Monday, March 31, 2008

The last ten percent

They say it takes the longest...

I took care of a lot of the trim work in the basement this weekend. The sliders in the tv room, the window in the downstairs bedroom, most of the floor. I'm not really sure how to trim the pocket doors (they're a little tricky). Here's how the sliders went:

Simplex sent a lot of the trim along loose in the house, so I just had to rip it where necessary, cut it to size, nail it in place. Already primed, too.

One of the mistakes we made was not cutting the sill plate across the slider thresholds before we installed the doors. So we'll need to trim those with something different (that doesn't pick up footprints, dirt, etc.).

And the bedroom windows:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kid-Friendly Modern Furniture

Craigslist. $50 for the (Ikea) molded plywood coffee table. $1150 for the (barely ever sat on) reproduction Corbusier couch and two matching club chairs.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Paint Crew Has Arrived

The Wagner Paint Crew 770, that is. Not in a million years would it have occurred to me to buy a paint sprayer, but Sarah - with a not-atypical focus on "how can we get this done faster" - suggested it and I have to say boy was that a good idea. I put 5 gallons of primer on the walls in a little over an hour, including the entire ceiling. Try that with a roller. I was a little scared of it at first, but got the hang of it pretty quick. $200 at Lowe's. And even if we never use it again after this project it will have more than paid for itself.

There are some tricks to using it (I recommend starting off in a place no one will ever see) and it apparently needs to be cleaned pretty well to ensure that it'll keep working, but I can't recommend it more highly for what I gather is a pretty entry-level paint sprayer.


Sarah and I were talking the other day about our DIY competence. We both feel like we're pretty capable. But in the couple of big projects we've done, the thing that has always felt like the biggest impediment was just having the right stuff. We've both spent countless hours wandering Home Depot, searching for someone - anyone - to answer a question about what kind of supplies we need to finish something. The more we do of this kind of stuff the more comfortable I get just wandering into the store and finding things on my own. But still - there are 8 MILLION different PVC connections that you have to wade through if plumbing is not your first language (and it's not mine). So going to Lowes and being handed every single thing I needed to resolve my small plumbing issues in less than two minutes by the first employee I met was really pretty wonderful.

Proof that it works:

I'll say a couple of things about our faucet from Ikea. First, for $99 it compares awfully well to the various Hansgrohe Axor models we looked at that you can't get for much less than $400. But as we all know the installation "instructions" are in fact only pictures of a smiling stick figure and no words indicating which supply is hot/cold, which of those lines is intended to be removed during installation and which will leak afterward if you pick the wrong one. So a little bit of plumbers tape seems to have resolved that - we'll see.

Friday, March 21, 2008

For Kate, A To-Do List

Here's what we've accomplished so far this week:

-last round of mudding in the basement;
-last round of sanding in the basement;
-repaired all the upstairs drywall cracks from the delivery and set;
-trimmed the excess deck cable and mounted the finish hardware;
-installed the kitchen faucet, sink trap and garbage disposal;
-installed dishwasher;
-installed the under-cabinet lighting;
-installed all the cabinet hardware;
-installed a new outlet behind the stove (house came with a 220 outlet for an electric range, but we changed to gas and needed a 120); and
-started painting.

Here's a rough list of what's left:

-I haven't yet done a thing in the basement bathroom, and the small bedroom in the basement is basically a storage closet right now, so its drywall hasn't been mudded or taped;
-all the basement doors need to be hung;
-w/d need to be installed;
-we need to figure out what we're doing about a closet system in the basement;
-bamboo treads and risers and the bamboo on the landing;
-basement trim;
-finish matl's for the basement recessed lights and we still need to find a pendant light for above the dining table;
-cement board and remaining couple of pieces of cedar trim;
-outdoor speakers;
-basement media (tv, satellite, audio system);
-finish coat of paint; and
-I'm sure lots of little things that we'll figure out as we go.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mood Lighting

I knocked out the under- (and over-) cabinet lighting this afternoon:

That's 2x2 aluminum angle from Home Depot. (John Kim at Res4, when I asked him exactly what they were envisioning for the flashing to cover the light fixtures, directed me to the exact aisle in Home Depot where these could be found. THAT is the kind of expertise you're looking for from your architect.) The fixtures should probably be located a little further toward the front of the cabinet, but I didn't have much wire to work with. They look great (though they're fluorescents and have a bit of a hum).

And as an aside, turns out I had no idea how to spell fluorescent. U then O. Who knew.

Family Affair

I've had some welcome company the last couple of days:

And yes, the drywall is (finally) finished and we are painting.

Design Contest, Redux

Here's another nit that Res4 is helping me with. Any suggestions appreciated.

The cleanest way to install my stair treads is flush with the drywall. But what to do about carrying the trim from upstairs? I also will have bamboo t/g flooring on the landing, which probably will require trim. So do I carry the trim from upstairs all the way down? And if so, what to do about the lower half of the stairs, where - as you can see from the last pic - there isn't enough clearance for the baseboard trim that's upstairs? (The treads that are on the stairs now are temporary and will come off before real treads/trim go on.)

Locals v. Interlopers

We've had some cloudiness and occasional (what I thought was) sediment in our water. The well guys came out yesterday to check it out, run tests, etc. They found that what I thought was sediment was actually iron flakes (some manganese too - 2.0 parts of iron and .5 parts manganese). We talked about filtering options. And when I asked them about whether these levels were too high to just live with, one of the guys paused thoughtfully and said, "Probably for you."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Sarah's grandmother's cousin - Phillip Lloyd Powell - died last week. He was a self-taught woodworker who was encouraged by George Nakashima to design his own furniture. Sarah's mom and uncle visited him at his studio a few months ago and he was still working away...

Live Blogging

The faucet hole in the kitchen island wasn't drilled before the house left the Simplex factory - one of the very few items that just got missed. But it presented a pretty big headache, because the stone is Zodiaq, a material none of the folks out here in WV deal with. So the only folks I could get to even consider coming out to deal with it were DC stone companies, but once they figured out it was a two hour drive to drill one hole they didn't want anything to do with me. So I've been washing dishes in the bathroom sink and trying to figure out what to do. Eventually I had Simplex put me in touch with their stone people - DeSavino & Sons - who very generously put a used diamond-tipped hole saw in the mail. So I spent $60 on a grinder (which I also used to cut off the excess cable on the deck) and knocked out the hole myself (it was pre-drilled about 2/3 of the way):

That was my morning's work. Of course, the ball valves the plumbers had put it are a different size than the faucet's supply hoses, so still no water in the kitchen...

Design Contest

Our retaining wall was originally designed to be the same height as the deck railing. But at that height the wall would have completely obscured any view of the house as you come up the driveway. So I had the concrete guys keep it at the same height as the rest of the foundation. Which means now we have a bit of an awkward transition from the deck to the retaining wall. These are some pics for Res4 so they can brainstorm some ideas for how to finish this area. Anybody else have any suggestions?

*UPDATE - Thanks for the ideas - keep 'em coming. I suppose I should clarify a bit. We'd like to extend some kind of deck railing around the retaining wall (and deal with the hideous faux-brick, so all landscaping ideas are welcome). The issue with a railing is that the deck is about a foot higher than the wall. So I could build a cedar box on top of the wall to extend the fascia of the deck and just continue the cedar/cable railing, but not sure how that would look. Or we could incorporate a different kind of railing that would separate the two spaces (which I think is Res4's preference) but still give us the safety we need...

Monday, March 17, 2008


Had our first fire last weekend, and it kept the upstairs at a nice toasty 64 degrees (that was the temp near the thermostat over by the bedroom; it was much warmer in the living room near the stove). Got down to about 60 by the morning (and the fire was out), so I can live with that (it was in the teens outside). Looks great - the glass pane is nice and big and the fire looks like one of those cools moments in Backdraft (not a high point in cinema, I know, but I worked as an usher in a movie theater when it was playing and used to sneak in and watch the amazing fire scenes).

Spring Break!

It's my spring break - so I'm out at the house plugging away. (Does anybody go to Daytona Beach anymore?) I'm going to try to get a couple of posts up everyday about what I'm getting done. I was out here last weekend, too, but I can only post so many pics of drywall (which gets its last round of sanding today and then I'm ready to paint).

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Enough of this pre-fab blah blah blah

It's March!

With a second consecutive Big East championship secured, I'm off to WV (where there is a scary "High Wind Warning" in effect). Drywall finished by Monday???

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Same As It Ever Was

I see from the LV message board that the Luminhaus is back in business (or maybe always was). Nice to hear. Our visit to the Luminhaus a couple of summers ago was definitely the starting point of our project, and I've been meaning to post for a long time a link to Jennifer Watson's build diary - it was the first I ever read, and is a treat for getting your arms around the scope of a complete DIY project.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Frank Lloyd Wright Does PreFab

According to the NYTimes. I had no idea.