Friday, February 27, 2009

Hobbing and Nobbing

So the subflooring was worse than I thought. Today I was out to the Habitat for my usual Friday gig, only this wasn't a usual Friday. Habitat East Bay held their 2nd annual Executive Build, where executives from different companies around the Bay Area come out and learn about Habitat and ways to partner with them, and swing a hammer for half a day. So I was hobbing and or nobbing with big cheeses (mmm...cheese) from companies like PG&E (they're paying for the solar panels on all the Habitat houses), Chevron, B of A, Wells Fargo, and more. Well, mostly I was swinging a hammer and teaching some new homeowners who were out getting started on their 500 hours of sweat equity how to swing one, too.

Oh, right. The subfloor. The event was through lunch, though a number of people stayed to work for another couple hours. After I got home, I started in on pulling up the vinyl flooring in the kitchen. I figured it was a good way to unwind, and as I'd only put in 3/4ths of a day at Habitat, I still had some energy. I hauled the dishwasher up to the carport, then pulled up flooring. It's glued to 1/4" plywood, and coming up in 2x2 or so chunks.

find a happy place

I pulled up some by where the sink had been, and saw the telltale of tunnels and castings. Fortunately no live termites, but after that and dropping the dustpan down a hole in the subfloor (yeah, there's a hole that big), I decided it was enough for the day. So let's all look at the lovely sunset instead, shall we? termite damage here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ISE = mark of the beast?

I read recently that disposals are evil. Not only do they discourage composting, but they use water (precious here in California) to flush solids to the water treatment plant where they then need to be trucked to a landfill, encourage blocked pipes along the way, and use a bit of electricity to boot. I had no idea they were so bad. InSinkErator responds that they're not evil, and in fact are better environmentally. Given the choice between chucking food in a disposal and throwing it in the garbage, maybe, but composting is the way to go.


We didn't use our disposal much since we compost, and after removing it, it's a good thing. As I was cutting the drain pipes, it fell away. Apparently it had been held in place primarily by the drain pipes, the top having rotted away to nothing. That along with the lower cabinets which were rotting away, between being cheap-ass particle board and having the occasional influx of moisture (rusted out drainpipe and original dishwasher, I'm looking at you). So besides the kitchen sink, there wasn't a whole lot to salvage out of the kitchen demolition.

Instead of getting to the vinyl flooring, I made a dump run and got some new subflooring material and some 2x4s to rebuild the wall where the old window had been. Ripping up the vinyl flooring and replacing some of the subflooring is on today's list.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bloomin' Idiots

That'd be and some of the flowers. The flowers for starting the process of blooming a couple weeks ago in the warm days we had before winter returned. Me for deciding to tackle more plumbing work than I needed to today.

space...the kitchen's frontier

This week started off well. With the clock ticking, I got an early start yesterday (thanks to Star; if she can't sleep because of some perceived problem, why should anyone?) K headed off to work and I ran the dishwasher for the last time. While it was running, I hung plastic in the doorways and moved the last items out of kitchen. As soon as it was done, I started removing the cabinets and the remainders of the walls. It was messy but fun work. I alternated between the sawzall and a hammer and prybar. I'd planned to have the mess cleaned up by the time K got home from work, but when I looked at the clock it was 5PM and I still had a lot of debris to remove. I was still hauling stuff when she got home, and did so for a while after. I took a shower and was in bed before 9PM, and asleep not long after.

After 11 hours sleep, I awoke today and got a much slower start. In order to remove the lower cabinets, I needed to remove the plumbing. After K left for lunch, I turned off the water, and started chopping pipes. And now we come to my moment of idiocy. Rather than just sweat some 1/2" caps on the stubs of where the kitchen supply lines had been, I took a look the mess of 3/4" and 1/2" and tees and such where the plumbing for the addition had been tied in and galvanized pipes replaced, I decided it was time to clean it up. So I cut out the mishmash and then spent the rest of the afternoon cutting copper pipes and sweating fittings. I only had one failure, but with plumbing that takes a while. The results are great: no mishmash, 3/4" all the way to the master bath, and I think I fixed the last of the water hammer by securing the new pipes better. But it took me all afternoon instead of the less than an hour that capping the stubs would have. I did get the drain pipe removed and capped, and the old dishwasher pulled, so there was some visible evidence for today's work, but I'm feeling almost as tired tonight as I was last night.

Tomorrow I'll remove the sink and take out the lower cabinets, and remove the last bits of wall. Time permitting, I'll start ripping up the vinyl flooring, too. I did a little test strip, and it shouldn't be too bad. It's glued to 1/4" plywood instead of directly to the subfloor, so it comes up with out leaving adhesive gunk behind. The bad news is that I'll have to replace some of the subfloor, because I've already seen from below what bad shape it's in.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Behold...the Kitchen of the Future!

the kitchen of the future

Sure, you were expecting rotating refrigerators, dome top cookers, and levitating frying pans. No, our kitchen of the future is a little more down to earth. It'll be split between the dining room table (which is in the living room) for prep and cooking, and the bathroom for cleanup, with the occasional foray to the deck to use the grill.

Rosie the explorer

This week has been cleaning out and packing stuff from the kitchen so I can demolish things on Monday. Rosie was happy to help, if by 'help' you mean explore empty cabinets and drawers. K is busy making lasagna for tonight's guests in what will be the last use of the oven and stove for a while. It'll live without a proper kitchen for a while. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Winter's Back

Apparently NV's rain dance worked. We still need more rain and snow, but the last week or so we've gotten a lot. Fortunately we've got a break to clean up and dry things out a little.

if a tree falls halfway...

Yesterday on my way home from the Red Cross, I saw a neighbor out walking during a break in the rain, and so had to drive closer to the other side of the street. The branches over that side of the street seemed low, and after parking I saw Mike looking at the tree, and indeed it was low. It was low because it had fallen half way over, and hadn't fallen all the way only because it managed to fall against a stump. I warned the people in the houses opposite, and Mike and I went and told the people in the house where the tree was. The owners weren't home, but a nanny, child and dog were. I went in to get the number for the Oakland public works department, and before I'd gotten far I heard a truck braking. I went back out, and public works was already out there in force. Seems another neighbor had already called them a couple hours before. Given how busy public works must be, between the storms and budget cutbacks, it was amazing they got there as quickly as they did. Fortunately no one was injured, and there was no major damage done. It could have easily flattened a car or pedestrian.

Meanwhile, the kitchen cabinets have been ordered! We really wanted to go with the EcoHome ones, but they came in at over twice the price of the KraftMaid ones, even with some of the less expensive options selected (e.g., doweled vs. dove-tailed corners, frameless vs. inset faceframe). H&H was somewhere in between. The clock is now running, so I'm packing the kitchen, moving some stuff into the dining room to use in the mean time, and after some guests this weekend, I'll demolish the kitchen next week. Then it's on to electrical and plumbing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

glacial kitchen progress

Progress on the kitchen has been slow, or at least feels that way. I've been finalizing the layout of the cabinet design and getting estimates. Since the cabinets are major part of the expense as well as the look of the kitchen, and I can't do it myself (without a major learning curve to learn cabinet making, and a lot of time), I'm getting three estimates. I can't blame the weather (which was glacial...there was ice on the bird bath the other morning), though that has kept me away from Habitat for several Fridays. I can't even blame jury duty, since the case settled while they were calling role, so it only took a few hours out of my day.

The first estimate is from Home Depot, which had a very helpful, friendly guy help me finalize some details while he was inputting the cabinet specs into their system. KraftMaid makes nice cabinets, and has taken some green steps, but doesn't specify FSC-certified lumber and would be shipping the cabinets all the way from Ohio. They ship a lot of cabinets, so there's some economy of scale, but still not the best thing.

Another estimate is from a local green home improvement store, EcoHome. They're a great shop, with a huge selection of eco-friendly paints, flooring, cabinets, countertops, etc. We got our bamboo flooring from them, as well as all the paint we've bought in the years since they opened. They have a company make the cabinets locally, using FSC-certified wood and low- and no-VOC finishes. This will definitely be the greenest option, but probably the most expensive.

The final estimate is from a local cabinet shop here in Oakland, H&H Cabinet. They were the last on my list, so the drawings were pretty complete by the time I got to them. They've got a small showroom above their shop which is only staffed some of the time, so the hardest part was getting over there when it was. This may be the cheapest option, but we'll see.

I'm hoping that EcoHome's estimate will be reasonable enough that we can go with it. They're super-knowledgeable, always looking for new and better options, and have done a lot of work figuring out the trade-offs involved in the various options. With the recession, they've been adding more variety to the products they carry. Instead of purely high-end stuff that's as green as possible, they're also carrying some more modest stuff that may not be as green. Regardless of whether we get the cabinets from them, we'll probably get the flooring (probably natural linoleum) and countertops (maybe Paperstone or Vetrazzo; the latter is made locally).

I'm also hoping this will all be reasonable enough that we can splurge a little on some art. We recently went to a local (as in around the corner) open studio. Turns out the house with the funny sculptures in front (a couple doors over from the house that burned a while back) belongs to a local artist who works with copper. Kenneth Griswa does some very high end installs, but also does some more modestly priced work, too. His portfolio includes some boffo copper backsplashes and range hoods as art. They're decorated using a variety of techniques, and are in a word, amazing.

In any event, the basic design of the kitchen is done. It's got the classic work triangle, and despite any limitations imposed by costs, it's going to be 1000% better than our old kitchen. It'll be twice as big, with lots more counter space and storage, and open to the dining room (via a large doorway and half height walls at the counters), so it'll feel even bigger.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thanks, Millard

Millard Fuller, 1935-2009

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, passed away today at 74. Over 1.5 million people around the world live in better homes built by Habitat volunteers, because of the organization that he and his wife Linda founded in 1976.

But countless other people, including K and I, live in better homes because of what they've learned volunteering with Habitat. I'd been volunteering with Habitat for 9 years or so when it occurred to me that I might have learned enough to design and build an addition myself. There's a lot of kind and patient people who taught me things to thank, too, but Millard Fuller has to be at the top of the list. Thanks, Millard.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

While many of you in home improvement land are dancing for joy that the temperatures are up to the 50s, I'm hoping for our temperatures to get down to the 50s later this week. You see, while you've been freezing your collective butts off, we've been basking in unseasonably warm weather, with clear sunny skies and temps in the 60s and 70s. Which is wonderful and all, but means we haven't been getting rain. We're facing the 3rd year of a drought, which will have a bad impact on an already dire economy. Lower temperatures usually come with a storm, and there's supposed to be one moving through beginning on Thursday. Even if that messes up my usual volunteer day at Habitat for Humanity, I'm all for it.

In any event, today I worked on the kitchen. Not by tearing down walls, removing old cabinets or the like. Not even by moving stuff out of the kitchen. No, I spent the day trying to find old files that were part of the overall house plans so said plans would open without complaints in the home design software I used. When I finally acknowledge that that wasn't going to happen, I moved to measuring the actual kitchen space. And realized that having the old files wouldn't have helped me that much, because the plans I submitted for permits didn't have exact measurements for the kitchen (or probably anything else, for that matter). So I've begun creating a new set of plans, this time for just the kitchen, so I can figure out exact cabinet layouts and such.