Monday, July 31, 2006

New Format for posts

Now that we seem to be getting into the thick of things, I will separate my "lists" of accomplished tasks and hopefully have a separate "funny story" post. The list of tasks accomplished may not be very interesting to many, but for me, is an essential record for of sequence of work, length of time to complete, all the good stuff I might want to review if we do this again.

Day 21: Mon 7/31

Here's what's on my schedule today:
1. Order lumber
2. Call to add electrical inspection
3. Order windows
4. Buy a fireplace
5. Call the HVAC guy to come out and figure out if we can move upstairs furnace so we can raise the ceiling height to 8' (and figure out how to duct the gas fireplace)
6. Check on price of 60" vanity vs. 49"
7. F/U on my internet order where they didn't give my a 6% discount even after calling them and getting their assurance I would
8. Figure out who's installing the fireplace (plumber? fireplace installation specialist?)
9. Hang out at the house all afternoon waiting for the inspector.

OK it's the end of the day and what did I get accomplished on my To Do list? #2 and #9.
Productive day, eh?

Good news is, we got signed off on two more inspections: underground electrical and plumbing. The road to victory, however, was anything but pleasant. Naturally, every remodeling project must have an "Inspector from Hell" story. Well, here's our first:

The inspector arrived right on time, parked in front of the house, then sat in the car for 10 minutes with engine running. I joked with the plumber and Bob (our by now famous on-site manager/neighbor), "Is he waiting for me to go out there and roll out the red carpet?"
Finally the inspector strode onto the property, finished his cell phone call with a closing flip and disdainfully blurted out, "Who's the idiot who installed this Kelly trap?".

The rest of the inspection was an exhibition of chest-puffed, "I'm the omnipotent God", "Don't you know people who do this stuff (i.e. contractors) are idiots", "You'll need to change all your gas pipes or else your house will blow up", rants and raves.

I felt so bad for our plumber, who of course, was standing there, taking the affront. Amazingly, he maintained his composure and would just calmly ask what changes the inspector wanted. (And I say "wanted", not "required", because so many of his comments seemed to be just a reflection of his own personal agenda, not the even, fair application of the actual code). Some of the changes were valid, Palo Alto city codes required a specific type of Kelly cleanout (or so the inspector claimed!). Others though were random and not evenly applied such as the 1/4" min drop per foot run of piping.

After the inspector left, our 3 tongues were wagging. The plumber said out of over the hundreds of inspections he'd been thru, that was definitely in the top 3 if not THE top. Bob casually asked the inspector as he was leaving, if he had a business card. The inspector said "No," without even a pause in his step. Even now, just recounting this, it makes me so mad that someone could be so rude and mean-spirited. Aside from the fact that it's just not nice, it takes away from his professional effectiveness. His delivery left us in complete shock, and at times unable to "hear" the message, valid or invalid.

We regrouped, discussed the changes he requested and why, then went to the permit card to read his comments. None of us expected to see his initials, signing off on the inspections. It confirms for me this inspector didn't really have a problem with any of the work. He just had an unfortunate need to show everyone who's the boss.

Day 20: Sun 7/30

Finally went to the house and saw all the work that got done on Saturday (see previous post). But noted no electrical work. Was hoping to kill two birds with one stone on Mon pm inspection.

The Turk's Cap plant was leaning over the area where new foundation work will be done. So spent an hour or so pruning back heavily. Also gave a couple of neighbors a tour of the demo'd house. (I think our 2-yr old might be the only 2-yr old who goes around using the word "demo" regularly. "That's our demo'd house!").

I locked up and left at 5pm. The electrician came at 5:45pm and finished the electrical underground rough-in. Here's the floor outlet:

How did he get in, you ask? Our neighbor, of course!

Day 19: Sat 7/29

Another "day off". DH went to the house and opened up the gates. I went to my eye appt. Our neighbor locked up at the end of the day!
But here are some of the things that got done:
1. More underground rough-in plumbing. Finished the laundry room, kitchen sink/DWs, Guest BA and almost all of the Master BA. Didn't see the new shower connection, so I'll need to check-in with the plumber and make sure he's going to do that Mon am, before the inspection. Also checked where the drain pipes (all plastic) came up into the walls/floor and I'm a bit concerned about the Guest BA locations. Will need to review with plumber.
2. Framer came and snapped chalk lines where new walls will go. Checked those against the plan and might make some small tweaks, but overall really happy with the spaces, especially with the laundry/mudroom. Was afraid it was going to be too small, but it looks fine. They also removed some existing walls.
Wow, really feels like a great room!

Day 18: Friday 7/28

Decided to take the kids to the amusement park for the day. What a nice day off, but missed the 90 lb jack hammer powered by a huge air compressor. That finally did the trick and took out the concrete. It's all about having the right tools.
The whole concrete/foundation thing has been a mini-"fiasco". First, thinking we would have to take out the existing concrete (where we need to push out), then after starting some demo, realizing it was extremely thick with rebar, rethinking maybe we could use it. Then going down to the Building Dept., showing them photos, sketches of what the concrete pad looked like and them saying, "Yeah, it looks ok, but you would need to have your structural engineer redo the drawings and resubmit for approval." He readily acknowledged it was all about CYA. Bottom line: you have to build to the approved drawings. If you want to build differently, submit new drawings. Our foundation and structural work is over-engineered. Both the Building Inspector and our framer looked at how the footings were constructed and said it was for commercial construction.
Advice to our friends who are also working with the same architect: ask him about the foundation footing specs. Our city does not require the amount of metal, width, depth spec'd on our drawings.
No plumber today, just Robert jackhammering away. I've got the inspector coming Mon afternoon to sign-off on underground plumbing. Hope the plumber can finish everything tomorrow.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Day 17

We're about two weeks behind schedule........wait a minute, how can that be???? We're barely two weeks into the project?!?!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Day 16 Wed 7/26/06

Ordered most of the bathroom fittings, fixtures, faucets. (I forget the exact definitions for each of those things). Bought most of my faucets thru the internet, but with big, bulky items (toilets, console sinks, bathub), I ordered them thru a local bath/kitchen shop. If you ever need to order this kinda stuff, I highly recommend Wellgo Construction Supply in Millbrae. Great prices and service!
Frustrating day with the concrete demo. It's thick with lots of rebar and wire; hard to get out. Will need to rent a jackhammer with an air compressor. Worked on the lumber take-off, kinda wondering why I'm doing this rather than the framer. Probably because he's blind and can't read the plans.

Day 15 Diamonds in the Rough

More concrete sawing, digging down to main sewer line, 2 small trench cut-outs for electrical conduit (floor and island outlets):
They use a rotary saw with diamond cutting edges to get thru the concrete. Each rotary blade costs around $200. Sometimes the blade is ruined when they run thru extremely hard patches or rebar or other metal. Unfortunately, it happened on this job. Fortunately, I'd already agreed on a set price for this small added job.
Plumber worked on putting together his materials list for rough-in plumbing; tile guy came to give an estimate; met with Bill to finalize window rough openings.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Day 14 High Tech to the Rescue or aka The House Colonoscopy

You never know what the day holds in store. I went to the house bright and early, opened the gates at 8am and waited for the workers. No one showed up. At 9:30am, I called the subs only to find out they weren't coming today. So I went home to hang out with the kids.
But at 1pm, I got a call to meet with our framer, so back out I went. Then I got a call from the plumber. Friday, they'd spent a good part of the day digging a trench, looking in vain for the main sewer line out to the street. We needed to find it in order to tie in the new plumbing. So today, they brought high-tech to the rescue. A guy came with some fancy equipment: a very tiny camera attached to the end of a very long cable, a small monitor and a device that looked like a metal detector. He pushed the cable into the cleanout (never knew where that was) then watched on the monitor as the "snake" wound its way thru our waste lines.
You could see all the crud on the insides of our cast iron pipes, but otherwise they were in good shape, no breaks, leaks or roots growing through. A good cleanout and "flush" and they'd be good as new.
With the "detector", the guy could pinpoint exactly where the end of the snake was and hence where the main sewer pipes were. A push of another button and the detector told him exactly how deep the pipe was!
So, tomorrow, the crew is going to be digging just one foot away from where their trench ended, and digging down 3 feet and 3 inches.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Day 12 A Very Hot Saturday

Whoohoo! I love it when I see a ton of trucks parked in front of our house. That means lots of work's going on. Today, we had demo, plumbing, electrical and framing subs.

Plumbing guys did some concrete sawing on Friday:
and came back today to continue chipping it out and digging down to find the waste pipes.
The electrician came to remove all the old wiring and outlet boxes. There's good money in recycling the old wiring.

And the framers came out to take a look at the concrete pads so they could pow wow and determine whether we could tie new foundation work into the existing pads. Unfortunately, no. So demo work continues!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Wide open spaces

Have you seen our en plein air WC?
In the interests of keeping down costs, I nixed the Porta-potty and decided to temporarily spare the upstairs toilet from the wrecking ball. However, everything else in the room is gone :-)

With a neighbor like ours, who needs a GC?

Our next door neighbor, it turns out, really, I mean REALLY, enjoys house remodeling. His house, others' houses, our house. Example: He invited himself to our kick-off meeting with the architect, framer, electrician and helpfully chimed in with his 2-cents worth. Example: He came over and reviewed the demo work with me tonight, pointing out an area where he thought more concrete would need to be removed in order to pour the foundation.

He was the one who recommended his contractor/friend, the legally blind framer. I kept looking for another framer, thinking "How is a blind person going to frame a house??" Unfortunately, I was having a very, very, VERY hard time finding a framer. Turns out most framers are also GCs and they weren't interested in doing just the framing. They wanted to GC the whole project. Plus, we had entered the peak building period and any good independent framers were busy with other projects.

I was striking out left and right. This was the last piece of the puzzle, the last sub I needed to move ahead with our project; I was desperate. I called the blind framer.

What started out as an act of desperation is now turning out to be quite the fortuitous move. Because Bob and Ruben are such good friends, Bob thinks nothing of calling up Ruben to discuss our project. Example: This evening he called Ruben and confirmed with him that we would need to dig 14" out and 21" deep for the foundation. Then Bob left us a msg saying he would go over to the house first thing in the morning and let the demo crew know!!
DH and I were remarking how fortunate we are to have a neighbor who actually ENJOYS our remodeling project.

More Musings

Wow, I forgot to mention my plumber showed up! I was starting to think I might need to fire him and bring in the back-up plumber. But he mentioned in one of his phone msgs about coming on Tues. and lo and behold, there he was.

Of course, after our meeting I felt reassured. Oh yeah, there was a reason why I choose him over the others....he'd installed a wall-mounted toilet before :-). But seriously, he comes across as quite knowledgeable, but mainly, he likes to talk, share his expertise and teach. I think that's the common trait amongst my subs. They are all very patient explaining things to a neophyte and willing to fill in my information gaps. For example, the plumber talked about the different methods of building a waterproof shower pan, the most common being hot mop and membrane. But he added, if you really wanted to go all out, you could put in a copper shower pan, something he'd rarely seen.

Can you imagine the surprise I got 2 days later when the demo crew ripped out a COPPER SHOWER PAN out of our guest bath!!!!
Ohhhh, so is that the reason the house cost a mint?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 9-10 He won't

But that's ok. I'm feeling very relaxed and actually quite giddy with the whole remodel thing. This is fun! It kinda reminds me of my old project management job, juggling lots of different activities, trying to keep things moving along.
The demo is moving along.....slowly. According to our neighbor, it could've been done more quickly, but I like that my Brazilian demo crew has been careful and deliberate. One of them, who was a veterinarian back in Brazil, if ever in doubt, always asked first then demolished. I think that's preferable to the other way around.
So, we've gone from this on Wednesday:
to this at the end of Thurs:
Who'd have thought a demolished house could look so clean and neat!
Can't wait for tomorrow! The concrete sawing guys are coming!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Day 7-8 Will he or won't he?

Remember how I said I thought the demo part was going to take longer than planned? Well yesterday I reviewed the situation with the foreman and he assured me they would be done by Wed. They had a minor glitch because their truck broke down so they'd been unable to haul away the debris, but if necessary, he'd get another truck to finish the job. Besides, they had to be done by Wed because they had another job starting on Thurs. So I went to sleep last night feeling pretty good I could get foundation and concrete sawing started on Thurs.

Well, now it's Tues afternoon and there's only one guy working at the house, (the older fellow, not even one of the younger guys......sorry, don't mean to age discriminate!). It took him all morning to demo half the chimney.
At this rate, he might finish the rest of the chimney, but there's still the chimney foundation plus the front walkway, plus a couple of minor things they forgot. Plus loading all the debris into a truck to haul away.

So, this is the roller coaster ride of remodeling. Will he or won't he.......finish on schedule?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Days 4-6 More of the Same

Pretty boring. More demo, ripped all the paneling off the Master BR walls. There wasn't a shred of insulation in any of the exterior walls. The Master BR didn't even have drywall behind the paneling. No wonder we froze every winter in that room. I'm looking forward to the "insulation" experience. I think it'll be money well spent.
They also took off the exterior stucco, so now the north side of the house is completely open to the elements.
It's looking like demolition might take more than the originally stated 6 days. Saturday, they started loading the truck with some of the debris and it filled up very quickly. I'm thinking they've got at least 5 more loads and they haven't even tackled the most difficult part of the demo work, namely removing the chimney and it's foundation.

Sunday was a day of rest. City ordinance doesn't allow contractors to work on Sunday. But homeowners can. We didn't! :-)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Day 3 - Let the Sledgehammers Fly!

The house already had that "demo'ed look" because of all the previous salvaging, but today the real demo began in earnest. Drywall was flying; the ceiling came down. From the entry, you could see thru the attic, up into Pierce's room.
With all the drywall off, we could see straight thru the entire house. By the end of the day, the floor was littered with junk. Can you see the big steel I-beam holding up the second floor? It's the dark band running right below the ceiling joists.
Interesting shower stall construction with lath and mortar?
Knock on wood, but I'm feeling pretty good about some of my subs, specifically the framer and the electrician. (The plumber didn't show up.) Oh yeah, and did I mention, my framer's legally blind? That's a whole 'nother story for another post!

This morning, I had probably the shortest, easiest inspection I'll ever have during this project. The inspector drove up, saw the chimney, verified the existing wood-burning fireplace, then spent maybe 1 minute looking at the roof from the ground, and signed off on the roof tear-off. Two sign-offs in less than 5 minutes. Aaah, that the rest of this project could be as easy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Day 2 - Tag This!

Here's a way to channel any graffitti urges you might have. Go into demo work. I walked thru the house with the demo guy identifying all the things that were to come out. He followed with spray can in hand. Now our house is lovingly marked with bright pink squiggles and scrawls.
The roofing crew came back this morning and finished the tear-off. I figured a total of 5 hrs x 8 men = 40 man hours to tear 2 layers off a 24 square size roof. The garage is the brightest, airiest room now!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Day 1 - Roof Tear Off

OK, it's official. The countdown has begun. Think we can get it all done in 6 months? Well, if the first day was any indication, not likely. Roofer was supposed to be here at 10am. Didn't show up until 3pm; couldn't finish the tear off today. Result.....had to cancel my first scheduled inspection and reschedule for the next day. So one day into it and already one day behind. More of that to come, I'm sure :-)

Day Zero July 5-10: Whole House Salvage

I can't even remember anymore, has it been 4 or 5 days of people coming over and ripping stuff out of the house?.....all for FREE! (Thanks Craigslist!) Better than dumping in a landfill. The house looks as if we've already begun renovations, but hey, the clock hasn't started ticking as far as I'm concerned.