Off with the fence

Noe and Victor from Austin Brothers Fence set to work this morning taking out the tired old cedar fencing at the north side of the house, and along the back property line. Parts of the fence were already leaning. Several pickets were broken. Where the rails were exposed, we could see termite damage — in cedar.

Cleaning out the old fence was always on the list of things to get to, depending on budget, as we pivoted from saving and rebuilding the house to projects in the yard.

This accelerated when we adopted Adobe. We need to keep the deer herd out of the back yard, and a secure yard from which Adobe cannot escape when she needs to burn off thousands of crazy puppy calories. Adobe is coming up on seven months old. She really needs a safe place to run fast and hard.

As part of this project, Jacquela gets the privacy fence she wants in front of the house, between the kitchen and driveway, to shield the gravel deck off the kitchen from passersby. Jacquela and Steven found online a photograph of a horizontal fence on which they both instantly agreed. Austin Bros. said they could do it by cutting a conventional 1×4 down the middle, creating two 1x2s. The design features 1x4s at the bottom, traveling to half way up, with the 1x2s taking the top half of the fence — with an air gap between each horizontal. Fences in Austin apparently tend to be vertical pickets, or horizontals that all the same dimension.

Why did Austin Bros. get the job?  It’s run by two brothers — Nate and Jeff. And dad answers the phones and runs the office. This resonates with Steven, who works with his brothers — and misses his dad every day.

Here’s a photo essay of day 1 of 2:

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Victor, left, and Noe arrived with the trailer loaded with cedar posts and rails, and galvanized metal poles.
First job was to walk the project with Steven and lay out string lines for the new privacy fence at the side and front of the house. Then Noe, left, and Victor measured out the fence line for posts separated by six feet, and went to work with post-hole diggers.
First job was to walk the project with Steven and lay out string lines for the new privacy fence at the side and front of the house. Then Noe, left, and Victor measured out the fence line for posts separated by six feet, and went to work with post-hole diggers.
With the holes complete and several posts already cemented in behind Victor, at left, Noe sets up the corner post, making it plumb, level and six feet away from its neighbor.
With the holes complete and several posts already cemented in behind Victor, at left, Noe sets up the corner post, making it plumb, level and six feet away from its neighbor.
Victor mixed and poured the fast-setting concrete while Noe held the metal post in position.
Victor mixed and poured the fast-setting concrete while Noe held the metal post in position.
At the north side of the house, Noe and Victor have already taken out the old cedar fence and gate that had partly rotted away.
At the north side of the house, Noe and Victor have already taken out the old cedar fence and gate that had partly rotted away. The metal post at right will also be demo’d and hauled away.
Noe and Victor discovered old sprinkler lines in front of the house as they dug.
Noe and Victor discovered old sprinkler lines in front of the house as they dug.
They repaired each cut in the sprinkler lines.
They repaired each cut in the sprinkler lines.
Removing several pickets exposed and confirmed the dire condition of the fence after years of little if any maintenance. All the horizontal rails along the back property line were riddled by termites and mud tunnels. There was not much structure left to the wood. The vertical pickets behind the horizontal rail belong to the neighbor's fence, which appears to be newer.
Removing several pickets exposed and confirmed the dire condition of the fence after years of little if any maintenance. All the horizontal rails along the back property line were riddled by termites and mud tunnels. There was not much structure left to the wood. The vertical pickets behind the horizontal rail belong to the neighbor’s fence, which appears to be newer.
Victor used a sawzall to cut away sections of decaying fence. This revealed the metal posts to which the fence was attached. Several of the posts are not vertical and plumb -- they lean akimbo, which explains why the fence was decaying, rotting, bug infested and beginning to topple over on its own.
Victor used a sawzall to cut away sections of decaying fence. This revealed the metal posts to which the fence was attached. Several of the posts are not vertical and plumb — they lean akimbo, which explains why the fence was decaying, rotting, bug infested and beginning to topple over on its own.
A second clear example of termite damage to a fence rail.
A second clear example of termite damage to a fence rail.
The original plan was to leave in place one section of the back fence. It was eight feet tall and appeared to be in better condition that the six-foot-high sections. But ... as Noe and Victor cut away the shorter sections of fence, they revealed the terminal condition of the horizontal rails behind the eight-foot pickets. Steven spoke with Jeff at Austin Bros. to get a price to take out this additional section. Jeff offered to add $100 to the invoice. Steven approved it.
The original plan was to leave in place one section of the back fence about where the gray gravel field behind the garage is located. It was eight feet tall and appeared to be in better condition that the six-foot-high sections. But … as Noe and Victor cut away the shorter sections of fence, they revealed the terminal condition of the horizontal rails behind the eight-foot pickets. Steven spoke with Jeff at Austin Bros. to get a price to take out this additional section. Jeff offered to add $100 to the invoice. Steven approved it.
As the back fence came down, Steven disassembled several sections to save a supply of pickets that he will re-use to repair sections of fence that are not included in this picket. The wood is already faded by time and will match the fence where Steven has to remove broken pickets. Less waste. No additional cost for new materials that don't match the old.
As the back fence came down, Steven disassembled several sections to save a supply of pickets that he will re-use to repair sections of fence that are not included in this picket. The wood is already faded by time and will match the fence where Steven has to remove broken pickets. Less waste. No additional cost for new materials that don’t match the old.

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.

Back to work, part 3

Steven trimmed the extra inches off the 8-foot-long desktops, spray painted the cut ends with flat black, then black satin, then two coats of clear satin polyurethane. That took 48 hours in the garage, waiting for paint to dry.

Saturday morning, Jacquela helped to carry the desktop modules into the office. Steven finagled all three panels into position, using 5/8-inch spacers to hold each desktop free of the walls — to create a “pass through” for network cables and electrical cords.

Lying on his back on the floor, Steven screwed 1/2-inch wood screws through the brackets and into the underside of each desktop, locking the wood panels into secure position. Jacquela was NOT available to photograph Steven working under the desks.

Everything got wiped down and cleaned up.

And, then, finally, it was time to bring the desktop computer back into the office — and power it up.

In photo above … Steven’s desktop computer set into place at the southwest corner of the office — booted up, connected to the Web. With Adobe’s dog bed tucked neatly under the side wing — because the dog is barely separable from Steven.

There's a new computer coming from HP. Two monitors are unboxed and ready to connect to the new machine when it arrives -- right side of desktop.
There’s a new computer coming from HP. Two monitors are unboxed and ready to connect to the new machine when it arrives — right side of desktop.

Back to work, part 2

The Leons came back from Thanksgiving dinner with the Cooksleys and Steven set to work burning off the calories.

Steps in the process — locate the studs behind the drywall, mark them with blue painter’s tape, calculate the height for the desk at 30.5 inches per guidance from the web on desktop ergonomics, measure out a level line around the walls, then mount the brackets level and plumb that Steven ordered last week — the brackets arrived the day before Thanksgiving — while also working out where to not put brackets in order to be able to slide two-drawer file cabinets under the desktop and between two brackets.

After that, Jaquela helped Steven carry in from the garage two of the desktops — test fitting the parts to calculate what has to be cut off.

In photo above, one of the desktop pieces resting in position — the plywood is now stained black, using a black stain that is premixed with polyurethane. Then Steven applied two coats of clear satin polyurethane atop the stain. From a distance, it’s perfect. Up close and personal, it’s not perfect, but it should endure years of abuse from keyboards, monitors, pens, pencils, paper, glasses, paperclips, and countless projects that trundle into Steven’s work.

From atop a chair, a vertiginous view of the brackets and one of the smaller desktops test-fitted into place -- and all the obstacles that Steven is working around -- tools, chairs, network-attached storage devices, uninterruptible power supplies ...
From atop a chair, a vertiginous view of the brackets and one of the smaller desktops test-fitted into place — and all the obstacles that Steven is working around — tools, chairs, network-attached storage devices, uninterruptible power supplies …
Shifting perspective to floor height from the office entry off the pantry corridor -- brackets screwed to walls, blue tape to mark studs, unfinished planks of pine to use as spacers.
Shifting perspective to floor height from the office entry off the pantry corridor — brackets screwed to walls, blue tape to mark studs, unfinished planks of pine to use as spacers.

Meanwhile, out in the garage, Steven measured everything three times, then cut the two larger desktops down to size, and began touching up the cut ends — first with flat black spray paint to cover the raw cuts, then spray black satin stain mixed with polyurethane to blend with the surface of the finished desktops and, eventually, two coats of clear satin polyurethane sprayed over the cut ends to protect eveything. Sometime as early as tonight, the desktops will be ready to transport into the office for permanent mounting.

Punch list — windows

Xavier and Greg from Milgard Windows punched out the punch list for the windows.

They replaced screens that did not fit properly, tightly; replaced window cranks that were damaged in shipping or construction; and adjusted several operable windows that were not quite square, level or plumb.

That’s Greg, in photo above, removing one of the lock mechanisms at a window in Steven’s office — before replacing it.

Back to work

1-dsc_3853Now that the garage floor is clean and clear of obstacles, Steven moves on to his next project — staining the plywood that will become the desks in his office.

Actually … These are the plywood desks from his old office at Sea Eagle. Steven saved the wood to re-use it. Thinking ahead, as always.

Today, he sanded the bare wood bottoms and patched the holes with wood filler, and sanded what were the polyurethaned desktops, giving them “bite” for an application of stain or spray paint.

The desktops will be black — drama against the white walls.

The first coat of stain will need “sanding” with steel wool. Then a second coat of stain. Maybe a third.

The shelf brackets that will brace the wood to the walls are already on order.

60 feet of gutter, 155 feet of leaf guard

We’re coming up on nine months in the house. Startling to think time passes that quickly.

Two things we’ve learned include:

  1. We need a gutter at the front of the house. Water cascades when it rains off the upper roof, hits the lower roof over the front door, and you get soaked stepping to and from the front porch.
  2. We need leaf guards at the gutters on the kitchen side of the house. We will need leaf guards at the new front gutter. The oak trees that surround the house start dropping acorns in September. They rain against the roof with sharp retorts that scare the puppy. Then, in the existing gutters at the side of the house, the acorns collect by the thousands; this will repeat at the new front gutter, under that canopy of mature oaks. Steven has had to climb up to the roof and blow out the acorns twice already — and it’s only early November.

A call to M&R Seamless Gutters brings them back to Emerald Hill to calculate an estimate, which Steven approves. Adriel and Simon arrive about 4 pm Wednesday. The sun is already low in the Fall sky. They set to work. As it got darker, Steven fished a work light out of the garage to help them see and work safely in the dark. 

Here’s a photo essay.

Adriel holds one of the sections of leaf guard -- a metal mesh that allows water through to the gutter.
Adriel holds one of the sections of leaf guard — a metal mesh that allows water through to the gutter.
Adriel borrowed Steven's camera to shoot this photo of several leaf guard sections screwed into place atop the garage.
Adriel borrowed Steven’s camera to shoot this photo of several leaf guard sections screwed into place atop the garage.
Mario, at back, set up the brake machine and the roll of metal, and the machine spit out 60 feet of seamless gutter.
Mario, at back, set up the brake machine and the roll of metal, and the machine spit out 60 feet of seamless gutter.
Mario, at left, and Adriel carry 60 feet of freshly formed gutter to the house.
Mario, at left, and Adriel carry 60 feet of freshly formed gutter to the house.
And up it goes. Mario at right. Adriel at left. The sun went down. It got pitch black. They kept screwing the gutter to the house, working by lights built into the electric drills. They finished with the downspouts and leaf guards after 7 pm.
And up it goes. Mario at right. Adriel at left. The sun went down. It got pitch black. They kept screwing the gutter to the house, working by lights built into the electric drills. They finished with the downspouts and leaf guards after 7 pm.

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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When the drain line under the mudroom bath backs up …

When the drain line under the slab, under the mudroom bathroom backs up, water and crap comes up from the toilet and shower drains. It’s a flood. Second time this has happened since we moved into the house. The immediate crisis is to mop up the crap and get a plumber to the house in the middle of the night to snake the line clean.

After that, we let the room and walls dry out. Then Ranserve comes back to peel off the ruined baseboard trim. And we discover that mold has begun to grow on the drywall paper. We caught it in time. Small spores. Odell from Ranserve sprayed a mold killer. 24 hours later Steven applied a second spray, waited 24 hours, applied a third spray, waited 24 hours, scrubbed the drywall as clean as possible with an abrasive sponge, then a fourth spray of mold killer.

1-dsc_3781Now Odell gets to come back to install replacement trim — and Steven is scheduling a plumber to inspect the main lines under the house with a camera, in hopes of determining why this has happened twice, whether it is systemic, and what the options might be to keep the lines clean.

"Make it new." Ezra Pound.