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!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hall Bamboo Floor — Part 1

The bamboo floor in the master bedroom went down very quickly, but not so with the hall.  Just carpet in the bedroom, but tile in the hall.  I knew it would be unpleasant, ripping up all the ceramic tile with my trusty electric jack hammer, but it has been exceptionally so, and I have responded accordingly.  That is, to procrastinate. 

Another incentive to go slow was a further complication from my cataract eye surgery a couple of years ago.  My right eye vision has become blurry due to "posterior capsule opacification."  Or, the back of the membrane supporting my replacement lens has thickened and become cloudy — it's a complication that close to half of cataract surgery patients experience.  I go in for the minor laser surgical procedure to correct it on Monday, but while waiting for an appointment to confirm that diagnosis, I was somewhat distracted.  Sigh.

Anyway, the hall is three feet wide and thirty-six feet long.  Unlike the tile I removed elsewhere in the house, that was put down over vinyl sheet flooring (and therefore popped right off), this tile was mortared directly onto the concrete slab.  It resisted

I started at the foyer end, intending to work straight through to the garage end, but the spray of tiny tile and mortar bits, plus lots of dust, covered the foyer, living room and kitchen, so I abandoned that and jumped down further along the hall to a point where there were walls on both sides. 

Here's a photo showing where I started, and I put a piece of bamboo next to the foyer tile:

I took the photo after building a plastic-covered frame intended to confine the masonry bits as much as possible.  Here's a view down the hall, showing where I resumed ripping the tile up (and happily, the tile down there came up easier, often in big pieces).

I turned on the air-handler fan in the laundry room so it would tend to suck the dust down the hall and into a filter.  The system instructions warned against running the air handler while there was construction going on because the cement dust is corrosive and would damage the heat exchanger and also the metal electrostatic elements in the air cleaner.  I therefore placed a regular pleated paper filter temporarily over the air handler intake to catch the objectionable dust.

All went relatively smoothly until I neared the far end of the hall, and encountered tile that would not come off in big pieces, and barely in very small pieces.  As I blasted tile and mortar off a small section, I was reminded that I had made it to the part of the house that was originally the back half of the garage.  The new slab they poured to raise that part of the garage floor was not quite level with the house slab.  When I did the new laundry room, I had to pour floor leveler to raise the level even with the house side.  But out in the hall, the underlying concrete is rough, uneven.  In some places it is higher than the rest of the hall and close by it is lower.  When they put down the old tile, they compensated by making the mortar thinner or thicker.  Can't do that with the bamboo.

Nasty!  I'll either have to grind down the concrete (huge clouds of thick dust), or chip away at the slab with my jack hammer (ugh!).  And then make everything level with some sort of thin mortar.   So I made the command decision to ignore it and go back to ripping up the tile near the kitchen and living room that I had passed over.  That's when I built the plastic covered frame to contain the debris and dust.  (And that's where I am now.)

Going forward, I think I'll get the floor prepared for the first thirty feet or so and put down the bamboo that far, then move the plastic tent over the difficult last section and mount a new attack.  Last night, when my 8-month-old puppy decided to chew my jack hammer cord in two, I decided this project should be broken into two blog posts.  (Fortunately the cord wasn't plugged in when he sunk his teeth into it!)

Part 2 may end up being delayed until after the water bed frame is done.  Or it may end up becoming a three-parter.  Never can tell about these things.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Stucco Goes Up

That is, over the scar where the chimney had been.  It's been awhile since my last post because of all the rain.  Seems strange, that, since we've been in a severe drought for the last five years, but this year is an exception.  Nine inches of rain in January.  The historical average for January here in northern San Diego county is three inches.  And for the last few years we've gotten only about five inches total per year!  So far this year (fall through spring is our "rain" year — spring through fall we get nothing) we've had about fifteen inches (ten inches per year is the historical average).

Anyway, the rain has kept the plastic over the wall where the chimney was, so I've been doing design work, and no stucco, but the rain ended and since then we've had our usual sunny mild weather.  So back to the physical stuff.

First, there was the matter of the gaping hole where the fireplace foundation had been.  I filled that with five bags of hand-mixed concrete.

Then I started on the prep work needed before the stucco could go up:

1) cut off the metal flashing that was around the chimney, using a metal cutting disc on my 4.5" angle grinder,

2) ground a bevel on the old stucco that surrounded the chimney, so the new stucco could bond and blend in with the old (I again used my angle grinder, but with a diamond masonry grinding wheel),

3) applied two layers of roofing felt over the plywood,

4) fastened a metal channel to the bottom of the wall, to define the bottom of the stucco and enable drainage of any water that happened to get behind the stucco, and

5) applied two layers of wire mesh to hold the stucco to the wall (using furring nails and staples).

Looked like this:

Here's a photo of the scratch (first) coat of stucco, and there's a section that has the second coat on.  They call it the scratch coat because it's "scratched" to enhance the physical bond with the second coat.  There is a special tool to create rectangular grooves in the wet stucco (wait too long and you get pretty much no depression at all). 

And here's the photo of the stucco up (still wet), with my signature "rustic" texture.  Typically, a third thin, colored finish coat would go on next, but I opt instead to apply two coats of a special elastomeric (flexible) stucco paint that bridges any cracks that may develop, and provides enhanced waterproofing.  It makes getting a uniform color easy, especially since the stucco has been going on piecemeal over a period of years.  That special paint can't go on until the stucco has cured for at least 30 days. 

I was going to build the waterbed base next, but the bamboo flooring for the hallway is stored in the bedroom, so I may tear up the ceramic tile off the hall floor, and put the bamboo down next.  But that's a very dusty proposition.  We shall see.