After finishing off E’s bedroom and then a few months later celebrating her first birthday, we found ourselves much too busy to devote a lot of time to the house. We installed miscellaneous trim here and there, we ordered some more cabinets to continue towards our overall kitchen plan, which we had only been able to afford in phases. And we were really starting to get tired of all the extra junk. All the junk that you accumulate in a project like this… the materials, the paint cans, the tools, the hardware, the extra trim, the shop vacs…it all had to be stored somewhere, and in our case that meant in the house. We have no garage (one day, sigh.) and our basement had a dirt floor and was prone to water accumulation which turned it into mud. So, before we could go any further on the house, we had to face the basement. No one was excited about this.
When we decided to tackle the basement, we also were forced to face the facts and redo our sewer line as well. It had been requiring yearly maintenance, and always seemed to back up at the most inopportune times. So we dug up the back yard – or I should say, we had the back yard dug up by someone else, and then we set about digging up the floor of our basement. The head height in the basement was just above M’s six-and-a-half foot frame, so we knew if we came in with gravel and a 4″ slab we were going to be ducking to get anything done down there…so we were forced to dig. We first installed a perimeter drain system, and a new sump pump which has kept our basement completely dry. We redid some plumbing connections inside the house as we did the new sewer line, and we installed some more floor drains. We rented a dumpster for the weekend and spent all day on a Friday digging, then hired a young kid who worked for a contractor friend of ours and paid him overtime pay on a Saturday to help us finish. That was a great idea. We were done by lunch time, and it was the best $150 bucks we ever shelled out. Our backs were so grateful. And we did all this while keeping a toddler occupied with a kiddie pool in the front yard and a series of her own buckets to fill and spill.
After pouring a new slab in the basement, we were finally able to begin the arduous task of moving things downstairs. We now had more of a “workshop” area, but that means that everything we cut or sand or paint has to be carried up 42 steps – from the basement, through the backyard and up to the third floor. There have been weekends where M has made this trek 200 times. It’s not easy work, but at least we have a little more elbow room in the rest of the house.
In 2006 we started working on the component of the house that would allow us to finish off the back bedrooms on the second and third floors – the removal of the old attic stair and the rebuilding of the little lean-to bump-out that enclosed it. We did drawings, pulled permits and began demo. Before we had completely thought through this portion of the house we had wired a lot of items, including two remote transformers into the closet space under the attic stair. When we made the decision to remove this stair to open both rooms up more, we had to rewire all of these items. So more trips back and forth were made to the basement to turn off and then turn on various fuses located there. It took long nights for weeks on end to finish this task. The new framing went in slowly but surely, working from right after dinner, and stretching it out until we just couldn’t bring ourselves to make any more noise for our neighbors. One night right before Thanksgiving, as we were trying to get to the point of closing up the house tightly before we left to go out of town, M was working up there until after nine. A knock on the door revealed two police officers with a warning to stop working after 7pm. We apologized and knocked it off, but joked later that if we could only work between 6:45 and 7:00 this thing would never get done! We did put the hammers down, and then took a break through the majority of the winter, ready to start again on the exterior work once spring arrived again.