Thursday, June 25, 2015

The retaining wall finished!!!

It took a week in high 90 degree temperatures, it was money well spent.



Each block weighs 80 lbs

This was the fastest progress they made because this side had been chopped back of the foliage.

The sod will be coming in the fall.

We are opposed to planting anything here, now that we know the potential for overgrowth.

The next project in the back will be cladding the steps, maybe in the fall.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Switching gears..... retaining walls

Time to switch to the big house, hiding under all that jasmine is a sandbag retaining wall.

We try to judge how long it was left without pruning.  The vines intermingled with the screening and framing, making it impossible to cut back.  The 4 x 4's which are structural were mostly in good condition, except for three that were replaced.  The doors were so rotted, that they fell off.

No, I'm not even going to try to do this one on my own.  The retaining wall was previously made with sandbags under landscape cloth, and held by iron bars.  It was failing, there were no gutters on the house and it's a long roof line, so we need to have this addressed before hurricane season starts.  I tried to pick up a sandbag but they weigh more than the 50 lb mortar bags. The prep work for the retaining wall was started but the contractors will be finishing it for us.  The screens, framing, and doors were removed.  The outdoor carpet was also removed, and worse, the jasmine was removed, but it's starting to grow back quickly.

There was an area where the support was sinking, which is now reinforced with concrete.

Next week, is the prep of the retaining wall.... so fun, now we get to watch other people work for a little.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Getting closer to a working toilet ....

 Finally tiled....

Finally grouted

Trim installed

On both sides.... with a metal trim border

So close..... but the fixture is for a widespread sink, not a 4" center sink...... did I mention we are really close?

A special thanks to my navigator who watches over the GPS while I drive back and forth....

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tile the never ending floor and useful information.....

Who knew 700 sq ft would take this long to tile.  If it weren't for the Ditra we would be finished by now.   Because of developing Hand strain, I can only tile 1 50 lb bag of mortar every two days.  That means 12 tiles a day or 24 sq ft a day.  It adds up slowly.

Onto fascinating tile information.

Tiles are graded in several ways, in composition, durability, and color vaviation.

Durability - What is a PEI rating?
PEI is a measurement of the “abrasion resistance” of a tile, meaning how much “rubbing” does it take to physically impact the look of the tile. The test is scored on a scale of 1 to 5 and each value represents a durability to withstand increasingly more demanding traffic.
PEI 1, Very Light Traffic - These tiles can be used on all indoor wall applications, for countertops such as bathrooms, and very light traffic residential bathroom floors. These tiles are not recommended for any area that will have any constant or heavy floor traffic. Floor & Decor does not recommend these to be used on floors.
PEI 2, Light Traffic - These tiles can be used on all indoor wall applications, interior countertops applications and light traffic residential bathroom floors. These tiles should not be used in areas such as kitchens, entry ways, stairs or areas with heavy traffic. Floor & Decor does not recommend these to be used on floors.
PEI 3, Moderate Traffic - These tiles can be used on all indoor wall applications, all interior countertop applications and all residential interior floors. This tile should not be used in commercial applications.
PEI 4, Moderate to Heavy Traffic - These tiles can be used on all indoor wall applications, all interior countertop applications, all residential interior floors and all light commercial applications, such as restaurants and lobbies. This tile should not be used in heavy commercial applications.
PEI 5, Heavy Traffic - These tiles can be used on all indoor wall applications, all interior countertops applications, all residential interior floors and all heavy commercial applications, such as airports, shopping malls, supermarkets, etc. This tile is an excellent choice for industrial applications where extreme durability is required.

Color variation

V1-Uniform Appearance:
Minimal to no difference among pieces from the same production run because each ceramic tile is manufactured using the same glaze applications and body texture.
V2-Slight Variation:
Distinguishable differences in texture and/or pattern within similar colors.
V3-Moderate Variation:
Though the colors present in a single piece of ceramic tile may indicate the colors to be expected on other tiles, the amount of colors on each piece might vary significantly.
V4-Random or Dramatic Variation:
Random color variation from tile to tile, so that one ceramic tile may have a totally different color from that on other tiles. Thus, the final installation will be unique.

This tile is rated PEI 4, V2 porcelain.  
Despite the V2 rating, we had to open up several boxes, about 20% to sort the patterns to get a truly random placement of the patterns..  Random was a lot harder than it looked.   60% of these tiles are plain, and 40% have a striped pattern that imitates granite. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Doors make a difference

This is the before photo, these were metal doors that were peeling and had terrible seals.  The pane which was made of plastic was warped, the framing was rotted and I decided to replace them With fiberglass with composite jambs.

These were purchased from a local door factory, they use thermal Tru slabs and ocl lites.  I had a less expensive option selected but the devious salesperson made the mistake of giving me the catalogs to take home.

They still need to be stained, since the frames around the windows are a non stainable pvc painting them with a faux wood finish will be a project in itself.  I'm also still researching the gel stain for the wood grain texture.

This was what they looked like in the catalog.  

This is what they look like from inside.

Will the floor ever be finished?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Upsides to living in the country

The trees are beautiful, but require maintenance, trimming and if you do it right you can repurpose them. This past week we have, felled four trees, 2 cedars growing along a fence line, 1 elm and 1 oak.  In the future I would like to find local craftsmen to use the wood, but for now I have repurposed most of it.

Now we have a clear fence line, and it no longer poses a threat to the electrical lines.

Now there is a proper fire pit, a place to burn tree cuttings without setting fire to the neighbors properties.

Cedar clippings for the barbeque.

Trunks for furniture.

This is what I've been thinking, but we have to find someone with a saw mill.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The insulation removal project

You saw the damage the  critters did in the last post, that's just a sample  The damage above was previous tenants of the human variety.  An inpromptu attic access. The deeper we get in the attic, the worse it gets, the critters  made themselves at home, and the humans cut all of the electrical wiring.  The entire house will need to be rewired. The insulation  needs to go, and if it weren't for youtube, I would have no idea where to start.

Here we have a random loose outlet sitting in the attic.  We had been searching for the oven outlet in the kitchen but couldn't find it.  I told my contractor that it looked like the lady of the house decided not to cook anymore and had it removed.

Back to the insulation removal ...On a previous visit we started to assemble the beast. Parts were missing so a quick trip to Ace and we were ready to go.

The machines to do this are expensive, (in the thousands of dollars) and the contractor who came to give me a quote to reinsulate was impressed with our set up.  This machine was purchased at Harbor Freight, and modified to collect the blown in insulation.  The cost of this bad boy was $150 for the machine (using a coupon) another $40 for the non perforated French drain) and $.25 for the screws to fix the drain to the y fitting).

It didn't take long to fill the bags, and this set up was highly effective but, the bags fill up in no time, and I estimate it will take 120 bags to finish half the attic space.  Since the ceiling in the beam area will remain untouched for the moment.  This process requires the tyvek suit, and mask, as well as a headlamp.  So I am committed to filling 6 bags at each session.  It will take me an estimated 19 additional working days to complete this, which means I'm looking at finishing 4 months from now.  This will only be done when I get tired of tiling the little house.   The last tiling session inflamed my joints, a new experience for me, and not pleasant at that.  So we will need to move slower.  I will say for as much work as this is its been very satisfying to see how far we've already come.

Just as an aside this set up while effective is a little cumbersome.  The hose itself is not as flexible as I would like, and the ridges get caught around the AC vents.  Since I can't stand in the attic space This makes it worse, because now there's squatting and balancing involved.  I just hope there is some weight loss to show for my efforts ;)

That's all for now... doors next.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Updates and a birth or two

Not for the faint of heart  This week was carpel tunnel from demoing, and tiling and pressure cleaning.  My contractor was also woefully sick, so  we are taking it easy.  It was more about recovering and crossing T's and dotting i's.

So there was attic exploration.

Apparently critters are living there.

The make their nests out of attic insulation.
I am not excited about this.  I wore a respirator and tyvek suit for safety and I didn't want anything crawling on me.

Next I will be removing the insulation so we can take down the ceiling drywall.
more on that later.

Now for the births....
The sandhill cranes had two babies  

There's one there, looking like a red headed stepchild.  I'm  not sure where that expression comes from but it's  all I could think when I saw this little one.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Decions.... Kitchen doors for Ikea cabinets

Using the Ikea layout, I priced out the Semihandmade Doors and they were going to cost a little over what the cabinets would cost. Yikes!!  I wasn't even going to get their high end, I went with the more economical DIY door which I would have to paint.


Semi handmade


IKEA Grimslov  $518
Semihandmade   $1,500 (excluding shipping est $350-$500)
Sherr Style 400   $450

They all look about the same, and the Sherr Style 400 come primed, it's a no brainer.  Just waiting for the sample so we can be sure it's the right decision.

Here are the specs.


Ikea Grimslov    Fiberboard, Foil, Melamine foil

Semihandmade  Solid wood frame with MDF panel

Sherr                  Solid wood frame with 1/4" plywood panel

Style details

Ikea Grimslov (unavailable)

Semihandmade Stile 2 1/2" Rail 2 1/2"

Sherr                Stile 2 3/8", Rail 2 3/8"

Is 1/8" of an inch enough to justify $1,050 more?  I can live with a little narrower Stile and Rail.
Semihandmade and Sherr also bore the holes in the back to fit the blum hinges.

I'm going with Sherr!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kitchen cabinets... Ikea

The kitchen layout was designed by someone who wasn't going to do a lot of cooking.
The space and location of the fridge against a wall leave me with limited selection of available refrigerators that will fit.  If I want to spend $2K+ on a special fridge I can get more capacity but there is a budget to consider.  There was no place to add a dishwasher without completely getting rid of the sink cabinet because they aren't boxes, the base cabinets were built in the space and are connected to one another.  Then there is the blind corner to the right, wasted space, and those tiles are hideous, and they patched under the refrigerator with unmatched tiles.  I'm not excited about the base cabinets, so they had to go.

Ikea Sektion cabinets

Ikea has a new cabinet style this year.  It's supposed to give you more options in configuring your space and making every inch count.  They have lights inside the drawers and some really practical inserts to keep everything organized but I'll let you go to the Ikea website to investigate.  What I want to show you is the kitchen. They have a kitchen design application on their website which will let you configure your kitchen and spits out a buy list at the end.  I had a lot of fun playing.

Here is the design so far....

and the application lets you open the cabinets so you can see which you have selected and so you can remember if you have enough drawer space.  You can see below, I will have three drawers next to the sink cabinet.

I chose the simple cabinet for the sink, no bells or whistles..

The corner cabinet with the lazy susan.

A peninsula cabinet with more drawers..

The microwave cabinet with one drawer

The layout below.

I'm still playing with the app, this may not be the final once everything is said and done, i need to think about it a bit longer.

Door exploration next....