We were six weeks away from our wedding and we still had a lot left to do on the house. We were both out of our apartments, we had no money to get a new one together after the wedding, and we didn’t want to impose on our friends any more than we already had. We were going to live in this house no matter what condition it was in. We had informed all the subs that they could work up until the wedding, but we were not allowing access in and out of the house while we were gone for the last two weeks in September. The only thing that was supposed to occur during this period of time was the installation of our new water line from the street to the house – a task that required only access into the basement of the house, which is accessed only from the outside of the house. We had no interior stair yet on the house, and the only bathroom remotely close to operation was on the second floor, but we were going to have a ladder and we were prepared to make the trek up and down to use the john. It sure was going to beat going outside to get there. When we left for the wedding we had the kitchen sink installed, the second floor toilet in place, and the bath portion of our claw foot tub ready (the exposed shower components were still in the box.) There was no paint on the walls, the window was leaky, and you could feel the air blow across you when you stood next to the tub. But still, it was indoors, and we had high hopes.
Those hopes were dashed when we arrived back from our honeymoon. For two glorious weeks we put all thoughts of the house aside. We nursed our aching joints and muscles, finished the last minute wedding items in the comfort of my parents house with copious amounts of indoor toilets, and then, after a fabulous night of feasting and dancing, we flew to Vancouver where we wined and dined, shopped and relaxed, boated and hiked and didn’t pick up one single hammer. When the cab turned onto our street we peered anxiously for the telltale road patch, the newly poured sidewalk patch, the plumbers street sign warning of the access hole in the road. Nothing. Nada. Not a bit of asphalt was disturbed. Turns out the plumber never came, and the water line was never installed. No amount of wishing at the foot of the fixtures was going to make water spurt from their shiny orifices. We had a home with no indoor plumbing. (And – we were about to live there without an occupancy permit – but shhh, don’t tell.)
We got the plumber back on track, but we still lived in a house for nearly two weeks with no indoor plumbing. We lived on the first floor, in what is now the dining room. Each morning we climbed out of bed, freezing in the drafty house that was still not buttoned up tightly around the windows. Months before we ever started this project we were both members of a gym that was near my apartment, but about 20 minutes from the new house. We hadn’t been there in months, instead spending all of our energy lifting plaster buckets and bench pressing 2×4’s. We took up the gym habit again, this time out of necessity. We danced around the chilly dining room getting dressed, grabbed our work clothes and ran out the door, trying not to think about the one thing that most people do the second they get out of bed – relieve themselves. At the gym we first hit the bathrooms, then spent a few on the various machines to make the visit look legit. After that we hit the showers, and joined the rest of the fitness serious in their morning career look prep. When we exited we looked like real people who chose to get ready at the gym, not people who were forced to. We kept this up for a few weeks, and slowly we stopped even bothering to work out, just heading straight for the showers. We were just too tired to run a few laps on the elliptical.
Plumbing progressed, and soon we had working fixtures. We finally got the opening trimmed out in the central stair hall so that we could place a ladder in the hole and access the upstairs bathroom. This was much better than running outside into the winter air to get there. Our first floor bathroom was not complete, and was hosting a temporary clothes rod that liked to fall down occasionally in the middle of the night. The kitchen was coming together – we didn’t have a dishwasher yet, but everything else functioned nicely. We celebrated our first Thanksgiving there together – too tired and too broke to travel for the holiday.
Christmas came, and we celebrated in style with my first real tree – a giant ten footer that was a bear to get home and in the door. But it was glorious, and the house looked so much better when the lights were low and the tree lights sparkled. After the new year we got serious on the stair design, and soon the steel brackets arrived, and then the treads for sealing, and then our contractor who was helping us assemble the whole thing. Since the house never had an interior stair before, we opted against installing one that “looked” historical, and erected a very modern, simple stair that floats away from the wall and lets light pass through from up above. We hoped one day to finish off the attic floor, and maybe even add a skylight above that would filter light though this stair to the first floor 35 feet below. Putting the stair together was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Once it was in, it really made the house start to feel like a home. We had been working slowly and steadily on trimming rooms out, priming and painting walls, and were able to move out of our dining room and upstairs to our bedroom. We still had no closets, so things were in boxes all over, but we were making progress, and the house project was still enjoyable.
Which was good, because we still had a long way to go, and we were only one year into it…
Volume one is here.
Volume two is here.
Volume three is here.