Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More changes in personnel

No, I still haven't fired Hubby (though it's been a close run thing a few times this week...) but we got home from our trip to the snow to discover that our project manager, Achilles, has been "let go" by the construction firm. We now have a new project manager: Jim, the head honcho and overall big cheese of Jim's Bunch. In his email he said that we could expect to see "much faster progress" on our project. We've been pretty impressed with the progress anyway, so that would be spectacular.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Clowder of Cats

We now have three Bob Cats in the back yard, two with scoopy things and one with a drilly thing. Don't you love the way my construction vocabulary is expanding?

We also have three holiday visitors with us. Lawyer Mom and Running Dad are sleeping in the family room. They are thoroughly enjoying the gently billowing dust wall and being awoken by men digging outside the window. The Boy Wonder - their 10 year old son - is sleeping in Little Starlet's room. He seems to be fairly oblivious to the construction work.

Weather holding up well - bright sunny days yesterday and today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wide Open Expanses

This is a photo of the front of our house. Note the absence of courtyard wall and gate. We're amazed by how much space there is now all the bushes and walls are gone. In fact it's a shame that the house isn't a few feet further forward on the lot. Anyway, the Landscape Designer thought it would be a good idea to have all that removed so we could get a better sense of the space and so be able to decide on what hardscaping we want at the front.

Bringing in Cheaper Labor

We thought we could save money by employing the children as laborers.

Only the best pussies for us

We saw the demo guys removing their Bob Cat and assumed they must be all done. Just noticed in the garden that a different machine is tucked away in the corner. This one is labelled "CAT". I assume we've been upgraded from a bobcat to a tiger.

Action all around

It's all happening here this morning:

- men on the roof over the kitchen
- men in the family room engaging in more mysterious banging
- men in the back yard demolishing the coping from around the pool
- big crane on the drive in preparation to take down the Monterey Pine

Lots of noise. Rain currently staying away.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kitchen again

The cabinet guys left the stain samples on our doorstep today, while we were out, so late in the afternoon. They were supposed to have left them yesterday around that time. I think they must be in a different part of the space-time continuum, because they seem to deliver everything precisely one day later than they were asked to.

Hubby is in a huff about the kitchen situation and refusing to look at the colors today. He has moved onto grommets, the all important question of where the wire management holes will be in our office desk tops and what color the inserts will be.

Outside it is raining gently.

Inside we are worn out from a two hour shift wrapping gifts in the warehouse of the local Family Giving Tree charity. They distribute gifts to 75,000 children for Christmas. I bet we only wrapped about 25 each, but it felt like many more!

Tomorrow the arborist is due to be here with his crane to dispose of the Monterey Pine.

Still no sign of any neighbors in the house next door.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Saga of the Kitchen

Confusion reigns. We naively thought that we had selected cabinet stain color, floor tile, and made a good stab at the countertop. Now we learn that we can't have the cabinet color we had chosen unless we move from alder to maple for the wood, which will add some $4,000 to the price. If we stick with the alder, then we think the floor tile may look a bit anaemic. We also wonder if a dark countertop would work. Our Architect thinks the light Caesarstone ("Oyster") that we'd selected as an alternative would look ok, quite 1950s in fact, but that it might look too washed out overall with light cabinets and floor.

Yesterday the cabinet guys were meant to drop off door samples for us to take the the countertop viewing. They didn't do that. Today they did drop off the door samples, but they didn't leave the stain samples, so we have nothing to work on. We have friends coming in from the UK on Monday, and we just don't want to spend lots of time on this now. I hauled Hubby out of the office on Friday afternoon to look at countertops, and I can't keep doing that. We are now under time pressure to make these decisions. The reason for that is the way everyone was dragging their feet on the Great Corian Countertop Reuse Question.

Today I spoke to Achilles twice and also the Architect. We also took the door samples and Caesarstone samples to a party this evening, and solicited opinions from our friends. They voted for the alder; but of course we aren't quite sure what color that would be for real.

Anyway, I'm fed up of the whole thing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Rime of the Ancient Renovator

There was an ancient renovator,
and he stoppeth one of three:
"Pray listen to my story
Of choosing countertops" quoth he.

I travelled down to Sunnyvale,
I went into the store.
"Show me all your Caesarstone"
I said "And nothing more."

The woman coughed into her hand
And said "Here it is to see;
But there is also Europe Stone
and Zodiac and Corian
And wood cut from a tree."

I cried "Hold fast! Tempt me not!
Lead me not astray!
I came to look at Caesarstone
That's why I came this way."

And so we spent a happy hour
Peering at small tiles
And holding up a maple door
Tutting, sighs and smiles.

At last we walked out from the store
A list clutched in my hand.
Two stones we'd chose and only one
Was Caesarstone, of course.

Jigga jigga jigga jigga

On returning from dropping the kids for the last day at school, I had to enter the house through the garage as the Bob Cat was running up and down the front path demolishing the courtyard wall. Now I have one man jack hammering in the front yard, and one in the back. The guys from Jim's Bunch are on the roof pulling off the shingles. The hanging light fitting in the dining room is swinging gently from side to side. Oh, it's started rattling.

The fish are looking a bit traumatised. I just spent half an hour hiding in Little Starlet's room drinking tea and reading a book. That's the only room in the house that doesn't have a man outside it jackhammering, or anyone on the roof pulling the shingles off.

Now I am heading out to Hayward to look at Caesarstone. I can only take so much of the noise, so I might as well do something useful. Unfortunately, Achilles came by to take away the stain samples yesterday, so I don't have anything to compare the stone to, but I'll use my imagination.

The weather is mild and beautifully sunny today. The rain that was forecast for this week has not materialized.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Unexpected changes in personnel

No, I haven't traded in Hubby.

It seems that Site Supervisor has been moved onto another job, without Achilles or anyone else from Jim's Bunch telling us. That accounts for why I haven't seen him, or had him pop in for a chat for a while. Instead we will have the guy whom I thought was the head honcho for the framing subcontractor. Turns out that he is also a site supervisor with Jim's Bunch, whose trade expertise is carpentry, hence the confusion over his role. He also didn't know my name until yesterday, when he admitted as much and we introduced ourselves to each other. He's only been here for three weeks or so working on the framing. I asked why the change, and Achilles gave me a bit of flannel about efficient organization. I silently wondered if Site Supervisor was the fall guy for the not-perpendicular-house mistake.

Shucks, this unexpected change in personnel is causing havoc with my blog's dramatis personae... I think I shall imaginatively call him "Site Supervisor II".

The Agony of Choice

Just look at the lovely collection of items our architect left today. Hubby will be so thrilled to see the different things he needs to help choose... fabric... grommets... paint... Caesarstone...

Excuse me, may I come in?

Had a small problem getting back into the house today after dropping the kids off at school. The demo guys were busily whacking the wall in the front yard and they'd moved the tree protection fencing so they could do it, with the result that I couldn't get to the front door. As every other horizontal surface around the house now looks like a war zone, this entry point remains as important as ever. Anyway, they are nice guys and moved aside to let me in. Yesterday they carried the wine fridge into the house from the back yard, so I have no complaints about them.

Here are a couple of photos of the landscaping demolition in progress, one of the back yard, one of the front.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rapid Fire Decisions

I just had a five minute conversation with Achilles and told him that we could give up on trying to reuse the Corian counter tops. We're going to go with Caesarstone (which is what our architect recommends and also was the recommendation of Monday's countertop guy). Achilles will get quotes.

I also reminded him to give us the quote for replacing the kitchen floor. I told him we're inclined to do it. Off the top of his head he thought it would be in the region of $8,000 to replace. Usually when I talk to Achilles, we come out of it with an additional $10,000 bill, so this is a better than the usual result.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Raising the Roof, Draining the Pool

And here is a round up of photos of the construction work.

Here's the empty pool, slowly filling up with tree debris, and the office addition taken from both inside and outside. Note the roofiness of the roof!

There's a Bob Cat in my Garden, Round 2

Photos here of the back yard being destroyed by Bob Cat Man and his friend, Workman with Strange Moustache.

The brick planters are gone, the seating at the end of the pool is gone, the lawn is totally destroyed, the brick and concrete wall under the redwood trees is gone, and a bit of our fence has fallen down, just to complete the picture of loveliness that is our back yard.

All very noisy. It will get worse tomorrow, as they plan to jack hammer out the patio.

Perpendicular House Photos

Here are a couple of photos of the foundations and sheathed walls on the bedroom addition. It's a bit hard to show, but this is the point at which the walls and the foundations head off in different directions. You can see that the wall sticks out about three inches from the foundation, whereas on the other side it sticks out about an inch and a half. I assume the inch and a half is the correct distance...

We have a roof

Both sides of the house have men standing on the roof. The good news is that both additions now have sheathing over the roof joists, so we have some level of waterproofing for the next bout of rain (due to start this evening). Hopefully this will also improve the temperature in the family room, as the whole front of the house is now enclosed. The builders haven't cut the windows out of the bedroom addition yet, for overall security of the house.

We also have The Return of The Bob Cat in the back yard. Yesterday they seemed to just run up and down the side yard demolishing camelias and azaleas, which honestly didn't seem to call for a Bob Cat with a jack hammer attachment; but now they are getting down to business in the back yard demolishing the wall under the redwood trees and the brick planters.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hardscape starting

It's dry and sunny today so the place has exploded with people.

Mike the Pool Guy is in the pool drilling more holes in it.

Someone from the hardscape company is demolishing an old built-in seat under the redwood trees (concrete and planks). To do this they've had to move some of the tree protection fencing - shh, don't tell the city.

I got home from volunteering in the school library this morning to find a counter top salesman in the kitchen measuring up. I liked the way that he just said hi and carried on. Luckily I've got used to meeting strange men in my house. After he'd finished, we had a conversation about Corian versus manufactured stone versus granite. He thought manufactured stone was the way to go: a bit greener, plus harder than granite and a lot harder than Corian. He also thought that removing and replacing the existing counter top was a bad idea. He thought the shape of the current counter top left something to be desired: the overhang by the cooktop will always be prone to splitting in the heat, the breakfast bar area isn't properly supported (should be 6 inches deep, not 8 inches without support) and the bull nose at the edge of the counter top allows liquids to run into the top drawers (which it does).

The guys from Jim's Bunch are working away outside like maniacs. They appear to be putting sheathing on the roof joists on the office/laundry side. Over the weekend, in between rain showers, I took a quick look at what they'd been doing and it seemed that they'd started to install the ceiling joists there. Putting some kind of roof on the new additions would be a good thing. Everything looked pretty mucky after all the rain we had this weekend.

Can't see any action on the bedroom/bathroom addition. I wonder if they're waiting for foundation work?

We found a problem with the wall in Deep Thought's bedroom yesterday. It could be a leak, but we think it more likely that they nailed the tarpaulin to the sheetrock on her wall, causing it to splinter. Doesn't look like a big deal, but I'll be pointing it out on Thursday.

We got a very large invoice for an installment payment on Friday. Waiting for our architect to say we should pay it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If this were Britain

If this were Britain...

- the pile of lumber in our front garden would have been stolen by now.
- our project would be behind schedule.
- the builders would be cussing and smoking on the job.
- the project manager would call me "love"
- the workmen would call me "love" (instead of "ma'am")
- I'd have been asked to make multiple cups of tea every day.
- I'd have hidden every valuable in the house, to prevent them disappearing. (Not necessarily fair, but a cultural truth, I think.)
- the builders would not have arrived at work at 7:15am and worked straight through till 4:30pm in the pouring rain.
- It would be raining.

Oh, that last one's true here too - it's bucketing down again.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kitchen work

We spent part of the morning at Artistic Tile choosing floor tiles for the kitchen - assuming that we are going down the route of changing the floor. We still haven't received an estimate for the time or cost of doing so. But we chose the tile anyway, a creamy porcelain tile with a small square glass accent tile.

This choice followed on an extensive consideration of the 200 possible stain colors for the cabinets, which got so bad we let the kids choose in the end (from our final six choices).

The rain is coming down in buckets today. Thank goodness they didn't rip the back yard up yesterday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pool action

Mike the Pool Guy is currently in the pool drilling holes in the bottom of it. It's raining again.

More trees gone

It drizzled this morning but the sun is shining now. Myterious thumps and bangs continue throughout the house from both sides.

The Arborist's team was here this morning removing four pittosporum trees from the side yard, in preparation for the BobCat to be brought here by the hardscaping guy. It was extremely loud. I spent a bit of time this morning moving wet objects around in the back yard in preparation, but I don't know quite what to do with them when the whole thing is going to be razed. I put four bamboo sticks around the lemon tree that the kids bought for hubby for his 40th birthday. I'm hoping that will survive.

The pool is now empty.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Problems fixed and more choices faced

As I write, there is an electrician in the dining room staring at the light. It was flickering a lot this morning, and Achilles didn't like it so he sent the sparky in.

We had our site meeting - another two hours. First we met with the windows guy. A lot of it fairly incomprehensible, except for the point at which I asked "Why does it say 'Forest Green' for the frame color?" Er, yeah, it should be white. No one else had spotted that, so the lay person has her uses.

Next we met with the cabinet guys. More detailed drawings to pour over. We had further dicussion on the microwave and appliance garage location and sizing, inconclusive. We will need to look at another microwave option to see if we can get the cabinet set further back from the edge of the counter top, else the appliance garage will be a vast cavern horizontally but too cramped vertically. Alternatively I suggested getting rid of the appliance garage altogether, but that seemed to shock everyone else present and they are determined to find a way to keep it. They all like the way we keep our bread in it instead of our toaster, kettle etc. It's an education, this remodel lark.

The counter top subcontractors are still not committing on how much it would cost to reuse the Corian counter top. The cabinet guy suspects its a liability issue: If they take it out, and it breaks, then they will be liable for the replacement cost. In which case I wish they'd just say they can't do it and we can move on to the next thing, a replacement. January is coming up fast and we all need to know what the next step will be. The cabinet guys say they'll start making the kitchen cabinets next week. The cabinet guys left us with a swatch of 200 color samples for staining the cabinets, plus 15 types of mesh for the TV cabinet. The Architect says that next week she'll bring along her samples of off-white paint for us to choose from for the cabinet painting.

Then we had a quick run down of all the outstanding points. Kitchen demolition is scheduled for January 13 and 14 (assuming the new cabinets are ready to be installed). We need to get the new washer and dryer for February so probably need to order that soon.

Achilles says that the fix on the not-perpendicular-house-and-addition is working out well. He says that the foundations' relationship to the house looks like we've recently experienced a large earthquake...which will be put right by the foundations guys coming back to build the foundations up in the necessary places. OK, I said, just make sure that if we had a real earthquake the house wouldn't fall down. He said we've lost a couple of days in the schedule because of that issue, but the subcontractors have sent along extra men and that is helping with the catch up.

In the back yard the pool is now about half drained. I have a document to read about alternative shapes of pool coping - it's all about the edge, apparently - and much of the front yard is decorated with pink paint splodges, indicating what is to be ripped out/demolished. Given that we have had a bit of rain this week (and it has only been a sprinkle so far today) I'm not sorry that the hardscape guy has not returned to demo the back yard. It would all be a mud bath very quickly and it's quite nice not having to tramp through the mud to take a look at the work in progress.

More rain, mysterious progress

After two days of cold and frost, we have rain again today. The builders are currently here banging away on both sides of they house. I took a look after they'd gone yesterday and honestly couldn't tell you what they've been doing. But they've been hammering away with enthusiasm the whole time, so I guess they've been doing something.

The new bathroom area is framed inside the house, incorporating what used to be the closet area and the old bathroom. It looks smaller than I expected...but then things seem to look larger again after the sheathing is put on. (Hubby and I had a long conversation in bed last night about whether internal walls are sheathed or not. I don't think they are - I don't think the sheetrock, which is the US equivalent of plaster board, counts as sheathing. I suppose we'll find out.)

It occurred to me yesterday that we haven't seen The Site Supervisor for a week. I wonder why. A question to ask at the site meeting this morning. Now I must stop and look over yet more kitchen cabinet plans.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pool progress halted

Mike the Pool arrives at my door, very disappointed that the level of water in the pool has only fallen 12 or so inches instead of half way down, like he was expecting. Apparently the electrical outlet has failed... We investigate the sub-panel, where all is well. We ponder. We check the wine fridge that is plugged into the same outlet. It is still working. The pool pump has burned out.

Perpendicular House

It's very cold today - frost and everything - but no rain.

There are currently eight men working on the bathroom/bedroom addition. I spoke with the main framing guy this morning and he explained that yesterday afternoon they pulled the front wall off the family room and reframed it, so that the end of the old part of the house is now perpendicular with the side walls; and this will allow them to make the addition perpendicular too. I don't completely understand all this, but he seemed confident that the problem was solved, and The Structural Engineer was here yesterday, apparently, giving his input on this solution, so I guess that's okay. No photos as it's not a very photogenic process....

Monday, December 7, 2009

And the rain went away

We were forecast to have rain all week, so we were feeling pretty gloomy about the likelihood of much progress. It did indeed rain a lot overnight and earlier this morning, but it is now sunny, and the house is swarming with men. They are trying to finish the roof framing as quickly as they can. There is also a lot of banging coming from the family room.

Met Achilles in the street this morning. He's been in conversation with The Structural Engineer, and the latter will be at the house tomorrow. They think they've got a solution that will allow the building addition to be tweaked so that no fudging is required, and no demolition either. A good thing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Progress photos

I've finally got the camera software loaded on this new computer, so I can bring you new photos of current progress. Here (first photo) is a picture of our kitchen with the new dustwall built across it. Those readers with an intimate knowledge of our house will spot that the wall runs across the area where the dead drinks fridge lived, and also cuts across the windows on one side and half the sliding door on the other.

And here (second photo) is a photo from the other side of the wall. Note the white painted kitchen wall to the right of the photo with half the sliding door. The framed area is the end of the office, looking out to the side yard.

The white wall in photo 3 is what used to be the inside of our kitchen toilet (now nailed shut with plywood across it for insulation and security). This area will become the laundry room.

Here's a photo of the exterior showing the roof framing on the office/laundry in progress. Note the large blue tarpaulin. Jim's Bunch pulled off quite a large chunk of the roof over the course of the week, so we are hoping that the tarp is in the right place...

And one final photo: Our pool being drained in preparation for the remodel, which should start in the next few days.

Alas, it is now raining heavily, and due to rain for several more days. This will be good for the snow in Lake Tahoe, but not so good for the progress on our construction, I fear. We were also expecting the guys from Mr Hardscape's company to be out this week to demo the back yard, but I'm guessing that won't happen with lots of rain, because it will just turn the lot into a big mud bath.

Word from The Arborist: The permit for the Monterey Pine is signed off and the crane is booked for December 21. This is the first day of the kids' winter holidays, so they will be able to enjoy watching this massive tree coming down.

Still no sign of new neighbors next door.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Latest construction problem

We had a two and a half hour site meeting today, with Achilles, the Site Supervisor, The Architect, Jim the Boss, the Landscape Designer, the guys from the cabinet company, the pool remodelling guy, and Mr Hardscape. Hubby joined us about half way in and instantly started to try to make decisions, which isn't allowed at all.

The first 45 minutes of the meeting was spent (sans cabinet guys and landscaping crew) outside the house staring at the front where the bedroom/bathroom addition is being created. So it turns out that the existing house is not quite square. The addition has been built square onto the end of the family room, with the side walls perpendicular to the end wall; but the end wall was not perpendicular to the existing side walls. Are you following? The result is that the new part of the house does not line up with the old part of the house. The old walls lean away from the new walls and the overall line is not flat.

The Architect is very exercised by this error, which could have been compensated for during the foundation pouring if anyone had noticed. She claims that it's all to do with there being too many supervisors involved in actually doing the work, and not enough of the usual workmen who actually know what they're doing. That sounds a bit feeble to us, but hey. As a matter of fact, we're not talking about 12 inches, or even 2 inches in difference. The Architect says the difference is between an inch and an inch and a half; but she says that will be enough to be visible. There was much talk of amending the gutter line on the eaves so that the main sight line from the front will be straight, and of "furring" with felt inside the walls to compensate for the lack of straightness.

One option, of course, would be to pull the whole thing out and start again; but Jim isn't keen on that (as they'd have to bear the cost) and we're not keen (as we'd be put back four weeks in the project). So I guess a fudge is where we'll end up.

This explains why there has been a lot of work going on around the office/laundry and none on the bedroom side.

Other activity today: By the end of Monday, all that stood between us and the elements in the kitchen was a layer of fiber glass insulation. So we requested a dust wall to provide a bit of security and fewer drafts. Today Azmir has been building a very study looking wall out of 2 by 4s and plywood across the side of the kitchen. Behind it the guys have pulled out the windows in the kitchen and the toilet room. They've demolished the external wall of the toilet, and look like they will be pulling out the wall with the kitchen cabinet and dead fridge very soon.

The framers have erected the roof ridge across the laundry and office and have started to frame the gable end.

With the Landscape Designer, we met with Mike the pool remodeller and Mr Hardscape. What amused Hubby and I the most was the fact that we had no discussion of the price at all - it was totally taken as read that we would accept the figures, and of course we have. We agreed to the raising of our entire back yard two inches. Mike the Pool Guy put his pump into our pool to start draining it. Mr Hardscape said he'd be back next week to demolish the back yard. Hubby and the Landscape Designer had more discussion of the "outdoor kitchen" and he was persuaded to add an ice maker to the design!

(No photos because we're moving onto a new computer and I still have to reload the camera software. There's always something new to keep a gal busy.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Landscaping update

All I can say is, HOLY COW, who knew that landscaping could be that expensive? We are meeting the Landscape Designer tomorrow to talk over the - large - estimates for the hardscape.

Car Trouble

First flat tire of the remodel. Since we are eight weeks in, I guess that's not a bad average. (And, of course, since our town is The Land of Perpetual Construction, it might not even be a nail from our own job.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I was drinking a cup of tea when a man burst through the wall of the kitchen, hammer in hand.

The worst thing about a remodel definitely the lack of privacy. Or maybe it is the noise. Or could it be a combination of the two? There are guys on my kitchen roof at the moment tearing it off. Other guys are outside the kitchen window. It's like being in the proverbial goldfish bowl, only with sledge hammers instead of an air stone.