A Brief Overview: If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know we’ve talked about this big project for almost a decade. It started percolating around the time F started school, and it’s gone through several iterations. We got really serious about it about 6-7 years ago, working through building models and drawings to arrive at a bid set for pricing. The plan at that time was to blow off the back of the house, extend the kitchen, add a glassy dining room with a den underneath and a connecting stair at the juncture. Back at the alley, we planned to build a two-car garage with a full dwelling unit above, complete with rooftop garden.
The numbers came back extremely high (on my birthday – it sucked), and this biggest issue was over improvement. We had exceeded the ceiling for our house in our neighborhood, and we weren’t willing to risk it. We have no plans to sell or move anytime soon – but life can always throw curveballs, and we didn’t want a house that was unsellable in the near future.
We threw ourselves into a few other projects around the house – we updated our Master Bath, and erected scaffolding to repair and repaint the cornice and dormer on the front of the house. We scaled back the project and jumped through a thousand hoops on the permitting side – cultural resources approval, zoning variances, a conditional use hearing, etc. We bid the project again and started selecting materials and appliances in early 2020. We had numbers back in early March of that year, and then a couple of weeks later everything shut down. We couldn’t fathom ripping off the back of our house, gutting our kitchen, and having construction noise and mess in the same house that held two at-home architectural practices and a remote middle school and high school. It was probably for the best, but it was a significant blow.
We pulled out of that depression by throwing ourselves into the front garden project and knocking off some one-off items around the house. We maintained an open permit status on the rear work, and now that’s about to begin. Due to insane price increases and lead times, we’re phasing the rear work into two parts. Phase 1 is mostly work on our house; Phase 2 will be the carriage house construction to follow. The windows alone went from a 4 week lead time in 2020 to a 28 week lead time in 2022 – so it’s going to be slow. But it’s happening.
First (big) task: emptying out the basement. Remember, our house has no garage and no closets (only clothing wardrobes), so our basement is a workhorse. It’s also our workshop, and stores all of our tools and materials. Bikes, gardening tools, camping supplies, holiday decorations, kids’ keepsakes, document files, etc. Several years ago M started collecting a specific type of storage bin from the Container Store that has a weathertight seal at the lid. We pick up a stack whenever they have a big sale. They stack really well together with zero deflection – even 8+ high. We started a spreadsheet and numbering system, and have documented everything inside them before moving them into a nearby climate controlled storage unit. If we ever need something, we can look up the item on the spreadsheet and locate the bin by number. We’ve kept holiday items and camping gear at the front of the space for easy access.
About ten minutes into helping out on this, I slipped on the steps to the basement and fell really hard on my rear end, slamming both elbows into the stair treads. Luckily nothing broke, but I was pretty sore for a few days. But progress was made!
While we were packing, I was also finalizing the masonry openings for the rear wall, and updating window details to match the exact units we purchased in April. Can’t wait to see a big portion of this brick wall opened up and repaired. The new windows are huge and are going to be fabulous.
Meanwhile, the basement is looking pretty good, the storage unit is looking pretty full, and we’ve moved into demolition mode as well, so that will be the subject of the next post. Stay tuned!