Sunday, February 24, 2008

Just powerwashing in the rain..

Power tools are fun!

Last weekend the unseasonably sunny days brought everyone out, so there was some chatting with the neighbors that cut into the brick cleaning progress.. but a crappy, rainy day and a loud power washer makes for speedy uninterrupted cleaning!

Most of the time was taken up getting bricks from the stack in the backyard up to the front and laid out in the street. (Who needs a gym?! I did a million squats today with weights!) There was some scraping of stubborn mortar, but the dirt pretty much came flying off. I cleaned one side, scraped the ones that needed it, flipped them, and cleaned the other side.

And apparently, I made quite a sight out in my rain slicker in the street. It actually stopped raining Sunday afternoon, which is just as well since I really need to clean my outfit before it rains again and have to wear it to work!

In 3 days last weekend I cleaned 143 bricks. This weekend, I cleaned 409.

I'd be a little more bitter about that wasted time, but it was nice to chat with all the neighbors, and I wouldn't've been able to lay the driveway yet anyway. Because there's still more concrete to pour in the back, there will be a concrete truck and crew traipsing through that would have been ill-advised on a partially completed driveway.

Here's the current state of the pool/patio/sunken living room.. the rain washed all the loose pigment off the surface, so you can begin to see the cool color and texture. The drainage is in place, and short lengths of rebar are sticking out of the retaining walls, ready to be tied to reinforcements for the slab.

Plan is for the slab to be poured this week..

Monday, February 18, 2008

Turns out, 3 days aren't enough...

We had such grand plans for our 3-day weekend! We went and picked up the toilet for the downstairs bathroom, checked in on the doors we've been trying to order for more than a month, and bought a bunch of siding to patch the area over the garage door, which was Dan's task for the weekend. I had my stack of bricks to clean, which hopefully would be put down in the driveway. I don't want to give away the ending, but the toilet is still in the box, the doors still haven't been ordered, the siding is stacked in the garage, and there aren't anywhere near enough bricks for the driveway.

Dan started prying off the odd bits on the end where a whole run would go back in, and there were a few boards that were rotted. Well, as you might expect, that was just the beginning, and it now looks like this spring will involve replacing a whole lotta wood on the porch, starting with this post right here.

With another storm approaching it seemed like a bad idea to spend the last sunny day tearing everything apart, so Dan primed all the freshly exposed wood and patched the hole with a piece of plywood. (you can see the stack of pretty siding in the garage in this shot.. sigh..)
Then he primed the plywood too.

From the street it doesn't look half bad!

The house already looks way better than when we bought it, and by this summer should look pretty good from the outside.

And what was I doing all this time??

sitting around eating bon-bons??

If by that you mean scraping and scrubbing piles of bricks with no end in sight, then yes! bon-bons.

Looks like next weekend the brick cleaning continues..

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Patio Pour

This is our back door moments before the sunken outdoor living room started to be poured.

We used to have to duck to walk under that back deck, and look at it now! It already looks remarkably like the plans.

The retaining walls are nice and beefy, and will have drainage behind them, as well as under the slab.

Here's a shot into the rebar reinforcing the walls/benches

And a shot from above showing the corner radius and our built-in firepit! That diagonal trench is for the gas line so we can have one propane tank next to the house that feeds both the bbq and the firepit.

You can see the slope of the benches which will make them more comfortable to sit in.

This is the coolest concrete truck I've ever seen! (and I've seen my fair share of concrete trucks recently..)
It has a wall down the middle with cement on one side and the aggregate on the other. They hooked it up to our hose and mixed the concrete on the spot. It was WAY louder than the usual trucks, but there's no waste. The guys working had mixed opinions though.. because it's mixed on demand the mixture can be adjusted for conditions, but it also is less consistent than a pre-mixed truck, so every so often they'd need to stop and readjust it. I took a little video of the truck in action, and you can see that the concrete was waay thicker than it should be. That was easily corrected a minute later, but someone has to be paying close attention at all times. I think it's the coolest thing ever, plus it has the advantage of not only being very environmental, since there's no extra concrete that needs to be dumped at the end of a day; but it's also very good for the bottom line, since you only pay for what you use, which means it's much more likely more businesses would use it.

The video:

I won't bore you with the million shots of concrete flowing into the forms, but this one shows the rebar in the steps, along with the box for a light.

This is the concrete being poked and prodded to make sure there are no air pockets, and that the concrete completely fills the forms

And then the really cool part started..

These are the latex stamps which are just about to be used to pound a texture into the fresh concrete.

Once the concrete sets up enough for the forms to be removed, a skim coat with color is buttered on. The pigment is also a hardening agent, so it makes the surface even sturdier.

Expansion joints were cut at random, to make it look less like concrete and more like giant, very conveniently curved, slabs of slate. They even had a chisel which cut edges that looked just like the uneven edges of a piece of slate.

Then an accent color is dusted on and the pounding begins. It's a race for time at this point, as the concrete needs to be hard enough to take the texture, but not so hard that it won't.

I took a little video of the stamping too.. It was quite a team effort, and very labor intensive


After a couple days it's pressure washed, then about a month later it'll be sealed which also brings out the colors. Since neither of of those things have happened yet, I didn't take too many pictures of where it's at right now. They'll be pouring the patio slab on Wednesday (assuming the no rain holds up for awhile longer), so there will be many more pictures to come.

And now, I've got to get back to my giant stack of bricks.. they're not going scrub themselves.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

the Cadillac of Garage Doors

<-- Here's what the house looks like today.

We've replaced the pile of dirt and rebar that we apparently can't live without.. but take a look at that gorgeous garage door!! It goes all the way to the ground and everything!

It's not entirely done.. we still need to put siding in place above the door, but that's what 3 day weekends were made for.

From the street you absolutely cannot tell it's a rollup door. I think the vertical stiles help obscure the horizontal breaks in the door.. you can't see them at all unless you're up real close. But by then the awesome hinges and sweet lionhead door knockers completely distract you!

We couldn't wait to pull the car in the driveway, so I'll have to wait till the weekend to get a straight on shot (and with any luck, that shot will have a nice brick driveway at the bottom.. I'm actually afraid to climb back to where the bricks are now, because the edges of our giant pit are still collapsing. We need to clear a path so I can get them out this weekend. I still need to clean all the mortar off before I can lay them)

And inside the garage we have our first permanently mounted light! It even has a motion sensor so when you come in the side door it goes on.

There's a little more room to pull the car over to give the bikes space to get by. But this morning I pulled my bike out of the garage and right past the car in the driveway!! It's just very exciting.

And quiet. You can barely hear the motor at all! And the tracks are solid and aligned perfectly, and.. not sure if you can see off on the left of this shot.. but the water line is perfectly placed with ~1/4" to spare.

Here's a closeup so you can fully appreciate that placement -->

Work on the patio is coming along, although it's (tell me if you're surprised here..) going to take a little longer than we thought. I'll take some pix and do a post on that next.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Work weekend

We spent a bunch of time this weekend running around and getting stuff done.. We bought a toilet and some doors (we thought we'd ordered doors 5 weeks ago, but apparently that order never went through and the woman at the lumber store isn't returning our calls.. so we went somewhere else)

And we finished up the stairs, which was really nice with the not raining and all. Couple coats of primer and some caulk, and these stairs should last 10 times longer than the ones built in 1996 which had already rotted away.

While I was on the stairs, Dan was rerouting the water supply line in anticipation of our garage door (which was ordered from someone else, and therefore was actually ordered) which is getting here tomorrow!

Note the motorcycle inside! Strange how much smaller the garage seems with 2 bikes inside.. by the time all our tools and workbenches are in I wonder if we'll have any room left to work!

We got a rollup door so we can have our car in the driveway and still get the door open to get our bikes in and out, and of course it needs to be hung exactly where the copper pipe was. But that's ok, because Dan LOVES soldering copper. And the solder loves him ;)

Here's the finished run.. that's more than $100 in copper right there!

<--Here's the view out back

The water doesn't seem to be getting any worse.. we were worried the hole was filling up with groundwater, which would mean whole different things for our drainage plan. But that top left corner is the low spot, and the ground is wet from all the rain, so that's just the surface water (at least, that's the hope)

But take a look at that top middle caving in section. If that collapses any further, the tent with all our garage stuff is going to go tumbling into the pit.

So, on the negative side, we need to get that taken care of asap, which means we're going to need to bring someone in to do it since it's not going to get done fast enough on weekends and the odd day off. On the plus side, that means we're going to have our patio done really soon!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

We finally got that swimming pool we've always wanted..

It's time to play What's Missing in this Picture!

I won't make you scroll down to see the answers, but there are bonus points if you can find the 2 extra things in the picture:

  • No porta-potty!
  • No concussion-inducing plywood on the porch!
  • No giant, flappy blue tarp!
  • No rain!!

Extra credit: There's a bobcat pulling out with a load of dirt from the back yard.

Extra, extra credit: Our motorcycles are IN the garage! (that's worth extra points because it's such a crappy picture)

On what's likely to be the last Saturday we're woken up by people working on the house (mostly because we'll be dragging our butts out of bed to do everything else ourselves..), we heard the happy hum of a bobcat scooping out the dirt in back.

As you can see here, the back door is quite a bit lower than the ground level, which doesn't really work out all that well for a door. Everyone was very concerned about digging it out now, because if the rain returns before we get the retaining walls in, we'll have a giant swimming pool with the sides sliding/caving in. But we want to get started on that next, and the last part of these guys' job for us was excavating the area.

And here it is all dug out and shored up. It is very swimming pool like.. especially if when you jumped up and down on the bottom of a pool, it undulated out like a bouncy house. It's pretty worrisome actually.. there are pools of water which are gradually growing, and the ground back by the tent has caved in to about a foot away from the tent. We need to get the retaining walls in soon.

And that's the task for the coming week.. Coming soon: our sunken outdoor living room!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hurray for Concrete!

Chez Neumansky had another visit from the concrete fairy!

Much as the 8am on a Saturday concrete delivery was probably not loved by our neighbors, I'm sure they'll be as happy as we will to have the porta-potty off the sidewalk and no more tarps flapping in the wind!

As you can see, we passed our inspection for the radiant heat and got the go-ahead to pour. The last odds and ends were taken care of yesterday: put rebar down in the driveway, broke up the sidewalk to encase the sump pump's discharge pipe and repair what had been broken, and everything up off the floor/ground to make way for the concrete.

Bright and early this morning they rolled up and got to work.

Look at it oozing in!

<--You can see the outline of our bathroom here. Although the pex is fairly indestructible I'm still sore from putting it in (remind me to buy stock in zip ties.. with those and some duct tape, there's nothing that can't be built), so they've been humoring me by stepping in between the tubing as much as possible.

I'm happy with how deep the tubing is in the concrete.. it needs an inch of concrete above it, or there's a possibility of cracks when it heats up. In some places it looked like it might be pretty close, but it all seems very nicely embedded.

The teamwork is really impressive.. one guy holds the tube spitting out the concrete, one shovels it around to make sure it gets everywhere and sometimes there's someone else with a trowel getting it into the tight spots, and they all stomp it around with their rubber boots..

..then one guy makes a pass with a 2"x4" to smooth it down, and then two guys screed it for real with a longer 2"x4"

Then they let it set for a little while, and for the larger areas someone comes back in and cuts control joints to limit cracks in the wide expanses of concrete.

And then it's all gone over with a float to make it nice an smooth and pretty.. "mirror finish" they've been calling it.

I'm also a little surprised with how much work is done by hand, especially around the stairs.

See that box on Dean's belt? That's a remote controller for the concrete! So he can be in the back of the house and be able to turn the flow on and off as needed.. pretty cool stuff

<-- The front steps are almost done.

It's very exciting to think that soon we'll be able to go in and out our front door! and I bet there will be no trudging through mud to find our newspaper ever again..

<-- Here are the two steps we need to get down to the new level at the front of the house. Aren't they lovely??

In back we have a much larger difference in level, which we'll deal with as a separate project.

Back out front we have the sidewalks getting smoothed down (moments before the rain showed up and left little divets everywhere.. it'll be good for traction.. yeah, that's it.. it's a feature!)

And the driveway is getting a broom-finish which is rougher than everywhere else. That'll make it easier for the mortar to stick when I put down the bricks.

And voila! We have to put doors up next, and touch up some paint.. but we're getting very close to having at least the outside of the house not be an eyesore!