Accessorizing an Eichler

We finally finished the front of the house (minus landscaping) back in December by accessorizing.  We replaced our old front door, lights and house numbers seen here:

Old front door, lights and house numbers

With these beauties:

Eichler Entryway

The door is a solid core door purchased at San Rafael lumber.  It was not easy to cut, drill and hang- it was HEAVY!  We custom mixed the door color to come up with something that was like chartreuse with a bit of olive (we started with Gliden’s “Granny Smith Apple” matched to Eggshell Behr Ultra Paint, but had it adjusted a few times to make it more “olive” and less “neon”.

The sconce, doorknob, escutcheon (the plate around the doorknob), and deadbolt are from mid-century modern line at Rejuvenation.  Their website is not great- but they’re very helpful if you call or go into a store.  The store in Berkeley only carried the light, so we had to order the door hardware through the website/phone.  Originally the deadbolt didn’t have all the pieces so I called and they shipped the missing part over night.  The door hardware is pretty pricey (more than I wanted to spend but our neighbor talked Andy into it) but it’s as close to authentic as it gets and they’re commercial quality.  We went for the 5″ inset that was original to the Eichlers.

The peephole and house numbers are from Home Depot and we got the stainless steel door bottom guard from Ace Hardware (Andy did need to modify it a bit with his grinder to work with the slope of the floor in the atrium).  The LED security light on the left is from Costco.

Andy even made a custom stainless steel doorbell plate to work with our existing doorbell:

Custom Door Bell

We’re really happy with how the front of the house looks and have received several compliments from neighbors.  One neighbor even stopped by to tell Andy we had the “most improved house in the neighborhood”!  That really made Andy’s day 🙂

Eichler Facade

Eichler Beam Repair

One of the hallmarks of Eichler homes is the post-and-beam construction.  When it’s in good shape, it’s a nice architectural feature.  However, when neglected, the beams can quickly deteriorate.  Some of the beams in our house were in such bad shape they needed to be replaced (like in the office and above the garage door).  Others only had a little bit of rot and could be saved after a little beam surgery.  Hopefully we are finished replacing beams and can devote ourselves fully to beam repair.

Here’s the beam over the garage on the corner of our house- my first attempt at beam repair (much of the rotten part is actually inside the garage in a hard-to-see corner).  It’s the same corner that had a serious leak when we moved in and everything but the beam was replaced when we replaced the garage door.  It’s actually a pretty short beam- it only runs about 4 feet into the garage- I think it’s mostly decorative and not so structural.

This is the exterior side of the beam which is still exposed, even with the roof extension.  You can see the bottom was in pretty bad shape (I scraped out some of the soft wood with a putt knife).  The other side of the beam was actually in worse shape.  Luckily it’s now covered by the roof extension (and the roof is no longer leaking).

On the recommendation of our neighbor (another Eichler home owner), we used the Rot Doctor’s Restor-It system.  All together it was about $60 from Jackson’s hardware in San Rafael- but considering the severity or the rot, I don’t think my trusty “everyday”  Elmer’s wood filler ($8/tub from Home Depot) would hold.  Also, $60 is very reasonable in comparison to the cost and labor involved in replacing a beam (and doesn’t require big strong men nor a kitchen table on the front yard).

The first step is to apply the Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer- it’s a 2-part mixture (I mixed equal parts in a glass measuring cup reserved especially for chemicals).  It’s supposed to stop further rot and also harden the existing wood.  In theory, if you don’t stop the rot, there could be mold spores in the wood that continue to rot the wood after you fill it, causing a continuous repair cycle.  I know this because I read the entire brochure that came with the sealer.  It can also act as a primer for rotted wood, which I haven’t tried yet.  I can say from experience that paint bubbles when you cut corners and paint directly over rotted wood- even if you use primer first, so I’ll probably be testing this priming feature pretty soon.

You are supposed to apply it with a natural bristle brush (I used a foam brush which it says NOT to use, but I didn’t see that instruction until after I did it- everything seemed ok though).  When you apply it, it soaks in quite a bit and leaves the wood looking wet:

It really stinks (I used a respirator when applying it) and takes a few days to dry.  At this point you could prime and paint- but it wouldn’t be pretty given I dug away the soft wood with my painter’s tool … so the next step is to apply the flexible epoxy filler.  Again it’s a 2-part system where you mix equal parts from 2 separate jars:

I used a plastic putty knife and eyeballed approximately equal amounts of the two parts (cleaning the putty knife in between), applying it to a piece of scrap wood (my palette).  It says you can be off by up to 10% in your 50/50 (by volume) mixture, so it seems to be an inexact science.  The cream colored part (A) has a plasticy texture and the blue part (B) is a little more paste-like.  I used the putty knife to thoroughly mix the two together.  For some reason, I’ve been afraid of using a 2-part wood-filling system, but I actually like it a lot- every time you mix up some new filler it’s like getting brand new container of filler (no crusty old filler)!  It is a little bit more work though- you have to mix each time you need more (In the end, I used about 4-times what is shown in the picture, so I had to mix it in about 4 batches- the instructions warn against mixing more than you can use immediately- I really took that to heart).  Application is very similar to any other wood filler- I just used my metal painter’s tool (a putty knife with a funky shape)- though my neighbor uses a plastic sheet and a squeegee.  The texture is a bit more like bubble gum or silly putty than regular wood filler, but it takes enough time to dry that you can really work with it without worrying about it hardening on you right away.  It dries a bit harder than regular wood putty (which I guess is a good thing)- but that means it’s more work to sand.  I used my trusty Rigid R2300 random orbital sander and it seemed to work pretty well.  Here it is after I applied it:

On this side of the beam where the hole to be filled is a little deeper, I considered filling it in 2 stages, letting the first filling dry first before doing a second filling- but because it’s mostly hidden once the siding is installed (the left/back part of the beam is inside the garage), I just did my best with one application and the sander.  Here it is after sanding, priming and painting:

Here’s the other side of the beam:

It definitely looks much better- and I have high hopes that it will stay looking this good for a long time.  As we continue to replace the siding we’re finding spots in the fascia that need the same treatment, so maybe I’ll try our neighbor’s squeegee method next!

Eichler Face Lift

In mid September we started working on replacing the siding and painting- our biggest project to date.  We decided to do one side of the house at a time, starting with the front, which we figured would make the biggest impact.  Andy began by removing the top layer of siding, which was yellow painted pressboard (basically cardboard):

Under the pressboard was the original plywood siding.  It was rotted so badly there was no way to save it (we were hoping that at least SOME was salvageable- maybe in the protected area by the front door, but no such luck).  The yellow pressboard was also rotted in many places and even had some green moss growing on the outside of it.  Besides being the absolute cheapest type of siding available, It was installed incorrectly (horizontally instead of vertically) which caused water to seep in at the (poorly caulked) seams.  That caused the pressboard to rot and buckle.  Wet cardboard on top of rotted ply wood… not good.  The insulation in the walls was in bad shape too (which we knew from re-doing the walls in the office)… so we replaced that as well.

One of the worst areas of rot was around the spigot:

After removing the 2 layers of siding, Andy discovered that the studs were also rotted- apparently the spigot had been leaking at one point.  This is a pretty tricky spot to work in- it is where the water line enters the house from the street- directly behind the spigot, inside the garage, is the water pressure regulator, an emergency water shutoff and an electrical receptacle.   Andy removed the small section of fence next to the spigot and then started “carefully” using his sawzall to remove the existing studs.  However, there is no such thing as careful when it comes to a sawzall- it nicked the water line extending down from the spigot in the picture above (which was plastic) causing water to gush out spraying everywhere at about a gallon per second.  Andy ran to the sidewalk to shut off the main water supply (forgetting about the emergency shutoff 6 inches away) and I ran to the electrical panel to shut off the power.  Honey was confused.  Andy got the water shut off and rebuilt the wall… it’s a good thing he gets paid so well (in Racer 5 IPA)

Here’s what the new siding looked like once it was primed (which we did in the garage) and hung:

So beautiful!  We kept the windows and the trim around them in place while Andy worked the siding around them- which was a bit tricky but saved having to replace the windows.  After the siding was up, it was time to prep for paint.  That involved a lot of caulking (where the top of the siding meets the beams and the eave and where the fascia meets the eave), digging away the dirt around the foundation, power washing and then scrubbing the foundation with a tri-sodium phosphate solution (basically a strong soap that melted my cute pink rubber gloves), doing some beam repair, and repairing around the front door.  The previous owners had installed the lovely (sarcasm) orange door which was a pre-hung door, meaning it came with its own frame… so they “carefully” (probably with a sawzall) cut out the original framing around the door to get the new door frame in- then covered up the gap left between the two with some trim.  When I removed the trim pieces, the gap was so big you could see into the atrium through the 1/2″ crack all the way around the door.  Nothing some wood shims and a couple tubs of wood filler couldn’t fix though:

I just used some regular Elmer’s wood filler… we’ll see how it holds up… so far so good.  One thing we did notice is that if it gets wet (like when your husband sawzalls a water line 3 feet away) it swells… so be sure to prime and paint it right away.

Painting Eichler siding is SO TEDIOUS!  Because of the thin grooves, the paint has to be applied (with a super wet roller) then the paint worked into the grooves (and the excess paint removed from the grooves) with a brush… so you basically need to brush the whole house… twice (2 coats).  The cheap, fast, easy way to do it is with a sprayer, but that doesn’t get as good coverage and doesn’t get the paint worked into the grooves, so isn’t recommended.  Diane and I did most of the work- it took 2 of us about 5 hours each to get the first coat on (excluding the garage door), then about 7 more hours for me to do the 2nd coat and paint the garage door by myself.  Diane was paid in Racer 5 IPA:

Shawn also helped paint for about 20 minutes.  He’s better suited for siding work though:

We used flat exterior Behr Ultra paint in “Amazon Stone” (one shade darker than “Creek Bend”, the color we used in the Atrium) for the siding, garage door, and most of the trim.  The underside of the eaves and the beams are semi-gloss exterior Behr Ultra in the un-tinted ultra white base.   It’s a fairly new product so doesn’t have a full review from Consumer Reports, but the preliminary review is very good- and it’s about half the cost of Benjamin Moor Aura paint, which many pros swear by.  Interestingly, our neighbor is painting his house in almost the same color with Aura paint… so we’ll have a good real-life comparison of the 2 products.

Here’s what that spigot looks like now (we plan to remove the fence at some point- it’s just there for now to keep my sister’s dogs from escaping the front yard)

The vertical PVC pipe attached to the old spigot went nowhere (probably a defunct irrigation system), so we simply removed it.  Andy custom-made the corner trim pieces with his table saw using 2″x2″ lumber.

Here’s what the doorway looks like now:

(We have plans to replace the front door and paint it a new color… still deciding on hardware and color though)

And here’s the full frontal view.  Maybe we’ll trim that giant maple tree this winter… now that we don’t need it to block our ugly house.

Here you can see the newly painted foundation.  We used Behr’s concrete and stucco paint, also in “Amazon Stone” for the foundation.  It’s not a perfect color match to the house color, but it’s formulated for concrete, so I suppose that’s worth the slight mismatch

(Still working on the grass… probably a lost cause)

Quite the face lift, eh?  We’re REALLY happy with how it’s turned out… and with how much money we saved by doing it ourselves (contractors charge $300 per 8’x4′ sheet just to INSTALL the siding… not to mention the materials, insulation, priming, painting, and re-constructing rotted studs… That works out to about $100/hour- a price we’re not willing to pay).  It was REALLY hard, time-consuming work though… and we have 2 more sides of the house to finish- so we’re not even 1/3 done 🙁 … but at least the house looks really nice when we come home to it 🙂



The Saga of the Weed Tree

One day, a weed started to grow next to our house.  It was left to grow for a very very long time.  This weed grew for so long it became a tree: the weed tree.  It grew big and tall and eventually came to shelter the house’s chimney from the cold.  A short time after Mary and Andy moved in, their homeowner’s insurance carrier sent them a letter: the weed tree had gotten too dangerous.  You see, insurance companies are very very picky about what they will insure, and they happen to dislike flammable things (such as trees) being too close to things that could emit flames (such as chimneys).  So it came to be that Andy had his first encounter with the weed tree.

From afar, the weed tree looked innocent enough- like an ordinary deciduous tree.  But up close, Andy could tell that the weed tree was not that innocent- it was armored with mega death thorns. This is when Andy realized that the weed tree was a villain and he must be destroyed at once!  Andy hacked and hacked with his sword (actually, his sawz-all) until the weed tree rose no more- off to the green bin it went… or so Andythought.

The weed tree was very menacing though and started re-growing himself.  Every few weeks a new weed sprout would grow from where the weed tree once stood (now a weed tree stump).  For a while, Andy or Mary would pluck off the new sprouts.  Then one day Andy covered the weed tree stump with a few tons of cement chunks from the old sidewalk, but once the cement trunks were hauled off to the dump, the weed tree reared his ugly head, or sprouts, again.

This is when Andy knew he had to call in backup- from Timmy.  Andy and Timmy, the brothers whose parents once had a layover in Indiana, dug and hacked with their sawzall, pickax and shovels

They broke a shovel; Honey Brown expressed her dismay.

They brought out the car jack.

They borrowed a jack hammer from Kevin Sullivan.  Mary brought them lemonade.

They sweat, bled and cursed.  Then, finally it happened!  The weed tree was killed once and for all.  A giant void was left in its wake.

Andy an Timmy hoisted the carcass into the back of the Green Machine and hauled it to the dump. Hasta La Vista weed tree.

The end (or so we think).

Roof-a-palooza 2012: Part 4 (The Roof is finally on!)

After living with roof that leaked during EVERY rain storm for the past year, we have a new roof- and it’s water tight with R-9 insulation value!

The re-roofing has been a 4 day process. On day one, Abril‘s team arrived at 8:30am on the dot and got straight to work.  About 4 men of the 6-or so person team went straight up to the roof to start removing the gravel and old fashing.  Another 2 guys (including Al, who was the day’s project manager) came into the house and started taping plastic to our ceilings to collect any dirt and debris that seeps in:

Believe me- dirt seeps in… see:

They were very thorough- even getting plastic up in the closets.  Unfortunately, the tape didn’t hold very well- by the time we woke up the next morning, about 1/4 of the plastic had fallen.  Not a big deal however, because when it finally came off the next day, Andy did a good job at cleaning up.  My guess is that Abril’s team would have come in and done the same, but I going a little nuts having plastic everywhere so Andy took the initiative to take it down.  He’s a good husband.

After the taping, the whole team focused on the top of the roof and removing the gravel.  They used a giant vacuum cleaner that was connected to a dump truck.

It was loud- like they were running a lawn mower on the roof.  That commotion is what created all of the dirt in the house- and even loosened a light fixture in the office (probably my fault for not attaching it tightly after water seeped into it during the last rain storm).

They added new 4″ flashing (8″ in the atrium)- which is primed gray (we’ll most likely paint it white with the rest of the trim):

Finally, they added a black primer to help the foam adhere to what was left of our roof (tongue and groove wood, tar, a little gravel):

Notice they left the satellite dish up there as long as they could so we could continue to watch tv through the whole process except the middle of day 2! They also dug up quite a bit of the old tar, as you can see in the foreground of this picture- in some spots they dug down to the wood ceiling.

On day 2, Abril’s team arrived again at 8:30 on the dot.  We had a new project manager, Jose. Jose was the lead foam applier, as you can see by his shoes (he says they’re his foam shoes- I’m glad all his shoes don’t look like that).  I took this on their well deserved lunch break (and my lunch break).

Before they got to spraying the foam however, they finished up flashing (Andy decided to extend some fascia he added during the roof extension after he got home from work on roofing day 1- so they just had that small area to finish up), disconnected our 7 down spouts and added new flashing on top of the roof for them.  We decided to have them enlarge the down spouts on the recommendation of Kevin Sullivan, our favorite contractor.  They also removed the skylight in our hall bathroom and built up the base a bit so the new sky light will sit well above the foam.  Then they started spraying on the foam:

They were very diligent about protecting everything around- our gate and mailbox, our lawn furniture, every car in a 3-house radius, the entire atrium etc.  Luckily there was very little wind so there were no accidental over sprays that we’re aware of.

On day 3 the team added sealant and granules to the foam roof, and replaced the 6 existing 2″ down spouts with new bigger 3″ ones and added a 7th down spout, all to help aid drainage:

Before we reveal the new roof, here’s what the old tar and gravel roof looked like before:

(sorry, we don’t have a good wide angle shot)

And here she is now.:

Isn’t she beautiful, like a pristine snowfall in the Sierras?

(On day 4 they replaced the bathroom skylight which you can see in the photo above- the one they had on day 3 was the wrong size).

The best part?  It’s currently 91 degrees outside and only 77 degrees inside!  Not bad for a house with tons of giant single pane windows and no insulation in the walls (last summer it would have been about 98 degrees inside if it were 91 outside).  We’re in looooooove and can’t wait for the next downpour!


Roof-a-palooza 2012: Part 1

We’re getting a new roof in 4 days!!! We started researching and shopping around back in March which is when we chose to go with Abril roofing.  Because we have a completely flat roof, we only have 2 general choices for a new roof- tar and gravel which we currently have or foam.  We decided to go with foam even though it is more expensive because it adds a lot of insulation (the foam itself is insulative).

Disclaimer: All of the following info is probably only interesting if you are interested in flat roofs (which probably only happens if you have a house with a flat roof and need to replace it).  Consider yourself warned!

Aside for leaking every time it rains, the roof we have today has very little insulation:

As you can see, the original roof consists of 1.5″ thick tongue and groove douglas fir (the underside of which is our ceiling) then 0.5″ of fiberglass insulation, then an 1-4 inches of tar (which compresses the fiberglass to about 0.125″) then white semi reflective gravel which has become very thin over the years (the current roof is probably about 20 years old).   Roof salesmen and our neighbors with foam roofs say that having a foam roof significantly lowers the temperature in the summer (they’re very reflective) and reduces heating bills in the winter (very insulative)- both of which we support.

Once we decided to go with foam we still had many options in types of foam roofs.  We talked to Orlando from Aussie roofing about rigid foam coated with bitumen (he initially proposed pitching the roof which would have cost $35,000 all together!).  We also talked to a guy from Custom Craft, George from Armstrong roofing and Rick Abril from Abril roofing, both of whom quoted us for spray polyurethane foam (SPF).  We found George (a salesman) from Armstrong to be a little too pushy for our liking- he convinced us to sign a contract before he left the house (which we later cancelled) because if we didn’t get the roof replaced ASAP (this was back in March- recall- the beginning of this year’s rainy season) they would have to do what amounted to several thousand dollars more work, because, he argued, any waiting would rot our existing roof so much that they would need to add more wood decking.  George also bad mouthed his competitors, specifically Abril. The man from custom craft was a little more knowledgable than George but also long winded (we went through a streak of talking to very long winded salesmen/contractors)- Andy talked to him so I don’t have much more to report. The reasons we ultimately chose Abril are:

  1. Almost all of our neighbors with spray polyurethane roofs used Abril- so we can walk around our immediate neighborhood and literally see dozens of examples of their work.  Everything looks pretty good, and no other vendor gave nearly as many references in our area.
  2. We talked to several people who went with Abril (including neighbors we know well) and all were happy.
  3. We have personally used Abril for several repairs on our current roof and found their work to be good.  When they couldn’t fix a leak on the first try (which, granted, is difficult on a flat tar & gravel roof) they came back and fixed it on the 2nd shot.
  4. For all of our repairs we did with Abril, they offered a 50% credit towards a new roof- which basically meant our repairs were half off.
  5. Rick Abril is very easy to deal with.  His quote took less than an hour- mostly spent on the roof making measurements.  Other salesmen took up to 4 hours of our time- which, frankly, we didn’t need.  Rick got to the point and didn’t waste our time (we especially hate when roof salesmen waste our time by bad mouthing competitors).  I will say that getting ahold of him can be a challenge.
  6. They charge several thousand less than their competitors (for similar scopes of work- there were some minor differences in the quotes- Abril included more flashing while Armstrong adds more foam over the eaves than does Abril- but at the end of the day, we don’t really care how well insulated our eaves are).  This alone wasn’t enough to make the decision- believe me, we did our research- but it certainly helped.

The “granule” debate:  All spray foam roofs are coated with a latex-like paint for protection.  On top of that, some companies add granules (like chunky white sand) and some don’t.  The advantage of them is that they can add a bit more protection, especially from birds pecking at the roof (which has been a known problem with foam roofs).  The disadvantages are (a) they collect in the down spouts after heavy rains and (b) they make it harder to re-coat the roof, which is recommended every 5-20 years depending on who you talk to and whether or not you’ve already paid for your original foam roof (before paying they say it doesn’t need to be coated for 20+ years, after paying, I’m guessing they want more business and quote more like 5 years).

Price:  We were quoted prices ranging from about $20,000 (SPF from Abril) to $35,000 (pitching the roof with rigid foam).  This seems to depend on square footage (our house is 1700 s.f. plus the garage and some eaves) and difficulty (number of vents etc. protruding the roof).  I’m guessing location (Marin County) also factors into the price- that’s how free markets work after all.  All of our SPF quotes were within the $20,000 – $25,000 range, which was very hard to digest (we’ve never spent that much on anything besides the house… and that amount of money could buy a pretty cool car)… but I guess that goes with the territory.

Hopefully, this is helpful to other people in the market for a foam roof- I certainly wish someone had made this type of info available when we were shopping around!

The Garage: Before and After

We’ve done a lot of changes around here, but the garage was the first “room” that we officially can call finished!  Here’s a look at it before we moved in:

The picture above is a picture taken from the MLS listing for our house.  Probably 10 minutes prior to taking this picture, the major load bearing beam above the garage doors was painted orange.  There is also a matching orange paint spill on the drive way (which we later power washed away).  Anyhow, by the time we looked at the house the paint was already bubbling and peeling on the beam.  Odd, right?  Well, the beam was about 30% rotted- you could peel the paint off with your fingers and then start picking away the beam… with your fingers!  We knew going into the purchase that it would have to be replaced.

Notice the style of garage door.  That is the original style door from 1958- kind of like sliding barn doors.  The thing was, they didn’t look great- they were veneered with the same fiber board siding that veneers our house.  They were using the original rusty hardware- so only one door actually slid.  We weren’t happy with the design- basically, you could only have one side of the garage open at a time.  Our goal was to be able to park a car in the garage, and we knew that, given my driving skills, we needed a wider opening.  That also meant that the vertical support beam in the middle of the garage had to go.  Oh, and there wasn’t a garage door opener  (I had to use my full body weight to manually open the one side that actually moved).  In a perfect world, we would have kept the original door style, but to us it wasn’t practical, so we decided to put function ahead of form… which is probably sacrilege to Eichler enthusiasts.

On the interior there were even more issues.  The elephant in the room was the moldy corner in the front right (when viewing from the street)- just next to the electrical panel.  There was obviously a leak there (though not in the roof) that had been going on for quite a while.  In the first week we lived here Andy tore out the moldy drywall which let the corner air out a bit.

The next issue we had with the garage was that there was a sliding glass door from the garage to the atrium:

Back when this was Mirabelle’s place, there was a bedroom in the garage which was entered through the atrium via a sliding glass door.  We debated whether or not to remove it because we used it quite a bit, especially given the difficulty in entering/exiting through the garage doors.  In the end, we decided to get rid of it because (a) our garage is ugly and seeing it from the interior of the house was not aesthetically pleasing and (b) the door wasn’t built to code which effectively weakened the house plus it was a little dangerous.

The final problem with the garage was its lack of organization- no work area, no storage area.  For several months we just had piles of stuff everywhere.  It really irritated me every time I saw it- like I was living the life of a hoarder.

So here’s the step by step of what we did:

First, we (and by we I mean Andy) removed the moldy drywall in the corner of the garage (sorry, I couldn’t find any before pictures… Let’s pause here to acknowledge the fact that we lost a LOT of pictures recently in a tragic computer incident) let me paint the picture with words: Holmes on Homes would have been appalled.  Enough said.  The next project was to remove some more drywall so that we (and by we I mean Andy and my brother in law Shawn) could do electrical work- both the main panel and sub panel are in the garage- so all electrical lines originate from the garage.  Some of that electrical work was to enable some overhead shop lights which Andy hung.

Then came the big project: Replacing the beam.  This step was so big and intimidating that we actually called in help in the form of Kevin Sullivan- an amazing contractor who knows everything about Eichler homes and has every tool known to man (and he’s a genuinely nice guy).  The basic procedure was to remove the doors and the windows above the doors then to support the beams running perpendicular to the one we were replacing.  Then, the to remove the problem beam.  It was heavy.

I think it was at this point that it was discovered that the former mold-ridden area had serious rot, so the vertical posts (2×4’s and 4×4’s I think) got replaced.  Once the old beam was out, the new beam went in.  Because we were eliminating the center support, the new beam had to be steel reinforced.  It was heavy, heavier than the original one.  In the process of putting in and trying to level the new beam, Kevin realized that the roof line was not level because the right side of the garage was several inches lower than the left side.  They ended up jacking up the right side of the garage by several inches to compensate.  It was pretty crazy.  Good thing Kevin was here- he wasn’t freaking out like I was.

Once the new beam was in, our plan was to just rehang the old doors and wait a little while (until our bank accounts replenished) to get a new garage door.  It was a Sunday afternoon and we were planning to go to a BBQ at my boss’s boss’s house.  We had an hour or so before the BBQ, so we sent Kevin home because we could handle putting the old garage doors up our selves.  BOY WERE WE WRONG!  At one point Andy and I were holding the 6’x6′ wood door and Andy had to let go but as soon as he did the door basically feel on me.  Andy was screaming “let it fall, let it fall!” (actually, that wasn’t the last time he would scream that).  At the end of the day we barely had the doors leaning against the garage and just started screwing random scraps of wood everywhere we could connect garage to door.  We never made it to our BBQ.  I think I got up in the middle of night to make sure nothing had crashed down.  Needless to say, this accelerated our purchase of a new garage door.

We chose a roll-up door with four flat panels from RW garage door in Vallejo who also did the installation.  It was reasonably affordable and had a much more modern look than the ones with raised panels- at least in our opinions.  When we made the purchase over the phone, we were told that we would need a low profile opener which we bought, but the installers said that wasn’t necessarily true (although a traditional opener would have been more visible from the exterior through the windows).  At first we were upset that we spent the extra money for the low profile one, but in the end we decided we liked it because it is SUPER quiet and unobtrusive.  Right now the door is white- we are debating the color (Andy likes white, I want it to match the color of the house when we paint the house).  We’re VERY happy with it.

To handle the interior organization issues, we built a work bench for Andy out of some 4×4’s and an old door we had.  We insulated the interior facing wall and added peg board to the interior facing wall as well as around the work bench.  I went wild buying peg board accessories and hooks- all from Sears (using my “shop your way rewards” points).   It makes me really happy because it gives us organization. The wall opposite the work bench  is lined with shelves from Costco ($300 for two sets spanning 12′ all together) which you can see to the left of the picture below:


The last project we tackled was removing the sliding door to the atrium- which was pretty easy.  We even sold it for  $70 on Craigslist.   Once the slider was out we had a giant hole between the garage and the atrium:


Andy re-built the wall which required the re-running of some electrical wire:

Then we attached siding on the atrium side of the wall.  The siding we chose is “Eichler Siding” that we bought from Jeff Nichols (another very nice guy and very pleasant to work with).  He only had the rough finish in stock at the time- and since the rest of the atrium is a smooth finish, we had to use our palm sander to get it smooth:

Andy and I took turns sanding, which took a LONG time and gave me a tension headache as well as the motivation to upgrade my orbital sander to the RIGID R2600 which is amazing compared to the old Black & Decker “Mouse”.  After sanding, we hung it and then primed it.  According to some instructions on Jeff’s site, he strongly recommends priming the bottom and even some of the back- which is very difficult to do once it’s hung- so if I had to do it over, I would do the priming first.  Oh, and this stuff LOVES primer- I think I used about a half gallon on this 6’x9′ section.  Now it’s hung, trimmed, primed and almost ready for paint (I need to work a little wood putty magic to compensate for the fact that the installer-Andy- was just a beginner).  It’s beautiful:

Here’s the garage side:


Here’s the whole garage today:

(Please pardon the dresser/night stand combo blocking the shelves- that’s another project for my RIGID R2600)

As you can see, there’s plenty of room to park a car and it’s relatively organized.  I’m sure Martha Stewart’s garage is much neater, but compared to what it was like before, it’s heaven.  Having a home for all of our stuff makes it much less daunting to start tackling a new project.  Having an area of the house “finished” to our liking gives us hope that other areas could be finished some day too.


Hauling Concrete

So, this isn’t the most glamorous or interesting post but I thought I’d throw it on the blog because hauling 5-6 truck loads of concrete is A LOT of work. With the work my brother and I have done it’s easily 40 hours of heavy manual work.

Of course, with the right equipment that time could be cut in half (we only had a 60 pound jack hammer).

After jack hammering continously for about 11 hours my brother and I removed the  walkway on the side of the house, a random pad of concrete (12 feet x 12 feet x 8-10 inches) and a deck (about 15 feet by 8 feet).

Anyway, here’s the pile after the demo:


And here’s what the truck looked like (load 3 of 6):








What’s an Eichler?

Andy and I have been living in San Rafael  for over 3 years now, so “Eichler” has become a natural part of our vocabulary- but before we moved up here, we had no idea what it meant.  On our very first trip to San Rafael (after my job interview but before I accepted the job) we talked to a (crazy) real-estate agent to get a feel for the different neighborhoods and housing costs (by the way, the WORST way to find a realtor is to walk into a real estate office on a Saturday morning and start working with the first person you see!).  Anyhow, not only did she tell us that housing prices in Marin were impervious to any down turns (that was December, 2007… turns out that she was wrong), she told us the only place we could afford to live (i.e. buy a house for less than $500,000) would be Petaluma… about 40 miles north of here with a killer commute… and that we wanted to avoid “Eichlerville” at all costs.  Flash forward 3.5 years… we bought an Eichler in “Eichlerville” for less than $500,000 (the same model a block away sold for $1,000,000 in 2007).  Anyhow… that was our introduction to Eichlers.

Eichler homes are pretty unique- I think the best way to describe them are “California Modern” (although our particular Eichler can best be described as “George Jetson Remodels with Home Depot Clearance Supplies and a Roman Palance theme”).  Oh, and when I say unique- I should specify that while about a dozen of your neighbors have your exact same house (or its mirror image) taken over the general US population, they are unique.

While many people assume they were designed by Joseph Eichler- he was just the developer (kinda like the guy Eiffel who gets all of the credit for the Eiffel tower but he didn’t actually design it).  Eichler  developed homes in various neighborhoods in northern and southern California between 1950 and 1974 (I think he has a couple Eichlers in New York… but flat roofs/ no insulation and NY are not a good match).  The architect firm that actually designed our house was called “Anshen and Allen”.  Anyhow, Eichler’s developments are pretty distinct for the types of houses they contain- very  Frank Lloyd Write-ish, they epitomize “Mid-Century-Modern.”   I’ve detailed some of the distinctive Eichler features below

To get you oriented, our floor plan is Anshen & Allen E-21.  Imagine a back yard at the top of the picture and afront yard at the bottom with neighbors on the left and right.  The layout above is pretty accurate- the only exceptions are the layout of the master bath (Bath 2) and the kitchen are slightly different.  Plus “Family Room”=Our Dining room, “Bonus Room”=Our Beer Room, “Office/Bedroom”=Andy’s office and the Bottom Left Bedroom=Mary’s Sewing room.

Atriums (a.k.a. holes in the middle of the house): Pros: Makes an awesome entry-way and a pretty cool house layout. Versatile- people have done all sorts of stuff with them (added retractable roofs, sealed them off completely, put in hot tubs, ponds, etc.).   Adds additional “outdoor” space that’s more private and quieter (no street noise) than the front or back yard.  If you stand at the right spot and look through the giant hole in the roof above the atrium it gives a nice view of the hills. Cons: None, they’re my favorite Eichler feature!

Glass walls to “bring the outdoors in.”  Pros: Really cool looking (unless your outside looks like a cheap blind person’s interpretation of a roman palace).  Let in lots of light. If your glass company writes “to replace single pane of glass” on your homeowners’ insurance claim when you break one, you can get them replaced with dual-paned glass for a $50 deductible. Cons: Let in too much light to sleep without curtains (which are expensive).   Attract lawn-mower debris (see insurance tip above).

Sliding doors (originally even for closets and cabinets- but ours have been replaced) Pros: They don’t slam (Andy’s least favorite thing ever is a door slamming).  Allow for lots of light.  Cons: TOO MANY DOORS!  Our house has 9 exterior doors (albiet the previous ownwers added 2 of them and we added 1- Honey’s dog door)- all but 2 exterior doors (the front door and dog door) are sliders- but there are 3 more interior sliders!  Easy to walk into (sort of the reason I can only bend the tip of my pinky 23 degrees.  I’m not the only one- every dog we’ve had at our house had tried to walk/run through one).  A sliding garage door is not very practical- the hardware gets rusty and hard to move and you can only have one half open at a time.

Post-And-Beam Construction with tounge and groove decking for ceilings.  Pros: Really cool looking.  Cons: Beams are prone to rotting and difficult/expensive to replace.  Ceilings are difficult to patch and don’t accomodate recessed lighting (actually, any wiring is difficult).

Open floor Plans.  Pros: Modern Layout.  Cons: Making all of the rooms “go together”.  Having 11 different types of flooring (9 pictured above)  is not aesthetically pleasing.

Flat and/or Low Slope Roofs. Pros: None (doesn’t even look cool).  Cons: No attic space or head room between ceiling and roof means no insulation. Prone to water pooling which leads to leaks.

Radiant Floor Heating. Pros: Keeps your feet warm! The air doesn’t dry out like it does with forced hot air (good if you and/or your dog have sensitive skin). Cons: The tubing that circulate the water embedded in the concrete slab can leak and degrade and eventually render themselves useless (more likely if the tubing  is galvanized steel rather than copper like ours).  I’ve also heard a rumor (from a Realtor, selling an Eichler with forced hot air) that radiant floor heating is more expensive than forced hot air.  *Bonus flooring type in the picture above!

“Eichler Siding” (vertical siding with 2″-spaced grooves).  Pros: Really cool looking and unique.  Cons: one guy on the planet sells it and it’s really expensive.  Actually, with a jig, router, and about 20,000 hours you can make your own out of flat siding sheets… which Andy considered but decided it’s probably worth the extra $25/sheet to have someone else put the lines in the siding.

Insulation Optional.  Eichlers were catalog-order and the buyer could choose luxurious add-ons such as insulation.  Apparently the original buyers of our house were not the type to splurge on luxurious insulation- we don’t have a lick of the stuff… unless you count the drywall-over-existing-paneling as insulation.  Pros: None. It gets HOT in the summer and COLD in the winter.  Cons: Obvious.

So, there you have it- Eichlers (ours in particular) in a nutshell!