Monday, September 28, 2009

We're done now

We really are! It's been more than three months since the last blog, but it's not just because I was too lazy to write. We moved in at the end of June, almost 9 months to the day after we started the project. But we still had a bunch of work to do before we could finish off the loan, and stick a fork in the house.

The main tasks that we had to finish were installing the audio system, completing some additional finish carpentry (shoe molding on the baseboards, and a couple windows), and closets. Unfortunately that took almost two months, despite getting help from Melanie and from Megan's family. Her brother Will helped with the closets and did some more varnishing, her father Peter painted our garage doors, and her mother Cindy and Will's fiance Esperanza did most of our unpacking.

Anyway, the mandatory work was done about a month ago. Since then, we've been doing some of the million things we have on our punch list: painted most of the first floor walls, put crown molding up in the kitchen, tiled the kitchen backsplash, installed 2 of the 3 garage door openers, had a play set installed, irrigation system installed, and the lawn planted. We've also had a few parties...

Anyway, we're done now. At least that's what we're saying. All that's left is the 999,994 items on the punch list. Here are some pictures to prove it:

First, we have some furniture in the family room now:

Clothes hanging in the home-made closet units:

A multi-room audio system that actually works:

Toys in the loft:

Crown molding on the cabinets, and a tiled backsplash:

A hood over the cooktop:

An irrigation system:

And now a lawn!

Anyway, that's all folks. I might post some updates once in a while to show progress on our to do list. But for now, this blog is on vacation.

Thanks for listening to me whine for the last year. Hopefully, it will be easier next time around.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

We Passed!

After six weeks of "last minute" work, we had our final inspection yesterday--and passed! So what was done in the last six weeks?

  • The mason finished the stone in front
  • The cabinemaker finished cabinets, including a custom wood hood (almost)
  • Finished (almost) the finish carpentry
  • Caulked the exterior (with 100 tubes of caulk)
  • Installed interior door hardware
  • Painted exterior trim
  • Two coats of varnish on all interior trim
  • Finished the floors with three more coats of polyurethane
  • Coated all visible foam foundation insulation with stucco
  • Hired Jim to install Nichiha stone panels on our side exposure, and hang our front storm door
  • Cleaned and cleaned and cleaned again. The garage served as our dumpster for the last couple of months. A 10-yard dumpster was almost enough to hold it all after we broke cardboard boxes up into 5 3x3x3 bundles.
  • The landscaper built a retaining wall around our window well. We call it "the pit" now. He also buried drain pipe for our downspouts.
Here's some proof. Here's how the house looks with the trim painted:

Doesn't look much different, does it? Megan chose a paint that was exactly the same color when wet as the primer was when dry. So I couldn't see the spots I missed until after the paint dried...

We rented a 40-foot boom lift (cherry picker) to get up to the gables without having to move a ladder every 10 minutes. Zeke loved the cherry picker:

The first time I brought Zeke up in the cage, as we were going up, he told me: "I'm not afraid of anything!" But the higher the boom went, the tighter his grip got on my hand. But he actually loved going up in the air, and complained when Megan arrived and we had to lower ourselves back to the ground.

Had some great views from 30 feet in the air. Here's my favorite (me towering above Megan):

On my last round of touch-up, when I was finally finished with the painting, I got into the cage, and knocked over a can of cedar-colored touch-up paint. So we had a big orange splotch on our new roof. A little bit of water from the hose, and some scrubbing with a toilet brush, and now we just have a bunch of little orange splotches on our roof:

The pit is great. We had the landscaper put in some steps to get in and out of the pit, and a raised planting bed. Here's a picture with the stone panels on the exposure wall:

Now for the interior. I finished installing the fireplace mantel:

Now it looks like a fireplace. And the kitchen is pretty much done too:

I had a lot of help in the last few weeks. Megan and Linda did almost all of the varnishing, with some help from my nieces Gretchen and Diana. My sister-in-law Toni came and helped clean out the garage. Her brother Jim put up the stone panels on the foundation, and generally helped out for the last few days. Linda's friend, Gene, helped out with finish carpentry and with some cleanup. And Melanie (Zeke's part-time Nanny) has been putting in extra hours to let Megan spend more time at the site.

Even though we're really not quite ready, we move in on Monday! I'm trying to finish putting the last coat of varnish on everything before we move in, so Megan and Linda are doing all the packing. But the rental house isn't cooperating. With the heat wave this week, the air conditioner fried itself. So they're packing the house in 90 degree heat, while I get to sit around in an air-conditioned house. Megan also got caught by a strep throat infection earlier this week, so that hasn't helped either. But we'll make it.

It's 11:30pm on the Thursday before the move, and the carpet guys are upstairs installing pads. I'll wait until they're done to get a bit more varnishing done upstairs.

After the move, we aren't done. We have nothing in the closets to hang our clothes on, so I'll have to figure out what we're doing with the closets. I still have molding to install--base caps on our baseboards, crowns on our windows and doors, and most importantly shoe mold to cover the gap between base boards and floors. I also have to set up the audio/video connections, finish installing the central vacuum, and paint the garage doors. But it should be much easier to get work done with us living in the house.

The next post will be after we move in, and hopefully finish some of our final to-do-list items.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Now some outside progress

It's been a month since my last post. Time flies when you're having fun nailing boards to the wall. But first, we made some visible progress on the exterior this week. We hired a mason to put up the stone on the front walls:

We picked a locally quarried limestone (if you consider Fon du Lac local to Waukesha) called the Fon du Lac Kensington Blend thin stone veneer from Buechel Stone in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin. We thought it would go well with both the siding and shakes:

I think the house looks a little less green now because of the gray in the stones. Okay, maybe not. Regardless, we love the look. We also had our driveway, front walk, and patio poured. The contractor started with the patio on Tuesday:

Megan finally gets the curves that she wanted. It rained yesterday, and we had a bit of a scare from the inspector. I thought we would have to move the driveway after the forms were set... But it turns out that we just have to relocate a tree instead. So they were able to pour the driveway today:

Although stamped concrete would have looked better, we didn't want the up-charge. So we had them finish it with a "swirled" texture:

Not as good as a stamped look, but we like it. And it was a lot cheaper.

On the inside, I've been making slow progress on the finish carpentry. I pretty much finished the first floor window and door casings and should finish the baseboards tomorrow. Here's a picture of the dining room, with trim and light fixtures:

The front door stained and mostly trimmed out:

And the fireplace with columns in the family room:

This weekend, I'll move upstairs and start on the trim on the second floor. Hopefully, it will go much faster than the trim on the first floor.

We plan to move in on June 27th (3 days ahead of our original schedule). There's quite a bit of work left to be done, and most of it has to be done by us. I have to finish installing trim, so we can varnish the baseboards before carpet goes in and the floors get their final coats of finish. We have to caulk the windows, doors, and siding. The electrician needs to install a few more fixtures. We need to fix the "remodeling" done by the plumber to finish installing fixtures. And we need to cover all of the exposed foundation insulation with stucco.

Other stuff can wait until we move in. I'll try to post again before we move in, but don't be surprised if the next post has our furniture and Zeke's toys scattered around (after we move in).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Interior Progress

The interior work is progressing, but pretty slowly. The details take a lot more time than other tasks. Scott is just about done with the stairs, and I think they look fantastic:

The loft is a bit safer with the guard rail up now:

Countertops and appliances are in now. Here's the kitchen:

We went with a GE Profile french door refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom. Here's one of the ovens, the Advantium microwave, and Electrolux dishwasher:

The Advantium is a combination microwave and convection oven. It looks like it has a setting for everything. No more need to look at the recipe...

Here's the cooktop and the other oven. We went with a 36" cooktop that is essentially the same as the cooktop we had in the last house, and put the bigger built-in oven beneath it:

We had a problem with the hood we selected. Because we chose to put the cooktop in at a 45 degree angle, a big hood prevents us from opening the adjacent cabinet doors all the way. This was a miss by me, the architect, the cabinetmaker, and the guy he had do CAD designs on the cabinets. Anyway, we returned the hood (they're picking it up tomorrow). We found a curved hood that will work with some 90 degree hinges. It will be a few weeks before that is installed because it will require a change to the cabinets.

I've been working on trim for the last three weeks, and I think I'm about 30% done. I have most of the doors and about half of the windows trimmed on the first floor. Here's the fireplace framed by some columns, doorways, and a passthru:

I'll post more pictures of the trim after I finish some more (some day real soon now).

I stained the front door, sidelights, and transom. The exterior side of the door looks pretty good. The interior side, not so good. I guess we'll have to just keep the door open all the time.

And finally, the plumber came and installed the master tub:

We lucked out with the border. It's a pretty good match for the countertops, so it ties the granite with the travertine with the tub. It looks pretty good.

I'll continue working on the trim for the next few weeks. I guess I probably have at least a month or six weeks of finish work left. The driveway will be poured around the end of April or beginning of May. Light fixtures are ordered, and should arrive in the next week or so. Plumbing can be finished as soon as I finish setting the tile on the master tub. We still have to order interior door knobs, garage door openers, carpets, and shower doors.

It looks like it is still possible to move in at the end of June (knock on wood).

That's it for now. I'll post more progress pictures in a few days.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Now we have a kitchen

A lot of progress in the last couple of days. Brian is quickly getting cabinets installed. First the kitchen:

Like I said in the last post, most of the cabinet doors are maple. We're looking for a modern craftsman look, so we chose flat panel doors with a full overlay so you can't see a whole lot of the face frames, and stainless steel pulls. The doors on the oven cabinet are maple, but it is highlighted with a cherry frame and cabinet box. We'll have something similar on the other side of the kitchen above the cooktop and oven:

The picture turned out a bit too dark, I'll upload another after the counters go in. Here's one more view of the kitchen:

Scott is making good progress on the stairs. The columns on the first floor are all wrapped in cherry, all of the skirt boards are in, and he started on the tread caps:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cabinets have arrived

The cabinetmaker, Brian Runde of BR Custom Woodcraft in Wales, delivered our cabinets today--one day ahead of schedule. He brought his dad along to help unload the cabinets from the truck. We stuffed them in the garage:

They pretty well filled the garage. And we're really happy with how they turned out. Most of the cabinets are maple:

The maple is stained with a "honey" colored stain.

A few of the cabinets are constructed of natural cherry, to match the trim and contrast with the maple cabinets:

We were looking for contrast, but when you look at the color of the stained maple doors, they look almost the same color as the freshly finished natural cherry doors. The only real difference right now is that the grain looks a bit different. So much for the contrast. Actually, it won't be a problem. Cherry gets darker pretty quickly, so we should start to see some contrast by the time we move in, and they'll look just about right after a year or two.

Brian will start installing the cabinets tomorrow, and it should take him three or four days. Then the granite guys will come out to measure for countertops.

Bill and Mike made some more progress on the tile. They started grouting the floors (so that the cabinets would be installed on floors that have been grouted, and they got more of the master shower finished:

And Scott, the finish carpenter, made some progress on the stairs. Here's how the columns will look wrapped in cherry:

Things will be a bit tight for the next couple of days. Brian will be installing cabinets while Scott is working on the stairs, while Bill and Mike are working on the tile, and I am working on the finish trim. Here's our makeshift workshop in the family room, with dueling miter saws:

I'll post some more pictures of the cabinets after installation is complete.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tile, Fireplace & Stairs

This is a little better. Just over two weeks since my last entry. We're making progress, slowly but surely.

My nephews Jake and Joe helpd out last weekend. They helped me move the interior doors that we bought last October, and did a bunch of cleanup.

Bill and Mike have been working on the tile. They have finished setting tile everywhere but the master bath--which is a bit more complicated since we're doing a traditional mud shower pan and travertine tile on the floor, tub deck, and shower walls.

Here's the guest bath:

And the main bath upstairs:

The tile in the master bath was a lot more difficult to lay. But it looks fantastic. Bill is doing a great job:

Megan and I started working on tiling the fireplace this week, and we finished it tonight. We decided to tile the hearth with the same tile we're using for the back hallway and bathroom floors. Megan found an antique-style glazed ceramic tile that we're using on the face, and we used the same accent strip that we're using in the bathrooms for some interest. Anyway, here's the fireplace:

I took that picture at about 11:00pm. Which reminds me, the electrician has been in to finish up some of the electrical work. We now have outlets and lights! Hopefully, I'll make fewer mistakes at night now, since I'll be able to see what I'm doing. Also, the roofers were back this week to install the gutters. The only big thing left to do on the exterior is the masonry.

I lost about 10 days on the schedule. I started pricing stair components a few weeks ago, and it turns out they're a bit more expensive than expected. Just the handrails we needed would have cost $2500. When I add balusters, newel posts, stair treads, and miscellaneous trim, the total would have exceeded $11,000. Being cheap, and having a workshop in the house, I decided to mill the stair parts myself--all of them. That's where the 10 days went. But that 10 days saved us $10,000.

I did hire a finish carpenter to do the stairs. He started this week, and made a bit of progress before having to finish up another job. Here's the main newel post:

We meet with a landscaper tomorrow, and Megan might be able to stain another window or two. I'll get back to milling trim. Next week, I should have some more visible progress to report. The cabinetmaker will start installing cabinets on Thursday, and the finish carpenter will have much more done on the stairs. Plumbing fixtures get delivered on Monday, and appliances the next Monday. The week after next, I'm taking vacation to install trim and work on the kajillion other things that need to be done.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Floors are in

Wow. It's been almost three weeks since my last entry. Time flies when you're having fun. I finished installing, sanding, and getting the first couple coats of finish on the wood flooring downstairs.

It took a little over three weeks to get to this stage--so far, I guess I have about 140 hours in the floor. I was originally going to just install the floor and wait until after more work was done to put finish on it. But after a small oil spill, I decided the floor needed protecting sooner rather than later.

So here are a couple pictures of the almost finished floor. The breakfast room, kitchen, and dining room look best right now, because there aren't too many footprints:

The family room and entry hall get a lot more traffic, but they still look pretty good:

Installing the floor was a lot of fun. It turns out that the framers did a fantastic job. I started laying the floor off of a line in the center of the house that I stretched parallel to the east wall of the family room. I first worked from the center to the front of the house, and then from the center to the rear. The last row of flooring on each end was parallel--within 1/4"--to both the front and rear walls! I was also able to run the floor continuously from room to room without needing any transition strips.

We chose to use Cumaru--also called Brazilian Teak or Brazilian Chestnut. It's more than two and a half times as hard as red oak (I didn't want any dents in the floor). The close-up below shows what it looks like:

That's the natural color of the wood. No stain, just two coats of varnish. I also installed some flush floor vents to match:

I put two coats of finish on, and I'll put one more on this weekend. Then I'll wait until just before we move in to put the final coat of finish on. With 1200 sq feet of flooring, each coat takes about six hours.

Bill and Mike have made good progress on the tile. They finished laying tile on the floors in the laundry room, back hallway, guest bath, and main bath upstairs. They also built the shower pan in the master bath and started today on the wall tile in the bathrooms.

We're using porcelain tile on most of the floors and walls, with natural travertine stone tiles in the master bath. Here's the laundry room floor:

The tile work is nothing less than excellent. They'll finish the two smaller baths this week, and get some more done on the master bath. Just in time for the cabinets to be delivered on March 23.

A couple more milestones. We picked out the granite for the bathrooms and laundry room today. And the fireplace has been installed and hooked up:

I hired a carpenter to do the finish work on the stairs. When I got price quotes on the finish materials, it turns out that stairs are ridiculously expensive. More than $2500 just for the handrails. So this weekend, I'll be milling my own handrail.

Next week, we should make progress on the stairs, finish up the master bath, and hopefully, I'll finish milling and start installing trim.