Category Archives: garage

A sprinkler saga, episode 1

When Ranserve excavated the foundation for the new garage bay, the concrete crew cut and buried the end of the 12-strand cable that runs between the control unit location in the garage, out to the valves that control the sprinklers in the back yard, along the PVC pipes that were buried in the ground when a previous owner installed the sprinkler system, and out to the valves and sprinkler heads in the front yard.

Ron Dahlke did try to protect the cable, but bobcats, picks, shovels and form boards are brutal.

Ron, Odell, Kevin and Matt dug exploratory holes in the back yard after the garage was built — and they did find the cable.

But it had been severed — and a section about 20 feet long was missing.

Odell asked Steven to have a sprinkler company do the repair.

Steven collected four estimates. Two companies advised it would be easier and faster to install an entirely new system at a cost of somewhere beyond $4,000 to $5,000. Two companies recommended repairs at $95 an hour, plus parts, with about three hours required to diagnose whether the system could be repaired.

Steven selected Mikel and Darynn Eggert, the two brothers who run Green Tree Professional. Yes, Steven gravitates toward working with family businesses and brothers — see the fence postings as further evidence.

In episode 1 of the sprinkler saga, dated 11 Nov. 2016, Darynn and Mikel excavated the cut end of the control cable buried in the ground about feet away from the back of the new garage, patched it to new wire, and attempted to pull that wire into the garage through conduit that was fixed into place when the concrete slab of the new garage floor was poured.

First discovery — it is impossible to force heavy-duty 12-strand irrigation wire through a tight 90-degree elbow when you don’t have a heavy-duty pull cord.

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The concrete team installed electrical conduit when they formed and poured the new slab for the garage. The sprinkler control wire was supposed to travel through the conduit. But, the wire can’t be pulled through the tight elbow identified in the lower circle in photo, at the concrete foundation. Steven approved drilling through the siding — the second, higher circle in the red-painted siding. Note the missing chunk of concrete walk that was cut out when the garage slab was excavated — this has to be replaced. Darynn and Mikel ran a temporary control wire above ground, with which they were able to begin testing the sprinkler system.

After much discussion, Steven permitted Darynn and Mikel to drill a hole through the exterior siding of the garage above ground level, with a plan to shield the cable in new conduit that would be mounted to the exterior of the siding outside the garage, turned down to the ground in a WIDE 90-degree elbow, then buried and run out across the back yard to connect with the old existing cable.

Except … Ranserve still has to replace a chunk of concrete walk that was cut out when the garage foundation was formed and poured. The new wire out the back of the garage traverses this missing concrete, so permanent installation is not possible until the concrete work is done.

The temporary control wire travels about 20 feet across the back yard to where the original exiting wire was severed.
The temporary control wire travels about 20 feet across the back yard to where the original exiting wire was severed.
Darynn and Mikel made waterproof connections between the new and old control wires. The trench at right is where Mikel discovered the open end of a sprinkler line that was severed during construction of the garage. He cut off the knife edge of the PVC and capped it off.
Darynn and Mikel made waterproof connections between the new and old control wires. The trench at right is where Mikel discovered the open end of a sprinkler line that was severed during construction of the garage. He cut off the knife edge of the PVC and capped it off.

So, Mikel and Darynn ran the wire into the garage, temporarily loose and above ground, connected it to the sprinkler controller in the back yard, turned on water to the sprinkler system, powered up the controller — and began experimenting to discover leaks.

Second discovery — the system still worked. In some places.

Third discovery — in the front yard, the plumbers severed  the main supply line to the sprinkler system when they trenched the front yard to install the new water supply line to the house as required by the city. Did the plumbers repair the sprinkler line as requested by Steven? Apparently, obviously, not.

 

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Transforming the garage floor

We built a third garage bay with a storage loft above and enough space at the back for a workshop.

But the floor of the original garage was covered with what we suspect was cheap, 50-year-old, red linoleum tile that was glued down.  Someone apparently used the garage as a rec room during the history of the house.

Ranserve hacked away at the tile and glue for days. The glue just would not come up.

We opted to cover it with roll-out floor mats that we used at Sea Eagle, and we used heavy cardboard Ramboard to extend a walking path to the cars from the mudroom door into the garage — because if you walk on the glue, you will stick to the glue and drag it all over the house and into the cars.

With a recommendation from Ranserve, Steven hired Monty Patton and Krystal Flooring to grind clean the glue and top layer of concrete.

Monty, Jose and Roberto arrived about 930 am and finished about 4 pm.

Here’s a photo essay.

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A “before” shot. The yellow and brown crud is the glue. Heavy cardboard still laid on the floor as a walkway.

Another "before" shot.
Another “before” shot.
A closeup of the glue and crap. You can still see the pattern of the 12x12 tiles.
A closeup of the glue and crap. You can still see the pattern of the 12×12 tiles.
On his knees, Monty uses a heavy grinder to test clean a small section of the floor. Jose supervises.
On his knees, Monty uses a heavy grinder to test clean a small section of the floor. Jose supervises.
Jose takes over the heavy grinder and works by hand while Roberto navigates the big grinder back and forth across larger sections of floor.
Jose takes over the heavy grinder and works by hand while Roberto navigates the big grinder back and forth across larger sections of floor.
Shot from the other direction, Roberto on the large grinder, Jose on his knees grinding by hand.
Shot from the other direction, Roberto on the large grinder, Jose on his knees grinding by hand.
Working into the back corner on the side of the garage where Steven parks.
Working into the back corner on the side of the garage where Steven parks.
And finally into the far back end of the garage.
And finally into the far back end of the garage.
With the glue gone, with the bare concrete exposed for the first time since maybe the 1970s, it's time to spread and apply a hardener to the naked concrete.
With the glue gone, with the bare concrete exposed for the first time since maybe the 1970s, it’s time to spread and apply a hardener to the naked concrete.
The hardener reacts chemically with the concrete. It dries quickly. Monty, Roberto and Jose have to continually pour water on it, and push the water around with squeegees.
The hardener reacts chemically with the concrete. It dries quickly. Monty, Roberto and Jose have to continually pour water on it, and push the water around with squeegees.

And then we let it dry overnight.

This is the prize-winning after shot of a floor that has not been this clean since the house was first built.

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Utility sink, part 1

One shortcoming is … there is no utility sink in the garage. Jacquela does NOT want Steven washing out paint brushes in the kitchen.

Steven proposed a utility sink during the design and build process, but it would have required a ridiculously expensive change order — and busting up more concrete.

Fortunately, when we shifted the sink in the mudroom bathroom, it wound up on the wall that is shared with the garage. This puts the water supply and drain lines into that shared wall. Which means we can open up the wall from the garage to tie in hot and cold water supplies, and connect the drain line from the utility sink to the drain line inside the wall that connects to the mudroom sink.

It just requires imagination, a budget, and a plumber.

Mike Rodriguez and his team from Elite Plumbing arrived 21 October to cut open the wall — photo above — and connect the pex lines — photo below.

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Steven’s job is to install a backer board to attach the sink to, re-insulate the wall with foam, replace the drywall, patch the drywall, then glue a plastic sheet against the drywall to serve as backsplash. Here’s what that looks like when Steven is done:

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Now Mike can return to the scene of the crime to hook up the sink and water lines.

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Going to the mat

Steven continues Garage Therapy. It’s taken about a week, so far, an hour or two each day …

Above, the twin racks are built, screwed to the wall, on the right, and the supply of lumber left over from construction is now off the floor. That allowed Steven to roll the old workshop carts from Sea Eagle over from the west wall of the garage, tucking them under the lumber racks. With that shift, Steven was able to clear the west wall of everything, sweep up shards of linoleum tile that remained from demo, to unroll three of the garage floor mats that we used at Sea Eagle.

It doesn't look like much -- red rubber mats rolled out on a garage floor. But, to Steven, this is a significant milestone in the process of moving in, instead of just moving. He is taking control of the garage; it's no longer just a storage container for boxes. The tools have a home, albeit temporary; the lumber has a home, on the wall, sorted by type and size; and floor space is opening up.
It doesn’t look like much — red rubber mats rolled out on a garage floor. But, to Steven, this is a significant milestone in the process of moving in, instead of just moving. He is taking control of the garage; it’s no longer just a storage container for boxes. The tools have a home, albeit temporary; the lumber has a home, on the wall, sorted by type and size; and floor space is opening up.
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Garage therapy

We’ve been in the house for three weeks. Every time Steven needs a tool, he has to go through seven large black and yellow storage containers and five toolboxes. Or the orange bucket that serves as the sixth toolbox. It is frustrating.

And the garage is a minefield of lumber, boxes stacked six high, construction debris that was never really cleaned up, and all sorts of stuff we have no other place to put.

Steven reached the point this day where this has got to end.

Jacquela chose this day to escape to the Renaissance Faire with Bridget from work. Good for them.

Steven stepped into the garage to claim the house and begin to take control of the garage.

Boxes of CDs, photos, artwork, fragile items were culled from the garage and transported into the bedroom upstairs that is intended to become the model trainroom.

Jadin was coerced into helping to transport boxes upstairs. Reluctantly.

Boxes designated by Jacquela for the bedroom that will become her craft room — Steven hoisted those up the ladder to the storage attic over the new third bay of the garage. What will be the craft room is crammed with the shelves and carts and table that we need to organize into a configuration that works. Shelving will be screwed to walls. Carts will be rolled against walls. The worktable will go wherever Jacquela points it.

Back and forth. Up and down.

Steven reached the back wall of the third bay, where the workshop and power tools will eventually go, vacuumed up the construction debris, shifted one metal shelving rack into position below the window on the side wall — and started to relocate cartons of books and magazines off the plastic shelving to the metal racks. Then there was space to move a second metal rack into place. Then a third.

Back and forth. Box by box.

When the metal racks filled the workshop space, Steven shifted the black-and-yellow containers to the top of each rack. All he needs to do now is pop the lids to get to what he needs. Progress.

Behind him, a huge expanse of garage floor is beginning to clear.

For extra credit, Steven put tools and supplies left behind by Ranserve on a plastic shelving unit near one garage door, and cans of paint and grout up on a second shelving unit near the back door of the garage.

There’s still a long way to go, but … we can now walk on bare feet on bare concrete across all three parking bays of the garage.

In photo above, the space between the bicycles and middle ceiling light was filled with boxes before Steven set to work — with some stacks six boxes high. Now we can see floor. At rear, the yellow lids are the storage containers with Steven’s tools, screws, nails, parts — the stuff he needs to get the family moved into the house. At right is a pile of lumber that Steven is putting on the schedule to tackle.

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Two steps forward

Julian and Samuel today completed work on the new floor in the master shower. Tomorrow, we scrub-a-dub for the first time without walking down the hall to bath 3 — if the plumbing is not blocked.

Kyle and Andrew from Cowart arrived mid-morning to tweak the garage doors. The checked the sensors — looking for what triggers an intermittent error message on the door to the new garage bay. Nothing. So they opted to install a new wall control — in part because one of the paddle switches was broken.

After that, Kyle and Andrew drove to Sea Eagle to inspect and adjust one of the garage doors that would not operate — the sensors were out of alignment.

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Working the pile, again

Ramon continues to whittle away at the pile of dirt carved out to form the foundation of the new garage bay. Here he is, above, about mid-day. By end of day, he’s down to a layer of dirt atop the asphalt driveway.

Victor is designing a berm at the front of the lot to hold water back from the street -- giving it more time to soak into the turf. Why? There's enough good black dirt to do this.
Victor is designing a berm at the front of the lot to hold water back from the street — giving it more time to soak into the turf. Why? There’s enough good black dirt to do this.
Most of the boxes inside the house are emptied and crushed flat. Steven takes them out to the gravel patio off the kitchen-side of the house, stacking them for recycling. But ... there are boxes that must be saved -- for the computer monitors, the speakers, the new pots and pans that Steven bought Jacquela as a housewarming gift nearly a year ago. For these special boxes, Steven cleared space in the garage, erected a ladder, and, with Jadin's help, carried the boxes into the storage loft atop the new garage bay. Here are the first denizens of Upper Boxland, stacked as far back as possible.
Most of the boxes inside the house are emptied and crushed flat. Steven takes them out to the gravel patio off the kitchen-side of the house, stacking them for recycling. But … there are boxes that must be saved — for the computer monitors, the speakers, the new pots and pans that Steven bought Jacquela as a housewarming gift nearly a year ago. For these special boxes, Steven cleared space in the garage, erected a ladder, and, with Jadin’s help, carried the boxes into the storage loft atop the new garage bay. Here are the first denizens of Upper Boxland, stacked as far back as possible.

Jacquela tested the washing machine for the first time this morning. Steven discovered water pooling in the pan under the tankless water heater upstairs. Ranserve dispatched Barry from Custom Plumbing, who adjusted the condensate hose fitting into the drain pipe. The water should not be backing up and filling the pan. We’ll see if this fix works.

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T minus 6 days

Team Ranserve continue working through the punch list as we count down to moving in.

Odell called for the Final Inspection. The inspector arrived. Emerald Hill failed. As expected. This inspector is new to the remodel. He requires more documentation of where the two layers of fire-resistant drywall are and are not installed in the garage, around the mudroom. The previous inspector approved two layers around the mudroom and one layer on the walls that do not connect with the body of the house. Odell is attempting to contact that previous inspector for clarification and resolution.

Above, Julian test fits the 12×12 sheets of 2×2 black tiles that will become the final floor of the master shower. This is how we resolve an issue that has festered since November, when the shower floor was first tiled. The grout lines do not line up. Jacquela objected — the first issue she ever raised on this project. Julian laid out the mosaics. Jacquela arrived to inspect. She approved. Julian is five sheets of tile short. Odell ordered the tile. Now we wait for delivery and install.

Thisi s a mock-up of what the floor will look like when done. Julian left the border on each side open, dry fitting the tile for full sheets to calculate how many more tiles he needs and how much cutting will be required.
Thisi s a mock-up of what the floor will look like when done. Julian left the border on each side open, dry fitting the tile for full sheets to calculate how many more tiles he needs and how much cutting will be required.
In the garage, Odell remounted the fluorescent ceiling lights -- taken down to put up drywall required by the inspector -- and the electricians wired them up again. Odell also trimmed out around the attic hatch.
In the garage, Odell remounted the fluorescent ceiling lights — taken down to put up drywall required by the inspector — and the electricians wired them up again. Odell also trimmed out around the attic hatch.
Jacinto is back for day 2 of scraping up the red linoleum tiles from the garage floor. He reports his shoulders shudder as he falls asleep -- induced from hammering the scraper at the edge of each tile, prying it loose from the glue. Most of the tiles shatter into dried-out shards. Steven attempted to help yesterday. He got up two tiles in five minutes, with a new understanding of physical labor.
Jacinto is back for day 2 of scraping up the red linoleum tiles from the garage floor. He reports his shoulders shudder as he falls asleep — induced from hammering the scraper at the edge of each tile, prying it loose from the glue. Most of the tiles shatter into dried-out shards. Steven attempted to help yesterday. He got up two tiles in five minutes, with a new understanding of physical labor.
At the garage door into the mudroom, and around the door to the back yard, floating the drywall is completed and Odell trimmed out both doors to match the interior trim. He also mounted the garage door openers to the wall -- they were hanging loose before this, waiting for the drywall work to finish.
At the garage door into the mudroom, and around the door to the back yard, floating the drywall is completed and Odell trimmed out both doors to match the interior trim. He also mounted the garage door openers to the wall — they were hanging loose before this, waiting for the drywall work to finish.
Inside the mudroom bath, the wall behind the sink is now patched -- and Odell is again test fitting the drain line and T-trap.
Inside the mudroom bath, the wall behind the sink is now patched — and Odell is again test fitting the drain line and T-trap.

Upstairs in the master bath, Odell discovered that the left-hand medicine cabinet is not centered over the sink faucet; he will take it down and recenter it. He also ordered a replacement for one of the sink faucets, which seems to have developed a permanent slow leak via the cartridge.

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T minus 7 days

The port-a-potty was taken away five days ago. We’re 24 hours closer to moving in — and Team Ranserve is working through the punch list.

Above … Jacinto from Ranserve today began to scrape the old linoleum tiles off the floor in the old garage. We suspect one of the previous owners converted the garage into a rec room. We want to park the cars and use the space for storage and tools.

Catching up ... the whole-house surge suppressor that the electricians installed a couple of days back -- at the bottom of the electrical panel.
Catching up … the whole-house surge suppressor that the electricians installed a couple of days back — at the bottom of the electrical panel.
Odell chiseled the door frames to fit the strike plates for the deadbolts.
Odell chiseled the door frames to fit the strike plates for the deadbolts.
The painters continue to polish off the house, finishing off the ceiling where the balusters are inserted through the drywall into lumber framing.
The painters continue to polish off the house, finishing off the ceiling where the balusters are inserted through the drywall into lumber framing.
Tyler from Granite Security installs a network wall plate at the TV wall in the family room.
Tyler from Granite Security installs a network wall plate at the TV wall in the family room.
Odell cuts open the back panel of the shelf end of the island, to install an electrical box for the network ports.
Odell cuts open the back panel of the shelf end of the island, to install an electrical box for the network ports.
With Odell done, Tyler snaked the pre-wired Ethernet cable into the new electrical box and punched the wires to the connector.
With Odell done, Tyler snaked the pre-wired Ethernet cable into the new electrical box and punched the wires to the connector.
The connectors on the plug are color coded and labeled, making it easy to match the proper wire.
The connectors on the plug are color coded and labeled, making it easy to match the proper wire.
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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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