Tag Archives: Remodel


This is one of those “Why didn’t we do this when we had the house all torn up last fall?” situations.

Last fall during the big remodel, we rewired the entire kitchen and downstairs powder room and two upstairs bedrooms.  For reasons which seemed good at the time (I hate to say how much that job cost!), we left out the front bedroom, and the miscellaneous wiring in the hall and entryway, all of which was ancient ungrounded knob-and-tube.  This fall (after having been turned down by three insurance companies because we still had working knob-and-tube wiring) we brought back Scott the electrician, and asked him to replace all the remaining knob-and-tube.

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Posted in Personal

Lights Out

Last night was a mixed experience.  The first part was great.  We had tickets for the San Francisco revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.  We rode BART; no agonizing over parking.  We had an excellent Italian dinner at 54 Mint; I recommend it if you’re taking in a show.  The evening was warmer than it has been.  The show was amazing.  The show was fabulous.  The production number of Anything Goes that ends the first act has to be seen to be believed.  (Yes, I liked it!)  Rachael York, singing Reno Sweeney, out-belted every other voice in the cast (unfortunately including the male lead, who was good but not in her class) – a great singer, a great dancer.  Musicals like this are the 20th century equivalent of the grand opera, and I love them even if the plots are silly (and they are).

The show over, we rode BART back, picked up the car, drove back to the condo in Adams Point where we are currently living while we remodel the house, and set about going to bed.  Time, about 11:45 PM.  I shut down both computers and started over to the couch to cool down with a crossword puzzle – and the place went black.  I was just realizing that I’d heard a kind of a thump – when I heard another one, more clearly an explosion, and I realized the power was out.  I probably heard a transformer (or two) blowing up.

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How’s the Remodel Coming?

It’s going very well indeed.  The incredible thing is that the contractor gave us a project plan in August, and here we are in December and as of last week we were slightly ahead of schedule.  I told you we hired them because of the project manager.  I asked him last week if I could tell the house cleaning service to put us back on their schedule in February and he said yes!

So as of last week:  the kitchen and half bath have been dismantled, the windows replaced, the plumbing and electrical work upgraded (plus some structural reinforcement), and the drywall put up, mudded, sanded, and primed.  The floor is insulated.  (Yay!)  The kitchen cabinet install is in process.  The upstairs has been rewired, the ceilings drywalled, the closet frame rebuilt, and everything has been patched, mudded, and primed.  The bathroom plumbing has been redone, the bathroom window is now double-paned (and with a plastic latch, which will handle all the water much better than the brass one did).

During our weekly conference last Friday, the floor guys were ripping up the second floor, which we have to replace.  Since we’re doing this because the wood is too thin to hold the boards during a refinish, all the old nails were sticking up from the subfloor, and as we got there the team was – hammering them all down.  There must have been three guys up there, all pounding nails into the subfloor at once; it sounded like an artillery range.  We were relieved when the manager went up and asked them to take a short break while we discussed some details.

We’re about halfway through this.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been in the condo for two months already, with two more to go.  The wood for the second floor has been delivered and is sitting upstairs getting acclimated, we expect that install next week.  It’s been quite an experience, and it isn’t done.

Oh, and I saw a goldeneye on Lake Merritt yesterday, along with either a horned or an eared grebe – they’re about the same size.  They’re different in detail, but I can’t see that kind of detail against water in the sun, especially when the thing is underwater half the time.  I thought it was a juvenile of a larger grebe until I looked in Sibley and saw there are two breeds that are each only about a foot long.

Posted in Personal

Ducks on the Lake

I don’t have pictures, because when I walked over to the library to return some books, I didn’t think to take the camera – or the binoculars, and that was a mistake too.  I walked back along Lake Merritt (the library is right at the end of an arm), and saw several grebes, a few small ducks I’m pretty sure were scaups of some kind, and a handsome pair of canvasbacks (handsome also in the secondary sense of “moderately large” – canvasbacks are big ducks!).

I passed a woman talking on her cellphone who was shouting excitedly into it, “They’re back, they’re back, it’s early for them,” and peering out over the lake.  I interrupted her conversation to ask what she thought she saw and she said there were buffleheads out on the lake, but they were way out, and the best photos I could get with the crummy zoom in my camera were just fuzzy duck-shaped blobs.  I’ll go back with the binoculars and maybe the 300mm lens one of these days.

It’s a genuine pleasure to be able to walk along a lake full of birds any time I like.  When the remodel is over, I must come back down here more often.

Speaking of the remodel, we passed the rough inspection Friday, which means they can start covering up the walls, starting with a plywood shearwall in the kitchen.  We’re moving right along.

Posted in Neighborhood, Personal Also tagged |

The Condo

So we’re living in a rental condo while the remodel continues apace.  I haven’t lived in a rental since I think 1976.  My biggest problem before the move was the fact that we couldn’t look at the place until the day we got the key (it was occupied).  Once we saw it, it was and is very nice.

condo interior

Our house is 1,600 square feet and the condo is only 750, but our house is 2 stories, so this is about the size of our first floor.   It’s a good thing we don’t mind spending a lot of time together, there’s no room in a one-bedroom unit for a privacy freak.  There’s also (ahem!) only one toilet; we’re used to a spare on the other floor!  The kitchen is adequate (except that we both prefer gas stoves) but really not big enough for both of us to potter around in it at once.

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Posted in Neighborhood, Personal


This has been going on since the first of October, but Jim wouldn't let me blog about it because he didn't want to advertise to the world that the house was empty.  (He overestimates the audience of this blog.) Now that the contractor's sign is in the front yard and the Port-A-Potty graces the parking strip, it's ok for me to blog about the project from time to time, because anyone can tell that the house is under construction.  

We wanted new kitchen countertops and a new stove.  That's how it began.  The kitchen was last redone in 1980, and it's showing its age.  We did the usual get-3-quotes routine, and chose a local firm, largely because they assigned us an extremely competent project manager.  We paid them to do the design and plan the project before committing to it, and in the process found we could work well with them.

As anyone who's ever remodeled soon learns, it's never that simple.  Our contractor also has a very good kitchen designer with some really interesting ideas about cabinetry; and of course we had to bring the kitchen wiring and lighting up to code; and so it goes.  The last kitchen remodel turned an original built-in china cabinet into a half bath (which was very useful to me in my various knee surgeries, when I couldn't climb stairs).  The half bath was decorated to match the kitchen, so now that we're redoing the kitchen, of course we have to make the half bath match the new look…  you get the idea.

It isn't just the kitchen, of course.  The house is 95 years old, a beautiful Craftsman; the original permits were pulled in 1917.  Some things have been updated, but a lot haven't, particularly the upstairs wiring (where our computers are); we haven't painted the interior since we moved in (or the exterior in much too long); we refinished the downstairs floors 26 years ago when we moved in and they're now showing wear too.  I realize it sounds like we're redoing the whole house, but we aren't really.  None of the changes is structural (unless we find something awful inside a wall).  Compared to our neighbors, who moved out for 9 months (with 2 small children) and added a story, this is just repair work. 

I thought, when they said it would take 10-12 weeks to do the kitchen, that we should consider moving out and just doing a whole lot of stuff while living in reasonable comfort somewhere else.  It took Jim awhile to buy into that, but he did. So we have rented a small condo in Oakland's Adams Point neighborhood, a couple of blocks from Lake Merritt, and there we will stay until (we hope) the end of January.  We brought the essentials with us – I still can't believe we did it in one day.  Everything we didn't bring with us is in storage at Bekins.  And don't think I haven't heard about throwing out "stuff we don't need" when we move back in!

The original plan was 10-12 weeks beginning October 1, but that assumed nothing would go wrong, so we extended the rental through January – and suddenly the project is running through January.  I've told the project manager that I don't care what he does with the internals of the plan as long as the end date doesn't slip.  We have our first project meeting with them tomorrow; the kitchen has been stripped out to the studs, which fortunately uncovered no structural problems.

I had a terrible time doing this.  The prospect of moving out of the house just paralyzed me, I couldn't concentrate on anything for weeks.  I kept repeating, it'll look beautiful when it's done, and not believing myself.  But oddly, once we had moved into the rental, and the packing was done and the house cleared out, I found I can live with it.  I even like the condo; more on that later.  But the adventure has begun.

Posted in Personal