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May 18, 2008
The chase

Russell ponders how to construct a chase around the center pole and plumbing

The main reason that we originally bought our particular mountain property was because of its panoramic view. The main reason that we specifically bought a Topsider kit home was because it permitted a panoramic view. With its post-and-beam construction, the Topsider was the only home that permitted entire walls to be constructed of glass. And with Topsider’s octagonal shape, we would have an almost unobstructed 270-degree view from inside the house.

Almost, that is, except for the center pole. We decided that we could live with a 12”-wide pole in the center of the house, because it would enable us to construct with no interior walls. With that in mind, we went ahead and purchased from Topsider.

Our original conception was a 270-degree panoramic view that would be obstructed only by a 12-inch center pole

The problems – and the resulting compromises – began almost immediately. When we were preparing to build, Gail looked at the blueprints and realized that there was no plumbing diagram. With no interior walls downstairs and a cantilevered second story, how would the upstairs toilets, sinks and bathtub drain to the outside of the house?

Gail posed this question to Topsider, and after several days they faxed us a hand-drawn diagram. The only place that the pipes could run down from upstairs would be alongside the center pole. In other words, we would have to construct a column or “chase” around the center pole.

In response to our complaints about incomplete blueprints, Topsider faxed us a hand-drawn diagram showing that we would have to construct a chase around the center pole to accommodate the plumbing

We were understandably disappointed that the center pole would now be fatter than we had previously thought, but there was little that we could do about it at this point.

It was almost four years later that our plumber installed the pipes that actually ran alongside the center pole. Just after New Year 2008, we saw for the first time how large the chase would have to be: almost four feet wide.

We had always pictured the pipes running right up against the center pole. Reality was quite different; drainage pipes must have very specific angles in order to pass code and prevent possible blockages.

The center pole, surrounded by plumbing

By April 2008, the building of the chase was becoming a critical path toward completing the electrical wiring. Russell, ever the analytical, spent some time figuring out exactly how to construct it. Using both the hole in the foundation and the location of the pipes as references (Gail wanted several inches between the pipes and the chase to insulate and muffle sound), he decided on a width of just under four feet.

Russell used the hole in the foundation as a guideline for the chase

The finished framing of the chase

He also had to construct a wider cap piece on top, as the pipes took a couple of funny turns right at the ceiling.

The cap piece adds another foot of width on each side of the chase at the top

Another example of Topsider’s less-than-perfect manufacture: the upper top plate is aligned to the glu-lam beams; the lower top plate is level

On the weekend of May 18, Russell finished the basic chase. We still don’t know how the top of the cap piece will work with the ceiling and its glu-lam beams; we will have to figure that out later. In the meantime, the chase is framed enough to continue wiring the house.

And we now have a better idea of just how much our panoramic view will be obstructed.

This montage of photos shows how the final chase will ultimately impact our panoramic view


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