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December 4, 2007

In anticipation of the coming winter...
Russell installs heat tape on the step-up pump down the hill
Gail installs insulation in the water tank shed outside the house

In building our mountain house, one of our goals has been to do as much of the work ourselves as possible. This is (hopefully) the only chance we will ever have to build a house from the ground up. Our efforts so far have included hauling and building walls, hauling and building the roof, installing doors and windows, and troubleshooting countless construction problems.

There have been notable exceptions to our “build it yourself” philosophy. So far these have included the foundation, the septic system and the step-up water pump, all of which we have happily subcontracted out with no regrets.

Another recommendation was made by our friend Dennis. (Dennis used to be our building inspector, but due to position transfers he is now just our good friend. He still visits regularly to advise us on “dos” and “don’ts.”) Back in August, during one of his periodic visits and brain-picking sessions, he mentioned that one of the most frequent failures in home-builder projects is the plumbing. Dennis explained that many connectors available in hardware stores are actually not approved for construction, and only a licensed plumber would know that. As a result, most home-builder plumbing is red-tagged by the inspectors and has to be re-done.

Dennis advised that we might be better off subcontracting the plumbing. When we asked for recommendations, Dennis mentioned that his cousin, Curtis Jaspers, is a plumber. With winter approaching, Curtis might have some free time during weekends.

After several phone calls and emails, we finally met Curtis during one of our building trips in October. What surprised us was not that Curtis showed up with his dad, Randy. It was that Randy is a childhood friend of Frank Gilbeau, our crane man. We ended up having a mini-reunion with Frank, always a pleasure.

Gail, Frank Gilbeau, Randy and Curtis Jaspers have a neighborly chat (around here, apparently everybody knows everybody)

In yet another an incredible coincidence, it turns out that Curtis was the one who originally plumbed the pipes in our foundation two and a half years ago, working as a subcontractor for Rick Dietrich and Cliff Overmeier. Curtis remembered our project well. He looked at our plans, quoted us an incredibly reasonable price, and predicted that he could plumb the entire interior of the house in about three visits.

Curtis plumbs the upstairs hall bathroom

Curtis worked on our mountain house at various times during the next couple of months. Occasionally he worked during times when we were also on site, and it was fascinating to watch how rapidly and efficiently he worked. We had no regrets at all about having outsourced this task or hiring Curtis, especially when we watched him saw through joists, studs, beams and even the roof. Curtis even re-plumbed some areas of the exterior water tank to make them more accessible.


Installing (and sealing) a "stink pipe" through the roof

Curtis continued to work, even as the holiday season approached and we were no longer available to go up to the mountain. Finally, on December 14, Curtis telephoned with good news: the interior plumbing had been inspected, approved and signed off on the first try.

We are ecstatic, as our building permit required us to reach a milestone by January. With the plumbing approved, we now have until May or so before we have to finish our next milestones (interior walls and electrical). Although we now have pipes running throughout the house, we don’t have any water flowing through them yet. That will have to wait for another day.

We have plumbing in the walls!


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