Saturday, April 28, 2012

Have you met "the ladies"?

I lived in a condo for a long time. Like 12 years or something, and I liked it.

But I had come to a point that I wanted to do things like... own chickens!

Having a yard was one of the most enticing things about owning a home. Having animals, a garden and room to mess about.
So last year, I bit the bullet and bought a few peepers! Two Buff Orpingtons and two Rhode Island Reds. They were adorable.
They grew up *very* quickly. (This was mere weeks after I brought them home.)

Eventually they grew big enough that it was time to move them outside, so then it was time to build a coop. They came to live at the rental.

This is their first day outside, roughly three months after hatching. It was awesome watching them poke around and forage. Also, I learned the true secret to getting a chicken's attention. Worms.

One day, a friend gave another friend a "gift of responsibility", which meant they bought them a Silkie Bantam show chicken and dyed her pink. It was a hilarious gift and worked out well, as the recipient already had chickens. Unfortunately, chickens are pretty aggressive about enforcing a pecking order, and Bubbles wasn't very good at standing up for herself. So she came to live with my flock of chicks.

It worked out extremely well. She was very motherly and taught the little peepers how to be proper chickens.
One of the more interesting things that happened when they first moved in, was a visit from a neighbor's african guinea fowl. When the guinea fowl realised there were new ladies in the neighborhood, it was quite an event. At 5am.

Did I mention, the neighbors all hated the guinea fowl? It's pretty obvious why.

Eventually, the chicks grew up into regular chickens. One of the Rhodies turned out to be a rooster and went to live on a farm (Literally. I built a coop and he lives quite happily in the country on a friend's multi-acre estate).

Bubbles too, eventually went to live at the same friend's estate when the Buff's grew up and started picking on her too much. She's now an indoor chicken and is very happy. When she came to live with me, I was told that she had been a "show chicken" and had lived indoors. So I'm glad that her rough outdoor lifestyle is over and she's back living "in the manner to which she had been accustomed".

So all that is left are the two Buffs, whom I have named Gretchen and Henrietta. (Gretchen is the larger one.) They get let out of the coop on the weekends when I'm around, they both actively lay eggs, and they are a constant source of amusement for people walking by the frontyard of our rental.

From my experience so far, I expect them to be a wonderful addition to the new home and the neighborhood!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our of desperation, a shed is born!

I had been operating under the idea that the delivery date for our Ikea kitchen could be easily moved.  So you know, if we weren't ready for the delivery, no problem just pay them to store it a few more weeks.

Well... after the base coat of stucco was applied to the stem-wall, I called Ikea and asked if we could push out the delivery two weeks. Their response was "nope, it is being held as long as possible, it has to be shipped on the original date, no choice".

So now we either store it all in the house while we finish the foundation wall and level the yard. Or build a shed now, before the yard is leveled.  Or rent a storage unit. Or....

Frankly I didn't want to move it more than necessary. The total weight of all the packages is roughly a ton, separated into 100+ cardboard boxes. So it makes sense to try and limit the times you move it around.  So I dropped by Home Depot on Friday night, picked up the materials for the subfloor of the shed and dropped it off at the house.  Saturday morning, the Future Missus and I clear a section of the backyard and starting digging out where we'll position the blocks that the shed will rest on.

It's a simple 8 x 11 platform framed shed. We used six concrete blocks to support the structure. 2x6 floor joists, OSB subfloor, 8' walls, with a simple corrugated shed style roof.

We dug out holes where the concrete blocks would rest. We then filled in the holes with between 2-4" of gravel and tamped it. We then leveled the gravel filled holes and squared everything up.

Once it was all squared, we laid down mud sills. Now, I'll be honest, this thing is meant to be fast to build and will be torn pretty quickly after we move in. So I didn't even bother to buy pressure treated sill plates.

We built up the subfloor, and decided to call it a day.

The next day we came back and built the walls. Having a square and level subfloor already there made this go really quickly. Measure, measure, measure, cut, nail, nail, nail and done. We built the sides and back on top of each other, then stood them all up and leaned them out against the fences. Then we brought the first wall up, supported it with cross-supports.  Then we lifted the second wall into place, check for level and nail it together. Then the third wall, and then I built the fourth and front wall in place.

I added double top places to lock the corners in.  Finally, I used a 2x8 to form the front of the roof, allowing it to pitch towards the back of the property.

At this point, I realized that the wooden saddles to match up with the corrugated metal roof were incompatible. Sadly the wooden saddles were made for plastic roofing.  Back to home depot to exchange the metal for the plastic.

Then I installed the roofing, drill, screw, drill, screw....

Right after I got the front OSB installed, but before I managed to get a door fabricated and installed, the delivery crew showed up and I had to help unload and organize the packages.

 Once they left, I organized the packages, made sure they delivered everything we bought.

Once that was done, I could finally build and install the door.

Admittedly after I stepped back, I realised there was a lot of unused space in the shed. So I went back and added an 8ft x 8ft "shelf" which we could fill up with all of the "stuff" we need to store until the house is completed.

We've since filled that up.  With the storage boxes that were hanging out in the corner of our rental dining room, and the storage boxes that were hanging out in the middle of the house here.  Win, win, win.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Concrete can do anything. Let me show you...

When I was applying the stucco, I would trowel it on and the Future Missus would work behind me, smoothing it out and making it all nice and level.

We had lunch and everything was great. We finished up and after I cleaned all of the tools, before I got in the truck, I took my gloves off.

Well, it turns out I had a small hole in my right glove and come concrete managed to get in and cause a burn. Now, my understanding is that something strongly alkaline will essentially saponify the oils in your skin, tearing apart the structure of the cells.

Well, imagine slowly rubbing an area being exposed to this extremely alkaline substance and you can imagine the skin being quickly "melted" and rubbed away. Imagine it happening so much that it went through all of the upper layers of skin.

Now imagine due to the weird nature of alkaline burns, it didn't really hurt and you never really noticed. You might be sitting around with Peanut, working on the computer.

The Future Missus took a picture of the burn a full week after it had happened, and even then, it was pretty wicked. So... lesson learned.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The start of a facade!

The Future Missus and I were at the Seattle Home Show, and one of the things that I saw was cultured stone. I didn't realize how good they looked or the ease of installation for a cultured stone facade. So when we came home, we went through the various vendors and I happened to find a local vendor who was offering free delivery if we ordered by the end of the week.

After a quick confab with the interested parties, I ordered enough stone to cover the stem wall from grade to the water board. A week later, it arrived in the form of three pallets in my driveway.

The first step is to waterproof the stem wall. This may seem odd you say, but code requires that any conditioned crawlspace require waterproofing. And being me, I went a little overboard. I used both 6mil plastic and building paper. Once the stem wall was wrapped in plastic and building paper, I then started to screw mesh into the ICF backing plates.

Here you can see what it looks like with all of the layers up on the stem wall. The purpose of the mesh is to hold up a layer of mortar, which is exactly the same as a stucco scratch coat. This will then provide a strong surface to which we'll attach the cultured stone.

Here you can see, the entire house wrapped in waterproofing and mesh. The plastic and paper were overlapped above the mesh, so that after installation, I can install Z flashing on top of it all and have a waterproof stem wall.

Oh and you might notice the tiny kennel in the foreground. That's Rooney in there. He was visiting and had a tendency to wander, so he had to hang in the kennel while watching me work.

And, and the mortar is being applied! I had to purchase approximately 1200lbs of mortar, which was then applied in a 3/8 - 1/2 thick layer, all around the house.

This was hard work, to say the least. Each bag of mortar weighed 80lbs. I had to haul this from the street to the concrete mixer, add in 6 liters of water, and then manually trowel it on, one big scoop at a time.

Here you can see the front of the house. The Future Missus and I tag-teamed this. I would work ahead of her, getting the mortar onto the mesh, at the appropriate thickness. She would then follow up behind me, smoothing it out and filling in any hollows I left behind. It worked out great, and goddamn, is she a great worker. This one is definitely a keeper. ;)

Once the concrete cures and stiffens up, it's necessary to then scratch a bunch of horizontal lines in it. This serves to provide additional surface which allows the subsequent coat of mortar to better stick.

You might ask how we did it? Easy! A garden rake!
And here is the final result, a base coat, evenly applied to the whole house. It ended up taking an entire day just applying the scratch coat. It is a lot of work, but it'll look great once the cultured stone is applied.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pretty much every 90 year old is sagging somewhere...

The cleanup of the yard superseded the framing of the pony wall. The following weekend I returned to finish framing the pony wall, and I realized that the subfloor was sagging pretty heavily on one side.  

You can see how badly.  Here in the interior of the house you can see how far on part of the floor is sagging.

The reason is that the house subfloor was built in two pieces. The first piece was a square section, with rim joists all around. The second section was then hung off the front of the first section, attaching the new joists to the first section's rim joist. This sounds confusing, but all you need to know is; this was a very weak way to build the subfloor. Ideally the joists should've ended over a floor beam.

Why is this important? Well, when I replaced the floor beams  and jacked up the house, the nails started to slip and the joists began to effectively fall off. Awesome, huh?

Here you can see the floor sagging. The beam is behind it keeping the other side of the floor perfectly level. :)

This shows it a little better. You can see that the two sections are joined here.  See the dark siding on the left and the lighter siding on the right?  The section on the left is sagging.  In the middle of the house, where we had some heavy items like a cast iron bathtub and tools, it was sagging more - close to a couple inches.

This was going to be a pain. I finally figured out I could jack it up with tow jacks on the rim joist near the sag and lift it enough to install the level pony wall.

I also went ahead and jacked up the interior and leveled the subfloor as best as I could. Eventually what I need to do is install new floor joists that span this joint. So, I'll cut out a chunk of the old rim joist, and install a new joist that spans between the new beams.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cleaning, organizing and ditch digging

(For those keeping track, there was a little bit of a lag here between when this happened and me posting it now. I'm a few weeks behind on blog posts. )


After we ordered the cabinets, the first order of business at the house was finishing the pony wall, taking care of the drainage and cleaning / organizing the interior of the house. That was a lot for one person in one weekend. Luckily I happened to be engaged to one of the best organizers around. 

Bubba and the Future Missus came and started cleaning up the interior, while I worked on the pony wall and cleaned up the backyard. And I even went so far as to hire a worker from Casa Latina. Casa Latina is a local non-profit that helps place day workers based upon a pre-negotiated rate. It's a terrific organization that helps the community with education and outreach, along with helping people find work with dignity and respect.

Let's start with the interior of the house; as you can see, the interior was quite a mess. Even Bubba doesn't know where to start:

Working alone, it's pretty easy to start being lazy about organizing everything. Since I am generally the last person to use something, it makes it easy to remember where I put it. :)

But since the interior framing will start pretty soon, it is time to clean up, organize and throw away anything that is taking up too much space.

So, the Future Missus was quite perturbed when I came in to fetch a tool. I tried explaining it was a construction site, but she wanted to document just how easily I could track dirt into the house.

Initially, I worked on the pony wall and the Casa Latina worker cleaned up the drainage trench around the footing. But he went really quickly and did a great job.

He finished so much earlier than I expected that I realized we had the time to clean up the backyard! As you can see,  I had been treating it as a holding spot for all of my random debris from the foundation and pony wall work.

We had been debating on putting up a shed to hold building materials and the kitchen cabinets. But that also meant the backyard needs to be leveled. So another reason to clean up the backyard.

So myself and the worker started hauling everything to the driveway. As you can see, we ended up with quite a bit of debris that would need to be hauled away.

It worked out well, but it also made for quite the mountain of debris that needed to be hauled away. The Future Missus and I hauled this all to the dump the following day and it was around 1400 lbs.

And you can see the result! The backyard is dramatically cleaned up. The interior is cleaned up and organized, and the pony wall is nearing completion!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A kitchen is conceived...

It turns out that the gestation period for a kitchen is roughly six months. Or at least that is what the Future Missus tells me. Which is why the kitchen has just been purchased from Ikea!

Really, what happened, is that we came to an agreement with a new contractor, Trent Steffen of Pallet and Palette, to assist us on the project.  He's an interior designer and general contractor, with impeccable taste.

(Note: I'm still doing most of the work, but I've come to realize that I need to speed things up; and the place where this would make the greatest difference is in rough framing. One inexperienced guy working alone, means I would probably spend two or three months framing.)

So, leading up to this point, the Future Missus and I have been talking a lot about the look and interior design.  The future Missus knows what she wants, but in a few instances (kitchen, master bath, paint colors, lighting), she knows that she'll need some help getting from ideas to reality.

In particular, the kitchen was mostly a lot of ideas; but when she looked at cabinets, the prices got overwhelming fast (think $150-$250 a foot).  If you look back to our kitchen plans you can see that we have a pretty substantial U-shaped kitchen with an island.  That's a lot of feet.  And the only option we seemed able to afford were $60/ft plain oak cabinets from Home Depot.  They would require a lot of work (putting in glass fronts ourselves, paint) to look decent.  She felt pretty stymied.

Enter Trent in his black leather duster, driving his black Cadillac.

We asked to meet with Trent and get his advice on the kitchen. The Future Missus and Trent had a meeting of the minds, and chose colors for the kitchen. He suggested IKEA cabinets.  He said they were great quality for the price.  The Future Missus's only concern was that she wanted cream colored cabinets, and IKEA only has white.  But Trent showed her how you can warm up white a lot with the right lighting and she was sold.

So off they went to IKEA to plan the kitchen.  It was a 3 hour job, and she said at about 10 minutes in she realized that had she been on her own, trying to put this together, she would have been in tears.  You see, IKEA has this software to build your kitchen  (which doesn't work on Macs btw, and is a general pain in the ass to use online anyway).  In the store it works pretty well, and you can save your design for later. And of course, when you are ready to buy, it makes it easy to give the design to an IKEA kitchen employee to make your master buy list.

So they picked out the cabinet faces and got started.  This white cabinet in the middle (Lidingo) will be the perimeter cabinets.

And this walnut color (Liljestad) will be for the island.

And here's the layout they put together in a few hours! I'm stoked, I really like it.

There will be butcher block countertops on the white cabinets of the perimeter, and a white countertop on the walnut island.  This white countertop is yet to be determined because the materials we like are awfully expensive (but more on that later as we pin those details down).  

Anyway, back at the store they found out that IKEA was having a sale on kitchens - 20% off if you spent over $4500. Also, the walnut colored cabinets were being discontinued.  So those two things together led to some tough decisions.  Do we buy our cabinets 6 months before we'll need them?  Where do store the cabinets? (Remember, I delayed finishing the crawlspace so I could get a bulk deal on the foam insulation?)

The Future Missus was pretty worried about missing out on the sale AND those walnut colored cabinets.  All the other wood cabinets at IKEA are pretty red-toned.  And apparently, that just won't work.  

So I spent the largest amount at once for anything on this project so far... $4500 for our kitchen cabinets. That's pretty damn good.  Without the 20% sale they were $5600, so we saved $1100 on our cabinets that were already a great deal.

So this is good, but the downside is that we needed to take delivery of the cabinets within four weeks.  More on that to come...