Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lucky Number Thirteen

When we last left off, there were a number of things wrong with our house; wrong enough, that is, to preclude us from passing our inspection to receive Montgomery County's seal of approval to officially move into the house.  Since then, we have found out that number: 13-- not usually the luckiest of numbers.  There are 13 things wrong enough with our house to cause us to fail the inspection.  The inspection was on June 6; today is June 16.  What, you may ask, has been done in those ten days to remediate those issues?  I can tell you definitively, in fact: Nothing.

My hostas are going to have to be dug up temporarily.
But they're just beginning to bloom!
Mind you, that doesn't mean we haven't been in contact with our contractors.  There have been a couple of strongly worded emails from us.  There have been a couple of nonchalant replies back.  There have been two telephone conversations: one right off the bat, explaining Montgomery County had "misplaced" or "misfiled" the certification that our retaining wall had passed inspection; and one tonight, explaining that they were waiting for a period of time when there were three consecutive sunny days forecast-- enough to re-dig our front yard to expose the subterranean retaining wall, schedule an inspection for the next day, and refill the whole on the following day.  While that made perfect sense, here's what I heard from that explanation: Blah blah blah someone screwed up it's not us; Blah blah blah it's too rainy; Blah blah blah we want to rip out your hostas just as they're starting to take.  (Oh, and no mention of who's paying for this re-exposition of the aforementioned wall with the mysterious lack of ,municipal approvals.

In the meantime, Mark assures me, there will be a guy out here tomorrow to fix most of the stuff on the list.  And what's on that list?  I'm glad you asked:

  1. "Stabize the lot."  Yeah, I think they mean "stabilize," but I'm not quite sure what's so unstable about our lot.  I mean, the house has been here for 115 years; it ain't going anywhere.
  2. "Outside outlet is loose."
  3. "Need backfill inspection for retaining wall."  Discussed above.
  4. "Anti-tip device for cook tops."  Oh, you mean the one that was sitting on our counter for a month?  And our dishwasher leans forward, too, when you pull out either rack.
  5. "Shower curtain rod."  The one thing that's our fault, but we have ordered the upstairs shower door, and it's due to be delivered and installed this week courtesy of Navij, our friendly Next Shower Door salesman.
  6. "Bedroom closet lights too close to shelf."  Don't know how he's gonna fix that.  It better not involve just getting rid of the light.
  7. "Need four-inch clearance on back of fireplace."  This may just involve moving the gas unit forward; I'm not sure.
  8. "Mudroom outlet missing cover plate."  Really?  I'd hope that, were this the only problem, it wouldn't have failed us.
  9. "Need arc fault breakers."  Um, okay.  Something electric.
  10. "AC breaker max 25 amp."  Thinking it needs to be bigger?
  11. "Panel directory too general."  I agree.  I want to know exactly how to turn everything off if there's a problem or a project.
  12. "Patch storage wall."  Yeah, that thing my dad has been complaining about for months.
  13. "Schedule all permits together."  Because obviously we're attempting to make this go as slowly as possible.
So in my estimation, there are about eight things that need to be fixed.  Hopefully at least six of them can be done tomorrow.  In addition, we have had a storage-room door sitting at Home Depot in Aspen Hill for a week now, and I just found out yesterday that our last remaining cabinet door is ready for pickup there as well.  Was going to pick them both up tonight after we put the kids to bed, but I forgot that the place closes at 8:00 on Sunday, so I'll either go tomorrow evening or attempt to get them to deliver, since they offered to deliver the cabinet door for free.  What I can do at this point, however, is to call the cabinet-install guys and schedule the final install for the kitchen, which should finalize not just that one remaining door, but also our pulls, as well as the things that go around the microwave and dishwasher to make the cabinets look complete.

While the contractors have been busy "working behind the scenes" (ahem), we have been semi-productive these last ten days.  I won't lie and say we've done tons of stuff and are being held back entirely by the contractors, but I will say that there are things we've done that, with a little work from the contractors, will help us finish everything up.  Abby, for instance, finally found bathroom hardware she likes.  We got the stuff at Lowe's and have it in a bag, ready to mount.  We are going to put Xs on the walls to show where we want everything mounted, because without doing so we're pretty sure everything will be put about a foot lower than it should be.  Our tradesmen are great workers, but apparently they think we're midgets-- something I think I've noted previously.  Our range hood is about 18 inches above the stove top, our vanities were originally set so low I had to bend over to brush my teeth-- I still have to stoop at the current, "highest possible" height-- and our mailbox is so low on the outside of the house that I'm fully expecting the Wicked Witch of the East's legs to be sticking out under our front porch.  To all who have not met us: I am 6' 1", my wife is 5' 10", and my kids are both above the 90th percentile for their age in height.  We have no need for those tiny toilets or baby-sized towel bars set two feet off the ground, thank you very much.

The new sidewalk out back,
and the new setback for our bushes.
We've also gone ahead and hired someone to help us with some landscaping issues; namely, that we have a number of spots on our property that are paved over that shouldn't be.  Along the back side of the house, under the kids' bedroom windows, there's a sidewalk that comes right up and literally touches the house in parts.  There is no need for strangers to walk that close to the house, easement or no easement.  So we had Paulino, a guy who does work for Paula and Richard (the Windmill's owners), smash up the concrete on that side.  The sidewalk's community property, sure, but the part of it that touched our house was on our land.  So now that things are smashed up, he's going to build a nice, straight, new sidewalk along the property line, where it should be.  With that extra space, we are going to put bushes in to form a border between what's public and what's private-- maybe something prickly, so as to discourage our kids from escaping out their windows in their teenage years...

All this blacktop was removed from the yard before we woke up today.
Amazing what can happen when people actually want your business.
Second, parts of our postage-stamp front yard are covered by multiple layers of blacktop.  When you look at old pictures of this place, one of the things that stands out is the constantly evolving shape of the front yard; sometimes it's straight across, sometimes jagged, sometimes rounded.  Currently, the yard is bounded by a curved curb.  However, inside that curb is a layer (or more, in places) of blacktop that impedes any sort of attempts anyone might have to actually grow anything.  Paulino pulled it all up Saturday morning and hauled it away before we woke up this morning.  Excellent!  (And just in time for Mark to come and dig it all back up... wonder how long it would have taken him to get around to pulling it up, had we asked?)  Finally-- and this is something I'm a bit wary of actually letting Mark know-- Paulino is going to pour a concrete pad underneath our AC unit on the side of the house.  Currently, there's a specially-made pad on top of concrete blocks-- I kid you not-- for the condenser.  (That's what the outside part's called, right?)  Paulino's going to make it so the unit doesn't fall down the slope during a hard rain, basically, which is something Abby and my dad helped forestall by putting in the longer drain hoses a few weeks ago.  All in all, I bet he'll be done before midweek.  And all this after two consecutive days of frustrating tries at meeting up-- first, I told him we lived next-door to Paula and Richard, not remembering they had another house; next, I told him Abby would be home, but told Abby I'd call her when he replied, and forgot to.  No worries-- he showed up unannounced on Friday and all was set.  On Saturday, the sound of him working on the concrete outside our window woke us up.  At 7:00.  On a Saturday morning.

This morning was Father's Day, and we had planned to get up early enough to make pecan pancakes and leave by 10 to make it out to my sister's place in Gainesville, where we'd spend the day with my parents at my sister's pool.  At about 8:00, I was aware Abby was not in bed, but rather with the kids outside doing something.  Unconcerned, I went back to sleep.  About 90 minutes later, I woke up, scrambled to take a shower, and found the three of them cleaning out our disgusting car as part of my Father's Day present.  So, pancakes were out, but so was the smell of spilled chocolate milk in the backseat.  I started to get bathing suits together and headed out to see what they were doing when I saw a family walking around the Windmill, heading toward the Colonial.  Wait-- they didn't look like tourists.  Could they be...  I had to ask... Yes!  They're the people who bought the Colonial-- the yellow house two over that was Abby's favorite, and that had fallen through so many times right before it was sold.  Eric and Christina (sp?) are native Marylanders who live with their two kids (Ryan is only three months older than Isaac and in the same grade!!) in Fort Lauderdale.  He's an attorney/developer, and they're considering making this their permanent residence.  Eric had bought the place without showing the kids, so now that Florida's schools are out, that's what they were doing.  Immediately, I volunteered my kids to show them the "Magic Trail" that starts under their house and leads to the Castle.  We all went along, barefoot, listened to their plans for the place, and commiserated with them about the approvals process.  (Hopefully we didn't scare them away...)  Regardless, not only is the house now truly owned by someone, but it's owned by someone who seems to a) know what they're doing, b) understand what needs to happen, and c) HAS KIDS ABOUT THE SAME AGE AS OURS.  Not that I'm excited about that potential or anything...  Funny thing is that my kids are so unused to having neighbors that are their age-- seeing as they've never had any-- that we had to actually explain what we meant by going next door to ring the bell and see if they were home.  "No, really, you can go over and see if your friend wants to play, without setting a play date.  No, really."

So there you have it: what I hope is read as a not-entirely-negative post.  (I think my sister may think we're suicidal based on some of my previous rants...)  Now, we just have to see if tomorrow really pans out as a cure-all with the contractor, and how deep we actually have to dig (in our yard and in our pockets) to get that damn Certificate of Occupancy.  And it's all based on the ten-day-old failed inspection and that (hopefully) lucky number 13.

1 comment:

  1. Hi - I am a dog walker in your community so I walk dogs through every day and have watched your progress on your house for the past two years. It looks amazing and I am so happy to find your blog about it! The reason I researched your house is that I am repainting my own little house and LOVE your colors. Would you tell me what they are? Thanks.