time compression

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Jun 302008

Faster and faster, the final fixtures are appearing and parts of the house are finished. The plumbers just finished a few days ago, electricians are coming back tomorrow morning to install the stairway lights, and Nancy and I and the tiling crew have worked feverishly to get the last punch-list items handled before our inspections tomorrow. I think we’re ready. It’s been another 14 hour day for us.


Today I fabricated and installed the rails on the stairs. The final 3-1/4” thick treads were installed this morning by Steve and Tom Tillson. Nancy and I spent the week staining and finishing them.

Everything meets code: the railing is 35” above the treads, with returns to the wall at the end. The gap between the treads is less than 4”, and the tread rise is 7-1/4”, and 11” deep with a 1” overhand. So many requirements for stairs!

Eduardo and Xavier worked ALL weekend to get the bluestone stairs done on the first floor. We had to remove some of the plywood, and shave the back of some of the stones to get the correct rise, run and overhang for the treads.


Our nephew, Andrew Jones, is priming the wall in the master bedroom closet. By the way, good quality primer is nasty stuff, and a mask and ventilation are a good idea. Then you can see the Crema Marfil stone shower with a waterfall shower head, and the drain tile floor. Very pretty.

Below are pics of the finished master bathroom. Note my paint-stained shirt…the faucets are all LaCava WaterBlade fixtures, very cool looking. The mirror over the sink has fluorescent lights built in on either side. The tub was a Major Find on craigslist, brand new acrylic soaking tub with a Japanese wood cradle, at a fraction of list price.


Tomorrow morning is the fire inspection, and the final town building inspection. We need several sign-offs for occupancy. Fingers crossed, it’s time to sleep. Tomorrow starts early. Again.

marathon mile 22

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Jun 202008

Our first inspection for an occupancy permit is Monday morning, and I’m sure we’ll have a punch list of items to finish. But I’m pulling all the stops to get everything possible complete. I’m working half-time at my job, mostly nights and early morning, then working full time at the job site all day. Today’s been a 15-hour day, and I’m going to do some work when I finish this page. That’s why so much has happened, but I haven’t been able to blog in well over a week.

In the last 3 days:

  • most finish electrical is done; 4 major fixtures still need installation.
  • half the finish plumbing is done, and I’ve had to repeatedly call both Peter Levi and his plumber to get their ass on the site. It should have been finished last Thursday. They’ve lost parts, and I’m spending hours each day trying to get them what they need.
  • final drywall punch list is done, all edges are straight, and all small problems are resolved.
  • 1st floor tiling is done, and nearly all 3rd floor tiling is done!
  • I’ve rebuilt a sink stand to fit into the ground floor powder room, installed mirrors, aligned light fixtures, morticed hidden hinges into doors, bought lights, switches, GFI sockets, decorator covers, occupancy sensors, motion sensors, more lights, waterproof socket covers, ordered more light fixtures, drilled and painted railing for cable rails, cut, drilled and stained cedar for even more rails, installed J-boxes, and prepared floor area for tile, epoxied metal reinforcement into the kitchen island for the counter, brought demand to folks to get them moving, bought lunch and drinks for crews, and made 9 hardware store visits, 3 plumbing outlet visits, taken delivery of appliances, hauled trash and cardboard to Marin Recycling, scheduled a Lutron Homeworks lighting programmer, and put in hours to create an initial mapping for the Lutron lighting system. Just 3 days. I think final exams at MIT were easier.

I’m too wiped to write more. Here are pics.


Front entrance, with Turkish Travertine tiling, and bluestone stepping stones in the landscaping.

Kitchen island, with the riverwash granite counter installed on the oh-so-cool Elkay sink, with a built-in drainboard.


Fireplace done, with more granite. The EcoSmart burner is the stainless steel square in the middle., and the back still has the protective plastic cover, with some writing on it.

Today’s accomplishment, the glass rail, waiting for the top cap and bronze cladding. This is also the top of the feature wall, with a framed light box on the right in the wall, to illuminate Tomoko Murakami’s artwork. Our pieces are the red Yusaifu #7, shown at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomokom/5200663356/lightbox and Yusaifu #8, http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomokom/5200070653/in/photostream/lightbox/

Now I have to go to work 🙂

permit race

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Jun 102008

We want to move in by the end of June. A ton of stuff has to happen, and I have 6 different subcontractors scheduled very tightly to get us to an occupancy permit. Plumbing and electrical subs have committed to finishing by the end of this week, but neither was on site today, and I’m concerned. We’ll see if they can do it…I can always add reviews at http://tomchilders.yelp.com, where I’ve been pretty active this year. I should have added completion bonuses to the contracts!

The floor is going well, though we’re a couple days past the committed schedule. The slate is beautiful, the bathroom counter is getting installed tomorrow, kitchen counters soon after that. Nick Razo’s guys work hard…they were in the house all day Saturday, after a full week, and did a long day today also. The above picture speaks for itself.

The “feature wall”, a central wall in the stairway, is installed and ready for a finish coat. Just look at the pics. Nancy, Rich Dowd (our architect), and the Tillson brothers have done a Really Cool Thing.


Above is Tom Tillson in the garage, while the 1st floor portion is being built. Next is the view from the first landing, looking at the 2nd floor. To the left is the second floor view, with temporary scaffolding. This kind of feature is currently popular with architects for the exterior of a home, but it’s kind of novel for an interior.

(Nancy and Rich will probably hate me for saying this, but after we started designing it, we actually saw something similar at http://www.cafetropedc.com)

Then there is my work with Tony over the last 3 days. We’ve put the first and most important landscaping elements into place, the bluestone pavers and planting area around the entrance to the house. Saturday, we formed and poured the concrete pads. Sunday we mortared the 3 bluestones in place on the pads, matching the ones in the driveway. Today I got a cubic yard of landscaping soil, and shoveled it into place around the stones.


Here is what it looked like early this morning, and late this afternoon. The really cool thing about this was how the soil showed up! I prepped the area for soil this morning, picked up doors from Mission Wood in San Rafael (for our crawl spaces and wine cellar 🙂 then went to American Soil products for a yard of topsoil. I ran into Alex Rockas, the subcontractor who framed our house last fall, and he has a yard of topsoil in his truck. He offers to let me borrow his truck (which has no camper shell) so I can get a yard of soil dropped into it. Then he goes to his project, and finds out they are not quite ready for the soil yet.

The universe is a wonderful place. Alex brought the yard out to our house, we shoveled it out (yes, I just moved another 900 lbs of stuff), and I gave him a tour of the house he framed when we were done. I saved some money, he made some money, and he got to see what he helped create. Perfection is all around us, if we can only receive it.

dr. weightloss

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Jun 032008

*…or how I learned to skip workouts, and love Aleve 🙂

Tile. Pretty heavy stuff. Over the last week, we’ve taken delivery of about 16,000 lbs of it, plus another 8800 lbs of bluestone for the exterior decks that arrived a while ago. We’ve also received 5 granite countertops that weight 340 lbs each, 32 bags of Thinset mortar for the tile, and about 16 bags of mortar for the shower walls. Since I’ve either moved it all in my truck, or helping to unload it from a delivery truck, I’ve been getting plenty of exercise. I’m down more than 5 lbs in just a couple of weeks. Why didn’t I think of this before? Much easier than going to the gym. Not!


Here is our 26,000-lb garage. 1850 square feet of Brazilian slate on the right, 5 granite counters and 8800 lbs of bluestone on the left. Oh, and 800 lbs of solid wood doors in the back. The mortar and most of the Thinset are stacked elsewhere. It doesn’t look like much, but each of those 150-odd brown cardboard packages weighs about 60 lbs. I’m glad the foundation is thick. Yes, that’s a toilet hanging out by the doors, ready for 2nd-floor installation.


And the slate is lovely, even without any grout yet. Eduardo is a skilled craftsman, and places the tiles with precision, 1/8” apart, tops aligned within a tiny fraction of a millimeter, as Nancy looks on. The second pic shows a few tiles in the bedroom, and the variation in color (along with a few dusty boot-prints 🙂 The entire 3rd floor should be done by the end of this week, when we will get the appliances installed in the kitchen.


In the mean time, we’ve painted almost all the rooms, the cedar siding is done on the outside, and we have to clean alkali stains off the garage door, from the stucco process. Finish electrical work starts today, and I’ve brought all the light fixtures. Next week the finish plumbing will start. In two weeks, we should have lights and a working kitchen and bathroom. We still plan to move in by the end of June. Cross your fingers.