|So by now I've referred to the "home improvement project from hell" a couple of times. I promise I won't turn this journal into a HIP rant, but the crap we've gone through *should* be documented - if for nothing else but to warn the world of the dangers of home renovation.
Consider this a public service announcement, of sorts.
When Calvin and the kids moved in with me, it was into a 1400 square foot home which I purchased with X(m). Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen. What had originally been more than enough space became cramped quarters, especially when we added three dogs and a ferret (the cat came with me in my move from Maine). Marie and Michael (at ages 11 and 16 at the time) were sharing a bedroom and threatening to kill each other regularly. Something had to be done. So, Calvin and I were faced with a decision - buy a new house, or build on to the one we have? This was no easy decision to make. There were pro's and con's to each side. Buying a new house meant *moving*, a process neither one of us enjoys. However, building on and remodeling means at least moving all our stuff *around*, and living among the disarray. So, either way we looked at it, we had at least some form of aggravation. Well, duh.
The next concern was school districts. We didn't want to uproot Marie and Michael from their school district, and we'd have the battle with X(f) if we tried it. So, we'd have to be able to purchase a home within a five mile radius of the one we were living in. Thanks to the recent housing boom there were plenty to choose from, but they were also outside of our price range. Plus, interest rates at the time were climbing into the eight and nine percent range, and the interest rate on my house is 6.75%.
That decided it. We made up a preliminary floor plan of what we were basically looking for - adding 800 square feet onto the first floor of the house. Master bedroom & bathroom, computer room, family room, and a patio which spanned the entire back wall of the house. We're fortunate enough that our house lot provided for plenty of room to build an addition of this size and still have a decent sized backyard.
The addition wasn't the only thing we were doing, though. Extensive improvements were needed for the existing house. We would replace the carpet with ceramic tile, new carpet in the bedrooms, new counters and appliances in the kitchen, paint the kitchen cabinets, re-paint the walls. Building the addition took away all of the windows in the living room and dining room, so three skylights need to be added to the living room roof, and the wall in the dining room has to become a half wall looking into the family room to allow enough light into the area by code.
So! Once we figured out what we wanted/needed, we went through the process of acquiring bids from potential General Contractors. We figured hiring a GC, though perhaps a bit more expensive than doing it ourselves, would save us a lot of hassle. (***FORESHADOWING*** We were wrong.) All the bids came in within $5,000 of each other, so we narrowed things down by calling references and asking what kind of materials they use. Plus, we had a ballpark figure of how much things were going to cost, so we got the ball rolling on finding a loan. We got a pretty good deal on a second mortgage. Found the lending company at a local home improvement show. Along with a bunch of great ideas. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
We decided on a contractor, and after a few meetings he came back with official blueprints of our project (I'm framing those suckers when we're done). Getting the permits took about a month, but we finally broke ground in the end of April of this year. Our contractor estimated it would take twelve weeks to complete as of ground breaking.
After the cement foundation was laid, an exterminator came along and sprayed the crap out of everything. The smell was so foul it made us (and the dogs) sick. AND the guy was pounding on our back door at 11:30 p.m. (yes, I said p.m.) asking *us* where he should spray.
It was our first indication of issues with our GC.
Next the plumbing was laid out. A guy and his son showed up at 7:00 at night to lay pipes. He knocked on the door and asked us for a light. Then he knocked again and asked us for a ladder. Then he knocked two more times to ask for cups of ice water. We were, as you can imagine, furious. First off, the idiot should have had his own materials. Secondly, he should have been doing his work in *daylight*. Third, he had excessively unprofessional behavior. Suffice to say, we had a conversation with our GC. Make sure they have all the information. Make sure they work during the daytime. Make *damned* sure they stop knocking on our door asking us questions that they should be asking *him*. He fell all over himself assuring us it wouldn't happen again.
It was so exciting to see framing going up. The framing was complete around July 20th, and I took tons of pictures. The dogs ran around the construction like idiots, and Calvin and I spent a lot of time pacing things off and visualizing what it would be like when it's done. Things got more complicated for the dogs, by the way. They were used to running around free in the backyard, but with all the comings and goings of contractors, we had to construct a run for them and keep them penned up.