Cascading Home Repair

It's funny how renovations in one area (which you expect to stay confined to that one area) have a way of creeping outward and affecting areas that you're not ready to deal with at all. For example, in order to replace my interior wall with a beam AND keep a functional kitchen, I have to be prepared to move electrical and gas (for the range) hookups on that interior wall to their new locations. The electrical isn't a huge problem at this point, but moving the gas line requires that I also consider how I will maintain gas service in the garage, where it is essential for the gas dryer. Remember that any disruption in kitchen or wash could be really bad with a 3rd grader at home, so it pays to solve these problems before taking the wall down.

The gas in the garage is currently fed from a tee off the kitchen interior wall gas line. So now I have to think about rerouting two gas lines. This requires that I put thought into how the garage will be organized with respect to washer and dryer and I haven't even really considered anything beyond a new garage door.

A flexible gas piping system has experienced some lack of acceptance among local code enforcement so gas lines are still cast iron (“black”) pipe. This is a rigid system and it’s been suggested that it has to be dropped in through a hole in the roof, through a hole in the header plate, into the wall cavity where I want it to reside, through a drilled-out or notched fire block, and out into the room with an elbow+valve. Clearly this is an exercise in careful alignment and long drill extensions. Therefore, I’d rather figure out where I want the gas line in the garage and do this once rather than try to repeat it.

I’d prefer the washer and dryer to be located other than where they now are, but this idea is complicated by the necessity of moving the water supply, sink, and drain lines, not to mention all the garage debris. Did I mention that when you have a slab foundation that it’s quite difficult to move drain lines? I really want the dryer on the far side of the garage so that when it vents, the lint goes into the less traveled side yard (next to the icky neighbors). *blah - scratch this whole idea*

Since I'm using this blog as an exercise in thinking aloud, I expect to change my mind, like I just did.

New better idea: Keep the washer and dryer in their current location (or move just slightly). The lint problem really isn't so bad as I think and it ought to be reduced when I redo the garage door. Actually, it is already reduced due to the new kitchen doors driving foot traffic away from the dryer vent. I’ll also need to at least rotate the garage sink so that it hangs off a different wall, but this can wait and it’s only water supply (the easiest service to change) that would (hopefully) need any changes.

Path forward to demolishing the interior wall: Locate the new kitchen gas supply line where needed. Route the new garage gas line so that it can supply the dryer at or near its current location. Consider carefully whether it’s easier to go through the roof or to remove a 16” wide swath of wall to access the wall cavity.


DARPA Grand Challenge

Back in the money! From an email received today

I guess we are now certain that we have won our full budget request of $1 million from DARPA and will be entering the Urban Grand Challenge on Track "A". (I still wish that DARPA would write us something that plainly says, "Congratulations, you have been awarded $1 million.", but maybe that isn't going to happen.) As other have already said, it is time to get going!

Looking at the schedule, I have a lot of work to do by mid October. For more info see DARPA and the Golem Group site.

Revised Kitchen Plan - Variant III

Now with fridge, range, and sink that are sized correctly according to what I currently own (and considerably smaller than my prior guestimates). I've fine tuned a couple dimensions by an inch or so and added services where I think I'll need them. This view also shows the new French doors (sized and located correctly, but without glass) as well as the entirety of my living room though I've not populated it with furniture. You'll also have to imagine the exposed glulam beam that will replace most of the existing interior wall. Only the short fridge wall will remain from the current interior wall. Ghostly windows in the foreground are the three front windows of the house (guestimated locations).


Kitchen design thoughts / Home improvement list

The coastal breeze formerly blew right through my house from the open front windows to the open kitchen windows (though it did have a bit of a serpentine path). When I found the larger 30" doors that are now in place, I forgot about providing for preservation of that flow of air. Additionally, there's more exposed glass to catch the sun in the AM. As a result, the kitchen gets significantly warmer than I'd prefer. I was able to melt a chocolate bar just yesterday. We have few bugs here, but it would still be nice to have a screened vent opening. My mother wrote to remind me of this and of the need for a cat door as a possible upgrade. We had previously talked about all this.

I know you are always using the windows as air circulation in the kitchen. Will you now use a door? What about flying insects? [What about] BC? (who always wants to come in). I guess this is why the idea of a Santa Barbara window alongside the French doors always appealed to me. This is a vertical window that opens (narrow), same height as the door, with a screen. You used to see it in some older homes in LA.

Juli also noticed that there's a nice place for a cat door now, next to the new door. This is the same place that B.C. used to push through the house paper last night and escape into the yard with his wounded paw.

Thinking aloud...I plan a trellis on the patio area at some point, so that will cut down on the heat gain by shading the doors. Can I make a short counter height screened window? How about a pull down screen on the inside of the doors? A cat door seems like a decent idea - I'll have to check this out. It could easily fit in under the junction box, which is 16" off the foundation.

Kitchen issues
Make an updated drawing in Ikea Home Planner with accurate range and fridge sizes.
Include the living room in IHP since the go forward plan seems to be to remove the connecting wall.
Find space for a microwave
Now's the time to spec a new fridge / range. Counter depth fridge?
Cat door
Move gas line planning
Where to put electrical outlets
Get more specific on cabinets and their fittings

General house issues (incomplete and roughly prioritized)
Finalize door and repair stucco
Get front yard landscaping in "neighbor acceptable" shape
Fix back patio drainage - address with guttering for 50% solution
Get native planting done by mid Fall / early Winter
Termite tenting (December?)
Bathroom rennovation
Paint house - wait for spring?
Replace backyard fence
Vent garage attic
Replace study window with salvaged kitchen window
Improve main house attic access
Central heat / central fresh air - install in attic
Driveway replacement
Garage door replacement


Weekend Quality Time

I've been in a time warp since Friday. I ended up taking the day off to meet two termite inspectors (low bid from local Bateman Termite for $1210, high bid from southern California based Corky's Pest control for $1295), retrieve two doors from the Habitat for Humanity resale shop in Gardena, go to Home De(s)pot for supplies, and lay the groundwork for my weekend adventure. My buddy Warren showed up Friday night and the plan was to hire two laborers Saturday at 7AM and manage them effectively to help accomplish our home improvement tasts: dig the front lawn (done), put in an attic vent (not done), remove a medium sized stump from the back yard (done), and remove two windows (preserved to repair a rotted one elsewhere) and replace with French doors (done, mostly). I think we did a great job.

Sunday at 3ish I said goodbye and thanks to Warren and started cleaning the dust and debris up. My neighbor will be gone next week and I can use his trash cans. Maybe I can get the trash all out the door for free. Since I subsidize everyone else's trash by barely even using the service most of the time, I don't feel any guilt about doing so.

Julio helping Warren demo the window area.

After the doors have been set in place. Note new 4x8 header.

Large pile of grass and dirt are the remnants of the front lawn.

B.C. the cat is gimping around again with his usual Fall time wounded foot pad. I don't know how he does it, but it costs me hundreds last year. He'll go to the vet tomorrow if the soapy bath, betadine rinse, and neosporin that I put on it doesn't improve the tenderness. It's like having another (but uninsured) family member.

Next up: improve Variant II kitchen design with suggestions and knowledge gained this weekend (thanks Warren, Juli, Grace, Maribeth, Mom, Feh, and others).


New doors overtake kitchen

I have decided that my time is better spent putting in some new (to me) doors than in doing a partial job on the interior wall of my kitchen. The doors are necessarily a first step if the wall is to come entirely out, and they have been a stable part of all my kitchen redesigns, so I have confidence that putting them in now is a logical first step. The attic vent and the laborers remain on the to do list for this weekend, along with the doors.

Although I have a pair of French doors, I have always thought that I would prefer to have two matched pair so that I can have one pair out through the kitchen and the other out through my bedroom. It just so happened that I was over at the Habitat for Humanity resale store today at lunch and they had just received three pair of French doors. (Just yesterday at lunch they didn't have these doors.) I bought two pair for about $350 total. What a deal! They have hardware in place and are already hung. HOWEVER, they are framed such that they swing in, instead of out. We'll need to rehang them to make them swing out, so that part of the task remains the same. I need to pick them up by Saturday and I'll need a rental truck to do that since they are big.

They are each 30" wide, so a revised span table calculation for a 60” span is required.

Here are header sizes for walls with no story above, with only exterior wall or 10' tributary load using Douglas Fir
# header:
2-2x4s 4'
2-2x6s 4'6"
2-2x8s 6'8"
2-2x10s 8'10"
2-2x12s 11'

Warren copied this from his Code Check book. It's based on CABO t 602.6 (CABO - Council of American Building Officials 1995). Local codes are usually a combination of CABO and UBC (Uniform Building Code).

The City of Mission Viejo has this to say about header requirements, “Design headers to support all loads imposed on them. A traditional rule of thumb often used to size headers is the "inch per foot" rule which will provide adequate strength in most cases with spans up to eight feet. For headers in single story dwellings supporting no point loads such as posts or beams, provide one inch of header depth for every foot of header length, min. 4 x 4.”

These two design guidelines seem consistent, so I’ll be going with a 4x8 header.

Things to get:
Pick up the two new pairs of French doors (rental truck Friday afternoon)
7.5” wide oak threshold, 5’ long
4x8 Douglas fir header
1x clear pine for door jamb – I’ll need to get 1x10 or x12 in order to cut it to fit my non-standard walls. Three 8’ pieces should do.
Some molding for door stops (Home Depot Friday)
A 4x4 as a header for the attic
New hinges. (Home Depot Friday)
A few more 2x4s (Home Depot)
Expanded metal mesh for stucco (Home Depot Friday)
House paper (Home Depot Friday)
Sill flashing (Home Depot Friday)
Tapered wood shims(Home Depot Friday)
2-1/2" brass screws for hinges (Home Depot Friday)
1-1/2" brass screws for hinges (Home Depot Friday)
self centering drill bit / Vix bit (Home Depot Friday)
Masonry bit and concrete anchors for sill (Home Depot Friday)
1 box each of 8d, 10d, and 16d nails (Home Depot Friday)
New construction junction boxes, indoor and outdoor (Home Depot Friday)

Warren to bring:
Ginder with diamond blade
shop vac
Finish nailer
stucco finishing tools
door & window flashing paper
staple gun & staples
Garden tools for workers (pick, digging bar, shovels)
Table saw & assorted blades including datto blades
framing saw
chop saw
belt sander
palm sander
drill and assorted bits
battery charger for drill/skill saw
Router & bits for possible sill work (I'll explain later)
Gorrila glue
AWG 14 romex
spare electrical boxes



List of Southern California Salvage Yards

This blog post was updated in October, 2009.

See also http://bammorgan.blogspot.com/2008/04/directory-of-salvage-yards.html

I first made this list when I was having trouble finding information on salvage yards. The latest update was about 2005. I've not verified all of them.

Construction and Architectural Salvage - San Diego to Los Angeles Counties
June 20, 2005

Salvage yards seem to have a very low profile on the web.

---San Diego---

Architectural Salvage of San Diego
2401 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Categories: Antique & Used Architectural Building Materials

EPFO (aka Antique Building Materials)
6152 Wenrich Drive
San Diego, CA 92120
(619) 583-3791
(619) 583-9087 (fax)
Comment: appears high end, imported - BAM

Builders Trading Company
90 N Coast Highway 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 634-3220

Vintage Architectural
1861 Main Street Suite B, San Diego, CA 92113
(619) 239-7636
Website http://www.vintagearchitectural.com
Categories: Antique & Used Architectural Building Materials
Comments: Home page not easily found on the web. Is it defunct? -BAM 11-2008

Pacific Wholesale Materials
8910 Activity Road, Suite D, San Diego, CA Phone
619-653-0411 Fax
Comments: probably just resawn lumber, but I could be wrong. -BAM


Tony's Architectural Salvage
123 N. Olive
Orange CA 92866
714.538.1900 714.538.1966 (Fax)
Located in Historic Old Towne Orange
55 Freeway - Exit Chapman, go West on Chapman. Proceed around Plaza Circle. Turn Right at Olive.
57 Freeway - Exit Chapman (Orange) proceed East to Olive. Left at Olive.
Was there in 2003 and thought things waaay overpriced, but good quality. BAM

---Los Angeles---

453 South La Brea
Los Angeles, Ca 90036
Comment: as it says in the name - hardware (no doors, etc) -BAM

Architectural Detail
2449 White Street
Pasadena, CA 91107
Tel: 626 844-6670
Comment: ONLINE ONLY. Resource for restorationists consisting of locally salvaged items from the turn of the 19th century to 1960. Stock assorted hardware, doors, windows, lumber, flooring, old glass, bathroom fixtures and accessories, bricks, and roof tiles. Currently occupying 45,000 sq. ft. with recent acquisition of Manchester Sash and Door.

mailing address:
9645 Sylvia Avenue
Northridge, CA 91324
Comment: ONLINE ONLY. "Local buyers may visit the warehouse to pick up what they purchase from us, but most everything we sell is shipped out of the local area. There are many items in the warehouse that are not for sale, and everything is jam packed and jumbled making it impossible to open the warehouse for lookers. Tell us by email what you are looking for, and we will reply with photos and description if we have it.

Antique Stoves
10826 Venice Blvd., #108
Culver City
(310) 287-1910

Big Ten Building Materials & Supplies
757 W. Wood
Altadena, CA 91001
New number (2009) is 626-437-6656
From 210 e. exit winsor go left.
Comment: Sells doors, windows, hardware. Must make an appointment. Unable to easily locate a web page.

Square Deal Plumbing Supplies
2302 E. Florence Ave.
Huntington Park
(323) 587-8291
Comment: Bathtub and toilet fixtures; retrofit old salvaged pieces. ..."Hard to find vintage fixtures and hardware [and] knowledge of how to repair your vintage bathroom fixtures."

Carlos Antique Hardware & Locksmith
620 S. La Brea
Los Angeles
(323) 954-1717
Comment: great collection of old door hardware; repairs

Crown City Hardware Company
1047 North Allen Avenue
Pasadena, California

Mead House Wrecking Co
(626) 796-4051
Comment: sounds like they just do demolition

RWH Construction Salvage
12722 Carmenita Rd.
Santa Fe Springs CA 90670
(562) 698-7250
Comment: Architectural salvage yard? Looks more like architectural deconstruction.-BAM 11-2008

San Gabriel Valley Habitat For Humanity
(626) 792-3838
770 N Fair Oaks Ave Pasadena

Scavenger's Paradise
5453 Satsuma Ave
North Hollywood, CA 91602.
323 877 7945
Have heard good things about this one -BAM

Molina and Son
1210 E 5th St
Los Angeles
Comment: from a note paper scrap. no yellow pages or web info -BAM

The Reuse People
Comment: Bay area based, but LA area partners w/ Habitat for Humanity Gardena and Silverlake yards -BAM

Silverlake Yards:
1086 Manzanita Street
Silver Lake, CA 90026
(323) 667-2875
Hours: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment (only? -BAM). Directions: Manzanita Street crosses Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. Go south 1 short block and turn right just before Santa Monica Boulevard.

Olde Good Things
1800 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015
213-746-8600 or 8611
213-210-7675 cell
Comment: Appointments only? Looks to be high end and trade only. Presence at SM, Rose Bowl, LB flea markets -BAM

European Reclamation
4524 Brazil St, Los Angeles, California
818 241 2152 Fax 818 547 2734
Comment: no doors on the web site - stone, iron, tile only.

Santa Fe Wrecking Company
1600 South Santa Fe Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90021
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM Monday-Friday
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Saturdays
9:30 AM - 3:00 PM Sundays
Comment: Was there in 2003 - many doors, but seemed overall poor quality. -BAM

Habitat for Humanity
17700 South Figueroa St.
Gardena, CA 90248
Tues. - Sat. / 9am -6pm

--LA Flea Markets and person to person--


Santa Monica Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market (4th Sunday of the month -- $7 early admission from 6am-8am. Otherwise $5 general admission, seniors $3, kids and dogs free)
Westside Antique Show (smaller show, 1st Sunday of the month 8:30am--3pm. Admission is $4.)
Airport Ave off of Bundy
Los Angeles, CA 90405
(323) 933-2511

Rosebowl Flea Market at the famous Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasedena, CA
The second Sunday of every month

Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market, held 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every third Sunday of the month at Veterans Memorial Stadium

The Grove Antique Market at Irvine Valley College, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month, (949) 786-5277

Supplementary addition Oct, 2009
The LA Times has a list of Do-it-yourself salvage and supply houses in their Home section today.

The article is titled, "Helpful sites and stores for a home redo" and is located here.

In case the link changes, I'll repeat the article here.

The Home staff has culled recommendations from the architects, interior designers and do-it-yourselfers featured in this section to compile this list of resources for anyone planning to remodel, redecorate or otherwise turn his or her home into a work in progress. A sampling of stores and expert advice you might find helpful:


Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles, the vicinity of 9th and Wall streets, for curtain and drapery fabric.

www.ichiroya.com for Japanese bedding, including futon covers that can be used as bedspreads.

Restoration Hardware Furniture Outlet in Camarillo, (805) 445-7707, for drawer pulls.

Carter Hardware in Beverly Hills, (310) 657-1940, for bronze door hardware.

www.rejuvenation.com for curtain rods and rings.

www.surfaceview.co.uk for murals and oversize artwork, including licensed reproductions from Victoria & Albert Museum and other British art institutions.

Portola Paints and Glazes in Studio City, www.portolapaints.com, for textural paints and lime washes.

Building materials

Metal Window Corp. in Inglewood, www.metalwindowcorp.com, for aluminum windows.

Hermosa Terrazzo in Hermosa Beach, www.hermosati.com, for terrazzo flooring installed on-site.

Anderson Plywood in Culver City, www.andersonplywood.com, for decorative plywood used to make furniture.

Culver City Industrial Hardware, www.culverhardware.com, for rubber furniture wheels.

Tile, flooring

Linoleum City in Hollywood, www.linoleumcity.com, for cork tile.

Orange County Tile in Anaheim, www.orangecountytileco.com, for Mexican Talavera tile.

West Los Angeles Building Materials, www.wlabm.com, for stone flooring.

B&W Tile in Gardena, www.bwtile.com, for affordable floor and wall coverings.

Mortarless Building Supply in Los Angeles, (323) 663-3291, for Mexican tile.

United Team Tile & Stone in Los Angeles, (323) 257-8181, for affordable selections.

Classic Tile & Mosaic in Los Angeles, www.ctandm.com, for its clearance room.


Pasadena Antique Center and Annex, www.pasadenaantiquecenter.com, for the old look.

www.2modern.com for a modern look.

IKEA, www.ikea.com, for pendant lights (textiles and kitchen cabinetry too).

Rewire in L.A., www.rewirela.com, for vintage.


Bobcat Carpet & Fabric Care in West L.A., www.bobcatcarpetcare.com, for binding carpet remnants into area rugs.

Eastern Oriental Rugs in Pasadena, www.easternorientalrugs.com, for the vintage rugs in the back of the store.


Bar Keeper in Silver Lake, www.barkeepersilverlake.com, for cocktail glasses and other retro barware.

Big Lots, www.biglots.com, for basic utensils, glassware and solid-color dishes. (Thank you, Philippe Starck, for the recommendation.)

Cost Plus World Market for beachy rugs, throw blankets and lanterns. (Thank you, Kelly Wearstler.)

Oceanic Arts in Whittier, www.oceanicarts.net, for tiki paraphernalia.

Outdoor decor

www.partylights.com for overhead carnival-style string lights.

California Cactus Center in Pasadena, www.cactuscenter.com, for unusual varieties.

California Nursery Specialties Cactus Ranch in Reseda, www.california-cactus-succulents.com, for more low-water plants (specializes in commercial projects but opens to the public on weekends).

Bourget Brothers in Santa Monica, www.bourgetbros.com, and Sunburst Decorative Rock in Irwindale, www.sunburstrock.com, for decorative garden ground cover.

Rolling Greens nursery in Culver City, www.rollinggreensnursery.com, for oversized pots and realistic-looking artificial plants.

Yan's Gifts & Souvenirs in downtown Los Angeles, (213) 680-3078, for outdoor mats and bamboo umbrellas.

Architectural salvage

Olde Good Things in L.A., www.oldegoodthings.com.

Pasadena Architectural Salvage, www.pasadenaarchitecturalsalvage.com.

Silverlake Architectural Salvage in L.A., www.silverlakearchitecturalsalvage.net.


The Huntington Collection in Pasadena, www.thehuntingtoncollection.com, for the last-Saturday-of-the-month sale.

Furniture House L.A., (323) 461-4703, for retro cabinetry and upholstered furniture.

Retropia in Los Angeles, www.retropia.net, for 1950s and '60s decor.

Floor-Model, www.floor-model.com, for its North Hollywood warehouse's Danish modern bookcases, consoles, tables.

Don & Dee's Old California Store in Ventura, (805) 643-4217.

Thrift stores

St. Vincent de Paul in Los Angeles (also in Oxnard and Long Beach), www.svdpla.org.

Out of the Closet in Tarzana (yes, specifically Tarzana), www.outofthecloset.org.

Council Thrift Store in Los Angeles, www.councilthrift.org.


Advanced Liquidators in North Hollywood, www.advancedliquidators.com, for new and used office furniture.

Alaco Ladder Co. in Chino, (909) 591-7561, for rolling library ladders that make high shelves more functional.

Felt Club, the annual L.A. show for handmade crafts, to be held Nov. 16 at the Shrine Auditorium Expo Center.

Lawns redux

Sod Off! is the title of a short article in this week's LA Weekly. They are running a series of articles on green living. There's some LA area providers of green stuff with websites, but the closest one is located in Venice*.


Judging by the rising tide of green living articles over the past few years as well as those specifically directed at removing your lawn, it seems that something of a trend is happening.

I particularly liked the lede:

Lawns are the SUVs of the garden world. The lush suburban yard, the SoCal American dream, requires inordinate amounts of water, not to mention time spent tending and manicuring. It embodies the arrogance of trying to create mini-oases in a desert climate.

They understate a bit here:
Some varieties even flower; you can add a splash of red to your yard by planting the Texas grass Muhlenbergia capillaris.

M. capillaris is wonderful at this time of year - ethereal burgundy to pink cloud puffs dancing on the ends of its stalks after it flowers. I would be tempted myself were I not on a natives only diet right now. Look for it in your local nursery right now. For a similar native plant look to purple three awn.

Remember, you heard it here first.

*Too bad there's nothing in my neighborhood that ever merits mention in the LA Weekly. I guess Al Watan (Pakistani place nearby) does get high praise from the Weekly, but as far as anything else is concerned we're a Dead Zone. Well, I'll save the pity party for another blog.

Span Prices

Nearby Learned Lumber has the following prices for 5.125" x 9" glulams

Architectural Grade: $12.08 / ft
Industrial Grade: $11.71 / ft

The salesman hadn't heard of framing grade.

There's also a Parallam, which is made from wood chips much like oriented strand board. It's stronger than the same size glulam, but I didn't have a span table to determine the right size so the price below is for a larger than required beam.

Paralam: (5.25" x 9") $16.98 / ft

These prices don't seem outrageous. Lead time is 3 days. They will deliver, but pick up is probably far cheaper.


Span Problems

Variant II kitchen (previous blog entry) requires that I span a distance formerly supported by the interior wall. This is probably best done by a glulam - an engineered, laminated, wood beam. Mechanical engineers have already puzzled out what size of glulam is required to span a distance under some standard load conditions. The only problem is figuring out how to interpret the "span tables" that give this information.

I'm currently reading through the glulam span table at
but it's not too clear how to use it. Fortunately, there's plenty of others online. Google for "span table glulam" for a bevy of them.

It is blindingly obvious by inspection that this interior wall doesn't support the same load as the exterior walls. For one, the exterior wall have the roof to support. It does, however, support one end of the 2x6 ceiling joists. This fact doesn't make life simpler.

The game, as it was explained to me, is to find the equivalent glulam that would be used for a single story exterior wall and use that. That way it's unequivocably built to code, should questions later arise. Code does allow the use of more appropriately sized beams (smaller, in my case), but only after a structural engineer has blessed the calculation that says what that smaller size ought to be.

A cool thing about glulams is that they can be purchased in "architectural" quality for use as an exposed beam. If you're not going to see it, then less a expensive "framing" or "industrial" quality is available.

Some manufacturers offer "balanced" glulams which have equal resistance to positive and negative bending moments. "Unbalanced" glulams have a distinct top and a bottom; they have the best timber on the bottom in order to resist tension forces which result from their span.

Camber is a small amount of bow that is used to offset anticipated sag or make roof drainange easier. Glulams are also available without camber (my choice).

This publication
has a likely looking table on page 7.

Variant II has an open span of about 14'. Ceiling joints on one side are 12'5" and joints on the other side are 10'8" long, for a total house width of 24' or less. According to the table, I can use a 3.125" x 12" or a 5.125" x 9" architectural glulam. A 3.5" x 10.5" or 5.5" x 9" framing gluam is also OK.


Ikea Home Planner - Kitchen

I'm using the Ikea Home Planner program, a basic drafting and 3D visualization program, to set up my kitchen. It's handy since I plan to use Ikea cabinets and all the available sizes and colors are included as icons that you can paste into the plan. It will generate a price list as well, and allows you to upload your design to the Ikea corporate web site for consultation with their designers.

Below are Variant I and Variant II kitchen designs, shown in plan view as saved from IHP. Not all planned features come through with IHP, but enough to get a good sense of what I have planned. (edit: One feature that is absent is to allow counters larger than the cabinet underneath. So my picutures don't show the planned counter cantilever around the range, which would fill the dead space at the left and right of the range, nor do they show the counter on top of the pass through.) The small room at the south side is actually just one end of my living room. The front door is currently located at its lower right corner. The front door may someday move to the lower left corner.

Below are the same two plans rendered in 3D.

edit: I carefully considered the height of the pass-through in Variant I and decided that counter height wouldn't do the same visual job as bar height. In the case of Variant I, the intent was to define separate spaces, but give them a visual connection as well as allowing visitors to stay out of the kitchen while the chef works. It turned out that once I'd drawn Variant II (actually these were, respectively, designs II and VI, so I had considered other plans as well) I was convinced that in a small place like mine that removing the wall added so much more useful space (useful in the sense that the transition space between kitchen and living room became much more of a multi-use space) . A drawback to Variant II includes more noise from living room to kitchen and vice versa. Practically speaking, I think this means that I'll need a quiet vent hood and a quiet washing machine.

Plans Change: Kitchen Rennovation

I've been doing more thinking only to realize that even the best plans may change midstream: I've been planning my ideal kitchen and I have two variants, both of which improve on the current situation.

Variant I is the pass-through with counter that I've been considering for some time-- pass-through with bar height counter with room for two. Simple, keeps the kitchen intact while under construction, improves sight lines, doesn't address inefficient traffic patterns in the living room, and requires that I downsize my kitchen table or eliminate it (a problem if I have family over). Kitchen work triangle seems a bit strained on paper.

Variant II eliminates the wall+passthrough completely. This one is better from a "have the extended family over and be able to sit at a table with them" sort of scenario, since I would gain space flexibility without the wall in my way. I'd also improve traffic through the living room, making it more space efficient. However, I'd lose the nice feature of the bar and having a place to perch while talking to the chef. Kitchen work triangle is improved and kitchen design is simplified. I'm sort of favoring this option, but I'm not sure.

However, taking the wall down in its entirety would involve moving a gas line and several electrical outlets+switches, not to mention that I need the French doors in place before this work begins since I would immediately need to use the wall which currently contains the kitchen door. Finally, there's the uncertainty of whether I (need / could get) a beam to span the room. That sounds like too much work for a weekend, so I think that the safest course of action is to proceed with the wall+passthrough and gain experience with that task. After all, it's easy to do more demo, but harder to reconstruct a wall if I decide variant II is a mistake.



Even though it's not Osmia californica, I'm still excited. Instead, I think it's Megachile. I'll back up.

A couple years ago I got interested in native bees of North America, and ordered some Orchard Mason bees from Knox Cellars. The bees arrive in a dormant state inside of soda straws, in which nests were built the previous season. These bees are not hive dwellers, but are solitary bees and build nests in cracks and crevices (and soda straws). Generally, they don't sting, presumably because they have no hive resources to protect. I built some nesting blocks for the next generation by drilling holes in wood blocks and mounting them on sun-warmed fences and walls in my yard. Many solitary bees prefer individual nests that are in close proximity to one another. This aids reproduction in the following year too, since Bobby Bee can literally stumble across a cute neighbor.

Unfortunately, all the Knox Cellars bees flew the coop (or hive). My nesting blocks were left empty that year. Hoping to attract some other solitary bees or beneficial wasps I drilled a few more different size holes to augment the existing 5/16" diameter holes and put out a vacancy sign. I have had a few takers: some of the smaller diameter holes (down at 1/8", I think) showed signs of occupancy. Whatever creature was living in there laid put a mud barrier over the hole. I never did find out what it was. However, the larger holes stayed empty. Until last week.

Last week I saw several holes covered with a neat circular green leaf patch, like a little manhole cover, stuck down over the fronts of nesting block holes. Within each hole are probably a handful of individual cells, each containing an egg. I was able to also observe the female bee preparing one of the cells, and it was a laborious process. I knew this wasn't a mason bee (they use mud mixed with other stuff). A little bit of googling tells me that it's probably a leafcutter bee, genus Megachile, species unknown. That's not surprising since there are many species of native and imported leafcutter bees in North America. Also see What's that bug?

Perhaps this bee was drawn to the native plants that have been in bloom in my front yard? I suppose that it could be coincidence that planted the natives last fall and the bee showed up for the first time now. However, for now I prefer to believe that clean living with a garden that fosters wildlife is the reason.

It turns out that with the decline of wild European honeybees due to urbanization, the varroa mite, Africanized honeybees, and other factors, that people are now looking to the wild solitary bees to polinate crops commercially. One leafcutter species (Megachile rotundata) is a solitary bee that has had a fair amount of success polinating alfalfa crops. It's an introduced species, but so is the honeybee. Generally, it seems to be regarded as a good addition to the bee mixture in North America, given our current problems. One recent study found that wild bees used to pollinate crops in combination with honeybees do a far better job than just one or the other alone. link

For the sunflower fields in the study, honey bees were stocked at the rate of 1.5 hives per acre. Of the 20,472 bee visits to sunflowers that Greenleaf observed, 72 percent were by honey bees from managed hives and the rest were by 32 different species of native wild bees, including carpenter bees and several bumble bees, leafcutter bee and digger bee species.

Greenleaf [the study's author] found that the wild native bees' pollination efficiency varied depending on species, from 0 to 19 seeds per visit. Overall, direct pollination from wild bees accounted for only 7 percent of total pollination in the sunflower fields. But by provoking honey bees to alter their behavior, wild bees were indirectly responsible for an additional 40 percent of the pollination. Honey bees on their own provided just 53 percent of the pollination.

In the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye on these nests and hope that the bees stick around.

At left, a picture of one of my home made nesting blocks. Leafcutter nest is easily visible. Holes are 5/16". There's a mud nest in a smaller (1/8") hole immediately above the leafcutter nest. It's visible on the larger linked image.


Native Plants for My Gardens

This is supposed to be a notebook style entry with updates as needed to keep track of native plants that I have, might have, or otherwise find interesting. On the off chance that someone not in my immediate circle of friends is reading this, it's for Hawthorne, California, 90250; Perhaps 4-5 miles from the coast in the Los Angeles area.

Along the back fence
Conditions: ~20-30' strip, ~4' wide, clay soil, competition and some shade from nearby magnolia tree (will remain).
Requirements: food and forage for wildlife, screen neighbor, provide shade.
Existing exotic plants:
  • Brazilian pepper tree provides root competition - yet to be demolished. Adjacent turf with little summer water.
  • Magnolia Tree in center of lawn provides shade. Could replace with sycamore, but I'm fearful of it getting too large.
  • Bottle Brush Tree - demoed (9/06)
Possible native plants:
  • Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud) to screen neighbor's house. Large box-sized plant could be $250. ouch
  • Douglas Iris planted at base?
  • Viola pedunculata planted at base?
  • Polypodium californicum, a fern native species, widely available. Remember, fern dies in summer and reappears in September.
  • Maybe Ceanothus impressus x papillosus ("Dark Star" to use as additional screen - takes clay soil and no water, 8' max height)
  • Ceanothus arboreus x griseus ("Ray Hartman" California Lilac grows to 20' x15! It could do the job by itself, so I'd have to trim, but it too will take my soil)
  • Malacothamnus clementinus (San Clemente Island Bush Mallow - will take clay, 4-5' tall, butterfly habitat, spring - summer white flowers)

Front Yard:
Conditions: direct sun, mostly clay soil (sandy near N property line where there's root competition from Italian cypress on property line), sprinklers near sidewalk, none near house. Existing transitional mixed native / exotic garden has good reviews from neighbors for attractiveness (though I'm sure that's relative to previous poorly cared for turf and lame foundation plants.) Sinuous border between remaining turf and garden is nice feature - should keep it. Would like to keep a grass or grass-like area near sidewalk - could be exotic turf or natives.
Requirements: Should look somewhat groomed in order to not provoke neighbors or city code enforcement. Blooming flowers always good for same reason. Provide food and cover for wildlife. Tolerate drought. Edible and scented are well-regarded bonuses.
Existing exotic plants:
  • morea (fortnight lily - evergreen, drought tolerant, but seeds all over if you don't cut the seed pods off. Flowers regularly, but short lived blooms)
  • Polygala fruticosa? (sweet pea bush - Drought tolerant mounded South African plant with attractive flowers. No problems with volunteers in my yard.)
  • Shasta daisys (pulling them out as the ceanothus grows larger. Never a good selection for my yard and watering habits.)
  • dwarf citrus (pull out and put in pot? I originally wanted a larger tree that produced a large quantity or fruit, so a larger citrus might get put back in.)
  • Lemon verbena
  • A culinary sage
  • "hot lips" salvia (from Oaxaca, I believe - I'll keep this around for a bit)
  • Mexican sage (durable and long flowering - might keep it around for a while).
Existing native plants:
  • Abutilon palmeri(Indian Mallow) 4' shrub w/ gold flowers year round, but wants sandy/rocky soil, dry to semi-dry soil
  • Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass)
  • gramma grass
  • red needle grass
  • black sage propogated from Santa Barbara foothills
  • Eriogonum cinereum or maybe latifolium? (cinereum = Ashy Leaf Buckwheat - claims to like well drained soil, but doing well in my clay)
  • salvia clevelandii (sage, thought it was "Allen Chickering")
  • ceanothus - prostrate
  • manzanita - two low growing varieties
  • island snap dragon
  • Ca poppies
  • yarrow
  • rock daisys
  • penstemon along driveway (red and purple flowers on two unknown cultivars)

Possible native plants:
  • Ca bush poppy (Dendromecon rigida, year round flowers, well drained soil, no water once established)
  • Eriogonum giganteum giganteum (St. Catherine's Lace Buckwheat - showy and good butterfly value but wants well drained soil)
  • Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri - I might as well try it since it's so spectacular. It won't prefer my soil, however.)
  • Fritillaria biflora (Chocolate Lily or Mission Bells - wants my clay soil, but needs to be dry when dormant)
  • Agastache urticifolia ( "Summer Breeze" Horse Mint wants sandy soil and a bit of watering. Very fragrant, year round flowers)
  • Epilobium canum latifolium "Route 66" (California Fuchsia - this one grows only 12-18" tall and 2-3' laterally, clay soil OK, drought tolerant)
  • Epilobium canum canum (Hoary Fuchsia - this one is even shorter (6-12") than latifolium and even more drought hardy, if one believes what one reads. Also good for erosion control, whereas that's not a prominent quality of latifolium)

Lawn Substitute
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow, don't know which cultivar): A couple test plants are doing well in my front garden, but do get wilted easily after a hot summer day or two. Perhaps this is first year establishment issues. San Marcos Growers used yarrow as a lawn successfully. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is also used as lawn at El Alisal. According to SM Growers,

We planted our Yarrow lawn in February 1991. In the months prior to planting, the existing grass lawn was sprayed with repeated applications of Roundup and then physically removed. The soil was tilled and rolled to form a loose flat surface. Before the area was seeded, Autumn Moor Grass (Sesleria autumnalis) was planted in a well spaced uneven band along the back edges of the open space and 100 liner pots of Achillea Lavender Beauty', spaced evenly throughout the plot, were planted. The yarrow seed, mixed with a coarse sand, was applied next using a hand spreader. We used 1/8lb of both Achillea millefolium (white) and Achillea millefolium 'Rosey Red'. In using all of the seed in our 650 square foot area we slightly exceeded the recommended rate of application of 4 ounces per 1000 square feet. The surface was then top dressed with Kelloggs Topper applied with a wire roller and lightly irrigated. Then the newly planted area was kept damp until the yarrow began to germinate in the second week after planting. Once the surface was covered with the emerging seedlings, the intervals between watering and the duration on watering were steadily increased.

Oreganos - If I want to go with a non-native lawn substitute, Mountain Valley Growers are selling an assortment of three oreganos as a lawn substitute. They claim these make excellent lawns.

Red Fescue (Festuca rubra)- This seems to be doing OK in a couple test locations in my front yard. Don't mistake this for the turf-type fescue. This fescue has a bunching habit and gets a floppy 8" tall.

"meadow" mixes - Allbright seed sells a California meadow mix with "90% Molate Red Fescue 5% San Diego Bent grass 5% Achillea millefolium "

Sedge (particularly Carex pansa) comes in for high praise from John Greenlee in this list "Great new meadow sedge. Best lawn substitute for California." However, Las Pilitas condemns this sedge as a lawn substitute. They seem rather down on lawn substitutes in general.
(In the driest months, in areas that we don't water, the sand is moist 6-10 inches down and deeper.) Carex pansa is native there, forming little clumps separated by feet of open sand kinda like a dog with mange. Will not work as lawn, none of the natives will that we've seen, except maybe Dantonia, but it needs more water than some of the turf lawn grasses

Seems like there's some chest thumping going on here or perhaps Greenlee's C. pansa isn't the same as Las Pilitas' - that wouldn't be an uncommon occurrence. I'll guess that Las Pilitas is taking lawn to mean, "you can run and play and tumble on it just like turf" whereas what I'm looking for and what other people have taken lawn to mean is "non woody, dense, green ground cover that will occasionally take foot traffic but mostly just sit there"

Yerba Buena (in the SF bay area) has this to say

A good alternative to this lawn-replicating notion is a mass of plants that stay green all year with less water naturally; or, for the owner to be okay with the "lawn" going through annual cycles of partial dormancy, when the grass will be partially brown (but still alive and healthy!). Options for a continuously green space include several grass and groundcover options such as: masses of Berkeley Sedge (Carex tumulicola); groundcover manzanita (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and others species); and groundcover Wild Lilac (Ceanothus sp.). For a more silvery option, try masses of Blue Fescue (Festuca ‘Siskiyou Blue’), or a close grass relative (see below for a more comprehensive list of options). For the lawn that goes partially dormant, try Festuca rubra, Festuca idahoensis, or Deschampsia caespitosa. These native grasses will make a wild-looking, somewhat bumpy but soft surface that looks great with wildflowers added to the mix. And generally it's better not to mow -- these grasses will look best with a simple haircut once or twice a year.
The LA Times has profiled John Greenlee in 2005.

Carex praegracilis (sedge) is featured in the LA Times 10/5/06.
...In the meadow [under oaks], a swing set is surrounded by a carpet of rich green sedge. “I love the way it looks when it’s pressed down into a mat,” says David Fross, who discovered the resilient Carex praegracilis in the local dunes in 1983, then planted it at home. Five years later he introduced it to the trade. Now nurseries throughout the state sell the mounding and perennially green alternative to lawn. Other plants in the shady part of the meadow include deer grass, blue sedges and wild rye.

Las Pilitas has this to say about Carex praegracilis:
...to 2.5 ft. height, perennial with rhizomes, stems triangular, leaves flat to channeled, excellent for wet areas in all but high elevations in Calif., rhizomes will spread, will grow in sandy soils, good forage for livestock, grows to middle elevations (~6000ft.) but doesn't grow into the spruce-fir zone in the intermtn. area (Utah, and parts of ID, OR,WY, AZ, NV) of the U.S., to 9000 ft. in CA Can be used as a mounding lawn. Either plant in a boggy area or water 1/week. Sedges can handle standing water and full sun, they handle poorly shade and drought.


Best Pizza Ever

Hot on the heels of all the press about the imminent opening of Mozza, and the related chatter about the virtues of a "real" pizza oven (meaning wood or charcoal fired brick or stone ovens), I've perfected my favorite way to make pizza, and it trumps all other home methods (and most pizzerias) in both speed and taste.

I started well over a year ago with an experiment that turned out rather well, but I didn't pursue it further until last week when I decided that it was too nice of a summer day to try to bake a pizza inside. My pizza protocol is usually to use the hottest oven temperature I can get plus a pizza stone. I've made some tasty pizzas, but I've never been satisfied with the crust (occasionally home made, but more often a Trader Joes $0.99 purchase. Warning on the TJs dough - use it quickly as it loses its elasticity in matter of days).

It turns out that you can make a pizza crust (and therefore a pizza) 10 times better than most other pizzas right on your Weber Kettle, or presumably any other charcoal or wood fired BBQ. It sounds odd, but it is hands down the best pizza I've ever made, and it's all due to the BBQ.

Simply lay the pizza dough on the heated grill, directly over red hot coals which you've spread out underneath half of the grill. Wait for the dough to bubble and singe a bit (only a few minutes). Flip the dough over and move it off the coals to the other side of the grill. Decorate with your favorite toppings (as a philosphy less is more and if they are warmed to room temp it helps). Use your judgment about whether to heat directly over coals or bake with the coal's indirect heat. Either way, put the cover on the grill, since you need to heat the topping. I usually crisp the crust briefy over coals by rotating the Weber's circular grill until the coals are underneath. I then rotate away from the coals and finish with indirect heating. Topping the pizzas can be a somewhat frenzied process, since you are often working against overcooking the dough so it's best to have all toppings immediately at hand. In your frenzy it's possible to forget to flip the pizza. This isn't fatal - just use more indirect cooking after adding toppings. It'll still be fine.

Pizza is done quickly with this method. If using TJ's dough, you should split the ball of dough and make two thin crust pizzas, one after the other. This will still be less elapsed time than one oven-baked pizza. The BBQ pizza method tends to make rustic-looking thin crust pizzas best, but they are fantastic.