Saturday, May 28, 2005

Progress With Some Pain

So much has happened in the last two weeks that it's hard to know where to begin. We have been working like absolute maniacs the past week, and last night was the first time all week that we've been home and clean before 10pm. The following is my attempt at a brief run down...

Our roof slab was poured following the steel placement. What a circus. The contractor from hell (CFH) proved himself yet again by showing up shorthanded by about four people, ordering a much-too-small pump truck, failing to supervise and coordinate his crackhead crew appropriately and instead wasting time and making a mess by attempting to learn how to finish concrete at my expense, almost killing the only experienced finisher on the job by nearly knocking him off the roof head first with a roll of rebar mesh, taking six hours to complete a two hour job, etc, etc.
Fortunately this was only a roof slab and not my finished floor, but the stress just about put me over the edge. There's just something wrong with me having to act as supervisor and quality control agent for people that claim to know what they're doing, particluarly when this was what the CFH (who, it quickly became apparent, knows absolutey ZERO about placing and finishing concrete) was supposedly getting paid for. It sure makes me thankful I've taken the time to educate myself and learned and paid attention, because I think I was the most knowledgable, experienced person on the job that day and it scares me to think how it would have gone if I hadn't stepped in and been the boss.

I really, really wanted to fire this CFH a while ago, but we were in a situation where he had been paid for work that had not been completed, so I held off until after the roof pour. The last straw started with his sub from hell (SFH) calling off the scheduled Wednesday floor slab pour two days before it was supposed to happen citing both the forecasted rain and that I told him we were cancelling (I didn't, and both excuses are ridiculous, since professionals never call off for rain until that morning). CFH failed to verify this with me, and instead took the sub's word for it, which I didn't find out until Tuesday afternoon when I called CFH to see what time he had scheduled concrete for. CFH, pretened all was well for Wednesday, but an hour later, SFH called me (presumably at CFH's direction) and said “you know, if you're pouring on Wednesday, I'm not going to be there, I have other plans”.

Fortunately, I was able to find another well-organized and competent sub the following day and scheduled the floor pour for Friday (yesterday). CFH was fired within the same hour in a rather comical conversation where he seemed shocked that my patience with his incompetence and complete lack of professionalism was at it's end. He just didn't get that he wasn't going to be doing any more concrete work for me, signed contract or no. Some people are just so frighteningly clueless.
Lesson learned: never violate your instincts and never, ever, hire a contractor who drives a crappy truck. Surprisingly, this seems to be a pretty good indicator of a “pro's” competence.

Our parapet was stacked and poured on Tuesday which marked the official completion of our ICF sub's work. We gave him his final check with thanks for a job well done and sent him home.

We were in a little bit of a daze the rest of the day feeling like parents who have just had their only child move out. It's a little scary,since the rest is now basically up to us.

Vern and I completed the sand prep and laid the vapor barrier, insulation, PEX tubing and rebar reinforcement for the lower level slab. This was a HUGE project that we spent pretty much every waking minute on for over a week, complicated by the fact that our truck broke down on the roof pour day from hell (as previously described) and limited our ability to transport the miles of PEX tubing that we've been storing in our garage and renting equipment and purchasing/moving additional supplies as we needed to.
We had planned on getting the whole project done over last weekend, but being truckless slowed us down so we didn't really wrap things up until mid week. On the good side of the recent concrete circus, the two day delay in pouring the floor gave us time to connect manifolds and pressure test the system, something we were unable to do with the upstairs.

Our “new” concrete sub showed up with a great crew and got the job done yesterday as promised. The only complication was a couple of the rainshowers that have been a Seattle-like daily occurance here this month (we've had only about three rain-free days the entire month). Since our roof is just a concrete slab at this point and not insulated or waterproofed, there are a few areas where water was able to leak in and onto the wet floor concrete...a bad, bad thing for finishing. Fortunately these areas are minor and mostly located where cabinetry or closets will conceal them. So we've conceeded a few areas of non-perfection on the floor but we're immensely relieved to have the slab done and will consider the added character a win given the natural and man-made events of late.

We have a floor and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Even though our role in the remaining construction is GIGANTIC, I expect it to be relatively pain free since the tradework will be done, with the exception of the rest of the plumbing rough-in, by my family members and us.

Our roof insulation was supposed to be delivered yesterday and didn't show. I'll expect it on Tuesday at which point roofing can commence. Our windows are also slated for delivery on Tuesday which should be interesting since I'm the only person that I know of that will be available to help unload them. Hopefully the truck driver will be accommodating!

Homeclick has made a bit of progress in righting their wrongs. My missing toilet tank showed up yesterday and the defective and used products have been shipped back with the promise of an exchange. I scored three cool faucets, two for our master bath and one for the guest bath, on Ebay. Since I won't be ready to install them for a while, I'll just have to hope they're going to work well. Despite the PEX tubing being out, our garage is quickly filling up with house parts. We hope to get a start on installing the glass block windows this weekend. So much for a relaxing Memorial Day.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Interior Photos

May 13th: A few photos I took as the roof decking was being placed.

We're getting a better idea of the scale of the space and it's definitely starting to acquire a personality instead of being just walls and sky. It's very tall in there!
Looking north into the shop and the media room upstairs:

The master bedroom doorway on the left, kitchen/pantry/master bath areas beyond and gym and door out to the lower roof deck above:

The southeast corner windows:

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I'm Juggling Five Balls and They're All Muddy

There are not words to describe how ill-suited todays' weather was for outdoor activity. It was 35 degrees and raining and a miserable day was had by all. Where do I sign up for summer?

Yesterday, my head guy tried to call off for today after seeing the forecast, and I had to play the bad guy and tell him he had to show up and be ready to set steel by 7 am (keeping in mind he lives two hours away). It's not how I would have liked things to have gone for anyone, but I've had a crane scheduled for a week and canceling would have meant a wait of a week or more to be rescheduled and that's time I just don't have to waste. Needless to say, I was not the most loved person on the job today, particularly at hour two when everyone was soaking wet, muddy and freezing cold. It really is more pleasant to work in -20 temps than the cold, wind and rain we had today. To the credit of our crew, they sucked it up, got the crane work completed in time for morning coffee and then called it a day.

They're planning to return tomorrow to finish up with setting the decking and installing and welding the joist bracing and I'm hoping for some decent weather to soothe everyone. I had scheduled the roof slab pour tomorrow (Friday) but we've now had to delay that until Monday since the steel isn't completed. In the mean time, Vern and I have been working to get the foundation slab prep work completed so we can lay vapor barrier, insulation and PEX. Mostly, that means a lot of shoveling, wheeling and raking of sand, and yesterday we gave the wheelbarrow a flat tire which I take as a sign we're working hard.
We're getting close to there, and my hope is we can have our work wrapped up and ready for concrete by Monday.

The potential (and aggravating) wrench in those works is that the plumbers and the water/sewer guy STILL have not completed the under slab rough-in, despite my three requests and the fact that it's been sitting untouched and unfinished for three weeks. Apparently the problem stems from the 2" line into the house having been run slightly too short, their hammer drill being broken, and an apparent lack of communication between the water line guy and the plumbing guys. Or maybe because I can't expect decent service on a $14K bid? I'm going to have to get nasty with them tomorrow, which means everyone except the excavator is now officially on the record of unpleasant conversations. How fun.

And on another front: There's a fair chance I've just entered internet shopping hell. I ordered $2800 worth of fixtures from Homeclick last week, feeling reasonably confident because I've had decent experiences with them in the past. I think I may have pushed my luck. First, I received only one of the pair of matching sinks for our MB. I am told the other is on it's way. OK. The $75 soap dispenser I received has defective chrome, and tomorrow will mark day five of waiting for a call back I was told would be within 24-48 hours. The rest of the order, minus three toilet seats for my Toto Nexus toilets, was shipped by ABF and a stated total of 8 boxes. Only 7 showed up (missing one toilet tank), and I'm on day three of the "will call in 24-48 hours" routine.
Here's the best part. The two kitchen faucets I ordered (to the tune of $1K) BOTH HAVE BEEN USED!!!!!!!! That's right. They've both obviously been installed and removed as evidenced by torn gaskets, silicone scraps and parts attached that are not supposed to be there. They're dirty with kitchen gunk and drywall dust and still had water in the lines. I am shocked and more than a little grossed out. Same story as above when I called. Let me add that I got zero apology for any of these problems, and the person I got with call #3 about the used faucets didn't even sound surprised. I think we can safely say Homeclick is now on my sh*t list. I'm not terribly optimistic that there will be a smooth resolution based on their generally horrendous online reviews, but I'll reserve judgment on that for the moment. Are we having fun yet?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Upper Level Walls Poured

Road restrictions were officially lifted at 12:01 Wednesday morning, and we managed to stick to our plan and get the upper level walls poured today.

Things went very smoothly even though the pour was complex due to the large number of window openings. The first load of concrete arrived at 9:10 am and our crew of four plus an excellent pump truck operator had the forms filled and the walls vibrated, plumbed and straightened in short order. They were wrapping things
up by lunchtime.

I'm sure that last one isn't an OSHA approved maneuver. This is the shovel method of troweling a difficult to reach windowsill. Talk about creative concrete finishing. And watching one of our guys trying to control the end of the pump hose and aim concrete into a window opening while perched on a 20 foot ladder was pretty scary. Situations like this are where the operator makes all the difference, as an extended boom with concrete in the line weights A LOT and a bad move could be dangerous.

We're scheduled to hang the steel for the roof in a week and then we're only a few days away from being ready to set windows and get dried in. I've ordered the first bunch of fixtures and the glass block and I'm starting to think about the schedule for interior framing, etc. I'm also (still) struggling with our concrete flatwork stuff. The guy I ended up hiring for our flatwork is a GC who I gave the job mostly because he showed up with the most competent sub of the bunch that I met with and convinced me he would be easy to work with. That lasted about long enough for him to get his contract signed and things have been going progressively downhill ever since. After the initial upper level floor pour, his sub quit with hard feelings about not being paid enough. This was beyond my control, since my contract was with the GC and he and the sub negotiated their own deal but it left me frustrated and more than a little concerned.
The GC assured me that he had "five or six other good concrete guys that can do the work" but as it turns out, that appears to be just talk. So far, he has yet to produce anyone aside from one guy that cancelled three meetings with me, two of which were on short enough notice that I had already driven the hour out to the site and was there waiting. (On the fourth try he actually showed up, but was an hour late with zero call, explanation or apology and then couldn't answer any of my questions about his experience with machine finishing and floor slabs.)
The best part of the story is that this sub lives in one of the GC's rental properties and just happens to owe $6K in back rent which he would supposedly be working off by doing my slabwork. He also doesn't have a drivers license...all of this as told to me by GC himself. Some people REALLY are clueless. Needless to say, this is not the kind of sub I'm willing to hand one of the most critical parts of my project off to and I'm shocked, angry and astounded at the unprofessional nature of the whole situation. To make matters worse, this GC failed to manage/do the wrap-up of the work that did get done, wrote a bad check to the concrete company who then sent a collection notice by certified mail to our neighbors (ridiculous, since I offered to handle the concrete purchase from the beginning) and has lied to me and changed his story numerous times.

Sadly, I could go on and on with the tales. So far this nonsense hasn't affected our schedule but starting Friday, he's officially wasting our time and I'm stressing about the whole situation. I'ts just so ironic. Up to now, me acting as our GC has gone really well and been nothing like the horror stories most people tell, and now I find myself tearing my hair out because of one person who IS a GC and who should have, IMO made things easier on me, not harder. UGH.