Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.

Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.

This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.

It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Garage Extension — Part 7 (Stucco)

Well, it's been a long time since the last post.  That was about putting new shingles on the roof, but ended with only the front part of the new garage roof with shingles on.  So after writing that shingle post, I still had to strip the old shingles off the back part of the garage roof, clean everything up, then apply the new shingles.  But now that's done (and before the first light rain of the season).

Before starting on the process of applying stucco, I pulled three photos of the garage extension west wall progress for context.  First is early framing, then plywood, then the first coat of stucco on.

Some of my posts from a few years ago detailed the nitty-gritty details of preparing for stucco; this is going to be the abridged version.  So you start with the sheathing (plywood), then staple on two layers of a black waterproof paper underlayment.  After that you need some sort of metal lathe — I use two layers of wire mesh (even though only one is called for) because two layers better anchor the stucco.  The wire mesh is fastened with "furring nails" placed over the underlying studs (the furring nails have a thick fiber washer that is used to hold the wire mesh slightly off the surface of the underlayment).  I then further attach the wire mesh with quarter-inch wide staples to the plywood between the furring nails so it's solidly attached to the wall. 

Then the first coat of stucco is applied (the "scratch coat", called that because after it is applied, a tool is run over the surface to put furrows or scratches in it, which gives the second coat something rough to adhere to).  Like this:

When I first started doing stucco, I had difficulty getting it to adhere to the corners, until I found and bought a special small trowel for corners.  Nice.

This next photo shows my progress on the front wall.  I did one section at a time, the size of each section determined by how far one 80-pound bag of stucco mix would cover.  I would generally only do one bag each day, then find other things to do the rest of the day.  If all I had to do was apply the stucco, it would go a lot faster and I could cover a lot more area at a time.  The limiting factor is mixing the stucco, by hand, which is why stucco crews employ power mixers and one person who does nothing but mix the stucco and deliver it to the people who are putting it up on the wall.  Again, just one of me (and climbing up and down an 8-foot ladder for the high parts).  Not speedy.

So distinct sections, and overlaps that show.  If I could do a whole wall at once, I could smooth it out while it was all wet, and it would be pretty.  Instead, I call my surface finish rustic.  You have to pay extra for that. 🙂

The east wall (on the left side in the above photo):

And a soffit detail (remembering that here in Southern California soffits are unusual, compared to the East Coast):

And the new front of the garage with the first (scratch) coat of stucco applied:

So sorry, this is where this stucco post ends.  Call it Part 1.  If I waited to do this post until after putting on the second (brown) coat, and then three or four weeks later for applying the special elastomeric stucco paint (which ensures a uniform color), you might think I had died.  So the next post should be on the final coat of stucco (and new puppies prep!🐶).

Another note: the new Andersen windows in the photos are darker than all the other windows and trim in the house, even though they are supposed to be the same Andersen "Terratone" color.  I will have to paint them to match.  Either Andersen decided to change the color after decades (but keep the old name), or someone at the factory screwed up.  No matter. 

Banana tree update:

Still no bananas.  Still growing fast. 

I read a web document on banana trees in Southern California that said banana trees in this area had to kick out 44 leaves before the bananas arrived, in which case I need ten or so more leaves before the big corm/flower emerges.  Another bit of wisdom was that it takes about 18 months from new baby tree to bananas, and that the corm (fruit/flower) and tiny bananas emerge in the fall, are pretty much dormant over the winter, and mature in the spring.  We'll see about that. 🙄

I talked about banana tree offspring last time — "pups."  My tree had four of these sprouting from the base.  I dug out #1 and #3 and put them in pots; they are happily growing and now about three feet high (I'll put them in the ground this winter).  #4 I just cut off.  #2 I left in the ground and it has taken off — now about eight feet high (you can see in the photo).  It now even has its own little pup poking out of the ground. 

Getting lots of water and fertilizer. 

Until next time . . .

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Garage Extension — Part 6 (Shingles)

Last September I replaced the 35-year-old shingles on the main part of my house, including the roof on the new porch (which is similar in shape to the new roof on the extended garage, but much smaller).  I documented that long job in two posts in some detail, so I won't dwell on the minutia this time.

I have an attached garage, but the roof on the garage is not at the same level as the main house roof, so it's essentially separate.  

After stripping the old shingles and roofing felt, I had to cut off the overhanging board that the builders of my house used instead of a drip edge.  Mark a line using a little jig, then cut with a circular saw (a full size saw for the part where I could stand on my house roof, and a small trim circular saw on the other side where I was precariously hanging off the edge).

In this photo of the peak of the garage roof, the offending overhang is shown on the right side.  On the left, I have already cut off the lip and painted the fascia.

With the bare roof prepared, I put on black roofing felt.  There is a newer plastic sheet material, but for whatever reason (including cost, and the roughness of the old deck on my roof), I bought the thicker old stuff.  This goes to the edge of the roof, and then metal drip edge is added.  Here on the Wast Coast, Home Depot offers much less variety in drip edge material (to my dismay), so I ended up using bare metal edge that was only 2" wide, rather than the fancier 3" variety I have used in the past.  Building practices on the East Coast are definitely different than what California does — more substantial in the East, I suppose because of the harsher weather.

So here is the drip edge I installed — two photos:

Next, along the edges of the roof, goes first course shingle material.  That's so the bottom of the first real row of shingles has something under it (water seeping between the seams of the shingles must be met by another shingle) .  The second row overlaps the first, etc. but there is no proper row below the first row.  Past practice was to cut the bottom off shingles and nail the top part to the roof edge, and then whole shingles on top of that, but now you can buy long rolls of first course shingle material that has adhesive on the bottom (and top).  No photo (other than if you want to go back to September 2018).

So start applying shingles at the bottom and work your way up.  My roof was more complicated because of the new garage extension gable, which meant there were valleys, necessitating weaving the shingles together where the two roof planes intersected.  Need to put the middle of a whole shingle over the valley center, and no nails in the middle.

So I worked on one side until I neared the top of the gable, and then started on the other side.  Of course the trick is to make sure when the shingles on the other side get up to the same level, the rows are even (because they will join into one row).  I used a thin board and marked the shingle spacing on that, and then transferred those markings onto the other side, and made sure my shingle spacing did not slowly diverge as I worked my way up.

Ready to start applying shingles to the second side:

I put these marks on the roofing felt (with a yellow construction crayon).  You can see the black marks on the board, taken from the shingles in the other side.  In theory, the spacing of the shingles should be uniform, but small variances can add up (or cancel, but better be safe than sorry).

Moving right along.

When both sides met at the peak, it was time to apply special ridge shingles, because at that point, the row of shingles on the main part of the roof had to go on top of those ridge shingles.  Finished front of the garage roof, two photos:

Which leaves the back of the garage roof, which mostly still has the old shingles on it.  The back part of the garage roof is a big simple rectangle, and I'm not going to say anything about that (although it will still be a lot of work — just not anything new or different).

So it's been hot here, and roofing work in the middle of the day is brutal, so during most of those periods, I worked on getting the (shady) walls prepared for stucco.  To wit, putting up two layers of black stucco underlayment and two layers of wire mesh.  The next post will be about applying stucco.  I will, however, supply photos of the finished roof, and maybe some of the freshly scraped and painted fascia and eves.  Refinishing the underside of the open eves is nasty work (full face respirator).  Probably why it seems not to have been done since the house was built (1984).  Sigh.

Should be done well before the fall rains arrive. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Garage Extension — Part 5

The roof is on.  It's been three weeks, so not as long as I thought.  Fortunately the weather has been comfortable, so time on the roof was not bad.  I finished up this morning under mostly cloudy skies which kept the heat away.  Unfortunately, starting this afternoon we're in for HEAT.  Hot during the day, and not cool at night.  It's been going down to about 58˚ F every night so I could open up the house and turn on a big fan; by morning the indoor temperature would be about 68˚.  By 3 p.m. I would turn the air conditioner on, but for just an hour, because at 4 p.m. the summer peak electricity rate goes up to 53¢ per kWh, which is obscene.  Can't wait for the solar panels and battery storage.  Sigh.

But back to the roof.

The first piece I put up was the 4-foot-tall beam supporting the ridge beam.  The ridge beam supports the rafters.  Tall beams (I-beams) are very stiff because the flange strength is proportional to the cube of the distance from the neutral axis (for symmetrical beams, that's half the beam height).  In this case, the beam's "web" is a sheet of 5/8" plywood, and the flanges are, on the bottom, a 2x4 ceiling joist, and on the top, the 2x8 ridge beam.  What matters is that it's unconventional construction but hugely strong.

In the photo above the top "flange" (the ridge beam) is not yet in place.  The large piece of plywood lying on the deck (above) will position the ridge beam.  It was cut out from a full-scale layout on my garage floor (derived from the plans I had drawn).

That piece of plywood is the first piece of the center section of the front wall; it will be securely fastened to that main plywood beam with screws and urethane glue.  I used all 19/32" plywood (about 5/8") which is pretty heavy, and trying to lift it into place and fastening it at the same time would be folly, without some temporary cleats to hold it in place (or else it would surely fall to the ground).

Looked like this when it was in place:

The next step was to attach the front rafters, but before that I had to lay out the rafters full scale on my garage floor (as part of the earlier full-size layout).  I then cut the angle on the top of one rafter and the notch on the other end, and used this one rafter as a template for cutting all the others.  It pays to be very precise when making this template.

The ridge beam is set in the notch in the plywood, and then the rafters at the front go on first.

Once this rafter pair is on, I cut and installed the notched studs for the upper front wall (cutting the notches using my table saw).

Then the other rafters can go on.  I marked their position on the ridge beam beforehand, and on the top plates of the side walls as well, so they went on quickly (3" screws and nails).

I cut the rafters long, and cut them off at the ends after they were installed, using a straight edge across the top of all of them, and then a level to plumb a vertical line on each one.  I then cut them off with a circular saw.  The idea is for the 2x6 sub-fascia to line up perfectly with the end of each rafter.  I beveled the top of those 2x6s at the same 22˚ rafter angle.

I screwed another 2x4 to the wall below the rafters, the bottom of which was at the same level as the 2x6 tying the rafter ends together.  The soffit on the sides of the roof will then be fastened to these two pieces of wood.

These two pieces of wood also extend out from the front wall to support the "flying" rafters, which creates the roof overhang.  The ridge beam also extends out the same amount (about 16").  The first rafter pair I installed at the front of the wall were 2x8s (7.5" wide).  I fastened another pair of 2x6 rafters directly to these; the soffit at the front is nailed into the underside of this second 2x6 rafter (the plywood front was fastened to the bottom 2" of the 2x8 that extended below the 2x6).  (Forgot to take a photo to illustrate.)

I installed 2x6 braces/spacers on 16" centers between the inner 2x6 rafter and the "flying" outer 2x6 rafter.  These are absolutely essential to give the overhang its strength, combined with the plywood on the roof (the upper flange) and the soffit (lower flange).  It forms a very strong box structure.

The 2x6 structural members on the periphery of the overhangs are not pretty.  On the outside of these goes 1x8 finished boards.  Besides presenting a nice smooth surface, these boards extend above the 2x6s to contain the plywood roof decking, and extend below to hide the edges of the soffit.

I beveled the tops of the 1x8 fascia boards to the same 22˚ roof angle.  Installing the plywood then becomes easy.  Butt the edges against the inside of the fascia board — no worries about it sliding out of position.

But before I could nail down the plywood, I had to get the heavy sheets up on the roof, by myself.  What worked quite well was to slide the plywood up my fiberglass extension ladder, placed at a relatively low angle against the roof.

While the bottom of the rafters that were over the new part of the garage were fastened to the top of the new extended garage wall, there was no convenient place to fasten them on the angled old roof, so I beveled long 2x6s and placed them to correctly locate the bottom end of the rafters for that part of the new roof (where the old and new fascias met).

Rafters could then be installed (not notched at the bottom end, but angled appropriately).  Again, I installed 2x6 spacers between adjacent rafters, which distribute point loads on the roof to adjacent rafters (making for a much stronger roof).  Incidentally, the old roof was constructed using 2x4 trusses spaced on 24" centers, with thin plywood (closer to 3/8"), so it tends to be a little springy when walking on it.  By contrast, my new roof has 2x6 rafters spaced on 16" centers with 5/8" plywood, so it's solid.

Before putting the plywood on, I also took the opportunity to install attic insulation on top of the new ceiling, as that part of the attic would not realistically be accessible after the roof is on.  You can see some of the white insulation already installed in the above photo. 

So the plywood and rafters go on:

And with all the plywood on:

And from the front:

Next step is to strip the remaining shingles off the front part of the garage roof, then apply new shingles (after all the preliminaries (roofing felt, drip edge, starter course, etc.).  And then repeat for the back of the garage roof.  Not going to go real fast with the hot weather headed my way.

After that, apply stucco to the walls.  Then finish the inside of the garage.  None of these projects is trivial.  But they'll all get done if I keep plugging away.  Sigh.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Garage Extension — Part 4

This is the garage door and opener post.  Will be a short one, since mostly it's just assembling parts and following instructions provided by the manufacturers (and they also now have videos).  Not much point in regurgitating all of that. 

The slower parts are figuring out and executing on the ceiling hangers, from which both the door tracks and the garage door opener are suspended.  The instructions pretty much leave that to the homeowner to figure out.  More on that later. 

The garage door arrived with four door panels, vertical and horizontal track, a spring kit, and a box of parts:

The first step is screw the hinges (and some other parts) on the bottom door section, and then stack it in the door opening.  To prevent it from falling down, you secure it with nails or screws in the door jamb.  These don't go through the door sections, just angled against the edges.  The upper hinges are then screwed into the top edge of the door section, and that section is stacked on top of the bottom section. 

The hinges from the top of the bottom section are screwed into the bottom of the second section.

Repeat that with the third and fourth sections, then insert the rollers.

The vertical track is then fitted over the rollers, adjusted for side-to-side travel, and lag-screwed into the side jambs (the 2x6s installed in the last post). 

Then it gets slightly trickier.  The horizontal tracks are now bolted to the top of the vertical track, but the back ends at this point are just floating in mid-air.  Well, they have to be supported somehow.  I chose to screw some hooks in the ceiling and dangle the ends of the track from these hooks with thin rope.  At this point you manipulate the position of the track ends so that the left and right tracks are level, the same (and correct) distance apart, and square to the front wall (the closed door).  All this so the door can glide up and back on the horizontal track without twisting or binding. 

Then you need to fasten punched metal angle hangers to structural elements (joists) above your ceiling (or if you don't have a drywall ceiling, you can skip the ceiling part 😉 ).  These metal ceiling hangers (the punched angle bars) are made from three pieces.  You can buy the stock and cut to the appropriate length, or do what I did — buy the hanger kit that has the six pre-cut bars and all the hardware (lag screws, bolts, nuts).  I got mine at Home Depot, Clopay brand, same as my garage door).  Then it was just a matter of positioning everything so that it can be securely fastened to the joists above the ceiling, and the bottom hanger ending up exactly where the end of the door tracks need to be. 

So this whole process was tedious but otherwise uneventful.  Lots of measuring and marking lines with a Sharpie.  Photo:

Oh, I forgot to talk about the springs.  I got the torsion spring option with the spiffy electric drill winding mechanism (in lieu of hand-winding with the two metal bar things, which I used to remove my old door).  Follow the supplied directions, look at the video.  More straightforward than doing the hangers. 

But we're not done with those punch angle hangers.  The door opener has to be hung, assuming you're not going old-school like I've been doing for the last six years — manually opening and closing. 

Assemble the opener per manufacturer instructions.  Gets you just about to this point, with the track fastened at the front wall, and the motor assembly propped up on a ladder. 

My new Ryobi opener required very particular placement of the hangers, a placement that did not contemplate joists running front to back (like mine).  So I had to position the drive unit close to the ceiling, then take precise measurements and make all the appropriate marks on the ceiling with my Sharpie.  Then drill holes through the ceiling, so when I went up in the hot attic to add supplemental 2x4 structure, I would know exactly where to put it. 

Then cut all the pieces of steel, screw and bolt everything together, and hope for the best.  Then install a new electrical receptacle above the drive unit (back into the hot attic), so that the motor, radio receiver, pretty lights, etc. would all actually function. 

I installed a garage door opener back in the mid-1980s, and it was a bit simpler.  Now there are safety requirements; the government doesn't want the door to close on any little toddlers or semi-grown-ups, crushing them, so now you have to install safety sensors, one on each side of the door.  If the sensors are omitted or not aligned properly, the door will not operate.  Sigh. 

So here it is, fully functional, with the wireless indoor control pad electronically paired to the opener (by pushing a sequence of buttons).  I still have to pair the car transmitter to the opener's brain.  I'm going to pass on programming the wi-fi elements to work with an app to control everything from your smart phone (as I have no smart phone), and after all, I'm graduating from manually lifting my old door up and down, so that's good progress.  Not sure why a smart phone app would be easier than just pushing a button — maybe so your garage door opener can be hacked. 🙂

It has an LED light that comes on when you enter the garage (like my bathrooms).

All I need now is a roof to keep it all dry.  Once I build the roof, all that wood sitting on the floor of the garage will be, well, the roof, and I'll be able to put my car in there.  Hooray!

Due to some waits for parts during the garage door/opener phase, I've actually started cutting out pieces for the roof, and will start installing those tomorrow.  So there should be some good progress.  The next post will see the roof structure and plywood go up.  Shingles for the post after that.  Hopefully soon after that — stucco on the outside of the new walls. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Garage Extension — Part 3

So this is the post about bringing the construction of the six-foot garage extension to the point of installing the garage door.  Last post covered the building of the walls, and installing the joists for the ceiling.  Ordinarily, the next step would have been to build the roof — to keep the rain out.  But this is southern California, in June, and during the six years I've been here (most of them in the midst of a multi-year drought), it has never rained in May, much less during the rest of the summer.

But with almost 24" of rain since last fall, this is no typical year, and in fact it rained four times during May.  And as I write this, there is a 40% chance of showers tomorrow night!  So tomorrow I will bolster the big blue tarp on the roof to keep the rain away from my new ceiling.

But, but, why didn't I build the roof first?  Well, my neighborhood is not without crime, and I need to use my big tools to build the roof, and I need to have them in the garage, and I need them to be safe.  Hence the priority for the garage door.  Then the roof.

To install a garage door, you need jambs — side jambs and a header jamb, preferably 2x6s.  These jambs are what support the garage door rails, and they go around the periphery of the inside of the door opening.  The side jambs are supposed to extend pretty much down to the floor, but in my garage extension, the 2x6 walls sit on an eight-inch thick concrete stem wall.

In this photo I have used a short piece of 2x6 to represent the side jamb.  It gets fastened to the wall, but as you can see, the 10" high concrete stem wall prevents it from extending all the way to the floor.  The lowest lag screw for the door rail is somewhat above the floor, but below the top of the concrete.  To wit, the concrete needs to be cut away some to allow the jamb to extend further down.  It would have been easy enough to insert a spacer in the forms when the concrete was poured, but that was a couple of years ago, long before I thought about mounting the garage door. 

So cut the concrete.  Both sides of the door.  Circular saw with a diamond masonry blade.  High-speed grinder with diamond masonry blade.  Electric demolition hammer.  The process was actually pretty fast, and I discovered the diamond blades cut right through the 1/2" steel rebar inside the concrete.  Lots of sparks.  Oops.

So before the jambs could be attached, the drywall needed to go on, and the ceiling drywall really wants to go up before the walls are covered.  So remembering that I work by myself, and the ceiling in the garage is almost nine feet high, much of this post (and the last two) is about how one old person can finesse lifting heavy, unwieldy sheets of drywall (and plywood) up to the ceiling, and hold it there while screwing it in place.

I have two step ladders (6' and 8') and a wooden prop leftover from putting drywall inside the house with mere eight-foot ceilings.  The first step is to put in place one of the ladders to support one end of the drywall, and then somehow get under the 4' by 8' sheet and lift it in place.  This first step is usually the biggest physical challenge.  After it's up in the air and stable, lifting it the remaining distance up can be done bit by bit.  I put the first two whole sheets up using slightly different techniques.

The first (above) used the 8' ladder and the prop to start, then I added blocks of scrap wood under the prop and on top of the ladder, and added some clamps to help stabilize and raise the sheet.  The next levitation used the six-foot ladder placed on top of my stock of shingles (couple of feet high), and then the eight-foot ladder pulled in (with my foot) afterward.

Drywall should be supported all around its periphery, especially important for drywall on the ceiling.  I used wooden cleats for this between the joists, to support the drywall and lock adjacent sheets together.  Attached before the next course of drywall goes up, of course.

But also for plywood.  I substituted a 4x8 sheet of 19/32" plywood for a sheet of drywall in the middle of the ceiling for added strength and stiffness.  The plywood also enhanced the connection of the old and new sections of the garage.  It also presented a slightly more difficult challenge getting it up in place.  Since I could securely screw a hook into the exact center of the plywood, I decided to use my skyhook to raise the plywood up to the ceiling.

First, put the skyhook up on top of the ceiling joists.

With the strap running down into the garage as close as possible to the middle of where the plywood would go.

Then hook onto the plywood and start cranking the winch.

And up it goes . . .

Then prop it up, clamp it, screw it.

The remainder of the ceiling consisted of partial sheets of drywall, which were much more manageable (lighter), and went up without any challenges.  Next would be the walls — insulation, electrical, and drywall.  But first I needed to install some plumbing inside of one of the walls, to wit, a 1/2" PEX line carrying softened water to a faucet to be used exclusively for washing my car. 

I don't run the relatively large volume of outdoor water (used for irrigation) through my water softener.  It would overwhelm it.  But that's the water I've been using to wash my car. Unfortunately, the city water here is extremely hard — highest in the country (like our electric rates and gasoline prices) and left mineral spots and streaks on the car, even after trying to dry it all off.  Hence the desire for a special outdoor faucet for car washing — very little water needed. 

The new line looked like this before being buried inside the wall.  PEX into a special right-angle shower fitting into a short piece of threaded brass pipe (a "nipple").

Outside it looks like this now.  There will be almost an inch of stucco applied to the outside of the sheathing (covered with roofing felt in the photo); the epoxy-soaked wood serves as a spacer.

I just used the soft water faucet to wash my car a couple of days ago, and the result is spotless. 😊

So after filling up the inside of the walls with insulation and other stuff, more drywall.

Then joint compound, and sanding, repeat.  Not so much fun, but not necessary to make as smooth as inside the house proper.  I like my garages, but . . .

And then — finally — the garage door jambs go on, attached with long lag screws.

And then paint, because it's much easier to paint before all the steel door rails go on.

You'll notice that I've only finished off the area impacted by the garage door.  The rest of the garage interior will be completed after the roof is done.  The next post will cover the installation of the garage door, the electric door opener, and windows.

Bonus photos (banana tree):  I brought home a baby banana tree last fall, put it in a pot for the winter, then moved it into the ground when it warmed up a little.  It needs lots of water and fertilizer, and now that there is more sun and it is warmer, it's been growing fast — adding a new huge leaf every few days.  It's now almost eight feet tall.  Banana trees grow up and produce bananas in a year or less, in a big bunch called a hand.  Just one hand, and then the tree dies.

This is what the hand/flower looks like on a commercial tree — very odd thing.

So while the banana tree is growing up, it sprouts baby "pups" out of the base of its trunk.  These pups then grow up to replace the parent tree.  You can also cut off these pups and transplant them.

This is my tree (it has two pups already).  Expecting (hoping for) bananas by the end of the year.  Hopefully the garage will be done by then.  Sigh.