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Old 01-18-2012, 07:30 AM   #31
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Yes I'm a strong proponent of the concept of keeping water out in the first place, particularly since I Have a terra cotta block foundation that needs to "breathe" on the inside in order to prevent deterioration. The bentonite is interesting to me because I have a specific water issue along the side of our house, in an alley that is completely paved with brick, probably done about 50 years ago. The ground has settled a bit and the roots of some large trees have heaved areas of the bricks so that regrading to restore the swale that made drainage in the area effective would require regrading about 1000 sqft of paving...not something I'm anxious to do.

I was staring at your bentonite ledge and thinking that would be a perfect, localized solution for my problem area. I could pull up the brick in the one spot I have a leak, dig down not too far, and install the shelf. It would be the lowest effort and most logical approach to addressing the issue.

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Old 01-18-2012, 07:44 AM   #32
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Wow... amazing project. Good work!
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Old 01-18-2012, 10:54 PM   #33
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Yes I'm a strong proponent of the concept of keeping water out in the first place, particularly since I Have a terra cotta block foundation that needs to "breathe" on the inside in order to prevent deterioration. The bentonite is interesting to me because I have a specific water issue along the side of our house, in an alley that is completely paved with brick, probably done about 50 years ago. The ground has settled a bit and the roots of some large trees have heaved areas of the bricks so that regrading to restore the swale that made drainage in the area effective would require regrading about 1000 sqft of paving...not something I'm anxious to do.

I was staring at your bentonite ledge and thinking that would be a perfect, localized solution for my problem area. I could pull up the brick in the one spot I have a leak, dig down not too far, and install the shelf. It would be the lowest effort and most logical approach to addressing the issue.
It's certainly worth a shot. Let me know how it goes.
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Old 01-18-2012, 10:55 PM   #34
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Sorry, no update tonight. I had a long day at work. Maybe I'll do double tomorrow...
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Old 01-19-2012, 08:56 AM   #35
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Looking forward to the update...
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Old 01-19-2012, 10:19 PM   #36
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Step 5. The PLUMBING

After adding the drainage system, it was time to do the following to install the plubing...

1. remove the drain in the middle of the media room (the floor was now lower).

2. Add a 3" toilet drain, 2" shower drain (with trap) and 2" sink drain, all with a vent for the future 3/4 bathroom. This would all have to tie into the 4" drain under the floor that was just leveled to the bottom of the footings. Also in this group is an additional 2"drain for the direct gas water heater (for condensation).

3. Add an additional 3" drain in the workshop.

4. remove the existing drain that was added for the washing machine.

5. Add a Radon vent, and hook it up to the outside via the window walled in above the old cellar stairs.

Well that's not a lot of work, right? I started on part 1 first. However, as soon as I started digging around the drain I noticed a smell. And it wasn't pleasant. This is what I saw...


This is an old, cast iron 4" drain. Silly me, I thought all the cast iron pipe had been removed when I bought the house. I gues they forgot this part. The brown discolored clay around the pipe is rusted pipe that is falling off, and well, poop. It was not pleasant.

The all the stacks had been replaced in the basement with PVC, but many of the connections between the stacks were still iron. And all those pipes were broken and leaking. And the connections they made were poor- especially near the cast iron drain I needed to remove...


I threw down some newspaper to try to avoid stepping in the muddy, and poopy mess. Sorry this picture is sideways. rotate your head 90 degrees to the right. Or download it and let the computer do it for you. The drain is smack in the middle, but can be hard to see in all the mess.

A lot of these angles were off, and the PVC pipes were not securely fitted. Furthermore, some were glued with CPVC glue, which is a no-no. I ended up having to throw away most of the PVC that was underground. The worst part was that, if you look to the right, the iron pipe extends to the drain on the other side of the door. I would have to dig UNDER the foundation to remove that pipe, and replace the 3" drain outside as well. Too bad I had already returned the electric breaker to Home Depot and I would have to rent it again....


Leaky cast-iorn pipe heading under the door to the outside


drain outside, after initial demo- you can see they hooked up a 3" PVC to the old cast iron. I would have to dig down about 2.5 ft in this small space to fix this, as well as under the foundation of the wall.


After these brutal repairs were made


under the media room after all the pipe had been replaced. Looks much cleaner, right??? The drain on the left is from the kitchen sink. The one on the right heads to the sump pump closet, and serves a stack from a 1/2 bath on the 1st floor. Also, the Sump pump would tie into that stack as well.

I then filled everything back in with the recycled black gravel.

In the back right you can see my hookup for the sump pump into the drainage system.

Well, that was a lot of work. Time for part 2 (bathroom addition)!!! I didn't take a lot of pictures of digging more trenches for the pipes, so I'll just show you what it looked like when I finished...


As with the other drainage, I used the fine black gravel salvaged from the demo to fill in the trenches around the new pipes. These are the shower drain, the drain for the toilet, the vent (to my left), and the drain for the sink (on my right, hard to see). Notice how terribly the stack had been previously repaired. That serves the main bathroom on the 2nd floor.

Adding the workshop drain was a pain because the main drain was much deeper on the other side of the basement... Here is the finished drain...


sorry it's hard to see in the middle of the floor... as I said, there were 3 light bulbs in the basement. I had a floodlamp, but it was a piece of crap and stopped buying fluorescent bulbs after the 2nd time they burned out after a single use.... You can also see here that during this process I started removing ALL the radiant heat pipes. I was going to start the heating system from scratch, and those pipes were taking up a LOT of headroom (plus were unsightly). I won't bore with pictures of cutting pipes.

The other vents and drains were not special enough to get their own snapshots. However, you will see them in subsequent steps.

With the plumbing done (and the mud removed from my shoes) we could start prepping for the new slab.

...But you didn't think it would be that easy did you? No, of course not. First I had to set up Step 6: The IN-FLOOR RADIANT HEAT SYSTEM (for the basement)...

Da da da..........

Last edited by gbwillner; 01-20-2012 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 01-20-2012, 07:41 AM   #37
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looking good. I am planning to do the same thing on an old farmhouse we are redoing. Our celler is about 5'8 , with a cracked up uneven floor. we plan to bring it down to 7' so we have more headroom for mechanicals. no plan for living space just make it more useable for storage . keep the pictures coming.

when you dug out the floor did you just take the dirt out in buckets or did you rig up a conveyer?
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Old 01-20-2012, 09:37 AM   #38
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looking good. I am planning to do the same thing on an old farmhouse we are redoing. Our celler is about 5'8 , with a cracked up uneven floor. we plan to bring it down to 7' so we have more headroom for mechanicals. no plan for living space just make it more useable for storage . keep the pictures coming.

when you dug out the floor did you just take the dirt out in buckets or did you rig up a conveyer?
The first third was buckets and sweat. The remainder (when I hired a pro) was done with a coveyer that was rigged up over the staircase out that door.
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Old 01-21-2012, 05:39 PM   #39
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Step 6: Preparing for the slab and In-floor radiant hear system

I'm combining two things here because they certainly went together.
After the plumbing inspector approved my work in the cellar, I had approval to pour an new slab. The contractor I hired to level the floor was also hired to pour the slab in stages, to allow for the many intervening steps. He was a very patient man. They were as follows:

1. Level the ground with a ceiling height of 7'11" and remove all dirt/clay from the property (check)
2. Leave for a few weeks (or month, who's counting?) so I could dig the trenches for the drainage and plumbing (check)
3. Come back, and pour 2" of gravel on one side of the basement; tamp it flat
4. Leave again, let me put 6 mil plastic sheeting down for a vapor barrier on that side of the basement
5. Come back, set up/pour curb over the foundation footings in half the basement, pour 2" gravel on the other 1/2 of the basement and tamp flat
6. Leave again, let me put down the 6 Mil plastic on the other half of the basement
7. Come back, finish curb for the foundation
8. leave again for over a month, let me put in under-floor insulation, pipes for the in-floor radiant heat system
9. Come back and pour slab.

Like I said, a patient man. I'll get to why each step was necessary as I go through the pictures.....




Here, the gravel is poured on 1/2 the basement, and I am installing the vapor barrier. I wanted the vapor barrier to extend up and over the footings, since if water was going to come in, it would be above and below the footings. However, I also decided to put up insulation under the slab, but could not place it behind the new curb (which we tried to keep as small as possible). Also, insulation between the curb and the slab would add another moisture break. This picture is the workshop- you can see the drain sticking up through the plastic.


You can see that 1/2 the floor is still just dirt at this point. It was difficult to work this way, but I just couldn't see any way around it. Also, working with this thick plastic sheeting was not as easy as it seems. It's actually pretty heavy, and doesn't like to stay where you put it.


After the plastic was in place, my guy came back to install the curb. This would help support the footings, as well as give me a flat surface to build walls on. It would also give the illusion of straight walls. We made them as low and short as possible. These were installed by placing spikes in the ground (yikes- right through the plastic sheeting I just installed!), tying boards for a flat surface, and pouring concrete. A layer of cement was used afterwards to smoothen it out. After the curb was dry and the spikes removed, I patched the holes. I also labeled all pipes under the sheeting with marking paint, just so no spikes went through them. He had to move the plastic out of the way to avoid making holes in it. Once he was done I just moved it back.


Work on the other side of the basement begins. you can see the installed direct gas water heater and it's drain in this picture. The other 2" vent is to allow radon to leave the basement without going through the slab, and goes outside. I basically stuck one end of an open pipe in the french drain trench, surrounded by gravel. I also bored lots of little holes so gas could go in but gravel could not. This was not a code requirement in my area, but I went above core everythere I could.



After the curb was complete, I secured all the plastic sheeting and then placed down insulation. By that, I mean I used sheathing tape to attach all the plastic together, and patched the holes. The under-slab insulation was a big point of contention between myself and others on this site. I initially did not want to put any insulation under the slab, becase the R value of the floor 5' below grade was over 50. People called me nuts and told me I should go with at least 2". One thing that finally convinced me was that it would take less time to start feeling the heat with at least some insulation. So I compromised and installed a single sheet of 1/2 pink insulation (R=3)...


These pieces fit like a jigsaw puzzle. Unlike the remainder of this installation, this part as a breeze.


It's starting to come together nicely...


Here you can see the bathroom location, as well as the one trouble spot for this activity- the bottom of the columns. You can also see the height of the previous floor level- the bottom of the blue paint on the columns.

Well, I ran out of pictures on this post, so I will have to return with the next steps.... Adding the in-floor pipes and insulation!
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Old 01-22-2012, 03:26 PM   #40
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Once the under-floor insulation was in place, I could add the pipes that would sit INSIDE the new slab and heat it.

Step 7: Insulation for the Walls and Adding the in-floor radiant heat PEX-AL tubing

First, I needed to add insulation to the walls. I decided that I would add R=10 insulation in pink syrofoam 4x8 panels. It was important to use extruded polystyrene insulation for this, and all basement applications. First, it acts as a vapor retardant, second it's easy to install. Well, not that easy since my walls are not flat. Here is where I made my first mistake in this project.
I decided I would place a single sheet all around the basement walls, and secure them to each other with sheathing tape (not easy to find, BTW- that stuff was indespensible). I would then frame the outside walls, and add a second layer of the same insullation between the studs. My reasoning was that A: I would lose less floor space (1" around the entire basement) since the second layer would be in already-occupied space, and that I would have aready cut pieces that were the right size from sizing the original panels. While both of these things were true, doing this was a huge pain in the ass, because although I saved about $50 total in less material and waste, I took FOREVER to cut every single piece to 16.5". I should have just put the 2" up from the beginning. I don't have any pictures of this for some reason, so I'll get to the fun part anyway.

The PEX-AL-PEX in-floor system.

Here is a word of advise for anyone who wants to do an in-floor radiant system. Plan out all the details before you spend a penny. I read this book cover-to-cover before I began.



I spoke to many people about this project as I planned it, built it, and fine-tuned it. I was shocked by how few people actually know what the hell they are doing. I found a lot of people just sorta build it, without doing any of the necessary calculations to make sure the system will actually work.

I chose PEX-AL-PEX over PEX for several reasons. First, it transfers heat better than PEX. Second, it is more rigid and easier to unstall. Unfortunately, there were 2 major draw-backs- 1) it was much more expensive, and 2) it was hard to find the necessary couplings and fittings since the size is slightly different than it's PEX counterpart.

That said, I placed a 3-line circuit in the basement floor slab. Each was about 250 ft. I tied them down to the insulation with either tape or metal fences that I put down for that purpose. Here is what it looked like...


You can see the lines terminate in the workshop, where they will tie into the system.






It took me about a month to get all this down and have the contractor come back to pour the slab. Once the slab was in place, I could begin to add the in-floor radiant heat system for the first floor of the house, using the PEX-Al and aluminum heat transfer plates under the sub-floor (between the joists) since I how had access to it.
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Old 01-22-2012, 10:56 PM   #41
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I put radiant in my project. Here is where I got my information, great site.
http://www.radiantdesigninstitute.com/
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Old 01-23-2012, 08:49 PM   #42
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After the new slab was poured, I had a month of letting it cure before I could do anything fun to it. In the mean time, I got busy on the next thing I could now do:

Step 8: 1st floor radiant heat system

With the ceiling removed and having access to the joist space, I planned on adding an in-floor radiant heat system to the first floor of the house. The basement was easy, since all I had to do was lay down some pipe, and then pour concrete over it. Done. The first floor of the house was a 102-year old 3/4" hardwood subfloor, and 60 year-old 3/4" oak flooring. Protruding from the bottom of the subfloor were a bazillion nail heads from both of these installations. Why didn't they plan ahead 102 years ago? Really, I mean think about it.

Anyway, the plan was to lay PEX-AL-PEX along the joist space, and use aluminum heat transfer plates to evenly distribute heat to the bottom of the subfloor. This is exactly why you have to plan these things VERY carefully. Wood is not a good conductor, meaning the water in these pipes has to be pretty hot to adequately heat the floor (142 degrees for me). The number of lines/foot is also important- I was OK using 1 line every 12".

But before I could place any pipe, I had to get the joists ready. This meant planning EXACTLY how each tube would traverse the joists (i.e., where I would bore some holes), and cut off or hammer down all those bazillion nail heads. Some of the nails were 1/8" thick- I cut these with snips. the larger nails had to be hammered down. This process took many weeks to complete- and was something I totally did not figure in to my time schedule. Kinda like half the stuff I did. Another thing I did not anticipate was how much dust accumilates between the floor and subfloor over 100+ years.


That dirt on my face is 1-102 years old.

Also, boring those 2" joist from 102 years ago was no picnic. I ruined several drill bits, and the only thing that had the power to do it was a heavy (and expensive) angle drill. Probably the best purchase I was forced to make.

Finally I was ready to start installing the PEX-AL. This was also no picnic. Also, this is NOT a 1-MAN JOB. I had to recruit my wife to help. If you pull to hard on the tubing, it will kink on the bored holes and be ruined. You then have to cut out the ruined sections and find expensive couplings, and hope they don't leak. All these things happened to me- don't let it happen to you. You need someone to feed the tube and someone to thread it.


Here, I began to place the tubing. You have to be very careful how you put the tubing in place. One kink and it's all over. As I put the lines in place, I stapled the aluminum plates to hold it in.


Keep track of the ends of the tubing. It's almost impossible to keep the tubing from coiling on itself, and if you lose track of the ends and it coils, you may not notice you made a knot until it's too late.


The ceiling is starting to come together.... notice the gaps between the aluminum plates. You need to leave space because these plates will expand when hot.


This is the ceiling over the workshop- all the lines eventually will terminate and start here. This area encompassed 1 of 4 lines of roughly 300 ft.

As I worked on the other lines, I also framed in the outside walls, since I didn't need the slab to cure for that....


Another example of why this is not a 1-man job. You have to get up, pull slack on one side of the joist, then get down, pull more slack from the other side... repeat 1000x.


Over the next month or 2 (or 3?) I added all 4 lines. This was A LOT OF WORK. I thought it would take maybe a few weeks. I also framed in the walls over the footings. Let me explain why I didn't do the interior walls... because I wanted the floor to cure for STEP 9: Acid staining the concrete... tomorrow....
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Old 01-24-2012, 06:55 AM   #43
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Very cool. Any idea what your cost was per square foot to do the 1st floor radiant heating? Does it just heat the floor or does it give off more heat?
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Old 01-24-2012, 09:49 AM   #44
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Very cool. Any idea what your cost was per square foot to do the 1st floor radiant heating? Does it just heat the floor or does it give off more heat?
This heating system turns the floor into a giant radiator. There is no other source of heat used for the house. If not done properly, it may only "heat the floor" and not the house. That's why I stress doing all the calcluations in advance. Once done properly, this is the MOST comfortable and energy efficient way to heat your house. My bills with the old system (gravity fed system with an overkill boiler filling those 4" pipes) cost me close to $400/month in gas bills. Gas is more expensive now, and my bills have run $150 this winter (plus, I'm heating an additional 1000 sq ft.). While the system was being built, I used the furnace and heat pump. The heat pump is definitely efficient- but it cannot operate below freezing. The furnace is horribly inefficient, and gave really poor heat distribution to the house. Energy bills were roughly the same ($150) for the winter running these two systems, but it was about 20 degrees warmer upstairs than downstairs in the coldest days (on average a 10 degree difference, I would say). In other words- either you kept it too hot upstairs or too cold downstairs. Now, each floor of the house is whatever temperature I want (including the basement, of course).

The total cost is hard to estimate- do you mean just for materials for just what I've installed in the above post? Or for the entire system? Just the cost of tubing and aluminum plates was probably under $900 (so $.80-.90/sq ft).
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Old 01-24-2012, 10:40 AM   #45
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Thanks, you answered what I was looking for!

Looking forward to your next post!

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