Saturday, April 5, 2008

Granite, granite, everywhere and not a slab to pick.

We didn’t have the batteries charged in the camera so this particular trip was almost pictureless. Camera phone saved this day.

As I mentioned in the last post, we received a call from Fulton’s Design Center letting us know it was time to select our granite slabs.

So we headed to Arizona Tile. It was a really cool warehouse that had, literally, tons of granite slabs to view. We checked in, got our hardhats on and started wandering around while waiting for our granite guy to pull the slabs we were going to view.

There were some really cool patterns and we discovered that we preferred the types that had large variations and inclusions in them. The uniform granite was still cool, it just didn’t have that “natural beauty” feel that the large patterned ones had.

As we continued to investigate we realized that the most beautiful slabs were the most expensive.

Our slab was ready so we walked over to take a look at it.


That’s all we could think. It really wasn’t that the granite wasn’t nice, it was just that we had just seen such cool variation that we wanted something unique about our select.

“This one’s nice and all, but we’d like to see some others, please.”
“Uhm, that’s it. That’s the only one we have for you.”
“There aren’t any other slabs we can look at?”
“That’s all we have right now.”
“If we can chose 1 out of 1 selection, then our ‘choice’ is already predetermined. You don’t need us for this step. Why did we even drive down here?.... What about those right there? They look cool.”
“We don’t’ have enough of those. You need four.”
“What about those? Those look really cool.”
“Those are 3cm slabs, you are getting a 2cm slab.”

This guy wasn't helping and I was about to ask him if we could talk to someone who actually cared about what they were doing for a living. Then out of nowhere, a helpful suggestion.

“You could call your design center and see if they’ll let you upgrade to a 3cm slab.”
“Ok. Thanks.”

Back to the design center we went. Would they let us upgrade? Would we have to pay a $250.00 change order fee and even if they did let us upgrade, how much more would four 3cm slabs cost?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The big cover up (Feb 23rd)

We drove up to see a big pile of sand in our front yard. This had to mean stucco was coming soon. Very exciting.

What was more exciting was that the rooms suddenly were a lot like rooms. Up until this point we really had only a vague sense of what the inside spaces were like. The insulation helped define some of the rooms but the drywall changed that a lot.

The place was a mess but it was cool to see ceilings and interior walls. Even the stairs to the basement became suddenly really cool stairs to the basement.

One odd thing...

We found three or four propane containers next to empy Coke cans. To this day I don't know what this was all about.

Actually, there was one more odd thing...

I can't explain this either.

Earlier in the week we got a phone call from the design center. It was time to select our granite slabs. We left the house pretty excited about the developments there and headed to Arizona Tile.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Insulae Chavez (Feb 15)

Although the winters in Arizona are great, the summer requires that we isolate the interior of our house from the outside. In order to make the inside insular, we need to insulate.

If only it could be that easy with neighbors.

One of the options we had available to us was Blown Cellulose Insulation. I had been seeing a lot of it on some home shows and we really liked the idea.

You take a bunch of newspaper, chop it up into tiny little pieces, then blow it out of a big tube into spaces between the wall studs. Just as the newspaper leaves the blower, you spray it with an adhesive to help it stick to the vertical surfaces.

Come back later and shave it down with a brush and then, as Burt Munro used to say, "Bob's your uncle."

Our house has about 120 years of newspaper in it.

Lots of cool environmental things about blown cellulose insulation. Uses 90% less energy to manufacture, it bio-degrades, is 80% recycled and blah blah blah. But really, if they made it out of the freshly opened eyes of a thousand Snow Leopard kittens, we probably would have still gone through with it.

Ok, Snow Leopards are pretty cool, so if that was the only way we'd get the blown insulation we'd have gone with fiberglass batt insulation, but if they would have offered us some baby harp seal insulation...

The really cool thing about this stuff is that it does NOT contain any minuscule fibers that lodge themselves in your skin when you are crawling around in your attic wiring up the motion sensors for your house.

One thing you'll notice, the "non-livable" areas were insulated with regular fiberglass batt. I would have liked all of it to have been cellulose but not enough to try to pay some extra for it.

If you can deal with Bob Villa you can see it being applied here. My favorite quote, "...isn't it all lumpy?"

If there is a downside to this stuff it would have been the huge mess it made inside the house. It looked like an Ororo Monroe fight scene.

They cleaned up when they were done and we started walking around.

I found a couple of areas where the spaces weren't filled in all the way and called Paul to see what he thought. He agreed they were thin and called the company back to fix. Right about that time we saw that the shade cables were sticking out of the insulation. We had rolled it up into a donut shape that would fit between the studs but the twist on the cables had it actually twisted 90 degrees from where it needed to eventually be.

The insulation guys didn't bother to twist it to it's final position before applying the insulation, they just insulated right over it as if there was going to be a huge lump in our wall right there.

I hammered in some staples into the studs, zip-tied the shade cable into it's proper place and Paul was going to have them cover it up. As you can see it actually came out pretty well.

This was a very inexpensive upgrade and will be more than worth it during the summer.

There's going to be like a foot of this stuff in the ceiling. They install that after the drywall is in.

More on that later...

Wiring complete

Here's the end result at the cabinets. We also added some conduit so we can run more cable later if we need to. The conduit is the blue tube you see below.

Seventh Circle of Basement (Data Cable-3 Feb 02)

It was time for lunch and we all found some step or 2x4 to lean on for lunch. Spicy Chicken Sandwiches all around.

There were some tricky areas to climb around because of the plumbing and electrical and in hindsight, it is impressive that we didn't damage anything. We had some tricky moves to make climbing up and down as we only had one ladder that reached the ceiling.

The area over the kitchen is pretty crazy.

The upstairs was pretty much complete, it was getting dark and we moved down to the basement.

As we had been pulling wires all day long some of the attention to detail was starting to slip. One thing we did notice, Guardian totally screwed up the 5.1 audio set up in the basement. They wired for ceiling speakers instead of wall speakers, ran an audio connection from the cabinets in the garage to a random wall in the basement closet, ran a data line to the speaker connections box and completely missed a data jack in the closet.

This was a disaster and we had to fix it ourselves.

Why not just leave it and have Guardian fix it? You’ll remember we had already wired the upstairs. You’ll also remember that our entire operation relied on stealth. If Guardian discovered what we did, not only would they complain to Fulton and complicate my life, but they would likely not warranty any of their wiring.

Their retarded wiring was partly repairable by just moving things around, but we had to buy additional wire and a wall box to cover the rest. This was pretty disappointing but the silver lining here was that if Guardian complained about any of the wiring I did, I could take them to task for this huge blunder.

Barb had to make the run for wiring and came back with donuts.

Pull some cable, pull some more, eat a donut, cut some cable, tie it up, eat a donut, pull it down to the jack hide the cable, eat a donut. Repeat as necessary.

We fixed their problem and finished measuring and cutting our cable. We gathered it all up at the same hole that we used for the shade cables and pulled it through. There was a section where we pulled a lot more than what was needed so we cut this on the basement end and moved upstairs to finish pulling this run across the ceiling and down to the cabinets.

It was now about 10PM and we wanted to just get this wiring done. We weren’t going to be able to really make it neat tonight. We’d have to come back on Superbowl Sunday to finish things in the morning.

Remember the cable that was way too long in the basement and we decided to cut it? Yeah, that was a bad idea. When we got done pulling the cable across the ceiling we realized that we had missed something downstairs and didn’t pull that section the same distance as the rest before cutting them.

Now it wouldn’t reach at all. Disaster again.

We moved some stuff around, altered our route for that section, and managed to make it work. We were tired, Mark had a long drive home, Alex had left hours earlier and we were out of donuts. We’d fix and finalize the rest on Sunday before the game.

For the record, even though Alex agreed to work all day for 20 bucks, we gave him a few multiples of the agreed to price as I really felt he had negotiated poorly, didn’t have a good understanding of what his time was worth, and really helped out a lot.
This is what we ended up with at almost every jack. The Guardian wire and two of ours looped up and hidden.