Category Archives: remodeling


As expected, termites have been munching on Emerald Hill. So far, no evidence of a live infestation …

The header over the back door is all chewed up, and it looks like the jack and king studs are also going to need replacement.
The header over the back door is all chewed up, and it looks like the jack and king studs are also going to need replacement.
This is what's left of one of the studs at what was the doorway to bath 2. The wood is gone.
This is what’s left of one of the studs at what was the doorway to bath 2. The wood is gone.
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How to not cut joists when remodeling a bathroom

With the ceiling in the living room down, we now know why the second floor moves when you walk it. It appears that bath 3 and the master bath upstairs were remodeled at some point in the history of the house — and too much “meat” was cut out of the structure of the house. The joists are severely compromised.

We’re calling in the structural engineer to determine how to best “sister” in new joists to hold the original lumber together and strengthen the second floor. The plumber is also going to have to fix this mess of pipe.

DSC_9733 DSC_9734 DSC_9735

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Taking it down to studs

The driver for this demo is aluminum wiring. To put in a new kitchen and safely power Steven’s computers and the new HVAC and tankless water systems, we have to install copper wiring. Copper does not cohabit well with aluminum. You can do it with dongles, but aluminum is fragile and cracks as it heats and cools. After 60 years of this, it is suspect. So we have to take it all out. That means taking down the walls and cabinets and ceilings — everything.

Along the way, that gives us the ability to find and remove suspect plumbing, insulation, infestations, bad lumber and all the other evils spawned by a 1968 house.

Let me introduce you to what Ron Dahlke and his crew have been up to.


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Waste management protocol

From Mark Rehberg, president of Ranserve:

In general we are going to follow the waste management/recycling program offered by TDS (Texas Disposal Systems):

  1. As advised we will put all painted materials and insulation in the 40 yard dumpster.
  2. We will make plywood bins in the driveway for recyclable:  paper/cardboard and framing lumber.
  3. The paper/cardboard/plastic will go in the City of Austin recycle container weekly.
  4. The framing lumber/metals will be sent separately to TDS for recycling.
  5. All concrete, brick, masonry products and stone can be recycled.  Therefore all these materials will be recycled as well.
  6. In addition, all cabinets, counter tops, interior doors & door knobs, light fixtures, light switches and outlets, ceiling fans, kitchen appliances are being inventoried and donated to Habitat for Humanity of Austin.
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Week ending 5 June 2015

Ron Dahlke from Ranserve reports:

This week:

  • Posted COA permit on front window
  • Finally received dumpster Wednesday afternoon
  • Started prep of floors
  • Started removing items for Habitat
  • Plumber cut off water to house and isolated one hose bib outside for water source
  • Electrician set up several temporary electrical boxes in garage for use.
  • Turned off all other electrical breakers
  • Called Mike Trim about his trim and door bid
  • Talked with Nate from Habitat about recycling program with TDS for green build
  • Started demo of sheetrock in garage

Next week:

  • Continue on prep
  • Continue on demo
  • Finish demo downstairs so we can schedule engineer for site visit for the next week
  • Call in for COA layout inspection
  • Schedule camera for yard sewer lines

Critical Path Items:

  • Approve window order and place in production
  • Finalize decisions on shower valves and drains
  • Finalize decisions on shower surrounds

Saw baby owl in owl box.  He was not happy with Cris when he started making noise.  Also saw twin baby fawns in the back yard.

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Dumpster milestone

Jacquela, Steven, Jadin and Reboot announce the arrival of …

the dumpster, finally delivered to Emerald Hill.

Demo is about to begin.dumpster

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Going for green

Ranserve reports that Emerald Hill should qualify for, at minimum, 3 Stars from the Austin Energy Green Building Program.


This apparently requires a dedicated dumpster, with additional recycling requirements. At minimum.

Ranserve is asking Steven to administer the process. OK. The greater goal is a better operating house, more efficient to operate, better planned and built. Who can argue with that?

We did this when building Pleasant Panorama. The first house built by John Hagy that qualified for the AEGB program — 3 Stars. So … we’ve traveled this road before. Doesn’t make us experts, doing this only once before.

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DSC_9027Supervised by Avery Watson at Independence Title, Mark Rehberg, president of Ranserve, right, arm in sling, and Jacquela, left, sign the AIA remodeling contract. Steven is at the back taking this photo.

Ahead of this, we spent a couple of days working with the lawyers — Rose Cohen for Ranserve and David Sewell for the Leons — tweaking the contract, right up to the signing, with Mark and I working through last-second fixes by sending pdf files and text messages back and forth to his office, to David, with phone calls, and to the Independence Title printer.

Deep breath. It’s done. Now we put hammer to nail.

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In the backyard at Emerald Hill

Stopped at Emerald Hill this morning to check for storm damage. None. Cool.

Mom and her fawn have occupied the back yard.


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Contract. Almost.

Received draft of construction contract from Ranserve. Reviewing with lawyer. There’s a dumpster coming soon. And a remodeled house to move into at the end of this adventure.

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