A few friends have asked about how the home renovation has been going. I figured since I already have this platform it’d be an easy way to throw some notes and photos together for folks to take a look at. If you’re looking for SLC content, STOP, this is not the post for you. If you’re curious about the house, read on … I’ll update this post as progress continues on the house.
A little history on the house; it was built for my father-in-law’s parents in 1955. Grandpa Robert (the Original) passed away in 1979(?) and grandma Charlaine in 2003. Afterward, the house passed on to their kids. Eventually Uncle Guy became the sole owner and it remained with him as a rental for a number of years.
Stephanie and I had agreed when we had a child we’d want to be closer to her dad, Bob (the Second). A few years ago conditions were right and we arranged to purchase the house from Uncle Guy. Stephanie and I continued working in the LA area and in 2015 we had our daughter Ellie. We weren’t quite ready to make the move down South until Ellie was about 1. Ellie was starting to get more mobile and I was about ready for a change of pace.
Everyone tells you about having kids – “it’s the best thing that can happen to you,” “your life will change;” it’s all true and I couldn’t appreciate or understand just how true those words were until it happened to me. I found myself less engaged and wanting to be home more often. So the decision to leave work and take a temporary pause was both easy and difficult.
Temporary pause – the house was built in the 50s and for the most part, it was still original. It had been in rental status for a good number of years and time had been a bit hard on the house. We knew we’d need to do a whole-house renovation before moving in so we took my “temporary pause” as an opportunity for me to have that change of pace and get back to “doing something with my hands.” I’d never done any renovating before but Bob had spent a good many years as a general contractor, “retiring” in 2005. Since then he’s gone on to help build another home (Uncle Rich’s) and work on several other major construction and car projects, not much of a retirement!
As with the SLC, the house renovation has been planned in phases:
- Phase 1: Laundry, kitchen, dining room, living room, Man Cave, and back bedroom. This includes just about all plumbing, electrical, gas, and windows. The roof had already been replaced and is still in good condition (thank God). Make the place habitable so we can move in.
- Phase 2: Extend the two front bedrooms, build an en suite for the master bedroom.
- Phase 3: Everything else we couldn’t get to in phases 1 or 2; landscaping.
- Phase X (aka probably never): Garage
As of this writing we’re about 10 weeks into phase 1. During phase 1 we’ve camped out in Bob’s guest room so he’s got some incentive for us to get this phase completed asap! I’ve been “encouraged” by my wife to complete Phase 1 asap – that’s most of why there’s been precious little time available for the SLC since its arrival. I’ve continued to slowly peck away at things as time has permitted but I’m hoping the car updates will become much more frequent once we complete Phase 2.
Bob’s not much for rest; we moved all our belongings out of our house in Torrance and drove down on a Friday. Saturday morning, Bob woke me up and we were elbows deep into demoing parts of the garage. That was the start to my San Diego “easy living.”
A few before photos:
What we’ve done so far:
- Pulled down all the walls between the kitchen, mud room, pantry, and back bathroom. The back bathroom was a full bath – we weren’t quite sure why you’d choose to shower in the side of the house opposite the bedrooms, so we tossed the shower and down-sized the bathroom to a half bath.
- The water heater was also in the mud room; deep six’ed the water heater and relocated plumbing to put the heater in the garage. Newly opened space is now a walk-in pantry.
- We’ve shifted the wall separating the mud room (now laundry room) from the kitchen back about 18 inches; opens up the kitchen a smidge. That was a lot of work for 18 inches!
- The kitchen and dining area were separated from the living room by a full wall with a pocket door separating these areas. Going with a more open room concept, we pulled down the load-bearing wall and replaced it with an in-ceiling beam. Ask me about the adventure we had pushing up that beam into the ceiling if you’re curious!
- The kitchen is now arranged in two functional areas; one half the kitchen is the cooking side and the other is for baking.
- Converted the former den into my Man Cave. It’s the one thing about the house I get full reign over 🙂 We’ve gone with double 5/8″ drywall with Green Glue noiseproofing compound to try and keep noise leakage down. I like watching movies loudly and with a lot of bass; hopefully the sound isolation efforts will be sufficient to keep Stephanie and Ellie from knocking on the door when John Wick is playing for the 10th time.
Man Cave photos:
[End Feb 5, 2017]
[Start Feb 19, 2017]
Things have really started picking up steam. Bruce, our cabinet maker extraordinaire, has been super busy building and installing our cabinets. I’m blown away by the quality of the work; I’ve continually been amazed by Bob and Bruce’s craftsmanship and their ability to take rough sketches or ideas, go into the shop, and MAKE something so quickly (and nicely).
The granite gods show up tomorrow to take measurements before cutting and installation of the countertops. Once countertops are in the appliances will get installed and we’ll finally get to clear some space in the living room! Things are getting pretty crowded now that all that floor space has been filled.
I spent a fair bit of time taping and mudding the living room and Man Cave but the truth is my skills are sorely lacking. I got things close enough for Bob to swing in for the final touches, fixing all my issues and texturizing the walls. As with many things so far, as soon as I get halfway decent at doing something it’s on to the next thing. I should be somewhat proficient by the time we hit Phase 2 of construction.
There have been 2 major jobs that Bob and I have been dreading since the start of this project:
- Taking out the center window in the living room
- Breaking out all the cast iron pipe in the back yard
The living room window features a massive ~6’x10′ picture window surrounded by two smaller windows. The glass is 1/4″ thick and not tempered – put your fist through that glass and you’ll be lucky if you get a bloody stump back. Taking this window out is going to be fairly risky to all involved and the sheer weight was very concerning.
We broke out all the plaster around the window so we could get access to the waterproofing, saving as much as possible. With help from Bruce, (thankfully he reminded us to tape the glass up), we were able to push the old window out almost whole – only suffering one major crack during removal. Some young hooligan many years ago shot a BB at the window creating a small hole in the center glass. During removal a crack formed right at the hole and ran the entire length of the window. Luckily it held well enough to stay in place while we removed the window frame in one piece. We were then able to break the glass out safely – phew!
The next big job that gave us pause was replacing the remaining waste plumbing – buried under concrete and dirt in the back yard was about 70′ of decayed cast iron! We got smart and hired out for this job – the guys that came over were real pros and made short work of it. Prior, we had Ray cut the concrete in preparation for breaking it out. We did the same with the plumbing inside the house and spent a good number of hours (and sore backs) doing the little bit in the house. After that experience we were convinced we’d have to bring the big guns in for the back yard.
After pulling up what we did, there’s still ~55′ of old plumbing till we hit the city pipeline. This line gets plugged once a year (on the dot) and a call for some roto-rootering has been sufficient to get the water flowing each time. With awesome access to the remaining pipe we called for a clean out and threw a borescope down to check the condition of the pipe. Overall, not as bad as what we’d already pulled out, but clear evidence that roots have been pushing their way in, causing the constant need for annual clean-outs. This isn’t expected to improve without a more serious solution. We’re looking into the more permanent solutions now though none are what I would call “cheap”.
- Perma-fix the remaining waste plumbing
- Electrical change-out, test all circuits
- Replace & install new plumbing for hall bathroom and future ensuite
- Replace waste plumbing in back yard
- Install kitchen countertops
- Install kitchen appliances
- Complete powder room
- Paint living room & Man Cave
- Replace & hang all doors (18 total!)
- Install kitchen/laundry room/dining room flooring
- Install carpeting in hallway, Man Cave, & back bedroom
- A hundred other things I can’t think of right now
- Move in!
- Start phase 2 😦
[End Feb 19, 2017]
[Start Mar 23, 2017]
March has been a bit of an odd month for us. We’ve been traveling for Stephanie’s work so I’ve been off in babysitting land for half of March. In the meantime Bob has been steadily drilling down the list of remaining items. Lynn came by for a few days and helped knock out a couple of big projects for us as well, thanks Lynn!
That last 55′ of waste plumbing posed quite an issue for us. It runs very close to a large tree on the property and we were concerned if we dug the line up we’d end up taking out the tree. The solution we settled on was to line the remaining pipe in-situ with a reinforced resin which seals the pipe and prevents the encroaching roots from finding water (and thereby digging back into the piping). This will save what pipe is still intact and prevent future backups from occurring. Spendy, but this process was quick and didn’t require pulling permits which helped keep everything moving.
Getting this squared away allowed us to close out the remaining waste plumbing both inside and outside the house. Bob and Lynn crawled under the house and replaced all the old plumbing in the existing hall bathroom and plumbed up the future ensuite. This meant breaking out the wall in the master bedroom and prepping the space for the future bathroom. A bit of phase 2 work pulled in early so we could close out the plumbing work.
Bob and Lynn also knocked out installation of the new hot water heater. We’ve installed a recirculation pump on the return line so we can keep the system warm and on a timer. This will avoid us wasting gallons of water just to get a hot shower started. With that, all the waste, cold, and hot water plumbing is complete!
In the kitchen, the Granite Gods came out and made up templates for all the countertops. Pretty interesting to see how it’s done – light wood stapled and glued together to create the outer edges of a sturdy template. This template is then laid out on the actual stone before final cutting. The laying out portion is a bit of a tricky puzzle as seams will be obvious if veins aren’t kept in mind. Russo and his crew did an awesome job with the layout and installation, the granite really makes the kitchen look complete!
We decided we wanted sills at all the windows. Between sills and door casings I’ve spent at least a week filling, caulking, and sanding everything in the house and I still always manage to find a spot that I missed! It’s surprising how much time you can spend on the detail work but it’s these areas that really make a difference. Having been in the thick of this renovation, I’ve developed a more critical eye for construction. I’ve been surprised at the differences between what we’re doing versus many other homes I’ve recently been in – Bob’s attention to detail really sets his work apart from most everything out there.
Bob’s also gone through the entire house and hung all the inside and outside doors. That was quite a job! Lots of shimming and shaving of the doors to make the doors fit and open/close smoothly. I didn’t appreciate just how much work goes into hanging a door until I watched Bob go through the process (many times over).
Painting in the living room and Man Cave are just about finished. I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed this particular aspect of the project. My first few walls didn’t go so well, but with some practice and technique development I’m finding I quite enjoy painting. I couldn’t go with all black surfaces in the Man Cave but I was “allowed” to paint the front and ceiling a fairly dark color to help knock down on reflections and distracting colors. Stephanie selected a dark color on the remaining walls and we went with an ultra flat paint to help keep reflections at bay.
I said the painting in the Man Cave is just about finished – turns out I’m likely to have to repaint much of the room in a few months. All the walls were hung with a double layer of drywall and we did it such that a ~0.25″ gap remained between the walls and the ceiling. We then installed a foam rope and caulking to seal between the wall and ceiling edges. The idea behind this is any sound trying to get in through the cracks will get stopped by the foam/caulking. Separation between the wall and ceilings is a further way to decouple the walls so energy (noise) transmission into the walls won’t make its way into the ceiling and attic space. That 0.25″ of gap ended up consuming a LOT of caulking – which in turn is continuing to shrink as it cures. I painted the room only a few days after the initial caulking was completed. As it continues to shrink it’s causing cracks to form along the caulked surfaces – it’ll take another few weeks to fully cure. Uuungh … between these cracks and little drips here and there, I think I’m just going to redo the entire room. I’ll give it a bit of time. If my OCD settles down I may just do touch ups here and there instead.
The most exciting part for me has been getting all the wiring finalized in the Man Cave. I had already run all the wiring but now I had a mess of wires to terminate and secure. I’ve still got a bit more wiring to complete but I’ll need the Man Box to be finished a little more before I can get everything closed out. Details and photos of the Man Box in a future update!
Wiring – a bit of a sore point; over the years various tenants have had cable and satellite installed at the house. With each new installation the new techs would come in and run their wires just about wherever and however they wanted. It was surprising to see how poorly secured and routed the wires were. I spent a few hours pulling nails and screws off the walls and eaves and got most of the old wiring off the house. We’re cord cutters and only need 1 internet line into the house. From there we’ll distribute everything from a central location (the Man Box!).
The last big hurdle in Phase 1 is to renovate Ellie’s room and prep it for when we move in. We’ll all be sharing this room while Phase 2 is in process. There are 2 rather large closets in this room and the doors were looking a bit tired. It turns out these doors were made by Bob when he was about 12 or 13 – they’re over 50 years old! For 50 year old doors they’re actually doing pretty well! Unfortunately these had to go – sorry Bob 😦
We’re nearing the end of the tunnel, I can see a light and I’m pretty sure it isn’t a train! A few more weeks and we should finally be moving in!
- Electrical change-out, test all circuits
- Install kitchen appliances
- Complete renovation of Ellie’s room
- Install kitchen/laundry room/dining room flooring – ordered
- Install carpeting in hallway, Man Cave, & back bedroom – ordered
- Refinish living room hardwood – contracted, planned for just prior to move in
- Move in!
[End Mar 23, 2017]
[Start May 21, 2017]
I’ve been owing an update to this post for a long time now. We’ve had a pretty crazy month since the last update, our first night sleeping in the house was April 19! My family arrived for a week on April 22 so that was the drop-dead must-finish date. The weeks leading up to move in were pretty packed; both Bob and I were hustling to get the house finished enough so we could move all our stuff into the house and get settled before my parents arrived. At one point I was moving furniture around while Bob was painting the front door!
So stepping back a bit since the last update …
We were upgrading our electrical service to a 200 Amp panel and we had already run all-new wiring in the house (just about). The old electrical panel had to go and one with more modern breakers was installed. Bob worked his magic here and laid out all the wiring and made it all work. Since we didn’t want to be down on power for too long our plan was to cut the power ourselves, perform the box swap, then temporarily reconnect power to the house until SDG&E could come by and do the remaining upgrade. Bob didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express but was pretty savvy on what to do – definitely don’t try this at home! We were able to get the old panel kicked out and new one powered up. When SDG&E came by they disconnected the old service line (that had been running THROUGH a tree) and routed the new line from across the street (and not through a tree). These guys were PROs, in and out with efficiency and it was clear they knew what they were doing. With that, we were rolling like big time operators – no more port-a-potties and electric generators for us!
In the kitchen side of the house, Bruce did an awesome job wrapping up all the cabinet work. He then set about making cabinets for the laundry room, a lav for the powder room, and shelves for the pantry – we’re really working him in his semi-retirement! Things got a bit tricky when we installed the cooktop vent; it’s installed immediately behind the cooktop. With the push of a button, a motor lifts it up from below the countertop so it’s sitting next to the cooking surface. This vent requires a large blower and the mechanicals are housed within a fairly large box. With the way it was originally delivered, the fan mechanism sat immediately below the cooktop – this ended up killing a bunch of potentially great storage space. After a few ideas bounced back and forth Bob had the great thought that we could buy that storage space back by flipping the motor around to the back side, pushing it into the living room side of the counter. Doing so required us to extend the countertop (no biggie, it means we now get a breakfast bar and under-counter storage!). It was a bit of a think-fest working out how the layout needed to change to accommodate the motor reversal but ultimately it created a MUCH nicer setup for the kitchen. We were able to get a great amount of storage immediately beneath the cooktop that would otherwise have been unused; it also helped the room flow better from kitchen to living room.
After the kitchen appliances went in it was time to address the floors. We worked with La Mesa Carpet & Linoleum to refinish the hardwood in our living room and carpet the bedroom side of the house. Phase 1 only includes the Man Cave, Ellie’s bedroom, and the hallway. La Mesa Carpet will be returning during Phase 2 to do carpet the extension. The folks did a great job installing the carpet and refinishing the floor. We had originally asked them to carpet only a portion of the hallway so we could maintain access to a hole we’d cut in the floor for easy sub-floor access during Phase 2. After reviewing our plan the carpet installer recommended we reconsider as it could compromise the quality of the carpet install. After getting their feedback we reversed course and had them carpet the entire hallway, sealing up our temporary hatch. Thanks to the great advice our hallway carpet’s going to look great for many years. In the living room, there were several areas of heavy traffic and staining. We thought for sure we’d have to either replace portions of the wood or stain the floor a darker color to hide the staining – a bummer because we really wanted to keep the floors light. Jay came out and made a first pass of the floor, stripping away 60 years of age in minutes – as luck would have it the areas we were most concerned with turned out to still be in great condition! We went with a clear finish so we could keep the room feeling bright. This also made for a great contrast to the darker flooring in the kitchen/dining room area. It’s pretty amazing how well the hardwood turned out, it looks like a freshly installed floor!
In the kitchen, we once again worked with La Mesa Carpet & Linoleum for the “luxury vinyl” used in the remaining portion of the house. These panels are 100% plastic and have an interlocking design. The construction makes it impervious to water and the interlocking design was easy enough to work with that even I was able to put a few panels down. Before we could lay the vinyl in place we had to ensure the floor was fairly level; here’s where we found we had a few significant whoopties in the kitchen floor where it transitioned from the cement foundation to the suspended floor. To address this we poured down a concrete-like mix that was advertised to be “self leveling”. We weren’t initially impressed with the advertised self leveling and helped it along with a few tools – turns out we may have been better off leaving it alone as we may have French Polished a few areas. No matter, we were able to get it level enough for the vinyl flooring. A rubber mat is installed between the vinyl and floors to help absorb/prevent any unwanted noise.
The Devil’s in the details! No kidding … flooring complete, appliances installed, cabinets done. The punch list of things to do before move-in was still long and it’s the detail work that really put us through the ringer. Even now, after having moved in, I still have a list of things to do – things we weren’t able to finish or areas that got damaged/need touch-up due to move in. Uungh, one of the perks of home ownership right?
The Man Cave turned out about as well as I could have hoped. The room is a bit small but I’m working on trying to figure out how to squeeze a few more seats in; right now we’ve got a loveseat in there so having Bob and Mimi over for movie night means someone’s sitting on a stool. I installed all the electronics and fired up the TV for its maiden run. My heart skipped a few beats when the video signal wasn’t coming through – what the heck?! After a few hours of internet searching and troubleshooting I determined that the HDMI to Cat6 converters I was using were inappropriate for my application and they were not strong enough to send the signal from the back of the room to the front. DAMN. I had already run the wire and sealed the walls up! Here’s where I tell everyone the smartest thing to do is to run conduit for all your in-wall wiring so you can easily run new wire if you need. Thankfully the location of the TV was such that I was able to drill a few holes in the floor and push up the new cables from underneath the house. Disaster averted but I nearly stroked out. The only other notable issue I’ve come across is the heating inside my Man Box.
What’s the Man Box? It’s the big black box at the back of the room where I’ve tucked away all the electronics for the theater room. It used to be a built-in planter but I have a distaste for all things “nature” so we killed that by installed a piece of granite where the planter used to be. With the space below, we cut out the wall between the front entryway and the Man Cave and put doors on either side. On the Man Cave side all the electronics are stowed facing into the room. On the entryway side the doors give me access to all the wiring needed to run the room. In the past I wasn’t much for cable management and just stuffed everything into the back of the cabinet. This made it really difficult to troubleshoot, swap in or out a new piece of equipment, and it was a pretty big eyesore.
With all the electronics confined to this enclosed space even the small amount of heat built up with everything shut off was surprising after a few days. I cut out a few holes between the box and the crawl space so I could push cold air in and pump hot air out. I also added several fans throughout the box to help with mixing – the box is so big convection alone wasn’t enough to thoroughly mix the air!
The room’s about 90% dialed in and John Wick’s guns are making a nice pop each time he puts one in a bad guy’s skull. Good enough for now, I’ll continue working on the room as time permits.
In hindsight “Man Box” wasn’t as clever a name as I originally thought.
We were in such a rush to move in I didn’t get a chance to take any pre move-in photos, excuse the mess in the following! Some before/during/after shots (a few are repeats of earlier photos):
Thanks to everyone for coming along with us so far. Phase 1 was quite the journey – I had no idea what I was getting into when we first started! I expect Phase 2 will go a little quicker as there will be less demo and more building. We’re on break for another week or so before we jump back into renovation mode.
A heartfelt THANKS to Bob and Mimi! Bob’s been the driving force on this project and Mimi has been den mother keeping us fed while we camped out in their guest room during Phase 1 (5 months!).
Thanks also to:
- Bruce Pechtel of Pechtel Woodworks
- Lynn Fletcher – fellow Canadian and Snow Bird
- The team at Russo Tile & Marble
- All the awesome folks at La Mesa Lumber
- Eric and his team from La Mesa Carpet & Linoleum
- Squeeze in a little more time on the SLC
- Phase 2!
[End May 21, 2017]
[Start Aug 16, 2017]
This update has been a long time coming – we took a short break between Phases 1 and 2 during which I was able to sneak in some time with the SLC and everyone took some much needed R&R. Bob and Mimi went on a multi-week trek across the US, hitting up various car shows and all the Culver’s between the West and East coasts. Once we spooled back up for Phase 2 of construction it was pedal to the metal till now (at least for me). I’m kicking back with some iced tea watching over Ellie in Atlanta while Bob’s back at the ranch banging out the last bits of Phase 2. Shout out to the TFA folks for letting me and Ellie crash their retreat this week!
The realities of Phase 2 settled back in and the first few days back on the job were fairly epic. Marcus showed up on Day 1 in a massive truck with his bobcat in tow. The bobcat needed 5-6′ of clearance to get into the front yard so the small walkway at the SE corner of the lot had to go. It also meant taking out portions of the retaining wall – I believe Uncle Guy and Eric built this in their younger years (sorry guys!) The roots from the massive Star Pine had heaved the ground in this area and the walkway was already in disrepair, no tears shed for the walkway.
In order to build the addition we needed to mow down all the vegetation in front of the house, clearing a large enough area for the new stem walls. Luckily the 3 apple trees were outside the bubble of destruction and remained unscathed. Most everything else – including the beloved flag pole – were less lucky. Using a scoop, we had Marcus dig out a trench deep enough to meet with code requirements (and then some!). After all was said and done I was very thankful we opted to enlist Marcus’s services; Bob and I would have been wiped out had we attempted to do all this with shovels and picks.
Using his old school string and builder’s level we setup stakes and string lines to denote the limits of the stem wall. A trip to La Mesa Lumber yielded about half a forest worth of lumber for the stem wall forms. Bob’s a stickler for getting things right. The forms were damn near perfect in every direction and they were stout! J-bolts topped the forms before Vincent showed up with his pump. Our “small” batch of concrete arrived in a giant mixing truck and it was all hands on deck to get the concrete pumped, poured, and smoothed before it started setting. During phase 1 we had dug up a fairly long trench behind the house to expose all the rotted waste plumbing – time to fill it all back in! Working between the rear and front of the house made for hectic times to ensure things went as they needed. Bob kept a cool top and made sure we were on task.
After a few days of drying out we pulled the forms and stepped back to take in the new stem wall. With the new footprint of the house in place I was a bit surprised with how much room we were adding – the new office/multi-purpose room was going to be big!
We had measured out the existing structure prior to pouring the stem walls and knew it had sagged over time. While excavating for the stem walls we found the ground near the Northeast corner of the extension to be exceptionally soft. We also found buried ceramic cases (suitcases?) at various locations in the front of the house. We believe at one point the ground had been dug up and the dirt removed – then brought back once plans for the house called for a level yard. It’s likely the front of the house was not built level – combined with ground subsidence over the years it resulted in the front of the house no longer being even with the horizon. The Northeast corner of the existing structure was ~1″ lower than the Southeast corner.
In order to make the new structure meet with the old (and not have a 1″ step between) it meant we needed to correct the sag. A trip to Harbor Freight yielded a couple of 20 ton bottle jacks which would be used to lift the house up long enough for us to shim it back to level. While lifting the house back to level we heard a loud crack as the house resisted the movement. We broke the corner window and created some fairly significant cracks which ran up and into the ceiling. Upon closer inspection we found repairs in the exact same locations as the cracks had formed – the house had cracked prior and someone (most likely Bob!) had repaired the walls. Bob couldn’t remember if he’d been the one to repair the walls but he couldn’t think of anyone else who would have done it. I thanked Bob for giving me the heads up on the house’s condition before we bought it 😉
With the house leveled out we were able to lay out and nail in all the supports for the new floor. Bob’s super awesome planning resulted in us using almost the entirety of lumber purchased for the stem wall forms!
Once we got the front of the house leveled out it was surprising to see just how much the house had settled; the wainscot along the North facing wall had moved with the ground and there was no way we were getting that to move without destroying it. So the contrast between lifted siding and sagged brick made it much more noticeable. We’d have to address this by shifting the siding downward to hide the newly formed gap. After several attempts at removing the existing siding while preserving it we came to the acceptance that the siding would have to be destroyed in order to remove it. The siding is redwood, was likely kiln dried, and was not happy about being disturbed. We broke about 70% of what we removed. Fortunately La Mesa Lumber carried siding close enough that it was almost a perfect match for the original. With the tough decision made, demo of the front of the house progressed at a much quicker pace now that we weren’t trying to save the siding. Once the front of the house was removed it was time to install the new beam that would be supporting the ceiling while tying the new and old together. Tim came out to give us a hand – recall the great job Bob and I had installing the beam in the kitchen. Next up was a beam that needed to span ~28′; not much fun as a 2-man operation but much more manageable with 3. Thanks Tim!
Another trip to the lumber store and we came back with another truckload of wood to frame the new walls. Stephanie, Ellie, and I had to take a trip to Austin so Tim stepped back in to lend Bob a hand as they framed the addition. With the new walls up things were really starting to take shape! By now it’s mid-June and the La Mesa summer was really heating up. We struggled to stay focused with the sun beating down on us; afternoon naps may have happened more than once 😉 We pushed to get the roof on so we could at least work under some shade. With the OSB installed on the walls and roof the addition was looking like it was almost complete – looks can be deceiving as the framing moved quickly but the Devil’s in the details and we were only about halfway through Phase 2 by this point.
Rick’s crew from RC Roofing came by and finished out the roof. Coincidentally Rick was also the one to install the roof ~20 years ago when Bob’s mom was in the house. The existing shingles were still in great condition but the shingles we had were no longer available. We were able to get a close match and Rick’s team did an awesome job blending in and installing the new roof. Standing from a distance it’s not possible to see where the new roof ties into the existing. One of our goals for this renovation was to update and modernize the house while preserving some of the original look and feel, so it was important the addition didn’t look like an afterthought. We were fortunate to find the right shingles, siding, and bricks to match the originals closely enough that the addition looked as though it was constructed with the original materials.
A good segue into the brickwork that followed – Ken came by with his team and did an amazing job on the wainscot. As I said, the original bricks were no longer available, however we were able to find a very similar looking brick that was just a bit smaller. Ken’s guys did a fantastic job of blending the new bricks in with the existing despite the difference in dimensions. If you’re looking closely you can see how they shaved the bricks down just slightly near the transition so the grout lines remained consistent and the bricks met up seamlessly.
Just a few more things to do on the exterior before we could move on to working on the interior. As we worked to tie the new South wall in with the existing we noted a fair amount of termite damage in the Southeast corner. As we started peeling things back the damage was pretty extensive. As with the kitchen – the more we pulled things back, the more damage we saw. Eventually we opted to pull down the South wall up to the existing hall bath. We needed to reframe around the existing window for the new one anyway and this gave us the ability to really straighten that wall out and not have to deal with a transition between new and old.
Once we pulled down the existing exterior wall the new rooms really felt huge now that the additions were accessible from inside. It was now time to install the new windows; by now Bob and I had figured the process out and we were getting to be real pros at installing windows. After installing the 19th window (yes, 19!) we were finally done and the house was now all sealed up.
Finally – working inside was MUCH nicer than outside! With the ventilator running nearly 24/7 the heat was bearable inside, shaded from the sun. Our attention turned to framing in the new walls for the master bathroom. Things moved pretty quickly here since the plumbing had already been laid out in Phase 1 of construction. Plans called out for a walk-in shower about 9’x4′. I didn’t have a really good grasp for just how big this shower was going to be by looking at the plans; once the walls came up it was surprising to see just how big this was going to be. About half the footprint of the bathroom was the shower itself! To keep the room from feeling small we separated the shower with a pony wall. I’ve never seen something hot mopped before – think roof scene from Shawshank redemption – it was hot and difficult work that required a lot of experience to get right. As before, we deferred to the pros to hot mop our shower pan. They used shingles to get the slope right then pulled out their buckets of hot tar/asphalt/whatever else is in there and did a nice job of waterproofing the floor for us. The buckets of tar were so hot that if sweat dropped in it would flash and boil off immediately – pretty cool to see. After hot mopping was complete Bob and I mixed up a few batches of concrete and put a layer down to final blend the slope and get the heights right for the upcoming floor tile. Because we were joining new construction to old, we really had to plan ahead for how things would come together. We used 1/2″ drywall for the addition which needed to meet up with the existing plaster measuring from 1/2″-3/4″ and new/even plywood flooring which met with existing and uneven floor/linoleum. All this meant we had to fur, shim, putty, and fix-all just about every floor, wall, and ceiling joint.
We used DenShield for the walls of the shower and water-resistant drywall everywhere else in the new bathroom. DenShield is a fiberglass overwrapped gypsum product (aka fiberglass + drywall). This stuff is a LOT lighter than the hardiebacker board we were originally thinking we’d use for the shower wall and the stuff cuts just like drywall so it’s a lot easier to use. Yep, easier to use – but it turns out when you cut the stuff you expose the interior gypsum and you basically negate whatever water proofing the fiberglass gave you. Though the product spec doesn’t require it, we opted to apply a coat of RedGard waterproofing to all the walls and floors as a “just in case”. After all was said and done it might have been easier to just go the hardiebacker route. It may have been more difficult to work with but peace of mind when it comes to leaks would have been worth it. Ultimately I’m sure we were careful enough and have taken the right steps to ensure a leak-free shower.
The RedGard is some fun stuff to work with. As soon as it’s applied you can smell (and practically see) it outgassing. It goes on a bright pink and dries deep red. Once it looked like we’d gone all Dexter in the shower it was time for Russo and his team to set the granite we’d picked for the shower bench, pony wall cap, and vanity. We had debated pretty long and hard about making the entire shower out of granite – easier for us since Russo would be doing all the work 😉 Ultimately we couldn’t justify the difference in cost between granite and tile so we (once again) embarked on a mission to find the right tile. We lucked out and found a tile that worked well with everything we’d already selected and the price was right. It was also thicker and easier to cut than the stuff we’d used for the kitchen backsplash so that was a huge relief – we’d really struggled to cut that stuff cleanly without cracking it.
Once the tile arrived it was time to mix up some thinset and get to laying the wall tile. We lucked out and the tile and shower dimensions were such that we were able to get fairly nice gaps and joint lines throughout (important for my OCD). Similarly, the penny tile we selected for the bathroom floor was easier to work with than I expected. It laid down well and we once again lucked out on the layout – the tub and main bathroom floor met without having to french polish the tiles together.
While we were waiting for the tile to arrive Bob and I turned our attention to the multipurpose room. Stephanie practices a kind of Yoga that uses a rope wall for some of the poses. We thought it would be great if she could have a space to practice at home. Her instructor Michael gave us some how-to’s on how to make a wall and with Bob’s planning we were able to build and integrate it fairly nicely near where the office desks would be. We lucked out when we had ordered the vinyl flooring for the kitchen – we purchased just enough to complete the office area and the flooring in our new closet with just 1 board remaining! This helped offset the sting I was still feeling from the bathroom tile order. When we’d finished the tile work in the bathroom we discovered we had ordered so much that there was enough remaining to redo the hall bathroom (not intentional!). Maybe when I get enough enthusiasm in a few years to renovate the hall bathroom I’ll see things differently. For now the extras have been stowed under the house – out of sight/out of mind!
The new closet in the master bedroom is long – like 18′ long. Much bigger than any closet we’ve had before. Stephanie and I had dreamed up an organization system and chatted Bruce up for the potential work. Between construction phases 1 and 2 Bruce had gone from semi-retired to fully retired. He was nice enough to help us out by completing the vanity in the new bathroom but he wasn’t feeling enthused about a whole giant closet organizer, we couldn’t blame him. We made a trip to the local Ikea and found their PAX/Komplement organizer system would do the trick. Not nearly as nice as what Bruce would have done but it was cheaper and GE (Good Enough). Fast forward to the death of the other half of a forest (the packaging for this stuff was insane!) and we completed assembly of the bedroom closet before installing the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors.
We were feeling pretty good by now about having things ready for carpet installation in a few days. We worked the Saturday/Sunday prior and we thought there was plenty of time to finish up. Paint went OK and tiling was complete so it didn’t seem like there was much left to do. Come Monday and Tuesday and we were pushing to get the rest of the detail work completed before the crew from La Mesa Carpet & Linoleum came by for the install. Seems the Devil’s really in the details and we were pushing hard to get things ready for Wednesday – it was a good thing we’d worked the weekend prior! As before, the carpet installers did a bang up job with the carpeting. The interior work for both the multipurpose room and master bedroom were now complete!
Now that the interior was complete we shifted our attention back to the exterior. The South side of the house was stucco’d (here, we brought some pros in to complete the work). Bob and I focused on getting the siding installed; the first few pieces took quite a while. We needed to custom cut each of the initial pieces so they gapped the wainscot closely and the joints would line up as we needed (minimized and spanned enough bays to hit studs for nailing). After the first row was installed things really started flying. We cleared La Mesa Lumber out of siding and were still a few boards short of completing the project. They stepped up and rushed an order of siding in for us, due to arrive in just a few days. That left us just enough time to complete the siding installation before Stephanie, Ellie, and I were off to Atlanta for Stephanie’s work.
Prior to leaving Stephanie and I were going in circles trying to choose a color for the house. We’d focused on blues for a while and we couldn’t quite find a blue that really connected for us. We then took a drastic turn and started looking at some yellows – they looked great but I got paranoid as the yellows we’d selected were recommended for interior use only (their pigments weren’t UV resistant enough and would likely fade due to exposure). So the day before we left we made another run down to the local Dunn-Edwards for another batch of samples, we were closing in on a color but needed to see some more samples on the house. I’m amazed at how colors can change based on lighting and their proximity to other colors. I wouldn’t have believed how drastic the effect was had I not experienced it myself – it made for downselecting even more difficult. Ultimately Stephanie and I chose one before the sun set and we lost all traces of natural lighting.
And that brings us to today! Bob and Tim are back at home prepping the house for paint, should be just about done by the time we get back home. Last update and pics to follow shortly!
[End Aug 16, 2017]