Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Warmth...Here We Come

We started the week off with installing the pocket door in the upstairs closet, a little hardwood flooring removal, a bit of sub floor installation and a big clean up of the house. My theory on our project is to start a new subcontractor off with a relatively clean and easy space to work, with the hope that they will leave it the way they found it. Unfortunately this was set back a bit by the drywall guys that were there Monday during the day patching some of the holes that would have spewed out the blow in insulation. So last night I spent a good hour sweeping and picking up the floors so that the insulators would have a clean slate. They arrived today and at my lunchtime check-in I thought that there was no way the one guy that was there would be able to finish the job in the two days the estimator had told me. Laura and I stopped in tonight and my opinion has changed. I think they will be done tomorrow so we can have an inspection on Friday. This is great news for us. Walking through the house tonight reminds me how much I hate fiberglass insulation. The idea of working with that stuff all day, every day just makes me itch!

Laura and I also spent another few hours at the tile store making the final selections for the bathrooms and getting it ordered. Most everything was available pretty quickly, but there were a few long lead items that should arrive in plenty of time. I also got word from my dad that he thinks he will have his paint sprayer up and running for our planned Valentine's Day weekend paint-a-thon. We have been shooting for that weekend for a few weeks now, and provided we get some heat for the tapers, we will be in good shape. The plan is to spray as much as makes sense to do that way before the cabinets arrive.

If all goes well this week we will be able to hang drywall starting next Monday and the house will really start to look like something. Walking through now is sort of surreal. Thinking about what was in a location two months ago, seeing what is there now and imagining what it will look like in another two months is extremely exciting!

Looking from the door out of the master bedroom to the stairwell. Looking pretty cozy!

Sloped ceiling in the second upstairs bedroom.

The kitchen walls and ceiling.

Basement ceiling before the duct wrap and FSK paper.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another Snowy Sunday

Laura and I had the pleasure of working in the house on another snowy Sunday here in Seattle. To say that we are looking forward to having insulation and a working furnace in the house is a bit of an understatement. The fact that our fireplace is now out of commission due to the gas piping that has been roughed in there leaves us with very few options. Our borrowed electric heater stands no chance against the icy grasp on our house. Based on the no parking signs on our street it appears that the public utility may actually get around to replacing our gas meter this week which is the lynch pin to our temperature woes. Then there will be heat...lots of heat.

We each spent yesterday not working on the bungalow, but still performing manual labor. Laura spent the day cleaning up the yard at the West Seattle house and shampooing the carpets. I worked with my family at clearing out my great uncle's barn in Issaquah from its collection of 80+ years worth of junk. My mom thought I was crazy for ordering three 20 yard dumpsters for trash, metal and wood debris. We quit working around 3:00 when they were all full. I also returned my dad's truck to him after I picked up the plywood that we needed, and we talked about the medicine cabinet that he is going to build for our main floor bathroom. We are fitting this new cabinet into a void space that we built out for ductwork and plumbing which is going to give us a lot of depth for this cabinet. It will be a great period feature to the house.
Today was a day of miscellaneous tasks, only a few of which were critical path items. We started out with a trip to Lynnwood (north of Seattle about 20 miles) to buy an electric hand planer I located on Craigslist. The original window frames in the house were installed somewhat haphazardly and the plaster installers made whatever was there work. Drywall will not be so forgiving so the plan is to plane the window frames down to be flush or lower than the drywall. Laura took a crack at it today and it seems that this method will work. As long as it is done by next Sunday night we will be ahead of the drywallers.

While Laura worked on the window frames, pulled some staples in the flooring and squirted expanding foam insulation around a few floor penetrations, I poured the concrete in the two holes in the basement which will take care of that tripping hazard and open up a little more floor space. I also got started on fixing some of the holes in the first floor that are not needed any longer, as well as fixing up the main floor bathroom walls. Laura and I finished up the day by installing the backing in the upstairs bathroom and pulling the old hardwood floor out of the shower in preparation for a new subfloor. A full weekend!
Me floating the floor back in where the old furnace chimney used to be.
A very small representation of the foam job Laura worked on.

A fine example of some of our scrap wood backing. Think towel bar.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inspection Day Complete

Well our goal of four inspections in one day was realized today. There were two things that I knew had to be done this morning to prepare for the various inspectors and I had them both complete by 8:30. The fan project that I undertook last night required a few parts that I picked up on the way home last night (at the big orange box store), and the one and only structural post in the house needed to be installed. I had the fan in by 8:00 as our framer arrived to set the post and base bracket in the basement footing. A little rebar and we were set on that front.

My dad graciously came out for the day to help me since I was going to be there all day. We were told by the inspector we met with before we started re-construction that we would need vents in the attic spaces which I knew would be a challenge. Laura and I bought four vents a while ago (on clearance even!) that met our needs so that was our project while the inspectors came and went.

I was a bit nervous as I always am when meeting with inspectors as they wield a lot of power and can bring a project to a standstill very quickly. The plumbing and electrical reviews went very quickly, with no corrections required. A testament to the plumber and electrician we hired. The framing/structural/mechanical inspection was completed by one guy who will be requiring some costly changes to our project in terms of money, but not in schedule. So we've got that going for us...which is nice.

The biggest items that we have to deal with involve insulating all of the duct work in the basement, and replacing three upstairs windows that are brand new. I attempted to argue that the windows were replacements for exactly what came out of the walls, but this did not matter. They were wrong before and they are wrong still. If I had left the crappy windows in place and replaced them after we were completely signed off he said there would be no problem. So we open the checkbook once more. There were a few smaller items that were on the inspectors list as well that my dad and I took care of for the most part.

Upon hearing the news of our additional window scope, Laura was ready to start arguing with the city to get them to buy off on what has been installed. I told her a story that I was told long ago by the first project superintendent that I worked for. He said that arguing with a building inspector is like wrestling with a pig. Pretty soon you begin to realize that the pig is enjoying it. I have resigned to complying with their requests, stay tuned for Laura's stance.

In general it was a good day "off" from work. The attic vents were completed with only one trip to the big blue box store and one knock to the head that sent me to my knees (I put the hardhat on after that). We fixed a few inspection items including a new attic access hole that I was hoping to not have to do. Our insulation sub confirmed that they will be out next Wednesday to start insulation, and the drywall sub came by to look at the holes in the walls and ceilings that will need to be patched by then. Laura came by after work to meet with a hardwood floor guy that was recommended by our realtor. He has not been so good about returning phone calls and apparently is also not so good about keeping his appointments. He was a no show. So we went to the big blue box store for plywood, concrete and some other miscellaneous items for the next round of tasks.

As I was unloading Laura headed back to the other house to get dinner rolling which was good. I was pretty much worn out from a 12 hour day at the Bungalow. In the cold. In the filthy attic. On my knees. Yeah. Some pancakes and two White Russians hit the spot. Mmmm, mmmm. Dinner of champions.

The next big milestone is still on target, which is to complete the insulation, and have that inspected next Friday. That would allow us to start drywall the following Monday which is huge. That of course hinges on having some heat which is still questionable in that time frame. Wish us luck!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ready for Inspection

Our subs have been busy over the past week and tomorrow is their day of truth. Justin is taking the day off to be around for our first set of inspections: structural, framing, electrical, plumbing and mechanical. Cross your fingers that we get our signatures. In the meantime, I've been busy arguing with my employer, the gas company about relocating the gas meter to comply with code and meet our load demands. Unfortunately, PSE subcontracts out the work to a company called Pilchuck but does very little in the way of managing their subcontractor; they leave that up to the customer. We need the gas meter hooked up before our drywallers get going so they can hang in heated space, a requirement of their proposal.

Here's our siding & window patchwork in progress.

The electricians made about 100 holes in our plaster walls and ceilings.
Here's our new 95% efficient gas furnace. Oh yeah! Conservation is our game!Here's Justin dismanteling the bathroom fan the night before the inspection. He never got it back together so we'll have to have our mechanical team back to redo it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Update

I'm doing some lunch-time blogging since we are leaving on a little ski vacation tonight and I won't have time to get these photos up at home. Hopefully when we return on Tuesday, not only will we have a new president but also a lot of progress on our windows, HVAC and electrical work. Here are a few photos from Thursday night:

Lots of wire in the walls

Some new can lights for the master bedroom

New windows in the rear dormer!
Our new plumbing wall. We have plumbing for the water heater, sink and washing machine now.

Big Work Week

Wow, things are moving ahead swimmingly--so much so that I'm now talking to a realtor about listing my 'old' home. We're holding our schedule well and we think we might be moving in around mid to late March.

We have the electricians in the house now and yesterday they roughed in most of the lights and outlets in the top floor and started in on the main floor. I'm pretty happy with their professionalism and flexibility so far. Our windows have been delivered and window/siding guy Glen and his school bus-driving buddy were at the house all afternoon after the bus-driving shift on Thursday putting in the new windows. Of all of our subcontractors, we have been most concerned about this link just because we had no referrals from friends and found this guy through Service Magic which I wouldn't recommend using in general. But so far, he's shown up promptly and he seems to be doing the work we hired him for so I have no complaints. In fact, all of our subcontractors so far have been great. After we pass inspections, maybe I'll do a post with referrals and put a little plug in for them.

In other news, our friend Jill Z. came over to the house on Thursday evening to help us choose some paint colors. Jill's worked in color consultation in her professional life and has a great eye for this stuff. She brought a fan deck of paint colors and we narrowed the field down to a few key ones: a grey-blue, a creamy tan, an accent red and a white for our casework and trim. I'll post some swatches when I get them in the right format.

We ordered our kitchen cabinets last week and I thought I post a sample of the style: a shaker door style. Our deeper drawers will have a detail similar to the door style. Our shallower drawers will just have a plain front. For our kitchen, the maple will be painted white. We think this style is consistent with the period of the house and we are attempting to established an updated craftsman style for the main floor. I say 'establish' because while we didn't buy the house in an updated condition, there was some unfortunate updating that occured in the mid-to-late century including a fiberglass tub insert and cheap particle-board kitchen and bath cabinets.

For our upstairs bathroom, we are keep less with the style of the house and we opted for a more contemporary style vanity cabinet. It will be a slab door (no panels) and will be a darkly stained birch with a whitish countertop. The house will be classic/period on the main floor and more contemporary on the second floor style-wise.
This photo I found online is similar to the look we are trying to achieve in the upstairs bathroom. Our bathroom is much smaller than this and will have a simpler layout.
In the downstairs bathroom, we have opted for a more period-specific look with a pedestal sink, matching cast iron tub (not a claw-foot though), subway tile for the wall and built-in medicine cabinet/mirror. We'll be installing those small hex-tiles on the floor and this combination should give us a very classic look albeit brand new.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mind-Numbing Equity

There's no term for the "equity" that we put into our house this weekend. We made up a new one: Mind-Numbing Equity. Neither of us worked up much of a sweat but we did spend hours at the same tedious tasks. With the framing near complete, we had to open up the basement floor to allow a post to be set to support some flooring joists below the bathrooms. Justin did all of the work here save for marking the concrete with the location.

Here's our 1 foot deep hole for the post.

While he was at it, Justin busted out the last of the bricks from the chimney so he'd have it ready when it is time to pour concrete patches.
Here are the remnants of what I was doing while Justin shoveled out the basement: staples from the carpet pad installation. There are about 600 million of these in the wood floors and stairs and they all have to come out before the floor can be refinished. I pulled them all out of the stairs this weekend.
Our other big task this weekend was to deal with the flooring. We know that there are wood floors throughout the house. Most of the house is fir flooring except for the dining and living which is oak. The oak flooring is in questionable shape and to date, we've been operating under the idea that the oak needs to be replaced because it can't be sanded down and refinished. The thickness isn't there--maybe we have 1/4"-3/8" with which to work. The fir on the other hand is 3/4" tongue and groove and is in pretty good condition--nothing a good refinishing can't fix. There are several places that will need to be patched due to moving heat registers, a missing chimney and a few walls in new places. In the downstairs hallway, kitchen and a little spot upstairs there is (was) glue-down vinyl/linoleum flooring. In the hallway, the flooring came up beautifully once we applied the heat gun to it. You can see the photo below where it looks nearly brand new. In the kitchen and upstairs though, it's another story. The vinyl is really stuck. We bought some sanding/brushing attachments for the angle grinder to try and remove the glue and paper backing from the flooring. Our method works but it is slow going. We're not sure what we're going to do for the kitchen which is approximately 200 square feet and will take a lot of time.

Here's a photo of the hallway minus the glue-down flooring.

This is the little nook upstairs that we carved out from the former bathroom that is now part of the hallway and might become a little desk area in the future. The lighter patch of wood on the right is the area that we used the grinder on. This area is about 5 square feet and maybe took us a half hour to remove the glue.This is the kitchen floor, just a little corner that we scraped the top part of the vinyl flooring from. The white stuff left is the paper backing and there is a really tacky, gummy glue under that.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


There has been much progress these past few days and the week is not even over. The framers did wrap up everything they could this morning and are awaiting their last trip prior to being completely done. I released the electrician yesterday and the drywaller today. We still need to select an insulator which we will probably do after an on site meeting next week. The plumber starts tomorrow which is great as that gives him a head start on the electricians who are scheduled for next Wednesday.

Laura and I stopped at the house tonight to take more pictures, to measure for the cabinets and to see how our dream is coming together. It is good that we did check the framing dimensions against the casework shop drawings as we had two dimension issues that would have been tragic had they made it through production. A quick call to the cabinet shop and they were fixed. Apparently one of the solutions was to give me smaller bathroom drawers. Hmmmm, not sure how I feel about that.

We spent part of last night and tonight looking at tile and hardwood flooring in an attempt to narrow the field of possibilities. I think (don't quote me) that we are close on the upstairs bathroom tile but still a ways away from making a decision on hardwood flooring. Any opinions on this set of tile? We are thinking that the floor would be a 12"x24" of the brown on the lower right and the walls would be a 10"x 13" of the cream that is the same color as the large tile on the board along with some type of glass accent tile. Do any of our readers have a comment?

Laura also determined that our previously reported gas meter troubles are not nearly the magnitude that we had feared. Puget Sound Energy plans to add a line for our neighbor and then replace our meter with one of greater capacity. This is a much better deal for us.

Here are some more progress photos from yesterday and today:

The main floor hallway coat closet.

The main floor bathroom medicine cabinet will go here.

Looking from the kitchen into the dining room.

This is the same opening but from the other side.

This is the wall in the basement where all of the appliances will be roughed in (water heater, furnace, washer, dryer and utility sink).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Small Bad News

Laura found out some minor bad news today related to the existing natural gas service to the house. It turns out that the number of appliances we want to install will overtax the existing gas service and we will likely have problems. I guess a gas range, dryer, fireplace, furnace and instantaneous hot water heater were not thought of back in the day. Apparently what they did think of was that it would be cheaper in the short run to put in a shared gas main for our house and our neighbors so we would probably cause problems for them too. So.... it looks like we will also be getting a brand new gas main and meter for the house. I guess that is what our contingency is for (I don't know how many times I have said that lately). This is probably best in the long run as several of the electricians that looked at the house for bids said the gas and electrical meters were too close together per the current code. Our luck would probably have run out about the time we were looking for a final inspection anyway.

The day has not passed without some good news however. We met with the cabinet supplier this evening and placed our order. The framers wrapped up what they could do in the upstairs and were moving to the main floor and basement. They think they will be done tomorrow with what they can do and will have one more day to come back for some small details that will have to wait. At lunch I stopped at the house to clarify a few framing details and to meet with the newly signed up furnace guy. All systems are go on that front and they should be starting to install duct work on the 19th. It also appears that our matching vinyl siding was locally available as it was sitting on the porch ready to go. Now in six or seven more work days the windows will be ready and the whole package can go in. No more snow in the house!

In general we are headed rapidly in the right direction and morale is still high. Onward!

Monday, January 5, 2009

And...They're Off!

The first day of the reconstruction of our home was today. The idea that we have owned the house for one month and five days and how far we have come in that time is pretty amazing to me. With the help of our friends and family we have waged a calculated battle with plaster, lath, drywall and duct work to the point that it needed to be. Having been in construction for a while now I even surprised myself when we hit the start date for framing based on the schedule I developed prior to actually owning the place, despite the snow, bad roads and end of year holidays. Look at us!

Since the majority of the sweat equity portion of our work is complete for a while I thought I should take a turn at updating the tale of our project.

We met with Michael the framer last Friday at the house to get his material list together and so that a few clarifications could be made to the plan. Two of his framers stopped by later in the afternoon to meet with the plumber and see the project for themselves. Being the in-control kind of guy that I am, this meeting put me at ease knowing that there was a minor amount of coordination that happened prior to firing up the nail guns and chopping up lumber. With a few changes to the plans ironed out over the weekend I spoke again with Michael this morning to describe the "last" changes, give him the key box code, warned him about the guillotine dumpster lid (Dad reported last night that he has a nice bruise and is sore but other than that is OK), clarified the revisions to the main bathroom and wished him well. That was it. They were off. "THEY ARE PUTTING OUR HOUSE BACK TOGETHER!", the voice in my head was screaming. But what about the groundbreaking ceremony? No marching band? This was tough for me. Something that we had worked so hard on and Laura and I were not there to see it. Hmmm. Was it going to be like this for the rest of the project?

During lunch I talked with our window guy Glen (windows are on order), I requested the final revisions to the electrical proposal (CFLs in lieu of incandescents), released the furnace contractor, and figured out that the drywaller that we are likely to be using is the brother of the guy in charge of the maintenance at a building I am now working on. Small world when you consider that these guys went to school with my parents. Not that it gets us a deal or anything but good to know. In general it was a productive lunch hour.

I spent the rest of the day agonizing over what was going on at the house. Waiting for the call with a question about a specific detail, or what we wanted this to be like. It never came. "They probably dropped off the lumber and left", I thought. After work I raced up the hill to see what happened. They worked all right. Most of the upstairs is framed out and in the right spot. A quick call to Michael on a few concerns I had (missing beam and wall in the middle of the window) and I started to feel at ease. We were moving forward at last.

Here is what happened today:

A new pile of lumber was delivered. It was so cold in the house that there was still snow on the floor. Nice!

The new pocket door opening was framed for the master bedroom closet.

The new desk and shelf "nook" was framed in the attic area behind the new shower location.

Because it was getting dark (and I have yet to put up the string lights) a lot more happened that I could not capture in a photo. The other upstairs bedroom closet and the hallway linen closet were both framed. There was a nice pile of sawdust in the master bedroom and another pile of old studs in the other bedroom. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Final Days of Demo

Happy New Year and the final days of our demolition! We wrapped up the major deconstruction activities this weekend. Justin and I both took the 2nd off of work to labor at our "second job". We did a lot of small things that added up to quite a bit. Justin's dad, Jon, came out for an afternoon and helped break down the walls in the basement. Jon's fighting an ugly eye infection and nearly chopped off his hand in the dumpster but stuck in out for the afternoon to lend a hand (thankfully he still had one to lend). We tore out the remainder of the old heating ducting and busted out several studs on the top floor to make room for the new walls. We also cashed in on our boxes of wire and copper pipe at the recycler: $36 for the lot and they took about 100 pounds of sash weights off our hands too. On Sunday, we spent the day cleaning up all of the dust and the photos below show it.

A few of our subcontractors came out to the site to walk through. We had the framers and plumber on site to confer and our window & siding guy came by to take measurements with which to order our new windows. So far, we have these three subs on board. We'll be making some decisions on an electrician, HVAC contractor, insulator and drywaller this upcoming week. Tomorrow, the framers begin and if everything goes as planned (it's snowing buckets right now so this is a big "if"), we'll have our framing wrapped up before the end of this upcoming week.

Here's a less than clear photo of the most disgusting ducts you've ever seen. They were growing fur! Justin is wielding a long pole to pry down the sheet metal. Lots of dust in the air!
Our new closet, minus a few studs.

The hallway and master bedroom and future linen closet. Our new bedroom door is moving over a couple of inches to give a more gracious opening.

Check out the 7 studs on the back wall! We tore out several of these to allow for better insulation.

Notice any less dust? This is a photo after we swept and vacuumed.