Thursday, December 23, 2010

All I want for christmas is a driveway

The first step, once the permit was issued, was to get the driveway and curb-cut installed. This would dramatically speed up my progress, not having to haul everything the extra 40ft to the curb. So I went by Aurora Rents and explained my situation. They recommended a bobcat.

They did not realise they were renting the bobcat to a complete idiot. This is what I managed to accomplish in 15 minutes.

Although I did managed to get the bobcat stuck in the mud, I finally got it out and onto the driveway. I then calmly called Aurora Rents and explained that they rented this to an idiot, and that they would need to send me something else. Preferably something which would cause less damage in the hands of an imbecile.

So they sent over a mini-excavator. This was too much fun, more fun than I can explain. In short order, I managed to excavate the driveway and the curb cut and I had a blast doing it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Realizing that I needed help, I enlisted the aid of an honest to god professional. An architect.

He has been incredibly helpful in helping me figure out what to do next and figuring out how I can make the best use of this property. To that end, he worked with me to come up with the following plans for the house renovation. My requirements that we figure out what will make the renovation go as quickly as possible, as I need a place to live!

The end design maintains the current exterior envelope of the house, removing two feet from the front of the house and four feet from the back. The main floor will be on large living space, with no walls dividing the rooms, and a sleeping loft upstairs.

With the plans in hand, I can finally go the city to apply for permits. Normally this type of remodel would be considered STFI, however, because I am replacing the foundation and the property is located in two ECAs, it will require a plan review. Thus begins a long and seemingly drawn out process of getting the plans reviewed by the city.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Asbestos - Good enough for grandpa, good enough for me.

So the entire sides and back of the house were covered in cement-based asbestos siding. So I had to don the Tyvek suit and begin abatement. The rules of home renovation in Seattle are pretty simple:
  • Are you the homeowner and do you live in the home?
    • Yes - you can do whatever work needs to be done, if the house falls down, you'll be the one to die.
    • No - hire a contractor
Lucky for me, I am the homeowner, so rather than pay $5k to have the asbestos abatement contractor come and remove the siding, I was able to do it myself. This required a permit and special handling for the material, but it was worth two weekends of labor to save $5k.

Be safe kids, wrap it.

Underneath the asbestos siding was really good cedar shingle siding. I was surprised it had even been covered up in the first place and not just repaired.

Here are the fruits of my labor, 2,400 lbs of siding. Double bagged in 6mil plastic bags. This was then transported to a special facility which properly disposes of it (read: buries it real deep). I loaded up the trailer to haul the siding to the transfer facility and the allowed load limit for my car and trailer is 1,000 lbs of material. So when I left and they told me that I just got rid of 2,400 lbs, I was happy that my car still ran and that the trailer's axles were (fairly) straight.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Interior Demo - The Back

At this point, the novelty of documenting the demolition has faded and I took far fewer pictures. But here you can see the view, from the back of the house, looking forward, after I had completed the demolition in the back of the house. Note the awesome layers of wallpaper that previously covered the bathroom wall.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Interior Demo - The Front

And the interior demolition begins! My initial thoughts on the interior demolition was to pull down everything and get to the original structure. The *FIRST* thing I did was to remove the terrible carpet, which revealed original doug fir floors. Pretty sweet. Then I started by removing the wall separating the tiny 70 sq ft bedroom and the front room. This is where I started to realize that things were going to be "interesting".

Here, I've removed the fireplace and have pulled the brick backing in front of the wall down. The wall was built in a hilarious fashion, meaning it didn't use traditional studs, but instead recycle pieces from an old dresser drawer. Also, they didn't even bother to pull up the old, orange / yellow / brown shag carpet, they just slapped down a board and nailed it in. At this point I realised *EVERYTHING* would need to be demolished and I would need to take it back to the framing.

Here is a rough stitch of the demolition as it progressed through the front room. This is a 180 degree panorama.

Here, you can see the front of the house has been completely pulled down. This is the same vantage point as the first picture above. The plastic is keeping the debris from getting into the rest of the house. I've found that it is easier to clean as you go, rather than make a HUGE mess and spend way too much time cleaning it up.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Detaching a Detached Garage from the Property

In the backyard, there is a detached garage / shed. It's quite old and I'm surprised it hasn't fallen down already. My initial plan is to rebuild the shed into a mother-in-law and live there while I complete the rest of the renovation. So I went down to DPD, and had a permit issued to rebuild the shed.

My plan of attack was simple, try to not be crushed if something falls down. Following this logic, I decided the best thing I could do was first get rid of the roof. This was a trial and error process. By trial and error, I mean burning up a circular saw before realizing that a reciprocating saw is a much better tool.

This is quite possibly one of the cooler things I found. The shed was actually built from random lumber sourced during WWII. As you can see from the date on this lumber, it was originally part of a shipping container used to send aircraft parts between Oakland and Portland. I've kept this and hopefully will preserve it in some way with the home.

One tragic thing, the entire shed was filled with poo. Small poo from small animals. I figured out later on what type of animal had been poo'ing there so much (see below).

As you can see, the construction is quite sturdy. I mean why waste wood cutting it to a dimensionally accurate shape? Just cut down a sapling and slap it in there!

Look! It is a former denizen of the shed. At first I could not figure out what this was, until I posted it on Facebook and a friend remarked that it was a Possum.

Finally, the shed is down and the backyard is open and ready for use!

Oh yeah, I bought a red wheel-barrow and received a red cart as a present. Both of them have been incredibly helpful!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cherry Tree

There was an old cherry tree in my backyard, it didn't produce much fruit anymore and was already dead. However, as I was debating whether I should cut it down myself; I realised I would probably fuck it up and crush a good portion of the neighbors fence. So I hired an arborist to come out and take it down.

Arborists are like prostitutes. You don't pay them to come, you pay them to clean up after themselves and leave.

Here you can see the backyard after it was cleaned up. I asked them to leave the base of the tree intact. I was debating on having a chainsaw sculptor come out and carve something interesting. (Also, you can see the cribbing I'll soon be using to help jack up the house. $60 buck from some dude on craigslist.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Down goes the Holly

So there is a holly in the backyard. It's poorly placed and quite mature.

I was told it's bad for other fauna and should be removed.

With this flimsy excuse, I bought a chainsaw and went to work...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Water, water everywhere, it makes my home sink

One of the issues with this home, is that it is located in two "Environmentally Critical Areas" or ECAs. This means that there is some consideration which will affect the building or structural requirements for the home. In my case, this home is located in a valley between two hills. At some point in the past, there was a stream which was covered with fill, and surrounding this stream was a peat bog. Unfortunately I don't know right now whether it was filled by man or by natural processes. But regardless, the fill is loose and unstable.

So, I have to deal with liquefaction prone soil (due to the fill) and the potential peat bog underneath. In fact, these soil conditions are a part of the reason the house has settled so much (8" of settling over the 50' or so is quite a lot).

What's a boy to do? Hire a geo-tech of course!

The geo-tech came out and bored two test holes and then wrote up a report detailing the soils encountered, blow counts at the various depths and whether the site is suitable for development.

Lucky for me, the property was suitable for development, either with a slab foundation or pin piles.

Also, I now have a fancy report detailing the soil conditions of my home. I bet you don't have that....

Here you can see the boring machine drilling down into the soil.

Here you can see the probe after it's penetrated between two geologically distinct layers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Where to begin?

This was my home when I first bought it.
  • It was originally built in the 20's (1922 is the best guess I have). The house is one of the older homes on the block.
  • The house was originally built as a simple 20' x 40' structure with a front porch.
  • Later a 6' deep back porch was added.
  • Eventually both porches were closed in (poorly).
  • Several interior (non-load bearing) walls were added (again, poorly).
  • Finally, the house was built as post and pier construction, meaning the entire house was built using 36 1' x 1' concrete pier blocks, with wooden beams on top of wooden posts. This doesn't provide much bearing for the house, and as a result, the house had settled roughly 8" from the front left corner to the back right corner.
  • All of these issues and more would need to be addressed. I knew this going in, and figured that it would be easier to remodel this home than build one from scratch. And seeing that I couldn't afford a new home, this would have to do.
  • I started this blog in the Fall of 2011, but I backdating the posts to the appropriate times, so the chronological continuity is coherent. (Does that count as alliteration?)