Retro Post: Septic Replacement

Some of the grossest jobs around here happened long before this blog existed. You could call yourself lucky, except for one thing – I had a digital camera. You’ve already been subjected to the high-quality musings of why my husband can’t stand certain fake scented apple products. Get ready for round two: replacing our septic system.

Preface: When I say “we” in reference to any work I very much 100% mean “Andy”. He replaced the entire septic, and built a new septic field, by himself. He took an entire week off of work to do it. Hell of a man? You bet.

When we bought this place we weren’t sure what state the septic was in. We weren’t sure what it looked like, if it was up to code, or the last time it had been pumped. This place was a fixer-upper, and a couple things were a crap shoot. Pun intended.

We knew one fact about our septic system: there was a pipe that came out in the side of the yard next to the garage. Gray water flowed out of this. For those unfamiliar, gray water is the runoff. It was, uhm, maybe a bit more gray than a normal septic system. On certain days it just didn’t smell right. Or rather, it smelled right, in the wrong spot. The neighbors even knew this. A good septic system should NOT smell.

Have you lost your appetite yet? If not, you’re going to.

We had a general idea of where the “septic tank” was. When the time came to fix the septic we first had to dig it up with our good and faithful Mahinda, as well as by hand.

IMG_1055First, we found an old well cover that was sketchy at best. Then we found this.

IMG_1056It turns out our “septic tank” was a cylinder block square, covered in a piece of round granite, covered in a well cover. An open pipe from the house flowed into it. Like all septics, the solids went to the bottom. The pipe by the side yard with the gray water? A pipe flowing out. Solids went to the bottom, liquids came out the second pipe.

Lovely.

For your viewing pleasure, the actual tank.

IMG_1057Now to assuage your shock I should tell this this is post pumping. Guys, I would never show you the tank pre-pumping. Even I have lines that I won’t cross on a blog. I don’t even have a photo of it. Ew. I can tell you this, the guy who pumped it said it was the worst tank he’d ever seen, and second, it probably had never been pumped.

Let me reiterate this:

Never.

Been.

Pumped.

How long was it in service? 15 plus years. I’ll wait here while you go hurl.

I think we need a visual break before we move on. Given that this is a retro post, I’ll give you a retro photo of me in college. I was having a nice, quiet, refined evening out full of intellectual conversation with my friends. We discussed great philosophy all night. We may have imbibed in a few couple drinks.

IMG_0044Have you stopped laughing yet at my college photo, and stopped hurling yet at the photo of the septic?

While I understand you’ve just regained your composition, I’m sorry to explain that I’m now going to go into destruction of the septic. Instead of showing you the video, I took a screen shot. I’ll just explain that we were knocking the blocks back into the hole, and then we back filled the hole in.

Old SepticOnce the old septic had been taken care of, it was time to start the new septic.

Andy ordered the tank, and in the mean time he dug the hole for the new tank which was placed next to the house – where it should have been all along – and dug up the yard to install the proper up to code septic field.

IMG_0085 IMG_0100As he dug up, we found the old pipe coming out of the house (the length of this was eventually removed as he dug up the new septic field as well, which the pipe ran through).

IMG_0088The brand new tank came in and was dropped into the hole, ready to be hooked up.

IMG_1014 IMG_1015 IMG_1017A few pipe fittings and hook ups later…

IMG_1019…and it was onto building the new septic (leech) field. This system brings the gray water (real gray water this time) out of the tank and disperses it properly into this area of the lawn through a series of piping. Yes, we have very nice green grass on this part of the lawn now, but no, it never gets wet (from below, rain yes), it never smells, and you’re never stepping “in” anything at all. It might surprise you to learn it’s the driest part of our entire yard.

To build the field Andy used both the bucket on the Mahindra, and the tiller attached to our 67′ holder.

IMG_1024IMG_1027 IMG_1028These photos really show just how much earth was moved.

IMG_1036 IMG_1037More earth was removed to create a fully level area, and then laser sighted in.

IMG_1045 IMG_1046Winnie & Rosie approved.

IMG_1049Next up came filter fabric, topped with stone for filtration of gray water as it slowly seeps out of the piping system.

IMG_1065Piping was laid, and then more stone.

IMG_1067 IMG_1069 IMG_1071The box in the photo directly above is the d-box (distribution box). This distributes the gray water from the septic tank into the other pipes which will, as the name says, distribute it throughout the leech field. The d-box is then covered in layers of insulation to help keep gray water flowing.

IMG_1073A final cover of stone and filter fabric, and the field and septic tank were ready to be back filled with all of the earth originally removed.

IMG_1074 IMG_1081 IMG_1082Andy then put a layer of soil on, seeded it with grass, watered, and covered it with seasoned hay. With the septic field done, Andy was able to grade out the area where the gray water used to flow, and use some of the left over earth to help grade our lawn in some areas that had been rough previously.

IMG_1091Years later and we’re quite happy with how everything has been performing. By “very happy” I mean “nothing has gone wrong”. We’ve since done a lot more to our yard. We took trees down and now have some fruit trees, and a soon to be (hopefully) second garden area where the leech field used to be. The new leech field? Well, it has lush grass since you can’t actually grow anything on top of it.

I might not look as ecstatic about the new septic as I lseemed to have been having during a very mature night out with my friends in college, but inside, I have the same big smile. Septic is a big deal. Trust me. You don’t want that shit hitting the fan.

Now let’s never discuss this again. Just thinking of the old system is gag worthy.

xo,

Heather

A Dogs Ode To Snow

Watching your dogs age isn’t easy, but you have to push that back and enjoy the now—just like they are. It’s thrilling to still have them at an age (6 & 6 1/2) where they act like puppies and are silly, even if Winnie is starting to get some joint issues from running so much and so hard as a puppy (thankfully no hip dysplasia or anything), including how much they love snow. Rosie shows no signs of slowing down, and Winnie—just as she did as a puppy—still absolutely loves riding on the snowmobile.

I thought you all might enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. With that said it’s snowing as I’m writing this, for perhaps one of the last times before real spring weather hits, so I’m going to head out with the ladies again for a romp.

 DSC_8896-01 DSC_8888-01 DSC_8866-01 DSC_8920-01 DSC_8916-01 DSC_8912-01Here’s to enjoying the now, and not wishing our time away even if that wishing is for better weather.

xo,

Heather

 

Renovation Update: Rail & Baluster Installation

It was really cool watching the staircase come together, since it was my job to sand and finish all of the stair parts. Even though Andy built all the parts and put the staircase together, this is definitely the project in the house where I feel like I helped the most. It made it so satisfying to watch come together.

In part 1 of this post, I explained how Andy installed the newel posts on our staircase.

DSC_8578-01

Part 2 – Rail, Baluster & Newel Post Cap Installation

Seeing the rails and balusters go up was very cool, not only because I had a part in it, but because it was the first time I really saw how things happened. I was too enthralled in the process, and admittedly busy taking care of other things around the house, that I sort of forgot to take photos of the baluster installation. I’ll explain as best I can with finished pictures. When it came to the rails, which are made of walnut, I was curious to see how the exact level and angle was determined. Turns out, you need a few levels and a few clamps.

DSC_8583-01 DSC_8586-01 DSC_8590-01This method was awesome because it really gave me a chance to visualize where the rail would fall, but also to figure out if it was at a comfortable height. Andy nailed it the first try, so he marked it off with painters tape, and measured and cut the rail.

DSC_8594-01To install the rails to the newel posts Andy attached them a couple ways. Most of them were attached through a groove in the bottom of the rail, but a few needed to be attached through the top. Either way, Andy drilled two angled holes on each end of each rail at the same angle as the rail and screwed them into each newel post.

DSC_8596-01For the rails screwed through the top, Andy made plugs and glued them into place.

DSC_8939DSC_8935Each rail attached through the bottom groove didn’t need to be plugged, since they were patched after the balusters were installed.

To install the rail to the wall where we had no newel post, Andy did a simple block. We debated on doing a half newel but though a block would look better.

DSC_8940For the balusters (painted poplar, also known as aspen) Andy and I decided on a spacing we liked (two balusters per tread). Andy then cut each baluster to the correct angle and nailed it into the bottom groove of the rail. Once all balusters were installed, he then cut and placed a piece between each baluster to fill in the groove. Each piece was secured with a finish nail.

DSC_8933Once the rails and balusters were installed, it was time for the crowning glory, and the final parts, of the staircase—newel post caps. When it came to what wood to use we debated on a nice maple, walnut, or beech. We finally decided on a chunky but simple walnut cap to tie in the rail. I loved the idea of bringing in some darker wood somewhere else. Even better, Andy had a piece of crotch walnut which he could make one of the caps out of.

DSC_8938 The other two caps were made of regular walnut and are also very beautiful. To keep the balance we put the other two on each end, and the crotch walnut in the middle. We also did this because the stairwell light is directly above the middle newel post, which highlights the beautiful cap even more.

DSC_8931 DSC_8934DSC_8961Overall we really love how the stairwell turned out, so here are a few more pictures of the final stairwell.

DSC_8929 DSC_8946 DSC_8952 DSC_8957 DSC_8959This spring we’re going to start building out the upstairs bathroom, and I can’t wait to share that process with you guys. It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done and should hopefully be an inspiration for all of those with a tiny 3/4 bathroom. Once the bathroom is finished, and funds permit, we’ll be able to start the big renovation on the original house which can only mean one thing—kitchen time!

For now we’re staying busy fixing our cars that keep breaking (oy vey, don’t ask – a new car is on the near horizon), working out in the woods with our neighbor, starting seeds for the garden should the snow decide to fully melt at any point this spring, and over all just doing the day to day working & typical house cleaning and errands!

xo,

Heather

Renovation Update: Newell Post Installation

We finished the stair tread installation a while back but we had yet to install the newel posts, rail and balusters.  Up until about a month ago we’d had a staircase with no rail, but that is no more! We officially have a full staircase which Andy completely built by hand. I’ll be breaking this post up into two so it won’t be so long.

Part 1 – Newel Post Installation

I have to first say I love the newel posts Andy built. Like the stairs, they’re made of beech and they’re beefy which looks so good in such a huge stairwell area. The photos below show how nice they are, but at the end of this series you’ll get to see the caps we put on them which are beautiful.

To install the newel posts, Andy started by ensuring they would have a solid base and be super secure. We have three posts, so we picked up three Sure-Tight newel fastening systems.

DSC_8449-01Next Andy test fitted where the newel posts would go, marked it off, found the center, and drilled a hole for the screw.

DSC_8496-01To ensure the screw would thread in easily, Andy utilized a soap scrap from Green Barn Soaps.

DSC_8499-01 DSC_8501-01Once the threads were soaped up, it easily screwed in.

DSC_8517-01A quick vacuum of the soap scraps that inevitably turnout while you screw it in, and a quick ensure that the screw was deep enough, and Andy was ready to install the newel post.

DSC_8523-01To start he vacuumed out the post from the bottom and top just to make sure no wood shavings from the drilling process were in the way.

DSC_8525-01 DSC_8526-01Once the newel post is put on the screw, there’s a nut that holds it down inside. The thing is, of the hundred wrenches we have, none would fit properly to be able to screw it in. Andy, of course, didn’t let this hold him back. I give you newel post installation fabricated wrench.

DSC_8547-01 DSC_8548-01Win! Andy removed just enough of the metal to be able to fit the wrench, and also turn it to tighten the nut.

DSC_8558-01 DSC_8560-01One by one the newel posts were fit, drilled, and installed.

DSC_8486-01DSC_8578-01I really love how these look installed, and will be sharing the rest of the installation process of the rails and balusters this week! While you’ll have to wait, don’t worry, you’re not the only one!

DSC_8575-01xo,

Heather

Spring Has Sprung?

I am not convinced spring is here.

IMG_8592I am, however, convinced spring is here.

IMG_8726Now if the outside could start to match the inside, things would be a bit better. I am pleased to say this morning made me start to believe that mud season (the season in Maine between winter and spring) may be making it’s unfashionably-late arrival. I woke up to rain, wet snow, and mud.

This can mean one thing—there is hope for a spring garden. Perhaps, however, just not as early as I anticipated.

So, I suppose I hesitantly say, “happy first day of spring!”

xo,
Heather