Paper is up

The stucco and siding prep are finished, as near as I can tell. The main part of the addition will be a smooth stucco. The stairwell will be done in some sort of concrete siding. Not certain, but I think the colors will be gray for the stucco and orange (!) for the siding. The original part of the house will be cleaned and repainted. Color there is taupe-ish, I think.



Click on the links to see panoramic movies of the insulation.



We've been passing various inspections without too much trouble and the roofing guys are busily roofing away. J.D. said that the insulation will be going in soon, and after that the drywall. I've been telling people that we'll host a party once the drywall is in. More details to come.


We're awaiting an official, revised schedule, but we've been able to divine from J.D. that the house should be done sometime in February. (Historical note: The original end date was yesterday.) Not too far off track, but it seems that hitting that date would have cost a lot more money. I don't know if that's because of overtime/weekends or simply paying sub-contractors to "forget" about their other jobs for a little while.



All the windows and doors are in

I can't believe that guy's holding up the window with just one hand.

phc_windows 009


Where it's at

We met with James and J.D. the other evening to go over some design and schedule items. Looks like we're going to be slipping on the schedule a bit in order to keep costs down. Not sure yet what the new end date is, but we should hear back next week on that.
Design-wise, James brought some seriously cool samples of materials to look at. We have narrowed down the stair treads and upstairs flooring to either the reclaimed, vertical-cut Douglas Fir or a pre-finished hardwood plank (I forget which hardwood it was made of, I'll post a photo soon). The planks fit together like a Pergo system, with no bevel between boards, so you can't really tell it's not smaller strips.
The master bathroom. Very nice array of stone tiles to look at. We're thinking of doing large cuts on the floor, smaller on the walls and an accent strip of colored (glass?) tiles up the vanity column.

Today, the electricians are back to install can lights in the kitchen. I can't wait to have real light in there when I'm cooking!

The structural inspection went very well earlier this week, with only a couple of minor corrections that can apparently be photographed when complete to save the cost of another on-site.


What percentage of this is still a ceiling?

phc_predrywall 049
There are now holes for the skylight, low-intensity lighting, high-intensity lighting, surround sound speakers, central air, and fire sprinklers in the living room ceiling. Click the image for an exciting, annotated version.

Post-Thanksgiving door installation

Oscar, the window installer, hung this stairwell door on Friday. He's also prepping the floor for the various sliding door tracks. I love this door!


Drywall delivered

There are now stacks of drywall awaiting their fate. Click on the image for a panoramic movie.


Speaker recommendations

The wiring guys are going full bore, and I'm wondering if anyone has recommendations on in-wall/in-ceiling speakers? They aren't meant to be audiophile quality or anything.


Wiring and stuff

So there is a real hum of activity at the house right now. We've got the low-voltage electric guys wiring rooms up for sound, video, CAT5, etc. The painters come in tomorrow to prime the old part of the house. Stucco man did a walk through yesterday to see what he's up against when the new part of the house gets clad. More windows came in and will be installed soon.

We're waiting on a set of inspections (not sure which ones actually) and then things are going to get going even faster.

One note on the low-voltage wiring: in an effort to cut costs, there will no longer be surround sound wiring in the master bedroom. A moment of silence for that, please.



Three weeks ago we moved out of our house. I rented some storage pods and packed up everything that previously sat on the wood floors. Which is to say every room other than the kitchen and bathroom.

We moved into the house of our friends Kathy and Jon, who were going out of town and asked, "Would you like to stay for free in our great, giant house?". We answered "yes".

In that time they have done tons of work, including, but not limited to, removing the hallway wall, punching open the wall between the old and new parts of the house, widening closet entries, framing the skylight, running high- and low-voltage wiring, adding many can lights, and repairing the floors.

This all got done within the three weeks we were out, with the exception of the floors. They weren't going to be done on Saturday. The day we had to leave the housesitting gig and move back in. So, being the incredible family tactician that she is, Erin says "We're going to Disneyland". We went, had tons of fun, stayed overnight, played some more, and returned on Sunday afternoon. The floors were done!

We moved a minimal amount of furniture back in, but the drywall guy is going to be working for three days to "hot-mud" it, so we don't want to move in fully. In fact, we'll keep it spartan until priming and painting are done if possible.


Trench 1, Driveway 0

This is where the electrical will be laid from the new circuit box to the old.

In other news, we aren't going to have the time to refininsh the floors in the old part of the house right now. We were able to get out of the house for a little while, but not long enough. The floors will be repaired, and giant holes covered, but the sanding and finishing will have to wait until we can get out of the house for a vacation during the summer. Bummer.

We're also having loads of can lights put in in the old part. I can't wait to have a brightly lit kitchen.


Meet Carl

He's off topic from the house addition, but I wanted to share him with you. He's a character I rigged for the upcoming Disney animation Meet the Robinsons.


Hallway? What hallway?




Destruction marches on. Here are the before, during, and after photos of the wall that formerly defined the hallway.


Enbiggening the closet door

phc_closet_doorway after

Here are the before and after photos of the closet doorway in my son's room being widened. (We had the same thing done in our current bedroom, too.)
This will make the closets way more accessible; until now, hanging clothes in them has been like working on a car's engine via the glove compartment.


Solarcap tiles

These nifty tiles are solar powered and covetous. At around $170 ea. I won't be doing the whole courtyard in them, but maybe a nice accent. Could also help small aircraft land at our house.


Lamp / Lamp

This abomination makes me smile. More info here.


Shady advice

I'm looking for advice on roller shades. The reality of how large some of our west-facing windows are gonna be is starting to set in. Does anyone have a line on good, moderately-priced, sun-blocking roller shades? Clean lines and chain operation are what I'm after. I found these guys, but they just look expensive, don't they?


Big window

Beatrix wasn't that impressed with the window, actually. I think this is the one going in the master bedroom upstairs.



Doors and Windows are in (as in arrived, not installed)

After about two weeks of little activity, the level of bustle is once again high; Erin just called to tell me that J.D., Kevin, and a truckload of doors and windows have arrived.
I just went over there at lunch -- the doors and windows are awesome! Some of them are insanely huge. I took some photos which I'll post later.



Erin writes: My mother-in-law alerted me to this new British insulation that's composed primarily of wool called Thermafleece.

I'm a big fan of wool (the real stuff, with the lanolin still in it). We use it for diaper covers and for crib/bed pads. It's natural, anti-bacterial, absorbs well, and is generally a miracle product (check out this article for a better explanation).

JP priced out the insulation -- it's £117 per 20 square meters (which is around $215 for 65 sq.ft.) I can't even begin to guess how much we'd need, but I'm assuming it's more expensive than the fiberglass-don't-breathe-or-touch-it stuff. Still, we're asking JD and co. to look into it.

Rough plumbing inspection

We passed!


Design Within Reach (of Whom?)

I'm sure that these two products are worlds apart when viewed in person.


sapporo $760.00

agerum $59.99


Klawin House

We went down to Manhattan Beach to see this house that Leanarch have almost finished building (small details, like staining, painting, and cleanup left to do). It's beautiful, stylish, and clever. It's on a 20' x 60' lot, yet feels large on the inside. Man, those beach dwellers have some nice breezes flowing though their homes! Congratulations to James, J.D. and everyone else for creating such a wonderful home for the Klawins.

Of special interest to us were the materials and finishes; we're using many of them on our house -- the smooth stucco, siding, railings, and windows. Some of the shapes and forms are similar to ours, so it was inspiring to see them realized.

They've used a beautiful, old-growth, reclaimed Douglas Fir throughout. It looks like James may be grabbing up some of their excess wood to use for our stair runners at a discount. It's vertical cut and sumptuous.


klawin - 16



Looking for radiant floor heating advice

We are planning on some kind of stone for the master bathroom floor (slate?), which leads to concern about freezing our tootsies off. I've just started reading up on electric radiant floor heating mats/rolls; essentially a very thin electric blanket installed in quickset under the stone. Has anyone got recommendations/experience/advice to share?


Skylight thoughts

The other day, I was sitting on the couch, gazing up at the hole in the ceiling, and thought to myself: "Wow, the hole where the chimney used to be would make a great spot for a skylight".

I envision it being cheap and easy somehow, since there would be no need to cut out a space in the rafters or anything. There's even a hole in the roof there already!

phc_wallGone 010

Has anyone out there had experiences with skylights they'd like to share?


Pano tour of rough electrical

I've gone mad. Click on the image to check out a panoramic QTVR tour of the current state of the house. In it, please be sure to look up and note the many can lights.

The rough electrical and plumbing installations seem to be going well. I never knew they hammered little metal plates onto each 2x4 to guard the high voltage wire from homeowner studfinders & nails.

By the way, if you have any problems viewing the QTVR pano movie, please email me.


A quick air travel story

I was waiting in the security line at LAX last Friday, on my way to Cincinnati. There was an older gentleman in front of me whose turn it was to deposit his shoes and metal objects into the Xray/sniffing machine tray. In went his shoes. Next, he patted down his pockets, he jiggled the various devices clipped to his belt, and he assessed what needed to be offloaded. He made his decision.
With a deft, practiced motion he unbuckled his belt and stepped right out of his trousers. He plopped the whole pants/belt/gadgets bundle into the tray and sauntered through the remainder of the security area in his underwear. I speak for everyone around me when I say we were relieved that they were boxer shorts.


American Standard One

This is the One collection from American Standard. I think we're settled on it for the master bath. We'll need a tub filler, wall mount lav faucets and the showerhead/valve.




We'd like to ditch the trim kit (big circle thingy) and see if it can be mounted more cleanly on the wall.


Since the valve has a diverter it may be nice to get a wand on a hose, too. Has anyone out there gotten stuff from this line?


More thoughts on fixtures. Railings, too.

Erin says:

We've almost decided to go with Hudson Reed for faucets. JP has been scouring blogs and forums for reviews, and most people seem to think that as long as you get the correct conversion parts, installation is okay. Our problem now is that he wants a more overhead-type "rain" showerhead, and I don't. Since I have long hair, I often skip washing it, and I prefer an angled head. We may go for both -- we have to ask if that's possible, or if it's a budget-buster.

We're also waiting to find our if we can have wall-mounted faucets without a weird sink. You know, those bowls that sit on your counter.

On a different note, I really want to get a dual-level handrail for the stairs, so there's one at adult level and one at kid level. I was looking for a photo online, but I haven't found one yet. Our Ikea has them on their stairs.


Looking for fixture suggestions

The plumber told me this morning that we need to have our bath and shower fixtures as well as the bathtub picked out sometime in the next week or two. This is normally the kind of thing we would obsessively research for months before coming to a tortured decision. Can anyone help accelerate this for us? Erwins, I'm looking squarely at you!

James, does the company that makes the knock-offs of highend faucets have a website?

This shower is nice looking, however I'm sure it's a bit on the pricey side.


Missing wall panorama

This is a spherical panorama of the living room wall's absence. You can click and drag the image to spin around the room.
Note: we've only got one cat, but he managed to move between my first and third photos. The software I use to stitch the three photos (PTGui) must like Kramer.

Wall demolition

The first interior demo took place today. They knocked out the wall and fireplace in the living room. It is seriously weird to me -- like when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror after a major haircut.


Site cleaning

The trash is gone. Hauled away by a guy named Mario who had a chainsaw, a wheelbarrow, and a gigantic truck. He did a great job and it looks much more sane back there now.

The drama came in when, big surprise, the framer got involved. He was the one who hired Mario. He was also the one who never showed up to pay Mario. As usual, the general contractor, J.D. took care of things and saved the day. Mario got his money and a place to dump the wood (feel the eco-guilt along with me, please). The framer is no longer on the job.

I'm not gonna ask J.D. what he did with him.


Let the plumber plumb

These pipes were dropped off a few days ago. Some holes were drilled. The concrete has to be cut to move the sink drain back.

phc_trash 002

Wood haul

All of this is going away tomorrow. There's a guy coming in the morning to take it somewhere else. I don't know where it will go. I like to think it is being reused or recycled somehow, but I'm just not sure.


email box

Originally uploaded by JotaPeh.
From the post on gizmodo.com:
"There's something charming about attaching computer icons to physical objects..."

I want one of these to replace the evil little doorless slot on the front of our house we currently use for the mail.

From Chiasso.


Framers have finished

They got the stairs and everything else done yesterday, after working a very long day. I'll post some photos or panoramas soon.

Next up are the plumber to cut and move one pipe, and the electricians will start getting high voltage wiring in.

On a related note, we're going to be meeting with the low voltage guy sometime to talk about all the cool wiring: ethernet CAT5, coaxial, speakers, phone, and others. I'm thinking we'll try to terminate everything in the closet of the studio. I'm envisioning a huge patch bay and scads of blinking lights. James was telling us about having IR remote receivers in a few rooms that send their signals over wire to the media closet. That's where TiVo and pals will live. Does anyone have any other recommendations on serving audio and video up from a central location?



Erin writes:
My husband insists that this is a bolt, but "Bolted" is not nearly as compelling a title. Whatever it is, it's currently sticking through the floor of the second story. I'm sure it has an important purpose.

Once again our framer seems to be fading away. The tools are gone, as are the workers. It's frustrating, because they're really, really close to being finished. I'm sure they're moving on to another job, but it sure would be swell to get this one done first. I know, I know -- everyone warned us this would happen at various points in the construction process, but somehow it's easy to believe that somehow you're going to be the ones who miraculously escape it.


Where'd the stairs go?

My son and I have a tradition of going outside when I get home from work to see what the workers have done. Yesterday as we were heading out I heard him say, "Where'd the stairs go, Dadda?". Huh?! Where indeed? They were simply gone.

I immediately assumed that it was collateral damage from the ongoing battle between the framer and the plumber, but there were not enough blood stains evident to support that theory.

So I called J.D. He said they were just doing it for fun. Actually, it turns out there was some confusion about the structural engineer's drawings of the landing height, so to correct it he's gonna rebuild it all today.



Design meeting at Leanarch

Erin writes:

We visited the LeanArch offices for a design meeting last week. Cool office space, but no air conditioning! It was hot.

But now on to more relevant points. I guess I was kind of expecting one of those HGTV design boards with all the sample colors and tiles neatly arrayed. But it's never quite that easy, is it? James had tons of cool samples, and told us we have to decide if we're going with natural colors, or synthetic.

Hmmm. My kitchen (orange, lime green and blue) is definitely synthetic. JP and I have decided that the exterior of the stair tower will be orange. And that will be carried over into either the front door or trim. We want the master bath to be calm and spa-like. So, do orange exterior and spa interior equal a natural theme? I guess there are things in nature that are orange, right? Like leaves changing color! Oranges, of course. And... sea anemones or something.

We're 99% decided on going with the solar panels. There was a great article in the LA Times this weekend about how solar power adds to resale value in Southern California. Getting our energy bill yesterday helped, too. Plus, according to the BP Solar website, it's the equivalent of planting an acre of trees and will eliminate the production of thousands of pounds of CO2.

It's just the right thing to do.

Oh, and lastly I just want to give a shout out to our contractor, JD. Nothing rattles him. Thank god. As you've read, there's enough drama from all the subs, so it's nice to have the guy in charge be unflappable. Plus there's nothing he doesn't know. I'm glad he's on the job, even if I'm worried about his cellphone earpiece becoming permanently attached to his head.


Upstairs framing pano

Here is a new fisheye panorama of the current framing upstairs. These were taken from the master bathroom, and I've added handy labels so you can tell where things will be.

Click and drag the image in all directions to take a look.


Solar electricity

We just got a quote for doing photovoltaic solar cells on the roof. Everything looks good as far as south facing clearance goes, and there are a bunch of tax breaks and rebates that will bring the cost within reach.
The solar energy will be connected to the grid in a scheme called "net-metering", which means you don't need batteries. Instead, you still draw from the grid if your consumption outpaces the amount of solar electricity generated. If your solar output is greater than your consumption your meter spins backwards. This energy is bankable throughout the year, but resets to zero annually.


The heat here in Los Angeles (108 degrees!) has clearly slowed down the rate of construction. The framing looks to be 95% finished but it's taking a while to get that last bit done. We see the framer for a few hours in the morning and then he never returns from lunch. Is it the heat? Does he have another job to go to? Is he waiting on some part to come in? Or is it that his feelings are still hurt from the drama with the plumber?

We weren't home for this, but we've learned from a couple of sources that the framer and the plumber nearly got into a fist fight a couple of days ago. One of our neighbors said they were screaming profanities at each other with such vigor that she heard them from inside her house. She came outside and reminded them that there are kids on our block who shouldn't be learning that kind of vocabulary just yet.


Framing update

Things are humming along pretty well with the framing. They've been putting up ceiling boards on the second floor, so it looks like actual, closed-in rooms up there now. I think the only change that's coming is that the lowest of three windows on the stairwell needs to be moved or resized, since a few inches of staircase intersect it right now.

We're having a design meeting with James in a week or so to see what he's been cooking up for some interior ideas. Here's an approximate exchange from our last meeting:

"So, do you have any ideas on exterior paint colors, James?" I asked.

"Yes," replied James.

I love the mystery! Is it that he can't reveal the colors until he thinks we're emotionally prepared for it? Is there a method of presentation that transcends simply blurting out "Sea Foam!"?


Framing fisheye pano

I just got a wonderful gift from my loving parents (who are avid fans of the house addition). A fisheye lens! Now I can do proper spherical panoramas.

Click and drag the image in all directions to take a look.


Hollywood Hills gate

Originally uploaded by japunto.
This gate is on a house next door to my friend's place in the Hollywood Hills. I love it. I love the numbers. Love.


Wood drop two

The framers are starting to run out of wood, so a second wood drop has arrived.

I talked with the plumber this morning. He recommends that we use two small flash water heaters. This way neither one is positioned too far from a faucet. He wants to do an exterior mount on the "hidden" side of the house. Our architect, James, refers to this as "scabbing" things onto the outside, and would prefer to have them mounted in the attic or under the stairs. I side with James for aesthetic reasons, but the plumber alleges that there will be considerable money saved by going with the barnacular approach. Not sure which way we'll go in the end.


Verdugo mountains (not San Gabriel)

This is the view from the second floor. Click and drag the image to spin around.
If this doesn't work for you, grab the QuickTime software for your browser here.


Floor two

Originally uploaded by japunto.
There's sort of a floor up on floor two now. James (the architect) and I went up there and looked around; we have a cool view of the San Gabriel mountains, and surprisingly little view of our neighbors' yards. The rooftops and trees do a nice job of it.

In our meeting with James and J.D. yesterday we talked about the following:
Windows and doors. They've gotten a quote on Fleetwood clear anodized aluminum ones that are very stylish and have high quality hardware. We think that's going to be most important on the sliding doors and pocket doors. They're going to look into Milgard for the windows (they also offer modern looking aluminum ones) to see if that'll drop the price.

Wood flooring. They've got a good supplier who deals in reclaimed wood. I envision a guy traveling the country, buying old barns, and then sending the wood back here to L.A. The wood is old growth and ecologically friendly at the same time.

Fence. We're going to redo the fence in front to match the one I designed for the side. It is a kind of modernist take on the picket fence. I'll post some renders soon.


Staircase skeleton

Originally uploaded by japunto.
I never knew this was how stairs are made. The framer did loads of measuring and cutting to create these spiney-looking guys.