I went to work right away on the basement. The most logical place to start was the basement as I had already gutted it out replacing the plumbing and substantial sections of the cement floor. All the windows were replaced with glass block and I cut a hole in the wall and installed a outside egress window. This would make an allowance for a future legal bedroom and gave me the flexibility of either renting it out as a duplex or an apartment.
I had to find a way to incorporate a laundry room that would serve both floors in the event I, or the expected buyer, would be able to use without having to enter the private apartment. This could be accomplished by installing a separate door going into the upstairs kitchen and building a separate laundry room in the basement.
One major challenge would be to find space for a functional kitchen. I had roughed in a new ¾ bathroom and would need to design around this. I solved this by taking what was the old hallway and converting that space into a small but fully functional kitchen, using an partment-sized stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. It amounts to a full kitchen but uses specially designed and smaller size appliances.
The funny thing is they get the same price for these appliances as they do standard size.
Why wasn’t I surprised?
For the first time since I started this project, I felt some relief and satisfaction in designing, building the kitchen, bath and what would amount to a full mother-in-law apartment. It was about time. I had previously been so discouraged and felt so overwhelmed by this project. I had wanted to quit and walk away so many times, but I had no choice; I had to finish the project. Designing and building the new kitchen gave me much needed mental relief. It was the break that I needed. I began to have some fun; it was a foreign feeling. Framing, insulating, and roughing in the electrical was a piece of cake because I had gutted everything to the bare block walls and was able to start over from scratch.
Although it still took a fair share of time, I felt well within my comfort zone. I no longer felt helpless. It was a real boost to my mental wellbeing. I so needed this change after what seemed like endless problems and surprises. It is amazing what effect building something can have on you mentally.
I quickly roughed everything in and was ready for a rough in inspection. This inspection was a breeze. It passed and I was on to the next phase of the construction.
Because the plan was to sell the house and there was absolutely no wiggle-room in my budget, I had limited choices in the construction of the kitchen. After careful consideration and planning, I decided I would just buy the basic box cabinets at a local big box lumber yard. I would then doctor them up with trim, hardware and other extra touches.
As much as it pained me to do this, it would solve the two problems that I faced; budget and time constraints.
The biggest consideration was my budget, or more appropriately, lack of any real budget. Not far behind this in importance was the reality of a ticking clock that reminded me of the accruing interest costs of this project. The cash was going only one way – out. I needed to finish this project as soon as possible and get the house sold and the mortgage paid off. I could see the vultures already gathering on the horizon.
I decided to build the counter-top on site. I had planed to make the counter-top over-sized to serve as a table or serving area in the small quarters, which would become an apartment.
There were several other challenges such as ceiling height, relocating the existing electrical, plumbing, and duct work. All of these were easily remedied with only a minimum amount of effort or creativity.
Finally, I felt like I was making some progress. I keep looking over my shoulder waiting for the other shoe to fall. Things seemed to be going too smoothly.
Oh how things can and did change quickly.
My next task was the main floor kitchen. Besides having to replace all the electrical, plumbing, floor, and cabinets, it was necessary for me to remove two of the existing north kitchen windows. I had to frame up the old window opening and have the outside opening filled with stucco. The bad news was, this was going to cost almost a grand. I had not planed on this and to add fuel to the fire, the contractor was booked out for a month. This was one trade I couldn’t do because because I lacked the experience and didn’t have any of the tools to do the job.
So much for things going smoothly.
I could only do what I could do. Frame up everything and prepare the opening, so that when the contractor could come by and do the job, it was ready. This I did .
I also decided that, as long as I had to hire a contractor to come in to apply stucco to the old window opening, it would be a good time to replace the oversize bathroom window. The window was literally three feet from the neighbor’s front door allowing a full pictorial view of all that was going on in the bathroom if the shades weren’t closed.
The majority of the cost for the contractor was the one time trip charge, set up charge, and minimum service call charge. The actual repair and additional material needed to complete the repairs was insignificant. However, it was the time to do this. I would just have to find some other area to cut in the already skinny budget. It seemed all of the decisions that I made involved cutting or giving something up. There weren’t many options. I would have to cut something else out later. Although I knew something else would have to give, I was also well aware that several of these compromises might come home to haunt me at a later point.
I remember thinking how fun this would be when that day arrived. However, the only choice I had, was to make what I felt was the best expenditures of the limited funds I had and move on. I could not look back.
One of the coping mechanisms I had adopted was to make a deal with myself that, once I had made a decision, I would carry through with it and never look back. This worked for me; it was one of the few successes I had, so I stayed with that plan.
I removed the bathroom window and replaced it with a smaller, proper, bathroom window. After framing in the new twenty-four inch square slider, I found the sliding window was defective. If I didn’t lock it in place it just fell out of the track. Not only was this annoying, it wouldn’t pass code and I wouldn’t accept anything less than the job done right and window properly installed. It didn’t matter at this point that the window was defective and would delay the contractor, so I just moved on to the next project knowing full well that I would need to return to this problem and fix it.
I had been mulling over ways to make the existing kitchen functional. The limited space really hampered my options. In addition to being a very long and narrow room, the kitchen had two door openings which further limited my options and chewed up precious space. One absolute was to gain addition cupboard space and some counter top surface. The previous kitchen had only one six foot cupboard. There was a small table-nook, but for all practical purposes, this was almost worthless. It would barely seat two people, let alone provide table-space for dishes.
I thought long and hard to come up with affordable solutions that would not only make this a functional room but add to the resale value of the house. I finally decided on a two part solution. I would take out the small built-in bench in the nook area and remove the double window that was centered on the table-bench. I would install a full view door leading out to a new deck that I would build. This would create natural light in a small kitchen that had the only windows removed to create more cupboard and counter top space. It also would allow additional dining area and another eating alternative, a very attractive amenity that would add to the overall appeal of the house without the cost that an addition would cost. In short, it was a poor man’s addition that had appeal to a wide range of prospective purchasers.
To do this project, the estimated cost for materials, including a new full-view door, steps, and deck footings was $3200.00. I felt that this was money well spent to gain a fourteen by sixteen foot deck with direct kitchen access.
There was only one problem, the building code was clear about minimum property line set-backs. The house had already encroached on the minimum. It also was clear about the requirements for attaching a deck to the house. In order to get around all of these requirements, I had to build two decks. The first was a landing that leads to a deck. I had to maintain the same height to eliminate any tripping hazards and to comply with the setback requirements, I had to offset the deck.
It seemed that here was always a new challenge, but I was up for them. I even began to enjoy the project. However, this would be short lived. I was not prepared for the next major setback that completely caught me off guard.
It would be a very personal and painful loss.
Copyright… all rights reserved D.Jerzak 05/01/07