It’s Not A Mistake, It’s A Feature!

I learned today that subcontractors do not always read the house plans before doing their work. Astounding, but true.

Mike, the HFH foreman, is out of town for a wedding this weekend. Marty, another site foreman, is subbing for him while he’s gone. Since this is the first time HFH has built a house with this floorplan, its understandable that Marty is playing a bit of catchup.

The crew basically worked outside today because there were plumbing and HVAC subs in the house doing their thing in the crawlspace and nether regions and stuff. At some point this week the stairs were delivered and installed, so we, like, have stairs. Yay.

Mid afternoon, after having worked outside all day, I decided to duck my head and see what the subs had been up to. I immediately noticed something I certainly wasn’t expecting.

I brought it to Marty’s attention, and he was surprised but seemed to think it wouldn’t amount to much of a problem all things considered, and we’ll see what Mike thinks when he gets back.

Back in the early framing process, we made an HVAC chase between the kitchen wall and the stairwell wall so that the HVAC guys could ‘chase’ the ductwork through there without messing with any important walls.

The HVAC kinda missed that part.

The furnace ductwork extends throughout the width of the house in the crawlspace instead of in the first floor ceiling. That’s not the problem.

The problem: all four upstairs rooms have vents accessed by ductwork that is set in exterior walls. The master bedroom vent comes up through the south wall somewhere behind where the refrigerator will be; the north side bedrooms have vents carved up through the north wall between windows; the upstairs bathroom vent runs through the east (front) wall along the front door.

In all four cases, the subs carved through the double-stacked 2x6s that frame the ceiling of the first floor.

Now. That all sounds dreadful, and in just about any other house you’d have a situation where heat would bleed out of the house due to poor insulation. And yes, the ductwork will compromise the insulation of those four segments to some extent.

However, this house isn’t terribly ordinary. The external walls are 2×6 studs with 24″ spacing, so a lot of insulation can get in there (although the north wall ducts are in spaces narrowed by window framing). Each wall is decked with 1/2 inch OSB sheeting, then 1/2 inch styrofoam blueboard, then the entire lower floor will be mortared and bricked over. So those walls are going to be plenty thick enough to endure the situation.

Whether that passes code or not – that’s the question no one had an answer for.

The feature part: we now have a 9″ deep gap in the wall between the stairwell and where the kitchen cabinet corner will be because that HVAC chase didn’t get used. My thinking is that it would be a perfect place for built-in bookshelves for the kids. From upstairs, you would come down the steps, make the turn right into the landing, and have a roughly 3’x3′ bookshelf built into the wall in front of you (with the giant south-facing landing window above to the left). A perfect sit and read place, I think. We’ll see if I can make it fly.