Saturday, October 31, 2009

Concrete Remix


Project management pop quiz:  After 4 weeks of digging, shoring, and steel, after 2 inspections, all your hard work has culminated into this one event -- the concrete pour.  Heavy rains are on the forecast for tomorrow.  You have a crew of 6 ready to move the hoses,  5 truck loads of concrete ordered,  a special inspector waiting to check the strength of the concrete, and one day to get it done.  The first truck finally rolls up, the pump fires on, the crew jumps into action connecting the hoses, and concrete starts glugging into the forms.  Yes!  You go get the tag from the driver and see that the truck is carrying 2500psi concrete and the engineer has called for 3000psi.  What do you do?

Answer:  You send it back.

Sometimes doing the right thing will make you extraordinarily unpopular. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The HardieShingle Report

The HardiePlank siding has arrived!  To copy the look of the original house, we are installing a water table with lap siding below and shingles above.  The HardiePlank Lap Siding is 5/16" thick, comes in 12' lengths, and has about a 6 week lead time.  We went with the Smooth texture and 5" exposure in Boothbay Blue.  Smooth was an easy choice after seeing the ultra cheesy fake wood texture of their Select Cedarmill option.  Ugh!

The shingles are HardieShingle Straight Edge Notched Panels, which are not actually individual shingles at all, but are 4' long fiber cement panels which are notched to look like 6", 8", and 12" wide shingles with a 7" high exposure.  They have a subtle vertical wood grain that makes them look more like their cedar brethren.

For those of you who haven't heard of James Hardie products, they are basically wood look-alikes made of fiber cement. They make lap siding, vertical siding, shingles, exterior trim, and soffit boards.  They are also well known for their HardieBacker tile backer board.  This is my first home remodel using the siding products, but so far so good!

The pros are easy:  No trees were harmed in the making of this siding.  Won't curl, crack, or split like wood.  HardieShingles have 30 year warranty, ColorPlus finish has a 15 year warranty, and the integral color means you don't have to pay for paint.  Fiber cement is non-combustible so the whole house is much more fire resistant, termites are not interested, nor are fungi so dry rot is not an issue.  The cost is close to cedar shingles, and when you take into account the savings on paint, it's a great value.

The cons:  The dust is ridiculously toxic, respirators and vacuum hook-ups are a must to avoid lung damage when cutting.  Cutting requires a specialized (read: expensive) blade. Cedar brown shingle homes have a warmth and architectural familiarity that these can't duplicate --  the notches are just too perfect, the panels too flat.  All in all though, I think that's a small price to pay to have siding that's virtually indestructible, green, and low maintenance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Steel City


Steel holds the world together, and no one knows that better than the builders here in earthquake country where the connections tend to be mighty metallic.  At the top are rebar cages that go into the base of our footings.  They get overlapped and tied together and the concrete is poured over and around them.  In the second pic, that huge bolt you see in the foreground is an anchor bolt that stretches down over two feet into the form.  We'll attach a big steel hold down to the bolt that will connect the concrete foundation to the wood framing.  Hold downs are placed at each corner of a shear wall.  The whole system works together to prevent the house from breaking off into the ocean during the next big one. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Fenestration Situation

The windows are fabulous!  The owners chose Marvin clad windows with custom wood trim for a more traditional look from the street.  The clad color is Stone White, one of the five standard colors Marvin offers, and the hardware is all satin nickel.  The metal hardware is more expensive than their powder coated base line, but I firmly believe that one should not skimp on windows.  Unlike tile or countertops, you can't come back in 5 years and upgrade. 



New to me on this project are the Marvin Casemaster windows with Securistyle friction hinges.  This is a classic example of nuevo retro products that are all the rage.  The friction hinge allows the windows to open without a crank just like the charming old French casement windows you see in cottages from the 20s and 30s.  You just flip up the levers to release a catch and push the windows open.  Though I love the idea, these require much more effort to push out than their antique counterparts, and you have to release levers at the top and bottom instead of just one in the center.  The benefit is that these windows seal and have a much higher insulation value than the old style.  For roughly $100 more per window, the operation is just not as simple and smooth as I'd like.  Is it too much to ask to get vintage in form and function?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Posts and Beams are Pretty Things

After much coaxing, the house is standing on its own at last!  The original little house is now being supported by the perimeter walls and that huge beam you see bisecting the top of the space.  The beam had to be wrestled up into place on a Genie scissoring boom lift and then each floor joist had had to be individually cut and hung from it.  That beam will be the start of a box-beam ceiling web throughout the first floor and the 8x8 posts supporting it will become architectural features as well, framing the end of the kitchen peninsula. 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bobcat at Rest

From across the plains I spy a Bobcat catching a much needed nap before a day of excavation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Museum Quality English Tudor - Part 3: Gothic Stairs


Great stairs make a house.  Right in the entry you have these amazingly intricate gothic stairs.  The sharp angles contrast the swooping cello-style corner scroll which has been hand adzed, just like the doors of the garage we just tore down (not to fret, the doors were saved), and the caps on the stair posts.  The original wallpaper is just as noteworthy.  There is one layer of wallpaper on the walls, one coat of paint on the trim.  For a 90 year old house, someone exercised remarkable restraint.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lowered and Sheathed

The little house was lowered down onto the perimeter framing of the first floor below and is just about sheathed.  We're still working around the cribbing though.  It will be so nice to get those towers of wood out of the way.

The owners have chosen HardieShingle ColorPlus shingles and HardiePlank lap siding in Boothbay Blue for the exterior.  Both are fiber cement products that I've never used before so I'm excited to see how they perform.  

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Garage Destuction!

I have such a huge crush on big machines.  I'm a six year old boy when it comes to Bobcats.  The detached garage came down in about two hours foundation and all.  How cool is that? 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Museum Quality English Tudor - Part 2: Entry, Living, Dining

 This place is amazing.  Check out the entry door.  Square is so, well, square.

This living room will stay largely intact.  The fireplace deserves a post all to itself.  On the left column is a happy elf and on the right column is a grumpy elf.  In the center is an old Celtic symbol that needs further research.

The formal dining room will also stay intact.  Check out the original 1920s light fixtures (going away, sadly) and the built-in hutch that matches the gum wood trim.  This house is meticulously preserved, I love it!