Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Day 34: Chimney and Shell

On Monday and Tuesday (Days 32 & 33) I was travelling, and thus the work on the fireplace continued without my help. On these two days, the chimney was built and brought through the ceiling of the living room into the loft. Also, the door for the oven was installed. The photo above is taken at lunch break of Day 34 (Wednesday, 27th Feb), after we built also the first layers (1–11) of the shell. The shell will later be covered by plaster, which will then be painted.

The next photo shows how far we got today, and after cleaning up the place. Clearly visible is the mineral wool insulation, which is a fireproof shield between layers of different types of brick. Tomorrow, most likely no work will be done, but on Friday the brickwork will be complete.

The loft is accessible through a tiny door in the front wall of the house. The door is just big enough to squeeze through, and really only meant for maintenance access. Here's the view inside the loft towards the exit. The white pipes are part of the ventilation system.

The chimney is protruding from the ceiling's insulation by five layers. It is closed for now by a makeshift plug of mineral wool, in order to prevent cold air from the loft to flow into the house, and thereby not only cool the inside, but also hamper with the drying process of the mortar of the chimney. Now we need to wait for period of two days, during which there's no snow fall or rain, and during which it is reasonably warm. We will have to open up the roof by taking two panels off, then bring the chimney up to its final height, and then close the roof and seal it around the chimney. This can hopefully be done some time in March or April.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Day 31: Adding an Oven to the Fireplace

Today, 22nd February, it was time to put the oven on top of the fireplace. Again, the photo shows the state of the construction at lunch break. First layers 16 to 22 (including layer 21.5) of the heart were added. These include three large and very heavy concrete elements forming the roof of the oven. Then layer 22 of the frame was completed by adding a concrete bar spanning the front of the fireplace. Layers 23 and 24 were prepared.

Here's a view into the oven. One can clearly see the arching ceiling made our of the concrete elements. The floor it made of four tiles, which simply lie on a bed of special sand. They are meant to be replaced after ten years or so. The hole in the front is for dropping ashes and embers into the fireplace below. This oven is heated by making a fire in the same cavity as the food is prepared in. Thus one first needs to heat up the oven, then wait for the fire to die, drop the embers, wait some half and hour more, than close the hatch on the ceiling of the oven (see next photo) an then put the food into the oven. Just looking at the picture above I can smell the food, and I'm getting hungry. Are you, too?

Here you can see the oven from above. Again, clearly visible are the concrete arches making up the ceiling of the oven. The hatch for the exhaust, i.e. the connection of oven to chimney, is at the back. An arched metal panel is used to close the hatch, operated from the front of the fireplace by a long metal rod, which is conveniently placed at a height, where it simply exists through the mortar between two layers of the frame of the fireplace.

At the end of the day, both heart and frame were completed. Now it looked almost like the final product, but a lot was still missing. Next will come the chimney and the outer shell, then plaster, and finally paint – or maybe another layer of dyed plaster.

Somehow the kitchen looks empty now, with most bricks gone. Still it is hard to imagine that all these bricks did – after all – fit into the small space the fireplace is taking up now.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Day 30: The Heart of the Fireplace

On Thursday, 21st February, the work continued with the frame of the fireplace. The photo above shows the work done before lunch break. Clearly visible is the contrast of fresh (dark/wet) mortar against the light-grey (dry) mortar from two days ago. At this point, the frame was complete up to layer 21, and layers 22-23 were in the making. But then it was time to begin work on the heart of the fireplace, using fireproof bricks and special fireproof mortar. In the photo, layers 5-8 of the heart were completed (layer numbers always start from the floor).

A close-up of the fireplace shows a hole in the middle, which will be covered by a grille through which ash can fall down. The ash can be cleaned up through the hatch below.

Work rapidly progressed after lunch and soon layers 9 to 15 were installed. The empty cavity under the concrete bar is the normal fireplace. Further up, there will be another fire, which will function as an oven. The slit, which is just visible in the photo on the top layer, will be used to drop the ashes and embers from the oven into the fireplace before preparing food or baking.

Another view from the front. The structure will eventually be encased in another layer of bricks, which will then be covered with plaster and painted. The doors will be black cast iron with glass windows, and there'll be black tiles around the lower fireplace.

Again, the number of bricks scattered around the kitchen is on the decline – which is just as well, since at some point the kitchen furniture needs to be installed.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Day 29b: Frame of Fireplace

While the drilling was going on outside, we were busy in the house continuing the work on the fireplace. Now it was time to start work on the frame, which is basically a few layers of bricks as foundation with integrated channels for the smoke and ash cleaning, and then outside and rear walls. This frame will later be filled with the heart of the fireplace, i.e. the structure of the cavities for the fire.

The photo above shows the situation at lunch break (layers 1-6 complete). In the front there will be three hatches for cleaning, and the opening on the side is where the chimney will be connected. It seems wrong to connect the chimney at the bottom, but the idea is that it will create a draft, which sucks the exhaust from the fires first up, then down in the fireplace, and then out of the house. This ensures that the entire mass of the fireplace (well over 3 tons) will heat up and radiate for a long time after heating. Also the chimney is designed such that it will heat up and slowly release heat into the surroundings.

The next photo shows the frame at the end of the day (layers 1-15 complete). The inside remains empty for now, it will be filled later during the week. By the way, at least three types of bricks are used here. The frame is made of solid bricks, which simply increase mass and thereby heat capacity. The heart will be made of fireproof bricks. Finally, the outside shell will be made of normal bricks.

Looking at our future kitchen, it seems that the brick density is beginning to decrease: some piles are already gone. But it is still hard to imagine that all these bricks fit into that little space, which will be our fireplace.

For the fun of it, here's another view of the frozen trees, which have been sprayed with water and fine dust from the drilling of the geothermal well.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Day 29a: We Are Going Geothermal!

The drilling work of the geothermal was completed on Day 29 (19th February). The team found bedrock at a depth of 18 metres, and then drilled a well of 125 metres into the bedrock, i.e. a total depth of 143 metres. Temperatures were down to –22°C last night, followed by a bright a sunny day. This meant that all the water, which came out of the well, had created solidly frozen dusty ice around the bore hole. In the foreground, 150 metres of hose wait to be lowered into the well.

At about midday, the drilling was completed, and the hose was installed. It was then connected to the pipes coming from the heat pump in the house. The hose forms a loop, meaning it goes 143 m into the well, turns around, and comes back up. A special liquid containing water and 28% ethanol (denatured, so no use to steal the stuff!) will be pumped through the well, which will pick up heat from the ground and deliver it to the heat pump in the house, which, in turn, will do some magic to heat our water. More on that later.

The tracked drill was then loaded back onto its lorry in order to be transported to another house in Sodankylä by the same manufacturer for drilling the next well.

The material extracted from the bore hole is a mix of very fine dust and water. This is simply ejected into the surroundings. At temperatures around –20°C this mixture freezes rapidly onto any kind of structures, and thus a few trees nearby were converted into bizarre looking ice sculptures or some form of Tolkienesque forest.

In the evening, the geothermal heat pump was started up, but at this stage a pump with a barrel of fluid was attached to it. This will run for a few hours to make sure there are no air bubbles in the system.

Here's a view of the geothermal heat pump, with the front panel removed. The two thick hoses (light-grey, perpendicular to the vertical brass pipes in the lower right) are connected to the temporary pump. The two insulated black hoses coming out of the floor are connected to the well. The white plastic tank on top of the brass pipes is the overflow reservoir, and it serves as a place to check if there's enough liquid in the system. The rest of the machine provides warm water for the floor heating as well as for the taps and shower. The beige, large body in the top two-thirds of the device are in fact the water tanks for the hot water supply.

All of this was connected right away, which means that since this day, Our House is powered by geothermal energy. Yay!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Day 28: Firewall and Geothermal Well

On Monday afternoon (18th February) it got busy at the construction site. We began the masonry with the construction of the firewall, for which one pile of bricks was used up – only to find out that we were some 15 bricks short. Thus I had to get more, and bring them into the house on the same day, in order to have them warm up and de-ice overnight. The photo shows the final product at the end of Day 28, including the gap on the top.

Soon after midday, two lorries arrived, one of which is a specialised vehicle, which carries the tracked drill and houses a huge compressor. After a short while, work began on the drilling of the geothermal well, which will provide the energy for Our House. The photo shows the lorry after unloading the drill.

The drill was driven to the correct location, and then it was coupled by a pressure hose to the compressor on the lorry (the orange hose in the background), which provided compressed air at 28 bar in order to drive the drill.

Probably due to the vicinity of the river Kitinen, a lot of water came our of the bore hole, and the team had to keep pumping it out. The deeper the bore hole gets, the more difficult it is to extract the water: the pressure increases 1 bar per 10 metre.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Day 27: More Bricks

On Day 27 (17th February), the task of brining all bricks into the house (all in all 4.5 tons of material) was completed – thanks to Juha for helping! The photo above shows all the bricks needed for the chimney. Every layer requires four bricks, and there are some 55 layers for a chimney of maybe 5.5 metre height.

In the photo above, in the lower-left corner, one of the chimney layers is laid out to demonstrate how it will work. This chimney is designed to keep as much heat as possible in the brickwork in order to radiate it into our living room. Thus the exhaust air from the fireplace will leave Our House as cold as possible.

The fireplace itself is delivered as a kit, and it is once assembled dry (without cement obviously) at the factory. Then all individual layers of bricks are numbered before they are packed onto palettes. This last palette was the trickiest and slowest to unload, because we had to make sure that all bricks with the same layer numbers are somehow placed together – and there are an awful lot of layers, and even half layers (11.5 and 24.5).

Over the next couple of weeks, this will be put together layer-by-layer following the detailed instructions (above, first 10 layers). I will be at the house helping to hand bricks to our mason, which should be a fun project.

Also the mason dropped by today, and placed another layer of large bricks under the fireplace, thereby bringing the foundations exactly up to floor level. Once this layer is dry, we can start to build the fireplace itself.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Day 26: Work on Fireplace Commences

The work on the fireplace began on Thursday, 14th February. In the meantime, the floor was left to dry out more after pouring the concrete. It needed about a week to be strong enough to be loaded with about 4.5 tons of material for the fireplace. All week, I brought bricks, cement and other materials into the house. The photo above shows the first pile of bricks, about 750 kg for the firewall, which will be placed between the fireplace and the wall to our bedroom. The second load included some more specialised bricks, and 300 kg of cement. These loads proved that our old Land Cruiser pick-up is capable of smooth rides and comfortably soft suspension – if only preloaded by at least half a ton of bricks...

The first task was to cut the floor open, in order to reveal the special foundation of the fireplace, which was put in place with the rest of the foundations, and consist of a huge reinforced concrete block. As seen on the photo, some insulation is missing, and thus the structure of the house floor is revealed. It is interesting to see that the concrete layer on the floor is really only just thick enough to cover the hoses for the floor heating, a couple of centimetre.

First, polyurethane foam was used to seal the house against the concrete foundation, then the empty spaces were stuffed with FinnFoam (yep, that one again), and then a first layer of large, light-weight bricks was put down. Another layer will follow later in order to bring the foundation up to the level of the floor in the house. This will be done later, in order to allow the first layer to dry out properly. In the meantime, there are a lot more bricks to be brought into Our House to warm up and dry out.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Day 25: Floor Drying and Roof Inspection

Not much has happened in the meantime, very little work has been done. Instead, the floor was left to dry after the concrete was poured in on Monday, 4th February. The photo shows the situation after four days (about 96 hours) of drying. The mists have gone, and so has the tropical climate in the house, which was prevalent on Tuesday and Wednesday. But the floor still shows wet patches, and the hoses of the floor heating show up as dry areas, since some lukewarm water is already circulating in most of them.

On the same day, 8th February, the building inspector of the local administration came to inspect the roof construction. We climbed through a tiny hatch into the space above the ceiling and encountered a maze of wooden beams holding the roof up. The roof is supposed to withstand a load of 300 kg of snow per square metre. Flat on the floor of this loft there are many diagonal planks, which will prevent shear. The white pipes are for the air ventilation system described earlier.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Day 24: Shiny Floors

On Monday morning, the concrete for the floor was poured in, resulting in very shiny floors. Shiny, because a thin film of water on the floor still waits for evaporation. The floor heating hoses are now encased, and they are already warm. Also, the chemical reaction in the concrete is heating the floor, which is hardening rapidly. Apparently after only a day one can walk on it, but it takes some two weeks to dry out completely. The view above is from the edge of the back door, looking across the full length of Our House all the way to the terrace door of the living room.

An additional powerful fan has been installed in order to get rid of the moisture created by the drying floor. It is essential that the floor is completely dry by the time the floor is completed. Otherwise moisture will be trapped causing the flooring material to warp, or the floor itself to create mould.

The final photo shows again the shiny floor, and two machines. The tall grey machine is the geothermal heat pump including the boiler for warm water supply, and the small white box suspended next to it under the ceiling is the air pump of the ventilation system discussed yesterday.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Day 23: A Name on the Door.

On Monday, 28th January (Day 19), a new team of workers began with the installation of the ventilation system, and with the further insulation of the roof. In modern houses built here in the North, air does not get exchanged by periodically opening all windows or some such. Also, the houses are built nearly completely air tight, and therefore ventilation must be enforced. This happens through a series of large pipes installed above the ceiling under the roof. Modern ventilation systems include heat exchangers, which use the outflowing warm air to pre-heat the fresh air from outside and thereby conserving energy.

During this past week (Days 19 to 23), also some electrical work has been done. Next to all outside doors there are lights installed now, which gives everything a finishing touch.

Upon closer inspection, we found that there's even a name on the door now: the door bell button is installed, but it does not do anything yet. However, we have now become one of the large amount of families in Finland, which all go by the same family name. I guess our future address will have to include a completely useless "c/o Friedland" – useless, because half the population is in care of Friedland.

The most impressive progress is the installation of all that hose pipe on the floor, which forms the floor heating. The photo above shows the distribution point from which hoses branch out into every room, and also the return flow is coming back together here. Controlling everything is a series of valves, one for each room, which are remote-controlled from thermostats in the rooms. The ball of electrical cabling is visible behind the folio, and so are red and blue valves for warm outflow and cooler return flow, respectively.

Here one can see one of the key features of floor heating: the hoses are closer together along the walls and windows, and further apart in the middle of the room. This makes sense, since the loss of heat is larger near walls and windows. The strange excluded area in the top-left is reserved for the fireplace.

The next step is to fill the entire floor area with very liquid concrete to make a smooth, even surface, which will eventually be covered by the flooring.

A lot has happened in the past week, but due to time constraints, blogging daily was not possible. Normal service will resume this week – we hope.