After a very stressful week in which no carpentry/ framing was done on the house we can report that we have a new carpentry crew in place and are ready to finish the demo and start the framing. Phew!
What did get done is the venting and installation of the blower for the HVAC system. Geez! Those things are expensive and now we have to have a plumber and electrician come in to connect the pipes and thermostats. In the end this will provide additional space (no pesky radiators to work around) and allow us to install air conditioning.
May we wax poetic about our new carpenter and all-around-good-guy? Just when we were at the end of our proverbial rope The Amazing S gets a call from a dear friend asking about the Oakley Project and seeing if we need anything. One conversation led to another and sure enough there’s a gentleman in my house a couple days later walking around and writing up a spec sheet. Bing. Bam. We get a comprehensive quote,an awesome time line and the assurance he and his crew can get the job done on time. Hired.
Look what we found in the walls (and it's not the phone...)
I’m fond of time capsules. It’s probably due to some pent-up nostalgia I have related to the time capsule my second-grade class created in honor of the bicentennial. So imagine my delight when I learned that it’s a builder’s tradition to leave ‘something’in the interior of the walls for future builders to discover. In the context of a home it represents a tradition passed not from generation-to-generation but from family-to-family.
Still,after 5 days of demo our guys were a little surprised that they hadn’t found anything yet. “Oh well”I thought. “I won’t get that can of Billy Beer after all.”
Then,on day 6 the guys were demo’ing the ceiling in the basement. Ceiling in the basement,you ask? Yes,the previous owners decided to painstakingly put sheet rock on the ceiling in the basement. At first nobody knew what to make of this. The work that went into cutting and rigging the ceiling was impressive but a little silly. Still,in order to blow-in the insulation the ceiling needed to come down.
And then they discovered the Oakley Project Time Capsule…and it wasn’t a can of Billy Beer
You can imagine the shock! Not only did we find a respectable cache of 1960’s S&M magazines,but we also found women’s underwear,bras,a breast ‘form’,a mask,a belt and a couple Marquis de Sade books. Yowza!
As if that wasn’t enough,the ceiling also hid the remnants of a fire,which explains the sheet rock…it nicely covered up the charred joists. Thankfully,they were sistered and pose no structural issues,again proving the point that you don’t know what you’re dealing with until you take the walls –and ceilings –down.
Needless to say we didn’t think that The Oakley Project would be all 5-by-5 honeysuckle and roses and today we had to make the tough decision to change project carpenters. It was a conversation that we didn’t want to have but,for the good of the project,our family,and the aggressive timeline we had to ensure that the work was being pursued with gusto.
So today,we all need a drink…
It should come as no surprise that our town requires drawings to be submitted with building permit applications. Makes perfect sense,right? So being the law abiding citizens that we are we planned to hire an architect whose work we like and who was willing to provide us with the ‘friends and family’discount to draw the layout of our house. Cool. We were all set,or so we thought…
As it happened,the guy’s personal life got in the way and after a half dozen unanswered emails and voice mails it became apparent that we needed a Plan B. Who do we call? The Amazing S,of course, who accessed her speed dial and had an architect at our house within 48 hours. Geez…this woman is a goddess.
The plan was to pay this guy to do some drawings,submit the drawings to the town and be on our way. But somewhere between the second we met him and 2 minutes into our conversation we realized that we MUST have this man intimately involved in this project. So we hired him to do the whole caboodle.
I didn’t know really what to expect from working with an architect. I suspect I’m a bit jaded because my parents used a particular architect for the Buck Hill house and while it looks great the guy’s aesthetic didn’t necessarily match what the rest of the world understands to be common sense. For example,he designed beautiful doors with handles so small that they are nearly impossible to open. I get frustrated just thinking about it. Then there are the architects that I know from literature,say Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. And let’s not forget architects in pop culture:Mr. Brady ,of course,and that trendy couple that marches in into the snooty architect’s office and requests that he design a house around a faucet (and Ted from How I Met Your Mother but then I’d have to admit that I watch that show…)
Architects,at least ours,use phrases like:‘what the house will allow’and ‘what the house is saying’and ‘listen to the house’this may seem silly but we’re totally converted. Mr. B,our architect,is so smart it’s freaky…but freaky-good,not freaky-freakly. He came to the house,drew it,and then came back and made 10 observations that transformed how we saw the house and opened our eyes to the house’s true potential and facilitated a discussion about how we want to craft our lives in relation to the space. For example,he saw the benefit of opening up the wall into the dining room,moving the doorway from the dining room into the kitchen and enlarging the doorway from the dining room into the room-with-no-name as a natural way to construct the heart of the living center of the home.
Duh,yeah now I see it. OK,let’s do it…
The other benefit that we’ve found is that Mr. B has helped us better define the scope of the project and the delineation between Phase 1 (what we must do prior to move and and what is easier to do with the walls open) and Phase 2 (generally exterior work and adding a master bath and three-quarters bath in the attic). He has the experience to work with the trades and vendors to scope out the project and provide considerable ‘value engineering’or,in our vernacular,best quality bang for our buck. This encompasses anything from the levels of insulation to designing future installs in a way that doesn’t create an undue burden on the plumbing setup so that we don’t waste money unnecessarily.
Most importantly though we see that working with Mr. B and The Amazing S has shifted our view from ‘oh,we’re renovating a house’to ‘we’re creating a space’the shift is subtle and profound at the same time.
Where to start?
We really do watch a lot of This Old House,DIY and HGTV though I’m afraid that the confidence gained from watching those shows is the renovation equivalent of beer-muscles. The sad truth is that we have no clue what we are doing.
After the trees came down
After we came down off the high of learning that we were the winning bidder on the Oakley house we immediately started to panic. It goes without saying that this house requires a little more than paint and paper. Sure,we redid a ‘light’remodel of our kitchen last year (cabinets,floors,appliances,backsplash) and it required patching drywall and welding a couple pipes but those things are nothing compared to the scope of work needed on the Oakley house.
I did what everyone does these days:I updated my Facebook status querying the social networking universe about renovation. By chance,or by (dumb) luck I was reminded that our dear friend “The Amazing S”is an interior designer (and a fine one at that) and she replied to my panicked plea something along the lines of “Duh! That’s what I do for a living!” Four days later she’s with us at the house during the inspection,taking notes,calming my nerves and coming up with a plan. “It’s going to be fine”she said,as she fought back sniffles from the dust,mold and lingering stench of dog urine. “The house has great bones.”
Within a week,The Amazing S summoned her crew to Oakley to assess the situation. There was talk about walls,plaster,blue board,piping,mold,electrical,holes in the ceiling,structural integrity,heating,the preferred method of repairing urine-stained floors,air conditioning,fixtures,features and ‘the box-drop-away’impending disaster that would result in the condemnation of the water line in the basement. By the end of the walk-though with the crew my head is a blur and all I remember is The Amazing S talking me through an anxiety attack outside the study,under an overgrown pine tree,being watched by one of the many squirrels living in the eaves.
And so it begins…
HA! Thankfully no sledge hammer is involved. More soon….