Thursday, February 23, 2012


This photo, with the Great Salt Lake on the horizon, was taken this morning about a mile from my new house (notice Jake in the lower right of the picture):

The trailhead to this view is a five minute drive from the house--with no traffic lights between the two places. This is part of a hiking and mountain biking trail I've used for years. While living at my previous SLC house it was a good 20 minute drive across town, each way, making a 30 minute hike take well over an hour's worth of time. There's is also the option to hike for hours or even days from this spot as it's all wilderness going up into the Wasatch Mountains. I had my closest encounter ever with a mountain lion in this area about ten years ago. We were at most 30 feet away, and it was a BIG cat--at least 150 pounds.

Downtown Salt Lake City is viewable from this spot, though not in this photo--it's just to the left (and down).

Looking west the view is of the Oquirrh Mountains, the Great Salt Lake, and the Stansbury Mountains. All of these are located in the Great Basin--which stretches from here west, across Nevada to the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The Great Basin is the largest area in North America with no drainage to the sea--a feature that creates the Great Salt Lake, the Bonneville Salt Flats, and miles and miles of alkaline soil which is no good for farming.

This is an epic hike, literally in my back yard--and it's one of many.

It was cold this morning, and windy in spots--so at times it was bitter. My route up included me idiotically hiking up what amounted to a long ice ramp as the trail had frozen solid overnight, it was the most treacherous I'd ever seen the trail. I only fell once and felt it coming so it was an easy fall. It was worth it, though there was an easier way up, but once I'd started it seemed just as safe to keep going.

Friday evening update. Here's the view from the same spot, two evenings later. The brighter light in the sky is the moon:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Final touches, more views of the floors

The view when I bought the house:

After neutralizing the colors and lightening the room with some paint:

With new floors:

There's still work to do on the trim, especially in the bay window where I started stripping the paint in late December. Other projects have distracted me since then, it's hard to see what it looks like because of the lighting here. I am leaving the 1950s peach on the baseboards for now. I still need to add quarter-round molding at the bottom of the baseboards and will either go with black or the same taupe color as the walls.

Final touches, new floors . . .

Before--Circa 1940 wood floors. Only a 1/4 inch thick and much thinner in places. Not refinishable. Plus, there's that square hole:


New floors, the view from the hall

From this (early December):

To this:

Monday, February 20, 2012

The kitchen is complete!

At least mostly complete . . . here's a partial view:

I wish I'd picked a darker gray for the walls. Coming sometime in the future: stainless steel between the oven and the microwave, and tile backsplash between lower and upper cabinets.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Design decision: Leave adobe bricks exposed?

The entire house, both interior and exterior walls, is built from double-wide large adobe bricks.

An adobe brick is simply dried mud. If you drop it from as low as two or three feet to a solid surface, chances are good the brick will shatter into dust and smaller chunks of dried mud. It's shocking that these old houses are made from this material, yet this house has been standing for over 150 years.

As I gutted the place during the remodel I uncovered many brick walls. Initially I thought I'd leave a few exposed, but since adobe bricks are so fragile (and dirty) I covered them all back up except for a section of wall in the kitchen. I like the different look, texture, and feel of the exposed brick versus just more drywall or plaster. Yet the wall needs work--part of it needs to be rebuilt and mortar repairs are needed throughout. Also, if you leave adobe exposed it must be treated with a chemical or resin to create a harder surface and prevent deterioration of the exposed mud bricks.

Another reason I have for leaning toward leaving the wall exposed is it serves as a "truth wall." In straw-bale constructed homes (straw is a highly energy efficient material for construction) it's a common practice to leave a truth window so people can see the material inside of a wall. Since my whole house is built from these adobe bricks it's cool to actually see some of them.

The end of the exposed brick wall in the kitchen has looked like it was about to collapse for the past six weeks or so. I was afraid to touch it. It's a load bearing wall and I didn't want to create some sort of collapse, even though the section of concern was clearly bearing no weight.

Last night my friend Bob suggested wood shims and an extra brick where one was missing. Like magic the wall looked a little more complete and stable. More work needs to be done and in the end I may just skim the wall with plaster since these bricks are so unstable, but with this temporary fix I feel comfortable leaving it alone for a while.

After the shim repair:


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Granite countertops installed!

Today provided one of those extremely rewarding moments of a home renovation. The cabinets, finally secure, level, and attached to the walls, were ready. The free granite my friend Leon found for me in November had been cut and prepared. The installers arrived and in about an hour they had the new counters installed. The cost was the cost of the prep and installation ($600) which seems pretty inexpensive for solid granite counters. They mounted the sink under the counter, which I didn't even think of asking for but love.

I can't stop staring at these new counters! It's the kind of finishing material that really makes a place.

If you live near Salt Lake City and have a need for granite (they also do window sills, table tops, etc.) call Harry of Distinctive Marble and Granite at 801.750.5720. These guys are great.

Next to refrigerator:

Close-up of sink:

During install:

Prepped for install:

A windowsill transformed (for surprisingly little money).

These aren't the best photos, but the guys from Distinctive Marble and Granite did a great job of adding a classy windowsill to my kitchen window. Love it!



Close-up (truer to actual colors, the wall is a light grey, not pink, red, or green as it appears in any of these photos):

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Integrated Property Services (IPS) of Bluffdale, Utah rocks!

IPS is finishing up their portion of the job at my house and it's looking good. Special thanks today to: Jon, Chris, John, Shawn, and Jason. Excellent work guys!

The wall and doorway last week:

This afternoon with finish trim:

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Bathroom number one evolves.

First the new floors, then removal and repairing the lower part of the walls, and now . . . it comes back together.

All trim, including the window, will be a glossy white.

The wallpaper was there and I couldn't deal with removing it--nor could I deal with potential wall repairs--so it stays for now. As far as wallpaper goes it's on the uglier end of the spectrum.

The view today:

A week ago the room was prepped for the plaster guy. Previously it was covered with painted aluminum tiles, a classic building material of the 1950s:

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Kitchen assembly continues.

With the help of a skilled carpenter, I spent a good 20 hours over the weekend working on the kitchen. We made enough progress that I can call the counter guys. It's been nine days since cabinet assembly began . . . it's coming!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

About that Ikea kitchen . . .

Last Saturday I had three generous and talented friends help me begin the installation of my Ikea kitchen. We made a lot of progress.

Much remains to be done.

On Sunday, two other friends helped me raise the upper cabinets. Since then, despite significant effort, I've felt over my head and have accomplished little. I have a new helper arriving tomorrow to see if we can move this project forward.

Here's what it looked like at the end of last Saturday, and what it still looks like now. There are MANY hundreds of parts remaining to put together to finish this job.

The whole process is overwhelming and I am beyond my skill zone and stretching point. Hopefully there will be some progress tomorrow.