Crown Heights Reno
these walls come fully loaded
for the past couple of months we have been focusing on finishing up all the systems so that we can (finally) close the walls. basically that work is now finished though finding the right person to do the heating took a while: we are not only replacing the 50 year old boiler, we are changing from a forced air system to hot water heat, this work is about to start so i’ll leave that discussion to a later post.
we did take advantage of the walls being opened to install central a/c.
our a/c contractor has done an incredible job of hiding the duct work.
left: the vent cut into the parlor ceiling (which is in the process of being restored)
(also visible are low voltage cans that we added at the 11th hour feeling that they were necessary to light the walls properly for paintings).
right: the duct that feeds that vent set into the closet floor; there are only two places (here in the closet and at the top of the 3rd floor stairs) where we have to build something to hide the trunks; we were able to do the whole house without dropping any ceilings.
the electric was a huge job; with only 60 amps coming into the house we definitely need to bring in new service
this requires digging up a portion of the new cement since it is necessary to replace the wooden trough that the electric currently sits in with a metal pipe (seems reasonable). the silver lining here is that we can rethink putting some plantings along the edge of the yard where the cement has been removed.
(left: new meters, right: old)
con ed also wanted to install our new meters on the outside of the building which did not seem reasonable. i would much prefer to let them in to do readings once a month (until the digital read outs become available) than to have 2 meters hanging out in the front.
the electric in the extension wall: my studio will have a combination of lights; florescent fixtures for day to day activity and incandescent fixtures for showing work.
the jury is still out on whether or not to go low voltage here.
some of the massive mess of conduit running through the house
but what a joy to be able to flick a switch and have lights come on!!!
we went with low voltage 3″ cans throughout much of the house and find the light to be very pretty.
& a big shout out to joe at lendy electric (137 bowery) for all his help and patience; great service, great prices.
in the snap above is a picture hanging on the (soon to be) wall,
it is a rendering of the kitchen;
a little reminder that things won’t always be this way
briefly all our appliances will sit on that west wall with the exception of the oven which will be under the island.
on that same wall will be a combination of wood cabinets with horizontal hoppers in glass & metal.
we are foregoing a dining room table and building a large concrete ovoid counter to serve for both prep and dining.
(we are really excited about this so play nice, remember you don’t have to live here)
or “the information highway starts here”
we still haven’t finalized the headache of alarms, intercoms, etc. though i must admit, the prospect of keypads, thermostatic controls, detectors of all sorts, etc. distributed liberally throughout the house in their lovely shades of decorator plastic is beginning to wear rather thin.
one good thing that happened over the summer was that we started restoring the plaster work on the front parlour ceiling
while there were voices discouraging us from doing so, it was something we both really wanted. (see the march 9th entry)
unfortunately by not doing it immediately, a bit more of the ceiling started to pull away, but not enough so that we considered give up on it. and even though it is costing a bit more to do the extra work, the fact that the majority of the ceiling held up to all the demolition above it, gave us the confidence to proceed.
this project is in a holding pattern right now, as we are going to wait for the floor above to be laid so as not to risk damage to any completed work during that installation
we are thrilled with the results so far
the medallion in this room (left image below) is relatively small and barely salvageable, i am not sure we are going to try to reproduce it given that there is so much going on with the border in the center of the room. the image on the right shows part of a floral border that has pulled away from the surface
i find all of this incredibly beautiful
left column: crown molding template
the device in the upper left image is a metal template created from the profile of the existing molding
it is just dragged across the wet plaster at the top to achieve a perfect match
the bottom image on the left shows the old and the new about to meet
right column: rubber mold
for the detailed floral designs, a rubber mold is made from an existing pattern
it is then pressed into place to create the rest of a design
i can’t wait to see this finished
it looks like a fairy tale to me
After what basically amounted to 2 (painful) months of inactivity,
we are back on track again
we feel extremely fortunate that the person under whose umbrella said “contractor” was working
has stepped up to the plate to remedy the problems that we are facing.
we feel extremely fortunate that this person is organized, skilled and genuinely trying to help.
we have lost time and money,
he is losing money,
said “contractor” has put a sum of money in his pocket,
(or at least into his own house)
but hopefully without a company behind him,
he will not be working again anytime soon.
obviously there is more to this than can be disclosed here,
yes we had heard all the horror stories,
yes we (mistakenly) believed we were “on top” of things,
yes we were dealing with someone who has the gift of gab,
yes we had both personal (from someone in real estate)
and professional recommendations
and yes, being on the receiving end of the peter principle we got kicked in the proverbial ass.
sometimes when you are in the middle of something,
you can’t see the forest for the trees
in hindsight, i believe we cut our losses just in time.
it is clear that when someone who is skilled takes on a job,
even one with which they had not originally signed up for
even one with which they have had no prior experience
the results can be excellent:
NB: this blog has had a policy against “naming names” (see faq #7)
before a job is completed. Given the sensitive nature of the situation and that we are not fully out of the water, i am going to uphold that.
but i would like to mention that the company that supplied the cement board: CBF really worked with us on replacing the boards that had been damaged by the previous installation
we have decided to treat this project in two sections:
rough work | finished work
once the heating system is in and we have had our rough plumbing inspection,
phase I will be complete
we are still deciding how we will procede with phase II.
the building of the extension was the last thing that went right and that progress ground to a halt in late july once the roof went on.
the bad: part one
the extension has a flat roof with the slope coming from rigid insulation which was engineered by firestone to give us drainage.
and it does drain, some what, but not completely and since it will be covered by a deck (which will greatly slow down the evaporation process) and since we have MAJOR mosquito issues, any ponding is an issue
also there is a low area of the roof nearest the house. in other words, you will step straight out from the kitchen and then go up 2 steps to the main deck. this transition is because the ceiling height of the studio creates a level that is above the floor height of the parlor floor,
this isn’t draining very well either
the bad: part two
how many things can go wrong with one set of doors that were custom made and took 1.5 days to hang?
1. the active and the passive doors are reversed
2. the door knobs were not securely fastened and it seems as if the screws used didn’t come with them
3. the knobs are brushed the hinges are not
4. there is supposed to be a 9″ panel of wood at the bottom, it’s 6″
5. there is a 1/4″ gap at the top so the doors don’t even connect to the gasket
6. THERE IS NO ROOM TO PUT A SILL!!!
and the ugly
this siding is a cement board that is impregnated with pigment so it does not have to be painted. it is designed to act as a rain screen, the boards are not fixed directly to the exterior wall nor do they touch each other
basically the exterior waterproof sheet rock is covered with plastic sheeting, then furring strips are mounted to which the board is afixed.
this allows any moisture that does penetrate to be shed off the waterproofing material and run into the ground, allowing the building to breath and avoiding the problems that can happen when water does penetrate and cause either cracking or mold problems.
but since this IS the exterior cladding, it needs to be installed cleanly, percisely and with care.
screws need to line up, edges need to be clean, the spacing between the boards needs to be even. the boards cannot be over tightened or the facade will be uneven and it needs to be predilled
but our contractor treated it like sheet rock, force drilled the screws which resulted in breaking bits, screws driven in at an angle and an uneven surface. it was so bad that the neighbors thought we were going to be putting something over it
it was at this point, that it became painfully clear that this contractor did not have the same concept of “finished product” that we did
and that from here on in it would be a constant battle
suffice to say there were other areas of the job not being done correctly and with the exception of the doors we were expected to assume all financial responsibility for correcting them.
this coupled with the proverbial “why isn’t there a full crew working on my house” which turned into to the oft heard “my contractor has up and split for 2 weeks” led us to the unavoidable conclusion that we were going to have to part ways.
this all came to a head mid september but since the messiness has taken some time to resolve, it’s taken me this long to confront everything head on and post. the good news is that work has started again and we have a short term (if not final) solution.
building the extension: views from the inside
since the ground floor only has 8′ ceilings,
one of the issues in building the studio was how to acheive the ceiling height i need (about 9′ which turns quickly into 10′ once you add a roof, insulation & a deck)
without creating a deck that would end up being way above the level of the parlor floor.
basically we split the difference by digging down a foot for the studio and coming up a foot for the deck.
of course, doing this opened up all sorts of concerns about building below grade and keeping the water out of the studio,
it’s the reason why we added an extra row of cinderblock to the foundation.
before we could open up the back,
a supporting steel beam had to be put in place to hold up the rear of the building, even though the opening is not that much bigger than the windows that were there before
i don’t have a good shot of it right now,
but the back wall is primarily glass: a large sliding door and a fixed window that is creating the reflection here.
you can tell how much the work has slowed by the fact that vines have had time to start invading through the open skylight holes
the good: part one
building the studio: a flip book view
in one of my first posts (mary, mary, quite contrary) i talked about where the studio was going and why. the pictures in that post will give you a sense of what the back of the house was like when we bought it.
the back of the house 2 months ago, just before we started building:
the grape arbor and the shack are gone.
while “garden” is extremely important to me,
so is my work
thankfully our house is on a 131′ lot which allowed for the option of housing the studio in an extension and still have substantial space left over for planting
(and i will garden as well on the deck that will go on top of the studio)
the view from above, 14 months ago:
the digging has started and so has the rain:
the foundation is dug:
guide lines are put in place, marking the actual boundaries of the building
the form is built to hold the cement
a layer of gravel is put down and the cement is poured:
cinder blocks are laid:
and are filled with rocks and cement for better insulation and to create more of a water barrier
in the end we add another row to what was originally called for
the inside of the wall is painted with a waterproofing material
the structure starts to take shape
and continues to grow:
the beginnings of a roof:
it’s covered with tar paper, those holes will be skylights
and the tapered, rigid insulation is laid:
even though the roof was left exposed to a deluge of 3″ of rain
the roof is tarped in case it rains again
because it needs to be dry to put down the rubber
honestly, at this point, i would untarp it…
the rubber gets laid:
it was my intention to continue this series until the skylights were in
(and maybe even the deck was on, )
but things don’t always work out as planned,
props and a big congrats to the folks at windsor terrace
and so this seems to be part of it,
it can take many forms,
but all of a sudden things are not full speed ahead
they are slower than slow
work gets done,
it needs to get redone,
no one wants to accept responsibility for doing it…
more work gets done,
it needs to get redone,
no one wants…
you get the picture
and it’s terribly frustrating
and not terribly conducive to posting
but there have been some significent changes
(though nothing completed)
i am going to attempt
to bite the bullet of my dispair
and continue blogging this beast
i suppose it was a bit unrealistic
to expect that i could
in every post,
present a completed project,
all tied up with a little bow…
it’s time to take off the kid gloves,
welcome to the real world of reno hell…
can’t think of a better way to spend a heat wave than up on a roof melting rubber
but the contractor saw a window between waves of thunderstorms and went for it
how could i forget rule #5
it was an extreme shock to see all the old roofing material in the house
demolition is bad
roof demolition is worse
it’s dark and angry and sticky and dirty
and tar is very unforgiving
arriving the first night after they had started
it was clear that this was not going to be pretty
but things were still relatively under control
then all hell broke loose
the master bedroom & closet
truth be told, i did not venture up to the roof during this time period
the stairs to the hatch were covered with tar
and i just couldn’t face it
when i finally did go up and looked back
this was what it lay below
the 4th day of roofing
the thunderstorms forecast for every day this week have held off
it’s 7:30 at night and we know we can’t count on this good luck for much longer
the heat, even at this hour was stifling
these guys did an amazing job
and the next morning it poured
and the roof is perfect
and we are very relieved
the roof wasn’t in the original bid; we only had some leaky skylights which we were planning on replacing
but the contractor insisted and in hindsight it is so obvious that it was the right thing to do
it’s a rubber roof btw
ok, that’s a bit of a stretch but they are basically level
we decided to straighten the stairs from the parlor to the 3rd floor
and right up front, i must apologize for not having taken a “before” picture
(to say nothing of not documenting the entire process)
first i never thought they were so bad,
i might have even found them “charming”
but they bothered g/ immensely and i’m sure he’s right;
once the house is done, they would have appeared totally askew.
second, it was one of those things that happened without too much warning
all of a sudden there was a day when the regular crew wasn’t going to be on the 3rd floor so it was possible for the stair guys to come in and do their thing
and that happened to be a day when i couldn’t be around…
so all i have to offer are the “after” pix
the top of the stairs,
that gap gives you a good idea of how much they had to be shifted
basically the process is:
- first the panel covering the underside of the steps was removed exposing the the steps from underneath
- next the connection between the top and bottom posts was cut
- and then the connection between the top and bottom of the stairs to the floor was cut
- this left the whole stair virtually hanging off the wall
- two jacks were used, one at the top and one at the bottom, to maneuver the stairs until they were level
- The steps were reattached to the posts and floor
- and shimmed where they had pulled away from the support underneath
another image showing how big an adjustment was made
once the steps were straightened, the banister was bowing
so they had to cut it and reattach it at a higher point
the finished product in a very unfinished state
the rough plumbing is in
the old sewer line was in bad repair; sagging and quite decrepit. originally the contractor was going to use pvc for running the drain lines but (thankfully) we ended up with cast iron. there is a line running out the back, under the extension, to a drain there as well
the front plumbing stack originating in the basement
and continuing up through the first floor, this will be concealed in a coat closet
running through the parlor floor, they will end up almost completely hidden in the entry way wall
E & F
detail of the pipes going through to the third floor, this is where we had to head off and sister to avoid having to build a soffit in the front hallway
terminating in the third floor guest bathroom
the back plumbing stack on the ground floor: this connects to the studio bathroom and the little kitchen
the lines for the kitchen on the parlor floor
detail between the parlor and third floors
terminating in the third floor master bath