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!

90% Smooth Texture and Red Oak Hardwoods

Outside we are now into the second week of the siding  job while the drywall crew finished up on the inside of our Modern South Park Bungalow. I ended up going with a 90% smooth, hand-troweled texture on the entire house and garage. It took 165 sheets of drywall, a case of tape and 30 boxes of mud for the entire job on this 1850 s.f. house. My guys do an incredible flawless job so I’m happy once again.

Now that the drywall is done, we are going straight into laying the hardwood floors this week. These are the real deal, 2 1/4″ x 3/4″ Red Oak unfinished wood. Once the house is all done, one of the last things we’ll do is then sand and stain them. These are the best hardwood floors you could ask for, they’ll last 100 years and you can refinish them many times and always change the stain color. Laying unfinished Red Oak and then paying someone to refinish it, is a little more expensive than just laying a pre-finished engineered hardwood, but the quality is second to none. After the hardwoods go in, I’ll then trim out the house on top of them. What you see here is about half of what I bought, I am doing 1200 of the 1850 s.f., which is the whole house minus the two secondary bedrooms.

Modern Glass Tile and Renewable Bamboo Floors

Finally some fun stuff is going in the house. To stay in the Mid Century Modern theme I did mosaic in the master shower, but an updated spin on what was there originally. Glass mosaic tile is really hot right now for MCM house design and there are fun new retro patterns available if you search. After looking around at my local tile stores nothing really fit the bill because I wanted this new trendy, spacey-looking random pattern.  You definitely wont see these materials in any other rehabs locally. I found this glass mosaic in LA for $5.99/sf so I drove up and bought everything this week. I’m using another new product for grout on the glass called Star Glass, its actually recycled crushed glass in a urethane base. It’s a flexible, non-cement, non-porous grout and wont ever fade or stain. It’s real expensive and was primarily reserved for commercial applications until recently discovered by interior designers. Its translucent and reflective and seems to disappear when applied to glass tiles instead of contrasting heavily like even a normal white grout would do. Using glass tile like this is great, what I don’t like anymore is seeing when just a glass mosaic 4″ strip is used as a shower or tub surround accent liner. Look at some of my older bathroom remodels if you don’t know what I’m referring to!

In the hall bath above I went with a frosted 3×6 glass tile but set it in a stacked pattern which looks more modern than subway pattern. I ran it all the way up to my new vaulted ceiling lid for a more expansive feel in what is really a modest bathroom size. I also laid a 12×24 charcoal grey porcelain tile for both bathroom floors which is very popular in modern bathroom design right now. This grey will go with anything and basically just disappear when the bathrooms are done and all the chrome hardware goes in. I set the floors butt-joint also to look cleaner and eliminate grout lines. The glass mosaic in the master also has grey in it so it tied in perfectly. The floating vanities you’ll see go in soon are also high gloss grey.

We also got started installing the hardwood floors. I wanted to go with Bamboo for this house for its durable nature and the fact that’s its 100% renewable and considered a Green building product by LEED standards. Bamboo is harvested every 5-6 years while normal trees in a forest take 40-60 years to mature. This product is also of the newer version of Bamboos that has been stranded and carbonized. You don’t see the old cheap style bamboo pattern and there is no wear layer, its the same material all the way through. I bought it at Simple Floors for $3.15 s.f. and decided on paying a sub contractor another $2/sf to install it to speed up my project. This Bamboo requires glue down installation because its so hard that you will bend nails trying to nail it. The color I found is as close to my cedar ceilings as possible, and I laid it the long way to match the tongue and groove ceiling direction.  The white walls are totally working now that I’ve obtained so much warmth and color from the surrounding natural materials.

Bold and Fresh

It’s really nice to be able to try new materials when you are flipping houses, I’m really happy with the hand scraped and distressed hardwoods as an alternative to what style I usually use. In the big expansive space they look bold and fresh. With the large rooms and white walls I still get the expansive feel but with the warmth of the darker wood. Before nailing down the wood you can see I put down 15 pound felt paper as a moisture barrier. With one helper I installed 1400 s.f. in 3 days. Sub contractors were charging $2-3 bucks a foot so by doing this myself I shaved 3k in expenses. The walls are primer now so you can start to visualize how the white interior paint will look. I chose Benjamin Moore Cloud White and hopefully will get it put up soon.

We also installed the 2 new front fixed windows. I made some historic replicas with the mullion across the top. Now the house is finally aluminum window free and all evidence of the former owners 1980 remodel are removed except for the black interior paint on the staircase handrail which will disappear soon enough. My electrician stopped by and made up all the switches and receptacles so now I can have light inside while we paint. We also spent the majority of last week still re-hanging the original windows and trimming them out, there is so much little stuff to do it really seems like its slowing down but I cant pull in a bunch of subs because it will blow the budget so with the help of my right hand man we are tackling everything ourselves. I ordered the interior pre-hung doors so hopefully next week I can get them in and trim out the whole house with casings and baseboards. Currently up on deck I’m planning on interior paint, tile and kitchen cabinets. From what I’m noticing on the streets it seems like the market is slowing down and inventory is not moving as quickly, I’m not really bothered by it because we have such a specialty project but if I was one of the high volume, run-of-the- mill San Diego house flippers I would be careful. Home prices are down 8% from last year so its extremely important to use recent comps when looking at investing in San Diego real estate. This is when quality over quantity pays off.

.

Victorian House Colors

Of course its not done yet but we’re 90% there on our Victorian paint job and its really looking good. The steps and front porch will be green and all the windows are still missing the plum color but if you look closely you can see we put it up on one of the porch windows to get a visual. I still have to figure out which color I’ll bring down to the front door, the decorative brackets as well as the two-toned porch railing I’m still going to make. The last 2 remaining big aluminum windows on the front of the house are also getting changed out this week which will complete the package. I’ve got a guy hand making 2 custom big wood frame plate glass windows with mullions on the top. I honestly thought this color scheme might be too crazy but once it went up it didn’t look that loud at all. They are all rich tones and together work perfectly. The missing plum on the windows is really going to give it the finishing accent it needs. I love the way the sunburst, scalloped shingles and gingerbread all contrast on the green body and trim colors and the light blue front porch ceiling looks great with the greens as well. All the little details I fixed are really standing out now. Here are the 6 colors I used, all from Sherwin Williams Victorian House palette:

1. Body: Renwick Olive SW2815

2. Trim: Rookwood Dark Green SW2816

3. Accent 1 (gable shingles, front door) Rookwood Amber SW2817

4. Accent 2 (sunburst, brackets, porch, rosettes, porch detail) Rookwood Terra Cotta SW 2803

5. Accent 3 (windows) Rookwood dark Red SW 2801

6. Accent 3 (porch ceiling) Bluebird

EDIT 11/2011 If you want to see how the finished house looks here’s a link     http://tomtarrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/painted-lady1-1024×751.jpg

I bought the floors this week as well, they will be delivered Thursday and we’ll start installing them. I’m doing something different this time and mixing it up. I went with a more modern 5″ wide hand-scraped and distressed hardwood, kinda Jeff Lewis style from Flipping Out, and on my wall color I’m going to keep it white and clean, just softened up enough to make the white trim contrast. With the smooth hand troweled wall texture its going to look really modern and high end. I think that with the size of the rooms and the abundance of light coming in that these floors are going to be killer even though normally they are reserved for Tuscan or Old World interior designs. Your typical Red Oak flooring with the expansiveness of the space just wouldn’t have given me what I’m looking for.  And, at $2.60 / s.f. its more budget friendly compared to unfinished Red Oak at $1.99 plus another $2.00 to finish it. After all, the name of the game is to keep the exterior historic but have the inside modern and up to date. What do you guys think of the colors?

Installing Red Oak Hardwoods

I picked up 1200 s.f. of hardwood flooring last week from Home Depot and we got started putting it down. On a full gut rehab I always put down the new wood floors before hanging drywall (if they are unfinished). We patched into the dining room, staggering the joints and have run the new 2 1/4″ unfinished Red Oak all the way through the kitchen, utility room and we are half way through the master bedroom. In the old portion of the house the wood nails right to the floor joists but in my new addition it nails to the plywood subfloor with some felt paper in between as a moisture barrier.  Most of the Craftsman Homes in San Antonio originally have Red Oak flooring but occasionally you’ll see Long Leaf Pine used and especially in kitchens. After some deliberation I decided to have all hardwoods in my master suite instead of using high end carpet for the bedroom and tile for the bath floor. On the last couple of houses I used carpet and didn’t really hear any complaints but these Arts and Crafts style homes are really all about having hardwoods throughout. By the time I looked at what I would spend on the carpet, tile and installation it made more sense to just put down all wood and I’ll end up with a way finer product. Like the last house, I’ll even run the hardwood floors through the master bathroom which got great feedback and will really give my new addition some character. I usually buy this flooring at Lumber Liquidators for $1.99/s.f. but their price went up to $2.89 now. Home Depot has it for $2.39 plus I got a little bit more off the order since it was over $2500.00 we got to send it to the bid room.  I’ll still have to have these floors sanded and refinished with the rest of the house once the renovation is complete but on the flip-side putting down a prefinished engineered wood just wouldn’t give you that old house feel.

I’ve been doing extra dark stains like Dark Walnut & Ebony on my last few projects but for this house I think I am going to go lighter with Golden Oak just to change it up. The dark floors are really trendy right now and very dramatic but they get so dusty and are a nightmare to keep clean during the period the house is on the market for sale. When the flooring got delivered the driver didn’t show up until 7 o’clock. Wouldn’t have been so bad but he dropped the pallets curbside so I had to lug all 63 bundles up 15 steps myself after a long week.

Here’s another item that I always do before the house gets drywall, I install all the HardiBacker in the areas that I have planned for tile. In the hall bath (not shown) I am doing the floor and tub surround. In the master bath pictured here I’ll do the entire new shower all the way up, inside and out of the 9 foot walls, and the box for the spa tub with a mini surround. Before the backer board could go up I had to do the shower pan.  I use the rubber membrane and a dry mortar bed and slope to the drain. It takes about 2-3 hours to complete. The backer board is easy as well, it cuts great with a skilsaw and goes in with tons of screws. You want a real stable base so your tile job doesn’t crack. I’ve seen some remodelers using that blue board the sell at Lowe’s, don’t do it, your tile job will crack in a few short months! That would suck to have your flip on the market for sale and a tile job start cracking. I’ve seen it happen, multiple times. Always use 1/2″ HardiBacker and screw it down, even if the guys on DIY Network nail it.

Inspections Passed, Next On Deck Insulation & Drywall

The skies cleared and the inspection gods have blessed our project. Finally, we passed all 3 rough-in inspections. We had to have the mechanical inspected twice and he almost failed me the second time because I had the incorrect tape on the joints of the dryer exhaust vent. The correct taping for the seams is the UL rated aluminum tape with the red letters, same as the A/C guys use. After some word games and a battle of the egos he busted out the green card much to my relief. It always seems the young inspectors have such a chip on their shoulders while the old guys just roll through, pass you and start talking sports and telling stories. Since I pulled the main building permit myself as the owner/builder then I am in charge of the next 2 inspections. First I’ve called in for framing inspection Monday for which the City of San Antonio will look at the placement of the fixtures with relation to each other, framing and construction as well as fire blocking of all penetrations from wiring and plumbing and foaming of the windows. Once I pass this framing inspection Monday I’ll be free to hang the insulation and call in for insulation inspection for Tuesday. If you hire a company to insulate your new construction they will furnish you with a certificate that will satisfy the city but because I am such a penny pincher I hang it myself which thereby requires them to come inspect. I buy the insulation wholesale saving about 30% from what Home Depot or Lowe’s charge. Once I pass insulation inspection I am finally free to drywall! Yea buddy, whew! You’ll also see on the video update that I’ve trimmed out the front porch and removed all the kitchen hardwoods due to old water damage and poor patching. I need to get the new wood patched in also before drywalling the kitchen but that won’t take long. The original wood floors in my house are red oak, which is still available through lumber liquidators for .45/ foot. All 330 feet of wood I am replacing only cost me about 700 bucks. Once the floors are refinished you wont see the patches. I am planning on the dark walnut stain again since they seem to be so trendy now. Stay tuned; next time you see the house it will be all sealed up. It’s a big milestone, what was previously stick framing all of a sudden becomes recognizable defined spaces.

Land Of Manana

When my wife and I first moved to San Antonio 2 years ago an insurance agent told us the city’s nickname was “Land Of Mañana.” We’ve found this to be totally true, it seems most workers are satisfied to poke along and only do what’s necessary to keep their family fed and stay semi-busy. Oh, I’ll just finish it tomorrow seems to be the consensus. Since the cost of living is low here there’s really no sense of urgency to get anything done. Although we do most of the rehab work ourselves there are still sub contractors who we depend on and recently we’ve had our pace slowed down a bit.

The foundation guys disappeared for a week after there was a water leak under the house and things got a little muddy. You can’t lift the house to level it if it’s muddy because the hydraulic jacks will sink on you. I had the meter off but it turns out it was faulty so some water was getting by even though it didn’t show it. I had SAWS come out for free and replace the water meter so we are all dry now and the guys finally got the house level and are almost done.

Ikea Kitchen Planner

The design of the kitchen cabinet layout is complete thanks again to our Swedish friend’s website. Last time we wrote that we had some people email us and ask who our Swedish friend is…for all of you who don’t get that joke our friend is Ikea! Yuk yuk yuk. The design required us to remove the 3 existing kitchen windows and put one back in with a new location so it’s centered over where the sink will be.

Kitchen Framing

I finished the entire interior framing this week so the new laundry room, hot water heater closet, refrigerator cubby, food pantry, hallways and relocated doorways are all complete. I also patched the wood floors with Red Oak in the areas where I opened up interior walls. Once the floors are refinished you won’t be able to see the patched areas.

Patching Wood Floors

We are ready to start on the master suite room addition this week. To prepare for the room addition I had to get a 60-foot pecan tree taken down and then grind the stump down. I got a great deal from some guys to take down the tree but once again they only seemed to want to work half days and spread out a one-day job to 4 days. Getting rock bottom prices from subs is a key to our success but sometimes it slows you down a bit. The room addition is 29 feet long so I also had CPS Energy come out and move the gas meter from the rear of the house 30 feet back in the yard. This only cost about $200, which I though was surprisingly cheap. They kind of have you over a barrel when it comes to moving their equipment so they could really charge what they want. CPS is really easy to work with here in SA. They even came out for free when we dropped the big tree and took down the power feed to the house to make it easier and safer.