Our House…Part Six…The Epilogue

23 07 2013

Two years can fly by at the blink of an eye…most of the time…

When I started this series two years ago, entitled Our House, I really didn’t imagine the twist and turns that this little adventure would entail. I’ve already provided you with the background regarding why Judy and I felt compelled to take this journey and, I’ve provided you with photographs of the finished product. Now, I want to share a bit about the process that we went through, from that first swing of the sledge hammer to the last turn of the final screw.

Now, having an Architect in the family is always a double-edged sword (as Judy will attest). I was able to develop the overall concept, to understand the budget and scheduling process, to order certain material and coordinate deliveries, make decisions regarding unforeseen obstacle in demolition, and to coordinate contractor work. The flip side was that I was also constantly designing and suggesting enhancements to our project which will always cause scope creep ($$$$$) if you’re not careful.

In any event, and with a clear head,we began this process the week after our farm purchase fell through (late November) when we met with the Steve Matteo, a kitchen and flooring consultant from Matteo Family Kitchens. First, we talked about our wish list and talked about what we absolutely needed and what we dreamed about, if the budget would stretch far enough; next, we reviewed drawings and renderings, selected products, talk about schedules, and met with contractors who would provide the actual installation; and, finally, we agreed upon a design and a price, ordered materials, and established a start date in mid-January.

With a start date established, Judy and I started our prep work. We reduced our usual Christmas decorations to a minimum and, the day after Christmas, started packing up everything in the affected areas of the first level including emptying out all cabinets, removing pictures and art work from the walls, removing or staging furniture, and establishing a temporary kitchen. Our temporary kitchen consisted of moving the refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker into the Dining Room and stocking it with plenty of disposable dinnerware. Now, this arrangement worked out nicely for a week or two but, it gets old fast; we tired, rapidly, of microwave cooking and takeout; the process was also more of a disruption to our normal activities than we imagined, it’s funny how much our habits control our day to day activities.

Finally, on a cold day in mid-January, contractors arrived and started ripping our first level completely apart. Of course, one thing that you can always bet on, in any renovation project, is that you will inevitably uncover hidden challenges. During the first week, we discovered that a blind header would definitely be required (as suspected) for walls we were eliminating, that plumbing drains were not where we thought and would have to be relocated, and that several previous renovations (before our time) would complicate electrical and HVAC (heating and air conditioning) work. We were lucky, though, the kitchen consultant recommended a fantastic lead contractor, Bob Fisher of Fisher and Sons and they communicated well during every step (and miss-step) so that everything went as smoothly as possible. I was able to contract with an electrician whom I had worked with before, Jim Pratta, so that process also ran smoothly. We also found a great local painter, Blossom Painting, and they did a great job of repainting the entire first level walls and ceilings. Unfortunately, though, we contracted with a recommended plumber that did not perform well at all; as a matter of fact, I was so disappointed in their performance that they will remain unnamed in this post.

Going into subsequent weeks, new construction and installation went well, we solved many problems during that first week of demolition and that paid off. The contractors worked hard to re-establish as much functionality as possible but so many items, in a major renovation, hinge upon the completion of support items and coordination of different trades. We completed the Laundry Room but needed hook-ups of plumbing and electrical; new cabinets went in quickly but it took time  to measure and install countertops; countertops had to be installed before the sink and dishwasher would be hooked up; painting had to be done before flooring could be started; flooring had to be installed before appliances could be put back in place…And, it only takes one hiccup for a cascade of delays to start; our cascade involved delays with countertops and plumbers. But finally, on a fine Spring day in early April, we reached substantial completion; that meaning that there were still odds and ends that needed to be addressed but we were now functional and could really start to enjoy our new spaces.

The final toll was that we were several weeks behind schedule and several thousand dollars over budget. What we had, though, was a beautiful new First Level that finally addressed our Pattern of Living.

Would we do anything different? Sure; even though I am a part of the construction industry and understand it’s nuances, I would maintain tighter control on the design, budget, and schedule; the counter to that statement, though, is that the final product should be done the way you want it because you don’t want to be disappointed in your results. Remember, it’s always a balancing act.

Would we do it again? Absolutely; we still have dreams of renovating our upstairs bathrooms and and screened porch when our funding allows.

Any parting thoughts? Always; do your homework, ask questions, hire the proper people for the work including architects, designers, suppliers, and contractors. But more importantly, don’t be afraid; the process is kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid, it only hurts for a moment…

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