Laying the Pipes

It doesn't take long for Aiello to locate the sewer main. "If you have enough experience, you can actually feel a little bit of tension as the bucket makes contact with the pipe," he says. A few feet away, he's cut another trench to access the water main, an 8-inch cast iron pipe located 4½ feet down — just below the frost line. (The gas company has already run its own line from the street to the driveway.)

To link these public mains with the ones he'll install on the Bernards' property, and to create channels for all the systems to reach the barn, Aiello then has to rip up 170 feet of asphalt driveway. It will take him two days to dig the water, sewer, and gas trenches and bring the pipework back to the barn. At the same time, he'll also dig an additional, 18-inch-deep trench for three empty PVC pipes. Later, electrical contractor Allen Gallant will return to snake electrical and communication wires through them. Flexible plastic gas lines live 3 feet down in their own trench, buried with a "tracer" — a copper wire that can be located with a metal detector in an emergency.

At the other end of the driveway, TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey and the Trethewey Brothers Plumbing crew will be back to finish the water, sewer, and gas hookups. Building code dictates that a licensed plumber take over the piping within 10 feet of the house, so when Aiello gets within spitting distance he'll hand the baton to master plumber Ronnie Coldwell. The plumbing crew will coordinate boring holes through the 10-inch foundation wall (with yet another sub, who specializes in concrete cutting) and mapping out the plumbing and gas lines through the barn's walls and floors.

The path of least resistance through the barn is a puzzle the crew has yet to piece together, pipe by pipe. They'll have to dig grooves in the concrete slab floor and find room to run the plumbing in the walls without forcing Tom to build a lot of chases and soffits to hide the pipes. But for now they at least know where it all begins. "We're going to bring everything into the north corner under the new stairwell, where we can tie into the utility room," says Richard.

By the time they've made their entrance, Aiello will have backfilled the driveway with dirt so Tom and his crew can get back and forth to the street. But even then he won't be finished; after the barn conversion is completed, he'll come back and pave the driveway with asphalt — icing on the cake. By then, like most homeowners, the Bernards will have long forgotten what's going on underneath.

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