Friday, October 30, 2009

Hello, is anyone listening?

We have asbestos around our heating ductwork under the house. We know this for a fact, were told it by a heating repair guy last year. We have been mentioning it at regular intervals to our architect and contractors ever since. Yesterday the contractors "discovered" that we have asbestos. Now we need to get in a specialist asbestos abatement company. It's only costing $1,000 to sort out, but will cause delay until the asbestos is gone.

Hello, is anyone out there listening? We aren't keeping any secrets....! Can you tell I'm irritated by this?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Archaeological excavations #3

Turns out that our former family room bathroom was built over an old concrete garden patio, with the result that there is no crawl space. The Architect is puzzled how this could ever have been allowed, but the upshot for us is that we need to have a crawl space created one way or the other in order to meet code now. This was discovered by the foundations guys breaking in through the exterior wall in preparation for creating the opening that would connect the new crawl space to the old crawl space. Er, no. Just a solid bit of concrete, madam. The family room definitely has a crawl space under it - there is a hatch in the floor - so the construction guys just have to work out how to traverse the five feet from one area to the other. Nice.

Other work in progress today includes the compacting of the dirt outside the dining room and where the office will be built. Clouds of dust. Lots of noise.

Other news: Our neighbors have sold their house.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Outpouring of funds and issues continues

Turns out that we should have had an official survey done of our property lines before we started work, as our office extension will be right up to the line of the eight feet set back required by the building code. Luckily we haven't poured any foundations yet - all we have is a dug trench - so we have secured the services of a surveyor and he will be coming over tomorrow or Friday. Meanwhile, the foundations work continues unabated on the other side of the house, where the building is well outside the eight feet setback and there is no issue.

Yesterday was Return of the Bob Cat Day. It was very windy. While the guys were excavating the crawl space, the dust and dirt was flying around in great clouds, mixed with the green pollen dust that cascades from our central cedar tree at the slightest provocation. It was a day to stay inside the house, so I did. It's windy again today, but the excavations have finished and they are now building the wooden retaining walls for pouring/shaping the concrete.

The large cedar stump pictured in an earlier post is now thoroughly gone - it is where the foundation guys are working right now - but the pine stump in the back is still with us. The Arborist spent three hours grinding it yesterday and will be back tomorrow to finish up. (We know he means it because he left his equipment here, and if he leaves it too long he won't be able to get it out again.)

Not much happening inside the house this week. Azmir pulled up some of our kitchen floor tiles yesterday - Very Noisy - and managed to salvage two out of four. (The Architect is hoping the salvage operation won't work, so we'll have to change the floor out, but we hope the opposite.) He was cutting a hole in the floor for the gas guy to use in running a pipe for our tumble drier from the kitchen into the garage, where it will be living for the duration of the remodel. The door on the washer-drier closet is also gone, and I can now see that the vent hose from the drier has a big tear in it, which is no doubt why the kitchen fills up with steam when you use it.

What else? A Corian rep was over yesterday too, measuring up and assessing whether we can reuse the countertops. He thought we could, but left us many leaflets with many alternative options to look at. Hubby is resistant, commenting that our kitchen will soon be like George Washington's axe.

I ordered two new wine cellars on Monday. Hubby had better stock up on something to make them worthwhile. Ca-ching! We are also replacing our main furnace, and just decided on the high energy model which costs $3,000 more. Ca-ching!

In fact the whole remodel is - ca-ching!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Footings begin

Cheerful Latino men in my garden with string and bits of wood marking out the location where the concrete for the foundations will go. Yay!

Stumped (but only temporarily)

The Arborist returned this morning to tackle the cedar stump. He had wanted to bring his big grinding machine, which would have meant he could have demolished the whole thing in about two hours. However, he needed to access our yard via our neighbor's drive (because of the tree protection fencing getting in the way). Our neighbor's house is up for sale and currently vacant. The lovely real estate agents refused permission, so The Arborist had to bring his small grinder instead, with the result that the work will take an extra day - more expense, and more noise for the neighbors. (This is a photo of the small grinder.)

It could all have been over today, folks. Blame the neighbors for that one.

It's an exhausting business

It truly is an exhausting business, this remodelling lark. At the start of Saturday, Deep Thought, Little Starlet and I spent 45 minutes at the local storage place doing our paperwork and trying to work out how the rolling door on our unit works.

Then we spent a good chunk of the day in the garage, pulling out stuff to Freecycle or sell, packing stuff in boxes and junking other things that we've been hoarding for far too long. I managed to Freecycle our old dining table and eight dining chairs (which had seen a lot of life - we brought them from Scotland in 1998, so they've moved continent and through several houses, plus enjoyed the attentions of many small sticky hands). I also got rid of my old bike - not ridden for 10 years - and more IKEA furniture. Though in Hubby's opinion, nothing compares to finding someone willing to take the bridge away.

On Sunday some friends came over to help us move our surplus gear into storage. Hubby had a truck that was far too big, but our 10x15 storage unit was just right. Our house is no longer quite so chaotic as it was, and my headache has gone away.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Cedar Tree

Our deodar cedar tree was about 50 years old, reached about 70 feet in the air and had a canopy spread of some 30 feet. It had suffered from pruning over the years to take the branches away from the house, so it was rather lopsided. Friday was its last day in this world, its fate sealed by the fact that it was located exactly where our new bedroom will be.

The Arborist arrived with a crew of five guys in hard hats, two tree debris grinders, two trucks and a massive crane. This is a picture of the front of the crane jacked up at the edge of our drive.

The crane reached at least 90 feet in the air: It had to, so it could reach the top of our 70 foot high cedar tree. The process was this: Tree guy shins up tree, attaches ropes to piece of tree, cuts piece of tree off; then crane lifts piece of tree clear of the house and other trees, bringing it down to rest on the side of the road. Pretty amazing to watch.

The main part of the tree came down in four sections. Each was enormous. At one point the road was blocked by our fallen branches, but only for a couple of minutes. The tree grinding machine soon dealt with it all.

After the branches were all dealth with, another truck came along to gather up the remaining pieces of trunk. The crane lifted them into place too.

The piece de resistance was the removal of the 10 foot high pine stump from the back yard. Rather than cut it into pieces - a task that would have taken the best part of the day by itself - The Arborist decided to have the crane lift that out too. So the stump was cut down, then attached to the crane's lifting arm. Up it went, up and up and...over the house...over the porch (at which point I decided to go back inside)... and onto the front lawn. The crane driver said it weighed 3200 pounds, which is the weight of a car. It was quite a sight to see this great lump of wood swinging over our roof.

Several of our neighbors came out to watch the tree removal at one time or another. No one challenged our right to remove the tree, thank goodness, though I did have the building permit to hand just in case. Everyone mostly seemed to be amazed by the crane and the way that big ole tree came down so fast - in less than four hours altogether.

We now have a stump in the front yard waiting to be ground down on Monday. It is sitting by the house like a grand table. Of course it isn't a perfect circle, but at the widest point it was 60 inches in diameter, and at its narrowest it was 50 inches. Very impressive.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hardboard House

The guys from the construction crew have finished ripping out the family room bathroom down to the uprights. All the sheet rock is gone and the bare bones of the room remain. Turns out that it was a pretty big space. Why didn't it ever feel that way when we were using it? Tearing out the wall surfaces reminds us that we are indeed living in a house made of hard board. Ok, it's not quite cardboard, but not far off. For those of us who grew up inside bricks and mortar, it's a flimsy shadow of a house. But best not to dwell on that; and it is good for earthquakes, which aren't too common in Quinton.

I had my weekly progress meeting with Achilles and The Architect today. All is going well. The interior demolition was brought up the schedule because the trees are still in the way, so the timings need to be moved around. The furnace and ductwork in the main part of the house is going to be replaced next week, so we will be without heat for a couple of days; but luckily the weather forecast is decent. A roofer will be inspecting the roof on Monday. The kitchen is going to be ripped out and replaced in the first week of January. We had some discussion about ripping it out between Christmas and New Year, when we'll be away for a couple of days, but it became apparent that "a couple of days" really meant "ten days", and I decided that being unable to feed our Christmas house guests wouldn't be the friendliest of gestures.

The Arborist is coming tomorrow to start tackling the trees, and everything is going very well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fenced In

It's all very calm and fairly quiet here today. Azmir and his mate are demolishing the rest of the bathroom. Just a few muffled thumps. I guess they'll be done with that today, and then I have no idea what they can do tomorrow. Everything else hinges on the trees being gone.

Delay - aargh.

Anyway, I didn't previously share a picture of our revised fencing arrangments in the front yard. The City said that we didn't have enough fences around the magnolia tree - they have to fence off the whole drip line area. Also the original fences crossed over our path, and apparently that isn't allowed either. So now we have a new arrangement, with a large fenced box around the magnolia tree...and on the other side of the path, a fenced enclosure protecting nothing. We're considering putting Little Starlet into it for Halloween. I'm sure she could look pretty scary in her cage.

(No, only joking.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Archaeological Excavations #2

I almost forgot to mention that the removal of the interior of the family room closet revealed some truly stunning wallpaper. (Not sure how the colors will come out on the blog - it's a very dark blue-green background with pink roses.)

A Day of Quiet Progress

Hubby and I spent yesterday evening clearing the family room. We threw lots away and boxed up the rest. Hubby thought I was going a bit far when I sat on the floor and tested all the marker pens but, hey, what's the point of throwing away good stuff?

This morning the guys from Jim's Bunch arrived promptly at 8:00am as always. With the trees still in place, there is a limit to what they can achieve. The external demolition has been completed as far as it can, so they turned their attention to the family room and adjoining bathroom.

First they built a dust wall across the center of the room, created from scaffolding-like poles and thick opaque plastic sheeting. It has given the family room a tantalizing crime scene flavor. The sheeting billows gently in the breeze from the holes in the floor. Interestingly, Hubby thinks this will be the perfect location for our Christmas holiday visitors to sleep. I fear the temperature may fall rather low once the builders rip the exterior wall open. Only time will tell.

Azmir and his chums pulled out all the bathroom fixtures, cabinets, floor tiles and mirrors today. Compared to the past three work days, it was all wonderfully quiet and calm. Just a bit of gentle thumping. The house barely vibrated. Looks like the shower stall will be going tomorrow. The furnace and water heater also need to go.

We now have a wine fridge in the garden. Let's hope the pool guy doesn't get too thirsty.

The bridge went away yesterday to its new owner. Hubby can hardly believe that I managed to get someone to take it away. He thinks I have a new career ahead of me in sales. The kids' "sell all our toys" enthusiasm has continued unabated, with more and more stuff going out to local purchasers via the Moms' Club. Between them, Deep Thought and Little Starlet have pocketed over $200 - almost enough for two new American Girl dolls with accessories! But now I'm down to the dregs...The high rolling days are over.

The other aspect of today was the arrival of many, many subcontractors all at once. Deep Thought was off school with flu. Every so often she'd emerge from her bedroom, spot a strange man with a roll of plans, and ask "Who's that?"
- "The plumber."
- "It's the electrician."
- "It's the cabinet maker."
- "I have no idea who that is, go and read your book..."
In the end I was apologizing for being in the house and getting in the way. Well, it's all progress, and all progress is good.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blowing the roof off

We continue to make ourselves popular with the neighbors with our third day of "badoom, badoom, badoom"... "grrrrr".... "tackatackatacka"... in the side yard. Bob Cat Man is back with his drill bit, trying to get the pond out. It's a tenacious thing, clinging to the side of the house with a strength that can only have been designed to withstand nuclear explosion. Less koi carp pool, more bunker.

The wretched bridge is still outside on the drive. We are now on our fourth potential customer for that: The first couldn't lift it, the second never showed up, the third couldn't get it in her van. Number 4 is supposed to be here today. Tomorrow it will be heading to the landfill.

And speaking of the drive, our garage door stopped working. The construction guys are mystified, but have made it work by running an extension cable from an outlet. They suspect that the power was routed through an outlet that was on the fence next to the BBQ, and of course that was demolished on Saturday. "Unorthodox" is what our site supervisor called it.

The arborist finally came back to say that he will be here on Friday to remove the large cedar in front of the house. Until that has gone, the work on the foundations can't happen.
(Work gets started on the Family Room side of the house.)

The main action of the day is the demolition of the overhang between the kitchen and the dining room.

First of all they had to insert a heavy post to hold up the roof, now we have discovered that the original support is flapping freely in the wind. Since then there have been men up on the roof with circular saws and all kinds of scary tools.

Naturally it started raining again today, just in time for them to make an opening into the roof over the dining room. But the sun is shining right now.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The biggest risk

Our insurer says that a house is 20 times more likely to burn down during a remodel than in normal circumstances. Comforting, eh?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Internal Security

As the side yard now looks like some kind of war zone, our builders are concerned that we may be too stupid to remember that the door out of the dining room will lead us into a no man's land of broken bricks, rusting nails, and other hazardous debris. So they have installed some high tech security measures inside the house.

Archaeological excavations #1

The demolition has revealed that the brick patio in the side yard was laid directly on top of an existing concrete patio. (This is like an urban archaeological dig.) Removing the brick layer in turn revealed that the bottom of the post supporting the overhang outside the dining room has gone rotten at the bottom. Apparently moisture will have seeped down and been trapped between the layers at the base of the post. Now we have removed the brick that was supporting the post, it is no longer considered safe. So the builders' first action on Monday will be to add more posts to support the overhang before they climb onto the roof to start removing it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

There's a Bob Cat in my Garden

This morning there's a maelstrom of activity in the side yard of The Cardboard Box. The construction crew pulled down the sad, crippled maple tree next to the kitchen so that the demo crew could get their equipment in. The brick BBQ has been demolished, the gazebo has finally gone, some of the brick pathing has been dislodged and, the really exciting bit that's happening in the background as I write, we have a man in a cowboy hat driving a Bob Cat with a big drill bit thing on the front (I think that's the technical term), knocking down the broken hot tub. I wish the kids were here to see it!

Photos, of course, and a little video of the Bob Cat in action. Unfortunately I can't get too close for Elf and Safety reasons, so it's away in the distance...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The New Alarm Clock is in Place

The kids were puzzled about how the piano would make it down the hallway, so I promised them photos. Exclusive Piano Movers of South San Francisco did the deed this afternoon.

My house is in chaos. There are boxes everywhere. Bits of furniture in the wrong rooms. Bags of toddler toys waiting to be picked up. I need to clean the fish tank. One of the gouramis died yesterday!

Calm, calm. It's only been six days and I'm all stressed out already. Maybe it's time for a trip to the coffee shop? Oh, I'm still waiting for the piano tuner to call me back. I guess I have to go back to the mountain of paper that I'm trying to file.

For our "date night" this evening, Hubby and I will be visiting a high end furniture store. Romantic.

More teething troubles

So we had no action on Tuesday, and only minimal action yesterday. Azmir appeared about 10:30am and worked for a couple more hours on the gazebo. The other fun thing that happened yesterday was the City inspector came out to look at the tree protection and declared that it was insufficient. So the fence people have to come back on Monday and fix it. The fence around our lovely magnolia tree apparently does not extend far enough. When it's in the right place, I'm wondering how the builders will get any equipment in or out. Ah well.

Yesterday we also had a visit from our arborist. The big pine isn't covered by the original building permit, so we need to apply for an additional one. But the arborist thought it wouldn't be any trouble getting permission from the City to take it down. He reckoned the tree has just a couple of years left in it, and it's apparently riddled with some beetle too. We feel so blessed to have a 70 foot high dying pine tree four feet away from our house.

I'm still waiting for the guy to come and take away the free bridge.

And inside the house, today I have the piano movers coming to relocate our ole joanna from the family room to our bedroom. Little Starlet said with a cackle that she plans to practice every day at 6am. What a lovely alarm call that will be.

Before and after photos of the gazebo demolition, with tree "stump" exposed, posted above. Now what does the stump remind you of?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Own Private Tardis

Just arrived.

And the rain came down

We're having Biblical-type rain today, so the good start we made yesterday has ground to a sudden halt. On the whole, I quite like looking out the window at the monsoon weather, but it would also be nice to have more progress on our demolition. I'm also wondering if the arborist is going to make it out today after all. (It's a long way from Soquel when the traffic is snarly because people forget how to drive in the rain.)


Here is a picture of the road outside our house at 9:00am this morning, just to give you an idea of how things are.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Clear Out Madness

Inspired by the need to empty the family room and generally sort ourselves out before the builders break through the walls, I've been madly "freecycling" things out of the garden and selling stuff on the local Moms' Club classifieds list.

It's amazing what people will take if you offer it for free. Someone wanted a stack of five absolutely filthy plastic patio chairs. Someone else took two old stools from IKEA. Another person, a toddler table stained with paints. I've been trying to get rid of our garden bridge since Friday, and I've had a couple of willing takers, but no one is strong enough to lift it out of the back yard. Very disappointing really. It would make a great addition to someone's landscaping.

As for the selling, the kids have been very motivated by the promise that they can keep the proceeds of any sales. So far they've made $87. The first day's sales I split between them 60/40, as Deep Thought had helped sort out the stuff with far more vigor than Little Starlet; but the latter was so appalled by the injustice that she went to bed in tears. Hubby felt the need to placate her by making a "gift" of a sum sufficient to equal her sister's swag. So today I thought we'd just stick with 50/50 and never mind whether the amount of toil on each side merits the equal division. Deep Thought didn't seem to mind - she was more worried about finishing her homework today - so I guess that's all working out fine.

Anyway, we've sold many toddler jigsaws and games, two bags of puppets, a puppet theater, a parachute, a perpetual Advent calendar in French, and a bag of toddler percussion instruments. Deep Thought has carefully sorted all the plastic animals into different categories, in the hope of maximising her returns, but only the dinosaurs have gone so far. Niche marketing definitely seems to work with the Moms' Club crowd.

Now, what else can I find to get rid of?

Goodbye to the Gazebo

So, today is day four - or is it day two? Well, whatever.

Jim's Bunch arrived at 8:00am sharp to demolish the mess down our side yard. Azmir and the crew spent over an hour trying to find the power source for the sauna. They eventually found it, disconnecting part of our house lights and our network connection in the process (so I'm writing this from a coffee shop, poor me). Out came the sledge hammers to bang away at the uprights, the woodworking instruments to pull off the trellis, and the plumbing tools to disconnect the water line to the broken hot tub. In the process, they managed to sever an irrigation pipe, so all the water had to be turned off.

So a great start.

But it's good to see it all going. Before and after pictures posted here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day One: The Fences Have Landed

We've been planning our remodel since the New Year, and it's finally here.

Yesterday we signed the contract with our construction firm (to be referred to as Jim's Bunch) and today the tree protection fences arrived. They were installed with much energy and a lot of noise by a team of four men. Some of the poles could go in by hand, others had to be driven in by an "air hammer". It was like a mini-pile driver.

We went out.

When we got back, we discovered that we could no longer go up our main front garden path, nor could we go into the back yard through the main side gate. I hope the meter reader has good eyesight, because he won't be able to get within six feet of the electricity meter. Luckily the fence was installed so that we can still get up to the front door: This looked touch and go on the plans, as the tree protection rules apparently call for 10 feet clearance from the trunk of the tree being protected...which would have pretty much stopped us using our front door. What fun!

Our next door neighbor has their house up for sale - they've moved away already. It's been on the market three weeks so far. I can only imagine how delighted the realtors are going to be when they arrive tomorrow morning.