Sunday, May 21, 2017

Piers Completed: Work Resumes

After four months of rain delay, work quickly resumed on the house. The foundation work ceased in January as they were working to establish five deep piers to attach the foundation to. Three piers were drilled and completed. The fourth was drilled and as they were drilling the fifth, it was determined that the ground was too wet.

Last week, we got the call saying work would resume. Quickly, the fifth bore was drilled and both piers four and five were filled with rebar and concrete. Friday we came home to find the concrete next to the house was jackhammered and they dug to expose the existing foundation.

Pier #2 on southern wall
 The next few days will be interesting. On Monday, they will put heavy duty jacks on each of the piers and they will lift the house up. I need to be here to communicate when I think that the house is level. I'm told there could be minor damage. Once in place, they will install some shoring to hold up the house.

Piers 3 & 4. La Cantina bifold door to replace the window.
Then, our inside contractor will come in to install a triple joist above the future door and indicated where the new door will go. Simpson Strong Walls will be installed on either side of the door. The southwestern portion of the foundation will then be removed and replaced. Then the outside concrete re-poured.  

Once the foundation company is done, then work on the inside can proceed at a faster pace.
Southwest corner of the house.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


The rain continues off and on, so the foundation work remains on hold. Meanwhile, with the furnace venting and the hot water heater both moved some of the bones of the new room are starting to take shape. The original idea was to nestle the venting inside of the existing framing but we were told that they cannot do that. So new framing was constructed around the furnace venting and it sits on top of the existing framing. This will push to wall out about 4 inches.

The soffit framing, which formerly ended at the old closets, has now been extended. A new soffit has been created across the room where we will have our new Murphy wall with shelving and a place for the TV.

The bathroom has also seen some changes. We are shifting the door frame to the right. Originally, we were going to do this so that we could install a pocket door. But it turns out that there is a metal pipe running inside the frame and up to the roof for venting the toilet. So it can't be moved. Right now we are looking into sliding door options. The original sink and vanity was against the wall. The plumbing was also moved to accommodate the corner sink that will be installed in the future.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tankless Hot Water Heater Installation

As we thought all of this remodeling/foundation repair work through many months ago, we had a certain order in mind. The foundation work would come first, then we would replace the hot water heater, then remodel the interior room downstairs. But given the record rainfalls, we have had to rethink the order of things.

The foundation work is off the table until we get some dry weather. So we are trying move forward on other fronts. Step #3 is now #1 and Step #1 is now #3. You get the idea.

Today, however, was a big day. The traditional 40 gallon hot water heater that was in a closet downstairs has been removed and we have moved to a tankless hot water heater that's now in the garage. A Rinnai RUR98i, to be exact, was installed today. We paid extra for the circulating pump so that we could program it to have hot water on demand during certain key hours--such as morning shower time and evening clean up time. Here's a promo video in case you want to geek out:

But with the old, traditional hot water heater gone, we now have freed up some real estate downstairs. The existing venting pipes you see to the right of the new venting will be redone but will remain. Somewhere in there will be the new wine fridge.

We also had some work done on installing a downstairs bar sink. A chunk of the concrete was  cut into in order to tap into the piping coming from the kitchen sink so that the downstairs bar sink can feed into the same pipe and vent. During the concrete cutting, a piece of the original pipe was damaged and had to be replaced. But during that process it was revealed that this pipe was suffering from the equivalent of clogged arteries in the human heart. They recommended getting the pipes cleaned with a pressure washer. Evidently, snaking  (which we've had done recently) does not always clear out the gunk lining the clogged pipes.

County inspections are scheduled for tomorrow for the hot water heater as well as the plumbing.

Other topics on deck: concrete polishing, filling in concrete that's been cut away, and getting through county inspections.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Rain continues to delay our foundation work and even more rain is expected this week. We are starting to think that we may not see the foundation crew back until April or May. Meanwhile, we are trying to get things completed on the inside so as not to lose all momentum.

The most recent advancement was to take care of the venting for the furnace. We replaced the furnace shortly after we bought the place many years ago. We moved it from its original location--behind one of the closet doors that were demolished--to further under the house. But the venting to the upstairs is still in its original place. You can see in the last post a large, dark venting tube feeding into an aluminum plenum. That's the venting from the new furnace into the original plenum. But we want to reclaim that space. So we had a local HVAC company in to replace both the large tubing and the plenum so that an existing soffit can continue.

The large tubing was replaced with a vent that is as flat and wide as they make it (3" x 24"). A new wall will float in front of the vent. The large plenum has been replaced with the three flexible silver tubes that feed into the various vents that deliver heat upstairs. These will be inside the new soffit. Yeah, that's asbestos in the top left and right on this shot. They were careful not to disturb that. The blue tape  at the bottom is just my plastic sheeting to cover up the places where the cat could get underneath the house--something we don't want to happen.

I also had a meeting with the inside contractor to figure out what other work could be completed while we deal with the rain. We came up with a plan so there should be more progress in the coming days and weeks.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Goodbye Closets

In the last post I talked about drilling five deep holes and pouring in reinforced cement to create piers down to bedrock which will attach to the foundation. Well, I learned later that they only got three of the five completed. This week, after a number of days of heavy rain, they came out to drill piers 4 and 5. Pier 4 got drilled but had to be lined with slurry to keep it from collapsing in on itself. Drilling pier 5 turned out to be too problematic. They encountered a large rock five feet down and the vibration of drilling through it caused the hole to collapse in on itself. The water table was too high so they decided to pull the crew off the job for a couple weeks and let things dry out before continuing. So our first typical construction delay has already happened.

Meanwhile there was still some progress. In the downstairs room, there is an original three door closet structure. The first door (on the left) was a small broom closet. The next one housed the old furnace which we needed to replace shortly after we moved in since what was there was an original from 1956 and slowly dying. We updated the furnace and relocated it further under the house years ago so this one's been empty for awhile. The third contains our hot water heater (more on the relocation of that later). We needed to investigate some venting issues because we have plans to reclaim the space that these closets took up and the heating vent for the room is above door #2. Our inside contractor said that the best way to figure out what will work is to completely remove these closets.

So this evening I came home to find that the entire closet structure was cleanly removed. Tomorrow, there will be an HVAC contractor coming in along with our contractor to take a look at the venting to see what options are available with the venting.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Major Remodel Project Underway

If you were to go back to my first post on this blog you'd see that Boomerang Kitchen started out as a chronicle of a major kitchen/living room remodel so that family and friends could follow the progress. I was inspired by our good friends who posted a similar remodel project on a blog for their San Jose house the year before we started our remodel. However, once their project was completed, they no longer posted an entries. But by the time our initial project was nearing completion, I was starting to follow a number of food blogs and I began to consider whether I should stop posting upon completion or if I should post some of the recipes I was making in the newly-remodeled kitchen. I decided on the latter and, hence, this blog still lives.

Well, a number of years later, we have begun another major remodel project on the house (built in 1956) and I have decided to return to the roots of this blog for a few months and share some of the milestones. I will also keep the food content going.

Sloping floor
The latest project's genesis comes from the fact that our house is on a slight slope which is creeping downhill. We started to notice some unusual interior cracks in our drywall which had grown larger over the years.
As you can see in this shot, there is a difference in the height of the floor from the left side to the right side on this closed door upstairs close to the west wall. More evidence that part of the house is moving.

We had some engineers (soils and structural) out to examine, measure, and study everything. The final report's recommended action was to get a structural company out to put piers down into the bedrock, lift the house back up, and redo part of the foundation.
Rebar piers to be placed in drilled holes

The most impacted room is a downstairs bonus room. It's where we have our main TV but it's not a room that is fully utilized. Closets installed by the original owner of the house is where we store a variety of old items, Christmas decorations, etc.  We decided that after the foundation was secure we would also do a major remodel of the room to make it into an inviting media room.

Filled pier outside of west wall
So just after the start of the year, the work began on the foundation. They cut holes in the cement outside and under the west and south walls (closest to the slope) in order to create five 18-foot deep piers around the southwest corner of the house and attach those piers to the foundation. Drilling went on for two very noisy days. They called the county out for an inspection but by then one of the holes had partially collapsed. So another half day of drilling and the the cement truck arrived around 3 PM and they poured concrete into the rebar-filled piers in the pouring rain until 8:30 that night.

A few days of recent rain has delayed further work but I was told that the crew will be back next week.

Inside the house, the west wall of the downstairs has the sheet rock taken down in order to install some reinforcements which will connect to the piers. The 3 foot stem wall on the bottom will be removed and the foundation redone with another, shorter stem wall foundation. Where the current window is will be converted into an 8' x 8' accordion door. The grey open door on the left edge will be removed and converted into a solid wall. 

Meanwhile, we have also been working with a different contractor who will be doing the interior remodeling. We are trying to set other aspects of the interior remodeling in motion so that work on the interior can begin soon after the foundation work is completed. More to come. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cream of Broccoli Soup

A rainy Sunday here in California. Also trying to use up a backlog of holiday ingredients. All of that meant is was a great day to make some soup before heading back to the work grind tomorrow.

We had three weeks of broccoli from the CSA box and the oldest was getting a bit tired. So I decided to use the oldest broccoli and a good part of the second oldest for a soup today.

But cooking with broccoli reminds me that you also need to be using the stems. I admit to many years of tossing the stems. But more recently we have been discovering the subtle, tender flavor of broccoli stems. They are great in everything you use broccoli florets for. Here's a YouTube video on how to trim the broccoli stems.

One of the original recipes I riffed off for this version called for an additional 3/4 cup of half and half but I don't think it needs it. This is pretty rich already with all of the butter. 

Serve it sparingly with other things for dinner or lunch and you'll find it's very satisfying as is. 

Cream of Broccoli Soup


Butter - 1 stick (I used salted), softened
Flour - 2/3 cup
Yellow onion - 1/4 cup or more, chopped
Broccoli - 4 cups florets and peeled stems, cut into bite sized pieces
Broth - 6 cups
White pepper - 1/8 teaspoon or to taste
Salt - to taste


In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add onion and some black pepper and stir until onions are softened. Add the broccoli, along with a pinch of salt, and stir to mix. Cook, stirring often, until broccoli softens a bit and the florets have turned a deeper shade of green (about 6-8 minutes).

Add broth to the broccoli mixture and turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off heat and let the soup cool a bit with the cover on. 

While the soup is cooling, melt 6 teaspoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add flour and stir constantly until the roux is well-blended. Break out the immersion blender at the end to take care of the last of the roux crumbs. Take off of the heat and set aside. 

When the soup is cool enough to work with, use an immersion blender to break up the softened broccoli pieces. Return to heat and add the roux. Stir constantly, seeking out chunks of roux to break up. Reheat and stir for about 8-10 minutes or until you think you have no more chunks of roux. 

Add white pepper and salt and stir to mix. As the soup nears boiling, turn off heat and move the saucepan to another location to cool a bit. Let it cool enough to taste and then salt and pepper to taste