Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Magic Numbers

I've lived in the 415 - San Francisco, California - for the last 18 years. When I bought the 7,650 sq ft lot that I will soon call home, its address was listed as 0 Talbot Avenue, because it had never been developed. Since my next door neighbors are at number 437 and number 463, I had to choose an address somewhere in-between. Originally I chose 445, but those numbers didn't sing to me. Then it hit me - my house would be number 451, because those are The Magic Numbers.

The stainless steel numbers above match those that famed modernist architect Richard Neutra specified for his houses in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. They're designed to float slightly off the surface and cast subtle shadows, and I picked them up while they were on sale at DWR (still hideously expensive, but at least they were on sale).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Thoroughly Modern Garage Door

The Minnie House, now sporting an aluminum garage door from CHI
This is a new 3D render I just completed in Home Design Studio Pro, featuring my choice of garage door, the very modern and imaginatively-named Model 3295 from C.H.I., in clear anodized aluminum with etched tempered glass. Coming soon, from Sousa Garage Doors in Santa Clara.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Slab, Beautiful Slab

On a spectacular and steaming hot day, the Giants' concrete truck returned to the hill, and Hector and co. poured the basement slab. It is truly a thing of beauty. Since a picture's worth a thousand words, I'll let the photos do the talking.

And here's a bonus video of the basement floor receiving the hand trowel treatment:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ready to Pour Concrete

Pex tubing laid over the tied steel in the basement
Last Friday Irwin the Radiant Heat Guy came over and laid the pex tubing over the top of the rebar in the basement, and now we're ready to pour the concrete for the slab. That's going to happen tomorrow - Tuesday - morning. Can't wait! After the pour, the next step will be to build up the rest of the basement wall ICFs, and then pour those prior to starting work on the main floor.

Glorious weather again in Pacifica
 Just as I was getting a little concerned at the slow progress, I got a new construction schedule from Rich the Contractor and we are now magically back on track for completion just before Christmas - which would be brilliant.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Minnie House is in the News (actually, the Trib)

This week saw the publication of the first article about The Minnie House, in the Pacifica Tribune.

The Minnie House shapes up on Talbot Drive
By Jane Northrop
Staff Writer

Futuristic and sleek, a new home on Talbot Drive is sure to turn heads.

Steve Rapport, a master in martial arts who owns and teaches in Hwa Rang Kwan Martial Arts Center in San Francisco, is building his dream house in Pacifica.

Rapport fell in love with the designs of the prefabricated LV series by architect Rocio Romero.

"If I was designing a house for myself, it would look like this. I love modern and mid-century design, and this house has the open design and clean lines that define both styles. The architect, Rocio Romero, also designed the 1200 sq. ft. living space so that all of the living space is on one side, with huge sliding doors, while all of the utilities are on the other side. Because you have to be energy efficient and Title 24 compliant, you can only use so much glass, and my house will make the maximum use of the available glass and of the magnificent Pacifica view," Rapport said.

The house is highly energy efficient and green.

"A prefab house is inherently green with regards to the construction process as it eliminates much of the associated waste," Rapport said.

Low-E glass will be used, which is expected to block harmful UV rays, protect furniture from fading and lower energy costs by 35 percent. In addition, Rapport plans to install solar panels on a reflective roof. The house will exceed recommended insulation levels for the walls, the basement and the roof. Rapport is using insulated concrete forms for the foundation and basement walls. Kitchen counters will be made of Paperstone, which is made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. The paint will be a No-VOC product. The floors will be bamboo, which is renewable and an inherently green product. The deck, ramp and front porch will be LockDry aluminum decking, a completely maintenance free product that is also regarded as green, since it lasts a lifetime and thus doesn't require repair or replacement.

The heating system will be of the radiant floor variety, which is again highly energy efficient. The radiant system Rapport will be using is called UltraFin, another aluminum product with green credentials.

Rapport's home will have two bedrooms, a full basement with a two car garage and another living space.

After breaking ground on June 24, Rapport expects the construction to be finished the first week of 2011.

He fell in love with Pacifica as much as he fell in love with the design of his home.

"I thought about buying a house in Pacifica many years ago, because I love the place and as a displaced Englishman, the name itself sounds so romantic and wonderful. It's so close to the city, with no bridges, and I can be at work in San Francisco in less than 20 minutes. Plus, it's next to the ocean, and my lot on Talbot has magnificent ocean views -- something that, as a Londoner, is also quite exotic," he said. "Talbot is also quiet and warm and sunny, and the neighbors are all amazingly friendly. It's a true community, and again that's not really something I've experienced in the big cities I've lived in."

The project has been on the back burner for two years while Rapport finally secured a construction loan by loan arranger Donald Henry.

But now that construction is underway, Rapport is enjoying the warm welcome he received from Talbot neighbors.

They have voluntarily taken his yard waste to the dump and lent him tools whenever he needs them. He's been enjoying the neighborhood cafes -- Salada Beach and Cafe D Capo. He took his kickboxing class for runs along Sharp Park Beach and the golf course and plans many more such adventures. He enjoys hiking the hills of Pacifica, as well.

He's also a professional photographer who loved shooting music celebrities in the 80s and 90s, but he has now turned his attention to travel, landscapes and flower photography, and likes that just as well.

After researching all the prefab homes on the market he settled on a design by Rocio Romero.

"Rocio's first design was a house for her mother back home in Laguna Verde, Chile -- hence the LV home. She later turned this design into a green, modern prefab house, of which she has now probably sold somewhere between 70-80, many right here in California," he said.

The home, called The Minnie House, is named for Rapport's mom, Mina "Minnie" Rapport.

"My mum grew up in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland and was an Auschwitz survivor who passed away just more than two years ago back home in England. After she passed I sold her house in Manor Park in East London. I gave some money to my sister to buy an apartment in Bow, very close to the new Olympic Stadium, and put the rest towards buying the 7650 sq. ft. lot on Talbot Avenue. The Minnie House will be a living monument to my mum, who was a true survivor in every sense of the word," Rapport said.

Anyone can follow the progress of the build at Rapport's blog -- -- and on Twitter @MasterSteveR.

Get Back in the Kitchen and Make Me Some Pie

IKEA Nutid Glass Ceramic Cooktop
Just picked up the brand new Nutid Glass Ceramic Cooktop for $599.00 from IKEA. It's going to look amazing when it's installed in the slate black Paperstone counter top.

Paperstone Counter Tops
These are on order from EcoHome Improvement in Emeryville, who will also install them. So what is Paperstone?

"PaperStone® is a sustainable composite material made from 100% post-
consumer recycled paper, PetroFree™ phenolic resins and natural pigments.
As PaperStone® ages it will assume a pleasing, lustrous, seasoned appearance that is an inherent characteristic of the material. This is a natural progression of a natural product, resulting in a beautifully soft, rich patina. The aging process takes time and, much like fine hardwood, a deep luster will develop in areas of heavier use."

Lovely. And they really do feel organic and quite sexy to the touch.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Pretty Patchwork of Pink Poly and Steel

Polystyrene insulation under the basement rebar
Although it was a quiet day at the house - in fact, when we showed up the gates were locked and no-one was around - there's still been some progress since I was last there on Monday. The compacting was completed, weatherproofing sheets were laid, and sand was spread on top of the sheeting. After that, as you can see, polystyrene insulation (the pink stuff in the photo above) was laid on the basement side only, since it's there to ensure that heat from the radiant floor goes up, but not down (there won't be a radiant floor in the garage).

Steel is tied, awaiting pex tubing and then... concrete!
Finally, rebar was criss-crossed over the length and breadth of the basement, and the steel was tied in preparation for the next concrete pour, which was originally scheduled for tomorrow. Unfortunately we weren't ready for Irwin the Radiant Guy, who was supposed to come and lay the tubing yesterday, and now he can't make it until Friday, so we had to move the steel inspection to next Monday, and the concrete pour to Tuesday morning. This third pour will lay the basement slab and fill more of the basement wall ICFs, a couple of rows of which were laid while all the other work was going on.

Can't wait to pour the slab and finally walk on the basement floor!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Base Rock! Sand! Plumbing! Lego!

Lights! Action! Music!
Busy day today. Base rock was delivered this morning, then sand, and the plumbers came in to do the rough-in for the sewer. A layer of base rock was laid out across the basement, and was being compacted while the plumbers dug a trench and laid the 4" sewer pipe.

Plumbing - it's a thing of beauty!
The PVC sheeting for the vapor barrier was also laid in the garage, and sand was dumped on top. This will all be spread out before the rebar is tied. And while all of this activity was going on, one of Hector the Framer's guys was adding more Lego blocks to the basement wall. Yes, it's a thrill a minute down at The Minnie House!

Plumbing trenches, base rock, compactor - an all action Thursday

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gold Dirt, Compacted

Compacting the gold dirt for the basement slab
This week saw the long-awaited return of Ken the Excavator, who began the task of moving away the brown dirt, moving in the gold dirt, and compacting everything so that we can prepare to pour the basement slab next week. As you can see, the dirt is hosed down, so that it can be compacted.

Yesterday Hector did the compacting with a small hand compactor, which looked like a noisy, slow, tiring and quite unpleasant task, but then we ordered a much bigger and very cool remote controlled compactor (see the movie above), which sped things up no end.

Next up will be the base rock, due to be delivered in the morning. Over that will go plastic weatherproofing, followed by a layer of sand. The basement will also get a layer of polystyrene insulation, to prevent the radiant heating system from wasting energy by heating the ground. Then rebar will be criss-crossed over the entire area. Next Tuesday the radiant heating guy will lay pex tubing above the rebar on the basement side only, and then on Wednesday we'll bring back the concrete trucks and pour the basement slab.

The garage, in all its compacted glory

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's Lovely, But Is It Big Enough?

Smeg 24" Linear Design Stainless Steel Oven
Found this bargain on Craigslist and drove over to Oakland yesterday to pick it up for $1000.00 from the nice folks at Gourmet Appliance Outlet. It retails for not much under $2K, so it's quite a bargain. The only problem is that, after I got it home, I realized that I'd bought a 24" oven to install in a 30" base cabinet in my kitchen island. Is that going to be a problem? I guess I'll find out, eventually!

I also found this very attractive vintage bench in a consignment for store here in San Francisco for $100.00. I'm not sure exactly where it will go - maybe I'll use it as a coffee table in the second bedroom.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Love You Wall-E!

Today was a good day. The forms came off, and I was able to see my very first wall-e, the huge driveway retaining wall. When we stucco the basement walls, we'll stucco this side of the retaining wall as well, and eventually we also have to put a guardrail on top.

This photo shows where the front door will be (to the left of the retaining wall, above the vertical rebar in the foreground). Once we build the front-facing foundation wall, we will backfill almost to the top of the retaining wall.

In the picture below you can see how the house is really starting to take shape, and for that I am both thrilled and grateful.

Next up is the return of Ken the Excavator on Monday, and he'll be moving dirt around, backfilling against the foundation walls, and compacting the dirt. Once that's done we'll start working on the basement slab. Am I excited? What do you think?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Giants' Step for the Minnie House

Root Root Root for the Giants!
The concrete trucks were out in force today, and whaddya know, one of them was truly a Giant truck. This made my day as much as the fact that we were pouring the foundation walls! Let's Go Giants!

Smoothing out the top of the driveway retaining wall
By the time I left the site, all of the foundation walls were already poured, as was the driveway retaining wall. One more truck had just arrived, to top up the foundation walls all the way to where the basement slab will soon sit.

Foundation walls all poured!
What's on deck? Tomorrow the forms will come off the central foundation wall and the retaining wall, and maybe also from the ICFs. Nothing will happen on Friday, and then on Monday Ken the Excavator will return to begin backfilling against the foundation walls, in preparation for laying the steel for the basement slab.

Middle basement foundation wall
Once the rebar is criss-crossed and tied, Irwin the Radiant Floor Guy will need to come out and lay pex tubing into the slab before we pour it.

We're also in the process of getting quotes for different roofing systems (modified bitumen is in the budget at the moment, but I'd like a Dura-Foam roof if it's affordable), and for solar panels. Right now I'm leaning towards leasing them from Solar City, but maybe I could buy them if I can get a separate low-cost loan. We'll have to see about that.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Filling out the Forms

Reaching ever upwards, the forms for the soaring driveway retaining wall are almost complete, and the #5 rebar is also gradually extending both vertically and horizontally - vertically for the basement walls, and horizontally for the basement slab.

Having passed our second inspection this morning (yippee!), we are now ready to pour some concrete. Not tomorrow, as I'd hoped, but on Wednesday morning, and I plan to be on site to record that thrilling moment. As far as I know (which is not very far!), we'll be pouring the foundation walls (below the basement slab), the middle structural wall support, and the driveway retaining wall. After leaving the concrete to cure for a day, we should be able to remove the forms on Thursday and actually see the first above-grade wall.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Another Brick in the Wall

Some progress this week as the foundation wall slowly began to take shape. The ICFs and the rebar are now in place for the next pour, which is scheduled for Tuesday, pending tomorrow's inspection. The pour will complete the foundation walls up to the basement slab, including the structural wall down the centre of the house (which will be all poured concrete, no ICFs, as you can see from the picture).

The driveway retaining wall now has forms and steel in place (photo to come), and will also be poured this week.

All in all it's just another brick in the wall.