Saturday, December 21, 2013

Septic System

Tank should be about 8x12 feet.

 Note that the inlet for black water and gray water should be higher than the "T" pipes in the other two overflows.  The "T: should have several inches of pipe top and bottom to raise the top above the water level and to keep floating scum out of the outlet tubes.

Septic systems can be heavily regulated in much of the country.  You may end up doing a system of your own and later being required to remove or replace it with a different system.  One way of avoiding this is to make it according to proscribed designs for your area and soils test. 
This particular one could equally easily be done with two huge plastic containers.  There are similar self contained plastic systems that are easy to install yourself. 
Septic systems are no great mystery.  There is nothing stopping you from building or installing your own.  In a regulated area, you just need to meet the basic requirements set out in the codes in your town or state.  Pay someone to come to your house to do a design for you.  Then do it yourself.
There will be plenty of digging, but most people can handle that either by hand or by using rented equipment.  Most of the parts are available in home centers, and the only problem is transportation.
Always do more than is required.  The point of doing these things for yourself is not to Beat "THE MAN", but to save money and be self reliant. 
With self reliance, comes responsibility.  Codes are usually in place for a them, or exceed them, even if you use a different approach.
Protect your land, your community, the greater environment and your health. 
There are commercially available systems available that look for all the world like the Yellow Submarine in the Beatles' film.  Just carry it in and bury it.  There are usually big plastic Dry Wells to distribute the treated water into the soil.      
Alternatives are:

 1. French Drains.:

Long trenches are dug.  Filled in partially with rocks and coarse gravel.  Perforated PVC pipes are laid into the top of the gravel.  An impermeable sheet of some sort is laid over the pipe so that soil and other particles do not sift into the perforated pipe and block them.  Then they are attached to your final overflow pipe and buried.

2. Huge Dry wells:

 are buried after attaching to the final overflow from the tanks.  When they are buried, they are often filled with rocks.

3. Reed beds:

These can be wonderful, and are installed all over the world, but they come with risks.  As the water is released onto the surface of the soil into beds of water loving plants, maintaining the beds puts you in direct contact with the plants and the water.  Infections of all sorts are possible.  How do your keep small children away from them, or pets for that matter.

The system above:

Build this yourself in areas where it would be impossible to carry in huge tanks etc.  This could even be put directly under an outhouse that has water and a true toilet.  Just put the outhouse right on top of the first tank, install a concrete floor with a hole and mounting hardware in it, and install a toilet over the hole just like in a house. Either pipe water into the house for summer, or in warm weather areas of the country, or carry a pitcher of flushing water to the toilet in the winter.  A small amount of bio safe  antifreeze would be needed  in the water that is sitting there when unused.  Also, heat from the decomposition may keep it warm enough.  Trial and error will have to lead you.  Flush twice, once to get rid of the antifreeze(environmentally safe only, for trailers), and the second to get rid of the waste.  There are also units made commercially that only have a well with a trap door to drop the waste out the bottom or simple open bottom toilets like you see in government parks etc..  You still need water for the septic system to work, so dump in a pitcher of water, washing the inside of the chute as you do.

Gray water is usually introduced into the second chamber.  Remember to use only environmentally safe shampoo, soap, detergents etc. for all your washing and cleaning.  Whatever you use, is being dumped into your land!
 Whatever you use for a system. try planting nitrogen and other fertilizer craving plants all around the area where you are draining your water.  Fruit trees(as long as there is no direct contact with the water on the surface) Peonies, ground covers...etc...just be certain that they do not have invasive roots.  You just need Heavy Feeders.  No root crops please!  Plants with big, dark green leaves love nitrogen!  Roses also come to mind.  Phosphorus may be absorbed by the soil.

Note that French drains or leach fields are typically laid out in a trident pattern.  The pipe from the septic usually enters a distribution box.  This is usually a concrete cube with four holes in the four sides.  One, higher than the rest, receives the fluid.  The other three holes lead to the right, left and forward.  Pipes from the right and left usually turn at right angles after a few feet, to run parallel with the middle one.  The ends of the perforated pipes are capped, and the water filters into the drain trenches.  If the soil is clay, it may not drain properly.  Always test the soil.  Dig a few test pits all over the area to be used.  Pour in several gallons of water and observe the drainage of the water.  Doesn't drain?...not a good place for a drain field.

Heavy metals are always a concern in any septic system.  Recycle anything that may contain these, and watch out for foods that may contain them.  Never flush anything that contains heavy metals, and recycle batteries etc., instead of discarding them on your land.  Tuna and other ocean fish comes to mind.  It is possible that these heavy metals may be taken up by food crops.  Be especially careful with children in the area as they are affected more than adults by such things as mercury.

Above all, be mindful of local wells, not just yours.  Putting systems like this down hill from wells, especially dug wells, is a good plan, and keep them as far away as possible.  Consult local experts about well contamination and the flow of water into local wells.  Very deep wells may be using water that is centuries old in layers of deep rock, but they may also be fed directly by surface water through cracks in the bedrock.

Remember that animals have been crapping on your land for eons.  The land is still OK.  The big difference is that we are concentrating our waste in one area as we do not move around, and we use chemicals in our waste water.  Take reasonable precautions, and you may do no more harm to the land than those animals.

Composting waste is a good alternative if you have no other choice, but this does not remove chemicals....

Pump out septic tanks regularly, and keep them well supplied with bacterial cultures that will digest the solids.  There is usually a greasy scum layer on the top of the water in the septic tank.  This is good to be pumped away from your land regularly.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Dial M for Murder"

File:Dial M.jpg
Many thanks to Wikipedia for this image.  A good source of information, and a good cause to support financially and to contribute to with your writing and editorial skills.

In general, if you have never seen this Hitchcock classic, you must.  Secondly though, I watch it over and over, trying to figure out the layout of the apartment, that is almost the only location you see in the entire movie.  Must have been a cheap production except for her red dress.
I keep counting the steps that the actors make to determine distance.  I estimate the size of the furnishings, but then give up because classic English furniture can be so different in scale from ours in the "States".
There is one long room in the movie.  There is a rather monumental fireplace at one end with a door to the bedroom on the left side of it, and a large alcove for a highboy on the other.
On the other end of the room is a huge bay of French doors to the garden.  They form a large bay that is curtained with heavy olive green velvet drapes. 
The third(long) wall has a couple of built in book cases.
The fourth(long) wall has(from left to right) the door to the kitchen(which we never see much of), that could not be large, as it is behind the entry hall stairs...then there is a blank area with a bar/console is the entry door...a second blank wall has a console table. 
There are several distinct areas for living.  Along the entry door wall there are only the console tables, but the area serves as a hallway from one end of the room to the other, though open to the room in all ways.
Facing the fireplace wall is a sofa with a sofa table behind it and a coffee table in front of it.  Two comfortable chairs flank the fireplace.
There is an empty area next, which is where they set up a breakfast or dining table as needed. They would probably store it against the wall with the bookcases.
A desk stands in the bay of French doors, facing the rest of the room.
We never see the bathroom, but it is off the bedroom, behind the alcove to the right of the fireplace.
The bedroom is not large, but it has a square bay of windows along one wall, facing the street.
The entire apartment is a small space, but it has fabulous(Adam) period woodwork, high ceilings, and is very elegant despite its small dimensions.
The best I can do in this case is to adapt the size to modern furniture, and guess at the dimensions from there.
The room could have windows where the console tables are, but wall space is minimal in a small house, so, best to use the space for a couple of nice paintings.  To make up for the lack of windows, this might be an ideal opportunity to put in a fabulous beveled glass door, or a French long as you are not in the habit of running around in naught but your skin.
I will try to do a floor plan.
With just the most basic measurements, I would guess that the room could be about 18 by 24 feet.  the bedroom is only wide enough for the door swing, two twin beds, a bedside table, and a wall about the same as the door swing wide....perhaps 14 feet at the most, by 11, and the bath would just fit into the 6 feet left over in the width of the main room.
That would only leave a little galley kitchen of perhaps 8 by 10. 
That only leaves the bay window of the living area to figure in. 
It may total only about 720 square feet of interior space, not including the bay window.  Certainly even adding in the wall thicknesses and closets, you could squeeze the entire space into a 1000 square foot building....that just qualifies as a small house.
I have done a floor plan.  The dimensions will not be there, and I have not put in the little bump outs in the walls that seem to make no sense. (They probably facilitate removal of sections of the wall for filming.) It is just a general idea about how the house works.  I am thinking that it would make more sense symmetrically to reverse the bedroom and put the bath on the front of the apartment/house to balance off the kitchen.  That leaves a little entry courtyard, and the north wall blank to save energy.  These changes are only my own invention, of course, but I am not putting this post in to make a slavish copy, but to use the best parts of the subject to make a good house for you.
Another alternative would be to put a galley kitchen and bath along the bookcase wall, perhaps only five feet wide, to square off the building a bit and leave the north side utilitarian and insulating the main room from the north weather.
The fabulous detail work at the top of the walls in the room can be easily replicated by looking for LINCRUSTA.  This is a linoleum like sheet that simulates carving or plaster work.  The extreme height of the room makes it appear very large.  In this case it was probably to facilitate dramatic camera work in the movie, but in a reasonable climate, or somewhere where the heating bills are not important, a high ceiling is a wonderful space maker.
Still another option would be to put a staircase behind the fireplace and make upstairs sleeping lofts or bedrooms....not too practical for the rooms, as the house would look like it was about to fall over on its side, but a loft would be good as would a storage space.
Please give me a break on this, I just finally decided to make a quick sketch of this and stop beating myself up about the dimensions and the size of the furniture.  This was a ten minute sketch.  It took more time to scan it in than to draw it.  Watch the movie and understand my alterations.  Also, add a good sized coffee table in front of the sofa...whoops!
Using 2x6x10 for framing the walls of this or any building will give a sense of space that you will not have with shorter walls.  Having your walls framed very high also allows you to attach shed roof additions without the ceilings becoming very low at the eaves. 
Make sure you draw a scale picture of your house and look at it critically, so it does not end up looking like Rapunzel's tower from the outside. 

Alcove Kitchen and Bath

One great problem with fitting in a kitchen or bath to tiny spaces, is the physical space that a room takes out of your house.  Consider taking a single wall of the house...perhaps the one toward the street, the north side or the side with the ugly view...and devote it to shelving systems, closets and alcoves, for beds, as discussed elsewhere, or for your kitchen or bath.  Frame alcoves like any closet.  Make them blend into the wall or make them a beautifully framed focal point with fabulous woodwork.  You could even cover the whole wall with drapes that open at the mid points of the alcoves.  This also deadens sound from inside and out.  You could go so far as to bedeck the spaces with beautiful columns and arches.
The point of one of these small spaces is that you are likely to live alone, as a couple or as a small and intimate family.  So, having a bath that is exposed to the room while in use would not be a big issue.  Guests may have second thoughts though...but think of the water you will save if guests refuse to bathe while visiting.

Get a nice ball and claw tub and put it into a closet with the long side toward the opening.

Put your kitchen counter and appliances along the outside house wall in one of the closets.

Another alcove might hide your toilet, turned sideways to save room if the closets are not deep.

 A beautiful pedestal sink with cabinets, shelves or drawers on either side wall inside a closet would give you beauty as well as plenty of storage.

Beautiful Vertical Siding

Ideally one would use cedar for siding, but if necessary many woods will work if they are properly maintained.  Good quality oils will preserve unpainted siding.  a good coat of paint will be very nice in this case, because you flatten the color and end up with nice shadow lines on the wall. You could also thin oil base white paint or primer with oil to wash and whiten the wood while preserving it.  There are oils that are made to weather to a nice gray as well.

In this case, a wall sheathing should go on the studs.  When doing a plank wall, such as board and batten, there is little aid from the siding to keep the house from  wobbling in the wind.  The broad sheets of sheathing act like a corner brace.

Once the sheets of sheathing are on, use milled boards of a decent width(approximately twice the size of the second layer boards) so that you have a nice rhythm to the siding rather than wide and narrow or some irregular pattern.  So, if the final boards will be approximately 8 inches wide, you would want the milled first layer to be about 16 inches or perhaps a little wider.
Nail the first layer boards up along the edges of the boards, into the sheathing, but make sure you also hit the top and sill plates with the nails.  Oil or stain the first layer if that is your ultimate finish.
Now rent or buy a portable sawmill,  Rip logs into 1 inch planks with raw, live or irregular edges on both sides. 
Nail these planks up over the first layer, leaving large gaps between them so that the first layer is about half exposed.  Nail up the boards so that the slope of the live edges is wider against the inner boards.
Finish the outer layer boards to complete the job.  Remember that boards expand and contract with the weather.  You may wish to nail along only one side of the first layer if the boards are wide.  This is fine if they are well secured.  You may wish to screw them on.  The second layer boards would be especially good nailed in the middle so that the fasteners hit the gap between the boards of  the first layer.  This would allow the boards of both layers to expand and contract at will.
Very wide first layer boards may benefit from a half inch or more gap between them, or even more.  You could even SHIP LAP the edges of the boards, so that no gap appears between them.  Obviously they will not show, but air gaps will be lessened.  When doing this, you must make sure that the second layer is nailed into the NON MOVING edge of the first layer boards as there will be no gap between boards to nail into.