Like deja vu all over again

It feels odd to write this because I’ve been in this exact position before only to have it unexpectedly snatched from me but I like to think that I am not a superstitious person so here goes…. It’s nearly done!

I know, the last time I wrote it was all “woe is me” and “nothing is happening,” etc.  – that was then, today is a whole new story.

Perhaps dealing with contractors is a bit like being an addict or alcoholic…you have to hit bottom before things can get better.  When I last wrote, I had reached a really low point.  I was desperate.  I didn’t just whine on-line, I called, texted and emailed.  I reached out to everyone I’d ever been in touch with through the full experience of the fire, the demo and the rebuild and pleaded with them to talk to my contractor to get the job back on track.  I am not good at asking for help.  I am good at suffering in silence and convincing myself that I it’s up to me to figure out a way.  Feeling helpless and ineffectual was a new and uncomfortable experience for me.  The lesson to take away?  The squeaky wheel gets the grease? Ask and you shall receive?

Finally work started in earnest.  First step, I copied all the people I’d reached out to on an email I sent to my contractor that consisted of a list of thirty questions, the first being: When will the job be done?  Lo and behold he responded with a promise to respond by the next morning.  He didn’t quite make my idea of morning – 10pm the following night – but he did respond! And he’s been adhering to the dates he provided (so far).

In the past weeks the house was stuccoed, the wood floors were installed, the kitchen cabinets arrived, the crown and base moulding was installed, the interior painted, the deck built and the bathrooms tiled!  All that remains is to have the bathroom vanities and toilets installed and plumbed, the kitchen island to be installed, the lights and fans to be installed (and purchased  – that’s my job this weekend) and small touches like light switches and outlets finished.

I’m planning to move back in just three weeks from now!  I finally believe the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed that, not the on-coming freight train about to crush me!

I’m headed there later today to check out progress.  Fingers crossed that things have not installed.

Here are a some work in progress shots – where we were 8 weeks ago, 4 weeks ago and last week:

DSC02762     IMG_1874      IMG_1936

DSC02763    IMG_1863   IMG_1944





I want off this roller coaster!


I ready to pull the emergency lever, smash the glass, hit the blue button – whatever it takes to just make this be over!

I’m tired of scheduling time with my contractor only to be stood up, again and again.  I’m fed up with being told things are going to happen by such and such a date then watching that date go by without a word of explanation or a sign of progress.

I’ve tried to be sweet and docile.  I’ve tried being a b*tch.  Neither work and nothing changes based on anything I do.  I create calendars and schedules hoping they mean something only to be reminded over and over that they don’t.

I’m just fed up.  I no longer care.  He tells me to order something then tell me not to have it delivered because he’s not ready, sorry but it’s being delivered, deal with it.  I’m going to do what I need to do and he can just suck it up.

I would warn anyone to not be fooled by the charming contractor who makes big promises and seems so together and nice because beneath that exterior lurks a self-serving, duplicitous, liar.

There’s nothing sexy about plumbing

I’ve learned that the building process has distinct phases, some more exciting than others.

I didn’t participate in the demolition but having watched enough episodes of Fixer Upper to feel as if I had wielded a sledge hammer to punch my way through a wall, I can understand the exhilaration it brings.  Like kids who carefully build a tower of blocks only for the thrill of knocking it down, taking pleasure in destruction seems to be in our DNA.  The joy on the face of the person who adroitly uses the ripping bar to separate a cabinet from floor or wall is undeniable.

Then comes the dull clean up phase but that’s followed by the thrill of framing as rooms rise into previously undefined space and the smooth, pale, clean wood brings the promise of the future.  In this phase, windows are defined so you can imagine sitting in a room, see where your eye will seek daylight and where there will be a dark corner to retreat into.  The roof envelopes the structure so the job site resembles a doll house waiting to be furnished and festooned.

But a house is not a doll house.  A house needs electricity and plumbing.  The pace of work seems to stall.  There are no huge leaps forward.  Outlets appear, small gray boxes distributed about the house linked with yellow wires that spider web between studs.  This is the phase my house is in now.  The dull but necessary phase that sets up the next thrilling one when walls clothe the structure like skin on a skeleton.  The wiring and plumbing are the veins and organs that permit the house to function.  I realize how important this stage is but cannot restrain myself from wishing it were done so I can begin to select a wardrobe.

Here are the latest pictures!

DSC02470 DSC02464 DSC02461

A Flurry of Activity

It wasn’t a mirage or a dream!  Work is actually happening at the house (apologies to the neighbors for the commotion).  Nearly every piece of framing has been replaced.  The reddish hues of the old beams, permeated with smoke, time and memories are being replaced by lovely new ones.  The white,  raw wood promises stability, a fresh start, new beginnings.

Below ground, only visible through access holes scattered across the flooring, the house has been newly grounded –  3’x3′ concrete footings anchor key points of the house deep into the ground as if the house has reached deep to grab hold of the land to assert its permanence.

I’m excited to watch the house evolve.  Next week I meet with the window company.  The following week, two weeks from now, I’ve been promised the framing will be 100% complete and the roof will once again be on the house.  The last time I could stand in my house, look up and not see the sky was over six months ago!

Here are some images of the latest progress:

FullSizeRender-2 FullSizeRender-3 FullSizeRender IMG_0479

Rising from the ashes

Fire Interior

I expected my next house related post would involve gushing over the completion, finally, of the drawn out renovations.

Unfortunately, this post couldn’t be further from that.

Just over a week ago I was summoned to my home to find it charred and crawling with firemen. The fire that turned my house into a smoldering, blackened mess was out when I arrived but Fire Station 60’s hoses continued to douse the roofless house while intrepid firemen walked on charcoal beams to remove the remnants of the burnt roof.

The interior of the house is a total loss.  The house itself is in tact enough that I won’t need to rebuild it from the ground up, just from the roof down.

I’m currently living in a nearby apartment on a short team lease awaiting the results of various inspections to learn what will be salvaged and what will need to be replaced.

To say that my insurance company, Liberty Mutual, has been supportive would be a major understatement.  I’d never been a fan of insurance companies.  I begrudgingly forked over my premiums expecting nothing in return.  This experience has been so much better than I could ever have imagined.  They are looking out for my interests, not theirs.  I’m certain it helps that I was in no way responsible for the fire.  I’m certain that the roofing company whose employees caused the fire isn’t getting the same love from their insurance company.

It took a few days for me to process everything but I finally feel that I’m back on my feet.  I wouldn’t wish this on anyone but when all is said and done I will have a fully renovated home and the fire will be just a foot note.

Post 365 Days – Week 48 – We passed inspection : )

Mickey Happy Thanksgiving

The electrical and plumbing passed inspection so now things can get going.  Dry wall is up on all the interior walls and insulation has pinked all the exterior walls.

The hot mopping – hot tar laid down in what will become the shower – was the stinkiest development.  Luckily that happened during the same time that the exterior siding came down to allow for a new smooth wall, after the removal/boarding up of the kitchen greenhouse window. For two days I could see through the wall into the driveway, only paper and studs separated the inside from the outside.  It worked effectively to chill the house and allow for the tar smell to dissipate.

I’m starting to think about the details.  I still need to select the hardware for all the kitchen cabinets and drawers.  The price range is staggering.  I’ve found pulls that sell for $27.50 each or $24.00 for 12!  I’m torn because this is an item I will literally be touching every day and could make or break the look of the kitchen but do I want to spend a hundred dollars or hundreds of dollars?  Would I really be getting so much more for my money?

I miss “The Great Indoors” the Sears home design store that has since closed up shop (at least in my city).  They used to have an entire department devoted to pulls and knobs both high end and reasonably priced.  The big box stores just don’t have much of a selection and the boutique stores are so expensive.  I have a few more stores to check out before I go with on-line options.

This weekend I have to buy my bedroom ceiling fan and closet lights so the electrician can install them. Again, the big box stores just didn’t have anything I liked.  I trolled the internet and sites like but I couldn’t bring myself to buy something I couldn’t see in person first.  Luckily, with Yelp’s help, I finally found a good brick and mortar options.  I’m headed there later today. Fingers crossed I find something!

I’m mostly thrilled for the progress because my daughter is coming home (such as it is) for Thanksgiving. I dragged boxes from the guest bedroom to the garage to clear enough floor space to make room for the inflatable bed.  Though I won’t be surprised if she takes one look at the state of things and begs for a hotel room.  Maybe she’ll get into the fun of camping out in the construction zone.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving and take time to count your many blessings; I know I will.

Post 365 Days – Week 47 – Put that tape measure down!

tape measur line drawing
There are too many disadvantages to living in a house under renovation to list but there is, perhaps, one advantage – proximity.

Last week I began working on the layout of what will eventually be my new walk-in closet. I could have pulled out the plans but the actual closet space was just steps away down the hall, why wouldn’t I just go and measure the actual space, stand in it, get a feel for it?

First I had to purchase a proper, retractable tape measure from Lowe’s – my dressmakers cloth tape measure just wasn’t up to the job! Hefty 30′ tape measure in hand, I began to take down the dimensions of my closet. When I put those measurements to paper to draw the closet, something didn’t feel right. I decided to look at those plans after all.

The plans called for a 29″ return wall in the closet. That same wall on my paper, the one with the actual as built dimensions, was….24″!

I couldn’t stop there.

I started measuring everything! After all, it was right there at hand and easy to measure – an advantage?

I found that EVERY measurement was off, some by as much as 8″!

Well, as you can imagine, I freaked!

I sent emails to my GC (General Contractor) in a panic. Only after I’d gotten an email back from him saying that everything was just fine and 24″ was the same as 29″ (I barely passed geometry but I know 24 and 29 are not the same) that I sent a freak out email to my designer. I expected her to come back with a scathing reply to my GC telling him he has to adhere to her designs so must tear out everything that’s been done and re-do it to the proper specifications.

Instead she also told me 24″ will be fine and not to worry. Huh? I thought building was a precise science. I thought plans were drawn so that measurements were locked in. Turns out those plans, just a suggestion.

I did some more measuring (couldn’t help myself) and the major dimensions, distance from door to wall, wall to window, width of hallways – those are all spot on – it’s just the internal dimensions that have fluctuated shall we say.

I’m going to take a deep breath. I’m going to trust the two people I’ve hired and paid well for their expertise but I will, as Ronald Reagan (can’t believe I’m quoting a Republican!) once said “trust but verify.” While I keep an open mind, I’ll be checking to make sure I’m getting what I was promised. I might as well since I have the advantage of being right there with my tape measure at the ready.