Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This will probably be the last entry in the Sunnyhill New Home blog. Starting Sunday, the continuing work in the new and historical sections of Sunnyhill will be visible to all who come. While most of the work on the church was done by contractors, we assumed the responsibility for a lot of work in our historical building and on the grounds. The only rooms untouched upstairs were the dining room and kitchen. The kitchen is a project that remains -- it needs a new exit door before winter (you can see daylight around it) and it needs to be painted. We did, however tackle the dining room. We changed all the switches and outlets and put LED bulbs in the overhead light. We painted the walls and most of the white woodwork and hired a company to refinish the floor.

The dining room looks much better. The marble on the fireplace needs to be glued with epoxy and could use a good cleaning, but that can be done once we are back in the building. In the 36 years I've been affiliated with Sunnyhill, I never noticed that the two finials don't match perfectly. It seems completely appropriate. Today, Elk, our HVAC company, installed a new sensor in the dining room to the left of the fireplace. That sensor will control the radiators in all rooms in the historical building except for the fellowship hall and possibly the large RE room in the basement. We'll have to do some research once the system is set up to determine which rooms it controls. There will a sensor in the fellowship hall for the second loop of the hot water heating system.

We've done a lot of work in the small RE room in the basement, formerly the fish room, and there is still more to do. A new wall was installed to cover up a lot of plumbing and subsequently we had a French drain installed behind it. We have new LED lights and the bathroom has new tile on the floor. Once it is grouted on Thursday, the toilet will be re-installed and it should not wobble like the old one. The bathroom also has a new LED light fixture and on Friday will get a new towel dispenser, soap dispenser and mirror. Then it will be ready for use.

Jen has already added some RE furniture, and the room is looking much more like a real RE space.

The collapsed wall has been replaced and carpet Juniper has been  planted on the hillside above it.

Here is another view of the wall taken from the west end of the driveway to the garage. It sure makes the remaining parts of the old wall look shabby.

Beth Hedin, Margaret Hamstead and a band of volunteers tackled the landscaping beds along the front of the church. They moved 40 cubic yards of topsoil, a whole lot of mulch and about a ton of rock to get the planting beds ready for planting.

The walkway to the kitchen foyer that served as our temporary entrance now has a beautiful walkway made of stone instead of rescued concrete pads. The plants that will complete the landscaping will be shipped on September 12. If you look at the roof, you can see the snow guards that have been installed to control the movement of snow and ice on our roof. They are primarily there to prevent our gutters from being sheared off by ice.

The new grass is beginning to come up. Watering the new lawn, which should be constant for the first two weeks, has been a challenge due to the low water pressure. There are areas we just can't water. It would be a full time job for someone. So we are getting the big areas and hoping the smaller areas will fend for themselves. After a rainy summer, of course we are entering a dryer spell.

Signs for the four reserved parking spaces went up today. Three are for Sunday visitors and the fourth is for our music director.

The correct doors for the sanctuary arrived today -- there are three sets of two. The windows of the original doors were too high and a person in a wheelchair would not have been able to see through them. We knew they were wrong the day they arrived, but it's taken a few months to get the replacements.

Finally, the new Kawai 5'-11" grand piano arrived last week.

It took three strong men to assemble it and set it up.

It is absolutely beautiful -- a work of art.

And when Carol played Chopin we didn't want her to stop.

The piano was moved from stage left to stage right so the lid could face the audience when the piano is played.

On Sunday, August 20, we will all get to enjoy it.

Thank you to everyone who has followed the blog. It was a labor or love, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Signing off for now, Dolph John Armstrong (Grandolph).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

With two weeks to go before our first service in our new home, a lot is being done and there is a lot more to be done.

Outside, landscaping is finally underway. 

The lawn areas in the front and rear of our property are almost ready for grass seed. Some old shrubs and trees have been removed from the front to allow a better view of our building from the street and to provide a better growth environment for the oak that will now be the centerpiece of our front yard. We've also regraded part of the front lawn to eliminate the hill and create a gradual slope. This will allow us to one day put a walkway across the lawn from the street to the church -- Eagle project anyone?

The planting beds directly in front of the church have been dug up to create looser soil that will encourage deep roots. The area is problematic. During construction, gravel and construction debris collected and the soil was compacted by heavy equipment. In addition, part of the planting bed was once part of our old parking lot. Now that the soil is dug up, some of the larger rocks will be removed, top soil will be added and the area will be planted. (The topsoil may have been delivered on Saturday.)

Crew members from Steelblades Landscaping are tamping the base for our new wall along the driveway.

Geotechnical fabric and gravel have been added. This wall will be built on top and the hillside will be planted with Carpet Juniper to stabilize the earth.

The south end of the parking lot has been cleared, covered with geotechnical fabric and river rock the size of baseballs and golf balls. The area has been difficult to maintain due to the run-off of salt from the driveway during the winter. The river rock is an attractive, low maintenance landscaping material. River rock has also been placed around the perimeter of the new building to create a buffer between the lawn and the stucco to prevent accidental damage to the stucco when the lawn is being mowed.
Moving inside, the remainder of Rev. Jim's office furniture arrived and was assembled. Since this photo was taken, he has moved into his new office and could be heard practicing a guitar piece for an upcoming service.

The new light fixtures for the Karl Choir Room arrived and have been installed. They are a huge improvement over the old fixtures and provide even light throughout the room. The lighting problem was discussed in an earlier blog, but here is a quick recap. In the original design, the choir room had a flat ceiling just above the middle single window. Exhaust and intake ducts for the HVAC system were to be routed above the ceiling and through a grill in the front of the building. The HVAC engineers decided it would be better to run the ducts directly up through the roof, and we agreed. With the ducts re-routed, we were able to change the ceiling from flat to cathedral and add a dramatic window at the top. What we didn't remember was that the lights were designed to reflect off a flat ceiling to light the room. The result was a dark room with odd shadows along the ceiling. We had no choice but to change the lights, and assume the cost. The original lights have been boxed and placed in the attic. If anyone would be willing to advertise the fixtures on eBay, we can provide the specifications and photos of the lights in place. (Contact John Armstrong for the details.) They are worth between $2,000 and $3,000 -- money that could be returned to our church coffers.

Storage space is always in demand, and we were able to steal a corner in the mechanical room to put some shelves. So far we have supplies for the new bathrooms stored on the shelves, but we expect some kitchen items to occupy the other unit. The fire marshal says we can use this space just as long as we keep it contained.

The north supplies closet is primarily being used for table storage, but we have managed to find room for other items, like the cushions for the meditation group. 

We were having some trouble with noise from the return air vents of HVAC system in the new sanctuary -- it was loud. What we could hear was fan noise from the giant air handler in the attic. The unit was not installed exactly where specified, which was the primary cause of the problem. To fix the noise, HVAC technicians removed the ducts from the return air vent, re-oriented them to create more bends, added insulation inside the ducts and incorporated the device seen in this picture known in the trade as acoustical turning vanes. These actions solved the problem. 

In this view of the acoustical turning vanes, you can see that the quilts have been returned to the fellowship hall. Gloria Snyder had cleaned and stored them, and she and Scott Smith arranged and rehung them. I apologize for not having a photo, but it can be a surprise on our first day back. They will be something comfortably familiar.

In the sanctuary, the 75 inch Smart-TV monitors arrived and have been installed. Charlie and Pam Cook have already tested them with the PowerPoint presentation they have put together for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration on August 19 to which the entire congregation has been invited. An upcoming photo provides a better view of the monitors in place.
And now for the exciting news...

Our new chairs arrived and a large group showed up to unpack and count them. 

This past Thursday, John Armstrong, Madi Senneway and Charlie Cook lined them up with military precision using string and measuring tapes. The first day in church will probably be the last day they will be arranged with such precision. We will try to develop a process to align the chairs that isn't so time consuming but will still be neat. 

The chairs have been set up in a chevron pattern with the rows set parallel to the angled portion of the stage. This pattern should require less head turning during services and other functions.

There are 10 rows of chairs of varying length -- the longest containing 11 chairs. The first row is set six feet from the stage to allow room for legs, seeing-eye dogs and for people to cross in front. The center aisle is five feet wide to comply with code. The side aisles vary, but at the narrowest point are three feet six inches. We've allow about two and a half inches between chairs -- we eyeballed this -- for a total of approximately 24 inches per person, which is considered comfortable. 
Most of the rooms in the new wing have furniture and are ready for use. They will require cleaning before our first event, and we may have to enlist a detail of people with vacuum cleaners and dust rags to get us ready. We will probably schedule a final cleaning for Friday, August 18. Check the Beat on the Wednesday before. We want the building to shine.

While the new building is essentially finished, our historic building is still under construction using volunteer labor -- mostly retirees. We can do more than just babysit the grand kids.

Every room in the building has new flooring except for the dining room and the kitchen. The kitchen is fine, but the dining room floor did not look so good - especially after the room had been painted. Thanks to a generous donation by a member of the congregation, we were able to do something about the floor. We started by removing the electrical box in the center of the floor...

...and having it professionally patched. Patching the floor was not as easy as you might think. The floor is one-half inch thick quarter-sawn oak. Most flooring today is three-quarter inch. So, the floor guy (this is what they call themselves) had to plane down a piece of thicker flooring so it would fit. Then the floor was sanded...

...and here it is with its first coat of polyurethane. It will get two more coats and be ready to be walked on by Wednesday afternoon. When the floor is dry, Bill Cook is coming back to touch up where the baseboard was damaged and to paint the other side of the louvered doors. We are probably going to add an area rug under the dining room table, we just have to be sure it isn't a tripping hazard. Peg Hart, who has managed the entire building project from inception and is the blogger's hero, and Scott Smith, who heads up the art committee, have have the task of finding the right rug within our budget. What will an architect and a sculptor agree on? Stay tuned. 

The former fish-room, now the polka dot room has been getting a lot of attention. Michael Hennesy built a wall to cover the new plumbing and a multitude of other sins. Since this photo was taken the wall has been primed and is waiting for Claire Pullen to paint a mural. Also, since this photo was taken, Michael installed new LED light fixtures.

Ed Tomlinson, Mike and I are also trying to clean up the bathroom -- we'd welcome more help. We've removed all the ancient electrical equipment from the walls...

...and we are replacing the ceiling and the ceiling light.

And we will be tiling the bathroom floor with porcelain tile donated by the Senneway family who had some beautiful tile left over from their kitchen renovation. Instead of using it as 12 inch by 24 inch tiles, we will probably cut it into 12 inch squares to better fit in the 18 square foot space. 

Before reading the explanation of this photo, look to the right of the picture and you will see a beautifully repainted radiator. Judy Kelly spent four days cleaning, prepping and painting all the radiators in the basement classrooms. They look so much better. And now what's going on with the big guy, and he is big, in the blue shirt with the jackhammer. During the last three heavy rains, we've been getting a lot of water in the polka dot room. On each occasion we've vacuumed out about three and a half gallons of water or more. We never had this problem before. We think the water in the basement is the result of the new trench that was dug to install our new water supply and to run conduits for our new sign. The trench was back filled with gravel, which is standard procedure to prevent sinking. We believe we inadvertently created an exterior French drain that drained to the footer of the basement wall. After much discussion, the best and most cost effective solution was an internal French drain with a sump pump.

On Friday morning just before 7 a.m., a crew arrived and installed and interior French drain with a sump pump which will be hidden behind Michael's' wall with Claire's mural. The crew was amazingly fast. They were gone by 8:30. Everything was hauled in and out in five-gallon buckets. The crew worked hard and fast. 

The polka dot room may not be ready by Sunday, August 20, but it will be ready when we begin full RE.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

This blog has been silent over the past few weeks. But now there is news to report.

On Saturday, July 8, we had an important inside/outside work party. Inside we moved a lot of furniture from where it had been temporarily stored to where it will be used in the old and new spaces. We built and filled shelves, hauled no-longer-needed items to Construction Junction, packed 13 boxes of books to go to the book cellar, performed handy-person task and hauled trash to the dumpster. Outside we cleared gravel and construction debris from the areas in front of the church that will become planting beds. That will probably be the last all-hands work party before our first service in our new space. Going forward, we will need smaller groups to accomplish important tasks, which we will publicize in the Beat. What we did was hard work, in some cases very hard manual labor. Pitching in to get it done were: Jim Carter, Charlie Cook, Bill Cook, Patti Cook, Peg Hart, Scott Smith, Margaret Hamstead, Dean Hazelton, Beth Hedin, Jim Heltman, John Hemington, Carilee Hemington, Michael Hennessy, Alan James, Judy Kelly, Franziska Lang, Will Page, Annelee Page, Bob Lauver, Jim Magaw, Ella Magaw, Jennifer McGlothin, Dennis Sweeney, Jay Thornton, Bethany Thornton, Stella Thornton, Aiden Thornton, Finn Thornton, Henry Thornton (who became my right-hand man and was up to any challenge), Ed Tomlinson, John Vernacchia, and Judy Armstrong. Special thanks to Carol Wooten for the cookies which provided much needed sustenance. The week before, Judy Kelly, Erin Russell-Story, Dan Story and Jim Heltman painted the entry foyer so it was ready to receive furniture. And, over a period of several days, Carol Karl and Mary Pratt organized choir music that had been kept in several locations in the new files in the choir room, and now it is all together.Thank you to all; I apologize if I missed anyone or misspelled a name.

As we enter the final stages of construction, craft work has slowed down and, in some cases, been delayed. We have also assumed more responsibility for completing our new home. Those responsibilities include landscaping, patching and painting our historical building and moving everything either into new spaces or back into old spaces. More on that and how we can all help later.

Construction delays have affected our ability to move forward with some our work. We were supposed to start landscaping earlier this month, but we cannot do any landscaping until the gutters and downspouts have been installed. Without gutters channeling storm water from our roof into our new storm water containment system, our landscaping would be ruined. We've had a lot of precipitation -- we are up 4.42 inches for the year and 1.33 inches for the month of July, which is only half over. The unusual construction of our roof further complicates the matter of rain. Imagine portions of two very large sloped roofs -- the roof over the new sanctuary and the roof over the fellowship hall -- feeding into the low sloped roof over the new infant-toddler room. Il pleuvait à torrent. And the torrent would wash away the topsoil and seed, as you can see in this video.

So, why has the installation of the gutters and downspouts been delayed? Here's why in a nutshell. The half-round gutters we selected to match (as closely as possible) the existing gutters were not available in the gauge and color we needed, so they had to be specially ordered. They have taken months to arrive. The good news is that they are finally on site.

Our new gutters and leaders sit in the area that Margaret Hamstead and Beth Hedin will soon turn into a garden. Under the blue tarp in the background is the topsoil for the new lawn. The deceptively green area is opportunistic crabgrass. The gutters will be going up this week, and then landscaping will begin.

Inside the church, the lighting and most of the AV equipment have been installed. One of the stage lights had a bad control module, and will be replaced once the new module arrives. If you look closely you can see two microphones hanging above the stage. These mics will allow us to record the services and will feed the speakers in the crying room and the choir room. The next time a photo from this angle is published on our blog, you will see two large screen monitors on the walls behind the stage, a grand piano stage left and perhaps the backs of our new chairs.

Giffin, the company providing our finish carpentry, returned last week and installed this window seat in the infant-toddler room...

...which will be used for storage and to hide the pipe to the hose bib on the exterior wall.

This bench hides the pipe to the exterior hose bib that runs through the crying room...

...and this bench in Roy's office hides another pipe to a hose bib. In all, we have three new hose bibs which will be employed very soon to sprinkle our new grass unless the rain continues. I expect a sudden dry spell. On the wall you can see the key box. This was the first item we -- members of the congregation -- attached anything to our new walls. Drilling into them was nerve wracking.
Giffin also added oak paneling around the new windows in the entrance foyer. These windows used to be doors. The door on the left was to the corridor in the old north wing and the door to the right was the door to the coat/storage/junk closet. The paneling ties in with the historical building, while...

...the other side matches the look of our new addition.

Turning to the work that the congregation is doing -- the choir room has been set up and is in use. Carol Karl and Mary Pratt have spent several days organizing music in the new file cabinets.

A view of the choir room from another angle shows a bookcase, which still needs to be secured to the wall, that will hold RE materials. RE teachers, perhaps with the help of choir members, will make the switch from choir room to classroom after Sunday rehearsal is over so the room is ready for children when we sing them out.

Jen has been hard at work getting the basement ready for RE classes. Our new RE library was a hallway, vault and closet that were combined. The books were organized with the help of some members of the youth group.

But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, and Jen could use a hand. Please give her a call and volunteer to put our RE spaces back together. The bookcases in the background, now Sunnyhill T-shirt blue, once held books for the Sweeneys in Upper St. Clair. You can't see them in this photo, but the radiators need to be painted, if anyone is looking for an easy way to help.

This room has been know as the fish-tank room, the rainbow room and most recently the polka dot room for the 70s era polka dots found painted on the wall. Those polka dots and a lot of new and old piping are now concealed by a wall being built by Michael Hennessy. This wall will soon be covered with a mural painted by Claire Pullen before she heads off to college. (Sunnyhill will miss her.) I expect a new name for the room will be derived from that mural. There are three other walls in this room and another shabby looking radiator that need to be painted. Please let us know if you can help. This is our shabbiest RE space, and we are doing all we can to make it comfortable for our children.

Here's something you are unlikely to ever see again -- master craftsman Dennis Sweeney assembling IKEA furniture in the infant-toddler room. There's not a dovetail joint to be seen.

A master IKEA shopper, Jen also found inexpensive items to soften up the crying room.

She also added vinyl cutouts to cheer up the infant-toddler room. Wait until you see the lighted cloud and the birdhouse clock.

We've added vinyl tile to our new storage rooms...

And filled one of them with tables new and old. The tables on the far left are our 16 new 8' plastic tables. They will accommodate up to 160 people banquet style.

Ed Tomlinson, who has become a regular in our small work group, helped install the new monitor that will serve as our message board. Picture Bethany on Sundays sitting at a table below the sign welcoming new visitors. 
In the Fellowship Hall, Ed and the blogger also installed new switches and dimmers that work with LED lights ...

...and replaced the halogen and CFL lamps with dimmable LED bulbs designed to function in a fully enclosed fixture.

After searching several local stores, we had to go online to find lamps that could be used in fully enclosed fixtures. If they live up to their potential, no one will have to replace them for 20 years or more -- ha! (When that time comes, I'll be 93, so I'll need someone to hold the ladder.)

We also upgraded the newly painted entrance foyer to LED lights and replaced the switches. We eliminated three switches that did nothing and covered the holes in the switch plates with blanks. The most surprising change was a switch with a bracket that kept it from being turned off and the label, "always on." When Ed removed the switch plate, he discovered that the switch was wired to -- nothing.

The new cover plates are like pearls with a black dress.

We've also added the new capacity signs provided by Mt. Lebanon Fire Department. Seating capacity in the new Sanctuary is 220 people. That includes people on the stage.

Seating capacity in the Fellowship Hall remains the same, 128 people.

Moving back outside, the new photo electric exit light warms up the facade at night.

With all the use as a security light overnight, one of our parking lot lights has burned out. This will have to be replaced, and if we're lucky, we can find a more efficient LED light to substitute for the sodium vapor lamp that no longer works.

Finally, here are three of the four members of Sunnyhill's newest rock group displaying the flagstone that Margaret and Beth will use to create paths in the front garden. Piled behind us is about one ton of stone that took three trips in Michael Hennessy's truck to bring from the work site where it was located to Sunnyhill. Beth, Margaret, Mike and the blogger were dirty and more than ready to quit when we finally completed the task. But, it's going to look beautiful.