Chunking Things

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Drainage, Drainage, Drainage

We live in the rainiest city in Texas.
When it rains... it pours.

And when it pours like that, it takes a little while to drain off into the bayous and river.  When the water comes down like this, lots of folks have issues.  We were no different.

We removed the rain gutters and downspouts on our home.  They actually caused some roof issues and we decided to just stick with the wide roof over hangs and deal with the drainage on the ground, instead of off the roof.

So.  French drains.
In case you are wondering, we have done French drains before, quite successfully.  We bought a house in Tulsa that had standing water issues in the front, side and back yards.  We dug trenches with a DitchWitch, laid in gravel, and installed drilled PVC drain pipes.  Then we covered them up with gravel and hoped for the best.  Worked like a charm.

Here, it's a little swampier.  So we set off to the big box store with a plan, but an open mind.  We remembered the back breaking labor, filling all the trenches with gravel.  Then we discovered these.

They are perforated, flexible tubes that are wrapped in sleeves that are stuffed with packing pellets.  Expensive.  But by the time you add in the gravel and the PVC pipe, it worked out just slightly more expensive.  The kicker?  No heavy lifting.  No hauling wheelbarrow loads of gravel and dumping them.  You just dig a ditch and flop in these noodles, hook them up, and you're done.

I was sold.  No heavy lifting?  Perfect.  We broke the job into three parts.  The front, the side, and finally the back yards.  The front yard was first.  Our intention was to place these French drains all along the "drip line" of the overhanging roof.

We shot a line with string, measured and began digging.  The proximity to the house and landscaping precluded using a DitchWitch.  We dug by hand with shovels.

Since the product is flexible, we didn't need to worry about straight lines.  We used plastic cuffs to join noodles, and 90 degree corner pieces.

Once we laid in the noodles, we did the joins and ran drains out to the street.  Those were flexible tubing with no perforations.  We installed grates at the end of each exit line.

It worked very well.  It was easy to manipulate and we only had to cut a few of the noodles to shorten them, most we used full length.

Once the front was done, we covered the area with gravel and pavers to create a walkway around the house, behind the landscaping.  This had a couple of benefits, first, the ground was scraped here and the landscaping
already set back.  And second, we wanted to be able to walk around the house, so providing a walkway worked for us.

We reused pavers from the yard, purchased only the gravel.

The next part of the project was the side yard, around the dining room and out to the curb.

Then we started on the back yard.  This was the hardest part of the job.  There is a huge live oak that's roots were actually threatening to lift the cement patio.  In order to dig the trench around the patio, we had to cut through those roots using a chain saw.

Such. Hard. Work.

We finally got the trench dug and installed the noodles.  We dug the trench across the back of the house, down the side and to the curb.

We ran the pipes, connected them and then covered the trenches with dirt and sod.  When the first rain storm started, we grabbed our umbrellas and rushed out to see how the drains worked... because we did not want to to have to dig them up and fix anything!

They drained great.

We've had several frog-stranglers and each time, we survey the water flow to make sure the drains are working as expected.  So far, it's working just great.

My personal opinion is that these drain noodles (4 in. x 10 ft. NDS Prefabricated French Drain with pipe) are well worth the money.  Not having to deal with loads of gravel and the weight of throwing it--perfection.

We managed to do the whole project well within our budget.  Considering that our lowest contractor estimate was over $9,000, our modest expense of just under $2,000 was a steal.

Keeping the house protected is well worth the price and the hard work.  I'm glad to see the water flowing away from the foundation.

--  Sandee Wagner

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Another Outside Improvement

 So the latest project in the remodeling saga is a pretty expensive one.  We replaced all the soffits around the whole house.  They were rotten in a bunch of places (Beaumont is WET!) and had been painted over.  My DH reached up and poked his fingers through some places.  The thick layer of paint was the only thing holding some of the boards together.

We had a company replace it all with engineered wood that is guaranteed for 50 years.  Which is way longer than I will ever care...

The guys worked industriously and the weather held.  They were able to get the old soffits down and the new boards up in just a couple of days.

Once the soffits were up, it was time to pick a paint color.  They could have matched the old orange paint, but where's the fun in that?

I wanted a color that would contrast with the bricks and stone flower beds, not blend into them like the current color did.  I picked a couple of grays and then the guys painted the whole house.

Probably, I went too dark.

 I like how the gray looks with the brick.

I even like how it looks with that blonde stonework on the front flower bed.

The turquoise door now makes a lot more sense.

Next project was replacing those old jalousie windows.  They were single pane and most of them were inoperable.

I tried to price having them fixed and the glass re-glazed but no one wants to do that any more.

The original beams that 'support' the roof arches had long since rotted away.  The previous owners had them wrapped in sheet metal and painted to match the house.

We had the guys peel off the metal and build beams from the engineered wood.  Then we painted them a slightly darker gray than the rest of the house.  I don't have a picture with the beams painted out, but suffice it to say, I went either too dark on the house, or too light on the beams or a little of both.  It's not quite the contrast I was hoping for.
The new windows are framed in white and have only two panes per window frame instead of the three horizontal panes per jalousie opening.

I don't have a good picture of the new windows, but I will add one when I take a few pictures.

The windows made a real improvement on the overall looks of this house.

We took down all the guttering around the house.  I don't think we are going to put up new gutters.  I think we are going to do a drip line drainage project and make some dry stream bed looking areas to get the water to flow away from the house.  But that's a project for another day.

--  Sandee Wagner

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Curb Appeal

In my efforts to show some 'Before' and 'After' action, I wanted to show our latest curb appeal project.

Before, the house had an "add on" A/C hide right in the center front of the property.  When it was originally installed, I'm sure it hid the unit nicely.  By the time we shopped for this house, the A/C unit installed behind it was a good 6-8" taller than the brick surround.  The hide no longer hid.

During the sale period, before we signed the final papers, that A/C shot craps.  The previous owners had to replace it.  I called them and begged to have it moved to the right side of the house.  They were only willing to pay for the unit, I had to pay the A/C installers and the electricians the price of moving the unit.  Money well spent, I think.  So the A/C hide was empty, unlike in this photo.

I thought it looked really bad and it kind of interfered with the mid-century vibe of the house.  So I went to Lowe's and bought a Bagster.  I figured between the brick and the concrete pad, we could get away with their weight limitation.  You fill the Bagster and then call Waste Management and they come pick it up for a set fee.  Grand total $130 to haul off all the stuff.

Then we went to Harbor Freight to buy a sledge hammer.  My husband came home with two.  A sledgehammer for the brick and concrete removal, and a bottle of Sledgehammer red for the after party.  Did I mention that some friends came for the weekend to help with the project?  A great shout out to some stellar friends:  Tim and Andrea Burgess spent the weekend and helped with the removal of the eyesore.  They went home with the Sledgehammer red.

Once the guys started with the brick chisels and hammers, the hide came down pretty easily.  Our goal was to save enough brick from this structure to fix the side of the built in flower bed on the left side of the front of the house.  The back end of it was removed to mitigate some drainage issues and left open.  So the deconstruction of the hide was brick by brick--trying to save enough for that task.  The guys did great.  They even knocked the mortar off a bunch of the brick, cleaning it for reuse.

Finally, the A/C hide was down and the concrete pad tipped up and removed.  We relocated that to the back yard, it's just a square of concrete so we put it in a low bald spot and put a plant in a large container on that spot.

We were left with a pretty bare spot.  Our solution?  A sego palm.  The previous owner loved his segos and as they pupped, he put the pups in pots.  Our back yard is filled with baby segos and some have grown into pretty good sized plants.

We took one of the good sized ones and transplanted it to the spot where the A/C hide stood.  But first I had to throw 10 bags of topsoil on that place to fill in the trenches from the brick footers.  Luckily, the CrossFit is paying off and I can chunk heavy bags of dirt like a pro!

So here is the 'After' picture of the front of the house.  You can see the sego is smaller/shorter than the other two on the front of the house, but I think it blends in better than that brick A/C hide did.

I'm glad we were able to take that down.  A little power washing and that angled brick column will be as good as new.  I am hopeful that the sego will like that spot and grow well there.  If not, I have more in the back yard!

--  Sandee Wagner

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Having the Trees Trimmed

This is the front yard tree BEFORE
The new house has four big Live Oak trees on the lot.  One in the front, and three in the back yard.

Around here, we've been cautioned about helping our trees survive hurricane winds.  Apparently, the secret to having the trees survive storms is to keep them trimmed.  Folks who know what they are doing keep the big limbs clear of 'suckers' and the leaves and greenery out toward the tips of the limbs.  They also make sure the limbs won't scrape into each other.  Most loss of tree limbs is from the limbs banging together then shearing off.

I like the trees.  I like the shade.  I wanted to take care of them and make sure the first big wind doesn't take them out.  So I called a couple of tree guys recommended by the Texas Agricultural Extension office.  What an eye opener!  Apparently, trees are a very lucrative business.  These guys wanted to charge A Lot.  That eliminated them from my consideration.

This is the front yard tree AFTER
Then I just asked around.  "Who do YOU use to trim your trees?" I got a name and gave him a call.  It took him a couple of weeks to work me into his busy social schedule, but he finally came by and gave me an estimate.  We agreed on the price and scheduled a time for him to do the work.

He estimated a day's work for each tree.  He showed up with a truck and trailer, a ladder, a helper and his climbing gear.  Each time he determined that a limb needed to come off, he checked with me to make sure I agreed with his decision.  I told him, "I'm all about the shade!"  His rejoinder was, "I'm all about the trees."  I really trusted him.

This is Allen up in one of the trees.  He's about three stories up.  He worked from the ground, then a tall ladder, then climbed the tree.  He was thorough and methodical.

I took pictures throughout the process and each time I stepped out, he checked to make sure I still was pleased with the progress.

I was.  He did a great job.

When you look up now, you can see through the limbs up to the canopy without a lot of interior growth.  It allows the breezes to blow through but keeps all the shade.

His biggest challenge was one of the trees in the back yard.  It is close to the neighborhood electrical supply lines.  When the electric company comes through, they scalp the vegetation away in a parallel with a brush hog.  It caused the tree to grow very crooked.  Kind of overbalanced away from the electric lines.  He fretted over that tree, standing on the roof and debating with his helper how to reshape it so it would grow correctly.  I think he did wonderful job.  It looks a lot better now.

I am very pleased with Allen's work.  I think the trees look great and will flourish in the coming years.  I will keep Allen's Tree Experts business card.  In another five years, I'm sure I will be calling him again.

--  Sandee Wagner

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Powder Room ReDeux

Our powder room was a room of many entrances.  This small half bath had three, count 'em, three doors.  It was basically accessible from the family room, the laundry room and the outside.  That's right, it has an exterior door.  Go figure.

After chatting with folks about it, I had several people who thought a bathroom that was accessible to outside guests might not be a bad thing... so we left that door.  We did close the door from the laundry room into the half bath.  Because, it just needed less traffic.  When and if we enclose the garage, we will lose the exterior door into the powder room too.

But for now, it's getting a new wall mounted sink.  The old sink, besides being mounted about kid height up the wall, was yellow and really old.

This picture was taken through the entry into the laundry room.  That eggress has been eliminated.  Also, the dangly light fixture was heaved into a construction dumpster months ago.  The flowered wallpaper was covered and the wall textured and painted.  I did preserved that divider of louvered wood.  I think it's kind of architecturally interesting.

Today is all about the new wall mounted sink.  The plumbing has to be drastically altered--because, sixty year old house--but that was no surprise.  I found the fixture online and bought the wall mounted sink with integrated towel bar and I can't wait to see it hung!

This will be a couple day process because of the hole in the wall, which will need patching, resurfacing and painting before the actual sink is hung.  But today, that yellow sink went into the trash.  And before I get blasted by comments about reuse, recycle and all that... remember, I live in Beaumont, Texas.  Population 125,000.  There is NO place to recycle old plumbing fixtures.  There used to be a little old plumber with a junk yard full of toilets and sinks but he has passed on and no one picked up that "green" flag.  I checked.

If I lived in California or Seattle, I know of many businesses that would have loved to have resold those fixtures.  Interestingly enough, they wanted me to ship the cast iron things at my expense so they could be resold.  And that, my darlings, is why I did not recycle the fixtures.

After the plumber moved the pipes UP, it was my turn to try fixing the hole.  Because the sink is wall mounted, instead of a pedestal, the plumber had to open up a BIG hole and set up the cross bracing he'd need to support the fixture.

He also had to move the drain pipe to center up the sink and SURPRISE!! the old sink did not have shut off valves at all, so those had to be plumbed in new.  Now that it's roughed in, it's up to us to close the hole up and get the wall textured and painted.

Phase one complete.  I have cut the wallboard, screwed it in, taped the edges and put a first layer of mud around the seams to try and build up a layer for sanding and smoothing out.  This will take two or three layers to get it level and smooth.

Days of mudding, sanding and finally texture and paint.  The texture is not as good as a professional's job but I think that with the sink shadowing it, it will hold up and not be too noticeable.

I'm just glad I was able to build it up level and get it sanded to the point where it doesn't appear like a big divot in the wall!

A couple of coats of paint later and I was able to call the plumber to come back and install the new sink.  But, of course, he quit the company for a better job.

Today, two guys from the Plumbing Services Co. showed up today to install the fixture.  That they had not prepped the wall for... or had knowledge of how to mount prior to arrival.  Sigh.  It took them a LONG, looooong time.  God Bless them both for sticking to it and getting my new sink hung on the wall.

I think it looks nice.

I'm sure it's not strong enough for a toddler to dangle from that towel bar, but for us adults in a powder room, I could not be more happy.

I will hang a mirror I already own and see if I like it.  If not, I will shop for a new one.  But regardless, I'm calling this remodel done!

--  Sandee Wagner

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Befores and Afters

I have actually had a few people ask for more before and after pictures, so I have endeavored to take pictures from the same angles as the originals.  Now, all my furniture and stuff is in the after pictures, but I think you can see the difference the paint and new flooring makes.

 The front entryway, on the left, before, on the right, after.  Who would cover that gorgeous glass?  Someone who didn't like the bb holes.  We will replace it soon, but I need to save my pennies.
 The view across the sunken living room toward the dining room--which is a window surrounded bump out that was added on about 15 years after the house was built.
The dining room as it stands now.  I have some white curtains to hang so we can block a little of the sun but let the light come in.
 The built in buffet from the dining room.  Nothing about that changed.  I like it in its 1959 glory.
The view of the kitchen from the dining room.  We took down the door that separated the two rooms and completely redid the kitchen.
 The view from the great room through to the kitchen.
 The eat-in kitchen area.  All we really did there was the light fixture, paint and floors.
 The glass shelves of the built in dining room buffet from the great room.  Cleaned up a little and put some pretties out to show.
 The great room on the left shows the original walls and the carpeted floor.  We textured, painted and put down travertine floors.
 The bar was painted, given a new top and hardware.  I replaced the light fixture with a pendant.
 I took out the sliding doors and repurposed them in the laundry room.  We took out most of that wall and added the room to the kitchen.
 The kitchen got a total facelift.  Complete gut and reconfigure.  I like it a lot.

We are pretty happy with the transformation.  We will be saving up our money for the next phase of the remodeling.  We have to enclose the carport and then redo the two bathrooms.

--  Sandee Wagner

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Before and After, Kitchen and Bar

The original kitchen was miles of peach formica.  It covered the cabinets and went right up the walls.  The bar was small and ended in a wall.  This picture to the right is the view from the family room into the kitchen during the construction process.

This is the new kitchen layout.  The biggest changes are the wall we took out and the shift in the 'magic triangle'.  We moved the refrigerator from the left of the entry door across the kitchen so it is next to the eat in area and the window.

We moved the cooktop to the island which required jackhammering and running electric and gas to the new island.  Last, but not least, we centered the kitchen sink up under the window, it was offset below a cabinet before.

 Previously, the bar had a 'burled wood' formica top and an antiqued yellow paint job.  The mirror wall and glass shelves were in good shape so we decided to keep them.  We repurposed the light fixture into another room and added a simple pendant light.  We replaced the top with Silestone and painted out the cabinets in a bright white.

I will collect up some more of the before and after shots and put them here for your review.  Don't blast me in the comments for my choices, it's way too late to change this stuff!!

--  Sandee Wagner