Tag Archives: flood

New Landscape for an Elevated House – House Lift Landscape

FINAL STEPS TO COMPLETION: The house project finally completed, the only thing left to do is fill in the landscape.

As the former landscape was completely destroyed during the process, we were starting with a clean slate. The front yard just after our house elevation project –

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Front yard prior to landscape

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AFTER: A few trips to some local nursery’s, viewing of other lifted homes, and a bit of research on the web and we made our decisions. Sod was an easy call as it goes in so fast and we only needed to cover a small area.

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New sod being rolled into place

THE VERY NEXT DAY: A storm whipped into town dropping a lot of rainfall. At first it was welcomed as a huge boost to our new sod, which needs to be watered – a lot – in the first few weeks. Mother nature came at just the right time.

But the rain continued. It rained and rained. Flood warnings were issued. We sat snug in our newly lifted house. But our new sod did not fare so well …

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The sod was strew about due to minor flooding

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The high water mark …

The homes across the street suffered minor basement flooding, but the water never reached our house, just the front yard.

SUN SHINES AGAIN: 

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A few moths later and our yard was complete

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In the photo above note how the red maple plays off the red hue of the rocks; it’s height helps to  off-set the tall foundation. A cypress was added to the planting bed in the stair design to provide year round interest.

 

Insurance Rates Drop Dramatically, But Not Without a Fight

TIMELINE OF INSURANCE RATE ADJUSTMENT:  June 2013: we officially started the construction phase of our house project. (The planning phase began July 2012)

December 2013:  We moved back into our house with the majority of our project complete.

February 2014: All paperwork and certificates related to our building project were closed out. Project officially declared complete. (Still lacking minor details such as exterior painting and any landscaping, but too cold to address those issues now).

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March 2014: Submitted request to FEMA (umbrella under which the National Flood Insurance Agency operates) to lower our insurance premiums based on our new and improved flood savvy house. They rejected this request citing we required one additional flood vent.

Had additional flood vent installed.

FEMA again rejected our request to lower our rates. This time it was because the wrong box had been checked on our elevation certificate (final survey) sighting the source of our base flood elevation level.

In other words, they needed to confirm that we didn’t  just make up some numbers to make it sound good.

Skip this section if your eyes start to roll back in your head or you suddenly feel like you need to  nap. The source of the base flood elevation (BFE) MUST come from FIS or FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map) for your specific property.

Returned to my surveyor, spoke with the Flood Plan Manager for my city and resubmitted the forms to FEMA.  They requested yet another form, a flood application form, be completed. I thought this was odd as we’ve had flood insurance for over 10 years. FEMA insisted it was the protocol. Fine.

April 2014: The next hurdle: FEMA/NFIP wanted the square footage of our garage, despite the fact that is attached to our house, they have pictures of it, and they have a survey marking it. I should clarify that these conversations were between NFIP and my insurance agent. After spending weeks sending my insurance agent down a rabbit hole, I recommend she educate herself on this product (flood insurance), take the bull by the horns, and tell them what’s what. They have all the information, we’ve crossed every i and dotted every t, you have more important things to do than run around chasing your tail all day.

Mission Accomplished: Our insurance agent called and told me our paperwork had finally been accepted and that our flood insurance rates were going to drop from several thousand dollars per year to several hundred.

The clouds parted,  beams of sunshine shone down and a collective sigh could be heard across the phone lines. Then my agent told me she had to go – she was getting ready to watch a webinar on flood insurance.

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Kitchen Renovation – Post House Elevation

THE PROBLEM: As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.  Or, as I like to say,  you can’t undertake a massive house project (house elevation) without eating a few crap sandwiches. Today’s topic hails from the kitchen. The situation created stems from careless foundation work when our house was lowered (see older posts). An entire bank of cabinets, along with the granite counter top, shifted out-of-place, resulting in drawers that would roll open and an unsightly gap in the counter. Not an entirely big deal, until you appreciate that this kitchen had recently been fully gutted and renovated ALREADY!  Here’s what it looked like before:

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Gap in granite seam about the width of a pencil.

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Entire bank of cabinets shifted away from the wall

THE FIX: This project required a bit of re-tooling of the cabinets, or in  construction speak “shimming” to readjust them.  The backslash had to be  pried off  with a crowbar to achieve this and then the kitchen sink had to be reset.

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Shimming the kitchen cabinets

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Small pieces of wood added to the bottom of the cabinets, kick plate removed.

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Ripping off the backsplash

AFTER:

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Gaps are gone!

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FOR EVERY ACTION, THERE IS A REACTION: For the most part, this side of the kitchen was restored. We’ll still have to shore up the refrigerator, again. Plus, a new gap was created at the top of the backsplash. You can sort of see it in the picture above. Note how the beadboard and the backsplash do not meet. The gap is too big to use caulk . Eventually, we’ll put in new tile or replace this beadboard.

NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS: At the very beginning of this house elevation project, we had to remove a superfluous chimney that ran right through the kitchen. We decided to install new cabinets in its place to open up the kitchen a bit. The crew today did a fantastic job seaming in the new cabinets to blend in with the already existing ones.

BEFORE:

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Chimney tucked neatly behind the bead-board.

AFTER:

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Cabinets replace former chimney

We opted to go with a walnut cutting board instead of more granite. This kitchen already has plenty of it and it was much easier to seam in a piece of cutting board than another piece of granite. When I asked the lead installer about this kitchen in terms of how this project faired compared to others he has worked on he said,” This job was a nightmare.” Tell me about it!

Although you can’t tell from the photos above, this old house has walls that are no longer square, if they ever were.  A lot of tedious maneuvering went into lining up these cabinets. Many thanks to Pablo and his crew for working some magic.

Things (About my House) I Never Wanted to Know

FOUNDATION-TO-FLOOR BEAM CONNECTIONS:  … and other things I could have gone my whole life without knowing and never missed it. Here’s the scoop: A sill plate is a lining of pressure-treated wood that is secured to the top of a foundation wall before a house is either build up (most scenarios) or lowered back down onto it  in the case of a house elevation. It looks like this:

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Sill plate: the little piece of lumber atop the foundation wall.

PRECISION FRAMING: Ideally, your house would be level and square all the way around, providing a seamless transition between the house, the sill plate and the foundation.

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Good: Foundation – sill plate – house frame all secure without any gaps.

SHIMMING THE SILL PLATE: If the house is uneven (not ‘square’) there will be gaps between the house and the sill plate as shown below:

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Bad: All kinds of wrong

If the house is supported in some spots, but not in others, that’s not good. Enter the shim …

Shims are used to fill in any gaps. It’s a common practice and can be applied successfully. They should be made from a strong material such as metal or pressure-treated wood. Using whatever is handy at the time, like a scrap of wood or a crumbled up receipt from your pocket, is a big no-no. Anything marginally soft will be crushed by the house like a fat man sitting on a fragile chair and shifting will occur.

WHERE THINGS GO WRONG: In the picture above you can see where shims were installed in the back corner – see how the house is pushed up in that area and not sitting on the sill plate? My kitchen sits right above this area and the floors, cabinets, granite counters, etc. are all bulging out or pulling away from their frame. Ugh!

Could a proper calculation on the part of the masonry team have avoided this issue? Maybe. Was jamming random scraps of wood into any gap a bad idea? Definitely. The “fix” will require a slight re-jacking up of the house in this location to properly shim it.

Useful tips about your home that will come in handy the next time you elevate your house or lack witty banter at your next cocktail party.

Settling In or Just Plain Settling: House after Elevation Project

HAPPY NEW YEAR! As the calendar turns over to reveal the start of a new year, 2014, we are still in the midst of our house elevation for flood mitigation project that began many moons ago. What’s left? Final inspections, certificate of occupancy, landscaping, driveway resurfacing, exterior painting and a few other odds and ends.

MOVEMENT AFOOT: We moved back into our home just about a month ago and continue to see some settling with the house. But how do you decide between to-be-expected movement and compromised structural integrity? Hairline cracks in most of the walls – fine. Gap in seam of granite countertop – ok. Buckling of floor boards due to misplaced shims between the house and the foundation – yep, that too. We had mentally absorbed all of those issues. But the list continues to grow …

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Built-in refrigerator pulling away from the wall

It may be hard to tell from the photo above, but the built-in refrigerator is beginning to pull away from the wall. Fueling my discontent here is that I paid a refrigerator specialist to secure it back into place just last month. Also:

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Granite countertop pulling away from the wall – brand new injury

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Yesterday we saw new signs of movement with the granite beginning to pull away from the wall as well as the floor beginning to buckle in a new location.

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Floor boards pulling apart

In the photo above you can see how the floor boards are tight on the right side and pulling apart on the left – again, brand new development as of yesterday.

THEORIES: Two thoughts on what is perpetrating these new injuries to my kitchen. One: the house is simply settling into its new foundation and due to temperature changes and shifting weight from our boys running around the house, the house is in flux. Two: Due to misplaced shims and missing shims (thin pieces of wood added to the foundation wall for the house to sit flush), the house is moving  – and will continue to move – until the house is properly shimmed.

I’M NOT A CONTRACTOR, BUT … It seems to me the only new problems are in the exact location where the shimming has been called into question. With a call into our contractor and a promise to investigate the issue, hopefully we can stave off any more problems.

Fireplace Repairs Post Flooding

WEEK 26: Although the majority of our house hails from the 1920’s, an addition was added in 1990’s by a previous owner – which included a wood burning fireplace. For years the fireplace provided a warm crackling glow to the our family room. Then … it was inundated by a flood or two.

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2007 Flood repairs: note the mantle design

FIREPLACE SURVIVES: During the second flood of 2007 our family room sustained a fair amount of damage and required some renovations. The floors in the picture above show the radiant heat coils that survived this flood event as did the fireplace – or so we thought.

It wasn’t until the subsequent flood event in 2011 that we realized the integrity of the fireplace had been compromised. Water is pretty sneaky in that sense, finding its way into any nook or crevice and quietly wreaking havoc. So during flood repairs resulting from Hurricane Irene a few years late, the entire fireplace had to be removed.

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2011: Mantle, surround, fireplace box, floor of the fireplace – all had to be removed.

HIDDEN BENEFITS: I never really liked the original fireplace mantle. It was a bit busy and slightly ornate for my taste. I could have easily lived with it, but thanks to flood damage, now I wouldn’t have to! The entire fireplace had to be replaced: the firebox, the floor supports, the surround, and the mantle. Fresh start.

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New fireplace box

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Mantle and slate surround being installed.

ANOTHER FLOOD BONUS: In addition to the new fireplace installation where we now had the opportunity to assist in the design of the mantle (built by our carpenter crew) and choose the new surround (black slate), we also got to choose new floors. (Almost makes you wish you flooded, right?)

The mahogany floors being installed above replaced the previous floors that had been nicked up from years of our boys playing smash-up games with their cars and trucks and finding numerous other means to scratch them up.

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Project completed: new mantle, surround, fireplace box and floors (walls and insulation, too)

CHIM CHIM CHER -EE: A few years and a drastic house elevation later, we are preparing to put this said fireplace to work this winter. But just to play it safe and make sure that it survived the lift in tact, we had a chimney sweep come by to inspect and clean it – all the way to the roof.

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Chimney sweep at work

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS: During the numerous renovation projects we’ve endured over the years, I’ve learned something new from every professional that has worked on our house. For example, here I found out that a pre-fab fireplace, such as the one we have, is very easy to clean and rarely has any problems compared to a stone chimney – there are no ledges or crevices for soot to build up. Chim chim cher- oo!

More than One Way to Skin a Cat

CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE: As fate would have it, next door to our temporary apartment, the house is also being lifted. It too suffers from the occasional rising whims of the little brook near our house, about 2 miles down stream. With my new knowledge base on this subject, I’ve noticed a few things about this elevation that the casual observer would more than likely miss:

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Another house elevation under way

When you look a little closer, you can see some strings. It makes perfect sense that you would want to make certain the foundation was going to match up with the house. This technique was not utilized in our project and they had great difficulty matching up the pieces. Would it have mattered? Who knows. A spool of yarn could have come in handy is all I’m saying.

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A little piece of string ties it all together

Another area where this project deviates from ours is they are building the foundation up to meet the house, unlike our scenario where the house was lowered back down onto the foundation:

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Rising up to meet the house –

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Foundation meets the house – steel beams still in place

Although this technique makes it more challenging for the lifting company to remove the steel beams, logically if makes sense. When I asked my builder about this different technique, he said either way works. Ok – but I’m guessing one house will suffer more than the other. When a mega ton house is lowered, no matter how gingerly it is accomplished, there is bound to be some collateral damage. I don’t know the end result for this house, but our house suffered numerous cracks in the walls (minor) and a permanent slight shift in a bank of kitchen cabinets where a shim of wood was left in place atop the foundation while the house was being lowered.

You know how to remove a block of wood stuck between a hefty house and it’s foundation? Neither does my builder.

Giving Thanks this Thanksgiving

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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/

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.

Staircase Transformation

WEEK 20: Fresh on the heels of last week’s set-back, we’ve made some steady progress this week, albeit not nearly enough for my liking. The majority of the work effort has been restricted to the new front staircase. It’s great to see the transformation, but what I’d really like to see is a beehive of activity on my house. You know, like they show on TV where an extensive renovation takes 4 or 5 days on a shoestring budget. But, this is hard-core reality here, definitely not for those with weak inclinations.

JULY: Back in early July, while we were busy celebrating the Declaration of Independence, the front of our house looked like this:

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House elevated and separated from the foundation – July

AUGUST: By mid-August, our construction crew had nearly completed the new foundation walls:

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House lowered onto newly built foundation – August

SEPTEMBER: About six weeks after the above photo was taken, the crew began to construct what would become our new front staircase:

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Frame work for new front steps

Of course there was a lot of work that went into the formation of these steps including digging a sizable trench, forming the underground footings, and building the majority of the rest of the staircase out of cinder blocks. But by the end of the month, we had a front staircase:

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Front staircase framed, poured, and cured

OCTOBER: Nearing the end of October, the stonework has been added to the front staircase. Missing, however, is any semblance of a railing. At this point we’re not sure whether we’ll go with wrought iron or natural wood. Likely which ever gets us back in the house sooner.

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Front steps having stonework applied

The picture above also shows other key updates. The front left corner of the house show a new gas meter. That was a hard-earned element of the project and we’re happy to have it behind us. Also the new “basement” windows have been framed out and shingles have been added to this side of the house replacing a damaged white border.

Sure beats what we were doing a year ago – riding out the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

A Low Down Dirty Shame

WEEK 19: Mired in a sea of inept, lazy, self-righteous pin-heads this week, things could be better.  Sometimes life is bound to get a little dicey, particularly when undertaking a substantial home renovation. Allow me to elaborate.

A VOLCANIC EXPLOSION: The week started with a site visit in which our contractor had erroneously poured cement in the wrong place when building up our foundation walls. His solution was to jack-hammer out the aforementioned cement that was located in our basement (lowest lying floor). If you’ve ever seen this before, you’ll appreciate how much dust is thrown off. Through every crack and crevice this dust exploded upwards resulting in a scene akin to a volcanic ash flume straight to the top floor. There now sits an appreciative layer of a “dust” cover on every surface – EVERY surface. Our weekend task will be to undo this mess and seal off all interior rooms. Oh, that’s the contractor’s job, you say? Yeah, that’s what we thought as well when he said, “You don’t have to seal up anything. That’s our job.”

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Steps in dispute: approved for two, but NOT three steps.

DEJA VU: Last night the good times just kept coming when we had our Zoning Board meeting to determine the fate of our back deck steps. If you’ll recall, the steps were called into question by our self-righteous, non-stop belly-aching neighbor (she’s still single?). Turns out the stamp of approval from the city’s building inspector on our blueprints somehow did not include these steps. The building inspector feels our architect tried to pull a fast one and sneak something in on the plans. Apparently when we went before the board initially,  our architect did not ask for the proper side-yard variance. He then failed to attend the hearing on this decision last night. As a result, the topic was tabled until the next meeting which is held once a MONTH when MAYBE our pinhead architect will see fit to show up and defend his drawings. In order to move the project along, we may opt to simply redesign them. *similar problem was had with the front steps, but that’s another story

ONE FOR THE MONEY, TWO FOR THE SHOW:  The stairs in question are already built. We have permission for two steps leading to the ground, but not three (as seen in the photo above). Any changes now will cost more money. The contractor was following the plans given to him. The plans which were spuriously stamped by the building inspector which riled up our neighbor which resulted in us attending a meeting last night where nothing was resolved. Merely trying to lift our house out of the flood path while helping our city improve it’s standing with FEMA (who issues flood insurance) has been on par with sustaining a flood event itself. It’s nothing but a low down dirty shame.

Lighting Up $100.00 Bills

WEEK 18: Finally, something to cheer about – we passed the electrical inspection today. Not that we ever questioned if we would pass it – but another hurdle has been cleared. Did I mention that the wires from the basement, the new room atop the garage and the mechanical room all had to be rewired? Add that to the new foundation, the new gas line, the new gas meter and all new gas pipes that ran through the basement and you can tell that we’ve been striking a match to hundred-dollar bills in a steady fashion.

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This mess of wires had to be ripped out and rewired

MONEY PIT: Is there anyplace to save some money on this project? Indeed there is – the mudroom floor. The tile was left out of the budget of the contract in order to allow for us to choose whatever we wanted – high-end or economy. Turns out you can spend upwards of $30.00 a square foot for tile or more, pretty easily. The more labor intensive the design, the more it’s going to cost. Typically, a homeowner will splurge for this only in a kitchen or bath space, not a mudroom floor.

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Mudroom awaiting fresh tile

MUDROOM – EMPHASIS ON THE MUD: With three boys, this room will more than live up to its name. The “L” shaped space affords a row of free-standing storage units, a double wide closet, and an entry point from the garage and the back door. Once you add a few doormats, how much of the tile are you going to see anyway?

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Mudroom tile after 2007 flood

UPSIDE TO FLOODING: One of the benefits to enduring a flood is that we had a chance to start with a fresh pallet every couple of years. Originally, I liked this color as it was light and opened up the room. Turned out to be really poor at hiding all the dirt my boys tracked into the house.

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Darker tiles were chosen the next time

DARKER BY DESIGN: After a few years, you can see where the tile really darkened by exposure to the light (the lighter areas were covered by a doormat and storage units). But what about durability? With a pack of  boys throwing down weighted-down backpacks, sports gear and heavy ski boots, the tile has to stand up to a high threshold of wear and tear. Can you skimp on cost and still end up with a viable product?

TILE I.Q. : All tile is rated, whether you buy at a high-end boutique or Home Depot. There are three scales: PEI Rating (4 or 5 is good), COF, (higher number = less slippery) and Break-strength (300+ is what you want in a high traffic area).

If you check the labels on the desired boxes of tiles you want to buy at Home Depot, you can be certain you are buying a high quality product at a discounted price. You’re going to sacrifice points to originality as the big store options are designed to have mass appeal, but gain dollars in your wallet with the savings.

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Tile for the mudroom from boutique store: 5X  more money than the ones in the picture below

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Discount Tile

Big ticket or discount – know what you’re paying for before you throw those hard-earned dollars on the pyre.