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"general news" Category

Construction Adhesive is Nuclear Glue

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Here’s a photo of my hands after using construction adhesive all day. This photo was taken after washing my hands vigorously for many minutes and then taking a shower and then rubbing parts of my hand strongly until I felt a burning sensation. So, in effect, these hands are as clean as I can get them.


Construction adhesive never comes off.

Construction adhesive never comes off.



Juan Surfo

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thanks to everyone for the congratulatory comments! We´re in Costa Rica right now surfing our asses off. Well, Kari is tanning and beaching and relaxing her ass off, but Mike Cho and Jon Campbell and I are getting two, two-hour sessions in daily. Waves are chest high, super fun and easy and not crowded. It´s a little strange to trade in the work boots for the flip-flops, but other than discussing the merits of certain window materials we haven´t been fretting too much about the house. Hopefully the rain won´t be constant in January.

Nuptially, An Update

Monday, December 1, 2008

After three years of courtship Kari and I have gotten ourselves engaged. I proposed hippy-style on a warm sunny afternoon in a meadow and she graciously accepted. It looks like our project has just widened in scope. Thanks to everyone for your positive encouragement over the last year – we plan on naming our kids after you.

Behind the Shack Door

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Well, although this blog has been silent lately, we have been diligently working. Ever since I got back from France I’ve been trying to get the plans approved by the city. And finally, last Thursday, they were! So after paying them a healthy, rather large, and rather unexpected large fee, we have our plans in hand and are ready to start building. But, uh, actually it’s not that simple. See, we want to put radiant floors in. And that means we need to have these special WarmBoard panels that act as both the subfloor and the holder for the tubes that keep the floor warm. They need to be ordered in special configurations that meet the layout of the house. In order to do that you have to figure out how many zones and loops you’re going to have and generally how your radiant system is going to work. The lumber had to be ordered as well. And we never poured the concrete piers for the inside of our foundation. And since we’re doing a truss roof, that needed to be configured and ordered as well. The rough plumbing, which includes the sewer lines, the waste line, and all the hot and cold water that will run under the floor all needed to be figured out and ordered. The One-and-Only-Greatly-Revered-and-Lauded George Williams was very generous with his time and drew these amazing schematics that showed how every part of our rough plumbing system would work. He then wrote up a manifest with every part we needed and got it priced for us (at a discout I might add). How awesome is that??? We owe George, big time. 

At this point, all of our construction materials are ordered and scheduled and will be delivered in a timely fashion. It’s like we’ve been laboriously pushing a big boulder up to a mountaintop and are about to let it fly down the other side. It’s a strange time to start building since it seems as though all building has stopped and since the holidays are just about to kick in to high gear, but that’s how we do. 

Last week Reggie and I installed our salvaged doors (with a super-expensive jamb added after-the-fact) into the shack. It gives the shack a certain viable presence now. Makes it feel like a real building. Also I dug holes for the piers and built forms for pouring concrete into them. I’ll get them inspected tomorrow and hopefully we can pour concrete into them on Tuesday. That will kick off the floor building spree. After the floors get built I’ll install the plumbing. Then the WarmBoard goes on, including the PEX tubing. After that the walls get built and then finally the roof trusses are tacked on top. I’m hoping to have all this done by February. Heh. Wish us luck.

Bienvenue a France

Monday, October 13, 2008

We made it! Kari made a delicious lasagna last night (after a harried trip to the supermarket where we were unable to find ricotta or mozarella) and we are beginning immediately to slip into our bad habits of staying up late and sleeping till 2pm. 

Hasta la Vista Baby!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oh buddies! In a mad rush we poured the foundation for the new house today. Soooooooo stoked. It’s a long story, but we’re leaving for France first thing tomorrow morning so I’m going to bed. Just wanted the millions of readers of this blog to know that we managed to pour before we left. There is comfort in knowing that we didn’t walk away from two hundred feet of rebar filled trenches that would have undoubtedly have been filled with rainwater by the time of our return. 

Life’s a Ditch

Thursday, October 2, 2008

During my last quiet phase I was enduring a ditch digging marathon. Roughly four days of ditch digging is something I hope I will not have to perform again soon. There is something oddly satisfying about digging however. It must be some primal instinct that we carry on genetically from our evolutionary cousin the cro-gopher. The deeper I dug, the happier I became. In fact it was a bit of a problem in that I was constantly digging my ditches deeper than the prescribed fifteen inches. I’d find myself at a blissful two feet, my mind perversely sated, before jolting back to consciousness slightly annoyed at myself while at the same time weirdly proud. We have plans to install a rain catchment system which will require the interring of an 800 gallon plastic tank. And I look forward to clawing the giant hole required by such a vessel. 

After doing the ditch, we began building the forms for the foundation. This involves: String, wooden stakes, steel rebar, many board-feet of 2×8 lumber, and duplex nails. Everything must end up very straight. This usually means jumping through hoops trying to compensate for how crooked the lumber is. It’s like putting braces on a 40 year-old British citizen. You can tweak and cajole those planks, but it’s never gonna be Tom Cruise’s mouth. Um. That metaphor was whack, sorry. 

During slow times we roofed. After visiting ABC Roofing Supply, Kari and I drove around town looking at roofs. We were soon able to identify most recent roofing jobs by brand, product line and colorway. Naturally we decided on GAF-ELK Timberline Lifetime in “charcoal”. It was a close call over “weathered wood”. The whole roofing industry seems to be centered on making a roof look like something it very clearly is not. We often overheard the phrase “and from far away it actually looks just like antique italian slate!” Which is a complete lie. It looks like three tab asphalt shingles and that’s it. For the shed we picked a slightly less fancy version of the same color since nobody, from any angle, will ever see that roof. The roof on the main house will use a thicker shingle, which will make it look exactly like we roofed our house with Teddy Roosevelt’s eyelids from Mount Rushmore.

We’re leaving for France next Thursday (one week! yikes!) so we’ve been jamming to try to get the foundation poured before then. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so hopefully we can finish the forms before the lot turns into a mud wrestling arena. All sorts of finagling has been going on to try to line up the city, the county, the lumber, the concrete, etc.

Oh! We found an old abandoned septic tank underneath the old slab. That was a surprise. It has a very tomb-like feel and upon opening the hatch I was sure that we’d see a human skeleton inside. Luckily it was devoid of bodies (and poo) but unluckily we now have to fill it with concrete to eliminate it as a structural nuisance. The city and county have been VERY cool about signing off on it before I do the pour.

If everything works out I’ll have photos of the new foundation before we leave for France. Wish us luck!

Raise the Roof

Monday, September 15, 2008

We finally put a roof on the shed. Walking on the rafters scared me, mostly because I’m a big wuss. See the photos below. 

Here’s an update of our progress and plans so far. The old house has been torn down. We are cutting parts of the old foundation off so that we can make room for the new foundation. That will involve a concrete saw, a jack hammer, a demo bar, a sledge hammer and a 20 gallon can of elbow grease.

Next we’ll dig the ditch for the new foundation. I estimate that that will take about four days. Normally that would be a problem, but I have time to kill since the building inspector is at a conference this week. We’re still waiting for estimates from the truss roof dudes and the energy analysis dudes. The truss dudes are going to build trusses for our roof. They deliver them to the site, crane them onto your built up walls and then you just nail them into place. Sweet! The energy analysis dudes look at your plans and tell the Great State of California if your house meets Title 24 energy requirements. What are those requirements? Only people with computers can tell you that, but apparently it’s a pass/fail sort of thing. 

So while we’re waiting for the paperwork, we’re gonna dig ditches. Hopefully this will be the last set of ditches that we dig. We’re going to France in October and I’m hoping to get the foundation poured before we leave. 

There Is Satisfaction in Complete Destruction

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Last week was all about pry bars and sledgehammers and demolition. In fact, the one tool that has probably been responsible for the most work done so far is something called a demolition bar. It’s a very long pry bar with one end bent at fifteen degrees and the other at ninety. Bert says that many things will try to resist the demo bar, but none succeed. Whatever the demo bar addresses eventually succumbs. It is heavy, so it can knock things down. It is long, so it provides the leverage to pull things up or apart. It is hard, so things like concrete or nails do not impede its path. The sawzall used to be my favorite tool, but the demo bar has dethroned it. 

After the roof came off the rest of the house fell quite readily. Bert came over with Scott to help remove the shed roof from the kitchen. That happened so quickly that we decided to take the side and rear walls down as well. Ironically, we broke for labor day and then I returned on Tuesday to take down the laundry room and the front facade. Working alone is three times slower than working with two other people. Weird how the math works out on that huh? When Scott and Bert were helping we took down three walls and a really heavy roof section in half a day. Alone I took down one wall and one little four by eight foot room in about six hours. That left us with just the car port, which Ed Botello the hauling guy pulled down via a rope tied to his truck. Ed deserves an entire post so I’ll sing his praises later. For now I’ll describe him as a compact bulldozer of a man who gets things done like nobody I’ve ever seen. 

The carport was the last of the original structure and once it fell we were left with two giant piles of debris. One pile was “clean” and one was “dirty”. Dirty goes straight to landfill. Clean is recycled and most of it eventually ends up as mulch. The dump has giant piles of different grades of mulch that you can buy for a low price. I’m positive that some of the lumber of the old house will eventually end up back in the garden.

While taking down one of the walls I split open a piece of wood and found a bunch of termites. Man those guys are tenacious. It seems like every wall and most of the ceiling was spongy from their efforts. Somehow they manage to eat most of the wood while leaving a fairly rigid structure behind. It’s as if they know that if they ate completely through the house would fall down and they’d ruin their meal ticket. You can see photos of the termites and their handiwork in the gallery below. 

Tearing down the front of the house brought out the neighbors. Every hour or so I’d see someone stop in front, mouth agape and with a “dang!” expression on their face.  I met Kevin from down the street – a woodworking teacher and carpenter. And I met Jake from across the street, a nice guy and also a carpenter. My next door neighbor is a carpenter too. And a few doors down is a roofer. For such an anti-growth town there sure are a lot of dudes in the building trades living here. Everyone has been really cool, offering advice and generally being stoked on the project. 

I’m putting together a video from different stages of the tear down. Until it is ready, please enjoy these photos of recent interest.

Roof B Gone

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today was going to be a mellow day. I did a dump run first thing in the morning then came back to the house to strip off some more roofing materials. It was hot and I was planning on starting the weekend early. Then Bert came by. Bert is so awesome. After working a full day and then having a midday surf session he came by the house to help out. I had already loaded up the truck to make another dump run so I felt a little guilty asking him to help when I wasn’t even going to be around. But… I guess I’m just a slave driver… so I asked him to take a crack at the newly exposed roof decking. On the drive to the dump I kept having visions of poor Bert dropping through the termite ridden decking down twelve feet and smashing head first onto the piano, er, workbench. 

By the time I returned Bert was still alive and the main roof decking was gone. He had singlehandedly stripped the roof! Well, that meant the game was on. Bert and Kari and I then went hog wild, tearing down the rafters, balancing on the ceiling joists and prying off whatever wouldn’t cause the structure to collapse beneath us. So fun. Luckily, I mean, thanks to keen planning, nobody lost a finger or an eye. We removed the entire roof, thus accomplishing the hardest and most dangerous part of the house demolition in one afternoon. We also got our demo permit just in time to stay legal. 

The termite damage inside the house was extensive. Some boards lifted right off the nails as if they were made of paper mache. A pry bar would easily penetrate 2×4 studs sending me off balance at the unexpected lack of resistance. See the gallery below for some of the more affected spots. 

Here’s a gallery of some recent pics from the project: