Monday, May 20, 2013

DIY Because They Certainly Won't

Our newly-painted stair risers

Last Monday, I wrote to our contractor, asking when four specific items would be completed. He picked one-- sanding and painting the risers on the stairway-- and said that'd actually been planned to be done the next day. (What a coincidence!) It was, but here we are a week later and nothing else has been done--on the list or otherwise. By Wednesday, we knew we'd be in this situation, so we started brainstorming everything that was left. Lots of little things, for sure, but "lots" is the important word here, not "little!"

Maybe the mailman
can find us now...
One of those things was an issue with the fireplace. (We did the gas fireplace ourselves, and just had his guys install it.) There is no way to close the flue to the fireplace, which means when we turn it on, we lose almost all of the heat up the chimney. Granted, we're more worried about getting rid of heat right now, but hey, I'm nothing if not a box checker. The good thing about this whole situation is that, of all the contractors we have worked with in both house projects, there is one who has come through on multiple occasions with flying colors: American Professional Chimney Services. I would recommend these guys without reservation. In fact, I called them for an estimate, didn't even bother calling around, just hired them to do the work, and expect that they'll be done before I get home from work tomorrow.  By the end of the week, we'll have all the pointing done, the flue will be capped, we'll have paid the bill, and we won't have to think about our chimney again for a long time. Over the weekend, Abby and I thought maybe we could incorporate a whole-house fan into the project, and the owner actually emailed back and forth with me several times (on a weekend evening!) to discuss the issue. Ultimately, we just went with the original plan, but why the heck can't all of this job be this way?

They say if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Or, at least micromanagers say that. But when my parents asked us what we would have done differently with this project, my answer in all seriousness was that we should have hired Abby as our general contractor. Sure, we tried to do that with the first house, but that was also while we were both working, and eventually, while she was pregnant with and then nursing Isaac. This time? She's not planning to go back to work until the fall, the kids are in school, and she did so much anyhow; it just seems like such a waste to have gone the route we did.

One of six Hostas, originally from Tonawanda, via
Grand Island and Petworth.
But at this point, I'm not whining. I'm happy living in the house-- even if we're still technically squatters. And it's not just because it's not the basement, although that's definitely part of it! It's nice to be able to get home from work, do normal family stuff, then maybe do something on the house after the kids go to bed. Last week I spent a half-hour hanging hooks in my closet. Tiny stuff for sure, but now my belts and backpack and shirts in need of laundering are up off the floor, and the closet can actually look clean. This weekend we were able to make IKEA runs to pick up some As-Is cabinetry Abby found (that is identical to the stuff we already had, but already put together and 30% off) while the kids took naps. I was able to go to the old house and dig up a couple of my Buffalo Hostas, then transplant them into the front yard, while Abby was in the shower. Heck: we can grill out now that we've replaced our sad old wedding-gift grill with a snazzy new one, just a couple weeks shy of our tenth wedding anniversary.  If you want to get something done, just do it yourself, right?

My dad helped me move the
perfectly-sized extra cabinet
into the laundry room yesterday.
But we can't do everything. We were able to keep a couple of the cabinets Home Depot brought that had been mismeasured, and put them downstairs: one fits perfectly in the laundry room with not even an inch to spare, (thanks Dad!) while the other will serve as our coat closet in the mudroom. But we had to wait an agonizing two weeks for a plumbing inspection; the inspector's coming "Wednesday or Thursday," but the hot and cold are still reversed on the kitchen faucet, Abby says the spigot on the yard side of the house is leaking, and there's still the possible issue of the pipe behind the laundry room that my dad strenuously objects to due to the fact that it may overflow and spread poop all over the area under the stairs. The inspection for the Certificate of Occupancy can come only when the plumbing's been certified, and our refinance, which is set for Thursday night, can only be finalized once our current bank sees the occupancy permit. Dominoes have to fall, and we're not in charge of finger-flicking; no matter how hard we try, they're not being blown over with our breath alone.

Our new doorbell
So where we stand is in the middle of a construction-zone-that-isn't. It is a construction zone, because, you know, the thing's not finished. It looks like a construction zone, because we have piles of boxes and cardboard on the floors, just in case we need to make like we're not actually living in it for the sake of the occupancy permit. It feels like a construction zone because on the way back from taking a shower in the gorgeous bathroom, your feet get gritty from stepping on dust left by prior projects on those cardboard panels, and your family and friends are constantly referencing the fact that you live in an unfinished project. But it isn't a construction zone because, well, no construction is actually going on. Little projects, sure. But nothing ongoing, and nothing integral.  In the spirit of DIY, I guess the next thing we've gotta do is have the kids drywall the rest of the storage room.  But in the meantime, Abby and I will be enjoying the burgers I just made on our grill, eating under the new dining-room chandelier that we commissioned, and watching So You Think You Can Dance on the DirecTV we ordered.  Oh, and stuffing food down the disposal we think we're gonna keep (thanks to commentary on my last post), because that's just a crazy novelty at this point...

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