Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trimming Eichler closet doors

Let's say you still  have the original sliding closet doors (which look really nice imho), and you decide to change your flooring such as putting some porcelain tile. Well, all of a sudden your floor is about 3/8" higher, and your closet doors won't fit anymore.

You have two options:
1- Trim the bottom of the doors: This is not a good idea in my opinion, because the bottom part of the frame will look different the sides.
2- Trim the doors at the top, re-adjust the hanging mechanism.

Well, I've decided to go with option #2. If you remove your doors, the hanging mechanism looks like this for the inner door:

That brown piece that is held by 2 screws is what is hanging the door on the rail, and that piece simply slides left/right on the rail. Re-Adjusting this inner door is relatively easy. You simply 1- unscrew the piece 2- drill new screw holes 3/8" (or whatever your adjustment is) below the original holes 3- screw in the piece in its new position. 4- Cut 3/8" wood from the top of the door. Otherwise the door will hit the ceiling and you won't be able to fit it back in. Here is a quick picture of old and new holes..

Outer door is a bit more challenging:

Note that the plastic hanger piece is in the inner face of the door, and the wood steps up about a 1/4". If you just repeat the steps for inner door, it won't work. because the rail will not fit between that step-up and the new position of the hanger piece. So, you actually need to trim the step up by 3/8" too. How will you do that? I used a circular saw and vibration cutter combination. First of all, you draw a straight line 3/8"below the step-up. Then you adjust  the depth of your circular saw to the height of the step-up, and cut through the line you've drawn. Now you need to put in the flat blade in your vibration cutter and take the strip of wood out by sliding the vibrating blade under it. Try to stay within 3/8" of an inch, but it won't break anything if you go any further.

See the pictures below.

  Done.. Now you can put hanger plastic in place and hang your door.

Important things to note:
-Be very careful with power tools. That blade doesn't know the difference between lumber and your finger.
-If there are any staples on your way, take them out before you start cutting. You don't want to cut through those, because it may kick back your blade and create a dangerous situation.
- Note that each door has two plastic hangers. Make sure you don't switch their positions, because they're not quite the same. The screw holes are not identical, and you'll have serious alignment issues if you accidentally switch them. Ask me how I know...

Anyway, your next task is going to be figuring out how to install the metal guide on your new flooring..

Monday, December 26, 2011

Let's put on some 3d wall tiles

We've been eyeing these wall flats at Inhabit Living, specifically the braille design as it looks really cool. The tiles come in 18x18 size and they have to be put on the wall either with mastic or with contact cement. The tiles are flexible but relatively had, they just feel like cardboard.

I've decided to go with the mastic route and started putting them on. It is fairly straightforward, but it is time consuming to ensure that mastic is spread properly and tiles are set properly. Here is the work in progress:

The hardest part is ensuring all corners stick the wall properly. Sometimes a corner refuses to stay in place and keep popping up probably because I didn't spend time to bend all to make them flat prior to installation. For those persistent corners, I used a couple finishing nails as installation instructions recommended. 
I've also had difficulty in cutting these tiles for the edges or around outlets. The instructions recommend using a razor knife, but it is impossible to cut through bubbles correctly without damaging them using a knife. Then I realized that oscillating cutter is the perfect tool to cut these 3d tiles without messing up the bubbles:

After two days, here is all the wall tiles in place:

Still, I need to
-caulk the edges and between tiles to minimize the seams.
- prime it
- paint it.

We'll see how hard it will be to prime and paint this 3d wall with a brush, not a sprayer...

After a looong time, here is a quick update on the 3d wall tiles.
Painting this is a total pain in the neck. I had to do two coats of paint with a brush and had to paint every single bubble one by one to ensure they look uniform. Next time, I may want to hire a painter with a spray gun and let him take care of it!

After all done, here is what it looks like. From distance, it almost looks like it is not painted, because I painted it off-white. We were initially planning to paint all of it to off-white and paint some of the bubbles with bright colors like red, orange and yellow randomly. We've never quite executed on that. We might some time in the future...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kitchen is finished (almost)

The kitchen remodel is pretty much finished. Backsplash is in, even the floors are cleaned up. Now I got to peel up those blue protective covers and start putting the handles on. But before that, here are some pics of the outcome.

Update after moving in:
We've finally removed everything , and here's the finished kitchen:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finally .. wall is being removed

After getting all the permits and stuff, we're finally executing on the wall removal project.  I am tired of writing the same stuff over and over again, so I'll share the pictures and you can get the context from previous post.

First of all, this is what we saw when we removed the paneling on garage-bonus room wall in order to reinforce this wall:

It says "E-41 Fairbrae". So it turns out that our house is not an E-11, it is an E-41. We were wrong. Now we know thanks to that 50 yr old chalk marking.

Then Michael drilled all the holes in the slab in order to put the new bolts and hold-downs in:

We've repeated the same for the small section of wall between entry and kitchen:

Finally, we've added plyboard on these walls and closed them!

Now, let's start talking about actual wall removal instead of shear reinforcement.. Here is a picture after removing the wall between bonus room and living room:

Note that the post is currently missing too (hence the supports under each beam), because we needed a new post. The existing post is about 1/2" shorter than it needs to be in order to fit exactly between that post anchor on the foundation and the steel beam support thingy. 

Here is what it looks like after the new post is in place. Also note the bottom sill-plate for the new wall is in place (left lower corner of the pic), and it is nailed to the foundation (without puncturing any radiant pipes thanks to the infrared thermometer):

And finally the new wall completed:

Another problem you'll encounter during the removal of this wall is rerouting the electrical. I wish I'd taken a picture before disconnecting the electrical, but following picture will give you an idea:

Basically, someone designed the electrical in these houses as:
- power on this circuits comes down from the roof into this wall.
- It comes down into an electrical box, where  the line is split into two:
       -One line powers the outlets on this wall as well as one outlet on the left side of the fireplace.
       -2nd line goes back up in the roof and it powers the water heater/radiant heater!

This sucks, because we need to find a way to continue powering the water heaters and the outlet next to fireplace. Luckily, our electrician Sergio was able to fit a shallow junction box in the ceiling to continue the circuit without interruption all the way to water heaters, and he routed electricity to the outlet next to the fireplace through the outside from the garage outlet. 

Of course, there is still a lot of filling, sanding and painting to do, but those are all minor stuff...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Radiant pipes, how to avoid hitting them?

Part of our remodel involves putting in anchor bolts to reinforce existing walls and nailing new divider walls into concrete slab. So, how do we make sure we don't damage any of the radiant pipes during the process.

Actually it is relatively easy to map out your radiant pipes:
1- Go get an "infrared thermometer" from you local home improvement shop. A $30 one will do the job
2- Turn off your radiant heat for a day, and let the slab cool down.
3- Come back after a day and turn on the radiant heat.
4- Give it 30 mins-60 mins for the pipes to warm up. Don't wait too long, otherwise the heat distribution will become uniform.
5- Slowly slide the infrared thermometer across the slab 2-3 inches away.

You'll normally see 64-65 degree readings. But, if you cross a hot  pipe, the thermometer will show 75 degrees or so. Just take a painters tape and mark those hot sections.

I've just marked the hot pipe locations, and my contractor avoided from nailing the new wall into slab at those locations. Meantime, we've also discovered that there are no radiant pipes under any of the internal wall we've touched.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wall Removal - Plans, Permits and Budget planning

Initially, the folks at the city suggested that if it is not a load bearing wall, then I can simply sketch a plan and get my permit. So, I've sketched a brief plan and went to the city for a permit application. I was immediately greeted by the structural engineer as my permit involves wall removal, he looked at it and pretty much said "No waaaay!". The city engineer argued that I have a lot of walls running perpendicular to the front elevation, but only a few walls running parallel to the front elevation as there is a lot of glass instead, so removing this particular wall, even though it is not load bearing, would reduce the resistance of the house to lateral shaking in case of an earthquake.

While  I wasn't happy with this outcome, his argument made sense. He suggested if I remove that wall, then I have to close atrium windows with 1/2" plyboard to make up for the removed lateral resistance. Of course, I have no intention to replace my floor to ceiling windows with any kind of wall, so I said I'll think about it, picked up all my papers and left the city department without any trace ;).

I wasn't satisfied with the answer I got, and I've decided to find an independent structural engineer to discuss the problem in hand and potential solutions. One of the Eichler specialist architects I talked to recommended Brian Dotson Consulting Engineer. Brian was cool, and we had lengthy discussions on how we can engineer a solution that would be as safe as keeping the wall from an earthquake resistance point of view, and something that the city would accept.

Brian has  come up with the following solution, ran the calculations and provided the plans for the permit application. Here is the engineering plan:
- Remove the wall between bonus and living rooms, keep the load bearing post.
- Anchor this load bearing post by bolting it down to the foundation.
- Reinforce the wall between garage and bonus room (which is a parallel wall 10' away) to make it a shear wall for added lateral resistance. Reinforcement involves:
            - Bolting it down to the foundation with new thick bolts and washers
            - Adding hold-downs on both ends of the shear wall
            - Covering the wall with 1/2" plywood.
            - Nailing the upper sill plates to the ceiling.

We've decided to pull the trigger despite the increased cost, and our contractor Michael Pellegrino has applied for the permit using Brian's plans. The city did not accept the plan as is and required us to reinforce a section of the wall between atrium entry and kitchen in addition to the reinforcements Brian proposed. Again, the cost went up, but we still wanted to remove the wall, and decided to go for it. Michael got the permit, and we moved on to the actual implementation phase.

Oh by the way, if you are planning to do something like this, reserve 5K for it. With all the engineering, permits and work involved, this one ended up as the most expensive component of our remodel after the new roof.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wall Removal - Comparing options

Here comes the most exciting part of our remodel: Removal of the wall between bonus room and living room. In our model, this wall is spanning across 3 beams, and removing the wall requires dealing with the load bearing post holding up the middle beam. If you look carefully, there isn't a single beam there. There are two beams meeting there and being held up by that post. Before we finalized our decision on this, we've considered the following options:
Option 1: Remove the wall, but keep the load bearing post.
Option 2: Remove the wall, remove the load bearing post too. Run a cross-beam across to carry the middle beam.

Option 2 also requires reinforcing the concrete slab under the posts where the edges of the new cross-beam is supported, because the load is going be 50% more on each of those posts. This involves breaking into the slab and pumping extra concrete. We didn't like this option as it will likely result in damaging the radiant pipes.

So, we've decided to go with option 1, and we'll keep the post in the middle of the living/dining area! Imagine things you can do with a post in the middle of a room! :)

There are obviously two ways to handle wall removal:
- Follow your intuition, skip the permits.
- Go to the city, pull a permit, and suffer the consequences.

We wanted to play safe on this one decided to go with the more painful route of getting permits for the wall removal, because we didn't want it to be a red flag for a future re-sale of the property. That said, we've decided to move on to the next stage of seeking permits