Tag Archives: discoveries

Stairs, cascading

The knee bone’s connected to the shin bone …

The stairs are not built to code for rise and tread. The rise varies from stair to stair — 10 inches for the first stair and landing, then 7.25 inches, until you get to the top, where the rise suddenly shrinks to 5 inches. We suspect the stairs were originally carpeted, built nearly correctly. Then a remodel replaced the carpet with oak treads — tripping up ascents and descents.

Courtesy chestofbooks.com.
This is the way stairs should be built. All the treads the same depth. All the rises the same height. Proper headroom. Courtesy chestofbooks.com.

To fix this, we need to add additional run — the horizontal distance the stairs travel from first stair to last.

Last week, the framers took out the closet over the stairs at what will be the loft, to ensure we’re not whacking our skulls each time we climb the steps. See photo here.

These issues force us to push the front entry of the house forward about 3.5 feet. It’s the only addition to the square footage in the entire remodel. We sweated whether this would complicate or delay permits from the City of Austin, because of limits on impermeable cover. But we’re building the extension over the existing slab, which is already impermeable. And bringing the stairs up to code for safety. The permits came more quickly than we expected.

Today, the framers opened up the front wall of the house, and went to work on the structure. By tomorrow, the front door will be repositioned forward 3 feet and turned 90 degrees.

A temporary support holds up the front porch. Temporary supports hold up the second story as new lumber is cut elsewhere for nailing.
A temporary support holds up the front porch. Additional temporary supports hold up the second story as new lumber is cut elsewhere for nailing. Silverio at left, Roberto on the ladder to the left of where the new front windows will soon arrive.
Share. Link. Like.

Week ending 26 June 2015 part 1

  • It’s Friday. Emerald Hill is quiet. There’s no one working, because we can’t move forward without the framing plan from the structural engineer. Time is going to waste.
  • Barry at Custom Plumbing Services approved the plumbing selections, no changes, no additions. Kathleen at Ranserve alerted Jonell at Ferguson to start the order and delivery schedule. Jonell confirms and is also assembling the specification portfolios needed for construction and installation.
  • Kyle at Elite Heating and Air Conditioning updated the Manual J to four tons at the request of Austin Energy Green Building. Steven forwarded the update to Miki at AEGB.
  • Framing lumber is delivered to Emerald Hill.
  • Steven is working through change orders 1, 2 and 3.
  • Mark from Ranserve, Brett the architect and Steven are scheduled to meet 1 July to review options for exterior siding — what reveal, smooth or cedarmill finish, mitered corners or not, vertical or horizontal. Steven and Jacquela promise a quick decision.
  • The house across the street is sold. There’s a dumpster in the driveway. Looks like another remodel is underway.

Here’s a photo tour of the house as of today.

Share. Link. Like.

Leaks like a sieve

See the horizontal metal flashing that runs across the inside of the exterior wall, about one foot higher than the floor? Light penetrates gaps in the wall under the flashing.

In other words, the exterior siding is open to critters, bugs and the elements. This house was not a sealed envelope. Heated and cooled air escaped through the walls.

This is wrong.

This is not a surprise; it is, instead, another example of why we are taking this house down to studs — find what’s wrong, fix it.

This is not permitted by building code today.

Share. Link. Like.

Peeling back history

With the drywall down, the insulation out, demo continues to reveal the history of the house  …

Ghost image of a former closet painted on the decking, closet removed by a previous homeowner in a previous remodel.
Ghost image of a former closet painted on the decking, closet removed by a previous homeowner in a previous remodel.
Previous homeowner added this door in the upstairs hallway, to create a master suite when they combined two bedrooms. The framers did not remove the drywall; they just nailed over it.
Previous homeowner added this door in the upstairs hallway, to create a master suite when they combined two bedrooms. The framers did not remove the drywall; they just nailed over it.
What is this oversized pencil in the wall between the kiddie bath and master bath?
What is this oversized pencil in the wall between the kiddie bath and master bath?
This was a door into a bathroom. It was apparently taken out and the wall closed off  in order to create a master bath. The irony is, Steven and Jacquela are putting a door at almost exactly this location, to create a laundry/utility room -- we are again returning the house to its original footprint.
This was a door into a bathroom. It was apparently taken out and the wall closed off in order to create a master bath. The irony is, Steven and Jacquela are putting a door at almost exactly this location, to create a laundry/utility room — we are again returning the house to its original footprint.

 

Share. Link. Like.

“Saving the house from itself”

We did not want to take the house down to studs. The aluminum wiring from 1968 forced reluctant Steven to take that decision early in the planning and discussion phase between Steven, Jacquela, Brett the architect and Mark at Ranserve. Take down all the drywall, remove all the insulation, keep going until  you see the whites of its eyes. It’s daunting. It’s expensive. The job evolves to an entirely different order of magnitude.

Lesson learned: Never ever buy a house with aluminum wiring.

The irony of exposing the entrails is … you get to “save the house from itself,” as Ron told Steven today — the exact phrase Steven used when making that awesome decision to proceed.

Here are today’s revelations during demo that this remodel gets to fix.

No jack studs holding up the header. Instead, the framers opted for metal straps.
No jack studs holding up the header. Instead, the framers opted for metal straps.
The roof flashing failed at this corner of the house, at what will be the corner of the master bath. Water penetrates and leaks down to the kitchen. Good thing it is raining today, to help spot this mistake in action.
The roof flashing failed at this corner of the house, at what will be the corner of the master bath. Water penetrates and leaks down to the kitchen. Good thing it is raining today, to help spot this mistake in action.
The front windows on the second floor were replaced sometime in the 1980s, we think. The framers undersized the header, using 2x6s instead of 2x8s or 2x10s. This error repeats across several windows, because "consistency is the mother of failure."
The front windows on the second floor were replaced sometime in the 1980s, we think. The framers undersized the header, using 2x6s instead of 2x8s or 2x10s. This error repeats across several windows, because “consistency is the mother of failure.”
Ron tells Steven that this is how they built houses in the 1960s -- a hole in the slab, open to the dirt below, through which the builder ran the plumbing. Here's the highway to termite infestation under what was the tub in bath 2.
Ron tells Steven that this is how they built houses in the 1960s — a hole in the slab, open to the dirt below, through which the builder ran the plumbing. Here’s the highway to termite infestation under what was the tub in bath 2.

Steven talked this through with Ron and Cris from Ranserve. They reassure that they have seen worse, that every house in Northwest Hills would exhibit similar failures if opened up for remodel, that everything here can and will be fixed, that we planned for all this, and the budget funds these repairs.

Share. Link. Like.

How to not cut structure when remodeling a bath, continued …

DSC_9958With insulation removed it’s now possible to see just how badly the structure was cut when the upstairs bathrooms were remodeled sometime during the life of this house.

At left, the blocking was turned sideways and cut to shreds. At right, the blocking was cut by half. In the middle, the blocking is, well, holed beyond integrity. And the ceiling beams are compromised.

Building code today prohibits this.

Steven is thinking that taking the house down to stud is a smart decision.

 

Share. Link. Like.

Another discovery: Attic fans

Until demo reached the second floor it was extremely difficult to squeeze through the scuttle hole into the attic to go spelunking for treasure, structural surprises, etc.

Taking down the ceiling drywall and insulation reveals two attic fans — didn’t know these were there. Steven will ask Ranserve to remove them for donation to Habitat.

DSC_9935

Share. Link. Like.

More history

Demo reveals some of the history of the house. Here are two examples.

Taking out the kitchen cabinets reveals an older 8-inch tile that apparently predates the diagonal saltillo.
Taking out the kitchen cabinets reveals an older 8-inch tile that apparently predates the diagonal saltillo.
A prior owner closed off what appears to be the original passage between the foyer and the family room. The lighter-colored lumber is newer. Very early in planning this remodel, Steven, Jacquela, Brett (the architect) and Ranserve determined that we are going to open up this passage. Now we know that we are in fact restoring the original floor plan at this location.
A prior owner closed off what appears to be the original passage between the foyer and the family room. The lighter-colored lumber is newer. Very early in planning this remodel, Steven, Jacquela, Brett (the architect) and Ranserve determined that we are going to open up this passage. Now we know that we are in fact restoring the original floor plan at this location.
Share. Link. Like.

How to not exhaust a dryer

The dryer was blowing lint into the attic over the mudroom and kitchen. The vent was not connected to an exterior exhaust. This is a fire waiting to happen. This is wrong. Steven is beginning to think that gutting the house to stud may be one of the smart decisions.

Look at the lint piling up in the ceiling. This is where lint goes when a dryer is not connected to an exterior vent.
Look at the lint piling up in the ceiling. This is where lint goes when a dryer is not connected to an exterior vent.
Share. Link. Like.

Discoveries

Every remodel brings discoveries. Here are two.

This appears to be the original backsplash for the kitchen -- a sheet of copper with a bas relief of conquistadors. Very cool!
Cris from Ranserve found in the garage attic what appears to be the original backsplash for the kitchen — a sheet of copper with a bas relief of a windmill, fishing boat, workers and a village. Very cool!
A copy of PC Computing from 1995, when Windows 95 was new. If you open it to the masthead, Steven knows half the staff -- hello, Ron White! And there's a review of software from Quarterdeck -- a company for which Steven did PR.
A copy of PC Computing from 1996, when Windows 95 was new. If you open it to the masthead, Steven knows half the staff — hello, Ron White! And there’s a review of software from Quarterdeck — a company for which Steven did PR.
Share. Link. Like.