Saturday, January 23, 2010

Negative Space

Work is progressing slowly on the earthquake repairs. I told myself every night this week that I was going to come home after work and put on the scratch coat, but that never happened. We have been getting a lot of rain lately and it really did not seem appealing to work with cold, wet plaster after work and then have to go outside in the rain to clean up the tools after plastering.

So today I got on the scratch coat. At this point, the plan is to do the skim coat tomorrow and then start to paint next week. I have a feeling though, that I will spend most of tomorrow on the couch watching the NFL play-offs. I think it will be best to let it cure for a week anyway. It will give me more working time with the skim coat.

Secure the edges with plaster washers

This is how it looks now with both the brown and scratch coats on

A newly discovered crack above the mantle

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Perspective

Given what is going on in Haiti right now, my troubles following the earthquake here last week seem trivial, at best. I encourage everyone to donate to the relief in Haiti. Give what you can. There are a number of reputable agencies, but one place is The Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund. You can also text the word “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10.00 to the Red Cross.

I had planned not to do much this time of year. This is a good time of year to sit inside and watch football and that is really all I want to do. However, it pains me to see the damaged plaster in the dining room. I just finished that room {Sigh!}

I secured the edges of the big hole with plaster washers and then used the rotozip to grind the old plaster out of the dove-tail grooves. I also found additional damage above each head block on the door that leads to the foyer. And of course, everything is covered with plastic again {Sigh!!!}. I guess I’ll be spending my MLKJ Day troweling on plaster {Sigh!!!}.

Since I was making a mess anyway, I decided to go ahead and strip off the damaged plaster in the foyer, as well. That was going to be the next project anyway, so the earthquake just moved it up the schedule by a few months. I probably won’t do much else with this until March. Hopefully I can have the dining room back in one piece in 2 weeks.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Heave Ho

There was a woman quoted a few times in various papers saying that the 6.5 earthquake we had yesterday was nothing compared to the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake that struck Santa Cruz and The Bay Area in 1989. While it is true that the Loma Prieta was a much larger event, caused more damage, and affected more people, for me personally, the 6.5 yesterday was a much larger event.

At the time of the Loma Prieta I was within a half mile of the epicenter. I was outside though, so I was in no real danger. My home suffered almost no damage, and I didn’t lose a day of work. I’ve spent the morning today cleaning up plaster and right now there are a half dozen PG&E trucks across the street trying to find a broken gas line.

The damage to my house was confined to one corner. It seems like south-east corner of my house heaved up more than the rest. For the most part, the plaster damage is confined to the first floor of this south-east corner of the house. That is the foyer, stairwell, and the front wall of the dining room. Some of the skim coat popped off the walls in the kitchen, but that has more to do with the crappy skim coating job.

The Loma Prieta quake lasted 15 seconds. The one yesterday was more like 25 seconds. The last 10 or 15 seconds were very surreal. For the first 2 or 3 seconds of an earthquake you are coming to terms with the fact that you are in an earthquake. The adrenaline surges and you are acting purely on instinct. It is difficult to be subjective and really be aware of what is going on. You simply try to grab on to something.

Most earthquakes only last a few seconds, so they are over as soon as you realize you are in one. The adrenaline has rushed, the flight response kicks in, and by the time you are at the point of panic it is all over. With an earthquake like the one yesterday, after about 7 or 8 seconds in you realize this is not an average earthquake. That is about the time the major jolt hit and it felt like an airplane dropped on the house.

Yesterday, I was in the kitchen when it happened. When the big jolt hit, I was thrown to the floor and the TV came flying out of the cabinet. I grabbed for it and caught it just as it reached the end of the cable and electrical cord tether. By this time plaster is falling and I hear glass break. I’m in front of the eHutch and even though I know it and the big Frankenstein hutch are bolted to the wall, my instinct is to keep the eHutch from falling over and crashing in to the island. I let go of the TV and let it dangle while I grabbed on to the eHutch.

By this time I’m on my feet and trying to survey the damage and see if anything is about to hit me. Things are still moving a lot. This is when it gets very surreal. Both chandeliers are swaying violently and the walls are torquing and swaying back and forth. Unless you are doing hallucinogenics, large, inanimate objects should not appear to move like this. The walls torquing is what caused the poorly done skim coat to pop off the walls in the kitchen. That went on for what seemed like 10 or 15 seconds, but it could have been shorter.

As soon as everything stopped moving I ran to the garage to get a wrench. If there was a gas leak, I needed to shut off the valves at the meters. There is one shut-off for the house and then 3 for the apartments. After that I checked the water meters to make sure they weren’t spinning wildly. Fortunately, I had no leaks. I then walked around the exterior of the house to try and find out where the glass was that I heard break. I also just wanted to make sure everything was in one piece and still plumb. At least one house slid off its foundation yesterday. The breaking glass sound was faint, so I thought it would be upstairs, but I saw no broken windows. Later I would find that bricks from the dining room chimney had toppled off in the attic and broke a piece of old waving glass that was leaning up against the chimney. I then walked around the apartments to survey for damage there. Fortunately I found nothing there, as well.

Like I said, the real damage is at the front corner of the house. It seems like that part of the house was lifted differently than the rest. The dining room, stairwell and foyer all suffered major damage to the walls, and the chimney in the dining room also took a hit. In the butlers pantry on the outside wall you can see where the paint is cracked at the seams of the beadboard towards the dining room side of the room. It is like the boards slid past each other vertically a little. I also had a piece of trim at the top of that run of beadboard pop off. On the outside, the only odd thing was the garage doors. Of the two that face the street, the one on the left always stuck a bit when you tried to open it. It no longer sticks, but now the door on the right won’t close properly.

When an event like this hits, everyone in the city suddenly has a common bond. Everyone has a story and they want to share it and most want to hear it and share theirs. Today I was outside filling in some dirt along the new sidewalk when a man walks by. I had never seen him before and I’m not even sure if he lives in the neighborhood. Naturally we started to chat about the earthquake. I’m not sure who brought it up first, but we both began to talk about the Loma Prieta earthquake back in 1989. Long story short, not only were we both living in Santa Cruz in 1989, but we were both on the campus of Cabrillo college at the time of that earthquake. He was in the pool playing a game of water polo and I was walking from my car to the main campus. I just looked at a map of the campus and by my estimate, 20 years and 3 months ago, this man and myself were within a hundred yards of each other during the Loma Prieta earthquake and now we are both 400 miles north going through another large earthquake. Now that is surreal.

I wonder if our proximity to each other is what is some how causing the earthquakes.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

6.5 Just Now!

It could have been worse

When is a Change a Foot

A change is a foot when it is my kitchen. The kitchen was the second room completed in the house and now this is the 3rd change I’ve made to it. The first change was the biggest and done almost immediately. I originally had a round kitchen table in the middle of the kitchen. The design of the kitchen relies on mostly free-standing cabinets and does not have a lot of counter space for its size. The idea was that the table would double as both eating and food prep space.

That didn’t work out. A table at eating height is too low to do food prep on and sitting while doing food prep doesn’t really work either. So the table came out and I built an island. I love the island. One end has a place to sit at, so one can still comfortably eat in the kitchen. It has lots of room for food prep, and it has a small sink with disposal.

A not so elegant shot of the island

The other changes have revolved around a small alcove. The alcove is an area in one corner of the kitchen that is roughly 4.5 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep. It is to the left of the old phone in the photo above. It is really a part of the porch and for a long time I thought they enclosed a small section of the porch. This turned out not to be the case. I won’t go in to the details about how I know it is a part of the original floor-plan, but it is. Originally, there was a narrow window in the alcove that looked out on to the porch. The question has always been, what do I do with this space.

Early on I bought a cabinet at a local salvage place that was the perfect size for the space. It was almost a perfect fit. However, that ended up going in the butler’s pantry, mainly because the place that I chose for the refrigerator was not working out. This was one of those situations where the design worked on paper, but not so much in real life.

In the alcove

In the butler’s pantry

So the cabinet went in to the butler’s pantry and the refrigerator went in to the alcove. That happen last spring and it is not working either. It is just a really awkward spot for the refrigerator, mainly because of where the stove is. It is really because of the location of the second stove. Yes, I have 2 stoves in the kitchen. One is the stove I cook on and the other is an over-the-top 1890s cast iron stove. They sit side-by-side in the kitchen.

The 1890s stove is eye-candy of the Nth degree. The thing is just a work of art. It has been professionally restored and it is in almost “as new” condition. I love the stove but it has got to go. I thought about putting it back in the alcove, but at the end of the day, that really wouldn’t work either. What it comes down to is that the alcove is pretty much dead space for most things. Essentially, I have 3 large things that need to go in this one area and there are only room for 2. I have 2 stoves and a refrigerator, so logic dictates that one of the stoves needs to go. The cast iron beauty is the one that is the most dispensable.

The original cabinet was really the ideal thing for the space, but it is too late to go back to that now. I could build another cabinet, but I honestly don’t need any more storage space. At this point I’m sure there are a half dozen people ready to leave a comment saying that I can never have too much storage. Honestly though, between the kitchen and the butler’s pantry there are 25 cabinet doors and 21 drawers. Six of the doors are more than 4-feet high. There are also more cabinets in the laundry room. I don’t need any more storage in this are of the house.

What I decided to do was build a desk, instead. I got the idea when I was watching The New Yankee Workshop on PBS a few months ago. The project that week was a kitchen desk. As soon as I saw that it became an obvious choice for this area. Why the heck didn’t I think of that. This desk will have a computer and phone. A single wide drawer for pens, paper, phone book, etc. I really don’t need a formal office, so this will be where I pay bills and take care of other things of that nature.

Antique on the right. Reproductions on the left.

Waiting on the marble

The desk occupies the entire width of the alcove and is a little more than 2-feet deep. For the top I will use some of the left over marble from the dining room cabinets. I had to buy an entire slab of marble for the dining room, even though I only needed a piece that was roughly 8X2 feet. The rest has been collecting dust on the fabricators back-lot for the past 6 months. I used salvage redwood for face-frame, drawer, and carcass, and I just happen to have a left over antique drawer pull that matches the other hardware in the kitchen.

The reproduction cast iron brackets are a close enough match for the antique originals on the island, but the quality of the reproduction brackets is not any where close to being a good enough. First off, the reproductions are not a perfect 90 degrees. I also had to grind off casting leftovers off the backs. If I had tried to mount them as-is they would not have been able to be flush to the wall.

The worst part was the screw holes. You’ll notice on the antiques, the holes for the screws are in small, extended areas that stick out on either side. This is so you can get the head of the screw past the design of the bracket. Not so on the reproductions. It was almost impossible to mount a screw on some holes on the reproductions. In two areas I had to grind the head of the screw down to almost nothing to get them to mount. Next time I scour for antique originals.

Now I can call the stone fabricators to come out and create a template for the marble counters. After that, it will most likely be weeks more of silence on the blog.