Friday, February 20, 2009

Cold Weather, Sizzling Progress

Whip out the brushes and sprayers, my chums! This past week was when the place got pretty and that much more impressive to the eye. The exterior of the addition is now all painted and it gives a wonderful clean look to the whole enterprise. It also joins old and new so that you would have to pay close attention to see where they divide. It looks so natural for the addition and the old house to be together as one.

It's mighty nice to see how good things look inside, too. Since all the sheetrock is up, the mudwork is done, and all the sanding is finished, Pete got busy on putting initial base coats of paint throughout the interior of the addition. Gracious, it looks so clean and finished, even though this is just primer-level work. Here's a shot of the kitchen proper:

Today, Robert and Larry stayed up on the 2nd story porch/balcony, wrapped up against the persistent wind that made it much chillier than the thermometer would indicate. Pete is trying to achieve Sam's vision for a balcony railing that matches how it was way back when. Pete is also making it waterproof, since it's open and exposed to the elements. As he keeps saying, it is beyond comprehension why previously the balcony had been configured with a rubber roof that tucked in behind the facia board, which channeled water into the woodwork and helped rot out the top of the front columns. Nor did it make sense to put a rubber roof up there and then drive hundreds of nails into it. The plan now is to get the waterproofing done and then put a removable decking on top of it, so that it can be taken up and cleaning occur underneath, when needed. Smart stuff.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I wish I'd made this blog entry last weekend, so that it would be a prompt recording of the previous week, but I never did get around to making it happen. Still, with all the good vibes and happy passage of weeks with this project, I'd say it's all gone incredibly smoothly and mostly hitch-free. So it's hard to be too very upset at a strange confluence of unfortunate events in the Ides of February. And it was nothing crippling or devastating, but it does bear reporting for all interested parties who check this site from time to time...

When The Hero Falls. My General Contractor Pete was up in the attic but almost, suddenly, catastrophically, very nearly wasn't in the attic. When his foot broke through the sheetrock of the ceiling in the upstairs hallway and his body dropped down, it slammed his weight to one side and he thought he might even have broken his thigh bone. The foolish internist in the ER back home actually read his X-ray that way but, thank goodness, his orthopedist was able to give him the more accurate diagnosis: a deep muscle bruise, contusion, and some torn muscle tissue. He felt pretty banged up, no doubt.

Pipe Down! The efficient work of the sheetrock team was a delight to watch, and they did a pretty nice job of working around the temporary plumbing that allows me to still have a working bathroom and shower in a back bedroom upstairs. Alas, it turns out that there was a dreadful oversight by the plumbers when they set all that up: they did not glue and seal the PVC pipe for the tub/shower drain, and it was easy for this to be knocked loose when the sheetrock work was occurring all around it. Anyone care to guess how such a de-coupling of drain lines is most likely to be discovered? When the total output of one's evening shower ends up in the dining room below, instead of safely deposited into the city's sewer system. This was the same evening of Pete's fall through the ceiling, when he had been told he had a cracked femur, so he dispatched his wife Esther and Robert from his crew to come do clean-up. Most of the water seeped through the parquet floor in the dining room and ended up in the cellar, giving a good dousing to the newly-installed under-house insulation. Here's a shot of a remarkably upbeat Esther manning the shop vac as they got up as much of the water as they could.

Speaking of the plumbing subcontractor, during this week of bumps and bumbles, Pete reported to me that he's closed down his business. He'll still finish up this job but the economic downturn has left him unable to continue operation of his plumbing firm.

Pussy Galore. In an earlier post, I described the work being done on the exposed side porch, where one would mount stairs to come up to the front door from the parking area. The fact that ripping off that portion opened up access to the area beneath the porch, and (thanks to foundation vent holes) to the cellar as well, had not yet presented itself as a problem. Then came a stray cat tooling around the neighborhood. That cat found its way in through this breach in the house's defenses and managed to spray pretty much the entire cellar, and it stunk to high heaven, and then some. The guys now have the opening blocked off so that we'll not have a repeat of this, but that was one thorough pussy.

In-Securities. A couple of things went wrong with the security system in the house this week: (1) the insulation crew unplugged the main panel box, unbeknownst to me, and once the battery back-up was drained I ended up with a dead system. (2) the circuit board crapped out and so my system was not communicating with dispatch. Fortunately, it's a leased system, so the good folks with Radar Security Alarm, Inc., took care of it pronto and all is well again, safe and sound.

So, that's the week that was. As I've droned on about in other posts, this has been an incredibly stress-free project, for the most part, and I'm certainly not getting all bent out of shape or ulcer-fied by these things. The hardest stress for me, besides all that water dumped into the dining room, is how uncontrollable all the sheetrock and sanding dust seems to be...the house is absolutely covered in it, and I dread the feeling of futility that will accompany a succession of efforts to combat it.

Thank goodness I get my Swiffer Dusters in bulk from Sam's Club.

And it would be wise to thank goodness for a range of other good things from that week: the weather was very beautiful, with incredibly warm temps (low 70s) and sunny days. The birds were back in force, including a flock of blue jays and a return of a cardinal couple. The drywall and mudwork are all now completed, insulation has been placed in all walls and hung underneath both the old and new areas of the house, and they'll soon blow in the attic insulation. The HVAC team is continuing to make progress in fits and starts, but we're nearly ready to hook up the new upstairs system. Exterior trimwork was just about finished and a lot of the priming of that had been done before I left for this week's work in Virginia. So a rough week in some ways, and then plenty more good news to report as well.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Attic-us Squirrel

Attic-us Finch Squirrel. There is a dandy little oblong vent in the small gable on the end of the porch, and one of my yard squirrels has decided it offered much better digs than the ol' ratty nest high up in the big tree in the southwest corner of the property. He chewed back the wood vent slat and has given himself a downtown loft. Pete's going to chase him out of there (he has two--count 'em--two pet squirrels himself) and put a screen on that opening to take care of the problem. That little rodent rascal wasn't paying rent or anything.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Siding Progress

By the end of this week, Pete and the guys had gotten almost completely done with getting all the siding up, and along with that, they've been priming the wood trim around doors and windows and at corners and such. The shake on the large rear gable up top looks pretty sharp and didn't give the crew as much of a fit because it was a large enough space to work with, unlike the other gables.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hang Ten (or Twelve)

After all these weeks of looking at the addition with its compartments only roughly defined by the framing, it was time for the sheetrocking. At about 7:30 am this past Monday morning, the doorbell rang, and out front sat the flatbed truck, whose drivers were anxious to get a head-start on their deliveries. Of course, that didn't take into account that the contractor wasn't here and there'd be nothin' doing with unloading if it wasn't where Pete wanted it to be. He wasn't far behind them, and off came the pallets of drywall.

Those sheets of drywall are 12 feet long! The crew worked pretty darned quickly to hang the sheetrock on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday allowed for much of the taping and mudwork to occur. Here are some shots of the initial drywall hanging, including the protective measures I came across when I went into my bedroom...

Thursday and Friday were the taping and mudwork. It's looking very much like a house now, instead of just a construction project. I'm liking it.

With the sheetrock applied and the compound smoothed on, it gives the arch at the master bedroom tub alcove a really terrific look. Here's a shot of that from tonight, and beside it is a shot down the back hallway towards the exit door, where José is working away on his stilts.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Have a Hearth

Whilst I was away working in Chapel Hill this past week, the hearth was put in place and so the fireplace now has a pretty good finished look to it. I think they may still have yet to come back and do the scrubbing of stray mortar, but it's looking fine to me. It's a substantial piece of is imposing in its own way but I think it's going to be a great compliment to the rest of the kitchen.

Speaking of the kitchen, I've found myself relishing the very warm temps this weekend (upwards of 70 by 3 pm each day), a most welcome change after the wet and cold of most of the winter. I've spent a lot of time enjoying being able to walk around the addition and contemplate and examine closely and scrutinize and marvel and dream and imagine...without the chill of winter driving me back into the warmth of the house.

Now that the framing inspection is behind us, the insulation of the walls has now been done:

And on my to-do list for this project was to get a fence installed on the south property line, defining the border between my property and the apartments in the house next door. It is a way to eliminate the nuisance of next-door neighbors who like to "borrow" my driveway without asking, a pernicious and repeated problem while I've lived here. Even worse has been getting cussed out--literally!--by workers for Baldwin Property Management when I tell them they can't park their trucks in MY driveway while they do work in the house next door.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Inspection Report

My General Contractor Pete rang me up a couple of times today to share the good news that we'd passed the framing inspection this morning and the electrical inspection this afternoon. That means he can call in the insulation guys and, mid-week, the sheetrockers will be on hand to get started. All that is just more signs of good progress!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ray-Diation on the Event Horizon

I'm on the road working again, only over in Chapel Hill but I'm in a hotel all week. Things are happening at home without me, so I'll be pretty psyched to get home Friday evening and see another week's progress. I hear tell that the hearth has now been built for the fireplace and that half of my south property line fence has now been erected. Pictures will follow.

For now, all I have to report is that I've ordered a new microwave. In the old kitchen, I had a microhood set-up, where the microwave is over the range and has the exhaust underbelly integrated into it. I'm passing that on to my General Contractor, Pete, and that meant I needed to get a new one. I settled on a Panasonic....seems snazzy enough and, according to the reviews, is remarkably quiet and even in its heating. I can go for that.