Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A change of pace, sorta

So, since our house is basically done, we had a change of pace... and worked on friends Cameron and Millie's house instead!

We had 8 days in Portland to hand out and work on the project. The time estimate was 5 days, and three of those were supposed to be partial while waiting for drywall mud to dry. Well it turned in to a little more, like 7 long, full days and one partial (like 7am to 11pm a few days). This was mostly because I'm not good at estimating these things (I'm known for saying every little task till take 15 minutes when it actually takes hours). There was some little slowdown at almost every stage, like drywall screws not setting properly, batteries running out, etc.

In the end though, I enjoyed myself, and we did a great job turning two small rooms with small closets into a large master suite a huge window into the back yard and a huge walk in closet.

Demolition was a little slower than expected. The walls had a combination of drywall, soundboard, and the most difficult to remove: plain ol' plywood. However, this stage revealed a pleasant surprise: Beautiful clear fir wood floors under the carpet! At least it will be beautiful after it's refinished. It's all covered in paint and drywall texture.

We also made a slight plan change, which required a trip to the permit office, and added a little time and complexity with the post and beam, but ultimately made a much better layout in my opinion.

Then there was the first inspection, which covered the framing and was supposed to cover electrical as far as we thought, but apparently there was one simple form that needed to be filled out. Really, the inspector could have had this with him. Another trip to the permit office while we added hard wired interconnected smoke detectors, which the first inspector told us we needed since we exposed the ceiling and made it doable...

Also, I was slowed down by being unfamiliar with some of the 1940s construction methods. Most noticably the electric. Durring demo I labeled a wire "power" but later discovered it came directly from the light fixture, so I assumed I mislabeled it. I thought we had pushed the power through the floor, but there was only a 240 volt line for the heater down there. I did some load calculations and saw it was possible to power the room off that circuit, and assumed they must have wired it that way, off one 120v leg of the 240v circuit. This made wiring a bit complicated, but I finished it this way.

THEN, when cutting the previously labeled POWER line which only went to the light fixture, we were all shocked (pun intented) by a huge spark when we thought all power to the room was off! It turns out this part of the room was a continuation of the living room circuit, and the hot power went through the light fixture (most commonly there is only power to a light when the switch is on!) So I had to rewire, which actually simplified it and let us properly dedicate the 240 volt circuit to the heating, like it's supposed to be. Luckily, the spark didn't hurt anyone or anything, I just shorted the lines with the cutters. We probably burned an extra day in all with the electric.

Yay, real wood under the carpet! See that wire there, touching me? Later we found out it was hot.

after tearing everything out, we first put in the new closet wall (this is later, after wiring and some drywall

Attic access. I spent far too much time up there. Very hot.

the post goes through the floor to a foundation footer. I got to crawl around down there a few times

applying rounded corners to the beam

it was usually like this, with several people working hard together

drywall taped, drying for first top coat of mud. The door on the right is the closet entrance

mudder fudders

John sanding away. Messy, dusty work

Texturing. This is about 3 hours before we thought we had to leave for our plane (turned out to be 5 hours). And I still had to connect outlets, smoke detectors, thermostat, and a light switch!

new post and beam in the forground where old closet and wall used to be, new closet wall and doorway in the background. This is pretty much what we got done. Framed, wired, rocked, textured. Cam and Millie still need to prime, paint, hang doors, patch floor, refinish floor, trim. Lot sof work, but I know they can do it and it will make a really nice room!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


First I cut down about 20 big trees and a lot more small ones to extend a natural clearing. After cutting them down we realized it looked really nice without flattening, so we decided to keep it naturally sloped, which makes the yard much bigger, less erosion prone, and faster to make.

Last weekend I rented a Cat 277C multi-terrain loader:

This is about a 10,000 pound machine with a rubber track

The first attachment I used was an industrial grapple fork. I used it to haul tons of trees, about 3 cords, up the very steep slope. It also was sturdy enough to push over stumps and grab a few at a time, along with other brush, and pile it out of the way. All in all about a summers worth of hand work in 5 hours.

Not my picture, I didn't get any pictures during the process

Then I used a Harley Box rake, which is a high powered attachment. Think fast spinning 500 pound steel rolling pin with carbide spikes. This churns the soil, mixes in debris and rotten wood, and leaves behind a flattened mulch.

Again not my picture, but this is the tool I had

After 10 hours in the machine over the weekend, we ended up with this. It's at least half an acre (22,000 square feet), we haven't measured it yet:

Looking East, 7am

Next steps are doing some final cleaning and raking by hand, then planting fieldgrass. Finally we'll fence it in and have a large dog park for Roland!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

new stuff

We've been looking for a nice table for a long time, with no luck. I considered building one, but we finally found this on craigslist. It's all real cherry, and not stained so it will darken with age and any scratches won't show a different bright wood underneath.

I'm also working on a boardwalk from our parking area to the house to make a more welcoming entry along our raised garden, and cut down on dirt and mud getting into the house. I still need to flush the boards on the right side, and then we'll plant grass along that side between the boardwalk and the garden. I screened all the gravel I dug during the process through a metal shelf to get 1" and bigger rocks, to make a nice approach and fill the spot between the boardwalk and the garage to the left. Still a little more to do.