It seems news of the recent, horrible, weather related events made it to the USA. I know this because I’ve been asked if we are OK several times now. Yes, BC was hit very hard by a storm system. I can confirm that. We had 7.09" (about 180mm) of rain in 2.5 days. I suspect that measurement is a bit low though, because our gauge is sheltered from much of the wind.

For us this was not really a big deal. We did have a four hour long power outage that was the result of a tree coming down in the neighbourhood, but for others it’s been much, much worse.

The entire town of Merritt (population about 7,000, I think) was evacuated thanks to both a backed up sewage treatment plant and flooding that destroyed homes and businesses. Merritt is about 120 miles northeast of our home.

The city of Abbotsford (which we considered as a possible place to live) also suffered enormous damage, particularly to farms and livestock, but also to homes and businesses, They’re dealing with flooding along the Fraser river, and in particular in a lake that was drained about 100 years ago to make more farmland available. Abbotsford is about 35 miles southeast of us.

Highways all over southern BC were hit with mudslides, and the military was called in to evacuate people stranded in their cars between them. One person is known to have died when their car was swept off the road, and others are missing. While a couple of those highways have since partially reopened, it’s going to be some time before things are back to normal and in some cases the repairs will take months. A major pipeline and all rail traffic in and out of Vancouver are also currently shut down. Those have impacts all over Canada and elsewhere. Already stretched supply chains are now in even worse shape, particularly for communities along those highways that are currently impassable. Panic buying has started in some of those places, and until trucks can get to them again things are going to be ugly. And trucks going between Vancouver and places to the east in Canada are having to go via roads in the US at this point.

A state of emergency has been declared and the military is adding even more troops to help with logistics and work of all kinds to speed the recovery effort.

But to repeat the title, we’re fine. As mentioned above we suffered no damage and life here goes on pretty much as usual. Well, “usual” for Covid times, I suppose.

It hardly seems reasonable to discuss our trivial lives when so much craziness is going on, but there is always craziness going on somewhere. Maybe sometimes a bit of normality is needed. I could create a laundry list of things to worry about or object to here, and in fact I did that and immediately deleted it since there seemed no point in writing it out. I have strong opinions about some of what is going on in the world, but I have no opinion about other things (due to lack of information, mostly). I assume the same is true of you. In any case, I doubt you came here to know what I think about such things, so…

That’s the wall I cut open a week or so ago to fix the roof vent. The drywall patch is now good enough, primed, and ready for paint. Other work is going on in there as well (to repair other oddities) and paint will probably start in a week or so. Time will tell, but that is something like the plan. Oh, and that square thing on the wall is the removable cover over the drain clean out port.

The major effort this week has been working on the dishwasher. I finally managed to get the old one out, which exposed this:

That’s not the entire story, of course. In disconnecting the old dishwasher I found another leak under the sink. The faucet I fixed some months ago was leaking again in a similar way. This time I replaced the cartridge, and for now the leak has stopped again. Sigh. At least I had the part on hand.

Anyway, as you can see in the photo above, there is an outlet to plug the dishwasher into, but reviewing the manual showed the new dishwasher does not want an outlet back there, though it can be made to work. Instead it nominally expects a hard wired electrical connection, ideally coming from a cabinet on either side. What to do about that? Well, you cut open the wall, of course, and figure out what the heck is going on with the electrical line and that outlet that sticks way out of the wall:

And with that and some thought I think I figured out what is going on and how to deal with it. First, the idiot who installed the plug botched the job so the box sits at least half and inch above the drywall. (You can see that in the second photo.) That was simple stupidity, and when combined with the height of the plug on the cord they used, it prevented the old dishwasher from being pushed as far back as possible. But even if it had been flush with the surface (as it should have been) it is too far above the floor for the new dishwasher, and I would still have to move it. After studying it for a while though, I realized that there was a fair amount of wire coiled in the wall, and there is also a hole below the the outlet. The latter was where the wire had come out in some previous life. Ah ha! Some previous dishwasher was also hard wired, and the wire to do it was still in the wall.

So I figured out where the electrical needs to run under the new dishwasher, turned off the breaker, removed the outlet and box, drilled a new hole for the cable in the right place, fed the wire through, and stuck a piece of plywood in there to patch the hole in the drywall:

That’s not quite ready for installation, but it’s much closer. I still need to cut an opening in the cabinet to the left to pass the discharge and water supply hoses through. The previous discharge hose left the cabinet at the top, but this one has to go through at the bottom. Sadly, I didn’t take photos of all that because I was pushing hard to get it all done. The end result, though…

So, finally, the dishwasher is installed and seems to work. We ran one quick cycle yesterday to confirm a lack of leaks, and we’ll probably run it again tonight. It’ll be a while before I can comment about this LG dishwasher overall, but I can state that it has one significant improvement over the Samsung junk it replaced.

The old unit played a little song — yes, really — when it finished washing the dishes. You had to find the manual and figure out some magic combination of buttons to shut it up. But don’t most people run their dishwashers at night, when they go to bed? Why on earth would you want it to make noise when it was done? Sure, it can beep while you are pressing buttons, and even when it starts running, but at the end? No, definitely not. And yet, that was the default behaviour from Samsung’s machine. Clearly no one at Samsung considered how people actually use these things. In comparison LG got that right: by default it just finishes. Quietly.

In any case, it’s installed, it’s not leaking, it makes much less noise (so far, anyway) than the old one, and it seems to be fine. Other than needing to clean my fingerprints off the door it’s done and ready for regular use. One more thing off the to-do list.

In other news, the drip in the chimney continued throughout the huge storm, leading me to worry even more about a leak in the roof. Once the storm had passed I got up on the roof and closely studied the chimney as it was at the time. Here’s what it looked like:

As you can see, it is tarped completely to prevent water intrusion, and I could find no point of entry at all. None. The roof and flashing look perfectly good. And if there is a leak in the roofing or the flashing around the chimney, the water should come in around the outside of the chimney and leak out through the sheetrock in the living room below, but that is not what happens. Instead the water drips down the inside of the chimney, lands on the damper, and drips into the firebox itself.

That kind of leak is what I thought I had completely fixed last summer, when I patched the mortar around the chimney vent and then covered the vent itself with an inverted aluminum baking sheet held down with a rock. The idea was to avoid letting water get through the vent now that I had sealed up the area around the outside of the vent.

But a few weeks ago we saw dripping again, and we were confused. For the second half of last winter I had the chimney tarped (as above) but I had not yet fixed the mortar or installed the vent cover, and we had no drips despite plenty of rain. This winter I had not only patched the mortar and added the cover, but at one point I had caulked down a piece of plastic over the chimney vent to be certain no water could get through that way. We lived with that for a while and the leak continued. So I got back on the roof and tarped it up again completely. But even that didn’t stop it. What gives?

Some of you might already have an idea, but if not, here’s a little foreshadowing:

After my complete inspection of the chimney and finding nothing, I removed the tarp and reinspected. Everything still looked good. No source of leak could be found. Then I lifted the baking sheet / vent cover to expose the plastic I’d caulked into place, and two things were suddenly obvious:

  • The aluminum sheet was soaking wet on the bottom. Lots of water dripped off it when I picked it up, despite it being dry on the top.
  • The plastic sheet was soaking wet on the underside — inside the chimney — despite the caulk sealing it off from the outside.

“Condensation!” I realized.

In the case of the plastic, water vapour from inside the house was condensing on the plastic and running down the chimney interior, carrying caulk with it as you can see above. (Turns out it has been too cold for the caulk to fully cure, but it was still sticky and the plastic was still fully sealing the chimney vent when I exposed it.)

When the plastic was not present, the metal cover was condensing water and dripping it down the inside the chimney in exactly the same way.

This house was originally built on a slab in 1960. At the time a well sealed structure was not exactly the primary goal of a contractor, and even if it had been, the house has settled a bit over the years. There are cracks in the slab in the garage — I patched them — and I expect there are cracks elsewhere in the slab. Those will let water vapour into the house year round. Also, this is North Vancouver. It rains all the time. I don’t think the ground is ever all that dry. Finally, I think the house was completely re-sided at some point, and I have no clue how well it was sealed when that happened. We see no indication of water getting through the siding, but vapour might sneak in, I suppose.

So we get lots of condensation on the windows when it gets cold enough, and apparently we had tons of condensation on everything I had put on top of the chimney in an attempt to seal it up.

What to do about this? Well, the first test is to remove both the plastic and the metal cover and re-tarp it.

If we can get through a few storms without drips in that configuration we’re at least back to how it worked last winter. If it works, I have ideas on how to add something as additional vent protection against wind driven rain that will not allow condensation to drip down inside the chimney.

We’ve just started this test, and it will be some time before I have an answer. We need another good storm (or three) before I will be able to declare victory and know I have a complete understanding of the problem. In the meantime I check the fireplace for drips regularly and keep my fingers crossed.

And while I am thinking about condensation, I suspect the drip I mentioned in the upstairs bathroom is also a condensation issue. The water pools in a tiny enclosed spot in the fan enclosure and overflows out, dripping into the toilet below. I don’t yet know what causes this, and I have lost some interest in opening the ceiling to figure it out. I suppose the area around the fan might not be adequately insulated, or there could be some other problem, but if there was an actual roof leak water would also show up elsewhere, not just inside the fan enclosure. It must be condensation, probably inside the flexible plastic vent pipe that carries the air to the exterior vent which is much too far away.

But here’s the thing: despite my earlier conjecture about foundation cracks and siding, all this condensation is kind of strange at some level. I’ve mentioned sheetrock damage in the ceiling of the family room (where I just repaired the wall). That was caused by condensation collecting on an old, aluminum frame skylight. But where is/was all this water coming from, and why didn’t it affect the previous owners of the home?

Maybe it’s just us. With dogs going in and out while it is raining, maybe we get more moisture inside the house. Perhaps more was added by that open vent pipe that I just fixed. And perhaps we’ve made the problem worse by keeping the house a different temperature from what the previous owners did. Clearly we are different people and our usage pattern of the house is not the same as theirs, so who knows.

In any case, as I ponder switching to mini-split heat pumps in the future (if that is even possible and practical) I will also need to consider ways to dehumidify all the air in the house, at least during the winter. That will not be simple, but it is probably worth researching.

That was going to be the end of this week’s post, but Tinkerbelle got me up in the middle of the night and I discovered the eclipse was in full swing. We never get to see stuff like this in Vancouver — remember, it rains all the time — so this was fun. Here are a few photos taken with my phone. Not bad, considering conditions and equipment.

Click to enlarge!

And that really does end the missive this week.

Keep safe, and remember to look up occasionally!

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.