Category Archives: remodeling

Making the pot filler level and plumb

The plumbers that installed the pot filler at the kitchen cooktop did not make it level and plumb — and it wiggled, just a little bit.

As part of the punch list, Odell and Jacinto from Ranserve chisled five bricks from the exterior wall on the outside of the house directly opposite where the pot filler is mounted to the studs inside the wall. In other words, we are working from the outside of the house, to the inside. Why? We don’t want to have to take down the red glass tile backsplash that the pot filler is mounted to inside the kitchen. And, additionally, we need to get to the mounting structure inside the wall; the shortest route is to chisel from the outside in.

This became a two-day project — just to fix an oversight by the plumbers — with another day pending.

Photo essay:

After Jacinto chisled out the brick and cut away the sheathing to expose the studs, we carefully pulled handfuls of the insulating foam away from the studs — to reveal two Ethernet network cables — thin blue cables at left of photo — the blue Pex water line that runs almost horizontally across the stud bay, and the copper angle fitting to which the Pex is coupled.

It took several hours to carefully dissect our way into the house. Photo above reveals two network cables that run down the exterior wall into a conduit that travels under the concrete slab of the kitchen floor, then out to the island, where we can plug various devices into the network inside the house. At right, Odell, Steve and Jacinto — after much discussion — opted to cut away a chunk of stud to yield up access to the copper fitting that screws three times into whatever it is mounted to. And we had to do this without breaking any of the glass tiles on the other side of the drywall visible at the back of the photo. At right, is an older, darker, intact stud original to the house. Further right is a brighter stud — newer wood — and the edge of the OSB sheathing that Ranserve installed against the new stud and several others behind brick that we did not remove. 

The next step was to cut a 2×4 in half, lengthwise, screw that carefully to the intact original stud to the right. But first, we had to drill three holes in the short length of stud to match the three mounting holes in the copper pipe angle, feed bolts through the wood into the pipe angle — and then Steven, who had the slimmest, longest fingers between Odell, Jacinto and Steven, working blind by touch behind the wood, fitting lock washers and nuts to the back end of the bolts. After which we were able to pull the pot filler tight to the wood, adjusting the screws a quarter turn at a time while leveling the pot filler insider the house.

With the pipe angle bolted and the pot filler leveled, Odell and Jacinto cut down a piece of 3/4-inch plywood, screwed that tight to the intact darker stud to the right of the sliced stud, and then drilled three screws into the wood against which the pipe angle is mounted, pulling that short piece of wood into a position where the pot filler inside the kitchen is level, plumb and secure, with minimal wiggles.

With the piping braced, several hours into this episode, we sealed up the house and called it a day, leaving behind a pile of debris on the ground. Jacinto packed away all the tools, and we scheduled to revisit at 8 am the next morning.
Jacinto peeled off the protective plastic. Here’s a close-in shot of the excavation, peering up. Visible in this shot is something new. Jacinto added a vertical run of 3/4-inch plywood, notching it around the Pex tubing. He screwed this at top and bottom to the cut ends of the old stud, using deck-mount screws. Then he carefully screwed the plywood to the chunk of 2×4 that the copper pipe fitting is screwed to. The three nuts are visible on the chunk of 2×4. This creates a mount that is secured from two different directions.
And a close in look down at the debris trapped between the brick and sheathing. We tried to clean most of this out, but it’s nearly impossible. There’s no way to prevent debris from falling into the air gap between the back of the brick and the front of the sheathing.
Jacinto cuts a square of OSB sheathing to fit against the studs.
After test-fitting the OSB, Jacinto used spray foam from a can to re-insulate the stud bay and pipes. He carefully sealed smaller gaps between studs too.
With the foam still curing and sticky, Jacinto screwed the OSB sheathing to the studs. This established a third mounting angle to lock the pipe angle mount firmly into position.
Jacinto taped everything up with Tyvek tape, to close as many air gaps as possible.
Steven collected bricks from the pile left over from remodeling the house. Jacinto chipped old cement away from the bricks.
He mixed up cement from a bag, troweled the cement and bricks into place.
Here’s the final brick, buttered with cement, inserted into the wall.
Jacinto smoothed and pointed the cement, filling gaps.
And now we let the cement dry and cure overnight, to make it ready for painting.

 

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Luke is in the desert and whining. Whaah.

Some days the universe is brilliant.

Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans (say it out loud in the same rhythm as you would Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band) is the project of Palette-Swap Ninja, who has gamely rendered a parody of every Sgt. Pepper’s song as the story of A New Hope.

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Special delivery

The new mailbox arrived from Bold Manufacturing.

Steven rented a hammer drill from Home Depot and learned how to drill concrete. Four holes, less than a minute each. Not so difficult, if you have the correct tool. Steven’s hand drill, even on hammer settings, would not cut the mustard.

Bolts inserted, post fitted, washers on, nuts wrenched down. Post up.

Then it took another hour to drill out the concrete from around the existing/old mailbox post. The post would not come free. Steven texted Gilsa Concrete for assistance winching or cutting the old post. They opted to cut. Turns out the post is solid steel, not hollow, mounted in place with a second ball of concrete at least two feet down; that sucker is not coming out, and we will leave a segment permanently buried.

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5 stars green

One of the newest 5-star green-build homes in Austin is … the house that Jacquela, Jadin  and Steven remodeled with the help of Ranserve.

Officially.

Steven picked up the plaque today — and now has to figure out where to mount it.

What is the Green Build program? Click here.

It’s not easy to get 5 stars. Click here for the handbook.

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Mucking out the back yard

With sprinkler repairs underway, with the fences and gates erected to create a safe yard for Adobe to burn off crazy-puppy calories while attempting to keep the deer out, Steven asked Victor to haul the trash out of the back yard.

Steven and Victor have done this before. Victor and his team installed part of the landscaping at Sea Eagle, and tackled specific jobs at Emerald Hill during construction.

Now we create a clean slate at Emerald Hill.

When Jacquela and Steven bought Emerald Hill, the back yard was not a priority — saving the house from itself was where we focused.

Previous owners used the back yard as a storage yard for broken tree limbs, old dog toys, an old telephone system wiring box, detritus, cast offs. The sage, lantana and other plants were old, tired, thready. Volunteer hackberries had taken root, making the northeast corner dark, dumping leaves. Lumber used for edging around what purported to be planting beds was rotting away.

Victor and his brother Francisco set to work saving the back yard, racing against approaching rain.

Victor and Francisco have already chopped out an old, thready sage.
Victor and Francisco have already chopped out an old, thready sage. They trimmed lower branches off a bush that the deer would come into the back yard to eat, raising the canopy high enough that the deer can’t reach the lower limbs. The lantana at left is next to go, as are the two hackberry trees that volunteered to grow in the back corner to the left of the telephone pole.
A previous owner used timbers to edge the planting beds. Not a good idea -- fine dining for termites.
A previous owner used timbers to edge the planting beds. Not a good idea — fine dining for termites.
This is what timber used as edging looks like after years of lying in the ground feeding generations of termites.
This is what timber used as edging looks like after years of lying in the ground feeding generations of termites.
More bug-infested, rotted and rotten lumber, coming out, going away.
More bug-infested, rotted and rotten lumber, coming out, going away. The pile of rocks will be used as part of the landscaping when Victor moves this project past demo and into development.
Victor lines the cleaned out bed with brick left over from demo and construction of the house. This gets the brick off the driveway and puts it to constructive use.
Victor lines the cleaned out bed with brick left over from demo and construction of the house. This gets the brick off the driveway and puts it to constructive use.
Francisco rakes new gravel atop the old gravel at the north side of the house, creating a deep layer that we hope retards weed growth. The plastic shed sat atop the gravel. It will be relocated to the northeast corner, where the hackberries have been hacked out.
Francisco rakes new gravel atop the old gravel at the north side of the house, creating a deep layer that we hope retards weed growth. The plastic shed sat atop the gravel. It will be relocated to the northeast corner, where the hackberries have been hacked out.
Francisco begins rolling out landscape fabric that will go into gravel bed along the back fence. The gravel provides drainage. The weed block blocks weeds -- we hope.
Francisco begins rolling out landscape fabric that will go into gravel bed along the back fence. The gravel provides drainage. The weed block blocks weeds — we hope.

And then the rains came.

To be continued.

 

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Hauling out the holiday lights

After lunch, Steven climbed the ladder into the storage loft in the garage — and began passing down to Jacquela boxes stuffed with holiday ornaments and lighting.

Working under the eaves and in the trees into the dark, surrounded by a herd of nearly 20 incurious and incautious deer, Jacquela and Steven hung white string lights at the eaves of the house and thee red-lit wreaths at the oak trees in the forest outside the front of the house.

It’s a start on the first major holiday in the house on Emerald Hill.

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Why the window does not open

The tall window at the rear of Jadin’s bedroom opens — but only part way. As the casement swings, it hits the underside of the roof and is blocked by the fascia. Bottom line: The window is too tall, or the roof is too low.

Waaaaaaaaaay back when this window was first installed and tested, Ron and Steven noted the obstruction. They met with Brett the architect to work out approaches that would allow the window to open completely. They settled on raising the roof over this window — or, less destructively, cutting open the roof from the underside, and cutting away a section of fascia about 2 feet wide. Then Ron took medical leave.

1-dsc_3714Today, Odell and Steven walked the site with Cris and Kevin. We elected to open the roof from the underside, cut away the section of fascia, box the underside of the roof.

1-dsc_3716With that done, the painters must now caulk the holes in the framing, prime and paint everything — after the gutter team cuts away about two feet of gutter, installs a new downspout to the left of the window, and erects a diverter that tucks under the shingles to push water into what will be two gutters, one on each side of the window.

 

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