Sunday, September 29, 2013

Upstate Update - PanoSilo

What better format to photograph a round room than in panorama?
I'm demo'ing this PanoEdit photo-stitching software so sorry for the watermarks all over these pano shots.  Still, I'm pretty happy with how it came out.  
This view (both of them) is taken from the doorway onto the porch looking back into the main room and into the kitchen area in the center.
Click on any pic to enlarge or download the pix and see them full size - they're pretty big!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Upstate Update - Some Kitchen Wall Changes & more

This is actually an update I received from our builder two weeks ago, but I failed to post the photos when it came in.  There were some interesting developments which I completely failed to notice in the photos so they came as a surprise to me when I went up to the house and saw them in person.

Among other things, he removed the drop-down soffit along the kitchen / living room border.  I asked him to do this because I want the option of leaving it open or else just hanging some old casement windows in that space.  In any event, it was not load bearing and it was ugly and I didn't like it so we'll revisit it later - more space is more better. In the picture below it is the framed section of drop-down wall at the top of the photo.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Inventory: upstate stereo superfind

I picked up eight of these funny round little speakers made by Orb Audio together with an Orb 200W subwoofer at a stoop sale last Sunday here in our neighborhood. I had never heard of the brand but they looked well made and the price was right so I made then mine.
Anyway, i did a little research and they are made (or maybe just assembled) in America which is pretty unusual for anything electronic. And the company is right here in NYC. So I called them on Monday and asked about the speakers and apparently the deal is that you put the little round ones in pairs and they deliver some really nice sound.
Anyway, these are going upstate. They will fit right in to our misfit adventure house. I'm excited about sitting in a chair up there and listening to music in front of the fire. Does that make me an old person?

DESIGN IDEA: Half-Height Tiled Shower Wall with Glass Upper Wall

I think the final decision was to have a half-height tiled wall on the sink side of the shower with glass going up from there.  Here are some examples I found on the web.

This is pretty much EXACTLY what our shower layout will be - with shower walls, door and fixtures in exactly the same places.  The only differences are: (1) our shower is a 3' x 4' rectangle with the shower door wall being the long wall so we will have a larger shower door; (2) the wall to the left of the shower door may be a full tiled wall all the way up and not half-height tile wall and half glass from there on up (i.e., we wouldn't have that little sliver of glass to the left of the shower door; (3) our overhead shower will not come out of the ceiling - our pipe will come straight off the wall over the hand shower and extend out to mid-shower and then turn straight down; (4) the two glass sides of our shower will not go all the way to the ceiling - they will just stop at about 8 feet high.  Where the towel bars are is in this picture is where the our bathroom sink counter will be.

Very like our fixture layout will be except that the door will be a little to the right and there will be a tiled stub wall. We will not have any full height glass except for the door itself.   I really really like what they did with the tile here.  We could consider getting a different shape of carrara for the shower walls and floor so that it doesn't just blend in with the bathroom floor.  I would like that.

Nice wall height and nice ledge at the top.  We can't do a diagonal door because that would mean giving up too much space in the shower.

This is sort of the mirror image of what our shower layout will be.


This is very like the layout of the knobs and fixtures we will have.  Where the tub is in this picture is where our bathroom sink counter will be.. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thoughts on a Shower Floor (or: Turning our Shower into a Wow!er)

Do you like that? Shower/Wow!er?  That is the kind of cheesy title that would make me stop reading a blog.  But since I have no readership at all, I feel comfortable I'm not scaring anyone off.
Anyway, current plans call for the shower pan to be poured this week.  Hopefully, we would have the shower walls built and ready to tile by next week.  But anyway, the point is that it is time to start thinking about how we want our shower tiled.

Happily, the shower floor is not likely to be much bigger than 3'x4' = 12 sq. ft.  Yippee!! At that size, we can pretty much afford anything imaginable (provided our imaginations don't go too crazy).  Even the really crazy stuff doesn't usually go higher than $22 per square foot.

So, for the moment we are thinking that the shower walls will be done in the same white carrara gioia 12'x12' marble tile as the bathroom floor up to about 4 feet high - then they will be glass from there on up.  This is the stuff:

we have 150 square feet of this stuff - not sure that will be enough for the floor and shower walls, but we'll see.  luckily, this stuff is pretty ubiquitous so we can get more if we need to.
And here are some thoughts I had for the floor:
1" marble penny rounds
1" carrara marble hex
2" carrara marble hex
Ming Green Jade something or other.  LOVE IT!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Upstate Update

Silo Status - Total Floor Failure!!

I drove up to see the progress on Saturday morning.  I had a knot in my stomach the whole way up because I basically knew from the photos our builder sent me earlier in the week that the floor he had put down was going to look like crap.  Amazingly, it exceeded expectations.  It was so much worse than expected that it made me question my confidence in the work this guy has already done for us.  He demonstrated such epically poor judgement that it just chucked me down the staircase of sadness.

Okay, let me give a little bit of background - the wood he is using in the stuff I found in a dumpster a year or two ago and loaded up in several trips over many weeks as they continued de-installing it from a local building.  Not all of it was good and plenty of it had adhesive stuck on the bottom that needed to be ground off with a quick pass of a wire-wheel on an angle grinder.  But there was a lot of it and there were plenty of good boards.  Also, there were a lot of different lengths ranging from over 4 feet down to one footers. I had tied all the wood up in bundles by length and it was stacked in the entry structure of the house. 

I didn't expect it to look perfect, but I expected that he would have done the best possible job with the materials available.  He did not.

What were the problems with this install job? Well, here's what comes to mind first:
  • There are a lot of fairly substantial crevasses between boards running the long way - unexpected since this is the guy who kept using the cutesy word "crevassitis" to describe what you don't want in a hardwood floor.
  • There were some substantial height differences between boards where the ends which means he was butting boards that had already been cut up against one another.
  • A number of boards were installed that are obviously "cupping" - i.e., warping so that the edges are pulling up along the long axis.
  • A few boards were installed that are obviously a different width than the rest of the boards installed.
  • A number of boards were installed that have dark water stains at the ends.
  • Almost no long boards were used at all - there is still a big stack of tied bundles of the longest boards - untouched - never even looked at.
Note that last complaint!  This guy didn't even look at or use the longest boards .  He installed warped boards.  He installed dirty boards.  He installed incorrect width boards.  BUT HE DIDN'T EVEN CHECK THE ENTIRE STACK OF WOOD AVAILABLE TO HIM TO MAKE SURE HE WAS USING THE BEST STUFF IN THE PILE?  There is a really really big stack of unused, untouched wood.  He didn't even unstack it and look at the tied up bundles.  He just worked from the top down.  Super disappointing for me and it should be extremely embarrassing for him.

Why would anyone working on an hourly basis rush through a job like this and use the short boards and the bad boards and not bother getting to know his available materials? 

So, when we looked at it together on Saturday I tried to keep a little distance, physically and emotionally, from the floor and from him. I kept my cool and used words like "disappointed" and "bummer" and I didn't lose it and fly off the handle and point out how thoroughly incompetent his install job was. I did say that I wish I hadn't bothered to dig this stuff out of a dumpster though.

His response to me was to suggest I hire someone to sand and re-finish the floor.  (I was tempted to yell, "It isn't the finish!! It's the installation that sucks!!!")  Instead, I pointed out that sanding and re-finishing won't help the big cracks or the totally uneven joints.  He said they would fill those with putty before re-finishing it - wow does that sound like a crap looking floor. 

Oh, and by the way, while I was talking with the plumber in the bathroom about the showerpan my builder was in the room and although my builder has made it clear he does not do tiling and that he would do no more than supervise a tile installer, he began drawing lines on the bathroom subfloor to show the angle that I said I want my 12"x12" marble tiles installed and he mentioned that he would have the tile guy put them in that way.  He and I hadn't discussed this, but he was obviously just taking initiative so I kept that in the back of my mind. 

Anyway, I kept it together and it was pretty obvious that he was sort of bummed that I didn't think he had done a stellar job and give him big compliments on his awesomeness.  He left and I spent a little longer looking at the floor then I left.  Then I called my wife and told her how bummed I was.  Then I decided that I am going to have the floor ripped out and re-done with new flooring material.

Then I waited a little while and cooled off.  Then I called him and left a message.  And when he called back, I told him that I don't want him to do any more on the floor and I DEFINITELY don't want him to have anyone start putting down any tiles.  I stayed very cool and said that it is clear I will need to supervise anyone who is doing any finish work from now on and I told him to focus henceforth on getting the insulation and sheetrock done.  He said he would get a floor re-finisher up there to look at the floor and get an estimate - I told him to do what he wants but that I will not be throwing good money after bad on that floor.

So, I'm pretty furious about this.  But what can I do?  I can't go out and hire yet another contractor.  This guy is already the third and he seems to be fine at the construction stuff - but who knows if he is as slipshod at that really important stuff as he is at the finish stuff.
Anyway, I'm angry and sad and totally depressed about this and I don't want to talk about it anymore so don't anyone call me and get me wound up.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Upstate update again and again and again... just getting depressed again.

Some new photos from our contractor.  The Master Bedroom floor has been installed.  I am glad it is in, but I am a little hesitant to say I like it because I am seeing some dark shadows along the seams and I hope that doesn't mean it is uneven - ugh.  I will see it this weekend and report back.

This, below, is some hardwood we got from BIG a couple years ago.  We have enough for the entry landing and the landing outside the main room.  I gave the contractor a piece of it and he sanded it and finished it and it looks nice.  We'll probably use it for those two landings - maybe - possibly.

And here is the kitchen, all cleaned up -  by which I mean there is no longer a massive stack of hardwood flooring in it since it all got installed upstairs - maybe not all, but a lot of it.

And here is another photo of the staircase in progress.

I am feeling that we could have done things better if we had planned better or had someone working for us whose creative vision and abilities we trusted more.  As things stand, I don't think anyone who has worked on this house shares or even understands our vision at all.  It makes me pretty sad that I keep discovering this at every little step where I trust someone to make a minor creative decision on their own and they blow it horribly (e.g., gloss varnish on the staircase).  Anyway, I just want it done and we'll go back and fix it in post, as they say.