Sunday, September 30, 2012

What a difference a day makes

It was a busy Sunday around here with much progress on the garage siding.  Our smartest move with this garage so far was hiring a great helper for the day.  After a failed attempt at finding someone last weekend, when our "experienced help" turned out to be a twenty-something guy who quite possibly knew less than I do about construction (and I don't say that lightly) and showed a distinct lack of initiative or energy, we gave Craigslist another try and this time found a terrific former contractor who now works a regular day job but is available for construction jobs on the weekends and nights.  He was great - in addition to being a hard worker, he saved us a bunch of time with his experience.  Where we may have had to stand around and figure things out, he knew what to do and how to do it already.  Having another person on the job site also freed up a little of my time to do a couple of the essential things that get neglected so frequently around our house, like grocery shopping and cooking for the week.  But more importantly, on the construction front, we started and finished the entire back wall of the garage, including installing the soffit.  All it needs now is aluminum wrap and gutters and it will be officially finished.  And, we moved to start the big side wall as well, getting the corners, band board, and about half of the siding up.  We also installed our new pump jacks and a giant platform for them that Brian built yesterday.  After struggling last weekend with the drywall install on ladders, we came to the quick realization that we needed a better solution for the siding.  After a bit of research, we are now the new owners of a pair of pump jacks and roof braces.  We thought about getting a nice aluminum set but the price didn't make a lot of sense given that we may not use them that often in the future.  Wood pump jacks plus 2 x 4s, though, is a decent solution for the price and, although it took a bit of effort to get them set up, it's a nice, stable platform to work from now.  We'll keep working in the evenings this week, along with a little help from our new best friend, and chug away on the siding.  After last weekend's frustration with the fire-proofing, though, this was a much better weekend all around.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ditch Digging 101

After failing to post last weekend and leaving it to Brian to put up last weekend's pictures, er, yesterday, I'm trying to be more timely this weekend!  We tackled installation of the electrical conduit to run power to the garage today.  It didn't start well when I had to go to two different Home Depots to find the wire and then the guy who did find it said to me "Why would you want to install this yourself?"  From a store with the motto "You can do it," I found his comment a little disconcerting.  Nevertheless, we persevered - aided by a machine that, for once, we just rented and did not buy.  We had a ditch digger delivered yesterday for the weekend and I cannot imagine tackling this kind of project without it.  Even with the big machine, it still took a couple of hours to get the ditch dug and required a lot of pulling and lifting and maneuvering - the ditch digger definitely does not have automatic steering.  But we got the trench dug and then laid in the plastic conduit and pulled the heavy 2-2-2-4 URD wire through it.  It ran a total of about 120 feet, with a few elbows that had to be installed just right.  We'll get it inspected this week and then hopefully we can fill in the trench and be ready to start installing the driveway once the garage is done.

And on the garage note, Brian's post refrained from noting what a tremendous nuisance that project has become.  I think we generally give a pretty unvarnished view of our projects and let's just say, this one is one we wouldn't do again.  There are a few mistakes we made - first, we (or I) were determined to situate the garage as close to the property lines as we could in order to maximize our yard space.  But, there is no way that gaining a few feet is worth the tremendous hassle of fireproofing the two walls.  That 5/8" drywall is heavy, expensive, and an all-around nuisance to work with.  Next time, we'll just do what the builders do and site the thing five feet into the property lines.  Second, the two story garage that seemed like such a good idea on paper has made everything so much harder than it needs to be.  Soffits, gutters, siding and the evil fireproofing - it's all such a bigger challenge when it's 15 to 19 ft up instead of a more reasonable 8 to 12.  Next time, one story garage.  We're into it now, of course, so we'll finish it up but it's taking longer than we'd like.  Lessons learned!

Tomorrow, though, we'll be back at it and should make some progress with siding - so hopefully there will be more pictures then...

Friday, September 28, 2012


Just in case the neighbors fences decide to spontaneously combust our garage is safe. We decided to build the garage within 5 feet of our property line so we needed a fire rated wall on the right side and the rear. This consists of 5/8in type x drywall on the outside and standard 1/2in on the inside. The drywall was heavy and awkward to hang, but we got it done and it passed inspection. Next up is to run the electrical to the garage and start hanging the siding. Luckily we got some plastic on the drywall just before it downpoured last night!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Inside and Out

This weekend was spent doing a fair number of non-house things so not much visible progress but we do have a few photos to share - first, our new grill arrived and it is a beauty!  Almost 7 feet of stainless steel, the grilling area alone is about twice the size of our old grill, plus it has a side steamer and two side burners to make it a true outdoor kitchen.  The Wolf range suddenly has some competition!  We haven't converted it to natural gas yet (nor moved it over the hookup, which is why you can still see the white pipe to the left side) but we'll be breaking it in tonight.

The contractors have also almost finished the garage and it has plenty of room for both of our cars and the bobcat.  Everything should be snug in there this winter.  It includes a second story loft space that's a couple of hundred square feet as well.  Right now, we're not planning on finishing it out and will just use it as storage/work space for our tools although we may change our minds about that later.  We still need to run electricity to the garage, install windows and doors, siding, etc. so there's a lot of work yet to do but it's nice to see the garage start looking like it might be finished at some point.

And finally, we did a little more gardening, adding bamboo to the side of the yard behind the left patio wall.  Our neighbor up the street has a huge patch of bamboo and kindly allowed us to dig some up and cart it home.  We're hoping it will fill in nicely to provide a sound/sight barrier between our yard and the neighbor's yard.  And if it doesn't, we'll just go up the street and dig up some more!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Garage progress

Finally we have made some progress on the new garage. They should be finished with the roof and framing tomorrow so we can then wrap it, install the windows and doors, run electrical, and install the siding. We may sub out the siding if we can get a decent price, but if not that may add another weekend or three to the completion date. Here's another nice shot of the patio. Looking forward to using the firepit!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Patio Progress (Extra Pictures Addition)

We've been working in the evenings and got up early on Saturday morning in advance of the threat of thunderstorms and got to work - and the effort paid off in a good deal of patio and landscaping progress!  First up - we planted the side gardens framing the patio.  The left side has porcupine grass, maiden grass, and white and purple coneflowers.  The right side has wax myrtles and knockout rose bushes.  We may have actually overplanted - while everything fits nicely at the moment, all the plants should grow quite a bit so we may end up having to transplant some next spring.  But for now, it looks really nice and well landscaped.  Then we finished building the steps to the patio- a big project and one that we're glad to have done!  We used 12" bullnose pavers on top of wall block, with the 9x9 pavers on the platform.  It came out really well and looks like we planned it from the beginning!  Finally, we built the fire pit/grill.  This came in an incredibly easy to assemble kit - just stack the stones around the ring, apply glue, and let dry.  We were only lookingfor a basic fire pit but this package came with a nice heavy duty grill and a cover that slides open - so we could actually do some barbecuing over it if we wanted.  Our new patio table also showed up yesterday so, although we're still waiting for our chairs, we have our first piece of outdoor furniture to occupy the space.  It's all starting to come together and look finished.  A few more details to go still - our gas grill should be delivered next weekend and will be installed on the left side of the patio and Brian is thinking about building some Adirondack chairs to put on the right side of the table near the fire pit.  We also still need to move the compactor off the patio (currently lurking in the right hand corner) and into the hopefully-soon-to-be-complete garage.  So, there's still work to be done but it's a huge improvement from when we started a month ago!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Landscaping Start

The post-work daylight hours are getting decidedly shorter these days but we managed to get a fair bit done this evening anyway.  We planted four of our five trees - and the fifth one has to wait until we clear the rest of the pavers from the front yard.  We have two Leyland Cypresses in the back corner - they're fast growing evergreens and should provide nice cover to hide the air conditioning units.  We had originally picked out two small ones of the same size but between Saturday morning, when we put our "sold" tags on the two trees, and this morning when it was time to load the trees onto the delivery truck, one of them disappeared into the hands of another customer.  The nursery kindly replaced it with a much larger Cypress, which fills the space even more nicely than planned.  On the right corner of the patio, we planted a Weeping Alaskan Cedar as an ornamental tree.  The fire pit will eventually go on that corner of the patio so the tree should be a nice focal point behind it and we love the long lines of the tree.  This may have been the buy of the day too - a formerly $200 tree marked down to a mere $20 - you can't beat an end of season sale!  And finally, on the left corner of the patio, we put in a Kwanzan Flowering Cherry.  It's quite compact right now but should spread quickly to become a much wider and bigger tree with the classic lovely pink blossoms next year.  We'll have to have our  own Cherry Tree Festival in the backyard next spring!

We have more grasses and shrubs to plant tomorrow night but the yard is already looking much better!   You might also notice that the garage is back under construction and making progress, another good development after a few weeks of rather frustrating and inexplicable delay.  Fortunately, I think we've straightened things out and they should finish up the framing and roofing next week - and then we'll take over for siding, windows, doors, electric, etc.  Still quite a few weekends of work left to finish before winter gets here but every night and weekend gets us a little closer to checking the outdoor projects off our list.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend Laboring

A bit of a belated post this evening to recap the long weekend, which was filled with furniture shopping, tree/plant shopping, and working on the yard.  All of this prep/planning work explains, in part, why there aren't very many pictures of actual work accompanying this post.

The furniture shopping part of the weekend entailed ordering a dining room table and chairs and - since I can't resist a sale - a patio table and outdoor chairs.  Until fairly recently, we owned two dining room tables and two sets of dining chairs but, as so many people before us have discovered, marital compatibility does not always come with a similar design aesthetic.  Brian has been tolerating my dining room furniture after selling his much nicer set on Craigslist but with a nearly complete dining room, it's time for mine to head off to Goodwill and new two-party approved furnishings to take the place.  The Goodwill van comes next Saturday, which meant we needed to place an order this past weekend.  Most of it should arrive sometime next week and there will be many pictures of the newly decorated room.

The tree/plant shopping was much easier than furniture shopping, thanks to a still well-stocked neighborhood garden center and some very nice end of season sale prices.  Delivery tomorrow will consist of five good sized trees (some pictured above), a dozen buckets of grasses, and a handful of shrubs.  We also brought home several perennial flowers.  Since it's so close to the end of the season, we're focusing of getting the "bones" of the yard in - grass, trees, shrubs, etc. and we'll add more color with annuals next spring.  So, we'll spend the next few evenings digging and planting and getting the plants happy and settled in their new homes.

When we finally stopped shopping and started working, we tackled installing the stairs to the patio.  We hadn't really thought through the stairs scenario when we were installing the patio and had been somewhat vaguely thinking we would just install a single step on top of the existing pavers.  Then we read up on the code and it turns out that for exterior swinging doors, you need at least a 36" landing, no more than 1.75" inches below the height of the interior floor.  So all those pavers we installed right up to the exterior wall?  Had to come out.

As it turns out, the new design is probably going to be a lot nicer and, happily, we had just enough wall block to construct a platform plus a stair but had we planned ahead, we could have saved ourselves a good bit of time and effort.  Instead, we had to cut the pavers 48" out, remove the existing pavers (yes, the ones Brian just laid last week), and truck in many wheelbarrows full of (very heavy) gravel.  With some advance planning, the bobcat could have made a few quick trips and we'd have had all the material we needed.  Instead, it was back to the old shovel-wheelbarrow-shovel routine. 

Nevertheless, we eventually got most of the platform and stair installed - and neither of us wants to see a wall block or a wheelbarrow full of gravel again for awhile. We're in a brief holding pattern now because we have to order some bullnose to cap the stones but that should be delivered this week and then we'll be able to finish the steps off next weekend.  Lots of effort but every day gets us closer to a finished yard.