Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

With the recent undertaking of my most ambitious house project ever, I've decided to resurrect the blog to document the effort....

In a nutshell, we're adding 400 square feet on to the back of the house and then gutting the two bathrooms at the back of the house and turning them into a larger master bathroom and laundry room. A few weeks ago, we had the foundation for the addition poured and I've been slowly working on regrading the ground around the addition and digging out the old brick sidewalk that we discovered in our backyard.

This past weekend, we had a dump trailer delivered and it will be with us for a week. Half of the trailer has already been filled with the remains of the old brick stairs from the back of the house and the left overs of the dirt dug up during the grading process. The same fellow who delivered my trailer already hauled away six cubic yards of dirt that were dug up to pour the foundation.

I have until next Monday to fill the rest of the 24 cubic yard trailer with whatever (lighter) materials I can. So yesterday afternoon, I stripped the old aluminum siding from the back of the house where the addition will go. I'm not throwing the siding away since I can get a few bucks for it from a scrap yard but next I plan on stripping off the very old cypress siding that was underneath it. This old siding is in frighteningly bad shape and I'm trying not to think about the fact that the rest of the house probably looks just as bad under the siding.

Friday, August 25, 2006

About the Inspection...

From a thank you note from Emmy, the directory of Abeona house:

Picture this: A George Jefferson look-alike grabbing onto both handrails, and jumping up and down on the ramp hollering, "This is the most beautiful wooden ramp I have ever inspected! Thank you!!!!"

Ramping up to Opening Day

About a week ago I received a call from Emmy, the director of the pre-school we're helping found. Habitat for Humanity was building a massive handicap ramp that the school had to have before it could open. Unfortunately, the Habitat For Humanity work crew ran out of time in their schedule and they needed to turn the project over to the school. They had managed to set all of the posts for the ramp, frame it out, and install about half of the decking. That left installing the remainder of the decking, all of the railings, and a set of stairs adjacent to the ramp.

Because of my remodeling experience with our home, I volunteered to head up the effort to complete the ramp along with a bunch of other volunteers - some parents of kids in the school, some parents of kids hoping to get in the school, and some just friends of the school. This past week I spent every waking moment I could at the school with the exception of the time I was working my real job (and one vacation day I took from that job). While it was a long, tiring week of sweating it out in the Lousiana heat and humidity, it was also a huge strain on Holly who had to watch both kids at home and at the school at times so that she could help watch other volunteers' children.

Somehow, we managed to get the ramp and stairs done in the week if only barely. I spent the last two days setting the stair posts in concrete and framing out the stairs in the brief intervals between thunderstorms. Late last night after I did the last work on the rails some more parents wrapped up the spindles and the project was finally done. Typing the ramp into the porch and building the adjoining stairs has been the most challenging project I've ever completed. I don't think I have ever worked as hard as I have this past week but it feels really good to be done. And even better is that I've just learned that we passed the inspection this morning so we're in the home stretch of getting all the sign-offs we need to open.

The first half of the railing has gone up. Emmy's husband Kevin and I spent two days installing the railings while other volunteers installed all of the spindles. It was a crash course in complicated angle cuts with compond mitre saws that paid off by the time I got to the stairs.

Here I'm installing the last bit of railing on the handicap ramp with the exception of the railing pieces that tie the ramp into the old porch. I put those off until after the stair posts were in place so that I could figure everything out at once.

A shot of the completed ramp looking up to where it turns the corner to head to the back porch of the school. All told, this section is almost 40 feet long.

Here is the section of ramp off of the back porch and the adjoining stairs that the kids will use to down to the play area in back of the house. This section of ramp is a good 18 feet long.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Like Building a Ship in a Bottle

Two days and three trips to Home Depot later, the rail is back in the wall and completely fixed - and I didn't have to punch any holes in the drywall/plaster!!! I've not rehung the panel doors since I want the termite guys to be able to see into the wall cavity. And I also want to give the other door some time to unwarp (its laying flat on the ground with the good door on top, pressing it flat).
Fortunately, the destroyed header was not anchored inside the wall cavity (or the termites ate the anchors out). I was able to remove it completely.
Here is a shot of the old plate, now anchored to two cross-headers that sit on 4 x 4's that were on either side of the destroyed header. These parallel headers are actually beefier than the original one so I'm not worried about their ability to handle the load.

Here is a three foot section of threaded rod attached to the iron rail. I drilled a 4 inch hole in the attic over the void in the wall that I poked the rod through. It went in suprisingly easy given that the rod was 4 feet into the wall and the rail weighs a good 40 pounds. The hardest part was getting all the measurements right for drilling the hole.
Here's the second section of threaded rod joined to the first and then anchored on two cross headers in the attic. The end of the rail now hangs on the rod instead of being slid into a hook hanging from a header. Once the door is hung, there will be a bit of fiddling to get everything level and centered. Then I can toenail in the cross-joists to prevent things from moving. The monster joist behind is one of the two that takes the load of the great room's ceiling since the center wall was removed to make it one big room.
Finally, a shot of the rail in the door frame. It's really solid and I can't wait to put the door back in after the termite guys look at things on Wednesday. I just hope the other door has straightened out.

I Love the Smell of Saws-All in the Morning

I was up at the crack of dawn today thanks to the alarm cat from hell. So before I hit the shower I decided to cut out more of the beam. I almost made it all the way through it before I ran out of battery power. I should be able to wrap it up this morning.

Just a small bit of the beam left!

A shot of the side of the opening where you can see one of the other beams I hope to rest the cross-beams on.

Pieces of the termite buffet everywhere!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Panel Doors, Round Three

Since Holly took Will and Kate to Mobile this weekend, I decided to resume work on the second set of panel doors in our house. One of the doors is badly warped after dipping it to remove the paint. I've laid that out on the floor and set the other door on top of it (along with some 5 gallon water containers) in an attempt to flatten it out. The other, more serious problem is that one side of the rail the doors hang from is attached to a wood beam that has been completely eaten away by termites. It is old damage - there is no evidence of active termites in the wood and from what I can tell, the previous people who worked on the house just framed around the dammage when they made our double into a single residence. Just to be safe, I have our termite company coming next week to confirm my diagnosis.

Tonight, I came up with a plan which I hope will let me rehang the rails in the door opening without having to open up the drywall and plaster lathe. I'm using a saws-all to cut out the damage section of the beam through the narrow door opening. It's sort of like playing an incredible filthy version of that kids game named Operation. I have a three inch gap to work through. If I can get enough of the beam out, I hope I can set several pieces of 2 x 4 on top of the beams that run parallel to one that is destroyed. I then plan on reattaching the rail's mounting plate to these new cross beams. This will give me two of the three rail mounting points back - and that should be enough to rehang the doors.

My backup plan is to rehang the rail on 3 foot lengths of threaded rod anchored in the attic. I may even have to do this for just the third mounting point if the first two aren't enough to hold the 150+ pounds of a door. This would involve cutting small access holes in the wall and the difficult task of getting the rod position properly from the attic. So I'm hoping that the third times the charm when it comes to fixing these panel doors.

This is the saws-all next to a four foot section of the destroyed beam that literal fell out of the door frame when I started cutting out the bad section. It's one "face" of the beam and you can see how the termites ate away everything inside of the beam.

This is the bottom of the small section of beam that I cut out - you can see the main hole for the rail's mounting bolt and the two holes on either side for the screws. I removed the iron mounting plate before I cut it out to make sure I did not damage it.

This is a shot up into the door frame that shows the destroyed beam that the doors hang from. The blue tape is marking the exact position of the bolt hole for hanging the rail from. This gives you a bit of idea how small the opening I have to work with (I would hate to have to remove the door trim). I still need to cut out about another 3 inches of depth from the destroyed beam. Unfortunately, my rechargable saws-all battery ran out after the first cuts. I'm going to recharge it (and its spare) tonight and resume the demolition tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Silly Monkey!

Did I mention that Will is one of the silliest kids I've ever known. He must get it from his mom...

Signs You Might Be A Geek

When your desk looks like this...

And your closet looks like this...

Bookshelves Done!

The bookshelves were actually completed about a week ago but I've been too busy relaxing to post anything on the blog. The week before that I managed to wire the bookshelves with a cable and newtwork connection (for a network printer that we'll eventually get). After that, it was just a matter of priming them, caulking them, and then painting them with two coats. After they dried, Holly and I were able to remove a lot of the clutter from my office by stocking the shelves with our books and supplies.

I'm really pleased with how they came out. I'm now toying with ideas for how I can build a matching desk with more shelves for the other end of the office.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

More Progress.....Finally

Yesterday morning Holly took the kids to a music class at what will be their new school once it opens. I took advantage of that hour by myself to break out the chop saw and nail gun and install all of the trim on the shelves in my study. I was also able to wire up the outlet in the shelves and install the box for the network hookup. I haven't pulled those wires yet but since the shelves are right next to the wiring closet, it should not be a problem at all. Today I hope to find the time to reinstall the baseboard and door frame.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It is hard to feel sorry for New Orleans....

....when this is business as usual around here.

I am amazed that the article was even published in the newspaper. Not that anything more will happen to hold these people accountable for their actions.