Remodel Week 1

Filed under: @ 7:15 pm

I realize it’s probably the height of hubris to assume that the outside world is as fascinated with our remodel process as we are, but this is our blog and if I want to write about the godawful mess that has been made in my garage and front yard, I shall!
Besides, Andrew and I are so wound up excited about this whole thing that we can barely talk of anything else at this point and since it’s going to be probably another two months or so before all the banging, crashing, and thumping is over with, y’all are pretty lucky that you get anything coherent at all.
Also since Andrew has finally managed to drill through my luddite tendencies and teach me how to post photos, I’m having way too much fun posting photos left right and sideways and boy howdy are there plenty of those. 😆

We were expecting the sewer contractor to show up last Monday at some point around 0700. I have to be at work at 0700 so I leave the house at 0630 or a few minutes earlier. We had arranged that I would rout Andrew out of bed before I left so he would have a little time to hit the hot tub before the contractor showed up. And so he did. All of about 15 minutes, as the contractor, the excavator, the jackhammer, the concrete saw and all the rest of the paraphernalia showed up at 0645 or so.

Now understand that you’re getting only my perspective on this. I spent the majority of the chaos, at least for this project, in my relatively peaceful and quiet (which is saying a lot considering the average ambient noise level at my job) veterinary hospital. Andrew will have a much different point of view of all of this, mainly since he was the one that had to sit and listen to them dig up the driveway and the garage floor. His ears may stop ringing some day.

Allow me to fill in a little background here. We had had the plumber in last week to see whether the water line that ran from the main to the house was copper or galvanized pipe. The plumber banged around in the basement and the garage for a while, looking in all the rational places that one would put the water shut off for the house, and finally came to the conclusion that the water shut off was behind the drywall underneath the shelves on the west wall of the garage. Didn’t make any difference at that point, because he was also convinced that the water pipe from the main was galvanized and so would need to be replaced. We didn’t need to find the water shut off, he said, because since the water line would have to be replaced they could put in a new shut off at the same time. It’s all very well and good, right?

Except at about 10 a.m. on Monday Andrew called me at work explaining that the big pipe along the south wall of the garage that we THOUGHT was the main feed into the septic tank was only the drain pipe for part of the upstairs. The rest of the upstairs drains and all of the downstairs drains fed into a second main line that was, in fact, behind the drywall underneath the shelves on the west wall of the garage. So just to keep me up to date, he wanted to let me know that they had to rip out part of the garage wall to get to the drains and, coincidentally, to the water shut off. **sigh**
Fine, whatever. We’re expecting this to be a hideous mess anyway, what’s half a wall in the big picture anyway.

A couple of hours later I get a second call. Everything was going well, Andrew said, they’d taken down the shelves and ripped out the wall to expose the main sewer stack and the water line and shut off which was, in fact, galvanized pipe. They’d also found a mummified rat.
Rat Mummy in The Wall

So the reason he was calling wasn’t that he really needed to tell me about the rat, but rather that they were digging over the septic tank and they needed to have it pumped. The sewer contractor could provide us with the name of a septic service who could come out the same day and pump the tank. They’d also be able to decommission the tank for us which involved filling it with sand or gravel. Great. So let’s get the septic service out and get it done. Oh, he also wanted to let me know that, and I quote, “they’re doing a lot of digging out front, but they’ve missed your lavender bush”. Missed my lavender bush? I knew that they were going to dig a trench through the lithadora slope out front, but DANG that sounds like a BIG trench. It was a big trench. A BIG trench.
Big Trench In The Lithadora
For the purposes of orientation, the photo is taken from the northeast corner of the garage aimed northwest. The steps to the front door are along the left and you’re facing the excavator in the front yard.

I got home from work Monday evening and parked in the driveway. Both garage doors were open, Andrew was still shuffling things around and there was a trench and enormous pile of dirt and rocks in the garage. A ditch was dug through the asphalt of the driveway in front of the steps to the front, but it was shallow enough for me to be comfortable stepping over. I picked my way into the house, we ate leftovers for dinner since neither of us were in any shape to cook (Andrew was still vibrating from the noise of the jackhammers), went to bed and repeated the process backwards to get to my car and go to work on Tuesday morning.

The contractor gave Andrew a little bit of a break Tuesday morning, waiting until AFTER 0700 (0715, in fact) to show up. Andrew spent the day wearing earplugs.
I got a call while in between surgical procedures Tuesday, Andrew told me that the septic tank was pumped, had been almost completely full and we weren’t allowed to do any laundry until after the sewer was hooked up and the septic was decommissioned. The temporary water line had been hooked up, the plumber would finish with the permanent installation on Wednesday and the total for the plumber would be (ouch!) an additional $2500. If we wanted the plumber to put in new hose bibs (something we had discussed) they’d have to take further walls apart and it would cost around another $700.
Ah. Well maybe we’ll wait on the hose bibs, at least until the interior contractor is taking apart the upstairs bathroom and then have the hose bib on the south wall of the house done.

I got home from work Tuesday evening and parked in the driveway. I was planning on doing my tiptoe through the driveway to the front door, but when I walked around to the passenger side of my car I almost fell into the ditch in the driveway. I don’t know what the standard depth is for burying sewer lines, but DAMN! The ditch was something like three feet wide and at least 5 feet deep. A little deeper than I was comfortable trying to leap while carrying my backpack, my teacup, and a grungy scrub shirt. So I opened the garage door and picked my way around Andrew’s car and the stacked junk to find…….
Big Trench In The Garage
Which was a little challenging to work around while not dropping, tripping over, or trailing fifty pounds of dirt into the house.
Although I will say that it’s pretty cool to be able to see what is under the garage floor.
Andrew told me that they were going to be un-digging the trench and the great enormous hole over the septic tank where the lithadora bed and the bird bath used to be on Wednesday. I was instructed to produce a diagram detailing where I wanted all of the enormous whacking rocks that used to be hidden under the lithadora which I happily did. I also left a little note at the upper corner of the diagram indicating that if the excavator operator wanted to scrape away the rest of the sod in the front yard that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Little did I understand the enthusiasm that the dude that ran the excavator has about playing with his big toy.

I worked my way back through the maze to get to my car and go to work on Wednesday morning. Spent much of the morning pulling teeth (shudder). Andrew called mid-morning to let me know that they were putting in the finishing touches and KABOOM! We suddenly had a sewer connection. Septic tank was filled with sand, the lid was sealed shut, the hillside was back in place over the access, the permanent water line was laid, soldered, and insulated. The only thing that was left was a huge pile of dirt and rocks in the garage (it looks really odd to have a huge pile of dirt and rocks in the garage) and the two trenches that had been filled in, but are not yet covered in concrete and/or asphalt. Not only that, but the rockery that the excavator guy built me looks great and he not only took out all the sod from the front yard, he finished off taking out the juniper bushes that were along the north property line that I was going to have to hack out with a pickaxe before we can put in the retaining wall that we’ve been wanting.

Excavator guy came back on Thursday with a small crew of wheelbarrow monkeys and they emptied the garage and tamped down the gravel covering the trenches so we can actually, y’know, use the driveway and the garage for cars. It’s all very exciting….. and entirely covered in concrete dust.

Next week will see the appearance of Bruno the Concrete Guy (no kidding, the sub-contractor that has been retained to patch the driveway and the garage floor is named Bruno). The insulation dudes are coming on Tuesday to give us a bid on updating the insulation in the attic, and Sheri is coming over on Thursday to view the mud pit that is my front yard and give us a bid on putting that back together again (something I look forward to with great anticipation).
Mud Pit In The Front Yard
We also should be getting an estimate from Jim the Contractor so we have a comparison to the estimate that we already have from David the Contractor. As soon as we get all the bids in place phase 2 starts with the drywalling and painting of the basement and the imminent destruction of the upstairs bathroom.
I’m already picking at the wallpaper. 😀

2 Responses to “Remodel Week 1”

  1. Val Says:

    Oh happy day! Frabjous joy! Congratulations on your sewer connection! Believe me, I know how you feel. At least when we did it, we didn’t have to live in the middle of it like you guys did. I can’t imagine that.

    When we put the sewer connection in, the city required us to extend the sewer main down from the corner (talk about a deep trench 😯 ). We pointed out that there was an existing and unused stub out on the street and we could easily get an easement through our neighbor’s property, but no dice. At first the city was requiring us to extend the main across the entire road frontage of our property–which would have cost us something like $130K in 1995 dollars–but we successfully argued that didn’t make sense and in the end were only required to extend the main down the street and over our property line by 20 ft. While still unbelieveably expensive, it was the best we could do. But you’d better bet I thought unfondly of the city’s public works director for the first couple years worth of flushes!

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    You know, it’s really odd, but now that our poo is not being stored in a big keg in our front yard, I’m beginning to wonder how I ever stood the thought of it being there in the first place. Yay, Someone Else’s Problem! 😀

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