New way of doing politics needed – or Skeletor for president

This is about a generation off of my feelings about the choices being offered (missed “Skeletor” by a few years).

We really need to be able to vote much more granularly than along so-called “party lines”.

Everything comes as a package deal with a little bit that you agree with and then a whole lot that you absolutely don’t endorse.

Maybe future politics can be like fantasy football, you pick the position you want endorsed for each issue and create your ideal fantasy political party. The majority position for each issue (within the constraints of the constitution) is used as the direction for your elected officials who act as agents rather than leaders.
I think we can all agree that true leadership and vision is something our Federal and State representatives discarded a long, long time ago.

At least with Skeletor, he’d be up front with his motives…

2012 Home Renovations – Part 19 – Sealing the Deck, Start of Modular Retaining Wall

Arriving home after 5 days down South we were greeted with a VERY strong smell. I was thinking “Geez, what did the cat eat this time?”. But the answer came to us when we peeked out into the back and could see a couple of small barrels of sealant that still sitting on the patio. As of these pictures the first coat of sealant had been applied to only a portion of the deck.

The initial pour of the stairs was also done. There is a fair amount of work ahead to smooth them out and ensure that they are properly leveled. I was surprised to see how well the cement captured the patterns from the mold planks.

The overview gives you a sense of the pattern and subsequent cutting that we opted for. I’ll take closer pictures of the deck once the sealant application is complete. I was somewhat concerned that the 3 x 3 foot cutting would look too industrial (like a public swimming pool) but I think this size, at the suggestion of the concrete guys, really complements the space.

Below we can see the very gradual ramp that was crafted to rise up from the deck level to the shed slab level.

And looking from the driveway toward the shed and pool you can now see the driveway and patio make their curvy way to the shed.

Here are a couple of pallets of boulders that will be used at the West end of the yard to control erosion and to provide a transition from the hill to the pool retaining wall. If you look at the first picture in this post, the boulders will go roughly where the end of the blue pipe is located in the center of the image between the juniper and the wall.

And below we have the modular block retaining wall taking shape. This will support the additional dirt base that will help re-slope the driveway to allow for the top of the driveway to be on less of an angle than before. Also this will allow us to widen the driveway somewhat to make parking easier when we have guests.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 18 – Finally, the deck pour

2012 Home Renovations – Part 20 – Modular Retaining wall continues



2012 Home Renovations – Part 18 – Finally, the deck pour

Things continue to proceed rapidly. So fast, in fact, that my contractor is slowing things down a bit to allow time for us to make decisions about colors and patterns now that we’ve got some of the reality of our project in front of us.

I was not at all sure, with the weather forecasting rain in the near future, that the deck pour would happen today.

Today also happened to be the day we were to head out of town to visit relatives in Florida. Just as we were packing up to go, the trucks all started arriving and soon we had a back yard teeming with people and equipment as they prepared for the pour.

Poor Michelle wanted us to be on our way but… who can resist the lure of a cement pour?

So I watched as the majority of the back was poured and they were even part way into stamping the concrete before we had to finish loading up the car and head on our 10 hr drive to the South.

The pour begins

Almost immediately it needs to be leveled

And carefully smoothed and brought to the edges. That’s Stacio in the center (I hope I’m spelling his name correctly) making sure that the concrete is seated into the coping form correctly.

Here, as the cement is smoothed, the releasing agent is added

And here is the cement truck pouring its load into the pumper that is delivering the cement to the back yard. That’s Michelle in the foreground being ever so patient waiting for me.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 17 – More Deck Pour Prep

2012 Home Renovations – Part 19 – Sealing the Deck, Start of Modular Retaining Wall

Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail

This article in Rolling Stone’s online magazine does not at all surprise me and only confirms my own experiences and opinion of Bank of America.

This little snippet pretty aptly sums up the character of this corporate behemoth.

Take your eyes off them for 10 seconds and guaranteed, they’ll be into some shit again: This bank is like the world’s worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend, maxing out your credit cards in the three days you spend at your aunt’s funeral. They’re out of control, yet they’ll never do time or go out of business, because the government remains creepily committed to their survival, like overindulgent parents who refuse to believe their 40-year-old live-at-home son could possibly be responsible for those dead hookers in the backyard.

As always, you need to take what you read from ANY source with a grain of salt, however I have always felt that if you deal with them, you really deserve what you get.

I’ve made my views clear in the past

Bank of America – What’s not to trust?

Who do you love to deal with, and who do you not?



2012 Home Renovations – Part 17 – More Deck Pour Prep

They say the devil is in the details and there are a whole lot of little details that are being dealt with both by the contractors and by Michelle and me.

Final decisions have to be made for the color of the concrete and the way we want it cut – we’re doing a stamped concrete deck and we can have just about any size and orientation “tile” look cut into it.

More germane to the actual pour is the actual finish for the coping around the pool. The forms that were provided from DesJoyaux were pretty attractive but not very flexible. I saw the resulting corners at another of their installations and did not like how it had to be implemented. We’ve opted for more of a rounder, quasi-bull-nose-that-tapers-at-the-bottom design that also will offer the flexibility to allow the kind of corners I think will complement the pool nicely.

Final position for the Bar-B-Que has to be determined now since that will drive where the gas fitting will be placed in the deck.

Starting with the usual patio shots, you can see the forms for the pool stairs have been added

Below you can see a tiny white piece of the coping form now attached to the pool kitty corner to the ladder to help us visualize what the final edge will look like.  Note that the gas line has now been buried. I’m still a bit concerned, the line was pressurized to 15 psi on Sunday and it’s now down to 13.5 psi. The gas line is one of the few lines that we are NOT laying down in a pipe.  I need to ask Rich why this is so at our meeting tomorrow.

The deco drain has been laid around the perimeter of the deck and tied in to the drainage pipes leading to the new catch basins. In the top left of the picture the final location of the drain for the downspout that will come off the super gutter has been determined.

A closer view of the stairs. The  top two stairs are 16 inches deep. The first is that size because it seems less daunting to have such a big stair when you’re stepping into the pool, the second because we anticipate using it to sit on a lot.  Michelle has the idea that this is where people will want to hang out. The final two stairs are utilitarian only and are just a foot deep each.

As I look at the design I have a mild pang of regret that we did not put the stairs in the middle of the pool directly accessible as you walk out from the shaded part of the patio. But Michelle wanted the stairs to be very wide, and the small change of putting the stairs there would have resulted in about 4 more feet needing to be carved out of the hill. Which would likely have required a taller retaining wall, etc, etc. So we ended up compromising and I think the resulting location will work well.

The obligatory overview shot lets you see the deco drains in context. The deck will be gently sloped away from the pool all around to feed these rather than having the dust from the deck swept into the pool every time it rains.

Here we see the design of the patio transitioning to the walkway and again to the ramp up to the shed

elegantly formed and ready for the pour

2012 Home Renovations – Part 16 – Pool deck area ready for pouring, All patio walls removed

2012 Home Renovations – Part 18 – Finally, the deck pour


2012 Home Renovations – Part 16 – Pool deck area ready for pouring, All patio walls removed

Continuing to take advantage of the good weather, the guys worked on Saturday and got a whole lot more accomplished that both brings us closer to the deck pour next week and prepares us for the inspections that will be happening Monday.

The remaining patio walls were all removed, here is an expanded 4 shot sequence showing the new openness (ignoring the temporary supports) that will grace the shaded part of our new lanai

And the overview that lets you clearly see the rebar that will be included in the deck pour

The bonding is also complete around the pool

The form is mostly complete plus the rebar is in place for the monolithic footing on the West side

And a better shot of the driveway. There is so much more usable space there without the air conditioner condenser in the way.

And the dirt pile… it looks to be on track to be just enough to build up the driveway per our plan.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 15 – Rest of driveway by house removed, Electrical, Gas and Water Returns in place

2012 Home Renovations – Part 17 – More Deck Pour Prep

2012 Home Renovations – Part 15 – Rest of driveway by house removed, Electrical, Gas and Water Returns in place

No shots from the existing patio today since you can’t see much change from there. But here we have a shot showing one of the trenches that were dug on either side of patio in preparation for the monolithic pour. Lanai supports will be bolted to this footing.

and on the East side

and the bird’s eye view putting everything in context

Much of the Electrical Gas and Water conduits have been roughed in. The $1400 gas line needed some tweaking in order to hold pressure. Below you can see a pressure gauge on the white heater supply and return pipes. They were sealed and about 5 psi of air  put into them after all the back filling and tamping were complete to ensure that there were no leaks introduced. This way we can repair them NOW before the deck is poured if something got damaged. Likewise the hyper expensive gas line – that thick black piping immediately to the left of the heater pipes – has a gauge at the far end that was showing a small leak. This was eventually traced to the fitting not being quite tightened properly on this end. It is now hosting 15 PSI of nitrogen to see if it can hold the pressure. I understand that the gas line pressure will normally be closer to about 3 PSI on this side of my meter.

Here the gas line trench lies open waiting for county inspectors. I have about 4 inspections pending that should all happen on Monday.

Just an overview of the house with the rest of the driveway and the former patio slab removed. The end of the plain concrete driveway will now be right about where Michelle is standing. From there everything will be stamped concrete to match the pool deck to make this area an outdoor patio / planter area.

And, of course an obligatory shot of the ever smaller dirt pile

2012 Home Renovations – Part 14 -Backfill of pool retaining wall complete

2012 Home Renovations – Part 16 – Pool deck area ready for pouring, All patio walls removed

2012 Home Renovations – Part 14 -Backfill of pool retaining wall complete

Continuing along at our rapid-fire pace, back fill and leveling around the pool has been completed.

The French drain was installed behind the lanai retaining wall and the gap there was back filled and tamped

The back yard has been recontoured into pretty much its final configuration. There will be a bit more done once work is completed on the cement slab next to our shed. The dirt will be sloped up a bit both at the shed and at the retaining wall that is front and center in this picture below. The idea is to help encourage water AWAY from those areas to be guided away by both the slope behind the retaining wall and by the French drain to the catch basins that were put in near the beginning of this project and then out to the front yard and street.

The hill that used to be in front of the shed has been largely leveled. We have opted to replace the originally planned stairs that were to lead up to the shed with a low incline ramp that will run from the beginning of the retaining wall (part closest to us in the picture below) and ending even with the remainder of the legacy slab near the middle of the picture. The yard to the right will be contoured to butt up against this ramp and match its incline.

For contrast here is how the yard looked before. Basically it was a steeper, shorter ramp up with a more significant hill beginning closer to the house.

And we continue to make significant inroads into our “Dirt Everest” in the front yard.

In the beginning, Michelle was hoping that we would find some significant boulders so we could pull them out to use as show pieces. I don’t think she realizes how fine a line it is between “cool boulders” and “immovable objects that will mess up your project”. But she was thrilled that one was found and put where she can evaluate what to do with it. It’s pictured here just right of center, somewhat framed by more rubble from the driveway and the pile of gravel that is being used for the French Drains.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 13 – Backfill has begun Electrics have begun

2012 Home Renovations – Part 15 – Rest of driveway by house removed, Electrical, Gas and Water Returns in place

2012 Home Renovations – Part 13 – Backfill has begun Electrics have begun

The French Drain has been installed around the pool base and has been tied in (as far as I know) to that of the driveway retaining wall. It’s at this point that you realize exactly how much trust you have to have in your contractor and in the subcontractors. There is not a lot you can do about the subs unless you REALLY don’t like who’s on site or unless you want to very much micromanage the project. Our commitment to this project was predicated on a number of factors but high among those was our confidence that the two primaries on this project – Rich from DC Enclosures and Scott from DesJoyaux pools – were trustworthy and competent. We have visited sites and spoken with people who have worked with both companies and with Rich and Scott in particular.

If you are going to do this on the cheap, or you think you need to keep an eye on things because you are worried about cut corners, the only way you are going to do that is to either work from home and endure MANY interruptions or take time off work and oversee the project. S

Anyway, today back filling began, you can see that there is no longer a gap around the pool

Okay, maybe a small gap where they haven’t quite finished laying down and tamping the layers of dirt around the outside of the pool. Note in the picture below that the East wall is now gone from the current screened patio.

The air conditioner has found a new home, out of sight and hopefully out of hearing too…

From ground level you can see that the filter unit is still the most prominent feature of the pool wall. Those black hoses to the right of the filter unit are the Fastlane hydraulic hoses.

Driving the bobcat up and down the driveway is providing some de facto tamping which will help prevent later settling. Note the conspicuous absence of the air conditioner. It used to be between those two upright brown pillars.

Below is the retaining wall from our neighbor’s side. We will be tinting this a brown color of his choosing to try to make it aesthetically pleasing. Of course the change from “rotting pressure treated wood” to “solid retaining wall” is enough to have him very pleased with the work as it is. Note the holes in the wall that provide additional protection against hydraulic build up should the French drain become blocked or prove inadequate to the task.

That large pile of dirt is now starting to shrink as more and more of it is hauled back for back filling and, next, to build the driveway back up.

Inside the house, our small, maxed out 20-spot electric panel has been replaced with a larger 30 spot unit. Even though we have verified that the feed from the street can handle a 200 amp load, the feed from the meter to our existing unit is only rated at 150 amps so we elected to not upgrade to the greater capacity at this time. Even though our electricity needs are greater in many ways than were those of people in the 70’s (Computers, large screen TVs, room lighting) most of those items are so efficient these days that the actual consumption has increased only minimally.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 12 – Retaining walls revealed

2012 Home Renovations – Part 14 -Backfill of pool retaining wall complete




2012 Home Renovations – Part 12 – Retaining walls revealed

Today the forms were removed revealing the new retaining walls. Michelle has some reservations about the height of the wall at the back of the lanai. In the original plan it was supposed to step down as you go from left to right finishing off maybe 2 feet off the ground

When we revisited this so that we could NOT have the 7 foot high section on the left, we ended up with a plan where the wall would be 4 feet across the entire back and we would resculpt the hill in the back yard to accommodate this. However I think “the cheerleader effect” had taken over and she was blending the best aspects of both plans in her head and was taken aback when only the latter plan “won”.

As you can see the wall looks pretty formidable. But if you consider that the hill it replaces was as high if not higher for much of its run AND the concrete pool deck has yet to be poured. There will be another 6 inches shaved off of the perceived height of the wall.

Here at the top left of the wall you can also see an extension that will hold back part of the re-contoured back yard hill. This will allow us to put a ramp from the back yard up to the shed. There *were* going to be steps there but 1) we still wanted to be able to move dollys and other wheeled things between the house and the shed and 2) that would have introduced the first steps to the property and I kind of like the idea of a “stepless ranch”.

The East wall of our existing lanai has been removed. Note the air conditioner to the left. This is its last day on this side of the house.

More of the driveway has been removed. Only enough of it remains now to support the air conditioner and we’re avoiding the various utility conduits

Below we have the basis for a French drain in the making. A large corrugated tube with holes with a sock over it to screen out muddy particulates. This is embedded in gravel (you can see this against the retaining wall in the picture above).

2012 Home Renovations – Part 11 – Second round of cement pour completed

2012 Home Renovations – Part 13 – Backfill has begun Electrics have begun