Plumbing the OKC container home

As one might imagine, introducing running water to the OKC container home was a foremost concern on a level equal with introducing electricity. That’s why, as I was fighting through the various headaches of getting power installed, plumbers were also hard at work getting their lines installed.

Through a friend, I was referred to the plumbing services of Fred Kluck. Fred and his son Jackson were able to get started shortly after meeting with me for the initial consultation and review of the plans.

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This plumbing work took place in late July/early August. As with most things on the container home, it was slow going trying to find the right contractor, and scheduling delays also hindered progress to some degree, but that’s to be expected. The bright side is that, once workers have boots on the ground and know what to do, the work gets done quite quickly relative to the planning and hiring.

One thing that only has become apparent recently is that the original blueprints were highly inadequate to accommodate all the various code restrictions and requirements that various trades people would inform me of while onsite. Basically, the layout of the bathroom was completely wrong, but, in the interest of getting the damn thing done, I made compromises to the design in the moment. I didn’t have time to go back to my architect and consult with him about how to accommodate various vents that were complete surprises to me, or how the design of the bathroom counter top/sink should have been revised based on the placement of an eventual pocket door. Sucks, but that’s what they call a learning process. I can’t hold the architect too liable for these oversights;the fine print on the blueprints stipulates that any and all changes made onsite should be brought to him first before any holes are made. I chose to make the holes and sort it out later.

From the outset, I knew there would be mistakes made. Inevitably, when one is so far out of their depth, as I am in this project, mistakes will be the norm. The positive side to having made these mistakes is that I will not make them again, and I can (hopefully) earn some money in the future by consulting with people on how to avoid the same mistakes.

 

A meter pole for the OKC container home

Providing power to the OKC container home was one of my first priorities after the dust had settled from the installation process. The only thing left to do was find a licensed electrician who could dig a hole, set a meter pole, install a meter base on it, and run a line from the pole to the house. Sounds simple, right?

Call Okie? What for?!

We’ve seen the billboards and heard the jingles, but calling Okie before I dug my meter pole was one of the most frustrating, pointless things I’ve ever done. The idea is that, to protect public utilities and other underground “assets” maintained by telecom companies, people can call their local office of the USIC and have them mark their property for buried electrical cables, gas lines, sewer pipes and other infrastructure.

What actually happens is a guy comes out and marks maybe just the gas lines, because that’s all he can find and all the City pays him for, but meanwhile you receive a report saying there’re actually eight stakeholders in your area with potential assets buried on your property. To have those lines marked, you have to contact each company individually.

A worker from the USIC marks gas lines using a special kind of metal detector.
A worker from the USIC marks gas lines using a special kind of metal detector.

Two of the eight operators included in my report were oil companies, and they make the list because, at some time in the past, there may’ve been drilling activity on or near your property, and pipes or other equipment may be buried in the ground there. One oil company on the list was easy to contact: They have an active well pumping up product about four blocks from the container. Another was impossible to reach, as they were based in Colorado and couldn’t care less about my good intentions regarding their potential assets beneath my backyard.

AT&T was another one, Cox was another. After contacting each and being met with varying degrees of ambivalence and bewilderment, I eventually gave up, reasoning that, had these companies left anything truly hazardous in their wake, they would be more prone to remediate.

Digging commences

At some point during hours-long searches on Yelp and CraigsList, I had eventually found an electrical outfit called Red Hot Trade Services LLC. After some back and forth with one of their crew, we eventually staked the meter pole’s location and had set a date for installing the meter pole.

One of the idiots from Red Hot stakes a location for the meter pole.
One of the idiots from Red Hot stakes a location for the meter pole.

On that day, the electricians arrived shortly before a large auger truck. The auger truck was hauling a huge telephone pole. A surprisingly helpful guy from OG&E had given me some guidelines regarding the pole’s location, and he gave me the impression that it needed to be located within a certain radius from the closest existing power pole.

Auger truck arrives with huge pole.
Auger truck arrives with huge pole.

OK, so we had picked out a spot and have the auger truck start drilling. Things are going well until the operator runs into a hard spot. He decides to pull out of the hole so the electricians and I can examine the obstruction. Although we can’t see anything at the bottom of the hole, some cement dust was clouding up the hole’s opening, and it smelled like cement as well. We decided better safe than sorry and picked a new position for the hole.

Digging commences.
Digging commences.
Periodically the auger would exit the hole to unload dirt that gathers on the tool.
Periodically the auger would exit the hole to unload dirt that gathers on the tool.

But then the same thing happened. And again. And again. Five holes were dug in all that day, but not one of them would accommodate this huge pole the electricians had brought, because the auger operator insisted the hole be five and a half feet deep, and I insisted we remain within OG&E’s assumed guidelines for placement.

Out with the old, in with the pole

Eventually I learned from OG&E that the radius stipulation I had been given previously was more of a loose guideline and not a hard-and-fast code-related rule.

Now he tells me.

Then, after many delays and excuses from Red Hot about how they couldn’t hire the auger truck to come out to my property again because it was in the shop or they were busy with other stuff, I finally hired Moore Electric.

They showed up the same day I called them for an estimate, took a look at my huge telephone pole lying in the yard, asked who I had hired originally, and then shook their heads knowingly and smiled in that perturbing way only a true blue-collar hero can smile: “There’s your trouble.”

These guys from Moore had a smaller pole installed the very next day. They brought out a Bobcat with an auger attachment and three dudes under the age of 21 who completed the work in about 25 minutes.

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The auger tool that Moore Electric showed up with was much more efficient and capable than the monster that Red Hot had brought.
We wound up picking a spot about 10 feet to the west of where the original holes were dug.
We wound up picking a spot about 10 feet to the west of where the original holes were dug.
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After the auger did its work, these lads set the pole, back-filled dirt and tamped the hole, periodically checking for level as they went.

With that, my confidence in Red Hot was all but shot. Still, it had taken me so long to secure them as the contractor for electricity, and as I couldn’t get any other electrical contractors to call me back, I decided to give them one last chance.

I allowed them to install a meter base on the newly installed pole.

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An idiot from Red Hot installs the power ground next to the meter pole.
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The guts of the installed meter base. The power outlets installed on the sides were intended to allow me to run extension cords during other phases of construction until power was permanently connected to the house.
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The whole shebang as it looked following installation. I would actually end up uninstalling Red Hot’s meter base after a contentious phone call with their owner.

To date, Red Hot’s original too-huge pole remains on my property. If anyone needs a giant pole for something, it’s yours for the taking (if you can haul it off). The Red Hot boss had tried to haul it off in a normal truck and with the help of one other person, so at least I got the benefit of those humorous moments when they realized their workers had royally screwed up.

Sorry for the long delays between posts lately! Other work and life stuff has been getting in the way of me updating as much as I’d like. Tune in next time when I cover the ongoing installation of the plumbing systems!