Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thursday AM before work.... Electrical starts

The electrician consisting of my neighbor Howie and his friend / co-worker Jake and some other guy showed up at 8am to start the electrical work.

They said that all the work will be finished today. I should be able to come home and find that it's all done! It's nice to have other people doing the work at times.. that's for sure.

All that should be left is a few additional things to connect and I'll be good to go.

Sweet!! they did finish today! I got home and it was all good! Nice job Howie and Jake and crew!

Weds day off from work means day of work at home

Jorge and I got to work in the morning checking a few more things off the list. I will be adding photos later!
  • Routed out the stud in the wall to lower the box for the light fixture above the mirror.
  • Cut out the old waste line for the toilet. There is a bit more work here since the toilet hole was cut out in the wrong place. I don't really understand why the contractor decided to cut the toilet hole in the floor so early in the process. Rule of thumb #210.5 Always leave this stuff until much later. Many things will change that will ultimately effect the placement of fixtures etc. Cut out the hole in the floor when you are sure where the hole will be. Cutting in the wrong place triggers lots of additional work to fix the mistake plus the additional work of cutting the hole again. Yucky
  • Framing of wall behind the tub. This got complicated as there is a design element built into this wall providing a small slit of light through a portal in the wall. Nothing seemed to go right... it was very frustrating to say the least.
  • Additional supports added to wall to provide support for the glass shower door.
  • Finished adding electrical boxes to get things ready for electrician tomorrow AM.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Air Compressors and moving a life to Vietnam

In my quest to find an air compressor that actually works, I took another chance on trust and faith in the goodness of humans. Craigslist provided yet another oportunity to purchase a slightly used unit at a very good price as compared to new. I also have been thinking quite a bit about the impact of my purchasing of "things" on this planet. Purchasing something used helps cut down "just a little bit" on my impact to this whole delicate system. I was thinking about buying a new one, but then I started pondering about the process that triggers. Purchasing, packing, the distribution of that unit to my house via UPS or whatever, the packaging materials and all that associated waste.. uggg... Instead of introducing something new into the system why can't I just re-use something that has already gone through that whole process already.

I met this guy named Hong who was selling lots of stuff. The compressor looked great, he started it up and even used it to shoot a few nails to show me that it worked fine. He showed me nail guns, nails, saws, sanders, dust collection systems, drills, and so many things that he wanted to sell. I asked him, "Why are you selling all this stuff" He replied, "I am moving to Vietnam"

I was really surprised at his answer but even more surprised by what he mentioned next.

I asked him, "What are you going to be doing in Vietnam? Why are you moving there?" Without hesitation he replied, "I am going to be a farmer."

He proceeded to tell me more about how he couldn't sit in an office anymore and basically it was not a proper existence of life and living. He wanted to go work with the land and with people to try and make things better. He told me that he also had hopes to save some animals that are treated quite poorly or even used for food and other medicines especially in Northern Vietnam. Many of these wild animals are endangered and he wanted to help try and change the way that people thought about these creatures of the earth. He talked about a golden eagle and a little monkey that he saw when he was in some market during a recent trip back to Vietnam. He told me that he wanted to purchase these animals and bring them back to his farm and then hopefully one day he could release them back into the wild.

My feelings about the inner goodness of most people has now been restored thanks to a guy named Hong. We talked for a bit more about life and what is living. How most people from the United States don't like to challenge themselves and only like to travel when all the comforts of home are guarenteed. We said goodbye with sharing email addresses and I told him that I will email him if I get the chance to travel to Vietnam. I have always thought that a trip to South East Asia would be awesome, and now I am thinking that it would be even cooler to see Hong on his farm taking care of his Eagle and Monkey.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Weekend April 15th and 16th

Saturday got a bit of a late start... needed to sleep!

The goal of this weekend was to get all the stuff ready for the electrician to do his work during the next week. Basically that meant to get all the electrical boxes placed and account for all the fixures and where the switches would be placed. Also a few additional things were on this list.

After realizing that there was not enough depth in the wall to fit the shampoo niche...uggg.. Jorge and I moved out the tub and framing an additional inch to provide enough room. Good thing that we didn't really nail all the framing securely. I kind of figured something like this would happen so we only used a few finishing nails and screws that can be backed off easily. I'll use the big 3" framing nails later when I am sure that all is going to stay where it is!

First had to remove one of the diagonal wall supports and then you have the frame ready for the installation of the metal shampoo niche unit. That will go in later after all the cement board and moisture resistant drywall.

The next project was to install the blower for the tub. The installation instructions mentioned that the blower should not be installed in a closed location due to overheating. It's also a good idea to have easy access just in case servicing of the unit becomes necessary.

After lining everything up, we drilled a small pilot hole for each. I had my fingers crossed hoping that the holes were clear of obstructions and floor joists. We got lucky on this one and all was clear. We drilled the larger diameter holes with a hole cutting saw. It took a bit to get through all the layers of cement board and subfloor etc.

The second step was to mount the motor in the basement. This was easy enough, just put in some 2x4 framing and then a piece of plywood on top. Mouting the motor was done with just two screws.

While we were making holes in the floor, we put in the hole for the tub drain. This was done with the 4 1/4" hole saw.

Jenny brought us Mexican food for lunch! Sweet time to chow! Thanks Jenny!

Now to put the ceiling fan exhaust in... This required drilling a 4 1/4" hole in the celing joist to install the louvered vent cover. After drilling a pilot hole, we found that a waste line pipe was obstructing thing on the exterior of the house. We decided to move the location over. This new location was clear on the exterior for the louvered vent but required putting another 4" hole through a joist. This joist already had a large notch in it so we didn't feel that bad by making it a bit bigger for the vent pipe.

I used the sticky plastic membrane flashing material to line the hole in the wall. This stuff makes sure that no water will get in, it's crazy sticky!

On Sunday I ended up just working by myself as there wasn't much heavy lifting to do today. I had to get all the electrical boxes installed today so that the electritian could do his work during the coming week.

First issue was that the switch box as you enter the bath was to be placed right where the wall stud was.. uggg! To make matters even more compicated, this is plaster and lath and the other side of the wall is the hallway. This stuff is super fragile... I had to be ultra carefull removing the piece of stud required to get the 4 gang electrical box to fit in there. I cut the stud very carefully by hand with a pull saw. These things are really great and have gotten me out of a jam more than once. Once I cut through the stud in two places I could carefully remove the piece without disturbing any of the plaster and lath. There was only a few small nails to worry about, other than that it came out quite easily. Here it is all done.. the white piece of paper is just a note for the electrician.

This is a bit of a weird random one... Behind the existing light switch, I found a little reminder of the past. Someone had written on this piece of wood. "Fuck Nix Ford is new president Dummy" Hmmmm.. who knows what you are going to find when remodeling an old home. This was a precious little jem of a find for sure, probably written in 1974 or so.... It incorporates a sense of humor, personality, and clearly a time in history reflected in the not so elegant words of a disgruntled citizen. Wow... seems like things never change! Here we are in 2006 and I feel like writing the same thing about our current president. Guess I will just have to wait for the "impeachment" errrr... should I say the proper term of "resignation?" and then I can leave another little note of my own.

Finished adding a few extra pieces of wood to get the exact rough opening for the mirror / medicine cabinet. Installation of this should be easy enough and now I am sure it will be centered perfectly.

The electrical box for the light fixture above the mirror was screwed into place. I also notched out the 2x4 support just below the white square piece of paper in the photo. This is to allow the necessary amount of depth for the outlet box. I didn't have a 2 gang box... will have to install that one later this week.

I also installed the rough pluming for the faucet. You can see it between the two horizontal 2x4's. This is a Kohler unit that sits inside the wall. When the installation is complete all you will see is the handles and the spout! That should look really nice.

That was about it for this weekend... Everything should be in a good enough state for the electrician to start roughing in all the electrical this week. The goal is to get the plumber to come in next weekend to rough in the plubing. Once this is done I can start to hang the ceiling. The installation of the ceiling is a bit non-conventional as it wil be done to provide sound proofing from the upstairs unit.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Monday after work / Tuesday Morning before work

Met with the electrician last night. We went over all the aspects of the electrical and where things should be placed etc.. Howie is also my neighbor and besides being a good electrician, he is also a cool guy. I have so many lights in this bathroom.. he must think that I am nuts! A bathroom needs good lighting and I figured that I would rather have too much light vs. not enough light! He is scheduled to start on things sometime next week. The sooner that I can get all the recessed cans and ceiling fan wired up.. the sooner that I can start to cover it all up!

Tuesday morning I had a few errands to take care of..... First stop was JC plumbing supply. I went right to their service pickup location over on Capp Street. It's always exciting to see what is going on over in that neck of the woods... I think that there is some type of gravitational pull for all the wacky people to hang out on Capp Street. As I pulled up to the front of the building, some weird / crazy lady with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth was shouting at me asking if I had called her. She had some weird facial expressions and was all jerky in her motions.. I think that she was jacked up on something. I did my best to just ignore her and act like I didn't even notice her presence. She ended up stumbling away down the street yelling at every car that passed. Weird stuff....

Picked up my tub spout from JC and opened the box to find out that it was dented... looked like it had been dropped. ARGG! I brought it back and they are going to order a new one.. Hopefully this one won't take another 4 weeks.

Next stop Tool Repair shop on Evans Street to drop off the infamous Air Compressor from Vince. These guys are cool as I have rented tools from them in the past. I dropped off the bum Hitachi unit and they are going to take a look at it and let me know by sometime next week. I was hoping they could tell me the status of this much sooner, but it looks like I will have to wait. $18 bucks charged for taking a look and letting me know the status.. that's a much better deal that I thought. Fingers crossed that it can get fixed for cheap. If not?? I'm going on a search to find Vince and attempt to get my cash back.

Monday, April 10, 2006

More weekend work and a compressor from "Vince"

Weekend of 4/8-4/9

Jorge and I got quite a bit done..

Installation of recessed lighting fixtures
Installation of exhaust fan
Finished installing all decking materials 2x6 in airshaft
Filled all holes and gaps with expanding foam
Found some big holes / gaps where the waste line from upstairs unit pokes through joist. Caulked and filled these
Finished putting up moisture barrier on west wall
Rough framing for tub and dropped tub in to be sure that it all fits

The installation of the recessed lighting became a bit more complicated as some water pipes from the upstairs unit are in the way of one of the fixtures. The fixture is unable to be placed in the correct location. I am going to have to re-order another recessed can that is non-ic rated as it is much smaller and will fit without any issues. Just need to keep the insulation 3" away from this one.

Got email regarding medicine cabinet / mirror. It has finally shipped and should arrive tomorrow. The only item that is still back-ordered is my tub spout!

The adventures continue..... This time it was an attempt to purchase a Hitachi compressor from some dude "Vince" on CraigsList.

I have been looking to purchase an aircompressor to drive my nail gun / framing gun. I figured in the long run this will probably save me time and money vs. going to the tool rental shop each time. I have been searching on Craigslist hoping to find something slightly used but for a more reasonable price. On Friday I saw a Hitachi EC12 in very good condition listed for 175.00. This is a decent price considering that they sell new for around 220.00. Sounds quite simple right? ugggg!!!

I called the number and talked to this guy named Vince who exploits the usage of the word "dude" more than the Jeff Spicoli character from Fast Times. He seems a bit sketch, but what the heck... He says that he has used it very little, probably only about 50 hours or so to do some framing work. He seems very anxious to sell it as soon as possible, but I tell him that I don't have any time to take a look at it until next week.

Saturday Vince calls me and says that he is willing to meet me in San Francisco because he really wants to sell it quickly and get the cash. I tell him that I am busy all day working on my house, but if he wants to drive over to my house and drop it off.... he is more than welcome to do so. He agrees to swing it by.. Sweet... all I have to do is hang out here and wait until he shows up! This is working out even better than I could have expected!

Vince calls back.. says that he won't be able to make it to San Francisco today it went something like "The traffic is really bad dude." An alternate plan is discussed, we decide to meet up at 8pm at IKEA in Emeryville. This is probably only about 15 min away from my house during non traffic hours.

I call Vince at 7:30 saying that I am on my way and to make sure that he is still on his way. He says that all systems are go.

I get to IKEA at about 7:50 and then Vince calls... kind of weird because the first thing that he says is "How about $150 for the compressor" I am like... err.. ahh.. what?? Why are you offering it to me for 25 bucks less than we agreed? He proceeds to tell me that he is running late and feels really bad for making me wait. He wants to make it worth my time and so he is knocking 25 bucks off the price. He promises to be at IKEA no later than 9:00pm. I figure.. I'm here.. what the heck, I'll go walk around IKEA and eat some Sweedish meetballs for dinner and buy one of those industrial sized supplies of Tea Light Candles for some insanely low price.

Vince calls again around 8:45 saying something like he is at Home Depot in Oakland and he is not sure what to do. HUH? I tell him that we are supposed to be meeting up at IKEA and I am here and not going to meet up anywhere else besides I am in the middle of eating a $1.00 cinnamon swirl cake thingy, such tasty goodness for only a buck. He asks me to find out the street that IKEA is on as he feels this is necessary requirement for him to find the place. I am like.. "Street address?? I have no idea.. just take highway 880 until you see this big yellow sign that is about the size of a small blimp it says IKEA!! Really you can't miss it" He replies "ok dude.. I'm gonna find it for sure"

Vince shows up around 9:10 or so... he is in a construction truck that says the name of a company all over it. He says that he is sorry and that somehow he missed IKEA and ended up at Home Depot. "I just got caught up man." Compressor looks sweet, almost brand new, I check the oil and it has some which is a good thing. Doesn't seem to be any metal fillings or anything bad in the oil... so cool I'll take it. Vince reassures me that if anything is wrong I should let him know and I know where he works and his phone number so all is good. I pay $149 cash for the deal as neither of us have the exact change.

I get the compressor home.. Plug it in.... Flip to switch... errrr... hmmm... nothing, dead, bust. I try it again, first resetting the breaker on the exterior panel of the compressor. Turn it on, it makes a bit of a humming sound and the breaker trips again. Pissed off? yeah.. right.. I don't think that simple word can do the situation justice.

Call Vince.. tell him that he has sold me a bum compressor. He swears up and down that it works fine and I should try it in another outlet, maybe that one is not delivering enough juice to turn it over. This sounds really odd, I have used compressors before in the same exact outlet without any issues.. but what the hell. I lug the thing over to two additional outlets and get the same exact behavior.

Call Vince.. He swears it works, but he does offer to give me my money back if it doesn't. I am telling him ok, but in the back of my mind I know this guy is just full of BS. I just need to go to sleep, it's about 11:00pm and I am way beyond beat.

Fed up.. called Vince back and left a message. "I want my money back"

Weird stuff.. Vince calls me on Monday AM to ask if the compressor is working. I say that it doesn't and I want my money back. Didn't he get my last message? Anyway he says that is totally cool and will figure something out so we can meet up and make the reverse exchange.

Called Vince back today about 5 times.. just rings and rings and rings... no answer.. ok.. guess this is the place where he just doesn't answer my calls and I give up and he keeps my cash and I keep a bum compressor.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

First Stages

Seems simple enough, remodel a bathroom! As with virtually everything in life, it's easier than it looks. So in an effort have the ability to re-live this project at any time in the future I am going to keep this cyber journal of all the twists and turns a project like this can take. Hey mom and dad... see!! I am busy doing stuff!

Stage 1.

Here is my bathroom.. it's about as ugly as you can get. I would say that it was probably designed by someone with really poor eyesight while under the influence of LSD sometime in the late 60's or early 70's. The linoleum flooring is totally rad. The good thing about a bathroom like this is that there is really no reason to clean it. Just let everything build up a nice patina of yucky stuff.

The careful attention to detail and design is evident throughout. Here we have the shower designed into the space of the windows. When faced with elements of conflict such as this, we can see that the designer chooses to make functional decisions. Curtain rod intersects windows? Add a multi-functional dual action rod support and shelf combo.. SWEET! I promise to do a much better job on planning out the space and how everything fits in the new and improved version 2.0.

Detail of Yucky Stuff

Stage 2.

Dave's conversation with himself "Don't do this project yourself, you have already done way too much on this place yourself, hire a contractor on this one man.. just pay someone to do the job right and get it done and move one. It's a bathroom, you don't want it out of commission for an extended period of time.. just get it done.." I figured the process here would be rather easy. I actually met a guy a while back, a friend of a friend sort of thing. He was doing lots of construction work, pursuing his contractors license, and also starting his own business. I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to get a decent price from someone who would do a really good job. Not having to bid this out to multiple contractors would save me lots of time and headache as well.


Drawings, really good.. detailed drawings were a must. I had Jenny show me the ropes of Illustrator and I was off running. I now have a deep admiration for the Pen Tool and Bezier Curves. I have also found that the Smart Guides totally rock. In retrospect I would never want to design anything like this in Illustrator again. Having a 3D or CAD application is the way to go. There was just way to much work involved in moving and making adjustments in all elevations individually. I don't want to even think about the amount of hours I put into the drawings.. way too much!


Pick out tile and order all materials... Considering that some of the items still have not arrived and I ordered them about 8-10 weeks ago.... I would say that jumping on getting all your items in the queue early is a very good idea. It's always best to have things onsite to be sure of clearances and specifics on installations as early on in the project as possible.

Stage 5.

So the I did hire a contractor, I did have really good intentions.

Stage 6.

Demo out the old bathroom. :) I decided to do this myself as I have a lots of experience tearing down old construction. The beauty of tearing apart an old house like this one is that the walls are comprised of plaster and lath. This stuff is messy, heavy, dusty, dirty, ugly and depressing to deal with. The bonus of the bathroom was that over the plaster and lath in some places was an additional layer of gypsum board. Just another layer to strip away! The demo required a dumpster out in front of the house, I think that this cost me about 350.00 for the week. This is kind of pricey for sure, but it also includes drop off and pick up and all the permits necessary from the city. There is really no sane way to do this without a dumpster, unless you have a really big pickup truck and can make many runs to the Colma dumps. A total of about 2 days were spent ripping out the old stuff with the help of my new found companion and workhorse Jorge. There was one small minor mishap, but catastrophe was avoided. I was tearing out one of the walls near the cold water line for the toilet. The pipe snapped sending a hisssing stream of water out into the basement below. I ran downstairs and shut off the water main to the house and cut and capped the line. I couldn't believe how fast this water started to flood the basement. In the amount of time it took me to shut off the water main, the basement had accumulated quite a bit of water. Lesson learned... When working with live water lines, it's probably a good idea to shut off the water main first. Another good idea would to have shut off the main line, cut and cap the lines going to the bathroom and then turn on the main line again and continue to do the demo without worrying about a flood situation.

Taking a closer look, it turned out that the toilet cold water line was corroded and rusty and extremely fragile. These pipes were made from iron and not copper. The other really bad thing is that some of the iron piping was connected to copper piping. This is a bad idea as they can corrode each other.

After two full days of demo, it was nice to see the entire contents of my bathroom residing in the street side dumpster! I should have taken a picture of that as it was quite a milestone.

Stage 7.

Ok, call the contractor and tell him that I am ready to have him start. Bathroom is demo'd out, I have good drawings and most of the supplies, fixtures, tile are on the job site. Now I can just sit back, relax, and watch the job get done!

After lots of long delays in getting the project started, and to be sure these were delays were my own fault. Trying to pick out and get all the fixtures, tile, medicine cabinet, vanity, sinks, tub, blah, blah.. settled before the contractor started took much longer than I thought.

Anyway, to make a short story even shorter. The contractor spent a total of 4 days on the job site and only managed to accomplish a few things while eating up close to 1/4 of the total budget. Needless to say that wasn't going to work. Besides most of the things that he had done were incorrect and not following either the manufacture specifications or the details of my well thought out drawings.

What happened exactly?

The contractor that I hired to do the job ended up not doing any of the work and not really being around to manage the job at all. Basically, this seems to be the case of how things end up going. You hire a contractor and then he sends out his guys to do the work. Who are these guys, do they know what they are doing, are they clear on what they should be working on each day. Are they going to be doing things to your and the manufacturer specifications? A really good question to ask a contractor would be, "Are you going to be here at the job site every day to ensure things go smoothly? Do you have time in your schedule to give this job the attention that it deserves? or do you have a bunch of other jobs that are more important to you which means you won't be here very often and you really won't have much of an idea of what is going on." unfortunately the later was the case for me. We will get into the specifics of that a bit later.......

Bad things...
  • Tearing out some of the rotting joists required adequately supporting the floor above while the work was being done. The contractor said that he would support the joists by using a very large and substantial wood or iron beam. The support used was a single 2 x 4. I guess his crew decided this was adequate. Needless to say that all is still standing... thankfully.
  • Toilet flange hole for waste line in the wrong place.
  • None of the wall studs were moved to allow the window rough-in or recessed medicine cabinet to be installed correctly.
  • Plumbing was done using 1/2 pipe when all my shower volume control valves and thermostat values were 3/4". No consideration was taken to look at this stuff prior to doing the plumbing rough-in work. No consideration or questions were asked for the gpm ratings on shower system etc.
  • Toilet plumbing cold water rough-in was in the wrong place. This would have ended up directly behind the toilet instead of 8" from the center line of the toilet as in the drawings.
  • Hardi-Board for floor was being installed using construction adhesive. I have never heard of this application method. This was just plain wrong. The manufacturer recommendation is to install only using thinset applied with a 1/4" notched trowel. After talking with some professional tile setters I have realized that there should have been at least a discussion regarding what the recommended sub-flooring method when using specific tile materials such as limestone and marble etc. Many of the tile contractors suggest mudding the entire floor "old school" style to ensure a faultless lifespan on the job. I hope that 1/4" hardi-board embedded with thinset, installed over 3/4" tongue and groove sub-flooring will be adequate. Time will tell....
  • Hardi-Board flooring was not laid out on the entire floor surface. They stopped it short at the point of the tub area. This doesn't make much sense as you want to do everything to ensure a strong and level surface. The hardi-board should extend throughout the entire flooring area in an effort to achieve the best end result.
  • Luckily I caught this flooring stuff midway. I had them pull it back up and re-install it correctly.