Saturday, December 31, 2005

Batten Down the Hatches!

Northern California is in the midst of some big storms. Not Katrina big, but definitely on the heavy side for storms here. Flooding, high winds, power outages, landslides and of course, lots of rain. We've lost power a couple of times and had lots of small branches down, but no major damage.

But a local radio reporter on KCBS, Doug Sovern, who lives nearby had a brush with death. A couple streets over is Shepherd Canyon, and before the road starts up into the hills it goes through a gully (near the park and fire station, if you know the area). The power was out and it was dark, and he drove into several feet of water across the road. His car floated off the road then sank, and he was unable to open the doors or windows, safety hammer or kick them out. He was down to a foot or so of breathing space in the car before he thought of using his tire iron to smash a window, and he escaped with his life. Pretty amazing stuff -- KCBS has an MP3 of his account on their website if you want to listen to it. But now you know why a lot of Germans have those safety hammers in their cars. The odds of needing one are low, but as a local TV reporter said on a report about the Oakland Fire Department's fireboat, "A fireboat is like any other emergency device. You don't need it at all right up until the time you need it really bad."

Amidst the seriousness of this storm, there was a bit of humor. A headline I spotted on CNN: "California residents urged to leave ahead of storm". Leave? Um...where are we supposed to go? "Hi? Nevada? We're your neighbors. Sorry to drop in unannounced but...". Not that we could go, now. I-80 is closed because of a landslide near Lake Tahoe, and flooding near Fairfield. US 101 and I-5 are closed near the Oregon border because of landslides.

Oh, right. The addition. I'd put tar paper on the roof, and expected some wind and rain before I was able to have the next inspection and put some actual roofing over the tar paper. But I wasn't expecting the pounding storm we just got, with 60 mph wind gusts. It blew out some of the plastic sheeting I'd put over the windows, and despite a couple of strips of wood and lots of staples, blew off some of the tar paper. So the addition got a bit more wet than I would have liked. With Kat's help, I got things battened down again, hopefully more securely this time. There's another big storm on the way.

In the 20-20 hindsight department, I had considered putting on some roll roofing before we left for Florida. But I decided against it, because I might have to take it off for the framing inspection. Oh well. The framing inspection should be this week, as I've finished up the bits of framing and most of the work on the earthquake holdowns.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Threads

After a break for Christmas to visit family in Florida, I'm back to work on the addition. Despite rain while we were gone, the addition stayed nice and dry. Only after we got back did the wind kick up and blow some of the tar paper off the roof. Things got a bit wet inside, but nothing too bad.

One of the things left to do was fix some of the foundation bolts that I'd left too long. Originally the bedroom at +21" would be all at one level, but I changed it so the uphill side was a couple of feet taller to make it easier to keep the necessary clearance between the wooden part of the house and the ground. That meant that the bolts in that area didn't need to go through the floor, as the wall sits directly on top of the sill plate. So before I left, I ordered a die to cut some new threads in the bolts that were too tall. Today I discovered that using the die was as easy as 1-2-3. A metal cutting blade on the sawzall, twist the die with a wrench, and voilĂ ! The bolts are now the right height.

And I love the newer design of Simpson earthquake holdowns. The old ones used two big bolts through the 4x4, which meant drilling two big holes with a right-angle drill. Easy enough sometimes, but a royal pain if there were studs in the way, like near windows and doors, or near corners (which is where most of the holdowns go). And if you're particularly unlucky, the 4x4 can split since you're drilling two really big holes into it. I spent a lot of time at Habitat working on holdowns. The new ones use 10 or more special lag screws instead. With a right-angle drill and a socket, they go into place in a couple of seconds each, and no splitting.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Looking Like a House

Last week was mostly work on the roof with Abel, and yesterday we worked on smaller tasks that need doing before the house is ready for the next inspection.

I still need to check the nailing on the sheathing, and attach the earthquake hold downs, but it's looking like a house. And almost ready for inspection.

Kat and I are both pleased with how much light there is. I'm not surprised since I designed it that way (windows on all four sides of the bedroom), but it's still nice to see that the reality is following the theory. And the big cross-shaped windows in the bedroom are great. To the right is yet another glorious sunset as viewed out the bedroom windows.

After the inspection, I'll put some proper roofing on, and then it will be time for the city of Oakland required exterior drywall, then house wrap, then the windows and siding. Given the sponge-like nature of drywall, I don't want to leave that stuff exposed to the elements for very long.

I discovered that I can no longer get the 1x12 siding to match the existing siding. I bought some a while back when I remodeled the bathroom and put in a smaller window, but alas, they no longer sell it. The existing house has alternating 1x6 (also used under the eaves) and 1x12 V-rustic siding. The newer stuff is finger-jointed pine, but the original is solid redwood. Beautiful and durable, but not the most eco-friendly material. I'm hoping to salvage some of it from the wall where the addition meets the house, but our attempts so far have had limited success. The siding is 50+ years old (I shudder to think how old the tree was before that) and very dry, so it has a tendancy to split when removed.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I've been working on the roof with Abel this week: lookouts, fly rafters, fascia (no, not the bottom of my foot, but the thing on the end of the rafters), and the roof decking that's visible from underneath. Yesterday we got all but the decking done on the south side of the roof, so today that part went very quickly. We even put down some tar paper, so it's close to a real roof on that side.

But on the north side, I still needed to trim the rafter tails to the same length, and found out that I needed to make some "adjustments" to one of the fly rafters. After noodling over it a while, I figured out what to do without any major surgery, but it definitely slowed us down. Later in the afternoon, the sprinkles of rain turned into some real rain, so we put a tarp over the north side of the roof and I put Abel to work on the hurricane ties while I worked on trimming the existing gutters so I could put some proper endcaps on them.

And a final roof! to my sister-in-law's family -- they're planning to get a dog soon. Probably a 7 month old Australian shepherd. I just wish the cats were more amenable to us dog-sitting...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Whither Weather?

Yesterday I worked with Abel again. Tuesday I'd precut many of the parts for the lookouts, so we jammed through those pretty quickly. Then we put on the roof sheathing (3/4" aka 23/32" plywood, to match the existing nominal 1" aka 3/4" siding used under the eaves) until we used up all I had. I thought I 'd bought enough, but the width of the middle part of the roof ended up being 16'-5" instead of 16' as I thought. Which meant that two 8' sheets of plywood wouldn't cover it.

In any event, we got most of the roof covered and nailed off, and just in time. Today's storm is even stronger and windier than the one Monday night. Part of the tarp came loose in the night, but not too much got wet and I resecured it this morning.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


This week promises to have slower progress, because rain is forecast for much of the week. To the left is last night's storm moving through. Fortunately with the roof trusses up, the tarp is doing a good job of keeping the inside of the addition dry so far. I'd be a lot happier if the roof and siding were on at this point, though.

The rain also makes it pretty much impossible to work on the roof with out getting everything soaked. There are bits and pieces I can work on inside, but it'll be slow going this week. I've got a bunch of the lookouts in place, but I need to finish those before I can put the sheathing on the roof.

In the meantime, here are some more pictures that Katarina took. I'm thankful for those sunny blue skies we had last week, which allowed me to get the roof trusses up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Raising Abel

The trusses arrived yesterday, right on schedule. Thank you Anderson Truss, and thank you Tim G.

So now that I had the trusses, how to get them down from the carport and up to the roof of the addition? Truss companies will normally do rooftop delivery when possible, but given the trees, carport, and power lines, it was most definitely in the "not possible" category. I joked that they could do rooftop delivery if they had a helicopter, but even then I'm not sure it would be possible.

The answer? Follow the tabby cat (her name is Pouspous, which is to say, Catcat in French). Not the white rabbit...that leads to Wonderland or The Matrix. I came up with the idea a while back when I was working in the loft above the bathroom, and my neighbor walked by. We chatted a bit, and I noticed I was at about the same level she was. Our house is below the level of the street, but our neighbor's house on the east side is almost level with the street. And the downstairs in-law unit is right at the same level as the loft.

But even with a plan, I knew I'd still need help. I called Edis to see if he could work, but he had some work as a mechanic (which he's got some training in from Honduras). He paused and thought, and said "How about my cousin?" After some back and forth (how old is he? 18. does he speak any English? no. does he have any experience with construction? a little.), he called his cousin to see if he was available, and then called me back, and we set it up that I'd pick him up at Edis' house at 9am. I made a trip to Economy Lumber for some more OSB and some hurricane clips (they hold the trusses to the tops of the walls, better than just toe-nailing ever could), and then picked up Abel.

In Spanish, it's pronounced ah-bell, rather than the English ay-bull. The second thing I said to him (in Spanish, of course) was "My Spanish isn't very good. Please speak to me slowly." After that, communication wasn't a problem except for a few times I didn't know a word. He's hoping to go next year to English classes like Edis is. I started teaching him a few words, but we conversed in Spanish about family, how I knew Edis, how I'd learned Spanish, etc. The only thing I really had problems with was describing plantar fasciitis. I just said "part of my foot is a little broken" after I stumbled a bit and winced. Fortunately taking some time off, wearing shoes with better support, and Ibuprofen have helped.

So enter the solution to getting the trusses on top of the walls -- follow the tabby cat. I nailed a 2x8 to the outside of the wall, and we put a couple of extra pieces of rim joist I have as a walkway from our neighbors to the corner of the house. We simply picked up the trusses, carried them into the street, down our neighbor's driveway, and out the walkway. The two of us carried the trusses, placed them all at one end of the roof, then moved the boards from the corner of the addition to inside the south wall, so that one of us could walk on that to place trusses while the other walked on the bathroom loft. Worked like a charm. We had to take it slowly, of course, but it was the easiest non-rooftop delivery placement of trusses I've ever been involved with.

Abel and I also put some of the rest of the sheathing up, though there will be some small bits between the trusses. That just leaves sheathing above and around the front door, and around the back door, which is to say, not much.

All just in time, too...the forecast for Friday is rain. Hmmph. Doubtful I'll get roof sheathing on before then, but the tarp is in good shape, and well supported at a good angle for draining water, given the trusses holding it up.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Be Afraid

I'm pretty sure this is mentioned in Revelations as one of the signs of the end times. But it's pretty darn technically impressive nonetheless.

On some of the church media groups I'm part of, there's some speculation that it was faked with Photoshop and a video editor. If so, it's also pretty amazing, because they got all the lighting details right (shadows, a radio tower in the distance, etc.). And further evidence it's for real is that you don't need to jury-rig something like this. There are off the shelf products you can buy to do this. And of course, you'll want the 200,000 hour LED Christmas lights to do it right. (Be sure to check out the video on that site, which shows them demonstrating the durability of the lights by driving a semi over them. The lights surving a troupe of clog dancers or 30 seconds with a three year old would be more impressive, but the semi is certainly fun to watch.)

And for those who are wondering, I'm told it's the Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing "Wizards in Winter" which the lights are synched to.

If that doesn't capture the true spirit of Christmas, I don't know what does...

Tabbylocks and the 3 Boxes

"This box is too big." "This box is too big, too." "Hey! This box is too big -- what's going on?!?" What enormous items did Katarina order from Amazon? Christmas gifts for our nieces and nephews? A new microwave for later in the project when I've got the kitchen torn up? What could it be that takes 3 big boxes?

Three cookie sheets. Not even big ones (they're a bit smaller than some, since our antique oven is smaller than some newer ones.) In some maddening fit of inefficiency, Amazon sent three cookie sheets as three orders, in three separate boxes. Fortunately they all arrived the same day, so there weren't three trips by the UPS truck. But aiiyee! Who knows...maybe they fufilled the orders from three different warehouses.

But the cats will enjoy them. One of their favorite toys is a cardboard box that I cut some holes in. They'll run in and bat at things we stick near the holes, or hide from us or from each other. Three big boxes means three additions to their play structure.

The Trusses Are Coming! The Trusses Are Coming!

While typing my last post, I got a call from Anderson Truss asking if they could deliver my trusses earlier than they'd planned, i.e., tomorrow morning. Wahoo!


I love books, and I love reading. For better or for worse, I've had more time for reading of late with my foot problems, though I've managed to fill most of the time with other stuff. Saturday evening, we went to a book-signing event for a friend who just published a new book with the intriguing title, Why Are We Reading Ovid's Handbook on Rape? Teaching and Learning at a Women's College. Madeleine also talked a bit about teaching and learning in the process, and read a bit from the book. I'm looking forward to diving into the book when I finish my current one. (And take a look at Madeleine's website, which I designed the graphics for. And yes, that is her real name. It's one 'E' different than the actress' name.)

My current book is 1776, by David McCullough, about the momentous year in American history. It's primarily about the military side, though it goes more in depth about George Washington's character than I'd read about before. It's very good, but not as readable as Gods and Generals or the others by the the Shaaras about the American Civil War. I've read Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara about the Revolutionary War, but I didn't enjoy that as much as his and his father's books on the Civil War.

The book before that was Eldest, the second in the the series begun with Eragon. It's written for young adults, by a young adult (he's 17 now, but was 15 when he started writing) but is a good read for readers of fantasy of all ages. The reviews on Amazon are all over the map, but I really enjoyed it. It's certainly not Tolkien, but it's better written and more enjoyable than a lot of fantasy novels.

I haven't updated it in a while, but my page on non-photography books shows what sorts of things I usually read. Which is a wide variety.

So many books, so little time.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Plantar Fasciitis!

Plantar Fasciitis. Neither the motto of an obscure branch of the military (Plantar Fasciitis! -- "always fibrous") nor the character in a Shakespearean play set in ancient Rome ("Greetings, Plantar! How fares the house of Fasciitis?", but inflammation of the fibrous strap-like structure on the bottom of the foot. That's likely what's been dogging my dogs the last several days, and will keep me on lower activity for a bit.

It can be caused by non-supportive shoes (check), flat feet (check), high-arched feet (definite no), sudden increase in activity level (not sudden, but the addition certainly keeps me busy), standing on hard floors for a long time (definite yes), and/or obesity (the exercise from working on the addition has made me lose a bit of weight and rearranged some of what I've got, but yeah, I could stand to lose a few more pounds). And common enough that they have pamphlets on it at Kaiser.

I certainly have lots of other stuff to do (like implementing Scary Bear's redesign on the Mt. Diablo Habitat for Humanity website that I maintain, or learning more about video and such for the media ministry at RLC), but it's frustrating as all get-out to have good weather and not be able to work on the house. Hmmph.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Eat Ice Cream, Do Good

All this month you can go to Fenton's Creamery in Oakland and order the "Firefighter Sundae" and help Oakland Firefighters Random Acts. They in turn help others in need. You get ice cream, they help others...what's not to like?

Also, tomorrow and Sunday there will be firefighters waiting on tables and collecting 'tips' for OFRA. There'll be a sundae building contest, a firetruck for kids to climb on (a nifty old Van Pelt open-cab), and book signings by a couple of authors in the OFD (including Zac Unger, author of Working Fire, a great book on being a firefighter.)

Pictures and Progress

Yesterday I worked with Edis, and we got a lot done. I built the rake wall for the east side, which we then installed; Edis put in blocking for the edges of the OSB that makes up the sheathing; I installed a bunch of sheathing; and Edis built his first wall. It was just a wee thing, 4' high and 5' wide, for where the loft sides with the front entry, but it was his wall. I showed him where to build it, reminded him of the studs on 16" centers, and off he went. The only other thing I had to remind him of was using the level to make sure it was plumb. Kat took the above picture in the middle of the afternoon; we actually got quite a bit more done after that.

Today I worked alone and nailed off the sheathing I'd installed yesterday. Thank God for nailguns, and thank Peter for the loan of his. I bought a box of 5,000 nails (8d, for flooring and sheathing), and I went through probably 1/3rd of that today. It'll be gone by the time I'm done, between the rest of the sheathing (mostly on the south wall, facing the backyard) and the roof. I've already gone through 60 lbs. of 16d nails for the framing, and who knows how many other nails of various sorts.

I also installed a bit more sheathing, made sure the loft floors were nailed off, and put some screws into all the floors. The floors are already nailed and have subfloor adhesive to stick them to the joists, but a couple dozen deck screws here and there is mighty cheap insurance to help make sure the flooring never works loose and starts squeaking.

I decided to change the back door from a swinging door to a wider sliding door. The swinging door just wasn't going to work very well, no matter which way it opened. It would either hit the bedroom wall, or open part way into the dining room. It won't be a full 6' wide sliding door, but this way it will be wider and let more sun into the thermal mass for passive solar (that big blob of concrete at the front end of the 'hallway' in the picture shown above). Of course, much of that hallway will become part of the dining room and not be a hallway at all, just a logical flow from the front of the house to the back. One more thing to keep me busy until the trusses are ready.

Of course, there's also ordering the doors and windows. The back door will match the current one, with 5 horizontal lights. Kat has started looking at options for the front door. Given the fairly simple nature of the house, it won't be anything too fancy, but there are a ton of options out there.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Las Luces

Yesterday was a short work day, because I had apheresis at the Red Cross in the afternoon, and as much as I wanted to work on the cricket, it would have taken me too long to uncover then re-cover in the time I had. So I worked on the sheathing a bit.

Kat worked on some things, and when I got home I continued to direct her even if I couldn't do much (no heavy lifting after aphersis). She installed the rest of the subfloor for the loft, and some blocking underneath. To her surprise, she enjoyed herself. I don't know if it's because it's a mellower pace than Habitat, or if it's because she's working on our house, or what, but she enjoyed herself enough to ask for stuff to work on today, too. But it was a little weird for me to not be able to work because of apheresis, just some saw cuts and instruction.

Today I got a reasonably early start, and went to work on the cricket. I got it sheathed, some self-adhesive flashing added as a backup to everything else, and covered it in tar paper. I still need to add some valley flashing to the new valley (and figure out how to get it under the existing shingles without totally trashing them), and of course put shingles on the new roof, but at the moment it's pretty much weather tight.

Which is a good the afternoon progressed, it got cloudy, the wind picked up, and Kat saw rain on the local doppler radar. Ruh-oh, Shaggy! It only rained a few drops here, but I saw lightning off in the distance, so it was a relief to have the cricket in place, because there will be more rain, and sooner rather than later.

Given the end of daylight savings time and the winter angle of the sun, the worksite gets dark pretty early these days. So I put a work light in the addition, so I can work past 4:30pm without having to guess about pencil marks when cutting. I still work a relatively short day most days (doubtless to my neighbors' relief), but I'm satisified with my progress.

But the big news is that I got the roof trusses ordered! After not getting emails or phone calls returned from Bay Truss I gave up on them. But Anderson Truss (and what a great name) came through with a good bid, and in a reasonable time frame. And even though they're based in the Central Valley (Dixon near Sacramento, and Lathrop, near Manteca), the sales guy I talked with lives in Alameda, so he was able to stop by, look over the worksite, have me look over the drawings, and get a check to get things rolling. That's almost as big a relief as getting the cricket weather tight.

And no, I haven't forgotten about posting some pictures from up the hill, but I haven't had time to go up and take them. When it's light (and I have platelets), I'm working on the house!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Another Day...

...another trip to Home Depot. And another week, and another trip to Camron-Stanford House. But the good news with the latter is that I'm finally done with the artifacts insurance listing. The database is still a mess, but we agreed that dealing with that can wait for now. The database may be a mess, but I can at least get data from it now, and the insurance is OK for the next 12 months. Of course, there's still the membership listing...

Saturday was a short day because I had to prep the media for church on Sunday. I framed the cricket, but didn't have time to put sheathing or tar paper on it. But I arranged tarps and some temporary tar paper in the new valley, and figured it would be OK unless we had a big storm.

Today I worked a bit in the morning, then was off to CS House. And this evening...we're having a big storm. My tarps, et al, are working somewhat. Most of the dining room and kitchen is dry, but they seem to be funneling water to one spot in the kitchen. Fortunately that's above the sink, but it's still disconcerting to have rain outside and inside your house.

Friday, November 04, 2005

More Pictures

The rain has stopped and I'll head out to check the tarps again and start working on the addition, but I wanted to post some more pictures from the other day. One is Katarina enjoying a spectacular sunset. She's sitting on the railing of the deck, but that's the view from the addition, too. The other is one of our cats, Rosie, peering out through a hole in the wall where there used to be an outlet in the kitchen.Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this picture. The power was turned off when I let her do this, and the hole is now covered.

553 Years

That's about how much bad luck I'm in for, if you believe that breaking a mirror is seven years bad luck. The other day I opened up more of the existing wall, in order to install a big post to support the HBB (Hecka Big Beam). I knew our house had no insulation when it was built (I've added some in the attic, and the addition will be really well insulated, of course), but it seems like they skimped on some other things, too, like drywall or paneling. The section of wall I was working on is the other side of the dining room wall, where there are built-in cabinets and a large mirror between the counter and upper cabinets.

Well, when I started pulling stuff out of the wall, the mirror was right there against the studs. That's it -- siding, some building paper, the studs, and then the mirror. Almost might as well just leave the windows open with walls built like that. In any event, I didn't realize what it was at first, and I managed to smack the corner of the mirror with the hammer or the prybar, and crrraaack went the mirror. It's a really big mirror, so I figure it must be worth more years than a little mirror.

Last night certainly qualified. I've been keeping tarps over the addition and the opening in the existing roof because even without rain, we get a lot of fog which drips off the trees. But last night brought wind and rain, and the wind blew some of the tarps off the existing roof, and guess where some of the rain went? Uh-huh. Well, I'm going to be redoing the kitchen and dining room anyways...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Emmie Get Your (Nail) Gun

Today I made another Home Depot run for a couple more joist hangers, some lumber, and a few odds and ends. Then my sister-in-law Emmie (she's the worship leader at RLC that I've mentioned before, fearless* leader of Holy Ruckus) (*fearless except some fear of heights) came over and helped for a while. She runs her own software company, has three teenage girls, and Peter works full time, too, so she could only come for a few hours. But every bit helps, and it was fun to spend time with her in a setting besides helping make the worship service happen or a family gathering, i.e., chaos.

Emmie nailed up the new joist hangers and installed the joists I cut, while I was working on the last bit of external wall. The wall with the back door is at a 45' angle underneath the corner of the loft. The opening for a door is easy enough to frame, but the 45' angle and bit of QuadLock from the foundation sticking out made it a bit more challenging to figure out, and a lot more challenging to install.

Then Emmie used the nailgun (it belongs to her husband, Peter, so she's used it before so little training was required) to finish nailing some interior sheerwall. I measured and cut for the subfloor decking in the loft, put down some adhesive, and Emmie nailed that in with the nailgun, too.

She had to leave after that, but we had a good time talking about everything from her kids to (lack) of privacy on the WWW to the contemporary service at RLC to an interview on NPR with Jimmy Carter about his new book about America's (waning) moral values. I don't believe all the same things he does nor agree with all the things he said, but I definitely admire the guy and would take him as president over the current regime in a millisecond. And I believe he's truly Christian in his heart, not just saying he is but not behaving like one. How can a president let this happen on his watch while saying he supports human rights (never mind the Iraq war and the lies that lead to it) and call himself a Christian? (What part of "love your neighbor as yourself" does he not get?) And how can a democracy that says it supports human rights do this kind of stuff and ever hold its head high in the world community again? I...I could ramble on for pages about this and raise my blood pressure thinking about it, but it's been written before. I guess the difference is that the mainstream American media and more of the 51% are paying attention to what the 49% have known all along.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sus Ojos

Today was a much better day than yesterday. Cloudy to start, but no rain, and sun in the afternoon. I worked with Edis, and we got a lot done. I'd pre-cut the headers, jack studs, and sills for a couple of windows that we'd left out to reduce weight when raising the walls. So while I cut back more of the roof and existing siding to install the wall where the new front door will be, Edis kept busy with putting in the stuff for the window framing.

We got the front wall raised, and I put Edis to installing the header, et al, for the window in it, while I laid out and built one of the wall sections that sits atop the existing dining room and kitchen wall. We raised that, and briefly celebrated because although it sits on two levels because of the Hecka Big Beam, and it had to slide over the existing vent stack for the kitchen, it fit like a glove. (No, not like OJ's fit well.)

Then I put Edis to work installing the window framing in it while I laid out the last section of "tall" wall, which goes between the entryway and the bedroom and bathroom. And hence it contains the door to the bedroom, so it will get a big header.

Building that wall was a challenge, because it was as tall and wide as the bedroom is wide, so there wasn't much room to nail. But we managed, and got that wall raised, too.

Which leaves two more sections of exterior wall to build, the biggest one being the part that makes up the outside of the loft above the bathroom. So tomorrow we'll build the interior bathroom wall and the loft above it, so we can install the exterior wall above that.

Edis did some cutting along the way, but he's not getting how to use the Skilsaw, so I ended up doing most of the cuts. Tomorrow I may have him bring the chop saw up again, since it's much easier to make straight cuts with that, even if it is slower. But I had to remind him time and again to put his safety glasses on -- "¡Sus ojos!" ("Your eyes!")

One of the biggest framing tasks remaining (beside installing the roof trusses whenever those are ready) is making a cricket on the existing roof to meet the side of the addition. That and installing the sheathing (5/8" OSB) on the walls should keep me busy until the roof trusses are ready.

Just getting the roof trusses ordered is taking a frustratingly long time. There aren't that many companies that make trusses in the SF Bay Area, and some won't even do it for single houses -- they only make trusses en masse for developers doing multi-home developments. I've emailed, then called BayTruss, and only get sporadic responses. I just want to know how much the darn things will cost, then I'll go ahead and order them. But that's taking forever. I'm even considering getting them through Home Depot, though I'm not sure they do raised-heel trusses.

A lot of people haven't the foggiest idea what raised-heel trusses are -- even the engineer who did the calcs for the Hecka Big Beam hadn't heard of them. The concept is pretty simple, though. The heel (the part of the truss that sits on top of the walls) is, well, raised. Why is this a good thing, you ask? Because it allows putting more insulation all the way across the ceiling, instead of having it be squished at the edges of the roof because of limited space. Which makes for a better insulated house, which is more comfortable and cheaper to heat. And it makes installing aforementioned insulation much, much easier.

After I dropped off Edis, I made another trip to Home Depot for some more wood for tomorrow's building. A woman in the parking lot asked if I needed help loading, clearly looking for some money. I said no thanks, so she asked if I could help with some money for dinner. Long story short, 'Vicki' may have been lying through her teeth, but she helped me load the lumber on the car, and I gave her some money for dinner and some more for diapers for her 5 month old daughter. And she asked for prayer, which I'll definitely give. A long while back I heard a sermon on giving to people who are begging. The pastor said he used to always worry that people would just use the money for drugs, alcohol, etc. But then he realized...what if they don't? He realized the Christ-like thing to do was just give them the money, and let God sort it out. So I did, and we both went away happy. And God will sort it out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I'm very glad I spent Monday and Tuesday at the worship seminar, but today was not a fun-filled day. The seminar was awesome. I learned some things, got some new ideas, and most importantly, got a chance to worship God and recharge my batteries a bit. Most Sundays I don't get to be as involved in the service as much as I'd like, because I'm too busy helping make sure the service happens. Running sound, the projector with the order of worship and liturgy, the lighting (such as we have control of that), and dealing with setup in general, I don't get much chance to get involved in the service. But Monday and Tuesday, I didn't have to worry about that. But in typical fashion, I did worry about some of that..."how did they do that?" "can we do that?" "we do that better", etc.

But today, I awoke somewhat tired from all the social activity and the later than usual nights, and to the sound of rain falling. Ack! The forecast had a chance of rain Thursday and Friday, but this was most definitely rain, and on Wednesday. There was water getting various places, but nothing too bad. But there was a rather alarming pool of water that had collected in a low spot in the tarp, so I raced around adjusting things, and finally figured out how to get rid of the pool of water on the tarp without making a total mess of things.

And then I raced off to the dentist to get my broken tooth looked at, running late because of the added traffic from the rain. The dentist built some forms around the tooth and patched it up, but a variety of power tools were involved, which made a slight headache into a major headache in short order. I got some ibuprofen and headed off to Home Depot. I got another tarp, but mostly more wood for building some of the smaller wall sections. To accompany the process of loading the madera, err, wood, onto the car, I heard the lovely sound of a piledriver working on some nearby freeway. Ugh...that didn't help the iboprofen at all.

But I got things loaded, made it home, and by that time the rain had mostly stopped. And even managed to get some things done. Added some brackets to connect the cut roof and ceiling joists to the Hecka Big Beam, removed some siding so I could add strapping to connect said beam to the existing wall, and framed some of the short wall sections in the loft. Now you can even see where the windows in the loft will be. Despite the added cruft, not a bad day's work.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hecka Big Beam

Today I worked alone. In part because I was expecting to go to the dentist for a chipped tooth (no, not a construction related accident, just bad enamel). But the dentist had a family emergency, so the appointment had to be rescheduled. I'm not sure when it'll actually get looked at, because Monday and Tuesday I'm going to a worship seminar with my sister-in-law (who happens to be the worship leader at RLC where I run sound). It'll be a nice change to listen to a worship service and participate instead of working to make it happen.

I spent the whole day working on the really big beam that will support the overhang over the back door, and provide the header for the opening between the existing dining room and the addition. It's 4"x12" by 16' long, and very heavy.

Yesterday I cut away the roof overhang. The first step today was preparing for cutting the roof and ceiling joists, in particular making sure it didn't all come crashing down when they were cut. I put a 2x8 in the attic across the joists to help spread out the load, then cut away more of the roof to expose the top of the wall where the beam will sit. It doesn't sound like much, and didn't seem like that much until I looked at the pile of debris I generated doing it.

I added braces to make sure the beam wouldn't fall off the top of the wall, put some rollers (formerly known as an old broomstick handle) on top of the wall, and lowered the beam little by little into place. With the rollers there it was a snap to move it out to position, and I could adjust the position by just twisting one of the rollers. Pretty neat. Though it was heavy enough to squoosh the rollers out of round. But with a plumb bob (thanks, Pete) and a guide board on the side of the addition, I got the beam where it needed to be and fastened it down. It'll ultimately be held in place with some metal strapping down the wall, but it's got enough holding it in place for now.

All the cutting, climbing up and down, and sitting in the hot sun took its toll on me. So I took some time after cleaning up the work site to sit and enjoy what will be our new view out the bedroom window. Not too shabby, eh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Parfait Got Layers

"Parfait got layers." And so do roofs. At least properly constructed ones. Most people think shingles are what keeps water out of their houses. That's partly true, but shingles are there to protect the tar paper that's the real moisture barrier.

Today I worked with Edis, and while I started cutting back the roof, I tried to keep him busy with finishing up some things and fixing some others. Cutting through the roof took a while, because there's a lot of layers to it: shingles, tar paper, plywood sheathing, old skip sheathing.

It was gratifying to see that the roof I put on a couple of years ago was working properly. There was plenty of crud stuck between the cementious tiles (they look like wood shakes, but are Class A fire resistant), but beneath them, the tar paper and plywood was dry as a bone. In the picture to the left, you can see the multiple layers of shingles and multiple layers of tar paper (This is near the edge of the roof, so I'd added an extra layer of tarpaper underneath. In colder climates where there's freezing and thawing, that layer is normally a self-adhesive membrane.)

But all those layers take time to cut through, especially when the plan is to cut through them no more than necessary, and to not cut through the roof and ceiling joists until things are properly supported. And more time yet when the shingles are cementious tiles, which require a special blade on the Skilsaw to cut.

I had Edis add the header to a window, including doing the measuring and cutting. In the past, I've done all the measuring and cutting and showed him where to nail things, so this was a step up in responsibility for him. To paraphrase Spiderman, with greater responsibility comes the chance for greater screwups. He didn't do too badly, but he's still not very good with a Skilsaw. I explained to him that it's like driving a car. If you look right in front of the car, you'll swerve a lot making corrections. It's the same with sawing -- you want to look further ahead and make sure you're headed towards your overall goal, and your corrections end up being fewer and smaller.

As with many teenagers, I think Edis has some of the feeling that he's immortal. He's bright, energetic, and friendly. But I've lost track of the number of times I've had to remind him of safety things, like wearing safety glasses when using power tools like saws. I also had the opportunity to remind him of the adage in construction, "measure twice, cut once". I've certainly made my share of mistakes, but that's where some of the real learning comes in for construction. Mistakes will be made, but it's how you deal with them that sets things apart.

Despite that, we made good progress. I cut away the roof overhang, Edis finished the framing on a couple things, and we put the Really Big Beam® on the roof in preparation for the next step.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Muy Pesado

Yesterday I finished the subfloor, and measured and cut all the pieces for the stairs. I borrowed a nailgun from my brother-in-law Peter, and with the correct connectors so I could actually use it, I made short work of finishing up the nailing on the flooring.

Today I worked with Edis again. When he called the other morning to see if I had work for him, my brain did a major gear grind. I was out of practice speaking and thinking in Spanish, and add in that I'm not a morning person (those who've been on the Mexico mission trips with me would say that's a major understatement) and I was pleased just to figure out who was calling, never mind about what. But we set up that he'd work today, Friday.

I wasn't totally sure about working with him on the framing, because I wasn't sure if I could keep him busy without slowing myself down. And I like doing the framing. Not just because the walls go up relatively quickly, but I like the thinking, measuring, cutting and hammering that goes into it. So I wasn't that eager to have someone else working on it.

But it turned out to be a good thing. While I started noodling over the layout for the first wall segment, I had Edis assemble the pieces of the steps that I'd measured and cut yesterday. As I started measuring and cutting things and laying out the top and bottom plates, I had Edis bringing the necessary lumber down from the carport.

While this was going on, we had a major bit of excitement. Our neighbor Cynthia is off to Albania for several weeks for work (we'll be helping take care of her cats for a bit), and her somewhat elderly aunt and uncle came to take her to the airport. We said hello, and I went back to what I was working on. The next thing I know, there's a crash and thump, and Cynthia's uncle is rolling down the hill towards out front walk. Aiyeee! There's about a 4' drop off from the walkway back to Cynthia's door before the hill starts at a 30° angle or so. He apparently missed the last step down on the walkway, stumbled and fell, and then rolled off the drop off. Fortunately he only suffered some minor cuts (and doubtless some bruises), but was otherwise OK. We let him catch his breath and I looked for any signs of injury besides the cuts, then helped him to his feet and walked him back next door. He could have easily broken bones or worse had he fallen badly, so it's very fortunate that some minor cuts were the worst of it.

Once that was over, we went back to work. We assembled part of one of the bedroom walls (it's long enough that it needs to be built in two pieces). We went to lift it into place on the higher part of the foundation wall, and over the foundation bolts, and discovered it's very heavy. I ended up getting Katarina to come out and help us lift and balance it. Fortunately I'd pretested the holes for the foundation bolts, so it fit like a charm when it dropped into place. I've only worked on 2x4 walls before at Habitat, and scantily framed 2x4 walls on the Mexico mission trips (ratty 2x4s on 24" centers, and no doubling of studs for anything, separate jack studs for windows and doors, etc.), so I wasn't fully prepared for how much heavier a 2x6 wall would be.

When we built the next section of wall, I decided it would be prudent to leave out the window headers until the wall was in place so it would be lighter and a bit more manageable. As this was the south wall, which has 4 large windows, with a large enough span to require a a 6x8 header (a 4x8 + plywood + a 2x8), that turned out to be a good thing. And I brought Katarina out to help first thing, instead of us trying to lift and balance it with two people. But it was still hecka heavy.

There will be one more really heavy wall segment, and one not so heavy but still pretty heavy one that will require lifting over the plumbing stub-outs, but most of the rest of the walls won't be so bad. Of course, there's also that 4"x12"-16' beam to be lifted 8' into place...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Vanity, Thy Name is *&$%@#!!

The other day I noticed the bathroom faucet was dripping, so I changed the washer, but it didn't help. I took a closer look at the valve, and it was pretty worn. So rather than just replace the valve, I decided it was time to replace the whole fixture. I talked to Kat about what to get, deciding on something to match the light fixtures and towel bars (brushed nickel) and picked up a new faucet at Home Depot.

I figured I'd work on it after working on the addition, after it was too dark to work outside. But this morning Kat and I woke up early, and rather than annoy my neighbors with some 7AM hammering and sawing, I decided to work on the new faucet. Well, as frequently happens, the project got bigger.

My first discovery was that the shut off valves under the sink didn't completely shut off the water. So I added those to the "to be replaced" list and turned off the water to the house. While I had the water off, I took the opportunity to drain the supply lines to the addition, and the DWV pipes as well. I don't know when I'll be working on the plumbing next, so there's no need for the water to sit there.

The new faucet came with a new tailpiece (the pipe immediately below the sink), so I disassembled the trap to start, because it makes getting to the other stuff easier. The trap had a fair amount of corrosion (not to mention some really unpleasant gunk), so it got added to the "to be replaced" list, too.

I then moved on to disconnecting the water supply lines, and quickly discovered why they wouldn't shut off completely -- the valves were full of corroded crud, courtesy of the old galvanized pipes. Back when I redid the shower, I replaced the water supply lines for that with copper, but didn't touch the ones for the sink or toilet. That day will come...the supply lines going into the wall are galvanized, and were full of more crud.

Then I went to remove the old faucet and tailpiece. The faucet wasn't too bad to remove, thanks to having a basin wrench from installing a new faucet in the kitchen some years back. The tailpiece shouldn't have been too bad, but I struggled and struggled with it, unable to get the two pieces of it separated. I eventually gave up, got my sawzall, and made short work of it. I then discovered why I'd struggled so much -- they'd soldered the pieces togther when they installed it. D'oh!

All of this was increasingly difficult, because the vanity in the bathroom is pretty small, and has an edge at the front of the cabinet that makes leaning into it awkward. So I set up some wood to support my back over that, and put a stadium cushion in the vanity for my head, and then it was at least possible to stick my head under. But oy! I've never had a problem with claustrophobia before, but I had to come out for a break several times, because I just got freaked. But I eventually got the old stuff out, and the new stuff in, which just left the trap.

After a couple of trips to the local hardware store to get a chrome trap, I decided I'd just replace the trap and other drain pipes with plastic. The new tailpiece is plastic, so why not? Plastic is a lot easier to get leak-free, and is more forgiving of pipes not quite aligned. Well, one why not is that the connection into the wall, instead of being a normal compression fitting for chrome pipes is a threaded 2" cast iron pipe. Huh. Finding anything to connect to that is going to be a challenge. I temporarily put the old trap back in, but with a tub to catch the inevitable leaks...and discovered that the hot water supply line is 99.99% plugged with corrosion.

I wanted to get back to work on the addition! So I cleaned up my plumbing tools, and I got out my compressor, the nail gun my brother-in-law loaned me, and was ready to roll. Or not. The nail gun has a different kind of connector than my compressor and air hose. Hmmph. So back into the basement went the compressor, and out came the ol' framing hammer.

I installed more of the subflooring today, getting almost all of it done, including the tricky parts in the bathroom that had to fit over various pipes. YAHDT was necessary for more adhesive, a new connector for the nail gun, and of course some bits and pieces of ABS piping for the bathroom sink. I found everything I needed for the bathroom, except of course the 2" threaded connector. 2" ABS isn't the same size as 2" cast iron, of course.

But despite getting side-tracked with the new faucet and dealing with the compressor, I got a fair amount done today. The addition really looks like part of a house now since it has a floor and plumbing stubs. Tomorrow I'll finish up the subfloor, and build the steps up to the bedroom level. That shouldn't be too bad since it's only 3 steps, so maybe tomorrow I'll start on walls. And it was better than yesterday afternoon, which was filled with a trip to Camron-Stanford House to finally finish updating the artifact database so they can update their insurance. Of course, now they want membership lists and other stuff...

Monday, October 10, 2005


Well, despite the computer problems, the inspector made it. The guy who doles out the assignments for her is kind enough to print them out and do some optimizing. Like making sure that multiple inspections for a site (e.g., plumbing rough-in + floor framing) get scheduled for the same time and the same inspector (no, really...sometimes they get handed out to different inspectors). But the upshot is that her list was printed out on Friday, well before the computer problems.

So she showed up a little while ago, took a look at the plumbing, re-acquainted herself with the plans, made sure there was access to the crawl space, and didn't even insist I refill the 10' stack. I siphoned out some of the water earlier because as the pipes and water heated up, the water expanded, so it start dribbling over the top of the stack.

She also told me about a couple of things in the shearwall and roof sheathing to be sure to catch when nailing, and that there's a requirement for houses in this area to have sheetrock (aka drywall) on the outside of the sheathing, under the siding, for added fire protection. Given that the siding will be wood, we were both dubious about how much that would actually help, but easy enough to do. It will make it a pain when the wet weather starts.

But I'm 2 for 2 on inspections. And I can put the floor on, and start building walls!*dances about merrily*. OK, that last sentence probably sound weird unless you've played a game like Wyvern, a graphical MUD that my friend Steve created and I did some work on. probably sounds weird even to some people who have played the game.

Optimizing the inspections reminded me of a story with one of Steve's brothers. Back when he was in high school or college or somesuch, he went to work for a pizza place delivering pizzas. Company policy was to make the deliveries in the order the calls came in. Even if that meant going back and forth across town. Steve's brother thought that was pretty stupid, and did a quick traveling salesman optimization and delivered the pizzas in less than the allotted time. After a while of this, the owner came to talk to him. The owner told him "You're a really, really good driver." "Thanks!" "No, you don't're the best delivery driver we've ever had!" Steve's brother quickly decided this was not where he wanted to spend his life working, at least if he was looking for any form of mental stimulation.

Still Waiting...

The lumber arrived this morning from Economy Lumber. A couple of the 8ft. 2x6s look a bit gnarly (lots of wane), but everything was there. It didn't look like $1000+ of lumber, even with the big 16ft. 4x12. But then I spent a couple of hours moving it from the street into the carport, and it certainly felt like that much lumber. My neighbor Jon offered to help, but I had a good start on it and he was off to an appointment, so I declined.

I've been expecting the inspector to call to let me know a window for the inspection, but hadn't heard anything by lunchtime. And I was reminded this is Columbus Day, so I started wondering if they'd scheduled an inspection for a day no inspectors were working. So I called the city, and found out their computers are the whole building. D'oh! Inspectors are making their rounds as best they can, but without access to their files, well...I may be waiting longer. Hmmph. I'm ready to build some walls!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Waiting Game

As expected, I've been keeping busy with a variety of things this week. Monday I cemented the DWV lines together, and did some clean up in the basement.

Yesterday I pressure tested the DWV lines, and as expected there were no problems. I haven't tested it under the full 10' column of water, but there shouldn't be any problems with that...besides bracing the ABS pipe. 10' of water even in a 2" pipe is pretty heavy.

Then it was off to the Red Cross for apheresis, and in the afternoon I went and worked at Camron-Stanford House on the database. What a mess. I'm slowly getting my head around it, but I realized a long time ago that it had about 5X as many fields and forms as needed, and they're not consistently or clearly named.

Today I made a trip to Economy Lumber to order, well, lumber. Lots of different stuff for framing and sheathing the walls, all the way up to a 4"x12", 16 ft. long beam. That'll go across the dining room where the existing wall is, supporting the wall above it and the 5' cantilever section of the loft.

I also made a trip to Home Depot (I'm sure they missed me), and picked up some odds and ends, and some material to work at my friend Cindy's. She's the one who runs Oakland Firefighters Random Acts. And given her bad back, full-time work on Random Acts, and that job thingy, she can't do as much work on her property as she'd like. So I put some of the trim around the replacement windows I'd installed a while back, and did a lot of caulking. The wood shingle siding is in pretty bad shape, so I can imagine working on that at some point in the future, too. Then there's the steps that need finishing, if Cindy decides she wants the railing on both sides, the porch decking that needs repair, the deck in the back that needs building... well, between our house, Cindy's, Habitat for Humanity, and the Mexico Mission trips, I'll have no shortage of construction and home improvement stuff to work on.

Friday, September 30, 2005

New Shoes 2

I've known for a while that I'd need new work boots eventually. I don't know how many years ago I went down to Sears and picked up an inexpensive pair of steel-toe work boots. These boots have been out to Habitat countless times, lots of home-improvement projects here, four Mexico mission trips, and who knows what else.

The treads wore off a long time ago. The toe on one wore through to the steel some time back. They're covered in concrete, caulk, a variety of adhesives, and a lot of plain old dirt.

But the final straw was when I went past wearing off the tread and actually wore through the sole. I noticed it when I stepped on some gravel, and could feel the texture with my foot. Hmm, not a good sign. Then one of the laces broke, and it was past time.

I'd stopped by Sears in Oakland, but they didn't have my size in steel toe. Or at least they couldn't find it. Nice people there, but I don't think they know their store very well. So yesterday I stopped by Sears in Pleasanton since I was in the area for a trip to RLC and lunch with my friends Pete and Jim, and got what I wanted with a minimum of fuss for $34.98 plus tax.

I was going to pick up a pressure valve from my friend Rob at church for the DWV line inspection, but I found out that I can do either 5 lbs. of air pressure or a 10 ft. column of water. The latter is easier to find leaks with (not that I expect any with ABS and its gnarly adhesive), and I have what I need, so I'll do that.

Unfortunately the next available inspection isn't until next Monday, the 10th. Quite a bit longer than the first time, and than what I was planning on. There's other stuff I can do to keep busy, like pre-frame some of the walls, but it'd be nice to have that large space of the floor decking to work on. Oh well. There's more work to be done at Camron-Stanford House, apheresis again on Tuesday, and countless other tasks around the house that need doing. Like cleaning up the construction detritus in the basement. Not too long ago I had a nice work space there. Hmm...maybe I can try rescheduling for an earlier time :-) Or maybe I'll go out to Habitat. I haven't been out to the work site for a while, and I've been meaning to go back out.

Yesterday had some interesting other stuff besides new boots and lunch. When I stopped by RLC, I heard the office manager talking to someone about "blah, blah, fire marshal". Fire marshal? a lot of the sound and video equipment there is at least partly my responsibility, and the sound booth has a mess of cords to catch a fire marshal's eye, I asked what it was about.

No problems in the sound booth (I'd wired some new 4 plug outlets there so we didn't have chains of power strips plugged in to other power strips, a definite no-no), but this fire marshal is a bit more particular than the last. Instead of "no flammable materials" in the furnace room, he wants "no materials", period. As storage at church is pretty limited, there was plenty in there: ladders, folding chairs, tables, shelves with random bits and pieces (need some somewhat worn maps of the Holy Land?), and a large pull-down projection screen. Apparently that was purchased back when they started the contemporary service, and they used it for a while for projecting overheads of lyrics. But it had to be off to the side where nobody could see it easily, so it got taken down and stored. Anyways, I spent the next hour finding new homes for the things stored there, and got stuff cleaned up to what will hopefully be the fire marshal's satisifaction. But know anyone who needs a 10' wide pull-down projection screen?

I don't think the cleanup made any difference to safety, but one thing sure did: I found two extension cords in the janitor's closet that were hazards at best. One had the covering torn at the plug, so just the wires were holding it together. The other had the 3rd prong (the safety ground) broken off. Some people do that because they don't have a 3-prong adapter for a 2-prong outlet, but it creates a major safety hazard. The kind where people end up injured or dead. So I threw out those two cords, and bought a new one at the nearby OSH.

Then last night I went to Rooster's Bar in Alameda to take some pictures of a friend's band. Kautz plays guitar at RLC some Sundays and is a pretty good guy, so I took pictures of the band and will be designing a web site for them. Know anyone who has gigs for a talented heavy metal band? They had a gig after the shoot, but unfortunately they weren't going to be on for a couple of hours. And the bar was charging a $7 cover charge. I was pretty sure I didn't want to sit and listen to hours of heavy metal music, even if the bar does have Lagunitas IPA on tap.

And finally, to keep the people who want more pictures on the blog happy, we have a nice shot of the water supply lines. Kat envisioned it, but I took while she was at work. A nice composition for something otherwise pretty mundane.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Drain, Drain, Go Away

Yesterday I made a brief attempt at fixing the last leak, but I decided I was going to have to just redo that fitting and the nearby one. In the afternoon it was off to the Red Cross for apheresis. I watched Ocean's Twelve, the sequel to the remake of the 1960 film, Ocean's Eleven. Not a bad movie, but disappointing after the first one, which did a pretty good job of capturing the essence of the original even if they didn't have the "Rat Pack". I always wonder about movie remakes. If the original was great, why remake it? I know, I know...because they don't have any original ideas anymore. What will they remake next? Casablanca?

I started today by disassembling the problem fittings, which took longer than anticipated because there was some water lurking in the pipes. But I got things apart, prepped the new fittings, sweated things, and voilĂ ! It worked first try. Thanks, Jim. You're a good teacher. But my skills will probably be rusty again by the time I'm ready for working on the plumbing again, so don't go anywhere just yet.

After lunch I worked some more on roughing in the DWV system. I'd drawn out how things were supposed to go, but when you actually get to putting pipes in place, dealing with the proper slope (1/4" per foot), various obstacles like floor joists, water supply lines, and the foundation, it gets to be a lot trickier. Oh, and of course you need to start and end up at all the right points. Since I have the main sewer line out of the addition in a fixed location through the foundation wall, that end has to be exact.

I also needed to figure out how to cut the 4" DWV pipe. It was too big to fit in my chopsaw, and I'm not that accurate with a Sawzall, so I ended up building a miter box big enough to hold the 4" pipe. And then made the cuts I needed with hand saw. A lot slower than the chop saw, but it got the job done.

I got all the runs and changes figured out, but needed to make YAHDR (Yet Another Home Depot Run), which was only partly successful. They were out of 4" connectors to join two pipes together, so I'll have to make a visit someplace else to get one when I'm out tomorrow. But there are drain lines from the shower, sink and toilet now. They just need one more fitting, and gluing together, and I'll be ready for an inspection!

Monday, September 26, 2005

One Drip, One Run, Some Errors

Today I pressure-tested the water supply lines that I finished sweating on Saturday after Jim left. Not surprisingly, there were some leaks. After some cycles of drain the lines, re-sweat the leaky joints, turn on the lines, repeat I began to suspect that there was too much water still in some of the lines because the solder wasn't flowing the way it should. Jim suggested I cut out one of the problem sections and re-do as much as I could off-site, then install it. That worked like a charm, and the cold water supply line is now at pressure -- woohoo! There's still one small leak in the hot water supply line, but I'm confident I can fix that tomorrow.

I also laid out the DWV (drain waste vent) pipes, though I had to make a run down to the local ACE hardware for a couple of fittings (and some more solder for the water supply line fixes I was making). But I should be able to get the plumbing rough-in and floor framing inspected this week, and start moving foward with the floor decking and walls!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Plumbing and More Pictures

Jim came and helped me with the plumbing today as planned. I felt a little guilty about asking for his help (again), but then I remembered that I spent all yesterday afternoon helping at Camron-Stanford House, a volunteer reference Jim hooked me up with. It can be very tiring, as I've blogged about before, so now I don't feel so bad about asking for Jim's help.

Jim and his wife Brigitte came after lunch, and Jim made short work of the connections to the existing plumbing that had been giving me trouble. His sweated joints may not be the most beautiful, but they held the first time we tried turning on the water. Which is a lot more than I can say for an annoyingly large percentage of the joints I've sweated.

Below are some more pictures of the progress so far.

And for good measure, here's a picture of my neighbor Cynthia's (she helped during the concrete pour) cat Fritz. He was waiting in our driveway for some attention when I went next door to take the picture from above.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pictures, Plumbers and Pastors

I was told I wasn't posting enough pictures, so here you go. I still want to get a shot from above of the floor framing and plumbing, but this is a start. It's the addition wearing its raincoat (and more often fog and pine needle coat). It won't keep off a serious rain, but it keeps most of the water and pine needles out.

Today I worked on the plumbing some more, but I realized yesterday that sweating pipes is not my strong suit. I can do it when there's lots of room and only a few connections, but those "last connections" where things are tight and there's multiple joints to sweat give me fits. Fortunately my good friend Jim agreed to come give me a hand (again -- he helped me out back when I was remodeling the bathroom, and dielectric unions were giving me fits).

Jim is one of those interesting people who's been a number of things in his life. He doesn't have a lot of formal education, but he's very intelligent and has a lot of different experiences, so he's a jack-of-all-trades and master of many. I'm feel like I'm more of a dilettante in comparison. Jim once made his living as a plumber, and besides having taught me about the wonders of Wonder Bread, he's taught me other valuable lessons about being a plumber: shit runs down hill, and pay day is on Friday. So there you go -- now you've begun your education as a plumber, too. A lot of the rest is fairly easy, but sweating pipes well is the work of an artist. Jim is definitely an artist. Just check out his photography.

I just realized there might be some confusion about Jim. The above refers to a different Jim than Pastor Jim who helped me during the concrete pour. Though Pastor Jim has been a number of things in life, too: raisin farmer, electrical parts salesman, and pastor, that I know of. Come to think of it, I think he was singing and playing guitar when he and his wife Nancy met.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hooray for MAPP gas!

The "Sweets of the Soul" concert at RLC on Sunday wiped me out. Monday was pretty much lost to resting from that. The concert was a big success. People had a lot of fun, and we raised a lot of money for Hurricane Katrina relief and rebuilding. Let's pray that they don't get clobbered by Hurricane Rita in the mean time.

Tuesday I was thinking the forecast thunderstorms (thunderstorms? in the Bay Area? mooOOoo!) might slow down work, but instead it was taking one of our cats, Rosie, to the vet that did. She had YAAOHB (Yet Another Abscess On Her Butt), basically an area swollen from infection, usually caused by getting bitten by another cat. Since she's been indoors except for a few closely supervised trips outside on harness, the only possible source of that would be our other cat, Star. But as much as they tussle sometimes (mostly stalking and chasing each other around the house), we've never seen them get that violent with each other. Hmmph.

But along the way I've finished the floor framing, installed the duct work for the furnace, and gotten some of the water supply lines roughed in. I still need to finish those, and rough in the DWV (drain, waste and vent system), then get all that inspected. Then I can put the floor down, and start building some walls!

It's been a while since I sweated copper pipes. The last time was when I remodeled the bathroom. The window was rotten and the wall was starting to go, so I redid the whole thing, including replacing the galvanized plumbing with copper. I was almost driven mad by trying to solder di-electric unions (the special parts that connect galvanized pipes with copper), until my friend Jim told me to get some MAPP gas. It makes a lot hotter flame than a regular propane torch, and makes things a lot easier. But my skills were a bit rusty, so I practiced before sweating any joints that matter. We'll see how well I did when I actually pressure test things, but the MAPP gas made things go pretty smoothly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Yo Vivo En Home Depot

Monday I worked with Edis and we installed some joists and cleaned up the old stairwell that will be beneath the entry and dining room. It was nice to have him for the clean up (lots of hauling), but I'm not sure it was a net gain hanging joists with him.

Tuesday I worked alone, and spent much of the day picking up some double-wide joist hangers and then getting plumbing supplies at Home Depot. Net result, not that much done on the house itself.

Today I worked alone again, and got a lot done. All the joists hung in the entry and dining room area, a couple more in the bedroom, and I got a good start on the framing where the stairs and pocket door to the bedroom will go. But I needed to make another Home Depot run in the middle. Doh! But all in all, a very productive day.

Right now I'm at Resurrection for the worship team practice. I don't usually make it to practice because it's a bit of drive here and back, but this weekend we're putting on a song fest, "Sweets of the Soul". A mix of secular and Christian music, good times, and a key component -- desserts! There's a free will offering that will go to Hurricane Katrina relief. Probably Habitat for Humanity and their "Operation Home Delivery", which will have affiliates around the country pre-framing houses and shipping them in containers down to New Orleans and Mississippi.

Friday, September 09, 2005


I've added some pictures to previous entries, including some my neighbor Cynthia took during the concrete pour, and yesterday's entry about floor joists.

Today I worked alone, and started a bit later (well, OK, a lot later) than I do when I'm working with Edis or Naun. I installed the ledger board to hold one end of the floor joists, which involved putting in a lot of big self-tapping screws into the Simpson ICF ledger connectors. I also installed the rim board around the bedroom and bathroom level, and actually got 3 floor joists put up. I stopped there in part because to put in any more, I need to move the pile of joists I'm storing in the middle of the foundation, lest they get trapped. But it's looking more and more like a house!

And because Kat had never seen the loads I've carried on the VW Golf (and hinted at she probably didn't want to see), here's a picture of some 16' and 20' 2x10s that I brought home yesterday after dropping off Edis. I got them because a bad bit of planning. The ICF ledger connectors are for 2x material (1-1/2" actual thickness), but the rim board is only 1-1/4". So I needed to use regular lumber for them, though it's better to use manufactured rim boards when using manufactured joists, as regular lumber shrinks more than manufactured does, so it can lead to mismatches if you're not careful. So now I have too much rim board. I'm not sure if I can take it back or not, since it's a special order item.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Today I worked with Edis again. And joy of joys, we got to actually put in some wood that will be permanent! Some pressure-treated (PT) 2x8 for the sill plate, the wood that gets bolted to the foundation and the floor joists sit on. I also had Edis mix and place some concrete around a drain and a small area near where the heating duct passes through from beneath the dining room and entry way to under the bedroom.

And as scheduled, Economy Lumber delivered the floor joists, rim joist and T&G flooring I'd ordered. It arrived with a mighty thump! (They do the normal back up and brake hard, and let the load roll off the back type of delivery). Unfortunately, it arrived just as the lunch I was preparing was ready (Cuban-style black beans and rice -- yum!), so I moved some stuff down while Edis finished up with the concrete, and we had a slightly less fresh lunch.

We'd had tamales (from Trader Joe's -- yum!) for lunch the other week, and I found out that Edis (and by extrapolating based on other observations, Naun) doesn't like spicy food. The TJ tamales have chiles in them, and come with sort of spicy salsa, so it was no surprise that he picked out the chiles and ate the rest. So I asked what foods he does like, and intersected that set with the foods I like, and we had pasta with marinara sauce. This morning when I picked him up, Edis had two "Honduran-style" tamales for me. I asked if they had meat, and he said they had chicken.

Today at lunch, Edis asked if I'd eaten the tamales he'd given me (not sure when that would have happened, since we'd been working together since we'd arrived), and I explained that I didn't eat meat, and he asked why. to explain why I don't eat meat, given my limited Spanish? I started by saying it's very complicated. It takes lots of land and water to raise cows, and they produce a lot of waste. Many cows aren't treated well (not sure I actually said that, but I said words to that effect.) It's better for my heart (I couldn't remember how to say body, and wasn't sure that would translate anyway, since I meant health). But I managed to get my point across, for probably the most complicated thing I've ever said in a language besides English. And promptly found out his little brother (who still lives in Honduras) doesn't like meat. He likes beans and rice, and has managed to get a little gordo eating it. But the upshot is that Katarina will get to sample the tamales, and I'll report to Edis and his mom.

And in an odd bit of kismet, while Edis and I were moving the floor joists, et al, down to near the addition so they wouldn't be swiped or get wet, and a neighbor I've seen walking before was stopped by the pile of lumber. She asked if I was going to throw away the strapping from the lumber (the floor joists were in one bundle, the rim joists in another, and the T&G plywood in a third). I said yes, and asked what she wanted it for, and she said an art project. She said she'd looked into buying some, but it was only available in large quantities, and she only needed a bit. So I went and found the other straps and gave her those, too. I'm doing my best to reduce / reuse / recycle for this building project (some of the 2x8 DF that's going to be the joists for the 'floor' of the lofts has already been used 2 or 3 times), so this was a great thing for me. I didn't have to wrestle the metal straps into the garbage (I don't think they'll take them for recycling), and she ended up with exactly what she wanted for her project. How cool is that?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Tuesday morning I did some more filling around the foundation. Between that and Monday's work, my arms were pretty tired. I arrived at the Red Cross for my bi-weekly apheresis, and they told me they're not using lidocaine anymore. (Kat, skip the rest of this paragraph :-) It's a local anesthetic used to numb where they insert the needles. Originally I didn't use it, but as scar tissue built up, it started getting painful, so I had them use it. It stings like nobody's business when they inject the lidocaine, but it does deaden things enough that I didn't mind them inserting the needles. But there was a long letter from some muckety-muck at the Red Cross explaining they're not using it anymore, so it boiled down to... did I want to donate platelets without it? Given the ever-present need for blood platelets (and whole blood -- get out there and donate!), I decided to go ahead. Well, between my sore muscles from working on the house, and the lack of lidocaine...youch! OK, I'm a wimp, but it hurt. But I think that may also have to do with who does it. Ping, one of the nurses at the Red Cross, has a technique such that I barely notice. Sue, on the other hand, well, I definitely notice when she inserts the needles :-)

Today I went to Resurrection to work on the sound system. The speakers in the narthex and cry room have been out for a while. (Why does it always happen that the Baptists are using things that stuff breaks? Oh well, better they're using our sanctuary and stuff rather than running out to build or buy a new building that gets used a couple times a week). After some to-ing and fro-ing to try different things, I discovered that the speakers were the problem. So I removed them, and installed the other two (which I'd been planning to also install in the narthex at some point), and got stuff up and running again. And I did my usual other cleanup things, putting stuff away in the right place that had migrated, rewinding the cables that had been wound wrong (or not at all), and doing some general tidying.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Workin' For a Living

I worked with Edis yesterday, and we installed the foundation perimeter drain. Drainage board against the foundation. Filter fabric, gravel, perforated pipe, and mixed backfill in the trench. And a second, solid pipe to handle the drain from the uphill neighbors' driveway. At least we think that's what it is. The bottom was packed solid with dirt, so it's not clear (no pun intended) if that pipe is still connected to anything.

On my way to pick up Edis, I was struck by the irony of the scene. It was Labor Day, so the traffic was very light compared with a normal Monday morning, as people from lawyers to bankers to programmers took the day off. But the people who don't have work but are looking, the trabajadores, were out in full force as usual, waiting, hoping, praying for some work. Usually they're harder to spot in their clusters on the corners, as there's cars and people rushing about. But they were there, hoping to labor on Labor Day.