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