The new bedroom addition is completed and ferns were transplanted in April to surround it. The Pavilion is in the background right.
It was the beginning of July and I was anxious to get started on the bedroom addition. The only thing stopping me was an obnoxious 7x16x8′ storage shed and kiln attached to the side of my house where the bedroom was supposed to go. It served me well over the years but it was built for when the building was used as a workshop/garage. I had taken all the hardwood “Lightning Strike Cherry” out of the kiln in May but there was a lot of other lumber and crap left to deal with. You know the kind of building stuff you can’t throw out because you may need it some day? I was in denial about the problem of finding a good place to store all of it, not to mention the additional lumber from dismantling the shed itself. Like maybe I could just neatly pile it all up and cover it with a tarp? It didn’t take long to realize that idea was half-assed, the tarps would blow apart eventually and anytime I wanted to get something from the storage pile it would be like major surgery. Building another lumber storage shed was the only way to go.
So first things first and I built a new storage shed, keeping it simple going with an open-air design. That only took a couple days and then I started to remove the old shed. Fortunately for me it was mostly put together with screws so it came apart fairly easy and I was able to salvage almost all of the material including the screws. All this took a couple weeks in between camerawork jobs. By the last week in July I was ready to dig the foundation for the new bedroom.
About the same time I got a call from a clients asking me to do a 10 day job shooting in Hawaii for mid-August. Now that was a impossible opportunity to turn down. I am not a big fan of travel jobs at this point in my career but Hawaii? So I accepted the job and started to rethink my bedroom addition timeline. I was flying out on August 4th and returning on the 14th. If I could at least get the foundation pour done before I left for Hawaii- that would allow me to enjoy myself while working there and make me feel less stressed when I got back.
It is always a little unnerving when you start to excavate because there is no turning back- unless you are a quitter. Quitting was not an option bad hips or not. On Saturday, July 25th I began the excavation and worked straight through till the foundation pour on the following Saturday, August 1st. At first I thought I could get it done in time but then on Tuesday the rains hit hard. Not all day rains but hard soaking thunderstorms that would cause big water runoffs. The secret to working in a trench is to have your drainage pipe set in the bottom and covered with clean stone. That is the first thing you should do, so when water does runs down into the trench it has somewhere to go and not fill up the hole like a bathtub. On the first leg of the foundation I tied into the existing living room foundation line that drained to daylight. Because of my sloping property, all my foundations drain to daylight, if possible it is always the way to go.
Another trick I use is to take old tarps and drape the walls of the trench so when the rain hits it doesn’t make so much mud. Mud is a battle that sucks you in, slows you down and saps your energy. You must prevent the mud from mixing with your clean stone as it compromises the perforated pipes’ ability to drain. So when your hustling and hurting, to watch the deluge hit is pretty sobering. You better be prepared. The rain knocked me back a bit. I was building the forms as I went and moved that process inside the garage to work during rain events. I made some calls and put a guy on standby to help me with the cement pour- if and when it happens because I still didn’t know if I could get it done before the Hawaii job. When I called my normal concrete delivery company to put them on hold, I found out they went out of business. The next two companies I called said the house was too far away. I pleaded with one lady and she said, “You won’t be able to work with the concrete by the time it gets to you.” Starting to feel sick I wracked my brain. I remembered seeing another company’s trucks around from the past and then visualized the name, they were not in the yellow pages but buried in the white pages. Great- they could do the Saturday delivery. Whew- now get the forms in.
A critical part too any building addition is ensuring that it is square to the existing one. With modern calculators it’s no big deal to find the hypotenuses of a right triangle and check for square. What is a big deal is actually holding onto two tape measures, alone, while standing in a hole and trying to position a form. You only need to be concerned about one leg at time but the thing that kept screwing me up was that the inside room dimension was a even 12×16′. The walls were going to be 8″ thick for an outside dimension of 152″x 208″. So for example the long wall leg, depending on what point I was measuring could be 192, 200 or 208″. The short wall could be 144 or 208″. The hypotenuse would change accordingly. The point is I was juggling a lot of balls in the air, watching the sky and trying to pour cement by Saturday. Your mind is going a lot of different places. I was putting the last outside corner form in place when something didn’t look right. WTF? Come to find out the 16′ inside corner form was too long. To make matters worse, I had it all secured in place. The only thing that saved me was I hadn’t back-filled the inside form. Fortunately there was enough room inside the trench to smack back the short leg then cut down the long form to the correct size and keep it all level. One hour later I was back on track but oohh-wee some crazy alternatives had sailed threw my head and then fortunately kept on going.
The concrete was poured on Saturday and I ended up with a very well drained, insulated, substantial foundation. I couldn’t be happier.
I just quickly want to discuss the version 2.0, John Davis, method of pouring a frost wall foundation. The inside form is permanent. It is constructed out of two layers of excess or used metal roofing. One layer is vertical ribs screwed to a second layer of horizontal ribs, which gives it strength to support the forces of gravel back fill. Each length of metal panels are screwed to a 2×12″ top plate. The wood top plate is perfect for lining up and leveling everything into place. The outside form is a double -sided, plywood, 2″ x 4″ wide panel with 2″ rigid foam insulation attached to the inside of it. Big rock goobers are placed in the bottom of the trench. 5/8″ holes are hammer drilled into the goobers and 1/2″ vertical steel rebar is pounded into the holes. Horizontal lengths of rebar is then attached to the vertical rebar. The bottom of the trench v’s out and is held apart by the big rocks. That becomes the footer. The outside form wall is back-filled with sand and the inside wall is filled with gravel. The outside wall is held in place at the top by wood spacers. Braces are placed on the inside top 2×12″ to stop the forms from moving during the pour. The concrete is vibrated down at the bottom of the trench when the cement is poured filling all the voids.
After the pour- the next day- the outside form sand is partially excavated and a chain is strategically attached to the form. The form is gently pulled out and away by the backhoe, leaving the 2″ rigid foam insulation pressed against the concrete foundation wall. Nails were put through the rigid foam and let set into the concrete, preventing the foam from pulling out with the wooden form. The forms are held in place by the backfill. The backfill is not compacted allowing the forms to V out at the bottom somewhat from the pressure of the wet cement during the pour, creating a nice big footer. Voila! Why do I do it this way? I hate bracing forms and I don’t have to worry about any of them blowing out or moving during the pour. I have seen it happen.
Next stop Hawaii!!
It was August 15th and the next order of business was to insulate the radiant slab and its’ perimeter, install the rebar, run the PEX tubbing, then pour the 6″ slab. Two years earlier, before I poured the dinning room slab, I ran some 3/4 inch tubing that went from the radiant floor heat manifold, under the slab to what was then the outside of the building, or about 14′ to where the new bedroom would eventually be.
These guide tubes were well insulated and just big enough to let me push through the 1/2″ PEX tubing. It actually worked as planned and I was able to do this.
Insulating the radiant heat slab was critical and I went a little overboard. Here is what I did; the first layer was a product called Insul-Tarp® which is supposed to be a miracle insulating, vapor barrier for cement slabs. It is controversial in regard to it’s insulating properties but it is not too expensive and I believed it to be an excellent vapor barrier. What ever insulating properties it could have- all the better. I had some used 1″ rigid foam insulation salvaged from the old wood kiln and used one layer of that over the Insul-Tarp®. The final layer was shiplapped 2″ rigid foam, for an approximate R-value of 15 to 19, depending on how you rate the Insul-tarp.
While doing this I had nice dry weather but lots of rain was in the forecast. Because of all the insulating layers used I was worried about water getting trapped above the vapor barrier and even floating my rigid foam around. So as much as I hated to do it, I covered the area with tarps. All the rebar and PEX tubing was installed under these tarps. This pain in the butt, trapped water issue was to follow me till the bedroom roof was covered. Trapped water under a radiant floor slab can cause heat to suck away- so to speak- don’t want that.
The next consideration was the rebar. As a rule, rebar should be closer to the surface of the cement than the bottom for crack prevention but my main concern was to use the rebar as a fixture for my PEX tubing. I had read the previous winter in an article found on the web that the Pex tubing should lay closer to the bottom of a 6″ slab. With this in the back of my mind I installed the steel rebar 2″ above the bottom at 16″ centers. Then I connected wire mesh on top of that, which allowed me to place my PEX on 8″ centers. The 8″ spacing was called for in my heat loss study and is pretty standard for homes. The problem was I started to second guess myself and went back to Siegenthaler’s hydronic heat bible just to double check. I got the cart before the horse on this one. Unlike the article I read on the Web, Siegenthaler’s book recommends the tubing should go closer to the top for a faster response time. Well, raising the steel, after the fact was not easy to do, especially alone. First of all, the rebar ends were inserted into holes drilled into the walls and the wire mesh won’t let you put your foot down for proper leverage- not fun. In the end, I was able to get most of the PEX two inches from the top but it was not fun.
The next step was to run the 1/2″ O2 Barrier HeatLink® UV Stabilized PEX-a Tubing. I needed to run two individual floor loops and I wanted a wall radiator for quick heat response time for when I came back from being away from the place. There are different ways to run the floor loops but my idea in this case was to run the loops starting from the outside walls where hotter water would be needed and work my way into the center where the bed would be located and therefor less demand for heat.
Finally I had to install some leveling guide boards in the center to break up the pour into two, 7′ sections with a final go back and fill 2′ center. It worked according to plan with my 2 local hire helpers. In fact, it was the smoothest finish pours I ever did.
All this was done in time for Labor-day weekend!
I poured the radiant slab floor in the bedroom addition on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. The cement truck pulled out by 1 p.m. and I paid and released my crew. As I was floating the concrete, I heard the lumber delivery truck roaring up the mountain. I rushed down the driveway to greet him and discussed how to unload the truck. It was a full size tractor-trailer with a Moffett forklift hanging off the back. He was 2 hours early but better late than never or something like that. The driver probably didn’t want any delays screwing up his holiday weekend either. I rushed back to finish my cement float finish job while he unloaded the truck. By the end of the day, I got so far as too attach the pressure-treated sill plates to the foundation. It was a great day.
I haven’t mentioned the design of the new bedroom and how it was meant to integrate with the house, so here it is: All the buildings that make up my “town” have either a 5/12 or a 10/12 roof pitch or a combination of both. Meaning the roof slops down 5” over 12” horizontal inches and the steeper pitch of 10” sloping over 12” horizontal. So those were my choices. You do not want to introduce a new roof pitch for something like this, as it will look wrong. The roof above where I was attaching the bedroom had a 10/12 pitch and I considered connecting to that and just continuing the slope out. The other option was to break the slope to 5/12. My drawings of the two options convinced me that breaking the 10/12 to the 5/12 pitch was the way to go. That way my outside bedroom wall could remain a full 8 feet high. As I look at it finished now, I am glad I made that decision.
When I had my epiphany three years ago and visualized my new compound, I chose to go with 2×8” walls for all new construction as opposed to the old 2×6” walls. That way, I could use a snug fit R30 insulation in the walls. With the amount of windows I was putting into the design, I could use the extra R-value. The other consideration for the new bedroom was to keep the windows low enough to see what was going on outside. There is nothing like lying in bed and looking out the window to watch the wildlife nosh away on the landscape (unless it is deer eating your shrubs).
I planned rows of recessed lighting on all four walls, with two independently controlled reading lights for each side of the bed.
Since this was my last hurrah for the new big house, I decided to go with a hardwood beam treatment for the ceiling. That would involve two 8×8” beams going down the ceiling and parallel to where the edges of the king bed would be. Then there would be two perpendicular rows of 4×4” beams going the other direction creating a hatch work look, with a ceiling fan in the middle. The upstairs bedroom has 8×8” maple beams, so this idea would integrate the house.
I had my first wall up by the end of Labor Day weekend, so things were going good with my plan to have an enclosed bedroom before the snow flies. You always have to plan ahead and I was thinking about those beams and how I was going to get them up. The 4×4” beams were not a problem but the 8×8” beams were something to consider since I was working alone. I figured if I had them ready to go before the roof was on, I could use my backhoe to put them in place. But that meant I had to have the beams, which I didn’t–they were somewhere out in the forest. Fortunately I had a lot of choices for trees to make the beams, as there was one section of my land that was still strewn with blow-downs from Hurricane Sandy.
It is one thing to look at a tree and think it is suitable and another thing to cut it up with a chain saw and find out it is no good. No good because the log is hollow or has some decayed wood. My first three attempts proved unsuccessful and I was annoyed. You want to find a tree that is big enough, straight, no knots and still alive. Even though a tree is lying on the ground, many of them still had leaves as their root balls were partially attached to the ground. Live trees are less likely to have started to decay and have fewer insects attacking them. The next trip back to the woods proved successful and I dragged out a few options for the 8×8” beams. The 4×4” were much easier to find and deal with.
Once I had my logs out of the woods I needed to get them cut up and that meant getting them to Bandsaw Bob’s Sawmill. Robert was 12 miles away and I had “The Max”- a 4×4, one ton, 350 Detroit diesel dump truck that could handle the load, but it had no plates. Do I risk it and take the back way–a seasonal road over the spine of the mountain–or hire Robert to pick-up and deliver the logs? Robert would prefer I do the hauling; he has helped me out before but I didn’t want to go knocking too often—my need might be more urgent next time. The last time I took this clandestine trip with the lightning strike cherry logs, The Max almost didn’t make it back. I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw-up on that trip. Since then I have repaired the truck, but still–it’s a rusty 1996 and doesn’t get used that often.
So early one fall morning at 7 a.m., with my heart pounding and a pit in the bottom of my stomach, I took the chance and headed down my mountain road with a load of logs. At the bottom of the mountain I had to go onto a more frequently traveled road. At the intersection, the coast was clear and I made the risky ¾ mile jaunt before I turned up the mountain road that took me to Bandsaw Bob’s. That all went fine and I didn’t run into any other cars, but on the way down his mountain toward the mill I became concerned about the brakes–smoke was coming from somewhere and there was a strong smell of burning brake pads. The brakes were one thing I had made sure were working properly when I originally bought the truck; I had spent about a thousand bucks on getting them tip-top. I didn’t want to attract any attention but I had to take it much slower, keeping it in 4×4 low and using the engine backpressure to slow me down. The brakes worked but they were hot! I made it to the sawmill undetected.
The seasonal road that goes over the mountain spine is one lane and hugged by trees. As luck would have it, on the way back, I ran into two huge Town Highway trucks that were working on getting the road in shape. Luck can go two ways and fortunately for me, each time I ran into a truck, there was a small area in the forest for me to pull over, leaving just enough room for them to squeeze by. Otherwise I would have had to back up for who knows how far to let them pass me by. Whew! I made it safely home with my new beams.
By the middle of October, I had the roof on, things were looking good, and I raised the bar to get the siding on before winter. About the same time, the Pope came to town and for my real job as a TV cameraman, I had to chase after him one night working for Inside Edition. We didn’t have the right credentials so I never saw the Pope, but not wanting to go back empty-handed, the producer got the bright idea to interview Bernie Kerik– the fallen former NYC Police Commissioner–and get his comments on protecting the Pope and terrorism. Problem was he was on the East Side and we were on the West Side. I said let’s drive and she said we wouldn’t get there in time because of road closures. I disagreed to no avail. So we walked south maneuvering around all the barricades, fighting the crowds, then back up North. Me, with a 30-pound camera and bad hips no less. We got the interview and then had to walk all the way back to where our vehicle was parked on the West Side. The next day I wasn’t working and left my apartment to go somewhere. I had to turn back. I could not walk–my left hip just wouldn’t let me. It locked-up. This had never happened before. I struggled back to the apartment, got on the phone and scheduled an appointment with my hip surgeon. I said I wanted hip replacement surgery as soon as possible, wanting to be able to travel for the Christmas Holiday. They had a cancellation for November, Friday the 13th. I laughed and said, “Perfect!”
By that afternoon, my hip loosened up and I was able to walk-limp around. This changed things as far as my construction timeline. Two of the three bedroom windows were in but I still hadn’t ordered the final big 6×4’ window. That window was the next thing on the agenda, but it wouldn’t arrive for four weeks. It was too late; that would be just when I was going under the knife. I cancelled that idea.
But I was able to get the bedroom almost completely sided and I put a temporary door where the window was to go. This temporary door was the only way to get in. I did not want to break down the wall and put a door into the house as the new bedroom was not yet insulated.
So things worked out all right. I got the house to a point that made sense form a selling point of view-it was now a two-bedroom, two-bath house. Just in case anything happened to me during surgery, I did not have to worry about Deb trying to explain my dream to a realtor or anyone else.
Of course while working on the entryway I was formulating my plan for the kitchen. I knew where the sink, counter, refrigerator, and island stove were going but what the heck was I going to do with the ceiling? The old workshop ceiling was 10’ tall. The living room on the west side of the kitchen had an 8’ ceiling and the dinning area on the east side had an 8’5” ceiling that sloped down to 7’. I hated to just lower the high kitchen ceiling down to 8’ 5”. I wanted a tin ceiling in the kitchen but not throughout. I knew from installing the tin ceiling on the 2nd floor that it was not easy. When working with tin ceiling panels, the larger the area the harder it is to keep the lines straight. I don’t care how many lines you snap- especially when working alone and not being an expert, the tin panels will want to wonder. The answer was a large soffit surround that would blend all the ceilings together and leave a nice 10’ high rectangle in the center for the tin ceiling. The soffits have an added benefit in that they are a great way to run wiring and recessed lighting. A lot of work? Hell yeah! But what the heck- nothing has been easy so far.
When using new lumber straight from the yard you need to be concerned about the woods moisture content. I did not want to spakel and sand before the wood had acclimated to the surroundings, otherwise you can get cracks in the sheetrock joints later as the wood shrinks and dries. Winter is a good time to let this happen and I got the 2×4’s down to 9 or less on a moisture meter scale. Buying wood from a place that stores lumber indoors is a good idea if you are in a hurry.
This photo below shows my method of installing 5/8″ fire code sheet rock solo. These are called grip stands and are used in film & TV production for lighting. You raise one side a little and then go over and raise the other side, back and forth till it reaches the ceiling joists. I have never lost a piece of sheet rock since I started using this method.
Having these large soffits allowed me to install a warm-air handling fan and duct-work. The filtered intake side is directly over the wood stove and it will move this air into the living room or bedroom or both. The fan control is wall mounted, 4 speed and you can not hear it at all on low. High is noisy at the intake side.
Lighting is a big deal in the kitchen for any home and recessed lighting is the way to go. This is a photo of two options; the remodel version on the left can be added to an existing ceiling but could be changed in the future and the new construction one on the right that could not be swapped out without ripping up the ceiling. I put this remodel version directly over the sink in case I wanted to change it for some reason. Why would you want to change it? There is a revolution going on with lighting now and LED is the rage. These units are for tungsten bulbs but both can be retrofitted with LED lights. In the past the color of LED lights was a problem but not anymore. Check the box. I wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go so I went with these so I could go either way. I am big on using dimmers and LED’s do not change color temperature when they are dimmed unlike tungsten bulbs which become warmer in color as they are dimmed down. The Cree brand of LED lights I bought from Home Depot and retrofitted for some of these kitchen lights have a slight buzz when they are dimmed way down low. The kind of buzz you would only notice when it is quite. If you are cooking or talking etc. you wouldn’t notice but it could be a problem in a bedroom or someplace you wanted to read or sleep.
I went with a 2×6″ sink wall to allow for the plumbing. Especially the 1.5″ vent pipe for the kitchen sink and bathroom shower behind the wall. I put bridging in between the studs where the counter and cabinets will be attached to make it beefy and give me fastener location options.
To say I was totally confident about my kitchen ceiling design would not be correct. I thought maybe the soffits were too big and would overwhelm the look. What I am happy about at this point is the way the ceilings from the adjoining rooms flow into the kitchen. One is 8′ and the other is 8’5″. The soffits do create strong visual lines for a unifying design.
Tin ceiling tiles come in few different installation types. Nail-up is the traditional way but it requires furring strips underneath. I used nail-up tin tiles upstairs with the backing 12″ on center. Since then I discovered a new type called Snap LockTM. This style is available at www.americantinceilings.com in Florida. I recommend this company.
Snap LockTM tin ceiling tiles have an interlocking flange system that allow the tiles to snap together. The beauty of this system is that no furring strips are needed and they screw directly into dry wall so you can install them into an existing ceiling with no modification. The style I purchase were 2’x2′ finished in Copper Penny. 100 sq.’ for less than $500 delivered.
Snap LockTM tiles are the best style to install alone.
It is very tricky to maintain a consistent gap and follow the snap line. The folks at American Tin Ceilings told me the gap is important or you will screw yourself eventually. They also said not to get carried away trying to get your recessed lighting to line up with the squares in the tiles. They were right. I think it is a good idea to ignore the manufactured hole and screw directly into a joist occasionally. I’ll put in a photo of the finished job when the crown moulding is up.
My experience with ordering kitchen cabinets from Home Depot was kind of mixed. I went into the local store right after the new year with my drawing and cabinet schedule layout just to get a ballpark idea of what the cost would be. I knew for sure I wanted custom KraftMaid full plywood construction cabinets. I knew the color and style. The salesperson was a little put off because she wanted to help me design my kitchen. It was a good size order and I am sure Julie would of enjoyed helping me but I had already been there and done that with my city apartment kitchen renovation. The Home Depot designer back then was a big help and I learned a lot from that experience. The problem started when Julie told me KaftMaid was having a big sale that ended in 3 days. The sale amounted to over $1000 in savings. I felt good about my design but had planed on looking at the prices and mull over some different options. No time to tweak- I had to place the order. The thing was I didn’t need the cabinets for three months at the earliest.
As time went by I realized I had made a mistake about the pantry wall and base cabinets- they weren’t big enough. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to change the order but after about a month I went into Home Depot and talked to my sales rep and see if I could get her to make the change. Julie figured out the cost of my changes and it negated the discount I had received. She did not have the authority to change the discount codes. Unlike helping to design kitchens- this was a major pain in the butt to her I am sure. Julie went and got the store manager. I explained to the manager that KrafMaid had called me to confirm the order and said they wouldn’t start to make my cabinets till March. It was the beginning of February so he called them up and explained the situation. They all agreed the change would be OK and I blew a big sigh of relief! I had been there for over two hours and finally the manager looked at me and said, “This is going to take some time and you should come back.” Discount codes are not to be taken lightly. Sorry.
The kitchen construction schedule plan was to get the sheetrock up, sanded and primed, followed by putting up the tin ceiling, finalize the sink wall plumbing and then start with the cabinets. First I needed to fix the floor where the sink wall base cabinets and also the stove island cabinets were to sit. These were actually 4″ deep rectangular holes left from the radiant floor heat install and thinslab pour. You do not want to heat these areas.
After the cabinets were put in it was time for the counter tops. I had seen a photo in the friday edition to The WallStreet Journal of a white kitchen with dark, hardwood countertops. That was my inspiration for this kitchen and I had just the hardwood for it. In June of 2012 a large bolt of lighting struck what must have been a 150 year old cherry tree outback. The lighting had blown out a large strip of wood from top to bottom. I found chunks over 200′ away. The tree was killed dead and with it all the ground cover from the leaf drip line to the trunk. This was not the kind of tree that a logger would ordinarily use for lumber because the tree trunk branched off too quickly. I couldn’t see letting it go to waste, so I cut it down in the fall and had it sawed up into lumber. Sure enough it wasn’t the best stuff, too many knots and checks but I was able to find some usable stuff. I named this hardwood- “Lighting Strike Cherry”
These are 1×8″ cherry planks. Ordinarily hardwood countertops are 1.5 or 2″ thick, narrow strips glued together but I am not set up for woodworking and this seemed like the way I could pull it off. The plan was to glue and screw these 1″ planks to 3/4″ plywood, giving me a finished thickness of 1 3/4″. Then gluing and nailing a 2″ face surround. Both the cherry and plywood were down to a moisture content of 6. The problem for me with using narrow strips of hardwood was the sanding. I just have a 3×21″ belt sander and didn’t think I could sand it all down as smoothly as I would using this method. Also the nightmare of working alone and trying to line everything up during the gluing and clamping. This was hard enough as it was and I think I got lucky.
To say installing this sink was easy would not be correct. The problem was the manufacture- Elkay and I had two different ideas about how it should be done. In the end we met in the middle. Elkay wanted a sink cut-out that was 3/8th inches smaller than the outer edge of the sink. That would of been much easier but structurally I hated the idea.
You can see by looking at this sink cut out that there was a lot of screwing around. I do not want to go into all the details except to say that the problem came in regard to the clamps. Note the 1/2 inch holes drilled around the perimeter of the sink cut-out. The clamps are attached to a slot on the underside of the sink and they can move in the slot. Nightmare to line this up by myself with the silicone chalk. There was a lot of cleaning up to do but in the end it turned out good.
The huge consideration about wood countertops is water contact issues. There are different opinions on how to finish wood for counters but no one that I have come across disavows the use of wood. I went with Epifanes marine varnish from Jamestown Distributors based in Bristol, RI. It is also stocked in local marine supply shops. The product costs over $40 per quart or 1000ml. This is the sort of varnish used on the deck and hull of a wooden boat, so constant water contact is a given. Scratches do not concern me and dings and dents over time will only add character. An occasional reapplication of varnish over the years is a given.
By this point it was the end of June and I was way past my schedule to start the new downstairs bedroom. My left hip had become a constant source of pain throughout the winter and spring. Limping around had become the new normal and my right hip was letting me know it was compromised also. I had gone to see a hip surgeon in February. I told him I wanted to try and build a bedroom addition before I had a hip replacement. Dr. Ranawat looked at me skeptically and said, “You are going to need a hip replacement and you can do it now or you can do it later but you will have to get it done.” I did not doubt his assessment. My reason for delaying were two fold; I needed to make more money and I felt like this new bedroom was critical to the value of our property. If anything went seriously south during or because of the operation at least the bedroom would be a reality. The thought of digging a foundation, climbing in and out of the hole along with climbing up and down from the backhoe made me cringe. Then the thought of climbing around on a pitched roof in cold weather made me cry. So my plan was to just take it one step at a time and stop if I had to.
After thanksgiving I moved inside and started on my winter projects. Transforming the workshop into the kitchen was my big goal but I had to finish the entryway first. The ceiling had to be sheet rocked, 2 walls re-rocked, lighting and electric finalized and the chimney enclosed. All that went fairly smoothly and with a big push the entryway was sanded and ready for paint by New Years Eve. Sanding spackle is hard and I was in bed by 9:00 PM.
Is anything ever finished? Yes I believe it can be but in this case a couple of issues still need to be tweaked in the future; the doorway to the kitchen hallway was not finalized because I want it as wide as possible but this is compromised by the fact that it needs to butt up against the chimney enclosure and the radiant floor heat controls- not the best situation. I left it wide, 38” and will finalize the framing and trim when I put the bi-fold doors on the heat controls. Secondly, the plan is to put the dryer to the right of the chimney enclosure, where it is easy to get at and can vent within inches to the outside. The problem is the little window there is preventing me from enclosing it properly- would hate to remove the window- so I will work that out in the future. Finally there is a two inch step up into the kitchen hallway because of the need for two inch, rigid foam insulation added to the floors on the rest of the house. People can trip over something like a 2” step-up, so I may pour a slope of concrete and then tile over the whole thing. The entryway floor could not be raised because the existing 2nd floor stairs would not be the right height to the first step and the floor did not need insulation because it was installed underneath from the beginning.
As is often the case I have too many other things to worry about and winter will be over if I let these three things bog me down. Thinking about my five-year plan, I am almost a year behind schedule because I put the porches on during the summer and spent so much time landscaping in the spring. These things needed to be done and were an important part of making the property valuable but they were not part of my original 5-year plan.
Strange- but something I think about- if I would accidentally die and Deb would be left with my debacle. I want the property to make sense so that if and when she sold it, people would get what I was trying to do. Having two houses that don’t make sense and me in the grave keeps me moving-on.
It should not be that big of a deal to acid stain a concrete slab like this one, but being new at it complicated things for me. There are many videos on YouTube about concrete acid stain. Also there are water-based stains, but I didn’t even consider them because I wanted something that would last.
Freshly cured concrete takes a stain the best, which is what I was dealing with. In simplest terms, all you have to do is clean the surface, protect the surrounding areas, and spray the stain. They recommend using a pump sprayer just for acid but those cost around $75 so I went with the garden variety one I already had. I figured it would all be over in a few minutes- how bad could it get?
I bought a commercial grade acid stain (they all are) from a masonry supply place. Brickform, Blush-Tone Acid Stain in olive. It cost about $80 for a gallon. Their olive color is a light green, I wanted dark green but I could not find it anywhere. Applying a second or third stain would make it darker.
The first side of the slab went well, then I had to stop and pump up the sprayer and things started to get weird. Towards the end of the slab, blotches of rust brown started to dribble out, discoloring the slab. When it was done I thought, “Oh well. I wanted it to have a mottled look and I got that.” In some places the stain looked great.
I did not neutralize the acid and let it go for a week trying to figure out if I needed to apply a second coat. You do not want to neutralize if you are going to reapply acid stain. The rust color was becoming more prevalent as the sun worked on it. Then I discovered light scrubbing with a wire brush would remove the rust color, revealing aquamarine blue underneath. The blue looked cool but this wasn’t a swimming pool. I realized I needed some advice so I called the manufacturer.
At Rafco Products you have to leave a message for technical support and the guy calls you back. I think he was some kind of a consultant because it sounded like he was on a work site doing a job. Anyway he was concerned about the results I got with the rust blotches and said he thought I had some kind of contamination in the concrete finish. He said I needed to use a floor maintainer and a red brush to buff the slab and then reapply the acid stain. I had a vague idea what he was talking about and said thanks. I wondered if the brown tarp I used to cover the slab for a week while it cured was causing this rust contamination. Or maybe it was just old acid stain. The manufacture says the product should be no older than a year. This jug looked like it had been sitting around in a warehouse for sometime – I don’t know.
Following his advice, I went to the Home Depot rental department and picked-up a floor maintainer and bought 3 brushes- black the harshest, red is medium and white is the lightest. In the meantime I decided against buying more of the old product and went with Home Depot’s, Eagle, Jade, Acid Stain, available online only. It was $20 cheaper and I liked the green color a little better. I also did more research about acid stain and learned two very important tricks- the concrete should be damp before you spray and you can broom the stain around as it puddles and dries, working it in. You think it is acid and should stay the hell away from it but do not let it intimidate you- work it in!
I started the prep work on the slab with a red pad and plenty of water, then went to the black pad because I liked what the floor maintainer was doing to the cement. Take caution if you ever use one of these things: when I first turned on the floor maintainer it almost took my arm off doing a 360 degree turn and sucking up the power cord. What I learned is this: tip it forward and it goes one way, back it goes the other, find a happy medium and it stays in place.
The buffing took all the rust color off and muted the green way down, (the concrete was only four weeks old so I was removing the surface.) That was done in the evening and the next morning I made the concrete damp, sprayed on a gallon of the Eagle Jade Acid Stain, broomed in the puddles, and let it dry for 5 hours. I think the floor maintainer, damp concrete and broom made a big difference in the consistency of the color. My job was 185sq. ft. and one gallon was perfect.
This application dried a much darker green and I was not thrilled with the color but they always tell you not to judge the color until the acid has been neutralized and rinsed off. It was a rusty medium green but consistent throughout.
Before I neutralized the acid I waited as long as I could for the stain to work but I needed to get the floor maintainer back for my 24-hour rental. I mixed 16 ounces of ammonia with 5 gallons of water and poured it around. Since I had the floor maintainer, I decided to use the lightest, white pad and buff the neutralizers around. I flood rinsed this off and mixed another batch of neutralizer, repeating the process. It looked great. A nice, mottled, medium green. The rust look was gone.
The crazy thing about this stuff is that, as the concrete surface dries, you get a different intensity of color- lighter as it dries. You need to pay attention to this because the 2 types of sealer you can choose from will make it look different also. Acrylic or water-based sealer will make the concrete look a similar color as when the surface is damp and the high gloss, oil-based sealer will leave it with a color similar to when the concrete is wet. I went with Home Depot’s, Eagle, Armor Seal, for $36 a gallon online. It is an acrylic based sealer that was easy to use and could be reapplied years later.
Now that I’ve done this, I would definitely do it again on an outside project. It is a great look. But because of all the flooding with water for rinsing, I decided against doing it inside the house on my kitchen and dining area’s thin, hydronic, concrete slab.
While I work on indoor projects over the winter, there is plenty of time to think about what I’m going to do when the weather breaks. Last year in the Spring of 2013 I did a lot of landscaping. This year, I decided the outside of the house was in serious need of transformation. Paint and porch were two words that would define this year’s transformation.
Neither of the two houses had been painted because my wife and I could not agree on a color. I wanted State Park dark brown and Deb wanted light to medium brown. As a compromise we went with Olympic, clear wood preservative. By now this look was pretty forlorn. In some places it looked disgusting, in my opinion.
So this time around, we ended up going with the color I preferred from the beginning–which is called slate and looks almost black. I pulled off this agreement on color by stealth mode. First I built a 5’x16’ wood shed and, without consulting Deb, I painted it slate. Then I built a 20’ x 30’ garage and painted it the same dark slate color. By this time Deb got used to the look and agreed (or gave in- I do not know for sure) that the slate color would look nice and give our “town” a cohesive, harmonious look.
The raw, rough-sawn, white pine happily soaked up the Behr Premium solid color wood stain. I used a 7” rough surface roller working it back and forth with force to get good penetration into all the knots and checks that occurred with age. I am very pleased with this product and would recommend it to anyone for use on bare wood. It obviously does not need a primer and is supposed to last 20 years. One of the reasons I promoted this color to Deb was that we should never have to repaint in our lifetime. It should look good as it ages, not peel, and maybe lighten some, which is fine by me. It also completely covered all blemishes in the wood.
One final thing about the color: a friend, seeing our newly painted place, said to me, “So, you painted your house black?” I have seen this color and similar very dark colors used many times around the country in State and Federal Parks on their buildings and in cabins or homes in the woods. The concept about the color is this- black or slate does not intrude on the natural surroundings. It does not make a statement that says “Look at me.” It celebrates the natural colors surrounding the house. Judge for yourself. I would some day like to paint the fascias, eaves and window trim a dark blue or dark green but I have too much to do now to worry about that.
After painting the small guesthouse in the spring, towards the end of May I moved on to make this year’s transformations on the main house. I didn’t start painting because, first, the house was in need of a porch as well as a second story deck roof. Scaffolding would be required to paint and also build the deck roof so the painting would wait.
To start I needed to build a foundation for the cement slab porch deck. I wanted to get the excavation done and slab poured before summer–this way I would have a clean area in which to work around the house. For the porch, a cement slab deck was the way to go. Although it was much more work- it was low maintenance, permanent and I was excited about using a green acid color stain on the cement. This project took longer than I had anticipated–over 6 weeks, including time off to make a living.
First I needed to get the old rock terrace removed, which I had built 10 years ago. Then, install drainage tile and build a foundation wall of gravel and rock to support the cement slab. This was a wrap-around porch on a slope, which complicated things. Luckily, the Max- my mason dump truck–was back in operation after being out of service since the previous fall. I had spent four days over the winter playing mechanic getting it to run good. I like excavation using a dump truck because it makes the work site more manageable. I could put rocks, boulders, and gravel where they could easily be retrieved and move the spoils where I wanted, without causing were and tear on my backhoe, and the backhoe needed a new left front king pin.
Snakes, I noticed, had always loved this ten-year-old rock terrace because of its southern exposure and landscaped cover. They could stay warm, yet hide quickly if a predator approached. I knew the backhoe would crush them if I wasn’t careful. So after lifting up the small rocks by hand or the big ones with the backhoe, I would quickly grab the hiding serpents and carry them off to a sunny rock pile on the adjoining property. These reptiles were 6” to 30” long, including common garter snakes and small black ones with a light-colored ring around the base of their head. I removed so many snakes I got kind of skeeved out by it. I didn’t realize there were so many. The ones that I didn’t manage to rescue died of course, and since I couldn’t find them, they stank for about a week.
One thing for sure is that, when it comes time to pour cement, finding someone to help is always a problem. Because of the shape this slab was going to be, I needed someone other than Deb. It was to be 6’ wide, 13’ long on one side and 12’ on the other, with a wedge in between. The college kids I hired last fall for my indoor, thin slab pour were not available. The pitch I used for getting someone to help was this- $100 cash for one hour of work, then boom- you go home. Just get here ½ hour before the cement truck is to arrive. I did this because you need to entice people and make sure they show up. Once the cement is on it’s way there is no turning back. $100 for an hour of work is worth it to many people. Last fall- of the three college kids I hired, only two of them showed up for the $100. They had sweaty smiles on their faces when they left.
Luckily, I had a load of gravel delivered a few days before the pour and I asked the driver if he knew anyone who would be interested in the deal. Quickly he said he would do it and had a friend who would help also. They both had some experience with slab pours and this was a huge relief to me. They did a great job and made the pour much less stressful than usual.
Because I was going to acid stain the concrete, I was concerned about the proper finish of the cement. On past slab pours, it hadn’t been an issue– float and broom finish or just a nice smooth float. But because it was a porch and I wanted to use an acid stain, I needed something better. The research I came up with finishing concrete for acid staining was not what they call a hard finish but just a smooth finish. I went with an aluminum float about one hour after the big float. So as not to screw up the concrete cure, you need to wait to start the finish. The problem was, I waited too long and had to work like hell with my aluminum float. One end of the slab did not come out as well as I wanted. It wasn’t perfect, but it was OK.