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.

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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!)

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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!)

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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!

Short and sweet!

More time and more progress!  The house concrete work for the new Sundancer is now complete.  This entailed large footings on either side of the surviving basement.  On the east, (sunrise) side, we now have the completed slab which will be turned into one of the two lower bedrooms and bathrooms for that bedroom and another for the second bedroom which will be housed in the former basement.  On the west side, we have added a second cistern and above that will be a third complex containing the utilities, laundry room and a larger, private storage and work area.  By Island standards, completing this work in 2 1/2 months qualifies for miraculous!  58 yards of concrete!

As I write this (Sunday morning) I am preparing to meet the excavator who will complete the back fill all around these new structures.

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This will pave the way for arrival of the SIPs which were delivered to the port on Thursday and are aboard a ship and scheduled to arrive here on St. John on Wednesday. While we originally thought they would fit on one 40’ rack container, in fact they ended up on one 40’ rack and a second 20’ rack. We have arranged to truck them to a yard where they will be off loaded and we will begin to move them to Sundancer for installation.  Hooray!

There will be a lot more excavation and concrete work beginning soon as a new retaining wall will be built along the driveway as well as the new concrete pool.  Plenty more to come!

End of Month Two

Another week or so passes. Progress is steady but not as fast as we may have liked. But we try to avoid the use of the notorious (and to me a bit derogatory) term “Island Time” After the initial excavation was completed, the masons had a series of very challenging tasks which took a good deal of time and even more experience and skill.

As noted earlier we were fortunate to secure the service of the most highly recommended mason on St. John. Jimmy, from Puerto Rico has been a mason here for 30 years. Everyone we spoke to advised that if we could get him, he was the very best. While Jimmy, who is 80, doesn’t touch a form or tool, he maintains a committed crew of men from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic who have worked with him for years and know exactly what to do to follow the dimensions of the engineering and architectural plans but they follow their own instinctual interpretation of the structural elements of concrete construction. This includes the all important rebar layouts, and necessary walls and footings to conform to Sundancer’s severe topography. They came up with 80% of the decisions on how to pull it all together with little guidance from Rob or the drawings. It has been fun to observe.

So, all of that extemporaneous artistry has consumed a good deal of the time as well as trying to coordinate delivery of concrete from the one and only concrete plant on St. John.

This past week was eventful. Following about a week delay getting scheduled for concrete, the crew arrived on Tuesday along with the prerequisite pump truck to pour the slab of the new lower level bedroom and the remainder of the footings as well as the slab that serves as the floor of the new cistern on the west side of the old basement.

The first concrete truck came and the pour was flawless. The second truck came and the site became chaotic! The concrete was a different mix of small and large stones and the pump simply could not force it through their pipes. I won’t bore you with the details but the pump truck crew scrambled for hours trying to get the concrete to the first slab while Jimmy’s crew leaned on their shovels and rakes waiting. Eventually we sent the concrete truck away and the concrete yard sent another truck with the same results. In the end they got enough concrete to finish the cistern side, but it was too late in the day to begin the bedroom side.

The drama continued on Thursday while Rob and I enjoyed a long planned vacation day to Jost Van Dyke. When we returned the crew was wrapping up with a successful, but painful send day.

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As I write this I am returning to Florida for a week with Carol Ann followed by a short business trip overseas. Rob is holding down the fort and finished up mounting a pipe in the old cistern wall to connect with the new cistern so they balance the amount of water in them when one is full.  It was a challenge because he discovered that the old cistern walls are 12″ thick!

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He will continue the task of installing the first lumber on the bedroom slab which entails drilling holes to lock in the anchor bolts and installing threaded rods with epoxy in the slab to eventually hold down hefty steel brackets that will anchor the actual wall panels. All of this is necessary to accommodate the dictates of the intense engineering we commissioned to make sure Sundancer II remains stationary to 185 miles per hour!

Hope I didn’t bore you too much, but all of this work is preliminary to the more “sexy” stage when the SIPS arrive and start going up. We were advised that the panels are nearly done and will ship on time. The order for the windows and exterior doors goes in this week as well.  Here are a couple of photos sent by the factory in Virginia.

Below is a story I shared with our “Family Chat” last week that seemed to be enjoyed by our family.  Perhaps you might too:

I missed a great photo op today but maybe I can give you all a word picture.

For the past few days, we have been hooking up the water pump in the old basement. The masons need water on Tuesday to spray down the concrete slabs they will pour.

We had to move the pump to the opposite side of the basement and I had to remove the pipe that went through the floor into the cistern which holds our water. As the pipe was too long to pull out, I had to cut it. Because of something glued to the end of it, I couldn’t pull the rest of it out of the hole and I let it go and it dropped into the cistern.

Turns out I needed that part to put on the end of the new pipe on the other side of the basement. (It was a screen and check valve.)

Rob and I discussed how we might retrieve it using a pole or rake and Rob volunteered to go into the cistern and get it.

So,  (here comes the photo.). We go to the house and up to the basement (which is now reached by climbing a ladder because of the excavations). We take the cover off of the cistern hatch and I look inside with a flashlight and see the water is pretty clear and I can see the dropped part on the other side at the bottom.

Son Robert strips down, puts on his dive mask, takes his dive light and slides into the 5 feet of water! I knew at that moment I should have brought my phone! Damn!

I hear him splashing around and shortly after, he returns with the pipe and sticks his head out of the hole. “Click!”

Now he tries to lift himself out but can’t. “Click!”

I give him my arm and he lifts up and pulls himself across the concrete. “Click!” ( Gotta delete that one…..rated X)

Turns out the piece on the end of the pipe that I needed was destroyed when I dropped the pipe. Had to go buy one anyway.

Still made for a good story!

Bob