Sunday, October 25, 2009


Work Continues

Work continues on the courtyard. One of the most amazing things is to see a space which had been, more or less, unusable begin to resemble the finished product. In a home like a Cliff May the outdoor spaces are almost as important as interior ones. Even the L-shape layout of the house implies an exterior floorplan. For the past 4.5 years I've lived without any of the outdoor rooms completed. So I'm pretty excited to be well on the road to get one done.
Here's a photo of where we are:

Infrastructure is also a big improvement. I'm sort of following the motto: Any area I redo, I don't want to excavate again. This has meant a lot of extras. It adds up and I even had to draw up a "trenching plan" for the crew to go from. It also means thinking ahead.

One of the biggest things was figuring out how the previous owner had gotten live water over to this side of the house. Unlike most homes built today, in the 1950s it was uncommon for builders to provide outdoor spigots. This meant that the first homeowner would run all of their own exterior water lines. In my case, I had an oddly-placed spigot in the courtyard and a funky riser with a lone sprinkler valve sticking 2ft out of the ground about 10 feet away. It turns out all of this was galvanized pipe, part of which ran all along side the house. I'm fairly certain it
was original, from 1954. In accordance with my motto, I decided to replace all of it with PVC at the proper depth. Below is a photo of what came out of the ground...I'm shocked it wasn't leaking.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Onward (and downward)

So today started off like a good day. It sounds like the "people" behind me are moving out. I checked the title the house and it looks like it was or will be very shortly, foreclosed upon. I wouldn't wish a foreclosure on anybody but I think these people were perfect examples of the kinds of people that had no business buying a house at all.

I finally had the contractors over to start up the courtyard. It's taken a while to get my schedule in order and say go, but I'm pleased to report the ball is rolling. Below are some photos of the preliminary progress. We've already made some tweaks to the design as proportions feel a bit different laid out on the ground with spray paint than they do on a piece of paper.

Unfortunately, things don't always go quite according to plan. We were supposed to start actual work today (I completed the trenching plan for them too) but while on the other side of the house I noticed water burbling up in the middle of the yard. Turns out my water main broke. The only lucky thing was that I already had an experienced person there with me. It turns out it really wasn't that bad, a previous owner PVC glue joint had blown out (evidently, the main in my house is PVC halfway from the meter and then switches to copper in the middle of the yard on its way into the house.)

A couple of hours later it had been repaired. I gave my contractor some money to order materials for the courtyard and asked him how much for the pipe repair. He told me to just pay him what I thought it was worth. This actually put me in kind of an uncomfortable position. Too much and I'm throwing money away, too little and I risk alienating someone I plan to give a lot of work to.

Anyhow, I gave him an amount and now I feel like it was a little low. So, to remedy this, if anyone needs any kind of outdoor masonry, landscaping, grading, etc type of work, I've got just the guy.

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