Monday, November 30, 2009

Eights week begins

Or more specifically, the eighth week of our remodel. But I thought some of my loyal readers (hello Kim) might like the Oxford reference. And I also thought it was time to bring the blog up to date so that other loyal readers (hello Mom) don't think I've fallen off the face of the planet. So...

Last week included the Thanksgiving holiday. Jim's bunch were here with the framing guys on Monday and Tuesday, but there was little activity on Wednesday and, of course, nothing at all on Thursday and Friday. So quite little to report.

The guys completed the sheathing of the bedroom/bathroom addition. They also opened out a nice big slice of the family room roof and began the framing/tie in of the addition roof. Photos here of the bedroom from outside and through the door looking at the roof tie in.

Photos here of the hole in the roof of the family room. When we sit in the remainder of the family room to watch TV, there is an interesting sense of being in a tent, as the road noise is much louder than you'd expect, and the plastic dust wall billows gently in the breeze. We've bought an oil radiator, though, so the temperature isn't too bad.

On Friday it rained a lot. The fact that there was no tarpaulin over the aforementioned roof hole was of some concern to us, but we took a look at the construction area and decided it could be lived with. There are now so many holes in the family room floor in that area that any pooling water would just drain away. It was a shame to see all the timber and sheathing getting soggy, but luckily the weather was lovely on Saturday and Sunday. Everything just dried out again.

Today the guys completed the framing of the office/laundry addition, and also framed the wall dividing the two new rooms. Progress suddenly seems slower, but I wasn't around today to see how many workers were on the project. I saw Achilles here this morning before I went out, so there is obviously supervision taking place.

Still no word from The Arborist on the Monterey Pine. Here's a factoid for you: The pine is 11 feet 13 inches in circumference. That's a big tree.

More material from the Landscaper Designer, bids for the hardscaping. I haven't yet felt strong enough to open them. I suspect the numbers will be larger than we had previously imagined could be possible. Also more material from The Architect relating to the kitchen cabinets. Much discusion of the location of the garbage and recycling bins; and do we want to be able to see all the little holes in the adjustable shelves, or do we want the adjustment to be limited to a couple of places in order to eliminate the holiness...? Finding it hard to care about that one. We have our regular site meeting with The Architect and the guys from Jim's Bunch on Thursday, and the Landscaper will be joining us; so I guess we have to find the inner strength to look at all this.

I keep telling myself that there can't be many more decisions we have to make. Wishful thinking, eh?

Still no sign of new neighbors in the recently sold house next door.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Starting to look like real rooms

Rain stopped play on Friday afternoon, so a bit of a hiatus in the recording. On Sunday we took an illicit tour of the rooms under construction. Here is a picture of the new office from the inside. Hubby is worried that the large window is too low, but I expect it will be fine once the window itself is inserted. Also it will be nice to have something lovely to look at through that window. Baggsey that desk for me.

Progress is good on the bedroom/bathroom addition. The guys have started to add hardboard sheathing to the framing. They were about a third done by the time it started to rain on Friday.

You can also see, in this photo, the framing for the closets in the bedroom. Photo taken through what will be a sliding door into the side yard.

Finally, we are now enjoying the health-giving effects of having a number of large holes in the walls of our house. No problems with ventilation for the tumble dryer in the garage, as most of the adjoining wall is missing; and the family room has good air circulation too since the guys pulled the corner of the house. They've also taken out most of the framing from inside the family room bathroom/closet area, and installed a pillar to hold the roof/ceiling up.

I am still waiting to hear from the Arborist about the permit for the Monterey Pine. In other news, Hubby and I finally got round to discussing the landscaping plans, and he doesn't like quite a lot of them, so I shall be needing to communicate that to the Landscape Designer. We have also selected our new washer and dryer (both Bosch, front loaders, to be stacked in the new laundry) and I am deep in consideration of the shop drawings for the new kitchen cabinets. Unfortunately our printer is refusing to talk to our computer, so I can't print out the many pages of plans; which is making the consideration pretty tricky. Tech support - aka Hubby - admits that he has probably done something to cause the breakdown in this high tech relationship, but he was too busy to fix it. Grr.

Hubby is doing much better today and has headed into the office away from the construction noise. Alas Little Starlet is suffering from Mondayitis and is in bed with a declared tummy ache.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

And the walls go up

We seem to be spending a lot of time at the doctor's surgery this week, with Hubby's head, so I'm not so quite in the swing of keeping up with this blog. But here's a recap for the past couple of days...

Yesterday the guys from Jim's Bunch finished putting hardboard onto the floor joists of the office/laundry. The framing subcontractors also put up most of the framing for the bathroom/bedroom addition.

Today they are completing the framing for the closets in the bedroom. Today they are working on the framing at the office/laundry, and it is going up very fast. The kids are impressed by the large, loud nail gun - Little Starlet wondered if we could get one for us to use - and are enjoying seeing what a house looks like from the "skeleton" inside.

After the guys had cleared up yesterday I went outside for a peek at what they'd been doing, and was alarmed to see what looked like a gable end going up over the dining room. On the plans the dining room roof is a smooth incline down, no pointy bits.
So I emailed The Architect to register my concern, and she was straight on the phone to the Site Supervisor to prevent any further work in that area until she had been able to see it today. Turns out that they were experimenting: The plans call for a tie in to bring four planes of roof together, and the construction crew is concerned that it can't really happen in the way that the plans envisage. They consulted the structural engineer and he suggested this way forward. Well, this morning the Architect climbed up onto the roof with Achilles and the Site Supervisor, and after some viewing and discussion declared that this additional gable end approach was not the way we intended to go. So they will be dismantling that tomorrow! (I enjoyed watching her up on the roof telling the guys to stick with doing what they've been told - "I have lots of insurance" she said.)

We had our weekly meeting today - including with Jim himself - to discuss outstanding issues. Most of them seem to involve questions around the intersection of the landscaping design with the construction, so the onus is on us to conclude the landscape design discussions. We still need to choose the washer and dryer, and think more about the blessed medicine cabinets.

Lots of activity at the Cardboard Box today. Lucky really, as it is probably going to rain tomorrow, and next week is Thanksgiving, so for most of the week the Cardboard Box will be a scene of silence.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The kitchen toilet is officially history.

Well, dear reader, you may have noticed that I haven't written for several days, which is quite unlike me. Hubby had a cycling accident on Saturday - no major injuries, some cuts and bruises etc - which resulted in us spending most of that day at the local ER, then Sunday was back to back soccer, then Monday we toured the local dentist and optician facilities, then today we were back at ER... So I've been a bit focused on other things.

Anyway. Time to catch up.

The guys from Jim's Bunch, with the assistance of the framing subcontractor, have been adding plywood boards to the floor joists, so there is now the appearance of a floor over the office/laundry addition. They started doing the same at the bedroom/bathroom addition today. Before that, the heating ducts and some plumbing pipes were run under the office floor, insulated, inspected by the City and passed.

The washer and dryer are in the garage and working just fine. Shame the same can't be said for the water dispenser on our fridge-freezer, which stopped working on Friday. I presume that is something to do with the water having been turned off -maybe there is an air lock or some valve needs to be turned back on.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, the shingles are flying off, along with some of the framing. The guys have opened up a big piece of the roof over the dining room, and some over the kitchen, and they have also opened up part of the wall of the kitchen (on the outside only, for now) in order to be able to tie in the framing for the office.

We have a comfortingly large blue tarpaulin over the roof void and a promise of no rain for a couple of days.

Still waiting to hear back from The Arborist about the Monterey Pine.

One interesting side effect of having Hubby at home - the way he looks, he can't go into work - is that the Site Supervisor is not coming in so much to chat. So although there is a lot of noise, there is a lot less disturbance to the day. (I confess to being glad that Hubby is getting a taste of what it is like noisewise.) And, perhaps needless to say, with all that happened over the weekend, we haven't quite managed to choose a washer, medicine cabinet, etc etc. Still on the list. We're both feeling a bit frazzled.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hammer, Saw, Drill, Hammer, Saw, Drill

Plenty of activity around The Cardboard Box today.

In the new bedroom/bathroom area, the guys from Jim's Bunch have demolished some of the existing framing that separated the old bathroom from the family room, and they have installed a post to hold up the ceiling/roof in preparation for rebuilding the walls.

(The new bedroom starts to take shape.)

Out front, a couple of Latino guys are crawling around over and under the new floor joists of the bedroom addition, hammering, drilling and generally making construction noise which I presume has some overall purpose.

In the office/laundry addition, Azmir (who is Bosnian) and Senmet (who is Egyptian) are installing floor joists under the supervision of the framing subcontractor (who seems to be from Texas). In the kitchen, a plumber and a gas engineer are working together to move our washer and dryer into the garage. There is currently a large man lying on the kitchen floor with his head, arms and shoulders dangling down into the crawl space through the hole that Azmir cut a couple of weeks ago.

Much drilling and sawing and hammering noise throughout the house.

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from the Site Supervisor saying we need to have selected our new washer and dryer by the end of the weekend, so that they know where to put the dryer vents etc. So that's on the list for the weekend, along with making a final decision on the medicine cabinets for the new bathroom (do we want them custom made so they are flush with the wall, or do we want to buy ready made from Restoration Hardware which will stick out a bit).

Over the weekend we will also need to make some decisions about the landscaping. I had a good meeting with the Landscape Designer yesterday. She proposed raising the sides of the pool by three inches so that the grade of the lot can be altered, with the effect that water would drain away from the house instead of towards it, as it does at the moment. (Hm, does that sound expensive to you?) Also, she brought estimates for the work to put the pool cover box under ground instead of on top, which would allow the cover to have runners under the coping and thus hidden out of the way, instead of on the surface so that they run along the coping. (Are you keeping up?) The estimates for that specific piece of work run around $40,000. Hubby swallowed quite hard when I told him that. He was thinking, maybe $10,000...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sound of silence

No hammering, no sawing, no digga-digga-digga boom boom.

It's Veterans' Day and the guys have the day off.

More activity tomorrow (I hope).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Orleans

At least we have the resources to work on our house, not like some of the unfortunate residents of the poor neighborhoods of New Orleans. As part of the conference I was on last week, we went on a "disaster tour" (as the locals call it) into four neighborhoods that had been particularly hard hit by the post-Katrina flooding in 2005. The Lower 9th Ward was still in a particularly poor way, though it was obvious that there was a strong community spirit trying to bring the place back to life. Here are some photos (taken through the bus window, sometimes while moving, so excuse the blur etc).

This first picture is an empty lot where the destroyed house has been cleared away but the owners have not yet started to rebuild. In the meantime they will still be paying their mortgage and property taxes for this house.

This last picture is how much of local business stands today, four years after the Katrina disaster.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day of Reckoning

I'm back from my trip and, as you can see, Hubby totally failed to keep the blog current, so I'll bring it up to date...

The wood encasing the concrete foundation footings on both additions has been removed, the footings have been inspected and passed, and we are good for the next stage. As I write, Azmir and a couple of other guys are installing the floor joists across the foundation footings on the bedroom/bathroom addition. Gentle sounds of sawing and hammering in the background. Nothing happening on the office/laundry side.

The lights throughout the house are now working, though we're not sure why.

Installation of a new furnace and ductwork was completed on Friday. We now have a new thermostat in our bedroom hallway, and a defunct one decorated in blue builder's tape in our living room. The furnace seems to be working well.

The Landscape Designer and our Site Supervisor met last Wednesday to discuss issues like grading, drainage, landscape lighting conduits, and the location of the "backflow trap T connector". No, I don't know what that is, but I'm sure it's important, or she wouldn't have come all the way from Oregon to discuss it.

The Arborist has applied for the permit to remove our second Monterey Pine. He expects to get it next week. In the meantime the debris from grinding the first stump is sitting in two mounds that look for all the world like a termite holiday camp. The Arborist says they'll dispose of that when they come for the second tree.

We have started to receive and pay the bills for the construction work. Largest check (for over $47,000) to Jim's Bunch for work completed in the first month plus supplies on hand. Also checks for $5,000+ to The Architect (on top of $30,000+ we have already paid for the design phase); $1,300 to The Surveyor; and $3,300 to The Arborist. And there are probably others I've forgotten, but those are the big ones I wrote this morning.

Now I need to think about bathroom medicine cabinets and drawer pulls.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lights Out

I'm in New Orleans for a few days, so Hubby is supposed to be keeping up the blog but...

Home base reports that there are no working lights in either the living room or the family room. Some of the wall outlets are still working, but the ones in the floor are not working either. Presumably they thought they'd keep the non-functioning lights in the garage and house exterior company.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our first construction error

The concrete guys were here today to finish pouring the "footings" as they seem to be called here. They poured one layer yesterday and then a second one today. Site Supervisor admitted this afternoon that the concrete guys had made a mistake in the footings: Apparently the floor joists are usually set into the concrete, but ours are somehow floating on the top, according to the plans. As you can tell, I have a deep understanding of the structural engineering. Anyway, the upshot was that the concrete guys had to take remedial action, cutting into the first layer of concrete, adding new rebars with "special epoxy bindings" and generally making sure that the floor joists will have somewhere to go. I thought it was pretty decent of Site Supervisor to confess that a mistake had been made - after all, I would have had no idea simply by looking.

When we got back to the house yesterday dinnertime, we were disturbed by the sounds of giant rats under the floorboards. Of course, it turned out to be the asbestos guys finishing their work; and they weren't done till it was dark. Now that must be a very unlovely job to do. The fact that the exterior of our house was plastered in Danger signs was equally disturbing. Today all the heating vents through the house continue to be sealed up with blue builder's tape. I'm starting to like it - a nice splash of color among the neutrality of our usual background.


The furnace guys were back today installing the new furnace in the garage. We chose to have a high energy efficiency model which will cost us $2,750 more but is apparently eligible for a $1,500 rebate from the State...assuming the State still has any money for such fripperies. Tomorrow the HVAC team (as Site Superviser refers to them) will tackle the new ductwork. Here's a photo of some of it sitting on our drive...
Luckily the weather has been stupendously good the past couple of days - the dashboard thermostat in Hubby's car said 80F at one point - so we are not feeling the lack of heating one bit.

We also had a visit today from our homeowners' insurance company's appraiser. He told us we need to install fire extinguishers in at least three places including the garage, also some temporary fencing along the side of the house to stop people accessing our back yard, and that if the assessed rebuilding cost for the house exceeds $1,500,000 - which it might well do, this being an expensive area for everything - we will be required to install a centrally-monitored fire alarm system. Hubby is not too thrilled about that.

(Photo of the big cement truck outside our house this afternoon.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Change of scene

Today we have men under the house abating our asbestos problem and other men in our garage taking out our furnace in preparation for the asbestos team to tackle the asbestos insulation there too. Not very photogenic (or very interesting). So here's a photo of Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, where I was over the weekend (at a dance workshop in the historic Asilomar Convention Center).

Anyway, back to the plot. The surveyor came out on Friday and said that our foundation footings are in just the right place with respect to the side yard set back, so the concrete guys are hoping to get on with pouring the foundations later today. The weather is lovely, so it would be a good day for it.