Plumbing and HVAC work in progress

A couple of weeks ago, plumbing and HVAC work began. There’s not a whole lot to see on the livecam (which is good because it’s been busted for a few days… need to reboot) but lots of work is happening very quickly. Below are some of the specifics of what’s going in.


For the pipes, we chose PVC and PEX over copper. It’s cheaper, easier to work with, and has no significant disadvantages other than it isn’t supposed to be exposed to sunlight. I am so glad we took this house down to the foundation and replaced everything because the old galvanized steel pipes were in disgusting shape.

Imagine the sweet, sweet nectar that ran through these puppies.

For shower hardware, we went with the Purist line from Kohler with a few bodysprays as well. We opted against a steam shower for both cost and moisture reasons.

For the bath, we went with the Origami from Bain. You aren’t supposed to use oils or salts in normal jetted tubs so we went with an airbath. It’s a nice simple design and supposedly Bain is the best brand to trust. For the tub filler, we went with the Cascade Bi-Tech 14200, which roughly matches the faucets.

For the faucets, we are either going with Dornbracht 33 500 625 or a knockoff built in China called the Taron. Apparently there was a huge lightning-induced fire at the Dornbracht factory in Germany this summer and it has caused dramatic delays in getting product from them. I wasn’t crazy about spending $500 a faucet anyway, so we may just see how the $225 knockoffs do instead. I’ll have a separate post on this shortly.

For the master bathroom sinks, we’re going with the Ronbow CB3028 and for the powder room sink, it’ll be the hard-to-find Laufen Palomba.

For the commodes, we’re going with the Toto Pacifica line. Notably, we are avoiding dual-flush models because I’ve heard that the “half flush” option ends up never getting used. I wanted to use wall-mounted commodes, but the cost and extra complexity in fixing any “problems” kept me away.

The only thing up in the air is whether or not we will be running a hot water recirculation line. The system was spec’d without it, but as soon as I found out the delay in getting a hot shower in the morning could be a minute or more, we’re looking into how much it would cost. I’ve lived in apartments and condos for most of my life so I’m used to only waiting 10 seconds or so for hot water, so the thought of building a house like this and downgrading significantly in that area is not appealing.


Most significantly, we’re going with a forced air heating and air conditioning system powered by a Rheem 5 ton 16 SEER 2 stage heat pump, with a Rheem 100,000 BTU variable speed 80% efficient gas furnace as a backup. I would have loved to do radiant heat but since we wanted air conditioning as well, that would have required buying, installing, and operating two completely different systems. Instead, we’re just doing electric radiant pads in the master bathroom and underneath the concrete hallway on the main floor.

A friend of mine who built a house told me the biggest mistake he made was not having a system which could service multiple zones independently. In other words, the ability to turn off basement heat, send a bunch of heat to the main floor to get it to 70 degrees, and send maybe not quite as much heat to the upper level to get it to 70. Or, to leave all A/C off on a summer night except for on the upper level where the master bedroom is. We had originally looked at doing separate systems for each floor but eventually settled on one system that can service three zones independently. There was some initial confusion between Build and I about what a multi-zone system really is. By multi-zone, I mean “the ability to control multiple zones with multiple thermostats, all electronically, and without having to physically open and close vents”. If you’re spec’ing your own system, make sure you make this clear.

I’m not sure what thermostats are going in (I think HAIs maybe), but they will all have the ability to tie into my home automation system for remote administration.

Our HVAC contractor is Anderson Nesler, Inc..

I’ll have everything broken down by price once this stage of construction is complete.

12 Responses to “Plumbing and HVAC work in progress”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Yeah…looks like deciding to start over from the foundation is going to save you a lot of headaches down the road.

    Maybe in another post, but could you spec out your home automation system? I’ve seen numerous “home grown” ones, but it’s usually IT people who built their own thing to run on a server in the basement and interface with X-10 technology. I would be really interested in seeing what all hardware components you will be using.

    Keep up the great work! Really enjoying it.

  2. Michael Says:

    Looking at the link for your home automation system: It runs on Windows? And Flash? Seriously? Seems like having a custom Ferrari built but have them put in a Ford engine instead.

  3. One thing to say:

    Kohler Santa Rosa Compact Elongated. Best toilet ever. ~$250.

  4. 1BadBoy Says:

    I’m really surprised about the recirculation pump. This is about standard these days for new construction. Makes me wonder what else they forgot. I would consider a floor drain at the washer/dryer area (for insurance against busted hoses). Don’t be surprised by the price. I have seen them from about $1,200 up to nearly $2K!

  5. Mike D. Says:

    Kyle and Michael: I’ll definitely have a full post, or several, about the home automation stuff. Basically, my good friend designed a home automation system called Myro for his own home and he is now in the process of turning that into a business. He is stickler about quality, features, interface, and all of the other things I care about so I feel pretty good using the system he put in his own home. You’re right about the Windows aspect of it being scary but I think the OS does very little.

    Kevan: That is indeed a nice looking toilet. Looks a little like the Toto I have in my condo right now. I’m all about the elongated seat.

    1BadBoy: Turns out the recirc line was just a miscommunication. It’s in the plumbing bid… it just hasn’t been installed yet so we all forgot it was in the plans all along. Whew!

  6. 1BadBoy Says:

    I’m glad to hear that. You definitely don’t want to cut corners on that. The wasted water will pay for that pump in time. And it’s nice to get hot water nearly instantly!

    I’m not familiar with my:ro for home automation, but I like the HAI systems. Which system did you pick and can you tell us why? I’m looking to do one of the HAI systems, but may not put it in up front. Will wire for what I can though (e.g. contact points at each door/window – I know, probably overkill, but I always trust wired connections which I cannot always say with wireless). In any event, I’m not sure myself which one makes the most sense. I’m wondering too about “hiding” light switches in closets type of things and using scene switches instead. I have some figuring out to do soon.

    Thanks for the great site!

  7. Rich Says:

    Mike, Going with PEX is good; but did you make sure that the PEX material is labeled PEX–A? Be sure before you close up the walls.

  8. Michael says:

    Looking at the link for your home automation system: It runs on Windows? And Flash? Seriously? Seems like having a custom Ferrari built but have them put in a Ford engine instead.

    Michael, Myro Control 8″ Panels runs on Windows XP embedded which is what most home automation UI systems run on these days. It is even used in the medical field.

    The core system (which Myro:Home communicates with) is a HAI OmniPro II and is a fully embedded platform which never crashes or need rebooting. As for Flash, it is used as a UI layer which again, if you look at the automation market it’s being used and serves nothing more than a rich way to interact with a control system.


  9. Jeremy Says:

    Mike, I have just found your site, so I’m trying to get caught up. I was looking at the rough-in plumbing pictures, and noticed that all your waste and vent lines are ABS. I though you decided on PVC. Why the change? If you have waste lines running overhead or in walls of living spaces, you may regret the noise you hear through ABS pipe.

  10. 1BadBoy Says:

    Jeremy has a point based on things I have heard. In addition, there are 2 types of PCV pipe: SOLID WALL and CELLULAR CORE construction. I have *heard*, but have no first hand knowledge, that solid wall PVC is quieter than cellular core. Based on this information, it was stated that using the solid wall construction in the ceilings and walls for drain waste was advisable. Using cellular core below the floor or slab and for venting is a bit less expensive and just as good (again as I have heard).

  11. Mike D. Says:

    Jeremy: To be honest, I may have misspoken. All I meant by “PVC” was “plastic” as opposed to metal. Not sure about the ABS vs. PVC thing… I’ll check next time I’m at the site.

  12. Mike D. Says:

    Rich: Thanks. Yeah, I just checked. It’s indeed PEX-a.