30 January 2009

Radiant flooring, when it rains...

Another crazy week. We prepared the basement floor for the retrofitted radiant installation. As part of this, the existing baseboard heaters had to be removed. Behind the baseboard in the downstairs bathroom (ie the kids bathroom), we found a thriving colony of black mold. In November after removing the shag carpet on that floor, we noticed water on the concrete but Kevin couldn't locate a leak. Fortunately, the plumber could and repaired it, but we had no idea how long the area had been leaking. Turns out, it was long enough to feed a thriving mold community. Since Kev was out of town, it was up to me to take care of it and explore the extent of the problem after Savannah was tucked safely in bed. I cut out the old drywall and found mold on the inside of the drywall as well as on some of the studs and baseboard but it didn't appear to infect the drywall on the other side of the wall (there was no insulation between). I bleached the whole area and when Kevin came home he sanded the studs and cleaned up some of the dust that needed to be vacuumed up so I could bleach again. We wore our NIOSH respirators and eye protection as well as the industry type gloves but the respirator makes my rosacea act up so my cheeks are red this week.

I purchased three mold test kits from Pro-Lab to test for and culture the mold. It will take a few days for incubation but we'll know how bad the problem is or was this way and will send away for lab results on a positive culture to identify the mold - just in case one of us gets symptoms or is sick and just in case it ever comes back. Our plan is to wait a while, reculture the area, then to put mold-resistant drywall up in its place and hope for the best. It does appear to be localized but it seems to me that the process of removing mold also stirs up and spreads spores so, we've got our fingers crossed...

The uninvited house guest in the downstairs bathroom.

For the radiant flooring, first a vapor barrier and thermal layer is laid down on the old slab to insulate the radiant floor and increase the R-value. The product used was low-E slab-shield. Over that, a wire mesh is laid and to that the tubing is tied. The wire also helps stabilize the concrete.

The slab-shield is laid.

The tubing is tied down onto the grid.

The tubes are connected to the manifold inside the mechanical room.

The new concrete slab is mixed by the truck, then pumped down to the basement.

Then, the new concrete slab was poured on top, leveling much of the floor.

Once enough of the Accu-crete is down, it's smoothed out and leveled then left to dry. You can walk on it after 3-6 hours and it doesn't smell terribly like paint or epoxy does. However the concrete does put lots of moisture in the air as it dries.

On Monday the job should be finished when the boiler is installed that heats the floor. Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately the slabshield wasn't installed to the manufacturer's specifications so after long work days, Kev and I had to stay up until 1:30 am correcting as much of the installation as possible... Somehow my 30-week pregnant body managed to hold up with all the bending over a "bowling ball" business to repair the slabshield.

Plus, we've signed a contract for a 5.52kW photovoltaic system to be installed this year in the summer. I'm excited about having solar power, which will tie into the radiant floor, powering that system and more. We will be grid-tied so we'll sell power in the spring and summer and then use these credits in the fall and winter. The incentives for New Yorkers are not being renewed as of February 2nd of this year, so by signing our contract today, we've made it just under the wire, as are many other families. Our PV system will be mounted on poles, which increases the efficiency of the system by approximately 10% over roof-mounted systems since it permits the panels to be adjusted seasonally. The PV will be installed on the berm that blocks our house from wind and weather on the west side. The hill faces south and has great exposure without obstructing any of the views from the home or of the house from the road.

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