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!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Workshop — Part 3

Work on the workshop windows/electrical is done (except for outside painting).  I won't finish the room until most of the rest of the house has been completed, because it's going to be a hobby room (building instruments, etc.), and getting the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedroom done takes precedence over hobbies.  When that time comes, I will be installing a new floor (interlocking textured plastic tiles), work bench, and storage. 

Since my part 2 post, I continued applying stucco in the outside, and drywall on the inside.  In the photo, there is one section of wall without drywall, waiting for the 6" exhaust vent to be installed, which could not be done until the stucco was complete.

And here that is, with the last batch of stucco still wet.  I inserted a circular foam plug in the wall where the exhaust vent would go, and stuccoed around that so as not to have to cut a hole through the stucco when it dried. 

This is a closeup of the vent on the outside.

Once that was in, the last piece of drywall went on, joint compound applied and sanded (not my favorite thing), and the wall painted.  At that point, the electrical receptacles could be installed and cover plates attached, and that circuit switched on.  For the last year (?) I have relied on a 50' heavy-duty extension cord run from the home theater for power in the workshop, so this was a nice event.  Six new 120 volt (and one 240 volt) 20-amp receptacles.

After that, the window was trimmed out, nail holes spackled, and that painted.  Here's a halfway "before" photo and two "afters."

I now have a rough schedule for future work, based largely on seasonal temperatures: 

1) kitchen cabinets - October,
2) new water supply system - November - January,
3) master bathroom - December - March, and
4) new heat pump and ducting - April. 

Various other smaller projects will be done along the way. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Workshop — Part 2

First, I don't think there was officially a "Workshop — Part 1" post, but I did say something about installing new florescent ceiling lights in there, so close enough. 

Second, I finished the floor and baseboards in the north half of the pottery studio, and took a photo today.  This part of the studio will be where the pottery wheel is located, and shelves for the new pots to sit while drying, etc.  The other half of the studio is where the kiln will be, counter space for applying glazes, lots of drawers for storage, and of course the sink for cleaning up.  Back in the wheel half, there will be some built-in shelves to the left of the wheel, and also a built-in car stereo, since music frequently seems to be a part of pottery studios. 

Third, back to the workshop.  To recount, this post deals with removing two old ill-placed and inferior windows with one new one in a different location, to wit, in the center of the south wall.  To start, I removed the old drywall where new electrical receptacles are going, where the new window will be, and around the old two windows.  This is the first part of that process:

A new low workbench (designed for sitting) will go along this south wall.  I'm installing several 120 volt receptacles and one 240 volt receptacle that will be a little higher than the workbench surface.  Here are the first boxes going in.  The lower blue box is a junction box.  These 20-amp circuits originate in the laundry room subpanel.

Here's the first old window laid bare.  This room was originally converted from the back of the garage to a bedroom, and the windows added.  Rather than properly restructure the wall to support the window and the roof above it, the contractor just cut a big hole in the wall and stuck the window in.  There should be a full height stud on both sides of the window, and then a jack stud just inside that to support the header running over the top of the window (to support the roof over the width of the window).  None of this!  I was shocked!  And the "header" was undersized, and not even fastened to the studs above it.  I can't begin to describe how bad this is :-(

In this following photo, I have added new full-height studs to the existing upper and lower ends of the old studs.  I left those in, because the stucco is fastened to those elements — but only by staples!  No nails, no screws!  More shock!  I've also framed for the new window, using the proper structural elements.

I should note (again) that the original builders did not fasten any sort of plywood sheathing to the studs, to provide strength and a solid foundation for the stucco.  They just stretched some wire across the framing, applied roofing felt on top of that, then wire mesh, then the stucco.  I'm using plywood to cover the old window holes, and cutting down the studs to 3" width, so with the added 1/2" plywood, the base for the new stucco will be flush with the old studs.

Here's a photo of the wall with the new Andersen window installed.  I used a circular saw with a diamond masonry blade to cut out the big square of stucco to make the opening for the new window.  At the left of this photo, you can see the second old window that will be removed. 

And from the outside:

When I removed the drywall from around the second window, I discovered the structural deficiencies were even worse than with the first window.  Not only were the tops and bottoms of the old studs not fastened to the rudimentary window frame, they were not even touching!  The top:

And the bottom:

This photo (above) also shows the old vent for the garage that was not removed during the conversion, but simply drywalled over on the inside.

Here is the first coat (scratch coat) of stucco going on the outside of where the first old window was:

And further along in the process, with the stucco complete around the new window and over the old window opening:

And finally, where I am now, with the second window opening sheathed and just about ready for stucco.

I still have to remove the old square ventilation vent and fill that space in.  There's also a circular opening at the lower left of the window; that is for an 6" exhaust vent for the hood over the three cat litter boxes — getting rid of the dust and odors.  The blower for that is motion activated.

The next steps (after stucco) will be to finish insulating the wall, apply drywall, and trim out the new window on the inside.  Add two coats of elastomeric stucco paint on the whole wall outside after the new stucco has cured for a month.  I'm also going to be finishing the baseboard installation in the south half of the pottery studio.

I took delivery of a truckload of plywood and drywall today, so I will soon be starting to build the rest of the kitchen cabinets.  I'll have Home Depot fabricate and install the Corian countertop after those cabinets are finished.  Then kitchen sink, cooktop, and dishwasher.  Unfortunately, the sink and dishwasher will not be operable until I finish the new water supply system (waiting for cooler weather for that, when work in the attic will be tolerable).

Progress, bit by bit.