I hate to admit it, but we (I) made a costly mistake today, about $150 worth. With such a tight budget as ours, every penny counts. Since concrete has to be dump separately from other demolition materials, I thought it would save us some money to take the concrete to the dump our selves instead of hiring someone else to do the job. I was only able to find one dumping station in our area that would accept concrete with rebars in them. I even asked the trash people on the phone if there's other dumping sites they know of, they said no. I rented a U-Haul pick-up truck then loaded the concrete from the old foundation and took it to Berkeley Transfer Station on 2nd Street. They charge by weight. We had to drive onto a scale before and after we unloaded the concrete ourselves. The concrete weighed in over 2700 lb. That's over 2 tons! I think we overloaded the poor truck. After everything was done, I found out from my general contractor friend that it only cost $20 to dump a full pick-up truck at a recycling center in San Leandro!!! I will know better next time, but it hurts to know that we spent too much on dumping concrete.

It doesn't look like much, but this stuff was HEAVY.


While everyone was busy working on the house, I took on a little project of my own. Remember the pile of chimney bricks in the back yard? We've been digging up a lot more bricks from the foundation and they were being strewn around the yard. In an attempt to tidy up the work site, I started laying the bricks down in a subway tile pattern and so far have done two small areas next to the concrete walk ways surrounding the house. In the end, the mountain of debris generated from the recent staircase and deck demo, defeated my battle to keeping separate piles of demo-ed materials. Nonetheless, it felt quite gratifying to create a bit of order out of the chaos that is our house.

Before and After

Sorry I have been slacking off on the blogging. I have been working at the job site almost every day for the last 2 weeks over seeing the construction. I am wearing many hats as the interior designer, project manager, general contractor and accountant for this whole renovation. The rain has thankfully not been coming down so bad as to hold up construction. And a mix-up in scheduling with the city's inspector helped kept us on schedule even after a last minute change before pouring the foundation.

I am happy to say that the second half of the foundation was put in today and we shall start on the back siding and windows next week! We are going to wait until after the wood siding is finished before putting down the concrete slab.

Here is Justin, dreaming of a finished house...

We came by the house one morning about an hour after the workers started working, this is what we saw...we knew the whole back side was coming, but it still took us by surprised.

Realizing that the deck and staircase will have to be rebuild on more stable foundation and to make it easier to work on the back siding, Mr. Tree single handedly took both down. The trash monster is over taking the house again! 

The back of the house is a more recent addition, so there is concrete foundation, but it was put on top of the old brick foundation. It's probably okay to keep it the way it is since it passed the last inspection. But we wanted to do a good job, so out it came. We rented a 90lb jackhammer that needed a giant compressor to operate. After some comparison shopping, Oakland Rentals  was the least expensive closest place to our house. It cost $101.00 to rent for minimum of 4 hours, we were done in about 1 hour.

With and without the old brick foundation...check out the 2 feet of space below the windows.

Our house has a gaping hole in the back! Can you imagine if we were to put in a giant glass wall in the back how much light that would let in?! I am a little, okay, a lot concern with getting a lot of light in our new house. I've lived in one too many dark apartments, including our current residence, to last me several life times. Expansive glass windows lining the back wall is out of our shoestring budget, so I will settle for having couple of working windows (without prison bars) on the back wall. :)

Our house has a gaping hole in the back, at least the foundation is done, for now. Next week, we will start to put up the new back wall and seal up the house so we can start working on the inside of the house!


Progress Report

The workers were scheduled to work this Monday but for some reason thought it they didn't need to because it was President's day, so we missed another day of work this week. As the work starts to proceed on the other side of the foundation, our worker noticed that couple of tools were missing from where they were stored. One was a rebar bender and cutter, the other a compressor for the nail gun. There was no sign of a break-in because the upstairs door has been locked this whole time. Although it's possible that one of the many people with access to the lock box took the stuff but the mystery shall remain unsolved.

Right now we are building support to raise and level the side of the house with the old foundation before it gets taken out. In a day or two, after the old brick foundation is taken out, a trench will be dug for the new concrete foundation and rebars will probably go in next week. If everything goes smoothly, we might be able to pour the concrete next week or the week after. I am trying to be very optimistic here about the time line of course, we'll see. Here are some photos from today.

2x4 reinforcements added next to the original 2x4s.

Framing put in on top of the foundation that goes down the center of the house.

Looking toward the side with foundation.

View of the beautiful new foundation from the outside.

Side with the old foundation, you are coming out buddy!

Close up of the old brick foundation.


Creeping Forward

We finally passed the rebar inspection for first half of the foundation repair. The inspector came on Thursday morning did a quick check of the architectural drawings and the placement of rebars and gave us the go ahead to pour the concrete. Our general contractor was able to call in the concrete truck to come in the afternoon. It was a very exciting event for me and Justin, but he was unable to make it to the job site to witness the foundation being poured. As a child, he used to love to sit and watch concrete trucks working across the street on his front lawn. The little tyke called them peanut butter trucks. We ordered the maximum amount of 9 cubic feet of concrete for one truck load which turned out to be about 3/4 cubic feet short of what was needed to finish the job. So we made a quick dash to Larms Building Material in East Oakland and got a trailer of mixed concrete with barely enough time to unload the stuff and return the empty trailer by 4:30pm in rush hour. Unfortunately, we didn't order enough concrete to finish the job. Ugh! Oh yeah, I had to pay $1100 for the concrete mixing truck and $240 for the concrete pouring truck and the additional $96 for the half trailer of concrete, so total job cost was about $1500, not including labor.

No work was done the next day, Friday, because the concrete needed time to harden. Saturday was Chinese New Year's eve, so workers got the day off. Work was supposed to resume on Monday, but we went to the job site today and nobody was there, no really sure what happened, hopefully they will be there tomorrow to continue work on the other half of the foundation. The frustrating part is that once the rebar is in for the other half of the building, another inspection will be required before the concrete can be poured. I will be so relieved once this whole foundation thing is out of the way.

Concrete mixing truck. 

Concrete pouring truck.

Filling up with concrete.

Ran out of concrete before the whole thing's filled.

The additional 1/2 cubic feet that required manual unloading and shoveling.

After pouring.


A Farewell to the Bad Boy of British Fashion

I am not one to mourn over the passing of celebrities, idolatry is not my cup of tea. But I was genuinely stunned and saddened by the death of fashion designer Alexander McQueen today. Back when I was just starting my study in fashion design, he was one of my favorite designers. I always looked to his work for inspiration and ideas. His collections were always shocking (in a good way), artistically creative, interesting and unique. Although I haven't kept up much with the fashion world in recent years, he's work still garners my attention from time to time. We shall never know what troubled the designer so much that he went to such extreme as taking his own life, but his work and legacy will live on. He will truly be missed...


Turkish Island Retreat

I was going through my favorite section (real estate) of The New York Times today and just fell in love with this house. It is a 100 year old house that came mostly intact with original built in furnitures and fireplaces and even bed linens that the owner is using in his guest room. I love the distressed look of the interior walls, gives the house so much charm and character. The only room that looks out of place is the kitchen with Ikea cabinets, but I think it works in this case.


Sunday To Do List / Craigslist is the best!

The last few days have been trying...I came down with the 24 hour flu which lasted about 36 hours. It is now Sunday and I am stuck to the computer doing research for how to dispose of two expired hot water heater and trash removal.

I posted an ad on Craigslist for free wood and free water heaters. There were several takers for the wood and they made a small dent in the pile of trash on the side of our house. The water heaters are too old and banged up for the couple who came by to get them. Just other day, someone dumped about ten used doors on our fence but Craigslist's free section helped me got rid of them in no time.

I believe the metal tanks of the water heaters can be recycled, but not sure where to take them or who would take them. Did a little Google search and this is what I found. The city of Oakland has a bulky item pick-up program that I can utilize to get rid of the water heaters and possibly the stove that's been sitting out in the yard. Since it is Sunday, I will have to wait until tomorrow to call for an appointment.
* Update
The bulk item pickup service is only available to customers of the Waste Management agency. They only service green waste and trash in our neighborhood, so we have to pay a separate company for the recycling.

I just posted three ceiling fans in the free stuff section of Craigslist and within 5 minutes I've gotten three responses and they are all spoken for! I never knew there was such a huge market for out dated gold trimmed faux wood ceiling fans with lights...

Next thing on the to do list is to find a reliable company to haul away the construction debris since the guy we've been using has been kind of busy lately. Who knew that hiring someone to haul away your trash can cost so much money?! Most companies charge $500-600 for a full truck including labor. So far, we've dumped about 7 trucks of trash, that's $3500 in trash dumping alone and construction has barely begun.

Numero tres on the to do list is meeting with a plumber on Tuesday to get an estimate for doing the kitchen and bath plumbings for all three units in our house. This plumber, Pascal, works for the apartment building that we currently reside in. According our general contractor, the plumbing bids he's gotten so far range from $10,000-30,000 for the three kitchens and four bathrooms, not including materials, which is another $4000. I am hoping our french plumber Pascal can give us a better deal since he did mention that business is slow right now.

In addition to all of the above, I received one of my floor sample packages (yay!) during the height of my illness and haven't had time to really look them over. Will report on them later.

That's it for now.