Our butts were quickly kicked into gear when Alan’s parents came to town a few weeks ago. Now, it’s my parents turn and they arrive in just under 2 weeks. My parents have their own place in town and won’t be crashing with us, so this time around our focus is on finalizing public areas of the house and getting my shit out of their house.
With my desk, computers, cameras, knitting, and general office-y things still holed up in my parents living room, we need to focus on my office. Though it was once a dumping ground, at this point we’ve unpacked 95% of the boxes, donated a ton of stuff, and trashed the rest so the office is cleared out enough to get to work.
Although it seems totally unrelated, allow me to back up and talk bout how we heat the house, which will give a roundabout reason for why this room is my office.
Winter in Wyoming means we can always expect a few weeks of temperatures in the negatives, easily hitting -20 for at least a week. Thanks to our severe temperatures and remote location, it’s just assumed among the locals that you have at least two sources of heat, if not more.
When we looked at the house, we saw baseboards throughout. Instead of electric baseboards that I’m used to, we have a hydronic system where a propane fueled boiler heats water which then runs through the baseboards. As part of our riduclous run-around foreclosure buying process, we never actually verified that the heat worked and just assumed any expense for getting the system operational. Because we weren’t subject to the normal terms of a mortgage, we didn’t have to verify that the system was operational and just accepted that we may end up facing a worst case scenario.
To keep a long story (somewhat) short, the system wasn’t de-winterized prior to inspection so our inspector couldn’t test it. The propane tank was also drained below 5%, so the bank needed to leak test the tank and then actually fill it with some propane. At that point, it would have become an argument of who should assume the expense for the propane. After our inspection concluded, when we relayed news that the system wasn’t de-winterized, the bank “sent their own contractor” to the house and passed along his contact info. In addition to declaring in no uncertain terms that the system worked, this contractor said he loved the house and would love to bid on any handyman work (we were talking hand railings, not heating systems) that we needed done. Our initial suspicion was to not trust the word of the bank’s contractor because… of course… but after talking to him on the phone, him leaving his business card for us at the house, and him repeatedly saying how much he would like to do work at the house, we decided to take his word on things. We thought – why would he lie to us and then so blatantly intend to cross paths with us again? This was dumb of us. Of course. He may have turned on the system and been like, yeah, it works! but he definitely didn’t properly charge the system and heat up the baseboards.
Because we purchased the house over the summer, propane and heat took a very back seat to other issues. Somewhere in the first few weeks at the house, one of our hot water heaters stopped working. We had a local plumber come out, he replaced an element, all was great. While he was here I asked him to just take a casual look at the boiler. He fired it up and pretty much immediately noted that the system wasn’t actually pumping water – our pump was bad. We know this dude personally and he wasn’t messing with us. Great, let’s replace the pump.
While he was looking at the boiler, I had him roughly explain how it worked. He pointed out 5 separate thermostats which we identified around the house… well, we identified 4 of them. The 5th wasn’t yet connected but was labeled “new bedroom”. Problem is, we were told that there was no heat in the addition, an issue that we accepted and planned to remedy with a huge stove, some fans, and maybe a space heater if necessary. “New bedroom” could only rationally mean one thing… the new bedroom upstairs in the addition. We ran up there and – duh, there were baseboards. Obviously we should have seen this, but we hadn’t been in the room more than twice prior to the incident and just stupidly overlooked them. So we…. did have heat in the addition? I figured this was the best time to ask him about a different rogue thermostat in the addition. We knew it was there but it didn’t seem to be connected to anything. He looked at it and immediately recognized the brand name as a radiant floor heating brand and ran down to the basement. Uh, guys, turns out we not only have baseboard heat upstairs (Alan’s music room), we have radiant in-floor heat downstairs (our main living room). So the addition is fully heated and everyone is stupid? Between our realtor, their realtor, the inspector, the bank’s inspector, our handyman, the propane guy, and our own stupid asses, no one realized that the addition, a huge room we’d been stressed about heating, actually had the best heat setup in the house. OK. THAT MAKES SENSE. I was annoyed at our collective stupidity, but hooray for happy surprises!
This floor is heated!
Let’s breeze through the rest of this. That original plumber was too busy to schedule the work immediately so we talked to a different company that happened to be doing work at our shop. After finishing at the shop, a worker came to the house whereupon he stayed until literally 11:45 pm. I just… cannot. I repeatedly suggested he call it a day and offered him dinner because what else do you do when a worker is there until 11:45 pm, which is certainly shitty for the worker but also kind of shitty for us? After hours of work he couldn’t get the system to charge, but also couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t. The next day Alan tried to cycle the system himself but it just kept bleeding and refilling for hours with zero sign of progress.
In a fit of desperation, Alan went into the crawlspace which was… flooded. AMAZING. He looked around and found a few locations where the pex was clearly cut. I mean… we took these foreclosure “issues” with a grain of salt. Ok, sure, they (whoever “they” is, I have no idea) kicked in the back door, they took the lights, took the appliances, took the wood stove. They left live, uncapped wires everywhere. Everyfuckingwindow crank is broken to the point where you kiiiind of have to assume it was intentional. This is fine. We knew this. It’s annoying, but we accepted it. Cutting the pex lines in the crawlspace? COME ON.
Once the issue was identified, it was a pretty quick fix. Alan and the contractor replaced the lines, and, with the new pump, the system charged right up. Everything worked, all the different rooms started cranking out heat, good news all around.
Since I’ve already rambled about baseboard heat to the tune of 1,300 words, I’ll save our secondary heat source for another post. Meanwhile, this boiler discussion was also intended to answer the original question of why the second guest room has been dedicated to office use. It’s beeeeecauuuuse…. the boiler is installed my office closet. At first I was like OMG THIS IS SO UNSAFE WHY IS NO ONE ELSE BOTHERED BY THIS?! Apparently, verified many times over, though not ideal, it’s technically not a hazard in terms of ventilation since it vents directly to the outside. It is a a bit louder (not bad, like a subtle white noise) and warmer in the room than we’d want. While I wouldn’t put a kid in this room, if we do have kids some day and the guest room becomes a nursery, this could be a guest room if we just warn people yo, don’t touch the boiler. I know it kind of sucks. I told you the house was a little weird. Putting the boiler in the closet feels like a very lazy solution when the basement is available (unless it was done prior to the basement which I really can’t answer). The boiler isn’t ancient, but it could be newer and more efficient, so if we ever replace it, I think we’ll take on the task of rerouting everything to the basement.
I’ll probably follow this up by showing the wood stove that Alan and his dad installed during their trip. Once that’s done, we can get back to the fun stuff of dealing with my office and getting rid of those insane stripes!