Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 1-8-17

Today’s report will be very short, as there is almost nothing to report.

252 N. Bayview Street

I actually lucked out here, getting a chance to meet the owners, John and Nickie Olson. John told me that they’d been told they might have a certificate of occupancy as early as Friday, though much remains to be done, including paving the driveway, landscaping, some painting, and interior touch-ups. Although mirrors are still missing in all the bathrooms, Nickie told me they are in the basement, not to be installed until painting is complete. This photo shows that the portolet has been moved to the end of the walk to clear the driveway for paving. You can also see the railing that has been added to the side of the steps.

When I visited last week, I was concentrating so much on the cooking appliances and refrigerator that I missed a few other things. One was the KitchenAid dishwasher next to the sink. The other—and I don’t know how I missed it since it faces the front door—was the fireplace, now complete with mantel, hearth, and gas logs. This caught my eye as I was passing the house last Monday, and I was able to snap this photo.

By today, painting had been completed. Although the builder did an amazingly good job of bridging the gap between the old porch and the rest of the house, the floor here is not completely level, and Nickie said probably some molding will be added around the hearth to hide the gap between hearth and floor on the left side.

I asked about the plans for a backsplash in the kitchen, and Nickie said, because of some irregularities in the joint between granite countertop and the wall, they will probably just add a granite backsplash on the east wall (behind the stove) as was done here between the cabinets on the north wall. Tile will then be added above the granite, perhaps set diagonally for novelty.

A long piece of wood, with a right angle on each end, on the floor in the living room (not pictured) was revealed to be the stair rail. It will be stained before installation, but the brackets for it have already been installed.

352 N. Summit Street

It was too cold to venture out yesterday, and when I went out today (only a little warmer), a pickup and an SUV parked in front of the house discouraged me from investigating further.

351 N. Summit Street

There were no evident changes outside; the downstairs interior continues to look like a lumberyard.

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Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 1-1-17

We start the new year with two houses nearing completion. I may be out of business soon!

252 N. Bayview Street

When I visited yesterday, the house was wide open (the side door was standing open), and there were lights on throughout. I think workers must have just left for lunch. I didn’t visit again today to see what else they might have done, but the most noticeable change yesterday was installation of the kitchen appliances. The KitchenAid ovens (the top one is a microwave) both show the time, in this case 12:34 and 12:37; probably their clocks started at 12:00 when they were connected to power, as it was actually 1:24 when I took the photo.

The KitchenAid gas cooktop has also been installed.

As predicted, this required cutting a hole in the granite countertop. This shot shows the hardware below.

The refrigerator is a Samsung “four-door flex” model, probably this one, since it does have a sparkling water dispenser. The top portion is a French door refrigerator. The bottom has two separate compartments; the left is a freezer, and the right can be cooled to either refrigerator or freezer temperature for additional space as needed (it is currently configured as freezer space).

As seen below, “A sleek and seamless temperature display features LED lights that shine through micro-pinholes to display temperature settings.”

The dishwasher is also a KitchenAid, but it is not new: it’s the one that’s been sitting around in various rooms throughout construction. Since it has mechanical switches rather than an electronic touchpad, it is probably more reliable (not to mention a lot faster) than the new water-saving models. If dishwashing as well as laundry will be done in this room, perhaps we should call it the “scullery” rather than the “laundry room.”

Upstairs, the lights were on in the closet—I’m still not sure how; though the breaker box in the right closet was open, surely it isn’t necessary to feel one’s way in the dark and reach behind clothes to turn the lights on, so I assume there is another explanation (they are not motion-activated, as they were on when I before I got there).

And, sure enough, in the master bath, the areas at the head and foot of the tub are being tiled.

Installation of the framing for the screen of the upstairs porch has required cutting the capitals of the columns.

In the basement, there had been a noticeable (but still incomplete) cleanup effort. Presumably the red-and-green tubs topped by a tree stand contain Christmas decorations (not used this year?), and the “beer fridge” is still being aired out.

352 N. Summit Street

If there were any changes inside, they were too subtle for me. Outside, however, the brickwork has been completed, including around the garage even though the north and east sides of the garage remain unpainted.

351 N. Summit Street

No obvious changes here except the appearance in the driveway of these logs that may be intended to become lumber (there is still a great quantity of exotic lumber, some of it cut quick thick, piled on the floors downstairs).

Views of the garden from the house and from the street, illustrating how the camellia hedge provides privacy.

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Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 12-25-16

Now that the gift-opening dust has settled, I’ll grab a few minutes to post these photos I took yesterday.

252 N. Bayview Street

Outside, there are several new railings. On the balcony…

…the front entrance…

…and the side entrance.

Inside, carpenters had been working on a mantelpiece (or at least the beginnings of one).

Downstairs, sanding and staining of the floors in all three bedrooms has been completed.

Upstairs, it appears that there have been some more second thoughts, resulting in opening and closing another wall in the master bath…

…and disturbing the installation of the tub.

Here’s a view of the balcony railing from the master bedroom.

In the kitchen, further evidence of attempts to choose tile for a backsplash.

These are the unusual cabinet knobs in the kitchen.

As I was leaving, I saw that there were lights on in the basement, so I went down to investigate. The plastic drop cloths have been removed, revealing a stunning assortment of “stuff,” which I present without comment. (A dehumidifier was running for all it was worth, but there was still a musty smell.)

The paper in the sheet protector in the photo above is labeled “Storm Panel Diagram,” suggesting that the rolled panels above are the “storm panels.”

352 N. Summit Street

Outside, the most noticeable change is the brickwork on the foundation.

Although painting of the garage is still incomplete, the painted side is being bricked.

Inside, the most noticeable change downstairs is installation of molding at the top of some of the shiplap wainscoting.

These bundles of wiring in the “den” suggest that it will be a media/computer room.

Upstairs, shelves have been installed in the closets. The closet in the front bedroom, which was not in the original plans, is barely coathanger depth.

The closet in the center bedroom uses salvaged doors and has cubbies inside.

351 N. Summit Street

At last, grass has been planted in the parking space, making it much easier to walk on.

The two bare trees that were behind this wall have been moved to the driveway. Time will reveal their ultimate location.

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End of an Eyesore

From time to time I post about “Neighborhood Improvements.” Today’s “improvement” is in my own front yard.

When we bought our house in 1980, the lamppost was already liberally swathed in ivy. The ivy was so thick, in fact, that it was a while before we discovered that there was a wooden sign attached to the post that identified the residents: TREWOLLA. Since the owners we had purchased from were named Ferris, this was obviously an old sign.

Through the years, the ivy thrived. The oldest photo I can find without wading through film prints is this one taken in September 2004.

It was still burgeoning in April 2009.

This 2010 photo shows the Christmas treatment it got every year. At first my husband wound strings of light around the ivy; when blanket lights became available, he started using those. He screwed a plug/bulb converter into the light socket, swapped out the Soft White bulb for a clear blue one, and plugged the light strings in. This was possible because three of the glass panes in the lantern were missing, perhaps partly due to a storm but largely because the ivy had invaded the lantern.

Christmas wasn’t the only decorating occasion. I can’t find a photo of this (I think we stopped doing it before I got a digital camera), but we used to put a skeleton mask on the front of the lantern and wrap a sheet around the ivy to resemble a ghost.

In August 2014, my granddaughters posed for a number of photos in front of the still-lush ivy.

By January of this year, when my husband was photographed removing the blanket lights, the ivy had gotten a bit thin. I take full responsibility for this. I was pretty tired of it the way it was attacking the lantern and also breaking up the brick border around the lamppost. Every time I edged the front walk, I would give the ivy a “haircut,” trimming it back to a few inches above the ground (theoretically to facilitate mowing). The last time I did this, I decided to also “comb” it. It proved to be mostly snarls, and by the time I’d combed out all the knots, I found that there was actually no ivy still attached to the ground. As I kept removing more and more of it, including the stems, thick as my thumb, that had looped around the crossbar of the lamppost, eventually it all came off in one piece!

My husband, who had been quite a fan, was, to say the least, Not Pleased. The ivy had been really all that was holding the lantern in place. It had come apart from its base years ago, and the base itself was attached with only one (very stubborn, as it turned out) screw. I suggested that a new lamp would be a suitable Christmas present for me (obviously the post was still usable—and not going anywhere). He searched online and found this Thomas Lighting Sl9087-63 Hancock One-Light Outdoor Post Lantern, Painted Bronze. I approved, and he ordered it.

Over the course of the past few days, he has removed the old lantern, repainted the lamppost, and installed the new lantern, and I think it is a vast improvement. There’s still some ivy at the base of the post, so over time it may grow back, but I won’t be encouraging it!

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Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 12-18-16

Settle in for a long scroll, as I have lots of photos this week.

252 N. Bayview Street

I was about to despair of getting photos of this house this week. When I passed yesterday, workers were present, including carpenters restoring the deck railing. When I ventured out today (between showers), there were three cars parked across the street and a bunch of people inside—either the owners getting a tour from the builder or the owners showing the place off to friends or relatives. I looped back around, but they were still there, so I waited and went back out by car (in the rain) after they were gone. There’s been a good bit of progress.

As noted, the deck railing is being rebuilt (though the new portion doesn’t match the old), and a light fixture has been installed.

Inside, this new lantern hangs in the foyer.

In the laundry room, the sink has been installed.

With lighting pretty much complete, the power had been turned on. Here’s a shot of the completed tile in the hall bath, showing the recessed “can” light above the tub. Apparently the existing tub and shower fixtures will be retained.

The vanity now has a faucet, from Delta’s discontinued Leland collection, and a light fixture.

As predicted, the original floors in the two downstairs bedrooms have been patched and sanded (though sanding is not complete).

All the bathrooms have new toilets. Here’s the one in the bath in the rear bedroom suite.

And here’s the completed shower stall.

The vanity in that bathroom also has a faucet, from Delta’s Windemere collection, and two double sconces.

Here’s the finished tub surround in the bath connecting to the southeast bedroom. Again it appears that the existing plumbing (with a two-handle tub faucet) has been retained. Both tubs are also original equipment.

The vanity also sports a Windemere faucet, and the triple sconce is the same design as the two double sconces in the rear bath.

Upstairs, the final pocket door (between den and bedroom) has been installed. It is a salvaged one, which perhaps explains why it was not installed earlier.

In the master bath, the chandelier and sconces are now in place.

The extra plumbing fitting is now explained: it is the connection for the Delta Premium 3-Setting Slide Bar Hand Shower.

The shower fixture at the other end has also been installed—identical to the first except for having a single control for both temperature and volume rather than separate controls.

This is the best photo I could get of the attractive light fixture in the toilet cubicle.

The closet light fixtures are a mystery. As can be seen in this flash photo, they are standard commercial fluorescent fixtures, one on each side. But there are no switches for them anywhere inside or outside the closet (despite multiple banks of switches for everything under the sun in the hall and bathroom).

On the porches, the wood-look tile flooring is complete.

The sconces I mentioned last week ended up not in a bathroom but in the stairwell.

These tile samples on the kitchen counter suggest that a decorative backsplash may be contemplated.

352 N. Summit Street

Although the house is still under wraps, and painting is not complete, considerable progress is being made inside. The prescribed shiplap has been installed, horizontal in the foyer…

…and vertical in the back hall…

…in the powder room…

…and upstairs in the hall and what I’ve dubbed the “break room.”

Downstairs, doors have been hung (these are the doors to the master bedroom and a closet under the stairs).

The most noticeable improvement, however, is trim—window and door frames and cove molding.

351 N. Summit Street

Inside, progress on the floors is deceptive. Despite the piles of lumber still lying around, the floor underneath is in fact finished, as seen in these shots of (respectively) the kitchen, the living room, and the dining room.

When I arrived yesterday, builder/owner Vance McCown and his “floor guy” were measuring the space to be filled for the floor of the screened porch.

I was going to ask what it was going to be filled with, but then I saw the answer—these vintage boards salvaged from one of the McCown family’s former homes. The men determined that they have exactly enough lumber to do the job.

The most dramatic change in the appearance of the house this week, however, has been the landscaping. It’s really beginning to look like home. I’ll present these photos without comment.

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Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report—Special Gate House Edition

Most residents of Fairhope are aware of the “castles” at the east end of Oak Avenue. The Sheldon Castle, built by legendary Fairhope sculptor and “character” Craig Sheldon, was the childhood home of Dr. Craig Sheldon, Jr. (“Mac”), Megrez Sheldon Rudolf, and Pagan Sheldon Mosher. Megrez and her husband, John, now live there, and Pagan lives across the street in the Mosher Castle, a work in progress that is gradually replacing a nondescript frame cottage. Designed and (being) built by well-known artist and historian Dean Mosher, this castle, complete with moat and drawbridge, is not only a Fairhope landmark but also a popular stop for the Walking School Bus on Fridays.

Recently passersby have been intrigued by the construction of an addition to the cul-de-sac, at the corner of Oak Avenue and Bancroft Street. Megrez Rudolf, who works at the Fairhope Public Library, says she has more Circulation Desk inquiries about the house than about library matters! The Gate House, being built for Glenn and Sally Boom, was designed by Dean Mosher and engineered by Cowles, Murphy, Glover & Associates. SCC Group, LLC, are the construction consultants, but many independent contractors have been involved in the project from the outset. Dean is also doing the stonework, trim, and hundreds of creative details.

On Thursday I was privileged to get a sneak peek. Pagan, co-owner of Creative Outlet Dance Center, invited my adult ballet class to tour the construction site. The first thing I should say is that this is a house that is built to stay. One of the reasons passersby were initially intrigued was that the exterior walls were being built with insulated concrete forms from Force5Walls, Inc. Together with the metal roof, they make for a structure that can take pretty much anything Mother Nature can dish out.

The west side of the house, facing Bancroft, is the most complete so far, displaying Dean’s handiwork in the stone window and garage door frames.

In the front, work is under way on the stone-faced posts that support the porch.

Dean was at work when we visited. Here he is shown throwing mortar on a post and then setting a stone in the mortar.

All the stone used comes from Mobile Bay. Pagan described the process of salvaging it:

We don′t dredge the stone up. We just pick it up from the beach at the edge of or in the water and put in in the boat. Just good wet and dirty labor. The hard part is to stop gathering. I always want to get one more, but I have been reminded that few things sink faster than a boat full of rocks. So far over the years Dean has done 53 Rock Runs at one ton each. My mom and dad did the ones for their castle. I remember helping with one when I was very young. I don’t know how many they did.

After getting them to shore we unload them from the boat and onto a trailer. Once home the rocks are unloaded and power washed. Putting the stones up takes skill and strength, along with understanding weight placement and the elements of mortar types. Once you start you can′t stop. After the mortar has set the rocks have to be hand scrubbed with wire brushes before the mortar on the front and sides is too dry. Later the stone is cleaned with muriatic acid. Both the acid and mortar will eat away your skin and damage the eyes so great care has to be taken. The acid gives it the polished, clean, finished look.

You can see why no one else has used bay stone on their homes.

Following the tradition of the two castles, many found objects are embedded in the stonework. Here Pagan points out a car-shaped glass bottle that once contained Avon men’s cologne.

The other side of the façade has an iron B for Boom.

This is a sample of the panels that will fill the space between the posts.

Approaching the house from the Mosher Castle, I was struck by the Fire Department Connection on the outside. More on that later.

Behind the expansive north-facing windows is a two-story great room. I’m afraid I didn’t actually get a photo of it at all except this one and another from above (shown below).

The kitchen is to the right behind the great room.

Here Dean displays the carved boom that will extend from the west wall for track lighting.

To the left of the living area is a small room containing this impressive equipment. Pagan explained that, because the house is within the downtown fire district, it is required to have sprinklers and a built-in fire department connection. The water for showers, sinks, toilets, laundry, etc., comes from the regular City water lines, but the sprinklers have to be connected to the water line that supplies fire hydrants. A new hydrant will be installed across the street from the Mosher Castle, and the new house will be tied into that.

Proceeding to the rear, we come to the master suite. Here we look from the bedroom through the walk-in (actually walk-through) closet to the laundry room.

In the laundry room, washer and dryer will be separated by a work area.

The downstairs bathroom (with tile shower shown below) is off a short hall connecting the master suite to another room, opening from the garage, that can serve as an office or den or even another bedroom.

A view of the stairs from the top. Just visible above the railing in the background is the frame of the door to the room with the fire protection equipment.

The kitchen and great room as seen from the landing at the top of the stairs.

The loft room, which can be another bedroom, offers ample built-in storage. The third photo shows the interior of the cupboard shown in the second photo.

The upstairs bath has a tub/shower.

Past the bathroom is a climate-controlled storage room that provides access to two unfinished attic spaces.

When the house is completed, it will initially be rented out. If you are interested in renting, contact Mannich Real Estate. If you do, you may eventually have a front-row seat for the next phase: at some point after this house is completed and rented, the older cottage on the other half of the double lot will be razed, and another house, similar to this one, will be built.

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Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 12-11-16

Between the polar vortex and the tail end (I sincerely hope) of an upper respiratory infection, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get out for a walk today, but in fact I felt pretty good (for a welcome change), and the air felt warmer than expected, so I got out for a short tour of inspection.

252 N. Bayview Street

Lots of developments here, starting with, on the outside, a solution to the mystery of the louvers, which are now revealed as part of an overall design encompassing the carport and upstairs porch as well as the two front panels.

Here’s a detail of the effect in the carport.

The planting bed in front has been retrenched on both ends.

Inside, the story is mostly light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and other details. Here, for example, is the new chandelier in the dining area. The corner base cabinet, which has been in the living room from the beginning of construction (growing progressively shabbier), is apparently just being used as a work space, though it may yet eventually be installed somewhere.

And what about these cabinets? Will they find a home?

In the kitchen, cabinets have been added above the side counter, and a very high-tech Delta Cassidy sink faucet has been installed.

In the laundry room, granite countertops have been installed, with a cutout for the salvaged kitchen sink, which awaits below.

In the back hall, the wall sconce shown in last week’s post has been replaced with this one, which matches the one in the living room (shown at left of the kitchen photo above). The “wrong” sconce has been installed in the basement stairwell. The replacement has left a hole that will need to be patched.

The northeast bedroom appears to be a staging area for fans and light fixtures, including two Jeremiah wall sconces that will probably end up in a bathroom.

The southeast bedroom remains a dumping ground for discarded fixtures, including the toilet that has been removed from the bathroom…

…to permit installation of a tile floor.

The fiberglass tub enclosure is finally gone, too, replaced by this tile surround.

In the bathroom of the rear suite, the glass shower door has been removed, and tile has been added here as well.

As predicted, stair treads have been installed.

And this fixture will light the top of the staircase.

Other finishing touches include locksets and doorstops.

Not quite so finished, the exposed breaker box and security system control panel in the “attic.”

In addition, the ceiling has had to be breached with yet another hole that will have to be patched, suggesting a lack of planning or coordination on the part of the contractor and subcontractors.

In the master bath, the toilet cubicle now contains a Toto toilet.

Faucets have been installed, and a chandelier awaits installation. The hole in the wall has been patched but will need to be repainted.

Here’s a close-up of one of the faucets, a Delta Victorian.

The shower fixture is also Delta Victorian, a very high-tech model with automatic temperature control. I’m at a loss to explain the extra pipe circled in the photo unless it has something to do with the gizmo shown in Delta’s photo, which I thought might be a temperature readout, but apparently those are incorporated with the controls, so there’s no telling what this is.

If I had to guess, I’d go out on a limb and predict that the faucet for the tub will also be from Delta’s Victorian Collection. But does this scrap of trim stuck here suggest further ornamentation?

Louvers have been added to the upstairs porch, not only for ornament but also as a railing.

As can be seen, the wood-look tile has been used for flooring as predicted. The heavy posts outside the covered area of the screened porch suggest that perhaps there will be an open “balcony” in front of the porch.

As noted above, the sconce previously mounted in the downstairs back hall has now been installed in the basement stairwell. The basement itself appears to remain unchanged, housing mysteriously shrouded piles of equipment, fixtures, and building materials, including the mystery doors noted last week.

352 N. Summit Street

The remainder of the house and a portion of the garage have been painted, but progress was no doubt retarded—and painting efforts somewhat negated—by several days of torrential rain. The house was still thoroughly wrapped up, so I didn’t try to go inside.

351 N. Summit Street

Landscaping work is now in full swing. Beds have been filled with soil and paths with gravel.

Some trees have been planted.

And many other plants await planting.

In the back, an interesting exercise with plastic and gravel.

And the new concrete pad will perhaps be the site of a modest firewood rack.

There was so much going on outside that I didn’t even think to peek in the windows, but my photos through windows are not very satisfactory, anyway, not to mention that most of the progress is taking place upstairs.

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