Past What's New

11/03/08

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  • 7/28/2008: As you can probably tell by the lack of updates, there haven't been any major projects happening.  Most of July was spent enjoying the backyard with things such as 4th of July party, birthday party, and just laying out by the pool party.

    We did have a fun trip to Palm Springs with some friends who own a house down there.  The weather was very hot, and a monsoon storm came through one day.  Lots of thunder, lightning, and rain made for a very interesting morning.  We also too a very fun trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  If you have are ever in PS and have the chance to take the tram, I highly recommend it.

    We have been doing some tinkering in the yards.  We replanted some trees, got the entire drip system repaired, and rewired the backyard landscape lighting.  Here are some pics of the yard at night.  Bill did some uplighting on the big trees in back.  We also added walkway lights around the house and pool area.  The spotlight in the Japanese maple tree makes a very cool reflection in the pool.
     
  • 6/30/2008: I am officially finished on the outdoor kitchen project.  There are a couple of little touches I want to add, but they are bonuses, so they don't count.  I spent this past weekend sealing tile, painting, and touching things up.  I was able to get the doors mounted, and all the hardware installed.

    I am happy with the way everything came together, and now that I am done Bill was able to layer on the accessories.  Here are some final shots of the end product:  From house side, front view, bar side, the new barstools, sink area, grill area, from the back, and from inside the house.

    We are going to take a few weeks off from projects to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  There are several events over the next few weekend, so nothing major will be started in July.  There are lots of small things I have been putting off, so I will get those tackled.
     
  • 6/23/08: 2 weeks have slipped by, and we continue to plug away at our BBQ project.  We did have a nice get together at the house on Father's Day.  All the kids were there, and we got this nice shot of Dan, Jessica, and Sunnye.

    I did get a little work accomplished Father's Day weekend.  I was able to build my cabinet drawers and doors.  Saturday was spend building the actual drawers out of 1/2" MDF which I painted white.  Sunday I built the faces for the drawers and doors.  Here are the doors waiting to be installed.  The materials used are 3/4" Tough Board (plastic wood) for the rails and stiles (edges), and 5/16" Hardibacker siding (cement wood) for the panel. 

    I mounted the drawers for use at our party.  The top 3 drawers are just on simple slides.  Rather than installing a refrigerator outside, Bill had the great idea of using a cooler.  I built a large drawer for one of the door spaces, and installed a big cooler.  I used heavy duty full extension slides, and there is easy access to the drinks.

    This weekend was spent grouting all the tile.  I was concerned about the grout staining the slate, so I sealed the slate before grouting to make the cleanup easier.  It made a huge difference, and I highly recommend spending the time and money on a good sealer.  Here are some shots - The front of the bar; the seam to the concrete came out very nice; under the bar waiting for barstools; inside grill area we used slate all around as the baseboard for additional water protection.  The sink was grouted using black grout, and all the granite was grouted.

    While I was grouting Bill worked on a very cool addition to the area.  He had wanted something behind the sink to block the view of the pool filter.  He also wanted something that could be used to hang wet towels.  We came up with a PVC pipe design that created a plant stand and towel rack.  As you can see, it really makes a nice visual screen (and I can use the herbs when cooking).
     
  • 6/10/08: No progress to speak of on our outdoor kitchen project this week.  I decided to spend Saturday doing something I have never tried before.  I competed in a 2 mile open water swim at Lake Berryessa.

    The event was put on by Davis Aquatic Masters, and I went up there with some of the Sacramento Aquatic Masters swimmers.  Here are some of the fast women (swimming wise that is) from our team.  Yes, the one on the left is 7 months pregnant, and still competed in the 2 mile swim.  The second from the left finished the 1 mile swim in second place AFTER doing the 2 mile swim just an hour before.  Here I am with my friend Stan waiting for our race to start.

    Although it technically was a race, I was not too concerned with my time.  My main goal was just to finish, but I did have 70 minutes as a target.  The winners of the race usually finish in about 42 minutes, and the majority of the swimmers usually take around an hour.

    Unfortunately after arriving at the lake the wind decided to come on with a vengeance.  Once our heat started, there were white caps on the lake which made the course very tough.  Many of the experienced open water swimmers compared it to swimming in San Francisco Bay.  The water temperature was not too bad at about 68 degrees.  Here is an aerial view of the race course.

    I did well for the first 1/2 mile, but then the waves really started effecting me.  I found it difficult to maintain my stroke.  I also kept veering off course which added a great deal of yardage to my total swim.  About 1/2 way through I developed a cramp in my left calf that concerned me a bit.  I changed to breast stroke for a while, and was able to shake it out.  I continued battling the waves, and trying to stay on course to the last turn buoy. The water was much smoother for the last leg, so I was able to give a final push towards the finish line.

    My official finish time was 1:25:58, which placed me #128 out of 146 swimmers in my group.  Certainly not what I was shooting for, but I finished the race.  Most people commented that their times were significantly over their normal times.  I will probably try some more of these and work on improving my sighting of the course.

    Lots of stuff going on this month, so it will certainly effect my construction schedule.  I still hope to have everything done on the outdoor kitchen done by the end of the month.
     
  • 6/2/08: A good productive weekend.  I took a half day off from work on Friday to get a jump on laying the floor tile.  I started out on what I hoped would be a 4 or 5 hour  project.  After recutting several tiles, and making some on-the-fly adjustments.  8 hours later I was finished putting down the floorOverall the look is good, and the few bad spots will not be visible when all is done.

    I spent Saturday helping Jay install a new front door at his house.  It is a very cool retro style door.  Things went pretty smoothly there, and he should be sending me pictures shortly. Here's the pics: INSIDE - Before and After  OUTSIDE - Before and After.

    Sunday things went much more smoothly than on Friday.  Bill helped me get all the face tiles on the front of the cabinetry.  While I started placing the tile, Bill did the tile cutting.  We had the whole front of the counter done in just a couple hours, and then moved on to the bar area.  We placed the final few tiles on the side of the bar, and were done with the 12" tile.  The old trusty blue tape helped hold the small pieces in place while I moved on to the next task.

    While the thinset was drying, I decided to cut the curve on the perimeter edge of the floor.  Bill and I used small metal rods driven into the ground where each tile met the concrete.  We then took a small diameter PVC pipe, and pushed it up against the metal pieces to create the curve.  We then traced the curve onto blue tape that was on the tile.  Using my water fed angle grinder and a diamond blade, I just followed the line and cut off the excess tile.  The end result was a nice continuous curve on the edge.

    Here are some pics after we did some clean up.  Bill filled in the dirt and brought the rocks up to the level of the floorUnder the bar areaInside the kitchen area (doors and drawers are the next phase).  We dropped the grill into place since it will be there for a couple weeks until we get to grouting.  Looking from the inside of the house.
     
  • 5/28/08: Memorial Day weekend came and went, but was not very cooperative weather wise.  Bill and I were able to get the slate for the flooring cut and dry laid.  I used the hand held angle grinder with a diamond blade to cut the curves where the slate meets the concrete. While I was doing that, Bill continued to cut the pieces to finish the rest of the floor.  The curve for the perimeter of the slate will be cut after all the pieces are set into place.

    Because the weather was so unpredictable, I decided to hold off on setting the floor with thinset.  Since that left me all day Monday with no plan, I decided to start working on finishing the cabinets.  To cover the plywood, I am using Hardi-Backer siding.  It is a concrete sheet good that has a wood grain finish.  To cut the strips I needed for the door area, I used an old tile saw blade installed on my table saw.  After I make the doors and drawers, the entire surface will be painted.
     
  • 5/20/08: Finally, we are moving out of the rough construction phase, and into the finishing elements of the outside kitchen project.  Saturday we began laying the granite countertops.

    The first step was to put on the edging strip.  I saw this edge bracket used at Bill's parent's house, and found some at Home Depot.  It made installing the edge much easier than doing it freehand.  While I got all the brackets installed, Bill cut 3 dozen 1.75" strips of granite.  The edge was installed using Liquid Nails to hold it into place.  Here is Bill gently tapping a piece into the bracket.  For the corner pieces, I rounded the edge for a smooth transition.

    While Bill finished installing the edging, I began to put a bullnose corner on the tiles for the top.  I created a jig to hold the wood, and used a diamond profile bit in a water fed angle grinder to round the corners.  Of course, grinding the edge of the granite took off the finish, and left the bullnose area dull.  By the end of the day Saturday, we had most of the pieces cut to size.  While all this work was going on Jessica and Morgan enjoyed the pool in the 102 heat.

    Sunday was spent finishing the countertops.  Bill took on the challenge of polishing all the bullnose areas of the tile to restore the finish.  The process involved the water fed angle grinder (hence the bathing suit), and 7 different polishing pads ranging from a course 50 grit to an ultra fine 3000 grit.  He lined up 4 tiles at a time, and ran each pad over the edge.

    I spent the morning making the final cuts for the tiles that went around the sink.  I used a diamond tipped core bit to bore a hole for the corner, and the cut straight lines to the hole.  The result was a nice close fit all the way around the sink.  With all the tiles cut to size the installation went quickly.  The results are very nice.  The BBQ is sitting a little high right now, because it is on a mover's dolly.  Once everything is done, the countertop and grill area will all be the same height.

    Bill's edges polished up beautifully, and look as good as the top surface.  There will be plenty of counter space both for working, and accessories.  It also looks very nice from inside the house.
     
  • 5/12/08:Busy, busy, busy.  Time keeps marching on, and our weekends are filled with fun little projects.  Bill continues to make improvements on the yards by moving plants, adding color, and adding points of interest.  He also removed the ugly spotlight on our back patio, and installed a new light fixture.

    I have been busy with our 'Cochina' Del Sol.  That is outside kitchen in 'The Nanny' speak.  I built the cabinetry for the area using 3/4" plywood, and painted the interior white. In case you are wondering why there are 2 strips of wood on either side of the door openings, it is because I made a major mathematical error.  In my calculations of layout I originally measured from left to right.  When I laid it all out, I measured from right to left.  The result left me 5" short of the left hand door clearing the BBQ.  Bill came up with the idea of moving the whole cabinet to the right.  I added the extra strips of wood to keep the symmetry of the doors.  Once I get the fascia installed the modification won't be noticeable.

    The area with the pool equipment will be left open on the back for easy access, and have doors on the front so we can get to the controls.  With the plywood tops on, it looks like there will be plenty of counter space.  Here is a view of the area from the inside of the kitchen.

    Next came the installation of the sink.  I liked the sink I installed in Jay's kitchen so much, that I found a bar size sink of the same type.  After the sink was in, I was able to get the rest of the backerboard down for the tile.

    This weekend was spent running all the utilities.  I extended the water lines from the house, and put in the new faucet (again stealing a design choice from Jay's kitchen).  I added electric outlets to both sides of the cabinet face.  The old spotlight that was on our patio found a new home, and will provide plenty of light for the BBQ area.
     
  • 4/22/08:Another month has slipped by and both Bill and I have been busy around the house.  I completed the installation of the solar system by adding an automatic thermostat.  It uses a sensor on the roof to determine the solar panel temp, and a sensor in the water intake line to check he pool temperature.  It then has a cool electronic valve control to direct the water to the panels when heat is available and needed for the pool to maintain its temperature.  After a week of running the water was up over 70 which was warm enough for Kaitlin to spend some time in the pool.  The following weekend was in the mid 80's and the pool reached its desired temp of 80.  It was very nice and Bill spent a while in the pool cleaning the tile.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, Bill has been busy making window treatments for the house.  His warm-up project was a set of panels for the sewing room.  The panels are lined, and attached with clip rings.   He then completed the master bedroom.  Each of the panels is attached to the finial by a cord.  The living room faces west, and the sun beats in the windows.  Bill came up with a novel solution to provide some diffusion of the light while still keeping the arched window effect.  He used thin PVC pipe for framing, and covered the windows with a nice sheer fabric.  I now have to make a cornice box so the big window can get its dressings.

    I have been able to start on my BBQ area.  A few weeks ago I set the forms for the concrete.  Bill helped me pour the concrete, and I put a simple brush finish on the surface.  Since the final product will have slate added, I wasn't too worried about a smooth surface.  After the concrete cured, I was able to start framing the structure.  There will be a small seating area for a couple of bar stools, and a nice cozy work space for the cook.  The next step was to start adding the backer board for the slate covering.  The slate will be on all the outside areas including under the bar.

    Bill has also been enjoying the nice weather by working in the yard.  We changed the pool area a bit by adding our lion fountain to the landscaping.  Bill continues to add color and interest with all his planting in the back.  His garden is thriving, and we are anxiously awaiting our first harvest.  Of course, the front yard has seen its share of renovations, and many of the neighbors have complimented Bill on how much better the house looks now than it did last year.

  •  
  • 3/24/2008:  We continue getting ready for our summer vacation (in our back yard).  I finished hooking up the solar panels to the pool filter system.  It took a while to lay out the exact pattern of all the valves, and get the supply lines route on the house determined.  Once I had it all figured out I installed the valves.  It looks more confusing than it is.  Here is a diagram that has an explanation of all the valves.  After running the solar for 2 days (both in the 70s) the water temp went from 61 to 66.

    I also spent some time this weekend plumbing a gas line to the outside for the new BBQ.  The goal is to build a little cooking area that will enclose the grill, give us some counter space, and a sink.  Hopefully we will be starting on that shortly.

    Bill continued to dress up the back yard.  He planted grass seed that has started to fill in the bare spots.  More plants were moved from where they didn't belong to new homes, and some color was added to the yard.  He also spent time on Saturday planting a vegetable garden on the side of the house

    We bought some lounge chairs, and a patio table set.  We even spent a few hours on Easter enjoying the nice view of the pool in the warm afternoon sun. 
     
  • 3/14/2008:  I think it is about time for an update.  Many people have asked what is going on, so I guess I still do get some visitors here.  Bill and I have been getting used to the house, and deciding on what projects we want to tackle first.  Bill has been doing some sewing of window treatments (pics soon?).  We have decided that our first big push is going to be getting the yards into shape.  We want to really enjoy our backyard this summer, so we have some big plans for it.

    I decided to install a solar heating system for the pool.  After a bunch of research, I purchased a set of four 4'x10' panels with an automatic controller from a pool supply company on EBay.  We have a good southern exposure roof on the second story of the house, so that is where I did the installation.

    The solar panels kits are actually two 2'x10' panels each.  Each panel has a 1-1/4" pipe on each end for intake and output.  the pipes are connected with 1-1/2" rubber connectors.  I began by connecting one end of all the panels together and strapping them to the roof.  The grey strapping I used was not included in the kit, but on my research I read that it is good to used these header straps so that the weight of the water doesn't pull the unit off of the roof.  I then used the main straps included in the kit to strap down the actual body of the solar panel.  There were three straps for each set of 4' panels. To secure the straps I drilled a hole into the roof tile, applied a generous amount of liquid nails, and used 1-1/4" Tapon screws with a fender washer for added pressure.

    Once all the panels were secure - And yes, it was very scary working that close to the edge of the roof.  Some of the bottom straps I did from the roof, and some I did from a ladder. - I started plumbing in the supply lines.  I ran the intake down the left side of the array, and the output is on the upper right.  To get over the peak of the roof I found that two 45 degree bends connected and twisted worked just right.  From there it was a straight shot to the north side of the house where the pool equipment is.  I will do the actual connecting to the pool equipment next weekend.

    So, what was Bill doing while I was on the roof (besides waiting to catch me if I fell)? He was busting his butt re-landscaping the pool area.  A couple of weeks ago we pulled out all the overgrown bushes from around the pool.  The trees were not only messy, but the were so fat you couldn't walk around the pool.  After we pulled everything out, the pool area looked much bigger and cleaner.

    Bill spent a lot of time researching what plants he wanted to replant the area with.  We wanted something that would fill in quickly, give us privacy, and not make a mess.  After 2 days of back breaking digging he had planted 6 trees, several small plants, and relocated 3 sago palms & several small plants.  The results are very nice, and we are anxious to see how it all fills in.
  • 12/19/2007:  We have been in our house a little over a month, and we are pretty well settled.  Most of the boxes are unpacked, and the house has become very comfortable.  The neighborhood seems very nice, and several of the neighbors have made an effort to introduce themselves.

    I have been busy with several projects.  I had one last major thing to do at Jay's house that I will be posting pictures of in the near future.  I also have been working on completing my shop space in the garage.  The wall is built, and the workbenches are up.  I will also be putting pictures of that up soon.

    Bill has been spending his time making the house a home.  Since we moved in November, he jumped right into Christmas mode.  As always, the decorations look great.  Here are a bunch of pictures with the furniture in the house, and the Christmas decorations up.
     
  • 11/26/2007:  I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  Bill and I spent most of our 4 day weekend working around the house, and trying to get things organized.  Bill heads off to his new job today with the State of California, Department of the Courts.

    Here are some pictures of an interesting little project we did to the house before moving in.  The pool had been neglected for over a year, and most of the water was gone.  We wanted to make sure the equipment worked, so we had to fill the pool.  The problem was that there were several areas where the plaster had blistered and separated from the gunite.  We had 2 pool companies out, and they both quoted over $5000 to re-plaster the pool.

    After doing some research on the internet.  I found a product called EZ-Patch (Leslies Pool Supply also sells a product called Patch-It).  The product is made for above or below water repair of the plaster.  So, never being scared of a new project, Bill and I dug in.

    We began by draining out the last of the sludge (totally gross), sweeping out the leaves, and scrubbing down the sides of the pool.  We then chiseled out the loose plaster, and prepped the holes for filling.  The plaster patch sets in about 5 minutes, so we only  mixed up enough to do one hole at a time.  All together we ended up doing 5 large patches.

    We filled up the pool and added a few chemicals.  Although the patches are much whiter than the surrounding plaster, the seem to be holding very well.  The cost for the repair was about $100, so if we get a couple of years out of the job we will be happy.  We tested all of the equipment, and were very happy to see that everything works just fine.  Even the 3 built in waterfalls work as they should.  Now we just have to wait for the warm weather to get here.
     
  • 11/09/2007:  Well, Bill and I have closed escrow on a home in Roseville.  After 6 months of looking, this place came on the market.  It was a bank repo, but unlike many of the repos we had seen it wasn't trashed.  The house had been sitting vacant for over a year, so it needs a little TLC, but at least it has all the appliances and fixtures.

    Bill has been slaving away cleaning the house before we move in this weekend.  As he says, we need to get the OPD (Other People's Dirt) out of the house.  Although there are plenty of projects that could be done, we are going to wait until after the holidays before we jump into anything major.

    Here are some pictures that I took of the house when it was on the market.
     
  • 11/08/2007:  Time to clean things up and get ready for new projects.  If you want to see any old pictures, you can check out the photo album.


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