Monday, February 28, 2011

First Order of Business

I'll spare you the photographic evidence, but today was truly memorable: the plumbers turned on the cold water supply, and for the first time ever at The Minnie House, I was able to point percy at the porcelain.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to make my first cup of tea. Jolly good!

Totally Floored

Working hard to finish the inside of the house by Friday so that I can move in on Saturday. That's just six days away. Can this really be true? Is this really happening?

The outside may well still be a mud patch and I probably won't have a driveway or an entryway and there won't be any landscaping, but as long as the city says it's OK I won't let any of that prevent me from moving in as soon as possible.

The plastic shroud has been removed from the kitchen and the stainless steel Smeg oven, IKEA fridge/freezer and Kraus undermount sink are shining forth. While the kitchen is nearing completion, the plinth is a problem as there's 6" from floor to base of cabinets, but IKEA plinths are only 4" high. Not sure how it will be resolved - but it will be resolved.

After three days of hard work the floor installers have gone, leaving behind them a beautiful upstairs floor and staircase, and a laminate floor in the basement that completely changes its ambience. Now, instead of a basement, it looks and feels like a luxurious living room. What a difference a floor makes.

The lighting is not quite 100% finished, but it should be after the electrician works his magic on the remaining bits and pieces tomorrow morning, while the carpenter nails down the baseboards and the Home Depot door installer fits the bi-fold doors to the two closets in the second bedroom.

While all this finish work swirls around me, I'm frantically cleaning everything in sight, bagging up trash, recycling cardboard boxes and even hanging my pictures on the walls. It looks like home already, and there are still six days to go...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Still Raining, Still Dreaming

Today marks eight months since we broke ground on The Minnie House. The house is so close to being finished that I could move in next week. And yet...

Comcast guy goes up the pole to hook up high speed cable internet
The driveway is still a bloody muddy mess with an open trench. Since it keeps raining, I'll have to just keep dreaming about the day I move in.

At least I'll be able to keep dreaming at high speed, now that I finally, and not without considerable pain and angst, have my 20mbps Comcast cable internet.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Wish You Wood

African Roma Walnut flooring in the bedroom
A good day. A very good day. The installers from SimpleFloors showed up on time, laid out and cut the Royal Walk acoustic underlayment in mere minutes, and finished floating the glorious African Roma Walnut in the bedroom and closet before lunch.

The control center for an underground lair. Or for the radiant heat system. Or something.
These guys don't hang around. By 4pm they had finished the entire upstairs, with the exception of the spare bedroom, which will be done in the morning. I know I'm biased, but to my eyes the Simple Floor looks Simply Amazing.

Base rock for the gas trench
Jeff and his crew from Sewers R Us returned this morning to pour a truckload of base rock into the water and gas trenches and compact the hell out of everything with a Jumping Jack  prior to pouring and flattening steaming hot asphalt, leaving the street free of gaping holes for the first time in weeks.

Only hours after starting and the guys have already nearly finished the living room
We've almost completed laying down the exceedingly expensive copper piping for both lines - domestic and fire sprinkler - and the water line was approved by the city today. If I can get the other line approved by the fire inspector we can go ahead and backfill the trench, which I'd love to get done before the rain starts up again some time tomorrow.

The Master Bedroom in all its woody glory

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Copper Feel

Jeff from Sewers R Us digs the water trench across the driveway
I learned something today: copper is REALLY expensive. The plumbers claimed not to know there would be two water meters (one for the domestic supply, and a separate one for the fire sprinkler system) and thus two water lines that had to be run from the meters to the house. Which, of course, meant that there would be (yet another!) massive upcharge for running the extra line.

That upcharge would be $35.00 per foot for copper, and still $25.00 per foot for plastic, and we figured that the run would be at least 45 feet, so weren't not talking chump change.

While Frank and his buddy from North Coast Country Water tapped the main and ran 1 1/2" copper to the two new meters, one of the guys who was doing the trenching said if I bought the copper from Home Depot, he'd run it to the house for $300.00. Sure, why not. I drove to Home Depot, where I found out that 1 1/2" copper pipe sells for the princely sum of $7.70 per foot, which is pretty damned expensive, but at least when all is said and done I'll 'only' have to find an extra $800.00 instead of another $1600.00.

Another shock to the system came courtesy of Hector, who had agreed to install the 'bargain' Ronbow corner shower that I bought from Craigslist some 18 months ago in the basement bathroom. It turns out that the shower, which is no longer in production and for which no parts are available, is missing one of its two sliding doors. And it has two bottom rails and no top rail. File this particularly juicy problem under "To be resolved..."

Fortunately I decided a few weeks ago to adopt "It is what it is" as my pithy and practical go-to phrase for construction-related bollocks, so despite all of these seemingly unending setbacks and snafus I am able to continue living a relatively calm, if rather more hectic and frantic than normal, life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Satellite of Love

Now I not only have music around the house, but satellite TV too. The DirecTV guy came on Wednesday and set up the dish on the roof and hooked up an HD DVR for the living room and an HD receiver for the bedroom, and I signed up for Whole Home DVR service so that I can watch recorded shows on any TV in the house. Since the receivers are in the media closet I re-programmed the remotes to switch from IR to RF, and now that they work through the walls I can watch TV to my heart's content.

Nando the Electrician mounted this lovely Phrena pendant light, designed by Karl Zahn and bought from the MoMa store, on the ceiling above the stairway, and soon we'll also mount the spectacular Norm 69 lamp above the Danish modern dining table.

In other news, the frameless glass shower in the main bathroom is complete except for the plumbing fixtures, which will have to wait until after we finally bring water service to The Minnie House, whenever that may be as it's still raining.

Yesterday I picked up the fourteen missing Ultimate Blue 3" x 6" glass tiles from Daltile, and this morning Francisco completed the final piece of the tiling puzzle. The tiles look gorgeous, and when we eventually see the return of blue skies I'll be able to see the sky and the sea reflected in the backsplash.

The bathroom now also features a Duravit Multibox Series medicine cabinet sitting above a Duravit wall mounted vanity designed by Philppe Starck for the 1.2.3 collection. I'm actually not sure how I feel about the way the cabinets and the backsplash work together - I'd certainly be happier if the vanity and cabinet were the same width, which would better integrate the backsplash into the overall aesthetic.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This Muddy Life

Given a preference, I'd rather keep the ocean the other side of Highway 1, and out of my basement. Today was one of those evil stormy days when there's water everywhere, including many places where it wasn't invited. The garage entrance was like the shallow end in a kids swimming pool, and after sweeping the water out of the basement I had to dig my own makeshift muddy French drain in the pouring rain to encourage the deluge to escape down the side of the house instead of taking refuge inside it.

Much of the water encircling the house, and draining from the roof via the downspouts, ended up in the 8' x 5' x 3' dissipation pit, but that was itself almost full by early afternoon so I'm not sure what I'll see when I get to the house in the morning. I'm willing to bet that whatever it is, it will be wet and muddy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lights! Music! Action!

Sadly I still can't answer the $64,000 question: when are you moving in? I missed a very big window of good-weather opportunity to get the final trench dug and water service established, and now the winter storm season has returned with a vengeance we're stuck in a holding pattern. The hardwood floor, which would signify the end of construction, was to have been installed this week, but it's now postponed until the trench is dug and backfilled, the driveway is paved, and the concrete entryway is poured.

There's been progress galore in other areas, though. The installers from The Sliding Door Company came last week and set the aluminum sliders for the closet and the bedroom entrance, and they'll add the two swing doors for the bathroom and second bedroom after the floor is done; and Doty Stucco completed their work on the exterior, which is now a delightful dark gray color called Wrought Iron.

The house is secure since Jovanny and I (but mainly Jovanny) affixed a Trinity 788 biometric lock to the red basement door, which allows me to access the house using just my index fingerprint. Keyless entry is a beautiful thing!

Francisco the Tiler would also have been finished with his work had we not run out of the Ultimate Blue glass Daltiles we're using for the kitchen splashback. The 14 missing pieces are on special order and should be in stock on Thursday, which means the splashback will be completed this weekend.

As of today, courtesy of the guys from Crawford Satellite & Electronics, I'm no longer waiting for gift of sound and vision. Despite the absence of a network I somehow managed to cajole four zones of my Sonos digital music system into blasting tunes around the living room, basement and both bedrooms, while the three TVs are all sitting on their various walls awaiting the arrival of a signal from DirecTV that should arrive tomorrow afternoon.

As if that weren't enough, Mike and his crew from MC Electric have hooked up most of the interior and exterior can lights and many of the electrical outlets, and this coming weekend I plan to see The Minnie House lit up at dusk for the very first time.

We're close. Very close. Once this dreadful storm front passes and sunshine returns to Pacifica we can get this house finished, at long last.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Electric Avenue

The entire house is now a magnificent monochromatic marvel, featuring a Benjamin Moore paint color called Moonlight White: flat on the ceilings, eggshell on the walls, and semi-gloss on the doors and trim. There's just one exception. The fire door, between the garage and the basement, is bright red, evoking memories of the pillar boxes, phone booths, and Routemaster buses of my youth.

Two guys from PG&E showed up this morning to hook up the overhead electric power line, which proved a little more challenging than they imagined as they couldn't get their extension ladder close enough to the house. After I backfilled around 10 feet of the gas trench they were able to get a foothold for their ladder, complete the hook up, and disconnect the temporary power supply. Which paradoxically left us without any source of power until the electricians show up some time tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, I was finding new ways to get frustrated by my appalling lack of DIY skills, wasting an hour on a futile attempt to install a biometric fingerprint lock and a deadlock on the fire door. To cut a long story short, I need to buy a chisel so that I can try again tomorrow.

The kitchen is mostly shiny white now since I pulled the plastic covers off the wall cabinets and some of the island drawers, but I had a hiccup putting the little IKEA Grip handles on the drawers. The tops of the drawers are so close to the countertops that there's no room to pull the handles, and I'll have to make (yet another!) trip to IKEA to find a different solution.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Hang Over

See that lovely kitchen island? I didn't notice until yesterday afternoon, but there's something missing: a 10" overhang near the big windows, which was supposed to be the breakfast nook. I always imagined myself sitting there on a stool, eating breakfast whilst gazing out at the Pacific Ocean. Well, that's not going to happen now. The fabricator made the mistake (although I can't believe I didn't notice before) and is prepared to refund me the cost of the extra materials which I had to order a couple of weeks ago, so I'll just live with it the way it is. It's still cute.

Francisco the Tiler was back at the house on Saturday, completing the two showers, laying tile on the floor of the downstairs bathroom, and tiling the walls around the Duravit Happy D bath. I like the way it all looks so far. We also agreed that he would come back next week and lay the sea blue mosaic tile splashbacks in both bathrooms, and the dazzling glass Daltile splashback in the kitchen.

I spent most of the weekend working on the kitchen cabinets. I had no idea there was so much to do, but now there are soft-close dampeners on all of the drawers and doors, and all that remains is to add the missing bits and pieces that I still need to pick up from IKEA, followed by the minimalist steel Grip cabinet pulls.

The finishing line is in sight. Just hope no-one moves the goalposts.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Counter Culture

A busy couple of days. Doty Stucco spent yesterday applying the brown coat to the basement walls, and one week from now they'll return for the last time, to coat the same walls with an acrylic coating in a color called Wrought Iron from Benjamin Moore Paints, a dark gray that will contrast well with the shiny silver shell of The Minnie House. 

Bob the Gas Man arrived on cue yesterday as well, tapping into the gas main, setting the meter and running yellow plastic pipe down the trench to the side of the house. We're ready to switch on our gas service, but still awaiting the arrival of the 95% efficient Munchkin boiler, which may or may not be en route to the Bay Area from the East Coast, presumably hitchhiking slowly via the scenic route whilst enjoying the sights and sounds of rural America.

I kept myself busy, as usual, hanging the doors to the wall cabinets. They still need adjusting, and they're not really blue, they're high gloss white, as will be revealed when I peel the plastic covers off after the house is painted next week.

Today was the turn of Craig the Door Guy, who spent most of the day hanging the four flush, primed doors in the basement, and nailing on the casings. These doors will be painted white next week, with the exception of the garage-to-basement fire-rated door, which will be painted bright fire engine red.

While Craig was keeping himself busy downstairs, Gabe the Counter Guy and his helper were upstairs installing the beautiful black but very green Paperstone counter tops, and later on making precision cuts for the Hans Grohe Allegro E kitchen faucet, the Kraus stainless steel undermount sink, the black IKEA electric cooktop and the Broan downdraft ventilator. I had to leave before the installation was complete, so when I visit the house early tomorrow morning to meet with Joe the Garage Door Guy I'll see the counter tops in all their polished glory for the first time. I can hardly wait.

The Comcast cable guy also showed up some time before I did and set his conduit in the open PG&E trench, so we're ready for the final steps to complete my high-speed cable internet installation, and my friend Jovanny generously took BART all the way from the East Bay to help me this afternoon, laying 40 feet of 1 1/2" plastic conduit alongside the cable for telephone service. I don't technically need this as I won't be getting a land line, but I figured it's something I should do while the trench is open. I wasn't prepared for how difficult it would be to pull a steel wire through 40 feet of plastic pipe, but after around two increasingly embarrassing and frustrating hours we got the job done. The trench is finally - finally! - ready to be backfilled on Monday, and then we can start digging the final trench, for water service.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Careful With That Axe, Eugene

He's not a homicidal axe-wielding maniac, he's actually a good guy, chopping through the street on Talbot Avenue to expose the gas main. Digging by hand he created a four foot wide bell hole which PG&E will use tomorrow morning to attach a new gas pipe to the gas main.

Not many people know this, and I didn't know it until yesterday, but you can't get both your gas and your electric hooked up by the utility company before you get your certificate of occupancy: you can get one, or the other. I chose electricity, but Rich the Contractor pointed out that we need gas service in order to fire up the radiant heat, and we need the radiant heat to warm up the house before we install the hardwood floors. The moisture in the sub floor must be below a certain level, and the hardwood, which will be delivered on site tomorrow morning, has to acclimate at room temperature for 72 hours.

And yet... our temporary power is provided by cables attached to the portable toilet, and the location of the portable toilet is preventing us from pouring the concrete for the entry walkway and the landing adjacent to the entry ramp - and without that we can't finish the house. We can't move the toilet further up the hill because there's nowhere on site to locate it where it won't be in the way, and we can't move it further down the hill because the cable isn't long enough. In short we're in a bit of a pickle, and I'm working with the city and the building inspector to extricate myself from this bizarre Catch 22-esque situation.

Yesterday the guys from Doty Stucco applied the scratch coat, which is the base layer of portland cement plaster, to the basement walls, and on Thursday they'll apply the next layer, the brown coat, and then a week later the final grey acrylic top coat. As you can see, the lower level of the house already looks wonderful in its new coat, and I'm excited to see what the end product will look like.

Today the sewer trench was backfilled, and tomorrow, after PG&E lays the gas pipe in their trench, we can backfill half of the trench before laying conduit for AT&T phone and Comcast cable on Friday morning. Once that's done we can backfill the entire trench and start digging the final trench, for water service.

There's a possible wrinkle in my plans to get my certificate of occupancy as soon as humanly possible, as Irwin the Radiant Heat Guy reports that for reasons I can't begin to understand the Munchkin boiler which will fire the entire heating system is still on the East Coast, and won't be out here for at least ten days.

Nevertheless, thinking positively, while also remembering that there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, I aim to move into The Minnie House in just 20 days.