Sunday, March 23, 2008

Our first house-iversary!

That's right.. a whole year has passed since we bought Chez Neumansky! After closing up the very last gaping hole in the side of the house, I thought I'd spend some time outside on this gorgeous spring day and take stock of where we are.

From here, I can actually see a lot of our progress:

  • There's not a giant pile of trash or weeds filling the yard, the porch or the house.
  • The crumbling pile of bricks has been replaced by a modern, strong foundation.
  • The other, taller crumbling pile of bricks has reconfigured itself into a driveway (which I can sorta make out through through the open fabulously gorgeous garage door)
  • The back porch, which we had to duck under to get to the back door, is now 9' up, and the back door is in a brand new earthquake-resistant shear wall.
  • The ground floor, which had about 4 different levels - some of which were concrete, some dirt, some linoleum - none of which would conform to modern height requirements, is now a nice, flat, 9' tall rough space.
  • I can see the cleanout for the drainage, which runs all the way around the perimeter and under the slab to a sump pump, which has been doing a great job of keeping everything dry through this very rainy season.
  • The beginnings of our first floor are framed in: a bedroom, bathroom and hallway, and then our garage/workshop.
  • And finally, our awesome patio, which I'm sitting on writing this!
Now for the stuff you can't see from here:
  • The house is fit for human habitation. I won't go into too many details.. let's just say it's clean enough to shower, eat and breathe in, and if you missed the time when it wasn't, take a look here.
  • As I mentioned at the beginning, there are no more gaping holes in the side of the house - no more "walls" of tarp, no more 2' gaps at the bottom of the doors because we lowered the ground level.. Our doors should be here in another week or two, but until then, Dan made us some ghetto-fabulous plywood doors (you can see one in the pic above), which make a remarkable difference in how nice the house looks.. plus, we can actually leave a pair of pliers in the garage without worrying that there are 6 different holes in the house big enough for a person to get in.
  • The radiant heat for the first floor living area is embedded in the slab, and Dan's inside now finishing up the floorplans for the top 2 floors so the radiant plans for the rest of the house can be generated.
  • The main sewer line from the house to the street has been redone, which is a city requirement when a house is sold - we have another 25 years (once the plumber gets the papers into the city, that is) before we have to have it inspected again.
  • We have 200 sparkly amps of modern electrical service coming into the house, with a subpanel on each floor.
  • We have new front stairs that are not in danger of disintegrating under a person walking up them.
Looking at the plans for 2008, we're making pretty good progress. We still have 3 1/2 months before the anniversary of actually living here.. by that time we hope to have a functional bathroom downstairs, which means all the plumbing, wiring, and heat for the whole house has to be in place so we can close in some walls (as willing as our friends are to dive into anything for us, they still seem to be a little finicky about wanting walls around the bathroom.. go figure).

And here we are.. one year down, 65 to go!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

we've got the Power!

200 Amps of it!!

With 3 floors of living space, plus a workshop with a plasma cutter and welder, our rickety 100 amp service was not gonna cut it.. Plus, only the middle floor had anything resembling modern wiring, or working outlets for that matter.

We knew we needed to bring more power to the house, and since there was an existing subpanel on the middle floor already, it worked out very nicely to have a separate subpanel for each floor.

<-- Here's the subpanel in the garage/workshop.

Not sure if you can tell, but all the circuits are labeled correctly!! Ok, so there's only the one for the sump pump so far.. but it's very exciting that there's not a long list of wrong mappings to sort through, and since we'll write down each circuit as we run it, it'll always be right. For the rest of our lives!!! (if you don't think that's exciting, my explaining wouldn't help

<-- Here's the new main panel, with a shiny new meter too!

Now, if only that would stop spinning so fast we'd be in good shape. It's starting to warm up a little, and haven't had jackhammers running all month, so this was the first month our electric bill inched down a little.. but it's still waay higher than it should be. By next winter we'll have the radiant heat up and running, so all our space heaters can be retired and donated away. In the meantime, I stand by the decision that the our crazy electric bill is well worth tradeoff for not being able to see my breath in the bathroom in the morning.

Here's Dan framing in the roughout for the subpanel on the top floor -->

<-- And here's the subpanel for our master bedroom suite, aka the top floor.

It's kinda nice that when our bedroom and office are done, if we blow a circuit while say, both blow drying our hair and microwaving hot pockets in the bathroom, we won't have to go down one or two flights of stairs to reset it!

We tried to get a permit to start running the wiring and installing outlets and lights downstairs, but no luck. We need to work on the plans and try again.. maybe next week..

Thursday, March 13, 2008

a half bathroom??

I can't tell you how excited I am about the work Dan did over the weekend!! we totally have the beginnings of a bathroom downstairs!

I'm tempted to install the toilet soon, just so we could really call it a half-bath, even though it'll be awhile till we get to the finishing touches. Like walls..

I guess it wouldn't make much sense to have the toilet until we get the water lines run.. and if we're going to do that, we might as well go ahead and run some electricity too.. and by that there no sense not going the full monte and having walls and a floor.. maybe a sink too..

Well, it's still exciting. This is the beginning of the structure and renovation of our house. The foundation, and even the driveway was really just fixing what was here so we could get started. This feels like really getting started.

And Dan got to play with his toys!

This laser level has saved our sanity on many occasions (when we get to the kitchen I'll tell you about the 2 different types of people in the world: people who want the cabinets to be level, and people who want the cabinets to look level.. ne'er the twain shall meet)

Once the walls were up, we measured and chalked out where all the fixtures will be.. turns out the plumber that did the work with the foundation job put the stub-out
for the toilet a few inches further from the wall than it was supposed to be (the green lawn chair in the last picture is our stand-in for the toilet), which in a bathroom this size might as well have been a mile.. so we're going to have to move it. So much for paying other people to do the work..

The framing nailer made such short work of the walls that Dan went through and put blocking in for the grab bars. We're making this bathroom as ADA compliant as we can in such a small space.. When we're too old to get up to our master bedroom suite in the attic we're planning to move in down there and live out the rest of our days, and we want to make it as comfortable as possible for our parents in the meantime.

And now the hallway looks like a hallway :)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

it holds the car

The pattern gets a little wonky at the end there, but it's done!!

Instead of renting a vibrating plate compactor to settle the sand we just jumped up and down a lot and stomped on all the bricks.

Then I drove the car over it a couple times to really settle everything in. I'm sure I'll need to resweep it with sand one or two more times, but hey - it totally held up the car, and that's pretty much all I can ask for.

<-- You can see the new bricks on the bottom right here, because they're still wet from washing. That last little corner took awhile to try to get it to hold to the pattern.

Speaking of pattern.. Dan doesn't think I should mention it, because if it had worked it should be obvious.. but since we had so many different colors I wanted to make a plaid driveway! does it look plaid at all??

And then I parked the car on it, and you pretty much can't see it at all.. since we almost never drive this is about the most you'll ever be able to see! sigh..

Meanwhile, Dan was inside framing in the new bathroom!!

More on that exciting development tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

midweek brick update

I managed to get home with a little bit of daylight left, and was determined to finish the driveway. Wouldn't you know it, I RAN OUT OF BRICKS!!! A whole chimney and a foundation, and I didn't have enough bricks for a measly little driveway!!?

I filled the sand in on what was there though, and it's amazing how finished it looks!

You basically just sweep sand over it to fill in the gaps, and it acts as mortar and holds everything in place. Plus, it instantly looks like it's been here 100 years!

So close, and yet so far away..

One of the neighbors said she has a pile of bricks in her backyard that I could have if I dug them out.. so it looks like this Saturday is another powerwashing day..

Monday, March 3, 2008

She's a brick.. layer

It's finally brick time!!

I started off Saturday by sorting all the bricks into stacks by color and size - there are a ton of different shapes and colors. Most of the people who know what they're doing told us we'd be much better off buying pavers, because a driveway made of varying size bricks was likely not to last long. Aside from being stubborn, I just can't conceive of the waste of having a chimney-full of bricks at home, and buying brand-new ones for a driveway. But I did decide to lay them in sand instead of mortar. In general, you want the mortar to be softer than the bricks so that if anything breaks (because of settling, uneven loads, or just bad installation) it's the mortar and not the bricks. Since we have old, soft bricks, and I've never laid bricks before, I decided using sand instead of mortar was the way to go.

The concrete was poured low enough to have an inch of mortar and a standard size brick, which would be flush with the sidewalk. After I swept out the driveway, we snapped a chalk line an inch up, which would be the surface of the sand.

The woman at the store told me a 100lb bag of sand would cover an area of 100 square feet, at 1" deep. With a 135 square foot driveway, plus filling in the spaces, I figured 3 bags would be way more than enough.

I planned to pour and screed about a third of the area, lay the bricks, then do the next area..

well.. it turns out a 100lb bag of sand covers an area of 10 square feet at 1" deep. That's quite a difference!!

Back in the truck, back to the hardware store, and back home to unload 20 50lb bags of sand .. by about 4pm I was finally ready to start laying bricks!

I went with a standard basket weave pattern, and it worked out that I only needed one cut brick every other row.

I leveled the rows from side to side, and tried to make sure that the slop toward the house was even.. Since the bricks were so different in shape and size, having an even bed of sand to lay them on didn't really save much time. I still had to pour extra sand on, or scrape some out of the way for each brick

By the time it was too dark to see on Saturday night I think I had 2 and a half rows done.

Sunday morning, I got out there early and progress was slow, but steady.

I was joking about it with neighbors, but I really did need to re-estimate how long it would take because so many people stopped by to chat! It was a sunny, nice weekend and everyone was out, and everyone is so friendly here.. let's just say by about 4 o'clock on Sunday I was seriously regretting my little motivational plan of parking my motorcycle in the garage to be sure I'd be done with the driveway by Monday morning..

I brought some lights out and worked as long as I could, but it got to the point that I could barely move. My knees were actually bleeding and there was no way I was going to get done anyway. So I threw a piece of thick plywood down, took a long hot shower, and sat down to write a post.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Patio is Done!!!

Well Sorta Anyways...still needs one more cleaning and then they are going to seal it. Then we need to hook up the gas lines to the fire pit and BBQ and re-route the wires for the lights, and , and,...

Here the guys from Icon are making the final preparations to pour the patio. They've got the drain rock in and the under slab drainage and the plastic vapor barrier and then the re-bar. All this drainage is tied into our sump pit for the foundation. We hope that the sump pump can handle the extra flow.

Here's the obligatory shot of them pumping the concrete. They used the same make-it-as-you-need-it truck as last time. This time the truck driver seemed to pay more attention to the mix and it came out much more consistent in its composition.
We had to go run some errands so we didn't get any shots of them stamping in the pattern and coloring the concrete....

But here's a shot of it all done!!!! Yahoo! doesn't it look so great! Look, no expansion joints in the patio. They did the pattern deeper and we are hoping its enough to stop any major cracking.

Here's the other side. The retaining wall/benches are a blue gray and the patio floor is a sage green.
The lights are on in this shot but its still too light out to see them.

Here's the all over shot. I had to crawl way up high at the corner of the yard to get it all in.
How does it look? We are super excited about it. Can't wait to have a fire in the fire pit.
Looks like a pool with a swim up bar doesn't it?

Here's a close up of the texture of the patio floor.
Looks good doesn't it?
Kinda a sage green right?

Here's a closer-up shot of the benches. Nice blue-grey color and a nice texture.
This shot was taken at dusk so the lights are starting to have some effect.

A closer up shot of the stairs at dusk. We think we goofed a bit on the light here in the stairs. It does not light up enough of the stairs. We will have to figure out a way to light them better that does not light up too much of the patio.

This was about as dark as we could get it and still have the fricken camera focus well. The lights are on and starting to look pretty good don't ya think?

Here's a dusky overhead shot of our sunken patio. Not really in focus but it gives you an idea of how much the patio is lit.
It's exactly what we wanted. Just soft low level light for night time parties.

That's it for now. Irene has been working all weekend on the bricks in the driveway. Hopefully our next post will be all about the driveway and how great it looks!