My Construction Diary
Part 3: Weeks 19 - 27
I stained all the new siding panels as soon as it warmed up enough. Then
it was off to Home Depot where I bought a bunch of different outlet and
switch plates to experiment with. Most of the day I dealt with more mundane
things like laundry, grocery shopping and such.
I woke up to find about 2" of snow on the ground- not a promising sight!
Zack showed up around 10 am and finished priming and painting all the
new drywall with the exception of one downstairs wall.
The excavation contractors came early and did a yeoman job of digging
in the muck and mud. Ameritech showed up just as they were laying the cable,
and laid in the new 5 pair cable and the Network Interface box. Zack and
I finished burying the Ameritech cable and our 1" conduit and filled in
the trench. After clearing tons of mud and clay off my boots I went off
to get an extended drill bit to run the new phone wire, and by 5
pm the phone service was back up. I discovered that the nearby Frentz hardware
has a better selection of plates than does Home Depot, and at competitive
Looks like Edison came by and connected the house end of the cable to the
new meter box, and filled in that end of the trench. Nothing at the pole
end yet, though. Gary said he'll try to come by soon and put up the pieces
of siding I stained. He's busy finishing up an elevator installation in
Ypsilanti this week.
Gary called Fingerle Lumber in Ann Arbor and is waiting on a fax
back with a quote on the birch. (Yes, we're back to birch trim). It looks
like they've got the best price, even with a $100 delivery charge.
I also asked him to get the 3/4" birch ply for the closets and other cabinets.
We'll be meeting soon to go over the final sketches for the second floor
details. I got a good deal on a 1/4" crown 18 gauge finishing stapler (Porter
Cable NS100 - $85) that I'll use for the jamb extensions and to fasten
down some of the individual shingles on the trimmed cedar panels. Cedar
Valley uses a 16ga staple with divergent points, but the galvanized 18s
should work as security for the partial shingles.
Gary took advantage of a warm, clear day to finish the last of the siding
installation, and just when he thought he'd finished he realized the gable
end over the side porch still needed to be done. He's going to buy a square
of plain shingles as neither one of us feels like giving Cedar Valley another
nickel for their rather expensive product.
Gary got a good deal on the birch, but it'll be unsanded which means I'll
give the belt sander a workout. I've been experimenting with finishes,
and right now I'm leaning towards an oil finish with a shellac top coat.
I may use a light dye on the pine to darken the color a little, or perhaps
a garnet shellac; I have some experimenting to do. I'm also thinking of
minimizing the number of built-ins to maximize flexibility.
I got about half the window jamb extensions finished in the big room, and
covered myself with drywall dust enlarging the window cutouts with the
Zip tool. Gary and I drove to a place that sells decorative fossils and
rocks to check out possible decorative objects to set into the tile in
A lot of errands, but I managed to reassemble the downstairs linen closet
(mostly). The cleats are in and nail holes are filled, but the shelves
have to be trimmed a bit to fit back in. I cut 3/4" off each cleat to account
for the new layer of drywall in the back of the closet and used the 15ga
nailer to nail them back in. A friend dropped by for the tour and gave
me some good ideas.
Package arrived from Wood
Finishing Supplies with the Waterlox, honey amber dye, reducer and
some garnet shellac. I've been conferring with Russ, the owner, and he
suggested I use a little dye to bring out some color in the birch and pine
and the Waterlox as the brushed on finish. I may use the garnet shellac
to add some color to the pine.
Did a little more phone wiring, and Gary and I had a meeting to finalize
some nebulous details: (1) The shower will have a glass block wall and
six ornamental tiles scattered in the field; (2) we'll go easy on the built-ins
right now and concentrate on getting me moved in upstairs; (3) The kitchen
is back on the project plan. We'll redo the countertop (possibly in tile-
my job) and wrap it around the corner; (4) The bathroom window over the
stairs. This is a tricky piece as it extends from inside the shower, where
the tile runs up to it, across the full length of the bathroom where the
tile only runs up 4'. After sketching some alternatives, we decided the
jamb will be teak or some other tropical wood that can stand up to the
moisture. Teak should work with a heavy coat of oil. The glass insert itself
will be a hammertone glass or plastic.
Later that night we discussed the gutters- I definitely want the covered
ones, even at a premium cost. The gutter installer Gary had initially contacted
can't work- he's got severe back spasms. We're looking for a new installer.
And I mailed my Christmas cards.
I did some web research on gutter systems, and Gary was busy on the phone,
checking on our hardwood order and contacting gutter suppliers and
Gary dropped off a couple of pieces of birch and I tested some finish and
dyes. It looks good with just a tung oil finish.
Gary and John cut trim and Zak sanded. Looks like the 5/4 has to be planed
another quarter inch- what they gave us wasn't 5/4 birch, but 6/4, which
finished out to 5/4. The wood looks really nice, with lots of figure and
I rebuilt the hall closet, filled the cracks and gave it a primer coat.
Had to trim the shelves a bit to clear the new drywall.
I almost bought a large piece of stained glass from an antique dealer,
but I found him to be overly nosy and pushy. I gave him my credit card
to charge, and after some time his assistant came back and told me the
charge was refused- which is odd, as I had just used it (and would use
it again shortly after). I started to get the feeling that I was being
lied to and jerked around- so I left without the glass.
I installed the hall ceiling light and a smoke detector, and bought some
decorative tiles for the bath from Andy Sharkey Gallery.
I wired the bedroom for a smoke detector but I don't have any mounting
screws, and the detectors didn't come with any. Sanded the closet. It needs
another bit of spackling before the finish coat. Gary and I debated rounding
the edge of the 5/4 (his idea) into a more Greene-and-Greene sort of profile
or rebating the lower edge (mine) to compensate for the additional thickness.
In the end I decided we should just replane it to the specified thickness.
Gary picked up the 5/4 birch to get it replaned at the supplier. I went
looking for #6 screws to finish installing the smoke detectors- and would
you believe Home Depot didn't have any? I picked up some alkaline batteries
while I was there to replace the carbon zinc batteries that came with the
detectors. I might get some lithium batteries for the lights in particularly
inaccessible locations. I'll get the screws tomorrow. I also need to get
a light fixture for the basement stairs- should have installed a recessed
Christmas Eve, and the first day of vacation. I finished the jamb extensions,
Gary installed all the door jamb molding and Zack finished the sanding.
I'll do some cleanup tomorrow.
Monday - Friday
Christmas Vacation week. Gary and Zack did a lot of work and I managed
a few full and a few part days. Between us, we managed to get almost all
the trim cut, stained and nailed up. It looks great, and I'll have pictures
The tilers came by and delivered all the tile on Friday and are supposed
to begin the mud job on Saturday. The electrician came by and got a lot
of work done as well. I could be moved upstairs by the end of the
month after all....but where's that bookcase I ordered from Naked Furniture?
I finished the downstairs mud room jamb extensions, using birch offcuts
when I ran out of pine. Also finished the new address sign. Filled in a
few hundred nail holes with putty, and ripped open my right index fingertip
going over woodwork with steel wool when I found a nail head sticking out.
Oops. Bandaged up the finger, got a nail set and looked for more nails.
Dropped and broke a light fixture :-( Well, it was only $10.
Looks like once the baseboard is done and the wood gets a final going over
with steel wool we can get the floor guys back to sand and finish. Assuming
the tile guys show up this week...
Gary cut the last of the trim for downstairs, and I gave it a couple coats
of finish that evening. He also redid the bathroom door stops and filled
the nail holes in the bathroom window trim. We finalized the closet design
and he'll order the 4 sheets of birch ply we need- about $200.
Gary put the birch trim in downstairs and the tilers set the mud in the
bathroom and laundry. Gary and I sketched out a bathroom sink using 5/4
birch and a used cast iron sink I have. I have to joint and glue up the
wood and get it ready by Thursday.
I glued up the sink countertop and ended up with some odd offsets
between boards. But it's solid.
Gary sanded out the countertop; looks good. The tile guys run mud up the
walls and will start tiling tomorrow. I bought some paint to touch up the
underside of the sink as well as a folding door for the laundry and some
1x birch from a friend.
Gary and I installed the sink counter and I started finishing it. I also
coated the sink basin underneath with a spray-on one component epoxy paint.
A few more coats of finish on the counter. I bought another gallon of Waterlox.
I also forgot and left the brush out overnight. Oops. My best badger hair
Soaked the brush in refinisher and rescued it. Whew. Another thick coat
of finish floated on. Where are the tile crew? I shot some Polaroids of
the work in progress upstairs.
The tile crew finished the shower and one wall. Looks great. Gary and I
agreed on a dark sand colored grout.
In the positive Karma column, Black and Decker e-mailed me to let me
know I'd won a contest on their web site. The prize is a "Firestorm" 14.4v
saw and drill set that I think I'll swap for some work.
I had some ideas on how to finish the large shelf over the bedroom entrance.
We had figured on just putting drywall compound over the OSB and painting
it, but I was thinking about using some other surface, like some 1/8" birch
ply, or some sort of flooring if I could get some scraps cheap.
I called Gary to ask about a point and he mentioned that the bathrooms
lights don't line up with the sink, as they (and
the plumbing) were set up for a pedestal. Oops. We'll sort that out later.
But we're on track for the floor sanding (one week from today) and I should
be moved upstairs in two weeks.
The tile crew finished everything (except the grout) and it looks...stunning.
Well worth the cost. John came by to help Gary do the plywood for the closets.
I drilled the shelf holes and only screwed up once, which involved running
out to buy birch dowels to plug the extra holes before the shop closed.
The bathroom has been grouted and it looks even better. Zack primed the
new porch columns. Gary did a little more trim detail. I drilled the last
of the shelf holes in the closet boards, and finished one of the discarded
window sashes as a test. The Waterlox looks good on the pine and darkens
it enough that it matches the birch well. We still have to install
the bathroom cabinet, towel rods and other hardware and paint the ceiling
and walls to match the tile. I'd like to have a friend of mine do a little
Here's a close-up of our railing detail by the stairs. The design is
pretty much a group effort. Gary's a stickler for getting the grain to
flow around corners, something that makes people ooh and ahh when they
4" of fresh fluffy snow this morning, so no outdoor work for a while, including
sorting though various scrap and trimming piles. I keep forgetting to do
that, and to rebuild the old toilet I'm installing. Gary installed the
side supports in the closet and did a little detail in the mud room- he's
just dropping in a few hours a day. We discussed the kitchen mods, and
came up with the basic design for the base and counter. I picked up some
gloss enamel for the posts, wiped the last of the tile haze from the bathroom
and did a little drywall patching upstairs.
Temperature dropped to the single digits last night but the furnace seemed
to run less than it would have in the old single story, uninsulated
house- even though I've got almost double the space and over twice as many
windows, including two skylights. Besides the insulation we made the house
a lot more airtight by adding the foam sheathing, replacing the basement
windows with glass block, rehanging the side living room door and replacing
the side door with the new French doors. Still have to get a storm door
for the living room side door.
I temporarily taped up all the gaps around the living room side door, especially
at the bottom where there's a big air leak. Gary suggests I buy a
sweep to attach, which I'll do when we install the storm door.
Some final cleanup and trim details while we get ready for the floor contractors.
I went to the plastic suppliers to get the bathroom window material, which
Gary installed, and to Durst Lumber for some mirrored glass. Gary and I
trimmed out the medicine chest, built the mirror and moved the bathroom
light fixtures. We also discovered something I'd suspected- the humidifier
isn't connected to the water supply! This is not healthy for wooden instruments.
Maybe the HVAC contractor thought the plumbers were going to do it. It's
not a big job, but it really has to be done. I suppose I could do it myself
with a tap off the cold water main if it came to that.
The floor contractors sanded and applied the first coat. The
oak with the oil finish is sharp looking and blends nicely with the birch.
They put on the second coat tomorrow and then we can install the last of
the closet woodwork.
I brought in the old reclaimed toilet from the garage and stripped it
down. Tomorrow I'll clean it and get it ready for installation on Thursday
when the plumbers come to finish. I'll also buy a bathroom sink faucet,
as the ones I have don't seem to be good fits for a bathroom sink. I'll
use one of those in the kitchen when we redo the counter and sink.
I had better start thinking about the last details needed before I move
upstairs and start work on the first floor. I'll need:
windowshades or curtains- at least three for the bedroom, and maybe 12
to do all the windows. (priority!)
handrail. Gary's working on this (2x6 birch).
shower curtain or a plan for a glass wall. Gary thought perhaps he'd install
one from pre-made sections.
shelves in the laundry closet (painted or natural finished birch ply on
a washer/dryer (this can wait a bit)
telephone/network connectors (overdue! I did fix the cabling conduit on
The floor contractors put on the second coat. I stripped and cleaned the
old toilet I'm installing and managed to slice open my finger on a sharp
edge. It takes a lot of work to find a sharp edge on a toilet. I also bought
a faucet set for the upstairs bathroom.
Plumbers arrived to finish up. Gary says the floor contractors recommend
a third coat after we finsh up the trim, at a cost of $300. I think I may
do it instead as the materials will only cost me around $60 (two gallons)
plus $20 for an applicator. As I already have a gallon of oil-based poly
floor finish I could actually knock another $30 off that. Gary did some
kitchen demo and came up with a good plan for the cabinets and counter.
Gary and I installed most of the closet panels.
I picked up the 48"x84" cabinet and a neighbor helped me get it in the
house. I applied one coat of oil/poly. Also did some work on the new sink
and the toilet. I decided to have the floor contractors put on the thrird
coat as they'll screen and vacuum previous coats and in general do a much
better job than I would. When it doubt, go for quality. That's an expensive
philosophy, but as a friend says, "buy the best and you only cry once."
Rubbed out the first coat on the cabinet. Gary and Zak will haul it upstairs
Tuesday, and we'll make sure it look good in the bedroom before we install
Installed the sink and the drain hardware. Got to get some more plumbing
parts tomorrow and set the toilet tank. Zack dropped in briefly and helped
me haul the 48" wide bookcase upstairs where we discovered...it doesn't
fit where it's supposed to. Oops. I dropped the sink in on a bed of Polyseamseal
which ought to hold it in place until heck freezes over.
Sink is solidly mounted. Hot tap connected, but not cold, as the local
hardware only had one 24" braided line. Drat. I put a chrome J-trap on
the sink but I still need a few more pieces to connect to the drain. I
was all set to drop the toilet on the closet flange when I noticed it wasn't
sitting flat. Gary says to go ahead, not a big deal so that's what I'll
do. I'll set the toilet tomorrow and run a bead of Polyseamseal. (I love
Polyseamseal. This stuff is so tenacious it'll hold anything. I used
it to glue an antenna to a side window on my '94 Saturn and it's been on
for nearly 6 years, through five Michigan winters and numerous car washes).
Gary (and Zack) came today. He's cutting the bookcase into the wall between
the windows- he'll make it fit. I think he's using the "bigger hammer"
theory. I should finish the plumbing tonight. Still gotta get a towel bar
and we have to redo the shower head, replacing it with the hardware I bought.
Gary's got the floor crew scheduled for next Thursday so I should be able
to move upstairs that weekend- which means we're only a month behind the
original schedule, even with all the delays and changes.
Gary and Zack did a part day to finish more closet details and paint.
I took the day off to finish the plumbing, and everything went fine except
(1) Someone broke the toilet tank (which we did manage to find a
replacement for) and (2) there's a small tank leak. I'll fix it this weekend.
Gary trimmed out the bookcase and the micro-attic.
I bought some more toilet parts and finished the kitchen demo. There's
some nasty rot behind the backsplash which I hope doesn't go into the base
cabinets. As soon as I find a good Formica pattern that goes with
the oak cabinets and the backsplash tile we'll order a new counter.
Zack painted the bathroom and put another coat of Waterlox on some woodwork.
Gary reassembled the bathroom, installed the shower hardware, hung the
mirror, wired the new kitchen counter area and fussed with the hidden closet
door. I reassembled the toilet, and it looks leak free. Fingers crossed....
Gary and Zack
will be off on other projects most of the week, so they cleaned up the
site and stashed most of the tools and supplies in the basement. I spent
some time putting away tools and cleaning up, and caulked the toilet. My
main project for the next week will be planning the move upstairs. Thursday
the floor contractors put on the third coat.
I shopped for drapes and hardware and after hitting the Yuppie
places (Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn) I found the bath hardware
at Bed, Bath and Beyond and the curtains and rods at Target. Gary
found a contractor who'll do the glass shower wall for $560 so we've
scheduled him for the week of the 12th. I looked at a smaple book from
American Blind and Wallpaper in Plymouth, MI; I think I'll order pleated
shades and miniblinds from them next week.
to Part 2
On to Part 4