The overall building experience of the addition was rather uneventful.
Common problems like material shortages, delays in delivery, and the routine problems with such things and poor quality lumber are just a given for any project. Certainly the missing special-order floor truss and gable end rafter was frustrating but predictable in the course of any construction project. The more building and remodeling I do, the more I expect and prepare for these events.
Simply put, it is part of the business and process. If you will, it’s just the nature of the beast.
Rather quickly, you learn how to plan for the vagaries of the building process.
The longer I do this, the more I realize that the less I allow myself to get upset and angry, the more I plan the “what ifs”, the better off I am.
My blood pressure is no longer a factor. You may call it coping or patience, I call it experience. Building is what it is, no more no less. I take control of the process and don’t let the process control me. It really is that simple.
It makes me wonder why it took me so long to figure that out.
I could write a whole chapter or book on how to avoid the most common pitfalls of building and remodeling. I say this because about every mistake there is to make I’ve made; more than once I might add.
I’ve often joked that I am going to write an article and call it, “How not to build … all the steps necessary to insure failure and frustration with catastrophic money consequences.” I’m now convinced this has a lot merit and is less of a joke and more certain than ever.
From the day I took the first bucket load of dirt out of the basement foundation, until substantial completion, was exactly six weeks.
I had committed to moving out of our house, on or before the fifteenth of May. It appeared that the strike was going to be settled and I would have to return to work. This meant a lot less time to work on the house. For anyone who has lived in a unfinished house or remodeling project while trying to finish, you know only too well how hard this can be and what a major inconvenience hassle this is.
From the beginning of this whole addition project, the mid May date was firm. Regardless of where I was in the project, we had to move. To get as much done as possible and to avoid living in the mess of remodeling, I worked every available hour and pushed as hard as I dared. I realized that I wouldn’t have everything done. Unfortunately, the new kitchen cabinets couldn’t be completed and installed in time for the deadline.
I made sure all the sheet rock taping and sanding along with the staining and painting was completed. To minimize the inconvenience of living in an unfinished house, I aimed to complete anything that would cause a lot of dust or odors.
Prior to the mid May deadline, my business partner and I had purged as much as we could from the old house so we wouldn’t have to move it. I have no idea how one collects so much junk in such a short period of time. To that end I have to wonder why I kept so many worthless things such as my old outdated college text books. I hadn’t so much as given them a thought all those years. I had stored these “must keep treasures” way back in the dark crawl space of the attic. Why?
It is amazing how quick that, after just a few loads of this junk, you start to throw things away.
To me, moving across the street was harder than moving a thousand miles. At least if you move a thousand miles, you load the truck and it takes a few days to arrive at your new home. When you live across the street you carry everything by hand. You make a million trips because it not worth the hassle to load the furniture on a truck and to drive 75 feet and unload again.
I was lucky because, each night, my business partner insisted that we take a few loads over to the existing house. In the end, this helped immensely. By the moving day, we had only a few of the necessary items left. His help with moving a lot of the small boxes freed me up to work on finishing the house.
Moving day arrived and everything except the installation of the kitchen cabinets and final plumbing fixtures was pretty much done.
The new shop was one of the very first projects that I completed. Early on, I decided to save time and to improve shop productivity. I laid out the shop so that all the tools would be convenient to use.
I also had several commissions in progress and pieces of furniture that I was building for the house. I had to keep the side business going and still had Sid, my business partner and an intern on the payroll.
To say the least, it was a bit chaotic.
Being organized is the key to keeping ones sanity, being safe, productive, and profitable.
Moving day finally arrived.
To keep out as much dust as I could until finished, I had pulled a sheet of heavy mill plastic across the opening to the new kitchen in the new addition.
Living out of boxes and on mattress’s on the floor along with trying to cook with one or two pans (because every thing was packed up for the new kitchen) was challenging.
Cooking out of the old small kitchen confirmed how right my business partner was in insisting that we needed to add on a new kitchen. In the old kitchen, it seemed you had to go outside to change your mind. However, it sure was nice and handy that that I had installed a door that provided easy access to the new deck. This made all the work worthwhile and it sure was convenient not to have to drag all ones dishes halfway across the house when one barbecued and ate on the deck.
I also realized it was a luxury to have a fully functional kitchen that was only used for dining outside on the deck and to prepare food for barbeque’s.
To this day I am so glad I built this full kitchen and use it almost as much as the main kitchen.
Living out of boxes is no fun but because we could see light at the end of the tunnel and I was about to realize my dream of living in “This Old Crack House”, it didn’t seem to matter much to me.
We got by. It was merely and inconvenience.
It is what I refer to as life.
If one doesn’t mind it really doesn’t matter.
Within two weeks, the kitchen and all the loose ends were done. Every spare moment I could work on the house, I did.
To compound the problem, during the last two weeks of the construction, our strike was settled and I returned to work. This obviously gave me less time to work on the house. I simply did the best I could.
There were a lot of highs and a few lows in the building process. I was exhausted and under constant budget pressures. I needed to keep the sideline furniture building business going. A niggling reality was the mid May move-in deadline. And while on strike, I was without an income or any health insurance coverage because our employer had canceled it to gain leverage in bargaining.
To top it off, after having six weeks without so much as a drop of rain, a storm moved in and dumped eight inches of rain in a two hour period. I mention this because the basement egress window hadn’t yet been installed. I was still using the egress opening to through which to put materials for finishing the basement, furnace and duck work. I simply hadn’t installed the egress window yet.
The downpour of eight inches of rains came. None of the final landscape or grading had been completed; therefore all of the sand and dirt was piled in the back yard. This pile trapped the rain and provided a conduit to the unfinished basement delivering several inches of water, mud, dirt and sand through the rough opening.
Things could have been much worse than they were had it not been for a good friend of mine who was visiting. He had helped me a lot with the construction and was aware that the basement was open to the weather. For some reason, he decided to check if the basement had remained dry.
He alerted me to the water running in and we sprang to action immediately. I was on the skid loader moving dirt and building trenches that allowed the water to drain away from the house while he boarded up the window.
The time not to stop a flood is not during the height of the storm.
It sure is funny how hindsight is genius.
The damage was limited mostly to my bruised ego. I hadn’t installed the sheet rock or insulation yet in this portion of the finished basement.
Other than the mess and several wheel barrow loads of mud and sand and a lot of work cleaning up, very little damage was done. We had managed to move all the materials in time to spare them from water damage.
Just another setback, although at the time, I wanted to sit down and cry. There wasn’t much I could do, except grab a shovel and start cleaning up.
As the construction began winding down, more and more of our friends and neighbors were becoming very interested in seeing what they said “couldn’t be done”.
I stuck with my strict policy of allowing only those who were helping with the construction to see the progress. I did this for several reasons. I had told all the others that after completion we would have an open house and they would be able to see the finished product. I simply didn’t have the time to show everyone what I was building. The completion of the remodeling of “This Old Crack House” attracted several neighbors and friends and earned us a lot of respect with comments such as, “I wouldn’t have believed it, or I cant believe it, or I would never of imagined…”.
This time around, there was a lot less negativity and a lot more genuine support and curiosity and less advice dispensed from outside parties. It sure is funny how silent someone becomes when they see a finished project that exceeds any expectations they had or thought possible.
After finishing the inside which was a priority, there was all of the landscaping to complete. The urgent need to complete the landscaping took on a whole new meaning because of the bare dirt. Our two curious basset hounds loved to explore it and then track mud into the house.
It is all part of the building and remodeling process.
We decided to forgo a new hot tub and instead to install a sprinkler system and lay sod along with fencing in the entire back yard. There are always trade offs in any large project when you have a tight budget.
In the worst way, I wanted to match the stucco of the old house with stucco on the new addition. However, due to the prohibitive cost, this simply wasn’t in the cards. To stucco the house would have cost over twenty five thousand dollars. My total budget was only eighty grand. It simply wasn’t going to happen. I did the next best thing I could. I matched the stucco with colored vinyl. In the future when I can better afford it, I will apply stucco. I am saving for this large expense which is high on my list.
Other than this and only a few small other items I remain very happy with the addition and how it turned out. One of my personal silent victories was my new shop. I had limited space but had spent an extraordinary amount of time designing and planning so I would be able to utilize every square inch. I feel I accomplished this.
I prepared the shop area so that, if in the future I desired, I could very easily convert this area into a great room or some other living space. I also installed a new two hundred amp electrical service and fulfilled my fantasy that when I turned on the lights I would need sunglasses and cause the whole neighborhood to dim.
The flip side of having this extraordinary lighting was that all my mistakes show easily to the naked eye.
Having twelve foot ceiling is beyond my greatest expectations or imagined value.
I was a little nervous about having my shop attached to my house and what dust or noise problems this would cause. However, none of this eventuated due to the well insulated two by six wall cavity.
Over time, I have found I really don’t need all of the tools and machines that I once thought were necessary. Being organized and making informed and tough decisions as to which tools I truly need has freed up a lot of space and saved a lot of money.
This is hard to admit but simply the truth. I had been convinced by clever advertising and good store merchandising that I needed all those latest new tools. However, the better the craftsman I became, the less I needed.
In the past, I had a weakness and have been a sucker for a lot of expensive tools with only limited benefit. In some cases I have no clue how they are used or have found them to be substandard, or more effort than some simpler way of doing the same thing. Now, before I purchase any new tool, I go through a very critical analysis as to the improved productivity and/or craftsmanship they will, in reality, deliver. In other words, I conduct a considered cost/benefit/time analysis.
This could be a whole chapter abou,t “How not to buy expensive tools that are not necessary, essential, or a good investment.”
If I only knew how much money I have spent that hasn’t been a good investment or provided a healthy return I would likely be sick. Then again, it’s better that I don’t know. Some things one is better off not knowing in life and I’m sure this is one of them.
In my defense, I have learned this lesson well and nowadays rarely ever buy a new tool. I tend to stick with what I know is tested and works for me. In short I have learned to do more with less. There is a term for this – “experience”. It is just another one of life’s little lessons.
As I draw to the end of “This Old Crack House” story I reflect back.
I have stated before that I probably wouldn’t do it again.
Now I am not so sure.
Obi, a fellow LumberJock, made a comment one of my chapter entries a while back which has stuck with me.
I am still reflecting on his comment and several others have made as I write the last chapter of “This Old Crack House”.
I hope you will read the final chapter and with me view the end results in what my answer will be to the question, “Would you do it again?”.
At this point I still don’t know and won’t know until I sit down and write it.
What will it be?