Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Remodel Hell - Brrrrrrr

We got the word today that the City of Oakland "lost" our request for the inspector, so we're at the end of the queue, which means Friday -- two days from today.

That means that walls that are exposed will stay exposed, as they've been for about a week now. Martinez workers can't close them up until the inspector takes a look and approves of the work.

And that also means that it's cold. I don't see any sense turning on the heat for half a house. The vents to the heating system will still heat up the other half that's under construction, at least for those vents still hooked up. Plus, because of the lack of insulation, the heat just climbs up, and keeps on climbing, past the walls, past the roof.

So, I keep the heat on 61 degrees at night, and completely off when the workers have the house open. I have a small space heater in my office, which is where I spend most of my time during the day when the pounding is going on around me.

In the meantime, Glenn and his helper are working on putting what siding they've got on the outside of the new walk-in closet. They also have a few other things they can work on while we wait for Friday, like putting on the door that previously didn't fit, adding insulation.

It's cool in here. Winter's here, I can tell. It's going to rain again tonight. Just one more edge to Remodel Hell.

Remodel Hell - Week 3

The workers-who-do-not-carpool did not descend upon the house yesterday. They took a day off in the rain. Well, Ernie didn't take a day off -- he had to spend half a day at the City of Oakland. He had already spent several hours seeking a permit for the new electrical work, but their online system was down for three days over the holiday weekend, extending into the Monday after. Ernie told me, "Actually, I think they're all at a holiday party..."

Speaking of electricians, I was thankful that he spent Thanksgiving weekend working all alone in my house, putting in a whole new line and new box. I was gone the entire time, at our Thanksgiving in Santa Cruz. What I am not thankful for, however, are the huge holes he created in two walls in my den. (There are FOUR new holes -- the photo only shows two.) My den was one of the few rooms I had left in the house, that wasn't supposed to be touched by construction. Ernie came in later to look for the new box (it was outside, added to the wall on the southern side), and told me his workers would pave over those new holes.

So, what's new? Glenn and his helper put in insulation last week. But they couldn't close any walls because of the impending inspection. A new bathroom window was put in, however -- this is the window that was supposed to be larger, supposed to be double-paned.
However, when they got ready to carve the hole, Martinez workers discovered that two-by-fours were in the way, and to create the larger hole would change the facade of that side of the house. And they don't make a double-paned window this new size. So, I decided the smaller size was "cute," and the new bathroom window is in.

Still no shower stall or fixtures, of course. We're beginning the start of Week 4 today, and things will really fly, I think, once the electrical and construction is approved by the inspector today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Let me Stuff that 12' Roll of Linoleum into your Car

The foreman for the project showed up one morning, gave me an invoice that called for a big check, and asked, “So, when are you having the stuff delivered?” “Stuff” referred to bathroom stuff: a vanity, medicine cabinet, sink, light, faucets, shower spigot. Stuff.

This was a surprise to me. I took great care not to read the contract carefully so that I wouldn’t find these surprises. Right, it wasn’t specified. He explained to me that if I bought the stuff, they wouldn’t add a 20% surcharge to the items, you know, for driving down to Home Depot, picking them out, delivery. If I did this amount of work, I could pick it all out and save myself some money.

Contractors must make assumptions about their home owners. (1) They love to shop. (2) They love picking out colors, materials. They just loooove the touch of that nickel-plated finish on the faucet. (3) They all own pick-up trucks to transport the stuff. And last, (4) They know their way around Home Depot.

Um, strike all four of those in my case. I really wish I had these skills. I have other skills (you’ll have to trust me here), but I’m not a maintenance technician, I’m not even a shopper. I’m not your stereotypical woman who loves colors and textures. I like function. Function -- like hire a contractor and they will do all of this work.

So, despite my fears and misgivings, I found myself at Home Depot one afternoon, pushing an empty cart. I went down my list. The shower valves were the hardest. The foreman told me that I had to get the scald protected faucet for the shower. I saw a lot of other language like “temperature protection,” but I wasn’t sure that would satisfy the inspector. I looked and looked at the 40 or so choices, and only about 5 mentioned the anti-scald language. So I finally picked one from those choices.

Shower bars. Not much of a choice, and nothing matched. I finally settled for one chrome two-foot bar (but couldn’t find a matching 18-inch bar).

I added in a faucet for the sink. I found a medicine cabinet (I sure hope it fits) that had a mirror surrounded by white wood. And then I located a vanity cabinet that matched the medicine cabinet in looks – I jotted down the number so that the foreman could pick it up later (it wouldn’t fit into my car, I was sure). I even found a little tiny robe hook and added that to my basket.

The light, however, was another difficult choice. I found what I wanted, with drooping lights coming out of it, but the kits were hidden behind a piece of Home Depot equipment, and I couldn’t get my hand through to grab one. I found a HD assistant, and he said, “I’m off work. See that other guy over there,” who was headed in the opposite direction. So I settled for the same type of light fixture that’s in my other bathroom – it was within easy reach.

I delivered all of this to the house. The foreman advised me a day later, though, that the vanity would not fit into the space in the small bathroom. But he promised to pick out something similar.

A week later, as I’m heading out the door, the foreman asks me when I'm going to pick up the linoleum. Linoleum? My God.

I went back to Home Depot, and after spending an hour there, I ran screaming from the place. I did learn, though, that linoleum is also called “plastic vinyl siding.” And that a 12-foot roll will not fit into an Acura. And that Home Depot people hate customers.

So, the next day I went to a more local shop, Anderson Carpeting and Floor whatever, and found someone who could actually answer questions and smile while doing it. He told me the differences between linoleum and plastic vinyl flooring, differences too numerous to list here. But as soon as I heard the words “cheap” and “just as good except that vinyl only lasts about 10 years,” I picked out a nice gray pattern and asked how I was going to get it home. I heard the magic words: We Deliver.

Hallelujah! It’s a religious experience, but more having to do with the seven layers of Purgatory than with Paradise. Please, please, tell me there’s no more shopping on this job!!

2 Bathrooms, 0 Available

My remodel will produce an additional bathroom, right off the master bedroom. Sweet, huh? Except that it’s not ready yet. And yesterday they started taking down the ceiling of the old bathroom, my only bathroom, to install the new skylight, making the bathroom unusable. It’s Starbucks time! Every day.

Why do four men have to bring four trucks? Can’t they carpool? Dan Martinez’ construction crew is very industrious, they know what they’re doing, and they seem to have great leadership. I mean, it’s only two weeks into the project, but despite all the daily problems, things are coming along nicely.

So, in week #3, where are we? The bathroom is framed, the electrical and plumbing connections visible. Today the shower pan appeared, and fit in perfectly. There are two lights in the passageway, between the bathroom and the walk-in closet – they’re already there – and I can see the wires which will lead to the two lights in the bathroom. As of this afternoon, the closet has a back, so there is now no need to apply plywood every night to the opening.

In my old bathroom, there is a big ‘ol hole in the ceiling. This doesn’t look pretty. The foreman hasn’t talked about it, so I assume this is a natural look for a skylight, or the beginning of one. This grand old tile that was in the bathroom has been torn up, which bothers me a bit. As the foreman and I have discussed, there will be no way they can match it, but we’ll see how it goes. He’ll show me samples tomorrow. I believe what will happen is that I will make the decision to leave all the tile on this re-created wall white without the blue triangular pieces that make up the band. I think that will be best.

I did get some bad news today. The electrical inspector pointed out that we will have to upgrade my electrical system from 60 watts to 100 watts. I actually don’t view this as bad news. I am probably using close to that now, and I’d like to be able to ramp up my usage if necessary. And it seems like a safer choice. The electrician is around, I have a contractor – just do it. Extra expense, to be sure, and an added couple of days onto the end of the project. But necessary.

So there’s a lot going on. I’m sleeping in the living room. I can’t use the bathroom between 8 am – 5 pm. I’m not sure how the electrical upgrade is going to affect the electricity throughout the house – meaning, will I lose electricity on some nights during construction? We progress one step, we fall back two…

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I Love the Sound of Buzzsaws in the Morning

The new smell of wood. The fact that every day -- every day! -- there's something new to look at, experience, envision. Visualization is much easier when there's a two-by-four or two framing the bathroom. It's positively exhilarating!

The sound of buzzsaws overtaking the morning news on KRON 4. Microfibers of wood covering all the clothes and furniture in the house. The constant surprises when crowbars expose raw framework.

Okay. It's not all good.

Remodeling, however, to me is the beginning of something new. My house will be what I always dreamed it would be (even though this is about the 4th stage of remodeling). But it's more than that.

It's also that I'm not spending money on all the small obsessions (?) I've had in the past. What I like to call the "QVC fetish." Whatever is new. Books I don't read. Collectibles I don't enjoy. Cookware I don't cook with. Maybe even clothes I don't wear. This feels healthier. Although I guess there are some who take even this to the extreme, continuing to remodel until their credit cards are beyond being maxed out.

But I know that's not going to happen with me. For one thing, those checks I have to write are just too large. And sleeping in the living room is getting really old.

It's only been three days on this project. But I love it.