Monday, July 30, 2007

A busy afternoon and evening

So we met "Andy" from Ohio Exterminating at the house about 3PM. He basically told us he couldn't guarantee that we do or do not have termites and if we decide to treat with either of 2 methods it will run us about a grand. Oh joy. While he was poking around the house I measured the exterior doors to share with our next stop, M&M doors. Carolyn dropped in just as we were about to scoot off to our next appointment and we shared the color choice for our porch roofing material (something-grey). She was dropping off the wood for the fascia that we would prime later tonight. We hopped on the Vespas and set out to scope out a place one of our window estimators had recommended - M&M Doors. This excursion was a bit trickier than anticipated. They have an address that's on McKinley Avenue - which is currently under construction and one-way (in the wrong direction for us). We had to circle waaaayyy past it on Broad Street before we could locate a connecting through-street that put us on McKinley. And then, with the lack of many buildings with addresses I got nervous that we would pass it (on the 1-way) and have to go all the way back. So we pulled over and I called them..."Uh...where the heck are you?" Apparently, almost there. The manager, Brad gave us over-the-gravel-at-a-neighboring-business-within view directions and actually came outside to wave us over. "If I knew you guys were on SCOOTERS I would have given you different directions!" We parked our bikes next to a non-descript warehouse in a neighborhood where we'd normally likely triple-lock them. Considering how near-impossible it was for us to get there and a noticable lack of foot traffic, we figured they'd be fine (and they were). Brad invited us into the workshop for a peek at their operation. The large one-story place had at least two huge rooms with woodworking equipment in the first one we walked through and doors in various stages of completion in the second. Brad was a really nice guy who was obviously proud about the work they do and eager to share their current projects. We fell in love with a pair of doors they were working on for another project. They were Craftsman-style in detailing with an arched window. Brad joked that we could probably have the ones there if he didnt' hear from the current owners soon.(Alas they were about 6" too wide for our project). He had some other REALLY cool and HUGE doors he's working on for one of the mansions over on Broad Street. We laughed when we found out we even know the owner from the Short North! So, loving our excursion and feeling quite confident that M&M will do an outstanding job if we can afford them, we headed home. Fifteen minutes after we got there a couple showed up to look at the bedroom furniture I'd posted on craigslist, handed over cash and hauled off their new treasures (see my old desk and dresser above). After a quick dinner we headed over to the house for plywood priming. Five huge pieces of plywood sure suck up the primer! Eric had to run over to the hardware store and get us another gallon to finish the task. Hopefully we'll get to see them put to use tomorrow! Oh yes, and the hardi-plank siding is almost done on the side of the house! Pics soon!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Photos of the Progress

Above: a portrait of the progress.

Above: The hallway between the master bedroom and master bath.

Above: the extra storage being framed in the master bedroom.

Above: the vaulted living room ceiling from the 2nd floor overlook.

Above: the vaulted ceiling from below.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Things to ponder

We met with Ray and Carolyn at the house after work tonight to finalize a few more details before they start another job up Worthington-way. First they handed us a little brochure with all sorts of color swatches on it and told us to choose a color for the base layer of our bedroom patio and the top of the back porch roof. While I was immediately drawn to the copper (cool!)...the practicality of matching it with the existing roof materials will likely be the end result with something in a deeper gray tone. Next up E must consult with our architects about insulation r-ratings to see if there's a material that will sufficiently insulate the cathedral ceiling in the living room with the existing beams, or if we'll have to add an additional 6" of beams for more room for thicker insulation (what were YOU thinking about on Friday evening)? Then there's the issue of the downstairs "guest" bathroom. We've got just barely 5' 1" of width to it....just enough to MAYBE fit in our 5' tub once it is drywalled. With free-standing framing on the side that meets the guest bedroom at the brick wall in the back of the bathroom, the wood framing stuck out about 1/2" so R & C suggested firring out the brick just enough to meet the other framing. To do this WITHOUT endangering our already tight space they shifted the opposite wall (between bathroom & study) just slightly...which puts it MAYBE (or not) too close to the existing study window that will be torn out and replaced with a new & different model with more glass/less framing. Eric's consulting with Pella to see it that flies. Our other option is to get out the prybars and remove the remaining 1/2-1" of plaster covering the brick and see if that allows us to squeak the tub in there! We also had to decide how to finish the front porch ceiling- flat or at a slant that reveals more of our brick on the house (we're thinking the latter). Finally, we trekked upstairs and marvelled at the various interesting nooks and crannies of "dead space" in the eaves. Felix had framed in one for a door and we decided to have a couple more framed out for the potential of nifty little storage spaces taking advantage of the otherwise "dead" space. Next up, Carolyn is delivering the cedar siding that E & I need to prime before it can be used for trimming the side of the house and the new dormers. In the near future: the "guts". The HVAC guy might get in sometime in the coming week, the plumber the week after that and then bring on the electrician! Oh, and E's supposed to call City for a structural inspection sometime in the beginning of the week!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What we saw when delivering the goods

The crew was still at the house this evening when we arrived to drop off our acquired treasures from Jim. Larry announced that they'd finally "cathedralled" the ceiling in the living room (meaning that they cut out all of the joists from former second story floor). We went in to marvel at the space. It was pretty cool when they'd first removed the plywood flooring to be able to peer up to the ceiling from the first floor through the remaining joists. It is mega-cool to stand with an uninterrupted view on the first floor and see the eyebrow window in the peak of the front eaves (yes, we owe you pictures, but didn't have the camera).

If you look back at yesterday's pics from where they removed the siding, Eric mentioned that the old framing was pretty chewed. In retrospect we believe that the likely culprits were termites, but it is impossible to gauge how long ago they may have done that damage or whether they are still lurking about and we are in further danger from those wood carnivores (does that automatically make them herbivores?) Tomorrow's tasks will include consulting an expert on such things. Although we may have complicated the investigation as Larry and the crew already have the whole side shored up and ready for siding!

Why we love that Jim guy....

Mid-afternoon yesterday I got a call from Jim on my cell. "It's Christmastime!" he chimed. When Jim calls that means he's got extra building materials that he wants to go away. In that he's renovating a gorgeous (and huge) house in German Village on Schiller Park, we generally rush over to claim whatever he is discarding, haul it back to our house and marvel over our good fortune that he's working on his similar-era house at the same time as we are attempting to reclaim our "bungalow". Tonight's bounty included about a dozen 16' long polonia (sp?) planks that were used for exterior trim and fascia boards on his manse. And several dozen tongue-and-groove double-sided fence planks, a few fence posts and an old fence gate. We have a brand new fence on the side of the yard we share with the condos (completely finished with decorative caps as of last night). We removed the lower fence at the back of the yard to make way for our succession of dumpsters (it made its way into one of them). The fence with the other neighbor in the duplex is a stockade fence that is inexplicably over 8' tall (we call it the king kong fence) and will one day be replaced, but is sufficient for now. We estimate that Jim's donation should get us our rear fence back when we're done with the rest of the house. And we will have the most interesting amalgamation of fencing on the block.

The Secret Door

The Phillips Renovation crew has nearly completed the interior wall framing and so has begun preparation for the siding and trim installation. They are installing new siding (hardi-plank) and cedar trim on the new portions of the house and also repairing the old trim where necessary. To start they tore off all of the aluminum soffits and the small section of vinyl siding which was on the side of the house. Once the vinyl siding was removed, we found an old doorway to the basement stairs which had been sealed in.

After pulling off the insulation, we found the original door was still in place!

Now that the aluminum soffits have been removed, we have a good idea how the house became a haven for wildlife. I found a half-dozen spots in the trim where it appears a hole had been chewed by a furry invader. This house had lots of nooks where a squirrel or raccoon could make a home.

We also discovered a section of the dental molding used on the original porch. We hope to talk to our crew about replicating that in the new porch section.

On a different note, I have to rant against Chase bank and banks in general. Our construction loan draw was deposited by me into our Chase account last Friday, July 19. Yesterday I received a letter stating that the bank is holding the majority of the deposit until July 31. It appears that a 1987 federal banking law permits a bank to hold funds for large deposits somewhere between 7 and 11 business days, but what is permitted and what is reasonable are often different. The check was drawn on a local bank, and in fact the Payor bank is directly next-door to the Chase branch we use. Given the technology used by banks, it is certain that the bank could verify the funds much quicker than the maximum hold period permitted by law. Banks process checks drawn on your account much quicker than in the past. Technology has sped up the process. But while the bank will debit your account right-quick for checks you write, it won't credit your account for deposits until it is required to do so by law.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Taking Shape

The "dry-in" portion of the project is almost complete. The structural changes have been made and the roof is almost done. The interior walls have been framed, giving us a feel for how our design will work in the real world. It is very exciting to see it take shape, even if that shape does not yet include electrical, plumbing, drywall, etc.

Regarding the design, we opted for a small change to the first-floor bathroom. It had been designed as a 5' x 7.5' full bath. Which is very, very small for a full bath. Think "European Hotel bathroom". Now, it worked fine on paper, but when we walked through with a plumber and we considered the very tight space, we realized that even one small obstacle, like needing to put a vent stack somewhere, could put us in a jam. So we made it 5' x 8.5. That 5 extra square feet should make it easier to fit and give a bit more space to the room as well. Below is a photo of the 1' jog in the wall, making the bathroom a bit more spacious.

In other news, we travelled to a store called Menard's to look for tile. Menard's is an Illinois based store (I think) but has a few stores in smaller towns in NW Ohio. We had stopped at one while we were in Illinois at the recommendation of Mary's Uncle and we were impressed with the selection and prices on tile. So, we found there is a store in Marion, Ohio, which is about 1 hour north of Columbus. We drove up early Sunday morning and struck gold. We found a very nice porcelain ceramic tile for the first-floor bath. This was after researching the difference between ceramic tile, porcelain tile, PEI ratings, etc. So we purchased the tile and then moved on to look at some other items we needed... like 2 toilettes. A bathtub. Bathroom fixtures. We ended up picking up all of them. I should also mention that the employees at Menard's were extremely helpful. As we analyzed the many choices of an item (and they had 30+ toilette choices, many more than Lowe's), their staff helped us measure, check boxes, check if in stock, etc. It was this way in every department. I was very impressed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Newest News

Back and front porch roofs have been framed and the roof is almost all shingled-over. The interior walls for the master bath and master bedroom are now almost done. As the crew will begin "firring" (sp?) out the interior walls, they have removed all the carpet, exposing the hardwood floors that we hope to have refinished in the next couple of months.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Permission or Forgiveness?

So the Phillips Crew framed our new front porch and it looks great. It really balances the bay window on the east side and it reinforces the character of the house. A small issue arose when we realized it might be built 10 inches too close to the western property line. The plans originally called for building the porch eaves to be flush with the existing roof eaves. Some faithful readers may recall that the plans were initially rejected as the porch eaves would be about 10'' into the 3' building code setback. Regardless of the fact that the rest of the house is less than 3' from the property line, the building dept. wanted the porch eaves 3' back. So the plans were changed and the plans were then approved. Well, the porch roof is built, and the eaves aren't 10'' back. It was built flush with the old porch eaves and about 8'' to the east of the other roof eaves. The dark wood area with the gutter mounted to it is the old eave.

I talked to our architects and I talked to our contractors. As we are only talking about between 2'' to 10'', and the construction of the porch obviously follows the original porch line, we decided not to change it. (We joked that we would claim we were just replacing an existing porch... which was torn down probably 50 years ago). Which leaves us with the question, do we ask for a variance now (i.e., permission) or do we ask for a variance if the inspector notices the issue (i.e., forgiveness). And the answer is: Forgiveness. It is a small portion of a large project and it is in line with the rest of the house, making it possible if not likely that it won't even be an issue. And for the safety-minded out there, the eaves are all fire-rated so the concern about fire jumping from building to building is minimized.

But what else? The skylights are in, the roof is being shingled and the balcony and rear porch roof has been framed. I'll let the photos show the progress from the last few days.

Above: a skylight surrounded by Estate Gray shingle.

Above: Larry working on the balcony decking and Felix cutting wood in the yard.

Oh, final story. Felix told me the house had a visitor yesterday. Some guy just walked in the front door, picked up the workers' water jug, and started to chug. Felix, thinking the guy might be a subcontractor of ours, yells for the guy to stop and tells him to use a cup if he wants a drink. The guy takes the water, goes outside down to the street and starts shouting to the sky. He then pours it over his head drip by drip. Then he walks down the street. Now, the guy had to have trespassed somewhere else or done something, because the police pulled up at just that time. So Mr. Oddball b-lines back into the house. At this point Felix tells him to get out or he'll brain him with a hammer. They guy is not keen on getting brained but he's not keen on going out to meet the police, either. So Felix invites the police in, telling them if they don't get this guy outta there, Felix will crack him in the head with a hammer. So in come the police to drag this fellow out and give him a ride downtown. And so ended the visit. I bought Felix a 12pack as payment for his security duties.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thanks, Mother Nature

Tuesday's afternoon rain and yesterday morning's slight drizzle gave way to a clear and comparatively cool day, allowing our crew to continue to work on the roof. The most dramatic accomplishments were the build-out of the front porch roof frame and the cut-in of the skylights. If mother nature continues to cooperate, we may be under roof by the end of today.

Below is a shot from the front porch showing the roof over the basement stairs/front closet addition built 80 or so years ago. Yet another example of a new roof framed over an old roof.

On a personal note, my grandmother has become very ill and is not likely to be with us much longer. She is very much on my mind, along with my mother, father, aunts & uncles.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

3 week update

As of yesterday the house is close to being roofed. Over the past few days the Phillips crew finished framing the roof and installed the roof decking. Today they should build the porch roofs, and after that they will cut in the skylights and shingle the roof.

Here is a photo from the new flat portion of our roof. While it is a nice view of the park across the street, we won't have a rooftop deck or anything here, so we will have to content ourselves with seeing this view from our living room on the first floor. Soon this roof should be "Estate Gray" instead of the melody of brown tones it is now.

Yesterday kept us busy working out issues with the skylights and the master bedroom roof. While we received a quote for skylights from Pella, they do not install them, a roofer should install them so they are properly flashed and sealed. As we have our roofers on site, they can install them no problem. So they want them ASAP. It's at that point that Pella tells us it will be about 3 weeks before we can get them. Not an option, as I'm not going to tell my roofers to hold off 3 weeks, and I don't want to have to call them back to cut into a roof they just layed 3 weeks ago. So I let my fingers do the walking and found some in-stock Velux skylights at Home Depot. As the dimensions were different than those specified by our architects, we talked about the size options and chose a set that would work best for the space and the roof profile. And Viola! Skylights are on site.

As for the master bedroom, we noticed that the wall under the eyebrow windows was being framed differently than we thought it was designed. After talking to Ray of Phillips Renovation and Steve of Urban Order, it turns out we were the ones who were mistaken. So after talking about our options we are waiting to receive a quote from Ray to open up the ceiling a bit more. Could this be our first costly change order? Stay tuned.

Friday, July 6, 2007

July 6 Update

The storms of July 4th roared in and despite the tarps the house got pretty wet. We were mighty impressed to see the Phillips Renovation crew working the morning of the 4th of July. But in the afternoon heavy storms were forecast and the crew tarped the roof and understandably took off.

When the storms arrived rain poured in through the future balcony area. Even where the tarps did work the water simply ran down the side of our house since we have no gutters on the new portions of the roof. So despite the drain system I installed a couple of months ago, water was once again a problem in the basement. This is a photo showing us at the house during the storm. To the left of our friend Brian you can see outside how dark the sky is. This is at 3:30 in the afternoon!

In a way it was worse in that we were actually at the house during the storm as we watched the sheets of rain pour down, soaking parts of the interior. The good news was that since we were at the house, we could position a few buckets to catch water where it penetrating the tarps. In all, we probably kept about 80 gallons of water from soaking into the house.

Yesterday saw just a small drizzling rain with didn't cause any water headaches. The crew started to install the wood decking on the framing, making the house walls take shape. I spoke with Caroline and Ray about some framing details and I am impressed with their eye for detail and creativity in solving small problems.

The roof shingles are also on site so it is my hope the house will be under roof before the next storm hits. The roof shingle selection process was typical - obsessive over-anaylisis. We reviewed a number of options for shingles via the internet and decided on one color, Onyx Black. Despite its extremely dark sounding name, it actually appeared to be a dark charcoal to mid gray shingle. It appeared a deeper, more complex color than the Estate Gray shingle. We thought that would look good. But I kept worrying about the name... onyx black... onyx black. Why would they name a gray-tone shingle onyx black? So I checked some local building supply stores and went to see the shingles in person rather than on my monitor. And after that, I now understand when websites say the color may be different than that shown on your monitor. While onyx black is still not a true black shingle, it was very, very dark and the estate gray option appeared closer to our desired color. So I called our contractor, telling him we had changed our mind. Thankfully he had not ordered the shingles yet, so estate gray it is (or will be).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

2 weeks of work

Yesterday was the end of the second week with Phillips Renovation's crew on site. While not as dramatic as a new roof line, the crew installed the new ridge beams above the living room and in the closet/den area. The brick mason was called in and bricked in the beams, making it look like they had been there for years.

In other news, the fence between our house and the condos to the East has been installed. Just a few final segments and it will be done. So far, very happy with it.

Yesterday we received 2 estimates for windows, both the new windows for the addition and replacement windows for the old portion. The estimates also included new entrance doors. While the quality looks fantastic, it will take me a while to process how much they cost and how we can fit that into the budget!
Finally, funny story: I went to buy gift cards from the Subway around the corner for the crew. When there I had the distinct impression the clerk didn't know what she was doing. So when I gave the cards to the crew, I told them that and to call me if there was any problem (didn't want the crew mad at me, that's for sure!) And sure enough, the cards didn't have any money on them. But Subway supposedly worked it out. I'll find out more today.