Remodel Blues

We have been under house arrest for a month.

Not because of Omicron. Voluntary house arrest.

That is, we voluntarily decided to contract for an upstairs remodel: the hall and our bedroom. For the 37 years we’ve lived here, we have painted over wallpaper lines and plaster cracks and gone on to other projects.

Demolition, Day 1

We made the remodel decision in the summer when the pandemic seemed to be receding, scheduled it for January because the contractors we got bids from were booked to January. For some, this is a booming economy.

Our beloved house is a Queen Anne vernacular cottage, built in 1897. Queen Anne for its steep roof, dormers, wrap-around porch and long windows. Vernacular for not having decorative wood trim. Cottage for being a story and a half with small rooms.

My grandson the project manager and Phil’s nose

We’ve done every other room. This project required moving out of our bedroom and making the upstairs bathroom off limits. We were reluctant to do that. The cracked ceiling finally got to us. We’re camping in the downstairs library/guest room, which has a bath. It’s smaller, a bit cramped. Normally I’m fine with that—it discourages guests from staying too long.

We’ve been through this before, know taking down a wall in this old house yields surprises. Wow. A cast iron vent pipe with a big hole in it, connected to nothing. Our project manager took a look behind the studs and said, “this was when they built houses by hand.”

Ancient ceiling joists and insulation; a useless vent pipe

About house arrest. You can’t leave your home when you have workmen coming and going all day. You have to keep your door unlocked. You never know when Carlos is going to call your name, show you some new problem and ask how you want to resolve it, a question that draws way too heavily on your rusty Spanish. Oh, look: three of the ceiling joists are cracked and the rest sag. In their defense, those joists are 125 years old. We better replace them. Vamos a comprarlos. That’ll up the cost, of course.

Phil examines drywall work

Now it is Sunday afternoon and I hear soft Spanish conversation upstairs amid the clank and thud of the ladder moving around, the occasional nail gun as trim goes up. Carlos and Carlitos, his eldest son, work in admirable harmony. Yes, on Sunday. They need to finish painting before the floor guys come next week and the electrician after that. The new windows might arrive later this decade if we’re lucky. So we said, yes, come on Sunday. We’d rather not live downstairs a day longer than we must.

“Ocho y media,” suggested Carlos, the foreman. He’s driven, Carlos, usually arrives on time, seldom takes breaks, does good work. Our project manager says Carlos is his secret weapon. Our project manager, my sterling grandson, is my secret weapon. Don’t ask: he won’t do this for you.

8:30 on Sunday morning? Could we make it a little later? After our second cup of coffee? I watch wistfully as the idea of going out for breakfast evaporates. But we haven’t much choice. We’re under house arrest.

Week 3, painted hall, waiting for floors


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13 Responses to Remodel Blues

  1. deb r says:

    You’ll be so happy when it’s done! I’m painting my kitchen today, two walls a day and it’s taking 2 coats! My elbow gave out after first coat so, yes, it will take a LOT longer than I’d planned.

    • dubrava says:

      That’s what we keep saying: we’ll be happy when it’s done. Now the floor repair wood which was to come today, won’t be here until tomorrow…

  2. Judith Weaver says:

    Was wondering how the project was coming along just today. You just answered that with this blog and photos. Thinking you will be very happy with the results as that hallway looks great. Hang in there!

    • dubrava says:

      Thanks, Judy! On a little pause right now—two days before the floor work starts, so we’re catching our breath. I do love the new walls and ceilings.

  3. Bob Jaeger says:

    Looks like it’s getting closer. Hope you get to move back upstairs soon. I still have some bits and pieces I kept from tearing this old 1911 house apart years ago—2 x 4’s that actually measured 2 x 4 inches, tongue and groove planks held to those studs with square cut nails, bits of board with ancient wallpaper.

    • dubrava says:

      I kept wanting to get better photos of some of the old wallpaper they uncovered, but they were taking those walls down pretty fast. We’re now on pause. Wood delivered this morning for the floor repair, all old carpet gone, but a chance they won’t start sanding until Friday. We’re at least a week away from being able to move back up there.

  4. Barbara Ellman/ says:

    Brave people to lock yourselves in. But , yes the fresh paint , fresh walls and a new life upstairs will rejuvenate you . Enjoy the final phase

  5. Andrea Jones says:

    We’ve done some renovation work on venerable homes over the last decade, and I’ve always been so very VERY grateful that we were not living in the places. And isn’t there always a surprise behind those old walls or under those old floors: “Oh. My. I wonder why they did that….”

    May you serve the balance of you term with grace. It looks like it will be well worth the wait.

    • dubrava says:

      One thing we discovered in the ceiling: thin old gas lines for gas light fixtures. The very idea scares me. I dream of renting somewhere nearby until it’s over, but that’s never been in the budget.

  6. Denise Gibson says:

    Wow, Pat, It looks wonderful!

  7. Jenny-Lynn says:

    It’s always hardest closest to the end. And, wow, it looks great! (If not move-in ready quite yet.)

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