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The Major Renovation: The final week

June 1, 2009

The contractors have been absolutely clear that this will be the final full week of construction on our renovation project. They will be starting another project on Monday. If there are any loose ends on our project after Friday, they will return to tie them up in within the next couple of weeks.

I totally understand their desire to put this project behind them but at the same time their apparent impatience to move on feels personal. My wife and I have a number of gripes that have been simmering just below the surface for a while now. The contractor-client relationship is definitely precarious.

As I look back now, I totally understand the source of a lot of the frustration. It is obvious now that the contractors were lining up other work and we were throwing off their schedule.There was an apparent lack of communication between the project manager and the contractors about the scope of our project. There was also an unwillingness on the part of the contractors to listen to us and understand our expectations. A one to two month job had morphed into three months. No doubt other clients that they had lined up were getting frustrated as well, expecting their projects to start sooner. It was a bad situation for everyone involved.

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Day 55:  Painting, grouting and HVAC

Monday June 1

The contractors finished the hallways on the main floor and second floor, installed the tile at the back door and grouted the floor tile in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, the heating and cooling guys finished and tested the in-floor heat. They also continued roughing in the pipes for the rads in the workroom and storage room. That should take one more day. Then, when I am ready, they will return to connect the rads in those two rooms.

With the drywall work finished, I can finally get the air conditioner ready for the season. That will make it much more comfortable upstairs for when I finish the closets and connect the QuickPort jacks. I just need to get off of my lazy butt.

Day 56:  Sump pump drainage

Tuesday June 2

There was yet another company helping out on our project. The contractor arranged for a landscaping company to dig the trench for the sump pump drainage. The machine they used is appropriately called a trencher. It is basically a large chain saw that can cut a narrow four foot deep ditch. ABS pipe runs from the sump pump, out through a hole in the foundation about 40 inches below grade and then transitions to larger perforated drainage pipe, commonly called “big O.” Unfortunately, the trencher bit the dust after about 25 feet of the planned 50 foot length, so they did not finish today.

As an added bonus, we discovered the location of our septic leach field. The machine sliced through 3 drainage tiles resulting but couplings to join a new length of big O to the old sections easily repaired the damage. [Hindsight being 20/20: I should have measured and mapped the exact location of the leach field pipes for future reference)

While this work was going on in the back yard, the contractors drilled a hole through the basement wall for the new pipe and prepped the rest of the plumbing inside. And somewhere along the way, somebody found the time to apply a third coat of paint to the kitchen.

The HVAC contractors were also on site for part of the day, doing whatever it is they were doing. I am certainly glad that I am not paying those guys by the hour because they sure seem to be taking their time.

Day 57: New basement window

Wednesday June 3

Our dishwasher was delivered in the morning to be installed whenever the contractors are ready. The contractors grouted the tile in the hallway, installed the new sump pump and tied in the necessary plumbing. And they also installed the new window in the basement.

The new window was no small project. The previous owner (or the house mover or the company that had built the foundation) had installed a large picture window without properly supporting the structure above it. A couple of weeks ago he contractors fixed the framing inside with jack posts and angle iron. Today, they installed a piece of angle iron as a lintel to support the bricks outside.

The old window was also installed at ground level and the ground sloped towards the house which had caused some water infiltration in the basement. We could have installed a window well, but we would have had to modify the covered porch. Regardless, the wood had deteriorated,  so we had to replace the window anyway.

basement window
Old window before removal.

The new window is smaller, and the contractors built the wall up so the window is now several inches off the ground. Now I can build up the landscaping for proper drainage.

basement window
The new window on a higher sill (with concrete forms still in place).

Granite counter tops

The granite counter tops were delivered and installed on Wednesday. The installation took a couple of hours. Afterwards. the installers took the time to educate my wife and me about the maintenance and care of the counter tops and offered to answer any questions that we may have had. I am confident that we made the right decision to spend the extra money for granite as opposed to selecting a cheaper laminate top. The granite is absolutely stunning. I doubt I can throw around enough superlatives to properly convey how thrilled we are with how thrilled we are with the new kitchen.

granite counter tops
Granite counter tops installed.

Day 58:  Appliances and a new front door

Thursday June 4

The contractors installed our new front door and storm door. Three months after starting this renovation, there is finally a change to the curb appeal of our house. The new door lets in a lot of light, making the hallway feel open, bright and airy.

In the kitchen, they hooked up the plumbing for the sink and the dishwasher. Once you live without a kitchen sink for a month, you realize just what a luxury it truly is.

I reversed the doors on the refrigerator before we moved it from it’s temporary spot in the family room to its new permanent home in the kitchen. I then spent way too much time leveling and balancing it.

We can finally use the kitchen. Just being able to do dishes in the kitchen sink is cause enough for celebration at this point. Getting the refrigerator out of the family room and reclaiming that space is just gravy!

HVAC:  not quite finished just yet

Meanwhile, the HVAC guys “finished” their job– their words, not mine. They still have to install a take-off for the AC vent in the bathroom. They also have to drain the heating system to repair a leak in the line.  So they will be returning on Monday.

They want to install the baseboard rads in the workroom and storage room while they are here on Monday, rather than waiting until the fall as we had originally planned. That means that I have to hang some drywall this weekend, not something I was planning to do yet. But this way, the HVAC guys will be completely finished with our project on Monday.

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Day 59: The renovation is (almost) complete

Friday June 5

One contractor put up the tile back splash in the kitchen while the other one installed aluminum capping around the basement window and front door.

There are still a few finishing touches remaining– some minor touch-ups, a piece of trim here and there, and they intend to take care of them when they return to install the front window. While we are disappointed that the project isn’t 100% completed at this point, a break in the action will give our bank account a chance to recover. It also gives me a little time to maybe take care of some things myself to save some money. We’ll see if ambition prevails over laziness.

In retrospect, I could have done myself a lot of things myself to save money, but it wasn’t obvious until a couple of weeks ago just how badly we blew our budget. At any rate, we have drained our finances so it’s not like we have much choice now but to roll up our sleeves and take care of some of the finishing touches ourselves. Once the contractors return to install the front window, we want absolutely everything associated with the renovation to be completely finished by the time they leave.

This post contains content consolidated from 3 posts originally published June 2 – June 7, 2009 (revised 2018)

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