Equipment Notes: Toro e-Dingo

The e-Dingo was rented from Sunbelt Rentals in Boulder. A relatively new toy to their rental stable, this machine seemed to be the answer to how the basement floor could be jack hammered up without anyone suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning from diesel equipment operating in the basement. The Toro sings the praises of it e-Dingo here. The question is did a real world application match up with the marketing?

The short answer is the e-Dingo did the job it was asked to do. No one suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. The long answer isn’t that simple. The job took longer due to the cold (50 degrees Fahrenheit) accelerating the battery drain. A 6 hour run time was reduced to 3 hours. Throw in 8 hours to fully charge the battery, not a lot of work could be accomplished in a day. The experience renting from Sunbelt was not the smoothest; the poor e-Dingo may be suffering a bit from its association with Sunbelt.

Would we rent the e-Dingo again? This is our last major house remodel. So no. There will be no need. Unless we do a project like this again, then yes, we’d likely rent a e-Dingo.

PROS

  • Can be operated safely indoors – no carbon monoxide risk from diesel exhaust
  • Jack hammer attachment worked well
  • Easy to maneuver indoors
  • Easy to change the attachment (e.g. bucket, jackhammer)
  • House didn’t reek of diesel exhaust
  • Charges on 110 A outlet.

CONS

  • Battery life was 1/2 advertised. It was also February in the mountains. Maybe if the job site was in Miami the battery would have lasted 6 hours.
  • Took 8 hours to charge the battery. 3 hours of work then 8 hours to charge. In 3 hours the e-Dingo could break up 300 square feet of 4″ thick concrete lacking any sort of metal reinforcement.
  • Charges on 110 A outlet.
  • Wheels did not inspire confidence crossing rough terrain. It will do it, but it is bumpy and awkward.
Dave operating the eDingo while (excavator) Dave directs.

Downstairs: Demo

With the garage addition, demolition was rather limited. The real demo for the project was Dave breaching the foundation wall. This was messy work, as all demo should be, but it was not extensive. But not to fear, the first floor renovation provided an excellent opportunity to vent frustration through demolition. For a reminder of the master plan for the downstairs – wander over to this post.

First things first, the downstairs had to be cleared out. A vicious purge was held. Things given away willy nilly. Three crockpots is sufficient, having four is just heading into largess. Baby toys Evan has out grown. Currently used items were shifted upstairs. Dining room? A wonderful office. Toys creatively stashed in the living room and Alex’s room. But even then, it wasn’t enough. A storage unit was rented and the extra odds and ends that didn’t fit into the new garage or house were mothballed for storage.

After that, demo fun began. To no one’s surprise, quite the graveyard of mice were discovered. The poor things would run along in the ceiling joists then make their way down into the cavities and get trapped. Mice are not welcome in the house, but they are not wished a long and inhumane death.

The shortcuts and questionable decisions during the initial construction were discovered. The even more questionable decisions made by the previous owner during the installation of the illegal rental apartment were exposed. It was a longer than expected process, but the critical step to making things better.

Shoddy Shortcomings

  • “What we lack in quality of materials we will make up for in nails” was the theme of the original builder. Shitty materials? Use 75 million nails to hold it together?
  • It is a mountain build in the early 90s! Use whatever is on the truck so we don’t have to run down to the building supply yard in Boulder.
  • There were building codes in the early 90s. Either no one checked this build or some palms were seriously greased.
  • The house is not built according to the plans submitted to the town.
  • The steel beam to allow for a clear span garage was an after thought. Evidence: there was no pocket for it to sit in within the foundation wall (best practice) and the 3 2 x 6s were barely sitting above the footer.
  • Front wall had no vapor barrier and clear cracks and the fiberglass insulation had strips of dust where wind had been blowing in.
  • The original builder failed to seal around the windows properly allowing mice easy access into the house.
  • Two 15 amp electrical circuits for the entire first floor. No wonder singed wires were found.
  • Tiled around bathroom vanity.
  • There is more that has been blocked out with margaritas. At some point it will be remembered and shared.

Phase 2: Downstairs

After a grueling 6 months of construction the new garage, a well earned 6 week break was enjoyed before embarking on Phase 2 of the massive house remodel. Phase 2 involves completely overhauling the downstairs of the house.

  • Converting the garage over to a new kitchen/dining area.
  • Moving the guest/playroom to the back side of the house creating an open space floor plan (or as close as it will get in this house)
  • Expanding the full bath to allow for a barrier less (roll in shower). The full bath won’t be completely ADA compliant, but too much space needed to be taken out of the living room to accomplish that designation.
  • Sneaking a half bath in under the stairs.
  • Replacing the 25 year old furnace rated for elevations of less than 2500 feet (hello 8500 feet) with a boiler and radiant heat system.
  • Replacing the water heater with a new side arm.
  • Replacing the 25 year old windows.
  • Replacing the garage door with sliding glass doors and panels.
  • Insulating.
  • Fixing any surprises/deficiencies from original construction/past remodels.

True to all construction projects, the plans have been modified between “finalization” and demo day.

  • Barrier free shower has been widened to 6’6″ (removing storage shelves) and deepened to 42″
  • Island has been shrunk to 6’6 to allow for a wider walkway.
  • Bar/coffee station has become an extension of west kitchen counter top (left hand side).
  • Triple sliding door has been replaced with a double slider with two fixed outside panes.

Garage: Green Roof and Exterior Stairs

The last two features of the garage, the green roof and exterior stairs, were finished after the fine details of the interior. Not the way a job would normally roll, but the timeline got out of sync because of weather delays.

When the garage project was replanned, a green roof was chosen for environmental, aesthetic, and practical reasons. The environmental factors include reduced water run of and improved energy efficiency. Aesthetically, a shed roof would have looked odd against the back of the house and a green roof would replace some of the mountain flora we excavated. And finally, any other type of roof would have impeded the rear bedroom’s egress window and thus eliminating a legal bedroom from the house.

The green roof begins with a flat roof: 5% pitch (1 inch drop per 4 feet of run). The truss system was designed to hold 40 pounds dead weight (roof decking, membrane, soil, plants) and 60 pounds live weight (snow) per square foot. The dead weight limits determine the depth of soil, and in this instance, the green roof matrix was able to be spread to a depth of 3 inches. This depth is enough to support sedum, and perhaps a few wildflowers will be able to survive.

Between the roof membrane and soil is a drainage/filtration system. The filtration system allows water to pass through into the drainage layer and the retention of the soil matrix. The drainage system is essentially a layer of connected plastic nubs that create channels for water to move off of the roof (water is heavy, water sitting on a green roof only pushes the live weight closer to capacity). This roof is a continuous, extensive green roof. This link provides a good explanation.

The roof matrix (soil) was carried up in buckets ahead of a November snow storm. The rush was on because once the roof was covered with snow, it would be difficult to find another opportunity until Fake Spring 1 (usually mid February) to finish the roof. Fortunately, unsaturated green roof matrix is light weight. Wild flower seed were spread over a quarter of the roof after the soil was in place. The best time is to spread seeds in the fall – overwintering helps the germination process.

So, the exterior stairs. Not part of the original plan, but a solution that was necessary because of the problem created by good news from the soils engineer. The soils engineer declared our cut into the hillside stable, which meant no retaining wall was needed. Much rejoicing followed because this was a significant savings. But the problem with this was discovered when it was time to back fill.

The retaining wall was supposed to connect with the side of the garage and hold back the backfill. Without the retaining wall, it became a question of how to hold back the soil. Fortunately, excavator Dave had a solution – stone steps along the side of the of the garage. Not only did the solution solve the issue with backfill stabilization, but provided a way to access the yard from the garage without having to go through or around the house.

Steps were ordered from Lyons Sandstone and were installed. It was an interesting process that relied on a pulley and Excavator Dave’s knowledge of knots from his Coastguard days. It is important to note, no one was injured during the process and no pictures were taken for reasons of plausible deniability.

Deck: Builder Comments

After all of Dave’s hard work, the blog seemed like a good place for his reflections as well as some answers to questions asked during the process (by ourselves or others). It always a good thing to publish a long forgotten draft.

Q: How critical is that first row?

A: Extremely. Any mistake will be magnified in every following row. It will look terrible and there is the strong likelihood of having to rip a board (uneven and unsightly) or redo all the work. Or, ignore and let the next sap of a homeowner deal with it. Take the time, do it right the first time, starting at the first row.

Q: How did we ensure that all rows following the critical first row were done correctly? How did we keep the boards straight?

A: This is a benefit of manufactured decking. It is uniform coming from the factory. There was some slightly bowing due to transport and storage (the stuff is surprisingly flexible), but using clamps during the process solved that issue.

Pry bar and clamps to take the warp out of a board or adjust spacing.

For where wood was used (such as the framing), Dave took the time to hand select the pieces, eliminating anything that looked like snow skis (badly bowed).

Q: There is rot and structural deficiencies detailed in many photos. Wasn’t this caught on home inspection?

Dry rotted joist to be replaced.
2 x 6 that is almost rotted through. The post that was askance and rotted out at the bottom was ‘attached’ in this area.

A: Some of it was. Our inspector found the issues with the stair joists and the cantilever. Unfortunately some of the issues were not visible until the decking was removed.

Q: What was holding parts of that deck together?

A: Nails. Luck. Carpenter ants holding hands and singing kumbaya.

Garage: Final Touches

So what should one do while winter is closing and and the garage roof is just not quite done? First, you tease (all in good fun) your son’s former pre-school teacher because her son is working on your roof for the roofing company. Second, cross your fingers and watch as winter starts to roll in. Third, you work on the finishing touches.

Floor: Sealed with epoxy. We chose ArmorPoxy based on their GarageJournal reviews. GarageJournal is the place to go to get your nuanced questions answered and to view garage porn. ArmorPoxy is some of the finest New Jersey water, er, chemicals, that can be purchased. We opted to go with their “job on a pallet” product which is everything you need to complete your job (acid etch, primer, epoxy, top coat, anti-slip additive, squeegees, boot spikes). Our job, at 625 square feet) wasn’t quite big enough to warrant a pallet, but the FedEx driver was not thrilled.

We were pleased with the product. Instructions were easy to follow. Biggest complaints were the primer had a strong smell and the our epoxy color was similar to the primer color (hard to tell where epoxy had been applied). Even with the anti-slip additive, it is a bit slick when you walk in with a snow packed boot on.

Paint: We painted the walls and ceiling. Ceiling was painted first with a light grey using a sprayer (purchased for the house staining project). This was the easiest way to get good coverage with the spray foam. The walls were painted a darker grey. The end result was a cross between an art gallery and an operating room.

Storage: After spending time in California, we have learned to utilize all 3 dimensions when it comes to space. Shelves were installed on the far wall and a set of our Costco Husky shelves (2000 lb capacity per shelf) are in use. After a summer of hard work, Dave earned himself a new tool bench. Gladiator cabinets added more space for his tools and even extra storage for winter gear.

Outlets/Lighting/Compressed Air:Our electrician (J Fitzer Electrical) thought we were slightly off when we he saw our electrical plan – outlets everywhere! After seeing the 2 amazing outlets in the soon to be obsolete garage, he understood. And Jeremiah delivered on the outlets. The only goof was on our end, we switched the location of Dave’s shop area after the electrical work was done, so there is an outlet heavy corner of the garage that became a storage zone.

In addition to outlets, we went nuts with the lights. Soon to be obsolete garage had 2 bare bulbs that cast shadows that you could lose a full grown man in. It was awful. We hated it. The new garage ended up with 40 linear feet of LED shop lights. It’s better lit than an operating theater. And we love it.

Dave also earned a new compressor. The poor 20+ year old craftsman gave up the ghost on the siding portion of the project and progress was slowed down due to constantly waiting for the compressor to come up to pressure to run the nailer. And waiting for the compressor to stop running so we could run the circular saw without tripping the lone breaker that ran the entire soon to be obsolete garage.

Garage: Decorative Trellis And Siding

The architecture plans for the garage called for a decorative trellis. This single structure was the source of much debate in the garage build; unusual for two people who usually make their decisions quickly.

Without the trellis, the garage was going to have a very large, um, “forehead” (monotonous stretch of shingles above the garage door). The trellis would act like bangs and help add visual interest and help break up the shingles. The issue with adding the trellis is it had to be done before the shingles could be installed. The shingles had to be installed before the roof cap and flashing could be put on. And the exterior electrical work could be done. The roof cap and flashing and electrical work were essential to pass final inspection.

So one decorative feature had the potential to slow the entire project down. Added to the challenge, weather was the constant wild card. The project started in the snow (on the summer solstice!) which slowed excavation down and created longer cure times for concrete. September had arrived and the likelihood for snow was only increasing. The decision was made, and aesthetics won.

Jess was deemed competent enough to stain the pieces of wood that would make up the trellis, allowing Dave to focus on work and other garage tasks. Dave poured over architectural and engineering plans working out how to execute what was draw. This truly was the hardest part – determining how to mount the supports to the wall, making sure everything was positioned properly, and ensuring everything was even.

After that, getting a 16 foot 6×6 beam installed on the trellis support provided some suspenseful moments. Fortunately, Jess’ parents were in town, so Evan and Alex would be well cared for if the beam crushed Jess and Dave to death. As always, the job site is in no way OSHA compliant, so Jess and Dave hoisted the beam into position by each taking an end and climbing up a ladder. The beam had three pre-drilled holes to slip over the bolts in the trellis cross bracing; for the safest installation, all three bolts had to go through the holes simultaneously. To add to the challenge, one bolt was slightly askew, thwarting the simultaneous positioning plan. 2 of the 3 bolts were secured, and Dave used a mallet to get the third bolt through the beam. Jess’ parents were a huge help in ensuring that the beam installation was successful. It was definitely a 4 person job to position the beam.

After the beam was placed, work on the siding began. The finishing details of the trellis could wait until after siding was installed. While the architectural plans called for plank siding, there were concerns how it would look against the horizontal logs of the house. Other options were weighed -specifically shingles and vertical siding. The staggered shingle was the preferred choice.

To ensure we weren’t straying from mountain home style, an informal survey was done by driving around town to determine if other houses/businesses used shingle siding. It was determined that yes, shingles are used more frequently than thought, and using them on the garage (and eventually house) would not be outside of design norms.

To help improve the house’s fire resistance, HardieShingle staggered panels were used. We were familiar with the product, having used it previously on our Delaware house (straight edge panel). Based on that experience, we ordered the circular saw blade specific for cutting cement board siding. We still had the shears, but knew that the saw blade would give us cleaner cuts.

The initial siding work went quickly, but slowed down once the trellis and angular trim pieces were reached. Careful cuts had to be made. After this point, the challenge was holding the shingle only pieces in place as the construction adhesive set. With the siding completed, waiting for the roof to be finished could begin.

Skill level: Expert. Sorting through the engineering plans and executing them was the challenge. The plans were triple checked – the scale is critically important. Problem solving skills are key.