Progress Report 9 – 30×48′ Pole Barn build


Today we finish up installing the foam, staple down the PEX tubing for the radiant heat, and set up the manifold. Also, the plumbers rough in for the shower, toilet, and sink!

We left off part 8 with the gravel compacted and most of the foam installed. Today it is time to start finishing it up.

If you missed my other article on all the parts I bought for this install, you might check it out first at the link below. I go in depth about the layout plan, the different parts I bought, and why:

Installing the PEX tubing for the radiant heat

Steps to building a pole barn
Got the 90 degree sweeps set up to direct the tubes up to the manifold. These were definitely handy and made it look really nice after concrete.
Steps to building a pole barn
The start of the tubing on each roll seemed to be a little oblong, so I always cut off the first inch or so to get to clean round tubing before attaching to the manifold.
Steps to building a pole barn
Then I started running tubes! With each loop, I started with the hot side, laid down the tube, then connected back to the cold side.

TIP: You don’t want the lines crossing over each other. What I ended up doing was starting at the far left side of the manifold and the far back side of the shop then working my way back towards the manifold.

Steps to building a pole barn
Unravel some tubing and start stapling, but DON’T unravel the whole roll. Leave some of the tape holding it together or you will end up with a knot that is really hard to get out (ask me how I know…)

To buy or not to buy the plastic staple tool

There is a tool for installing these plastic staples. I took a bit of a gamble and decided not to get one because they are kind of expensive and I am kind of a cheap a$$. Instead I just bought the staple strips, broke them apart and installed them by hand. I wore gloves but still by the end had callouses on both hands and was pretty well worn out. My hands hurt, knees hurt, arms hurt and I was very much over it by the time I finished.

I’ll leave it up to you if you want to buy the tool or do it by hand. If you have friends / family that will come help then you don’t need the tool. If you are doing it by yourself like me then it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy it.

Steps to building a pole barn
Here is a view of the first loop. I came out from the hot side of the manifold and straight to the back of the shop. I then started my loops working back towards the manifold. ALWAYS put a staple on the apex of the loop so it doesn’t ‘float’ up when the concrete is poured.

I was putting in staples about every 2ft with extras on the turns. I had originally ordered 800 staples which in theory was enough, but I ran out of them on the last loop and had to order more at the last minute. If in doubt, order extras. Luckily Amazon had them to me in the next day or so.

Steps to building a pole barn
Showing the return back to the manifold. In case you missed it, the areas where I left the foam out is where I plan on putting a 2 post car lift in the future. Don’t put any tubing where you think you might need to drill holes in the future.
Steps to building a pole barn
The tubing is labeled every 2 feet. It counts up so I knew when I started getting close to 300′ it was time to head back to the manifold.
Steps to building a pole barn
Out and back with the second loop. I didn’t hook up the cold sides yet, I just cut them off long to finish later.
Steps to building a pole barn
The little inspector came outside to check my work again.
Steps to building a pole barn
Things are starting to come together. Three and a half loops done so far.

Finishing Foam prior to Plumbers

At this point I stopped laying tubes so I could start preparing for the plumbers to arrive. I needed to get the hole ready and form built so they could put their pipes in for the full bath.

Steps to building a pole barn
This torpedo heater was a lifesaver. I wouldn’t have been able to work without it. It was COLD this week.
Steps to building a pole barn
I had a soft spot in the gravel where it was a bit muddy underneath so I pulled up the vapor barrier then packed it down and added more gravel to smooth it out.
Steps to building a pole barn
Finished up and taped the foam then started working on the inner form for the plumbing.

The reason I am building an inner form and outer form is to keep the top of the footing exposed so the concrete slab would be securely connected to the footings.

I am not a builder, just a dude that wanted a shop. The builder told me I needed footings under where the bathroom will be per city code. Since they had done many projects in my city, I took their word for it. I didn’t quiz the inspector whether it was actually needed but everything I have done so far has passed inspections and I have had no troubles, so I’m happy.

Steps to building a pole barn
Here is the form pretty much ready for the plumbers, doesn’t look like much but I didn’t know what the plumbing would end up looking like. The two blue lines in the hole are 3/4″ cold and hot from the house.
Steps to building a pole barn
Test fitting my lid solution. This will be totally filled with gravel so it will be supported from underneath.

Plumbing Installation

Steps to building a pole barn
The plumbers came and started working on the plumbing. I’m glad I hired this part out, they had some tricks up their sleeve from experience that I wouldn’t have thought of.
Steps to building a pole barn
Here is the completed plumbing. The shower, toilet, and sink will all be placed along the outside wall.

Though the shower, toilet, and sink will be on the outside wall, we ran all of the feed lines through the slab that way there were no water lines in the outside wall. This should help prevent them from freezing.

Steps to building a pole barn
Once they left, I started reassembling my form. Again, building this out of XPS foam instead of plywood since it will be buried under the concrete. Preventing any future termite issues from un-treated wood.

IMPORTANT: At this point I stopped with the pipes still visible to wait for city inspections before covering anything up.

Scheduled a rough in inspection by the city for the next day. It passed just fine, the inspector was here no more than 5 minutes. One thing to note though is that the inspector did not care about the radiant tubes for the heated floor and didn’t need or want to look at them. I suppose since it isn’t potable water or drainage that it doesn’t matter, beats me.

Steps to building a pole barn
Walling off the portion where the shower drain will be. This will be filled with gravel and the P trap will NOT be put on yet. This will give us some flexibility for the location of the shower pan.
Steps to building a pole barn
Shower drain hole filled with gravel. This will have a black plastic cap over it to reserve the space.
Steps to building a pole barn
Added some supports from the form to the rebar to keep the form from moving then filled it up with gravel and packed it down.
Steps to building a pole barn
Close-up of the ‘plastic tub box’ where the shower will be.

The black plastic thing over the shower pipe is called a ‘plastic tub box’ which is the only way I could find them on Google. This was one of those plumber kung-fu things where they had one with them on the truck. I had never heard of them before, but they make it so you have about a 12″ square where you can adjust your plumbing around to hit the drain on the shower pan. They are thin plastic so after the concrete is poured you just cut it open with a box cutter.

Finishing up the Hydronic Tubing

Steps to building a pole barn
Tubing all laid out and stapled down
Steps to building a pole barn
I changed direction of the tubing around where the two post lift spots are. This isn’t for a particular reason other than it was a smaller space.
Steps to building a pole barn
Supported my toilet supply line so it wouldn’t move during the pour. Putting foam around the tube protects it and allows you about 1/2″ of movement after the concrete is poured. Another plumber magic trick.
Steps to building a pole barn
Cut, screwed, and taped the lid down to my frame, then stapled down the radiant to it.

TIP: If you do heated floors in a bathroom do NOT use a wax ring on your toilet as it can melt. They sell all rubber ones like the one below.

Steps to building a pole barn
Ready for concrete! I rinsed the top of the concrete footing so it would have good adhesion to the concrete slab when they pour.

How to pressure test the hydronic radiant floor heating tubes

Steps to building a pole barn
Assembled the adapters and pressure test kit. Check the parts list post at the button below if you missed these parts.
Steps to building a pole barn
Here is a close up of the adapters. I used some pipe sealant paste before assembling.
Steps to building a pole barn
I filled the system up to about 60psi and started checking for leaks.
Steps to building a pole barn
Hooked up the lines and started pressure testing. They pretty much all leaked the first try. Tighten and adjust one by one. Filled up a spray bottle with soapy water.

Note – at this point it was about 1AM the night prior to the concrete showing up and I was freakin’ exhausted. I got the system down to where I couldn’t hear/feel any leaks and wasn’t showing any significant bubbles with my soapy water spray at the manifold. At this point I gave up and called it a night. By the morning the whole system had gone from 60 PSI to ~30PSI which I consider a pretty small leak. Had I more time, I would have chased it down but since the crew showed up at 7am I didn’t really have a choice. I knew it wasn’t in the tubes though since there were no joints anywhere except the manifold. Good enough for now.

Steps to building a pole barn
Finished tubing.
Steps to building a pole barn
Finished tubing ready for concrete!

Thanks for reading. Next up we cover the concrete pour!

Now YOU, go outside and work on something!

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