Sunday, July 8, 2012

Our Vision

Actually, to be fair, it was Caskey's vision.  He started talking several years ago about wanting to buy the house next door that was at the time being rented out.  I would tease him about wanting to play monopoly and get three properties in a row so he could put up a hotel.  Three years ago the owners *moved* back into the home to fix it up and get it ready to be sold.  They *lived* there so they could claim the sale of a primary residence and get around the taxes on the profit of the house.  It was a smart move since they had owned the property for upwards of 40 years.  They were the 2nd owners on the house.  They purchased as a newly married couple and when their family grew too large for the small 2 bedroom, 1 bath home, they rented it out and moved their family into a larger home.

We approached them and said we would like to purchase it from them if they were interested in doing some creative financing.  They said they would be willing and we waited.  They had to live in the home for two years before selling and they did just that.  We closed escrow in April of 2009.

Lainy Ann and Connor found us a tenant, literally.  The neighbor boy told the children that he had to move and find a new place to live and we put two-and-two together and realized they were renters looking for a new house to rent.  We offered them our house and it was rented within a month of closing escrow.

However, the ultimate vision has always been to combine the two houses into one large house.  Well, it was Caskey's vision.  I really was apprehensive about the whole plan for a myriad of reasons.  But here we are, three years later.  A dumpster has been delivered to my driveway where it will sit for 4 months, all of our belongings are in a storage unit in front of the house, Eleanor is sleeping in the play pen, and my washer and dryer are on the side porch that has been tarped in.  The whole house is vibrating as workers start to take down our garage wall.

Its quite an undertaking, but in 4-6 months we will have one big new house with 3 bathrooms and 6 bedrooms.  The house will be big enough to host birthday parties inside.  I will be able to hold den meetings.  We may even have a dining table that we all can sit at.

The Day we Went Vertical

This remodeling process has been an adventure in of itself.  Our builder could not have been better crafted for the job.  We needed to put two houses together under budget and quickly.  My poor boys had been sharing a room for many years, with the littlest one sleeping on a mattress on the floor.  At least once a day someone was in tears for not having a "big boy bed" or having to share "with the little boys".  It really tore at our heart.

So we soldiered ahead and did the remodel.  We knew that we were asking a lot so when decisions came up that we didn't care too much about our response was "which is cheaper?" or "which is easier?"  sometimes we answered "You pick.  I don't care."  At the last one our builder would always laugh.

However, there were a few things we really did care about, deeply.  For instance, Caskey's sculpture had to fit inside the house.  It had been lashed to a palm tree outside for 7 years.  It had survived weather and wind.  The squirrels had been plucking away the padding for their nests.  It was time to bring it inside.  One of the other things I cared about deeply was a fireplace.  The reason - Norman Rockwell.  Enough said.

We spent six weeks demoing the old house.  It was loud and dusty.  And while it was exciting that progress was being made every day, I was desperate to go vertical.  It was through this process that I realized how very lucky we were that Caskey goes to work late; about 9:30 am (he also gets home late, which isn't so great).  Each morning at 7 am the workers would arrive to start their work.  Most mornings I would pad out there in my slippers and a cup of hot tea in my hand and listen to the run down of the day.  I found it fascinating listening to the process. Plus it was nice to know if they would be shutting off my power.

The day we started to go vertical; after the footings had been poured, after we had been sleeping in 2 bedrooms for 3 weeks, after the kids had sword fought on the joists, we went out for our morning meeting.  We were going to meet our framer for the first time, E.  Our contractor, K, had great news for us.  Fantastic, really.  When the plans were drawn up there were no measurements for the floor height or ceiling height it just said "matching"  We expected to have a step or two from our existing living room (new dining room) into the new living room and then we would have the living room flush with the old 2804 living room (new family room).  We had previously had a 3 step down into our garage so we expected a step to be inevitable.

This was not to be the case!  When they peeled off the stucco of both homes they discovered the floors were at the same height.  How remarkable and wonderful.  The new completed home would truly feel like it was built this way, not hodgepodge together like  a lot of the other homes in this area (wich is one of the other things we were very concerned about).  However, the ceiling was also "match to existing" which meant a simple 8'1" ceiling exactly what we have now which is why the sculpture is outside.

So I turned to K with a laugh and said, "We have two choices here.  We either make the ceiling taller or you buy a sculpture, cheap".  K turned to the framer E and said, "How hard it is to change the ceiling height?"  E leaned over the plans (spread on a trash can) with a pencil in hand and crossed out "match existing" and wrote in 9'1".  He turned back to us and said, "Done."

And that's when I knew that we had made the right decision in choosing our builder.

Good Day - Bad Day

Its a good day on a construction site when they sweep, rake and otherwise clean up all the debris and everything looks clean and new.

Its a good day when you acquire the rocks you need for the fireplace and convince some children to clean them off for a bit.

Its a good day when windows start going in.

Its a bad day when you realize you will not be using rocks for the fireplace and you did all that work for nothing.

Its a bad day when in the process of cleaning up you discover you can't find your phone line and as a result your internet no longer works.

But if none of these things happened we wouldn't be making progress and this wouldn't be an adventure.