Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fresh wood.

The fact that I'm getting all excited about a few new floor joists might be evidence that I've got some sort of house rebuilding (can't really call it remodeling at this point) psychosis. But seriously, up until this point it's been all about things going in the dumpster(s we are up to 6 at this point), everyday less and less house.

And now things are being put into the house, it's like we're saying "we have faith in you little house." Isn't that pretty? I mean there are still big gaping holes in the walls, and the whole thing is supported on some spindly two by fours since we can't put in the real supports until we level the basement floor...but for now I'll take what I can get. It's so odd to see sunlight in my house, it's always been sort of cavernous and gloomy (I tried to have house plants, ha!). I guess taking off the roof is a guaranteed way to increase your natural light.

Meanwhile we have run into our first set of design challenges. The basement stairs are going to be a problem, because it has these odd concrete ledges.

This is pretty typical of Michigan basements, but it makes it impossible to run a stairway along the outside wall, since at about two feet from the ground you hit a concrete shelf. So instead we have to have a U shaped stairway into the basement, which will mean that we have to create headroom on the first floor for the turn....can we do?

Well we all know what Bob would say, and Eli's got some ideas, so stick with us and we'll see what happens.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Destruction happening so fast....

That's meant to be said is a Captain Kirk overacting sort of voice, but really, I can't keep up with those guys. Everyday I have less and less house, there are about 50 million pictures on Flickr, some of them with captions, and some of them waiting for captions, but if you want to see what a house looks like when it's been attacked with hideous vengeance, crowbars and demo saws, it's all there.But Bob's optimistic about the whole thing so I guess I am too.

Now some sayers of nay have raised the question "why didn't you just bulldoze it and start from scratch. Partially this is because we have to have it classified as a rebuild in order to play nice with the city. If it's new construction is falls into all sorts of other pitfalls, like the fact that our site is so small that a house doesn't really fit on it. But if it's a rebuild in the same foot print, then we don't have to reapply for all the variances etc. Partially it's a philosophy that Eli and I share. What can be saved should be saved, and in spite of all the nasty things I've said about my house, the leaky roofs, the shoddily installed windows, I actually really like my house and I'm sort of sentimental about it.

That being said, everyday I am told of more things that we thought we might be able to save, but turns out that we can't. Like today it was the first floor. We had been hoping to save the floor joists and "sister" them (that means nail another board to them) where needed for support. Turns out there's not enough worth sistering and they're all just coming out. But the outside walls are still okay to save, which adds a new level of complexity.

I don't know, what do you say Bob? Can we cut the floor out from under the walls and build a new floor and reattach the walls to it?

Apparently, yes we can. It's hard to tell from this photo, but look at the bottom of the wall, on the left side. See that yellowish stripey stuff that looks like clapboard siding? Well it is! It's the neighbors porch...through a foot wide hole cut in the bottom of the wall.

I only get nervous about this when Joe, he of the huge saw, stands inside the house and wobbles the wall by pushing on it from the inside. It's sort of like watching a play at a small community theater, where the sets are cheaply constructed. The villain sweeps in and slams the door , and the scenery sort of trembles. Up until this point I've been thrilled to show up and document everything with my leetle camera, but I am now officially nervous.

There is a silver lining though, because new building materials have begun to show up on site. This is so very exciting that I can almost forget about the fact that the whole south wall of my house is basically floating in mid air.

See, floor joists. New ones. Like from the store. Ready to become the new and improved first floor floor.

Now that's a beautiful thing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A man and his saw...

So much has happened at the jobsite (we've stopped calling it a house, because it isn't one anymore) since the last time I posted.
The early part of last week was all about blown in fiberglass insulation. I spent Monday afternoon scooping it up with a dust pan and shoveling it into garbage bags. It was 95 degrees on Monday. When I took off my respirator sweat actually dripped out of it, but when I finally went home I got to take the nicest shower of my life. Since I was thoroughly done at that point, I was surprised when Eli said that he was still working when I called him around 8 o'clock. I stopped by the jobsite and this is what I saw:
That would be the porch...or rather what used to be the porch. Since we've owned the house we've been rather tentative about walking on the north half of it. Aside from the fact that it was visibly detached from the house, it was about 6 inches lower than the south side of the porch, and bounced noticeably underfoot. Now that we've gotten a closer look at it we've found that the whole thing was basically held up with two cinder blocks that had been shoved in behind the stairs...ah home improvement. Here's Josh with our house number...
We figured we'd have to start forwarding the mail, but our mail woman must have an adventuresome streak because the next day there was post in the mailbox.

And the destruction continues:

This is Joe. Joe comes with a saw.
I always thought that Joe's saw was a concrete saw, but it turns out that when you fit it with something called a "rescue blade" it becomes a demolition machine. A rescue blade is what the fire department would use to cut through the side of your house if you were trapped inside and couldn't get to a window or a door. Since we are erecting a new second story there didn't seem to be any point in tearing off the shingles. Instead Joe used the rescue blade to cut our roof into strips, straight through the deck boards and through the four (!!) layers of shingles, that's about 2" of asphalt. Once they got the system down they went through the whole roof in less than 3 hours...not counting the 3 hours it took to find someone who could sharpen the blade and get it back to us on the same day. By mid afternoon Isis and I were watching as the east wall came down.
Going, going, gone.

After that it's been all about filling up dumpsters. We will be getting our fourth one delivered tomorrow, and will need at least one more after that. Eli estimated 3 dumpsters for the whole job, so that will push our budget slightly, but it's worth it to see them haul away all of that debris.

Since the roof came off it's back to interior demolition. If you're impatient you can check out the flickr site, there's a permanent link on the sidebar that should take you right there. The best pictures are in the "demolition" set, of course. Otherwise I will update within the next couple of days and post some pictures of the inside....everything must go!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Destroy, destroy....

There's a whole lot of shakin' and bangin' and breakin' going on at our house. It's amazing how quickly things are coming down now that we're actually able to work on it. I have been taking lots of pictures, but unless you knew what the house looked like before the pictures probably all look the same, so instead of taking the time to upload them here, I'm going to put them all up on a Flickr (click on that link and it should take you there) page and anyone who's interested can go and look at the slide show.

Instead I'm going to tell my funny story about the windows.

About a year ago a couple moved in up the block from us, and Eli was chatting with them one day and found out that they actually used to live in our house. Not just that they used to live in our house, but that the guy's mother used to own it, and that he grew up there and that until about 12 years ago or so he and his wife lived there. And I said "Oh are their names Joe and Judy Smith?" (not their real names of course, but when I said it I said their real names), and Eli said "Yeah how did you know?"

Well the names Joe and Judy Smith (not really, but anyway) are sort of burned into my brain because about two months after I bought this house I got a letter from the bank saying that Joe and Judy Smith had defaulted on their Home Equity Loan and that because of this the Bank was going to foreclose on my house. I got this letter on the 3rd of July by the way, so everyone in the mortgage department was on vacation for the holiday, ditto everyone at my title company. When I did finally get to talk to real people about "what the heck is going on!?" they told me that Joe and Judy Smith had taken out a Home Equity Loan that was set up as a credit line, and that until recently they had continued to pay on it, even though they hadn't owned the house in over 5 years, there had actually been another owner in between them and me and (so says the genius at the title company) the lien had actually showed up in the title search, but because there hadn't been a problem with the previous owner they "assumed it was a mistake." Then when I asked them to send me a copy of my title insurance policy I was told that "it wasn't typed up yet." The closing was a month and a half previous to this, and I'm sure they weren't writing a special title insurance policy just for little ole' me, basically you just fill in the blanks and hit "print" right? Anyway, I was thoroughly P.O.ed with the title company.

The happy ending is that the title insurance payed the bank and I got to keep my house, but needless to say the names "Joe and Judy Smith" are etched into my brain and not in the "happy place" part of my brain either.

But I thought you said this was a story about windows?

Oh right, the windows. Since we've moved into the house we have been fighting against previous "improvements" done by previous owners. Like the overhead light that plugs into a wall socket, and the wall sockets that are partially obscured because when new flooring was installed they just put it over them instead of moving the electrical box. And the wall sockets that smoke when you plug things into them.
And the windows.
The windows are all different sizes, and they have been sort of shimmed in place into holes that are for the most part much larger than they are. It's not uncommon to install windows into holes that are larger than they are, but usually you would patch the drywall around them instead of just shoving dirty fiberglass insulation into them and leaving big open holes in the walls. Usually. And it would be nice if they were installed plumb and level so that when you wanted to close the window it actually sealed. That would be especially nice in the winter time when it's convenient to have closed windows instead of windows with inch wide gaps at the top where they don't shut properly.

Basically it would be nice to have windows which are not like this...This is the window that used to be in our bathroom, until our friend Ramsey pried it out of it's frame and threw it in the dumpster. I guess they must have run out of dirty fiberglass insulation, because this one has a wadded up towel in the gap in the top of the frame, and that black line running down next to the toilet? That's where the drywall has gotten mushy and flaked off because the window leaks so badly.

Here's the view from the outside:Now granted, one of the reasons that the window leaks so badly is because of the hole in the roof directly above it, which had a piece of sheet metal nailed over it up until recently...but a piece of sheet metal is not a roof repair, and a piece of unfinished particle board does not substitute for siding.

So here's the punch line to the whole story. While talking with Joe Smith about his former childhood home, Eli mentioned that we were about to start a major remodeling project. "Oh" says Joe Smith, "I'm pretty handy myself. I did a lot of improvements to that house while we were living there. I actually put in all the new windows."

I think it says a lot about Eli's character that he didn't a). laugh in his face, or b). punch him in the nose.

I was telling this story to a couple of friends last night and Eli mentioned that he's seen Joe Smith glaring at us whenever one of "his" windows goes into the dumpster. Sorry buddy, thems the breaks.

I wonder what Bob the Remodeling Mascot would have to say?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pictures, pictures....

The internet and the laptop are friends again! I'm so excited! And I'm so behind on updating the blog, so here goes.
We are well into the destruction phase, it's got to get worse before it can get better, right? If you are terribly observant you might notice that some of these pictures were taken with Isis's digital camera, and some of them were taken with my crap cell phone camera, so if things seem a little blurry, it's not your eyes or your monitor.

This is our old bedroom, as seen through the wall from the landing at the top of the stairs.And this is Isis's room/My old studio, good-bye strange wooden paneling. It had a certain style I guess, but it also sort of made me feel like I was working in a hollow tree. It's gone now!Isis is helping as well, here's her contribution to the drywall removal portion of the project. Notice how she stores her hammers while they are not in use...what a pro.

Safety before fashion, although I look quite stunning in my flashy new respirator if I do say. And it makes me sound like Darth Vader, as a bonus.

This is the first official before and after picture, and an opportunity to introduce you to our renovation mascot. Bob is sitting in our kitchen cupboard. Bob has unflagging optimism and says "Can we fix it? Yes we can!" when you give him a squeeze. Sometimes we wonder about Bob, and whether he might need glasses at the very least. Here's the same corner after the cabinets came out...

But if you ask Bob he'll tell you loud and clear: "Can we fix it? Yes we can!" Okay Bob, we're with you all the way. Good-bye yellow paisley counter top! Hello strange green tile board. It's like an archaeological dig. We knew there were three layers of flooring in the kitchen, because we had to tear them out when we moved in so that we could lay a new floor, but who knew that there were at least that many incarnations of wall covering? There are wallpaper patterns back there that haven't been seen since the old homeowners bought the last roll off the sale table in 1932.

That's enough pictures for today, I don't want you to get spoiled. I do have a funny story about windows, though, that I will post as soon as I get another half an hour in front of the laptop...which is now happily online once more. In the meantime, think happy destructive thoughts in our direction. Once all the interior demo is complete it'll be time for the roof and the porch to come off, and then things will really get going.