Tales of the crappy house

So, I’ve been kind of quiet recently, in case you hadn’t noticed. That’s partially just sheer busyness and partially that my mood’s been kind of up-and-down. I continue to feel somewhat rootless and vaguely unsettled. A feeling which doesn’t seem to be going away particularly. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that, or what to do with it. It nibbles away at me in a way I’ve not worked out how to address.

Anyhow, so. In other news, I went to CES for Transport Evolved.

A week in Las Vegas*… yay?

CES was incredible though – lots of interesting tech, must be great if you have time to just wander… Anyhow, I had fun, learned loads, had the pleasure of my good friend Nikki’s company and also of meeting Brandon, our epic camera man. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do it next year too :)

The house, though, is the main thing that’s occupied our time. First up there’s the roof – which has been a tedious experience. The roofers are crap, that’s basically the summary. They’re careless and rushed. Which means that the quality of their work is really, really poor. They came back today to fix the mistake they made last time – where they put the skylight in the wrong place – because they “didn’t measure it”. That seriously was a component of their excuse, and I don’t think it’s half-as good an excuse as they seem to think it is.

In the process they damaged the brand new guttering.

They’ve also left seams that are very poorly bonded.

So they’ll be coming back again (more’s the pity), but we can’t really afford someone else to fix it.

On the plus side, the guttering is up and looks nice (except where they scraped it), and the catch pits for the rain water drains are in place front and back. We concreted them in, and it looks a lot nicer than the old bit of plastic tube sticking out of the ground. Our dry-well is still laughably far from dry, and we’re planning a much enhanced drainage system involving a rain-garden at the back.

We have also started work on framing – framing in the old back bedroom window and the kitchen window. The window was pretty simple**, the kitchen window was such a shoddy bit of wall that we decided to rip the whole thing down and reframe that entire section.

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Unsurprisingly, since the house is car-decking*** basically stacked on a ring foundation of concrete, the edges of the floor are hideously damp (has no one heard of a damp proof course?). Hopefully it’ll improve with the new (improved) drainage system (the pump being connected and the water being transported away from the house). Also, having functional gutters may help.

We’ll see.

We’ve also started framing up for the new windows – which we are doing without actually cutting out the old siding yet. We haven’t got the windows yet because we haven’t heard from our window supplier (who I really should call tomorrow)… but it’s fun to start to imagine it.

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We’ve also started replacing the rotten car-decking and removing the old plumbing. Discoveries:

– The bath leaked because the drain pipe had corroded through. Their solution to this had been to wrap the pipe in a plastic bag and fill the space with expanding foam sealant. No, really.

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– The floor was rotten underneath the bathroom wall because the bath leaked.
– Apparently it was considered perfectly acceptable by the previous owner / contractors to use the tongue-and-groove bit of the flooring to support the floor when they cut through the floorboards not above any beams. There was a three-floorboard stretch which was just floating in mid-air.

Mainly we’ve repaired that front section using salvaged bits of floor. They’d used short sections of car decking in the walls and ceilings, and by sorting what we found we’ve ended up with enough to do a chunk of floor…

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There’s still an enormous chunk that needs new flooring, but we’re currently leaving that open so I can go and play in the rat poop do the new plumbing. In the mud and ick.

Anyhow, tomorrow I’m off to work, then Thursday I get the joy of taking our new (used) car to the dealer to fix the 3 faults that appeared between us buying it and the end of the week after we bought it. I’m glad we sprung for the painfully pricey warranty.

Our Rav 4 EV has also been to the dealer this week for it’s 4th iteration of a door lock repair. Here’s hoping this one works.

* ugh. I am not a fan. My main Las Vegas memories are rude people, the stench of stale cigarette smoke, and general grottyness. CES was interesting, and I enjoyed the stuff I saw, but the place itself I’d say I can take it or leave it, but really I’d just leave it.

** apart from me buying the wrong sheathing, us nailing it in, then having to remove it and replace it with the right stuff. Meh.

*** 3cm thick floorboards, for those not in the US

Progress Report: It’s going somewhere

This past weekend was utterly exhausting – we did, however, get the house enclosed. Sorta. See we managed to get all the sheathing up, but the cordless nailer I bought got part way through the day then decided it was time for a nice rest.

I’ve given it a “clean” (which involves cleaning the barrel) and will run it back tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

But the nailer deciding to have a rest meant that the sheathing is attached with fewer nails that would be ideal – most of which have been hand driven. So we’ll see what happens with that.

Anyhow, so… Taking a step back. Kathryn, Liz and I managed to get all of the asphalt shingles off (and into the dumpster); along with all of the black paper. Our amazing builders managed to get the old trusses off (mainly intact – we need to come up with some way of protecting them), and managed to get the new trusses on*. The new sheathing went on (except for the bit around the weatherhead), and lo, they came to dry in the building.

The one spectacularly large fly in the ointment was that the siding couldn’t just be stuck on because the new trusses are stepped in by between 0″ and 5/8″ depending on where on the wall they’re sitting. Because we own a trapezoid, not a rectangle.

So Kathryn and I spent the entirety of the weekend making little furring strips (or shims, as I’d call them), to space each section of siding out so it would align with the siding below. Which was clearly cut by someone who didn’t give a rats ass – because it’s all at different levels and the word straight cannot be applied to it. So each piece of siding had to be cut – and then often slightly trimmed – to get a fairly close fit.

Then we could nail them up.

Only part way through the nailer packed up.

But since the house is now sort of enclosed, we could at least take a breather…only not, because we were expecting the roof to go on this Wednesday. Only today I found out that it may not happen Wednesday, because clearly there was some question I needed to ask that I didn’t. See, the electricians came today to install the new panel and weatherhead. It’s huuge. And clean. And doesn’t look like a pile of electrocution waiting to happen.

Anyhow.

There he is, installing the panel, and he cheerfully explains he’ll be back after PSE have moved the power across. Which is happening “this week”.

I’m confused, and after some discussion I grok that the panel installation is separate from the PSE visit – and the twain shall never meet. Now, the problem is the old weatherhead is in the way of the roof. So I call our roofers and go “uh, the weatherhead is still in the way” and have yet to hear an answer on what’s happening there.

Also, today we tried to let in all the vents – and failed. So we’ll have to carry on doing that tomorrow.

I shall be glad when we’re off everyone else’s schedules, and back to “this is what we want to accomplish” and the only people who gets pissy about it not happening is us.

* after an utterly panic inducing period in which a failure in communication between the old contractor, the truss company, me and the new contractor meant that we had noooo idea that the trusses were not meant to be a perfect fit. Indeed, they’re a fairly poor fit. But that’s the way they engineered it.

It’s getting a little more optimistic

So after much frantic calling and meeting, we’ve lined up a general contractor and the truss delivery. Signed contracts. Handed over large scads of cash (in cheque form). And…the new roof should be going on starting the 11th Dec. With that looming deadline we’ve kicked things into high gear…

Myself, Kathryn and Liz have been hard at work gutting the inside – there is now virtually nothing left except a 904 sq ft toilet. All the ceiling is down, all the internal walls have gone, all the insulation is gone… Nearly all the wiring is out – there’s a few straggly strands, but nothing above wall height. This afternoon we stripped the shingles off half the roof (except for a teeny bit around the satellite dish – which we need the socket set to remove before we can take off the shingles) and we took down the car port.

On Thursday plan is – remove the other half of the shingles. That’s a more tricky side because that’s where the weatherhead is.

Unfortuantely, our electrician can’t get in before the 18th Dec – so he’s going to be in on that morning moving that and we’ll then need to quickly replace one section of plywood before they dry in. The roofing contractor should, hopefully, be there to dry in the roof on the 18th, also. Then coming back a week or two later to put on the metal roof.

We’ve also finally ordered the windows and doors (except the front door). This turned into a bit of a journey with us having to change the spec on the window sizes twice – the person I was originally getting the quote from leaving the company – and having to get our drawings approved again after tweaking the window sizes. First up, Kathryn realized that the kitchen window was too tall and would stop below the level of the work surface (bad). Then our window person (the second one) realized that our two egress windows would not meet egress requirements (insufficient clear glass space). Still, it was eventually done.

In other housey news we have gas! They fitted the wrong meter, then came back and fitted the right one. I’m sure our neighbours loved the 2 days of stop/go traffic on the street, but I have to admit, the end result is pretty invisible.

We’ve also got a trench in the garden to what was intended to be a dry well, but is currently a very wet well. We’re going to do some more experimental digging to see if we can turn it into a dry well by getting through the clay layer, but it may be that the clay layer is too thick. In which case it’ll just all have to drain into the road, which’d not be ideal.

Uh, I think that’s it….

I do have a bid lined up for supplying the kit for our heating / hot water system, and the rest of it I think is just us going round to various building supplies places and forking out cash… Oh, and me learning how to plaster on drywall, not on lath. And then a lot of plastering. Oh dear god the amount of plastering…

But for the moment, it’s fingers crossed time until a few weeks from now when hopefully we get a new roof :)

(No pictures today, because Flickr is broken on my computer).

So everything is all lined up…ah oh.

building with stick figure eyes/arms collapses

Uh.

Our contractor sent us an e-mail which, to paraphrase and summarise, said:

Something went horribly wrong on another job due to a subcontractor, I don’t think I can do your job now*

What it didn’t tell us is what state things were in. So I’ve been trying to catch our truss supplier and our roofing company and find out when they need to know by, and please don’t cancel it yet, and dear goddess what do we do now.

After 5 contractors have been and gone, one because we just didn’t like them (so after the bid we were done), and one because he just wandered off in the middle of a text conversation about scheduling and then didn’t come back for months. But now 2 on this job have screwed us and because of one of them we lost another contractor and we’ve pretty much lost all faith in anyone in Oly being a decent contractor.

It’s not like in the UK it was all smooth sailing, we got screwed by contractors doing shoddy work that had to be fixed, but apart from a rare few over the years, people turned up. People did some work of some sort. It may be shit and need rectification, but it actually got done.

We can’t even get past planning here. We get people who waffle around for months then decide they don’t want to do it, we get people who suddenly announce that they need to shuffle our job to months in the future, and now we’ve got a permit, we’ve got approved truss diagrams and quotes, we’ve got roofers ready to go, we’ve ripped out the electrics, we have an electrician scheduled and no f’kin general contractor to put the trusses on.

We’re now considering:
1) Hiring day labour to put them up ourselves
2) Finding an installer to just do the trusses**
3) Screaming endlessly into the void

* Although talking to the Truss Supplier – he said that he’d been told we were worried about keeping the house dry and so he’d had to move the date. Which is a WTF?! We *explicitly* agreed that we were fine with water getting in the house. We didn’t want it open for weeks and weeks, but what now?! Where did this come from?
** Although our Truss Supplier seems to think that is going to be a stretch because most of them are tied up until the Spring.

Sometimes I do wonder if the world is picking on us

Now realistically I know that we are not the centre of the universes, and as I don’t believe in any deities, it’s pretty hard to imagine the random nature of the universe coinciding to pick on us, specifically.

But it sure does feel that way sometimes.

Let me walk you through this…

Yesterday it became apparent that our house actually came with a swimming pool. The insulation contractor came, looked at the house, and in the process of preparing to go into the crawl space we discovered that the house was actually standing in about 6″ of water.

This did not make me happy.

However, the house does have a sump pump and so with some trepidation, I pulled an extension cable through the window and plugged it in. In an astonishing first of its kind experience, the pump worked.

However, it demonstrated why the crawlspace is flooded, and the pump disconnected.

Water pours from the leaking drains

Yes, in another fine example of “why do something properly if you can do it both cheaply and badly”, our gutters drain in to above-ground soak-away pipes which… are completely blocked once they do get in to the ground. So while the pump did pump the water out from under the house, it immediately leaked out of the pipe and then poured back in through the crawl-space hatch.

Hi-la-ri-ous.

Cue much faffing and, in the end, abuse of the vacuum cleaner hose, which allowed me to at least get the worst of it out and turn our garden into a swamp. Of course, the pointfullness of this activity was somewhat reduced by the fact that it rained overnight, and this morning.

So I got to the house today having bought 20 feet of soakaway drainage hose. My thought being that it would probably be okay if it was not full of leaves and mud, at least until we get the new gutters and get some soakaways (or drywells, as they seem to be called here) built. I ended up pulling the one out of the ground in the front garden and replacing it with one of the new 10′ runs. I also created a new connection for the sump pump that allowed me to leave it connected. Don’t ask*.

Then I tried that at the back, but it rapidly became apparent that the water was just running out of the soak-away hose and back into the crawlspace.

So I unplugged the pump, got in the car and headed back to the hardware shop. As I drove off, one street away, I pulled aside to allow a fire engine to go flying past. I had the usual momentary thought of “I wonder if they’re going to our house, nah”.

And I continued on my way.

And I was away for all of, maybe, 20 minutes.

I returned with 10′ of non-perforated hose (I should have got twenty foot).

And then I found this note on our door…

OFD forced entry to check for a death...but it was the wrong house

And then I nudged the door and discovered that the frame was split, and the door no longer locked. Thankfully, because I wasn’t gone long, it doesn’t look like anything was taken. I pulled some nails out from the trim and used them to put the door-frame back into some kind of holdable state, then fished in the giant box of pulled nails and screws (for chucking in metal recycling, conceptually), and pulled out a couple of long not-too-rusty screws. Using them I could fix the latchplate into the building frame rather than just the door frame.

And it at least sort-of locks. Oly Fire Dept are coming tomorrow to replace the door and frame.

But seriously. Seriously!

I was gone 20 minutes. If they’d have arrived 5 minutes earlier I’d’ve been at the house. And it was the wrong house anyway.

The world is laughing at me, I swear it.

And of course, because the house is only semi-secured I felt I needed to pull all the tools and my bike out. So they’ve all come home, but in the process of arguing my bike into the car, I managed to smear oil onto the backs of the seats. Which is pretty irritating.

* Did you ask? *sigh* Okay, I drilled a hole in the siding, in a section we’re planning to cut out, fed the cable through and duct-taped over it.

Nibbled to death by ducks

My aged laptop (9 years old) is apparently attempting to gradually consume my money. In addition to its already irritating tendency to reboot itself at random moments, the replacement (used) power supply cable is starting to break (but I’m really unwilling to pay for a new one for it), and… now the right speaker has failed.

Not in a “oh, the right speaker isn’t working” way, but in a “oh, it’s horribly distorted” way.

Problem is I don’t really feel like I have the cash to throw at a decent replacement. Indeed, my broad intention was not to replace it. And perhaps that’s the path down which I need to go. I have the Pinebook I can use for things where I need to do a decent amount of typing, and the Yogabook for things where I want to do only a little typing.

But trying to research stuff for the house on either of those is less than ideal. While the Yogabook is adequately quick, it is at the end of the day a tablet, and while the pinebook is more laptopy, it is at the end of the day a Raspberry Pi in a posh box.

The reason I don’t want to replace the mac is a two-parter. One is that I am intending to get a decent PC when we have the house finished, and the other is that if I were to replace this I’d want to replace it with something actually good.

But I’m disappointed Apple. My last laptop, the ever disintegrating Dell, beyond its murderous approach to battery management never actually had component issues. The case gradually broke, and it got painfully, painfully slow to use as software requirements got greater. But it always actually worked. And I sold it at about the same age as this Macbook is now.

But the Macbook I can’t sell as a working computer (not that it’s worth much) because of its faults. *looks at Apple*.

Ah, yes, that about describes it.

Here is the current learning curve: Overhanging cliff by Jason Priem, via Flickr

So, back when we were planning to build our house from scratch there were many things we didn’t need to learn. Why? Well, because we had an architect who was able to inform us of how we should do things. Now, because we have a contractor for just some of the work – and he’s asking us exactly what we want (which is exactly as it should be), we’re getting to make exciting decisions like “how do we want to vent the roof” or, in our case, not vent it.

Having spent some time reading up on vaulted roofs, our now expert opinion is that we should fork out for a thin layer of closed cell insulation over which we can throw fiberglass (because that’s what we can afford) to meet the required R-value in the space allowed. That means, ideally, tweaking the roofing to have a small gap under the metal to allow it to dry out in an upward direction.

Which means adding furring strips.

Which weren’t in the original quote.

Which means changing something.

Which means getting someone to ring me back.

Which it turns out is proving difficult this morning.

Of the 6 people I’ve contacted this morning I’m running about a 50% return rate (well, actually, it’s exactly 50%). Unfortunately, the 50% that’ve called me back are:

– The porta-loo company (which I don’t need to book yet)
– The insulation company (which I would like a quote from, but he’s asked to do it by e-mail)
– Our contractor (who’s asked for a bit more time to get an answer).

The electrical, the guttering, and the roofing.. the people I actually more urgently need to speak to? They haven’t yet called me back. I’m hoping they will, as they’ve been pretty good about returning calls, but it’s not always been rapid. Problem is I don’t really want to head out until I’ve got answers as I really could do with the answers while I have my big book of notes to write them in, and not them calling me back in the middle of a shop. Which is obviously what will happen.

Not to count chickens but…

Quoth the e-mail this morning: “The above-referenced permit has been approved and is ready to be issued”.

Just the electrical permit to submit and I need to check on my waste water plumbing plan.

Now the terror begins.

In which I think out-typed some more

I’ve been feeling this melancholia or even the vague edges of depression again. I cheer up around Kathryn and around friends, but even then at times I’m feeling the edges of something that’s concerning to me. And I’m not sure exactly why. I know I miss Europe – and I miss feeling comfortable with traveling. I miss a sensible length of paid holidays, not worrying that the the next illness could suck all the money from our scant savings.

I know that the rise of the right wing has fucked up much of Europe as much as it’s fucking up America, and I don’t really know what to do with that in my head. I know that the UK that I thought at least partially existed is nothing more than a mirage from living in left-leaning liberal bits of England where people who weren’t white and weren’t English were welcomed.

I get that. It hurts. But I get it.

It’s funny, because in many respects, job-wise we’re both better off than we’ve ever been. If we can ever get this house project moving and, indeed, get it done, it’s much closer to building our own house than we’ve ever done before. I mean, it’s frustratingly not building our house on the land we bought for that purpose. And that leaves it with an edge of frustration. As does the startling discovery that the city really care about the appearance of that street.

I dunno. It all just feels vaguely unsatisfactory and I can’t entirely explain why.

I’m hoping this will improve when we actually get started on something, as at the moment my brain is mainly occupied with being frustrated about things we can’t afford to do.