San Francisco Sunset Remodel

Creating a home for our family

Museum pieces

We removed all of the existing knob&tube wiring in the house and upgraded the electrical service to 200Amp to support our new induction stove and make room for future electrification of water and space heating. We also insulated the ceiling under the roof and the walls using a mix of Rockwool and Greenfiber cellulose. Both operations “allowed” us to open up spaces that likely had not been seen since the original construction of the house in 1939.

Several of the joists are inscribed with dates and names, among them we found two marked for “Doelger” (that name should ring a bell if you know anything about the houses in the San Francisco Sunset district). Now, I assume this was inscribed by someone at the lumber yard to mark the recipient of the wood, rather then by Doelger himself. Nevertheless, I thought it was an interesting find.

The conduit for the original electrical service still had a faded sticker from the local chapter 6 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union on it, dating it to the year of construction. We had to replace the whole thing with larger conduit for our upgraded service so we cut it out of the wall where accessible and sealed the rest with fire stop foam.

Many other things showed up and were lost to my saw or pry bar such as inscriptions and markings inside the original kitchen cabinetry (replaced), galvanized roof windows (replaced), and original plumbing (partly replaced). Nothing worth much, and all probably pretty familiar to anybody ripping apart old buildings more frequently.

I do enjoy finding these mundane traces left behind by the original building crew or generations of contractors coming in for small odds and ends. Maybe I’ll plant a couple of easter-eggs on my own. Just for the off-chance of making some future builder’s day a little more interesting 🙂

Learning on side-projects

Looking at a long list of tasks that need to be completed semi-urgently so we can move into the house prior to the next school year.

It is tempting to rush through projects that are less visible, yet required to allow other work to happen. Such as enhancing the work space and tools that I’ll need to build shelfs, window trim, base boards, and kitchen cabinet fronts.

I decided to slow down and spend extra time on these preparatory side projects for two reasons. First, I expect it to be more enjoyable. I’ve spent a lot of time stressing and hustling during this renovation project and I don’t like how that feels. Secondly, these projects are low-risk learning opportunities allowing me to practice skills that I’ll need in the future.

Here is what I want to do and what I expect to learn:

  • Create a level floor surface in the garage
    • I plan on using 4’x8′ sheets of plywood subfloor, over tapered 2×4 studs as rails.
    • Multiple of these platforms can be combined to create enough space to place work tables and tools and to walk on.
    • Should I need to park the car in the garage, platforms can be removed
    • Dry-run for leveling the floor in the back part of the garage (as described here), where we plan to add a bedroom, walk-in closet, bathroom and laundry room.
  • Build a lumber storage rack (similar to this)
    • Rather then using plywood and pocket holes, I’ll plane and laminate 2x4s and create the frame using mortise and tenon joints.
    • Planing, laminating, joining, all skills needed for future furniture work.
  • Organize tools on the wall using french cleats
    • Just has to be done. Looking forward to working on this with my kids!
  • Create work surfaces
    • A place to put my miter saw and bench-top tools, and to assemble pieces. It’ll start with just using old tables as needed on the leveled floor.
    • A simple torsion box design may be all I’ll ever need and will allow me to practice applying large sheets of linoleum to MDF which I plan to do for the kitchen cabinet fronts.
    • Longer term, I am inspired by “The Anarchist’s Workbench“. So much to learn from that book! Let’s see how much I enjoy woodworking once we are in the house and the pressure to get things done is lessened. When facing the choice to build the bench or go surfing, I trust I’ll know what to do.

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