Sunday, May 31, 2009

Whole Lotta Concrete

This week, there was a whole lotta concrete work goin' on. First up - the chimney cap. Our chimney box is a pretty big box of pumice block, and it was capped by a mound of concrete (think of bread rising out of a loaf pan). Well, this 6" high mound of concrete had developed hairline cracks on the top over the years. After much hosing down of various parts of the chimney, these cracks were implicated as the cause of our roof leak. (We had had the chimney masonry repointed in the fall, as there were big hunks of grout falling out, but this did not solve the roof leak.) This problem needed to be fixed now, before the new wood floor goes in. Anyway, contractor John recommended that we remove the old concrete (jackhammer it out, basically), lay down a thick plastic membrane, then pour a new concrete cap. So husband John spent a large portion of last weekend removing the old concrete. This week, the job got finished - the membrane was laid down, a form was made, new concrete was poured. The result looks great and fits right in. The concrete had a little black stain added to it so it'd match the house better.

Oh - and door and window trim got done this week too, now the front is finished (for now anyway).

Meanwhile - down below - more concrete work was being done. The hearth on our fireplace had been chopped into several times - first, when the post supporting the beam was installed next to the fireplace, and second, when they recently cut out part of the hearth to get to a heating vent underneath. So - they sawed off the remaining hearth (you can see it is gone in the photo in the last post). The plan was to pour a new base out of stained concrete and to pour a new hearth to sit on top. A form was made for the base directly on the floor in front of the fireplace and the concrete was poured in, around our new heating duct. A strip of wood was added into the form so that when the form was removed, a little groove would be at the bottom - this is where the flooring will neatly fit into. For the top part of the hearth, which is a bit larger than the base, another form was built out of melamine. This form was also filled with stained concrete. The idea here was to let the concrete cure for a few days, then it would be flipped out of the mold, so that the part on the bottom that was next to the melamine would then be on top. The melamine gives the concrete a wonderful smooth finish.
Well, on Friday, when husband John was home, the hearth got taken out of its mold and flipped. Tricky business flipping an 8' long chunk of concrete. But John, John, and Ed got it done and slid it into place.

We love the look. It will lighten up some more as it cures, but it will darken some when it gets sealed so this is probably about the tone that it will be when it is finished. I think it's perfect, as it will tie in with the charcoal of the countertop in the kitchen. New heat registers are on the way but here it is now, with an old one.

Quite a bit different than when June was living here (this pic was taken on the day of the building inspection)-

Husband John is working on the fireplace this weekend. The box to the left of the fireplace is a box for wood storage, but John is turning it into a stereo cabinet. He spent some time yesterday insulating this box with blue foam (as this large drafty space takes up about one third of that big chimney box). Today he is starting on the construction of his stereo cabinet. Contractor John didn't want the edge of the hearth to be damaged so for now, he's got the melamine mold on it, upside down, for protection.

Other news: Ed tiled the guest bathroom floor and it looks terrific. It's a porcelain tile by Mohawk - the Gravura line, Ember Forest is the tile. Love how the tiles are all different. It looks like slate, but also has a modern concrete-y look to it. Easier to care for than real slate. Again, this bathroom was not really supposed to get remodeled yet but that old carpet in there just had to go. In addition, the wall on the left got some holes in it from wiring the kitchen, so husband John patched and drywalled and painted in there last weekend and now it is done. Some decorative tiles got replaced in the shower area as well, now they are all white. Eventually, those tiles will be redone but that is for another day. It sure looks better in there now though.

And here's a pic I found of how this bathroom first looked, again from building inspection day. That's white shag carpet on the floor.

On this week's agenda- the laminate countertops get installed tomorrow! That'll be fun. I assume the sink will be installed then, although the plumber won't be here yet to make it functional. The appliances won't actually go into the kitchen until our flooring comes. That could happen at the end of this week. That was originally the ETA for the flooring but apparently it is on a boat or something and everyone is being vague about when it will actually be here. If it actually gets here, I would think this project would be wrapped up in a couple of weeks. But if the flooring is late, then we are pretty much on hold until it gets here. There are a few other things that need to be done, but that list is dwindling. Will have pics of the kitchen, with countertops, soon!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cabinets and Colors

Well, things are rolling along over here at Rancho Tostado although I have to confess, Rancho Tostado may be in for a name update as well. Toast Ranch fit our old house perfectly and when we moved here, Rancho Tostado seemed appropriate. But - there is a classic MCM hotel in Scottsdale, AZ called the Hotel Valley Ho. We happen to live on Valley Dr. and I have been calling our place The Valley Ho for awhile now. I guess it can have two names for now.

Anyway, all of our walls have been painted. For those wanting particulars, we used Valspar from Lowe's - Woodlawn Whitewash is the white we chose, Arid Plains is the taupe color, and Araucana Sage is the pale green on the rafters (it's in the Martha Stewart line of Valspar paints). I was worried it would be too green. We had tried several greens on the rafters before and they hadn't worked. I'm real happy with this color, it is very subtle and in certain lighting, it almost looks white. It is also very similar to the cool green concrete of the patio outside the sliding glass doors. We used the taupe on the "cube" of the pantry and laundry room - and on the kitchen wall behind the cabinets - and on the opposite wall, on the fireplace.

I'm still not sure about it being on the fireplace but everyone else likes it and says it is better than the white was. I guess my problem with it is that it looks too much like adobe brick (a la Santa Fe style), not the look I am going for. But I think with furniture etc. it will look better and I think it is nice to have taupe on that wall opposite the kitchen so that is what we are going with for now.

The cabinets are in but most don't have the doors or drawers in yet. So for now, they all look a little plain and so will the countertop once it is done (in a basic charcoal Graphite Nebula laminate by Wilsonart). But all of this was meant to be low-key because of the tile which we will be putting in, which has more of a presence. We'll have to wait a few weeks to see it all together.

A few other things got done which were less thrilling. The main water cut-off outside was found to be a couple of feet underground, with a long, flimsy rod sticking up out of the ground which you supposedly would turn to turn the water off. Only the thing felt so flimsy, you were sure it might just break off, which would not be good.

The plumber was not happy with this, it certainly is no longer code - so after John dug a hole to get down to everything, the plumber redid the cut-off and now it is easily accessed through our own personal manhole. John still needs to fill the dirt back in.

And another little detail. My workroom gets afternoon sun and really warms up. The rest of the house stays relatively cool with not much solar gain. We decided that if possible, in this remodel, we would try and do something to increase the airflow between my office and the living area. So, when they were doing demolition and taking down the dropped ceiling in the hallway (well, they didn't take down all of the dropped ceiling, but they took down some of it), they cut into my office wall. The result is like a high clerestory window, except we are going to try it with no window. A few of the rafters from the hallway go through this space, so John painted the rafters in my office this weekend so they wouldn't turn from green to white as they went through the window. The gaping hole on the end of the dropped ceiling is the plenum for the heating system and will have some sort of cool grille on it, haven't decided exactly what to use yet. Since John is a car mechanic, everyone likes the idea of using some sort of auto grille which would be cut to fit the space. I need to hunt around some more for these online.

And one more thing- online shopping and ebay are a great resource. I bought a fabulous contemporary Modern Fan Co. fan on ebay for our last house - it was brand new, in the box, and cost incredibly less than you'd pay for it anywhere else. So - for this remodel - I have bought a cool rimless stainless steel sink at, I bought a Hansgrohe kitchen faucet on ebay, and interior door handles on ebay (all new).

Highly recommended. In fact, I'm getting ready to go on ebay right now and buy some barstools, which you can see after I get them!

And a final note. John was just now removing the vanity in the guest bathroom . As you may recall, we tore the white carpet out of there at the beginning of the remodel and now it is floored in dingy bits of the original linoleum. Even though remodeling the guest bath was not to be included as part of this project, redoing the floor ended up on the list. As they are going to be laying the new tile in there tomorrow, John decided to help out and remove the vanity. When he was doing this, he found a hole in the wall behind the vanity and upon looking in there, he found tons of old razor blades. I know old houses sometimes had a place you could dispose of your old razor blades in the wall and I guess we just found ours!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Another Window Goes In

Well, the other trapezoidal window went in this week also. We love how muAdd Imagech light we now have in the living room. And we love how the outside of the house looks. (Some day we will get around to having it repainted and the color scheme will change. But that's another project for another year.)

We ended up having to put a pony wall by the front door - which separates the entry from the living room. We had always planned on putting something here but we weren't sure how we were going to do it - perhaps make something like a giant bookcase or entertainment unit sort of thing that could function as a room divider but could be moved if the need arose. Well, the contractor told us the new door/ window area needed structural support and we would need that pony wall to be permanent. So in went a pony wall, I really like it.

And here's a shot just to the right, with the newest window.

And an overview, from down the hall. The beam is where the old weight bearing wall was. Much more living room space now, much more openness, and much more light.

I wanted to post some old pictures of everything so you could have a pre and post comparison - and when I was looking at old pictures, I found a video I'd made, touring the inside of the house. It was really fun to look at this again so I thought I'd post it. This is from right after we moved in, I see we are sort of camping out. Anyway, enjoy! Things have really changed. :-)
As you can see from the above photos, a lot of drywall work was done this week as well. The sanding is almost complete, then they will paint. And then, the Ikea cabinets can go in. They will go in before the flooring, as the floor is an engineered floor that will be floated and the cabinets cannot sit on top of the floating floor. Other work that needs to be done soon - fix the cap on the chimney, which is cracked and which John tracked down as the source of our roof leak. Gotta get the roof leak fixed before the floor goes in.
And finally, our yard is just starting to really look lovely. The lilacs are in full bloom and the apricot tree is finally green (we did have a hard freeze when it was blooming weeks ago so no apricots this year but that's ok)- had to throw in a shot of what I see out the sliding doors from my workroom-

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Trapezoidal Windows

I haven't posted for awhile. A tremendous amount of work has been done, but for the last few weeks, a lot of it was stuff you wouldn't notice so much - the electrical wiring was all redone; the subfloor in the entryway was all taken out and redone since it was not level; the semi-functioning sliding glass doors were replaced; plumbing work was done; and a lot of work was done on the plenum for the heating system. Finally, at the end of last week, drywall started going back up. Here's a view of the kitchen, and a shot of the area just to the right of the kitchen - "the cube" which houses the pantry and the laundry room.

Our custom windows came in for the front of the house and one of them got installed today. Here's how the entry room looked this morning, with the old windows and door.

And here's how it looks now!

And here's some intermediate steps- tearing out the door and windows-

Tearing out some more to accomodate the new door and windows-

Framing in the new door and windows-

And now-

It still needs some more work but we're really excited how it looks from the inside to have nice big windows up there. And another, smaller trapezoidal window will be added to the other side of the front of the house in the next few days, it'll go on the other side of the fireplace. Stay tuned!