Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Window Of Opportunity Or The Stripper

     Another chaotic week. I guess I'd better get used to it, because it seems to be the norm now.

The Windows  

    We ordered Milgard windows through a vendor in Longview. In fact, they were the same window style we used for the apartment, and the same vendor. The windows were to be delivered direct from Milgard on Thursday the 19th. Some of the windows were there, some were not. Some of the screens were there, some were not. Some of the windows should have been tempered,,,like that. Some of the windows were correct, so Ed and Rick began putting in the ones that were ok. This particular group of windows is on the north side of the kitchen. The center window is stationary and the side windows open. It wasn't until Ed began to put the windows in that he noticed two little things. The exterior profile of a stationary window and side windows that open are markedly different. Who would have thought. In fact it never occurred to us that this might be the case, nor did our vendor mention it. After staring at it for a few minutes and shaking our heads, we decided we could live with it and Ed finished the install. We went inside to look at it from that perspective.

 Now I'm a symmetrical kind of person. I don't do abstract very well. If things are uneven, bad things can happen, like..oh..the earth could start rotating off it's axis or something. So when I looked at the windows, my  mind's eye blinked. We went back outside to look again. Yup. the grids for the center window are completely off with the side windows.
After making a list, I went back inside the apartment to call the window folks. I wasn't happy.

  Some of the upstairs windows were good to go so those went in. It's funny how every little step makes such a big difference on the appearance of the structure.
    That big upstairs window will be in the library. Actually it's more like a very large family room with lots of books at one end, but it's fun to call it my library. I wonder if I have enough books to file them by Dewey Decimal System.
 Monday five of the missing windows were delivered. Ed realized he had framed two of  the openings a little too small and had to rebuild them. He rarely makes a mistake and isn't very forgiving of himself. First thing this morning he corrected the error and placed the remaining on-site windows.

The Doors

        Speaking of mistakes, let me share my fiberglass door fiasco. Maybe in the process I can prevent some other poor soul from repeating my mistake. We bought six sets of Codel fiberglass french doors for the south side of the house. I wanted to stain and seal them, like we had done for the apartment door. Codel recommends Minwax gel stain, but gives no specifics for application.  I chose my color, Aged Oak.
On the can it says:

  • Test stain on hidden area to verify desired color.
  • Using a high quality natural bristle brush, spread a thin, even coat over the entire surface, starting with the raised panel sections. Always make final brush strokes in the direction of the embossed grain.
  • Minwax® Gel Stain remains brushable for an extended period of time. Areas of heavier coats should be evened out before moving to a new section.
  • Gel Stain, while wet, is easily removed with a rag moistened with mineral spirits.
  • Allow stain to dry approximately 6 to 8 hours.
  • To darken the color, apply additional coats of Gel Stain by following the instructions above. Allow approximately 6 to 8 hours between coats for the stain to dry.
   Ok. Well I had a medium quality, heavily used bristle brush, but I was pretty sure it was adequate and I went to work. I stained the three downstairs sets of doors. I was having a problem because the gel stain was setting up really fast and getting tacky. Once it gets tacky there's no going over it with the brush. But I worked faster and pushed on. By the time I was done with the third set I realized that they didn't look like oak. They looked like some kind of antiquing paint kit from the 60s. They were a streaky mess. It was several hours of work, but it would all have to come off. 
   I read what I could on the internet on how to remove the gel stain, with very conflicting information. I didn't want to damage the fiberglass doors in removing the stain. I guess the Minwax folks have such confidence in their product that they can't conceive that anyone would want to remove it because there is no information on how to do so. 
   I called the Codel door company and explained my problem to the Codel service representative. She was a very pleasant woman.
Codel:     "Well it says here, you should wash the door with soap and water and let dry."
Me:         "Really? Because this stuff has dried on for 6 hours, and I don't think it's supposed to just wash off. Are you sure that isn't how to prepare the door to stain? I want to take the recommended stain off without damaging the door."
Codel:      "I'm sorry, that's all it says under "stain".

   I thank her for her time and hang up. 
   "Hmm, " I think, "Dad always thought highly of Jasco products. He said that Jasco could get stuff off faster than a sailer with a $2...."  Well never mind what Dad said. I e-mailed Jasco customer service, and got an immediate response. No Jasco product is recommended for fiberglass doors. Ok then.
      Next stop, Sherwin William paint store, where I'd picked up the Minwax gel stain. Those guys know everything there is about paint. I explained my dilemma, and was met with grim news.
       "Pretty much nothing will take off that gel stain.Your problem sounds like your applicator." The Paint Guy shook his head,  "You may have to just prime and paint the doors."
       I was sick. I was blinking as hard as I could because I hate to cry in public. I bought a large bag of rags, a new white china bristle brush, two packages of staining pads and some Goo-Gone. I headed for Home Depot.

     Home Depot carries a product called Citristrip, which is a mild, low fume paint stripper. Some internet chatters went so far as to label it ineffective. "That outta be safe for fiberglass", I thought. I bought the big jug.
     Sometimes you just hit the sweet spot. The label says to apply the gel, wait 30 minutes and remove the 
residue. Granted, there was only one coat of stain and no coats of varnish, but I'd been led to believe that this gel stain was the cast iron of the stain world. That stuff started to lift and bubble right away!
   I started painting the gel on the French door and by the time I got around the frame, it was ready to come off. I used a green scrubbie, repeatedly rinsing the gunk into a bucket, then wiped the whole door down with a clean wet cloth. Once the whole door was done, I wiped it down with  denatured alcohol. I was ready to stain again. It took about 3 hours to strip the set, and I have two sets to go. I was so happy I wouldn't have to prime and paint them, I didn't even care.

The Rest  

 In the meantime, Ed was working at getting the cedar plywood up on the back porch soffits. The drywall lift seemed to be the right tool for the job, and sure beat trying to lift them manually.

We discussed using tongue-in-groove wood, or even beadboard, as we have seen done in other homes. It looks beautiful. We decided to made do with the cedar plywood here and we can change it out later if we choose. It looks great and it's easy on the budget.

The HVAC guys are still working on the ducts. All that work, and most of it won't show. 
   We love the Robinson Plans floorplans. The blueprints leave a little to be desired, as they're short on detail. In this case the detail that is missing is how to run the mechanics from one floor to another. There is no space to run the HVAC ducts  from the basement, through the first floor, to the second floor. We had already forfeited an entryway closet and moved the guest powder room to accommodate the ducting, but because of where the joists are, a bulkhead will still need to be run in an awkward path through that powder room. We'll make it work, but it was an unexpected surprise. The Entek HVAC boss, Phil, is very careful to explain each step and keep us in the loop. 

   It has been a very cold summer, and on the rare warm days we have noticed a lot of moisture on the basement floor. How can this be? Short of magical spells, Ed has done everything possible to insure that the basement is leakproof. Finally he picked up a bucket and found his answer. Under the bucket was dry. The water isn't coming from under the cement, it's coming from the air! Just like a giant iced tea glass, the warm damp air hits the cool concrete and the water condenses right out of the atmosphere. What a relief!

Finally, today Ed and Rick started shingling the sides of the house. Now that the doors and windows are well on their way, the next step to winterizing the structure is to get those shingles on.

 It'll take weeks and weeks. Boxes of shingles, hundreds of perfectly fitted pieces. Hopefully this beautiful warm autumn weather will hold, and the rains won't start until mid October. We often have our most beautiful weather in the fall. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trex or Treat

   Here's one of those questions smug college professors like to ask second year philosophy students. If complete chaos already exists, and things get even more crazy, what do you have?
     The answer, grasshopper, is simple. You have a construction site.
     Ed was all set to go like gangbusters on the Trex deck so that it would be all installed before the windows came this week. He and Rick began sorting out lengths only to discover that there was a huge variance in color between the 16' and the 20' lengths.
    Ed calls Probuild Lumber, who calls Trex, who calls Laura The Rep, who calls us. She says she'll be out the next day to take a look.
    Ed does a re-count and realizes he has enough of the rest to do the balcony deck, and he and Rick start hauling Trex up the stairs completed in the last episode.

 They are using the hidden clips. The clips require a bit of a learning curve, but once they're in the groove (pardon the pun) they move right along. Ed was repeatedly interrupted by several games of speed phone tag with the lumber folks and the Trex people, but by the end of the day they finished the balcony. It's a thing of beauty.

We took a few minutes at the end of the day to go up and just sit. I can tell this will be one of our favorite places in the house. The elk and the turkeys in the pasture don't seem to see us, and view is stunning.

    The next day Laura The Trex Rep showed up, as promised, and agreed that the color and texture of the 20' pieces was unacceptable. She calls Probuild who then calls every supplier west of the Rockies to find replacements. We need 84 of them, and they're not to be had. They can get them in three weeks....
    Construction is kind of like Anatomy 101 only different. The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone. So the Trex needs to go down before the windows go in. The windows have to go in before the trim, which is flared out at the bottom, goes in. The trim has to go on before the exterior wall shingles go on. The shingles need to go up before winter, which is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!
     Nick and Jim at Probuild made a lot of phone calls ,did some arm twisting, and I'll guess, some pleading,  then called with the very good news that the replacement Trex would be here in three days. Thanks guys!
     It all looks good. What could go wrong? Enter the dumbwaiter. We are installing a dumbwaiter that will go from the basement where wood is stored, to the first and second floors adjacent to the wood stoves. The delivery guy calls from someplace south of Portland.
   "You gonna be home today? We got some kinda elevator for you." , he says.
   "Yes!" I said excitedly, "Do you need directions?"
   "Nope, got it covered." he hangs up without a word of impending doom.
    I take off for the store, and Ed is left to deal with ...The Crate.
   It's smashed big-time. Ed has to call the maker, who has him note the damage on the invoice, then try to make some evaluation of said damage. Will it effect function? Is it just cosmetic? Who knows?
   Monday I sent pictures, with closeups to their service rep, who said there should be no problem and to go ahead with the installation. Fingers crossed, I save the e-mails.

The HVAC guys showed up exactly on time, with everything they needed. Entek Systems out of Longview is a very nice company to deal with. They began to fill the basement with enough stuff to build a battleship. How they build the systems they do and still keep their work area as neat as they do is a mystery to me. I wonder if they do housekeeping...

 The basement is starting to look like a frozen food plant. There are chutes and sheet metal up in the ceiling, and there are still plumbing, electrical, phones and central vac to go. There will be bulkheads that will cover it all, but right now it looks pretty industrial.

 In the meantime, Ed and Rick have been jumping from job to job waiting for the replacement Trex. Monday, they worked on installing the doors. There are six sets of French doors and the laundry door. The front door won't be here for several weeks.

 The PLAN is to train the pets (and their people) to use the laundry door for the daily in and out stuff. The laundry room will probably have tile flooring, or something similarly easy to clean. It's amazing how much sand can stick to wet cat feet!

Tuesday, as promised, the replacement Trex arrived on a Probuild truck. Ed and Rick had already stacked it for loading, and Ed used the forklift tines on the tractor to pick it up. It's a bit more flexible than wood, so picking up this stuff is like getting linguine to stay on a fork. You have to be dead center. Ed got the old Trex on the truck and the new Trex off  without a hitch, so everybody was happy.

Now the priority is to get the decks finished, front and back, before the windows get here. They are scheduled to be delivered Friday, so next week is dedicated to mounting the windows. The back deck is pretty much straight runs. The front deck will be a little trickier because of the curve. That will probably be Saturday, so as they say, film at 11.

  Ed had a pile of cut-offs and by chance noticed some little visitors. They are little iridescent blue-black beetles of some kind. They don't seem to be trying to eat the Trex as much as use it for a lawn chair. It's nice and warm, and it's been a cold overcast summer.

   By yesterday's end, the back deck was pretty much done, with the exception of the portion off the dining room doors. I got pretty excited about setting up a pair of chairs and sharing the new porch with Ed. Soon the sunshine was gone, the overcast was back, but we savored the moment anyway.
   By midmorning most of the dining room portion of the deck was finished. By this afternoon Ed will be starting on the front deck. Saturday is supposed to be warm (we'll see) and we can bend the sections for the front steps.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One Step At A Time Or What Are You Stairing At?

     Ed has made the substructure of the balcony so it will drain properly. The plywood subfloor goes down over the graded joists, then he has to install a heavy liner material, usually used for koi ponds. For the record, this stuff weighs a ton, and the stairs aren't finished yet.

Ed and Rick manhandled the roll of liner into the house and rigged a rope hoist to pull it up the stairwell. As they were hoisting from the second story, the whole thing began to list to one side. For a moment I thought the whole thing was going to wind up in the basement. Then I realized while they were up on the second floor tugging with all their might, the edge of the roll had snagged on a nail. I dropped the camera, grabbed a pushbroom and shoved the roll off the nail so they could finish pulling the liner up to the second story. 

Now a nail hole is not what you want in your liner. I mean, what's the point? Fortunately it was in a place that they could trim off. And what a surprise! It rained the next afternoon so we could check the water flow. It was perfect, by the way.   


Next came the deck joists. The Trex deck will go on top. We'll put up a tempered glass rail and have an amazing upper deck, accessible from both bedrooms and the family room. 

   Things have been progressing in bits and pieces for the last few weeks. Depending on which inspector was due, and what materials were here, Ed had to jump from project to project, something he hates to do. Construction got to the point where he needed the main power panel installed in the basement. Running extension cords out of the garage, across the walkways, through both floors of the house construction  and to the basement was becoming a major irritation. It was inefficient and cumbersome. It looks good here, but that's with my flash!

    So we pulled another permit, this one from the State of Washington for the electrical to the house, and proceeded go live.  Ed salvaged the main wire that used to go to the doublewide, and ran it from the meter through to the new house. A penny saved...The state inspector came out, checked everything, and signed it off.                                                                   came out, checked everything, and signed it off. 

 Meantime, back at the ranch, Ed and Rick got back to work on the rest of the deck. Not only is the deck under the porch overhang, but extends to behind the craft room and next to the garage. This portion won't be covered.

   But footings still have to be poured, and that means forms and a wheelbarrow. Yes, the old fashioned way..a little tough on the back but it does work. How is it that the first sack of 60 lb. Quickcrete feels like it  weighs about 45 lbs, but the 10th bag weigh about 110 lbs? 

   This house is surrounded on three sides by deck, which is going to be wonderful, but it sure is a lot of space. Who knew I should budget for patio furniture? 

   Finally the Trex decking arrived.  There are about 3/4 of a mile by lineal foot of the stuff, enough to cover over 1000 feet of deck. In my mind that is a monstrously huge pile of deck. Goodness knows the check to pay for it was big enough! So when I saw the stack that came off the truck, I was a little disappointed. 
   "Where's the rest of it?" I asked Ed. 
   He looks at me....
   "That's it." he says. "Five big stacks. There should be plenty."
What do I know? He's been amazingly accurate until now.  I'm just the lady with the camera. 
    For the last week, in between cement and electricity, Ed has been working on getting the stairs in. This is a big deal. The maze of ladders going from the basement to the main floor, and from the main floor to the second floor is scary.

    But the real clincher was when Midnight, our sumo cat, went up the ladder to the second floor and was afraid to come down by himself. I won't say who went up and hand-carried our 20 lb boy down, but it wasn't me. Doors and windows are due next week, and those will require stairs to carry  up to install.

Remember all that math you learned in high school, then promptly forgot? It's a good thing Ed still remembers, because he uses it every day in this project, especially when making the stairs.  They have to be perfect. And, since it's a Big Ed Project, they are.

   For the first time, we could walk the stairs from the basement to the second floor. It was a giant step...ok..a series of reasonably sized steps, but a momentous occasion none the less. Our 11 year old border collie, Abby, went upstairs with us for the first time. She really hated being left downstairs when we used the ladders. And Midnight waddles up and down the stairs with ease..not grace, just ease. 

And as if on cue, the doors arrived this morning. Six sets of French doors and the back door of the craft room. Windows are due a week from Friday.