Sunday, March 29, 2009

Casa Decrepit

Yesterday I loaded my step ladder onto the Golf, and headed over to Casa Decrepit in Alameda for a party -- a demolition party. They're restoring a lovely Victorian that's had unspeakable crimes committed to it. Lowered ceilings, covered over ceiling medallions and window arches, dark brown faux wood paneling, and to finish it off, bright pink trim. It was great to meet Ayse and Noel and their animal menagerie, and the others who came to help with the demo party. A great bunch of people. Read their post on it (with lots more pictures).

Elaine the panel-ripping machine

let it snow!

Rosie and Goldie

Friday, March 27, 2009

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

new framing

That's how this week felt, at least. Thursday evening I was basically back to where I'd been at the end of last week. To be sure, things are in better shape than they were now that the termite-damaged wood has been removed, but it's frustrating as all get-out (frakking frustrating for you BSG fans) to not be any further along than I was a week ago. And I thought I was basically done with framing back in September. I've gone through most of a 5 lb. box of 16p nails since then.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom. Our neighbor, upon hearing of our kitchenless state offered to bring some food over for dinner. She recently returned from working in Europe, and wasn't able to cook while there, so she's happy to cook extra and share with us. And we're happy to have some home-cooked food (though we've been finding some good microwaveable stuff from Trader Joe's, it just ain't the same).

Today I was out to Habitat for Humanity for my usual Friday volunteer gig. I spent the day cutting stringers for stairs for the 20 houses in the upcoming build-a-thon (it's not too late to sign up or donate!), but what was of note were the helicopters. The Edes site is just south of Oakland Coliseum, where the memorial service for the 4 Oakland police officers who died recently was held today. The site is also near the Oakland Airport, so helicopters, small planes and jets aren't unusual, but the sheer number of helicopters in the air quickly caught our attention. I was thinking about the officers, their families, and their friends and co-workers frequently throughout the day.

Tomorrow I'm off to Casa Decrepit in Alameda for their demolition party. It'll be fun to meet some other Bay Area housebloggers, and a nice change of pace from demolishing stuff in our house. This week was more than enough of that for me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Tell-Tale Poop

So those few dark bits that I thought might be termite droppings, alas, were. I pulled out the channel in question, and there were tunnels running the length of one of the boards. I'd already replaced the bottom plate, so I turned my attention upward, and removed the top plate and the doubler. To be sure, I even removed a ceiling joist and part of one of the roof rafters. At that point there wasn't much to hold the siding in place, so I removed it, too (carefully stacking it in a corner). Today after a dump run, I'll go ahead and remove the last vestiges of that wall and rebuild it. If I'd known, I would have just demolished the whole wall from the start and rebuilt it then. Sigh.

Monday, March 23, 2009



Here's a quick quiz: at what point did I decide it was time to quit working on the kitchen for the day? If you guessed "when the flatbar broke", you're right! I knew it was theoretically possible, but didn't think it would be quite so easy.

I don't use a flatbar for pulling nails very often; usually it's just my framing hammer and if necessary, a cat's paw to get it started (one of these days I'll have to do a how-to post on the right way to pull a nail). Only rarely do I use the flatbar to pull, and even more rarely the long end. Anyways, this was one of those mysteries of our house, a 20 penny nail where normally it would be a 16. It was in a channel between two studs where one of the old front porch walls met the outside wall, so my hammer wouldn't fit. I tried the short end of the flatbar (which has more leverage) and couldn't get it, so I tried the long end braced against one of the studs on the side, and there was a *tink* and it snapped. No injuries, but I stood there stunned for a second, trying to figure out if what I thought had happened had really just happened. Alas, it had.

The really bad news is not the flatbar (aka a Vaughn Superbar), but why I was deciding to pull that nail is that I thought I saw some tell-tale termite droppings along the edge of the channel. Tomorrow I'll go ahead and pull out the boards involved just in case. I did get the final bit of the ceiling drywall pulled down, puzzled over some more on where to run the plumbing (particularly the vent stack), and placed a few electrical boxes for countertop outlets and such.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

(Sheet)rocking in the Free World

Vitruvian drywall

Once replacing joists and subfloor and dealing with the small roof leaks I discovered with the ceiling open put me (way) off my original goal of being pretty much ready to install the cabinets when they arrived, I re-adjusted my goals.

Specifically, I wanted at the very least to make sure I had a place to store the cabinets (besides under a tarp in the carport) until I was ready for them, and that meant the dining room. The dining room has been serving as my staging area, and so has been full of tools, drywall, etc. But it's also been lacking a ceiling in areas between the new part in the addition and the old, which had been waiting for the rest of the kitchen walls to come down so the whole ceiling can be drywalled. And it's gotten pretty dirty besides.

intrepid explorer

So in the last week, I've torn down the rest of the dining room ceiling, most of the kitchen ceiling, sheetrocked the dining room ceiling and part of the kitchen ceiling, and as an added bonus, almost finished sheetrocking the dining room walls (at least the parts that used full pieces). And all the while, making sure Rosie didn't get into too much trouble.

Wednesday, right on schedule, the kitchen cabinets arrived. Fortunately I'd specified delivery into the house, because some of those suckers are heavy, and there's a flight of steps down from the carport. The delivery guys packed things in fairly well, but didn't really leave us a path through to the rest of the house. So using some of our mad Tetris skillz, K and I rearranged some boxes to pack them in better and open up a path.

There's a little more ceiling in the kitchen to tear down, then it's on to plumbing and pulling wires.

before and after

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Habitat Build-a-thon

last year's build-a-thon

As if I don't have enough to do (the kitchen cabinets arrive on Wednesday), coming up in April is Habitat for Humanity East Bay's annual Earth Day build-a-thon. This is the biggest build we've done, framing 20 houses in 4 days. I'll be a crew leader this year (not a house leader; I'm nuts, not crazy) so my fund-raising requirements are lower, but I'm still trying to raise $1,000 for the event. You can find my fund-raising page here. If you live in the SF Bay Area, consider taking part in the event yourself.

I owe a lot to Habitat because that's where I learned 99% of my building skills. I volunteer on the work site most Fridays (I didn't yesterday, because I'm busy getting ready for the cabinets and trying to keep the kitchen Rosie-proof), but the build-a-thon is also a fundraiser and a chance to get to see a whole lot of progress in a short amount of time. Most importantly, it's a chance to give people a hand in having a simple, decent place to raise their families. So donate if you can -- every little bit helps!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where the Deer and the Tabby Cats Play


Yesterday as the sun was going down, the deer that had been sitting and grazing in our yard decided it was time to play. There's a family / herd of 5 (mom, 2 from this year, 2 from last year, we think) that we frequently see in our yard. Mostly they eat plants, eat birdseed, poop, and sit around. Yesterday we saw 4 of them, doing their usual. But the young ones started running around, up and down the hill to the neighbors on each side. Then the others started getting in to it. Occasionally one would stop, breathing hard, and then join back in. It was, in short, hilarious. When not chasing around with the others, one would occasionally just hop in the air. It was almost as much fun as watching birds bathe in the birdbath.

Today I worked more on the kitchen. I spent a while puzzling over the plumbing (made more difficult by the foundation changes needed because of past problems), then went back to work pulling out drywall, bits of framing, etc. K was working at home today, so Rosie had someone to entertain her. Mostly. In the late afternoon, K had a video meeting, and Rosie showed up outside the plastic into the dining room. I went out and carried her to K's office. At some point while I was carrying debris up to the carport, she snuck past the plastic, up the back of the chimney, and into the attic.

who, me?

I was picking up bits of drywall, and heard a rustling noise from above. I called her, and saw her peering down, looking innocent. She wouldn't come down, so I went up the access ladder, and she jumped down the way she'd come up.

We had a bit of worry, because in addition to all the debris she could hurt herself on in the kitchen, there's plenty of stuff in the attic, too. K took her outside to eat some grass in case she'd eaten anything she shouldn't, but she seems fine now. Her usual goofy, playful self.

Oh give me a home
where the house cats roam
and the skies are cloudy some days
Where some times is heard
an unpleasant word
because Rosie has decided to stray

Home, home of deranged
where the deer and the tabby cats play
Where some times is heard
an unpleasant word
because Rosie has decided to stray

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sign Sign Everywhere A Sign

unhappy trails to you...

  • sign that you've got termite damage: see picture
  • sign that you've been watching a lot of Battlestar Galactica: you say "frak!" upon discovering said damage
  • sign that a board has termite damage even though it looks OK on the outside: it sounds like a frakking rain stick when you tilt it
This was a joist below the area of subfloor that looked a bit spotty, so I'm very glad I decided to replace more subfloor. I took out the entire joist, but the one that was sistered to it I could only take out 8' of or so without major work. It looks clean after that, but that's no guarantee I've gotten all the infested wood. Still no live termites or even corpses, just trails and castings, but bleah.

I did actually say "frak" when I discovered the damaged joist, and didn't think about my word choice until later. K and I don't watch much TV, mostly movies from Netflix, but we recently discovered the new version of Battlestar Galactica. Besides the character names and the basic premise, it has very little in common with the cheesy 70's original that I watched as a child. This is much darker, better special effects, and deeper, more interesting characters. (The other word I've picked up from a sci-fi television series is "shiny". Bonus points to anyone who can name the series.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dark Side of the Fireplace

This is why the kitchen is not quite a rectangle. I'm going to tear down all this drywall, but I gave a little test tear to check things out. This is the back side of the chimney. It's dark, though these days the front side is dark, too. That's because we pretty much stopped having fires several years ago because of the particulate pollution they produce. I became more aware of that after visiting Yellowstone NP and reading about the problems they were having from campfires some times. Of course, even if we wanted to have fires, we frequently couldn't because the local air quality district realized the same thing, and passed regulations limiting when people can have fires, and only EPA-certified inserts, wood stoves, etc. can be installed in new construction. Glass doors I installed many years ago plus the damper keep it from sucking too much warm air out of the house, but the fireplace sits dark.

Monday, March 02, 2009

There's a hole...

a great big hole

There's a hole in floor, dear Liza, dear Liza. A great big one, dear Henry, dear Henry. There's a hole in the roof, too. Fortunately not nearly as big, but big enough that water is sneaking in somehow when it rains really hard. I discovered the latter after ripping down the drywall in that part of the kitchen. I created the former by ripping up rotted and termite-infested subflooring.

I ripped up a lot of subfloor today, and decided I'm going to rip up more that's spotty. So after making another dump run, I got another piece of T&G 3/4" for subflooring. The hole will be bigger than what's shown before I'm done. Including the old porch, it'll be three 4x8 sheets total, which ends up being two thirds of the kitchen. Hopefully that'll be enough.