Journal of a remodelee – part 1 of 11
Originally appeared in Hills Publications, Dec 2, 2005 and ANG Newspapers, Dec. 3, 2005
My wife, Sonia, and are having our kitchen, family room, two baths (one at a time) and two bedrooms renovated. Over the years, we have done some remodeling, but not on this large a scale and never all at once. I’ve decided to keep a journal and share our journey with you.
I am sure the knowledge I’ve gained over my 26 years in real estate will help us avoid some pitfalls, but, realistically, I know there will be the inevitable surprises. Perhaps our experiences will help your renovations go that much more smoothly.
Remodeling reality set in moments ago. Our vintage O’Keefe & Merritt range/oven was just carted out by two burly fellows with bulging biceps from Urban Ore. This is just the first of what will be many disturbances to our daily routine. We have our pile of menus from take-out restaurants at the ready.
Although moving out for three to four months made sense, we could not find a nearby rental that would allow two poodles (who are mistake-proof 95% of the time) and a sometimes very loud macaw. So it is that we have decided to tough it out in one, 400- square-foot room of our topsy-turvy abode.
Untold hours of work, effort and letting go, physically and emotionally, resulted in two gigantic piles of “stuff” that required nearly four hours for the haulers to remove. Now, as we empty the house of everything — clothing, appliances, kitchen utensils, furniture, books — our plans are awaiting “design review” at the City of Oakland, more than a week after our application. Sonia and I have already spent many months choosing tiles, plumbing and lighting fixtures, kitchen appliances, closet and storage items, but still have a long list of decisions to make.
Our contractor reported that the plans were still in design review and the City of Oakland says they are “a little backed up.” Work cannot begin without the permit. This gives us at least one extra day to empty the entire house. We need it.
The three strapping young men we hired to move out almost all of our furniture showed up exactly as scheduled at 2:30 PM. Even with delays, we were hoping they would be late to give us more time to get ready. By 4:15 PM, most of our stuff was stored in the garage. My nice car is now homeless and will have to fend off sunny or rainy days, cool nights, pine needles and bird poop for many months.
The only mishap: the metal frame of the convertible sofa from the guest room broke when it was picked up. The good news is that it is one less large item for the garage. My wife sees it as an opportunity to go furniture shopping.
Today will be our first night sleeping in the only room not involved in the remodel. We’ve managed to squeeze in our bed, both home offices (Sonia runs her computer consulting business from our home), a mini-kitchen and our entertainment center all in that single room. Our two poodles are a bit confused and stick close to us for security. Putchie, our Blue & Gold macaw, remains stoic.
After several days of calls from our contractor with “nothing to report,” today came the good news. He received a “verbal” from the City of Oakland that our permit would be approved. We will wait for it in writing; that looks like October 10th, the soonest.
We met with our contractor, his foreman and the electrician at the house. Still no “official” permit, but we expect to have it in the next few days.
After much consideration, Sonia and I decide to board Putchie with trusted friends. We feel the dust from demolition and construction might harm or even kill her. Although we will miss her, she will have a nice place to stay amongst our friends’ latest crop of baby macaws and cockatoos.
The City of Oakland lost our plans. Amazing! They have our submission in their computer, but the original plans have disappeared. One of the planners agreed, however, to approve them by tomorrow if we bring in a duplicate copy. Our contractor will dispatch one of his men to deal with the city.
A second set of plans was delivered to the city. We are still waiting. No one from planning has called with an update, nor have they returned numerous calls from our contractor’s staff.
As the day begins, there is still no word from the city. Meanwhile, we received a call that the kitchen cabinets and new range/oven and range hood are scheduled to arrive within a few weeks. We must postpone their delivery, if we can, as we are now two weeks behind schedule.
Our contractor told me that losing plans is rare, but it has happened to him before. Apparently, the city lost them about ten days ago and has been “looking” for them ever since. No one, however, bothered to call to tell our contractor what was happening. Had someone done so, he could have sent in a duplicate set much earlier.
Two more messages today from our contractor’s staff to the planning department went unanswered.
Our contractor finally received the permit. Work will begin tomorrow.
The electrician and two of his men started today. They worked on switching the main service from the closet upstairs to a new box in the basement. In addition, they began installing new outlets and cut holes for the recessed light cans. For our convenience, our “living room” and the garage were transferred to their own circuit breakers. At least we will have electricity even though the rest of the house will not.
Even more exciting, demolition has begun. Half a dozen of our contractor’s men, in an amazingly short amount of time, ripped out the entire kitchen and razed the wall between the kitchen and the future family room. The amount of dust and debris is incredible.
Today was also our first day of “roughing it.” Dinner was microwavable and dishes were washed in the one, still usable, bathroom sink. A wonderful surprise: the men were able to set up a temporary hook-up for our washer and dryer in another room. No Laundromats in our future – at least for awhile.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 1 – It begins; we know there will be the inevitable surprises, but optimistically hope previous experiences will help renovations go smoothly.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 2 – Holding our breaths that some irreversible glitch does not take place while we are out earning a living.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 3 – An eliminated window is mistakenly left in the plans while miscalculations in light fixture placement increases costs.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 4 – Even with a great construction crew, once again we learn you can’t count on them to think of everything.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 5 – Mislabeling of tile grout almost results disaster.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 6 – We are reminded how important it is for at least one of us to stay close at hand to answer questions as they arise.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 7 – Back from a holiday break, we experience more surprises and a frustrating accident.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 8 – Surprises and scheduling conflicts can’t detract from enjoying our new kitchen.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 9 – It is all coming together…almost.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 10 – City inspections and the finish line.
Journal of a Remodelee, Part 11 – Eight months’ worth of do’s and don’ts.