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 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.

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