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.)

Bees Update #2

Yesterday afternoon, I lined up a man from the Santa Clara Bee Keepers' Guild to come over and deal with my bees. They must have heard me, because about 20 minutes later they flew away. Problem solved.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bee Update

I've been in touch with the Santa Clara County Vector Control folks, and they said to contact the members of the Santa Clara Bee Keepers Guild ( So I've left a couple of messages on members' phones, in the hope that one of them would be interested in coming over and rescuing my swarm. Hubby says I should call Terminix and get them "removed" (aka destroyed), but that's only because he has a deep seated loathing of bees that originated from being stung many times as a child (when, to be fair, he had apparently covered himself in jam, so he was asking for it). Given the fragile state of the world's bee population right now, I'm not going to do that.

Here's a pretty interesting article with photos on bee swarms. Sounds like we only have a small one.

Bees in Trees

Here's a photo of our bees...

Monday, May 3, 2010


At about 2:00pm today, I looked out of the office window and thought "What the heck is THAT?" Upon closer inspection, it was apparent that a swarm of bees had arrived in our back garden. They swarmed around the first redwood tree and gradually settled on a branch, where they currently sit like a thick cuff around the wood. I am told by SS2 (who says he watches a lot of National Geographic), and also a friend who knows about these things, that the bees will probably stay for a day or two and then move on in search of a more permanent residence.

A No Excuses Day

Very sunny day today - after a blazingly hot weekend. The stone mason is hard at work in the front yard laying the paving. The fencing guys are back, currently building the double gate at the side yard from scratch. Site Supervisor II has gone to the cabinet makers' shop to tell them to get the inside of the TV cabinet right, and to pick up the framing that needed to be adjusted in order to allow the cabinet doors to close as they were designed to do. Santa Claus appears to be working in the pool. Well, I guess he has to do something in the off season.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I took Hubby and the kids down to Scandinavian Designs in Cupertino this afternoon to check out the bed. After much discussion of whether we wanted mocha (his choice) or cherry (my choice), we plumped for the cherry. I poisoned his mind by commenting that the mocha had a purple hue under the table lamp lights. We held off buying night stands (bedside tables to the Brits) as we don't think they'll fit in the space where we're planning to put the bed. They can always be bought later if necessary. Follow this link to see a picture of the bed ("Reflections"). We also chose a new mattress from Beauty Rest. This will be delivered next weekend.

We took a break in Peet's Coffee, then headed into a store we'd not visited before, called "Nu Image Furniture for Modern Living". Very stylish stuff. We ended up making an impulse purchase of a funky coffee table which has two glass surfaces and chrome legs that allow the surfaces to swivel across each other; four kitchen chairs in orange and white plastic with chrome legs; and three matching bar stools in orange/white/chrome. These should arrive in about two weeks.

We are definitely in stage two of the remodel now. Stage one is when you spend all your money on updating and extending the house. Stage two is when you spend all the money that remains on furniture to fill it up and make it look like the remodel was a good idea. Home Beautiful magazine, here we come.