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A slow boat on the ocean

Progress is measured in lots of ways.   In the case of a house renovation, the moves forward are sometimes indiscernible.   It is like a ship sailing in a vast sea — are we sailing ahead of the waves or are they rolling into us?   We have to take our measurements from the stars, it seems, hoping that celestial signs will tell us we are headed in the right direction.


Today’s task was   to get the adobe blocks in the new master bedroom cleaned up.   Adobe is a very delicate building product — not as hard as cement blocks or bricks, and susceptible to water damage.   The interior side of these blocks was damaged by several things, and now we need to clean it up.

First of all, these blocks were never intended to see the light of day.   The original blueprints from the house show that the room was specified to be covered with birch paneling, which it was. We ripped down the paneling to see if we could expose the block, as it is exposed in other rooms of the house. Unfortunately, the block was not cleaned up during construction, so excess mortar and other blights were visible on it.

The cosmetics of the blocks got worse when we removed furring strips that were holding the paneling.   Pulling a nail out of burnt adobe block results in   a big chunk of the blog spalling, meaning that we created dozens of craters in the faces of the blocks.   You can see some particularly obvious examples to the right of the window.

Finally, there was a roof leak at some point in the past which resulted in the discoloration of the block in the corner (left hand side of the photo above).   All of these problems made us consider covering up the blocks again, but we really like the look of them, so we brought in an adobe specialist to see if they could be restored without breaking the bank.

It turns out they can, and our adobe specialist, Leigh, showed up today to start the process.   With some bleach and water she removed much of the discoloration and efflorescence, and then started in with her secret mix of adhesives, cements, and colorants to fix the blocks.   Adobe block repair is almost an art, and so the specialists protect their processes from their competitors, so I didn’t get many specific answers to my questions about what exactly she was applying to the walls.   She’ll be at it for a few days.

tucson-wrong-sink.jpgChris and Sergio came back today to finalize the windows, which look great, and we discussed a few other projects they’ll come back for in the next few weeks. Eleanor happened to mention her new composite kitchen sink, and Chris had a few things to say about the quality of certain types of sink.   He casually dropped a steak knife into the sink, as you might when washing dishes, and the sink chipped.   Not only did it chip, but it chipped white — the color is only about 1/16″ deep!

Back to the store with that!   Our last composite sink (Swanstone) never chipped and the color went all the way through.   I had no idea there was such diversity of composite sinks.   The one we put in Project Vintage Thunder never chipped either.   We searched online for an emergency replacement and bought it ten minutes later.   It should arrive in plenty of time for the appliance installation at the end of the month.


Several bits of good news arrived today.   Bobby, Danine, and Elise will be arriving here in their Airstream on Sunday, which is fantastic for all of us.   We’ll enjoy the company, the girls will have playmates, and there are a lot of family things for us to do together in town.   The really nice thing is that when your house is in a state of renovation, nobody expects it to be clean, meaning that we have very little prep work to do.   Besides, they’ll be in their own home.

tucson-new-lens-test.jpgThe other good news to arrive was the UPS truck bearing my new camera lens.   I finally broke down and bought the Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom.   Boy, is it sweeeeeet!   It’s a bit heavier than the 18-70mm zoom that was my prior utility lens, but it has the benefits of Vibration Reduction and no need to swap to the 55-200mm zoom.   That should reduce dust on the camera sensor and give me a lot more flexibility in changing situations, which is critical to the way I shoot.

The photo at left and the one above were just quick tests.   The mountains in the upper photo are about three miles away, shot from the back yard at 200mm in dim light.   The chandelier was a quick snap from the other end of the living room, also at long zoom.   I’m going to have some fun getting to know this lens, and hopefully you’ll see the results in the blog as well as the magazine.

In all respects, progress has been made today.   With good friends coming to visit, the end of the project within sight (although still about three weeks away by current estimations), and the weather warming into the 70s, all seems well.   We may still be somewhere in the vast Pacific, but our renovation journey is moving forward.   Soon land will be in sight.

2 Responses to “A slow boat on the ocean”

  1. Steve Says:

    The chandelier in the photo may soon cause you some heartburn if it is new. Our government in its infinite wisdom has bowed to the green lobby. The incandescent lamps will no longer be manufactured. I am not sure of the date but all incandescent bulbs are to be replaced with ones deemed more efficient.

    I am not happy either as I have two chandeliers with similar bulbs.

  2. Rich Says:

    The chandelier came with the house, so my guess is that it dates from the 1970s (because everything else did). I actually don’t mind changing this one for a more efficient model, because I’m on a kick to reduce our “home base” utility bills anyway. Our chandelier takes 10 tiny bulbs that consume 60w each, a total of 600w to light one room, which is pretty inefficient. By comparison, the energy efficient CFLs will do the job using only about 150w.

    Economically, the investment in the new chandelier and the CFLs won’t pay back (in terms of energy savings) for several years, but it just happens that Eleanor doesn’t like the chandelier. A “wife mandate” is even more powerful than a government mandate.