home renovation projects

Wall between office/living room

Image by adamrice via Flickr

Apparently, houses stay up better with load bearing walls. Who knew?

No, the house hasn’t collapsed and the beam didn’t drop on my head as I helped steady it though I had visions of an ER visit, split skull and concussion whenever it wobbled.

Unsurprisingly, my husband did not ask for help even though I was sitting not ten feet away in the office and he could have called Silver earlier in the evening as Edie offered his assistance not once but twice in the same number of days this week.

I had to insist a bit. Not because I enjoy helping. All things hoisting provoke visions of muscle tearing and ligament wrenching when it doesn’t simply make me fear for my safety in general. I offered because the grunting is scary and the thumps – alarming.

By quarter to eleven – yes, that’s P.M. – one of new beams was in place and Dee, at least, was not likely to wake up in the former dining room.

The dust had settled enough to vacuum, which was good because my skin itched even where there were no hives and my eyes, one of which had nearly swelled shut, felt as raw as my sinuses. This was not, perhaps, the best week to be scheduled for allergy testing as I am not allowed any antihistamines or cold medication.

Fortunately, a yoga buddy clued me to the awesome power of gogi berry capsules. Two and my eyes were merely itchy as opposed to clamping shut.

The beams replace the load bearing wall and should be up and secured by end of week – all six of them. After that the front room opens up to us again and we can begin making hurried preparations for Christmas.

Rob’s family – blood and in-law – are converging from all directions, and I have a feeling that things will be Chinese curse equivalent at the very least.

But one interesting moment at a time.

The morning begins with this:

Only in English.

Followed by a little of this:

Although because Rob is a Virgo, there will be proper work attire, precautions to prevent unnecessary inhalation of dust and debris and probably I won’t be allowed to handle the crowbar.

An afternoon practice:

And then endless hours of destruction to be followed by Rob and I questioning our priorities and sanity.

How’s your day going?

The roasting spit in this European medieval ki...

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My husband is a project engineer and is in charge of – among other things – scope management.  Project costs depend largely on scope and if the budgeted project funding falls short, it’s usually because of “additional scope” or “scope creep”.

Now that the weather has begun the bouncy slide toward winter, we’ve abandoned any pretense that the outdoor renovation will proceed any further than it has already. Rob went at the stone work like a 15th century mason, but even his Herculean efforts couldn’t compete with the rainy damp September and he fell behind his own draconian schedule.

What he accomplished astounded nearly everyone who’s seen it. The neighbors literally stood in their yards and watched in awe. Of course, some of this admiration likely stemmed from the fact that until this summer, we were the white trash neighbors with tar paper standing in for siding and rusting cars parked in our front yard (though it was NOT up on blocks – I cling to that with all my middle-classness).

Reno called by weather means that we move indoors. This house has been in a perpetual state of renovation since the mid-1990’s when Rob, Shelley and the older girls moved here from The Fort. Rob told me a story once about Mick asking her mother how she could stand all the hammering and drilling that is really the sound of summer around here.

“It’s the sound of progress,” Shelley told her.

When he thinks about it, my husband is amazed to have had two wives who – for the most part – are extremely patient women where the state of our homes are concerned.

So now, we are indoors and we’d thought to update our tiny shoebox of a 1950’s kitchen. It is so narrow that only one person can stand at the sink at a time, and in terms of storage or counter space – well – meal preparation is a series of contortions that generally restricts the enthusiasm of the cook.*

The seed planted, took root and then began to grow like creeping charlie.

We thought we’d open up our downstairs space by knocking the wall out between the dining and living rooms. Which naturally led to the idea of extending a breakfast bar off the end of our narrow kitchen for more counter and storage space.

Once the wall was out we thought – why not put in a fireplace to heat the downstairs which led naturally to a flat screen tv above the mantel and that of course means we will have to get a couch again.

The kitchen planner listened patiently and thought maybe she could design something and sent us home with instructions to measure, sketch and photograph to give her a base from which to work. And after Rob had done all these things he said to me,

“I think we need to flip the kitchen and the dining room.”

“We’ll have to build the kitchen from scratch,” I said.


Which is how our little kitchen reno gained the urgent need for additional scope.

It’s not as if we hadn’t toyed with a brand new kitchen before. The vastness of such a project convinced us we should simply finish this house and look for newer housing in town. But then there was that little heart attack and the fact that getting mortgage insurance will be next to impossible for several years and … well, neither of us are foolish enough to venture down that road.

The demolition begins this weekend. All the floor has to come up and all the drywall has to come off. My lungs ache at the thought of all that dust. Some of it is probably older than I am. The older kids – Edie, Silver and Mick – offered to help but Rob hates to ask them. So, of course, I did. We don’t need any more heart “incidents” around here.

But it won’t be done for Christmas. And Rob’s mother is coming – possibly with her fiance in tow.**

We will have a living room with a fireplace, sofas, and a flat screen. So, good enough.

*Though to be perfectly honest – this cook really has but the barest interest in it. If it were not for the fact that Rob and Dee would starve, I wouldn’t cook at all.

**A very recent occurrence which caught him off guard but not me. The last time she’d mentioned her gentlemen friend, she used phrases like “handy man” and “good with cars”. She sounded like Edie describing Silver.  I wondered aloud how long it would be before Mick found another doppelganger and earned myself “the look” for it.