Sunday, August 30, 2009

This and That

When the roofers were here with their dumpster, we had a chance to get rid of a few large, bulky, heavy things.

The roofers removed the concrete slabs that led to nowhere in particular. I have plans for this backyard... It'll just have to wait till we're done with the house, though...

Here there used to be a large concrete slab. Mark removed it by himself - using a sledge hammer - for two reasons: a) it was cracked in the middle, which made it a safety hazard; b) the plumber, in his previous visit, found that the pipe needs to be changed (too old and corroded) - so we will need to dig a channel between the faucet (where the green hose is connected) and the main line, which lies in the curb, and to replace the pipe.

Since the roofers were here we've been working on electrical wiring to the kitchen and office - we're adding 5 new circuits! That's a lot of work, especially when you need to get a permit, find out what the code is, etc. More on that - with pictures, of course - later!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Carpets and Roof

Last Saturday, at 5:45 am I woke up to the stumping sound of people walking on the roof. It was indeed the roofers who came 15 minutes early. By the time I got up to the roof, about 10-15 minutes later, it already was stripped to the boards!

Luckily, there were backerboards, so no hot asphalt drizzled through the exposed wood ceiling boards underneath it, though we were prepared for that scenario as well.
It took them a little longer to scrape all the old asphalt and prepare the roof for the insulation boards and the multiple layers of new asphalt.

These are the insulation boards, with one of the roofers showing off

Preparing the asphalt: first, take the paper cover off...

Then, carry it to the hot oven

Put it inside...

And this is what you get after some time: hot liquidy asphalt...

...that you mop onto the roof sheets that are layered on top of the insulation

The result:

The old roof is in the dumpster, the new roof has a step - that's where the insulation ends (no need for insulating the garage, the porch or the eaves.

The roofers had to come multiple time later to finish up things, remove the old cooler's vent, put in a new double dome skylight, and coat the roof twice, and now it's finished.

Our snowy roof. Notice the "step"?

The roofers we used are West Coast Roofing. They were the ones who gave us the lowest bid, which was about $2000 less than all the other bids. The company is fairly new (though the people running it are experienced) and that's how I explain the difference in pricing. We did ask for references, which we got, and they seemed okay. After they started they explained all the staged to us very clearly and were very informative and seemed to know what they were doing. They also saved us more money when the saw opportunities for it. For example, the front porch roof seemed okay to them, so they reduced the price a little and left it there. They also promised to give us a $50 gift certificate to a restaurant, but somehow we didn't end up getting it.
There was one problem though: in one southern edge of the house the eaves were not as deep as on the other sides, and since the roofers assumed equal distance between the edge of the roof and the beginning of the wall, they left a bit of roof uninsulated. This was noticeable more before the white coating, so we complained. Of course, once everything is in place, you can't go back and add more insulation, so instead they gave us the new skylight for free.

All in all, the expenses on the new roof amounted to $5040. We already feel the difference. On Tuesday, when the carpet people were scheduled to come, Mark went to Tempe for work, and I had to come back from work around noon. Before leaving the house 4 hours earlier, we turned off the AC, especially since the roofers had a few spots open around vents and skylight. When I came home, the temperature was only 84 degrees F - something like 15-20 degrees less than the outside temperature! Pretty neat, ha?

And yes, the carpet people came around 12:30 - pretty good for a window of 12 to 4 - and finished installing it by 3 or 3:30. It looks so nice! I don't have "before and after" pictures, because I'm not sure the differences would show, especially since the old carpet didn't look too bad. Instead, I will post pictures when the rooms will be completely done. The carpets were from Home Depot and cost us about $1100, including installation and waterproof padding. The installers were from Western States Flooring, and seemed very knowledgeable and ready to explain whenever I had questions.

So now we have a new roof over our heads and new carpets under our feet. Which feels nice. But there's still a lot more to be done!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Meet the Neighbors

We had the new roof installed this weekend. It's a built-up roof (more on that in a later post), which meant that hot stuff was to be poured on top of it, with the risk of its dripping into the house. We were therefore recommended to leave the house for a couple of hours (which turned out to be 5). This gave us an opportunity to get to know our neighborhood!
First, we talked to Silvia, one of the first people to move into the neighborhood. The very first one was our neighbor to the south, Ray, who together with his dad built the house in 1946. Silvia lives right in front of Ray, and that makes her our SW neighbor. She has the reputation of knowing anything that goes on in the neighborhood. She told us some very interesting stories about people who lived in our house and how one time our large mesquite tree fell off but was pulled up again and somehow made it through. Right next door to Silvia is a house that has some interesting characters - both inside and out. The owner (who apparently can play some tricks of dubious nature) rents it to a couple who has lived there for more than 6 years. However, they recently got divorced, so the wife is hardly ever there. Not clear where the guy is now and whether we met him or not. We did meet a few of the inhabitants (or should I call them outhabitants - they live outside in a tent!). One of them has a couple of pitbulls - I met the female, Diamond, who is very friendly and loaded with milk - she recently gave birth to ten pups - and a cockatoo! The cockatoo can say "pretty bird" and "close the door", but most of the time we just hear her SCREAM HER HEART OUT.

Next door is a couple who has 5 cats and 2 dogs, but we haven't met any of the pets, because they live indoors. We did meet the owners - Carla and Bob. They've lived there since 1991, and they have a bunch of fruit trees. Apparently Carla makes her living by selling dolls and toys on EBay. Bob just left before we made our approach, so we didn't get to talk to him.
To the north is a rental that was just re-rented to a couple of roommates this past week. The old tenants, who we've met as we moved it, just bought a house and moved out. The new tenants are students at the University, and one of them is called Brian. The other is still in NY, so we didn't get to meet him.

In between meeting all those new people, we also needed to go somewhere and have breakfast. I asked the roofer for a recommendation, and he, without hesitating a second said "Frank's!" It's only about a mile away, and fairly cheap, non-presumptuous and tasty.

Mark had Frank's Veggie Burro and I had French Toast With Lots Of Sugar

Both were very good.

And to finish it up - here are a few pictures from the neighborhood:

Hummer dealership and the Catalinas from the road. Our house is to the right, where all the trucks are parked - these are the roofers' trucks.

This lizard lives around our house.

A bird on a tree

Good to have an animal hospital (or two) around. This is one of them. the other is across the street.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kitchen Demolition - Part II

Find the differences:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hole in the Wall

Remember the plumber from a previous post who left a hole in our closet walls?

Well, we had to fix it. It's not as easy as you might think... To start with, it seems impossible nowadays to find materials for fixing plaster walls! I guess everybody's doing drywalls, but what about the old houses?
We had to go to a specialty building materials store (A&H building materials), and they gave us instructions and patching material, and also a sheet of drywall for only $2.00 (it was damaged, but good enough for us).
First, we had to straighten the holes in the wall, so that the pieces of drywall can fit. We did that with a drywall saw. There were also pieces of metal lath in the corners that we had to remove or push in so they won't stick out of the plaster. Then we cut the drywall to pieces of the right size. We attached the drywall pieces to the studs with drywall screws, and drilled holes in them so that the plaster will have something to hold on to.

That's what we did last Saturday:

On Sunday we had to apply the plaster. We knew it dries quickly - the instructions said to only mix enough material for what we can use in 15-20 minutes.
But by the time Mark spread about a square foot of plaster - about 10 minutes - it was already starting to harden. It dried up even quicker that the instructions said!

We had to throw away a bunch of hard plaster and work with smaller batches. That was very tiresome, because we had to wash the bucket well before mixing the next batch.
Anyway, after many hours of mixing and cleaning, we finished the holes in both closets.

This is the bedroom closet.

The next day we sanded the plaster. Not surprisingly*, Mark did a much better job than me, both at applying the plaster and sanding it. He worked on the bedroom closet, I did the reading/hobby room closet.

Here's the hobby room closet after priming:

It doesn't look too bad here, but if you look up close you can see bumps.

Finally, the walls were painted. This is the hobby room closet, painted white (blame the lighting for making it look like it's yellow)

Not bad for a couple of inexperienced homeowners, is it?
Of course, only time will tell if we did a good job or not. Hopefully this will keep for a while!

* Not surprisingly because Mark is a perfectionist and I'm not.