Building Modern on a Budget Ep. 5 | HVAC, Electrical & Plumbing

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 -
how to HVAC electrical plumbing DIY modern house build construction

*This post is sponsored by DAP Products and Simpson Strong-Tie. This post contains affiliate links.

The house is finally "dried in", which means the roof is finished and the exterior walls are wrapped with a water-proof membrane. It also means we can start working on the inside, bringing in more trades. As we talked about in my last post, we are dramatically over budget and we've been desperately trying to bring costs down. We decided Bryce and I are going to try to do more of the labor ourselves, splitting the jobs with contractors, like we did with the roof. 

The hardest part wasn't rolling up our sleeves and laboring, it was finding the right contractor who is willing to be patient enough to work with us. 

Check out the lasted video from the Building Modern on a Budget to see our current progress or keep scrolling for more details. 

The plumber had been out to the jobsite a couple months ago to run the waste and vent lines before we poured the slab foundation. Now that the framing is all done, the plumbers came back to hook onto the lines and run the pipes through the walls. 

Normally, you would only install shower and tub valves at this point, but we decided we wanted to use wall mounted faucets (we bought these ones from Amazon), the rough-in valves needed to be installed, before insulation and drywall.

I've ALWAYS wanted wall mounted faucets and I'm SO EXCITED to see them go in. Our plumber didn't charge us extra for this type of faucet so we get a major style upgrade with no additional cost.

Eventually, we'd like to tile every tub surround, but in the meantime, it was WAY cheaper to install drop in tubs and three-piece surrounds. I was a little happy our plumbers offered to move and install the heavy steel tubs themselves (we tried to help multiple times and they shooed us away).

Since at this point the plumber was the only trade that came in under budget, we were happy to stand back and let them work.

The HVAC contractor and his guys also let us know that they just wanted to work and didn't need our help. Honestly, HVAC is an area that Bryce and I have zero experience in. I wasn't able to get any hands-on experience, but we asked about a million questions along the way.

When it came time to run the ducting for the heating and cooling, our problematic, out-of-state buildings plans raised some major issues. Basically, there was no way to run ducting from the utility closet in the southwest corner of the house. After talking to our HVAC contractor, he let us know our only good option was to install a second air conditioner/ heat pump unit on the east side of the house. Since the house wasn't designed to accommodate a second unit and we have very limited attic space, we ended up having to re-frame the closet in the guest room and give up a little space for the additional air handler.

When we got our initial bid from our electrician, it was literally double our budgeted amount. Thankfully, the owner of the electrical company is a family friend and was willing to work with us. He told us that if we were willing to do some of the simple labor ourselves, it would save us some money.

We installed all of the receptacles (the boxes for outlets, switches and lights) and drilled all the holes to run the wire through the walls and ceilings.

Next came the hard part, deciding where the lighting should be installed.

Instead of trying to measure and mark the location of each light on the ceilings (especially in the great room where the ceiling is 19 feet up), we found it was much much easier to measure and mark on the floor, then use a 3-way laser to project the location straight up. Then, all we needed to do was to center the receptacle or can light on the laser dot and secure it to the framing.

One of the most time consuming steps (and therefore expensive) is pulling wire. With the help of our electricians, we helped them pull 8 different kinds of wire throughout the house. 

The different types of wire have different capacities and applications. Our electricians taught us that it's a really really good idea to write on the ends of the wires, indicating where they are coming to and from.

Once all the wire "runs" were made, the professionals came in to wire up the panel on the house and sub-panel in the detached workshop.

The pros also made up all the individual circuits, connecting outlets and wiring 3-way switches.

Once everything was run and connected, Bryce and I took charge again.

We used wire staples to secure lines to the framing, preventing them from rubbing against gusset plates or getting in the way of drywall.

One of the most important steps we took was to attach steel screw plates over any wiring that laid closer than an inch and a half from the edge of the framing. Those little plates help to prevent screws or nails used while hanging drywall from accidentally piercing the wires.

The last step of the electrical installation included getting to use some fun new products from DAP Products.

DAP Touch ‘n Foam line has a variety of ready-to-use, spray straw foams, professional gun foams and two-component systems which can eliminate air leaks and drafts, as well as sealing gaps and cracks. 

We have been using multiple types of Touch N' Foam  on the house so far, including Fire Break,

In our area, building code requires that all penetrations through top plates and fire blocking are filled with a fire-proof sealant. We used Touch N' Foam Fire Break spray foam. If a fire ever gets inside the walls of the house, Fire Stop prevents air from spreading through the top plate, slowing the spread of the flames.

Fire Break is super easy to apply and has a better application temperature range than some other brands. Just make sure you don't get any on yourself.

Ask me how I know. 

So let's talk numbers. At this point, we haven't been invoiced for our electrical yet, so we're not exactly sure how much that's going to cost. Including the HVAC and up-to-date plumbing, we've drawn $124,437 from our construction loan. 

We are worried about going over our maximum lending limit and are trying to keep our mortgage as low as possible, so that means we are paying as much out of pocket as we can. Basically, if we have the cash to pay for something at the time, we do. So far we've spent $34,532.

Progress is starting to move quickly now! We've already had the insulators, drywall and stucco guys out. It's getting exciting! Make sure you're subscribed to the Pneumatic Addict Youtube channel so you don't miss the updates! 

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