Ripping it up

We’ve been in the house for a year. It’s time to rip up the asphalt driveway and replace it with concrete. Construction and dumpsters damaged a 50-foot-long section of the driveway. Erosion and rainwater undermined a section closest to the kitchen. At the back fence, water travels across the driveway whenever it rains, whenever the backyard neighbors switch on their sprinklers, carrying debris and building an alluvial fan of sediment that travels all the way to the curb at the front of the house.

Steven called Mauricio at Gilsa Construction, which did the concrete work on the house. They reached agreement on budget.

Work begins by ripping up the asphalt with a Bobcat. Netto is driving. Manuel is shoveling.

The Bobcat blade rips through the asphalt. First discovery — the asphalt comes up quickly and is brittle with age; we guess it is at least 30 years old. Second discovery — the roadbase under the asphalt is in really good shape and does not need to be replaced. Instead, Gilsa will be able to easily regrade it to push water away from the house.
Netto moves the Bobcat into the field opposite the garage doors. The asphalt continues to come up easily, brittle, even when warmed up in the sunlight.
More big chunks as Netto moves toward the garage doors.
This is almost as close as Netto will bring the Bobcat to the garage. After this, Netto and Manuel switch out to pick and shovel.
Manuel discovered this mask buried in the dirt between the driveway and the neighbor’s fence.
Manuel wrestles a chunk of asphalt by hand.
Netto drives the Bobcat closer to load the asphalt.
Netto, left, and Manuel wrangle a chunk of asphalt away from the garage slab.
This work builds muscle. Manual lifts a chunk of asphalt with a pick while Netto carries a section to the Bobcat.
Near the end of the day, Netto parks the Bobcat at the end of the driveway.
A pile of asphalt rubble at the end of the day.
Since we’re pouring a new concrete driveway, we’re also going to rip out the last section of the ugly old original pebbled walk from the front door to the street.

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.

Polishing off the upstairs hall bath

It’s been a while since the last post. Jacquela and Steven have tackled small jobs all over the house.

Today, Alpha Glass installed the wall mirror in the upstairs hall bath — one of the last “big” interior jobs.

For the test fitting, Rudi, right, proves that the glass will be level when installed.
This is one of the screws that holds the J channel to the wall. The mirror sits inside the curve of the chrome channel. Each screw has to be drilled into a stud behind the drywall. Steven pulled out his stud finder to help locate the studs — after first printing out photos of the wall under construction, before the drywall went up and after the plumbing and electrical were installed.
Hector squeezed out donuts of black mastic onto the wall. The mirror will be pressed into the mastic, holding it to the wall. The black mastic remains somewhat flexible over time; Rudy says there is a brown mastic that takes a week to cure into something as hard as stone.
Nearly finished. Rudy, right, sprayed glass cleaner and wiped down the new mirror. Hector, left, begins cleaning up the tools.

Birthday boy

Jacquela wants Steven to ride more. So, for his birthday, she gifted him this computer — mapping, route guides, heartbeat monitoring, cadence monitoring, and a lot more.

Personal observation — I am the oldest living male Leon. The generations before me are gone. The generation behind me is beginning to marry, or, in the case of Jadin, the youngest of her generation, navigating through high school. It is odd to be this old, to be not that old, to be me. Give me a sunny day and a bicycle to pedal. Namaste.

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Remaking the back yard

After mucking out the back yard, Victor and Francisco pivot, putting in place the cleaned up, organized landscaping that Steven, Jacquela, Jadin and Adobe will need to put the back yard to use.

There’s a truckload of gravel for drainage and mulch.
Victor considers what comes next. Already, he and Francisco emplaced metal edging, weed block fabric, and began covering the weed block with gravel from the truckbed. The gravel ensures drainage around the posts of the fence in the neighbor’s yard — water needs to be able to flow away from the wood, not stand in place and rot it. And insects like termites can’t eat rock mulch. The piles of rock are temporary — Victor will use these to create a “rock garden” across the mulch beds. The rocks were left behind when we blew out a section of the back yard to build the new garage bay. The bare metal fence posts are left behind from the old, rotten, bug-ridden cedar fence that Austin Bros. Fencing removed earlier. One of Steven’s goals is to eliminate as much as possible anything termites might eat.
This is the northeast corner of the house at Jadin’s bedroom — finally cleared of the plastic shed left behind by a previous owner. Victor cleaned out weeds and added more gravel, after laying out a line of brick left behind from demo of parts of the house.
This is where we moved the plastic shed to — the far back at the northeast corner of the lot, sitting atop a fresh bed of gray gravel. Steven will move the wheelbarrow and other gardening tools into the shed — along with the dog agility equipment on his list of projects to build.
180 degrees to the right of the shed — the metal poles that supported the old, bug-infested fence that Austin Bros. ripped out; the new gates that Austin Bros. installed, and what might serve as a parking spot, if needed, behind the garage. Steven has ideas for a Japanese-style rock garden.

Weekends of projects

In addition to building the desks for his office, with help from Jacquela, Steven has been punching out multiple projects over several weekends.

In the laundry/utility room, Steven mounted two old Ikea cabinets to the wall, cut and painted a shelf to run between the two cabinets, along with a hanging rod. The rolling laundry carts that Jacquela ordered arrived; she assembled one, Steven assembled two -- and organization began to arrive.
In the laundry/utility room, Steven mounted two old Ikea cabinets to the wall, cut and painted a shelf to run between the two cabinets, along with a hanging rod. The rolling laundry carts that Jacquela ordered arrived; she assembled one, Steven assembled two — and organization began to arrive.
Also in the laundry room, Steven ordered and installed the "FloodStop." This electronic device comes with a sensor to put under the washing machine. If it gets wet, it sounds a loud alarm and shuts off water to the washing machine by closing two electronic valves. Why do this? The washing machine is located on the second floor -- and a leak will cascade through the walls and floor to flood the first floor of the house.
Also in the laundry room, Steven ordered and installed the “FloodStop.” This electronic device comes with a sensor to put under the washing machine. If it gets wet, it sounds a loud alarm and shuts off water to the washing machine by closing two electronic valves. Why do this? The washing machine is located on the second floor — and a leak will cascade through the walls and floor to flood the first floor of the house.
The FloodStop sensor is the circuit board in the pan under the washing machine. There's also a "waterbug," the white device partially obscured by the gray overfill hose; this connects to the house alarm system. As a result, there are now TWO systems to warn against washer leaks. Belt. Suspenders.
The FloodStop sensor is the circuit board in the pan under the washing machine. There’s also a “waterbug,” the white device partially obscured by the gray overfill hose; this connects to the house alarm system. As a result, there are now TWO systems to warn against washer leaks. Belt. Suspenders.
The two electronically-controlled valves that shut off water to the washing machine if the FloodStop sensor gets wet. This was a relatively simple install in a very cramped space, even with the washing machine pulled away from the wall.
The two electronically-controlled valves that shut off water to the washing machine if the FloodStop sensor gets wet. This was a relatively simple install in a very cramped space, even with the washing machine pulled away from the wall.
Over several weekends, Steven unpacked old Ikea cabinets from Jacquela's craft room at Sea Eagle, mounting them to the walls in her craft room at Emerald Hill. The rolling cabinets on the floor are still wrapped in plastic, so Jacquela has been using the floor and nearly every surface for her projects.
Over several weekends, Steven unpacked old Ikea cabinets from Jacquela’s craft room at Sea Eagle, mounting them to the walls in her craft room at Emerald Hill. The rolling cabinets on the floor are still wrapped in plastic, so Jacquela has been using the floor and nearly every surface for her projects.
Two hard drives in the Network-Attached Storage devices in the electronics closet failed in the past two months. Highly unusual. Steven believes it is trapped heat -- there's no place for the hot air from the electronics to exist the closet, unless we leave the door cracked open, creating a walking hazard in the central hall upstairs. Steven installed two vents -- one at the top of the closet, one at the bottom. Hot air rises and drafts. The lower vent pulls in cooler air from Jacquela's hobby room next door. The upper vent moves the hot air out of the closet into the hobby room, which is connected to the HVAC system. The hard drives in the closet are now running two to five degrees cooler. This will be watched ...
Two hard drives in the Network-Attached Storage devices in the electronics closet failed in the past two months. Highly unusual. Steven believes it is trapped heat — there’s no place for the hot air from the electronics to exit the closet, unless we leave the door cracked open, creating a walking hazard in the central hall upstairs. Steven installed two vents — one at the top of the closet, one at the bottom. Hot air rises and drafts. The lower vent pulls in cooler air from Jacquela’s hobby room next door. The upper vent moves the hot air out of the closet into the hobby room. The HVAC system takes care of ventilating the hobby room. The hard drives in the closet are now running two to five degrees cooler. This will be watched … And, yes, Steven has to still organize all the network cables.
Out in the garage, the "wet wall" behind the utility sink that the plumbers have not yet installed is nearly complete. Steven cut and glued a sheet of plastic to the wall with Jacquela's help. He cut waterproof PVC "plastic lumber" to size and the glued and nailed the baseboard, stiles and top rail into place, puttied over the nail holes, sealed the joints with silicone. All that's left is a little sanding and painting. And then the plumbers can come back in to install the water and drain lines, and the sink.
Out in the garage, the “wet wall” behind the utility sink that the plumbers have not yet installed is nearly complete. Steven cut and glued a sheet of plastic to the wall with Jacquela’s help. He cut waterproof PVC “plastic lumber” to size and the glued and nailed the baseboard, stiles and top rail into place, puttied over the nail holes, sealed the joints with silicone. All that’s left is a little sanding and painting. And then the plumbers can come back in to install the water and drain lines, and the sink.

A sprinkler saga, episode 4

Mikel and Darynn returned to Emerald Hill to continue resurrecting the sprinkler system.

This 1 December episode focuses on bringing all of the front yard zones to life.

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At the buried valve that he unburied, Mikel trenched for a new lateral line needed to supply a run of dripline at the curb in front of the house. He’s directing Darynn, who is outside the shot.

Mikel begins to cover the repaired and new sprinkler lines.
At the front walk, Mikel digs out a lateral line that was severed by the form used to construct the concrete pads.
Mikel cut the severed line cleanly to add a new elbow and flexible water line that he ran out to the sprinkler head that was cut off from water when the water line was severed.
Working under one of the concrete walkway pads, Mikel cut the severed line cleanly to add a new elbow and flexible water line that he ran out to the sprinkler head that was cut off from water when the water line was severed.
This is the main dig in the front yard where the plumbers originally severed the sprinkler lines when they trenched to install the new water supply line between the house and city water supply at the curb. Valve 1 is the valve that the plumbers buried under several inches of dirt -- discovered by Mikel when he explored for leaks in episodes 1, 2 and 3. Valve 2 is a new valve that supplies water to the new drip zone along the curb. Inside housing 3 is a dripline pressure regulator.
This is the main dig in the front yard where the plumbers originally severed the sprinkler lines when they trenched to install the new water supply line between the house and city water supply at the curb.
Valve 1 is the valve that the plumbers buried under several inches of dirt — discovered by Mikel when he explored for leaks in episodes 1, 2 and 3.
Valve 2 is a new valve that supplies water to the new drip zone along the curb.
Inside housing 3 is a dripline pressure regulator.
After about an hour of testing all possible wiring configurations, Darynn, who is studying to be an engineer, concluded that there is a cut in the wire that cannot be located -- and the only way to electrically open and close valves is to install an Add-A-Wire device that enables the controller in the garage to "multiplex" different signals to different valves while using the same control wires. This little widget adds $200+ to the cost of the day's gig. The alternative is several hours of manual trenching to run a new wire from the garage, to every valve, from the back of the house to the front.
After about an hour of testing all possible wiring configurations, Darynn, who is studying to be an engineer, concluded that there is a cut in the wire that cannot be located — and the only way to electrically open and close valves is to install an Add-A-Wire device that enables the controller in the garage to “multiplex” different signals to different valves while using the same control wires. This little widget adds $200+ to the cost of the day’s gig. The alternative is several hours of manual trenching to run a new wire from the garage, to every valve, from the back of the house to the front.
Darynn wires in the Add-A-Wire device.
Darynn wires in the Add-A-Wire device.
Mikel shifts a spray head from the curb at the street about eight feet back and into the lawn, where it can reach the grass, instead of spraying water into what will be a new planting bed that will be served by dripline.
Mikel shifts a spray head from the curb at the street about eight feet back and into the lawn, where it can reach the grass, instead of spraying water into what will be a new planting bed that will be served by dripline.

To be continued.

A sprinkler saga, episode 3

In the 30 November installment of the sprinkler saga, Mikel from Green Tree Professional returned to continue resurrecting the sprinkler system from construction damage. He blocked six hours, believing most if not all of the damage was already identified and repaired. His goal was to begin redesigning the system to cut off lateral lines and sprinkler heads along the front of the house where planting beds no longer exist, and to lay out new drip lines to water the oaks in the front yard and planting beds that will be added to Emerald Hill.

Mikel unspooled several hundred feet of drip line.
Mikel unspooled several hundred feet of drip line.
He looped some of the drip line around one of the oaks and into what will be a planting bed.
He looped some of the drip line around one of the oaks and into what will be a planting bed.
He looped the drip line around more of the oaks.
He looped the drip line around more of the oaks.
He continued around a cluster of oaks near the driveway.
He continued around a cluster of oaks near the driveway and in front of the new privacy fence.
He laid out a drip line that Steven will use for a future planting bed at the side of the deck at the kitchen side of the house.
He laid out a drip line that Steven will use for a future planting bed at the side of the deck at the kitchen side of the house.
He looped the dripline around a cluster of oaks behind the new privacy fence.
He looped the dripline around a cluster of oaks behind the new privacy fence.
And he deployed several parallel runs of dripline across what will be new planting beds along the front curb.
And he deployed several parallel runs of dripline across what will be new planting beds along the front curb.

With the driplines laid out and staked down, Mikel switched on the water and activated the zones at the controller, to test the system.

He discovered a broken line that no one knew existed at the end of the new fence line up the driveway. Water streamed from a severed lateral line that was buried under several inches of mulch. He extracted from under the mulch a brass spigot attached to what was the end of the severed pipe. Mikel cut the pipe clean and capped it.

With that line fixed, Mikel switched the system back on — and there was now enough water pressure in the line to reveal four sprinkler heads buried under the mulch around the oaks behind the new fence. He removed the heads and capped the line. And … if we had known this run of sprinklers existed, he could have used it to supply the dripline around the trees — coulda woulda shoulda but too late now.

Next, Michael slit-trenched the new control wires into the ground between a valve  at the walkway and the valve that the plumbers buried.
Next, Michael slit-trenched the new control wires into the ground between a valve at the walkway and the valve that the plumbers buried.

To be continued …

 

A sprinkler saga, episode 2

Mikel from Green Tree Professional returned 18 November to Emerald Hill to continue identifying problems with and repairing the sprinkler system.

With the system operable after the first repairs were made 11 November, Mikel focused in the front yard on repairing the main supply line to the sprinklers that was cut by the plumbers when they installed a new water line between the house and the city water supply at the curb.

As he dug, Mikel discovered that the main supply line for the sprinklers was cut -- pipe in left circle. The plumbers also cut two  lateral lines. Mikel has already repaired one of the laterals in this photo. The second cut is the PVC pipe in the right circle.
As he dug, Mikel discovered that the main supply line for the sprinklers was cut — pipe in left circle. The plumbers also cut two lateral lines. Mikel has already repaired one of the laterals in this photo. The second cut is the PVC pipe in the right circle.
While working on the pipes, Mikel discovered that the plumbers buried a control valve. He excavated to reveal the valve.
While working on the pipes, Mikel discovered that the plumbers buried a control valve. He excavated to reveal the valve. The plumbers also severed the control wire that runs between this valve and the next valve in line. Mikel could not locate the cut in the wires, so he opted to run new wires across the lawn to the connect the two valves.

After repairing the cuts, Mikel began testing the front sprinkler zones. He quickly discovered a lateral line that was cut when the front walk was formed — water burbled up from under one of the concrete steps.

The good news was … At least two front zones operated, even if they needed additional repairs.

It was time for Mikel to depart to his next scheduled appointment.

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.

 

"Make it new." Ezra Pound.