Monday, September 22, 2008

Bustin' Loose

Today I rented a jackhammer again, and removed part of the walk in front of the house. Katarina and I had decided to remove it after I'd discovered and starting fixing the problems with the foundation and rot in the sill plate and rim joists. We're going to raise the remaining area up to match the level of the bottom step down (on the left in the picture) from the front walk, as well as slope it away from the door, but Katarina wants a more natural look around her office door.

I'd forgotten how much stuff makes up the walk. Going back 3 years (!), I find that I had known this fact, but I rediscovered today that the walk is thick: 1.5 inches of pavers, 2 inches of mortar, and 5.5 inches of concrete. The stone and cement came out pretty quickly, but the concrete took me all afternoon and into the evening. Given the space to work, I had to remove a lot of the debris to make room so I could chip away the next patch, and that slowed me down considerably.

While working away, I had the chisel of the jackhammer stick in the concrete a number of times, which is pretty normal with dirt beneath. But then it dropped quickly and got stuck, and I knew something was different. It turned out there was a fairly large space underneath part of walk. The opening looks like the home of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, or maybe a false tomb (to fool grave robbers) of the pharoah Ratsrkhamun.

Some years back during an El NiƱo year, we had water flowing down the hillside and some flooding in the basement. Since then we'd added a French drain around part of the house, and with the addition and its drainage, pretty much eliminated the flooding. But that particularly wet year, and some of the normal winters that followed had clearly eroded a bunch of soil. I plan to add some more drainage up hill from the front walk, so hopefully this won't be a problem any more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mayhem Managed

Today was a not particularly productive but very exciting day. I dropped my neighbor off at BART, then came back and worked on cleaning up the debris from building the last wall (not much) and tearing out the old front door (quite a bit, despite the fact I salvaged the longer 2x4s and most of the glass block). That in preparation for using a jackhammer on the part of the front walk that's going to come out. Which needs to happen before I pour the new, higher (and sloped away from the door) front walk. Which needs to happen before I put the siding on the new wall bit of wall (and bottom of the existing wall where it was rotted).

After cleaning up, I considered: Should I work on running new electrical under the house for the carport light? (the existing switch is on a kitchen wall that's going away, and the new switch is now by the new front door.) Or should I dig up the conduit for the carport light? (because it needs to be replaced, being badly rusted, and I want to have an always on outlet in the carport, too, for eventual plugging of an electric car or plug-in hybrid.) Since it was a lovely day (70-something and sunny), I decided on the digging since it was outdoors. I began by moving some rocks we'd piled nearby, and scraping away the pine needles and such that had accumulated. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Pssssh! Ruh-oh, Shaggy!

Water was now spurting into the air, quite energetically. The water supply comes in near the conduit, so I figured I must have hit that. I noted that the leak was before the old shut off valve (which is before the new shut off valve I'd added inside the basement), so turning that off would be futile. Damp, but still thinking quite calmly after the initial, secondary, and tertiary panic, I ran in and grabbed a wrench and some pliers, then up to the street where the meter is. I pulled off the cover, and stared at some dirt. I hurried down to the basement and returned with a trowel, and scraped out dirt until I could see the meter and something that must be the valve. But there was no obvious handle. So I ran back in, found the number for EBMUD, and called and explained the problem. They said they'd someone out.

While I was waiting, I looked at the meter some more, then looked around on the web, but I couldn't find anything quite like it. So I made sure the water from the leak was flowing away from the house as best I could, and looked at the leak some more.

Then it starting occurring to me. That pipe seemed too small for the main water line. And as messed up as many things are about this house, would they really have put the water line that close to the surface? So I scraped away dirt (well, now mud) and pine needles, and realized that I had nicked the line to the faucet near the carport, not the main water line. And that it was (surprisingly, given the general state of other stuff) after the old shut off valve. So I tentatively turned off the old shut off valve as best I could by hand, and lo, the water shooting out under the rocks and flower pot began to slow. I was just about to call EBMUD and cancel the service call when an EBMUD truck drove by, turned around, and came back. I told him I was just about to call and cancel, but he took a look at the meter anyways, and said, "Well, that's good, because I couldn't have done anything anyways. The shut-off valve here is broken." He put in an order to get that fixed, so his trip was not a total waste.

I went back and stared at the mud pit, scraped away some more dirt, and figured out what was OK and what was not so good. Fortunately I had a galvanized cap from when the water was off to the hot side of the old bathroom. So I cut off the line down with a sawzall, removed a connector with some pipe wrenches, and put the cap on. And was able to restore our water supply before Katarina got home from work.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Final Framing

After last weekend's concrete had set, I laid the new subfloor, and framed the last wall of the remodel where the old front porch had been. Not much of a wall, but challenging to put into place because of the existing house. I built most of it on the ground, but left out the headers and top plate until I'd lifted it up over the bolts (one a regular J-bolt; the other a length of threaded rod that's glued all the way down into the old foundation). You may notice the mis-matched headers, one a 4x4 and the other a 4x6. 4x4 would have been plenty for either, but I had scraps left over from other headers, so that's what I used.

Some house wrap, some shims (matching the existing floor means the whole thing isn't quite level), and some self-adhesive flashing, and the last windows were in. The siding will take a while longer, since I'm going to demolish part of the front walk before proceeding with that. And because I may not have enough salvaged scraps of the 1x12, so I'll have to mill some of my own.

I pulled out the old front door, and salvaged most of the glass block that was along side it, and demolished the wall they were part of. Suddenly we have a bigger space that even looks like part of the house instead of some weird little closed with large windows. Yet another step closer to demolishing the kitchen.

Star was unimpressed.