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Home Addition

Fence and Backyard

After last summer's house addition project, the backyard was in pretty poor shape. It hadn't been in great shape before that, and now one swath of it was worn down to dirt. The sprinklers that used to water the lawn and planter bed had all been disconnected (and pipes removed) as part of the addition. Dana and I made an effort early on to manually water the lawn, but we know from experience that this doesn't last.

So, we figured, what we needed was to do a minor landscaping project to bring back the lawn. Would have been simple enough, but we decided to take care of one other thing first: a fence.

The previous fence was still serving a purpose, but it was not in great shape. Nor was it attractive. We've figured for a while that we'll probably need to replace the fence someday in order to get a maximum selling price for the house whenever we do move; might as well take care of the fence now and enjoy it ourselves. The timing was good: the houses on both sides were temporarily vacant, so there would be minimal inconveniencing of others. A new fence and/or vegetation could also address the privacy issue created when the homeowner next door cut down the large trees last year.

So we had a new fence installed, took out a couple of unruly bushes (and an old clothesline post), and added new sprinkler lines, some new plants, and some more grass. No, we didn't do any of this ourselves, I'm sorry to say. We're pretty happy with the results. See before and after pics below.

Can you hear me now?

Well, it's November, or, as I like to call it, National Time-to-Take-a-Few-Minutes-and-Write-Something-for-the-Blog Month.

I think prolonged absences just happen sometimes. In my last post, I mentioned the arrival of our wonderful baby girl, Jessica. I've added a link (in the photos list to the left) to a photo gallery featuring the little one, including some pics from Halloween. Don't be scared.

The addition on the house is finishing up much like I think we all predicted it would: incredibly slowly. Once the contractor has all but the last 10% of his payment, and the only things on the punch list are little 10-minute jobs, it suddenly becomes hard for anyone to make it a priority to get out here and take care of the rest. I don't really blame them, I guess. Except for the sense of task completion, there's little incentive to prioritize getting to Westchester to fix a valve if you're a plumber (for example) with a slate more substantial projects backed up waiting for your attention. Still, no one has completely forgotten about us.

Today we had what was to be our final inspection from the city. The inspector found one correction: our seismic shutoff valve on the gas line was on the gas company's side of the meter, and it's supposed to be on the customer's side. I can't tell you exactly why that matters, but I'm sure it does. Whoever installed this one obviously didn't do it to code. Even though this wasn't touched during our current project, it has to be fixed before the city will issue the Certificate of Occupancy. The plumber was able to come by near the end of the day and install a new seismic valve, which he explained is "state of the art". Looks good to me, but I'm hardly a connoisseur.

At any rate, today is Day 173 of the project. So little has happened lately that it hardly seems fair to keep the count going, but then again I figure until the punch list is empty and the inspections all done, the project isn't technically finished.

By the way, there are little things we don't like about the bathroom. Nothing major, and no one's fault, just some decisions we might make differently if we ever do this again. If you're remodeling a bathroom, we'd be happy to let you know what we liked and didn't like.

Here's a picture of the completed exterior. The photo timeline is updated to this point: the slowdown near the end is evident in the frequency of available photos.

Hopefully I'll get back to a post-per-week or so. There's plenty going on to chat about, and lots of web links to interesting stuff. My only excuse is lots of work and a new baby. If that doesn't let me off the hook in your book, I can only ask for a second chance.

Filmed in Technicolor

There's paint on them there walls!

Moving right along on the house. Here's what's new:

-- Forced air heat is hooked up and has been tested. Done.
-- Most holes in the walls have the bulk of drywall patching done, though there is more to do.
-- The hardwood floor is in the new room. It should be sanded and get the first coat of finish on Monday.
-- Tile is in on the bathroom floor and shower walls. Grout is missing, but should go in next week.
-- Most of the painting in the bedroom is done. The big areas, at least, should all have two coats by now. Still some touch-up to do, and the trim may still need another coat.

Photos and positions are updated on the photo timeline.




A little stucco, some paint, it'll look like new....

Didn't give an update for a while because we had another brief slowdown. Moving forward again, though. The stucco on the outside walls is done. Had a tricky time selecting the color, but all we wanted to do was match the existing walls, and it seems to do that pretty well.

The bathroom has a shower pan. The drywall guys are about done with the inside walls. That wasn't as dusty as I thought it might be. Now we're putting central heating in, which is great, but requires work to be done throughout the house, so it's definitely more of an inconvenience. We'll be glad to have it, though; our existing heater was probably the original one in the house, and so would be about 50 years old. It didn't heat evenly at all.

Tile for the bathroom is ordered. Primer paint is going on now. The floor should be installed by this time next week. Coming right along! The photo timeline has more pics.



Walls get skins

This week saw the outside of the walls get the first two layers of stucco. The inside of the walls got the first part of drywall; the gypsum boards are up. This was already pretty dusty, but I'm pretty sure the really dusty part is still to come, when they get to sanding the new surface smooth.

The photo timeline has been updated. It gets new photos all time, but I've also added a couple of new camera positions. They've already got around 9 shots each, so even though they won't have any images from early on, they shouldn't be too boring, and they'll only get better.




Home Addition Update

Thought I'd post an update, since it's been over a week. The reason I haven't posted anything in the last week or so is because nothing really post-worthy has happened with the addition this week. (You could certainly make an argument here over the assumption that anything I have posted about was "post-worthy", but I'll just continue as if we're agreed.)

After an eventful week the week before, last week was much slower. A few small things definitely taken care of, but overall, very little. I haven't gotten too many pics for the photo timeline, partially because we've been away in the early evening, which is when I typically try to take pics of the new room, an partially because the changes are small enough that they may not be noticeable in pics, anyway.

We're waiting primarily for a track for a sliding door. Once that's in, the room will be 'water-tight'. (I use quotes because I don't think it will literally be water-tight, but I may be wrong.) Then it'll be time for insulation and drywall.

In some of the pics you may notice the temporary low fence dividing the construction part of our back yard from the rest. This was established early on, and has been very helpful. It allows us part of the yard to let the dogs out in, even unattended. They miss the extra room, I'm sure, but they've gotten used to it. Sierra, recently, has taken to sneaking across this boundary. She's a troublemaker.

Good Day, then a Not-So-Good Day

Yesterday was great. At one point or another during the day, we had on-site the architect, the contractor, the electrician, the plumber, the roofer, and, we found out today, the city inspector. Things definitely seem to be moving along. We found out that the stucco is going to be significantly less expensive than originally estimated, and due to an accident of order-shipment timing, it looks like we're going to get nicer windows than we thought for the same price.

Already this week we learned that the roofer was essentially replacing, rather than repairing, the roof over our living room which was pretty damaged from rains (mostly two winters ago). The plumber had made some other improvements under the house while working on the new drain pipe. All going very well. Today the exterior walls got the first layer. See the pic below. (Or the photo timeline.)


Then this morning happened. We heard the usual sounds as work got underway, then at some point we noticed that some of the noise was from chain-saws next door. Short version: the owner (he doesn't live there) of the house next to us cut down three huge trees, clearing his backyard.

I'll confess we've thought at times that the bigger two of these trees needed to be trimmed back. But we never would've wanted this. These trees had a huge affect on the feel of our backyard. What yesterday felt like a clearing in the trees now feels open and exposed. The trees provided shade to most of our yard for large parts of the day. Now the sun beats down.

And it's not just outside that you can feel it. With more direct sunlight streaming in the window and beating on our dark roof, the inside of our house was noticeably hotter by this afternoon. I can't say empirically how much hotter, but I think 3-5 degrees hotter is not an unreasonable guess, and might be low.

I'm speaking mostly of the affect on our property, but of course the effect on the neighbor's yard and house must be similar.

There are now two places along the fence with that neighbor that offer straight lines of sight to the neighboring backyard and house. Privacy is greatly compromised. I think we can address this problem, at least, but it will mean waiting until the room addition is done and working with our landscaping guy to come up with ideas on how to regain some of this privacy.

It doesn't help that the tree-cutting left trimmings in our yard that we were left to clean up. I'm no good at estimating height, much less tree ages (I should have snuck over to count rings), but I can say that the biggest of these trees was at least as high as a three-story building, and another one was probably two stories high.

The most frustrating part is this: there's nothing to be done. I could complain or argue with the neighbor, but the only thing I could accomplish there is make him unhappy with us. No good could come of that; he's talking about doing more work this summer to 'clean up' the place. Even a cordial communication of a neighborly sort wouldn't be able to accomplish much. Fact is, though I think it was a TERRIBLE idea to cut them all down, the trees were on his property, so he's technically under no obligation to give a whit about my opinion. And finally, of course, even if somehow the owner were to realize what a bad idea it was, it's not like he can put the trees back up again. What's done is done.

I'm hoping we'll feel better about it as some time passes and we figure out what changes we're going to want to make. (The window facing that direction has never had a curtain, and never needed it, but by the end of the day today we tacked up a sheet to keep out the direct sunlight.)

Fortunately, we have good things to focus our energies on. The addition itself is going very well, and, of course, even better, the addition to our family is coming along very well, indeed.

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

The walls go up, and the walls come down.

Different walls, though.

We've continued getting walls up; rough framing is up for all the new exterior walls, and the new roof. Over the weekend the guys took off the current roof where it was going to be replaced, and dropped in the framing for the new wall.

This morning the wall that used to be the back of the dining room was taken away. By the end of the day, framing was up for the interior walls (separating the bedroom, bathroom, and closet). It really does feel like a lot gets done each day. I'm guessing that during the last phases the daily progress won't be so obvious.

A couple of new camera positions have been added to the Photo Timeline, and the dumpster positions have been removed.

Dining Room View

Used to be a wall


Great Walls

I don't know much about how long this kind of construction is supposed to take, but I find myself impressed with new progress on our addition every couple of days. As of this evening, there are frames up for two walls, and the main ceiling beam has been placed (in a temporary way, I think, but it's there).

IMG_1236.JPG IMG_1241.JPG

Every now and then I think about all that still has to happen, and consider that the end of June will be here before we know it, and I wish it could somehow move even faster. Then again, I would probably sometimes wish it could be faster no matter how fast it's going already. All in all, it's pretty exciting to see the shape come together. We can really walk outside and get a true feeling of how the yard will feel once we're done.

Also see the Photo Timeline.

Cement the Deal

Yesterday cement was poured, and today the form was taken away. There is a foundation where the new room is going to be (and even under the current house where the new room will join the house). Alejandro, one of the guys who's been here working every day, even said today "Now it looks more like it's going to be a house."

Now they're digging out a lot of the dirt that's inside the footer (which, by they way, is apparently the correct word for it). Then, shortly, they'll begin framing the new walls and roof.

I'm pretty impressed with the fact that they've done this much, and will do more, without having to remove more of the existing house. They've knocked into a couple of outside walls, and drilled down through the floor of the dining room, but that's it. They had to work in the crawl space under the dining room, digging the trench and pouring that cement, to get this far. I'm grateful; it's nice that we don't have to be that exposed to the outdoors, at least not yet.

Don't forget the Photo Timeline.

IMG_1207.JPG IMG_1212.JPG

Photo Timeline Update

I had some time on the plane this weekend to make a couple of updates to the Photo Timeline:

  • Tick marks on the timeline to indicate when there are pictures for the current camera position.
  • An auto-play mode. Hit the "Play" control to have the timeline automatically play for you.

The speed of the auto-play might be a little slow right now; I figure as the timeline gets more dense (as more time passes and has to fit in the same length line), the speed will seem better. If I get the chance maybe I'll have the speed automatically adjust so it never seems slow. In the meantime, it's already an improvement. Check it out.

Photo Timeline of the construction to add a room to our house.

Home Addition Photo Timeline

We're really underway, now. The brick, tree, and grass are gone, a trench has been dug for the footing, and they're prepping to pour some concrete before too long.

I thought of a kind of cool idea for a way to view the progress on our new room. What if you could do something kind of like time-lapse photos, but with a slider so you could scrub back and forth along the timeline? Once I'd thought of it, I almost had to see if I could build it.


I'm pretty happy with the result. If you're not at all interested in what I did to make this, stop reading now and just go play with it.

Aside from building the web page interface, which was a chance to use the Yahoo UI library for the first time for the slider, I also did some automation on my PowerBook to make the whole process a bit easier. I ran into some frustration with Automator; seems like there should be ways to do some things that there aren't good ways to do. Still, it's not too bad. I managed to create an Automator application that makes the whole workflow pretty easy.

Basically, I go take pictures. I import them into iPhoto (insert memory card and click 'Ok'). Then, I add "Home Addition" to the comments of the new pictures, and add "Position_A" to the photo taken from the first position, "Position_B" to the comments of the photo taken from the second position, etc. Then I double-click the automator application icon and sit back to watch. Automatically, the photos are found, copied, renamed, scaled down for web use, and uploaded to the right folder on the web server. Once there, the web page knows how to find the files, extract the necessary metadata, and build the photo timeline.

So I can easily update the photo timeline a few times a week, or even daily.

Come back to check on the photo timeline for updates. In addition to new photos, I've got a couple of ideas for features to add, which I think will be pretty fun.

Home Addition Photo Timeline

Home Addition - Day 1

We're undertaking a new project this summer. If you think I'm talking about prepping for the arrival of our first child, you aren't far off, but I'm talking about something else. We're adding a room to our house. Well, two rooms, really.

Even back when we had just decided that we wanted to start trying to get pregnant, we realized that we would need more (or different) room than our house currently provides. The first, most obvious place to put a baby is in what is now my office. That's all fine and dandy, but I work from home, so need a place to do so. I could set up a desk in what is now our dining room, but it is not really separate from the kitchen or even the living room. If my desk were there, I can't imagine how I would get much work done.

So we investigated adding on to our house. (We did consider moving, too, but felt we wanted to do that even less than building out.) We could add a small office, or a new bedroom and bathroom. The initial cost estimates were actually not all that far off, so we figured if we're going to do it, let's do the one that might actually add some value to the house.

Day 1

We've been working with the architect since January (we met once in November, but we began in earnest in January). Today we signed an agreement with a general contractor. I'm calling this Day 1, for this purposes of this blog. I'll try to post updates throughout the process. The current estimate is that the job will take around 4 months. Obviously we'd love it if it got done before the baby comes, but we expect there to be a month or more of overlap.

So that's the story up to this point. Stay tuned for further adventures....