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!

Rain Droppin’ & Water Poppin’

Imagine this picture after 3 days of rain. Yes folks, mud, mud and more mud.  It just wasn’t in my cards this week, after almost 2 weeks excavating for the driveway and setting forms, the rains came. Had I just finished a day earlier I would have avoided a 5-day set back due to the weather.  You can see I broke up the huge space by setting the forms in a more modern design for the concrete, it will do wonders for the scale of the driveway and also add an interesting modern touch. Inside the gaps between the slabs I can put river rock, decomposed granite or even a low grass. There wont be any sod in my landscape design, the whole yard will be xeriscaped and planted with drought tolerant native species. The unfinished cmu block retaining walls and large square concrete slabs for stepping blocks will give a real urban mod feel and be perfect for my modern bungalow.

The full custom, flat panel millworks package went in on Monday from Jed at Hollands Custom Kitchens in El Cajon. Full extension, soft close, dove tail, the whole 9 yards. Hollands is rad, great service, quality and they’ve been building cabinets for 35 years here in San Diego. They hand built everything specifically for the house including kitchen and bathrooms. Everything will get finished on site after the install. On the uppers I used grain matching “rift cut” Red Oak. We’ll stain them Golden Pecan to match the floors while the island and lower cabinets will all get painted a dark blueish grey. I’ll contrast the dark lowers by using arctic white quartz countertops with a square eased edge profile and waterfall on one side of the island. In fact the counters, appliances and even carpet upstairs are all waiting to go in as soon as the floors are done.

So you can see a lot was riding on the floor job coming out on time. After 2 days of sanding, the floor guys decided to apply the oil based stain when it was raining outside and 90% humidity. It might have actually worked even though you shouldn’t stain in higher than 60% humidity, but they tried an advanced technique called “water popping” in which you wipe the raw wood with water to raise the grain just prior to staining. This trick is normally reserved for trying to get wood floors to accept a very dark stain or hide scratch marks, in my case it wasn’t necessary since I’m going very light and Red Oak is the easiest material to work with. Soaking the floor with water combined with the high humidity trapped in the moisture under the oil based stain and it dried looking very blotchy. I’ve been doing beautiful Oak floors for years and we never popped the grain, I wouldn’t advise anyone to try it unless you are going very dark or have an absolute professional that has experience with popping the grain doing the work. Needless to say I hired a different company and we are sanding off all the stain and starting over. New 3/4″ Red Oak floors only have enough thickness to refinish about 6 times, its not the best scenario to re-sand new installs twice but they’ll look perfect when we are done and that’s what counts. More on water popping hardwood floors here.

It’s really frustrating to get slowed down at the end of a project, but its just part of the business and being able to react swiftly and find solutions will keep you moving forward. We’ll see if this week works out a little better. See you soon with concrete pics and a complete kitchen. Have a Merry Christmas and thanks for following our projects!

Black Subway & Clear Fir

All I have to say is go with your first instincts. I really wanted to do the backsplash in black ceramic 3″ x 6″ subway tile to match the absolute black granite countertops but white would have been a safer bet for resale. I came real close to chickening out and doing white, but am glad I took the chance and got to try something new in the kitchen.  I’m really happy with how it came out and I got the look I was going for. I’m planning on switching out the plugs, switches and cover plates to black as well. For me, the white grout and the square profile on the granite slabs really makes it.  Once I get the under cabinet lights in there going to be quite the neat reflection going on. I used the Domsjo Farmhouse apron sink from Ikea again, and as you regular blog followers know we’ve put them in all of our historic renovations. You cant beat the price at $299.

We shopped around this week for hardwood floor refinishers and ended up going with Geary Floors here in San Diego. They are charging $2.50/ s.f. for a pretty nice job. I found slightly less expensive prices but knew these guys do good work and its pretty important to me that we get a good job upstairs so I didn’t want to take any chances. You can see the 100-year-old Douglas Fir floors upstairs came out way better than I expected. I decided to not add any stain color and go “clear” with the refinishing job. The distressed look matches well with the house and adds a lot of character. This wood is the old 5″ wide long leaf style with standing grain. We are staining the stairs however to try and get them close to matching my hand scraped and distressed engineered wood floors downstairs. I’m officially now over budget, not bad considering the scope of work and the appliances are already paid for and standing by for delivery. Most of whats left now is outside which we plan on attacking this week. Stay tuned as we button her up and really add the missing small touches…

30% Of Americans Won’t Park In Here

We ended up going with Golden Pecan floor stain after trying about 8 different stain color samples. After applying the stain we used 2 coats of semi gloss polyurethane (buffing between coats) and mixed in a little Colonial Maple color to tint it even more. I’m really happy with the way they came out, only new wood can look like this so I’m sure the future owner will appreciate it. In the original part of the house the floors are almost 100 years old so they aren’t this perfect of course but a little distress look is appropriate due to the style house and age. As I was saying before I didn’t want to stain the whole house dark just to hide a few imperfections up front and not get to appreciate all this new red oak in the addition.

Here’s a sneak peek at the master bath. As you can see the glass company showed up this week between floor coats and installed the custom frame-less glass for the shower. The door is 7 feet high with chrome hardware that matches the other interior doors, I always design them a little higher than the shower-head. The fixed glass picture window is suspended in the tile opening with more beautiful chrome hardware.  Most builders put the clamps on either the tops or sides but I did something a little different by having 1 clamp on all 4 sides. This custom frame-less glass ran $1300.00 installed. My plumber is coming this week to set the spa tub and fixtures, with my last contractor I would have done this myself but the new plumber doesn’t want me to touch anything so he can give the future homeowner a 2-year warranty, cool with me, less work. Check out how the new wood even runs through the bathroom and into the walk-in closet, this is a killer upscale look and blows away any kind of floor tile I could have used.

I recently heard that 30% of Americans (myself included) don’t park in their garages, they only use them to store junk turning them into basically a drive-in closet. In California people have alot of pride in their cars, detailing businesses flourish with customers paying hundreds of dollars for hand waxing but then again it never rains so it makes sense to keep your car clean. Here in San Antonio we get an average rainfall of about 32 inches compared to 9 in San Diego. Even after a rain you’ll still see puddles a week later because the streets are so bad. With all this rain you’d think that garages would be hugely popular here. It’s not the case however, people would rather enclose their garages for more living space because they don’t go outside anyway as it’s too hot and humid. Plus, their car is going to stay dirty anyway, garage or not, because of the weather and the street conditions.

So, why the hell did I build this garage you’re asking? Our project is going to be priced around the $400k mark in a city where average home proices are around $150k.  Theres an unspoken rule that if you are paying $400k in San Antonio you better get a garage. Even if the locals don’t appreciate them most of our buyers are moving in from other states and telling their realtor to do searches for 3/2/2’s so we dont want to miss any potential customers. Once they get used to the SA way of life I’m sure they’ll stop parking in there, their car will be filthy and it’ll be full of crap. Either way these historic houses don’t have much storage so it’ll get used. I designed the 500 s.f. garage to look historic and match the house architecture. I’ll be using “T117 House Siding” again and I’ve left the rafter tails open, included huge 28″ overhanging eves and even a clipped gable roof. There will be a vent under the gable and of course I’ll multi-color it as well to match the house.

Landscaping Fun

 

As my hardwood floor guys got started sanding this week they kicked me out of the house so I was relegated to landscaping duty. I called my good bud Dan who’s always happy to give me a hand when he’s between projects so together we really got the neighbors talking. After finishing the fence project and multiple dump runs we finally got to the fun part of laying out the beds. I opted for river rock on this house for several reasons, one being that there are alot of neighborhood cats that evidently have claimed rights to my yard or possibly even get a kick out watching us wipe our feet off, so I didn’t want to make it easy on them with big new mulch beds. Additionally the river rock goes really good with our style home, in California we would have also mixed a few palms for a tropical bungalow feel but of course that’s not possible here in South Texas because palm trees wont survive the freezing winters. After then laying the 4 pallets of St. Augustine sod down Thursday, our welder showed up and installed another sizzle feature for the property, our solar powered automatic driveway gate. No electrical connections here, a solar panel on top of the gate charges the battery which operates the gate motor. This is such a cool feature and will pay off huge for potential buyers.

Always wanting to change things up a little, I decided to go light on my floor stain as recently we’ve done several rehabs with very dark wood floors. The issue with going with a light color is that it will show any past pet stains. My floor guys brought a new product that I wasn’t familiar with, Zinsser Wood Bleach. It comes in a 2 part kit and after following the instructions we watched the old stains bubble up and disappear. It seems to work killer except it took a bit of the red tone out of my red oak wood floor as well but he assures me that when he comes back down with the new stain he’ll be able to play with it a little and hide most of the variations. I cant wait to see the floors done, remember I put down all new wood in the kitchen and back through the addition so they should be gorgeous. The shower glass and appliances arrive next week pending floor completion, stay tuned for more fun!

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.

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.

The Final Countdown

We are in the home stretch and shooting for next weekend to be completely done with the Hat Trick House. Woot Woot! As you can see we’ve made great progress this week again completing all the landscaping while the floors were getting done inside.

Front

Back

We used 7 pallets of sod, 4 yards of river rock, 2 truck loads of topsoil, $600 in plants and a yard of black mulch after lining the beds out with the metal edging. All that’s left outside is to paint the front door.

Side

The hardwood floor refinishing is done now as well so we will install appliances tomorrow and get started on the shoe mouldings on the baseboards. The floors came out nice and dark, as we planned. In fact when they first started applying the dark walnut stain it wasn’t dark enough for my liking so I had the guys mix in some black pigment. They look dark and rich now and go well with my interior colors and oil rubbed bronze fixtures.

Floors

We’ve had numerous visitors this week and early inquiries from sign calls. Additionally the neighbor directly beside us put their house on the market Friday so everyone who pulls up to see their house of course sees our “coming soon” sign and walks over to take a gander. Although theirs is in a lower price range and not updated it has enabled us to get some traffic even though we are not in MLS yet. Everyone that’s seen our house has been blown away, one well-respected local realtor predicted that we’ll get $335k. Stay tuned.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Rain, rain, go away! Arrrgh! While the floors were getting sanded today I had my stucco guys re-doing the fireplace. Now the inside is just about complete and I am ready to start prepping the outside for paint, but wouldn’t you know that it has been raining for 4 days. The rain actually washed half of the first brown coat of stucco away yesterday so upon finishing today we covered it in plastic. Once the floors are stained and sealed I can install the kitchen appliances. When the weather cooperates, I’ll start painting the exterior, I can’t wait to pick some fun colors for this eclectic neighborhood. As you can see I’ve started outside by replacing a lot of the damaged wood trim to get ready. Besides the exterior paint, my last big project is building the rear deck. I’ve already got the design done and it will measure 20 x 16 and have two access points with stairs down to the backyard and driveway. I thought that the giant deck was an important feature for that indoor/outdoor lifestyle that’s so important to today’s buyer.

Two local Realtors stopped by today, one of them is a really nice guy who actually represented the buyers on our last rehab “The Craigslist House”. He is very active in Mahncke Park and was impressed with what we’ve done. We talked for a while and he wants to bring some clients through before we put it in MLS. We are still totally on budget and excited to get it finished. I also have been negotiating a potential deal that’s very close to this project, it’s amazing how you can discover hidden treasures once you are working on your flip and start networking with the neighbors.