Spring

It feels like Spring is arriving early. Weeds are sprouting. Grass is greening.

Steven’s favorite tree at Sea Eagle is blooming — the Redbud at the front of the house.

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Jacquela objects

We discover Saturday that the backsplash glass is repaired — and grouted.

But … to date, there are two issues on this remodel where Jacquela has chosen to object — the tile floor in the master shower, where the grout lines do not align with the walls; and the aluminum drip pans under the tankless water heaters.

Today, she lodges complaint #3.

She messages Mark Rehberg and Odell at Ranserve, in part:

First,  I would have thought that the person doing the tile work would have covered the cooktop before working on the tile.  I am really upset.  My cooktop is a mess.  I don't know if there is damage,  or if all of the residue can be removed without further damage.
I don't understand why the cooktop was not protected.
Now,  the grout at the back/sides of the cooktop is messy and needs to me corrected.

Let’s step through this …

Here's the glass top of the induction cooktop and the red glass backsplash. The cooktop glass, clearly, was not protected when the backsplash was grouted. It is caked -- albeit lightly -- with what appears to be white grout powder that was mixed with water and left to air dry. There should have been a plastic sheet over the cooktop to prevent this.
Here’s the glass top of the induction cooktop and the red glass backsplash. The cooktop glass, clearly, was not protected when the backsplash was grouted. It is caked — albeit lightly — with what appears to be white grout powder that was mixed with water and left to air dry. There should have been a plastic sheet over the cooktop to prevent this.
Same shot as above, this time with white lines imposed to identify the second issue -- how the backsplash was grouted with red grout, where.
Same shot as above, this time with white lines imposed to identify the second issue — how the backsplash was grouted with red grout, where.
Jacquela took this photo of the left corner of grout job. The grout is not crisp, it spills like an alluvial plain onto the countertop and up the quartz backsplash.
Jacquela took this photo of the left corner of grout job. The grout is not crisp, it spills like an alluvial plain onto the countertop and up the quartz backsplash.
This is the right corner -- same alluvial plain of red grout spilling out from the corner --and the red grout "bleeds" up the wall formed by the gray quartz backsplash. It also bleeds across the junction of the glass tile and countertop.
This is the right corner — same alluvial plain of red grout spilling out from the corner –and the red grout “bleeds” up the wall formed by the gray quartz backsplash. It also bleeds across the junction of the glass tile and countertop.
A close up of the "bleed" between the glass-tile backsplash and the gray quartz countertop. This line should have been caulked with gray silicon, not the red grout.
A close up of the “bleed” between the glass-tile backsplash and the gray quartz countertop. This line should have been caulked with gray silicon, not the red grout.
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On the way to Ikea …

Jacquela and Steven stopped Saturday at Emerald Hill. We emptied the back of Steven’s Element, putting more boxes into the garage as we circle around moving in. And we inspected.

This is the tankless water heater in the mudroom off the kitchen. The City of Austin by code requires a pan to catch water under the tankless unit if it ever leaks. The plumbers apparently built this aluminum pan, which is hanging by a rusted wire attached to the pan and one of the copper pipe runs at the right side under the tank. It looks, well, let's be kind ... less than functional and less than professional. After discussion with Odell, Steven ordered from Amazon the two black plastic pans sitting on the floor. They are designed and produced specifically for use with tankless water heaters -- there is a market for everything, and someone smart saw this need unmet. Steven's goal for Monday is to confirm with Odell that these can be installed here in the mudroom and upstairs in the utility/laundry room, under that second tankless unit.
This is the tankless water heater in the mudroom off the kitchen. The City of Austin by code requires a pan to catch water under the tankless unit if it ever leaks. The plumbers apparently built this aluminum pan, which is hanging by a rusted wire attached to the pan and one of the copper pipe runs at the right side under the tank. If the tank ever leaks and water begins to fill the pan, the pan will collapse under its own weight. It looks, well, let’s be kind … less than functional and less than professional. After discussion with Odell, Steven ordered from Amazon the two black plastic pans sitting on the floor. They are designed and produced specifically for use with tankless water heaters — there is a market for everything, and someone smart saw this need unmet. Steven’s goal for Monday is to confirm with Odell that these can be installed here in the mudroom and upstairs in the utility/laundry room, under that second tankless unit.
This is the wired and wireless network operating in the house after Time Warner's install. The black router at left delivers telephone dial tone. The black box on the floor is the router -- with WiFi signal distributed via the antenni/antennum/antennas . In between is the white cable modem. Still boxed are two wireless access points that Steven will mount to the ceiling prewires -- one upstairs and one down -- plus a power-over-Ethernet switch that promises to bring the WAPs to life. But, first, Steven needs to run to Lowe's to buy adapters to mount the WAPs to the ceiling boxes. The screw holes in the WAP mounting plate do not align with the screw holes in the electrical box that is already installed in the drywall.
This is the wired and wireless network operating in the house after Time Warner’s install. The black router at left delivers telephone dial tone. The black box on the floor is the router — with WiFi signal distributed via the antenni/antennum/antennas <?>. In between is the white cable modem. Still boxed are two wireless access points that Steven will mount to the ceiling prewires — one upstairs and one down — plus a power-over-Ethernet switch that promises to bring the WAPs to life. But, first, Steven needs to run to Lowe’s to buy adapters to mount the WAPs to the ceiling boxes. The screw holes in the WAP mounting plate do not align with the screw holes in the electrical box that is already installed in the drywall.

Steven attempted to set up the Ring wireless doorbell. Fail. Technical support made several suggestions. Steven will reattempt at next opportunity.

Steven and Jacquela could not find the user manual needed to configure the Schlage Connect keypad and lock that is installed at the kitchen side door. A couple of downloads later, the Internet is, once again, your friend.

Observation — at the front of this job we make BIG decisions. Rip out the aluminum wire. Take it down to studs. Replace the windows. Check the plumbing under the slab. Set a budget. Those decisions are made quickly, almost easily. Now, by contrast, we are mucking around with minutia — countless discoveries that seem to stack up over Newark, buzzing for attention, distracting, each one getting in the way of the next. It’s exhausting. It’s daunting. After nine months, we just want to be done.

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Intense Friday

This day began with Odell and Steven in the mudroom bath at 8 am, talking through how to correct issues with the sink drain. We conclude that the P-trap comes off, the drain line in the wall needs to shift x inches left — and, after this surgery is performed, a T-trap will mount perpendicular and plumb correctly under the sink drain.

The Time Warner techies arrived about 815 am — first Erich, then Cory, then a team in hard hats to string wire from the telephone poles, then a supervisor. Everyone parked their own trucks, with orange cones. Steven should have charged for parking. They wrapped about 130 pm with TV, phone and, most important, Internet up and running — even WiFi. This milestone enables Steven to work at the house without tethering to his phone.

Steven dropped Jadin at school about 845 am.

Steve the electrician arrived to install the whole-house and telephone/cable surge suppressors. The whole-house unit was a 15-minute slam dunk on the exterior of the back wall of the garage. Done. The tele/cable suppressor required research, with Steven struggling to learn more electrical science. We convened a conference — Steven, Steve, Erich and Cory — on the driveway, alongside one of the Time Warner trucks. Erich and Cory advised that the tele/cable suppressor is not needed, because the Time Warner equipment comes with suppression/protection built in. Steven decides: He will return the tele/cable suppressor for a refund.

The HVAC team arrived from Austin Air to determine how and where to install the make-up air system demanded by the Austin Green Build program. This has to be wired to operate when the exhaust hood in the kitchen switches on — the exhaust system blows out, the make-up air system brings in replacement air. The system requires ducting, and a motor to pull in outside air and blow it into the kitchen. Planning is critical — where to put all of this stuff in a house that is nearly complete? They worked at first with Cris and Odell from Ranserve, then roped Steven into the conversation. Everyone climbed up into the attic over the garage to map out one route into the kitchen. Cris sketched the install on the back of piece of drywall leaning against a garage wall. Then we shifted into the kitchen to look at where the duct might mount — near the kitchen-side door. Then we explored a second option — cutting open the kitchen ceiling to route the motor and duct into the cavity under the roof eaves. This second route would leave a huge grille in the kitchen ceiling visible from everywhere. The better location is over the door. With that decided, Cris cut open a section of mudroom ceiling between the garage and the kitchen — see photo above — to confirm that we can route the duct intake at the eave outside the garage, into the garage attic, connect to the motor when it is installed in the attic, run duct above the mudroom, through the framing between the mudroom and kitchen, to the grille above the kitchen-side door.

Why was all this not done when the house was gutted down to studs?

Brett Grinkmeyer arrived to conduct the architectural inspection required when Ranserve requests a draw payment. Steven and Brett barely got time to speak, because it was time for Time Warner to sit Steven down on the upstairs hall floor, laptop propped on boxes, to configure the network, create a Time Warner customer account complete with passwords, sign off on the install.

Victor Martinez arrived to discuss landscaping — using the dirt piled up on the driveway and mulch piled between the trees to fill in around the concrete pavers and spaces made bare of grass by nine months of construction. Steven requests a plan he can submit to Austin Green Build — and a budget.

At 2 pm, approximately, Odell returned from an offsite meeting to review the mudroom plumbing — he thinks he has it figured out; it will require opening up a wall to shift the drain pipe to the proper location. And the routing solution for the make-up air system. And the rough plan for the week ahead.

Steven called Kristin at Harway to ask why the cooktop does not fit absolutely flush to the quartz countertop. There’s a gap about 1/16th inch between the induction cooktop and the quartz countertop — guaranteed to trap food and spills. Late in the day, Kristin responds by email to report she will visit to inspect.

230 pm — lunch break.

Steven comes back from lunch at 3 pm to discover Bassam working on the kitchen cabinets.

At 330, Lance from Time Warner calls to close out the install ticket.

At 345, Steven departs to pick up Jadin from school.

Observation — at several times today, especially in the morning, the questions were firing in, one on top of the other, stacking up over Newark. Each issue required thought and discussion — where to put the tele-cable surge suppressor, for example — it can’t mount outdoors, so why does it mate to the whole-house suppressor that does mount outdoors, is it needed? How to address the drain for the mudroom sink — that took at least an hour, on and off, back and forth, testing ideas, researching options. It was intense. Everything was way above Steven’s pay grade — he’s not a plumber, not an electrician, not an HVAC installer, not a cable tech, not a cabinetmaker, not a landscaper. Steven misses Ron, who seemed able to work through any stress, calmly, expertly, guiding with advice. In his first 48 hours on the job, Odell is quickly coming up to speed. But, damn, we have not had a day like this in a long time — not since Steven and Ron climbed into the 120-degree attic to unravel the botched HVAC ducting.

 

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Connected!

Time Warner today installed and connected Internet, TV and phone service at Emerald Hill.

Brilliant!

The house comes alive.

Meet Erich, left, and Cory, right, from Time Warner, as they pull cable, hook up components and route signal through the walls and air. Supreme techs.
Meet Erich, left, and Cory, right, from Time Warner, as they pull cable, hook up components and route signal through the walls and air. Supreme techs.
Here's the whole-house DVR, ready to be connected to a TV when we move into the house. There are two playback devices -- one in the loft upstairs and one in bedroom 1 -- that connect to this box to access channels and recorded programming.
Here’s the whole-house DVR, ready to be connected to a TV when we move into the house. There are two playback devices — one in the loft upstairs and one in bedroom 1 — that connect to this box to access channels and recorded programming.
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Notes, 25 Feb. 2019 / Pushing back the move-in date

Ron Dahlke is officially placed on medical leave by Ranserve. More details to come.

Above, meet Odell Grant from Ranserve, stepping in to serve as site supervisor as we push to complete the house and move in. Odell is wondering why that hand-made aluminum pan, roughly and not well built, was installed as a drip pan under the tankless water heater, suspended from the copper piping by thin rusted wire. Steven and Jacquela do not approve of this attempt to meet City of Austin codes that require the drip pans. Steven today ordered two replacements from Amazon — one for upstairs, one for down.

Austin Air yesterday completed the startup of the HVAC system. We have heat and air conditioning at Emerald Hill for the first time. The gas furnace is powered up. The condensor could make cold air if we asked it.

The gas meter is hooked up, which is why the furnace and tankless units are able to generate heat and hot water, respectively. But ... there is a distinct smell of escaping gas when Steven took this photo. Odell immediately called the plumbers.
The gas meter is hooked up, which is why the furnace and tankless units are able to generate heat and hot water, respectively. But … there is a distinct smell of escaping gas when Steven took this photo. Odell immediately called the plumbers.

Odell and Steven walked and talked Emerald Hill for about two hours, building a punch list for Odell to work through. He’s helicoptered in to pick up where Ron left off. Deep breath.

About 145 pm Odell reported that the tempered glass needed for the tall window at Jadin’s bedroom will not arrive until Tuesday next week, 1 March. The inspector requires we replace the conventional glass with tempered because a closet door opens toward the window. Safety.

As a result, Odell advises that we push back the move-in date, which was scheduled for Wednesday, 2 March. Steven called Rene de Anda at El Sol Logistics, the moving company. The move is now scheduled for Friday, 11 March.

Cris from Ranserve is working all over the house as Odell and Steven walk and talk. Here, in the master bedroom, Cris is patching the ceiling where we shifted the fan to center of the bed, instead of in the center of the room.
Cris from Ranserve is working all over the house as Odell and Steven walk and talk. Here, in the master bedroom, Cris is patching the ceiling where we shifted the fan to center of the bed, instead of in the center of the room.

Steven ordered Internet, TV and phone services from Time Warner; installation is scheduled for Friday, 26 February.

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Slow re-entry

Steven is back from Barcelona and ShowStoppers @ Mobile World Congress.

Mark Rehberg from Ranserve and Steven spoke by phone, email and text several times today. Mark is bringing in Odell to serve as site supervisor while Ron takes medical leave.

At Mark’s request, Steven began assembling a punch list of pending items to help bring Odell up to speed. Steven compiled items from memory, then walked the house to compile line-item details for Mark and Odell.

Mark reports we are working toward a final inspection for next week.

Above, the ceiling of the garage is now drywalled, as required by the inspector.

Steven is also coordinating the installation of whole-house surge suppressors by the electricians, and coordinating installation of TV, phone and Internet services by Time Warner.

While Steven was traveling, Peter and Shane worked with Jacquela to shift the Schlage electronic lock and deadbolt to the side door off the kitchen -- the most-heavily used exterior door to the house.
While Steven was traveling, Peter and Shane worked with Jacquela to shift the Schlage electronic lock and deadbolt to the side door off the kitchen — the most-heavily used exterior door to the house.
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Homeward bound: UA 047 FRA to IAH, 40000 ft

That wing is spectacular.
That wing is spectacular.

United 047, FRA to IAH.
40,000 feet.
87 mph headwinds.
Ground speed: 500 mph.
Time to Houston: 3 hours.
Outside temp: -54 Fahrenheit.

My second-ever flight in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

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