29 June 2011

Putty, not "Pâté"

     Last time we checked, our walls were being prepared for painting.  This involves the application of putty.  Sidebar here: it took us a while to realize that the Japanese equivalent of this term, パテ (PATÉ), actually referred to putty and not the famous French appetizer!

     Putty is similar in texture to clay or dough and is typically used in domestic construction and repair as a sealant or filler. It is used as joint treatment for plasterboard systems. The screws and various scratches and imperfections of the drywall are covered with putty.

     We were curious as to how putty was applied so we asked our putty and paint specialists to explain the process.  They will be working on our walls for the next couple of weeks.

     Here are the basic materials: corner beats, mesh tape, and putty.  First, the edges are covered with a kind a plastic frame which comes equipped with double-sided tape, called corner beats.

     Some sort of mesh material is then also applied over the edges. It looks easy to apply, as it comes in self-adhesive tape form. Then putty is then applied over the edges.

     It's a good thing the weather was a bit cooler because this type of work can sure make you sweat, especially to reach those high inclined ceilings...  We brought some refreshments for break time.

A third worker was  covering our windows with plastic in preparation for exterior painting, which should start sometime soon.

     Back soon with the latest updates...

26 June 2011

Closer to our goal

     We're definitely entering the last stretch. Last week, we said temporary good-byes to our carpenters, the Fukuzumi Brothers, who have completed the better part of their assignment. They will be back to install the deck and other items, but for now, they are off to other sites. 

     That day, the house was being emptied of all materials, accumulated remains of wood, moldings, plasterboard and other such construction materials.

     The exterior was the same but, wow, the interior was transformed, especially because all of our BLC doors had been installed, including our sliding living room doors!

The storage under the stairs is now hidden away.

The kids' closets and doors were done, except for the closet doors.

     Other specialist workers will be working on the inside of the house now to complete the walls (putty, paint) and install the tiles in the Powder Room and Toilet.  But we're getting closer...

25 June 2011

Exterior Moldings

Many things going on at once this week inside and outside the house!

     We were so impressed with the exterior window moldings that were installed in just one day! These elaborate moldings give an instant European feel to our home. They are made of resin, so very resistant.  The outdoor moldings will be painted white using a special weather-proof paint.

     We noticed gaps between the moldings and wondered what would be done about these.  The very next day, we saw that the moldings were being covered with blue protective tape, in preparation for the next step: caulking. 

     Caulking serves the purpose of sealing joints and filling in any gaps to protect from the rain or wind.  Surprisingly (to me), caulk doesn't come in a tube!  It has to be mixed on site:

Experienced workers came in to do this job:

The result:

     Can't wait to see when the walls have been done with the exterior finish Jollipat and the moldings have been painted!

     We're expecting a bit of a delay in the completion of the house due to the unavailability of certain exterior equipment.  But we're getting there, one step at a time...

23 June 2011

Understanding is Key

     I was lucky to run into our builder Suzuki-san earlier this week at our site.  He was able to clarify a few issues we were concerned about.

     One area that had us quite concerned was the balcony. Despite our initial apprehension, and for lack of attractive alternative,  we decided to install composite decking on the balcony to avoid any possibility of staining from wood on the front wall of the house.

     So we were understandably distressed this week when we learned that the wooden beams supporting the balcony would probably stain the walls anyway with time!

     However, Suzuki-san explained that these beams would actually be treated with a special type of paint that would absolutely prevent any form of staining on our pristine white walls!

     Suzuki-san also explained that the beams could either be painted the same color as the deck (which will be of a dark brown color) or they could be painted white to match the house, as shown here.  While Suzuki-san mentioned that he thought brown-on-brown might look nicer, I think the contrast looks stunning!  Another decision to make...

     Another aspect of the house that had us concerned was the tall glass cabinet in the kitchen we had custom-ordered.  While the exterior of the cabinet was just perfect, we were not as pleased with the appearance of the interior, especially with the hinges and the shelf adjustment rails.

     Why had such unaesthetic interior devices been installed in a beautifully-crafted cabinet? Suzuki-san reassured me that these types of hinges were actually the best for a glass cabinet given the weight of the doors.

     Plus, along with these hinges, the cabinet maker also installed a special gadget that allows the door to close slowly, thereby ensuring that even if we closed the cabinet in a rush, the glass doors would not shatter and the plates inside would not break.  A good thing to have!
Oh, and what about those white plastic-looking devices inside our cabinets?  These are actually quite a nice feature since they will automatically block the doors if a tremor occurs, ensuring that your stuff doesn't come falling down on anyone during an earthquake.  Got it!

     The reason I am discussing all these issues in detail is to show how easily expectations and reality can clash.  If you're a stickler for details like I am, it is wise to double or triple-check every detail.  If you want custom cabinets, make sure to discuss every aspect in detail, from the exterior look and finish to the interior fixtures and appearance.

     Everyone we've spoken to who has built a house agrees that problems, minor and major, do and will eventually arise.  So our case is no exception!

20 June 2011

Stay positive!

Balcony Tiles

     We had doubts about the tiles we had selected mainly because we didn't know what their final appearance would be.  They actually turned out quite nicely, and we can't wait until the front of the house is finished with Jolypat to see the effect.  The tiles themselves were quite economical, sold through Nagoya Mosaic; the cost of installing them per m2 however was twice that of the tiles, even though the process seemed quite straightforward. 

These kinds of tiles come as sheets that are held together by a film at the back. The individual sheets measure 145×22mm and there are also corner tiles for the edges. First a coat of mortar was applied to the surface of the balcony and the tile sheets were firmly pressed. The tiles were then covered with grout, which was then brushed away so that to remain only between the individual tiles, filling the gaps.  Just placing the sheets on top of mortar is not solid enough, hence the grout step to ensure that tiles remain in place for a long time. That's exactly what we want!

Here's the detail of the tiles:

First Floor

     The kitchen is now being fitted.  This is the seating side of the island, with a view to the deck. 

     This is the view from the storage side of the island.  There are 4 deep drawers and plenty of space for storage below.  With this wide counter, I might start rolling dough again to make quiche or pizza...  It's been ages!

     Much work has yet to be done in the kitchen so it's hard to really see what the final outcome will be.  A few adjustments need to be made to one of the cabinets.

     A bit of an unappealing sight is the opening below the bathtub on the studio ceiling.  Couldn't get around this.  This is how repair people can fix whatever gets broken with the bath. 

Second Floor

     The music cabinets in the master bedroom are starting to shape up.  We just forgot to mention that we need to let the computer cables pass through the shelf.  Our carpenter confirmed that a hole of our preferred diameter could easily be cut through the wood.  So it's great that we are sometimes able to fix problems easily.

    The handrail to the loft was fixed.  This handrail is terribly necessary, especially to come down the stairs because they are pretty steep.  The plus here is that we gain space in the kids' room below.  The handrail will be painted white later on.

     More photos to come soon...  Hopefully, it'll be smooth-sailing from now on, at least I hope so!

17 June 2011

Quick Update

      A brief tour yesterday allowed us to see the progress so far this week.  We were very impressed by the kitchen!  The cabinets have yet to be painted and fitted with handles and pulls, but everything looks lovely and perfect.  I will post pictures later when things look tidier.

     The storage space under the stairs to the loft was fitted with shelves.  The door will come later and will be painted the same color as the wall so as to be less conspicuous.

     The music & work cabinets in the Master Bedroom are beginning to take shape.  This is the computer desk which will be fitted with an undershelf for the keyboard.  This workspace will mainly be used by Efrain for music recordings.  It has definitely a good idea to make this custom, for sturdiness.  Don't want a cabinet full of instruments falling onto us during the night on the next earthquake.

     On the first floor, the small box where our router and other communication equipment will converge was installed.  It will be fitted with door and hidden behind furniture in the studio.

Also, another new development was taking place outdoors. 
The balcony tiles were being installed. 

     Except for a few adjustments that need to be made here and there, things are advancing as planned. During the remainder of the week, the tiles in the Powder Room and Toilet should be installed.  We'll try to go back Saturday for a quick look!

13 June 2011

An Eventful Week

     Last week might have been the most disturbing week so far.  We realised that certain aspects of our house could have been optimized, had we known or been aware of alternatives.  While I do not want to dwell on the negative here, I have to say that there are certain things that we were unable to anticipate because we do not have an architectural background. 

     Once the plans have been drawn and the work has started, it is next to impossible to fix structural problems that could have in fact been avoided.  We're not talking about earth-shattering issues here; the house is solid and well-built.  But certain details, especially relating to the moldings, could have been planned better.  For instance, the shoe cabinets in the entrance is too deep and covers two-thirds of the main door molding.  This could easily have been avoided by simply cutting on cabinet depth a few centimeters.  Correcting this problem is proving difficult.

     Because not enough attention to these very details, I feel that we are losing out on an important stylistic aspect of the house and I am very disappointed.  

     We happened to catch a couple of simple problems on time that could easily be resolved, like moving the height of a consent or slightly changing the location of a light.  The workers execute the plan that they are given, so it pays to be extra careful to make sure that this plan is exactly what you wish for.  We are learning this the hard way.

Here are the salient changes this week:

The stairway to the second floor were completed
and covered for protection. 

It is now easier to see how much space we
will have below the stairs for storage.

The wrought iron bars were set in place and although the ramp hasn't been
painted yet, the effect seems nice.  Can't wait to see when it's all finished up.

The second floor banister was also installed, but
has yet to be finished with paint and varnish.

Outside, the mortar looks likes it's had time to cure, but of course we're
having more rain today, so the exterior finish might be delayed a bit.

     Regarding our overall schedule, we know that things are going as planned and the expected move date is maintained.  However, after the inspection, the exterior finish work will start, including the stairs to the main door.  Our builder is worried that the weather might delay completion of this work.  So let's hope we get over this rain soon and get a sunny July!

12 June 2011

Summer Concert

     Los Awkis will be having another concert soon and if we're not moving that exact date, Efrain will be playing. 

     Actually our current move date is just 5 days prior to the concert date, so let's hope that he doesn't lose any instruments during the shuffle...

     This time the show is  a bit far from our place, in Koto-ku:  Friday, July 29.  Doors open at 6h30pm and the show starts at 7pm.

     Hope to see you there!

9 June 2011

Panic Attack!

     After visiting our site last Tuesday, it really dawned on me how complex a project this has been.  And it is still far from over! After seriously stressing over the size of the closets, the soundness of some of our layout decisions, the quality of our materials, and hundreds of other facets of this project on a daily basis, I came to the conclusion that this type of enterprise was just not good for my nerves...  Honestly.

     I suppose I should take my husband's advice and wait until the whole house is finished to appreciate the work accomplished.  He is convinced that  everything will turn out beautifully in the end.  But I am of a much more skeptical nature, and I take pleasure in torturing myself every step of the way.

     Incidentally, when I last visited our site, I noticed two major problems, and my propensity for negative thinking just kicked in full speed.   Not a good thing.  But I prefer not to dwell on these for now and just hope that they can be fixed promptly.

     Some of the new developments this week include the staircase to the second floor.  The staircase was partially done last Tuesday and the result seemed quite nice. 

Here's the view from the Second Floor.

     The cabinets for our Toilet and Bathroom came in and were being adjusted.  While the bath unit was put in early on, we were told that the toilet would be one of the last items to be installed.  So it's still an empty room for now.

     Meanwhile another crew was working on the house's exterior, finishing up the mortar.  The weather was on our side this week, helping dry the mortar, although that will probably not last through the week-end, unfortunately.

     This doesn't look like an easy task, and you sure can't be afraid of climbing up and down the scaffolding.

5 June 2011

Mortar & Bay Windows

      A quick update here.  Sunday everyone was off, so we couldn't tour the house, but we saw that part of the exterior walls had been covered with mortar.

      We of course noticed the impressive mortar mixer in front of the house, and what we assume must be cement and sand bags covered by a blue protective sheet.

     Mixing mortar looks like it's a physically demanding task and kind of messy too, judging from all the containers and tools needed.

We saw that the mortar was first applied directly onto the lath.

And then, some kind of fabric called "Fiber Mesh" (ファイバーメッシュ) was embedded in the mortar.  This fabric helps prevent the mortar from cracking.

We'll ask about this next time we visit.

* * *
     Now onto the Bay Window dilemma.  Right now our bay windows have been framed at the top and the bottom, but not on the sides. Moldings were also added to these areas.  Our architect mentioned that by only framing the top and bottom part, it gives a more spacious outlook.

      We are unsure about this.  In any case, we will wait until the walls have been painted to evaluate the situation again and if we feel the windows should be fully framed we can do it then.

1 June 2011

Bath Unit

       Today we noticed an exciting development!  Inax staff came in to install the Bath Unit yesterday.  Part of the ceiling has not been finished so we expect they will be back at a later date.  It's really too bad that Inax units don't accommodate inclined ceilings because that would have been really nice.

      The unit comes as a type of rectangular box, with a flat ceiling, and all of the equipment we previously selected.  We noticed they installed three shelves for shampoos and soaps, even though we specifically requested only two.  But this is definitely not such a big deal; we can live with it, especially since the shelves come off easily for cleaning.

      We did get the shower bar from a different series that we had asked for.  Inax was unable to accommodate that request directly, but our contractor got us our wish.

    When we selected our bath unit, we may have not paid much attention to the door.  It seemed a little flimsy to me when I saw it today, so I hope it'll stand the test of time in our home...  Other than that, we love it, especially the large window!

     On the first floor, Fukuzumi-san was nearly done covering the walls with plaster board.  He finished the recessed ceiling in the Living Room.  We decided we would paint the ceiling and the beams white.

We also noticed that he had installed the frame for the Living Room sliding doors. 

     Meanwhile on the second floor, Fukuzumi-san Junior was working on our Master Bedroom closets frames.

     After 3 days straight of rain, the subcontractors in charge of installing the lath on the exterior walls were back today, finishing things up.  The mortar should be applied next. We'll go back some time later this week to check on the progress.

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