Wednesday, September 30

John Divola Kitchen

Patriotic Bathroom

You haven't seen much of the bathroom because it is dark and hard to get an angle in there since the walls went in. I thought you should see what I saw last night when I got home.

Red waterproofing, blue masking tape and white mud. Imagine it in the beam of a flashlight. I thought I'd fallen into a Thomas Harris novel.

Sunday, September 27

Inspection 2? Check!

View from the mailslot.

We passed the second inspection on Friday so taping and mudding really will start on Monday. This weekend, I picked colors and spent a lot of time in the kitchen; just looking at it. It is a lovely space with good light.
I made 46 pictures of the subfloor alone. I promise not to post them all here, but . . .

For John - Nathan laid down this pattern in the service porch where the washer-dryer stands. The prelude to pouring the stuff that will level the floor, I think.

Saturday, September 26

I'm Living in a Warehouse

Materials, fixtures and appliances are rolling in.

  • Five boxes of floor tile, one of base tile, eight of subway tile, one of pencil line edging, three of mosaic travertine.
  • One range, one range hood (cooker hood it says on the box).
  • Two sinks and one garbage disposal (the kitchen sink weighs more than me).
  • One shower faucet (that's partially installed), one lavatory faucet and drains for both.
  • One water heater and its companion water filter (it looks like a torpedo).
  • Two fans (these have been installed now).
My living space is getting tighter and tighter. My office is half boxes and the enlarger stand looms over the desk.
In the backyard:
  • two kinds of insulation have passed through,
  • copper and PVC pipes have been absorbed,
  • several boxes of joint compound recently arrived,
  • rolls of plastic sheeting came along,
  • boxes of plumbing connections remain,
  • the toilet is in several pieces,
  • our work-horse washer-dryer (sometimes connected to the garage for electricity, and to a garden hose for water,
  • plywood galore leans against the house.

Thursday, September 24

A Study in Drywall

You might call it high-key kichen.

These guys are artists.
The inspector is expected again on Friday to approve the drywall installation. Tape and mud follow.
Floor prep is in the works.
Tile work on Tuesday.
Paint on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 23

It'll Be White Tonight

That's what Nathan said as I was leaving for work this morning. I turned right around to make some picture of the plywood-sheeted walls. So pictures now; text will follow.

The new walls are lying in the back of the JDC truck.

Tuesday, September 22

Enclosure Day

The first day of fall brought fog and soft light. It's good insulation-installation weather. In the light of day, I noticed more of Monday's work:

- the LED light fixtures have been installed over the sink counter, in front of the refrigerator and in the vestibule,

- new framing for the bathroom fan was constructed and the fan was installed.

Nathan says the plywood will go up fast and they might get to drywall today.

Monday, September 21

Inspection? Check!

Justin wrote this afternoon to say that the rough inspection was done. Whoo-hoo - we passed!

I never doubted that we would, of course.
The crew is excited - ready to button up. I'm excited, too.

When I got home this evening, the bathroom was nearly enclosed by fluffy pink insulation. Plus, there is a shiny new flat dryer vent installed in the service porch! And my mailbox had levitated several inches so it will clear the backsplash on the kitchen counter.
In case you are reading this, John: the porch light just needed a new lightbulb. I replaced it on Saturday morning and I've been switching it on and off all weekend just for novelty of it.

Friday, September 18

Invisible Home: the Bones, Nervous System and Digestive Tract Exposed

My excellent project manager and brother-in-law, John, has been documenting construction progress. These photos were made on September 17 (Day 13). The crew has been busy with plumbing (they promptly replaced that cracked second floor drain and moved every drain and faucet in my home), wiring and framing.
In the photo above, you are looking from the front of the house (standing in my new kitchen) towards the bathroom on the left and the red backdoor in the distance at right. The door to the service porch has moved 6 inches to the right. The old kitchen windows have had their bottom frames lowered.
The eye-catching blue elements are switch boxes, outlet boxes and power junctions. You can see the boxes for two of the four ceiling light fixtures in the new dining area and for three sconces on the west wall.

The yellow Romex wire is wide enough to facilitate labeling the many wires that congregate in a switchbox. There are lots of double-switches in this project.

The crew removed the remnants of an old fuse box and two old electrical panels. They installed a recessed box and Nathan has been rebuilding the panel a circuit at a time. There is a new 220 circuit for the electric oven.

Nathan's to-do list is just like mine - scribbled on the scraps at hand. His scraps are a bit more substantial than my post-its and used-envelopes. That's the shower mixing valve. It reminds me of the Mars rovers.

Keeping tools and accessories handy and out of the way. That slanted surface is the under-side of the stairs to Janet and John's home. The high outlet is the speaker jack for the stereo on top of the refrigerator.

Here you see the new sub-floor in the bathroom, sporting the big drain for the water closet. That brassy-looking fixture is the valves component of the wall-mounted lavatory faucet.
Do you know the right height for a bathroom faucet? Well, just ask yourself, do you want to bend over to put your hands in the water stream?

One of the best improvements that I never gave much thought to before is bathroom ventilation. Two registers will allow the fan to pull air from the main compartment and the shower compartment. Mildew, you haven't a chance in this new bathroom!
The vents will top the new linen closet. That's another great new feature and my consolation prize for giving up the tub.

See this closet with diminishing headroom? Being the bottom apartment of an up and down duplex, my home has two of these. During a detailed blue-tape walk-through on Wednesday, an idea struck. Now we plan to create a pair of drawers on gliders that will reach into the back of these closets for deep storage. I think this is what realtors call a bonus.

The project is coming along nicely. An inspector will visit on Monday. With his approval, the crew will begin installing insulation and buttoning up the walls with plywood sheeting. Then it's drywall, floor-leveling and tile work. Then window-, cabinet-, sink-, water heater- and range-installation. Before you know it they'll be laying linoleum and doing the finish work.

Wednesday, September 16

Playing House in the Interim Kitchen

As I mentioned before, while I wait for my dream kitchen, I have a temporary kitchen. I thought you might like to see it. While I packed the old kitchen, I set aside dishes, cookware, tools and pantry items that I might use during construction. These are now assembled in the "cabinetry" from our old darkroom that's been hanging around since the "flood".
It's a nice little galley kitchen, pretty well-outfitted (no oven though). In the picture above, the refrigerator is mostly out-of-frame on the left. On top of the microwave, you can see my "running"water - a five gallon jug that dispenses into a small basin. My mom likens this to the bucket and ladle of her rural childhood.
In the short term, waste water goes into the big Tupperware bucket. I dump it into the storm drain or upstairs depending on how gunky it is.

Here is my pantry:

The counter surface is my butcher block, the painted board that spans the cube-drawers and a tiny bit of red craft paper. It is remarkably workable and the light is nice.

On weekends, I've been using my campstove on the front porch and the Weber grill out back to do advance work. So far, I've made two batches of pasta salad with roasted red pepper dressing (for gatherings with friends and family), a ton of grilled vegetables, a pot of fragrant chicken soup (below) and a tomato and corn pie (I baked that upstairs).

On weeknights, I can assemble stuff to heat in the microwave (or not). I have also been using the campstove to poach eggs. I made a terrific squash soup by combining grilled veggies with chicken stock and spices in the blender and then heating it in the microwave. I finished it with lemon juice. and cilantro.
Maybe the most remarkable thing about this experience is that I seem to have been reformed - I never leave dirty dishes in my toy kitchen overnight. I even dry everything and put it away.

This camping-in-the-dining-room-thing is really not that bad. But I'm not giving up on the new place.

Monday, September 14

Tile Saga

Seriously I am not going to give you the day-by-day tile shopping and selection saga. I'll just say that John and I visited 40 stores in 2 counties over 4 Saturdays dedicated to looking at and touching tile (stone, ceramic, porcelain, terra cotta, glass). Thank goodness we are only talking about one bathroom - 72 square feet.
I started with a classic design - white hex tile floor and subway tile shower/tub enclosure and lavatory back splash. Plus a glass block panel above the tub.
Then a nice basket-weave ceramic tile appeared in This Old House magazine and the design started to morph as I looked for that product.
When, I saw this lovely 5/8" travertine multi-color square tile (above) it became the focal point of the room and knocked out the basket-weave floor.
My budget knocked the sunken Greek tub out of the design and the idea of a continuous floor into the shower was born. This beautiful aggressively textured tile (below) was perfect - except the 12x12 inch tiles won't accommodate the gradual slope to the shower drain.
Finally, here is where we landed:
  • Multicolor 5/8 inch travertine tile on one shower wall,
  • Ceramic Adex brand 2x4 inch subway tile for the remaining shower walls and backing the lavatory/water-closet in bone (warm white),
  • Half-round travertine "pencil-line" tiles to finish the edges,
  • Textured porcelain 6x6 inch floor tile and bullnose base tile in sandalwood (nicely variegated).
The little bars of color you see in these pictures are grout samples. I haven't reached a decision on that yet. There is always another question.
Oh, I'm also thinking about mounting the subways in the vertical.

Saturday, September 5

Visualizing the New Place

Let me say it aloud: demolition is done. There is no going back now.

Once the lathe and plaster were gone, exposing the "bones", Justin called for an inspector. We were on pins and needles, but he delivered the opinions we wanted to hear. Justin and his crew working from John's plans and specifications will make a better structure than we had before. We have approval to proceed with all our design elements (re-sizing windows, shifting a door and removing of a little bit of wall) with one minor qualification (we need to have a new header where that bit of wall used to be). Woo-HOOO!

So about those design elements . . . My mom has had some trouble visualizing what will be where, so I made a little not-to-scale drawing to post here. The old plan is at the top, the new plan is at the bottom. Hope you can see it. Do I need to make it bigger?
Basically, the kitchen and the breakfast room trade places and a new peninsula sporting the range and a range hood divide the two. The idea was to eliminate the pass-through nature of the old kitchen (which had two doors and a big arch), closing up the space between the sink counter and the stove, to create good workflow, more storage and real ventilation. I think this kitchen will be a destination.
The casual dining area will be nice, too, with lots of storage (for small appliances, dishes and stuff including my tool box in a very handy spot). There will be a book shelf near an internet port near new tall windows in the spot that gets great bounce light in the late morning.

In the bathroom, the idea was to make a place that would be comfortable for my Mom and by extension for me when I get to my "golden years". I had hoped for a nice, Greek-style soaking tub and a shower but that was prohibitively expensive. So I went for a beautifully-spacious and easy-access shower where the tub used to be and a linen closet where the shower was. There will be a tall glass panel for natural light. Note how the toilet tucked into the corner is not the first thing you see when you walk through the door. The wall opposite the door will be 5/8" multicolor travertine tiles surrounding the big glass panel. I think it will be eye-catching.

The service porch/laundry room is basically the same but spruced up and sporting an on-demand hot water unit instead of a big old water tank. You might remember the window between the bathroom and service porch - that will transform into the beautiful glass panel. The under-stair storage areas (front and back) will be freshened-up, too.

* BTW * it just occurred to me that you might post comments. I just discovered that Phill did weeks ago on the question of the dual fuel range. I call that discovery timely as I am really coming down to the moment of truth on the Bosch range. Thanks for the encouragement, Phill.

Wednesday, September 2


Demolition continued on Wednesday with the extraction of the bathroom floor and the removal of the old plumbing and electrical. John made this picture and called it Pompeii.

The crew discovered that there was a long crack in the second floor bathroom drain. No wonder my bathroom so often smelled bad.
Tomorrow reconstruction begins

Tuesday, September 1

Demolition Day 1 and Camping in the Dining Room

At 6:15 this morning, I was standing in front of the refridgerator packing its contents into three big ice chests. Last night, I worked at transitioning the last bits of my kitchen, bathroom and service porch/laundry room into either storage or temporary facilities.

Over the weekend, I outfitted my "formal" dining room with a galley kitchen - without the sink and oven. I'll get a photo when I can be in there in natural light. I made a little dinner tonight and it was like taking your new camper on a test trip. So far I've found everything I needed. But I had to retrieve from shallow storage a bucket for waste water. That wasn't so bad.

At 6:30 a.m., Justin, the contractor, and Nathan, the foreman, and a couple of guys and a couple of women arrived in company t-shirts and jeans and hit it. Forty-five minutes later, they had moved the refridgerator and I was putting the ice chests away in the garage. They had also ripped out most of the cabinetry, the moldings and some of the windows and had started beating up the walls with sledgehammers. The toilet was disassembeled on a tarp on the patio. The washer/dryer was re-situated out there, too.

But wait, one of the first things they did was seriously seal off the construction site from the living quarters. When I got home tonight it was clean and once I put some collected leftover items away, I was ready to assemble and eat dinner.

John documented the demolition activity. The lead photo above is the stranded kitchen faucet; ceramic tiles, formica counter, stainless steel sink are all gone. Below, Nathan and one of the guys knock down half of the lovely arch between breakfast nook and kitchen. That arch and the coved ceiling had to go to make breathing room in the new kitchen.

There will be NO laments for that pink tile. It is out of here. We decided over the weekend that the front closet needed to be re-habbed. From the closet (which is under the stairs), you can see through the old kitchen to the breakfast nook. The bright light in the back is the front window, from which the window frame and glass were removed to evacuate all the debris.
This is looking through the front window, through the breakfast nook and the old kitchen to the service porch and my red back door.
I love this crew. They are punctual, really courteous, efficient, clean and they smelled good (at least at the beginning of the day).
The weather today started off with a nice marine layer and the threat of rain (there is a hurricane trying to make it to Baja). It turned hot and humid, though. And the air quality has been very bad because of the fires (Station and his cousins) in the San Gabriels.
There will be more demolition tomorrow - the plumbing, electrical materials and the old bathroom tile floor await.
So far, so good, on the dry rot, water damage and insect activities fronts. John and I are cautiously optimistic. The removal of the shower pan lies ahead.