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, October 21, 2014

New Laundry/mechanicals Room - Part 5

Even slower going than I expected.  But in the end, progress.

The 2" ABS drain pipe descending into the concrete was of course the challenge.  But down I went, deeper and deeper.  Deep enough to finally start gluing together the horizontal drain pipes feeding from the two floor drains and the washing machine drain.  I needed to start assembling the system in order to measure how much deeper I needed to go down, and that turned out to be 3"—into solid concrete.

Another jack-hammer session and I was there.  I could saw off the pipe and glue on the first connecting "tee" fitting.

But first, I needed to remove the duct tape the original builders had wrapped around the pipe.  As I did that, I discovered an elbow fitting; my nice vertical pipe had made a right angle turn to horizontal!  I would not be able to attach my tee.  If the vertical pipe had only gone down another 1.5", I would be done.  No such luck.

I took a break and developed Plan B.  I would have to go down yet further into the concrete and tie into the horizontal drain, but first I needed to see what was down there, so more work for my demolition hammer.  I discovered the elbow was of the "long-turn" variety; it had a larger radius than a standard elbow.  If I replaced it with a standard elbow, I could gain a little more than an inch of the 1.5 that I needed.

And when I looked at my little collection of ABS drain pipe fittings, I noticed that I could gain another half-inch if I used "street" elbows (which have one male and one female end) instead of the standard elbows (with two female ends).  Hooray!  I could get my 1.5"!

All I had to do was blast out enough more concrete to be able to saw off the old long-turn elbow.  I also needed enough clearance to clean off the end of the horizontal pipe, so I could get a good glue joint to the new, smaller elbow.  That was not going to be easy, though, as the pipe was angling into the concrete side of the narrow deep trench, and I was using a big heavy demolition hammer to surgically blast away the concrete.  As I noted to my brother in an email, if I punctured the pipe, I would be screwed!

So of course I couldn't see what I was doing, and an electric jack hammer is no scalpel, so when I cleared away the debris, there was the hole.

The view didn't look like that when I did it.  The above photo was taken after I enlarged the 6" wide trench into a huge cavern.  By this time my excavation was 20" deep (did I mention through solid concrete?).

But there it was.  After cutting off the pipe behind the puncture, I started measuring and gluing the pieces of black plastic together, first connecting one side of the drain system, and then the other.

After that, it was the usual filling the hole with sand, some of the clay I took out, and a little of the concrete rubble.  This was done in layers, tamping the sand down and making sure the horizontal pipes had the proper slope, and the floor drains were fitted so they would be just slightly below the level of the finished floor.  Then it was time for concrete.  I ran out (typical) and had to buy another couple of bags to finish,  but it was finally done.

Well, not done done, of course.  Part of the floor still has old tile on it, and the underlying mortar.  And half of the floor (the original small garage-based laundry room) is about a half-inch lower than the house-based half, so that needs floor leveler.  And then tile.  And electrical, drywall, new ceiling, water supply lines, etc.  Sigh.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Slow Going

Well, there has been some progress—good progress, really—just not fast progress.  Trenching in concrete is not something that flies.  But this is where I am:

That stud compartment in the back (the black segment, without the yellow insulation, is where the drain pipe for the washing machine will go.  The 2" ABS drain pipe will go down through the bottom of the wall and run along the trench, and then empty into the vertical pipe (in the middle of the trench, where it makes the turn).  Unfortunately, that vertical drain pipe is located in the foundation wall, meaning it's encased in concrete half-way to China (or at least as far down as I need to go).  It has to be cut off maybe 18" below the floor level in order to make the necessary connections.  Slow going.

Partway down that far trench, I have to put in a floor drain that will empty into the washing machine drain; the floor drain is for the condensate from the high-efficiency water heater (the one I haven't bought yet).  At the near end of the trench (not quite finished), there will be another floor drain; this one for the air-handler condensate drain, as well as the water softener back-flush drain.  All of this will be clearer as we proceed (in a month or six).

Much of the slowness has been due to the fact that the back (long) part of the trench had to be blasted out of what had once been the garage floor.  The garage floor was, of course, a concrete slab, maybe 4" thick.  When a prior owner decided to convert the back half of the garage into a bedroom, they had to raise the floor level another 4" or so to match the floor level in the rest of the house.  Meaning—they poured another concrete slab on top of the garage slab.  So I had to trench down through two slabs, one on top of the other.  As I said, slow going.

Unpleasant work, but I've been approaching it as if it was a hobby, a few hours a day.  Cut the boundaries with the diamond bladed circular saw—huge amounts of cement dust.  Blast away at the concrete with my beloved (but heavy) electric demolition hammer—also lots of dust.  Then down on my knees in the room full of dust to dig out the debris and haul it outside by the bucketful.  Knee pads, ear plugs, gloves, full-face respirator, and a hood.

The full-face respirator is incredible!  Highly recommended.  Keeps all the bad stuff out of eyes and lungs, and the faceplate doesn't fog up, even when the sweat is pouring down my face (yes, breaking concrete is good cardio).

Can't keep that up all day—my knees won't take the bending, so I've filled in my breaks with other new hobbies, to wit, designing and building violins.  Well, yes, odd, since I don't play the violin.  In fact, I've never even seen one in person, but I like to learn completely new things.  Interesting community, violin builders are (ain't the internet wonderful!).  The remodeling continues to take up too much space to build violins yet (what with the gutted rooms piled with junk—er, valued possessions—waiting to find their places in the finished house), so I've just been designing.

Perhaps violins are not so strange, because I did actually build high-end electric guitars for some years (and I never played those either).

No room to build a violin (yet), but I did just finish building a violin bow yesterday.  That was, how shall we say, a learning experience.  Not sure what I'm going to do with it just yet.

That nice black thing in the bottom photo (called a "frog," with the abalone dot with the circle around it), was store-bought—that I didn't make.  The "stick"—the long part that looks like a stick, is made from cocobolo.  Every other violin bow in the world (pretty much) is a plain straight stick all the way to the back end.  My bow has a "pinky perch" at the back end, over the frog.  Self-respecting violinists, who have been practicing for hours a day for years, have developed pinkies with the strength, dexterity, and coordination to stay on a plain stick without assistance.  When I tried it, no such luck (and I've read that other newbies have the same problem, so the pinky perch is my contribution to violin bow ergonomics).  I expect it will remain a one-of-a kind.  Hmm.

Okay, in the evening I always try to spend some time working on Daughtry's World, my current novel-in-progress and the fourth in the Samsara science-fiction series.  I pretty much have the complete chronological narrative figured out, and the character arcs as well.  I have started putting together the scene outline—in other words, the structure of the novel from beginning to end.  Since this is a murder mystery, the book will most certainly not start at the chronological beginning of the events that led to the three linked murders.  The first scene is to be the assassination of the third victim, during which two of the three assassins end up dead (the victim definitely fought back!)

In the next scene, Kevin Daughtry (the investigator, and past Samsara character), is pulled from his regular posting to investigate the murders.  He doesn't know why they picked him, and his contact (another past Samsara character) won't tell him much.  And it goes from there, with flashbacks filling in the story as Daughtry solves the riddles of the mystery, with a little help from his friends.  It's been slow going for me, but the process should now go faster.

The story will have its own arc, but it will also fill in further pieces of the greater arc of the whole Samsara series (and that world).  My intent is to ensure that Daughtry's World can be read by itself, but obviously people who have read the first three novels in the series will get more out of it.  I try to put a lot of depth in my stories (I want every word to have significance); if a reader skims, he or she will miss much of the experience.  Many may find that a second reading is even more gratifying than the first, especially after taking in one or more of the other novels in the series.

Next time, the laundry room drain pipes go in.