Thursday, October 21, 2010


First of all, still no action by the neighbors. Not even their tree protection has gone up. We are gloomily wondering whether they won't get started now till March or so, meaning that next summer will be affected by their construction. In better news, the sidewalk repairs have been completed. The city decided that our path was obviously in the right place, so they have leveled the sidewalk along it; thus removing any need for us to get the hardscape guys back to make an adjustment (and spend more $$). We are now waiting for the ashphalters to get round to repairing the road surface. Should be all done by Saturday.

And last week we had our final bill from the construction company for $1,000, which we have now paid. Site Supervisor II came over and finished the little list of items we had outstanding; and even the electrician showed up and stayed till everything was working.

I think we may be officially done. Hard to believe!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Update on the Neighbors

I forgot to mention, the neighbors have yet to make any start on their new construction. Goodness knows what that piece of kit was that I mentioned in a previous blog entry. Anyway, it doesn't seem to have been tremendously important. Maybe it was something to do with the basement that they're planning to build. Our neighbor's house has now stood empty for a whole year.

In other news, the City looks like it is going to fix our sidewalk in the next two weeks. Yay!

Maybe a third of one percent away from completion...?

Gosh, I see it has been two months since I last posted on this blog, which is a sign that the house really is so very, very close to completion that there isn't much to say.

We went away on our UK vacation in August, and returned to find the house apparently finished. All the outstanding items on our punch list had been taken care of, with the exception of the exterior lights snafu at the front of the house. We can only have the motion sensor light on if the two garage lights remain switched on; so we end up with the garage lights on all night in order to ensure that the motion sensor light - essentially a fancy security light - would come on if someone approached the front door. The electricians who worked on the house deny having tampered with this electrical circuit, and so fixing this is seemingly outside the scope of the job. (The fact that the lights never had that problem before also seems to be immaterial.)

So we have been living with the house for a month, picking up little things here and there that need fixing. Nothing too major, I hope. The motion sensor light in the back yard isn't working at all. The motion sensor light outside the laundry room door only comes on if you approach it whilst waving your arms in the air. Then there is a bunch of small carpentry items: creaking or rubbing doors, sticking drawer, misaligned bolt, that kind of thing. I hope that Site Supervisor II will be able to tackle most of them pretty quickly, though I wonder whether the electricians will deign to visit us for the electrical fixes.

We had a "duh" moment today. The light in the pool stopped working and we couldn't understand why, as it had been working just fine. Anyway, in an email, SS2 mentioned "the exterior GFI", so I had an "ah ha" moment...took Hubby out into the back yard with a flashlight...found an outlet in the exterior wall and got him to inspect it. Sure enough it had a reset button, which we duly reset and - ta da! - like magic, the pool light came back on. What a team we all are.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One percent away from completion

The exterior screen doors actually arrived yesterday, just after I'd written the day's entry. SS2 will be here later on to install them. He was here this morning to reattach something in the hallway bathroom that the Architect had pulled off the wall by mistake some time ago (!) and also to investigate the non-functioning lights.

We also had part II of a visit from the tub refinishers, who have been working on the guest bathroom tub. I just took a peek. It looks perfect. I guess we shall have to see what happens, as it looked perfect after the last attempt at sealing it. Did I mention that the refinishing stinks?

I had a quick meeting with the Landscape Designer. We had a delivery of another 30 or so plants this morning and she was here to place them out before planting. I pointed out that the pool cover still isn't closing properly and that a stone has fallen out of the walkway by the guest bedroom. She tells me that the grass is forecast to be laid this week.

Our neighbors started their demolition preparation this morning. They actually managed to have a piece of equipment I'd never seen before, and I thought I'd seen it all. (I had to stand on a chair next to the fence to look over and see it. Nosy neighbor, moi?)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Can't Get Enough of That Outdoor Living Thang

I've been spending money again. Today I ordered another extending patio table - this one extends to 130", a full 20" longer than the last one - with six chairs, a 10' by 13' rectangle patio umbrella (in taupe Sunbrella fabric), and an umbrella stand capable of stabilizing 70lbs of weight. As the umbrella is custom made, it won't be ready for about four weeks (i.e. the end of the summer), but the table and chairs will be here next Tuesday. This will give us dining capacity for 22, which is about what we need.

I've also sent my three old teak chairs - purchased about 13 years ago in England - to the patio furniture vendor to be refinished to their original brown color.

Meanwhile, back at the outdoor kitchen, the appliance guy was here again today to tweak the warming drawer, which is now straight in its space.

Inside the house, SS2 was here this morning with Dave the Bath Vendor, who started refinishing the tub in the guest bathroom. It stinks.

Remaining items:

The House:
- two exterior lights are not working.
- screen doors will be coming in about 10 days
- one sliding screen door is loose on its track

The Garden:
- still some plants on site needing to go in
- waiting for some plants to arrive, most notably two espaliered mandarin orange trees for the fence
- grass to be laid in the back
- mulch to be added everywhere
- landscape lighting to be installed (waiting for lights to come)
- the pool cover is still not closing properly every time (small gap on one side)
- pool light is not working, and different subcontractors are currently blaming each other
- mastick around the pool
- cleaning and re-sealing of the stone patio(to combat the redwood staining)
- doors under the outdoor kitchen sink need adjusting (one has sagged)
- fence repair where a couple of planks have fallen down
- creation of gate next to the office, for the "dog run" area
- a stone has fallen out of the hardscape and needs to be glued back in

Sunday, July 11, 2010

House Party

As we grind to the close of the project, the blog postings are becoming less frequent. There just isn't so much to say.

(Which is a good thing.)

On Saturday we invited our good friends over and grilled far too much food on the outdoor kitchen. There were 20 of us. The kids splashed in the pool - in fact, so much splashing that we had to top the pool up this morning - while the adults grilled, drank and ate.

The menu was simpler this week: ginger and honey ribs, Kosovan mushrooms, and salmon in cream shallot sauce (from the recipe book); with grilled pork chops, halloumi cheese and sweet pepper kebabs, sausages, Piazza's finest hamburgers (really good, but very big); and a green salad, a corn salad, and a tomato/mozzerella salad; bread and fixings; rounded off with a bottle of champagne to commemorate the first time all our British friends had been over.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another Final Inspection Passed

Today is a good day.

The city planners were here today to do the final inspection on the outdoor kitchen, and we passed (though only because Site Supervisor II made a last minute cover for the sink, which the hardscaping guys hadn't got round to doing).

The exterior lights are all in. I'll check over the weekend that they're actually working.

SS2 had a major triumph yesterday with the kitchen skylights. The operable windows now open and close and the six blinds do all the various things they are supposed to do (up, down, tilt, etc). I also got a nice thank you card from SS2's wife for a book I sent home with him for his kids: "Fix-It Duck" by Jez Alborough. In the book, the cack-handed Fix-It Duck has to repair a skylight in Sheep's caravan. It seemed all too appropriate for the long-suffering SS2 (though that's not to say that he is cack-handed, far from it!).

The landscapers are still here planting. I think they'll be done with that today, and then tomorrow morning they'll be here to start on the landscape lighting.

And I just received delivery of our new garden furniture: extending table, two benches, dining chairs (should have been six, but one was damaged so they took it away for replacement), a rocking chair, and a sling chair. Looks nice. Now we have to decide what to do with all the rest of the furniture!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Inaugural Barbecue

Welcome to week 35, and Happy Independence Day! Which is always a curious time for those of us from the Old Country, especially since many of our children are American. As usual, we ex-pats gathered together to enjoy the great British pursuits of barbecue, swimming in the outdoor pool, and beer drinking. Well, I guess one out three isn't bad.


Today provided an excuse for the first use of the new outdoor kitchen. Next weekend we have the whole set of ex-pat friends over - that'll be 26 people in all - so we thought we'd have a good go today when there were only 11 of us. I bought Hubby a new grilling cookbook at William Sonoma ("Planet Barbecue" by Steven Raichlen) and selected a number of recipes for us to try, making sure that we used the rotisserie grill, of which our friend Richard had been very scornful...

The menu included:
- Santa Maria Tri-Tip (beef)= Californian recipe
- Ginger, Garlic and Honey Grilled Back Ribs (pork) = Cambodian recipe
- Grilled Tofu with Chile Peanut Sauce = Malaysian recipe
- Grilled Bananas = Colombian recipe
- Caramelized Grilled Pineapple = Brazilian recipe
- Rotisserie Onions = Brazilian recipe

We also had salads made by our friends, a summer pudding made by Deep Thought, cup cakes made by a friend's daughter, plain grilled chicken,
"British Bangers", and tofu burgers. (One family visiting us today is vegetarian.)

When the guys started, the grills were pristine and shiney. Now they look about 10 years old. What can I say: "Man, He Make Fire." Hubby will need to be out there tomorrow morning with a big, big bucket of soapy water to scrub it all down. One good thing is that we have a lot of leftover meat (intentionally), so we won't need to cook so much this week.

Here's a picture of Hubby reading the cook book. It seems to be upside down, which may account for some of the anxiety and high tension around the cooking process.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Everything in the Garden is Almost Lovely

The landscapers have been here all day, planting out front. They won't be here on Monday because it is a public holiday. They are pretty close to having planted everything that is on site. A large lilac bush is sitting under the redwoods, and I'm not sure where that is meant to go; and we are still missing a few items. But it is coming on well.

I'm still not sure that it will be finished in time for us to host a proper party before the end of the summer. Once the lawn is laid, we'll have to stay off that for a couple of weeks.

Our garden furniture, ordered yesterday, is being delivered on Monday (despite the holiday). Impressive service. I just hope the furniture is equally impressive.

Friday, July 2, 2010

No More Touch Ups

The head painter was here yesterday and is here again this morning. Yesterday his crew finished painting the front wall and all the touch ups needed around the exterior. Today he is here inside doing the last few little touch ups on the walls and cabinetry. We have, for example, another sharpie line bleeding through one of the kitchen walls that he has just sealed and repainted.

This is a major part of the project brought to completion. Woo hoo.

Today I also ordered new garden furniture: an extending table that seats up to 12, six chairs, two benches, a rocking chair, and a sling chair. They should be shipped on Tuesday next week.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grilling Tonight!

Well, almost.

A scene of high excitement at the Cardboard Box today. Phil the Appliance Guy was here with his fabricated stainless steel pieces and installed the warming drawer, cooler drawer, towel holder and trash drawer. All we need now is the tap and the sink cover. (And I think we also need the power to be switched on, but presumably that's a minor thing - and, of course, the charcoal grill requires no power.)

The two stones in the back yard that had been replaced because of scratching were replaced again. The first substitutes had been completely wrong. The new ones are completely right.

The landscapers were hard at it digging holes for the plants, and even managed to get a dozen into the ground. Their technique is clearly to dig a hole the right size for every plant, and then to go round again actually planting.

Today's big check: $20,000 for the landscaper for progress payment #2.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Creeping Forward

Site Supervisor II was here today to change out the door handle set on Little Starlet's exterior door, so that's another small thing ticked off the list. While he was here, he also spent half an hour crawling around under the house trying to identify the strange knocking sound that has been keeping us awake at night for the past few weeks. (We tried turning off the attic fans and the water circulating pump, but neither of them changed anything.) SS2 was pleased to announce that he had found six places where the pipes were knocking against other pipes or the framing, so he tied them in and put some insulation (aka paper from our recycling) around them to keep them quiet. Maybe we don't have a troll under the house after all. (That was his alternative theory.)

In the landscaping project, the men spent some time today digging more holes and smoothing the soil. They will allegedly begin planting the plants tomorrow, only a week after they arrived on site. We are missing a few items. They will apparently be delivered "soon".

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pots Poised for Planting

And the big question is, when will any of these darn plants actually get planted?

Smooth, smooth, dig

The landscapers have been hard at it all week, but we can't see a lot of progress. They have been digging many holes and filling them back in again. They have also been adding soil, smoothing soil, digging hole, smoothing soil, digging hole, smoothing soil.... A lot of soil smoothing.

The plants arrived during the week, but are still sitting around the garden in pots. We seem to be missing some stuff, like two of the mandarin orange trees from the side fence and the olive tree for the front yard.

The Landscape Designer was here on Thursday and claimed that the outdoor kitchen was to be finished on Friday, but all that happened on Friday was that another hole was drilled in the counter top to enable an electrical wire to run from the rotisserie to the outlet under the counter. Warming drawer, cooler drawer, towel drawer and trash can still to be installed. Faucet on the sink, still to be installed. Cover for the sink, still to be created.

Hubby is on the verge of a massive wobbly.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The End Truly in Sight

Around the house there is very little left to do.

Site Supervisor II finally confirmed - with the help of the Velux rep - that the remaining problem with our kitchen skylight is a bad blind, so a new one is on order. The door screens for the french windows are supposedly arriving tomorrow and will be installed on Monday. The three missing exterior lights came yesterday and should also be installed on Monday. SS2 owes us a bit of caulking in the kitchen around the sliding door threshold. We are also owed a few bits of touch up painting inside the house, nothing much.

Outside, the exterior paint job is looking good, and minimal touch ups are required. The painter said he'd return when the landscaping was complete, so that he can touch up anywhere the landscapers have spoiled. He also needs to come back to patch and paint the front door where the hardware changed.

The landscapers are working hard on the garden. Yet more dirt has been delivered. The guys move it around in wheelbarrows, it looks like hard work. The big excitement of yesterday was the delivery of a very large quantity of plants. They are currently sitting on the area that will become our lawn. Hopefully they will be planted in the near future. Just their arrival in pots has really perked up the garden.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Crack is Back

Alas, the crack in the bath has returned. Our Architect and I were pottering around the house admiring the near completion of it all, and sadly spotted that the orange web was back in the bottom of the bath. We speculated whether the man from Kohler had simply scrubbed the bottom of the tub down and removed the orange, rather than actually trying to fix anything.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sealed in a Plastic Bubble

The painters are doing the outside of the house, at last. Interestingly, they do not use paintbrushes or rollers; they use spray guns. First of all they covered every window and door with plastic, and used the spray gun to paint all the woodwork white (eaves, gutters, downspouts, window frames, doors and door frames. Then yesterday they spent a while covering all the openings with plastic so that today they can spray the walls. It was pretty horrible in the house last night, with every potential ventilation opening covered in plastic film.

We also had a slightly comical moment yesterday afternoon when it appeared that there was no longer any way to get out of the house. This was solved by bursting through one of the garage doors.

In other news yesterday, Site Supervisor II was here for an hour with the Velux representative, and they got both openable skylights in the kitchen to work, and they also got five out of the six blinds to function correctly. It seems that our sixth blind is "bad" (even though it is brand new) and the Velux man has ordered a replacement to be sent directly to us rather than through the local dealer. SS2 says he is literally dreaming about our skylights; and I told him that he is now, of course, on an Arthurian-style Quest to get them fixed.

We're Growing Flags

The landscapers spent yesterday finishing up the irrigation (I think). As Hubby says, the men are there all day, working hard, and at the end of the day the garden looks exactly as it did at the start of the day.

We do seem to have sprouted a lot of flags, though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BBQ Fiasco

Today was the day when the outdoor kitchen was supposed to be finished. What a fiasco. First of all the grill installers didn't turn up this morning - they claimed to have been given the wrong address. When they finally did turn up, they unpacked all the equipment and discovered that none of it fitted into the holes waiting for it in the frame of the outdoor kitchen. The holes cut in the counter top were not big enough.

The gal in the Landscape Designer's office tried to get the counter top guy out, but he was not to be found. After the BBQ installers had hung out for an hour, they prepared to go home, leaving all the equipment out on the patio. At that moment the counter top guy arrived. He had started to cut the counter top as I left for an event elsewhere.

Returning home, I see that the two grills are positioned in their spaces on the counter top - but there is a big gap behind them, about two inches wide, which means that the unit is not water tight and generally looks rubbish. Did I mention that this counter top - honed limestone - cost us over $8,000? Unless there is some magic fix, they've ruined it. Also some of the stone cladding fell off the wall.

The BBQ installers were pretty sour and unpleasant. They also tried to install the fridge but couldn't because they said it was impossible to reach the feet under the fridge when it was in place. The space in the base of the kitchen unit is apparently insufficient for the installation to happen. The BBQ installers also said that they wouldn't be installing the other pieces of equipment we bought from their store - at immense expense - because "we only install into wood studs, not concrete, so someone else will have to do this."

All in all, a total fiasco, and Hubby is on the verge of firing everyone. (Which of course would be madness, given the late stage of the project, but I understand his frustration.)

When we embarked on the landscaping, we were assured that it would all be done by the end of May. How wrong that was.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bath tub problem solved

The tub refinisher came from Kohler today and did a spectacular job touching up the enamel. It turned out to be a much easier job than any of us had anticipated, and the tub looks like new. Phew.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ring the Bells! Shout the Joyous News from the Roof Tops!

Today is a red letter day: The house passed its final inspection.

That doesn't actually mean that everything is finished, but it means that the City is happy that the work has complied with the building code, that all the major systems (electrics, plumbing, roof, drainage etc) are in place correctly, and that the house won't blow away in a strong wind. Or something like that.

SS2 is clearly delighted. He only has a couple of little things to do, like make our garden gate self-closing (because of the pool - that's part of the building code. I guess that even though we have a safety cover there are the moments when the pool is open. At least they aren't making us build a fence around it).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Here's a photo of Hubby struggling to cope with the doorless food cabinet. Yes, he's eating junk food.

Welcome to week 32.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Useful Feature in a Gun Happy Country

Hubby opened the delicate conversation around pergolas today. Turns out that the Landscape Designer has many designs already drawn up and ready to go, with a bit of appropriate scaling. She is also suggesting using Lexan to make a water resistant roof. We had no idea what this is, so we looked it up on Wikipedia. Turns out that it is the material used to make bullet proof windows. Well, that's a relief.

Locks, Paints, and Chips

The painters are hard at it outside, finishing the primer coat on the exterior. They are also peeling off all the plastic window coverings that SS2 had carefully left on to protect the glass for the painting phase... Well, I guess they know what they're doing!

One of the guys from Jim's Bunch changed our door hardware yesterday, leaving us with yet more keys; so I got the locksmith in last night and had all the locks changed.

This morning the cabinet makers returned to the house and took away the doors from the tall food cabinet in the kitchen. The back was covered with holes and marker pen from the failed attempts to install the door shelving, and we had requested that they remake the doors. Now all my junk food is on show. I joked to SS2 that I'll have to buy a load of fruit to stack in front of it to hide our shame.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Men Everywhere

I have some work to do, but can't do it because the painters are in the office, touching up the ceiling. The painters are also working on the exterior.

There is also a man changing out the door hardware on the front door. Alas, as always, there is a problem with the product - or should that be, we were fooled by yet another DIY effort performed by the previous owners. Turns out that they sawed off part of the handle mechanism to make the hardware fit. The guy from Jim's Bunch that is trying to install the replacement is now wondering what to do, and waiting for Site Supervisor II to appear from his other site.

In the back yard, men are digging trenches for the irrigation and lighting conduits. They were here on Saturday morning at 7:30am, digging just outside our window. Hubby lay there half awake asking weakly, "Is that really workers out there?"

In the front yard last week we had our new gate installed. It cost $1,600 and is the wrong color. As Little Starlet helpfully demonstrated, you can scrape the paint coating off with your finger nail. I pointed this out to the Landscape Designer, and she is going to chase up the metal guys to get this put right.

Last week I also ordered shades and drapes for the guest bedroom and family room. A painfully large sum of money, but at least we're not paying all in one go.

We have guests arriving next weekend, so we've been gently "encouraging" the construction crew to get a move on.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Where's the shotgun?

Strange knocking in the house on Saturday evening. Strange knocking on Sunday morning. Diagnosis? There is a woodpecker hammering away at the wooden shingles on our roof.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Contrasts in the Garden

Rotovated and new soil to the right. Old hard-as-concrete soil to the left.

Today's Menu of Action

Several things happened today:

- The hardscape people cleared out their stuff. The outdoor kitchen is still not finished, pending a solution to "the paper towel holder doesn't fit."
- The counter top people arrived and left again without doing anything to the outdoor kitchen.
- The landscaping crew continued to rotovate the back yard. In fact they were using something that looked like a spade attached to a jack hammer. It took them all morning to do the majority of the ground.
- A very large pile of soil arrived, and the landscaping crew started to distribute it by wheelbarrow.
- The painters arrived and started to do the undercoat on the bedroom/bathroom extension exterior.
- The dry wall guys came back to fix the ceiling in the office, guest bathroom and hallway where the plaster had shrunk away from the metal beading, causing the plaster to crack.
- Site Supervisor II covered up the kitchen skylights with black plastic, at my request. It was so hot in the kitchen that you could have fried an egg on the floor.
- SS2 also thinks he has found a solution to the tub problem.

Tomorrow we have the first site meeting for several weeks.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Family Room Takes Shape

Pictures here of our new Viesso sectional sofa in stone colored "Infinity Suede", our new funky coffee table which has two rotating adjustable surfaces, and the family room's TV cabinet with TV in place and books on the shelves. I spent many happy hours last week reorganizing the books. The family room now contains "classics" plus collections of books by authors which seem to be very popular with Hubby. (Regular paperbacks have been relegated to the guest bedroom, while fancy hardbacks are on show in the living room. History and feminism have a book case all to themselves in the living room too.)

Now all I need to do is buy a lot of exciting cushions!

Revenge of the Killer Squirrel

Well, it might not be squirrel damage, but we're not sure we can explain what the problem is otherwise. Our previously functioning solar power heating for the pool has sprung a leak - a big leak, in fact. The new pool maintenance service sent me an email saying that they'd put the solar on, then turned it off as "water was pouring off the roof". They said we'd need a new panel to replace one that was damaged.

We are always skeptical when things suddenly go wrong. So we turned on the solar and, darn it, water poured off the roof. Here's a photo of Deep Thought experiencing our impromptu roof shower.

This didn't stop us having friends over for lunch on Sunday. Seven children and one brave adult went swimming in our low-80sF water. Reports are good, though Deep Thought said she couldn't really tell that the plaster was much smoother than the old kind. However, since none of the kids got out with "raspberries" on the bottom of their toes, I guess this was a successful experiment.

Friday, May 28, 2010

More action, more problems

Today the sun is shining, though there are ominous black clouds. The forecast is for dry weather until next Friday, when yet another day of rain is apparently due. Unbelieveable!!

Our stone mason says he will be finished by the end of today. The men are busily grouting the back patio. I asked him for his card. As he is a subcontractor he didn't want to give it to me. They're all terribly ethical, these workers. I prised his website out of him - and of course just at the moment that he was handing the bit of paper back to me, the hardscaping boss arrived, and we both looked guilty. I hope I didn't get him into trouble. I was just thinking of friends of ours who want a small patio built, a job that's really too small for the main hardscaping company to want to bother with.

The stone fabrication guys were here today to look at the outdoor kitchen. They said that someone else has to attach plywood to the walls so that they can put the counter top on, and then they went away. Mentioned this to the handscaping head, who looked blank and said that they never do that piece - it is always taken care of by the granite folks. So that'll be a phone call taking place later today.

Got an email from the pool servicing company to say that our solar panels have sprung a leak. They say that it looks like one panel is damaged and needs to be replaced. Bah.

The sheet metal fabricators are also here today, installing the downspouts.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bath Diagnosis

Site Supervisor II was here to take a look at the bath tub. He suspects some kind of fracture took place before the bath was installed - perhaps the tub was dropped at some point - and that it's taken this long for the rusty color to feed up through the enamel. He is baffled and horrified. His first thought is to speak with a cast iron guy he knows to see if the latter has any experience of such a thing happening.

We are hoping that it might be possible to find a fix that involves (1) patching the tub underneath to ensure it will not leak (and the bottom of the tub is perfectly accessible because the side panel is held on with magnets only); and (2) refinishing the enamel. Otherwise we are looking at pulling out the tub, the tub slab (our beautiful Vetrazzo) and all the tile around the tub. A major major pain in the neck for all of us.

Too much weather and not enough action

Yesterday it rained. Today it has rained and it looks like there is a lot more in the sky. It's quite unbelieveable. This is California, people! We're supposed to be in bright sunshine by now.

Despite the inclement weather, the hardscaping has been moving forward. While the stone mason has finished putting the capstone on the rear wall, and is now working on the walls of the outdoor kitchen, one of his mates has been grouting the back patio, and the other has been cleaning up general mess. It all looks a lot tidier all of a sudden. The head hardscape honcho thinks that we could be finished tomorrow, but perhaps more likely on Tuesday because of the weather; and then we'll be ready for the BBQ guys to install the equipment, and for the granite guys to install the counter top (both of them being different subcontractors). The tidying up is in preparation for the landscapers, who we are expecting to appear next week to start working on the soil.

In and around the house, all has been quiet. In fact no one was here yesterday, and no one today. I've had no response on the bath issue reported yesterday. Apparently Jim, the boss and our "project manager", is on vacation this week. The lack of finishing is becoming quite frustrating. I've asked our architect to organize a site meeting for next week in the hope of chivvying the construction company along. We are so close, and things have gone so well thus far, that it would be a shame for everything to go wrong at this late stage. At the very least I am hoping to receive a genuine schedule for the remaining items, notably (1) finally getting the skylights and shades in the kitchen to work; (2) the exterior painting; (3) installation of the downspouts by the sheet metal subcontractor; (4) completion of the touch ups in the interior paint; (5) boxing in the electrical area by the guest bedroom and moving around the exterior lights to a better position.

I think it is fair to say that we are irritated that we are about to have Memorial Day weekend, and we're not finished. It is all dragging on too much now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bath Cracks

Here's the cracking in our new bath tub.

One step forward, two steps back

We are still tantalizingly close to being finished.

The painters were in last week and at the start of this week, painting the living room, dining room, hall and entry hall. All looking nice. We are moving the furniture round, and the living room in particular looks like a complete disaster with piles of unsorted books everywhere.

Site Supervisor II tells me that there is now power to all the skylights and blinds in the kitchen. The two openable windows now open, but the blinds are not working. This is proving to be puzzling as all the necessary pieces are in place. We are waiting for the Velux guy to show up again.

I just discovered what looks like a crack in the new bathtub. I suspect someone stood in it. It may be cosmetic rather than catastrophic, but the crazing doesn't wash off. I have reported it to the powers that be, and we'll see what the outcome is.

Outside it has been raining again. We are still waiting for the sheet metal people to come back to install the downspouts, and the painter plans to start on the exterior next week when the forecast is for dry. The weather is also causing more delays on the hardscaping. They're doing what they can - including some of the grouting yesterday, that they then covered up with plastic when the rain came - but it is slow going. The outdoor kitchen seemed to be making good progress on Monday but, when I got back from a trip to the grocery store, all the bbq equipment pieces had been removed again. The cap stone is going onto the retaining wall today.

Trying to get rid of a dining table and computer desk on Freecycle this week, and having no luck. I have managed to dispose of the four bar stools. I've been trying to sell our TV stand, which cost over $1,000 about 18 months ago, and there's no interest in that at all. Odd what you can get rid of and what you can't.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Funky New Furniture

On Saturday we took delivery of our new dining chairs, table, and bar stools for the kitchen. We had a minor alarm with the chairs, as they were squiffy, but the delivery guys took the legs off, rotated them, and put them back on; and all is now well. Hubby and I put the table together, which was super easy, though it is super heavy.

Now we are trying to dispose of the old furniture. I was able to sell our old chairs for $60, but no one wants to buy our table; and I haven't attempted to sell the bar stools - which we inherited with the house three years ago - so I am freecycling them. Not much interest in the table, but lots in the bar stools.

We passed our old wine fridge onto friends today. Good to see everything surplus to requirements going to a good home.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Splish Splosh!

The wind is chilly, the pool has reached 80F, and Little Starlet has been swimming! The new pool is officially open!

Hardscape almost done!!!

The head of the hardscape company was just here (picking up his latest check for a very large sum of money) and said that the hardscape work should be complete by the end of next week. Yay!!

Of course, it is forecast to rain again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Final Big Push

Site Supervisor II let us know that he was on a training course earlier in the week - becoming certified in lead paint abatement, I bet that was exciting - which is why we hadn't heard from him. Well, we've sure been hearing from him today! SS2 has orchestrated a great influx of subcontractors in an effort to polish off all the remaining work.

First of all, the painters have arrived with avengance. They are currently painting the living room, dining room, and the hallway, all at the same time. I opted to have these areas painted the same color for speed and consistency, a kind of inoffensive beigey color. "Do not move any of the furniture!" orders the head honcho. So it looks like we'll be huddled in the kitchen today (but then again, we all seem to huddle in the office most of the time, so what's new?).

The electricians have been back. They repaired our phone line (which they broke on Tuesday). They are also wanting to charge us a lot more money to get the kitchen skylights working, including $800 for new transformers. SS2 has gone slightly mad at this cheekiness and is planning to bring in a new electrical firm to finish the work. The current electrician apparently had a tantrum and stormed off in his car. Gosh, drama.

In the family room, the cabinet makers have been inspecting the results of their own handiwork: Splintered veneer. I think I mentioned before that the lower cabinets on the TV unit had been delivered without any holes drilled for the adjustable shelves on one side of each cabinet. (Some genius at work there.) After much discussion, and attempts to avoid having to do anything about it, the cabinet people came back on Monday and drilled some holes. Which would have been fine except that they decided to drill from the existing hole on one side of the wood, through the wood and out the other side....with the result that the veneer was pushed out of place and splintered. (Perhaps the same genius at work?) I'm no carpenter, but even I could have told them that was what was going to happen if you push at veneer from the wrong side!

Anyway, they then said that they'd need to order special something or other to get this fixed and it would take several weeks...blah...blah. SS2 went balistic and told them that they need to fix it today. I only got his report of his language to them, and even that was fairly fruity. So we shall see. (I have every intention of naming and shaming the cabinet company in this blog at the end of the project - it will be well deserved.)

The tiler is here too, installing the glass shelves in the guest bathroom shower niche. When the painters have finished the main rooms, they'll be moving on to the touch ups in the other rooms: guest bathroom, family room, Deep Thought's room.

Could it be, are we really, no surely not.... Not almost done for real?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Slow progress...but will it never end?

Welcome to week 29 of our remodel.

I know things have been quiet in the Cardboard Box's blog recently. Well, there's not been a whole lot to report. First of all, we've had rain again. Bah. Second, we've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting...for subcontractors...for supplies...for an act of God maybe.

Site Supervisor II had a bit of a triumph last week on the kitchen skylights. He finally found someone who actually knew something about Velux windows. The diagnosis was that we need insect screens which will keep a magic button depressed, thus enabling the windows to open. They are now on order and, in the meantime, SS2 has put a stick pressing one of the magic buttons, and we now have an openable window. Yay! He's installed the new blinds too. We're waiting on a new transformer and new keypad, and hopefully that will result in the skylights being fixed.

The electricians came back yesterday to install the exterior lights. (We still have a couple on back order.) They also installed a couple of new telephone plates inside - with the result, it seems, that our phone is now out of order.

It would be nice if we could finally get the interior of the house fully complete. We have new furniture on the way for the family room, and we particularly don't want painting to be done after it arrives. We've not seen a sniff of the painters and the majority of the outstanding work is now for them.

Alas, SS2 has gone off to start supervising another job which is not so close to completion. I fear this will result in a long slow tail of our unfinished items being polished off.

On the landscaping, the inclement weather has not put the hardscapers off. They can't grout when it's wet, but they have finished laying all the ashlar paving. They've done an amazing job of laying out the crazy paving, and are waiting for the weather to improve before mortaring it. In the meantime, they've moved on to the stone cladding on the back wall, under the redwood trees, and the walls of the outdoor kitchen. I'll take photos tomorrow when it's not pouring with rain.

Just paid a bill for almost $8,000 for the granite countertop for the outdoor kitchen.

Finally, a prize to anyone who can explain why we have this little witch's hat on the roof?

And still the rain came

Hard to believe, but it has been raining for two days. This morning it is pouring down...with all the implications that has for the non-completion of our hardscaping. Aargh.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away - still?

May 10th and today it is raining. Unbelievable. The stone guys are here, though, and seem to be bravely working through it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

From Crazy Paving to a Good Night's Sleep

On Friday, SS2 was hardly here at all, and it was peaceful inside the house. The one piece of bad news that he did bring was that the electricians had thrown their hands in the air in despair and declared that the skylights in the kitchen could not be repaired; and that the construction team would now need to deal direct with the customer service people at Velux. SS2 views this prospect with a sinking feeling, having had poor experiences with other manufacturers' customer "service" departments.

Progress on the hardscaping and other elements of the exterior work has picked up the pace.

Outside the house, the hardscapers completed the grouting of the stonework in the front yard, and very smart it looks too. They immediately moved on to laying the stone in the side yard and where the pergola will be. Not content with the jigsaw that is the ashlar pattern, we have asked for the pergola area and side path to be constructed of irregular, crazy paving style stones. Amazingly, the main stone guy is doing a fabulous job of fitting it all together. He really is a highly skilled worker.

The stucco subcontractor completed the finish coat on the house and also on the front wall. It's looking quite striking out there, even imposing. The stucco is a creamy white color. I must say that Hubby and I are finding that quite appealing, and wondering if we'd like to leave it light rather than having it painted Brewster Gray like the house.

The technician from Pool Covers Inc arrived and installed a bright blue pool cover. This is, alas, the wrong color. It should be grey. I only noticed him out there at the point when he was finishing the work. To say he was a bit downcast when I told him would be an understatement. Well, this will stay on the pool for a week or so, and then be replaced by the correct color, so no harm done.

The solar heating for the pool seems to be working fine.

This morning I got rid of our filing cabinet through Freecycle. We also had our new bed delivered - moved the old bed into the new guest room and enlisted friends to put it together - and also had the piano moved back into the family room...just in time for Mothers' Day tomorrow. No 6:30am wake up call from Little Starlet.

Hubby finally unpacked his new espresso maker. It may take us a while to really understand out how to use it....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Creation of Beautiful Smoothness

The theme of the day is smoothness.

Inside the house, SS2 has been working on patching the walls in the living room, following the moving of some of our light switches.

Outside the house, the workers from the hardscaping company are grouting the stone in the front yard.

The stucco subcontractors are applying the final coat to the exterior of the house, and are doing a wonderful job at making everything look even. They are also putting the brown coat on the garden wall out front.

Finally, the pool is almost full of water - and glassy smooth (despite the gunk floating in it!).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wet and Wonderfully Smooth

It's been a busy day around the Cardboard Box today. Site Supervisor II is anxious to be done with the inside.

The electricians finally showed up fully equipped with their tools. They replaced and fixed most of the small things on the list. The sky lights in the kitchen are still not working, but they diagnosed that the transformers are faulty/defunct. They are going to try to source new ones for tomorrow and come back to install them. They did move the three light switches in the living room that were floating free on the walls, far from the wooden trim; and also installed a new outlet in the kitchen over the wine fridges. Hubby will be pleased as this means he can now set up his new coffee maker.

SS2 has installed the trim strip at our master bedroom exterior door and has repaired the sliding door in the guest bedroom which stopped locking yesterday.

Outside, the stone work has continued. The front is almost done. The fence is complete, all we need is the new gate by the guest bedroom, which has to wait for the wall to be stuccoed. Speaking of which, the wall has been prepped for stucco, with a wire frame added to all the edges.

The big news of the day is that the pool has been plastered and we are currently filling it up with water. We have to leave it filling overnight. If the water is turned off, then a water line will form on the new plaster. (We chose French Grey "Wet Edge" plaster, which is supposedly the smoothest on the market.)