My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Monday, August 20, 2012

House Update: Chaos Theory

I haven't heard any clamoring for a house update despite my failure to provide one in a month, so either everyone is being incredibly patient and understanding, or completely uninterested. :-) In either case, I feel compelled to post an update. I haven't provided one in so long for a few reasons, chief among them the fact that things have been happening on the house much faster than I can document them on my blog; we've been far too busy (the non-house related posts I've managed to publish lately were already in the hopper or were quick - and therapeutic - to put together); and frankly, for much of the past few weeks the house project has been an unrelenting source of stress, frustration and aggravation and though it consumes our thoughts, time, energy (and money!), I haven't felt like talking about it, never mind blogging about it till now. Here's a short list of recent major frustrations and setbacks:

1) Several things, big and small, should have been finished by now but aren't, were finished but were done incorrectly and have to be re-done, or were done correctly but then damaged (contractors seem to damage and destroy things almost as fast as they build or install them!) and require repair or replacement;

2) A significant cost-overrun that blindsided us (thank goodness our lender was willing and able to finance most of it), and two delays on our closing date (so far);

3) A vacation our General Contractor insisted on taking during the most critical week of the project (the week of the majority of electrical and plumbing installations, carpet installation, most of the repairs and finishing touches, the Occupancy Inspection that has to be passed in order to close on schedule, and of the closing itself! And no one seems to know when he plans to return, including his father who was appointed - apparently against his wishes - as acting GC);

4) A failed Occupancy Inspection on Friday due to a stupid plumbing snafu that has since been rectified but resulted in another delay - the second inspection is scheduled for today and failure is not an option!);

5) A landscaper we'd lined up months ago, but who has never acknowledged a single email we sent him, requires multiple phone calls and the passage of multiple days before he returns any, and who stood us up yesterday (and wasted precious time) not once but TWICE! He's fired before we've even gotten started, and we're in a schedule crunch on our landscaping like we are on everything else.

Anyway, that's most - but not all - of it, and perhaps you can understand now why I haven't been up to blogging about it (and why we never, ever intend to build a house again!) At least BW was on vacation last week (don't know how we'd have handled everything if he hadn't been), but now it's over, the week ahead is going to be as hectic and stressful as the last one was, our contractor is still MIA, and we're scheduled to close on Friday at 1pm with the movers coming a week from today to move our heavy furniture and appliances. I was naive to ever think that when you built a new house, it would be finished when you paid for it at closing and were handed the keys! We'll still be contending with contractors of all stripes after we've moved in, plus the landscaper. Let's just hope the housecleaning people have already done their job by then, because no one can make a mess quite like a contractor. I've known drunken frat boys who were tidier!

In spite of it all, I must say the house is going to be beautiful. It's very well-built (our contractor has frustrated us at times, but he's an awfully skilled builder and a truly nice guy) and I think we'll be very happy there, once we've kicked the last sub out and taken several very long naps! :-) But you'll have to wait for the pretty pictures... here, instead, is how things were looking during the bedlam last week...

After the painters had finished Wednesday night, we knew the plumbers, electricians and HVAC guys would be descending on the place Thursday morning, but were told they wouldn't be starting till around 9am. So we showed up at 8:30, armed with a vacuum and dustmop in the vain hope we'd be able to get most of the sheetrock chunks, screws, etc cleaned up before several pairs of workboots ground them further into the new flooring. So imagine our dismay when this sight greeted us on our arrival!...

I couldn't fit all the trades' vehicles in this photo, 
they extended even further up the street!

Enter at your own risk and I'll give you a taste of what was lurking inside....

Go ahead and ring our fun doorbell ~ it was hooked up to the grid that day :-) ... 

Before we begin, I'll warn you that although you'll get to see a few of our interior paint colors in these photos, some of them don't look very accurate, at least on my monitor. Like in this living room photo, where the walls appear yellow but are actually beige. Wall color notwithstanding, here's what the living room was looking like when we showed up...

Steve (HVAC) hooks up the gas fireplace 
while Chance (an electrician) installs a light switch

And in the master bathroom...

Tom (plumber) hooks up the plumbing to one of the sinks

Bless her heart, despite the fact it was likely to be further abused, Marla (one of the painters and one of my favorite people working on our house) was touching up some of the paint. I'll be seeing a lot more of Marla in the days (and weeks) to come!...

Marla touches up paint by the patio door off the living room
while Kurt (carpenter) installs our kitchen cabinet hardware

As is usually the case, the kitchen is the most popular room in the house for everyone to congregate, even when it isn't finished...

Coulter (electrician), Steve (plumber), Kurt (carpenter), 
Brian (our contractor's dad & acting GC), Dean (electrician)

By the following day (Friday), even BW had joined the kitchen crowd!

BW, Steve (HVAC), unknown plumber, Fred (city inspector)

This is what our poor kitchen island looked like after everyone left for the day on Thursday!...

The garage didn't look much better, though it's a lot emptier and tidier than it has been...

This next photo almost inspires an "everything but the kitchen sink" line (except that it's a bathroom sink), but really it reminds me of a Picasso painting. The kind where a woman has a guitar where her nose should be. Because this bathroom sink (which was supposed to have come with the pedestal, but didn't) was left in our living room while we wait for the missing pedestal to show up, like a rather surreal decorating statement...

So much still has to be done that I can't even begin to list it all, lest I burst into tears. But at least we haven't completely lost our sense of humor...

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules! We got nailguns!

The exterior isn't finished yet: we're still waiting for a capstone to be installed on the stone wall/bench on the porch, a replacement panel for the damaged garage door that we've been waiting for since JUNE along with the correct window grilles (the painters finally decided they'd waited long enough and painted the door on Friday, despite knowing they'd just have to do it again later)!, and the decorative corbels ~ of which there is still no sign ~ that go in the house gables, but here's how it looked as of Saturday...

The red dumpster is supposed to disappear today. Yay!

And that's the last photo you're likely to see of the new house for a while. I plan to wait for the "reveal," when the place is furnished and decorated and I can give you the grand tour. I'm hoping (optimistically probably), for December!

Meanwhile, I'll try to provide verbal updates as necessary along with Herculean attempts to keep up with my ABC Wednesday and SkyWatch Friday posts. Please wish us luck on passing today's make-up inspection, making our Friday closing and getting moved, on finding a new landscaper, and on not throttling anyone in the meantime (good thing we're non-violent vegans!) :-) Our new address takes effect Monday, and if I've failed to provide you with it and you want it, please let me know. Our internet is supposed to be connected and transferred that same day - please wish us luck on that, too! Blogging - and Margaritas - are my versions of Valium!) :-)


  1. Oh my, Laurie! I got stressed just reading about all of it, so I can't even imagine how much of a whirlwind it is for you!

    However, your house is so cute! In the end, it'll definitely be worth all of this trouble and hopefully you can settle in and be done with the projects for a while. I'll be looking forward to seeing the final results and have no problem being patient for them. I saw my parents build two houses & know how much can go wrong. :)

    Best of luck with absolutely everything and I hope that you can be back online again soon!

  2. Oh my. My heart goes out to you. I would certainly have cried enough tears to drown myself and anyone in the vicinity.
    It does look lovely, and will look magnificent when you are in, but the stress, oh the stress.
    Sending positive vibes your way.

  3. ~ Thanks for empathizing, Molly! You know, if this project had either had fewer problems and/or we'd more and better communication and information so we could have understood and anticipated better, it would have been far easier. Likewise, had the project wrapped up when it was supposed to have (at the end of July), we probably would have done better. But to have so much go wrong in the last few weeks, when you've grown weary of it all anyway and just want to get moved in and have a lease expiration bearing down on you and adding to the stress, it just felt like an interminable, life-sucking process! Which, of course, it wasn't - there were several pleasant surprises and easy days along the way, too. But BW and I have compared it to running a marathon whose final five miles are in the worst heat of a hot day and up a steep hill. :-)

    Wow, so your parents built two houses? Did they need years of therapy between and after? LOL

    I wish I could tell you our projects will end soon, but they've probably only just begun. But at least we won't have to deal with realtors and house-shoppers, landlords and leases, or as many deadlines and contractors, as we have over the course of the last couple of years. We can pace ourselves (except for the landscaping!)

    I'm glad you think the house is cute, we sure like the look of it too!

    Ellie C ~ Thank you, dear Ellie C, I can feel your positive vibes from halfway around the globe! :-) I probably should have cried all those tears, maybe it would have been healthier! But I did far more cussing than crying, and mostly the various stresses resulted in a lot of sleepless nights. I'd fall asleep quickly, exhausted from the day, but if anything woke me up in the middle of the night (and something usually did), that was the end of it. My monkey mind would keep me awake trying to problem solve, anticipate, think of and remember everything we needed to ask about or tell the contractors or run out and buy or provide to the lender, blah blah blah. (I got a lot of my blog posts composed during those sleepless wee hours of the morning!) And I didn't even tell you all that the very day we moved into this rental, foreclosure warnings started being delivered FedEx to our landlords (who hadn't changed their address when they moved out!) So we weren't sure for a while there if we'd be having to move again immediately, or try to go through a home construction project while living in our car! I know things can always be (and are for many) far worse, and in the end we'll have a lovely home for which we're grateful, but the past year has really been trying. Thanks for listening. :-) And thanks for your compliments on our house and your good vibes!

  4. TW! I can't imagine how stressed you two are right now. I wasn't surprised at all to hear you say you'll never do this again. It's truly amazing how much goes into a new build. Isn't there some saying that, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" You two should be able to handle anything after this ;-).
    All that aside, your home looks beautiful. I love the color choices! I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed that nothing else pops up and the closing goes through without a hitch. You're going to be so happy ;-). xoxo

  5. Oh my goodness you have a lovely home, but reading your post made me realise how lucky we were to have all our own renovations without tradesmen in the most part!

  6. I for one have missed the house posts though at least on our phone calls, I've gotten house updates. Yikes! Putting all the main frustrations in one list does make it look worse.

    I've got one contractor - Jim working on my house and I spent 14 hours sweeping and vacuuming this weekend just to clean up the mess he made in about 6 workdays so I can imagine how much having that onslaught of contractor's was able to mess up.

    I love the doorbell and can't wait to ring it even if I'm at the door standing next to you. It's so pretty.

    A plumber under a sink with no exposed butt crack - where did you get him! I love that you know so many of the contractor's names - that's really cool of you to have taken the time to do that. (And for BW to thank them whenever he sees them).

    In the first kitchen picture, I was thinking "where are the appliances?" and then in the very next picture - there they are. I love the silver and black - it looks nice.

    I know you're seeing all the things that are left to do, but I'm seeing everything that's done and it looks great. I'm so pleased that despite all the setbacks you still think the house is beautiful because it is!

  7. I think I'd be downing a bottle of red a day by now... but it will all soon be finished and it does look fab. I am loving your doorbell by the way!

  8. Spud ~ I think it's going to take some time to decompress, even after the stressors are vanquished. I sometimes made aware that I'm holding a lot of tension and anxiety I'm not usually conscious of. You're absolutely right that it's amazing how much goes into a new build! And after renovating a 100-year old HUD repo farmhouse in TX (while engaged and then newly married), remodeling and repairing the house in Big Horn for the past almost-20 years, and now this - I think BW and I have earned languid, lazy summers on our front porch - without to-do lists or sawdust and paint splatters on our faces! :-)

    Thank you for your good wishes! Can't believe we're finally closing the day after tomorrow!

    LindyLou ~ Thank you! We've done both: renovations using tradesmen ("Is easier to write check than hang sheetrock" ~ Confuscious, lol) and doing it all ourselves. Neither is a cakewalk, that's for sure, but if one has the time, tools and skills, I definitely prefer doing it ourselves. At least you're more in control of the situation and it can go at a pace you're more comfortable with.

    Jo ~ Good grief, 14 hours of sweeping and vacuuming? You must have been cleaning the ductwork and attic rafters, too! :-) I found out today that the cleaning crew that's supposed to spend part of the next two days cleaning up this mess that was 6 months in the making is Todd's mom and sister! I think I'll be rolling up my sleeves and joining them tomorrow. I'll clean it to my standards after we've moved in and after we've cleaned and handed over the rental, but there are some things I want to get done over there before we start moving our stuff in.

    I'm glad you love our doorbell, and look forward to your opportunity to ring it! :-)

    ROTFL about the plumber w/o the exposed butt crack! We found him through a special Plumbers Union. LOL (The only butt crack I saw - and it was a doozy - was on the guy who was helping install the kitchen countertops. And he wasn't even bent over!! He was obese and couldn't get his pants over his gut, so they were hanging halfway down his hips. I just got the hell out of there).

    We saw enough of all these guys that I can't imagine not bothering to learn their names (and it came in handy when we needed to holler to one of them, though we had so many guys named Steve on this project that when it doubt, hollering, "Hey, Steve!" was a good bet!) :-) The one plumber's assistant whose name I didn't know had only shown up that morning - never saw him before or since and weren't introduced in the melee. (People around here never introduce themselves or each other, even after you've introduced yourself to them - you have to point blank ask them their names!)

    I'm glad you think our house is (or will be) beautiful too! We love how it turned out.

    Barbara ~ Oh, don't think they haven't seen plenty of us at yon liquor store lo these past few months!! LOL

    Thanks, that fun doorbell was my little splurge. :-)

  9. I am almost speechless. So many workers and so many things not quite right. A few years ago I remember Debbie Travis had a television series on renovations that showed how it was all put together and the process looked so messy and hair-pullingly crazy. Much more realistic than the usual shows that made you think 2, maybe 3, people were involved in all the work.
    I am a much less patient and more flighty, person and would have lost all affection for the place after going through what you are going through.

  10. It will be all right in the end, it WILL! Keep smiling, keep drinking (for medicinal purposes, naturally) and don't ever plan to move again:-)

  11. Hang in there Laurie! You're getting so close to the end product. Margaritas sounds like a good idea too.

    I hope all the snafus get ironed out. Just think how lovely it will be to enjoy the holiday season in your new home! I'll be looking forward to the big unveiling.

  12. PS:

    I forgot to mention that the house does look lovely. It looks like there's lots of light. I'm sure it will be a beautiful and comfy home!!

  13. VioletSky ~ Sounds like Debbie nailed it! And yes, so many workers and so many things not quite right, in no small part because those workers don't communicate with each other, or with us, or they don't listen! That's the hair-pulling part.

    And you're not much different than me. I am definitely not known for my patience, and what little I possess was tapped out a while ago. I nearly lost it yesterday when the two remaining carpenters had done the exact opposite of what we'd told them to, and the painters and housecleaners have made little progress on finishing - and we start moving in today. But you really struck a chord when you said you'd have lost all affection for the place after all this: BINGO. I fear that's very much how I feel now, and I am suffering a very bad case of cold feet going into closing today. Quite the opposite of how I thought I'd be feeling on a day I'd eagerly anticipated for so long! I am hoping it's just all the accumulated frustration, sleep deprivation (been awake since 2:20 this morning), anxiety over spending so much, and all the uncertainty that comes with something this new and different, and my dread at all the work that lies ahead with moving and cleaning and landscaping and decorating. I HOPE I can learn to fall in love with the house all over again!

    jabblog ~ How I want to believe you! But I am deeply discouraged right now. There's too much left to be done and fixed, and here we are about to buy it and move in. Makes me terribly anxious. Yesterday I passed up the Margaritas in favor of chocolate. I have a feeling that by the time this day is over, I'll be dunking my chocolate IN my Margarita!! (And I'm already planning my next move - to a little cottage in a quiet neighborhood full of sweet elderly people! LOL)

    Rose ~ If only the end product felt close, that's a lot of the problem. Everything seems to have slowed to a crawl, the builder seems to have lost all interest (despite our 1-year warranty), and we still don't have a downstairs bathroom sink (if I hear, "it's supposed to be here tomorrow" one more time, like we've been hearing since Monday, I'm likely to take a swing at someone, Margaritas or no Margaritas!) I knew building a house was going to be challenging, but I didn't expect it to go so badly, especially at the end. Not with the sterling reputation of our builder. So my expectations set me up for major aggravation and upset, unfortunately.

    I'm glad you think it's beautiful, and one day soon I hope to see all the things that are right and lovable about it, instead of all the problems and issues. Maybe once it's clean and has our stuff in it, that will help.

    Thanks for the pep talk, I've just got a bad case of cold feet this morning and no energy left to face all that's still ahead. Makes me want to cry.

  14. I DO love that chaos poster!! And your doorbell!! That is the most wonderful doorbell I have ever seen!

  15. We built our house a few years ago, so I know what you're talking about. Everything is looking lovely! The outside of the house has a similar look to ours so I obviously like it! Hope everything goes smoothly from here on out.


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

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