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22 November, 2000
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I like to joke about the house...in order to maintain my sanity. You can definitely look at it from two perspectives. It's either a great, challenging and rewarding project or it's more comical and more aggravating than the movie "The Money Pit." My perspective changes by the minute.

It is certainly the first issue, relevant to me, where I've had to plan my timeline in year-long increments. It's also the first time I'd set schedules only find out (a year later) that they were underestimated by about 400%.

We bought the house around Labor Day of 1999. The house is in a great neighborhood and sold for a "great" price. The house was built in 1880. We knew that with the great price came some work on our part, but we expected it to be cosmetic work. We planned to go in, pull down the wall paper, paint, pull up the carpet, finish the floors and be done with it.

Well, there were three layers of wallpaper in some rooms. In many cases, the wallpaper didn't come down, but the horse-hair plaster behind it did. 1" lime-green shag carpet had grown to 2" since the 70's. Under that was linoleum. Under that was more linoleum. We quickly began to realize that the house required much more effort.

Structurally, the house was sagging on its 18-feet-long, 120 year-old spanning joists. We had a curious contractor, named Wayne Newton, jack up the house and put supports in the basement. We decided if we were going to do this, we were going to do it properly. We began demolition of the kitchen and bathroom on the first floor.

The previous owners had lived in the house for fifty years and were ALL heavy smokers. The kitchen had a dank alcove where the sink was that held decades of smoke in the cupboards. We ended up completely redesigning the layout of these two rooms.

We stumbled upon a great "team" of independent contractors. They all have "day jobs", but they do work on the side. They basically grew up together and have a great working relationship. They have done excellent work. The only catch is it's mostly on evenings and weekends. The pace is slow, but the price/quality is right!

From the kitchen and bath, we began to work on the living room and main bedroom. The amount of plaster and insulation that I have inhaled is enough to make me cry...I'm serious. I can't think of anything less enjoyable than removing plaster. It's heavy, and it permeates EVERYTHING. You can't seal off the house--though we tried. It just billows and filters. It's evil.

We loaded up approximately 10 1/2 tons--yes, that's 21,000lbs.--of debris from this house. You can occasionally see it sigh with relief. Of course we're putting quite a bit back in.

Anyway, we are due to have a working kitchen very soon for the first time in a year. We're scrambling to get the other two rooms finished before the baby arrives. Unfortunately, you can't really push too hard. It takes as long as it takes.

One of life's lessons I would do well to remember.

Follow this link for house photos and a Far Side history lesson.

 

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