Last week I received the permit from the City of Redding, which gave me the green light to have Corey start editing walls in my 1938 house.
I don’t consider it “tearing down” walls, per se, because we are taking out mere pieces of walls, not the whole wall shebang. In fact. I’m convinced that the relative simplicity of my project is one of the reasons for the quick turnaround of my permit application. To those who will be submitting plans to the COR soon, tell the permit folks that you want it processed just like Doni’s.
I say my remodeling job is “relatively” simple, but to see the house right now it looks pretty complex. I’m learning so much, such as the fact that when removing part of a wall, you don’t just start swinging a sledge hammer (as we see done on HGTV, talk about fake news!).
Rather, the proper way to remove wall portions is as Corey was instructed: Make surgical cuts into the plaster, concrete, chicken wire and lath, and then carefully remove the coverings from all the studs. Leave the studs in place so they hold up the wall until we can wedge in a brace to keep the ceiling from falling down until the headers are in place. Simple things like that.
Part of this project’s engineering feat involves work beneath the house to give stability to the headers above.
Five pier blocks will be set in cement in 12-inch deep holes Corey has dug out by hand, one shovel at a time, one wheelbarrow of dirt at a time, filled in the kitchen, rolled out through the laundry room, through what’s left of the back yard and into a pile.
Back in July, when sister Shelly and friend Chris and I used chalk to draw the sections of walls removed, I never imagined what it would entail to achieve that “simple” open look.
Had I known removing those four wall sections would be this much hassle, I might had said just forget it. But I’ve come this far, and now that I have, there’s no going back. I know I will have a better house for it, and I will be happier with the outcome.
But right now, it’s difficult to not become overwhelmed with the mess and the construction dust. The most tidy room in the house is the bedroom that’s holding the boxes of cabinets waiting for son Joe’s arrival from the Czech Republic to do the installation.
What I know about myself is when my surroundings lack harmony, then I feel out of whack, too. The sheer chaos of this remodeling job pushes all kinds of buttons – control, perfectionism and a deep longing for order. I’m forcing myself to let go and just accept things the way they are. It’s that or get stressed to the max. My house remodeling project is a version of construction whack-a-mole where just when I’ve put out one fire — rats, for example — another erupts — newly discovered water access points beneath the house, for example.
I may have mentioned that on the real estate disclosure papers, the previous owners claimed no knowledge of flooding. Interestingly enough, the south side of the house looks like a series of Little Hoover Dams, what with all the concrete and bricks that someone built and mortared around the vents, all of which were varying degrees of being either at or well below grade level, perfect for water flow, directly under the house.
These below-ground vents were lying beneath thick brush, and uncovered only when Corey set out at my request to block under-house rat access.
With that in mind, I guess I have the rats to thank that we found these below-ground vents in the first place. Otherwise, come winter rain, all the money I’ve invested to replace damaged, structural wood beneath the house would be in jeopardy once again.
Water, dry rot and mold, oh my!
The jumble of concrete you see in this photo, above, was where Corey removed the masonry barricades to have access to the vents for rat-screening. One vent was actually about 12 inches below grade, which means the ground water had extra special access to beneath the house in that location.
The vent looks new because it is. I bought it and had Corey install it to block – you know – rats. Here’s a photo of that newly discovered opening that now resembles an archaeological dig, not the side of a house.
But enough about that south side of the house. Let’s talk about the north side, a place former occupants said looked like a bathtub in the winter when it rained and the courtyard filled up with water that eventually seeped under the house.
Never mind. Forget the outside. Let’s go inside.
The front bathroom walls were such a mess left from the removal of cheap, plastic, institutional-grade paneling that I decided to just drywall the walls, rather than try to smooth everything out with texturing mud.
It’s hard for me to call it drywall, because I know it as Sheetrock, but that’s a brand name, like Kleenex.
Sheetrock, drywall, or gypsum board. By any name, I love it.
During the last few weeks, deliveries of cabinets, flooring and wallpaper have trickled in.
Wednesday was the final flooring delivery that contained bamboo planks for the living and dining room, and vinyl for the kitchen, laundry and front bathroom.
I know some people turn up their noses at vinyl, but the new generations of vinyl are attractive, waterproof and practically indestructible.
Meanwhile, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. Even so, I long for the days when the word surprise meant something fun and exciting, like a surprise party, for example, or winning the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Not facing a (second) rotted-out bathroom floor, or, yes, finding a below-ground exterior air vent intended for crawl-space ventilation; not water.
This week’s surprise was something I probably would have left alone for awhile, until I was ready to face that bizarre little room at the end of the garage. The house is Phase 1. The garage was supposed to be Phase 2.
I credit two of my favorite electricians (E&S Electric), Ed and P.J., who noticed the large rectangular sheet of plywood screwed to the garage floor when I asked if they’d check out the electrical situation in the garage.
My one-car garage is so long and narrow it could fit two – maybe three – stretch limos end to end. At the very back of the garage there’s a weird little room that steps up from the concrete slab-foundation. It has its own door, an overhead light, and a wide-planked wood floor that has a weird greasy spot in the south corner. A former window is boarded up. The overhead drywall is missing big chunks. At some point, we dubbed this space the kidnap room, because it seemed that creepy. When the electricians walked into the KR, they both looked at the screwed-on plywood, and asked the same question.
“What’s under there?”
Times like this are what separates the squeamish of the world (me) from the brave (them).
I said I had no idea, but I was curious. Not so curious I would have unscrewed that board, of course.
When the electricians ran for their screw gun, I ran for my camera. By the time I returned, Ed and P.J. were deep in thought, staring at what they’d uncovered. What the what?
I was standing back, waaaay back, as P.J. dropped to his knees and starting pulling at the stuff in the hole.
I am not exaggerating when I say I don’t think there’s enough money to have made me do what P.J. did for nothing more than curiosity’s sake. With. His. Bare. Hands.
What he lifted out looked like shredded fabric; enough to fill that opening in the floor that someone had gone to the trouble of covering with a small rectangle of thin metal, followed by a larger piece of plywood, followed by sinking a screw into each of the four corners. Without the covering, the edges of the opening were uneven, and made a shape that looked like a distressed map of California. My first thought was a fire. My second thought was – you guessed it – rats. Sure enough, Ed and P.J. said it looked like the mother of all rats’ nests.
Rats? What rats?
I asked the guys to please return the plywood to the opening and screw it tightly to the floor.
I’ll deal with that surprise later. But not today.
I’m reserving the rest of today for happy surprises.