Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, Part 4

Let’s just jump right in where we left off. I’m not mentioning much else in life because it’s going pretty normally otherwise, and this is what’s (literally) keeping me up nights.

Without further ado: Bright and early this Monday morning, the heating duct guy called and told me that in another hour, his guys would arrive to install our heating duct.


This only took them about two hours — they said it was a trivial job, even with having to replace some copper water pipes (going to our master bathroom) with… PEC? Some kind of flexible plastic tubing. They took off, and I immediately called to schedule the inspection for the next day.

Tuesday I called to confirm when the inspector would come, but, very oddly, the number kept coming back as invalid. This was strange because I’d successfully called that number the previous day. So, before Benji school, Benji and I went in person to the City of Bothell to check. There we learned the inspector would come some time between 11:00 and 3:00, no telling when (this alone just about gave me an ulcer, because Benji had speech therapy until 11:00, and we wouldn’t be able to get home until 11:20 or so). We also learned that the entire phone system for that City of Bothell building was down. There’s a bunch of construction around there, and some contractor had accidentally cut their line. Ha!

Anyway, to make a long story short (I know; too late!), the inspector arrived about 1:30. He had all the charm and personality of a dead cactus. He looked and gave me two findings:
1. Do a gas pressure test on the new gas line installation.
2. Build a box to support the stud that we cut through to vent the fireplace. Oh, and leave space so the inspector can see clearances around the vent!

Number two is apparently a legit concern; you can’t have studs cut and just hanging there. Jim came this morning and fixed that…hopefully. I’m sure Jim’s work is good, but I’m skeptical of the inspector’s willingness to accept the somewhat, shall we say, creative workaround Jim implemented. All the bathroom plumbing hasn’t made this easier. Jim’s fix involved significantly widening the hole in the drywall, but oh well, it’ll give the drywall guy something to do.



Anyway, finding number one is apparently a load of baloney, at least according to the folks at Kirkland Fireplace. I’m going to summarize the outcome of about a dozen phone calls in the next bit here. First, I called to set up the pressure test, and they said they could send a guy in Thursday, but no sooner. I was bummed, but we scheduled it.

But then there was a great deal of discussion about the fact that only about two feet of flexible hose was installed — no new line at all, just hooking up to a nearby existing line, a really simple connection. The Kirkland Fireplace guys were adamant: Code states that less than 5 feet of new line doesn’t require a pressure test. They even called the inspector and left him messages about it, but never heard back. I also called and left the inspector a message, again with no response. I imagine those inspectors are wrote busy keeping the public safe and all.

Finally, after much back and forth, the Kirkland Fireplace guys spoke with the inspector (they, too, agreed that they’d met rocks with more charm). They cited the code that said the 5-foot rule; the inspector said he adhered to some other code, but if the Kirkland Fireplace guys could show him the citation in his code, and supplied a letter to that effect, he’d accept that, no pressure test required. I’m supposed to receive this letter tomorrow.

The plan is that once I get this letter, I’ll schedule the next inspection for Friday morning. Assuming it passes (ah, yes, those three words do gloss over an awful lot, huh?), the drywall will hopefully happen before Monday, and then Monday-ish the tile work starts. Frankly, that part I’m really not so fussed about; I’m eager to finish the drywall, so we can take down the plastic wall dividing our living room and keeping us from the laundry room.

Now, one last story. Today, by pure miserable coincidence, our furnace stopped heating. It couldn’t be related to the fireplace installation, because that was on January 26, and the furnace worked between now and then. With Gary’s assistance, I replaced the filters; we also tripped the breaker and tried flipping the shutoff on the furnace, all to no avail. Cue making another phone call this one to C.M. Heating, where they scrambled around and squeezed us into their schedule today!

Meanwhile, the gears in my brain were turning, and I thought: We have a fireplace that’s all hooked up and ready to go. It can even send warm air upstairs. Why not run that for a while, and see if we can warm it up in here? So I fired it up (pun intended) and it definitely turned on; I set the blower, which should channel heat upstairs, and although it smelled a bit, everything seemed good.


… Until smoke alarms upstairs started going off. During Benji’s nap. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching myself, wildly dashing upstairs, frantically searching for something safe to stand on so I could reach the alarms (retaining enough sanity to reject my office swivel chair, at least), then ripping the alarms off the ceiling regardless of breaking the connection (they’re wired into the house as well as having a battery), and tearing the battery out. When I had finally, a short epoch later, disabled all the alarms going off upstairs, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, opened the windows to air out all the smoke, and went back downstairs… Just in time for the downstairs alarm to go off. Fortunately, this one had an easy button to silence it, but by then Benji was wide awake and already telling crib stories about the alarm going off.

Needless to say, I turned the fireplace off and left the house cold inside. The fireplace smoke is normal, and I remember now the installer told me to expect smoke for the first few hours of operation. Too bad the intervening 10 days erased that little datum.

In any case, Benji and I got to spend the afternoon with great-grandparents, and when we got home, the furnace guy had already arrived and was replacing the broken igniter, so the afternoon wasn’t a total disaster.

Poppop and Benji

Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, Part 3

OK, our project is not exactly a well-oiled machine of closely-scheduled contractors. We’ve had many days of no work fine at all, then here and there someone shows up, does a few hours of work, and leaves again. I don’t think it’s been even eight hours of work yet, even though we started 10 days ago.

This is all right – we’re not on some tight schedule – but I’m looking forward to having interior access to our laundry room and garage back some day, hopefully sooner than later. It’s pretty inconvenient carrying all our laundry out the front door, through the garage, and into our laundry room. With all this in and out, we have a hard time remembering if the garage door is open, too, and have narrowly missed leaving it open all night several times. However, I remain grateful that we don’t have to go to a laundromat or carry our laundry long distances normally.

Anyway, on Thursday afternoon “Builder Dave” and “Builder Jim” (as Benji says) came, cut some holes in the ceiling and walls, and planned how to run the heating duct to our bedroom. It’s not far, but one water pipe to our bathroom has to be shifted to the side a bit. Jim assured me it was “no big deal,” but I remain skeptical.


Friday morning, Jim came over again and finished cutting the wall and ceiling for the duct to go in.



This resulted in a tremendous amount of wallboard dust, which got everywhere throughout the house despite the oh-so-convenient plastic sheeting. I cleaned up a bit in the remodel area, a possibly futile effort, but it’s still inside the house and I have to maintain some standards, right? A shop vac would be really useful, but I managed with a broom (mostly… There are still some dusty bits I couldn’t sweep).

Now we’re cooling our heels waiting for the duct guys to call and tell us when they’ll come and do the work. Supposedly that’s some time today, but goodness knows when it will actually happen. After that it’s inspection time, then fixing the drywall and doing the tile. Then we clean up a bunch and breathe a sigh of relief – or, hopefully in my case,  finally sleep soundly again.

Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, part 2

This morning, bright and early, the Kirkland Fireplace installer showed up to install the actual fireplace itself. He arrived about 8:00 and finished about 10:30, so quickly I didn’t even have time to make a batch of cookies to say “thank you.”

The stove itself!
Installer Eric hard at work, having just hooked up to the gas line in the crawl space.
It's installed and we can even turn it on!
Not the most ideal location for a vent...

Wow, it worked! All my careful design and agonizing research actually did pay off: It’s not touching the wall in the back; the direct vent was able to bend and go straight out without being too tall; the sides fit in exactly right; the gas line had been run to the exact right spot and he had to do minimal work to hook it up. I have to admit, I’m kind of astonished.

Now on to running the heating duct up to our bedroom, hooking up to electrical, and finally adding the stone exterior.

This is exciting, but I’ll be honest: At this point I’m just ready to have access to my laundry room from inside the house again.

Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition

After three months of… Let’s be generous and call it “planning,” rather than the more accurate “completely ignorant bungling” – anyway, after three or four months, today we actually started breaking ground (or, in our case, carpet) on the new fireplace project.

Before, although after we moved all the furniture.
During just got way less exciting.

This is a day fraught with much anxiety for me, since I did all the research and design. I started from a place of complete and total ignorance, and did the entire thing based on advice from architect friends, City of Bothell code requirements, and the fireplace installation manual. On paper, it looks like it might be decent, and once we got the permit, I stopped worrying about it.

Going over the numbers today with Jim, who’s doing the framing, made me horribly anxious all over again: He always asks me questions that I don’t know the answer to, and if I don’t know now, I’m in real trouble. Thus far I did have answers, but in giving them I lost all confidence in my research and design, and then lost even more confidence (if that possible) in my ability to communicate that design correctly. But it’s going forward now, as the banging and air compressor sounds attest, so we’re fairly committed.

I keep reminding myself: There are two kinds of things you don’t need to worry about: things you can control, and things you can’t. But what about things you did wrong, but don’t know about?! Anyway, I also keep reminding myself that it’s not life and death here; at worst it’s a lot of extra money. Not ideal, but nobody’s going to die because I designed wrong.

Hmm, saying all that may give some insight into why I only slept three hours last night, after tossing and turning for five hours. I didn’t feel anxious, but I bet I was.

Edit to add: Day 1 is a wrap. Now we wait until Monday for the fireplace to be installed.

Back Yard Construction Project

It seems like we’ve had construction of one sort or another going on in our back yard for ages. Actually, it started June 23 with the fence coming down, and – mark it on the calendar – finished today, August 9.

Incidentally, today is my and Ian’s 11th anniversary. Yay for Team Ferguson!

Anyway, today we got home from our sunny Seaside interlude to a completed trellis and bench. Jim continued working while we were gone, and here’s what our finished product looks like.





I’m going to have to live with it for a while, as some things weren’t exactly as I envisioned (the 2x2s feel really long; the corner of the long beams doesn’t meet and cross, sticking out a bit, as I imagined). But overall, I’m really happy with it. We feel that this really helps define the deck much more, giving that corner a sense of being a room to spend time in, not just an open expanse of boards.

Our current idea is to hang potted plants from the beams, and put some kind of lattice in, possibly along the lower 1/3 of the open area (specifics remain a matter of much continued discussion).The bench is a place where we can entertain, chat, hang out, keep an eye on kids in the yard… I’m happy with the trellis, but I love the bench already.

As always, the yard is a work in progress, and we now have a lot of cleanup to do from these projects – gotta find any nails before running around barefoot – but we’ve taken a step I’m very excited about. Next up: Planting some big trees for future shade and privacy.

Home Improvements


We’ve lived in our house for over 3 years. A hose hanger has languished on our back porch for a year. Now, finally, I have a home for our back yard house. Seems small, but it’s sure nice to have it off the porch!


Back in April, we paid money to a upholstery place to make new cushions for our old, sagging couch (which, I will say, came to us free). At the of July, the guys came and took our couch. And finally, last week, it came home. Hooray! Amazing how comfy and improved it is.


Weeded the rain garden this weekend. So many weeds, so little motivation.


Speaking of motivation, Benji and I went for our inaugural bike ride yesterday accompanied by my friend Ellen. I cannot overstate my excitement at being able to go on close errands by bike rather than car.

Yesterday Benji did great: he hated the helmet, but I heard happy noises from the trailer once we got going. He did start trying to get the helmet off when he got bored, but we made it for 45 minutes with just one crawl-around break. I need to get a pinwheel for Benji in the trailer, and we’ll be all set.

Overheard on the Baby Monitor

“This poopy diaper is the worst disaster since World War II!”

“I didn’t even know poo could get there!”

This is what happens when Benji saves up his poo. Now he’s a hot potato, and you never know what you’ll get when you open up that diaper.


In non-Benji news, we’re looking at replacing a portion of our downstairs flooring. This, it turns out, is nearly as intensive and costly as replacing the roof. However, we think it will make the house much nicer and easier to keep clean as Benji gets older.

And, last but not least, I’m also trying out replacements for my road bike. This is fun because I get to try out lots of zippy, lightweight high-end bikes.