A little research

The addition on the side of the house will add his and her walk in closets.  It will be a block structure added on to the side of the house.  Of course it needs a good foundation and it needs to be connected to the existing foundation.  My engineer needed to know the size of the existing foundation so we dug a hole to see how it is made.  It was poured as a single structure with approximately a 18 inch wide by 8 inch deep footing and a 24 inch high by 10 inch thick concrete wall.  It is about 20 inches below grade.


Master bedroom foundation below grade


My masons are over achievers

The north side of the house has a bunch of windows which is a real problem.  That side of the house takes the brunt of the coastal storms and it shows it.  Most of the deterioration on the house is on this side.  My thought is that I want this side of the house to be bullet proof but I also want some light to get into this side of the house.  The solution is to remove the current windows, including the wooden parts embedded in the walls.  Rebuild the openings to be 100 percent masonry and to install glass block windows to let in the light.  This is pretty involved because it included casting new concrete window sills to install further up in the opening.  Those things are heavy!  You can see from the pictures that this is a significant change.  I hope that the change will be in keeping with the style of the house and period.  I think the windows look awesome and look original to the house.  The bonus is that they don’t transmit any sound and they are waterproof.  They also look pretty kool from outside lit up at night.

The roof is well underway!

I woke up one day and there were roofers galore!  My own special expert, Tom, that they brought out of retirement just for my roof was there with a whole crew and they have been working hard ever since.  Last post you saw the firs tiles set.  Now almost half of the back roof is tiled including half of the rear dormer.  The colors of the tile are perfect.

The tiles are marching up the roof

The tiles are marching up the roof

The dormer looks great.  Notice the edge trim. I like it better than the traditional barrel tiles.

The dormer looks great. Notice the edge trim. I like it better than the traditional barrel tiles.

Complete with bird stop

Complete with bird stop














New mail feature

I have added the ability to send emails when I add a post to the blog.  If you want me to unsubscribe you from the mail list, just let me know.  The mail volume should be low because I am not that frequent a poster.





A busy day around the Manor

Well today was a busy day on many levels.  All three trades, carpentry, roofing and masonry were working hard even thought there was a slight mist.  The first roof tile was set:

Tom sets the first roof tiles!

Tom sets the first roof tiles!

This is because the carpenters are talking to the roofer and they finally got enough repairs completed so the roofer could get started.  The carpenters are about 95% complete with the repairs.  They still have to put on the soffits and wrap the facia with PVC lumber but that is another day, week or month.  Who knows??


The masons make holes and fill them up on the north wall.  Mysteries abound.  It seems that in the distant past there was a window.  We know it was a window because there was a partial bonding beam with rebar that was over the window.  Then there was a problem or an alteration.  The hole on the right side of where the window used to be was tall enough to make a door.  However, it would have been a very narrow door and it would have been very high up on the side of the house and off of a landing on the stairs to the second floor.  My theory, and there is no one to dispute it, there was damage to the window, possibly a hurricane in ’35.  Maybe a tree went through the window and damaged the wall above.  At any rate there was a hole in the wall.  Then came the repair.  A very poor repair, although, it lasted over 30 years.  They pulled out the rubble and framed the hole with 2x4s.  Then they covered the hole with tar paper.  That’s right, just tar paper, no sheathing.  Then they nailed up old fashioned expanded metal lath.  The kind with formed metal cross members about 2″ apart.  It is pretty stiff stuff.  Then then layered on about 2 inches of stucco to close the hole.  It was pretty solid and hard but it was cracked all around the perimeter of the hole.  It had to come out!  Oh yes, the masons continue to put everyone else to shame.  They work like crazy and the progress is rapid.  Not only did they repair the hole, they also put up vapor barrier and concrete board over the framed part of the north wall, blocked up the small window in the shack over the basement stairs and replaced two windows with block on the mud room in the back.  These guys really know how to work!

The start of uncovering the hole.

The start of uncovering the hole.






A glimpse into the past

A glimpse into the past

A large section came off in one piece!

A large section came off in one piece!











then the repair.  The right way!







Julio fills the hole with CMUs













The finished repair before stucco

The finished repair before stucco






What is ancient, durable and beautiful to put on your walls?

If you have a stucco house and are thinking of painting, STOP!  Stucco should never be painted. In this case the old ways are the best ways.  Overtime, stucco develops microcracks that contribute to aging and deterioration.  Stucco must also breath.  It transpires.  This is not good for paint.  The answer… lime paint! It is very simple, has stood the test of time (think ancient Greece) and extremely inexpensive.  It will infiltrate the micro cracks and harden and seal the surface.  It is like coating your walls with liquid limestone.  Well, that is actually what you are doing.  Actually the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate) is what the lime wash will transform into as it cures.  It looks like milk and goes on as a transparent wash.  As it dries, it becomes more opaque and a very bright white.  In fact, the more coats you add, the more luminous it becomes.  This is because the crystals of calcium carbonate  refract the light and make the surface glow.  We tested it on the SBC and it is a wow!  The SBC is white and looks fine as is but it has a slight grey tinge.  I plan to whitewash the front of the house.  Doing the rest of the house can wait but I want the curb appeal of a glowing white house!  I said it is inexpensive.  This is true for the material.  Basically you buy a bag of hydrated lime (Calcium Hydroxide) and mix with water.  That’s it.  The stuff is really cheap but that is not the whole cost.  It takes labor to paint it on and lots of it.  I would say that three coats is the minimum. Five coats will make your walls really pop.  So that is a lot of coats.  The good news is that it will hold up very well and never peel.  It will not require recoating for at least 5 years and likely more.  In the future it will only require a single coat to freshen up after a light power wash.




Oh, and if you insist on colors other than white, most concrete colorants will work or, if you like pink,  you could use pigs blood like they do in some towns in England!

Paint Test

So this weekend I had several projects but the one I am most excited about is the paint for the exterior window sills.  The Palette of colors for the renovation is based on the roof tile selection.  It is a combination of beige and green.  The green is a pale copper patina color.  Of course the flashing for the roof is copper and will eventually turn green as well.  Lots of salt air.  I am actually thinking on chemically treating it to accelerate the coloration.  Anyway, I first picked the paint type.  I boiled it down to two possibilities, Epoxy or Polyurethane.  Both are two part catalyzed hardened and very long lasting. Epoxy is a little prone to chalking from UV so they add a protectant.  The catalyzer or part B in the trade parlance for epoxy has a very short life after you open it.  It is packed in nitrogen and when opened and exposed to oxygen, it starts to go bad.  It is no good after about 7 days.  This makes it hard to do small projects that only call for a small amount of paint.  Epoxy also needs a primer for concrete.  Guess what the primer is that they use.  Polyurethane!  Poly on the other hand is self priming on concrete and also very durable.  It also holds up well to UV, salt, alkali and many chemicals.  It is used as pool paint which is one of the most unforgiving environments ever!  It seems to fit the bill for me.

Now I found a mfg. of the paint, topsecretcoatings.com, which also has a pretty good selection of colors. I picked martini green to test.  One rule is that the surface must be absolutely dry.  No painting in the rain or even a very foggy day.  So since it was raining outside, I decided to test it on the concrete mantle over the fireplace.  Ok, so how many people have a concrete mantle over their fireplace.  Not many!  So here it is and I am extremely pleased……

This will be the color of all the window sills and exterior concrete accents on the house.


Another little project for me

With all the carpentry being done to restructure major parts of the roof, I have been a little jealous.  So I decided to take on a small weekend project.  This house has a basement!  I KNOW!  It makes no sense to have a basement when the floor of the basement is exactly 1.6 feet above sea level and the house is less than 200 yards from the ocean!  WHAT were they thinking?  Actually it has been nice to have a basement except the two times a year it floods.  Eventually I plan to fill it in and make a crawl space but until then it is easy to redo plumbing and electrical when you can just walk around under the first floor.

Anyway, back in olden times, the outdoor steps to the basement were covered with those old metal doors at a 45 degree angle.  Then in the not so recent past, someone built a cinderblock enclosure over the stairs with a door about 4 feet tall.  And you guessed it, it has a little roof over it that needed total replacement.  It was never installed and flashed properly so most of the roof boards were deteriorated and it leaked water on the stairs in any kind of a rain storm.   Now I am sorry, but I keep forgetting to take “before” pictures so you will have to use your imagination.  The whole shed, thats what I call it, is about 5 feet wide, 69 inches deep and 61 ” tall.  There was a 1 x 6 header on the wall next to the stairs and the other wall was build of 5 3/4 cinderblock.  No Joists!  The 1 x 4 roof boards bridged the gap and were all there was to hold up the 100 lb / sq ft roof tiles we are going to put on it.  Plus I wanted to make it a little taller than it was.  So saturday morning I demolished the old roof.  It took about 20 minutes.

The next challenge was that the short wall has a distinct bow.  It was not build straight.  It is out in the middle by about 1 1/2 inches.  The two tall house walls are straight and the angle at the corner is pretty close to square.  This drove me to build the roof framing on the ground square and straight and then move it into place.  That sounds so much easier than it really was!

I built it out of 2×6 treated lumber.  This stuff is impervious to water damage and rot.  It is designed to be in contact with the ground and we all know how nasty dirt is!  It is also very heavy!  So you can’t just pick up a five foot by five foot structure with ledger, plate and 6 joists on 16 inch centers and hold it in place while you drill holes in the concrete block wall for the anchor bolts.  I could barely pick the thing up 6 inches.

What I did was put up some temporary ledgers boards and some boards from the ledgers to the top of the short wall.  Then I stacked up two cinderblocks at the corners where the door goes.  Then I lifted one corner of the structure at a time to the cinderblocks so that the center of the long side was above the wall and ledgers.  Then it was relatively easy to pick up the bottom and pivot the roof structure into place.  Once up on the temporary supports, I set a few braces to hold it in place.  I drilled the holes and bolted the ledger board to the house wall and then removed the temporary supports and braces.  Then I installed the sheathing and called it a day.  The next step is to frame and finish the door and soffits of my little miniature roof.  Here are the obligatory picts….

So it’s happy hour and still raining!

I am having happy hour with myself this evening and I figured it was a good time to get a few posts in on the house.  The rain has been a deluge and, due to many factors, I have roof leaks.  Every hour when it is raining I have to empty a container under a particularly prolific leak that is difficult to get to.  A real pain in the A–!  The membrane covering the roof until the tile is installed has been perforated and repaired (poorly) on several occasions due to various trades like carpenters, roofers and masons making unfortunate but mostly understandable mistakes.  Be advised that when a nail or screw is driven through the ice and water shield membrane you had better never remove it.  Unless the remover is particularly anal about caulking the holes left by removal, you WILL have a leak!  The good news is that the roof is not installed yet and we have had a water test of sufficient magnitude to reveal all possible leaks.  I have been very persistent in documenting all of these leaks and I am sure that my roofer will replace the membrane in these areas to solve the problem.  If a roofer tells you that some calk on the uphill side of a batten nailed to the roof will stop the leak, don’t believe it.


So what has happened lately you ask?

Well, before this past weekend the masons finished up the south side of the house and it looks awesome!

It went from this:

SBC on south side

SBC on south side 

……To this…….

South Side SBC complete

South Side SBC complete

You really have to feel this stuff to appreciate it.  It is really solid and pretty in the light.

Anyway it is great to have the dog run back in business.


The work is underway again

Ok, I have finally gotten back to keeping up this blog.  A few projects have intervened along the way.  The chimney has been rebuilt.  I will have a page up on that project soon.  Right now there are two projects underway at the same time.  I have just finished the Roofing Project page here.  This project started last month and is ongoing.  More to come on that.  At the same time, the Stucco project is underway but I have not finished the project page yet.  Stay tuned for more to come……