Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feature Creep

In the software development world it's called "feature creep," the tendency to keep adding things the end user thinks they'd like on top of the original specification.  It adds cost.  It adds time.  And at some point you have to ask the question: Is this essential or would it just be nice?

I'm finding this is also the case in a big remodel like this.  Only the questions also sometimes relate to meeting building codes and if a change makes the house more sellable.  In fact, anything that I would eventually have to do to sell the house is getting done now so I can enjoy the benefit of that upgrade.  But there are esthetics to consider as well.

We'll be going over the budget today and looking at the items that have added unexpected cost as well as the items I am considering upgrading from the original plan.  The meeting will help me decide whether we do a pretty marble and glass shower or we install a pre-fab fiberglass one.  I already opted for new garage doors so we could close up the gaps in the garage ceiling.  And against the red color in the washer and dryer - silly to pay extra for red unless you're going to really really enjoy it.  I can't really say I will.  However, the shower does make a difference to me.  I will weigh the cost difference and decide.  But it also depends on how much more the unexpected plumbing issues are going to run me.  After hearing that number, I may just want to economize.

Yesterday, the gas fireplace insert was installed.  It feels like progress even though there's still a hole in the floor of the laundry room and there's wood, sawdust, equipment and debris everywhere.  We are tentatively looking to have the inspection next Wednesday.  There is one issue that may trip us up there.  I won't worry about it for now.  I am selecting fixtures and buying lighting, towel racks, etc.  And the washer and dryer.  This is the fun part.

I'm going to have a niche above the fireplace and I want to find something really lovely to display there.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Update - reconfiguring plumbing

I think these posts are helpful to me in keeping track of what was happening at what date.  So I thought this would be a good time to write an update of remodeling progress.  There is much chaos and much going on in the basement right now.  The garage remains nearly finished, but will get new doors a little later.  Since there will be some sheet rock work involved to close the openings where the garage door opener cable runs, I told the contractor it would be perfectly okay to wait and do that work when they were doing other sheet rock in the basement, just to make it more convenient for them.  The doors will come after that.

The demolition on Friday was slightly unnerving.  Jackhammer in the basement for several hours as they broke up the floor to gain access to plumbing pipes.  They encountered (as they always do) some issues with the pipes, and had to go a little farther than they expected.  But it does give me some peace of mind that we were able to head off some problems by taking care of those issues now.  By the end of the day the hole was filled in with dirt, and after some additional plumbing work, a new cement floor will be poured.

However . . .

I had been told there was no room for a shower in our little powder room; that it would have just a sink and toilet.  But in shopping for washers and dryers and having determined I am definitely getting front load, I learned you can STACK all front load washer/dryers.  By doing so, I free up enough space to put in the smallest size shower.  So this morning I've been on the phone with the contractor who is talking to the plumber and we are quickly discussing plan B.  I had been fretting all weekend about what a mistake it would be not to do a shower if it was possible.  Now it's looking like it is and we will do it.

In other areas, the fireplace is getting attention.  I've had to make decisions on rock, mantle, hearth, and the niche we are planning for above the mantle.  Tomorrow the gas insert will be installed.  I'm very excited about that and think the fireplace is going to be absolutely wonderful.

Progress also continues in reconfiguring doors and closets and doing some additional framing and sheetrock.  The new electrical panel (breaker box) is installed as are the canned lights in the family room.  There's a little more wiring to be done.

In all, it's dirty and quite a mess right now and causes me sleeplessness from just the sense of so much chaos and so many people working in the basement.  I'm so accustomed to being alone and having such quiet in my house.  So I'm feeling fatigued and a little stressed all the time.  But things are definitely moving along and the dirtiest work is behind us.  And I feel better knowing a good decision was made today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Sometimes as you are peeling back the layers of your house, you end up also peeling back layers of your life.  And often it's not pretty to look at.  In either case.  I know a little sheet rock and paint is going to fix up the one.  I don't know what the other is going to take.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I listened to an interview on NPR last week with Joan Didion on her book, "Blue Nights," on the death of her daughter.  (Here's a link to another interview, I couldn't find the NPR interview.)  I felt terribly sad listening to her flat, mournful voice as she spoke and read from her book.  Something she said impacted me deeply.  She was going through her apartment looking at all the drawers and closets full of things she had saved over the lifetime of this daughter.  As she pulled out pictures, school uniforms, objects, she thought about how these things were intended to remind her of those special moments.  But what they really reminded her of was her failure to appreciate the moment as those things were happening.

This is in my mind right now as I get down to the last phase of clearing out in my house.  If you've followed my blog at all, you're probably thinking, "Is that woman still clearing out after all these years?!"  Well, there was a lot of stuff!  And now with the basement project underway, I'm basically down to what remains in boxes, closets, and drawers.  Almost all falling under the broad category of memorabilia.  Tons of photographs, slides, videos.  Report cards, drawings, essays.  Souvenirs.  My late-ex's old CD collection and one more foot locker full of his papers and letters.

I have looked at this task so many times unable to think how to begin to keep or throw out.  But now I think I understand.  I need to keep a few very special things that have specific joyful memories for me and for my children.  Anything that holds a negative thought must go--anything that holds a feeling of failure to appreciate the moment, anything that just makes me sad.  I must pare it down because I will pass these things along to my children when I die and they are already accumulating stuff of their own just like this.  No need to bog them down with a lifetime of mostly meaningless items.

That's not to say the task will be easy.  Far from it.   But as I've learned from the clearing out I've accomplished so far, once gone, you never miss it.  You really don't.

So as the remodel in the basement proceeds, I still have my work cut out for me.  And I intend to finish it once and for all in the coming months. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Garage Update

Mostly done, and just wonderful.  It's an incredible change.  Still remaining to do is to close the holes in the celing where the old door opener track runs and then install new doors.  What a dirty job it has been.  And how clean, white and bright it is now.  The garage is large, so I have been able to move everything back in and arrange my shelves in the finished part  My contractor even fixed up my shelves, bracing up the sagging shelves and fastening everything securely to the wall. 

I have to admit some emotional feelings today as I organized things.  Tearing down all the old craziness contrived by my husband and putting up clean white walls is hugely symbolic to me.  I had goosebumps all day while working out there.  I love the space and I can now make it my own.  The ghosts have been exorcised.

On to the basement.  Oh what a job lies ahead.  We are adding a powder room in what is now the utility/laundry room.  No room for a shower, so I have given up on that.  A new electrical panel as all the new wiring has outgrown the old box.  A beautiful new gas fireplace.  Upgraded heating, lighting, electrical, new carpet.  Demolition has already begun.  Tomorrow my son will help me move out the last remaining items from the bedroom to the garage where now much space has been opened up.  And then things will get wild and noisy.  And when it's finished, new furniture, new washer and dryer (desperately needed) -- maybe in shiny red!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


The contractor started with the garage on Wednesday (Feb 1).  Did the demolition and now has studs in place and wiring, starting insulation.  Since the garage takes up nearly half of the lower part of my house, I'm trying to make it warmer in order to keep the living space above it warmer too.  We've added some insulation around the heating ductwork that runs along the ceiling of the garage.  We're not actually heating the garage but just trying to keep it warmer than the outdoors.  It looks like I'll probably replace the garage doors in order to solve the problem of the hole previously cut into the ceiling to accommodate a garage door opener.  The new doors will be insulated all around.  There will be a new opener for one door to replace the broken one.  Then sheet rock on remaining two walls, white paint, and lighting fixtures.  Mostly simple stuff.

My girlfriends wonder why I would spend any money on the garage.  "It's just a garage!" they say.  But when you talk to men, it's an important space.  It will make the house more appealing to buyers who might want workspace, and a good wall for hanging things.

I'm loving the progress.