RSS Feed for ConcreteCategory: Concrete

Modern Concrete and Floor Redeux

What a difference a week makes. Our new hardwood floor refinishing guys came in and did an incredible job on the Modern Bungalow in South Park. Instead of the usual rag on, rag off method for applying the stain, these guys used a lambs wool applicator and drug the stain across the floor. Of course we did not water pop the wood first this time!

The stain came out perfect the second time around, no spots or blotchy areas and this application method actually left more color on the wood. After the stain dried they did 3 coats of semi-gloss clear, buffing in between coats. I’m really happy with the results, this is how Golden Pecan on Red Oak should look, it gives a modern loft feel.

Here is the finished product on the floors, finally I am back on track now. The cabinet finishers are coming in next to stain the uppers to match and paint the bases, island and bathroom vanities.

The weather finally cooperated enough to get most of our hardscape in this week. I poured about 20 yards of flat work. The modern design I created will lend itself well to my overall theme, the driveway area was so large, so by cutting it up I brought the space more into scale. Stay tuned for the finishing stretch after the holidays & Merry Christmas!

MCM Window Shopping

I’m really excited about the Milgard aluminum windows I picked out for this house and have to say I’ve removed tons of aluminum windows but this is the first time I’ve ever put them In. They are a modern energy efficient version of what we took out. With my right hand man Barney, we got them all installed including the 6 foot and 8 foot patio doors in a day and a half. These are new construction windows meaning you have to break the stucco back to install them using nailing fins. Putting them in is easy but the most important part is getting new flashing behind the old felt paper and using Jiffy Seal around them for a good seal. When breaking out your old ones try not to damage the wire mesh or felt paper. There’s a lot of guys flipping houses in San Diego and throwing in retrofit or vinyl lip windows. Believe me, you don’t want to put in vinyl retrofit windows, they will not hold air and warp in less than 10 years. I know because I have them in my house!

For our Mid Century project I wanted to get the stream-lined modern minimalist look so the aluminum was a clear choice. I wanted to use a mixture of casement and awning windows on this project so the master bedroom window was a perfect candidate to replace the old huge slider with a fixed window and 2 casements on the sides. I was able to put together a custom front window also with an awning on the bottom and slider on the top as seen here. I almost went with a really cool look – triple awning on the front, but thought there might not be enough air flow on those hot San Diego summer nights with no A/C so I played it functionally safe and put sliders in the secondary bedrooms as well. Since we are re-stuccoing the whole house I also took this opportunity to break out and replace all the old crawl space vents as you can see at the bottom of the top picture.

After price shopping around at 4 places I ended up getting the best deal at Home Depot. These are special order windows and take 3-4 weeks to arrive so you want to order them as soon as possible so they don’t slow your project down. For orders over $2500 you can request special pricing from the Home Depot Bid Room. Just ask to do so at the Millworks or Contractors desk. In my case they knocked off another 14% and with no delivery charge I ended up paying about $3600 for all the windows including a 6 foot and 8 foot patio door. These windows are of course low E and dual pane. The patio doors were a little more tricky because the frames come in 4 pieces but easy for anyone to do and they installed like a dream. They shut so good it sounds like an airplane door.

I tried out a new drywall patching crew this time and am super happy with the results. They cut out everything square, patched all my Swiss cheese holes from running the mechanicals, and then skim coated the entire house with a new 90% smooth texture. They also had to redo some of the window and door returns from our install, so it was nice to have them there fixing stuff as we were putting in the windows. The inside is ready for paint now, everything is really going smooth with this house. I’m off to the recycle yard with the old aluminum windows now for a nice bonus check for helping the environment!

Mid Century Modern Concrete

Well I wish I had some images of cool flat panel cabinets, modern fixtures, new hardwood floors, glass tile back-splashes and shiny new objects but first things first. Normally, I do the concrete flat work last but since its part of the structural scope of this job I wanted to get it out of the way so when I get inside and start patching I know nothing is going to move.

We removed the entire garage floor, driveway and even part of the City sidewalk due to the Pepper tree roots. Once the floor was out we fixed 6 cracks in the stem wall and then removed 6″ of soil to make room for the new thicker slab. First we laid down plastic sheeting for moisture and then 6″ of clean sand to prevent possible expanding soils to pop up the new floor later. Finally we doweled #4 rebar into the existing house foundation, stem wall and all perimeter concrete flat work securing it with epoxy. It took 25 yards of the best 2500 psi big rock concrete you can buy and 6 finishers but we completed the pour in one day.

The big exterior load bearing beam was also rotten from water damage. Looking around the neighborhood at the same floor plan houses, a lot of homeowners just added a post and cut the long beam off. I wanted to really retain the original look of the house so we rebuilt it as it was originally done. I’m probably the only one on the block that has it back correctly now. This beam was a 4″x12″x26′ and weighed 400 pounds. It only cost 200 bucks and was easy to replace once we broke the stucco and supported the roof with a temporary wall. Windows, exterior doors and garage door are all on special order. The new roof is coming next, believe it or not I haven’t even done demo yet inside, stay tuned we’ll eventually get to the shiny new objects!

Concrete Jungle

What’s an urban restoration project like without adding just a tad more hardscape to blend in with the mass expanses of paved metropolitan living? There is always a danger of adding too much concrete and having your house look like a parking lot but I think I pulled it off and managed to give the new owners a place for 4 cars to park securely while also enhancing the landscaping design with the sweeping walkway around the side yard. After receiving multiple bids in the $5 – $7  per square foot range, I managed to pull off the 22 yard pour for just around $3.75/s.f.

There was a block wall that was cracked and leaning over out front so we formed and poured around it after some reinforcing with rebar. Once I crack off the forms we’ll give it a swipe with spec mix for a sanded stucco finish to match the foundation walls. I thought this was a good quick fix as opposed to demolishing everything and having someone stack a whole new block wall which technically would also have to be permitted with the City. Inside this week, we also stripped all the paint from the 100-year-old staircase after deciding it will look better in its natural redwood state rather than painting it with all the trims.

Hidden Surprises for Fathers Day

First and foremost, Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there! The coolest thing we did this week at The Painted Lady was to remove all of the 1970’s Sears metal siding, of course we recycled it to help save the planet. This is the third time I’ve done this on a historic house but I’ve never removed 2 different layers to get down to the original wood. It’s always a gamble because you never know of the condition underneath but its been my experience that the asbestos or vinyl that’s on top actually preserves and protects the old wood and I’ve always been surprised to see near perfect siding with minimal paint jobs buried underneath. The more the homes get painted over the years, the harder it is to prep so in this case when I found the original yellow paint job with nothing cracking or peeling I was excited.  As we removed it, I found tons more hidden architectural details that these Victorian houses are famous for so I had to tell myself it must have been a pretty good salesman in a polyester jacket who was able to convince the homeowner with his “never paint your house again” pitch years ago to cover all the character of their house up. These cool details in the trim on the house are going to put my paint job over the top.

We also finally got the foundation poured, it took 2 full trucks with almost 20 yards of concrete total, as well as a pumper rig to fill up the spaces we left open around the house in the forms. Once filled we removed the forms while it was still green and hand troweled the finish. Its harder to work with but I used the 1.5″ rock aggregate although most guys use the pea gravel mix. Since the stem wall is 3 feet high in some spots I wanted it to be as strong as possible. This house isn’t going anywhere now for another 100 years. The Historical Review Board also asked me to replace the visable portions of the old chimneys in order to keep the house period correct. The old ones were crumbling and dangerous and I deleted them from inside the house to maximize my floorspace and intended not to re stack the exterior, they weren’t fireplaces inside but only basically a brick flue for stove exhaust. I found some used bricks on Craigslist and had them re-stacked just from the roof line up, I had to knock this out before the roofers show up on Monday.

I finally met with some sub contractor drama this week from one of my subs, I knew everything was going too good to be true. It’s crazy, but unfortunately I cant share the story although it involves the FBI. Hopefully he’ll have his helper finish up next week so I can call for rough in inspection and be ready to insulate and drywall after the new roof goes on.

New Concrete & SA Slippage

Over at our historical renovation, The Target House, we took care of the new concrete driveway and garage foundation this week. My contractor is charging around $3.00/s.f. for a job like this including demo and haul off, we poured 2000 s.f.  The concrete was an important part of this project, the original 1923 driveway width was more suitable for a Model T rather than a soccer mom SUV. Additionally, since our lot is sloped and I excavated such a deep cavity under the room addition for the peir and beam foundation it was imperative to prevent any water from entering the crawl space so the new driveway & curb will divert all rain and roof run off down the driveway. You’ll also notice in the video we are rough sanding the hardwood floors even before we hang drywall. This is a little trick I learned in cases where there are bad stains and smells. Sanding the wood takes the finish off and opens the pores in the wood so it can breathe and dry out. We’ll start bleaching out any stains and then once we are ready to refinish the floors possible do a bit more patching in any areas that still need it. Since my plan on this house is to go light with the floors I wont be able to hide anything with the dark stain. The last thing I want to do is go all dark on my brand new wood floors just to try and hide 4-5 stains up front on the existing portion of the house. We passed framing inspection and the insulation is now hung. Once we pass insulation inspection Monday we’ll be free to finally hang the drywall so I’ve got a delivery for 180 12′ sheets on Monday.

The May San Antonio real estate market stats were released this week and although activity was up nearly 20% the median price dropped almost 4% from last year. I normally don’t put a lot of weight on median prices anyway but there were certainly more less-expensive homes selling due to the buyer bait program. The higher transactions were also obviously a result thereof. After 2 consecutive months of low foreclosure numbers, SA now jumped up by 34% for the July auction and is on track for a record high 2010 number. I think the market will be slowing as Summer settles in, let’s hope home prices don’t continue to slip.

Foundation Complete!

We had a buyer come back for a third time on the Neighbor’s House this week as well as tons of calls and another new showing. Nothing in writing yet so we are still patiently waiting.

I got alot done this week on the Target House, with another day rental on the Bobcat but this time with the 2 foot auger attachment I drilled the holes for the 28 piers. The City of SA wants to see them 2 feet deep with #4 rebar at the bottom of each hole. I found a new engineer that came out and inspected the footings before the concrete pour. My old guy tried to raise his prices from 400 to 600 bucks for the inspection but the new guy’s price is only 350 so I am happy. The City of SA doesn’t inspect foundations for room additions anymore themselves, it’s up to the builder to supply his or her own engineers cerificate to satisfy that portion of the building permit.

After the footings were finished Friday I placed all the piers on Saturday so now I am all ready for the framers to come in and knock this puppy out. I used 12″ sonitubes for the piers but the City only calls for 8″. For the small extra cost I just think it provides for a way better product with the larger diameter piers so I always upgrade. We hand mixed 48 bags on 4000 psi concrete and poured them to the top. I’ll lay the 4×6 treated sills (beams) across the top next week before the framers get started. Stay tuned, we’ll be showing you some cool videos of the whole framing process soon!

Wearing Out My Welcome

It was a crazy week now that we have two projects in progress. At “The Neighbor’s House” we are winding things up and are having the floors refinished while the concrete guys are pouring 1500 s.f. of driveway, 2 patios, an A/C pad and flatwork around the room addition. With all the mess over there I’ve now received disgruntled phone calls and threats of calling the cops about the workers having to stay so late finishing the concrete. I feel like an unwanted houseguest that comes and stays at your house for a week. At first everyone is glad to see me, has remodeling questions and loves what I’m doing for the area, but add 3-4 months of random work trucks parked in front of their houses, mud everywhere in the street and a constant mess and noise and all of a sudden it’s not so cool and the animosity starts to set in. Understandable though, I’m sure it’s annoying. It was really difficult to pour concrete this time because the cold weather delays drying time and the days are shorter now that it’s winter. They’ve had the forms and rebar down for almost 2 weeks and we keep getting days on end of misty cold rain. After finally having four trucks dump about 30 yards, the finishers ended up having to stay until midnight using lights…temps were in the low 40s and it wouldn’t dry fast enough to smooth. That was a particularly bad night for neighbors, I hate having to do that. On the inside, the floors are coming out great as the crew has gone through 3 sanding stages, wood filler and a fine screening to smooth them out. The stain goes on today so I am anxious to see the extra dark walnut stain we’ll custom mix. Can’t wait until they are done so I can install appliances and then it’s down to the final stretch of small punch list stuff and I can get off this street, its time to go!

Over at “The Target House” we broke ground with the demo this week with the help of some day laborers and tore out the entire house in one day gutting every room completely down to the wood and removing both the kitchen and bath. Additionally there was a dilapidated garage and apartment in the backyard that took 2 more days to take down by hand. I had planned to rent a Bobcat to knock it down but it ended up being cheaper to just pay the laborers to do it. Going through someone’s old personal stuff in a garage really lets you get to know them, weird. We found pictures of the house from Christmas 1991 in perfect condition, crazy how 20 years of deferred maintenance can take its toll. Now that the demo is done, the next step is I’ll have my foundation guy get started leveling the house. Our architect is currently working on plans; I have some great ideas for totally changing the floor plan around as well as adding about 1000 s.f. onto the back of the house. We’ll do a walkthrough soon and show you how we are changing things around for the renovation. Several of the other interested parties who didn’t get the house have stopped by this week seeing the demo underway and inquiring about our plans.

Week 2 Update Neighbors House

After completing the bulk of the demo last week my main goal has been towards getting the new roof on. I always start with the new roof first (and foundation if needed) on any major remodel so if there were any leaks previously it wont trash any new stuff going in. Before I can get the roof on this house, I have to add the porch and room addition so it’s been my main focus to get these taken care of first. I had to move the gas meter back 40 feet from the house but luckily the power company showed up Monday and obliged so I got started with no delay. The porch came out really good as it completely changed the look of our house. In this historic neighborhood everyone loves the big front porches and they are an important feature in order to maximize retail sales price. I mimicked the original house design with the 30” eaves and open rafter tails. There are about 10 different Craftsman style home models in our neighborhood but unfortunately this one doesn’t come with the traditional porch so we knew we had to add it. The rear addition is the major change of this house, it will be approximately 620 square feet and contain a utility room, master bedroom, master bath, hallway and walk in closet. Once again to obtain maximum retail sales price these are things that today’s buyer will expect. We will also be giving them a walk-in food pantry and double vanities in the bath, all popular amenities to consider when given the opportunity to remodel. I was fortunately able to design around the big pecan tree so after we are done I plan to do a cool deck around the tree with a circular bench and French doors leading from the master suite. We’ve gone through 6 dumpsters so far, 3 being filled with dirt from the excavation I had to do with the Bobcat for the addition. Monday I have an engineer inspecting my foundation and issuing a certificate, which the City of San Antonio requires for our permit and then we’ll be free to start framing. Do you want to learn exactly how someone pulled down $155,510 his first year Flipping Houses in a recession? Visit our friend’s blog and see. Congratulations bro!

5 Yards of Concrete & 200 lbs of Rebar Later

piers

I finished the 15 concrete piers today for the 435 s.f. master suite addition. There are 3 rows of 5 with 7 foot spacing. After the bobcat grading I dug 24” holes, 2 feet deep with an auger. At the bottom of the holes I placed #4 rebar in a tic tac toe pattern, 3 pcs each way. Then I filled the holes up 18” with 4000 psi concrete to make the footing. For the pier I placed 2 more pieces of rebar sticking straight up through 10” sonitubes. I left these 2 pieces of rebar a little high so the sill beams can lay inside them. Finally I filled the sonitubes with more concrete to complete the pier. I have to reflect for a minute on how easy this is in Texas vs. California which has all the earthquake codes and bureaucratic red tape. The City of San Antonio only requires an Engineer’s approval letter for the foundation inspection of my building permit, (which I pulled over the counter). He comes out twice, once to inspect the hole depth then secondly after the beams are sitting on the piers. Try pulling a permit in San Diego. Drop off your plans, wait for months and prepare to jump through some hoops! The framing will start on Monday. Stay tuned.