Sunday, December 23, 2012

Landscaping becomes reality

About the only thing left to do in our house rebuilding project, after preparing the garage floor and giving it an epoxy  finish, was to complete the landscaping. So far we had seen the building of two retaining walls  out back, the digging of a rain garden in the front, and the burying of pipes under the driveway and in the yard to bring water under the drive and from three downspouts into the rain garden. We had also seen the grinding of a big stump near the kitchen door.

Last week, however, a real transformation took place, as our landscaper Greg brought in trees, shrubs, and sod to fill in the landscape plan. Here he is digging a hole by the kitchen steps for the large yaupon holly lying on the ground and covered with red berries. It replaces a tall holly tree that stood in the same spot, but which burned up in the fire.

In the next picture, Greg and his helper are planting a sweet bay magnolia on the edge of the driveway and the rain garden. Note the holly's berry-covered branches that got into the picture on the right.

After a few more plants, Greg was then ready to install the zoysia turf, which arrived at 7:00 one cold morning last week. Here we see one of the two stacks of sod waiting for these two workers to prepare the ground and lay out the turf. To the right of the far end of the porch and behind a big oak trunk is a holly tree that survived the fire.

The next picture below shows the turf and other plants that have been put in place after the picture above. You can also see the pathways formed by the turf, which also surrounds the rain garden on three sides, as well as the bare branches of a yellowwood tree on the near side of the rain garden (see also the next picture). Eventually additional plants will be placed in the rain garden and in other parts of the yard.

The picture below shows the yellowwood tree on the left side of the screen. That tree is also a survivor of the fire, but it had to be temporarily moved to a new location last March to make room for the large dumpsters that were filled with the remains of the house that burned last January as it was demolished. I made many trips with 18 milk jugs of water to pour on the transplanted tree to keep it alive, until it could take root in its new location. Now it is back in approximately the same position as before the fire. The tree itself is hard to see, but you can see its shadow extending onto the driveway.

Beyond the driveway and among the small trees, three deer are making their way across the yard, a regular occurrence in our front yard.

Finally, here is a picture of an interesting phenomenon
I noticed on the afternoon of the winter solstice last Friday. Just before the sun set behind the wooded ridge across the Middle Oconee River from our house, it was shining into the bay window of our bedroom, through the door into the laundry room, and into the kitchen. If the alignment had been just a little different, it would have continued through the breakfast nook and out into the front yard. Unfortunately, I cannot claim that the alignment happens only one day a year. Actually, I didn't get my picture until the next day, the first day of winter.

With all the major parts of the project finished, and only a few minor electrical and carpentry items to finish, we think we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks a lot like the bright light in this picture. Way back during the last winter, before we demolished and started the rebuilding, I was often asked when we expected to be (back) in out new (old) house. I was hoping for October, but I answered, "I'll be happy if we get there by Christmas." Well, it's almost Christmas, and we're there. To celebrate, I went out - also on the solstice - and bought a new flat-screen TV. Now that we've proved that we can do without television for a year, I'm ready to see Masterpiece Theatre on a big screen again and not just online reruns on a 17 inch computer screen.

First, however, we have a little unpacking and settling in to finish. Then we'll be ready to plan an open house, and you can come see for yourself what our new house looks like.

Merry Christmas, and a happy new year!  --oc and manita

Monday, December 17, 2012

Putting a new face on some old concrete

In the last blog post we saw the results of some new concrete being poured for a small patio by the basement door and for two concrete aprons: one in front of the garage door and one between the end of the driveway and Three Oaks Drive. This time we look closer at the problem of the garage floor and its many scratches, gouges, and pits -  the result of damage caused by a powerful demolishing machine striking and scraping concrete seriously weakened by high temperature from the fire, especially under our burning car.

We also needed to refinish in some fashion the basement floor of the workshop. The answer was to grind down and smooth out the concrete, in preparation for filling in the pits and painting the new surface. The first two pictures show the grinding process in the garage.

Attached to the green grinder on the right is a large shop-vac that collects the resulting dust. In the next picture another workman uses a smaller vacuum and hand-operated grinder to work in smaller areas, such as the garage's two closets.

After preparing the surface, blue-gray epoxy paint is rolled onto the surface, and then black chips are immediately  broadcast onto the sticky surface. The picture below shows the process, and the tossed chips can be seen in front of the worker's hand and above the light switch.

This method has been found to provide an even distribution, as can be seen in the the resulting surface.

The picture below shows how the three men worked together, spreading the paint by roller and brush, and sowing the black flecks over it. The paint is made by mixing two components together, which form a hard chemical bond in a matter of two hours or so. Thus, it has to be used up and the chips applied without wasting any time.

After drying overnight, two coats of clear finish are rolled and painted over the flecked surface, and the result is allowed to cure 3-5 days before venturing on it by foot or by vehicle.

Finally, this outside shot, taking after four days, shows the final result, and tomorrow (Tuesday) we'll be ready to park our cars inside.

In the meantime, a great deal has happened in the landscaping department. We'll have extensive coverage in the next post. Till then . . .  --oc

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moving and driveway work

As promised at the end of my last post two weeks ago, our movers came on Monday, 26 November, and moved the heavy stuff from our temporary residence of ten months into our new home. Below they are using their special equipment to move a heavy, steel chest of drawers into a storage area. That rig allows them to put most of the weight on their shoulders, and it really helped when they moved a big, homemade desk weighing more that twice what this piece weighs.

The heavy stuff included several queen-size mattresses, one of which we put on a new bed we had already had delivered. Here is what the new bedroom suit looks like.

We have slept on this bed since 26 November and eaten most of our meals in our new home since our official moving day, 30 November 2012. We have been thankful, however, for many holiday eating events and generous meals from neighbors, which have kept us from starving to death or eating out even more.

Meanwhile, during that same last week in November, work continued outside on landscaping and the installation of concrete and gravel in the driveway. Here you can look over the wall that connects to the ramp from the back deck and see concrete being poured in the driveway.

Workers are spreading the fresh ready-mix over an apron about 10-12 feet in front of the garage. I'm hoping that it will help keep car tires from tracking in grit and gravel from the driveway.

In the next shot, workers are in the early stages of working the concrete and smoothing out the surface.

Concrete was also poured to form a patio outside the backdoor of the basement and an apron on the part of driveway that is on county right-of-way (20 feet), as seen below.

The concrete slab inside the garage was one of the few things that survived from the fire, but it did not survive unscathed. As the picture shows below with our Cruze, the monster machine that devoured the ruins of our house also left lots of scratches and pits in the garage floor. Next week Certa-Pro Painters will grind down the floor, fill remaining gouges and pits, and refinish the floor with an epoxy paint. They will also put a similar finish on the floor of the basement workshop, which received similar damage during demolition.

Finally, our tile man, John, was working today, putting grout in the joints of our kitchen backsplash. It is formed by white tiles and a stripe of black slate tiles just above the granite countertop.

When he finishes that up next week, one more loose end will be tied up, and soon we'll be able to concentrate on getting settled into our old/new life in our new/old house.

Bye now.  --oc

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bathroom vanity and more landscaping work

We send you greetings from our new house. No, we're not fully moved in, nor is the house fully completed. But after a separation of over three weeks, my desktop computer has finally been reunited with my at&t gateway and its internet connection. After two posts to my blog from Tucson, I'm finally writing one from my regular computer in our new house.

Upon returning from our bike tour in Tucson, we were pleased to find that a good bit of progress had been made in finishing our new house. The oak flooring in the living-dining area had received its final coats, tile floors in the kitchen and basement had gotten their grout, and the kitchen cabinets were much closer to being finished. Moreover, work was beginning on the landscaping and the master bathroom vanity.

In preparation for landscape work, we had also finally gotten rid of the industrial size dumpster, which for months had marred every picture I took of the front of the house. Here's the way it looks now:

Our cabinet maker Paul Pringle has not only brought the kitchen cabinets a lot closer to completion, but he has also finished work on the vanity in the master bathroom. Here he checks the base cabinets that he has just installed. They were now ready for the plumbers to install the sinks and faucets.

In the picture below, the sinks and plumbing are installed, and the cabinets await the addition of doors.

Above the sinks is a large cabinet that Paul made to enclose the twin medicine cabinets and hold the lights. In the picture below, Paul and his dad are holding it over the sinks, so that I can check the height.

And in this final shot, the mirrored medicine cabinets have been inserted, and the whole installation awaits only the electrician to install the lights and receptacle in the cabinet.

Meanwhile, our landscaper has been busy rearranging the front and back yards. We will have a small concrete patio outside the backdoor on the basement level, which will also provide a place for firewood storage. Here workers are building a wall to keep the dirt above the patio from washing down on it.

There is also a wall coming from the ramp that leads from the back deck to the garage area and then down to the backyard.

In the frontyard, Greg the landscaper is building a raingarden, which will catch the runoff from front downspouts, as well as what comes down from the frontyard and the neighbors' yard, which will be chaneled under the driveway. First, however, he had to eliminate a large stump from a winged elm that was cut down in the summer of 2011.

The stump grinding machine has a large saw blade that passes back and forth over the stump, until it has been cut completely away, bit by bit.

With the stump out of the way, Greg and his coworker can lay out the piping for the rain garden, checking the elevation and fall on each pipe. On the far side of the drive, the uphill side, is a box drain to catch the runoff from the upper corner of our yard and from the neighbors' lot and pass it under the driveway.

The white pipe and the two black ones from the right, which will bring water from downspouts, lead into the low spot in the middle, which will be filled with gravel. Off to the left will be an outflow pipe, which will carry off excess water when the rain garden fills up.

While the above activity was taking place, we were starting to move in items besides telephones and computers, and to have deliveries of new furniture made to our new house. We've already taken delivery on a new bedroom suit, and today (Saturday) we had two workers cleaning floors and windows. Next week we will have professional movers bring over all the big, heavy stuff that we don't want to move ourselves or ask our friends to move. Then we will have to cart over all the boxes and smaller stuff, as well as a lot of replacement items that were sent to us at the behest of the insurance company. By the end of next week we will be out of our temporary residence and living in our new house. It's almost time to get excited!

It took almost a year from the date of the fire to get our new house built. And I think we'll be lucky if we get fully settled in by the end of 2013. We hope you will plan to come see us and our new abode soon.
--oc and manita

Saturday, November 10, 2012

More carpet, landscaping, and my office

During the past week, workers have again been very busy at work on our house. Before we left town for our bike tour in Tucson, we saw carpet being laid in the loft and on the two sets of stairs.

Here the installer is working in the loft above the dining room. Below another worker is in the garage, cutting carpet strips to go on the stairs to the loft, 

while two others do the installing in the second photo.

 On Tuesday we had a long session with our landscaper, Greg Denzin, going over the landscape plan and the many plants he presented for possible siting in our front yard. 

He said that he was intentionally showing us the high end of plantings that he would propose. We had to tell him that our budget would not permit all of them, and that we would have to start small with the infrastructure and some plants, and then add more plants.later as needed and feasible.

Finally, here is a picture of my office and its present furniture, as described in my last post, no. 32:

It's a smaller post this week, but I'm sure there will be more pictures to take and more news to report next time, after we return to town. and then the real moving in will begin. Until then . . .   --oc

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A very, very busy week, with an uncertain outcome

Every week seems to get busier and busier, with complications from being out of town a lot in the early part of November and not being able to use our usual computer and connections because of moving the telephone line to the new house. In fact, I wrote most of the following while camping last weekend on Sapelo Island, and now we are out of town again on a bike tour in Tucson, and I'm trying to get my blog caught up.

During the last week we were rushing to get our new house close enough to a finished state to get even a conditional Certificate of Occupancy, which was one of the requirements for getting a new homeowners insurance policy. It will be conditional because landscaping must be included, and while we have hired a landscaper and have a landscaping plan, that process is just beginning. A new homeowners policy is needed because Safeco, our former insurer, chose not to renew our policy, which was to expire on Nov. 3. So, that was the reason for the rush.

Another document needed for the new policy was a certificate of security and fire protection, and thus our security system provider, Allan Hardigree of Allan’s
Electronics, was busy last week installing the security and fire protection equipment for which the house was prewired. That installation also required the establishment of our telephone service at the new residence, but more about that later.

In the meantime, our cabinet maker Paul continued the finishing and installation of the kitchen cabinets. The base cabinets had to be installed first, so that they could be measured and a template made for the granite countertops. Then the island had to be situated and attached to the floor. An electrical cable and receptacle for the range was then installed, and the range was – with some difficulty – moved into position in the island.

Meanwhile, I was on the phone with the phone company, trying to find out why our phone service had not been transferred to our new house, although it had already been disconnected from our temporary residence. A puzzling part of my conversations with AT&T, our land line provider, was that their computer showed the transfer had been completed, but I could see unconnected wires coming out of the house and the likewise unattached line from AT&T coming out of the ground. I eventually arranged (or so I thought!) to have service at both the old and the new residence.
On Tuesday afternoon the granite countertops were installed.

 And then the kitchen sink was attached.

Later, a plumber connected the sink to the water and drain lines.

When we left Thursday morning to go camping on Sapelo Island, however, the phone service at our temporary residence had not been restored, and I feared that the new service would not be connected either. So, I called At&T again and it took over half an hour, talking to three sets of employees and telling them that if we didn’t get phone service at the new house by Friday, it was going to cost us $1000 for a temporary vacant building policy, plus renter’s insurance, and none of that $1000 would be refunded. If that happened, I told them, we would be looking somewhere else for internet service, and when we upgraded to smart phones, AT&T would not be considered.
That (plus my evident ire) got somebody moving, and someone finally figured out that while the service had been switched on at that address, no one had checked to see if there was a network interface on the house—even though I had said all along that there were wires coming out of the house and out of the ground, but there was no box there to connect them too. It seems that it takes a special order to get the box, the network interface, installed, but they promised that that would be done by noon on Friday, and they would call our security people to let them know. I then told the latter, and they promised to fax the security and fire certificate to the insurance people Friday afternoon.

It's Friday afternoon, 2 November, and I’m writing this on Sapelo Island, where we have no mobile phone service, and I don’t know whether any of this has happened. So this is a real cliff-hanger, and we won’t learn the outcome until Monday when we get home. [We're now in Tucson on 8 Nov., and the cliff-hanger was resolved in our favor: we are insured under a new - if expensive -  homeowners policy.]

Now we have begun to move into our new home, though we've not had much progress so far. Above are two of the first four items we moved in from a furniture consignment shop, a living room sofa and a pie safe for the dining room; the other two are book cases to go in my office. In addition, my office in the basement, where we finally got our phone and internet service, also includes a card table, chair, internet gateway, and two phones.

Nearby, we had an inspection issue arise. A basement room that could be used as a bedroom, because it had a closet, failed to meet code: there was no adequate egress from the room other than the door. There were two possible solutions: (1) install a larger window and (2) lose the closet. The first could not be accomplished in time to get the needed temporary Certificate of Occupancy last week. So the anser was to close up the closet door from the bedroom and open up another one from the the den. And that's what our builder George is doing in this picture. I learned in taking this shot, by the way, that one should not surprise one's builder with a flash when he is pulling on an electrical cable. Sorry, George!

 Well, that’s a lot for one post. I have more pictures from this week, but I’ll have to save them for blog post no. 33, which I promise to send out the first chance I get. Now it's time to go biking.  --oc

Saturday, October 27, 2012

We're getting close - and very busy!

This has been one of the busiest weeks since framing almost six months ago. On Monday Paul the cabinet maker began moving our kitchen cabinets from his workshop to our new kitchen.

At this point, he has put only the lower cabinets in place, so that the granite countertop folks can make a template for the countertops, which will be installed next week. Here you can see the sink cabinet in front of the double window and the dishwasher space to its right. The gap in the island is for the range, and in the background are some of the upper cabinets and the refrigerator. Below is the view in the opposite direction.

The doorway beyond the island leads to the dining room. The refrigerator will go in the big cabinet on the right, and the one on the left will contain the microwave above and drawers below. Upper cabinets will be installed above these units and to the left and right.

In the dining room appliances are waiting to be installed in the kitchen and laundry room.

Other things were also happening. On Monday the painters were back to pain the inside of the garage. On Monday and Tuesday our security and satellite TV provider, Allan's Electronics, installed the monitored security system, which is now in operation.

On Wednesday we moved in our first pieces of furniture, a large sofa and a small pie safe. The sofa will go on this side of the room divider behind the pie safe, which will move into the dining room. The other pieces moved in were two large bookcases, which cover one wall of my office. Under the window below are 16 adjustable shelves for the bookcases.

Also in mid week, carpet was installed in four rooms, including the master bedroom.

Finally, on the outside workers were busy making and installing gutters. Here they are making a long gutter to be installed across the front of the porch.

Yesterday, Friday, we met with our landscaper to see and discuss his proposed layouts and plant selections, which he and we will continue to refine next week. Also next week countertops and appliances will be installed and hooked up. We hope soon to get at least a conditional Certificate of Occupancy and begin some serious moving in. It's still been less than six months since framing began, though it seems longer. Now, however - to coin a phrase - I think I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Take care.  --oc

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kitchen cabinets finally on the way

This past week we got vinyl floor covering installed in the master and guest bathrooms, but the real story is the staining and finishing of the kitchen cabinets. Below is a shot of the new vinyl in the master bathroom.

The vanity, with sinks and medicine cabinets will go on the left wall; the tub/shower unit, on the right. I showed the guest bathroom base cabinet and medicine cabinet in the last blog.

The main feature of this week's blog is the finishing of the kitchen cabinets, a process that is going on in Paul Pringle's workshop. Here Paul and Manita are looking over the stained doors and drawer fronts, while various cabinets are stacked all over the workshop and outside. Below is a picture of the cabinet doors outside and inside in the sun. In the upper right of the picture below right is a cabinet with three drawers showing. They will later have finished front panels attached to them (see below). To the left of that cabinet is a large one that will surround the refrigerator.

The flash brings out the warmer colors above, while the lack of flash in the next picture of the same scene reveals cooler, darker tones. Both pictures show off the grain of the red and white oak.

These panels and the pieces in the other pictures below have all received two coats of clear finish in addition to the stain. The picture below shows off more of the grain and a knot in one of the panels that will be fastened to the front of drawers like those shown above.

Finally, the pictures below show off the oak grain in more door panels and on the fronts of three special drawers that will run diagonally into the northwest corner of the kitchen. Notice in the right picture how Paul has pieced the two parts of the drawer fronts together with matching grain.

On Monday, Paul will start assembling cabinets, moving them over to our new house, and installing them in the kitchen. By Wednesday he hopes to have at least the base cabinets together, so that the granite people can measure for countertops to cover the cabinets and the island in the middle of the room. By Halloween we hope that all the cabinets and the countertops will be installed and appliances ready to use, because we are due to move in shortly after that.

Before that can happen, however, we also need to get the remaining lights installed, along with the garage door and all plumbing fixtures, and get the remaining painting done. We must also tie up loose ends that are too numerous to mention. We will probably move in with many things yet to be done, but maybe by Thanksgiving we'll be basically moved into our new house. We'll let you know.  --oc