Monday, December 12, 2011

More Decomposed Granite

Allergy season is fast approaching, so I will be unable to work outside for a couple of months. To put things in the best shape for this, I have filled in all the holes and put decomposed granite over the rocks that fill the walkway areas.

For that section of the walkway which is not yet complete, I put cardboard down and then decomposed granite on top of the cardboard. This should allow the decomposed granite to be shovelled back up when I start digging and put to the side until it can be put down again.

The primary issue on this was then cost. How to get the decomposed granite at minimal cost. I got 1 cubic yard, for $38.02 from Whittlesey Landscape Sales. This is the same place I got the last decomposed granite. That time (September 2011), I got 3 cubic yards and had it delivered. Delivery was $80.

  • Option 1 was to have the decomposed granite delivered. $80
  • Option 2 would be to buy the decomposed granite from Home Depot or Lowe's. They have it in small plastic bags. Home Depot charges $4.27 a bag (half a cubic foot), which including tax becomes $290.52 for a cubic yard.
  • Option 3 was to rent a pick-up and deliver it myself. I can rent the pick-up at U-Haul for $19.95. Plus 59 cents a mile. Plus gas. Plus clean-up. It turns out to be 27.6 miles from U-Haul to Whittlesey to my house and back to U-Haul. That's $16.28 in mileage charges. Gas for 28 miles would be maybe 3 gallons, for another $9.00. $1.50 for a self-service car wash to clean the bed out afterwards. Taxes and fees of $6.59, for a total of $53.32. The second (and third ...) cubic yard would cost $25.28 for delivery.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bigger Windows, Part 3

The windows in the two smaller bedrooms (the guest bedroom and the computer room), were too small for the City building requirement for "egress", so they were replaced by larger windows. Unfortunately these were also not quite big enough for "egress", and so they need to be replaced once more.

As before, first the old windows are removed.

Then the openings were made larger, by lowering the bottom. This caused some difficulty since there was an electrical line that ran right below the window. This required some work to replace that wire with a longer one that ran lower in the wall.

Then the new windows can be set in place

The window sills had been put on and off so many times they were showing it, so I had new ones made up. The shape of the old sills is no longer available, but BMC West has a millwork operation that can make custom pieces of trim. I had four (4) 8-foot sills made of red oak -- two were used for this job, and the other two are in the attic for the next time. $380.36.

The rest is finishing. The windows are stained and given two coats of polyurethane. The wall is taped and floated, then textured, and painted.

Outside, the stone work is replaced and mortared in place.

And to finish this saga, the building inspector came by today, 8 Dec 2011, and says these windows past inspection.

With the windows passing inspection, Renewal by Andersen wants to be paid. We had agreed, for the 2nd set of windows, on a cost of $4000 for the two pairs with half ($2000) down. After getting them wrong and having to do it all over again, they discounted this to $3500, so the last payment was $1500.

And in June 2012, we got new blinds for these windows. From Home Depot, Bali 3/8" double-cell blinds; I like to think that the double cell provides a smidge more insulation. The blind for the computer room was Northern Lights Palm Breeze, 58 inches wide by 67 high. The blind for the guest bedroom was Northern Lights Vanilla, 57.5 inches wide by 67 high. Both of them are now cordless -- or really internally corded, which seems to be the standard option at Home Depot. Combined, they were $490.91

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tiling the Kitchen Backsplash

With the granite counter tops in place, we could turn our attention to the backsplash behind them. Originally both the counter tops and the backsplash was one continuous sheet of butcher block Formica. When the granite was put in, they broke out and remove the Formica on the counter top itself, but we still had broken pieces on the back splash.

We looked at a lot of possible tiles, but eventually decided on two. For the bulk of the backsplash an Ivory Silver Premium Travertine from Floor & Decor. This came in 18 inch by 18 inch squares. I went thru their entire inventory and picked out 25 tiles that looked the best (not cracked, broken or ugly).

For the backsplash behind the stove itself, we decided to go with a stainless steel tile. We found these at Lowe's -- a sheet (about one foot by one foot) of e inch by 4 inch tiles. They appear to be white ceramic tiles with a metal stainless steel cap on top of them, giving the appearance of a stainless steel tile. I bought 9 of these sheets to cover this section. The box says "2x4x12 Stainless Steel Mosaics".

The only thing left was to get an tile installation person. Floor & Decor has an installer that they recommended, Perfect Floors. In addition, a guy (Darrell McGuire) picking up tile at Floor & Decor overheard what I needed and said they did tile installs. As soon as he had picked up the tile they needed for another job, he came over and looked at our job.

The main problem was that the travertine tiles are 18 x 18, but the cabinets are 18.75 inches from the granite to the bottom of the cabinets. That's too much space to fill in with grout; but too little to fill in with a piece of tile. We considered several options: Cutting each piece to be 9.25 inches (so two of them, rotating the tiles 45 degrees (making the longest dimension over 25 inches), cutting pieces to different heights (so there is not a constant height joint down the middle), filling in at the top, or bottom, with a different type of accent tile, and so on.

Eventually Linda decided a 45 degree rotation would be best.

The two estimates came in at $500 or at $540 -- not a big difference. A search on the internet found one (positive) review for Darrell McGuire, and a large number of mixed reviews for Perfect Floors. So we went with Darrell McGuire.

They were to start on Friday at 9:00 AM, so the previous night and that morning I cleaned all the counters off, turned off the electricity to the outlets and switches in the area that needed tiling, and pulled the outlets and switches out of the wall.

Once this was all done, I started removing the old Formica while I waited. I stuck a putty knife up under the Formica as far as possible to loosen it, and then just pulled. I should have worn gloves, as I got a couple of "paper cuts" from the sharp edges, but got it all off before they showed up.

They used a "tile mastic" to glue the tiles onto the wall. The main thing they did was to cut all the tiles to fit in place. There were a lot of cuts. Every large Travertine tile had to be cut at least once. Plus many had to have holes cut for the switches and outlets. Even the stainless steel tiles, which are more or less one foot square mesh sheets had to have some cuts to fill in the half piece holes on the edge.

Once the tiles were installed, they had to sit overnight until the mastic had dried.

While the mastic was drying, I went and got a bottle of Sealer's Choice Gold from Home Depot. A 24 ounce bottle was $34.58. At 6:00 in the morning, I wiped it on the Travertine with a sponge to seal the stone. This was late enough to let the mastic dry, but still give the sealer 3 to 4 hours to dry before Darrell showed back up to apply the grout.

The grout was Antique White. Behind the stove, with the stainless steel tiles, he used a Delorean Gray unsanded grout.

Once things were grouted, I could put the electrical outlets and plugs back in place. The wall is now much thicker than before -- it is about 1.25 inches thick. This meant that I need longer screws to put most of the outlets and switches back in place. Once they were back, I put a foam gasket behind each switch plate and outlet plate.

A few of the electrical boxes had been added after the original work when the house was built; they were added when we changed the lighting in the kitchen. So rather than metal boxes nailed to the studs, they were blue plastic electrical boxes. These have little "flippers" that hold the box in place. But these only work for walls less than an inch thick, and so would no longer work in my walls. Home Depot has an "Old Work Switch Box Support" (I see it under different brand names -- Steel City, Raco, Caddy, ...) that is a piece of sheet metal that is slipped into the wall cavity on the left and right sides and then bent over to hold the box back.

The grout for the stainless steel tiles was harder to come by and so was done on Monday morning. At the same time, they applied a thin bead of caulk (again "Antique White" to match the grout) at the bottom of the tile to seal everything.

But by Monday mid-morning, everything was done. I paid the $500 for the work, and can now put everything back in place on the counters.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More work on Zone 2

The objective in excavating Zone 2 is to get the irrigation lines in place. This involves both the Zone 2 irrigation line and the Zone 3 irrigation line. The new Zone 3 areas will be the North and South beds. We left a 4 inch PVC pipe to get the lines thru the walkway into these beds.

Running the water line to the South bed is fairly simple. I just extended the existing one inch line down a couple of inches, across the zone 2 digging and then put in a "tee" to split off for the North bed.

Going thru the 4 inch PVC pipe thru the walkway, we can then continue straight over to the South bed.

From the tee, we want to go to the North bed, and thru the 4 inch PVC pipe that goes under the walkway and into the North bed. First we need to dig out all the dirt from the water supply line to the North bed. This is taking days. We are trying to get the dirt out of the way, excavate the rocks out of the hole, and do as little damage as possible to the root structure of the tree, keeping in mind that it's been a long dry summer for the tree. We need to balance the damage we do to the tree's root structure now against the hopefully better environment it will have once all the rocks are out of the way and better soil is used instead.

Using the jackhammer, we have all of the rock out of the way, and have the sprinkler line installed. This is all 1" (one inch) PVC, and goes straight from the tee, across Zone 2 and then up and thru the 4-inch PVC into the North bed, where it is currently just capped off.

With the sprinkler line installed, we can then fill this back in with dirt -- dirt mixed with leaves and grass and compost.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Replacing the Kitchen Vent

As part of upgrading the kitchen, we have new granite countertops, and are replacing the appliances to a stainless steel finish. The next item to work on is the vent hood over the range. The current vent hood was put in 25 years ago when the house was built.

After looking at a bunch of high-end stainless steel vents, trying to get a quiet and effective unit (low sones), we settled on the Broan B30 Series, specifically model B3036SS (B30 series, 36 inches wide, in stainless steel). We ordered this thru Lowe's for $453.57. Once that was delivered, we could take out the old unit.

Unpacking the new vent, we have to remove the filters and the lights, in order to install it. The lights were the most difficult, since the catch for it is not done very well.

But once these are out of the way, we can break out the opening in the back to vent into the wall.

Strangely, this opening does not seem to be centered itself. For a 36 inch vent hood, the opening would be centered at 18 inches, but instead it runs from 14.25 to 22.75 (so centered on 18.5) But it seems to match the opening in the wall.

The main difficulty is that the cabinets have a 1.25 inch piece of trim extending below the bottom of the cabinet over the range. Since the vent hood is supported by screwing it into the cabinet above it, we added a couple of trim pieces that filled the 1.25 inches between the cabinet and the vent hood.

This allows the vent to be lifted into place, secured to these two pieces of wood, and then wired into the previous electrical supply line.

Replacing the light and filter panels, we can turn the power back on at the circuit breaker and we have a new working vent hood.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Digging up Zone 2

The walkway across the side yard will run from the gate to the raised garden and back to the deck behind the deck. This defines a new bed area between the house (outside the kitchen) and the walkway. This will be Zone 2 on the irrigation system, so we'll just call it Zone 2.

We want to continue and finish the walkway. But we need to be able to get the irrigation water lines from one side to the other. We put in a 4 inch PVC pipe between the two walkway walls, to allow the irrigation pipes to be run thru it. This allows the Zone 3 irrigation control valve to provide water to the North Bed and South Bed, which will be Zone 3 of the irrigation system.

But an examination of the current zone 3 supply line shows that it (a) is not deep enough -- we want it to be well down, out of the way -- and (b) sitting on top of a large rock, so it can't be moved down 5 or 6 inches to go thru the 4 inch PVC pipe.

So to get the irrigation lines in the PVC pipe, we need to take out the rock that is preventing them from being moved down to the level of the PVC pipe.

After some digging we find that this rock is quite large.

Using the jackhammer, we can begin to break it up into smaller pieces so that we can get them up out of the ground.

Several more days of work gets us a large set of rocks removed from an increasingly large hole in the ground.

We will need to get rid of these rocks to continue digging.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Walkway across the yard, part 2

The second part of the walkway across the yard is pretty much a repeat of what we have been doing. We start by digging the dirt out, exposing the rock that lies just below the surface.

Using the jackhammer, we break the rock up into manageable pieces and clear out all the rock and dirt down about 2 feet deep, to another layer of rock.

For this section, we need a lot of concrete.

We ended up using 52 bags of Quik-crete, from Home Depot $120.36, framing the walls using Masonite sheets with plastic bags of mulch and manure to hold everything in place.

The one notable part of this was the tube for the irrigation lines. We will want to run 2 irrigation lines, for two different zones, from the water line and valves on one side of the walkway over to the beds on the other side. We put a 4 inch PVC tube in to allow these to be run later. At the moment, we can't put the lines down as far as we want because of the rock on the house side. Since the rock is so close to the surface, the irrigation lines are not deep enough. We ran the PVC tube at the level we want the irrigation lines to be, and we will need to dig the rock out of the house side to get them down low enough.

The next section will be a bit more difficult, because it has the irrigation water supply line (and zone electrical wires) in it. We need to dig it up, and then re-bury it without damaging it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bigger Windows for the Bedrooms

We have replaced all of our original metal framed windows. Well, all except the one in the garage. We did this in three steps. First 4 small ones in the closets and bathrooms. Then most of them in the bedroom wing. Finally, all of the remaining ones. It's been expensive and time-consuming.

Also, it's been varied. The first set went pretty well. The polyurethane on the second set was so bad I had to redo it myself. The third set seemed to go much better and they improved on the trim.

Another difference with the third set was that they took out a building permit, which they had not done on the first two. The city building inspector failed the job because the windows next to the sliding door to the deck were not tempered. And then looking out over the deck, he saw that there was another window in the back bedroom also next to a door. This had been part of the second set of windows, but he failed that window too. And tacked on a failure for not getting a permit to replace the first and second sets.

In addition, he saw that the windows (from the second set) in two of the bedrooms did not pass "egress" -- emergency exit requirements. Originally these windows were sliding windows, but we had them changed to double hung to match all the other windows in the house. Sliding windows can be opened to expose half the window space as an exit. Replacing them with two double hung windows means that only one-fourth can be opened for an exit. The salesman from Renewal By Anderson should have known this and raised this issue when the original second set was contracted (as they should have known about the need for tempered glass next to a door), so while I made the decision to change from sliding to double-hung, they should have caught that and not agreed to do it.

Changing to tempered glass was fairly easy. The company just re-ordered a new sash (the window part with its frame) for the two windows next to the door, and with the magic of interchangeable parts, swapped out the non-tempered windows with tempered glass windows. It was just a couple of screws and then stain and polyurethane to match. That was done in September. The main problem was communication and follow-up. Someone came out in February to measure the windows for replacement, but that apparently got lost. By June, it was clear that nothing was happening, so I started calling, pretty much every day, until I got someone's attention. They had to come out and re-measure the windows -- having lost the original measurements. By July the new windows were supposed to be in, but when they came out to install them, there was only one set -- a lower sash for one window and the upper sash for the other. So they took those back and the sashes were swapped out for tempered glass on September 1.

For the two bedroom windows, it was more difficult. The window needed to be bigger, to have a larger area for egress. The framing for the window has a "header" on the top that supports the weight of the building with supports along either side. To expand either up or to the sides would require removing this framing and installing all new framing. So the easiest thing to do is to make the window larger by expanding it down. Since this is an exterior wall, both the inside (sheetrock) and outside (stone facade) would need to be modified. Let us use the window in one bedroom as an example -- the other was done exactly the same way.

The original window on the inside and outside looked like this.

The first step is to remove the sheetrock from below the window on the inside and the stone from the outside.

The insulation was removed. At this point, a problem arose. There are electrical outlets on both sides of the window. A wire connects them right thru the space where the window is to go. This was solved by grooving one 2x6 support and moving the wire down to be out of the way.

With that out of the way, the blue Styrofoam exterior insulation can be cut out and the new windows put in place.

Once both windows are in place, foam insulation is put in place all around the window, to seal it off.

The next step is to patch the sheetrock in the room, to cover the hole that was cut for the electrical re-wiring, and to extend it down the wall to the new, lower window sill. On the outside, stones were selected from what had been broken out to fill up underneath the window and create a new exterior window sill.

The interior sheetrock, once patched, has to be taped and floated and then textured. When this dries, it can then be painted. The inside wood surface of the window is stained ("Golden Oak"), and two coats of polyurethane applied.

The same sequence of changes was necessary for the other window, with the same result. The smaller window was replaced by a larger one.

The process took 3 days. The first day replaced the window. The second day did the exterior stone work and interior sheetrock patching and tape and float, and staining the wood. The last day did the mortar work around the window on the outside, while the painting and polyurethane work was done on the inside.

The estimated cost of this was about $7800. The company agreed to roughly split it, so we will pay $4000 for this. I've paid the first half -- $2000, but will wait to pay the other half until it passes inspection.

And it turns out, these windows also fail the building inspection. The inspector says that egress requires an opening of at least 5 square feet, or 720 square inches. With the bottom window completely open, we have at most 27 inches high by 26 inches wide, or 702 square inches. The inspector measured 26.5 by 25.5, or only 675 square inches. So if fails egress.

The company, Renewal by Andersen, agrees that this is all their fault and will come back out and do it again with a window that is 6 inches taller. With half the extra space in the top window, and half in the bottom, that should give us an extra 3 inches in height, or 29.5 by 25.5 or 752 square inches -- room to spare.