Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Home Improvement or a Test in Patience

JENN McKINLAY: The destruction began on December 28th. It's now March and I still I don't have a dishwasher or a backsplash or the skylight I promised myself. *sigh*

For about five years, I've known it was beyond time to remodel our kitchen. We were living in a 1959 beige square tile nightmare that had more chips and cracks than the desert after a long hard drought.
And yet, I stalled and stalled and stalled until, truly, it was just ridiculous. Having recently resurfaced the cabinets myself, I finally made an appointment to pick out some granite and appliances and be done with it. Thus began, the trial of patience. 

The appliances arrived on Dec 21st. They sat waiting to be installed  for over a month while we discovered that tile of the old counter hid three inches of concrete that had to be chipped out and what remained wouldn't support the granite. Contractors had to come in and fix that. Phew! Next up, I had to smash out the dry wall, because there were suspected electrical issues.

Jenn being handy

The electrical was tested and revealed to be not up to code - as in, we're glad you didn't die in a fire - so that was a mad scramble to find electricians. We now have two, Ramon and Shane, that we have adopted into the family because after they spent a day here  we had to call them back when I decided to install the refrigerator myself, because...well, the phone call, which I previously shared on FB, went like this:

Me: Don't be mad.
Hub: Oh, boy.
Me: I did a thing.
Hub: Define "thing".
Me: I decided to put in the new fridge myself.
Hub: Great!
Me: It was until...boom.
Hub: Define "boom".
Me: Um, it was more like sparky-sparky-dead.
Hub: Dead? How dead?
Me: Very dead. Deader than dead.
*Moment of silence* (Not sure if Hub was mourning the fried outlet or contemplating a way out of this marriage 😂)
Hub: Are the professionals coming?
Me: They are on their way!
Hub: Well, okay then. Maybe you could just write today.
Me: Agreed.

😂😂😂

Now, I knew the home improvement was going to cause upheaval. I knew it! And it has, even more than I anticipated, but the end, as they say, is nigh. I have every expectation that my dishwasher will be installed this week and then we can forge ahead with the bits and pieces. Someday, I may even have pictures of my new kitchen. Someday. Maybe.

Before granite
After granite

I have decided, however, that the next time I remodel, I am moving out until the project is done. I see a nice two month residency in a loft in Paris, on a beach in Mexico, or, just so the contractors can't call me, in the wilds of Alaska. 

So, how about you, Red and Readers? What are your home improvement tales of woe? I'm all ears.

76 comments:

  1. Oh, Jenn, I feel for you . . . .

    We don’t have home improvement tales of woe. Ours was more like the contractor building the house kept not building the house . . . we checked the guy’s company out before we hired them, but it took more than a year before we were finally able to move in to the house. ::sigh:: so frustrating . . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh...I feel for you. I can't even imagine building a whole house.

      Delete
  2. The first rule of home improvement is that it always takes longer than you want or expect. Three years ago, I had the main bathroom gutted and redone, new floors and carpet throughout the house, and painting done throughout the house. It took an embarrassingly long time. I need new kitchen counters, but I haven't worked up to it yet.

    Jenn, your counters look lovely. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished kitchen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The 2nd rule of home improvement is that it also costs twice as much as you expected.

      Delete
    2. It does take sooooooo long. Sigh.

      Delete
  3. Going back to yesterday, I have an irrational fear of do it yourself projects. Every time I try, I make the matter worse. I go straight to the professionals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could convince my husband to go to the professionals. He's convinced he can do it himself. And he can. Sort of. But it always ends up LOOKING like a diy project gone bad. :-/

      Delete
    2. LOL Mark! Annette, maybe Mark could do an intervention with your hub? I know that mine hates me suggesting he shouldn't tackle a project himself...sigh

      Delete
    3. The Hub and you are both very wise, Mark.

      Delete
    4. The remodeling projects done by my husband actually do look like a professional did them, including our kitchen. I pick out the materials, tell him the layout and he completed the project usually tired but with a smile, He has a lot of patience and gets great satisfaction in completing the project. Our master bathroom is next. I have the new design and layout figured out, need a plumbing consult to determine cost and feasibility.

      Delete
    5. He is an IiT director as a profession, no formal trades experience.

      Delete
    6. Okay, you all know I loved Ross and miss him very much. But this is one benefit to being a widow - I can straight up call the professionals to make repairs instead of suffering through my husband's inept attempts at being a home handyman. (Or worse, he'd say, "Don't call the carpenter, I can do it," and never get to the job!)

      Delete
    7. I’m a very fortunate to have my handy husband! Thanks fir the reminder.

      Delete
  4. We had an issue with rot. Turns out the builder didn’t seal the windows properly so every time it rained, water was seeping in behind the siding. We wound up having three sides of our house replaced including siding and windows. The work crews destroyed the flower beds in the process and my even temperament. I am still pissed every time I think about those months!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love the after granite! The appliances will come. My favorite shows are on HGTV - but the reno shows make me laugh out loud. If only it was that easy. Go away, come home, see the newness that someone else created. Hah, when we did the kitchen it was more like three months of walking on never-ending grit, deciding who was washing the dishes in the bathtub, and if the rain was really so awful or if we could fire up the gas grill in the back yard. At the end of the day though...it was worth it. Hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? All these remodeling shows fail to show the homeowner crying into a towel in their bathroom when they have no kitchen - for weeks. It's maddening.

      Delete
  6. Oh, man, I feel for you, Jenn. I don't claim to be all that handy, although in my former house I learned how to do some simple things to make up for some of the many corners cut by the Cheap Bastard Building Company that did the original construction. One of the things I learned how to do was call the professionals.

    Good practice for THIS place . . . the 1960 custom-built house I bought six years ago. Yeah. Lots to do here. Lots and lots and lots to do. For one thing, the whole place was pink. I blame Mamie Eisenhower, that fashion trendsetter who thought pink was a ladylike color (in contrast, I suppose, to all that Army green she had to live with). The walls were pink. The appliances were pink. In fact, yesterday was the 6-year anniversary of the day we ripped out the hot pink shag carpet in one of the bedrooms. And the kitchen was Barbie's Atomic Dream Kitchen, with its all-original pink Formica countertops and backsplashes, pink dishwasher, cooktop, double wall oven, and a scallop-edged vent hood the likes of which I have never seen before. Sadly, no pink refrigerator. It was a happy, happy day when all appliances went to a vintage dealer, and the last of the pink was painted over or ripped out. Except for the bathroom. Gotta keep the pink bathroom.

    The upshot is that my kitchen was a no-cook zone for nearly a year, and various parts of the house have been under renovation off and on for all six of the years I've lived here. The payoff is that the horrible, stained carpet in the bedrooms has been replaced by hardwood; the sad, curling vinyl has been replaced by tile; the walls are a lovely cream; and I've started to eye that giant sliding-door window wall that lets in cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer. It's a process, and it will be part of my life for a few more years, but it's worth it. So very worth it!

    Persist!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gigi, I'm still living with pink bathtub and sink, but fortunately not bright pink and the walls and tile tone it down. One day, I tell myself, one day....

      Delete
    2. Yep! Bathtub, sink, wall tile, and a huge toilet that lends resonance to the term "throne." All pink. It's kind of growing on me--particularly after I toured a sister house next door, where one bathroom was a bright yellow and liver combo. It could have been so much worse.

      Delete
    3. We have the same house, Gigi! I smashed out our scalloped over the stove vent and the hanging cupboards it was attached to - very therapeutic but it also opened up the room. Day by day, or so I keep telling myself.

      Delete
    4. There were two of those scalloped hoods in the world? Dear heavens. I thought of mine as the pink Cadillac of vent hoods. Go for the chrome, baby!

      Delete
  7. Jenn, you are NOT giving me a lot of hope. I've been planning to renovate my kitchen for several years. The plan has been expanded and pushed back multiple times. It was "supposed" to happen this summer, but now I'm hedging because Hubby has a couple of other pricey home improvement projects lined up, and there's only so much I can take. And only so much money in the budget.

    I look forward to your "after" photos. They might prompt me to reinstate the kitchen reno to this year's schedule.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will say I am in love with my granite counter. Finally, I can roll out dough on a flat surface. It does give me joy.

      Delete
  8. My home improvement is finding a newer/better place to rent!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jenn, this is hilarious... adding "sparky-sparky dead" to my vocabulary. But living through it, I'm sure not a laugh a minute.

    My husband can change a lightbulb and hang a picture, and that's about the extent of his talents. When we moved into this house 40+ years ago, the kitchen (and most every wall) was pink (waving, Gigi!)... There were NO kitchen cabinets or counters, just a cast-iron sink hanging over a radiator. We lived with it for about 4 years. Fortunately we installed very plain WHITE formica cabinets which amazingly don't look all that different from today's IKEA cabinets. Highway-sign-green formica countertops also don't look that dated. I plan to leave it in the condition it's in to its next owners.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That Mamie Eisenhower got around, didn't she? But it's such a simple pleasure to paint over it.

      Delete
    2. LOL, Gigi! Also, the Hub is not handy either. I am - mostly - but occasionally overestimate my abilities. Ahem.

      Delete
  10. Dear Jenn, I do feel your pain, but the granite looks really good. How would you know that electricals weren't your skill until you tried? Love that conversation. For anyone who has visited the UK, the slight of our huge electric plugs, must amuse them. That's because the voltage is double the USA. My electrical skills consist of being able to rewire one of those plugs. My father considered this is be an essential skill, and he was right. Living in and sharing strange places in London meant I could rewire almost any appliance. Not a skill I need over here. Now I call out for help, it's safer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Electricity does give one pause, doesn't it? You are amazing, Celia!

      Delete
  11. Jenn, I just don't understand why you don't sign up for an electrical course in your "spare" time. You would truly be a one girl band! Seriously, it will be gorgeous and like childbirth you will forget all the bad bits. My house is almost 11 years old and I am not planning to change any of it. Think I would move first; I kinda am wanting to build a new house but not sure I want to go through that hassle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hassle is the perfect word. I do feel as if I learned a lot from Ramon and Shane - they were very patient in teaching me how to change my own outlets out (ours are the old non-ground two prongers). I now know all about line and load - just enough o be dangerous, Hub says. LOL.

      Delete
  12. Am I the only one who had a trouble free kidtchen and powder room remodel that came in just under budget?

    Evidently.

    We gutted our kitchen three summers ago, all the work being done by a neighbor who was a contractor and who had an MFA in design. How about that? He presented us with three different plans, tore everything out, cleaned up after himself every night and reinstalled the sink and range top so we could have dinner, took a few the old cabinets and put them in the dining room, along with the fridge and microwave, so I had a "summer kitchen." The whole thing went swimmingly, and the only delay was when the last cabinet, custom made to fit around the fridge, fell off the truck, literally, and the trucker backed over it. That meant a couple of weeks delay, but the kitchen was together by then, so no problem. Oh, and he did the powder room too. It may be my favorite room in the whole house. I do spend a fair amount of time in there

    You may touch me for luck if you are planning a remodel.

    Also thanks to all of you for your support during the past weeks while I was case managing my neighbor as he was dying. It happened yesterday at 3:30 pm. I'd been there since 6:00 and came home around noon for a lie down, thinking I might be up all night. I wakened with a lurch at 3:30, and started downstairs just as Lucia, his daughter called me.

    She said "It is done." Chills?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Oh, Ann, that did make chills! May he and his family all find peace.

      Delete
    3. Kudos to you and sympathy to your neighbor's family. This wasn't, by chance, the contractor neighbor who helmed your remodel, was it? Because I was about to ask if you'd lend him to me. Love to you all. Stay warm.

      Delete
    4. No Gigi, our contractor moved to the Left Coast

      Delete
    5. Yes, chills. Hugs on your loss, Ann. You're a wonderful friend and neighbor.
      Next time I see you, I'm hugging you - may it be before we tackle the bathrooms.

      Delete
    6. It's good that he passed peacefully, Ann, and you have been the best neighbor anyone could ask for to him and his family.

      Delete
    7. Ann, you ate an angel sent to this family! You have my awe and respect. Not many can do what you do.
      I hope you all can rest peacefully now!

      Delete
  13. My first kitchen job: pregnant with #3, husband on an extended work trip to Bulgaria and Istanbul, the garage filled with every single item we needed for the reno. My part of the job was calling various sub-contractors when needed and scraping three layers of wallpaper off the walls. "We" wired the new range to the circuit box in basement so I could heat up dinner and gutted the kitchen down to the studs and joists (including two layers of lino which probably had asbestos...sigh). My kids had lunch with the workers every day.

    The last construction day, we had a sanitary sewer backup and two feet of water in the basement.

    When hubs returned, he opened the door and screamed. Did I mention I had a wall torn down?

    Once in a while, I check the real estate listings and admire photos of "my" kitchen. The appliances have been swapped out, the backsplash tile and countertops updated. But it's still my wonderful, workable kitchen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - on your husband's reaction. I once took out a wall in the hallway to put in a built in bookcase. Hub came home from work and said, "Writing not going well?" LOL!

      Delete
  14. Jenn, your hard work was/will be worth it. Every time you walk into that kitchen after it's finished you will want to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It's making such a difference!

    We added on to our old house in 1998, changing the dingy 10 X 14 kitchen with four doorways into a light-filled and spacious 14 X 26 family gathering space. It involved tearing the back wall of the house off, which was fascinating, but we managed to have home-cooked meals most every night of the four months of the project. The contractors, who were good friends of ours, left a fridge and sink standing as long as possible, and we put the microwave in the dining room and used the grill a lot. In between the rooms there was a heavy plastic seal keeping most of the dust down.

    The Big Unforseen, for us, happened right after the excavation for the new basement outside stairwell and crawlspace. The very night after they dug an enormous hole we had a massive thunderstorm with torrential rains. Part of the reason we'd done the addition was to redirect runoff from the adjacent subdivision, which flowed right through our property (it wouldn't be allowed today, but the subdivision was built prior to runoff laws). After they dug the hole and cut down the big tree, there was no barrier to that water.

    Luckily, I was not yet asleep, and luckily, I'd left a window open to that part of the house, so I could hear what sounded like rushing water. By the time I'd gone downstairs to check the hole had filled 2/3 with rainwater.

    I ran upstairs and made Steve get up, while I was madly throwing clothes on, and together we worked in the pouring rain to try to redirect the water away from the house. Steve rolled enormous logs from the tree we'd just had taken down around the hole, and we frantically shoveled mud up around the edge. By the time we were done, and the rain had slowed down, the water was a single inch from the top of the concrete wall between the new hole and the basement. If not for that wall, and our efforts, our basement would have been completely full of water.

    We called the fire department, which sent a ladder truck, lights flashing. They couldn't do anything, since we were not the only ones with a disaster, but they gave us a suggestion about using a sump pump. (The excavator ended up pumping the water out the next day.) That hole then took almost a month to dry out enough to continue the building.

    The funniest part of this story, which is a family tale for the ages, our then-teenage daughter slept through the entire thing. When she woke up the next morning she couldn't imagine how we had managed to create a swimming pool overnight!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! Oh, my goodness! That's incredible, Karen. My teens have been fairly oblivious to the entire process and they walk through it every day!!!

      Delete
  15. When we renovated our 1924 house my contractor put up some shelves in the powder room so I could plug in the coffee maker and a toaster. The fridge was in the dining room and the microwave was on top of the dryer. We ate a lot of soup.
    The contractor was terrific. When my car broke down in the grocery store parking lot he loaned me his Explorer and let me have it for a month when my loaner insurance ran out. He used his truck anyway. I tutored his daughter. He had a great sense of humor. One weekend he arrived at our door to loan us THE MONEY PIT to watch! Living with sheet rock dust is awful! It gets everywhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a lovely man. Oh, the dust...don't even get me started. After a month of it, I was going to fashion a hip holster for my dust buster!

      Delete
  16. We've never had problems during remodels. The projects themselves go just fine. It's the in-between things...

    A year ago, we were wakened in the wee hours of the morning by a crash in my daughter's (thankfully) empty bedroom (she had left for college). A significant piece of the ceiling had come down.

    Two (three?) years ago, I was in the kitchen, which happens to be under the upstairs bathroom. Suddenly, I feel a drip on my head. I look up. Splat. Water is dripping out of the light fixture on the kitchen ceiling. The Hubby raced upstairs. Turns out one of the copper pipes that drains the tub was leaking - and the water was coming right through the ceiling. The copper was so soft The Hubby could push his finger through it.

    Then there was the Great Sewer Replacement Project of 2007(?) where we discovered the house still used the original terra cotta pipe, which had cracked from the roots of the tree out front, and we were discharging raw sewage into the front yard. No wonder it was so green. Fun times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, honey, I feel you. Our water main got ripped out by a tree in the front yard during a storm. Water gushing into the street. The city shut off our water for three days until we could get an emergency plumber...good times.

      Delete
    2. It's always water. Always water.

      Delete
  17. Well, don't hate me everyone. I've had 2 renos done in my little 1933 house. The kitchen, then the bathroom.

    I used a local independent contractor recommended by a friend.

    Both times, he did what he said he would do, when he said he would, and for the cost he said.

    Sometimes I count my blessings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm trying to continue liking you, Susan...just kidding. You're adorable and your story gives me hope!

      Delete
  18. I live with a man who renovates antique houses, so the work gets done right. It can get done VERY slowly, though, because jobs from people who pay him always taken priority. Which means twice now I lived in a five-year construction site, but the house is done and we ain't movin'. No more plaster dust everywhere!

    My ex was not a bit handy and nearly killed himself while reroofing our one-story garage. We had professionals put in a new larger deck but that meant the steps went down to wet grass. I kept saying we needed pave the short distance to the driveway. Being world's biggest cheapwad, he refused. He went off to West Africa for three weeks, I researched how to do it. Dug out the area, leveled it, made a form, and mixed the concrete myself. Done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you, Edith! If I want something done, I just do it!

      Delete
    2. And this was before you tube!

      Delete
  19. Jenn, that is a big kitchen! My kitchen is a galley type kitchen. You have a lot of work on your kitchen ahead of you! Happy you found good electricians who know what they are doing. Skilled workers are hard to find these days.

    To my best recollection, no home improvement woes, though we have had plumbing woes over the years my whole life. We had to live with a broken stove, an iffy fridge and a broken dishwasher, which could not be fixed for years until we got them all replaced. We saved our pennies for years so we could replace these. Happy to have new appliances so that I can bake :-)

    Thank you for sharing with us about your kitchen project.

    Diana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it amazing how we can live with broken things? If I ever get to a place where everything works, I won't recognize my life!

      Delete
    2. It was really challenging. It meant more trips to the grocery shops like they do in Europe where they have very smaller fridges than we do!

      Delete
  20. I tend to live with things as they are. I do not have the patience or the breath for that sort of disruption. I did once arrange for new doors to the balcony of the condo, a definite improvement and much needed, work to be done while I was out of town so I wouldn't be breathing the dust. Was it finished when I got back? . . . or course not. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. I know this is why I put this off for years. I am digging deep and finding new layers of fortitude in my soul. LOL>

      Delete
  21. Jenn, you look fab with a hammer! And your granite is gorgeous! I feel your pain, sister. Our kitchen remodel was a nightmare. We moved doors, walls, and windows. We'd ripped our the cabinets and appliances when we discovered the whole house foundation had to be replaced before any more work was done. Add in an extra BIG chunk of money, and about that time (February) it started to rain and didn't let up for two months, so foundation work couldn't go forward. Dishes in bathtub, toaster oven and microwave in dining room... I don't regret it now (I promise you will love your kitchen!) but I don't know that I'd do it again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, that story actually makes me feel better. Sorry! :)

      Delete
  22. Wait... you mean it takes more than 45 minutes on an HGTV show?!?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh, and I haven't had any large reno experiences in our 200 year old house but we do have a family story. My folks had set money aside and planned a MAJOR renovation of their ugly and badly laid out 70s kitchen. My mom, who had been cooking there for close to a decade was SO excited about the project... and then that winter, both their daughters got engaged. Guess where they got the money for the two weddings in May and August?

    They did eventually do the renovation a couple years later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hub and I and his two sisters got married within 6 months of each other - I'm surprised his mother speaks to any of us!

      Delete
  24. You are amazing. And how can you look so adorable????

    ReplyDelete
  25. I live one block from an official Historic District. Believe me, the houses on our block are just as old (turn of the last century brownstones - NY talk for attached stone rowhouses) Some houses have lovely period detail but need propping up and modernizing. Some houses had the details stripped out long ago, but need quality propping up to replace the shoddy original "modernizing." It is not unusual to have several dumpsters lined up on the block in front of houses undergoing work.We had so much boring, invisible, expensive work to do (gas lines, masonry) in our renovated (Ha-ha!) house, it took years to get to the satisfying jobs. And then,once we had a reliable contractor's attention, my husband kept adding new jobs! And the contractor smiled and said, "No problem." each time. When they stripped decades of paint off the staircase, it turned out there was beautiful carving underneath. Who knew??? And yes, it was all worth it. It didn't always feel that way, but it was. (and then we did the garden floor tenants apartment!It hadn't been touched in about 30 years.)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Since I hate mess, I'm not getting anything done unless something breaks or for safety's sake. I'm thinking of getting someone to inspect the house to tell me if anything really needs fixed. I lived in my house since age 1 so I remember how much better it is now. One bathroom for 4 people. Dad had to build closets downstairs and in my brother's room. I'm not handy at all but my friend retired and is now doing odd jobs so replaced ceiling tiles and other things last year.

    ReplyDelete
  27. When Mom's kitchen was getting rehabilitated she would spend her day at my home. I got some very nice dinners for a while.

    ReplyDelete
  28. We remodeled our 1979 house in 1999-2000.
    Tore kitchen and dining room down to studs in order get open plan style. My husband, son and I relocated to the basement for breakfast. Ate lunch and dinner out. This part of remodeling took four months. Contractor was fabulous. His best response to me asking if we could do something was “Anything’s possible, it just costs money.” Second phase of remodel was adding bathroom/dressing room over garage. Only access was through our master bedroom which meant I had to be up and presentable by 7:00am for another four months. Like giving birth I’ve romanticized the whole experience!

    ReplyDelete