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.

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: Front Wall, Roof Trusses and Decking

With the concrete walls set for the garage, it was time to build the front wall and get the roof trusses in place. . We were dreading the placement of what we simply dubbed, the “big truss”. Big truss is a 300 pound triple truss coming in at 26 feet long. The smaller trusses are singles at 26 feet long, and only weight 95 pounds.

It was key to ensure that the front wall was built properly – it supports the trusses. If the front wall height is incorrect, the roof will not slope properly leading to water drainage issues. Dave used his laser level to sight the wall heights and then ran plumb lines to ensure that everything as built to the appropriate height.

Dave and excavator Dave used his mini backhoe to move big truss into the garage. Big truss was so long, it could not be orientated properly in the build site. Dave and excavator Dave had to move the truss to the shared driveway, orientate it properly, and move it back to the build site (Jess was fortunately not home for this escapade). The escapade Jess got to witness was the lifting of big truss into place with the mini excavator. We are most definitely not a OSHA job site.

After big truss was secure, we used a materials lift (rented) to position the remaining 15 trusses. The materials lift was a back and lifesaver. The trusses were lifted and positioned 16 inches on center on the top plate of the front wall and rear concrete wall. Dave had pre-marked the top plate so the trusses could be quickly placed. Once the truss was in position, a nail gun was used to toe-nail the truss in place. The truss was then secured to a 2 x 4 running horizontally across the top to ensure that it remained 16 inches on center and perpendicular to the top plate. The tricky part to this step was the last two trusses – both had to be lifted to the top plates and secured to big truss. The reason for this was if the penultimate truss was placed, it would have prevented us from using the materials lift to get the last truss set.

Once all the trusses were in place, the materials lift was used to get the decking sheets (Advantech) onto the roof. The first two sheets took the longest because they had to be secured in order to create a platform to place materials and work from. Construction adhesive and screws were used to secure the Advantech sheets to the trusses. Since the sheets are 4’x8′, it was key to have all the trusses 16″ on center to ensure that all the seams were located on a truss. Once the roof decking was on, the entire system was very sturdy.

Upon completion of the roof decking, Dave went on to build a parapet to hold the green roof material and the roof for the window well. To build the parapet wall, roof’s slope was taken into account. The wall is 4 inches high over the garage doors, increasing to 10 inches high to the rear of the garage.

Garage: Excavation

With winter somewhat behind us, we started our garage project. Summer seemed like it was in full swing when we began our dig, but a cold snap showed up a few days later. We kept on chugging through – summer is short in the mountains. (For the big picture of this renovation click here)

The first couple of days of excavation were promising. There was more top soil than we expected. Fingers were crossed that this would keep up. We had local sources who wanted the fill coming out of our job site (saving lots of money not trucking the fill down the canyon). Over the next few days we hit rock. Nothing the backhoe couldn’t handle, but the going slowed down. Then we hit the hard rock. Our excavator had to bring in his rock breaker, things really slowed down, and costs went up. But the hole got dug.

Check out the time-lapse videos below for some digging fun. We didn’t get every day, but you get the idea.

Initial Estimate (time, fill to be removed): 4 days, 250 cubic yards of fill

Final Estimate (time, fill removed): 11 days, 450 cubic yards/658 tons of fill

Day 1 – started capturing images a little bit late, but we are off to the races on this project.
Day 2 – more digging.
Day 3 – Dirt continues to be removed.
Day 4ish? Yes, that is snow . . . at the end of May. We might post the video of the summer solstice snow we received . . .

Alex’s Playhouse: Finishing Touches

Alex’s playhouse has been done for almost a year now, and this post is finally going to see the light of day.

Doors, windows (plexiglass), and soffets were added. An area rug was purchased as a floor covering to keep splinters out of little feet were purchased. A toy kitchen was also added. Alex did express disappointment that it didn’t have running water or power. He didn’t appreciate Dave telling him it is powered by imagination. We also added a swing.

Critical Tools: Bubble level, nail gun, circular saw, square, measuring tape, impact driver

Process (Simplified):

  1. Build and install doors
  2. Build and install windows
  3. Install slide and swing

Finished!

 

Alex’s Playhouse: Flooring, Framing, and Sheathing

With the support posts up and the flooring joists installed, progress on the playhouse can continue. Next steps were to add flooring, framing, and sheathing. The flooring was easy since the the dimensions of the playhouse are 8′ x 12′ (3 sheets of plywood laid next to each other).

The framing was a more complex situation with the introduction of doors and windows. These had to be planned out and properly framed. We opted to build the east and west wall frames on the floor of the playhouse, sheath, and raise into place. This option was much safer than framing the wall in place and then trying to sheath it. Some safety concerns included the height we would be working off the ground and the hillside resulting in less than stable ladder placements. The south wall was the easiest to deal with since the deck could be used as a work space. The north wall was also easy to frame in place because it is only a few feet off the ground.

Critical Tools: Bubble level, nail gun, circular saw, square, measuring tape, impact driver

Process (Simplified):

  1. Place floor decking on joists and screw into place
  2. Build walls – not in place but using the floor decking as a work space (framing and sheathing)
  3. Raise walls and secure

Process (Gallery)

Skill Level: Intermediate

Tip(s): Don’t put up pre-sheathed walls with a stiff wind blowing by yourself. Have a friend or two there to help.

Sizing the playhouse to be 3 sheets of plywood made it simple to install the floor decking – no need to cut plywood down