Posted by: Cathie | November 2, 2009

We’re almost there…

Just a few more photos to upload to show the continued progress we’re making as we  bring this project to a close.  Ironically the project moved faster on the front end, when we were doing all the BIG items (like tearing out the rooms, putting in a new A/C system; rewiring; etc etc) than the last few weeks featuring a few little jobs.  It took several weeks to finally find a good subcontractor to install hardwood on the stairs going down into the family room (previously carpeted).  We had to supply the product and sure enough, delivery glitches.  We went back and forth with the idea of ordering new sofas for the lower level which required lots of looking.  When we found what we wanted we learned the pieces would take at least 4 months to arrive, being handmade in Skandanavia, for heavens sake.  Then we stumbled on some floor models at one of the stores and Dave started negotiating and next thing you know, 2 brand new sofas are now sitting in our family room!

This past weekend we tussled over the idea of a new area rug.  I’ve got 4 perfectly good orientals but of course, an oriental just doesn’t “go” with the new “look.”  In the end we found a marvelous wool area rug, more contemporary in flavor, got it on deep discount (the state of the economy has been our friend) and it will arrive in a couple of weeks.

As soon as my floor guy finishes I’ll snap off a batch of new pix with the rooms furnished (at last) and we’ll soon be able to say that the project is, indeed, done.  In the meantime enjoy a few more photos of final touches…although not quite finished.

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Installer Mike programming the 3 plasma set up

And oh look... football!  what a surprise

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The bathroom is done! a beautiful new shower

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The copper topped bath vanity that started the whole thing....

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And a door where there was none

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Posted by: Cathie | October 10, 2009

Getting Closer

Now things get exciting.  We’re nearly done.  At this point it’s all about the “pretty things.”  Pretty meaning paint, tile, granite, and the new additions like the wine refrigerator and the additional plasmas.  But there is still a bit of tweaking to do, and we’re doing it.  What follows is a collage of photos of the latest additions… more to follow in the next few days.

shower with tile and new window

shower with tile and new window

laundry room with new granite countertop, laundry sink and cabinet

laundry room with new granite countertop, laundry sink and cabinet

laundry room cabinets

laundry room cabinets

plasma wall... awaiting installation of 3 plasmas

plasma wall... awaiting installation of 3 plasmas

new kitchen dining area offering "stadium seating" for the plasmas

new kitchen dining area offering "stadium seating" for the plasmas

Posted by: Cathie | October 10, 2009

Nacho Man

After a bit of a layoff due to work, renovation and a trip to Euorpe it’s time to get back on track and finish the chronicle of the renovation project as we are drawing to a close.

Nacho was our tile man. Nacho LOVES tile. He told me so, many times during the course of the time he and his team were laying our tile. Nacho is not just a tile man; he’s an “artiste.” He made recommendations, pointed us towards certain design ideas, and his crew executed to perfection. Read More…

Posted by: Cathie | August 20, 2009

When Things Go Right and When They Don’t

Today was, by far, the most challenging day of the renovation.  I had multiple trades in and out throughout the day.  All this activity can lead to problems, errors and critical mistakes so I worked from home so I could be available to answer questions, address concerns, and call Dave when I didn’t have an answer.  We had a problem with a trade yesterday resulting in a serious error.  Had I not caught it, things could have been much worse.  And thanks to the power of the internet I was able to upload photos which Dave was able to look at immediately from his PC at work, and we were able to blow the whistle before the problem got out of hand.

Yesterday the stone mason arrived to apply the stacked stone treatment in the family room.  This was a difficult procedure, one the trade assured us he had done many times, so we allowed the work to proceed.  Luckily I came home from work early, thought something just didn’t look right, and called Dave.  I dispatched the photos, Dave gave a return call, and we pulled the plug on the stone mason until he met with Dave first thing this morning to review what went wrong and make sure he knew exactly what he needed to do.

Here are the photos I sent Dave:

mysterious gaps in the stonework

mysterious gaps in the stonework

So the stone mason ripped out all his work and started over.  Sucks when you make mistakes.
stone wall done properly

stone wall done properly

Next trade to arrive was my cabinet installer.  New cabinets were going into the laundry room and a small cabinet was being installed in what we call a “key drop.”  What is that, you ask?  It’s a space in the wall right before you walk in or out of the garage.  The idea being, you walk in the house, put your briefcase or handbag in the cupboard, place your keys in a cubby, plug in your phone, Ipod, Bluetooth, whatever, into one of the charging stations, and they will be right there for you when you walk out the door in the morning!  No hunting around for missing keys, phones, etc.
I was thrilled with the look of the cabinets and the hardware I had selected.  Unfortunately he was unable to complete the job as several items were mysterious “missing” — such as the crown molding.  No worries.  He’ll be back to finish the install.
new laundry cabinets

new laundry cabinets

keydrop cabinet

keydrop cabinet

Before long I took delivery of my tile.  That was an event as they had to park the tile truck down the street in the big cul-de-sac because they couldn’t get the truck up my private drive.  Instead the crates of tile had to be ferried up the street on a small forklift truck and then offloaded onto the driveway.  The end result is that I have lots of tile, but no driveway to park on until the job is complete.  A minor inconvenience.
miles of tile

miles of tile

I thought the Tile Team would be right behind the delivery, but they didn’t show up for several hours.  They were going to put down the underlayment prior to tile installation.  They did show up, eventually and it was better they came late because the stone mason hadn’t finished and people were bumping into each other.  So the Tile Team got to work and the hammering began because even though you glue this stuff down, you hammer it in place.  Time for a break!  Outside I went.
About 30 minutes later a happy tradesman waved to me from inside the house and I realized it WASN’T the Tile Team but my painter!  I have no idea what happened to the Tile Team but now the painters had arrived and it was time to paint all the trim and doors.  They warned me that the smell was going to be pretty awful so I informed Lexi and Kiefer that they would be sleeping in the garage tonite.  Since they live on Ground Zero of the renovation project they would be sleeping in the middle of noxious fumes.
And of course during all this craziness I was attempting to work from home; had to run and pick up my car which we had dropped off the night before at the repair shot for a bit of service, and try to keep from getting a headache with all the pounding, sawing, nailing and banter.  Right now going in to the office tomorrow will be a vacation from al the chaos!
Oh yes, before it was all over my yard crew showed up.  Don’t you just love the sound of lawnmowers and leaf blowers?!
Posted by: Cathie | August 13, 2009

Jill of all Trades

For the past 4 days the drywallers have been here. They’ve been taping, bedding, creating a marvelous finish that only someone heavy into this renovation business could appreciate. We’ll be looking at the walls in the “raw” stage as they have no paint on them, although there is a yellow color. The walls, when fully finished and painted will look a bit weathered. It’s different than a smooth finish and very different than those heavy stucco finishes you see on a lot of the new houses being built today. Stay tuned.

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While all this was going on I was dispatched as a runner to pick up necessary products that we had ordered. When involved in the reno business one must be a jack of all trades.  On that day I was assigned a run to the plumbing supply to pick up the new BLACK commode, a shower pan, and the undermount laundry tub. This adventure took me deep into San Francisco, in the “warehouse” district. Not to be confused with those many “districts” in San Francisco that tourists find so charming, the plumbing supply house was located across from the projects. The parking lot had barbed wire running atop the fencing. Not somewhere you would want to go to in the dark.  Therefore my pickup was made in the middle of the afternoon.

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Loading these three products was challenging because the 4-Runner barely had enough room in back. It took 3 employees to configure the load, and I wound up with the toilet sitting atop of the shower pan with the sink wedged in the empty space. I was warned by the warehouseman to “drive slowly and carefully and don’t drive over any bumps! That commode should NOT sit on its side; it’s a very sensitive area.” I didn’t realize commodes had feelings!

So while I was driving home slowly and carefully, avoiding bumps at all costs I planned my unloading strategy. I knew that Dave and I couldn’t off-load this stuff together because I simply don’t have the strength anymore. Fortunately the drywallers were still at work so I solicited their strength and manpower and got then to offload everything when I arrived home. Crisis averted! These products are now residing in the shed. The plumbers, when they come to install them, will have to wrestle with them.

Yesterday morning I wound up making a quick emergency trip to Sacramento to visit a granite yard and look at granite remnants. Yes, there are plenty of granite yards in the San Francisco bay area but Dave has a working relationship with this company, hence the dash across the state. We had originally selected a man-made product for the laundry room counter tops but it was suggested by the owner of the granite company (we’re ordering a slab of granite for the new counter/dining space in the breakfast nook) that perhaps we could find something we liked in his remnant section, thus bringing down the cost. I struck out on the breakfast room, but hit the mother-lode for the laundry room. I was pumped for the return trip. I LOVE bargains! Even if it does entail a last minute dash from Danville to Sacramento.

So the project continues to move forward nicely. We’re going to start painting on Friday and will be meeting with our decorator on Sunday to review fabric choices for the room darkening drapery she’s designing for the family room/media room (aka the Man Cave), among other things.

Posted by: Cathie | August 7, 2009

So the Walls Won’t Come Tumbling Down

Now we’re at the messy stage.  I forgot how messy.  Right now half the house is covered in plastic to prevent the mess from the remodeling waft through and cover every single surface with dust.  Not that it’s helping much.  This is called the Drywall Stage.

I have a weekend houseguest on the way who has been forwarned, but I don’t think she can really appreciate the conditions she and her daughter are going to be asked to deal with when she gets here.  Again, the Holiday Inn is on speed-dial.

We made it through a variety of inspections including electrical and insulation so now my house is filled with Mariachi music as a terrific team of Hispanic drywallers are doing what they do so well; tape and bed and sand.  It’s the sanding that creates such a horrific mess.

Lexi and Kiefer are wondering why the kitchen needed to be Saran-wrapped

Lexi and Kiefer are wondering why the kitchen needed to be Saran-wrapped

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Serving wall "before" (wine refrigerator and buffet to go here)

Serving wall "before" (wine refrigerator and buffet to go here)

Serving wall "after" - with drywall

Serving wall "after" - with drywall

It’s all beginning to come together and look like a house again.

I keep reminding myself, it will all be worth it.  It will all be worth it.  It will all be worth it….

All it takes is a few buckets of spackle, a few boxes of tape, lots of plastic and voila!

All it takes is a few buckets of spackle, a few boxes of tape, lots of plastic and voila!

Posted by: Cathie | August 2, 2009

Inspections

The houseguests managed nicely during their stay, adapting to the renovation limitations in our house; new houseguests arrive at the end of this week. They’ve also been forwarned but apparently the allure of free room and board overcomes the minor inconveniences of a house under renovation.man with hard hat

One of the things that the home renovation shows on television fail to account for is the inspection process that occurs during the renovation process. One does not, with a project like ours, simply work away without having an occasional visit from the building inspector to approve (or disapprove) the work that has gone on. In our case, we had to have our electrical inspections done this past week, or the job couldn’t move forward. This was key, and did cause a bit of havoc, because it involved turning off power. Worse yet, if we failed inspection the power might not be turned on until corrections were made, and approved. And this could involve several days. Once again, a few nights at the local Holiday Inn loomed large.

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Scheduling the inspection involves several components that needed to come together harmoniously. The electricians had to be present, our building permits in sight, and a homeowner available to answer questions. Fortunately we had an experienced electrician who was used to the process and I watched as he coolly answered inspector questions, showed her (yes, building inspectors can be women) the work that had been done, how that work was “up to code” (our house was built in 1977; certain things were now out of code so a renovation project offered us the opportunity to bring things up to the new code standards) and the electrical work done properly. She did manage to find a few items that needed “fixing” (and I do think a building inspector cannot walk away from a job without finding a thing or two to criticize… it’s as if they weren’t doing their job properly) but the job itself was approved, pending the correction of the items cited by the inspector. Crisis averted! Rick, the electrician, had my power restored before the Inspector made it to the end of my street.

So what’s ahead? More technical stuff. Insulation Tuesday, re-inspect Wednesday and drywall by Thursday. None of the fun stuff yet. But I did get to pick out ceiling fans today.  In fact my eyes glazed over with the hundreds and hundreds of choices.  Who knew there were so many different types of ceiling fans?

Posted by: Cathie | July 23, 2009

So Where did all the Stuff Go?

Living room before (original ugly curtains never removed because the windows are being replaced)

Living room before (original ugly curtains never removed because the windows are being replaced)

Houseguests will be arriving tonite for a one week stay.  This could get interesting as we’re “down” a couple of rooms due to the renovation.  One guest room has become a storage room and various other pieces of furniture have taken up residence in rooms not intended for them.  Knowing, however, we would be having houseguests we have  managed to maintain the integrity of the Living Room and the Dining Room so we can actually use them.  We also managed to keep one guest room and the guest bath free of clutter, and usable.

There are different ways of doing a major renovation which includes moving out of the home for the duration; renting a POD (storage container which is parked on your driveway) and putting all your household goods in there; renting a storage facility nearby and hauling the household goods to that location, or stuffing everything you need out of the way in every available nook and cranny of the home.  This method, which is the one we always choose, is the cheapest but it does mean that everything tends to get very dusty and dirty and requires complete cleaning before you put it back in its rightful place.

So, where did all OUR stuff go?  Here are some photos.

Living Room before

Living Room before

Living room now with family room furniture

Living room now with family room furniture

Not many places one can put a 60 inch plasma

Not many places one can put a 60 inch plasma

The living room couch and sofa table now reside in our bedroom

The living room couch and sofa table now reside in our bedroom

Everything else is crammed in the second guest room

Everything else is crammed in the second guest room

Posted by: Cathie | July 19, 2009

Synopsis: Week 2

It’s the end of week 2 of our renovation project and let’s tally the score.  In 2 weeks we’ve managed to demo the entire lower floor, get a new tankless water heater installed, do all the plumbing necessary (and then some) for the project; install a new, state-of-the-art zoned A/C system, and wired the lower level.  For those who have ever done renovations, built a house or those who haven’t, to get this much work done in only two weeks is nothing short of a miracle.  It has everything to do with creating a schedule, keeping to it and making sure those trades show up as promised.  The building downturn has made lots of trades available.  Lots.

Wiring was done on Thursday and Friday… the guys even worked late to finish.  I’m including a photo of the mess of wiring that began the project.

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I haven’t addressed the subject of the family pets and how they may or may not handle the chaos of a renovation project so I shall touch on that today.  Lexi and Kiefer, the resident Flatcoats, are adjusting well, despite being displaced from their “room” and being forced to spend more hours outside than previous.  Being retrievers they welcome all the “guests” (aka trades) with great excitement.  I have been fortunate that everyone who has worked here to date either loves dogs or is comfortable around them.  Plumber Elvis has a Doberman so he would take time each day during his break to play with my two.  Electrician Rick had a Dane/Lab cross and fell in love with Flatcoats while working here as he found them “amazingly smart,” which they are.  And devious, I might add.  I have been trying to keep putting in hours at the Red Cross, my employer, during the project thereby leaving the dogs in the hands of the trades.  Sometimes having the dogs in the yard impedes progress and they need to be “contained” elsewhere.  If you recall I mentioned in a previous post that the framers creatively used my exercise pens to create a doggy play pen to contain the dynamic duo while they installed the new slider.  Rick the electrician had to keep Lexi and Kiefer outside during electrical install and it got pretty toasty.  He kindly turned on the mister fan on the deck to keep them cool and wet until they could be brought back inside.

Yesterday Dave and I got to work cleaning up everything the trades didn’t.  Just because your house is under construction doesn’t mean you have to live in a construction site.  Once again Lexi and Kiefer had to stay outside while we did our work.

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Lexi and Kiefer's sleeping accomodations in the study while under construction.

Lexi and Kiefer's sleeping accomodations in the study while under construction.

For our reward after spending most of Saturday cleaning and hauling debris we got to go online and select lighting fixtures and a vanity mirror.  Fun stuff!

Now to start preparing for the arrival of house guests on Wednesday.  Yes, in the middle of all this, we’re hosting family members for a week.  My next posting will discuss and show how you can entertain in the middle of a renovation project when half your house is under construction.  It can be done!  Hopefully the house guests have a good sense of humor; otherwise I guess we’ll be taking them to the nearest Holiday Inn.

Posted by: Cathie | July 15, 2009

Melt down

The key to a successful remodeling project is to keep things moving forward, no matter the reason.  Which is why, despite the fact that our temps are hitting the 100’s, we pulled the A/C right on schedule and we are now sitting in a house, during a heat wave, with no air conditioning.

If we had done this project in Texas or Florida, where we formerly lived, we might have broken our own rule.  In those states, in the summer, when it goes to 98 during the day it merely drops to 97 at night.  That might be exaggerating a bit but compared to Northern CA, where the temps are dropping to comfortable temps at night (and with the help of fans) we can make it through.  In Texas or Florida we probably would have headed for the nearest Holiday Inn.

My A/C team was here at 6:30 in the morning and worked until 4:30 this afternoon.  Their hard work produced results.  They fired up the new A/C, an awesome machine, and my house has already started cooling nicely.  Better yet, it’s so much QUIETER than the stone age model that we have replaced.

Jason, the framer, working on the back wall of the family room

Jason, the framer, working on the back wall of the family room

In concert with the A/C team were the framers, back again to finish a number of details.  In fact we had so many workmen here at one point that my cul-de-sac was filled with those highly identifiable white pickup trucks with ladder racks.  It was a sight to behold!

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The plumber and the A/C tech working together to provide me with nice COOL air

Plumber and A/C tech work together to provide me with COOL air

The shiny new A/C  To the right note the new hot and cold water spigots installed by Elvis at just the right height for the doggie bath

The shiny new A/C To the right note the new hot and cold water spigots installed by Elvis at just the right height for the doggie bath

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