Category Archives: Do It Yourself

How to Install a Mini Split : A DIY Guide

The Big Question is…..Where Have I been?

Since moving into our Cabin we have found a steady list of projects that need to be completed to make it more livable and comfortable, and get ready for the coming winter months. Besides working a part time job – which feels like full-time – I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I would like to my Blog!

Since today is a rainy day- and I need to get to work in a couple of hours, I’ll get started on my much needed catching up.

Why We Made Our Decision:

My wife and I needed to make a decision on how we would cool and heat our cabin during the summers and winters to come.  We purchased an 8000 BTU window unit from a local Big Box store in the beginning of the summer months to make some effort to keep us cool. We knew that we wanted to eventually purchase a Mini Split unit to provide both cooling and heating  when we needed it.  The window unit surpassed our expectations for keeping us cool and comfortable, but we knew we needed more.

Due to the affordability and ease of installation, we decided that a Mini Split unit was our best option for our size cabin.  We chose an AUX 12,000 BTU unit which both heats and cools. At less than 500 Square feet of cabin space, some would say a 12,000 BTU was overkill.  The particular unit that we chose is rated to heat and cool up to 600 Square Feet without any problems. This particular unit came with the installation kit which included both line sets, wiring, remote control, and the outdoor compressor and indoor air handler and wall mounting bracket for the indoor air handler.  Many of these units also arrive pre-charged with R410a Refrigerant.

Deciding where to put it —

After deciding where we would install the unit in our cabin the next step was to pour a concrete pad for the outdoor compressor. Sure, we could have easily purchased a premade concrete pad, however, they can get a little pricey. It was more fun just to level some ground and pour my own, not to mention- Cheaper!  I  used a couple of 80 Pound bags of Quikrete from our local hardware store.

I also installed four (4) 2 inch concrete anchors to hold the compressor in place….

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After letting the concrete cure for a few days and removing the forms, I was ready to install the compressor outside. You can see below the compressor in place and bolted to the pad with the concrete anchors.

If you really don’t like the idea of pouring a concrete pad,  there are several outdoor wall mounting brackets for mini splits on the market.  Most are universal and will hold from 100 to 300 pounds. In the event you prefer the wall mount option be sure to purchase the rubber anti – vibration mounts.  Many times you will not notice any vibration from the mini splits, however, they can be purchased if you want that peace of mind of not hearing or feeling any vibration.  The image below are one of the  mounting brackets available…

Universal Mini Split Wall Mounting Bracket

 

 

Next Step:  Installing the Air Handler on the Wall inside the Cabin ——

First,  select a location on your interior wall closest to the outdoor Condenser unit mounted outside.  Many Mini Split units come with the complete installation kit which includes the indoor air handler wall mounting bracket, two (2) 7 foot line sets, condensation drain line, and power cable and unit cable.  You will want your cables and line sets to be able to reach the Condenser outside. For clarification, your line sets are the copper tubing that supply the refrigerants between your air handler and the outdoor compressor.

Second,  Mount the air handler wall bracket provided with your unit in the location you chose.  An Owners Manual and Instructions will come with your unit when you receive it. Follow the instructions for installing the bracket.  You will only need a pencil, tape measure, and a level to make sure the bracket is level.

On many mini split units your wall mounting bracket is attached by a single screw located on the back of the air handler. Remove the screw and bracket.

You can build out with 2 x 4 ‘s as in the image above or simply mount the bracket to the wall using your existing wall studs.   In the photo you will notice the template that comes with some units. Notice the circles on each bottom corner.  Depending on where your drain lines, line sets, and wires are located on your air handler, this is where you will drill your hole to run the line sets, drain line and cables outside to the condenser.  Check the back of the air handler to find where your lines are located on the unit.  Use a 1 1/2″ hole saw to drill the hole for all of the above.

Once you have the hole drilled from inside to outside, you are now ready to mount your air handler to the wall. Before mounting it on the bracket, pay careful attention to the back of the air handler.  On the back top you will find the tabs that your mounting bracket will slide into.

Before mounting the air handler, also locate the wires, plastic drain line,  and the two copper tubes folded into the air handler for shipping.   Being careful not to crimp the copper tubes, ease each one out until they are straight. You can use both hands to straighten them. Dont  try and force them as you may either crimp them or break them. You may also notice on the ends of the copper lines are caps. DO NOT Remove these at this point…The air handler comes pressurized at the factory and will be released once the line sets are ready to be connected.

After carefully straightening the copper tubes, place those along with the wires and the condensation drain line through the hole in the wall.  You can use electrical or duct tape to keep them together to get  them through the hole to the outside. This may take two people to complete. Before placing the air handler in place, angle the unit to allow the condensation to drain while in air conditioning mode.  You may need to angle to bracket for this or install wedges when mounting the wall bracket. Many installers, using a level, will sometimes angle a 1/3 bubble depending on your needed drainage. Failure to adjust for condensation draining can cause water damage on your walls. Follow the instructions for your drain line.  Once your lines are through to the outside, you can mount the air handler to the interior wall bracket.  You will only need to lift it up slightly, tilt back just a little to make sure the slots in the air handler  slide down on the metal tabs on the wall bracket. You can push it towards the wall at the bottom until you hear a click.

 

Installing the Wiring for the Unit —

I decided to connect the Mini Split to a 30 Amp Double Pole breaker at the Main Panel Outside.  Our Unit is a 240 volt unit which would require at least a 30 amp breaker.  I purchased #10 gauge UF wire, which is commonly referred to as 10/2 UF-B with Ground.

I also purchased 1 1/2″ Schedule 80 Electrical Conduit to run from the junction box at the unit to the main panel.  Even though UF-B Cable is a direct bury cable, I chose the “for safety sake” route and installed the cable inside the conduit.

The above photo is the junction box i used to supply power to the unit.  The conduit at the bottom of the box is from the main panel outside.  I needed to run about 50 feet of UF-B wire and the Schedule 80 conduit between those two points.

I then ran Liquid Tight Flexible Conduit from the Junction box to the Service Disconnect Pictured above.

30 AMP Service Disconnect

As you can see in the above photo, the wiring from the junction box is connecting to this 30 Amp fused Service Disconnect Box.  The cable entering the box on the left side is the Power Cable from the Air Handler unit inside the cabin.   It has a Yellow/Green wire, Brown wire, and a Blue wire. That is one of the two wires mentioned previously when installing the air handler and feeding through the hole in the wall to the outside.

Service Disconnect Wired

In the above photo you can now see the Service Disconnect has been wired. Service Disconnects are normally required by Electrical Code for Heat and Air Conditioning systems.  The wires from the main panel outside ( red and black) are connected to the Line terminals in the Disconnect box.  Line is commonly known as the power source.  The Green wire is connected to the Ground Buss in the middle.  At the Main Panel the Red and Black wires are connected to each pole in the Double Pole Breaker at the main panel. That’s the reason Double Pole breakers have two switches on the breaker.  Each pole is 120 Volts which gives it 240 Volts to your appliance.  Green is always your Ground in electrical current applications.

The Grey cable coming from the indoor unit (on the left) supplies power to your Mini Split unit.  The Brown and Blue wires are connected to your LOAD terminals that are marked as well for easy identification.  Your LOAD is the power being supplied to the appliance. In the event one of the fuses are blown or the breaker is tripped, it will shut off the power to your appliance.  The Service Disconnect is also a means to shut off power to the unit in the event it needs to be serviced without shutting off the main power.

We do sell the 30 AMP Mini Split Disconnect Kits for $49.99 plus shipping. Each kit includes Disconnect Box, 2- 30 amp fuses, one 4 foot Liquid Tight Whip with wiring and connectors, and one 6 foot Liquid Tight Whip with wiring and connectors.  If you need one please feel free to contact us to order.

Wiring the Indoor Air Handler to the Outdoor Compressor—

The second Black cable you fed through the wall to the outside ( as you can see pictured) is permanently wired to the wall mounted air handler inside. You will need to connect it to the unit pictured.  As you can see in the following photo each wire is number coded for easy connection.  This Black cable is actually your control cable which tells each unit in your system what to do.  With this particular model of Mini Split, the indoor unit provides power and instructions to the outside compressor unit.

Each of the wires above have a sleeve attached with the corresponding number embossed.  Simply connect them to the corresponding number behind the cover located on the outdoor unit.  The wires at the top are connected when your unit arrives.  Its that simple!

NOTE:  Keep in mind that not all units on the market are  the same in wiring. This particular unit we installed may not be the same as other units, so follow your units instruction manual.  If you wire it incorrectly, you can cause severe damage to your unit. If unsure, consult with a licensed and reputable electrician.

Installing the Copper Line Sets —-

Two (7) foot copper line sets are used with your unit. Purchasing a Mini Split unit with the installation kit provided will include the line sets.  They will arrive with foam insulation covering the outside of the tubing and the proper flair fittings.  While the installation of the Line Sets are simple, we chose to have a licensed HVAC Technician install them. Most units, as mentioned previously, come precharged with R410a Refrigerant.  Once the lines are connected between the indoor unit and the compressor, the lines need to be evacuated with a pump made for this purpose. These particular pumps, with the gauges and the proper adapters can be quite costly.  We actually couldn’t justify spending money for a vacuum pump that we would use only once.  A good pump is around $300 or more.

As you can see in the photo above the HVAC Technician curled the copper tubing before connecting them to the Compressor  ( as shown).  By doing that it saved him from having to cut the copper tubing and not having to flair the ends of the tubing again.  The fittings are then connected to the unit.  Each copper tube will be a different size and will connect to the corresponding size on the unit. One line is for refrigerant and the small line for heat.  The Tech also connected the line sets to the line set tubing attached to the indoor unit and fed through the wall to the outside. As Mentioned previously, this unit is pressurized at the factory. Once he was ready to connect the line sets, he removed the caps from the ends and you will hear air bleeding from the indoor unit.  This simply means that the unit will hold pressure and is nothing to be concerned over.  He then connected the outdoor line sets together with the supplied flair fittings.

The vacuum pump is connected to one of the fittings on the end of the Compressor to remove any moisture in the lines and also to remove any air or contaminates.  The process can take a few short minutes or can take longer if refrigerant needs to be added. Once the system is “evacuated” or “drawn down” as they say and  the proper microns or pressure is achieved, a valve in the end of the connections is opened to release the refrigerant into the system.   Not doing this properly can also cause damage to your unit or cause you to lose the refrigerant.

Hiring a Licensed HVAC Technician gave us the peace of mind that it was done correctly and our system would work properly.

Once we had it installed, connected,  and the HVAC Tech connected the lines, we were ready for the test.  Our unit came with a Remote Control to set the temperature and operate the system.  We can say the unit has worked flawlessly and we are happy with the results.  Installing Mini Split units are very easy and anyone can do it if you follow the instructions.  It can save you alot of money doing it yourself.

We also chose to purchase a Line Set Cover which you see pictured below.  They do a great job of covering the lines and wiring and make it appealing to look at.

 

 

 

 

Using Salvaged or Reclaimed Materials – Setting Up A PSO?

The first question I am sure you are now asking is – WHAT THE HECK IS A PSO?

A PSO is nothing more than a Pure Salvage Outpost – Just a place that you can collect and store salvaged or reclaimed material to help others build their small house or cabin on their own land.  Many people prefer the Big House with a Mortgage with all those bells and whistles screaming at the neighbors to Look at Me!  This lifestyle of living small isn’t for everyone as much as living in a large house with immaculate landscaping isn’t something many minimalist want either.  Regardless of who you are,  choose what makes you Happy!

In my Business – by that I mean the Homesteading Website and Facebook pages that I publish – I see people who want to get away from big banks, Mortgage companies, and have a small house that they can buy or build themselves without spending a fortune. They also don’t want to worry about the ever increasing costs of new building materials and off-gassing from treated products.  Sometimes we just cant help that we need to buy these things that are so new and expensive because they aren’t available anywhere else.

Those things are available anywhere else – and its called Reclaimed Materials. They have been used and abused and lasted the test of time. Farmer Joe down the road may have built a barn many  years ago that wasn’t treated with harsh chemicals that make you sick.  I have seen many abandoned old houses on tobacco farms that were used a pack houses. Those sometimes have a great supply of old wood, doors, vintage light fixtures, or a good ole cast iron sink.

Reclaimed Material

Sometimes, a good place to start is a local Goodwill or Habitat Store to see what they have available.  Many times they have reclaimed materials, but they are still treated in some form with harmful chemicals – I don’t advocate not buying from them.  They are a great cause to help people find less expensive items that they can afford or build a house from donated materials for affordable housing.

Photo Credit: Roma Frank

What I do advocate is this – – Get with your like minded neighbors and community and start a PSO in your community. Pool together and find reclaimed items to sell at discounted prices like old lumber,  windows, fixtures and the many things you can use to build a small cabin or house.  Barter or Trade materials, tools, wisdom and advice.  You can find many items for FREE on social media or other websites that people are itching to give away. Take that money and use it to buy more reclaimed materials.  You may have something that a neighbor can use and they may have something to trade.  Best of all, help them build with your knowledge and they help you.  You will be much better off using reclaimed materials that look really cool, than buying new materials which can harm you!

My wife and I found a great business this past weekend in the Mennonite Community about a two hour drive from our place.  We were specifically wanting metal underpinning for our cabin. The local Sheet Metal and Roofing fabricators wanted $2.29 or more per foot . The shop we found sells it for .55 per foot, and in the color that we wanted.  It’s not impossible to find these deals if you look.

If you have some available property on your homestead that you aren’t doing anything with – this would be a good place to start a local outpost for reclaimed materials. It may take some time to accumulate things to make it worthwhile. You can also be a drop off site for those who are throwing things away instead of taking it to the landfill.

Personally, I would like to see these places pop up all over the country.  A great example is one that exists in Texas.  You can find it here and meet the creator!  Pure Salvage Living  

Photo Credit: Tiny Texas Houses

 

Wherever you plan to build your small house or cabin from reclaimed materials- with a little help from your friends – be sure to check your local zoning laws and codes to make sure its allowed.  If not, pick a place where it is allowed and get started!

Writers Note:  In this Post I have included photos submitted from Followers of our Facebook Page   Shed to House Conversions: A to Z .  Photos Credits are Given.

 

PEX Plumbing Kit- My Personal Experience

When we were planning our Shed to House Conversion it was a necessity to have running water. We decided that we would use PEX Plumbing over conventional PVC for the ease of its use and affordability. While in the process of shopping for supplies and the items that we would need, I came across a Pex Plumbing Kit that gave me everything I wanted in one place without having to shop around for the various parts.

These kits were put together to be used in Tiny Houses, Cabins, or Shed Conversion projects such as ours. I began by purchasing a roll of 3/4 inch PEX I wanted to use as my main water line from the water meter to our cabin. It worked out perfect as the local water company installed a 3/4 inch meter at the roadway.

After we ordered and received the kit I couldn’t wait to start the installation. The day we received it I opened the box in anticipation of seeing what was inside. These kits included one hundred (100) feet each of Red and Blue PEX 1/2 inch rolls of tubing, Twenty (20) 1/2 inch brass elbows, Fifty (50) 1/2 inch metal crimp rings, Tubing cutter, a Crimping Tool for 1/2 inch and 3/4 Inch Metal Crimps, and Two (2) 1 Inch Copper Manifolds with 4 Valves. I still had some reservations if this Kit would be enough to plumb our 12 by 40 foot cabin. You can see in the image below the items included in each kit.

After I installed the main water line going to the cabin as you can see below, I began drilling holes in the studs to install the PEX tubing.

3/4 Inch PEX Water line into the cabin with Ball valve for shut off.

During the installation I found it much faster and easier to run the tubing to where i needed it to go. It’s flexible and very easy to put into place. One quick measure with my measuring tape and cut to the desired length with the provided Tubing Cutter, it went by pretty fast! No need for PVC saws, Couplings, Elbows, 45’s, or Glue and Cleaner.

For the remainder of the materials that were not included in the Kit, I visited our local Hardware Store and purchased SharkBite Brand Products. I found a couple of places that wouldn’t allow me to make connections with the elbows or crimping tool provided or the connections for the One (1) inch Manifolds to the water supply for hot and cold water. You can see below the Manifolds that I installed using Sharkbite Connectors from the Main Water Line and my Outlet to my Hot Water Heater.

Pex Manifolds for Hot and Cold water

By using the Manifolds with the four valves going to our shower, Bathroom sink, and kitchen sink I would be able to close any individual line going to an appliance without having to shut off the water at the main water source and make any necessary repairs. Another great thing that we have learned about PEX is that if it freezes it will expand to five (5) times the normal size of the tubing before it will rupture. PVC will rupture every time if not properly insulated. I would still recommend insulating PEX where possible for that added protection from freezing.

The installation of this particular kit took about two days to install considering I had other projects I was working on at the same time and my employment. Ideally, it would have been a one day project if I had worked in one day. Of Course, having a plan laid out speeds up the installation. I also had enough tubing, crimps, and elbows left over to install plumbing in another project.

Now that our Plumbing is installed, I became very impressed with this particular kit. After many searches I found this kit without having to spend my time and numerous searches locating each part that I would need.
A Complete Job-In-One Box shipped to my door!

In order to help my readers I decided to offer these PEX Plumbing Kits on my website for purchase. In case you are interested in giving them a try you can find them Here

Until Next Time – Happy Plumbing!!

We Finally Made the move….and then….

Finally, the Move ——-

After many months of planning and a  few delays we finally made our move from the suburbia of the Gulf Coast of Florida to our new homestead in the mountains of Tennessee.

What a ride it has been and one of many reasons why I haven’t been able to post an update since we moved.  Now that many rainy days have come it has given me the opportunity get Up-To-Date..

During the first week of January we rented a Penske truck and loaded all of the belongings that we wanted to take with us. In our attempts to be as minimal as possible we still ended up with a truck full.  Many of our  things we donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill that we really didn’t want or just decided against taking it with us.  We did have  things that time just didn’t give us the pleasure of doing anything with or getting rid of. With those things we made the decision to deal with it later, either by trying to sell it in Tennessee or donating to worthy causes.

With over 700 miles and a full day of traveling we finally made it to our rental cabin that we would be living in while we finished our own small cabin.   Between our efforts to settle in, arranging for mail delivery, our cabin shell delivery, frigid days and snowy nights it took a couple of weeks just to get the hang of things.  Our cabin shell was finally delivered at the end of January and we immediately began buying materials and starting  on the interior construction phase of our homesteading reality.

Our Cabin is FINALLY HERE……

We finally received that call from the delivery company that our building was ready and we scheduled the delivery date.  We had hoped to have a couple of dump truck loads of gravel delivered to make the driveway more solid and wait for the wet ground to somewhat dry up.  Unfortunately, the Dump Truck broke down and they were unable to deliver it before our cabin arrived.  We could only hope that the ground would dry up enough to get it setup without any issues. It seems that is it that time of the year in Tennessee for constant rain or snowfall.. The snow really hasn’t been that much, BUT THE RAIN!

With the mud, rain, and sometimes cold it hasn’t stopped us from working inside to start on framing, plumbing and wiring.  There were days when Cheri was able to work outside clearing brush, briars, vines, and small limbs hanging in the way.

 

And Now the Work Begins….

Once the cabin arrived, Cheri and I took the time to decide how the interior floor plan would work for us.  We started with sizing a bedroom  that would fit our furniture  and knowing where receptacles and storage would need to be.  After buying the needed materials the framing began.  At the same time we would need to measure for a bathroom to accommodate a shower, sink basin, toilet, and hot water heater.

Within the first three weeks we were able to get the interior framed, PEX Plumbing installed, and receptacle and light wiring installed.  Our main water line from the water meter at the road to the cabin is about 100 feet of 3/4 inch PEX.  We had that trenched in August along with the underground power line to the cabin.  We also installed a freeze proof in- line Yard Hydrant to give us a water source outdoors. The rest of the 3/4 goes into the cabin to provide us with  water. I really like to use PEX since it’s very easy to install and normally will not freeze and burst like PVC will.  PEX will also expand if frozen without rupturing..Who really wants to cut and replace broken water pipes?

You can see the Yard Hydrant and the Supply line we have going into the cabin. I have installed Pipe insulation on the PEX line going into the cabin for added protection during cold months.

3/4 Inch PEX Water line into the cabin with Ball valve for shut off.
Freeze Proof Yard Hydrant

Once the main water line was in, the interior framing begins for the bedroom and bathroom…

Bedroom framing begins. The 2×6 above the top plate will hold the rails for the sliding barn doors to be installed later.

And, then there is the beginning of a bathroom. Where to install our fixtures and designing how to run the plumbing was fairly simple since it was more convenient and cost effective to keep the plumbing and drains to the septic tank on one side.  We also chose to install a conventional hot water heater in one corner of the bathroom. As with any small building and limited space this was the most convenient place for us. We had also purchased a Rainfall Shower Head that we wanted to use. After a little research we did learn that with most rainfall shower heads we would need a conventional hot water heater instead of an on demand wall mounted model. It seems that due to the large volumes of water with the rainfall heads, the on demand heaters cant produce enough hot water to keep up with the heads unless you decide to take quick showers.  They do make  heaters that will produce that result, however, they run into the thousands of dollars and just not in our budget to do that.

Pex Manifolds for Hot and Cold Water

In the above photo you can see two 1 inch Copper PEX Manifolds or sometimes referred to as Headers.  For Convenience, our 3/4 inch water service line ends at the lower manifold with the Blue PEX  tubing ( cold water). The flexible hot water heater tubing will supply the hot water heater. In the main supply  line ( which you can’t see) I have also installed  two 3/4″ x 1/2″ Shark Bite Tees which will supply cold water to the bathroom sink basin and a secondary supply line to the toilet.  This will save us about 50 feet of tubing for other uses.  The two downward blue tubes will supply the shower and kitchen sink. The remaining valves i have capped for future use.    The Upper Manifold will supply hot water (Red) to the shower, bathroom sink basin, and the kitchen sink. Each Manifold is equipped with shut off valves for each line.  This allows easy access in case of a leak or problem and we can easily shut off a particular line without turning off water to the entire cabin.

I also decided instead of investing alot of money into shower mixing valves, I would build my own from copper tubing and fittings, PEX barbed fittings, and standard faucet valves. I will give the details on that project in a later edition.

Main 3″ Drain line to septic tank

As in the photo above I am installing a 3 inch pvc drain line to our 1000 gallon Lowboy septic system.  I had to remove part of the sub-flooring inside the bathroom to install the fittings and line them up with the inlet at the tank.  Raising the cabin  and piping from underneath would have been a suitable option, however,  the slope for the drain line would have been too high and ended with  exposed pipe above ground. Digging a trench and lowering the pipe will create better drainage into the tank.  I need one more fitting and adapter before i glue it and attach it to the tank.  When finished almost all of the drain line will be covered.

I hope to have the plumbing finished sometime next week and work on buying a water heater to finish it and test for leaks.  Next, we will start working on the wiring and trying to get it completed.

Our Advertisements…..

It is obvious during our build that I am using PEX plumbing products.  We also have many plumbing products and kits  FOR SALE in our Homestead Store. Be sure to take a moment to  browse and find something you may be interested in buying to complete your own project. We don’t make alot of money on our sales, but we do use any proceeds to help finish ours and make our Blogs available.  Also, any purchases you make through our Amazon Affiliates links get us a little bonus from Amazon and doesn’t cost you any extra in your purchases.  Be sure to visit our Store Here  

 

And, The Big Sky Saga continues…..Our Latest Homestead Adventure

Sometimes, crazy things get in the way and slow you down. Over the past couple of months we have experienced just that! Our goal has been to continue our dream of having our own little private place to call home in the mountains of Tennessee. We gave you the lowdown on our progress to get our land cleared and the septic tank installed. I had hoped (before now) to give you the latest on our water line and electric install, but, crazy things just get in the way.

While we were busy planning to move right along and hopefully have a home in place, that was not to be. We applied for the water meter installation at our local water utility and were met with little resistance on that end. The ELECTRIC was a completely different story. When we applied for electric service with the local Member owned electric co-op, we were informed that we needed to obtain easements from the adjoining property owners nearby. The end of line electric pole was on a neighbors right of way thus we needed to get his written permission for the electric company to install a separate pole on his property and to run the power line from his existing pole. While he initially agreed to give us an easement, we had to wait almost 90 days to FINALLY receive it.

Needless to say, and with some frustration on our part, we were forced to seek some legal intervention and a close look at the Electric Co-Op Bylaws. While an Attorney was busy trying to convince the neighbor to sign an easement, we found a section of the Bylaw which gives any new members automatic easement for themselves and any others wanting electric service. It took a phone call to the Electric Co-Op Attorney and even more to the Co-Op Management to finally get some much-needed progress. While they decided that we made our point, approval was finally taking place.

A ninety day delay really put us behind schedule in making some effort to move forward. In August we were finally able to make a return trip to our property and finish the utilities. It turned out to be an all-out effort to coordinate our contractors to finish up. We were able to get Tucker Farms LLC back to dig trenches for the underground Electric line from the pole to our pedestal and a water line from our water meter. We were also able to hire David Garrett, an electrician in Livingston Tennessee to install our electric service. I would happily provide you with some contact information but he doesn’t do email or websites.
I do have a phone number if interested! He and his crew do great work and are dependable and affordable.

Electric Pedestal Installed

Our Electric Company was able to come out that same morning and install the electric line through a 100 foot trench to our service pedestal in a trench of 30 inches deep and 18 inches wide. This is required in many areas per electric code and cannot be within the same trench as any other utility line such as water or sewer.

In a separate trench for our water line I decided to use underground 3/4 inch PEX tubing. PEX is so easy to work with and is great for colder climates. Unlike PVC piping, PEX will expand about five times its size if frozen without breaking. We buried it at 24 inches deep which is well below the freeze line for our area. During the water line install we placed a 3/4 inch Freeze-proof Yard Hydrant ( for outside watering needs) from our local Big Box Store. I also added a brass T and extended the PEX another 10 feet to allow for our cabin water supply and plumbing needs. Using SharkBite fittings is the way to go with plumbing these days. By the way, my wife and I got a great deal on that 300 Feet of PEX tubing.

PEX Water Line Install

After most of the day working at our property we were finally able to install our water line and turn on the water from our meter!

Running Water Finally!

We were happy that the electric and water line were both installed that day even if it took us a frustrating three months to get there. But, It doesn’t end there!

When we were just about ready to order our cabin and begin the work to be able to live in it, Hurricane Irma decided to pay us a visit in Florida. We had been following the forecasts for several days and it certainly looked like she would be a monster storm. We decided that our better option would be to evacuate out of the storm’s path and hope for the best. We had no idea what we would return to once it was over. Besides taking the essential clothing and bare necessities, we also packed up laptops, computers, and recently purchased products for our new homestead. We didn’t want to lose that too!

When it was over we came back to a partially downed fence and our tree across the neighbor’s roof. Fortunately, there was no significant damage and we were spared from much worse than we thought! It cost us from what we call our “Tennessee Fund” to remove the tree and evacuate two states north.

In the meantime, while trying to recoup and obligations of work, I was able to update our Homestead Store with some new and exciting products. We hope that you will take a look Homesteading Store and make a purchase from us. While we don’t make a lot of money on it all profits go towards our Blog Hosting and future Homestead in our Mountains of Tennessee! If you have any questions about our Products feel free to ask.

Until Next time!!

Installing Our Homestead Septic System

Again we made our annual trip to our property in Tennessee although this time it would be different for us.  It was time to clear the property and install the septic system. We needed to be there to decide what areas we wanted cleared of underbrush,many small saplings, and a couple of dead trees.

After arriving on a rainy Monday afternoon  in Livingston we had lunch at a local downtown diner. It was a great little spot with an adjoining antique shop. You can find more about that on  Cheri’s Blog.

Early Tuesday morning we met with our Contractor, Benton Tucker with Tucker Farms LLC and his associate Jason Huggins at another local diner for breakfast. These guys made us feel welcomed and happy to do business with them.  During breakfast and between a few laughs we explained what we were looking for and decided to head out to the property and create a plan for tomorrows work.  We needed to decide where to clear for the septic system according to the Inspectors permit we had received. The permits will usually give you some idea of where the Inspector conducted the percolation test on the property and where the tank and drain field would need to be.  It was also important in knowing where we would be able to place our future home, placing utilities, driveways, gardens and other outbuildings we may have later. We walked the property with Benton and Jason while they provided some expertise and valuable insights of things we could consider. At the end of our walk we knew we would have a much better idea and vision once their equipment was on-site and the clearing began.

On Wednesday morning, after a short delay due to a flat tire on one of their trailers they arrived and began work immediately. Jason began work with the Forestry Mulcher clearing some of the property. This would allow us to get in much easier beyond the underbrush and briars. It would also help in clearing for the septic system.

Excavator digging Hole for Septic Tank after property is cleared

We were fortunate enough that Benton had already contacted the State Inspector to come out and inspect the installation and hopefully give us a completion permit.  The Inspector arrived much earlier than planned and decided to hang out with us for awhile while the digging and measuring continued and wait for the septic tank to arrive.

We had purchased a 1000 gallon Low Boy concrete septic tank for the system with a gravel- less drain field system approved by the State Environmental Health Inspector. These tanks need to be buried on site at least 6 feet in depth and level. That is normally the depth of these tanks. It will provide that the tank is level and will drain properly. For accuracy, our Contractor used a transit to measure the depths while being dug by the excavator. The top of the tank being close to ground level also provides easy access to the tank when its time to pump it out to remove waste. The Inspector informed me that our tank would more than likely only need to be pumped out once every 10 years or so. Much of that depends on use.

Now the septic tank is ready to lower into the ground..

Around noon the truck with the septic system arrived on-site and the work began to lower it into place and make sure it was level.  Once the tank was in place it was now time for the excavator operated by Cody ( another Tucker Farms Equipment Operator) to dig another trench for the drain field piping and gravel-less pipe. The permit called for 110 feet of gravel-less pipe which would stretch across the front of the property. This will allow any liquids accumulated in the septic tank to flow through the pipe to the drain field and be absorbed into the ground.  The piping and the ground will filter the liquids and pretty well render it harmless. In the below photograph you can see the gravel- less pipe in the foreground. It is nothing more than flexible perforated piping wrapped in a mesh sleeve and then outer wrapped in black plastic. Gravel-less pipe replaces the need to haul in gravel to put in the trench for the absorption process in waste treatment.  It seems to be much quicker and less expensive than a several hundred dollar truck load of gravel.

Installing Tank

Once the tank was installed in the ground they began digging the trench for the drain field piping.  In our case the trench needed to be 110 feet long and a few feet deep.  This would eventually tie into the septic tank by a section of PVC pipe to the drain field. This allows the liquids to reach the drain field for absorption. Many times the drain fields are commonly called leech fields.

Drain field trenching begins
Up close view of the trench

Once the trench is completely dug the tree roots will be removed to make installing the piping easier and clear of debris. They removed those with a cordless sawzall. Some prefer to simply remove them with a pair of loppers.

Once the system is in the ground you will need a local Health Department Inspector to come out and inspect the installation to make sure it meets code and will work properly. After it is inspected and passes, the Contractors will then cover it up. The Inspector would then give us a Certificate of Completion for our records and it meets code. We will also need this Certificate for the Electrical Permit.

 

The installation is complete!

Now that our septic system is installed it is important to remember that in many locales it is required to have septic systems installed by a Licensed Contractor in your particular state. Many of these same locations require you to have an approved method of disposing of waste, especially human waste.   The reason is simply that disposing of waste improperly allows the ground water ( aquifers)to be contaminated with human waste. Many aquifers are our main source of drinking water who use wells for water sources. Home made septic systems don’t always purify our drinking water. Many locales also allow approved composting toilets for disposal as long as running water is available to you.

You can be sure that if you are ever found in violation with a home made system you can face heavy fines and penalties.  Please do the right thing and install an approved septic system. Our health depends on it!

  • Check your local codes or with your local Health Department to find out what is approved and not approved in your area.

 

By the way, our water meter was installed this past week much to our surprise!

Utility Company installing our water meter

Be sure to visit Cheri’s Blog to read her take on our complete trip to our Homestead and things we did on our down time.

 

 

 

How To – Do you test for lead in your Homestead?

3M Lead test kit found in most big box home improvement stores

On our recent visit to our property in Tennessee earlier this month, we decided to grab a bite to eat downtown while waiting for our check-in at our rented apartment. We will get to the apartment accommodations ( they were outstanding) in a later post.

We found this quaint little restaurant tucked away inside a shared antique store ( Antique Market) with many vintage items to choose from including this great deal pictured.  It’s called the Apple Dish Restaurant located at 114 N. Court Square in downtown Livingston, Tennessee.  They have a small Facebook presence but no website. We wish they did!  It’s definitely a DO NOT MISS for a reasonably priced and great lunch and antiques.

Why Test for Lead?

Lead can be in many items in your homestead from piping, insulation, drywall and many plastic items, believe it or not.  It can also contaminate many cooking items, especially cast iron and metal. We found this gem ( pictured above) that my wife purchased as an early birthday gift for me.  After checking with my cast iron cooking resource we discovered by the appearance and Gate mark on the piece  that it was a pre-1900 cast iron bean pot.

As old as it is, it’s usually a good idea to check for lead before using it. Since the early days many homesteaders and gun enthusiasts used these to melt lead for ammunition and other items. Ammunition was and is the most popular. If you are like many of us, you don’t want lead in your food.

As an added gift, My wife picked up this lead test kit from our local Lowes Home Improvement store.  I decided immediately to give it a try.

How to Test for Lead–

These kits cost around $10.00 and come with two small vials of the test chemicals in each packet.  The kits includes instructions for testing many items including plastic, painted items, metals and alloys, copper pipe and drywall. You will need to scrape and clean an area to be tested. Its okay to leave some dust as the test will detect lead in the dust also.

The instructions tell you to remove a test vial, crush each end marked A and B. This will release the test chemicals in each side of the tube and combine them for the testing. Shake the tube twice to mix the chemicals. The contents will turn yellow.  Squeeze the tube until the cotton swab on the end turns yellow.

Once this step is completed rub the swab on the area to be tested for about 30 seconds. If the end of the cotton swab turns RED OR PINK their is Lead present.  I chose to test the bottom inside of the pot as this would be the area most likely to have any lead residue. Fortunately, my test did not turn red or pink, which was great news!

The kit will also include a small cardboard panel with circles on it. Each of these circles contain lead. After completing the lead test on the items tested, place the swab in one of the circles and move it around inside the circle. If the circle doesn’t turn red or pink, this indicates that your test was performed correctly and no presence of lead.

It is a relatively easy test to perform and give you some peace of mind about ingesting any lead.

Be sure to follow along as i am still working on our Blog post from our recent Homestead visit and the work completed.

 

Our Adventure is about to begin…..

The Road leading to our Property

 

In a couple of weeks we will make our annual trek to our property in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.  For many of you following my Blog, Cheri and I will finally begin the process of clearing our property for our future homestead, and installing the necessary utilities that we will most certainly need.

It’s been close to a two year process in getting this far and we aren’t about to stop now.  In my previous Blog Post about our plans Here , I provided my insights in what we needed to do next.  With many ups and downs, and obstacles to overcome we are finally ready to get started.

During our few days there I will share with you our step by step process of how its coming along and hopefully have some pictures or videos to share.  We will see how good the internet speed really is in those mountains –

Please feel free to follow Cheri’s Blog for updates on our adventure at cheriannjones

She would love to have you follow along with her latest updates on our project and plans.

Beekeeping 101: A Personal Guide Part 1

My wife and I began our beekeeping adventure after a day at work turned into a honeybee rescue of sorts. One of the tenants at the Condominium complex where I was working noticed a large swarm of bees in the soffit of a building stairwell. I decided to go and investigate and indeed found a large swarm of honeybees. Of course, the owners were determined they wanted it removed.

After noticing they were indeed honeybees, I knew that spraying would not be an option in getting rid of them. Bees are just too important to our way of life and the environment. Without any prior experience with beekeeping I realized that bees pollinate a third of everything we eat and play a vital role in sustaining the planet’s ecosystems. Some 84% of the crops grown for human consumption – around 400 different types of plants – need bees and other insects to pollinate them to increase their yields and quality. These include most fruits and vegetables, many nuts, and plants such as rapeseed and sunflowers that are turned into oil, as well as cocoa beans, coffee and tea. I not only learned that bees are essential for our food crops, but are essential in cotton crops.

Bees are some of the hardest working you can find.  Bees depend on plants for food, just as much as plants depend on bees for pollination and reproduction.  This much I  understood but had no clue about raising honeybees or where to start. I still have much to learn about them and how to keep our hives healthy.

After about an hour of deciding how to move forward, we decided we would call a professional beekeeper to come and remove them. I knew they would have a good home and will be taken care of.  My wife and I had previously talked about beekeeping and raising bees and this was a chance to talk with her about possibly bringing the bees home. She readily agreed that we could give it a try.  First, we needed to buy a hive and all of the equipment we would need to be good beekeepers—even if we were amateurs.

It took a day or so for the professional beekeeper to come out and start the removal process. Decked out in their suits and veils they began the tedious process of the hive and bee removal. The one thing we found with beekeeping is everything is slow and deliberate. There is a reason for that – Bees can be delicate to handle and one can easily destroy the combs they build which produce honey and provide brood for new bees to produce.

Inspecting and Deciding how to remove it

 

 

With a hive tool or a knife they began the task of removing the combs from the building and placing them in the new hive frames that we purchased.  The beekeeper gave me a sample of a piece  of the comb that he removed to taste the honey. It was awesome!!  Most of the neighborhood is overgrown with Brazilian Pepper bushes which gave the honey a sweet yet spicy taste. The entire process took about an hour to complete.

A sample of the great tasting honey

When the combs are removed and placed in the new hive frames the bees will have a tendency to follow along. For those that don’t, the beekeepers have a special vacuum that is used to gather the remainder of the bees. Don’t worry, these vacuums don’t hurt the bees. I will say that in the process, you will lose some bees but not many. Most strong hives will contain around 40-50,000 bees in them. Losing some is inevitable but you shouldn’t notice a difference in the losses.

Large Comb removal
Placing the combs in the new hive

After the beekeepers were finished they immediately drove them to our house for their new home. We gathered some important pointers from the professionals and started our new beekeeping adventures. We purchased the hive and frames from the beekeeper and found a local hive builder for the smoker and tools we would need.

Now for their new home!

Being new to beekeeping we depended on the beekeeper to give us advice and guidance to make sure that our bees would be stable and continue building out the hive. If you are inexperienced in beekeeping, I suggest you do this to be sure the hive will survive and allow them to monitor the hive, making sure the hive still has a queen bee and no diseases. Without a queen, it wont last.

In Part 2, I will highlight our experiences with beekeeping at home and give you some suggestions on purchasing hives and equipment.

 

 

How To: Digging a well on your property

 

Your typical Pitcher Pump

 

I know I have often thought about drilling a well or simply being satisfied with a public water system on our property.  Many times the costs are less when connecting to a public water supply, but the water isn’t always the best! After all, water just isn’t something you can do without, right?  In this instance, I will give you some ways to have supplemental water sources for your garden or watering your lawn!

If your property has soft, sandy soil or loose gravel on top of a shallow water table, here are three cost-effective ways of drilling your own backyard water well. On the other hand, if the water table is 150 to 300 feet below the surface, use a portable drilling rig, or hire a contractor for the project.  Well Drilling Contractors can be a good source for telling you if your area is suitable or possible for a well. Deep well water is usually potable — provided it passes certain tests performed by an approved laboratory. If not, your deep well should produce enough water for a sophisticated irrigation system.

Check your Zoning Laws and the Water Table

  • Check your local suburban zoning laws before planning a well or purchasing equipment — some cities do not allow private water wells. On the other hand, if your local ordinance allows backyard wells, apply for the relevant permits and ask for the location of municipal utility cables and pipes on your property before proceeding. Once this is done, establish the approximate depth to water table by either checking the depth of nearby wells or hiring a hydrologist to perform a survey of your immediate area.

Driving a Wellpoint

  • A wellpoint is a perforated pipe fitted with a hardened point that is driven into the ground by hand. The openings in the pipe are large enough to allow water to enter but small enough to keep water-bearing gravel out of the pipe. Wellpoints vary in diameter from 1 1/4 to 2 inches, with lengths between 18 and 60 inches. After the initial drive point is hammered into the ground, subsequent pipes are attached to the ends with specially designed drive point couplings. Pipes are added until the perforated end penetrates the water table by 2 to 6 feet. Wellpoint extraction only works when driven into a high water table, 10 to 15 feet below the ground. Once installed, about 5 or 6 gallons per minute can be pumped out using a pitcher pump or a shallow well pump.

Air Pump-Assisted Drill Bit

  • An air pump-assisted drill bit can drill your backyard water well to a depth of up to 100 feet. The unit consists of a small but powerful air-driven drill bit capable of cutting through hardened clay and densely packed soil. The bit is attached to the end of a tubular expansion chamber containing the inlet pipe from the air pump, with holes in the lower part for water to flow into the system. A 100-foot length of 2-inch PVC pipe is attached to the outlet port of the expansion chamber. The well is constantly filled with water from a garden hose until the drill bit penetrates the water table. Exhaust air from the drill bit is ejected up the expansion chamber and into the 2-inch PVC pipe, forming a vacuum and sucking water and slurry out during drilling operation. A well liner, foot strainer and pump is installed on a concrete slab to complete the project.

Jetting or Washboring

  • Jetting or washboring is suitable for producing a shallow well where the distance to the water table is 25 feet or less. In basic terms, serrated teeth are cut into the end of a schedule 40 PVC pipe with a hacksaw. A drill head with two 3/4-inch threaded fittings is attached to the top of the pipe with a threaded pipe coupling. Hose pipes are connected to the threaded fittings to supply a constant flow of water into the Schedule 40 pipe. A wide wooden handle is attached to the pipe with hose clamps to provide leverage. The operator stands on an open pickup truck tailgate, places the serrated end of the pipe on the ground and has a helper turn on the hose pipes. He then twists wooden handle back and forth to allow the teeth on the end of the pipe to cut into the soil with the help of jetting water. Extra lengths of pipe are added until the required depth is reached. A well liner, foot strainer and pitcher pump or a shallow well pump is installed on a concrete slab to complete the project.

Micro Drill Rig

  • Use a one-man diesel-powered micro drill rig to drill a well up to 300 feet through clay and rock formations. These rigs are equipped with hydraulic power for easy handling and for added pressure on the drill bit. A powerful mud pump is used to pump drilling mud directly to the drill bit to speed up drilling action, and manual setup and positioning is straightforward. Since these micro-rigs cost over $20,000, you may be able to rent one through a heavy equipment rental outlet. If not, you could always recover costs over time by renting the machine out to your neighbors — or you could establish your own micro-drilling company as an added source of income.