Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hiccups....the Inevitable Bumps in the Road, or Why I Suffer from Indigestion

No matter how much planning you do and how many details you define - when you're working on an old house, there will be surprises.  And while it can feel like a lot of setbacks, you need to remember this is normal.  Old house renovations never goes smoothly, there will always be hiccups along the way.  And some feel like major indigestion!!  But it's how you work through each issue that keeps the project moving forward.  And this house is no different - lots and lots of hiccups, with a few moments of severe heartburn.

The city still has the logbook from 1937!!!
First up, the neighbors want to update their sewer line out to the street.  And as luck would have it, the city records (from 1937 no less, in a leather bound logbook!) show that our sewer line intersects with theirs.....right under their driveway.  Yikes!!  And new sewer lines tend to be very costly, so I started worrying right away.
 EcoClean came out to take a look and ran a scope down our sewer line.  And we got some good news for a change!!!  Our sewer line had been disconnected at some point in time and replaced with a new PVC line.  Whew!!  The city records were wrong.  And we have a nice clean sewer line.  We don't need to add that to the list.  Hooray!
Video camera showing the inside of our sewer line - nice and clean!!
Next, I wanted to increase the headroom in the stairwell.  If you're 6 feet tall, you're going to bump your head as you get to the 3rd step of the staircase - and by building code, we need 6 feet 8 inches of clearance.  We've done this before in other houses and it's a big job, but pretty straightforward.

Stairwell with 'Hobbit Hutch'
Garrison creates cantilevered extension off of stairwell
But this house is anything but straightforward!  You see, this house is a 'double garrison' - meaning the second floor is bigger than the first on both front and back - with a cantilever extension.  This created some unusual structural challenges.

Our initial plan (which we had already bought the beams for) would result in losing the original little china cabinet that's built under the staircase. NO!   I hated that idea, so we brought in a team of experts and the structural computer models showed we need a steel beam to handle the load.  We also had to do a lot of extra reinforcement in the wall above - but that let me keep the cabinet (BTW, the guys think I'm crazy.  They nicknamed it the Hobbit Hutch and can't imagine why I want it!  But I love it!).  It's created a week of delay and a lot more work - but the cabinet will look great and the headroom in the stairwell is a game changer for tall people!!!
Steel Beam Installation
And then there is the fireplace saga.  I desperately want a gas fireplace in the living room.  It's the real focal point of the design and is such a nice addition with our cold Maine winters.  But as luck would have it, the electrical meter is only a foot away from the fireplace exhaust.  Thanks to some clever thinking from the folks at Embers Stove & Fireplace, we rerouted the gas exhaust, to give us the necessary 3 feet of separation.  It means I had to redesign the fireplace surround - but it will still look great!
The mantle will use a giant antique beam I've been hoarding!!

Here is the inspiration for the fireplace surround.  I've been hoarding the giant beam for the mantle for a few years now - and we can finally use it on the perfect project!

And then there was the vanity that arrived with a giant crack in the marble top.  We returned it and hopefully the new one will be fine.

The mullion should line up for the door and sidelights!!  
And the front door that was delivered wrong - was reworked - and was still wrong!!!  We are waiting for them to come and fix it again.

And the deck railings that came in wrong.....twice.  Thankfully third time's the charm!

And the bathroom shower plumbing that had to go in a wall I didn't want.....because of the joist direction.

What will go wrong next?  I have no idea, but I can guarantee it won't be smooth sailing.  And yet somehow, we work through all the challenges and it comes out beautifully in the end.  And in the meantime?  I'll be eating a lot of antacids!!!  :-)

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  1. Laurel you make the After so fabulous it's hard to believe the challenges of Before! Horray for the china cabinet!

    1. Thanks Denise - I just love that little cabinet!!

  2. This is so interesting. So many hiccups, all in a short period of time. My take away is that you need a professional like you to do a major restoration of an old home. I love your blog and the houses you restore and your final results. What great work!

  3. I'm glad the sewer line news was so good! Huge relief to balance out the other challenges. I hope things flow smoothly as you move forward.

    1. Thanks Barbara - seems like we should have crossed most of the big issues now! Fingers crossed!

  4. Saving the cabinet.....totally worth it!

  5. Story of my life! Can't do this because of that, can't do that because of this, can do this but it will take a boatload of money so nope, can do this but it will cause that not to be right so back to the drawing board. And then there are the rare shining moments when the stars and planets align with our diy skills and our bank account.....

    1. Those are the best days!!! Ha ha - thankfully they do happen sometimes!

  6. I am with you Laurel, I love the "Hobbit Hutch" (by the way I also love the nick name too) and am so happy you were able to save it.


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