Sunday, December 06, 2009

What's Next

the front path

There's still plenty of bits and pieces to finish up, to say nothing of the floor, but K and I decided that it'd be nice to have a proper front walk with the rainy season coming on. When I bought the house, there was a poorly done path with bricks. It was lined on one side with wood that had long since rotted away, and they hadn't put down a proper bed of gravel, so it had grown very uneven and rather treacherous when wet. Some years back I removed the bricks (some of which are now part of a retaining wall by the disused spa) and regraded it, and we've lived with a nice pine needle-covered path since then.

There's also the matter of the porch area in front of the new front door. Drainage has always been problematic on this side of the house, and you may recall that bad grading led to rot and termites in the old front porch (and on in to the kitchen floor joists and subfloor). The new porch will be graded for proper drainage, of course, but also have spot for a rain barrel.

So last week I started grading the path and building forms for the porch. I plan to have a concrete curb on one side of the path, and pave the path with permeable pavers. I got the forms for the porch built, and started on the forms for the path. Then, like most good home improvement projects, the project got bigger. Since the porch is going to come up to the level of the existing bottom step at the end of the path, and the pavers were going to come all the way to the top step, it'd be a great time to tear our the steps and rebuild them because they're a bit sloped, and it'd be an odd transition of materials. Even with the added work, I was expecting to pour concrete by the end of this week.

But it's probably not going to happen, as the forecast is for lots of rain this week. The first storm to come through is a cold one, so there's even a chance of snow in the higher hills of the Bay Area. So today after church I cleaned off the roof, recovered the path with pine needles so it won't turn to mud, and to watch football and wait for the rain.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


getting the fish ready for the oven

The kitchen and dining room got their first big test for Thanksgiving. We had K's brother and his family and K's mom over for Thanksgiving. It would have been a struggle to do in the old kitchen because it had so little counterspace. Cooking a meal requires some scheduling so everything is ready at the same time, but the logistics of trying to schedule with no storage space for dishes in progress makes it extra hard.

We were helped in no small part by our sister-in-law bringing lots of side dishes to accompany the plank-baked trout, pumpkin gnocchi, and rolls we made, and K's mom bringing more than enough dessert.

seating for 8 or more

The old dining room would have presented similar challenges. We'd have had to set up an extra table in the living room to have seat 8 people. With the addition and remodel, Uncle Al's table not only fits easily in the dining room, it fit easily with 2 of the leaves in it. If we'd needed it, it would have fit with all 3 leaves.

In short, the kitchen was a joy to work in, and overall the new space passed with flying colors.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fun with Rain Barrels

the Labradane

Yesterday K and I visited some fellow housebloggers at City Homestead. They live not far from Lake Merritt here in Oakland, and had lamented not knowing how to make a platform for some rain barrels they bought a while back. I'm not 100% done with the insanity here, but I knew that was something I could help with. So while I showed them how to build a sturdy platform, K headed off to the Y.

The work went pretty quickly since they'd already bought the necessary materials. The most time-consuming was leveling the ground to put the concrete piers, and that was pretty easy because the soil had been dug up before to remove plants. It was nice to get to put faces to the names behind the blog, and both K and I enjoyed meeting their dog, Augie, who's got a lab personality but closer to great dane size. He's rescue dog, and a large bundle of energy.

finished platform and barrels

Monday, November 16, 2009

Final Inspection Passed!!!

Ican hardly believe it, but the final inspection was passed. The inspector left a little while ago. After all my anxiety about there being some punchlist items to do (or worse) before we got finaled, it was actually a little anticlimactic. He reacquainted himself with the plans (it's been a while since the last building inspection) and asked some questions. He took a look around, and made sure I had access to under the floor and above the ceiling, there were fluorescent lights where needed for Title 24, et al, then took a brief look at the electrical panel. GFCI breakers for the two small appliance circuits, AFCI breaker for the bedroom, and we were good to go.


Now to finish the trim, figure out the flooring, etc. But woohoo!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


ladder to nowhere

I've been slowly working towards getting ready for the final inspections. I called Tuesday to schedule them. I anxiously awaited the call this morning between 8AM and 10AM to find out when they'd come. The inspector asked if I'd had my zoning inspection yet. Huh? Oh, yeah. I'd had to go through a design review way back when when I'd first submitted the plans. Not because the addition is very big (~350 sq. ft.) but because the percentage of the addition versus the existing house was above 30%. But it turns out that any addition has to get a zoning inspection before the final building inspection. So now I'm somewhat less anxiously awaiting a call from the zoning inspector so I can set that up.

In the mean time I'll work on all those things that aren't quite done yet, like the bit of trim outside near the kitchen windows, the corner trim (I still have to figure out how to mill that or build it up from parts), and figure out what we're going to do for flooring in the kitchen and dining room. Staining didn't work because the wood filler, while stainable, took stain very differently than the rest of the wood (even with pre-stain treatment applied), so right now it's a choice between painting it and real linoleum (tradename Marmoleum).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

That Stinking Feeling

Not to be confused with that sinking feeling, this was a smellier issue that confronted us the other week. Before I headed over to Casa Decrepit the Saturday past for some demo fun, K asked "does the bathroom smell funny to you?". Yeah, it did smell a little funky. Uh, oh. I mentioned it to Ayse that afternoon while we were working, and she said one of the most common causes is that "something's blocking the vent stack. You know, it crawled in the vent stack and died...but I mean that in the best possible way. :-)"

So I came home, cleaned off the roof (it gets slippery when there are lots of pine needles on it), and snaked the main vent stack. Over the next several days I tried various other things. I took apart the sink trap and snaked that drain and as far up as I could reach in its vent stack and lateral to the main. I checked that the shower trap had water in it, since a trap without enough water can allow sewer gases into the room, and we don't use that shower much any more. Snaking that drain is difficult because of the drain mechanism, but I tried covering it and the corresponding overflow. After each thing, there was no real change -- the bathroom still smelled funky.

So with much trepidation, I drained the toilet and removed it. I discovered two things: the flange was broken, and part of the gasket embedded in the wax ring was missing. Neither of those would necessarily cause the problem, but they were worth fixing in any event. I temporarily plugged the hole with a damp towel while I purchased a repair flange and a new wax ring. I had to chisel out part of a couple tiles in order to get the repair flange to fit, but I was encouraged I was finally on the right track.

With a lot of grunting (toilets are heavy), I lifted the toilet back into place, cleaned up the mess, and aired out the bathroom. All seemed well until a couple days later, when K asked, "does it still smell funny to you?". Arrgh! Indeed, there was a much fainter but still pungent smell noticeable. I then recalled having seen extra deep wax rings, and realized I probably needed one for this toilet because the repair flange and tile made for a slightly deeper space. So I purchased another wax ring, removed the toilet again, replaced the ring, and heaved the toilet back into place.

So far, so good. I haven't noticed any smell in a couple days, so the problem may finally be fixed. Of course, it could just mean my nose has gotten used to it, and the next guest will politely inquire if we've noticed that smell...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I got a little dirty...


OK, I got a lot dirty. Probably the dirtiest I've ever been in my adult life, and possibly in my entire life. But it was for a good cause. I was helping friends and fellow housebloggers Ayse and Noel at Casa Decrepit with another demolition project. I was there back in March to help them tear down the lowered ceilings in some of their rooms and hallways. Above those most of the original plaster and lath ceilings were in good shape. But in the dining room, roof leaks over the years had not been kind to the original ceiling. Now that Noel has (hopefully) patched the leaks, it was time to tear down the damaged ceiling. We also took off the plaster and lath on two of the walls that was in bad shape. I hosed myself off before we settled in for a late lunch and beers, but I was still filthy. When I got home I had to wash my hair 4 times before it was clean. That's saying something considering how little of it's left.

More pics and description on their blog.

big-time clean up

original plaster medallion

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Global Warming

Global warming. If you haven't heard about it, you've been living under a rock. If you don't believe it's happening, you're probably living under a rock. And even if you don't believe it's happening, the rest of the world does, and that's going to impact you when resources start getting short.

While small things won't save the earth, they're a step in the right direction. And here's some small steps you can take.

(1) Eat vegetarian one day a week (or one more day a week than you already are.) Raising meat, particularly beef and pork, generally have a horrendous effect on the environment. The good news? It's cheaper to eat vegetarian and better for your health.

(2) Stop drinking bottled water. Tons of petroleum products go into the manufacture of the bottles, and the water is less regulated than tap water. The good news? It's cheaper to use a refillable bottle.

(3) Walk/bike/take public transit one (more) day a week. The good news? It's cheaper and you'll get more exercise.

(4) Seal your home better with caulk and insulation. The good news? It's cheaper than paying the utility and you and your family will be more comfortable.

See? No messy mercury-based CFLs or buying hybrid cars or anything. All stuff that's easy and cheap and good for you. So even if you don't believe global warming is happening, you win.

Monday, October 05, 2009

World Habitat Day

Today is World Habitat Day, to remind everyone that adequate shelter is a basic human right. According to the United Nations, more than 100 million people in the world today are homeless. Even here in the U.S., one of the wealthiest nations in the world, millions of people are homeless or living in substandard housing. You can help by donating or volunteering with your local affiliate.

Monday, September 28, 2009

West Coast Green

This week in San Francisco is the annual West Coast Green conference. I'll be covering parts of it for green building blog Jetson Green. There promise to be lots of interesting innovations in the field of green building and design.

I'm particularly excited about seeing the SFH40 from Green Horizon Manufacturing, a self-sustaining temporary building that can be sent anywhere in a shipping container to provide emergency housing. After FEMA's mess with the trailers following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, this looks to be a major step up. It features solar panels, a fresh waster supply, waste water treatment, and is built from 100% recycled materials.

I'll also be keeping my eyes open for new do-it-yourself friendly materials and technologies. Let me know if there's anything new you've heard of that you'd like me to check out at the conference.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Only You...

Guess who wanted to help while I was working on the front hall?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oakland: DIY Resources

Note: I've made a couple of additions to the list since originally publishing it. Thanks to Jessica Reeder of Charles and Hudson, and Artemis of City Homestead.

View DIY Resources in a larger map
Do-it-yourself blog Charles & Hudson covers a variety of topics. One nice feature they've got is DIY city guides for various locales. Oakland and the SF East Bay aren't yet covered, so I've created one for Oakland. Some people are into DIY to save money and some into it to have control of how 'green' their project is. A great way to do both those things are the 3 R's of green: reduce, reuse, recycle.

So without further ado, here's my guide to do-it-yourself resources in the East Bay, centered in Oakland. This is by no means an exhaustive list; if you've got a favorite DIY resource in or around Oakland, let me know and I'll add it.

Tool Libraries

Oakland Tool Lending Library 510.597.5089
5205 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
The Oakland Public Library system has a great tool lending library in the ground floor of the Temescal branch. There are a wide variety of tools you can borrow for free. Open to Oakland, Piedmont and Emeryville residents.

Berkeley Tool Lending Library 510.981.6101
1901 Russell St., Berkeley, CA 94703
The Berkeley Public Library system's tool lending library at the South Branch. Open to Berkeley residents and property owners.

Salvage Stores

Habitat ReStore 510.777.1447
9235 San Leandro St., Oakland, CA
The Habitat ReStore is a great resource. You can buy new and used building supplies for less, and your purchases support Habitat's mission of eliminating poverty housing worldwide, and useful items that might otherwise be discarded are made available.

ReUse People 510.383.1983
9235 San Leandro Blvd., Oakland, CA 94603
The ReUse People specialize in deconstructing buildings so the materials can be used again. Not only do they have doors, windows, cabinets, etc., but they've got reclaimed lumber and some one-of-a-kind architectural elements, too. If all that wasn't enough, they're next door to the Habitat ReStore, so you can check both places with one stop.

Urban Ore 510.841.7283
900 Murray St., Berkeley, CA 94710 510.841.7283
Urban Ore is not just a source of salvaged building materials like windows, doors and sinks, it's a treasure trove of all sorts of things that can be salvaged or repurposed. It's all part of their goal of "ending the age of waste."

East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse 510.547.6470
4695 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse is an ecological treasure trove of art & craft materials, educational supplies, vintage furniture, home decor, paper goods, fabric and more. The mission of the East Bay Depot is to divert waste materials from landfills by collecting and redistributing discarded goods as low-cost supplies for art, education, and social services.

Ohmega Salvage 510.204.0767
2407 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702
Just up San Pablo from EcoHome Improvement and the Ecology Center is another nice salvage store, Ohmega Salvage. They specialize in architectural salvage, unique doors, windows and other fixtures that are often one-of-a-kind items.

Green Stores

EcoHome Improvement 510.644.3500
2617-2619 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702
EcoHome Improvement has a wide variety of green building materials, including cabinets, countertops, paint and flooring. EcoHome Improvement has a friendly and knowledgeable staff, who are always looking to add more items to sell. They consider not just the manufacture of materials but the transportation of them and other factors, as well. While many of their items are expensive, realize they're also high-end items, so don't compare, for example, Vetrazzo countertops (which are made here in the Bay Area in Richmond) with laminate countertops from a home improvement chain.

Learning DIY

Building Education Center 510.525.7610
812 Page St., Berkeley, CA 94710
The Building Education Center teaches a wide range of courses, from Landscape Watering Systems to Installing Windows, Doors and Skylights, plus hands-on workshops like Electrical Wiring and Stucco Repair. Or take it all in with the Homeowners Essential Course, a 2 month, 17 session course that covers just about everything about building, repairing and maintaining a home.

Habitat for Humanity East Bay 510.251.6304
2619 Broadway Oakland, CA 94612
You may be asking yourself, "why is Habitat on this list?" Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide, building houses with mostly volunteer labor. They don't just hand you a hammer and let you loose, though. Habitat East Bay instructs volunteers with what they need to know to build safely and correctly. It's also one of the greenest Habitat affiliates in the country, so there are opportunities to learn about green techniques and technologies, too. I've volunteered with Habitat for more than 13 years, and largely with what I learned there, I designed and built the addition to our house that's chronicled here on DIY Insanity.

Ecology Center 510.548.2220
2530 San Pablo Avenue, Suite H, Berkeley, CA 94702
The Ecology Center was founded back in 1969 to promote environmentally and socially responsible practices through programs that educate, demonstrate, and provide direct services. They teach a variety of courses, including organic gardening, urban chicken raising, and greywater and rainwater systems.

Hardware Stores

Markus Supply Ace Hardware 510.832.6532‎
625 3rd St., Oakland, CA 94607
When you just need some basics, your nearest hardware store is your best bet. But if you need a wider selection of items but don't want to go to the box stores, Markus Hardware may have what you need.

Ace Ellis Hardware 510.653.4365
5424 MLK Way, Oakland, CA 94609
If you're looking to browse the aisles, head somewhere else. Ellis Hardware has most of what they sell on huge shelves behind the counter. Describe what you need, and they'll get it for you, or tell you where you can if they don't carry it.

Lumber Yards

Piedmont Lumber 510.658.1826
351 40th St. Oakland, CA 94609
Piedmont Lumber is a full-service lumberyard, with lumber, drywall and and other building supplies. And they've got a classic sign.

Economy Lumber 510.261.6100
750 High St., Oakland, CA 94601
Economy Lumber is another full-service lumberyard. Besides all the basic building materials, they've got a window and door showroom where you can order windows and doors of all sorts.

Plumbing Supply

Moran Plumbing Supply 510.652.7437
415 40th St., Oakland, CA 94609
Just up 40th from Piedmont Lumber, Moran Plumbing Supply carries everything for plumbing, from pipes of all sorts to sinks and toilets. They've got a helpful, knowledgeable staff.

Rubenstein Plumbing Supply 510.444.6614
2800 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA 94608
Rubenstein Plumbing Supply is another good plumbing supply place. I bought our dual-flush Toto toilet there.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

GRID Alternatives

up on the roof

Today I volunteered with GRID Alternatives, a non-profit that installs solar panels for low-income homeowners and provides community members (like me!) with training and hands-on experience with renewable energy technologies. We were prepping some of the Habitat homes for GRID's upcoming solar-a-thon, where they'll install panels, inverters and wiring for 16 homes. It was a short work day because most of the prep work got done last week. We installed a few safety clips on one roof, and others sorted tools and supplies. After a bit, a delivery truck arrived with the solar panels, inverters and cutoffs for the install. We inventoried them to make sure everything was there, then moved them into one of the houses for storage. Pretty much everything is ready to go for the solar-a-thon, which is good, because they're expecting 250+ people for the event.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Hot!

No great surprise to those of you in California, but it's hot here. The car said it was 77 at 8:15AM, and 100 at 4:00PM. It was broiling out at the Habitat for Humanity work site, but we got a lot done.

Tomorrow K & I will be going to a local food festival, the Eat Real Festival. Local food and beers, from the people who created them. You can read more about it on my Our Oakland blog. It should be great! And hopefully a little cooler than today.

Meanwhile I'm slowly mudding and taping the dining room and entry. This is me working in the clerestory in the entry way. I love the round windows (a house down the street of a similar vintage has one), but they have been more work. But most of the extra work for the taping and mudding has come from all the corners and edges that define the dining room and entry. Those also swallow a lot of mud during the taping phase, so I've gone through quite a bit for a relatively small surface area. But it's getting done.

Friday, August 21, 2009

International Fame!

Rosie and our cat ladder are now officially internationally famous! They've been posted on the Cat-Ladder blog, which shows homemade and commercial cat ladders from around the world. The blog itself originates from Sweden.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Electric Bike

Not much to report on the house. I connected the last outlet and the light switch in the dining room (it was behind the boxes for the kitchen cabinets) and put the last piece of sheet rock in. This week I hope to finish taping and mudding it.

our e-bike

One thing I've been doing lately is biking. A while back we bought an electric-assist bike. It's been great, and has us riding more than we did with regular bikes, in large part because of the big hills around here. I think some of you who are more in to green stuff might be interested. I wrote more about it on my Oakland blog: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

To Say Nothing of the Kitchen Sink

Nothing too exciting to write about. Yesterday I finished hooking up the vent for the range hood. This afternoon I spent cleaning up the dining room so I can move forward with that. It's been full of cardboard, boxes, pieces of styrofoam, etc. from the kitchen work. Everything (including the kitchen sink) had packaging. Some a little, some a lot, but it all added up to a substantial amount of cardboard. K had cut a bunch of it up before to go in the recycling bin, but there was still a fair amount left. Some of it I'd used to protect the plywood underlayment while installing the cabinets, and some had been re-used for various tasks before that, but most of it was just waiting to be recycled. I even have a potential lead on recycling most of the styrofoam. Each of the cabinets had styrofoam on the corners, and numerous other things had pieces here and there, so it added up to a fair amount. The catch is that they're waiting on some new equipment, and so can't accept donations right now. But better than into a landfill.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holy Cow...

the kitchen

Somehow we went from a nice space to an actual kitchen today. I finished painting the wall behind where the stove will go, and with K's help installed the range hood. Hooking up the electrical for it was a snap.

Then I cleared a path from the refrigerator in the living room into the kitchen, and again with K's help moved the refrigerator into its slot. A bit of cleaning of the stove and lifting it onto some sliders, and K helped me slide that into place. I hooked up the gas, checked for leaks, et voilĂ !

Of course there's plenty left to do, like trim and flooring, not to mention the dining room, but today was a good day, ending with a fully functional kitchen.

crushed by the stove?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Eyes Have It

my other eye

Well, one eye has it. Iritis, that is. Saturday I had a bit of a headache. Sunday it was worse, and it was odd because it felt like it was behind my eye. K noticed my eye was bloodshot, and when we went out, I discovered it was very sensitive to light. I called the advice nurse at Kaiser, and they wanted me to come in to check it out.

So today I trundled over to Kaiser for an appointment with my doctor. After checking in and a short wait, I was ushered in for a mini-physical (weight, temperature, blood pressure), then in to an exam room. My doctor is great. He came in and quickly asked some questions and examined my eye, then very quickly said, "It could be glaucoma. I'll make an appointment for you at the eye clinic right away." Eek!

Right away was the next available appointment, which was two hours away. Sigh. So I ran some errands and came back. Another pre-exam including a quick vision test, then the ophthalmologist came in. He asked some questions, then examined my eyes. Then some eye drops, and a glaucoma test. No glaucoma, but I do have iritis -- inflammation of the iris.

After a visit to the pharmacy and some more waiting, I have some eye drops to treat it, and a follow-up visit scheduled for next week. None of these things took that long (except, oddly, the check-in at the eye clinic), but it all added up to pretty much the whole day shot.

I also got a heads up that my other eye (shown pictured above) was showing signs of pigment dispersion syndrome. That's where the pigment of the iris flakes off (I guess they didn't prime it before applying the paint?), and can clog the drainage of the eye, leading to glaucoma. So when in the next couple of years when I have to get reading glasses (what?!), he suggested I get a glaucoma test, too, and every couple years going forward. Hmmph.

Two conditions I'd never heard of before, and I've got 'em. It could have been worse, so no complaints here. But the upshot is that instead of finishing the touch-up painting in the kitchen today, all I got done was moving stuff back in and putting the outlet and switch covers back on for the part that is done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

With Fronds Like This...

bat star, ochre star
and hecka anemones

I'd like to say I've been busy on the kitchen, or that I've been super busy with other stuff that's been keeping me from working on the kitchen, but neither of those is true.

One thing we have been up to recently was camping. We've camped frequently in mountains and deserts across the west, but neither of us had camped on the coast before. We got the idea because we didn't have a large block of time, so we wanted someplace closer, but still wanted to "get away". And we wanted to stay in a state park, because the govenator has been threatening to close the parks in a misguided attempt to balance the state budget. Most state parks don't pay for themselves completely via collected fees, it's true. But when people have less money, they tend to take cheaper vacations like camping, and they still spend money doing it, generating sales tax. Close the parks, and more people will stay home.

So searching the many California state parks, I came across Salt Point SP. It's about 100 miles and (because of winding roads) 2.5 hours away. Being on the coast, it can get fairly windy, but we were prepared for that. It's a beautiful park on a beautiful section of the California coast. We spent a lot of time just watching the ocean and marine life. Amongst other things, we saw seals, sea lions, brown pelicans, a black oystercatcher, three osprey that were hunting, and all sorts of things in tide pools. Part of the park is a marine preserve, which made me wish we knew how to scuba dive.

Today K is back at work, and I'll work on the kitchen this afternoon. A special thanks to our friend Melissa for staying with the kitties one night. Rosie was definitely happier for it, and Star probably was, too, even if she wouldn't admit it. And yes, our cats are spoiled, but after all, they're in charge.

south of Salt Point


tafoni formation

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kitchen Widgets

towel bar

Along with the big stuff like countertops and cabinets, there's a lot of little stuff that often goes into a kitchen, like a towelbar. I spent a lot of time searching for alternatives to the $90 Swedish-made brass ones and $3 steel ones, and finally found this beauty on Amazon for $22.

plumb bob how-to

I was impressed with the instructions. They instruct you how to make a simple plumb bob to help hang the bracket vertically, though they don't describe it as such. I've used various items including washers, chalk lines, and actual plumb bobs (thanks, Pete) as a plumb bob, but for something this short, I just use a level. But the idea of taping a coin to the instructions to get a vertical line is brilliant, and since many folks don't have a level or necessary understand their usage, it's probably better they don't describe what it is your doing, just tell you to do it.

I was less impressed with the massive plastic clam shell packaging it came in, but that's unfortunately all too common these days. And I would have preferred something U.S. made, but this was the right size, style and price.

ain't she lovely?

Another recent addition to the kitchen was a new compost bucket. We've always composted, even though haven't had a garden to use the compost in recently. It's long been in a Tupperware container, which works, but shows you the moldering fruit and veggie scraps piled on the coffee grounds, and is not the most appetizing thing to see on your kitchen counter. So I found this bamboo compost bucket, also on Amazon. It has a dishwasher-safe plastic bucket inside, and a simple filter in the lid to reduce odors. And it looks great with the new counters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is the 9th anniversary of when K and I got married, the 47th anniversary of when my parents got married, and tomorrow is the 4th anniversary of DIY Insanity!

I haven't been posting recently, not because we're busy celebrating, but because I was sick last week with strep or some other throat infection. I sounded first like Froggy of the Little Rascals, then eventually progressed to a loud whisper. I spent the time doing things like installing the knobs and pulls, and researching and buying various things like a towel rack, compost bucket and range hood. Today I checked out a belt sander from the tool-lending library and tomorrow I'll tackle the floor. But tonight we celebrate with a nice dinner at a restaurant here in Oakland.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One Project Closer's Before and After Contest

One Project Closer is having their second annual Before and After Contest. You send them pictures and a story of your DIY project (at least 75% DIY), and each week they'll pick a winner. At the end, there will be a grand prize winner. The cool part for me is that each winner has $35 donated to Habitat for Humanity in their name. Winners also get $25 gift cards to Lowe's, Home Depot or Amazon, but for me the real winner is spreading the word about Habitat's mission of eliminating poverty housing across the world.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

busy week

sun pillar

A strangely busy week, but not much progress on the kitchen. We do have knobs and pulls on all the cabinets, and with the microwave, toaster oven and coffee maker in the kitchen along with functional plumbing, it's starting to feel like a real kitchen. I still need to finish the floor so we can move the refrigerator and stove in, but it's a functional room now.

Friday I was out at Habitat. Yesterday we worked on the yard getting ready for fire season, cutting down the long grass, pulling weeds, and picking up branches and pine cones. I found a cool old milk bottle that I posted on the Our Oakland blog. I haven't found out anything about it yet, even Googling around on the intertubes.

Today we were off to the graduation of our oldest niece from Stanford. On the way home, we saw a cool sun dog, and then as we got closer to home, a beautiful sun pillar. I only had the point-and-shoot, but I managed to get this shot. No where near as nice as my friend Jim's sun pillar shot taken at Lake Tahoe a few years back that was featured on NASA's astronomy picture of the day.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Happy Little Jig

a happy little jig

Yesterday K cleaned out cupboards and lined them with grippy shelf liner, while I installed the two tall pantry cupboards. Then we made one of the most important decisions about the kitchen...the knobs and pulls. EcoHome Improvement had some cool (but expensive) pulls made with recycled glass by Aurora Glass that donates all its proceeds to St. Vincent de Paul, but none of the options grabbed us. Given the cool countertop we've got, we don't want something too busy that will clash with it. So we ended up getting some simple (and much cheaper) brushed metal ones that match the faucet. Since there are lot of cabinets, I took the time to make a little jig so they'll all get installed in the same position without needing to measure a zillion times.

Today after visiting another church (which has some amazing Tiffany mosaics), K finished cleaning cabinets and pounding down nail heads in the floor, and I filled in over the nail heads and along any of the joints that were large. I also re-hung the last doors now that all the cabinets are installed.

We're still boggling over how much more countertop and storage space we've got now. Only a few things have been moved so far, but we've got gobs and gobs of room compared with before.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Seussian Plumbing

bye, K.C.

After more work than you'd expect (given where I was yesterday), we have a functioning sink, dishwasher, and yea, even disposal. After a trip to Home Depot, I discovered that my original dry-fit plan wasn't going to work (even if I'd gotten that last piece in the vent stack), so I made another trip to Home Depot for more fittings. The trip was totally worth it, though, because I saw this in the parking lot. Apparently it was the last day for someone named K.C., and his or her co-workers bid them a fond farewell by wrapping their truck (with a Home Depot shopping cart thrown in for good measure) in plastic. The antenna has a cardboard tube with goodbyes written on it, so K.C. will know who to blame.

the maiden voyage of the dishwasher

After returning home, I tried an alternative solution I'd come up while playing around with the available parts at Home Depot, but decided my original plan (updated) was the way to go. So I forged ahead and started gluing, and finally arrived at a completed vent stack and drain. After waiting a bit, I tried things out, and discovered a small leak around the strainer, but everything else was good. After re-seating that with more plumber's putty, everything seemed good to go.

So I tried the ultimate test -- starting the dishwasher. With little fanfare but much excitement, I let it run a 'quick wash' cycle, and all was well. Woohoo!

Almost There...

under the new sink

I got a lot done yesterday. I set the sink in place, cut into the drain line and installed a new T (after doing a little snaking to clean out the line, so I installed a new clean out, too), installed the disposal and strainer, the faucet and supply lines, and got most of the DWV connected. I just couldn't get the last piece in, so that's my main task for today. Well, that, and check for leaks. So far, so good, though.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

That Sinking Feeling

After much ado, we now have a new sink. It's not installed yet, but the counter is re-cut to accept it, and we have it. And nobody played with the price in the mean time, like happened to This D*mn House.

I was figuring the new sink would fit, because it was the same dimensions as the old one (33"x22"). But I figured wrong, by about 1/2" on each side (the countertop guy was very precise with the old sink, I guess.) I cut most of it with my skilsaw and a concrete cutting blade, but I couldn't get into the corners (especially near the backsplash), so I rented an angle grinder and took out the last bits with that. Not surprisingly, it made a huge mess, even with the shop vac going. I got it all cleaned up, the dishwasher pushed into place, and the water supply shut-off valves installed, too. So tomorrow I can hook up the drain, put the sink in the new hole, and we should have a working sink (and dishwasher!) soon.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Roger, Houston...

Roger Houston. Insanity Base, here. We have counters.

And they're beautiful. It took a good chunk of the day for them to install the counters, and cutting out the hole for the sink made a ton of dust, but we're very happy with the end results.

The only problem now is the sink. We'd been planning on reusing our old cast-iron sink because it's in OK shape, but now with the new cabinets and beautiful new countertop, the sink looks a bit more banged up and stained than we remembered. And looking at the faucet, the same will be true for that if we replace the sink.

We're considering recoating the sink, but we haven't been able to find any place local that does actual recoating (vs. painting like Miracle Method.) Anybody know of a place in the East Bay that recoats sinks?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ready for Counters

ready for countertop

The countertop is ready, and will be installed Monday morning. While K cut some cardboard to catch any crud that might drop into the cabinets, I finished securing the last cabinet and getting ready for the countertop. It's an exciting step, because once the countertop is in, I can install the sink, disposal and dishwasher. We're particularly excited about the last one. While we're doing OK with takeout and microwaved food, we've gotten tired of doing dishes in the bathroom sink.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Day of Rest...Mostly

Rosie inspecting the work

After a couple of days of intense work on the kitchen, today was mostly a day of rest. Except I had to be up early to meet the countertop crew coming to make a template. Getting up early isn't easy for me under the best of circumstances, and I was up late last night getting ready for this morning. I had to re-install the sink cabinet over 1/2" (thank you, non-plumb and square walls of an old house), and had to plane a little off the back of the last lower cabinet to get it to fit in the corner. Designing with small tolerances means little wasted space, but doesn't leave much room for error. Fortunately the blind lazy susan cabinet requires a small spacer, so I was able to make adjustments by trimming that, but it was still a close fit. Rosie was kind enough to inspect my work, and approved not only of the cabinets, but enjoyed the boxes they came in.

countertop template

This morning the countertop crew showed up and made fairly short work of creating the template. They'd clearly done this a bunch of times before, and confirmed where we want a backsplash, which edges of the cabinets are flush and which get finished edges, etc. But they puzzled over where to put the seam -- the material comes in 8' lengths, so there will be at least one. After measuring and pondering (sounds familiar), they settled on a plan. The template was marked up for the seam, backsplashes and edges, and off they went. They'll be back in about a week to install it. Wahoo!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Little Soffit That Could

cabinet install fun

Yesterday was a marathon. After looking over measurements and pondering, we decided at the last minute that we didn't want the upper cabinets all the way to the ceiling as we'd never reach the upper shelves, and we definitely didn't want a little space up there to collect dust. So I built, drywalled and mudded a little soffit. In doing so, I discovered that the ceiling has a fairly substantial dip in it. So the emergency soffit surgery wasn't a bad thing -- I can hide part of the dip with the soffit instead of trying to cover a variable-sized gap with trim. I knew the floor isn't level, but I didn't know about the ceiling, so it was good to figure it out before I started hanging cabinets.

After getting that straightened out (ha!), I made reference lines for the upper and lower cabinets, and started installing. I started with the corner (a blind lazy susan thingy -- it's pretty slick), and shifted and shimmed and finally got it in place. I then moved on to the sink next to it, which presented its own challenges. Besides the unlevel floor, the sink has outlets for the disposal and dishwasher, water supply lines, and the DWV pipes. So lots of measuring and re-measuring and then drilling and cutting to make openings for them all. I discovered I was off by about a half inch on where the vent pipe exits -- d'oh! Fortunately, the next thing in line is the dishwasher, so I was able to take a little out of the corner of the cabinet and it'll work fine. No one will ever see it unless they stick their head under the sink, so no worries. It did cause me some worries in the meantime.

Today will be more of the same: a second coat of mud on the soffit, installing more cabinets, and rearranging things to get ready for tomorrow. You see, this flurry of activity is because the countertop installers are coming tomorrow at 8AM to make a template for the countertops. Yes, it's true...the do-everything-yourself guy is having someone else do some work. In part because I've never worked with the material (Icestone, which is made from recycled glass and cement), but largely because the stuff is frakking heavy. Most countertop materials are (besides laminates), so I'm happy to have someone else do this work.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fiat Lux

On Wednesday afternoon my neighbor helped me paint the kitchen, and I put a second coat on Wednesday evening. Since then I've been finishing up the electrical, putting down the plywood for the underlayment or flooring if we go that route, and getting ready to hang cabinets. Adding the main fluorescent light fixture made a huge difference. Now it feels like a real room. A room with a heck of a lot of outlets, to be sure, but a real room.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top 10

The top 10 rejected titles for this post:
10. White Room (Cream)
9. Lay Down Primer (Eric Clapton)
8. You Make Painting Fun (Fleetwood Mac)
7. Any Colour You Like (As Long as it's White) (Pink Floyd)
6. Fixing a Hole (in the Drywall) (Beatles)
5. Paintin' on a Sunny Day (Bruce Springsteen)
4. Haven't Got Time for the Paint (Carly Simon)
3. When Paint Dries (by the painter formerly known as Prince)
2. Blinded by the White (Manfred Mann's Earth Band)
and the #1 rejected title for this post:
1. Primed, Sealed and Covered, I'm Yours (Stevie Wonder)

In other words, the kitchen is primed and ready for painting.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rip It, Rip It Good

wet sanding

K and I ripped the plywood into 2' widths today. Not because I'm ready for it yet, but because K worked at home today and ripping full sheets of plywood is a 2 person job. Unless you've got a much nicer shop set up than I've got; I had to set up the table saw in the yard to have enough room to maneuver a full sheet.

I finished mudding the kitchen over the weekend, and spent the balance of today wet sanding it. Alas, the potentially boffo sponge (I bought one for the good folks at Casa Decrepit, too) wasn't so boffo. The rough 'scrunge' side separated from the rest of the sponge after not too much use. I'm still a big fan of wet sanding vs. dry sanding, but a regular sponge works just as well if not better than the special one.

In other exciting news, our new dishwasher arrived. It's a lovely, water- and energy-efficient Bosch SHE43M02U that K picked out. It'll be a while before I can hook it up, but we are so looking forward to not doing dishes in the bathroom anymore.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More Life as a Truck

at the lumber yard

Today I finished the next coat of mud, showed the addition and kitchen remodel to a long-time friend from Habitat, and actually got the 1/4" plywood to smooth out the subfloor.

The plywood is so smooth and lovely that we're considering using it as the flooring. I just need to find a durable enough (and non-toxic) finish to protect it, and a good way to fasten it down. I'm contemplating ripping it into 2x8 or maybe 1x8 strips, so it can be laid out in a staggered pattern. In any event, we'll have it as our flooring for a while to consider, so we can see if we like the look or not.

The plywood is so smooth that I had a hard time securing it to the roof. It seemed OK, but it slid significantly when I braked. While I was stopped to refasten the load, someone stopped and asked me for directions that I could actually give (and had a map to show them), so it worked out nicely.