Monthly Archives: November 2013

Giving Thanks this Thanksgiving

Flood Savvy

Thanksgiving 

WEEK 25: GIVING THANKS THIS THANKSGIVING: There are many reasons to be thankful and I appreciate the simple luxuries of life everyday. Things like hot water at the turn of a handle and fresh coffee every morning. I’m ever thankful for my family and friends. But this year has been a bit unique.

The Top 5 Reasons I’m thankful this Thanksgiving are not the sort of things that have ever made my list before:

1. I”m thankful to have an apartment rental with unbelievable flexibility! It took away all the  worry of where we would live month-to-month.

2. I’m thankful my house did not crumble or come apart during the lifting phase of my house project.

3. I’m thankful to be wrapping up this seems-like-it-would-never-end project and to be moving back home soon.

4. I’m thankful for being able to make lemonade out of lemons – at least most of the time. For example, “Hey, kids, this apartment adventure will be just like a long vacation.”

or “I was in the mood to change all the paint colors in my house anyway,” (after realizing most of our walls sustained cracks and would need to be repaired and painted).    

or “I’ve always wanted to get to know some of the public officials in town and now I do!” (the building inspector, the city attorney, the city manager, the city planner, all the members of the zoning board and all the members of the architectural review board. I even had a change to talk to the head of FEMA for the state of New York – good times).

5. But most of all, this year I”m thankful that when the waters crept higher and higher today, I had no fear of flooding. That. Is. AWESOME!

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Near flood level – note the car in the parking lot.

The above picture is the same brook that floods my house periodically. It was taken at a location down stream from where I live and although it did not breach its banks today, it came close. Had my house not already been elevated, this would have been a watch-the-weather-all-day event while tactically planning how to move items out of harms way if indeed the rain continued.

For that I give many thanks!

Chimney Chase Remodel and Design

IN THE BEGINNING:  One of the first steps in this house elevation project was to remove the chase of a superfluous chimney. As all of our mechanicals had already been relocated to another area of our house, well above the threat of any flood, this chimney was no longer needed. As such, it had to be removed prior to elevating our house.

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Furnace Chimney prior to house elevation.

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Chimney removal for house elevation

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Chimney demolition is complete

CHASING STORAGE:  As the chimney extends from the basement to the roof, it used to be hidden away behind our walls, minding its own business. But it did create an unfortunate bump-out in our kitchen that broke up the visual flow of the room, as well as taking up valuable real estate:

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Chimney tucked neatly behind the bead-board.

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Chimney removed – space opened up. Note the plaster walls.

We’ve since ordered new cabinets to fill this void and will have a butcher block installed merging the two counter top pieces. The butcher block will help to break up the monotony of a long run of granite as well as make it appear more inherent to the kitchen rather than an after thought add-on. While we wait for the cabinets to arrive, we’ve prepped the space in anticipation:

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Former location of chimney, the space is prepped for cabinets.

THROUGH THE ROOF: On our second floor, we created a linen closet. As an old house, closets are not its strong suit. I don’t know what people used to do with all of their stuff because they sure couldn’t hide it away behind any closet doors. Maybe in that bygone area they didn’t have any extra stuff to squirrel away anyway. In days of old I’m certain the children didn’t have toys spewed everywhere, either. I guess if you have to whittle your own toys out of a hunk of wood, you’re probably not going to have heaps of them.

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Former location of chimney chase. This will become a linen closet.

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AFTER: New linen closet where a chimney chase once existed.

The picture is not deceptive, it IS a small closet, but a closet none-the-less. Can easily store sheets, blankets and beach towels like a champ in this captured storage space.

 

Collateral Damage to Elevated House

WEEK 24: There are many positive aspects to lifting your house above the flood plain, mainly that you will no longer have the dreaded anticipation of an impending flood every time it rains. That can not be overstated enough.  However, with every gain there is liable to be some growing pains.

WALL CRACKS: Our house is from the 1920’s, at least parts of it. Some of our walls our plaster and the rest are sheetrock. We saw damage to both types of walls during our lift, but more to the plaster ones.

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Sheetrock: Gap runs floor to ceiling in the sheetrock in one corner

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Plaster wall cracks

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Plaster wall cracks after house elevation

Essentially, every room received these hairline cracks. As a result,  all of the rooms will need to be repaired and painted. This week my main project is choosing a color pallet. It’s turned out to be a lot more time consuming than I anticipated. Especially since I’ve decided to chase down the phantom “perfect” color.

NORTH FACING LIGHT: When we first moved into the this house, many of the walls were white. We added color everywhere. Nothing pronounced, generally neutral hues. But I’m ready for a change and since the walls all have some cracks, I get a do-over in terms of choosing a color scheme.

I’ve lived in this house for quite some time now and realize that several rooms are only afforded north facing light which means they tend to be on the dark side even on a sunny day. I’m looking to brighten up these gloomy rooms with bright warm tones.  Have you ever looked for a shade of off-white? There are many, many, many of them.

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Choosing an off-white color pallet

PAINT WHEEL: Although it may be hard to tell from this photo these are all variations of off-white. The bottom shades have a gray tinge (cooler tones) the one third from the bottom actually has a green tinge, and the others have a yellow  or brown (warm tones) tinge. There were peach tones that were immediately cut from contention.

I could make myself crazy spending days deciding on the “perfect” shade, but fortunately I’m under a deadline. I work better that way anyway. 

KITCHEN AND DINING ROOM: I also have to track down the color scheme for these two rooms. Again, I’m looking to brighten and lighten up the space, but don’t think I want to have a monochrome house. I”m leaning toward the color in the photo below, the sample on the wall, but may move up a few shades to lighten it as well.

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Color decisions

Floor Woes: Entirely unrelated to paint decisions, below are some photos highlighting what can happen to your floors when a “shim” of wood is left in the wrong place and then your million ton house is set back down onto it.

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Pencil is flush to floor

The above photo shows what a pencil should look like when resting on your floor.

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Pencil resting on bump in the floors

Note how this picture shows the pencil up in the air. It’s not too pronounced, but it is noticeable when you walk on it. My contractor is hoping to remove the shim today and assures me that the floor should  settle back down. All in all, the floors fared very well throughout this process. Which is more than I can say for the walls. Given the choice, I’d rather fix walls than floors. I’ve done both and walls are much easier.

Vive La Victorie!

New Stairs for Elevated House:  The winds of change have visited our project this week and delivered a blast of good news. With a follow-up to our oh-so-friendly encounter with the neighbor, we have come away victorious.  Recall our project was held up for two months while she disputed the few extra inches of variance required for the bottom step, a variance that we already had. Defying all logic, initially they granted us far more variance than we required, but realizing we needed far less, we had to go back to the board to ask for a lesser variance. Yes, that happened.

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Steps in dispute: bottom step was 4 inches past our variance.

Deck Stairs and Back Stairs:  Not even a full step, I might add. We were over the variance line by a mere 4 inches. At this month’s zoning board meeting the board voted unanimously in our favor. Our sour neighbor stormed out in protest. Seriously. Left a draft in her wake. Why she was so outraged is not clear to us for once our fence  is reinstalled she will not be able to see ANY of the steps. Maybe someone needs to find a better hobby. An indoor hobby  – like extreme ironing or maybe guerrilla gardening, if she insists on peeking over my side of the fence incessantly. Hey, I could use some new landscaping.

*Those are actual hobbies, by the way. See link below for more ideas for your pesky neighbor to try. communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/world-our-backyard/2013/jan/25/11-unusual-and-bizarre-hobbies/

A Year Later: ReBuild by Design

An opportunity to affect real change, empowering young bright minds to design ways to mitigate against further flooding – whether from another “Super” storm or even a heavy rainfall.

Sustain By Design

Just about a year after Superstorm Sandy landed on the east coast causing an estimated $50 billion in damages, a project called ReBuild by Design is entering its second stage to help guide us towards recovery. An initiative of Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, the design competition is soliciting ideas to increase resiliency across the Sandy-affected region. The first part of the competition was just completed; each team presented several opportunities in a public forum based on a three month research and analysis period. From this feedback, each will narrow the focus to one idea and work with stakeholders and communities to develop the design solution. The final proposals will be evaluated in March, and winning teams will receive funding for implementation with disaster recovery grants.

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The proposals range widely. One that stood out to me include the team of MIT + ZUS + URBANISTEN, which imagines resiliency…

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Complete Staircase for Elevated House

The front of the house is coming along this week. The staircase is complete except for the railing. The porch has had the columns placed this week as well. All the exterior trim work is done as well as the exterior faucets installed. We are still awaiting the leaders to be dropped for storm water run-off.

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Front view still awaiting the railings

You can see where the cedar shingle has been added and is still fresh. Over time it will blend and not longer be a drastic color distinction.

Just a Mess

Week 22: What happens when a crew of sheet rock workers run amok in your house? Someone’s going to be very unhappy. That someone was me this week.  The first day this crew started, they made a huge mess. Dust was everywhere. The kind of dust that can find its way into closed cabinets. I was not happy. I let them know. I asked them what their wives would say if they made this kind of mess in their home, hoping to appeal to their spirit of treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

Fuel for the fire was that I had covered anything that may be in harm’s way, and someone had UNCOVERED everything. Seriously.

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Drywall goes up in new room

I thought they were really inconsiderate, but assumed they had heard my concerns. Well, they may have heard them, but they sure didn’t heed them. The next day’s mess was even bigger. They had come back to tape and mud the drywall and just let the spackling paste fly.

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This piece had been covered.

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Spackling mud on the stairs

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On a table

They also had it on a curtain rod in an adjoining room, door handles, the kitchen floor and the mat in our foyer. Guess they didn’t like my suggestion to treat our home with more respect.

Where was my contractor during all of this? Good question. I encouraged my contractor to refrain from sending pig-like animals to work on my home. He apologized.

What other fun treat did we have happen this week? Our contractor’s electrician broke through a sealed off bathroom to take a dump and clogged the toilet. Clogged it. Are you kidding me?

I’ve heard that construction can be really messy, but his week was over the top. If this we’re a cheesy 1970’s commercial I’d be encouraging Calgon to take me away. If this were a Rolling Stones song, I’d be reaching for mother’s little helper.