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!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Update . . .

Work on the new concrete foundation for the garage extension has been slow, so I'm doing an update, rather than wait for what could be months (or years) until the project is done.  First, it took some time to get a company here to remove the part of the old concrete driveway directly in front of the garage.  Second, the ground underneath was something like asphalt in hardness, so digging has been slow (and in discovering a way to blast through it, I did a bad thing to my usually robust lower back — which halted digging for almost a week).  And third, it's been hot here, and unusually humid, so I've limited my daily excavating work.

Here's how the concrete removal went.  First, sawing up the concrete with a big diamond saw:


And then, breaking up the concrete with a monster jack hammer mounted on a Bobcat:


Which produced a lot of rubble that was loaded into a big dump truck:


And by lunchtime, it was all gone!


I then mounted a big tarp over the work area to provide some shade for my digs:


Meanwhile, I designed the foundation, the stud wall that will go on top (details of which were needed to locate the anchor bolts in the foundation wall), then I designed the forms to be used to pour the concrete.  The footings, foundation wall, and form design dictated the depth and size of the trench required.  I bought a laser level to make sure the depth was accurate all around the future wall, and then after laying out the dimensions on the ground with string, proceeded to dig (or tried to dig).

I started with a mattock (a type of pick with a flat blade), but that mostly just bounced off the rock-like soil.  Then attacked it with my 20-pound electric demolition hammer, using a three-inch wide bit.  That cut through the petrified dirt.  Here is a photo of my digs:


And a better photo of the trench.  The deeper narrower trench (16" wide, and 8+" deep) is for the footings.  This lower trench will contain the concrete without the need for separate wooden forms, possible because of the hard ground.


The wooden forms will sit on top of the deeper trench, supported by the wide shelf of the upper trench.  The foundation wall will be 24" high and 8" thick.  The concrete for both footings and foundation wall will be poured on the same day, with a break to pour the new front porch slab.  That will give the footings time to start firming up before filling the foundation wall forms to the top.

So now more digging to do, and forms to build.

Because the heat makes digging difficult, I have started on the less taxing kitchen countertop fabrication project, working on both projects every day.  That works well because I can't put my car in the garage until the concrete work is done, and the countertop project fills the garage.  The countertop is, again, going to be an epoxy lamination of maple strips.  The countertop is 12.5 feet long, and 30" deep.  I've just finished building the form on which the gluing will be done (lots of clamps will be required).  It's 13 feet long, and needed to be precisely level and flat, so the countertop will emerge from gluing perfectly flat and straight, and therefore fit without issues on the kitchen cabinet.  The jig/form looks like this:


So next post will likely feature these two projects.

Sasha, most recently rescued stray: