Thursday, April 28, 2016

Riverwalk Landing, Yorktown, VA

On Sunday, we took a day off from construction and took the bike out to Yorktown for lunch.  Riding is a way for us to relax.

Some of our vacations on the bike are just for the roads and scenery - like riding the Tail of the Dragon, the Back of the Dragon or the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Day rides don't provide the same curvy roads or breathtaking mountain views, so we plan a trip to a historic location or a new place for lunch.

Sunday's trip to Yorktown was lunch trip.  We ate at the Carrot Tree in Yorktown on the Riverwalk Landing. Troy had BBQ (we are big fans of Mission BBQ and that is the gold standard).  I had the Strawberry Fields - turkey, brie, strawberries, almonds, lettuce on a croissant.  It was yummy! And the Carrot Salad was good too - very different from the usual one made with mayo and raisins.  We shared a piece of Carrot Cake for dessert.  (yes I am kind of a foodie.)

We needed to walk off some of the cake so we took a short stroll along the Riverwalk.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Block and Roll

Saturday was a great day!  It dawned clear - not too cold but not too hot and we could start building UP!  It is kind of like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.  Too metaphysical for you?  Then I guess you've never done home remodeling.

Last time we did block, I did the tooling - basically making the mortar joints look pretty.  This time, I was presented with my own trowel.  Quite a vote of confidence from my mentor/supervisor!

We started by laying out the lines on the footings.  The block had to be off-center as we are facing the outside with brick.  We started with the corners.

Making them straight, plum, and level in two directions can be a challenge.  Some blocks I placed 4 times.  You can't adjust, you have to start from scratch.  If you need practice in the art of patience, try block!

Once the corners were set a bit, we could begin filling in.

Not many pictures of this project.  My hands were covered in mortar.  The pro's handle a trowel like a surgeon handles a scalpel.  It is definitely an art - a fast dying one at that. For me, the most efficient way was using my hands. My hands and my nails paid a HEAVY price!  Hands are all dried out and my nails are toast.  (manicure on Sunday!)

The original idea was both of us laying block.  In the end, I slopped mortar and Troy laid the block.  I just couldn't get a hang of adjusting them without over-adjusting.

We had to work against the rain clock at the end of the day, but we got it done.

A full day's work and a job well done.  We were both hungry and tired.  Sunday, we'll take a day off and take the bike out to Yorktown for lunch.  I will post some pics later this week.

But before I leave you .....



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pour me ... Part 2

It's concrete day!!! Okay maybe we are weird but we love concrete day around here.  The stuff is amazing.  Mix some cement, rocks and lime and you have a strong and strangely beautiful surface.

It took some luck but we were able to get a delivery with short notice.  The excitement was building all morning and then we got the call.  The truck was on it's way.

And guess who steps out?  - the same guy who brought the concrete for the slab for the shed.

The forms were ready, the wheelbarrows were ready.  I was ready with my tool poking tool to insure we got rid of the air and voids.  (I'm a pro at this concrete stuff - LOL)  We worked like a well oiled machine and in about 90 minutes we had footings!

We only had one mishap and it wasn't concrete - I stepped on a nail.  I was too lazy to change my shoes.  It didn't do much damage - luckily I tread lightly - but I'm glad I got a tetanus booster at my physical in February so no doctor visit required.

So now we can start building UP!  Block and brick are next on the agenda.  Oh and what are we going to do for stairs???  Next puzzle to solve.

Road Trip...

We took a weekend off from the project to scout out Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke, VA for some projects I had in mind.

The weather was great and we had a blast.  Roanoke is so pretty and I love the mountains.

Roanoke is a railroad town.

We stopped at the Taubman Museum to check out a Norman Rockwell exhibit - Troy has a school assignment to do so we worked in it to our schedule.

I remember this picture from my childhood - hanging in my doctors office

And this cool sculpture is made out of 700,000 coffee stirrers!  The artist built it in place and it took a week to build.  It filled a whole room!

And of course when I see a neat building we have to stop and take pictures.  This is St Andrews Catholic Church and it sits on a hill overlooking downtown Roanoke.

Then we went off to Black Dog Salvage in search of some wood, iron work and maybe a few other treasures.  We are fans of the show and it was neat to see things we recognized - like the clock faces from the high school in Newark, NJ.

We got to go to the warehouse where they store the wood and met Jeff.  I was in heaven!  Beams, trusses and wood galore.  Came home with some barnwood.

A little light sanding and my bed goes from plain jane to modern rustic.  

Well the fun is over - back to work.

Pour me.. Part 1

When I last left you, the porch was finally gone - in it's wake was a holy mess.

I didn't even want to look at the front yard.  I kept trying to remind myself that this was demolition and demo is messo! (bad rhyme - I know)

After spending a weekend trying to make the yard look somewhat presentable and level so it wasn't a total muddy mess we would be able building the form for the footings for the block to sit on. All cleaned and ready.

We had to dig, fill and build the forms.  Took all day.  I'll admit, I didn't do much of this part.  I left the digging in the mud to the boys and went shopping.

It was as if I waved my magic want and they appeared.

And then it rained and rained and rained. We had a weekend trip planned to Roanoke to visit Black Dog Salvage (my Valentine's Day, Anniversary and Birthday present) and guess what, it rained here while we were gone.

So the following weekend the boys had to redo all the forms.  (I shouldn't say boys - Trevor is quite the man now - he's been such a big help and this work is NOT fun).  Oh yeah - I went shopping again.

But the weather stayed clearer and we got the inspector's blessing and we can pour!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hidden Secrets

One of the problems with "demo" is that you often find hidden secrets - things the original builder did which you don't know about.  You see it all the time on renovation shows like Property Brothers and Fixer Upper.  Those hidden "gems" usually mean more work and more bucks.

And so it is with the front porch.  The burning question we had was "What is under there?"  We couldn't let it go.  So we stuck a camera in the little hole we created and we got an answer.

Now even with my limited knowledge of construction techniques, I knew this wasn't good news.  This HUGE slab of concrete was sitting on cinder blocks (they are not really supposed to be vertical!) and brick and wood.  NO WAY was this going to pass inspection and the guys at the city confirmed it.

So the simple "pour a new slab" became take it down, pour proper footings, and build a new front porch.  Cha-ching!

We had to get rid of the whole thing!  And that one little hole took HOURS with a jackhammer.  So we did what we rarely do - hired a contractor to do the demo.  (So much for "demo is free"!)

So on a Saturday morning the guy shows up with a bob-cat and a dump truck and goes to work.  This slab is VERY stubborn and very heavy and after some initial success with the planter and the sidewalk, disaster strikes.  The bob-cat breaks and none of the places that sell a replacement part is open.  Okay - well he can take what was removed to the dump and come back Monday and finish.  BUT - the ground is wet and the dump truck is stuck in our front yard!  Even dumping the load doesn't help.  And it has been there all week!

And of course the porch is still there too.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Well it is time for another project at the old homestead. Hard to believe I've been living here almost 4 years.  Just last week, Facebook kindly reminded me that three years ago we were doing our bedroom renovation.

Last spring, we replaced all the windows.  Had a professional installation.  I love our new windows.

We added the new shutters too.

So this year we decided to tackle the front porch.  It is in need of a makeover because

  1. it slopes towards the house instead of away
  2. it is UGLY!!! 
I've always hated the railing and the steps to nowhere never made any sense.

So the plan is to close that side of and square off the planter.  I kind of like planter.  We are going to tear up the terracotta-ish tile top on the porch.  It too is ugly.  We really aren't sure what is under that tile monstrosity.  I guess we will find out.   

We are going to pour a simple slab.  New railings, new front door, and maybe some Adirondack chairs.  

The railing?  That is still under debate.  Might come down to budget.

Option one - The budget friendly choice

Troy's choice - but I think it is a bit to fancy for our house and all those little inserts are pricey.

My choice - wider pickets and clean lines.