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The Status of Sundancer

This is the post excerpt.

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.

 

Between “ready to finish “ and “finished”

It has been a while but progress marches on and we are at a very critical juncture. We are snuggled tightly between “ready to finish “ and “finished”. Pretty exciting!

Since last post the largest (and most expensive) project has been completion of a totally new Sundancer driveway. Past visitors will know that the original Sundancer drive, built with the house in the mid 80’s was a challenge. It was narrow, difficult to maneuver at the bottom and the lower retaining wall was in constant glacial movement heading to the sea because it was constructed on fill dirt. During our project, significant portions of that wall completely collapsed and had to be broken up and discarded.

In my last post, I showed preliminary photos of some of the extensive form work necessary to replace it with an ingenious engineering feat that saved us from having to dig extensive trenches filled with concrete perhaps 12’-15’ deep to build new retaining walls to hold up a replacement drive. Rather, using 12”x12” steel and concrete beams running perpendicular to the driveway at 10’ intervals, masons were able to pour the driveway plus an 18” high curb all the way to the street while adding about 2’ to the width of the driveway.

While this may not seem like a big deal, trust me. It was. It took six masons two weeks of daily grunt work to create precision forms plus they poured 60 yards of concrete to complete. (That is about seven truck loads!)

As Rob wrote when he sent final photos “ The driveway to last 3 lifetimes is complete!”

Other accomplishments include my closing in on the finish electrical work, installation of the solar panels, some rain water control landscaping, preliminary installation of our reverse osmosis water purification system, smoke detectors, plus a system to automatically monitor the amount of water in each of our two cisterns (thanks to technical skills of long time friend John Vollaro!). Final tweaking was done today as I returned to Sundancer yesterday.

cistern

In the meantime, a major milestone is the shipment of our final container which is now en route to us. We arranged for a 40’ dry container to go to Rob’s construction company shop in Flemington, NJ where his crew loaded with the custom cabinetry his staff had been building for the last couple of months. This is beautiful, tropical hardwoods for the kitchen, bathroom vanities and entertainment center.

In addition, all of the interior doorway and closet doors plus our appliances and tons of furniture, mattresses, soft goods, flatware, dishes and on and on!

load final container

That container arrived in Puerto Rico Wednesday and should be in St. John mid next week.

Finally, all of Carol Ann’s glass work is on a different ship heading to St. John and will arrive Monday. This includes the five amazing panels for behind the pool, a three piece glass mural for the outside of the house near the entry door plus the custom glass tiles for the kitchen backsplash.

Glass

I await our electrician to hook up the solar system to start selling electricity back to our power company plus connect the solar powered pool pump which was salvaged from the old house. The place looks great. Can’t wait to fill it up with cabinetry and furniture!

Soon!

Home Stretch!

IMG_1929Nearing completion!

Hectic past two weeks.

Let me go by departments again

Interior

All interior work is now completed and awaiting delivery of cabinetry, furnishings and all that is needed to set up housekeeping.   Just yesterday, Saturday, we installed temporary toilets and wash basins.  (see more under plumbing below.)

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Rob had two single beds shipped down and he moved to Sundancer a few days ago.  I will move in today or tomorrow.  Both of us are sincerely ready to get out of our rental home and move on.  While it has been a great help to have nearby accommodations since Thanksgiving, the house is old and infested with wildlife like bats, rats and frogs, not to mention the serious mosquito issues.

All of the screens at Sundancer have been installed as well.

Exterior

The big news is that the pool is finished and operational!

It is stunning with Carol Ann’s glass around the edge and her mandala on the floor, plus the beautiful marble coping on top of the edges.  Her glass murals on the retaining wall are complete and awaiting shipping when I return home next.  Rob and I have certainly been taking advantage of the pool!  All of the decking is complete.

The final major project of totally restoring the driveway is underway.

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As you can see, it is a significant undertaking as it is being widened by about two feet and completely repaved.  Lighting will be install along the new curb on the lower side.

The cable for the railing system arrived this week and we began to install it along the lower deck.

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It is really beautiful.  It is very high end which allows the cable to be tightened with hidden threaded plugs in the anchor posts.  Great design!  No unsightly turnbuckles which are standard in nearly all cable rail systems.

Electric

As I noted on last post we now have temporary service in the house and given I was away, I am now firing up the circuits one by one and trouble shooting where necessary.  Still a fair amount to do, but at least the house is comfortably livable.  Air conditioning in the three bedrooms will be installed this week.

Plumbing

Yesterday was a big day in this department as we installed the temporary toilets and basins and Rob installed two of the three showers.

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I installed the hot water heater.  Recall that we salvaged the water pump from the old house and that has given us water through a hose for the duration.  However, once all was hooked up it was time to turn on the water!!     Cold first, very slowly.  First issue was downstairs east bathroom where I had just installed the toilet and basin.  The shut off on the water line to the toilet was not seated properly and had to be removed and capped until Monday.  Then, we noticed a significant outpouring under the decking.  I looked up and recalled that I had plumbed a line for a future foot washing station near the future steps coming from the driveway.  I had forgotten to cap them off.  After fixing that and a couple of slow shower faucet drips, we are able to turn on the hot water side and when that proved all good I fired up the hot water heater and declared the house safe and livable. Rob took the first shower there last night.

Time to jump in the pool with a beer!

Rob pool

So now, we do finish work.  Rob is working on the deck privacy walls separating the two lower bedrooms as well as installing the closet shelving.  He will also be building the modesty fencing around the master bedroom outdoor shower.  I will be fine tuning the electric and installing the face plates.

Sundancer is open for booking!

For any of you interested, we are now preparing for the coming rental season and will begin to take bookings for the Holidays.  Final pricing is not settled but will soon be done.  The house will be occupied by Carol Ann and I with visits from our family during January and February, but aside from that, we are ready too book.  Rob will be handling the bookings.

Aerial Views

Here are a couple of photos taken by a friend with a drone.

Until Next Time!  Bob

MORE PROGRESS

 

Even we are amazed with the progress of the last couple of weeks! I am returning to Florida today and will return a week from Sunday. Rob is with his family in Jersey and returns on Thursday.

Let me update by department

Interior

Floor tiles arrived a couple of weeks ago and our tile crew went right to work. The tiles are all the same and are beautiful 12”x 24”. They finished in about a week and a half. Beautiful!

Immediately, the stucco crew returned. Recall that they had already finished the exterior. As of now, the lower level is complete plus the upper level should be done by this weekend.  Again – Beautiful!

install stucco

Pool and decking

The pool stairs and bench was poured early last week.  The event was that the concrete company had a schedule change and sent the pump truck and concrete several hours before expected by the masons.  The masons were on a job site where they had no cell service and didn’t get the message that crew was!  Daa, what now?  The pump crew and concrete truck driver jumped in and completed the pour and the finishing on their own.  Go figure!

poured steps

Coping was installed earlier this week. It is s beautiful silver marble from Turkey. Carol Ann’s custom glass tiles designed for the water line plus her sunburst mandala for the pool bottom was installed as well.

Plumbing and electrical for pool completed yesterday. We expect the pool finish and filling the pool to take place this weekend. (Yeah! Swimming!)

pool plumbing

As of today the decking will be completed. The posts around the decks are installed and when Rob returns on Thursday he will bring cables for the sophisticated cable rail system.

Plumbing

All plumbing is ready for the fixtures like sinks, toilets and showers which will arrive aboard the “Final Container” which should arrive late next month. Our new state of the art septic system was installed and I finished installing the connection to the house and the electric yesterday. It will be tested this weekend.

Electrical

While there are a few isolated “issues” that must be resolved when I return, our electricians worked the last two days installing the conduit and pulling the cable between the new meter monument at the end of the driveway and the panel box in the utility room. What is great about that is that they upgraded our temporary power to 100 amp service and it now feeds to the breaker panel. This means we can (and I have) fired up service throughout the house with the exception of a couple of issues remaining. I simply ran out of time.

Driveway

Those who have visited Sundancer know that the driveway has always been an issue. The lower retaining wall was built on fill and it has been slowly leaning seaward since it was built in the mid 80s. Plus the driveway was narrow. We expected to have to remove that short wall and excavate down to hard earth and build a substantial and permanent retaining wall. (A huge project. $$$$). Our mason came up with an ingenious alternative which you can now see is taking shape. We have removed the lower wall. (Not that big of a deal as it had a tiny footing.) we have cut about 10 12” wide channels across the driveway. Masons are building substantial rebar “beams” which will be placed in the channels and cantilevered over the removed wall and filled with concrete and a new 5” concrete driveway poured on top. This will widen the driveway by about 2 feet. An 18” curb will also be built into the edge. Still a substantial project but not as big as big as a new retaining wall.

Soon come!

A dash to the finish!

Lots and lots of progress since last post. All of the cement board (Durock) was installed both inside and out. All of that board was taped and plastered immediately afterwards and the lovely stucco finish was applied to the exterior of the house and the retaining walls. Lots of work with great impact!

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It was suggested that we hold off on the interior stucco until the ceilings and floor tile are installed. Ceilings are now done and cement board has been laid on the floors in anticipation of the floor tile. The tile is on St. Thomas and once it arrives here on Monday or Tuesday we can bring it to the site and our tile installers are standing by to start.

The long awaited decking project is underway with the view side of the upper and lower decks about done and the larger north side (entrance) and pool deck underway this week.

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We had two excavation machines on site all day Saturday and they cleaned up some dirt piles, back filling between the old stable stone wall and the new lower retaining wall. We can see that the area will be a delightful area for landscaping which will immediately great guests on arrival and nicely viewed from both levels of the house.

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Excavators dug out the space for the new “tertiary” septic system which was installed today, Sunday. More on that system in a future post.

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I was given the green light to fire up the electrical system thus most of the lighting is installed as well as outlets and switches. As they are installed I am able to test each circuit using our temporary power. Discovered some glitches, but so far have been able to work around them. (The plaster crew covered up a couple of my switch and outlet boxes!)  Been a long time since I carried a tool belt for so lone, but running up and down ladders and stairs seems to be keeping me healthy despite no pickleball.

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In my last post, I failed to acknowledge my very close friend and business partner who flew down a couple of weeks ago when Rob was up north. It was more than a social visit and I may have worked him a little to hard. We enjoyed our visit though.

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Here is one for the books! On Thursday a couple of our workers were busting up the short wall next to the driveway which has been deteriorating since as long as we have owned Sundancer. Late in the day we discovered that one of the windows in the master bathroom may have taken a stray stone and the glass was broken. But check out this photo.

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While it looks like two circles, it is actually one perfectly round hole at the top and the piece of glass that broke fell inside between the panes. Super strange!

On our research, the only thing that comes up is the possibility of a defect in the manufacturing of the outside piece of glass. We have appealed to the window manufacturer.

Finally, today, Sunday, was the first day of a combination holiday and Sundancer inspection for Rob’s family, wife/Sundancer Architect/Interior Designer Na’ama and their two daughters, Rachel (17) and Maya (13).  They will be staying at the Weston Resort for the week, but, of course their first stop was at Sundancer.

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It was a treat for Rob and I to share our 9 months of work previously shared only with words and pictures.  Here is a bit of their reactions.

Until next time.

Closer to the end than the Beginning!

August 9, 2019

Mucho progress since last post.  Biggest change is the installation of the cement board (Durock) over the SIP walls both inside and out.  That was preliminary to the process of the stucco finish. (There is a layer of Tyvec house wrap on the exterior SIPS under the Durock.) After the Durock is hung, the seams are taped and coated with a concrete product. By the way, the purpose of the Durock is that it is much stronger and heavier than conventional wall boards and impervious to water.

Next comes completely covering the walls with plaster, also known as the “scratch coat or thin set”. When the plaster is cured, then comes the actual stucco which comes in five gallon pails and contains the final color of the house.   (You will see that on next post.)

Rob had to pick up 40 pails of the stucco (brand name “Total Wall”) and nearly killed our truck! (40 pounds per pail = 1,600 pounds in a half ton pickup truck!)  But he eventually got them to Sundancer and we expect plastering to be completed this week and start on stucco next week.

Truck with StuccoIn the meantime, we need to install the cypress ceilings inside of the house before they stucco the walls and Rob and his crew are doing that as I write. As you can see the ceilings will be pretty neat.  (I have been home for about 10 days and return on Monday.)

Ceiling 1

Note that the scratch coat is done on this wall.

Below are some exterior shots.  Note that the porch roofs are now complete with the posts all painted as well as the roof rafters which you can’t see from these shots.  Note too that the house main roof is done with the first coat of the silicone roofing material applied.  (two more to go.)  As you can see also, the pool stairs are formed and waiting for concrete as is a bench along the western wall.  At the bottom of the lower right photo you can see the decking that will be installed when the exterior stucco is completed.  (Otherwise, decking could get splattered.)

Finally, as you can see here I have installed the breaker box and begun installing cables and breakers. (Trying to keep things neat as I hear the inspector likes a neat breaker box……me too.)

Just for nostalgia, here is a lovely sunset Rob and I witnessed at dinner from the bar of Ocean 362 in Cruz Bay.

Sunset

You are up to date!

Sundancer Outdoor Areas Taking Shape!

Mucho progress since last post! Last time, masons were forming the pool and the final columns for the deck posts. As you can see below, all of that is completed but not on the schedule we had hoped for.

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Both Rob and I went to his home where much of our family gathered to celebrate his youngest daughter and our youngest grandchild, Maya’s Bat Mitzvah. It was a great party joining with Rob & Na’ama’s friends and scores of Maya and Rachel’s friends.

Rob returned to STJ on the 27th and I continued my break with Carol Ann joining Sherri and her family in Rhode Island before returning to Florida for a few days of rest and polishing off a short “honey do” list.

A cascading series of events delayed our last major concrete pour. First it was rain. Than a broken down pump truck. Then after the pour, a no show excavator operator. The “no show” triggered our losing the rented excavator machine to another commitment. Argh!

While I was not here, I worked the phone from Sherri’s on what is known on St. John as the “Coconut Telegraph” and found a contractor who was able to send a machine and operator the next day (last Tuesday).

He back filled around post columns and the following day Rob and Neville attacked the west side deck with a vengeance! The 6×6 posts and beams went up in a day followed by the deck joists and quickly after that the roofing system which will provide protection for the outdoor dining and sitting area.

Rob and Neville doing some heavy lifting.  Believe me when I tell you that Rob is surely a perfectionist! Every detail is minded to and precision and strength are the rules!

This is the rafter system for the roof which will cover outdoor dining area and sitting area on the west (sunset) side.  On the right is the porch which runs the width of the house from corner outdoor dining area to the east side and the master bedroom.  Four seven foot sliding doors along this corridor.  Plenty of light!

Here is a shot on the newly installed lower level entry door.  Believe me, these doors and windows are really nice and all glass is “impact, hurricane” glass.

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Simultaneously, negotiations were completed with the stucco contractor. Recall that the panel walls and all interior framed walls will be sheathed in half inch cement board and then stucco will be applied both inside and out! The cement board arrived this week along with the decking and some other materials.

We took the truck to St Thomas today (Saturday) and picked up the first load of stucco pails. I dropped Rob at the airport to fly home for time with his family.

The stucco crew is scheduled to start a week from Monday and in the meantime we plan to finish installing the exterior doors. make some outdoor lighting adjustments and organize our place to allow the stucco crew space to work. (Quite a task!)  They will start with the interior.

In the meantime the continuing saga of the electrical and plumbing permits finally played itself out. After securing the two necessary permits, I had a little more to do before calling for an inspection. The next day a crew of inspectors showed up unannounced and began touring the project with the main focus on electrical. After a few minor suggestions and one surprisingly helpful one, they were leaving and I asked if I was ready for the inspection. They replied “Sure” and as we left in the afternoon we were surprised to see the most coveted green inspection sticker on our permit notice at the end of the driveway. With magic words “Inspected.  In Compliance with Code!  Just to be sure, I formally applied for both plumbing and electrical inspections for last Wednesday when they typically come to STJ. That morning, I called the inspector about their visit and he said “We are not coming back. We were just out there. You are good to go.” To be sure I clarified that that was for both inspections? And he replied “Yes”. (Nobody even looked at the plumbing! Go figure!)

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Anyway, that’s it for now.

 

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.

staircase

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?)

pool form 1

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.