Hot mop, HVAC, Electrical and a healthy dose of distraction

This month started with a bang…really. A huge bang to my head or ego or whatever.

I’m 30.



The last couple of weeks we have been working on the house, shopping for Christmas and trying to squeeze in a little family time.

And Elfie time

Can you believe this is our neighborhood? And you think we’re crazy…
december2_second_story_addition december_second_story_addition

We’ve also been steadily working towards our combo inspection and took one day off from that to work on our lath inspection (since that one is tomorrow).

See the paper on the front? That’s what’s going underneath our Hardi board.

The plumbing is officially done, thanks to So Cal Shower Pans who hot mopped our shower.

While Mike was at work I replaced the flapper on one of our old toilets because it wouldn’t stop running (high five to me and my old lady wisdom) and we are now back to using the in house toilet and shower.  Unfortunately, during demo, we must have cracked the tank in the toilet in our old master bedroom and soon to be guest room (sorry Evie, I’m just not ready to let you be all alone downstairs…maybe one day).

Now that toilet will need to be replaced cause it is officially decommissioned (special thanks to the Captain who finally did it in).

Check out the fancy shmancy light switches though! Mike says you can tell a pro diy (oxymoron?) from a regular diy if they “clock” their screws.

I also stained the treads we are putting on the stairs and painted the wood for the risers (cuz I am super anal about finish work being pre-finished before it’s installed). I also bought myself a nice new random orbital sander for the job (happy birthday to me).

As I’m writing this post I’m sitting in the livingroom, drinking coffee, in my pj’s with the heater running cuz Mike is awesome and he did the whole HVAC downstairs by himself (I was there to take pictures and hold his tools). We still have the HVAC to complete upstairs, but for now this will do.

And a little close up:

And the ducting:

Can you see my Halo?

Then Mike and I moved on to finishing all the electrical circuits. I nailed in all the can lights (there were 30), fixture and electrical boxes and Mike wired them up. We now have all of our lighting circuits complete throughout the entire house and some of our outlet circuits. Including the sconces (makes me feel so hoity toity to say “sconces”) in our stairway and master bathroom.

I am able to cook in my kitchen because, thanks to running gas, electrical and plumbing, it is now functional again! I’m serious! My outlets, lights, microwave, refrigerator, garbage disposal, gas stove and electric oven all work.

Look how happy pepper is for me!

Today I’m going to finish nailing in some straps and A35’s and some truss clips while M’s at work and the girls are at school. Tomorrow our drywall is being delivered. It’s like slow rewind through the demo phase!

How to lath your house…

On November 5th we passed pre-wrap and that night Mike and I boarded a plane to the Dominican Republic. For an entire week neither of us thought about our house. It was heaven.

Well, mostly.

Funny thing is, even when we are on vacation we can’t escape a diy project.

That’s Mike fishing my wedding band from the bathroom sink we dismantled, then put back in place. So gross.

We booked this trip back in February, way before we began this crazy path to self destruction addition.  I’m glad we did, because neither one of us would have planned this trip after we started our project. It felt soooo good to sleep in a bed where I didn’t have to duck and climb over Mike to go to the bathroom. The uninterrupted shower was nice too. But by the end of the week I was really ready to go home. I missed cuddle time with the girls and I missed our trailer. For reals. I missed our home.

We weren’t very surprised when we got home and not a single thing was done. Deep down I was hoping some magical fairy would come and finish our house…or my dad would drop in and lath it. Not so much.

I once worked on an Extreme Home Makeover, it’s pretty amazing what can be accomplished in a week with unlimited resources and funds.

So not our story.

One week of doing absolutely nothing makes it really hard to go all out on the house. I felt like a VW bus at the end of Sunday fun day trudging up a steep hill back home. Friday and Saturday, our friend came by and helped Mike finish our rough plumbing. My dad came out on Saturday and Sunday and directed a couple of loaner lather. Yes, The Captain did make an appearance.

By Sunday night our house was looking more and more complete. And what did I do you ask? Not much. I thought about nailing in all the truss clips that needed to be nailed in, but that was as far as I got with that assignment. In-fact, I’m pretty sure the girls did more construction this past week than I did.

Like the house they built for their “pet” beetle?

I made a solid attempt at plumbing some pex/shark bite connections. That crimping tool is really hard. I look pretty ridiculous trying to crimp those rings. I wouldn’t let Mike take a pic – no one wants to see my poop face.

I made no less than three hundred trips to Home Depot. The great news is: while at Home Depot I ran into our inspector (doing some project of his own – apparently he too suffers from the same disorder as we do) and he said we could call for lath inspection before combo as long as the drywall was loaded in the structure! “Ok,” you say, “so what’s the big deal, I don’t even care what lath is?” That means that we can put up the siding and trim on the front of the house. That means I will finally have a job again. The trim job is my job.

What lath actually looks like – a big black and silver Christmas present:

The back views:

The front:

The front is going to have lap siding, so we will just be putting paper on it, The Captain is coming out this weekend to help us.

Interior before and after lath:
lath6_second_story_addition  lath5_second_story_addition

Lath is the first stage of stuccoing a house. It starts with a wire that is strung in a zig zag pattern along exterior studs that do not have shear wall for the paper to back up to. Then, paper is applied over the wire or shear wall with staples. This paper has to be a specific poundage based on the job’s unique needs. Next can either be more wire or sometimes foam and then wire. We chose the to go the OG route and have paper and then mesh wire. There is even paper with wire attached already this is called Grade D. Did I lose you yet? I’m boring myself…


So how exactly do you lath a house? Well, I’ll tell you how I do it. I call my dad and a couple of local lathers who all get together and do it for me. If you are really good at wrapping really big presents, you may be able to lath a house. However, IMHO, and as the daughter of a plastering contractor, have a pro do your lath/stucco job. This is the outside of your house and the most exposed part of it. It should be done right by someone who has done thousands, and in my dad’s case hundreds of thousands of jobs. Aside from paper poundage there are special pieces of metal such as L metal, J metal, rib lath and corner-aid that all have specific spots they need to go – and that is just the lath part…don’t even get me going on the plaster. Remember how I said in construction sometimes you just get lucky? Having the right connections is part of that, I’m just lucky The Captain is my dad.

The key to any diy job –  particularly one as large as ours, isn’t so much doing everything absolutely all by yourself, it’s using everything you have at your disposal to get the job done…whether it’s as small as a text to your close friend the electrician for advice or a drop in by your friend the plumber who works for pizza and beer and the occasional trip to La Cocina. It takes an incredible amount of trust in the people around you that they will help you out and a great deal of knowledge that the job is getting done right. Do I have all that knowledge? No, but I’ve got a pretty awesome husband and google.

Getting Ready for Pre-wrap Inspection

Getting Ready for Pre-wrap Inspection

The pre-wrap inspection is coming up and we are scrambling around trying to get ready for it, because once it’s done we can seal the outside of our house and get it rain/hail/snow/apocalypse ready. That’s important because last week we had a little scare. I had to go off for work and Mike was just getting home from work and the weather report said rain, and the clouds in the sky said rain and wouldn’t you guess it, the freaking rain coming down said rain…and ironically the day before was sunny and the day after was sunny but for freak’s sake today was rainy.

We also had an inspection we weren’t 100% ready for.

I kissed Mike goodbye and wished I could stay and help…I even posted on Facebook asking people to come give him a hand (it got two likes but no comments…). And Mike put tarps and the leftover 10 mil visqueen from our slab (guess we aren’t selling the leftovers on CL) over the entire roof – in the rain. He said the rains stopped just as he finished. Nice. I wish I could show you pictures but apparently Mike wasn’t able to take any.

For the most part everything looks ok, I can’t see any rain damage. But it did remind us of how close we are to rainy weather and how far we are from being ready to weather it.

This past weekend my dad came out and helped us put in a few windows and an old friend helped Mike do some plumbing. Monday, while Mike was at work and before I picked the kids up from school I finished putting in the “fill” pieces of OSB around the rest of the windows and exterior doors. On Tuesday we finished putting in all the windows and the balcony door. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we finished putting most of the vents through the roof and boxing in most of the eaves. And while I was at work Friday afternoon Mike rebuilt the roof on our patio that we had to demo to add the second floor trusses.

The roofer is coming on Tuesday to paper the roofs. Oh, did I mention we are using one of our 3 get out of jail cards for a roofer? Yes we are. The roof is something that we could do ourselves. However, it isn’t that much more to just hire it out and with the scare earlier it didn’t take much convincing to tell M he needed to get someone else to help. Coincidentally, our neighbors up the street had gotten some wind damage from the Santa Ana winds last week (again, another reason why we want this thing sealed) and the roofer dropped his card off. M (I swear, he knows everyone in Awesometown), knew him and we got the bro deal.

And that is basically where we are at.

The list of things we need to do before our inspection:
2 or 3 more bathroom vents
1 more furnace vent
The electrical outlets/light fixtures for the exterior walls/soffit (balcony light, porch lights, garage lights and flood light on the side yard by the trailer)
Boxing in the eaves on the old gable and back gable
Install the front door
Plumb the hose bib to the balcony
Knock down 6″ of plaster from the old wall on the side yard leaving the lath and paper
Something else I forgot.

Not too shabby. I’m thinking that list could be knocked out in under 2 days.

Sorry about the lack of pics, maybe later I will only post pictures.

El Capitán

Look at this Jolly guy:

My dad, for over 30 years, operated a residential and commercial plastering business, but because of the economy they had to close their doors. It’s been pretty sad to watch a man who was top in his field go to a standard employee who drives semi-trucks and holds no authority. My dad was amazing with what he did.

He was one of the pioneers for putting foam under plaster to create trims and shapes around buildings – now they sell those pre-made shapes at big box stores. He also had textures that were never replicable and people always paid high dollar to have him do their jobs-knowing they would get an amazing product. He never up sold anyone, instead he helped people see a beautiful vision of what their home or business could look like and they always willingly signed up for it. For years my parents operated their business as a sole proprietor-never worrying about being sued or personally liable because the way they did business was just that good.

Can you tell I love my Daddy?

Red and Grandpa:

Enough with the sob stories. We all have them.

One other thing my dad was known for was how hard of a worker he was and how much he expected everyone to work at his level. So much so that they nicknamed him The Captain and because of that he named his business Captain Artisan. El Capitan was one of the hardest bosses to work for because he did not like shotty work and he bossed everyone around with an iron clad tongue. However, he managed to have several of the same employees throughout the life of his business.

When we mentioned we were going to be building on to the house my dad (without hesitation) said he wanted to do the plaster portion on the exterior of the house.

Now I know why.

The man showed up Sunday afternoon, with only a hair shy of 4 hours of sleep. He loaded his truck and trailer (all by himself – the man is 60) with tons of scaffolding. Let me tell you-this shit is heavy. He was barely out of his truck when he began barking orders to anyone within ear shot. Immediately, everyone dropped what they were doing – even the air conditioner guy who just came to get measurements (with his son no less), and began unloading and setting up scaffolding around the entire house. My dad only left his post to show proper ergonomics of holding the long boards and to shout a little closer to the poor person’s face. Then casually walk back to the front of the yard to watch the progress.

My dad loves bossing people around.

In the end, though the work was grueling, and The Captain was unyielding, the results were worth it. We now have continual access around the entire house to finish framing, install windows, lath & stucco the house, add trim and siding, paint, etc, all without maneuvering a ladder.


I don’t have any pics of my dad yelling at everyone (The Captain wouldn’t allow any sort of time wasting activities like picture taking), but he looked a lot like this:
Captain Brownlee during a ceremony to pay homage to the British soldiers who died in the war, in Stanley

(minus the snow.)

(image source: