Thanksgiving 2009 preparation: downsized feast


This is an unusual Thanksgiving for us. For the first time in our marriage, we’ll be eating the meal just as a family, without any guests. In the early years we traveled to family houses or had friends join us, and since we’ve been in Massachusetts Lisa’s parents have driven up. So why is this year different?

Well, the picture above might explain it. That’s the inside of our former guest bedroom as of about two weeks ago, looking at what used to be the outside wall of the house, and which is now the wall between the guest bedroom and our new master bedroom. The first floor guest bedroom has given up three feet of width to form a hallway that goes to the new master bedroom, so the decision was made to gut it so that it we could reconfigure it properly. Lots of fun historical archaeology as this room was taken apart, too, including the radiator pipe that is the remnant of the system we had removed in 2005 (you can see it in the wall in the foreground left of the picture) and the discovery that there were three layers of plaster in the room, each of which was backed by a cement based backer board. Our contractor didn’t swear us out after a day ripping this stuff out, but I’m sure he was swearing at the original owners the whole time. Plus, of course, the water damage on 60% of the original floor (the part that didn’t have holes from AC installation and former doorway locations) that necessitated replacing the entire floor in this section.

The good news is that there has been substantial progress since this picture was taken: the rooms have been fully insulated, blueboard and plaster have gone up, and as I speak tile contractors are doing the bathrooms while our project manager devotes personal attention to recreating window and door trim that match the existing trim in the house. I’ll try to get new picture up of this progress shortly.

But with no paint, no floors, and no working bathrooms, there was no way we could accommodate guests this year.

So we’re going to sit down and figure out how to streamline our normally, um, gargantuan feast. Menu? A twelve pound turkey, Brussels sprouts with bacon and garlic, sausage and bread stuffing, and (gasp) PURCHASED mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. We might buy the pies too. You know, put us in the middle of a house renovation project and our standards just start to slip…

Addition update: Amazing what a few weeks can do


I could have sworn that I wrote something else about our addition project since the foundation was completed in mid-October, but it seems I didn’t. It’s really astonishing what you can do in a month:

And Friday, the exterior painting began. And this Saturday, the crew came in and finished most of the insulation.

Today, I think, is more insulation, and maybe initial blueboard.

Along the way, we have learned, so far, that working with contractors is a lot faster than doing it yourself, but there are still as many decisions to be made. Meaning that you’re not driving yourself crazy working on the house one slow room at a time, you’re driving yourself crazy driving around creation looking for “owner purchased items.” Our job has been to have the “owner purchased items” ready to install, which meant a lot of back and forth 0ver tile, medicine cabinets, lights, and other ephemera. From our last remodels, we learned not to sweat the small stuff (towel bars etc.) and knew what we wanted for tile, but it still took three weekends of home store visits (I think we managed to visit four Home Depots and two Lowes stores in a single weekend, looking for enough tile to complete the bathrooms) to get everything ready.

Foundation, filled and ready


As before, I’m having a hard time keeping up with our contractors. The picture above is from Friday. At the end of last week, they had sunk a pair of drywells (one visible above), established the drainage field with perforated pipe and gravel inside and outside the foundation, and backfilled the foundation (poured the previous week). Today they got the lumber on site and got the sill plate down. This despite snowfall yesterday that was still on the ground and cars this morning.

We were busy over the weekend too. I had a PODS storage unit delivered on Friday, and filled the back part of it with the contents of our storage/mechanical room and our laundry room on Saturday. The plan right now is that they’ll cut the door opening from the house (inside the current storage/mech room) to the addition tomorrow. We’ll see how they do. I forgot how much I like the PODS guys–we used them to move our stuff across country when we moved from Kirkland, and they had a real can-do attitude about backing the pod down the narrow driveway (officially, with six inches fewer clearance than they needed) to drop it behind the house.

Work day

Foundation poured and waterproofed

Our contractors were, as I noted before, busy last week, and you can see the results of their labor above. The foundation is poured and the waterproofing has been applied, and there’s just another day or so of cure left before it’s time to start framing. Their vigor has inspired me to take on some projects of my own. My office is closed but the rest of the family is busy (not all institutions give props to Columbus, I guess). So I’ve got a day to catch up on projects around the house.

Our front door, which had a supposedly troublefree finish, has had peeling paint on the inside since about a month after it was installed–apparently the guy, who no longer works for our contractor, didn’t bother to prime before he put the finish coat. So that’s project #1.

Then I have to do the next round of windowsill painting–time to do a little more winterizing. And about half the lawn (the half that’s not under an enormous dirt pile) needs mowing.

After that? Well, I might honor Columbus Day in the traditional slothful way. If there’s any day left, that is.

Addition foundation, fixture fixation


Work on our addition is proceeding faster than I can document it in photos. They broke ground on Monday (the picture above was taken by Lisa on Monday night), unearthing enormous boulders. (I now fully believe the story that the stone fireplace in our basement was built from rock found on site by the builders.) By mid-day Wednesday, despite heavy rains in the morning, they had poured the foundation. And yesterday they removed the concrete frames, waterproofed the foundation exterior, and left it to cure. I will have pictures of the foundation shortly.

The site work the team has done so far is impressive. That one big boulder isn’t the only one in that rock pile, and a few of its friends are visible at the bottom of the hole. (Fortunately, unlike a lot of our neighbors, we don’t sit directly on the massive rock ledge under Arlington Heights, but it’s clearly not much further down.) And they removed the crumbling stone wall that sat next to the garage , and tore up the driveway pavement around the defunct drywell and the scary French drain that was illegally connected into our main sewage outflow.Part of this contract will include capping the connection to the sewage system, and putting a proper drywell in at the base of the driveway. At last.

And last night we went and resolved at least some questions about bathroom fixtures. The addition will have two bathrooms, one at basement level (which, as you’ll note in the picture above and the architect’s drawing I posted previously, is above ground in the back), and one on the first floor in our new master suite. So we had fun chasing around with the consultant and picking pieces.

The fun is going to come to an abrupt end shortly. Once the foundation work is done and they backfill the hole and cart away the excess dirt, we’ll be bringing a storage pod onsite and emptying the storage room, utility room, and first floor spare bedroom to prepare for the Cutting of the House Wall. And then the disruptive part of the process begins…

New project: Addition


Well, I guess we’re about to get started.

While Zalm was going condo, my wife and I were planning for a little addition–namely, two floors, office below, bedroom above, with two bathrooms. We’ve known for a while that it would be good to have a little more room in our Cape-style house, and this seems to be the best way to go.

In the process, we’re going to accomplish a few goals:

  1. En suite master bath
  2. Dedicated office space
  3. Finished utility room (at last, at long last–no more plaster chunks falling on us in the laundry!)
  4. Fixing the drainage in the back driveway (this will merit a post by itself)
  5. Removal of the old fixed concrete trash disposal from the backyard.
  6. And getting more space in this tiny little Cape.

And, you might ask, how much of the work are we doing ourselves this time around?

Um. Well. We’re planning to lay a floating floor in the basement. We’ll certainly plan and assemble the storage ourselves. And I think that’s about it, really. Yeah, this time around we’re planning to let the professionals do the work. Because after the last few projects, I think we know our limitations.

So tomorrow, excavation starts in the back yard for the addition foundation. Photos, I guess, to come…