race against rain, part I

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Nov 182007

The San Francisco bay area really has two seasons, wet and dry. We’ve been lucky that we’ve only had two fairly light rain storms come through so far, and the framing has had plenty of time to dry out. But the wet season usually starts in earnest after Thanksgiving, and we want to get the outside of the house waterproof by then if at all possible. So all construction effort for the last two weeks has focused on the outer walls, roof and decks.

You can see in the picture above how much more of the exterior is done. We decided drainage details for all the decks, and Alex & his crew have put tapered framing stringers on the deck surfaces, in preparation for 3/4” plywood to create the final sloped decks. On Monday, our waterproofing subcontractor will pour foam insulation onto these decks to fill in the space between the stringers, then Alex will put on the plywood, and waterproofer will install metal flashing around the edges, tape the seams, and put on the first coat of a polyurethane waterproofing system.


The outside looked like this pic on the left, a week ago on a nice sunny day. Almost all of the 3rd floor exterior framing is complete, but the second floor is still wide open.

Compare that to a picture I took today, when it’s cloudy and humid and cool. Most of the second floor exterior walls are framed out, and you can see where Bob’s crew has installed plastic over the decks on the 3rd floor, just in case it rains this weekend.


This bedroom is ready for windows. This photo from last week looks out toward the street, through the framing for three window units on the front and side of the master bedroom. The railing outside is the scaffolding that was erected over the front and sides of the building almost 2 weeks ago.

You can also see the roof has been completed. Crown Ridge Roofing of San Rafael did it in a half a day. We chose a 50-year composite shingle roof, since it is lightweight, efficient, and the roof isn’t really visible from anywhere near the house. We also picked a color that was not too dark, so the roof absorbs less heat in the summer.

In summary, this week we’ll be completing the decks. And installing windows, which arrive tomorrow morning!

what goes in, must come out

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Nov 092007

Today, I thought I’d talk about some of the infrastructure for our house, and for the construction project. We’re completing the foundation drainage system, connecting the sewer and water lines, and I’m hauling construction waste off to the Marin Recycling Center.

First, the drainage system. We have 6” perforated pipe running around the edge of the foundation wall at the bottom. Originally, this was going to run at a slight downhill angle out to the curb, so any water that gets behind the foundation walls would drain out via gravity. But the foundation was excavated too deep as well as too far into the hill, so the drain piping got installed by our original contractor 3’ lower than the street. We had no choice but to run the pipe out to a 5’-deep drain box by the curb, and put a sump pump in the bottom of the box to get any water out through the curb, to run down the street.


Here is the top half of the drain box (the bottom is already buried), next to the curb, with one of the two drain pipes approaching to connect through the hole in the side. The box is about 2’ square, and has a big metal cover that fits on the top. This will be sitting exposed in our driveway. The copper pipe in the background is our water main, which crosses over the the other drain pipe, already buried behind the box.

We also have drains running around the outside edge of the house. There is a v-ditch across the back of the foundation, with drain boxes at each end. Big pipes run down the side of the property, connecting to drainage behind the wing walls, and on down to the street.


Here is the drain box at the top right corner of the house, at the end of the v-ditch. The picture is looking down towards the street, showing the corner of the foundation (under the scaffolding boards), the box in the bottom left, and the top of the wing wall down the hill in the upper left. A 6” pipe goes down the side of the house from this box to a second drain box behind the wing wall (in the right photo), which has more piping down to the curb. The pipe is already buried up here, but below, you can see where it comes out down the hill and connects to the drain box behind the wing wall. We had to perform videotaped camera inspections of all these pipes by the way, to verify to the town of Fairfax that these drain pipes are all functional.

Finally, I want to talk about construction debris, and junk removal and recycling. We would like to get LEED certification for our house, and I know that good recycling practices during construction are important. So I do our trash removal, and I’m careful to sort our trash and take it all to the Marin Recycling Center. The photo below shows a typical pile of debris from the construction process. Here is what I do with it.


In the middle you can see our weekly trash pickup, where the worker is picking up two buckets of recyclable glass, plastic and metal. I’ve loaded my work truck with all the lumber scraps. Some scraps are pressure treated, and the recycling center prefers those to be sorted out. So this load is all untreated wood, going straight to recycling. In the right picture, you see the result.

My truck is full of the recyclable lumber. The pile on the right are remains, the treated wood scraps, paper and plastic wrapping, metal and plastic strapping, empty cardboard. boxes. I take the cardboard to recycling separately, and haul the other trash away on another trip to the center. It’s a little more effort, but everyone wins in the long run.