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.”

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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!

Happy Birthday, Baby

21 November 2014

Last Friday was Sharon’s birthday. We heard of a concert coming on that date about a month ago from some friends here on the island. We decided to splurge and take it in. Figured it would be a great way to spend a birthday and “Hot Date” night.hit makers image

Our friends had attended several of these concerts. The series is called “Hit Makers and Rum Chasers” all started by a very talented, young lady entrepreneur named Carolyn Miller. Learn more about her here.

She has a great idea but I don’ know how she can be making any money on the concerts based on how many attended that night. I’m estimating maybe 200 were present. I guess the local islanders don’t like country music. Our friends said the attendance last Friday night was the most they had ever seen at one of these events. Everyone got to sit in the expensive seats, up close and personal, no matter what price you paid. Our friends suggested we purchase the “cheap seats” as they knew this would happen. They learned this trick at a previous concert they attended.

Best I can describe this concert is the Blue Bird Cafe in a beautiful amphitheater on the campus of the University of the Virgin Islands – down on the west end of the island. It’s called the Reichhold Center for the Arts and one of the best amphitheaters I have ever visited or watched a concert in.

Supposedly this concert series comes about every 3-6 months. We will be there for the next one. Guaranteed!

The artists were excellent, the venue was superb, the promoter obviously knows what she is doing, and the ambiance and company of our friends plus tailgating before the concert made for a most memorable evening … on my honey’s birthday. One she probably won’t forget.

Happy Birthday Sharon.

The Case of the Squeaky Bed

10 November 2014

Behind on posting … again.

Guests are here this week. Arrived last Wednesday and depart this Wednesday. So, week before last was finishing up a big project and generally making sure everything was in “Show Ready” condition for the guests.

BR 3 new support -01

One down, one to go

One of the guest bedrooms has a homemade platform for its King size mattress. I suspect the platform was constructed many years ago, maybe when they opened in 1994 or so.

The platform is in two sections – made entirely of plywood, 2x4s, and 2×2 legs. Over the years of use, the leg mounts have become loose causing the whole thing to squeak badly when moving about on the mattress. Even a turn from side to side would wake the dead. Glad we slept in every room to see if anything needed fixing or repaired. This definitely did.

BR 3 new support -03

Time to paint

My “fix” was to add an additional 2×4 support all the way around the legs of each section and run some new screws into the legs where they were orginally mounted. Not a difficult job, just a little time and patience to do it right.

Of course, once the construction was done, it needed painting. I decided to paint the whole thing and freshen it up. Turned out fine. And it’s tight as a tick …. no more squeaking.

Final Note: We added plastic glides to the bottom of each leg so we can move the platform away from the wall easily for cleaning and making it up.

With guests here project work goes on hold. But we’ll be back at it in a few days. Stay tuned.

BR 3 new support -02

And everything gets covered by a bed skirt.

The Pergola Project – Part II

24 October 2014

Pergola 08

The start

Note: I’m about 1.5 weeks behind on posting. I apologize.

I started painting the Pergola on Monday, October 06. I finished Friday, October 10. It didn’t take 5 days, all day. I painted some each of those days. It was hot. It was humid. I was sweating like a pig. I took a lot of breaks. I drank lots of water. I took lots of swim breaks.

Pergola 07Actually, I got the painting of the white slats done by Thursday mid-morning. Just time-consuming work getting between all of those slats and looking up into the sky and sun – it was tiring work (I know, cry me a river – boo-hoo). But damn, it looks good once it was done!

Then I had to work on the rusted areas of the steel beams holding all of Pergola 04the slats up. Here, you have to scrap and pick and pull the old rusted painted areas and then coat them again with a rust inhibitor product. This product turns the rust black and prepares it to be painted. It had to dry overnight.

Friday morning was “paint the steel beams day” and the day we end this project – yeah! Had this done by lunch and had a celebatory beer and swim in the pool.

2 purple orcids oct 2014The Pergola area looks nice and clean now and ready for guests. Plus, the orchids now have a pretty place to bloom.

Guests in for a week and then a couple of more weeks of small projects before more guests arrive in early November.  Updates coming soon.

Pergola Project Completed!

Pergola Project Completed!

The Pergola Project – Part I

10 October 2014

Pergola Rot Repair 02The Pergola project has been staring us in the face for some time. It got delayed a bit when we discovered a fairly large rotten area in one of the Pergola’s large wooden beams. Of course, this rotten area had to be properly repaired before we could pressure wash and then paint.

Pergola 11Going into last weekend, the wood repair was completed and finally dry. Tme to pressure wash the entire Pergola. Sharon is the pressure washing Queen. I think she likes doing it. Plus, since she had to shoot up to get the Pergola beams, she got soaking wet. Not a bad thing in 90°+ weather.

Once she finished the Pergola (old paint chips went everywhere), we cleaned the outdoor wrought iron furniture and some dirty areas around the pool patio.

Screens Clean 02Then, Sharon decided to see if she could clean the big rollup screens along the pool without damaging them. She tested and it worked. So she got all five of the big screens nice and clean. Not often you can pressure wash from the inside of your home.

The last area we needed to pressure wash was the front entrance patio and some really dirty areas on the driveway. Guests are coming this weekend so we want it to look nice and clean. And it now does.

So another project week in the books and the Pergola is ready to be painted. I’ll cover that project in my next post.

Guest Season Right Around the Corner

30 September 2014

Another month is in the books for our Silk Cotton Villa adventure. Another week gone working on projects. Guests start arriving in a little over a week. No project work while guests are here. One reason we have been steady at it for some time now.

Electrical Outlet Pool Patio Issue

What happened when I unplugged an extension cord last week.

I don’t like electrical work – never have. But will do it when necessary and within my knowledge and skill set. We had two outdoor outlets that were in dire need of repair. The environment here had literally turned the electrical boxes into rusted metal flake. Nothing left to hold the outlets in the boxes. And the outdoor covers were dated and needed replacing, too. So, that project got about 90% completed this past week. And, it is turning out nicely. Still some finishing work to make them look nice on the walls. Should wrap this one up later this week. More photos below.

No photos on this one, but another electrical issue. Had some lights at the front door foyer and kitchen area that were not working. After some trouble-shooting, testing, replacing bulbs, etc., we discovered we had three bad switches. Replaced switches and all is fine now.

Things just wear out in a rental property – especially in this ocean/island environment. Constant TLC needed. Helps to be handy in this lifestyle.

Big Door Refinishing 003We have two very large arched wooden doors located at each end of the pool patio. A few weeks ago it dawned on us that they could use refinishing. They were both very, very dry from the elements and don’t appear to have been refinished in quite some time. These got on the “To Do” list this past week. Sharon started working on these this past weekend – sanding and scraping – while I worked on the outdoor outlet project. She’s a VERY good refinishing prep lady!

I joined her in the application of the stain step and we got that part knocked out, too, before the weekend ended. Now, just have to let mother nature dry them before a protective coating is applied. With the humidity here, drying takes a while sometimes. More photos below in the Gallery.

In between, we worked on several smaller projects like weeding potted plants and putting down a weed-block layer and then put the finishing layer of wood filler on the rotted out area of the Pergola beam (previously discussed). Now, once that final wood filler coat is sanded, we can move on to pressure washing the Pergola and getting it painted.

Man, we can’t wait until the next R&R weekend rolls around – LOL

Peeling, Painting, and a Bikini

22 September 2014

We were definitely the “working couple” this past week. Hope this doesn’t bore you. But if you’re considering the working couple lifestyle, you need to know what’s involved with a gig like this.

As many of you that follow our blog and Facebook page know, Sharon and I both kept doing our regular jobs when we started the villa hosts and caretakers position. We put in our required villa project hours when we can which a lot of that is on weekends. My “regular” job isn’t as intense as hers so I have more time during the week days to knock out some projects, and I do.

Examples this past week:

Pergola Rot Repair 02A few weeks ago we found a rotten section on a wooden beam on the Pergola over the outdoor eating area. It wasn’t a small rotten place – pretty big – at least 12″ long and 2″ tall and almost all the way through. Through talking with the owner (formerly a boat owner and yacht captain) about the issue, he told me to get a product called “Git”-Rot and apply first to stop any further rot and then fill the cavity with wood filler.

These repair steps cannot be done in one day. And with the heat here, the “Git”-Rot, a 2-part epoxy product, even had to be put in the refrigerator to cool it down before activation and mixing. Supposed to be done and used in 70° temp or lower environment …. don’t believe I will see that temp any time soon – LOL.

Long story-short on the rotten wood repair, almost done after a week. Maybe 2 more thin coats of wood filler to get the board face right and we can then move on to pressure washing and painting the whole thing … after we get the rust off and stopped on the metal cross-beams. I’ll cover that in another post.

The villa is built with a lot – and I mean a lot – of concrete. You have a tendency to build hurricane-proof once you loose your home to a big storm. And these owners did in hurricane Marilyn in 1995. She was the most powerful storm to hit the Virgin Islands since Hurricane Hugo of 1989.

Pool Patio Painting 04One assigned project is to keep the concrete walls around the patios painted and touched up before guests arrive and/or after weddings and events. Due to the heat, the flat surfaces of these walls get extremely hot causing the paint to blister in areas. So …. before you can paint, you have to cut out the blisters and peel off the paint where it is not adhering. That’s one project we did this weekend. And Sharon decided to use the time in the sun to work on her tan. Ergo the title: Peeling, Painting, and Bikini.

Pool Patio Painting 05I must say, I have never painted with a bikini-clad helper before but I like it. And, when you get too hot, just jump in the pool for your well-deserved break.

Not only did we work on the patio walls around the pool but also painted the short walls of the east deck outside the owner’s rooms. This was a little more time-consuming because we had to do the delicate work of brush painting the caulk line I re-did a few weeks ago between the floor and the walls. But it’s done. Check that one off the list.

Then there was the canopy bed project. We noticed a few weeks ago that the canopy bed in one of the bedrooms was very loose and squeaky. Would not make for a nice guest visit – hanky-panky or no hanky-panky. It was in need of some serious TLC.

After removing the box springs and mattress and doing some inspecting and testing, we discovered how to tighten up every joint on the wood parts and also found the bed rails were very loose and got these secured, too. It felt good to get that bed tightened up and rid of all the squeaks and creaks.

Below are a few more photos of the work. By Sunday evening we were tired and ready for some R&R. We headed off to Hull Bay for some fish tacos (the best!), beer, and live music by the ocean.