Monday, January 9, 2012

Gutters: they're the pits...

Final Inspection: postponed.

We thought we were ready to have the county come out and OK the shop.  The only thing we hadn't finished was putting up the gutters, but we figured we could knock that out in an hour or so.  That idea flew out the window when we started trying to figure out where to direct the water.  We know that we'll ultimately set up rain barrels, but reputable sources have told us to do that after the final.  Would a splash block work?  Or just aiming the water down hill and away from the foundation?  We called to clarify.

"Oh no.  Those won't work.  You'll need an infiltration pit."  But there's no infiltration pit for the shop on our stamped site plan.  "Oh, that's because we thought you would be running pipes underground from the shop to the main infiltration pit for the house."  But that's 75 feet away, and slightly uphill.  "We won't charge you a re-filing fee for that oversight of gravity" ..... Thanks.  It was a confusing back and forth.  Christy handled it better than I would have.

An infiltration pit, if you've never had the pleasure, is really just a hole in the ground, filled with gravel and covered with dirt.  It allows water the time to filter into the ground without pooling.  It's not that big of a hassle, and for our 400 sq. ft. shop, we only need a 40 sq. ft., 2 ft. deep pit.  Before we can do that, though, we need to have a soil test taken from the ground where the pit will go by a geologist (again) and brought to a lab at our expense.   More time and more money for something else we don't plan on using.

We tried to reason with the county and, as usual, it didn't really go well.  When we asked why it is that we can't use rain barrels, repurposing the water for the garden, preventing any runoff AND conserving municipal water, we were given a truly revealing answer:  We can't have a system involving rain barrels, because IF we sell the property, the next person might not use them correctly.

Take a second and chew on the logic.

It's not a matter of us building a safe, working house.  It doesn't matter if we develop smarter, better systems of living in and with our environment.  We have to build a house on the assumption that it will one day be sold to an idiot.  This logic pervades the whole inspection process.  It doesn't matter that no bank owns any portion of the land or house, or that we don't intend on selling it, or that anybody who would have any interested in buying a 5 acre homestead with no flushing toilet will probably be with-it enough to not unhook a rain barrel and leave water streaming at the corner of a foundation!  This is the argument we will have to address when we explain our plan for gray water use, and it doesn't really work.

We AREN'T building a fool-proof, automated house.  Living responsibly involves more work and more mindfulness than not.  It means keeping an eye on how much water you've collected, seeing how your compost is doing, occasionally emptying your toilet, separating your garbage and table scraps...  I can't guarantee that the hypothetical next guy will do any of this, but we're not building this house for him.  We're building it for US, damn it.

How hard do you think it would be to secede from a county?  Unincorporated Mellish Fields West?  It's kind of got a ring to it.  Short of that, we'll just have to play this game again and give the county what they want, then do things our way when they stop looking.

Stay tuned for some serious shop organizationing!


  1. ..we went to a home-building course and one of the topics covered was inspections. I really liked the instructors ( and an actual contractor) idea of: '..make it look however you need to in order to pass inspection. I have held some stair handrails on with chewing gum just long enough for inspection..then when the inspector leaves I change it to how it is actually going to be.' His view on progressive inspections: '..inspectors are behind the times and only ever react to known rules and regulations..if something is new or different they don't care if it is better or worse but they will mark it as failed.'..I think my instructor would have had a pipe going from the downspout into the ground and told the inspector that it went to the pit..and then if they asked to see it running all the way blamed someone for not doing their job and not take responsibility for the mistake himself.

    sounds cruddy..but in the defense of the inspector 1 barrel of rainwater can be filled in 10 minutes worth of rain so there is room for error when it rains for a whole day.

  2. ..not that I am saying you only have 1 barrel. I am not the inspector so don't shoot the annoying messenger! hehe

  3. I swear to god if you declare yourselves unincorporated we'll be there within the week. I hope you like rabbits! I'll even help y'all empty the toilet.

  4. We went through the inspection song and dance, too so we could move in. We wanted a full greywater system, but knew that would cause hassles. We also only use a wood stove for heat, but installed a gas heater to satisfy code, too. The gas heater sits idle and we haul our greywater outside. This is definitely not the ideal, but it helped us get into our home much more quickly. It's a flawed system, for sure, but one we have to work within (at least initially) before we can work our creative magic.
    Best of luck!