into the sump we had installed.

Not long after that inspection, I started researching what to do with a problem crawl space. The short version is this: we did what we could on the outside, solving drainage problems, plumbing downspouts well away from the house (so they don’t dump water into that false water tabe). Then we removed the inadequate vents – closed them off with concrete blocks. Installed the drain and sump. Re-raked all of the pea gravel smooth and so it covered the footer. The raking was done so the vapor barrier wasn’t resting on a hard, rough concrete edge. After all of that was done, we lined the crawl space with 8 and 12-mil fiber reinforced vapor barrier. 8-mil was used on the walls – we ran the barrier all the way to within an inch of the top of the concrete block knee wall. 12-mil was used on the floor. I’ll post pictures of the final next.

One day, while we were finishing putting the liner down, it was pouring down rain. Not a big deal – we were in the dry crawl space! However, I noticed some water trickling in around the rim joist and wondered how that was getting there. Oddly enough, it was coming from an area along where the rear deck was installed. The next time we had a day where it was sunny, we pulled back the siding above the deck to see anything obvious. We found no flashing of any kind. And, found rotten wood in the exterior wall all along the deck. Whoops. The water was essentially hitting the deck and siding and seeping either behind the ledger board or down and collecting on the concrete block and sitting next to the rim joist. All in all, not good. So, we pulled up every single deck board and installed flashing to keep the water from seeping into the crawl space ever time it rained.

Anyway. I was originally going to just post a few pics with a little explanation. Once I got into it, I remembered what a big job it was. So, I did a quick and dirty run down. Maybe I’ll post more in the future. Here’s the pics:


Happy Birthday to me!


Yes, I am getting older. Turned 39 today. Yippee! Had a great night out with my beautiful wife.



And, a funny silly email waiting for me for when I got home. Thanks Robert! I can truly say I’ve never received a gift quite like this before. See the gallery: