Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pod people

We have become pod people. Two storage pods were delivered on Friday by Public Storage. These are 5x7x8 lockable plywood crates with a waterproof covering, suitable for storing your stuff. They will take them away once you've got them packed and store them offsite, or they'll let you keep them at your place.

We managed to completely fill one of the pods yesterday with boxes from our upstairs bedroom and from the garage. Lots and lots of books. Heavy boxes. Aching backs. Once the pod was filled, we found that because the pod wasn't level (and because really, it's just a few pieces of plywood banged together), the door wouldn't close. Disinclined to take everything out again, Kurt took a plane and planed the top of the door (I hope they don't mind!). Then, we hung on the door while trying to close it. We were able to shut it and lock it, and then Kurt and Phil used the car jack to jack it up a little bit so we could put a shim underneath it. Hopefully that will help when we eventually decide to unpack it. Which we may never do.

We filled the second one with furniture from the garage. There's still plenty of space for more, but we ran out of energy. The important thing is we cleaned out all our stuff from the garage and removed all the stuff in our garage cabinets. Our contractor will now remove the garage cabinets and install the old kitchen cabinets in their place (which will in turn make a lot more room in the garage). Our electrician will now come and connect the insides to the outsides to complete the rough electrical.

Making progress!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Objectives #1 & #3: Stairs and Waterproofing!

The original objective of the remodel was to move the stairs. The stairs were removed months ago (one of the last things to be destroyed), but lots of things had to fall into place before they could construct the new stairs. They had to finish the rough electrical, put up the shear walls and get the inspections on all of that. Then they had to drywall the wall where the stairs were to go and get an inspection on that. So here we are, a month before we're moving back, and the stairs are finally in! Well, really, it's just the rough stairs... they'll be finished with the same wood that we are using in the upstairs great room, and the railing will be some sort of stainless cable rail.

In conjunction with this, they have now waterproofed the downstairs as well. They dug a 10-12' trench, smoothed everything, filled it with drainrock, and then bolted a waterproof membrane to the outside of the foundation. If that doesn't solve the problem, nothing will! In the process, they found two small places where the foundation is hanging over air. Be careful about looking closely into any part of your house -- you could be surprised at what you find. You will be surprised. (And usually, not pleasantly!)

They have also hung all the interior doors. We had a hall closet upstairs which is losing a door, primarily because its insides got taken up with heating ductwork. We will also replace the laundry room door, since it's adjacent to the kitchen and needs to look like everything else. We are still working on getting the front door fabricated with the broken-glass inset.

Last week I was in Prague to help teach a class. During that time I finalized part of the lighting order (thank you Skype!), and the lights have already started to arrive. It turned out that I could get a much better price on the lights than the wholesale price my electrician could offer. So I am purchasing all the external fixtures. I still have to buy the track lights and the outdoor lights, which I hope to do this weekend.

More complete pictures can be found on Kurt's Picasaweb site.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Decisions, decisions, oh wait, new decisions

Even if you made your decisions ages ago, sometimes they don't work out for one reason or another. Last week we had two instances of this.

Instance #1: We had chosen our tile for the downstairs bathroom aeons ago. Late last summer, in fact. We chose Walker-Zanger Roku Rain Matte glass tile (as pictured on the wall in the image to the left), in a 6"x12" size. It was "reasonably" priced, and was a really nice compliment to the Viva Ceramic Xilo gray tile we'd chosen for the floor (although the image at the right doesn't really do it justice).

Our contractor contacted us early in the week to let us know that the Roku tile in the size we wanted was not available until July (!), and suggested that we might use a gloss finish instead. I thought about it, and the matte finish was particularly important to me for a lot of reasons, maintenance being one, and looks the other. Changing the wall tile would require changing the floor tile, a decision I really didn't want to reopen! However, it turns out that the tile guy goes through some distributor, who in turn goes through the factory. So, once deciding that I wasn't going to change the tile, I called Walker-Zanger, and found out there was 70 sqft of the tile available now (but it's not enough), and a shipment coming in in June. So after some back and forth (they are very busy there!) I ordered 152 sqft of the tile I want, which will come in the June shipment (mid June). This should be plenty of time to install given where we are now, and is certainly much better than July! How much do you suppose 152 sqft of tile weighs? > 600 lbs!!! I guess I'm not surprised, given that the tile samples I lugged back from NYC a year ago caused my bags to be overweight.

Instance #2 (my bad): We had chosen what I thought to be a really cool-looking (and functional!) Franke faucet for the prep sink. We chose the other kitchen faucets based on that particular faucet. I failed to notice, however, that the faucet we chose was 36" high (!) which would certainly look dorky adjacent to an open bar counter. Good thing our contractor pointed it out! So now we will need to change the faucet, and there really isn't another Franke faucet that I like that also has the functions I want (pull-out spray), so we're going to switch manufacturers, either to KWC (which breaks my heart, because the faucet I really want, the KWC Ono, isn't available in the US until the fall) or to Dornbracht. The key is that none of them make an instant-hot dispenser, so we also have to choose an instant hot that will look good with the faucet. I'm going to go look at faucets today and make a final (new) decision. Hopefully I won't goof up this time.

Other decisions we've made are on the plynyl weave and color (for the office and laundry room), and on the office door (which we'll get from Knoll Textiles, rather than from 3-form). I'll get some matching plynyl mats made for the kitchen too.

Decisions still left to be made are: Caesarstone kitchen countertop color (we're thinking Cinder at the moment), and paint colors inside and out. Wow.

And now, onto packing and getting ready to move...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Decisions, decisions

At this stage of the remodel, there are lots of decisions to be made, decisions which will totally make or break this remodel. Decisions such as: which door hardware to use? What paint color? Which carpets? Level 4 or level 5 drywall? What color/material should the counters be? When the original bid was constructed, it was based on allowances for certain materials. But of course, we don't really know how the things we choose fit within those allowances, since sometimes they include installation and other times they don't. For some of the things, okay, maybe one, we actually came in under the allowable amount. For others, we've gone over.

We've upped the quality of the light switches (from simple toggles, to Lutron Maestro dimmers (which is what's in the rest of the house.. talk about the tail wagging the dog!) and GrafikEye. We already knew that the electrical was going to be more, because the first bid was based on a very rough lighting plan. Now we have a far more detailed lighting plan, plus we added the kitchen and upgraded the switches, so at this point we have doubled the cost of the electrical.

For our door hardware we chose Valli & Valli Fusital H329 in chrome/satin chrome. Personally I would have preferred just plain ol' stainless, but plain ol' stainless is more expensive. We don't have to buy that much door hardware, but it all adds up.

We still have not chosen the office door, but we have chosen the material for the office door. It will be either from or it will be from Knoll textiles (Knoll Imago), which makes a similar product. the door will be made out of an opaque acrylic, of neutral color, so it will let light into the kitchen hallway, while blocking out any clutter in the office. Both Knoll Textiles and 3-Form have an array of possible colors and textures. The products are two pieces of acrylic with a piece of fabric sandwiched in between. So you can make all types of interesting effects. In fact, there are probably too many choices at this point for me.. I'm having a difficult time deciding!

The front door will be a double door with a simple rectangular frame with glass in the middle of each door. In other words, the door will be mostly glass, surrounded by a wood or painted frame. But instead of clear glass, like our front door is now, we are going to use broken glass, similar to what I saw at the de Young museum and the AMA building in Chicago. It turns out that the broken-glass panels don't cost much more than a regular glass panel, so this will give the front entryway a little bit more drama and a little bit more opacity, while still allowing someone to see through to the view. (Sorry, but I have no pictures of this... you'll just have to use your imagination!)

The office floor will be made out of plynyl, which is a combination of polyester, vinyl and polyurethane. Sounds cheesy you say? Well if you think about it, you want something that is very low pile for the office, so your chair can roll over it, and they have some very cool fabrics and patterns that would go well in our modern house. We may also use this for the laundry room floor, but we might go with rubber instead. We can also get mats made out of plynyl, so we will have a few mats made for the kitchen floor out of the same material as the office floor to tie the two together.

Fortunately, the number of decisions left to be made are few. Oft times waiting for a decision can really hold up the pace of construction, and we really don't want to incur even a single day's delay. So I'm trying to be very good about making decisions quickly and sticking with them once they're made.

Progress to date

The construction has been humming along. Now that the framing is complete, the roof is on, and the windows are in, there is really not quite so much to see. But in the last three weeks, all the rough electrical has been installed, the low-voltage electrical has been installed (this is the home-theater, cable/telephone/internet wiring, etc.), and the HVAC ducting has been installed. So the walls are now ready to seal up and the finishing work is ready to begin. Drywalling will start next week. So we are really making a lot of progress!

Our architect and his wife (who is also our lighting designer) were away this past week. During that time we had a key key critical problem come up. Our electrician was questioning the lights spec'd for the undercabinet lighting in the kitchen, and we had to make a decision whether to change the choice that our lighting designer had selected or not. I won't bore you with all the details, but it turns out that the lights chosen (Smedmarks) are manufactured in Sweden, and their website isn't that good. Typically when choosing undercabinet lighting, you don't care so much about the looks of the lights, because they are typically hidden under a lip in the cabinets and you don't see them. Our cabinets are completely flat, and you will see them, so the looks are important.

Fortunately, one of my friends at work is Swedish, so we had an 11 PM Skype-enabled conference call to the factory the other night to ask questions of the factory. I followed that up with a call to the US factory, who answered a bunch of questions, and also pointed me to the local rep whom I contacted. It turned out that the local rep was quite familiar with my project, having been the one who our lighting designer was consulting with, and was able to answer any remaining questions. In turn I called my contractor, and explained to him why the electrician's original concerns shouldn't be of concern and why these were the lights we had to choose, and everything was all set. Phew! Now I understand more about the lights than I really wanted to, but I'm glad I do.

I've got several bids out to lighting companies, as our electrician is going to allow us to buy the fixtures ourselves (which will save us a little bit of money in that we won't have to pay his markup and then our contractor's profit/overhead). I expect to have to buy them next week. In the meantime, our bank balances are getting smaller... it'll be time to borrow money soon.

Here is a pointer to more pics.

The move-out date is near!

The end is near.. the end of how long we can stay in the scraper. Construction has started in the vacant lot next door, and we'll have to move out of the scraper on May 20th when the house will be demolished. But where will we move to? Our current plans are to move back to the house, into the two untouched bedrooms. Our house is likely to be under construction until June or July, but I don't want to move twice, and I don't want to pay any more money for rent! Most importantly, I don't want to have to move the furniture twice.

So... I've concocted an elaborate plan which will will have to carry out over the next month:

  1. Move all the boxes in our garage and the upstairs guest bedroom elsewhere (to someone's garage or to a storage box outside)
  2. Pack up everything that's in the cabinetry in the garage
  3. Remove the garage cabinets
  4. Install the old kitchen cabinets in the garage (thus clearing out more space in the garage
  5. Move the furniture from the scraper to the garage, and cover it well
  6. Sell the office furniture (currently in the scraper) since it won't fit well in the new office
  7. Sell the Clavinova so we don't have to move it
  8. Bring the TV to Kurt's folks so we don't have to move it back to the house and then move it out again once we get a new one (it's heavy, and moving it down a staircase is a real effort)
Given that I'm going to be away for a week on a business trip in a week, we won't be able to start on this plan until the end of April, which will give us three weeks. No pressure!