First day in the new house

We slept well and woke up at 6:30a. We got dressed and went to Top Pot for coffee and doughnuts. We took a dozen doughnuts and a box of coffee back to the house for everyone who was coming over this morning.

Doughnuts for breakfast

Jim Dow was the first to show up. He brought his adorable new puppy, Blue, and his other dog, Beau, both Alaskan Malamutes, over too. His crew showed up a few minutes later. Tom arrived, then Dan (by bike!) got there and we took Tom through the house showing him our plans while the Schuchart/Dow guys started putting down protection on the floors and walls to prepare for the selective demolition.

Tom showed us again why he’s so good at what he does. We think we’re pretty good at understanding how we live, what we like and our daily routines. And we’re pretty good about thinking things through and organizing things for usability and efficiency. We’d been thinking about the house for weeks and drawing various plans for each room. Tom, after just minutes, in almost every room had better ideas. It was just like it was working with him on the Vashon house design. Other architects we worked with took days to formulate concrete ideas, Tom could listen to us and immediately start sketching out a couple ideas.

For example, there’s a powder room on the main floor that will be used often. Unfortunately, it is down a couple steps from the main floor. It was a little annoying that you have to step down a couple steps and the orientation of the bathroom was odd. We had no good ideas for it without doing major structural work around it. Jim pointed this problem out to Tom and within a minute Tom had an idea for raising the powder room to avoid the steps and to have a better orientation with more space. Just like that, he solved a problem that we were prepared to live with. It’s fun to work with someone like that.

Maybe it’s because of the housing crisis that architects don’t have a lot of work to do, but Tom builds houses all over the world and even now is in super-high demand so he can pick and choose the work he wants to do. Yet he’s willing and, frankly, excited to do a remodel (which is usually the dregs of work for architects) for us. He’s a guy who loves his job. Granted, he’s at the level where he describes things and lower-level people do the actual drawings and work out the details so he can work on lots of projects at once, but I’m still surprised we can even get him for this project.

We got the results of the hazardous materials tests and, shockingly, learned that there is no lead in any paint samples they took. I don’t understand how that could be. I thought it was practically guaranteed that you’d have lead in paint manufactured in the 1970s and earlier. Maybe they only painted later??? This is good because it’s expensive (10-15% more) to remove it because it requires special care and must follow strict disposal guidelines. The tile flooring is a different matter and the kitchen flooring is practically lethal, but all that is coming out anyway, so that’s not a big deal either.

They did a little demolition to figure out which direction the floor joists run to tell us which walls are load-bearing and require structural work to change. So far, our guesses were correct so the work we want to do is going to be straightforward so far. Other good news is that the 2-foot drop ceiling they installed in the kitchen was not done to cover up some horrible secret in the ceiling above. Who wants 10-foot ceilings when you can have 8-foot ceilings? Me! The original architect must have been pretty smart because it seems that all the spans were designed to require few load-bearing walls in the middle of the house. This makes it much easier to move walls. There is one wall in the kid’s bathroom we were sure was load-bearing and it made it hard to work around, but it doesn’t appear that it is.

Everything else is turning out better than expected too. Time and time again, we’re finding that the previous owners took better care of the house than we thought. The dubious choices in remodels over the years are not an indication of a tendency for poor maintenance, I guess. That makes us feel better because we paid a bit more for the house than we would have liked based on our assumptions that it required much more repair work.

We’re sure to find some crazy stuff in the plumbing and electrical just based on how old the house is, but so far, so good.

A cute Havana story: with all the people coming in over the day we repeatedly introduced ourselves and also introduced Havana and Hudson. Havana followed me and one guy around as we walked and talked and she kept trying to get my attention. I kept asking her what she wanted but she kept talking too quietly for me to understand her because she didn’t want him to hear, so I was also continuing the conversation with the guy. After the 4th or 5th time I figured out what she was saying. She was saying “Daddy, tell him my name.” I had forgotten to introduce her.

5 thoughts on “First day in the new house”

  1. Very excited for you guys. Mark and I have been working with a builder – infact they did some stuff while we were away in the US. I will never do that again! It would have been ok if the guy I handed over to was actually on site – but at the last minute he was not. Not ideal. The end result is some wrong stuff and some sloppy stuff. We have banned that carpenter from entering our house again while we figure out what to do with the contractor. Sounds like you have a great guy so I wish you all the best. Can’t wait to see the before and after pics.


  2. Sorry to hear that. We’ve had our share of bad contractors over the years and heard a lot more from other people. We’ve been apprehensive about this whole construction process wondering if there is such a thing as a good contractor. Time will tell.

    You were in the US? No visit to Seattle this time?

  3. Yeah – a flying visit to Minnesota. Our flight was routed through Chicago so decided to stop off there on the way back. Loved the City! Only spent two days there but it was enough to say I liked it. Met up with Tim Godfrey, Michelle and their boys and also spent the day with our friend Sean who now lives there. Cool city. Can’t wait to go back.

  4. Wow, I’m surprised you liked Chicago. Even more surprising given that you live in London, which is truly a great city. I’ve only been to Chicago twice, once in the summer and once in a brutal winter. I didn’t care for it either time.

  5. Pingback: More house work

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