Category Archives: exterior


It has been a while, with sporadic work being done intermittently enough that once something finally happens, it’s not exciting, just less frustrating.

We got a surprise call from the sales guy today, inquiring about our cover color selection because he still hadn’t ordered the actual cover for our automatic pool cover.

That’s right, we have had a big, water filled hole in the back yard since mid June. We also still have big gaps in the fence. The epitome of safety,  and the pool company hasn’t even ordered the cover.
Since the summer has been cool, the water temperature hasn’t been very pleasant. Something that a cover would also have helped with.
As of today, we have most of the equipment hooked up, apart from the salt water generator, which means we are still chlorinating the pool manually.

But let’s back up and take things in order:


After the flurry of having the pool set, things slowed down. A lot. As in we didn’t see anyone from June 17th until July 18th. However we did get our pavers delivered on July 5th, and got to work laying the upper patio area.

10 pallets of field pavers and one pallet of gray brick for the soldier course. With the upper patio finished we almost 4 full pallets of field pavers left and 2/3 of the brick.

These two picture shows how things were stalled from mid June to mid July. We had the PVC pipes neatly stacked. We had the pool equipment on the pad ready to be hooked up. And then a whole lot of nothing.



After recruiting a new sub contracting electrician to come install a sub panel and electric box during the second half of June we were hoping to get things rolling again.
At least get the pump hooked up so we could filter the water…

It took until July 18th(!) for anything to happen whatsoever.


Ta-da! It took less than 2 hours to hook up the pipes to the pool pump. 
The equipment pad is not the sturdiest thing I’ve ever seen, but look!  Filter closest to the camera, followed by pump and heater. The electrical box is on the wall.

Finally the pool was usable!


On August 1st they were going to build the moulds for the concrete wrap only to realize that one side of the pool was bowing in.
Since the tracks for the autocover needed to be installed on the pool edge, to be incorporated into the pool wrap, this was not awesome.

The chains, turnbuckles and anchors putting tension on the bowed pool side.
There is dirt everywhere, but at least the pool is clean!

On August 7th the mould building actually happened

A plywood box around the autocover hideout, and tracks in place.
Rebar, copper wire (ground) and plenty of crushed limestone. Note the metal stakes holding the boards in place. Those things hurt.


The concrete wrap around the pool was finally poured on August 23, after an interesting obstacle course made up of of bare rebar and concrete moulds surrounded the pool for two and a half weeks prior.


The concrete was tinted a light tan colour (well, when dry, it looks not so light here), and they used a chestnut release. The release is the purplish powder they put on the concrete before the stamps are pressed on, and will be a darker tone in the cracks and crevices.


Bubblegum scented release in the sprayer gets applied to the vertical mould forming the coping of the pool.
This is how it looked like for a day until they came back and rinsed off the release.
Other end of the pool. And some dirt and gravel in the water.
Another angle.

The release was washed off the day after, and the moulds were removed. The day after that the concrete was sealed, bringing out the final colour.

I can live with this, the rebar is gone 😉


Dory (pool robot with amusingly erratic algorithm making her seem lost more often than not) doing her thing.


Today , August 29th, lots of things happened. The trench was backfilled, and the area for the lower patio and fire pit was dug out. Concrete moulds were placed and crushed limestone base installed.
Enough to warrant a blog update even!


Trench backfill.

We also got the stairs rearranged, to make up for the elevation change due to new moulds being used for the pool wrap. We had the option of three steps, with the lower just having a 2 inch step down to the pool deck, or two steps and some innovative solutions for the front of the stairs. I think there will be about an inch of a slightly higher step than the 6-8 inches of the rest of the natural sandstone slabs.


Crushed limestone going in first.
Placing the last stair stone. The slabs are not level and square, so getting things to be level enough without toe traps wasn’t easy.
Digging out for the lower patio. Notice the stairs now are four slabs wide!


Limestone base and the beginning of the last concrete form.


Lower patio area, with circular hole for the fire pit. Crackling fires good, exploding concrete bad.
Placing the big boulder back to the far side of the stairs involved the backhoe and a chain.
We ended up with two stair slabs extra, since one of the original nine wasn’t deep enough and the replacement wasn’t needed once we decided on the change to the stairs. 4 wide, 2 high, vs 3 wide and 3 high. So we’re trying to fix the approach from the gate to the patio. It’s a work in progress.


Supposedly we will have concrete coming on Saturday, September 2nd, weather willing.
But with how the project has been going  I really wouldn’t bet money on it…





We will Rock you

Today we went to Frank Brother’s in Lodi to pick out rocks for our new fire pit.
The easy way to do this would be to buy a kit and call it good. There are plenty on the market, and some even in the size we’re looking for, but concrete retaining wall blocks look like concrete, and you basically pay a premium for the convenience of having something that looks like concrete.
Hand chiseling stone takes more skill than we possess right now, but stacking stone and using mortar doesn’t.
We will leave a 44″ diameter circular hole in the concrete underlayment for the lower patio. This is so that the fire will not rest on top of the concrete, exploding concrete is bad. The concrete will  however provide a solid foundation for the fire pit walls and the stone of the walls will be lined with firebrick, to protect them from excess heat, and hopefully keep any rocks from exploding. Less explosions is good.
So, we needed pretty rocks!

The idea was to rent a trailer and go get a full pallet of wall stone, in a variety called ‘gray chocolate’. But alas the ball on our truck hitch is too beefy for rental trailers. We decided to go anyway and instead pick out a variety of stones and load the truck bed by hand with as many as we could comfortably and safely fit.


That turns out to look like this, 1250 lbs of rock.



Here they are unloaded on the sandstone steps that lead from the driveway down to the back yard.

We won’t know how much more we need until we get started 😉

Wet sand – Backyard mirage

We went over to American Natural Stone for our 3rd visit this week, and ordered the patio pavers and polymeric sand today!
Decision phase over, and now that it’s settled I can drop fretting about whether or not it’s the best option. It will be OK.swhpss_saharachestnutlite_lgChestnut/Sahara Lite it is, a desert themed patio, with an Onyx soldier course. Cambridge Ledgestone XL and we’re getting 3 different sizes: 15 3/4 x 23 5/8
15 3/4 x 15 3/4 and 7 7/8 x 15 3/4, 10 pallets in total to cover approximately 1200 square feet. The Onyx accent pavers will be a regular 4.5×9 sized with the same texture as the bigger pavers. I will run them about 16 inches in from the edges of the patio, with gaps in the dark line where we have stairs leading to and from the patio.


For the main patio areas we’re leaning towards pattern 3, simply because it has the shortest runs of non overlapping joints. I do like the more random feel of number 1 too though.
patterns Or maybe the Random pattern that Cambridge suggests.



That’s it for updates tonight.
The kids have been in the pool 3 times a day for the past three days, summer is great!

Oh, well

Our first meeting today was at Chippewa Stone, to place our kitchen counter templates. Meaning we got to see our slabs and in theory decide which part we wanted placed where.

In reality we asked the stone lady her opinion and went with that.

It was a challenge to take photos of the slabs, as even with the dust layer they reflected the cars in the adjacent parking lot.


See the olive? No? Try squinting, it might help!


We helped place the counter templates on our two slabs, holding the wooden templates in place as they were taped on. There was also white marker being used.

Since I was using my hands for more important things, I forgot to take pictures.
I did snap one of our island countertop though. It’s the whole area above the masking tape. 123 inches long and we were lucky it fit without having to do a seam.
Bonus red car reflection!

Dairy Queen break.

The next meeting was with Kevin-the-Landscaper from  Lamphear’s. We met him at the house.


Today’s view ! Another beautiful day and blue September sky.

We have well drilling happening. They just got started with the actually drilling as we arrived.

Taking bets on how deep they will have to go, with us being close to the top of the slope. We are adding an extra  commercial waterpump to amp up the water pressure.
I know this might come off as sacrilege to those in the drought stricken parts of the country, but the Great Lakes area is not known for being arid.

Concrete moulds and prepping was being done by one very sun exposed, hard working man in the 90 degree temperatures around noon.
Half the concrete will go in tomorrow, and half on Friday.

Also, the paint crew was working indoors, in the AC I might add to show the contrast, doing final paint because all the trim is done!


Walkway shots!


Two stair steps at the front door.
And a _huge_ front bed area.

We are leaning toward having a swoopy part of this being lawn , to break up the hard lines of the walkway and to lessen a threatening mulch desert. Maybe some rock pebbles. We will see what Kevin-the-landscaper comes up with, design wise.

We would like some good bones in shrubs and trees, so I can add perennials for colour to create my own cottage garden idea of pretty.

We gave Kevin pretty free reins for the design, with the exception of not overdoing the yellow. We also asked him to spec out sandstone steps from the garage down to the back patio, and a retaining wall for the west side slope.

The majority of our complimentary 6 pine trees will get to live on the dog door side of the house, to screen the neighbour’s basketball court. The only gap in our nature provided privacy screening.

Moving on to more concrete. This is the parking pad outside the garage, the swoop of the walkway, and the 10′ deep garden bed in front of the garage.


Indoors I just took a few photos.


Today’s locker view, white suits them, but also the only ‘hmm’ of the day.
The bottom cubbies here should be for tucking away shoes, but we spotted something on the great room floor that looks an awful lot like a paneled front and side for this.
While the paneling was beautiful, echoing the fireplace and office board and batten, I do hope we get shoe storage. We really need it!

Fireplace. I really like it.


Meanwhile, I think the dining room pillars are a little pretentious. The crown moulding at the top in particular.

I have an itch to square that off.


The office window, taken against the light and really throwing off the wall color. I still took the picture because like how the trim carpenters solved the under window panels.


The view from the deck, looking down on the patio.
Also starring Kevin-the-Landscaper’s feet.


Another view of the patio, as seen from outside the dog room door.



Right as we were leaving a dirt truck arrived. Front yard dirt dumping as seen from the car.
Looks like really nice dirt.
We hope to have the lawn going in early next week, even if the full landscape plan isn’t set in stone by then.

Life is a driveway?

Slightly far fetched title to this post, I know.

We met Mike-the-Builder at the house Saturday morning to outline how and where we wanted the exterior concrete.
The driveway and walkway to the front door got some measurements and borders spraypainted


These are the squigglies of the curves of the walkway meeting the driveway. The walkway is mostly straight across the front of the garage, with a smooth radius curve squaring up to the front door, no snaking path but also not all hard angles.
We also made sure to get a deeper than standard  garden bed in front of the garage.

The rear patio was something we had previously discussed and we decided to get a concrete pad poured for that as well.
It will be a foundation pad stretching all the way under the deck, and we will install pavers on top of it, but the slope will be set so it won’t have to happen right away.

Maybe next spring.

We will meet with the landscaper on Tuesday and plan to bring up possible sandstone steps down the side of the house from the garage to the rear patio.

I also have to look into what kind of fence we can put up around the back yard. I’m thinking split rail, that’s what the development has at the entrance, or vinyl either 3 rail or cross buck.


Plaid shorts clad Parshendi jumping the chasm between the gravel piles who get to stand in for plateaus at the driveway version of the Shattered Plain. Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings” is our current car ride audiobook. Check it out!

With the concrete taken care of, we could go check out what had happened since our last visit.
Inside we met our painter from Schreiner Painting working on the window trim in the great room, to prepare for the spray gun.
Yes, on a Saturday.
He had some wicked taping skills, and the areas he had already finished looked flawless.


The powder room bead board. Sink to the left, toilet to the right.



Doors too!

Here is the very big, and very white pantry.

IMG_2418 IMG_2419


Just outside the pantry door, the beverage center cabinets have found their living place.

This was the very last change we did to the kitchen plans. We originally had drawers on each side of the under counter fridge, but as we moved the pantry door over and shrunk the beverage center area 2 feet, the drawers were very narrow and it looked cramped.

Now we have bottle storage instead.

Not that I remember us ever having more than a couple bottles of wine in the house at one time.  But fear not, now those two bottles will have somewhere to live!

The arched transoms of the front door, the dining room and office windows have their arched trim in place


Formal dining room, aka future reading spot.
Has lots of natural light. Needs big, comfy reading chair and side table.

Moving outside again.


This is today’s front view. Notice anything new?
whats new

A closer look at the shutters (still to be painted), rain gutters and downspouts!

Well timed as we finally had some rain the evening before, after a month and a half of next to no precipitation. (To make up for the constant downpour that was June and half of July I assume.)
Anyway, it helped set and pack the dirt around the foundation a little.

Mike assured us there will be more dirt brought in to shallow out the front swale, and the steep grade on the west side of the house.
No riding mower tipping hazards.

That’s it for updates until Tuesday!

Primed and proper

First things to get investigated today were the porch pillars. The 4x4s got dressed up!front porch pillar

The porch ceiling is finished, as are the arches and the outside trim, apart from the top part of the pillars and the shutters.

porch ceiling

We walked along the outside of the house, following the stone wrap all the way to the back. The exterior really is finished all the way around!
Also, as a nice surprise: the deck is in place and so are the deck stairs.

This is mostly a picture of our natural drain (green pipe, red flag by lower left corner. You just happen to see a part of the deck as well.
deck natural drain deck

More deck, and future railing in boxes.

rec room floorBasement rec area has floor. Of sorts. =D

master tray

Master bedroom tray ceiling. Urbane Bronze has a warmer tone than the photo shows and doesn’t come off quite as dark in real life.

Here is a corner detail, because I liked how it looked… It’s in the office where a built in bookshelf will live once the trimmers are primed

master bath tub area
The master tub area, with Kerdi board in the shower to the right.IMG_2264

kids bathroom tileThe kids’ bathroom floor tiles were patiently waiting their turn. The tilers were doing the laundry room when we visited so no pictures of that since they were busy and we didn’t want to interrupt.

IMG_2267On the way out we saw, and used, the shiny new garage entry stairs!


This is today’s front elevation view.
Front steps, shutters and pillar uppers missing.
Simply add tons of dirt, literally, and it will look done!


We stopped at the house on the way back from our paint meeting with Katie.

The one item that was lagging behind schedule has arrived!IMG_2217
IMG_2216Several pallets in front of the house.

Got scaffolding!

prep for stone



This is how the metal lath with partly applied scratch coat looks like up close.


Looks pretty nice already, no more white house wrap.

The stone guys said that by tomorrow there will be definite progress to take photos of.


As as a side note (ha ha) the siding on the west side of the house is finished.

Aaaand: The inside is ready for primer!


The interior ceilings have been finished, as has the interior of the garage.

The photos below were taken the following day.
garage door

Speaking of garage…

It seems like both garage doors were supposed to look the same after all.

Here is also the first shot of the exterior stone.
The little area in the center is where the house number stone will live.

garage stone-2Left side of the garage is mostly filled in to the front porch, except the very topmost course.