Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kitchen continues even though it's Saturday

The drywall workers turned up at 8:15am to continue skimming the kitchen walls. Bit of a surprise when they started rattling on the front door, as no one had warned me they were coming.

one of the drywall workers on his stilts to do the upper walls;
the pool coping installed;
the garage full of kitchen cabinets;
and the humorous labelling of the cabinets by the makers.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cabinets going in

Plenty of activity around the Cardboard Box again today. The main event was the first part of the installation of the kitchen cabinets. Looking good. I'm really pleased with the color of the alder we chose. It's a nice warm honey-ish color.

Friends came over for a visit today bearing my lunch. We did the grand tour of the works. There were men under the floor of the bedroom addition, including a couple I hadn't seen before. I wonder if they'd tunnelled there from somewhere else?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Photos

Here's a bunch of photos reflecting yesterday's and today's activity around the house. Spot the guys on the roof installing skylights. Also the night shot of CAT with new window, and this morning's trenches.

Activity Explosion

The rain finally stopped yesterday morning and we suddenly saw an explosion of activity in and around the Cardboard Box.

First, the windows that have been patiently sitting in the garage have been installed. We are now fully fenestrated, both in walls and roof.

Second, the kitchen demolition was completed. Floor totally gone. The central island wall has been moved about two inches to give more space between the refrigerator wall and the center island (so that Hubby and I will need to engage in less physical contact whilst cooking and cleaning up).

Third, the dry wallers (that's plasterers to the Brits out there) have appeared in the kitchen to repair the walls. They have incredibly funky stilts for plastering the upper parts of the wall, like prosthetic lower legs. Fabulous, I am sure the kids would like some.

Fourth, the kitchen cabinets have arrived and are in the garage awaiting installation.

Fifth, the landscapers are trenching in the front yard with great vigor. They are laying drainage pipes.

Sixth, the pool people are out back putting the new Connecticut blue stone coping around the edge of the pool. Mike the Pool explained that this will be the last thing they do until the rest of the hardscaping is in. They'll be back to plaster the pool, fill it, brush it and install the cover later in the process.

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but that seems like a fair bit to me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Under the Arch

I had to get into the house today by walking under the arm of the digger in the front garden. It's digging trenches for drainage pipes to be laid. At the end of the day, the digger guy said he'd put plywood over the open holes - "But don't worry if it shifts, the holes are only about two feet deep."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Kitchen: During Demolition

(Having to post these photos in a separate entry because of limitations on the size of pictures allowed.)

The Kitchen: Before

Lots of activity in the kitchen, crashing noises, sounds of breaking ceramics, sledgehammers going, drilling... We can't see it while it's in progress because the guys have closed off the door between the kitchen and the dining room with plywood. We took a quick look last night at what had happened on day one. Here are some memorial photos of the kitchen taken on Sunday evening, after we had emptied it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Kitchen Remodel Begins

The guys from Jim's Bunch were here at 7:50am, ready to start prepping the kitchen for the demolition. First step: Take out the appliances and create the dust wall.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Empty, Echoing Anticipation

We spent the whole day - again - packing up the kitchen. It's amazing what we found. Even Hubby thought it was a sad reflection of the consumerist society. It's not quite that we buy things we don't need and never use; it's that we buy things, use them, then they get lost in the cupboard and so we buy them again.

Deep Thought found six cans of cocoa powder, all still in date.

This is in contrast to the pasta and canned soup that we had to throw out because it was six months or more past its sell by date. And, let's face it, those are the kind of items that have sell by dates years in the future. You can tell how long they had been lost in the pantry. Fortunately our new cabinets are scheduled to have lovely roll-out shelves, making the missing-in-action soup a thing of the past.

Many, many boxes have gone over to the storage unit. Hubby is reflecting on the slight ache in his back and the large pile of black bags lurking next to the garbage cans. We have five boxes of food and eating equipment in the dining room, together with the slow cooker, toaster, kettle and two large wine refrigerators still in their boxes and up on pallets. Cosy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pack Up Your Troubles

We are busily packing the kitchen away today. Hubby is on his second trip to the storage unit with boxes and boxes of stuff. Deep Thought has been delegated to sort out the food cupboard, so she is delving into the back of the cupboard, checking sell-by dates, asking "why did you ever buy this?" and putting food into two boxes: Keep and Store. I am heroically going through our three junk drawers - down to the last one now, and I haven't yet filled up one box....which makes you wonder quite what was in there.

Like moving house, doing a remodel makes you go through all your Stuff and Sort It All Out. This is a good thing, and cheaper than moving house for the same process. It should also have the beneficial result that, once the remodel is over, and we have acquired multiple new storage areas, we will not be filling them up instantly with junk we never use.

The weather yesterday was rainy, as it is today. No visible activity in the Carboard Box, but I imagine that there was a bit of indoor work going on, as the plumber was around.

The kitchen demolition begins on Monday.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The heat is on

More rain today, lots of it. Big puddles and getting bigger all the time. The road outside the house is semi-flooded. This weather is forecast to continue through next week.

Still, there is activity at the Cardboard Box. The HVAC guys have just arrived with the new furnace for the bedroom/family room end of the house. They carried it with enormous difficulty across the muddy patch that used to be our front yard, eventually having to take it out of the cardboard container which simply disintegrated in their hands. Tomorrow they will be under the house installing more duct work.

Ron the Plumber also came in today to discuss gas lines - apparently we will be pulling 100,000 BTUs for the BBQ grill island, which means we have to upgrade our gas lines. The Landscape Designer thought maybe we could have that tagged onto the line for the pool heater, but it's not big enough.

The windows are waiting for the rain to stop for installation. The faucets are all ordered and some have arrived too. The door furniture order is about to go in. We finalized the plans for the family room TV cabinet and the study file drawers this morning too. In order to get the kitchen cabinets, and to pay for other things, of course, I wrote a check for the fourth installment of the construction company's charges this morning: $82,000 and change.

On the landscaping, more deliveries this morning: many white plastic pipes and an enormous black one, which The Architect thinks must be the dissipator for the back lawn (i.e. the key part of the drainage). Apparently this gets sunk in the ground, filled with gravel and all the drainage pipes attach to it. We could do with a bit of that right now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bring on the Ark

Truly astonishing amounts of water falling from the sky today. Enormous puddles all around our house, some of them inches deep. The "empty" pool has about two feet of water sitting in the bottom. Even so, there are builders hammering away in the bedroom addition. What can they be doing?

I had a meeting this morning with the Arborist and the Landscape Designer. We went over his invoices, which hadn't made a lot of sense, and worked them through as both a work order and a math problem. We eventually made sense of them and I wrote him a check for $7,779.40. (I particularly liked the 40c.) The Arborist's firms work is good, but the office is clearly a bit on the flakey side. The Landscape Designer gave him a hard time and, to his credit, he did not roll over and die, which he might have done since she puts a fair bit of work his way.

After he went away, the Landscape Designer showed me samples of the stone veneer for the BBQ island and a selection of granite choices for the countertop. I agreed to the stone veneer - I think it will look quite classy - and chose a grey and black speckled, honed granite for the counter top. She offered to leave the samples for Hubby to see, but I said no, take them away!

Ooh, thunder.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


The rain continues to pour. Here's a photo of the side yard. Nice puddles, eh? At breakfast this morning we reviewed our respective dreams. I had been eaten by a whale. Little Starlet claimed to have been chased by a giant. Deep Thought merely bemoaned getting no sleep at all, no none at all, at least not until 1am. Anyway, I presume that our dreams reflect the thunder and lightening that energised the night sky.

Much to my surprise, some of the construction crew are here. Site Supervisor II came in to talk about the choices for location of heating registers (that's vents to my British readers), particularly in the family room. My only view was that I did not want them set in the floor - things tend to fall down them - so we agreed to put at least one in the toe kick under the window seat drawers.

Gosh, it's this kind of intellectual stimulation that keeps me so interesting.

On the bright side, the windows are apparently being delivered later today. SSII says that they won't attempt to install today as it is too wet, but at least they are here almost a week earlier than the schedule says. Or is that back on the original schedule. Well, something like that.

I am at home waiting for the delivery of the wine refrigerators. In the traditional way, I have a four hour window in which to twiddle my thumbs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cascades and Lemon-aid

Rain pouring off the office addition roof. We experience future rot anxiety. The Architect says not to worry about it - another drainage gutter has yet to be installed. Large and enlarging puddle next to the office. All very muddy and battlefield-like.

Three men appeared in the back yard at lunchtime armed with two spades and a wheelbarrow. They left with our lemon tree. Presumably they have taken it away on the orders of the Landscape Designer to safekeeping while the back yard make over continues. Nevertheless, we are bereft. It even had a lemon.


Very, very rainy today. New roofing and gutters seem to be doing their job . Today's a public holiday - Martin Luther King Day - so no action on the cardboard box.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What do you think about Knobs?

We are moving into the phase of choosing our bathroom, bedroom and office hardware (i.e. the things that you open the cupboard doors and drawers with). The Architect suggested that we go to a store in Belmont or, as an alternative, try this delightfully named website -

Take a look. There must be a hundred thousand kinds of knobs and drawer pulls on this website. We are particularly attracted by the brand "House of Knobs".

OK, British humor - but you couldn't make it up.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Windows and Wires

This is week 14 of our remodel. Here are some photos of progress in the past couple of days.
(1) Hubby striding across the sea of plywood and plastic in our front yard.
(2) Our delightful new electricity meter and telephone box.
(3) The office and laundry addition, wrapped up, a la Christo.
(4) New skylights in the office!
(5) The pool's waterline tile, pre-grouting. Very tasteful, I'm sure.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now the Wrapping Makes Sense

I just took a look at the weather forecast. We are scheduled to have rain - gasp! - every day - double gasp!! - from tomorrow through the following Sunday. No doubt Jolly Demo Man's efforts were an attempt to prevent the Somme effect becoming even worse.

Nothing much happened on the house today. A bit of hammering from the bedroom addition, but all the workers had gone by 2:30pm.

Christo in Palo Alto?

I'm looking out the window at the Jolly Demo Guy spreading white plastic all over the back yard. Can't quite work out what he's doing. If I didn't know better, I'd guess it was an art installation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The big excitement of today was having no electricity. The main subpanel and the electricity meter were moved this morning. We had several inspections during the course of the process, with visits too by the utility company. It all went smoothly. Apart from the electricians, no one else was on site today. (No power, no workers.)

We had our regular site meeting today. The big news from that was that (1) the Caesarstone will cost almost $3,000 more than the number we had last week and (2) the windows are due to be delivered on January 25. Until the windows come, there is little more they can do. That is also the day, of course, that the kitchen demolition is due to start. So I guess we'll have a big surge of activity that week. I should enjoy the peace while I can.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pool progress again

The weather did its Californian monsoon thing this morning. One moment dry and sunny, the next pouring buckets, another moment sunny again. Result: big puddles all across the back yard.

Not much happening in the house at the moment. The electricians were here again today, moving cables and panels and such like, in preparation for a slew of city inspections tomorrow. I hope none of the inspectors cares about the tree protection fencing, which is leaning at a rakeish angle.

According to Site Supervisor II, the house remodel is now being held up by the windows order. They really can't get on with finishing the walls until the windows are installed, which makes sense. I imagine we'll learn more about the impact on the schedule at tomorrow's site meeting.

The landscaping is going along though. The Jolly Demo Man finished clearing all of the rubble away, front and back, and the BobCats have gone again. So we are ready for hardscaping action, pending completion of the necessary elements of the pool. In the pool, two men have been working away today installing the waterline tile and it looks just about done. I'm not sure if coping or plastering comes next.

In other news, yesterday I received three invoices from the Arborist. Turns out that his initial estimate did not include the charges for the crane hire, so his bill is twice as much as his estimate. Also it looks like he is trying to charge me twice for removing the same pine stump. I complained to the Landscape Designer about this - as she recommended we use him - and she said she'd call him.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away, come again on Friday

It rained a lot over night, and our back yard is doing its best Somme impression.

The Jolly Demo Guy was out in back again this morning with his jack-hammer. Quite what he could find to dig out this time was beyond me, but he managed to produce yet more bricks and rocks. Astonishing.

He is also working away at the front clearing rubble. We are the proud foster parents of a CAT in the back and a BobCat in the front. Yesterday the back yard CAT was busily removing piles of debris from the pool, and then it stopped. This morning I noticed that we still have two large piles of rubble in the far corner of the back yard. Are they, like, someone else's rubble to deal with? Do the demo guys only deign to take their own rubble? Oh come on.

The pool has a puddle in the bottom from the rain. I'm not sure what comes next for the pool, could be the tile or the new plaster. The new coping is supposed to be arriving next week some time.

I approved new doors for the house interior today. Chose MDF over Douglas Pine on the grounds that it is (1) harder and less prone to denting, (2) easier to prep for painting and gives a smoother finish and (3) is cheaper. This may be the first item in the whole remodel that we've chosen (or had chosen for us) the cheaper option.

Hubby is still engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the landscape designer over his choice of BBQ grill for the outdoor kitchen. He keeps saying "I want charcoal" and she keeps sending over plans including a gas grill. I said to her last week, there's a "Man he make fire" thing in play here. Hubby will either get his way or she will grind him down and make him change his mind. I'm just an innocent spectator on the side lines.

Quite a lot of banging today from the bedroom/bathroom addition. It's a little frustrating because it is now impossible to have a nose about and see what they're up to. At the end of each day the workers nail up temporary shutters on all the openings to the outside, which is good for security, but bad for curiosity. I know the electricians have been in today. They stopped me to ask what some switches operated, and of course I didn't know. I never know. They must think I am some gormless bimbo, or that I am a recently acquired trophy wife! (LOL, as the young folks say.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Gentle Hum of Disposal

I am almost light headed with the lack of horrible noise. Just the teeniest bit of jack-hammering in the pool this morning - most of which I managed to miss by arranging a first-thing-in-the-morning appointment elsewhere - and now all I have around me is the gentle hum of the BobCats running back and forth, moving rubble and old plaster from the yards into the waiting truck out front.

Maybe the neighbors won't torch the house after all.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weekend photos

It is blissfully quiet here today. Hubby is out cycling. Deep Thought is doing a practice exam for her upcoming school entrance exam. Little Starlet is doing finger knitting in her room, listening to Harry Potter on CD.

No drilling or banging of any kind.

Here are a few random photos taken today. Spot Dr Mom in the pool for size guide.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Elf and Safety

One of the things I've been meaning to comment on is the lack of health and safety obsession we're seeing in our building crews. It all seems very different to the UK. Take, for example, the two jolly guys who have been demolishing our front yard last week. Both are using hand-held jack-hammers. Neither is wearing a hard hat, gloves, or eye protection. They do seem to have ear plugs in, but they aren't wearing those all-singing and dancing ear protectors that are common in the UK. The one with the moustache was wearing jeans and a vest/singlet to do his work this week. The other one is at least wearing a long sleeved shirt.

The men working in the pool renovation, who are also using jack-hammers, though smaller ones, are wearing goggles, but again no hats, gloves or other protective gear.

Everyone seems to wear proper boots, but they don't look like anything special.

The men from Jim's Bunch haven't worn any special gear either. They are up on the roof without hats, no knee pads or anything when they are crawling around. They were wearing gloves when they were handling the lumber, so I suppose they must be alive to the danger of splinters.

It all seems odd at first, but you get used to it. All the companies have workmen's compensation insurance, so it is really up to the individual contractors to decide what their employees need to wear.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Knock Knock

Who's there?
Doors who?
Ten out of fifteen have been incorrectly ordered, according to Site Supervisor II.

But there is still time to put it right.

Darkness all around

Oh, and last night all the lights went out.

It can't go on much longer....

Here are some photos of the pink tide, taken this morning.

I naively thought that today might be the last day of demolition out front, but I have just realized (peering through the window) that, although the demo guys have broken up all the brick, they now have a layer of concrete to get through. How wrong I was. The jack hammering started up at 8am. All our neighbors appeared to come out of the house and get in their cars at 8:05am. I am sure they are as sick of it as I am. I took Hubby's car to get petrol this morning and spent a moment with the garage squeegee wiping pinkness off the windows.

Out back we have a different crew of guys with jack hammers. These are with the pool renovation team. Their jack hammers are smaller but just as annoying. They are standing in the pool peeling the plaster off. The plaster bits fall into the bottom of the pool, where another guy shovels them up into the scoopy thing of a waiting Bob Cat. (Did I mention the Return of the Bob Cat yesterday?)

Both the demo guys at the front and the ones at the back are running generators, to add to the overall loveliness of the experience.

The pool renovation really is going along speedily, though (not like last time, when it took 7 months to get a not-very-good result). The pool is now eight inches deeper than it was, thanks to the building up of the walls with gunnite to allow for the leveling of the lot; the vault for the pool cover has been created; and most of the plaster is off.

Here's some photos of the pool guys in action:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Utterly Pink

One more day of jack hammering, I think, and the front will be entirely gone. One effect of taking out a good deal of red brick is that everything around is now covered in a thin film of pink dust. It really is very pink. There is a tidal wave of pink dust nestling against the front door. Pink dust is rimming the window frames. The trees that remain in the front yard are crowned with pinkly dusted twigs and leaves. Hubby's car has a light coating of pinkness.

I can only wonder what the neighbors' yards, houses, cars, etc etc must look like. Sorry folks.

The very jolly mustachioed guy who is in charge of the jack hammering promised that he would clear a path through the rubble to the garage side door tomorrow. As it is, we either have to go through the garage door (which we can't close from the outside as the opener/closer doesn't work) or we have to tip-toe through the rubble. And become very pink in the process.

There was an earthquake today in the local area, something like a 4.1. Did I feel it in the house? Did I heck. In fact, I think we may have been the epicenter.

Still no mail, even though I put a nice little mail box on the tree protection fencing yesterday. Hubby thinks the mail man - who is less than conscientious about actually delivering the mail he should - has simply crossed us off his list of acceptable customers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Before and After

Here are some before and after pictures of the house today.
(1) Family room with exterior door; and without exterior door. (There is a window going in there.)
(2) Pool steps before gunnite and after gunnite. The sharp eyed among you will realize that we will now have four steps instead of three.
(3) The front yard with a brick path; and without (or, at least, with the path broken up into mountains of rubble).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Shingle-drills, shingle-drills, shingle all the way...

We now have a roof on the bedroom/bathroom addition - complete, nailed down and light brown in its cedar shingley goodness. The roof over the office/laundry is nearly done.

The drilling continued unabated till 4:30pm. The demo guys are now taking out the front path, which is made of bricks laid on concrete. It's very noisy and dusty. No mail came today: I suspect the mail man took one look at what was happening in our front yard and declined to come further.

This evening I received an email from Mike the Pool Guy, warning me that tomorrow around lunchtime they'll be "doing the gunnite" for the pool. I have no idea what that is, but Mike says it will be noisy and dusty. Well, I wonder if I'll notice the difference.

Weather continues bright and sunny.


It is so utterly draining to sit here all day listening to the vile noise of the jack hammer. It is currently at work ripping out the front yard. I am not sure how I will get from the front door to the road. Pity the poor neighbors who have to listen to this and will get no benefit from it.

Sudden Miasma

And clouds of dust - I think it's dust, though I thought it was smoke at first - are obscuring the back yard. The drilling has restarted. I think they may be removing the path on the side yard that I had installed at great expense two years ago. Time to go out for the grocery shopping.

Catch Up Report

Hello, dear readers (that means you, Anthony). I know you will be worried that my lack of writing will be a reflection of lack of progress, but how wrong you are. Even over the holiday period the guys have been working away, and things are going very well (at least to this amateur's eyes).


The back yard is now a wasteland. All the concrete has now gone, except for a small piec
e around the pool which they have clearly decided to leave and concrete over, as part of the raising of the grading of the backyard. This was an exceptionally noisy and intrusive part of the whole remodel experience, with three BobCats in the yard at one point, one with a jack hammer attachment, the other two with different kinds of scoops; plus numerous guys with hand-held jack hammers and shovels. The planters are gone, the wall under the trees has gone, the lawn has gone. We have a big pile of mess in the area that used to be designated lawn, including all the loungers and chairs that Hubby wouldn't let me dispose of, and the old pool cover.

The pool has had its coping and water line tile removed, there are several holes punched in the bottom, and the light has been taken out. The bottom of the pool is full of shards of stuff. One of the pool's wall steps has been broken.

(Hold on, a man has just appeared in the ha

(Just the electrician looking for the sub-panel.)

The wood framing for the concrete pouring around the pool has been erected, and rebars have been inserted around the top of the pool, presumably to hold the new coping. That is supposed to be arriving in the third week of January.

The little lemon tree that the kids bought for Hubby's 40th birthday is still standing bravely in the midst of all this. I tied some "Caution" tape around a couple of bamboo stakes to protect it, and miraculously this seems to have worked. Elsewhere, the drainage plans have been marked out on the ground in orange paint, so we can now see where the barbeque is going to be and also the planting beds near to the house.

Jim says that we have a delay in the windows arriving, and that will slow down the completion of the walls. In the meantime, his guys are working away on the roof. The bedroom/bathroom addition now has roofing felt, and a pile of cedar shingles is waiting to go on. On the office/laundry addition, the shingles are already going on; the roof over the dining room is finished, and the office roof looks like it may be finished today. While we were away at the snow, the new gutters went on. The guys have also started to rough in the plumbing and electrics. Lots of thick yellow wires are strung across the wall framing, and a lovely black pipe indicates where the washing machine will go.

Current discussion is focusing on the kitchen. We have been scheduled to have the kitchen demolition next week, but our architect is now wondering if it can be put off a week, as we'll be away for a few days in February. Personally I suspect that they will over run anyway, so they may as well over run while we're away.