Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Mon
28
Feb '11

Woosh

In my book, in the section about project management and scheduling, I have this quote by Douglas Adams from The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

The landscaping crew is working on our retaining walls…slowly. They might be done Thursday afternoon if we don’t get more torrential rains. Then we need a re-inspection and the city needs to release a CO letter. I was supposed to have our CO to the bank last Friday. Monday at 5pm is our mortgage rate lock deadline and we have to turn paperwork via FedEx by then. If the phone rings, I’m not answering it.

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Fri
25
Feb '11

Oh No, No CO

We didn’t get our certificate of occupancy, today — and it wasn’t over the stair rail. Since that’s the easy story, I’ll tell it first. On Wednesday morning the inspector’s supervisor, the stair installer company owner, and Steve met at the house to look at our stair’s offensive offending hand rail. As I expected, the city prevailed, but they did agree on a solution – simply nail a code-compliant skinnier rail on top of the existing one. It had to be secure and finished – meaning one coat of polyurethane – and not appear to be temporary. On Thursday, the stair company came out and made “the fix” using smaller rail and three small finish nails on each section to hold them down. This morning the inspector came back out. He looked at it, made a face, Steve explained that the solution was what his boss recommended and that they all agreed to. The inspector said, “Fine, then his name will be on the inspection.” He gave Steve his green tag and left. You might think you know what happened as soon as the door closed but the new rail is still attached because we have a bigger problem.

The other thing we needed for our CO was a letter from a geotech engineer stating that the fill dirt next to the garage retaining wall is stable. This is because portions of it are greater than 50% slope (1′ down for 2′ out; or 22.5 degrees). Late yesterday afternoon the geo field tech came out and bored several holes to take core samples. This afternoon we got our letter…but it didn’t say what we wanted. We failed. They claim that the fill isn’t stable and that it has to be compacted within 5′ of the wall and that the rest of it has to be removed! That’s impossible even if we had a week, but we only have a couple days – or less.

So, what to do? Well, the city says that any slope made of fill that’s greater than 50% needs a geotech’s approval. Slopes less than 50% don’t. The inspector has a digital level that he puts on the slope to measure it. Retaining walls under 4′ high are allowed without an engineer’s design. Railroad ties are relatively inexpensive. There might be some cheap labor standing around who knows how to work a shovel. Steve’s making some calls and we plan to have several retaining walls built on the hillside such that no piece of the slope is more than 50%. It’ll take a couple days, weather permitting. Those days we don’t have since we locked in our mortgage and that lock expires soon. On the day we signed off with our architect he gave me some advice, “From here on out, the most important tool you’ll have in your toolbox will be your checkbook.” How right he was.

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Thu
24
Feb '11

Pizza Stadium

The pizza oven is here! It’s awesome! Valerie did a great job and it’s the centerpiece of our front yard. But, today’s delivery was a bit stressful. We were supposed to get the oven yesterday, but the forklift wasn’t available. Then it was supposed to be this morning, but the person who rented the lift hadn’t returned it and we were told it wouldn’t arrive until the afternoon. Then we were supposed to get lots of rain, but it (thankfully) didn’t happen. Then the forklift had a nearly flat tire. Then we had to get it through the landscaping and up and over the red clay. Then, because the forklift had long tines and a higher lift it didn’t have a side-to-side control. Then the oven didn’t quite fit on the base. Then the cinder blocks on the rear of the base got bumped and broke out. And then, finally, the sausage, mushroom, and banana pepper gods had seen enough. On the umpteenth attempt, just as doubts were growing, for just a brief moment, the oven lined up and hovered perfectly over the base. Dave quickly set it down, all 4000lbs of it. Mamma Mia! and Che Bello! We have a Pizza Stadium.

 

 

 
 

Wed
23
Feb '11

Do Not Pass Go

We failed our CO (certificate of occupancy) inspection, yesterday. Plumbing passed. Electrical passed – with Steve and I running ahead of the inspector putting GFCI stickers on the GFCI outlets. HVAC passed. But…the general inspector said that we had two problems with our stairs and the grading inspector said that we need a letter from a geotechnical engineer stating that our hillside is still stable. 

First, the inspector was fine with our stairs running past the windows but code says there can only be a 4″ or less gap between the stairs and a wall (or in our case the window glass). We have about 6″. One fix would be to replace the stair treads with longer ones that protrude into the window space. That’s impossible to do immediately. The other remedy, the one we did, is to install bars across the windows so that the gap is divided in half. We had left over pieces of metal deck railing so Steve cut them up and fastened them to the interior window trim. They actually don’t look too bad, but from the outside you’d think we live in the hood (hey, our flag was stolen). The bars are securely attached but I have a feeling they might fall off after we get our CO.

Problem two is actually a bigger issue. Our stair handrails are too big. Code says that the dimensions of all four sides added together must be between 4″ and 6.25″ and that the top can’t be more than 2.5″. Ours are a little bit bigger than this – but they are stock handrails from a national stair parts manufacturer! We had the stair installer (he’s been doing this for 25 years) on the phone with the inspector and they had a pretty heated conversation. It reminded me of the old conundrum, “what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” Today, the stair installer will be calling the inspector’s supervisor. I doubt that will get him anywhere since the rails are, indeed, larger than code and a supervisor overruling an inspector would make the inspector look bad. What the stair installer really needs to do is call his supplier. That’s where the problem lies. So, what’s the fix? Replacing the rail would be near impossible. It would take days and the end result would not be pretty with the smaller rail patching into the existing posts. The inspector said that we could route out finger grooves (5/16″ deep, 3/4″ wide, and 3/4″ down) on each side of the rail so that the grip size meets code. That’s what we’re likely to do – on Thursday while the cleaning people are there.

The last issue is getting a letter from a geotechnical engineer stating that the hillside is still stable. We had a geotech study done before we bought the property so Steve called them back and the engineer is due out this morning. We did not know about this requirement until yesterday. Oops. It makes sense, though, because the city wants to make sure we didn’t turn something that was stable into something that isn’t. 

There were two other minor things. We need to install 4″ tall house numbers on the house (on a large rock out front is not sufficient) and we need to have our rainchains on site and ready to install (we were waiting because we don’t want them to be stolen).

The revised plan is: Today (Wednesday) floor finish third coat. Thursday fix the stairs, hang the doors, install the door hardware, have the house cleaned, and get our CO inspection (again). Friday bank appraisal. All next week touch up painting and punch list items. Meanwhile we’ll be packing with anticipation of moving the week of March 7. Guess I better schedule that…

Sun
20
Feb '11

Just Pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fri
18
Feb '11

Push Push Push

I know we’re making progress because there’s now space in our Camp Bell garage to move around. Over the past week we’ve been emptying it of shower doors, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, bath accessories, etc. Every morning I load the pickup and take it out to the house. Tuesday was light fixture day and by playing Tetris with all the boxes I was able to load every single light fixture (except for the broken one) into the pickup’s heaping full bed. En masse it made me realize what we did to our poor UPS man over the last several months. Yikes! Of course the end result of all those boxes is that after they’re emptied you’re left with tons of foam and cardboard. Valerie spent several hours over two days just breaking them down. Steve’s dump trailer is overflowing and he’s made at least two trips in his truck to the cardboard recycling center.

On Monday the remaining appliances arrived – kitchen fridge, mini-fridge, dishwasher, and oven. Thomas, our cabinet guy, installed the oven. I helped him install the vent hood over the cooktop. Hallelujah I can’t wait to turn that thing on! No more useless downdraft (Woodinville) or recirculating hood (Camp Bell). Cooking fumes be gone! Thomas also worked on the living room bench seat and Steve finished up the dining room bench seat.

On Tuesday, the electricians arrived and started work installing all the switches, receptacles, lights, and fans. It’s a four-man team and they work quick, but there’s lots to do. If you’ve ever hung one light fixture you know what it takes…now, multiply that by dozens. Heck, we have seven ceiling fans. They saved the big stuff, the generator and breaker box, for last, and plan to work the weekend shooting for inspection on Monday or Tuesday. Our plumber works full-time at Mission Hospital so he’s only at our house part time on evenings and weekends. He’s still at it and hopes to finish up this weekend, too. All that’s left is drilling holes for the dishwasher lines and hooking up the drip irrigation in the front yard.

The stone masons capped the retaining walls and stoned the base of Valerie’s pizza oven. Once they were done and out of the way, the landscapers finished the beds. By end of day, today, they were essentially done except for adding a few more plants between the driveway and the retaining wall. Speaking of the pizza oven, Valerie put in several long days this week and finished it, today, too. She capped it off by hugging the oven, freshly coated in wet stucco, leaving her hand prints behind. Delivery and placement/dedication is planned for Wednesday..pending rental forklift availability.

Other goings on…the propane guys were in this week and installed the underground line for the generator, hooked up valves for the deck gas grill, the kitchen cooktop, water heater, and furnace. Their inspection is Monday. Our front door was hung and Woody put on several coats of poly. He’s also been painting the other exterior doors (thank goodness it’s warm this week) and between those coats continues to paint walls and trim. Woody’s starting to remind me of Eldin Bernecky, the eternal house painter in the 90’s TV show Murphy Brown. Eldin painted Murphy’s house for six seasons. This week I joked with Woody that we were going to put him on retainer…then Steve told me that we’ll probably be seeing Woody for another month. He was serious.

I finished up the closets this week after Home Depot restocked some shelves. I installed a dehumidifier in the crawl space under the shop then installed all the towel bars, TP holders, etc in the bathrooms. Now I’m working on the whole-house audio panels and as soon as the electricians install the canopy at the top of the stairwell will put the pendants on the ends of the wires. I’m taking my soldering iron out with me, tomorrow.

The plan is: Monday electrical, plumbing, furnace, gas inspections. Tuesday CO (certificate of occupancy) inspection. Wednesday wood floor light sand and final coat. Thursday professional house cleaning. Thursday or Friday appraisal inspection. Week of February 28th bank paperwork and pack. March 7 close on mortgage and move.

Look for pictures, this weekend, as soon as I get a chance to download them from the camera.

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Mon
14
Feb '11

Wood Floor Finishing Elves

We’ve been kicked out of the house for four days – since Wednesday night. While we were away the wood floor finishing elves came in and did their thing. Last night on her way back from pizza oven construction Valerie snuck in and shot a picture of the dining and living rooms from the foyer. The floor is gorgeous! It gets one more light sanding and another coating after everything else is done, hopefully mid next week.

Today the frenzy continues. Electricians, plumber, porch screeners, cabinet trimming, landscaping, painters, front door installation, and more. Valerie and I will be installing bath accessories, shower walls, low voltage wall plates, audio panels, speakers, door knobs, and hundreds of other odds and ends…and she’ll be finishing up her pizza oven!

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Fri
11
Feb '11

Hello, Lighting Universe

Yesterday, UPS delivered our dining room light from Lighting Universe.
Below is a sequence of photos I took as I opened the box.

 

 

 

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Thu
10
Feb '11

Phone Home

The old phone booth is in its final resting place, a space under the stairs leading down to the family room in our new house. Yesterday morning I rented a 24′ Budget truck with a liftgate (it was the smallest they had) and Valerie and I loaded the phone booth and several appliances. When you’re standing in the booth you don’t realize it, but that thing is a beast! It’s 7′ tall, nearly 3′ square, and weighs a couple hundred pounds. Even with a refrigerator dolly it’s tough to maneuver. It’s so tall that the hoop handles on the dolly are still a full arm’s length from its top. It was tricky, but we managed to get it loaded and strapped in.

Late in the afternoon, Steve and I wrestled the appliances out of the truck and moved them in…leaving the phone booth staring at us. The deck stairs had just been finished but the railings weren’t yet installed. The stone path from the street to the deck had just been completed, too. It was time.

There are no pictures of the process. The last thing we needed was paparazzi and flashbulbs. Valerie didn’t even watch. It was difficult and dangerous. I had visions of me backing off the stair platform and falling 25′ with the phone booth a split second behind. I hoped it would fall open side down but physics (and peanut butter sandwiches) told me that wasn’t likely. Fears aside, we “got er done.”  At the end of the move I was only bruised and battered, mainly my shoulder blades because I had to rest the top of the booth on them going down the stairs. Steve, though, smashed and cut his finger as we moved it through the door. There was at most a half-inch gap on each side, slightly less than the diameter of his right index finger. He also cut his wrist on the uncapped deck post. About 6:00pm, with the flashlight beam revealing drops of blood on the floor, we scooted the phone booth into the hole under the stairs. Phone Home.

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Wed
9
Feb '11

FRENZY!

Those of you who visited our Seattle home know about our “Funhouse” pinball machine. One of the phrases that Rudy shouts at you is “FRENZY!” That’s when several balls shoot out all at once and you’re moving the flippers like crazy to keep everything in motion. That’s a great analogy for what it was like at our house this week.

Vince and crew were building the stairs between the two deck levels. They were also installing the screens in the porch. Our driveway was poured. The landscapers were setting the stones for our path and planting shrubs. Steve was setting rail posts. The plumber was installing faucets and toilets. The painter (plus a helper now) was painting. The generator got moved down to the new deck. the heating guys installed the A/C units, thermostats, and registers. The last bits of decking were installed. The kitchen backsplash and master shower tile were sealed. The last piece of pencil tile (we needed one more) arrived. Valerie and I were outfitting the closets. And, today, we cleaned everything out of the house because the wood floor finishers arrive tomorrow morning. There were more trucks parked in the street than ever! FRENZY!

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Tue
8
Feb '11

In and Out of the Closet

I’ve been in the closet(s) several days this week…but I’m out now. Yep, that’s right…you probably didn’t expect it of me, but I’ve been busy installing all the ClosetMaid closet wire shelves, rods, and drawers in our new house. Thank goodness there are two Home Depots in Asheville because I cleaned them out of several closeting pieces. Lowes sells Rubbermaid and the two brands aren’t compatible (and I like the quality of ClosetMaid better) so it was a challenge finding all the pieces I needed to make it all fit together.

I did buy something to make the job easier – bolt cutters. The wire shelving comes in 6′ and 12′ lengths. There was no way I was going to be able to measure all the umpteen pieces and have Home Depot cut them in advance. Measuring and cutting on-site is the way to go, but a hack saw is impossible to use on wire shelves. So, for $25 at Harbor Freight I sliced through the shelves like butter and, as a side benefit, I can now cut my way through the DOT fence at the end of our street.

What was Valerie doing this week while I was in and out of the closet? Well, you probably didn’t expect it of her, either, but Valerie was in and out of the closet, too. She installed baker’s racks in the Costco Room AKA the pantry. They’re 6′ high and wrap around the room for a total of 15 linear feet of shelving. Tons and tons of storage space. I’ve heard her say ”I love it” more this week than I think I’ve ever heard. She’s discovered that she has a thing for being in the closet, too. Maybe I’ll sneak in and watch.

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Sat
5
Feb '11

If it was a snake, it would’ve bit me

About a month ago when Gary tiled our foyer he put a chipped tile right smack in the center. It was just dumb luck and he didn’t see it until it was too late. Fortunately, though, we saw it before it was grouted in and ordered a replacement. We didn’t have an extra to use, just a couple partials and damaged ones. A week later the tile came in and I took it out to the house. I left it leaning against the wall in the foyer and told Gary (jokingly) not to tell me when he was going to replace it because I didn’t want to see him smashing out the one mortared to the floor.

Since then he’s been working on the master bath and most recently the kitchen. The foyer floor has been papered over for protection. Since he was finishing up I wanted to remind him to replace the tile in the foyer. I also wanted to get the new tile out for him to use. Yesterday, while I was at the house, I looked for the tile. It wasn’t leaning against the wall, but that didn’t surprise me given all the activity. Someone probably moved it. Hmmm, it wasn’t in the nearby coat closet. It wasn’t in any of the other closets. It wasn’t anywhere and the only full tile I could find was in the mechanical room—and it had a two chips in it! I asked Steve. He didn’t know, either. He looked everywhere to no avail. Gary wasn’t working so we asked Woody, our painter, since he’s been all over the house. He said he hadn’t seen it. Rats. The tile in the mechanical room must be the new one and somehow it had gotten damaged, too. I’d have to order another one and wait a week for it to arrive. Time is short. Not good.

I called Valerie and told her the story. She asked me to look in all the standard places. Been there, done that. No new tile, just the chipped one in the mechanical room. She said that she’d call the tile store and order another. A few minutes later she calls me back and says, “It’s a nice day so I’m coming out with Serena to do some work.”

An hour later she gets to the house, walks in, looks around and says, “I’ve found the tile!” She was standing on it. Gary had installed it a while back and covered it with the protection paper. He never told anyone, he just did it (just as I had asked). The full tile in the mechanical room was an extra damaged one, not the new one. And, to top it off, when Valerie told Woody about it he said, “Oh yah, that tile. Gary fixed it one weekend when you weren’t here.” Argh.

But to even top that off…Valerie didn’t call and order the new tile because she “just knew” that Gary had done the replacement. She came out to verify her suspicion and bask in the glory. Steve, Woody, and I just stood there snake bit.

We need to finish this house asap before I end up in the mental ward.

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Fri
4
Feb '11

That’s a Pretty Fancy Deck for a Generator

Did you ever get into a big project and know early on that there was this little problem that you’d have to eventually fix? You kept moving ahead but in the back of your mind you knew that some time, before you could say “I’m Done!” that you’d have to address it? Maybe you hoped that it would go away and you wouldn’t have to deal with it.

Where to locate our two air conditioners and our generator was such a problem. We’re building on a steep slope, nearly 45 degrees. That means for every foot of horizontal run there’s a foot of vertical drop. The air conditioner units are 3′ around and need to be 1′ away from the house. The generator is 2′ deep and needs to be 18″ from the house. There was no way that we were going to build up a flat spot 4-5′ deep and 14′ long for all that equipment. We knew this back in October, heck, we knew it last April, but this week, less than a month from completion we had to face reality. We needed to build an HVAC and generator platform.

So, yesterday, that’s what Steve and I did. Well, more like Steve did…I was the flunky laborer who dug and filled the holes for the footings, drilled the holes in the concrete wall for the ledger board, scavenged for lumber, and ran tools up and down the hill. In the picture I’m holding a post hole digger. At that point I was actually moving it out of the way before I resorted to a shovel and digging bar. We needed larger holes, ones large enough to set a 12′x8″x2″ concrete block 18″ deep for the posts to sit on, and a post-hole digger wasn’t going to cut it. It took all day (and I broke Steve’s unbreakable digging bar on a large rock) but we now have a nice, sturdy, L-shaped platform large enough for the three units and the required space between them. Fancy, maybe, but necessary.

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Thu
3
Feb '11

I Fight Authority, Authority Always Wins

We’re still tiling and painting, tiling and painting. But, we’re now also landscaping and we’ve recently added driveway building, rail setting, and deck building to our list.

Work on our driveway started yesterday. Tom has it dug out, formed up and ready to pour on Monday. Thanks to the City of Asheville (COA) our driveway is a lovely hourglass shape. To quote John Mellencamp, “I fight authority, authority always wins.” COA one, Ron zero. You can see in some of our previous pictures that although we have a two car garage we have two separate doors rather than one big door. And, we set one bay farther back than the other to break up what’s typically a big massive double garage door. Well, two 9′ garage doors with an approx 1.5′ space in between is 19.5′.  Add some space on each side so you step out of a car onto the concrete and we need about 20.5′ of total width. Unfortunately, the COA only allows a driveway to be 18′ wide within 10′ of the street and it must have a curved 3′ radius at each edge. The result is what’s shown in the drawing on the left…and it’s what our final driveway will look like. I asked nicely, then firmly, then pointed out the obvious aesthetic and functional problems with such a design. And, the last word from the man with the rubber stamp was “Based on your drawing, I see no reason to grant a variance.” In other words: “Your request is DENIED!” On a positive note, we now have more room for Pizza Stadium on the right and a big boulder with our house number on it on the left. But, if you visit, be very careful backing out.

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