Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day of trucks and Scotts

There were a lot of trucks on Steinback Mountain today. First to arrive was Justo at his usual 6:45 am, followed by Corey. Within a half an hour two more trucks arrived driven by Scott the electrician and his boss Jerry. We met them in the guest house where we went over the specific placements for the electrical panel, numerous outlets, light and bath fan switches, thermostats, bathroom lighting (including the hidden LED lights behind the exposed beam), and the three sconces in the sleeping area.

While Scott and Jerry started working on the wiring, Corey and Justo finished installing the hard board covering the soffit. After a bit, Mike arrived in his truck and he met with the electricians to make sure everything was on track.

We went back to the main house to get ready for Scott #2 who was arriving at 10 to look over the project and give us his Costco quote for the countertops. We arranged all of the solid surface samples we had received from our tile guy on top of John Laughton's prototype so that Scott #2 could see exactly what we were looking for. After arriving in a SUV (not quite a truck), he showed us a new product called Dekton which we really, really liked because of its matte surface but S#2 warned us it would be more expensive than the Ceaserstone we were leaning towards.

The Dekton sample is on the left. It's sitting on our Saarinen tulip dining table and is ever so slightly darker than the table but significantly less shiny. And that's a good thing. It is guaranteed not to stain or crack and comes with a 25-year warranty.

Late in the afternoon we received the Costco estimate and the Dekton is going to cost $9K more than our tile guy's Ceaserstone quote. Costco's estimate for Zodiak, basically a Ceaserstone equivalent, is $5.5K more than our tile guy's quote. Hmmmmm.

While taking some of today's pictures in the guest house we noticed "C. Locke" on the boom box Corey brings to work each day. Turns out he's the son of Steve Locke who is Mike's brother and the son of Don Locke who is the owner of Tombleson Construction. We're thinking Mr. T would like that.

At the end of the day Corey and Justo waved their goodbyes and said they would see us on Tuesday. They're getting a much deserved 4-day weekend. Scott #1 returns tomorrow so the progress continues.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saying goodbye

The last few days have been rough on Steinback Mountain. Late Sunday night Chip's dad Skip lost his brief and hard fought battle with cancer. We are all going to miss his wicked sense of humor, his love of chili burgers, and his quickness to tell you how much he loved you.

Chip inherited his keen sense of problem solving and his ability to understand and master all things mechanical from his father who was quite the craftsman. He knew how to build things and he was especially good at fixing things. As we mentioned before, when we first started thinking about taking on this renovation, "Skippy" insisted on being our plumber and had he stayed healthy, we would have had the best plumbing installation possible.

We are so going to miss him. He was an amazing father and an amazing father-in-law.

The photo below was taken a few years back when Chip's folks followed their dreams and moved to Nevada so they could be close to the mountains. Then Chip's sister started having babies and the folks moved back to our area so they could provide childcare and lots of love.

It's kind of hard to stay excited about the renovation when everyone is so sad. It was also really hard today when we met with the plumber and Mike to go over the final details for the guest house. Hopefully, Skippy will watch over the project and make sure the guys from Val's Plumbing do a good job.

Tomorrow the building inspector is coming and Thursday the electrician shows up….

Friday, August 22, 2014


The third week of demolition and framing has ended and it's been a very productive week. It's also been "Planning Week," the week before the Fall semester starts, which means most of our time has been spent on campus in meetings. Lots of meetings. So we haven't been able to watch the hour by hour progress on the guest house and only get to see what the Tombleson crew has accomplished when we return to Steinback Mountain at the end of the day.

Wednesday started out really well, however. Corey and Justo noticed the covered pile of decking material when they drove up the hill and graciously offered to retrieve it. It took two trips in Corey's truck but within an hour they had the pile stacked and covered right outside the garage where it will be safe until it's time for the deck to go up.

The Plyboo decking material is really nice and everyone who's seen it so far has commented on how beautiful and heavy it is. We were pleasantly surprised to see some subtle color variations between the planks which will add to its beauty when installed.

Yesterday, according to the crew, John Laughton stopped by and took some final measurements for the two cabinets going in the guest house bathroom. We thought we might have a County inspector come by this week to approve the framing, but Justo thinks that'll probably happen early next week.

This afternoon Brett, the linoleum guy, stopped by to check out the stairwell. He brought along samples of the rubber stair edging options and we quickly found the one we wanted. Brett also suggested we use a dark grey rubber for the risers which we think will give it a nice, professional look. He's going to do a mock-up and bring it by next week. He also said he'll sell us the remnants we want at his cost, somewhere around a dollar a square foot. Sweet!

So at the end of the week all of the doors have been framed as well as the large window for the shower. It's now really easy to visualize how dramatic the bathroom is going to be with the big window and its view of the oak trees on the hillside.

Monday morning Mike is bringing the plumber back out to go over the scope of the project and review the products he'll be purchasing and installing. The two doors have been ordered, the lighting was ordered and arrived yesterday. The cabinets are being made... the tile is on its way. Only decision left to be made is the countertops. That should happen by the end of the week. Oh, and we still have to pick out the window for the shower....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No way, Conway

Yesterday the Tombleson crew framed the interior wall in the guest house. It makes it a lot easier to visualize its main living area and the bathroom, which are both going to be large enough to be functional and comfortable.

Everyone agrees we should take advantage of the beam spanning the entry area back to the rear wall and shower area by adding some recessed lighting. To be consistent with the midcentury modern vibe we should do a long fluorescent light box with some kind of frosted white glass or plastic covering. But  that's not going to happen because neither one of us likes fluorescent lighting so it'll probably be some kind of LED track lighting or rope lights. It'll need to be dimmable and if we do it right, we should be able to hang them high enough so they won't be visible.

Now that the wall is up we need to get John Laughton over to do his final measurements for the bathroom cabinets. He, too, is going to have to "work around" the floating beam which shouldn't be a significant problem.

Seeing the wall framed at the end of the day was a nice surprise. Seeing a truck driver walking up the driveway while you're on the treadmill at 5:45 was not such a nice surprise.

Yep, the decking material finally showed up from Plyboo and the very large delivery truck could not make it through the portal at the bottom of our hill. We share a long "private" driveway with three other neighbors and the wooden gateless gate at its entrance has never been a problem for garbage and recycling trucks which easily pass through it every week. And we've been having almost daily deliveries from the lumber yard without any difficulty. But the Conway guy couldn't fit through. So, two planks at a time, he brought the decking material to the end of the truck and the two of us loaded it onto pallets in front of Lois and Boyd's house. All 3,850 pounds of it.

An hour later we covered it up and drove back up the hill. Wednesday we're going to have to get it up the hill. Yep, two planks at a time into our little Toyota truck and then download it, two planks at a time, somewhere near the guest house. The deck is probably going to be one of the last things built in this phase of the renovation so finding a convenient yet unobtrusive place to store it may be a bit tricky….

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday, Monday

Today John Laughton brought by the prototype for the cabinets. OMG, it's beautiful. The drawers and even the doors are self-closing which will be wonderful when installed. But it's the combination of the high density plywood framing paired with the bamboo fronts that is so fabulous. And we rarely use the f-word.

John said when his crew back at the shop first saw the materials for this project they were a bit skeptical but when they saw the prototype come together they told him how impressed they were and how excited they were to work on such a cool project. Without a doubt, when the renovation is complete, it's the cabinetry that will be the star.

Mike came by at his (now) usual end-of-the-workday to check up on the progress of the guest house and to bring additional supplies for tomorrow's tasks. The guys chalk-lined the floor where the interior wall will be going which, if everything goes as expected, will go up tomorrow. The crew is still concerned about the new support beam that went up today and its spatial relationship to the interior wall. They don't exactly line up and there will be a 2 or 3 inch gap between the beam and the bathroom wall. We're thinking we might exploit this by hiding some recessed lighting in that space and making it look like we intended it to be that way, or at least George Tombleson intended it to be that way.

Mike also showed the blog to his dad and apparently the stories we've been telling aren't jiving with his memories of the Tomblesons. We'll be making some corrections shortly….

Friday, August 15, 2014


Week 2 of the renovation is over and the Tombleson team is making great progress. Mike stopped by at the end of the day today and outlined what will be happening next week. He hopes to have the interior wall framed so that the first inspection can be done by midweek.

We made an appointment for the following week to have the Costco countertop folks come out for a consultation and quote. And we heard from the tile guy! Mark called with some good news. First, he found the grey tile we wanted. It's not the textured tile we had originally wanted but it's actually an 18x18" tile we had selected many years ago on a trip to Palm Springs and shopping at Arizona Tile. Back then they gave us a quote for $2.95 a square foot and Mark says he can still match that price. They also have 6 thousand square feet in stock so getting enough to do all three buildings will not be a problem. Very happy we can now check the tile off the to-do list.

Mark also had some other good news. We told him about the concrete counter quote coming in higher than we'd hoped for and that we were now looking at Costco as an option. He said, "No matter what their bid is, I will beat it." Last week when we posted the picture of the roofless guest house (and the caption: "Figures. Plan the renovation of the guest house for summer when it never rains. Take the roof off and it starts raining.") our good friend Richelle commented: "Rain is good luck and everything will go faster and cheaper than expected!!!" Richelle the psychic.

On Mike's suggestion we went to a local door store this morning to pick out the entry door and bathroom door for the guest house. We had envisioned a door with a simple narrow but tall window for the entry. We found such a door but they also had some other choices with multiple small windows.

The picture with the ugly screen door shows our entry door to the main house. We'll be replacing the screen door but we're definitely keeping the wood door. We're choosing the five window door for the guest house and loving the way it references Mr. Tombleson's door but in a modern way.

John Laughton also called this morning and met Kevin at the door store. He brought a sample of the drawers he wants to use for the cabinets. He says he uses them in all of his "high end houses." Hmmmmm. John also said he needed to get back to the shop because… the Plyboo Havana strand plywood was arriving. Thank you, Rain. He also said this weekend he'd be making a prototype of the cabinets showing the high density plywood framing combined with the Plyboo plywood and would bring it by Monday morning.

Looking forward to a quiet weekend. But can't wait for next week!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Demo days 6 & 7

It's probably time to stop naming these posts "Demo days" as there now seems to be a lot more putting up than taking down.

Over the last two days the Tombleson crew installed all of the tongue and groove boards for the ceiling and it looks fantastic! The wood is so beautiful that we have decided not to paint the tongue and groove boards white (to match the BBQ room) but just seal them instead and only stain the beams.

Yesterday afternoon Mike showed up which was a nice surprise. He wanted to go over a few issues raised by our desire to extend the overhang at the front of the guest house an additional six inches as well as the placement of an additional support beam over the yet-to-be-built interior wall. Mike also had some concerns over the design of the insulation and exterior covering of the roof. We went over all of our options and then tried to call Doug the architect to discuss what these changes might cost in terms of additional time for the structural engineer. Unfortunately, Doug was in a meeting with another client but early in the evening we received a long and very detailed email covering our options.

Hanging out in the main house, we showed Mike the first time lapse video of the roof removal. His immediate response, jokingly, was "It's nice to see my guys actually working." Here's additional proof that his guys are getting the job done:

We also received the quote for the concrete countertops. It was higher than we had hoped for so we called the number on a Costco pamphlet and started the process of getting a second quote. We did get the final quote for the 34 sheets of Plyboo plywood that will be used for the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Angus at Plyboo really came through for us with a great price and now the plywood has been ordered and paid for and, hopefully, will soon be shipped to John Laughton's cabinetry shop.

Still haven't heard from the tile guy although Mike has and said he should be contacting us soon. Patience. Patience. Patience.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Demo day 5

Over the weekend, we drove up to San Jose to explore shower fixtures for the master bathroom. After visiting a few showrooms, we decided to stick to the Delta Trinsic line we’re using everywhere else. Although we saw a few other brands that were quite nice, especially Graff, nothing screamed “must have” and certainly nothing screamed “better deal.”

Throughout the hardware search, Chip’s dad, a retired plumber, has advised us to stick with American companies like Delta and Pfister because they typically offer lifetime warranties and are much easier to get replacement parts in the future if needed. When we first met with Mike over a year ago, we told him Skip would be doing the plumbing on the job. Sadly, a few months ago, Skip was diagnosed with a very aggressive lung cancer. Yesterday we learned the cancer has moved into his liver and abdomen and the medical staff that was initially very optimistic, is now quite concerned. We’re currently regretting that we started the renovation when we did as the guest house would have been a much more convenient place for his parents to live while coping with this challenge because Steinback Mountain is much closer to his doctor and the medical team that are taking care of him.

Speaking of American companies (or changing the subject to another shitty topic), while at the first showroom we overheard a salesperson working with another client praising a relatively new line of toilets called Icera. He was specifically comparing them to Toto, the Japanese brand we had specced for all of the bathrooms, saying they were every bit as good and a better value. We picked up a brochure and were immediately attracted to the very clean and minimal shape of their wall hung toilet as well as the fact that the company is headquartered in California. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to be making a wall hung tank system so we’re going to stick with the very reliable Toto tank systems and switch over to the Icera bowls.

Today the Tombleson crew returned for the start of a new week. One by one they cut the beams for the ceiling and secured them into place. By the end of the day, all of the beams were up. Hopefully, tomorrow they’ll get the tongue and groove boards up (which arrived today) and the roof will be ready for the outer treatments.

Here's another time lapse video of the Tombleson crew in action:

We also called our Plyboo rep Angus to start the estimate process for the 34 sheets of their bamboo plywood we hope to use for the cabinetry. We also wanted to check in on the decking and paneling we’ve already ordered and paid for to see when they might be delivered. Figuring out where to store things safely and efficiently is not going to be easy.

Still no word from the tile guy. Patience. Patience. Patience.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Demo day 4

Yesterday the weather cooperated and the Tombleson guys continued ripping the guest house apart. The bathroom and closet are gone, leaving one big open space. And the hole in the floor that used to be the access to hidden folding stairs to the storage area below has now been filled in with beams to support the new interior wall.

The dumpster truck returned and BBBG (we learned today his name is Corey) wasted no time filling it up with what used to be the guest house.

We posted a picture of the demo on Facebook yesterday and received a lot of comments about the chickens and how stressed out they must be. There's been no slowdown in egg production and they're still doing their loud squawking songs every time one of them lays an egg. They seem to be doing fine. We kind of think they may even be enjoying all of the activity around them.

This morning Dave brought us out to the site to resolve some issues about beam placement. The wood for the roof arrived this morning and Dave thinks they'll have everything prepped today so that the roof can go up on Monday.

Still haven't heard back from the tile guy. Hope he's found a good substitute for the floor tile. And at the rate the construction guys are going, we're going to need the tile soon.