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The Status of Sundancer

This is the post excerpt.

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Sundancer Blog – Bob Faucett

If you are reading this, you are likely familiar with our home on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We bought the home in 1998 and over the years did extensive renovations.  Carol Ann and I plus our children and grand children have enjoyed Sundancer and St. John in the years since.  In addition, when we were not using Sundancer, our home was shared as a vacation rental home by scores of couples and families over the years.  Perhaps you are among them.  Many of you returned to Sundancer year after year and looked upon the home as your own.  We have been greatly edified by your accolades and friendship.

If you are new to Sundancer, you can see the website of the home by clicking here.

You may also be aware that on September 6 of last year, our home was destroyed by hurricane Irma.  Carol Ann and I were on St. John during the storm but fortunately stayed elsewhere in a secure home with good friends Dave and Robin Conro, owners of Cimmaron Management who manage Sundancer for us.  For the story of our experience during the storm and the destruction of Sundancer, click on the “Hurricane” pop up on the home page of Sundancer.com.

Here is what Sundancer looks like today.sundancer

So, here we are eight months later.  Some of you know that our son, Rob is a successful General Contractor in Central New Jersey.  He operates R Faucett Construction. Rob’s wife, Na’ama is a successful licensed architect who operates BINYAN Architecture Studio. Rob and Na’ama are both very talented and work both together and independently.

You may be able to guess where this is going.  Rob and our daughter Sherri (who many of you know also) have been traveling with us to St. John since they were preteens.  Our five grandchildren have been coming to Sundancer since they were born.  Thus, our family connection is strong to the Island and to Sundancer.

Rob, Na’ama, Carol Ann and I have decided to rebuild Sundancer in the same location, but even bigger and better.  As I write this, Rob and Na’ama are on St. John.  Na’ama finished the preliminary drawings and they have submitted the application for the first of two permits required to rebuild.  This first permit takes about a month to complete.  Once approved, then the actual building permit comes next.

Here are some of Na’ama’s renderings:

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Sundancer II will have three bedrooms, three and a half baths (with three outdoor showers I might add!), a large great room, a covered outdoor dining and lounging area plus a pool and hot tub.  Rob and Na’ama have done a wonderful job on the design.

We are going to use a somewhat different building system known as SIPs.  SIPs are Structural, Insulated Panels. Panels are custom made in a factory and consist of a “sandwich” of two outer panels laminated under high pressure to a dense foam interior.  Most outer panels are plywood or OSB particle boards. That won’t work in St. John because of the termite issues.  The panels we will use utilize Magnesium oxide boards (MgO) on the outside of the sandwich which is a concrete product that is fireproof, impermeable to water, termite proof and other benefits.  They are a finished surface for the interior walls.  They will be custom made for us according to Na’ama’s design at a factory in Virginia and shipped in a container to St. John.  We are hoping to rent an apartment to house the folks who will help construct the house.  This type of construction is said to go up very quickly.

There is much more to tell about the story and I will continue to provide further details and updates on this blog as the process unfolds. If you would like to be notified when new updates are added to the blog and to have a chance to share your comments, simply subscribe and you will get an email notification when new items are posted.

 

Mid June 2019 – Six Months!

The beat goes on at Sundancer!

There is a link to a video I shot this afternoon at the bottom.

Since my last post some neat advances have been achieved. Importantly, the masons framed and poured a short retaining wall between the house and the driveway. (We just decided to call it the “Arcade”!) After the second pour of the side walk, this creates the area at the bottom of the staircase and extends the full width of the house. Recall there are two entrances on the lower level. One enters the eastern bedroom and the other opens into a small entry with doors to the second bedroom/bathroom, the laundry/utility room and into a private storage/workroom.

In addition, footings were poured to support many of the nearly 30 posts that will support the extensive decking that will nearly surround the house and the pool.  Remember, in STJ – OUTSIDE is the place to be!

As soon as those forms were stripped Rob began working on a small deck off the master bathroom which serves the roofed shower for that bathroom with a sunrise view!

Master shower

Also a roof which protects the entrance of the lower level east side bedroom. Just yesterday he and his crew finished the deck and roof of the large deck outside of the our  main entrance.

 

He also installed an interim staircase which is in the same configuration as the future permanent staircase.

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Today, they started the deck framing on the view side which will be 5’ deep and spans the full width of the house on both levels. (About 100 feet of decking! All covered.) They had to splice and bolt 6 X 6 posts together to create the needed 25 foot height to extend from the concrete lower columns up two stories to the deck roof level.

See the video link posted at the end for good detail.

In the meantime the masons are here again and finally working on the pool. I think the photo speak for itself! They will also build forms for the remaining deck post supports on the view side of the pool.  (I asked them today if I could start filling the pool?)

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On the interior, “real” plumbers last week corrected my many mistakes on the sewage, drain and venting systems after I removed my faulty work and got my supply pipes out of the way for them. It took about a day and a half, so not so bad. Afterwards I reinstalled the supply pipes and, as is standard, the pipes are all capped off and pressurized to the maximum water pressure of our pump (50 pounds). The plumber I hired insisted on adding another 50 pounds of air pressure with the compressor “just to be safe”. I held my breath and did that and by Jove, it held and is still holding!

Got both plumbing and electrical permits and I plan to to call for an inspection on both next week so that I know what has to be corrected.

As a total aside, I had an interesting discovery while here. From late January through late May we have had close to zero rainfall and the trees and bushes lost all of their leaves and the island was dry, brown and dull. We had nearly a week of daily rain about three weeks ago and since then all of the leaves have returned and the Island is suddenly a bright springtime green.  How refreshing!

I have realized that after all of these years, Carol Ann and I have never been here at this time of year and never witnessed the annual change of color and the abundant color from wild flowers all over the place that come after that first rain. Everything from wild orchids to numerous vines. Very pretty!

As another brief aside.  Nearly all of the traditional wooden utility poles on STJ are being replaced with high tech fiberglass poles and a firm from Missouri has been on Island for over a year replacing them.  They are currently working on our little road and late today, they lifted our pole into place.

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Recall this will replace the wonderful pole next to it that bent over to capture our fast exiting hot tub on September 7, 2017!

Hot Tub

The beat goes on!  Here is a link to a Video update I took today.

Bob Faucett from out of the office.

The Beat Goes On!

Lots of ups and downs in the past few weeks. Last Wednesday we poured 33 yards of concrete! That’s 4 truckloads!  Likely another 15 yards this week coming.

The pour last week included the huge retaining wall between the driveway and pool and the walls that will support the pool. Plus some footings for the columns that will support the posts for the decking that will nearly surround the house and lastly the walkway along the lower level which will be at the bottom of the staircase to access the lower two bedrooms and utility/storage area.  Incidentally, we can now better envision the size and shape of the new parking area.  I will easily accommodate two vehicles parked side by side.  It will still be tricky turning around, but not too bad.

Since then, the forms have been removed and the excavator returned to back-fill much of that work and dig more holes for the rest of the deck post footings.

The masons returned and are building forms for a much shorter retaining wall along that new walkway and other forms for the deck posts. Lots of work.

When digging for the deck footings on the view side of the pool the excavator encountered the remains of the old septic leach field which consisted of several tons of large boulders covered with a concrete slab. It took the better part of the day to remove all of that to get down to virgin soil on which the footings could be placed. Tons of earth and rocks over the edge down in front of Sundancer.  Its a good thing we have a big lot!

In the meantime inside of the house, I was proceeding nicely with the electrical and plumbing to the point that I could call for a rough electrical inspection. That’s when I sadly discovered that unlike when I built my homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, homeowners are NOT permitted to do their own work without a licensed electrician and plumber! Argh.

It took a week of scrambling and interviews with a number of these contractors to make appropriate arrangements. Along the way I learned that I had made quite a few mistakes and some of my work is in violation of code. Most serious involved a major miscalculation of the waste water and toilet plumbing. After realizing I was over my head in that department, we hired a plumber to fix my mistakes. I applied for the electrical and plumbing permits in Sr. Thomas on Friday.  Work on the plumbing will commence Monday or Tuesday and I will continue with the electric.

Rob is heading home for a week today to celebrate his birthday and wedding anniversary with his family.  When he gets back, we are hoping this latest concrete pour will be done and the forms removed so further back-fill will allow him and our crew to begin building the decks.  The next and final concrete pour should be for the swimming pool!

I thought you might like to see some exterior shots of the four sides of the house at this point:

Work continues!

May Day at Sundancer!

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May Day! My goodness! Where to start?

Doors and windows being installed. Roof is coated and sealed,

15 masons every day. Lots of Spanish music, Spanish yelling and laughing, but that’s the way it is! Exhausting! They poured the footings for the huge 12” wide, 30’ long retaining wall between the driveway and the pool.

For those familiar with the former, constantly moving, stone retaining wall, this will be an incredible and permanent improvement! I wasn’t here but Rob said it took about two minutes to knock down that old one.

In addition, they poured two other footings that will support the middle and view end of the pool. For those familiar with construction, those footings were stripped and as I write they are nearly finished building the huge forms for the full retaining wall and the supporting walls for the pool. They will pour all of that on Tuesday.

In the meantime just about all of the rough electrical is done and the bulk of the rough plumbing is in place. Kudos to the plumber and electrician…..Oh, that would be me!

I am returning to my bride today (Friday) for a little R&R and Rob will hold down the fort. I know he is anxious to get the excavator back in action to backfill and get all of the many deck post footings poured so he can start on the extensive decks that will nearly surround the house.

Here are a couple of links to walk through videos I shot last night.

 

Next Time!  Thanks for your interest.

Bob Faucett from out of the office.

Piling on the progress!

Rob and I traded places last week with my returning on Tuesday, getting up to speed on Wednesday and Rob’s departure on Thursday for his first return home in quite a while.  He is catching up on his business, celebrated Passover with family and friends and taking the family on a spring break holiday in Nashville next week.

While I was gone, Rob engaged a new excavator and a large amount of material was removed to make way for the footings of the new retaining wall (between the pool and driveway).  Lots of work!

In the meantime, another 40′ rack container arrived on Monday and following a relatively simple customs approval the rack was transported to a yard where a trucker brought us two huge crates filled with all of the windows and exterior doors.  Our guys and a couple of extras hands broke down the crates and loaded everything into the house according to “upstairs” and “downstairs”.

At the same time, the masons returned to begin preparing the footings.  It took a lot more work than expected because of the steep grade in that area and the mason’s fear that if not tied in properly to the virgin ground, the whole footing and wall was subject to sliding down hill.  After 20 years of putting up with the former Sundancer retaining wall moving every year by a couple of inches and pushing the pool deck further and further south, that was an experience we are anxious not to repeat!  As of Thursday, they completed site preparation for the retaining wall and the two other areas that will support the 10’ X 20’ pool.  Note that unlike the old pool that was set east and west, the new one will be set south and north.  Masons are now setting the forms and have begun to place the rebar.  Hopefully, we will have a concrete pour sometime next week.

Speaking of the pool, Carol Ann is home feverishly working on the glass work that will be used for several applications in the pool area.  The first is creation of 120 6”x6” glass tiles which will be placed around the top perimeter of the pool below the coping and serve as the “water line” tiles.  She is firing those tiles now.  She will have other glass projects for the pool and in the house as well.  More on those later.  While not a great photo, best she could do with the light.

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Some bored soul in our neighborhood complained to the building inspector that we did not have a required silt fence below our excavation site.  (We know who complained and still really don’t care.)  While I had hired two extra guys to help with the unloading of the doors and windows. I secured the silt fencing and armed the two guys with machetes and a sledge hammer to install the silt fence.  Took about half a day.

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While I had them, I dealt with a nagging issue for me. Many will recall that Sundancer blew off of her pedestal during Irma and blowing the remains to the north east towards the top of the driveway and further east.  While I paid a sizable amount last year for a crew to remove the remains, the longer we are here, the more I realize that while they got the bulk of the debris, they left a sizeable amount that was somewhat hidden in “the bush”, but still on our property.  The fact is. parts of Sundancer are scattered over a huge chunk of Fish Bay as far as a half mile away.  (Who knows, maybe further!)  Anyway, I had the two guys spend the next two days, pulling rubble out of the bush, cutting it up into manageable sizes and loading on our truck.  I took four loads of “stuff” to the dump.

Turns out, one section was the full flooring system for the guest bedroom.  While most of it is now gone, there is still a large piece (right above) that I will tackle when we have some down time (whenever THAT might be.)

Truth be told, one of the many reasons Rob and I hired someone to remove the Sundancer debris was that when we visited the wreckage last October, we quickly realized that the project would be daunting and just as importantly, if not more so, the project would be extremely emotional.  There is no need to further explain that aspect, but this week, as I took each load of debris to the dump and was throwing it into large dumpsters, I was taken aback by the twinges of pain I experienced each time something passed by that carried another memory of Sundancer.  It could have been something as simple as one of our now faded sofa pillows or a door with “soft close” cabinet hardware. Evidence of personal touches we had added to Sundancer over the years was in each load.  Unexpected thoughts jumped into my head.  “Gee, I remember installing them!” “Wow, it is amazing how things once so important are now just rubbish.” More pain than I expected. “Remember Man, from dust you came and to dust you shall return.”  Anyway, not sure of the interest to anyone, but impacted me.

So, in addition to the masons, our team has been working on the roof.  They installed the cap on the parapets and have started to seal the seams on the roof.  (We are using a pretty neat GE Silicone applied roof coating).  They are applying tape to the roof system along the seams and applying the flashing material to the tape.  Once done, they will use rollers to coat the entire roof including the parapets. We are short a bit of materials and I headed to St. Thomas today (Saturday) for a shopping spree.

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In the meantime, our team today went below and applied the waterproofing to the new cistern.  Once done, our plan is to move the “Irma water” that is still in the old cistern to the new one and then clean and re-coat the old one.

In addition to blog writing, I am the designated electrician and plumber.  I am pulling wires, setting switch, light and outlet boxes.  My hope is that this part of the task will be done in the next few days and I will move to plumbing.  I know, technically, plumbing is supposed to be done before electric, but just doing it my way.  I will have to call for an electrical rough wiring inspection soon but will have good friend and electrician walk through what I have done before I call for that inspection.  (Just to be safe.)

On the subject of inspections, our first inspection for the walls is scheduled for Wednesday.  While we should have had inspections for concrete, our mason kept telling us “don’t worry about it, they all know me.”  None the less, we diligently logged every step by photo just in case.

So, that’s the current story folks!

Bob

Four Months and Running

This is near the anniversary of our fourth month being in St. John on our project.  The last couple of weeks have been quite eventful. You may recall that we were held up by some beams that had to be replaced by our truss supplier because the originals were sent with non treated lumber the first time. We got just so far and had to work around the missing beams. They finally arrived on last Monday and we had to take the truck to St. Thomas to pick them up. We put the truck to a test as the four 18’ beams weighed in at 1250 pounds. We took the opportunity to pick up other supplies including plumbing and roof coating and the prerequisite visit to Home Depot.

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While waiting for the beams, the lower level interior walls were erected and furring stips added to the old basement walls as well.

Once the beams arrived on site the crew quickly put them in place and continued the process of installing the second floor decking, the master bedroom wall panels and finally the roof panels.  This is the last wall panel being installed!

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We can today officially declare that the structure is now complete! Hooray!

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During this time I have been pulling electrical cable and drilling holes for the first floor electrical which is just about complete as is the wire for the fans and lights in the roof panels for the kitchen and living room.

Carol Ann joined us for a visit last Sunday and daughter Sherri and granddaughter Maree Rose arrived Tuesday. They all return home on Tuesday as did I for a few days off. When I return next Tuesday, Rob will depart on Thursday for a couple of well deserved weeks with his family.

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I put Maree Rose to work cleaning up around the property and helping me pull wires.

IMG_1199Today (Thursday) Rob tells me, an excavator will arrive with a hammer attachment to begin ripping up the stone wall that was between the driveway and the old pool.  (Note that the driveway is now clear of SIPs!)

IMG_3411Everything left of the orange line goes away.  A large concrete footing will be installed beneath that space and a new concrete retaining wall will be build about 5 feet to the left.  This will separate the driveway from the new pool which will go in fairly soon.  (BIG job.)

While that is going on, we will be putting up the second floor interior walls, applying the first coat of silicone roofing surface and waterproofing the new cistern. We will also complete the rough wiring and begin installing the rough plumbing.

By that time, exterior doors, windows and a large amount of lumber for the deck and porch framing will be on site and Rob will undertake that phase.  Those materials should arrive the week after next while Rob is with his family.

Here are a couple of random photos:

Thanks for your interest.  Back to you soon.   Bob

Racing Along!

St. Patty’s day and rocking and rolling!

As anticipated on our last post the two new rooms on the lower level were are completed. New bedroom on east side, utility/laundry and storage on right and re purposing old basement as bedroom in the middle.

Above them is now installed a truss system which supports the upper floor and walls. The trusses arrived right on time…..but not without issue. When we inspected the shipment, we quickly detected that two sets of laminated wood was not pressure treated which, in The Islands is a non negotiable feature. Untreated lumber is the preferred diet of all of those termites you all see in those nests in the trees all over. Those little guys can detect untreated wood in no time at all and when they return to the nest, they are treated like royalty by their nest mates as they all start building tunnels directly to Sundancer! Not good.

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Here is Rob, sitting atop the Truss shipping rack talking with the supplier about the untreated lumber in the pile!

Bottom line, the supplier screwed up. After some tense negotiation they agreed to send four treated glue-lams (laminated beams) to replace the untreated ones. While they have been delivered to the port in Florida for shipment, they won’t arrive here until a week from Monday.

In the meantime we were able to continue working on the second floor except for the north half of the master bedroom where the missing beams are required.

And the walls start to go up!

Note the sliders Na’ama and Rob designed are 7 feet wide compared to the 6 feet sliders in the original Sundancer.

Here is a link to a video taken yesterday.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3H52YZStCQ

We had the pleasure of hosting long time friend and St. John guest of some 35 years, Father Patsy Iaquinta of West Virginia. Patsy jumped right in and did some heavy lifting during this past very eventful week.

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We were also pleasantly surprised to greet long time Sundancer guests Dan and Lisa Lowery who were visiting STJ and came out to mourn the loss of Sundancer and offer some moral support in the rebuilding.

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On Monday, the crew will begin to install the roofing on the west side. We move into the next phase and are delighted with the progress so far and the coming challenges. We have a good crew including a gifted carpenter from Jamaica (Neville) and a strong, pleasant young man from the Dominican Republic. (Salvatore). Language is a bit of an issue for Salvatore, but he could not be more pleasant and helpful.

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Keep in touch folks.

 

Three months and big Progress

March 2 and the end of our third month here.

As an aside, before I fill you in on the Sundancer progress, last Saturday (the 23rd) was the 23rd annual running of “8 Tuff Miles” a run/walk from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay via Centerline Road. It starts and ends at sea level and climbs to 1000 feet near the 5 mile point. The last 3 miles are pretty much down hill. Over the years, both Carol Ann and I have run the race, but this was Rob’s first try.

Bottom line? Rob finished 27th out of 1065 participants! Pretty impressive!  One of the guys who beat him with this delightful 65 year old Rasta Guy from St. Thomas! (He ran the marathons for the Virgin Islands Olympics team in Seoul and Barcelona.)  That is current VI Olympic Team boxer next to him.  (Built like me!)

8 tuff

After the race, we hung out at the new beach emporium at Maho Bay.  It is a really neat space!  I beat Rob at some Jenga.  (BTW, Sundancer Jenga game survived Irma!)

Maho

Now back to the news.

As last reported, house concrete and back fill complete. House panels shipped a couple of weeks ago and they have arrived but not without Islands complications.

Turns out that the panels would not fit on the 40’ flatbed shipping “rack” as originally planned and ended up on a 40’ and a second 20’ rack. Just about doubles the shipping costs. Argh!

I was advised the racks were due last Monday and began the process of clearing customs. Now, you need to understand the convoluted system down here. Even though we are a U.S.Island and our shipment is coming from the US, federal customs agents have to clear the shipment AND if anything, I mean almost anything that is made outside of the U.S. incurs a 6% duty. Now this has no baring on the fact that whoever imported it into the U.S. in the first place had to pay duty on it already. Go figure.

This leads to fact that some of these agents are paranoid that people like me lie about where our things are made in order to avoid paying the duty down here. I am sure this happens, but I caught an agent with a total attitude and she demanded that the SIP manufacture certify that everything was made in the states. After four return trips and reams of paper they still wouldn’t approve our shipment until they physically inspected the panels to either approve or tax them! While all this is going on, I learn that our 40’ container was left at the port in Florida and only the 20′ was on Island! “Oh, Mr. Faucett, we are so sorry but we will get it here next week!”

Turn page, wait another week.

While all of this was going on, Rob and I were preparing the lower level for the “soon come” panels.  This requires a pair of glued and bolted down boards all around the parameter.  Done!

Finally when the 40’ arrived, I encountered a reasonable customs agent and all was cleared. Sheesh! I hope we don’t have to go through all of that on the next four/five or six shipments!

Bottom line, We had to: hire a trucker to haul the trailers out of the port, rent space to park and unload the trailers, leave them there for a month while we installed them because we don’t have enough room at Sundancer to store all of them and finally hire someone with a crane to unload the material.

This was all accomplished early last week and they were unloaded on Tuesday. Rob and I then began to sort the panels and related lumber and pick the parts we will need first and truck them to Sundancer. Accomplished this on Thursday.  As you can see, all of  the SIP parts are labeled to facilitate the construction of this supersized jigsaw puzzle.

We began to install them in earnest on Friday, Our local carpenters (Neville and
Salvatore) showed up to help and got a good start. Rob and I worked on Saturday and the project continued today (Monday).

Naturally there’s a learning curve and there are always some glitches, but Rob is a quick study, very creative and determined and I am sure the pace will accelerate. While I pick up some slack, I am not up to his pace and not accustomed to such physically demanding days and tasks.  I need to (and do) pace myself.  (not a kid anymore!)

After the two new rooms on the lower level are done (read “THIS WEEK”, we install the truss system to hold up the second floor. The trusses and related materials are at sea as I write and should be available this Wednesday or Thursday.  Right!

By Golly, it is starting to look like a house!