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!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New Laundry/Mechanicals Room - Part 4

I had my second cataract surgery a week ago, so another week before I'm cleared to start doing heavy demolition (i.e. trenching through concrete).  I'm in no hurry.  I did manage to get some of that work done before the latest surgery, to wit, running a new drain line from the future location of the guest bathroom vanity sink, to an  existing vertical drain pipe (that had been used for the old master bathroom vanity).  Confused?

Before I did that, in an effort to contain the thick clouds of concrete dust produced by the diamond bladed circular saw slicing through concrete, I built the wall that closes off the opening between the home theater and the new laundry room.  Photos taken 1) from the home theater, and 2) from inside the laundry room.

Then I put plastic sheet over this new stud wall and started cutting through the concrete.  The slab was only about 3" thick where the new drain pipe needed to go, but it quickly got thicker, more than a foot thick, as I worked my way toward the foundation wall of the house proper.  I discovered that beyond that (what was originally the garage), there was no foundation wall under that slab edge, and the slab was only about 4" thick.  Good news for when I get around to trenching for the new washing machine drain line.

Once that new trench was filled with concrete, I could build the part of the laundry room wall that separates it from the new guest bathroom.  The new wall is flush with the back wall of the laundry room, and provides more area for the guest bathroom, needed for a new vanity (and some storage).  That new wall segment will also house a new electrical subpanel, replacing the old, physically smaller subpanel box that was in the old, smaller laundry room (it's about five feet to the left of where the new panel is).  You can see the new panel in this photo, just sitting in place for the photo.  The old smaller panel, besides being cramped, is located behind where the washer and dryer will be going, which is a no-no.  The area in front of electrical panels has to be open.

You might also notice that the door leading to my only current bathroom is now behind a stud wall.  That door, and the whole wall it is in, will be removed (soon), and a new pocket door will be installed between that bathroom and the home theater (which will also serve as the guest bedroom).  Until that happens, access to the bathroom will entail sidling between the studs.  Good thing I'm thin!

Monday, September 8, 2014

My New Oven is Operational!

After more than a year without a real oven, my wait is over.  After making the electrical connections, I put my new oven to the test.  No more store-bought bread, no more frozen pizza!

I'm now recovering from cataract surgery on my right eye, and expect to have the same procedure done on my left eye within a few weeks (all that time out on the water in the bright sun).  No heavy lifting allowed, so breaking through concrete to run new drain pipes will have to wait a little while longer.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The New Kitchen - Part Three

My brother just came for his short visit today; I had three lifting tasks ready for him: 1) getting a new heavy jointer (big power tool) out of the back of my car, 2) lifting the new large and heavy living room window into the opening I had prepared just for this occasion, and 3) helping to lift my oven into the new kitchen cabinets I just built.  The making of the kitchen cabinets had moved to the top of the priority list after I learned he was coming (three weeks notice).

I had been doing conceptual design work for quite some time, but I still needed to decide on some specific dimensions and put them to paper.  I prefer to build cabinet bases separately, make them all nice and level, so that after that it is just a matter of plopping the cabinet cases on top of the base.  I am making the bases out of 2 x 8s, which makes the bases nominally 7.5" tall, but during leveling on the un-level concrete floor, I removed up to a half-inch of that height.

Stock bases are typically recessed 3" from the cabinet faces, and so are mine.  While my bases are about 7" high, stock kitchen cabinets generally have a much lower toe-kick (about 3"), but I've found that my toes tend to kick the bottom edge of stock cabinets, so I wanted more height for my big feet.  Stock cabinet bases are also made from 3/4" stock, but I wanted mine to be sturdier.  The base was secured to the studs in the wall, and also screwed down to the concrete floor.  Overkill?  Maybe, but we have earthquakes out here.

I was making two cabinets — one for the wall oven and the other adjacent one would house the microwave.  Also lots of drawers beneath the ovens, and above the ovens, slide-out shelves (like sideways drawers).  These are big cabinets, 28" deep, and tall.  I put the car out of the garage to make space for cutting out the pieces and assembly.  The cases are made from 3/4" cabinet-grade plywood, with 1/2" plywood backs.  All the pieces are glued together with tongue and groove joints, biscuits, and plywood lugs supporting structural shelves.

White plastic laminate was put on the side that will show; the plastic laminate also went on the microwave oven shelf.  When the cases were finished, I placed them on the base and lined everything up, then screwed them together, to the base, and to the studs in the wall and to the overhead soffit.  Not going anywhere.

With the cases securely in place, I applied 3/4" solid maple facing to the plywood edges, and applied three coats of satin polyurethane to the maple.  I finished connecting the electrical receptacle in the microwave cubby, and drilled a hole for the cable from the oven to the compartment above, where the junction box will go (connects to the cable from the breaker box — 30 amp, 240 volt circuit).

I still have to build all the drawers for the two cabinets (and lots more cabinets for the rest of the kitchen), but once I make the electrical connections, I will finally be able to bake again!