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October 26, 2013
Stucco: Brown coat

The Greer Stucco crew applies the second layer of stucco to our mountain home

On Tuesday, October 22, after only a two-day return to the Bay Area, Gail drove back up to our mountain home to oversee more stucco work. She went by herself; Russell couldn’t get away from work.

This week’s milestone would be the “brown coat.” Previously, each coat had been purposefully rough, to give the next coat something to adhere to. The “lath” step is so-named because a wood lattice is traditionally attached to the exterior walls (nowadays replaced with wire mesh.) The “scratch coat” step is so-named because the first layer of stucco is scratched with trowels to provide a key for the second layer.

Conversely, the middle coat, or “brown coat,” will have a smooth finish. This step is called “brown coat” because it is traditionally made with sand and cement. Our coat is actually gray – darker gray than the scratch coat – but it is still called “brown coat.”

The crew worked for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, keeping their usual hours and amazing efficiency. Inside, Gail continued work on the drywall upstairs. She sanded the lower half of the hallway and sitting room.

The crew works with their normal amazing speed. This week’s dog is “Pig,” a boston terrier mix.

There was one strange occurrence. During the week, crew members began complaining that they felt an electrical tingling when touching objects or even just standing around. Gail and Scott Greer couldn’t feel anything, but Gail called PG&E, our electrical supplier. A PG&E worker came out Wednesday afternoon (pulling Gail out of a hot bath) to investigate. He discovered a stray 17-volt charge in the copper wire between the water tank outside the house and the water heater inside the house. He couldn’t explain what was causing it, but he said it shouldn’t be a health or safety problem for anyone. Gail suspects that a vermin has chewed through a wire at our step-up pump down the hill, but she will wait for Russell before investigating that any further.

On Thursday, the stucco crew’s departure overlapped with the arrival of Gail’s mother and stepfather. They were originally going to be in the area (up from Morgan Hill) to visit a friend. When that visit fell through, they decided to come up and see Gail anyway. They were impressed by the stucco work, the hardwood floors and the finished stairs. (They had not seen the house in more than two years.)


Some before and after photos, highlighting the difference between the scratch coat and the brown coat. (Our brown coat is actually gray.) Note the difference in the texture.

A close-up of the brown coat’s smoother texture

Mom’s original intention was to stay two nights, but they forgot some medications and stayed one night only. Still, Gail and the folks were able to visit downtown Jackson and do some shopping before they departed on Friday afternoon.

But the absolute highlight of the week came when Gail took a walk down the dirt road to the trampoline on the northern knoll. She saw several tracks for deer and mice. Then she saw four tracks that made her stop. They looked like barefoot human prints without the heel, except that they were 8.5 inches long and 5 inches wide. Online research and Scott Greer both confirmed that they were bear tracks. Gail estimates that our bear is 6 to 7 feet high and 300-400 pounds.

Our first bear tracks!

Gail didn’t actually see a bear, nor did she find any more tracks. (The ones she saw were several days old.) On the other hand, she didn’t see any more mice tracks in the house either, and all of the traps remained empty. We think we have finally solved the mouse problem. All it required was tens of thousands of dollars and nine weeks of contractor work.

Gail finally departed the mountain on Saturday morning. The brown coat will take 7-10 days to cure, dry and shrink, so it will be two weeks before the contractors return. In the meantime, the leaves are starting to change color, along with the season.

The leaves are changing color. It’s not New England, but it’s very pretty.

Speaking of color, Gail has been trying to decide what color to use for the final stucco coat. She wants something that complements the surroundings… contrasts with the blue roof, brown decks and gray deck rails… and has some brightness.

Our color choices. Gail first considered “tequila” (fourth from left and top), then decided on “gray nuance” (third from left and top).

Our mountain home, before and after brown coat


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