Day 149: Finding Floors

2014-02-25 11.07.03

Starting at one side of the room.

In two of the rooms we’re removing a 3/8ths thick oak plank board in order to refinish the original hardwood floor boards underneath.  The hope is that enough it is nice that some patching and a dark stain will give us some beautiful floors with a nice sense of history.  A few days ago I spent the better part of 12 hours carefully removing the oak boards and their small nails from the dining room.  As it turns out, we’re pretty good in the dining room.  One length of about 3′ needs to be replaced and there’s two small holes that need to be patched.  Otherwise a good sanding, stain, and seal and these hundred year old floors will sing again.  A really neat part of this project…underneath the oak was black tar paper laid down as a moisture barrier.  In one corner of the room, it was clear they ran out of tar paper so they put down some old newspaper.  The acid from the paper destroyed the oak board and ate away the finish on the underlying planks, but parts of it were still legible.  The date on the Plain Dealer is 1960.  So the oak was laid a little over 50 years ago.  How about that?

Newspaper is a bad choice for an underlayment

Newspaper is a bad choice for an underlayment

An old PD.

An old PD.

Look what I found.

Look what I found.

2014-02-25 12.32.532014-02-25 15.18.552014-02-25 15.18.59

Day 151: Inspections

We’re in the middle of our first round of inspections.  Code compliance is a city or township issue with various municipalities adopting or not adopting different forms of general sets of building codes.  There are huge, thick books you can get at your local library that are titled such exciting things as National Electrical Code (NEC).  Your town or city will subscribe to some or all of the parts within these national or international volumes.  I don’t know much about where the codes come from besides that.  I suppose like most things, it’s a conglomeration of interest groups, academic and trade professionals, politicians, and other municipal officials.  It’s then up to your city or county inspector’s office to know and enforce the codes of their jurisdiction.  While I’m sure there are endless debates to have about the nitty-gritty of individual codes, I think it’s good enough to accept that the spirit of the codification of these ideas is to provide for the safe habitability of structures and a uniform system of assembly and maintenance.

But rules are only as good as those that enforce them.  A law that no one follows isn’t much more than some extra paper gathering dust somewhere.  That’s where the inspectors come into play.  And like a referee, an inspector is going to use their best judgement to figure out how the rules apply in a situation by situation play call.  For our project, we have two rounds of inspection.  This is because we’re doing work that involves opening and closing walls.  The first round, called the “Rough In” is where the inspectors come through an look at things that will be hidden later in the project.  For example, our plumbing inspector will look at all the pipes that will one day hide behind bathroom walls.  Likewise, the electrical inspector will examine the wire runs before you start hooking up your outlets and switches.  If we were just doing cosmetic changes like patching drywall or replacing flooring, then we could do just the final inspection.  In many ways, the final inspection is just a walk through to make sure that there’s no glaring problems like doors that don’t work or faucets that don’t turn on.  The rough in is a more technical examination of what’s under your hood.

As of writing this, we’ve had 2 of our 4 inspections.  In the city of Cleveland, you pull a general permit for building alterations and then additional permits for each of the mechanicals: electric, plumbing, and HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Condition).  So each of these four forms have an associated inspector that will come through for those systems.  Often times that inspector will be a former or even current tradesperson in that field.  Our plumbing inspector, for example, was a plumber for over 30 years prior to working for the city.  So far, so good.  Our electrical checked out and the inspector said it looked really nice and professional.  Likewise, our plumbing looks good too.  The only negatives so far are that we need to hardpipe the gas hot water heater into the gas line (it’s currently hooked up with one of those flex hoses) and two hanging pipes need to be strapped in the basement.  Both of those things we can do and have checked on the final inspection because they’re not hidden behind walls.  Our HVAC inspection will be pretty simple.  It’s just examining a couple of ducts we moved around and a vent line I put into the kitchen for an exhaust hood over the stove.  The general inspection then is everything else: structural changes, proper insulation, proper installing of various doors, windows, and whatnot.

Once we clear this hurdle, we can literally finish everything.  It’ll open a torrent of drywalling, flooring, painting, tiling, and all manner of fun stuff.  In the mean time, we’re working on finishing around the edges.  We’re doing things like patching drywall damage in bedrooms and prepping the floors for sanding and staining.  Unfortunately, due to recent scandals in the county over the last 5 years plus the recession, Cleveland has dramatically reduced their headcount in the inspector’s office, so getting on people’s schedule has been slow going.

Awesome.  As I was writing this post, I just got in contact with the HVAC inspector and we’ll meet this afternoon.  Maybe we can get this all cleared up sooner rather than later.

Anyways, Cleveland has about a third of the inspectors they once did and people have been shuffled around so I’m sure they’re very busy people.  Case in point, there’s only 3 HVAC inspectors for the entire city.  That’s not just for residential properties.  These people also have to inspect commercial and industrial properties as well.  While I just need a signature on my 10ft of 6″ duct work, other people need entire apartment buildings checked out.  That’s got to be a huge workload.

Toll

I feel like I’ve written this post a few times now, but here we go again.  It’s been a few weeks since our last post.  When I can squeeze in time to write these things, I’ll put together 6 or 7 of them and then set WordPress to auto-push them out ever few days.  So one evening of work can give me like a month’s worth of material.  Pretty sweet.  Except sometimes more than a month passes without a free moment and they lag.  Sorry about that.  Don’t think exciting things aren’t happening.  They are!  And they’re exciting!  And thanks to some white out conditions and sub-zero wind chills (it’s the end of February NE Ohio!  Give me a break!) I’m taking the morning off to catch up on some paperwork and hopefully generate a few more post for you fine people.  So stay tuned!

Home and Garden

We just got back from the Great Big Home and Garden Show at Cleveland’s IX Center.  I’ve never been to either a home and garden show or the IX center before so this was a treat on both fronts.  Having never had a vested interest in things like siding or tile before, home and garden type stuff hasn’t appealed, but now these subjects are constantly on my mind.  Especially as we transition from the core work to the finishing work, the options seem to magnify.  When you get down to it, there’s not a significant number of choices or differences when you’re buying things like nails, lumber, or cement.  Our choice of store pretty much came down to whatever building supplier was closest to the project site (the Euclid Home Depot) and whatever they happened to sell for the given item I needed.  Some things got special ordered, like our initial lumber delivery, but the bulk of our day by day spending is at the one store.  The two things that we’re working on deciding right now are flooring and cabinets for the kitchen.  Our flooring needs, which I’m sure will get their own post, are tile for the kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom, wood for several other rooms, and maybe carpet for one or more bedrooms.  Within each of those subsets are a huge array of dealers, each with a huge catalog of choices.

Anywho, armed with my new found need for tiles and wooden boxes, we hit up the home and garden show with the hopes of maybe getting some ideas or pricing out some possibilities.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The ads and website just promoted things like “The Big Idea Model Home” or a list of celebrities I’ve never heard of.  The IX-Center (short for International Expo) is a massive facility near the Cleveland airport.  It’s one of the largest convention spaces I’ve been in.  It includes a farris wheel set up in the center of the hall.  This is a built in attraction (as opposed to something that was part of the show).  The hall was divided into two areas.  The garden and live plant area was dimly lit (I assume to keep the plants on life support), and featured a variety of landscaped walk throughs and pavilion areas plus a makeshift garden restaurant area.  Each of the different contributors to this part of the show were given a theme country.  While it was neat to go through these themed landscapes, the plants were kind of sad to be indoors and forced to bloom in Ohio in February.  We got a good idea of things we like and don’t like when it comes to landscaping.  Some day, we’ll tackle our outdoors, but that’ll be a project for next summer or even the summer afterwards.

From there we headed into the other half of the show.  This section was divided into a few subsections: food court, contractors, show homes, main stage, and sellers.  We didn’t spend any time at the main stage, but there was some celebrity landscaper guy who I’m sure has a show on HDTV or the DIY network or something like that.  We did walk through the model home spaces.  They were neat.  Not because of what they showed, essentially they were mcMansion-style building packaged in such a way that you’d contract the designer to build your house, but because they were houses or parts of houses, built inside this convention hall for the purpose of this show.  At one point, while standing in line, we saw a time lapse video of the building of the house we were about to go into.  It was really neat.  For our project and purpose, I think I got the least out of the model home tours.  The most flabbergasting part of the tour was in the Dream Basement.  It, of course, was a series of rec rooms, game rooms, and kitchen/bar with rock music being pumped into ever room.  The crazy part is they had, what must have been 12 or 14′ ceilings.  Finished ceilings.  Who’s basement is 14-16′ deep?  I’ve been in a ton of finished basements before, but never one that could support that kind of headspace!

I won’t bore you with the food court, which was whatever you’d problem expect.  The rest of the show was divided between the contractors and the sellers.  Not to split hairs, I know they were all selling something.  But the contractors wanted to give you their pamplet and get your contract information and the sellers were trying to get your money on the spot.  It was interested to see the types of industries represented.  Being focused on what our project needs, means not thinking very much about all the other things out there.  For example, our house has siding and the roof and insulation checked out as good.  We don’t have, nor plan on getting a spa or pool.  But there were tons of roofers, spa-sellers, and the like.  And I’m sure there were tons of other people that came to the hall looking for information on getting siding or replacing their current house coverings.  Surprisingly, there weren’t actually that many companies selling flooring.  I suspect that it’s in a weird netherworld because it’s the type of thing you buy and can put in yourself if you want or have the dealer contract the install for you.  By contrast, roofers are more or less being contracted for their skill and labor.  They’ll (like me) go to Home Depot to get their supplies.  Conversely, there were a handful of cabinet people that ranged from bargain basement purveyors  to custom woodworkers.  It was helpful and we have a few more leads to follow on that front.

The sellers area was by far the bizarre (literally and figuratively) part of the show.  There were live infomercials of people selling cleaning supplies, pots and pans, and all manor of goods.  There were sample tables of dips.  Always dips.  People must love dips and make your own dip packages.  There must have been no less than 10 sellers of dips and salsas.  There were weird junk stores (think dollar stores) selling coloring books and stickers.  There were massage chairs.  There were scarves and alpaca yarns.  There were shoe cleaners.  It was dizzying.  We did mange to buy one thing of note.  One of the infomercial booths — when I say that, I mean, it was a guy or team, with microphone headsets, giving an extended sales pitch followed by the inevitable “but wait, we’ll also throw in x, y, z” — was a Scottish company that was selling tile cutting supplies.  Their specific tool made it easy to score a break tile, as well as make intricate cuts and holes.  Given that we do have a need for such a tool and I expected to buy something like that soon anyways, this seemed like a product tailored to us.  I’m hoping it doesn’t go the way of all other “make your life easier” products and end up in the back of a drawer somewhere.  If we can manage to avoid renting a wet-saw, it’ll be a fantastic investment.

All in all, it was a fun day and a very good experience.  I’d recommend it to anyone who cares about homes and gardens and especially if you’re planning any major renovation products.  Apparently, like with other conventions I’m more familiar with, there’s a season that lasts from now through mid-summer, so I imagine there’s one coming to a place near you sometime soon.

Bumps in the Road

Like most long and expensive projects, ours hasn’t been without it’s share of unforeseen difficulties.  I just finished flattening out the latest bump.  In early January we ordered a hood vent system from Proline Vent Hoods.  Being a former chef, I’m a little particular about these kinds of things and have enough knowledge about their construction to be dangerous.  We initially decided on a Proline hood because they are generally well reviewed for residential applications.  The hood we ordered was listed as in stock and they claimed they’d ship it immediately.  When I had no update after a couple weeks, I gave them a call.  They assured me that they were having delays from their supplier but would ship it out that day.  Another week passes.  I call again.  Again, another assurance that it was going out and this time they gave me fedex numbers.  Okay, no big deal.  I’m used to 2-4 week lead times for ordering material for this project.  I was a bit miffed that they didn’t tell me it was going to take that long, but I’ve got some other things to worry about right now.  3 days pass and the numbers still don’t register anything at fedex.  I call again.  They again assure me that they’re waiting for fedex to pick it up, but I should check tonight for an update.  That night the numbers came back as being in fedex’s system, but there was no package scanned in.  I’ve been involved with businesses that do heavy shipping so I’ve seen this ploy before.  You have a label generated at your site and it sits on someone’s desk until the package can catch up to it.  Then you give it over to the shipper.  This past Monday (now a full month from my order date), I called Fedex to confirm that they never received the packages.  Then I called, several times, Proline.  After being put on hold a few times and having to call back, I finally got someone and canceled my order.  The nice costumer rep said she could help me with that.  She would forward my information to their accountant and I should get my refund in 5-7 days.  I thanked her and asked if she could email me a confirmation.  I then immediately called my credit card company to open a dispute over the charge.  They were super helpful and I have a claim in process.  I’m very doubty that I’ll receive the promised refund in 5-7 days.

The biggest problem with this bump is that my last little bit of framing in the kitchen has been dependent on the hood assembly.  Specifically I need to know if I have to add blocking in the ceiling and how I’m going to run my exhaust line up to the vent.  I was hoping to have the assembly in hand so I could finish the framing.  Related to that, my last little bit of electrical rough in is waiting on the woodwork to be done.  Not to mention the HVAC rough in.  All of which should have been done by now and could have even been inspected by now.

This morning I bought a new range hood from Amazon.com.  While it’s not necessarily all I want in the appliance, it is cheaper than the proline hood by about $200 and Amazon Prime means it’ll be here in two days.  Speed matters at this point.
I ended up buying the Z-line 36″ island hood with the halogen lights if anyone is curious.  It’s not a company I’m terribly familiar with, but unlike many other companies, it was easy to get specs on the product and this one has some positive reviews on Amazon.  I’ll see if I can remember to post an unboxing later in the week.