And the Rain Came Pouring Down

17 February 2015

Somewhere on the island, from a news report.

Somewhere on the island, from a news report.

We have never experienced an 11+ inch rain event in less than a 24 hour period. And according to the owners of the villa, neither have they. Not even during the many hurricanes they have been through here on STT. Sharon and I can now say we have. Last Friday night and Saturday morning it rained, and rained, and rained. But we did sleep good – LOL.

From a news report on the event:

St. Thomas was lashed by 11 inches of rain in the 24-hour period between 8 a.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday, with most of that falling after 6 p.m. Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist Jose Alamo said Saturday morning.

“An old frontal boundary has an area of increased convection,” Alamo said from San Juan. According to Alamo, the convection sat over St. Thomas. “That’s why St. Thomas got a lot of rain but no one else did,” Alamo said.

We awoke knowing we needed to get up to the villa and inspect for any damage or flooding. Guests had departed the day before and a full house – 10 people, 5 bedrooms – were to start arriving at around 3 pm. We needed to get the villa cleaned and “Show Ready.”

When we inspected a lower bedroom that has a wall below grade, we found our worse fear. The entire bedroom’s hardwood floors were covered with about 1/4″ of water. The shower and toilet area is a few steps above the bed area. There was water coming down the steps like a waterfall.

Our first thought was this was not flooding but obviously a pipe had busted. Wrong. On further inspection, we found water pouring through the hole in the wall behind the toilet where the cold water supply line comes into the room. Totally ground water seepage. Unbelievable. You could literally see the water flowing through the hole. And it was still raining outside. This was around 8 am. Six hours to “Showtime!”

While Sharon started cleaning the villa I started sucking up water in this bedroom with a shop vac. It took about 2 hours to get this room in presentable shape. Once I completed this task, I went up to the main villa and helped Sharon finish cleaning the main villa was she had already completed the bedrooms that needed cleaning.

It was a tight schedule between two separate guest parties and the flooding didn’t make it any easier. But we got it done with not much time to spare.

Just another day in the life of a Working Couple as caretakers and hosts of a villa in Paradise!

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Green Goes To Blue

06 February 2015

Since my last post, we had an open week before we start a very busy, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back booking schedule. Our busiest block of bookings since we arrived back in July 2014. No complaints here. We are “Show Ready.”

One last project we knocked out before guests started arriving on 27 Jan was the repainting of BR 2 bathroom. This is a project that the lady owner requested we add to our project list when she was here during DEC. Just needed some freshening up. And she told us to pick the color …. pull something from the rug. OK …. will do.

Sharon is a very good painter and color-picker and we usually do painting projects together on weekends. But because we were sort of in a time crunch on this one, I did the painting by myself. I spread the paint work out over two days and then the two of us did the cleanup the following weekend.

The only thing remaining to do on this bathroom project is to find a full-length mirror to go on the wall beside the makeup table. We’ve been looking on island but the selection isn’t great. Who knows when or where we will find one but we eventually will.

Do you like the color?

Let There Be Light

19 January 2015

As I wrote in an earlier post entitled, “The TLC Never Stops,” one of the bigger projects I’m tackling at the villa is replacing all of the step lights on the various patios.

Well, I finally completed the east patio step light replacements last week. And I’m a happy camper … I mean, happy caretaker.

I ran into some electrical issues back in early December when I started on the east patio that I, nor the owner, could figure out so I had to bring in a “real” electrician to troubleshoot the problem. He fixed the issue in less than an hour (cha-ching, $125 – worth it!) so I was then able to get going on replacing all the old light fixtures.

Once I got them all installed, it hit me to fill the voids around the boxes (created by chiseling the old ones out and making the new hole big enough for the new box) with Great Stuff spray foam. Wish I had thought of this idea back when I was doing the pool patio step lights. Oh well …. live and learn. Should make any future replacements much easier.

Below are some photos of the east patio work … during and after the project. Let there be light (hasn’t been any for many, many years per the owners). Another project off the list.

Where Is My Security Deposit?

15 Jan 2015

Wow! It is already the middle of the first month of a new year. Man, time flies when you’re having fun. I haven’t posted lately due to December was a fairly busy guest month so not much going on in the way of big projects.

This doesn’t happen much at Silk Cotton Villa, but we had a last minute 5-day stay book in the middle of December. A group of 8, young twenty-something college folks. They seemed nice enough when I met them at the airport for the escort back to the villa.

As usual with all guests, we prepared them some “Welcome” snacks and after villa orientation, we retired back to our caretaker studio and off to bed around 10 pm. Phone rang around midnight. Guess who? Scared and lost kids in downtown STT and they had gotten separated from the other 4 in the group in a separate vehicle. They asked if I would come and get them. I said “Yes.”

Sharon got up with me and we headed off to get the first group who said they were at the STT Hooters down near where the cruise ships come in. I don’t think I have ever seen young strangers who were so glad to see me and Sharon than those kids – LOL. We asked where the other group was and were told they were lost at some beach. We finally determined they were at the entrance to Megan’s Bay – one of St Thomas’ world-famous beach attractions … you cruisers who have been here probably know it well.

Megan's Bay as seen from Drake's Seat

Megan’s Bay as seen from Drake’s Seat

At midnight in STT, when all businesses are closed and shutdown, even the Hooters’ parking lot can seem a little intimidating and scary. And Megan’s Bay at night is very dark and deserted, not the postcard you see in all the travel brochures. I was sure that group couldn’t wait until we got there. And we did about 10 minutes later and they were also glad to see Sharon and I.

The villa is a short 2.5 mile ride back up the mountain from Megan’s so we had them back in 5 minutes or so. We suggested they not go out this late in the future unless they were more secure and confident in finding their way around STT.

Well, you know how college-aged kids are. They are going to party. And party they did …. into the wee hours of the mornings. Every night. We don’t believe they saw or enjoyed much of this beautiful island during daylight hours. Oh well. Their loss.

SR-002After they departed for the airport and Sharon and I were doing a check of the villa, we discovered a BIG rip/tear in one of the big door roll-up screens in the main area of the villa that separates the interior area from the pool and patio. Oops. Appears someone went through a screen. Oops. No one bothered to report said screen damage. Oops. There goes your security deposit.

Renting out a villa, the owners (and us, too) know “stuff” happens. Ergo, a hefty security deposit. Occasional damage is just something that comes with the business. You deal with it, albeit sometimes getting repairs done by contractors can be time-consuming and drawn-out. Comes with the life of caretakers on an island in paradise.

Below are some photos of the damaged screen and of the fellows who replaced the new screen. Notice the rigging they had to set up to work over the pool. “MacGyverism” at it’s finest! Just another day in the life of the “Working Couple.”

Time For A New Roof Coating for the Villa

29 December 2014

I haven’t posted since early December when I reported on the first phase of replacing all of the 20+ step lights around the villa. I’m still woking on that one but not too many left to replace.

The owners came for a visit from early December unitl the 22nd so while they were here they found a few more small items they wanted added to the project list. Some of these we tackled while they were here, all the while still replacing step lights on the east patio.

Several projects were BIG ones that had been on the back burner for some time. The biggest project was resurfacing the entire villa roof with a Vulkem® Roof Terrace/Deck Coating System. This has to be done by someone who is certified in the application process as well as it has to be inspected during the process by the Vulkem coating supplier so the warranty is valid. The villa roof was in dire need of resurfacing.

This was a learning experience for us. Although I did not have a hand in the application process, I did have to find certified installers and get quotes for the owners to interview and hire once they arrived in early December.

PW-006First, the entire roof surface had to be pressure washed and cleaned. This means sealing off the gutter drains to the cisterns to keep “crap & debris” from entering the drinking water supply. The pressure washing created quite a mess – on the yard, driveway, and patios and decks. But that’s just part of the process. There is not escaping the mess. So we helped with the cleanup process before the coating phases began.

During the whole Vulkem coating process, I took photos (see Gallery below) of the different steps involved; for several reasons. One, just to document the project; and two, to build a photo book for the local installer, Edward Esprit, so he can hopefully get more similar work once folks can see photos of this job. He is a great guy and had some great helpers with him. They were under a very tight timeline due to guests arriving and throw on top of that, we lost two full days to rain – rare in December.

But it got completed the same day guests arrived and it looks awesome. The installer even came back after the guests departed and did some touchup paint work on some trim around the villa.

I was very pleased with the outcome and I learned a lot about the Vulkem® Roof Terrace/Deck Coating System. And a big shout out to the Paint Depot professionals in STT for supplying the materials and providing the expertise, advice, and inspections to cover the warranty.

The TLC Never Stops

02 December 2014

I think everyone has had a dream at some point in their life of owning a house on the beach or ocean. I know I have … many times. Wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the shore or like this villa, look out over the ocean and watch the changing hues throughout the day and seasons. A place to go to escape the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

The harsh realities of ocean-side or ocean environment property ownership can turn your dream home into a full-time job. And I knew this before taking this position at Silk Cotton Villa . Bottom line is the ocean environment is rough on a building and its guts, no matter how it is built or with what materials. It just needs a lot of TLC.

This villa has a lot of decks and patios with steps going down to the lower yard in the back. When it was rebuilt over 20 years ago, the design included step lights built into the walls to light the steps and patios for safety and ambiance. These step light inner boxes are made of metal. And as we all know, metal rusts. And here, in this environment, it rusts to the point it disintegrates to just metal flakes and pieces (see photos below).

This project subject: Replace about 20 step light inner boxes.

This might sound easy, but it isn’t. First, since the walls these lights are embedded into are made of concrete and plaster, the replacement boxes needed to be at least close to the same size as the originals. Just finding that box and getting 20 delivered here was a project in and of itself. But we finally did get the boxes we needed, although just slightly larger in width.

Because the width of the new box is about 1/2″ wider, replacing meant chiseling out the opening so the new box would fit. Then there is the case of the new box conduit knockouts not matching up perfectly with where the wires are inside the opening so there is plenty of “MacGyvering” to make each box fit in the opening and be wired safely.

There are 8 of said step lights on the lower pool patio lighting steps down to the yard. Replacing all of these was last week’s main project. The photos below show some of the before and after work.

Now it’s on to the east patio located off the owner’s apartment where there are about 12 more of these step lights to replace. You just take your time and try to do it right. I’ll make an update post when this whole project is completed.

This Old Villa

24 November 2014

Silk Cotton Villa was rebuilt after Hurricane Hugo pretty much destroyed it in 1989. Hurricane Hugo was a powerful Cape Verde-type hurricane that caused widespread damage and loss of life in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Southeast United States.

The Villa was then a two bedroom house. Since the storm damaged it almost to the ground, the owners decided to enlarge it when they rebuilt and turn it into a large rental villa. They added two upstairs bedrooms and raised one bedroom so they could get another under it. In addition, they did some modifications to the “owner’s” apartment including enclosing an attached outdoor porch and making it part of the enclosed living room adding a very nice amount of floor space as well as a whole wall of windows.

That porch and its drainage holes is the subject of this post.

Being that it was an outside porch at one time, it had four (4) drainage holes at the bottom of the exterior wall to allow water to drain off of it during storms. For some reason, during renovations, no one thought to close these drainage holes that went through 12″-16″ of concrete wall. When we arrived this past summer, the owners indicated that a lot of critters, especially iguanas and lizards, have a tendancy to come into the villa through these openings. In due time, closing these drainage holes made it to the villa project list.

And the project made it’s way to the top of the list last week. Dumb me forgot to take “before” images so you will have to use your imagination looking at the photos below to envision what I am explaining.

With a little “MacGyverism” to make a hole plug, some fiberglass tape, and some concrete vinyl patch, I think it came out pretty good. I also think I could do a better job the next time around. I haven’t used concrete patch in the past so it was a learning experience. Not bad for a rookie, IMHO. Now the critters have four less places to get inside – LOL.

One more project checked off the project list!