Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bella Terra: The Flurry

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama        David thinks we'll get this horse into the barn by the September 27th contract deadline.  I am too realistic to believe it but too optimistic to dismiss his prediction.  A flurry of activity has begun. From here, I'll just post pictures with dates and brief descriptions.
Porch ceiling completed. Kitchen ready for stone. September 12th
Doors yet to be installed. 

Sheetrock going up.... mud work too.
This is the kitchen window. 

Kevin Trussel's rock guys were in and out in two days. Sept 13 and 14th. They did a nice job. 

One of the kitchen rock workers.
In the foreground, the gazebo pad has it's final stain application.
It will be rinsed and readied for gazebo installation tomorrow morning. 

Dale (on the scaffold) and Bill (moving the scaffold) continue sheetrock. 

Sidelights finally arrived. They and the big front doors are installed. 

Bill and Kevin's kitchen rock guy, whose name I failed to get. 

September 15th. The gazebo is up. Still lots of finishing touches to be added to it though. 

The porch ceiling is stained now... September 15th. 

On Septmber 17th, Rico and Marco began preparing the firepit area for the paver and seating wall.

Stain applied to the radius area in front. 

Marcus setting circular tiles while Marcus transports the heavy pavers. 

I met this afternoon with Brandon of Kent's Landscaping to review and modify the original plans we made in June.  Stands to reason, the days I want landscaping service are in conflict with the local "Parade of Homes" landscaping days.  I wanted to shake Brandon by the collar, but thought better of showing my impatience.  After all, I've been waiting only six months.

Pam, Ernie, Joyce and Charlie have moved their arrival up a day and will be here tomorrow, September 20th. Wayne and I are so ready to spend some time with them. I do hope to be near completion, though I don't expect to be on the new site while they are here.  Bill told me that David still feels we will finish on target.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Bella Terra: Irma On Approach - Construction Continues

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama     With Tropical Storm Cindy swiping us in June and then Hurricane Harvey fresh in memory, talk of a new storm system, now named Irma, began last week. Irma is a Category 5 boasting the distinction of being the strongest recorded hurricane in the Atlantic Basin.  She has her eye set on Florida -- all of Florida. Irma's punch for several days was fueled by center winds speeds of 185 mph supported by gusts of 210 mph and some of the lowest pressures at 914 millibars. It is anticipated Irma will slam into Florida, via the Keys and move straight up the peninsula, starting this weekend. Adding insult to injury, a third hurricane, Jose, has now developed along Irma's same path. Jose is expected to take a northward course before reaching Florida's peninsula though. Small consolation.

Too red!  Sept 6th 

Through all of the nervousness Irma is causing, Alabama's Gulf coasts appears to be outside her reach -- at least for now.  As a matter of fact, we are having surprisingly pleasant, sunny weather with lower humidity and temperatures. Even the daily rainstorms have stopped.

A welcomed hum of construction activity began on our project this week. It started when the dark brown concrete stain color I chose was not available. On Wednesday, a runner-up stain was selected but it proved to be much too red.


Then the good folks at Sherwin Williams created a custom color that was near perfect and it was applied to the gazebo pad. I do like it. Hopefully, gazebo assembly will begin soon. David and one of his Gulf Coast Construction guys, named Bill, assisted and encouraged me with the process... Bill even drove me to the Sherwin Williams store.

Our non-standard and elusive eight foot double front doors still hadn't arrived and that is holding up interior progress. David managed to get the framing inspection passed without the doors but he's hesitant to press our luck by requesting the insulation inspection without them.

Then, to our surprise, the doors arrived on Sept 7th!  But alas!... No celebration. The sidelights were not included. My heart fell to my feet.  David did go ahead with a request for insulation inspection and to our delight..... IT PASSED -- pending door installation, of course. I'm impressed.

The Doors.... no, not those Doors. 
Bill applied the newly custom mixed concrete stain to the gazebo pad Friday, September 8 and it was perfect. My only instruction to Kelley at Sherwin Williams had been to make it as near the original dark brown color as possible.

Sept 8 -- David (R) and Bill (L) are eager to see my reaction to the new concrete stain. 

Perfect color concrete stain. Remnants of the first stain can be seen on the edge.
We are ready for sheetrock inside the casita now and we are waiting for the stone workers to begin work on the outside kitchen.

Bill and David planning the sheetrock installation - September 8 

To our dismay, the perfect color stain developed bubbles by next morning. Bill and David were baffled. An explanation and a remedy from Sherwin Williams would be needed. It would take several days and several applications before Bill determined that whatever was causing the bubbles, it would take a cooling of the concrete before stain was applied to keep it from happening again and again.

Late afternoon on Sept 8. The tongue and groove porch ceiling is started. 

Construction stood still September 9 - 11th, which was stressful for me. Our travel friends Pam, Ernie, Joyce and Charlie will visit late in September and I'd really like to have more to show when they are here. 

September 10, noon

Septemeber 10th 8:40 p.m.

Once again, we've been spared the hardest weather, getting only a few gusts of 25 mph winds and a few showers.  Hurricanes Lee and Maria are being watched in the Atlanatic but they are too far out to worry about at the moment.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Bella Terra: Patio Kitchen Frame

Kevin Trussel
From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama 

The casita porch (notice I use the terms "porch" and "patio" interchangably) is probably my favorite part of our Bella Terra buildout. A mental image of this cozy shady space filled with comfortable chairs, a large dining table, friends at the bar, burgers on the grill and football on the television plays in my mind all the time. There's a chance, this space is starting to take some real shape now.

Murphy's Law would dictate that after waiting all these months to reach this point, Kevin (the outside kitchen guy) would be taking his annual week long vacation. He's gone to San Diego to visit his son stationed there with the Navy. Kevin's associate, David Foshee, will begin the kitchen install, I am told.

I use the terms "kitchen, bar and counter" to describe the same item too. That's just me.

Kevin brought the frame for the outdoor / patio kitchen counter / bar on August 31st -- the day the foam insulation came in a day early.

Without space needed to install it, Kevin left the patio kitchen frame here on the gazebo pad. It's in two parts.

The inside wall to the porch is covered in Hardie board and ready for the counter frame.
The two windows are covered. One will have to be eliminated and the other will be slightly enlarged, I think.

Another box of cultured stone is delivered with the kitchen counter frame. The counter base will be covered in them. 
On Labor Day, David Foshee began the installation. Looking left to right, the counter will have an undercounter refrigerator and sink. The right side will hold a grill and a burner.

David Foshee completed the Hardi board cover on Tuesday, Sept 6. Stacked stone will cover the entire bar and granite counters will go on last. Easier now to see where the appliances will fit.

Plenty of space for barstools now. 

Evidently the illusive painter stopped by sometime during the day as more exterior yellow paint had been applied when I was there mid afternoon. I've never seen him. He seems to stop by, paint for a half hour and dissapear...

I'm ready for the next steps. September 27th is knocking at the door....

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bella Terra: The Beat Goes On....

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama         On Friday, August  22, Category 4 Hurricane Harvey roared ashore near Corpus Christie, Texas. Harvey's torrential rain kept us on edge for almost a week before circling, making two more landfalls, drowning Houston, Beaumont and countless small communities. The week of flooding was, by far, the most newsworthy item 'round these parts and everyone here kept one eye to the sky and the other to a weather app.

During the first half of Hurricane Harvey Week (August 22 -31), weather in Foley was hot and dry and our construction project proceeded at the usual slow pace. Outside stone work continued, painting began and the garage doors were installed.
Stone work almost all around the base of the casita.

Standard Bella Terra yellow base paint application begins. 

Double garage doors installed and wood trim goes on around them.
By August 29th, Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded to a Tropical Storm, began delivering a final blow to the gulf coast with outer bands training over Gulf Shores, Foley, Summerdale, Robertsdale, I-10, Bay Minette and points north.

In his construction progress report of August 29, David said he and Kevin Trussel had met again to finalize the corrective changes to our outside kitchen which they hope can be done at the end of the week. The wall side of the bar is shortened enough to increase seating space and I can stop visualizing friends falling backward, cracking their heads and bleeding crimson onto the concrete patio.

All our inspections to this point have passed -- framing included; pending installation of the large 8' double doors to the casita which we can't seem to get delivered. We talked about aborting the order but decided to work around this delay for now.

David happily announced foam insulation, which normally requires a two week wait, can be squeezed in on Friday or Monday because we are a small job.  Good news like that makes me smile but I also feared we might get pushed back because we are so small.  To my surprise, on Thursday morning, August 31st, the foam installers arrived -- a day early! The installer wears something that resembled a Haz-Mat suit. I wasn't quick enough with the camera to capture him in action. In the blink of an eye, he disappeared into the casita and didn't re-emerge. Hope he's not still in there somewhere, packed into a wall, covered in foam...

Foam insulation being sprayed from the big box truck.

Rain subsided by the end of the day and the moment I saw the box truck leave I rushed out to see the result. Looked like a great snowstorm had blown through the little casita.

Standing in the doorway looking through to the garage

Standing in the garage looking back the other way, out the double door opening.

Bathroom on the left, kitchenette on the right. Garage to the far right. 

I suppose sheet rock comes next for inside the casita. Meanwhile, the outdoor kitchen frame installation got pushed away as did completion of the inner side of the porch's privacy wall.

Clearly, I am restless. We've been at Bella Terra since April 7 --  twenty-one weeks. We signed the lot purchase contract April 13 and closed on it April 21st.  We are almost to the end of week nine and slightly over four weeks from the contract completion date of September 27th... But obviously, that ain't happening. 

We will see what the shortened next week brings. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bella Terra: Built With Chicken Wire

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama       Three larges boxes of cultured stone were delivered to our lot on August 16th. David's text to tell me was thrilling. As the daughter of a building contractor, the smells of construction and the sight of building materials are as exciting to me as going to a potluck dinner at a southern country church. I couldn't wait to see the stone and examine them.

Straight stones in the red stripe box. Corner stones are in the blue stripe one.

Content of the boxes! 
Stone installation for the casita began on August 22nd. David explained that the stones aren't real but cultured. They look real! Some are "L" shaped for use on corners.

David's stone workers use a unique application technique for adhering the stone to the Hardie board... chicken wire.

Chicken wire is attached to the Hardie board.
Rico is the master of stacked stone application.
Marcus attaches the chicken wire to the Hardie board. 
The first of the stones are set.

"Before" stone application
The contract is well beyond the half-way point with a targeted completion planned for the end of September. I sure don't see that happening.

Bella Terra: The Devil In The Details

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama        It is hot in Foley. Every day. Not just hot in the sun but sweltering hot, even in the shade... with unbearable humidity. My clothes are soaked with perspiration within minutes of stepping outside... sun or shade. Thunderstorms roll in regularly and that adds to the awful humidity. Some days I swear I smell mildew outside. My morning walks are a faint memory. I wouldn't dream of even trying it in this heat.

We are shut-ins most days until after dinner when it's cool enough to venture out for a golf cart or convertible ride. Lexie and Ozzie are becoming less stressed in the convertible. The wind bothered them the first few times but I've cut their hair to keep it from whipping around their faces and Wayne's short, low-speed routes are helping them adjust.

Pups and Pops ready to roll out for an evening ride to the beach.
The video below was taken before I cut their facial and ear hair. 

But all that's outside the realm of the real summer project: Construction. It continues at a fairly steady pace that I think is slow but David, the contractor, doesn't. Work that's hard to see: metal strapping, outside trim, reinforced joists, beams and the like are important but not easily seen, though on close look, the frame has a tighter, more finished look.

Kevin Trussel
Grill Island, Pensacola

Kevin Trussel, of Grill Island in Pensacola came by Tuesday morning, August 15th to see what modifications will be needed to the outside kitchen. It is time to build the frame and attach it to the porch wall. This will be done in late August. Then while he is on vacation the first week of September, stone workers will cover the frame in stacked stone. Once Kevin returns, plumbing, gas and electric will be attached and the granite will installed.

The bar will be a backward "L" shape along the porch wall with the grill centered. An exhaust hood has been added between the windows. Kevin measured the 12 foot length and examined the gas, water and sewer lines already in place. We are good for liftoff.

Grill hood will be centered between the windows. Gas, water and sewer lines are in place. 
Next day, Wednesday, August 16, Kevin returned with this revised diagram. My excitement was short lived when he pointed out that we had boxed ourselves into a problem with the devilish details. The diagram below shows placement required by the already cut windows and power for the exhaust hood.

Once the 24" counter and an additional 12" of raised bar space are added to the outer edge of the outside kitchen,
a mere 18" of space is left for seating. 

In centering the windows and exhaust hood on the porch wall, we backed ourselves out to the edge of the porch at the bar. Here's how: The porch is a 12' extension on a 4" raised portion of the concrete pad. The grill hood outlet was placed halfway, at the 6' point with two window openings cut equidistant from the point of the grill hood.

The grill hood would dictate placement of the grill directly below and that would force the bar out so far that a mere 18" of bar stool space was left.  I had a mental picture of friends on bar stools falling off the the tiny 18 inches of seating space. How could we remedy this error? I spoke with David by phone. He was calm and unflappable. Later that evening he sent "It's all good! We'll take care of it" in a reply text.

And so the problem was remedied. After several seemingly good ideas we settled on this: We will take out the window nearest the casita and enlarge the other one.  With a simple snip, the water lines can be shortened to fit farther in and the gas line is flexible. This should reduce the wall side of the bar by a foot or more. David and Kevin will meet to confirm it will work. That was easy.

But then I thought about how nice a couple of hanging pendant lights would look over the bar and conveyed that request to David. No sooner asked than done!  I ordered the pendant lights and the electrician installed the wiring.

Right window was completely removed. Left one will be enlarged slightly.
Water, sewer and gas were moved to the right.
Portals for pendant light directly over the bar are added but might have to be moved a bit. 
It's a bit easier now to see how the vaulted ceiling will look.
HVAC tubing has been installed over the shower stall. Metal plates were added  where the wall joists meet the roof.
This will protect our little casita in 140 mph winds... I hope.  

The living area wall.
18 inch metal straps are attached with at least a dozen nails. 

...and so progress does go on and on. Even the tiny, hard to see details.