Doni’s Old House Remodel: First Trimester & Most of the Queasiness is Gone

Doni's house.

I've owned my new/old little west Redding house for three months. It feels like it's been years.

I've hit that place in the remodeling where I can finally see a glimmer of hope that the worst may be over. Let me pause to toss some salt over my left shoulder and knock on wood.

I'm back.

One of the most significant things to happen this week is I hired another handyman to do some major labor on the south side of the house where there are huge drainage issues.

If you missed the news, some jerk lied and told the Contractors State License Board that Corey was acting as a licensed contractor, which is is completely untrue. Don't get me started. Go ahead and read about it and I hope you're as outraged as I am that Corey was ordered off my job and threatened with fines, jail time and even a jury trial. For working hard.

The pile of greenery in the front yard was pulled from along the south side of the fence.

This is what the side yard looked like after Corey, my former right-hand handyman, ripped out debris and overgrown plants so I could assess the situation.

The side yard was a mess of ground that sloped toward Doni's house; ground that was covered in brick dams, hunks of concrete and rock around the vents, some of which were more than 12 inches below ground.

I explained to my new handyman what happened to Corey, which is sort of like telling your new boyfriend that you have an STD. The new handyman didn't run screaming, but he did ask that I not use his name, or identifying photos in my columns, which is exactly what my shy flooring guy said. Smart guys.

This anonymous flooring guy, a family member, did an awesome job installing the floors.

I cannot wait until some smart legislator changes the CSLB law that limits unlicensed labors to the impossible-to-live-on $500. If they're looking for suggestions, I say just add a zero to that ceiling amount and everyone will be happy.

At any rate, my short-timer handyman used a jackhammer, shovel and wheelbarrow to remove mounds of dirt from the side yard.

And concrete.

And rocks and bricks. 

Here's a picture of my bashful handyman near the weird slabs of concrete he unearthed. He used a jackhammer to break up the concrete and remove it.

A daunting task for mere mortals, this handyman dug in and tackled the side yard in an attempt to reduce the slope and the dirt volume that points toward the vents.

Here's the after photo:

Doni jokingly referred to this latest handyman as a "one-man bulldozer" after he hand-dug and hauled out the dirt, rocks and concrete from the side yard.

Meanwhile, Corey is getting back on his feet after suffering the CSLB's unfounded accusations, not to mention he lost his job working for me on various projects. Some of you have hired him, as a matter of fact. And that's the reason I love you today. Thank you!

Corey and I have spoken many times since the CSLB sting operation that "caught" and busted Corey for the "crime" of installing an $89 Home Depot little bathroom window. The truth is, while Corey can do "grunt work" better than nearly anyone I know, what he really loves is the opportunity to make willow furniture.

I have two hopes for possible outcomes. First, I hope that the current dopey CSLB law will change to reward - not punish - hard workers like Corey. Second, I hope that the demand for Corey's furniture grows so great that he can just create wonderful furniture, and will never have to do hard labor again.

Corey, Doni's former right-hand handyman, before the sting that wrongly accused him and ordered him to no longer work for Doni.

There are two shows coming up in which Corey's work will be featured; one this month, and the other in December. I'll keep you posted. You know I'll be there as his right-hand helper and cheerleader.

Back to the house. It's coming along, and is a far cry from the way it looked during the demo stage.

This is how Doni's kitchen looked the first week she bought it after the rat-infested soffets and other undesirable matter was removed.

This is how the kitchen looked after Joe Domke, Doni's son, flew from the Czech Republic to help his mama.

Joe finished the cabinets, and went right to the wire by installing the laundry room on the day he left Redding.

I'm doing as much work as I can, especially with the absence of Corey. I bought my own caulking gun, watched a bunch of YouTubes on how to use it, and am caulking every crack in sight. I have my little painting station outside where I'm painting shelves, doors, lights and furniture. I sealed and stained the wood floors in the back bedroom, which was a bigger job than I expected, because first I had to apply the sealer/stain, and then I had to wipe it off, which sound fine for something like a table, but it was a nightmare for a 200-square-foot floor. It took about five hours to finish the floors, and four days before it dried. It's still slightly tacky to the touch.

Doni sealed and stained the floors in the back bedroom. What a hassle! What a mess! But she's happy with the outcome.

By the time I write my next new/old house update, you should see some real progress. And the container of my stuff should arrive by the 22nd.

Nobody's more excited about that than I am. I feel as if I'm waiting for a baby's arrival, and I'm giddy with anticipation. Or maybe that's fatigue. Either way, it's almost over.

In the meantime, because of the stupid CSLB $500 labor-and-materials rule, sadly, my new handyman will be moving on, and looking for new work. He's not comfortable with me putting his name out in public, but said I could give out his number to people I trust. Email me if you want more information at donig.anewscafe@gmail. I highly recommend this guy. He does incredible work.

The thing is, then I'll be without a handyman. Again. Please feel free to share the name and number of your favorite handyman/woman, because I'll need a new one, soon.

Until then, I'm back to caulking.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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52 Responses

  1. Matthew Grigsby says:

    The house looks amazing, because of course it would, and I’m so thrilled to have you in the neighborhood!
    I’ll be reaching out to contact your handyman, I’ve got some random stuff that really needs some work.

    • I LOVE this neighborhood! It’s near my old Magnolia Elementary, and my former home on Chestnut Street. I love that we’re neighbors, too! (And yes, I will give you this amazing handyman’s contact info.)

  2. Randall R Smith says:

    Have you forwarded this tale to our representatives in Sacramento? Likely, there is not a snowball chance in Hell of any change, but holding conversations in empty closets will not work either.

  3. Michelle Nicolls says:

    Hey, great idea–a revolving handyman network. Only the best make “Doni’s Handyman List.”

  4. cheyenne says:

    Your ongoing struggle with CSLB sure gives fuel to the anti UN Agenda 21 crowd. I know here in Cheyenne anytime the city wants to rezone or upgrade the 21 crowd take over the meeting with their UN world domination predictions. Government doesn’t need to be in charge of everything. While CSLB goes after hard workers like Corey they let gypsy contractors get away with selling supposedly excess roofing and driveway material to unsuspecting homeowners.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      One of the Agenda 21 guys stood up at a public meeting in a city in an adjoining county earlier this year. The City Council let him have his bizarre 3-minute rant. Hell, it wasn’t even a spittle-flecked rant like we often get at local public meetings—he was calm and collected. But the message was the usual delusional, paranoid conspiracy-theory stuff.

      I was at the end of my driveway about a month ago, retrieving the mail, and a guy stopped and offered to add a fresh layer of chip-seal my 1/4-mile driveway, using “excess material” that he had because another customer’s driveway ended up being shorter than advertised.

      My response: “I may have been born yesterday, but I pulled an all-nighter.”

      He says, “‘Scuse me?”

      I say, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.”

      He says, “I hear ya. Still, I’ll make you a good deal.”

      I say, “I’m planning on paving it.”

      He says, “I don’t blame you.”

      • cheyenne says:

        Steve, I had the same experience with my driveway in Anderson of cheap offers because it was excess material. The BBB warns of these scams but I never see warnings issued from the governmental agencies in charge of investigating them.

    • trek says:

      CSLB didn’t or wouldn’t go after Corey if he followed the law. Nothing is keeping him from getting a contractors lic.

      • Tim says:

        What if he is not able to pass the test? Or background check? Does that somehow make him not able to break up and remove concrete? To forever be an employee of someone else?

      • Trek, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, Corey doesn’t want to be a contractor, nor was he acting like one. I’ve hired SEVEN licensed contractors for non-handyman jobs. Corey was doing labor that none of the licensed contractors would have done, or have been interested in doing.

        Corey was following the law: He was doing projects.

        The CSLB went after Corey because one person – who had a problem with me – reported him. The CSLB took this untruthful person’s word for it, without speaking with me to get facts and/or clarification. I have no faith in this agency any longer, if this is how it behaves.

    • Yes, I have to keep reminding myself that the CSLB is an arm of Consumer Affairs, as in, it’s supposed to protect consumers, not hurt and harass us.

  5. Beverly Stafford says:

    This is the first trimester, but I think the “baby” will be born in the second trimester – but fully formed and healthy. When do the granite cabinet tops arrive?

    • Maybe it’ll be a cute little preemie.

      The countertops can’t arrive until the template’s been done, and that won’t be until Monday. My scrap flooring counters work just fine for now.

  6. Eleanor says:

    Wow, that is quite some work along the side of the house, Doni! Congratulations to your (current-ex) handyman for his excellent work. I love the idea of a connection list for these handymen who are reliable and have such great skills, but must cease and desist at $500 (including materials!) Way to inhibit entrepreneurship, Sacramento!

    Your new baby will be so beautiful!

  7. Karen C says:

    Can’t wait to see photos of your finished kitchen….they are, after all my favorite room in any house. Good job Doni, you are an inspiration!

    • Yes, as usual, the kitchen will be the star of the show, as it should be. It has floors and cabinets, but it’s missing crown moulding, baseboard, knobs and pulls, under-cabinet lights, counters and the dishwasher is still not wired. (It’s plumbed, but who knew that dishwashers come without a power cord?) I also accidentally broke one of the can lights when I tried to pull one down to paint. I don’t know my own strength, apparently. 😉

  8. Grammy says:

    “Why can’t some people mind their own business?” Had to come to mind many times since Corey’s hardship.
    The rules make it so that someone trying to make an honest living impossible.

  9. Joanne Gifford says:

    The progress is good news. I wish the handy man fiasco could be made right, so unfair.

  10. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Doni — Every time I read one of these updates, I’m embarrassed about how slowly my own project in town is coming along. It’s about one-fourth the effort, and I’m about one-fourth done after 4-5 months.

    • Steve, do not feel embarrassed. You have a house in which to live, so you don’t have the motivation that comes from sleeping on a camp cot, washing dishes in the bathtub, and eating off paper plates with plastic utensils. I’m in a hurry!

  11. Beverly Stafford says:

    Doni, in your “spare” time, have you contacted Ted Gaines and/or Brian Dahle about CSLB’s treatment of you and Corey? Could it be time to contact ANC’s Reflections in the Mirror author or his partner who sometimes writes here for our enjoyment?

  12. Cathy says:

    In spite of all the unforeseen problems you’ve encountered, I’m impressed with what you’ve accomplished with your new home. Kudos to you!!

  13. Ginny says:

    You are really growing in home fixer-uppers, Doni. It is not easy to do many things around the house as I know from my own experience with Chuck over the years in some houses. Congratulations, friend! I’m proud of all your efforts……

  14. Tim says:

    It’s looking good!

    (but you are brave for telling every tweaker with internet access when you’ll have all your worldly possessions delivered)

  15. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Maybe that’s why Doni didn’t advertise her new address. There aren’t even numbers on the front of the house in the photo!

  16. Brandon says:

    House looks awesome! Good job. You are going to be so bored when it’s done! : )

    • BORED? Never! Because I have a hunch this house will never really be done. I’d like to eventually replace all the exterior window trim, and work on the yard, and exterior lighting, and stuff like that.

  17. Cynthia Turbin says:

    Would love this get Corey’s contact info. Not going not myself but I have friends who are constantly looking for handymen.

  18. Canda Williams says:

    Coming along beautifully, Doni. So excited for you to receive your stuff. The side of the house looks amazing now. Wow, what a difference! Who knows, maybe one of these days you’ll get your contractor’s license yourself. I wouldn’t put anything past you, my friend. You’re quite amazing. I love you and miss you! xoxo

    • I toyed – briefly – with the idea of getting my contractors license, but that crazy thought passed. I have enough paperwork with business-management with A News (But thank you for the encouraging words, sweet Canda.)

  19. conservative says:

    I would cut down all the shade trees and replace with fruit trees on semi-dwarf rootstock. Satsuma mandarin, Washington navel and grapefruit grow well there. Two varieties of pluot, one early bearing and one late. Two peach, one early and one late. I love my pomegranates for the blossom color and fruit which is in season now. Two cherries or three cherries, which need a pollinator of a different species. Several varieties of blueberries. UC, good nurseries (not big box) Farmer Fred’s radio show on KFBK Sunday AM, Dave Wilson Nursery website and Shasta County master gardeners can select the best varieties for the area.

    • I only have one shade tree – a fruitless mulberry – and it’s the star of the backyard. All the rest of the “greenery” is junk stuff and invasive intruders, all of which will come out. I love your idea about the semi-dwarf fruit trees, maybe toward the back of the lot near the alley (rats love dropped fruit, you know). Also, meyer lemon and other varieties of citrus have wicked-long thorns and would make a nice barricade plant. This area is in a banana belt of sorts and does well with citrus.

      Thanks for the tips!

  20. Dave Walker says:

    Boy I hope, they raise the limit for unlicensed workers also, I have a small tree service, and I’ve known of the five hundred dollar cap. My hopes in the beginning of my small tree service was that I could remove very hard danger trees and do at that price, than the customer could hire a clean up guy for a reasonable cost and they could save literally, hundreds, and my hopes were that I could do several a week and make a fair living and also save customers money, I came from logging in Oregon and learned from old timers, and can usually do extremely difficult trees in a safe speedy manner not ripping people off using unesasarly equipment, but just not enough hard difficult trees to stay busy, so of course I’ve got to charge more now but if they would raise the limit, I could do hard danger trees and still save people money, and make an honest living because of my abilities, not that I’m cut throat, I can just get them done safely and very efficiently?, and carry a million dollars liability insurance, and have my ground man covered with workers comp, and all bases are covered, so I understand Corry’s situation very much so, I climb for alot of the tree company’s here in Redding that have there lic, usually they pay me more than I would’ve charged the customer myself, sometimes up to over a thousand dollars for a few hours of work because I’ve got the ability to do such trees, I’m grateful for the work but I think to myself if the customer only knew the truth I’m not covered with workers comp, if I’m injured it’s on me and these car salesman that went and got there lic that has nothing to do with tree work, are robbing there customer blind, I know Corry very well and he is the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my life, I hope his raw Beal he got turns things around and there are some laws changed, as for me I just hope I will keep getting enough calls to pay the bills, I love my work! And may just go get my general contractor license, but my Hope’s were that the word would spread and I’d get several hard removals a week and make a decent living and save people from the car salesman that turned into lic tree services! If people dug deeper they would realize about 90 percent of the license guys, are only covering Enough bases to keep them able to rob people if customers? dug a little deeper they would find they only pay workers comp when somebody’s watching there’s way around it and the state looks the other way because there getting what they want!

  21. Dave Walker says:

    I also got busted in a sting, this is a good one, I got a call from Corning to come look at a couple trees to be removed, I show up a man comes out shows me a couple medium size trees he said just get on ground and pile on burn pile I told him 400 dollars which is below the limit I had no idea it was a sting just gave a fare price he told me to wait and he’d go ask his partner, he came back out had me walk in and sure enough here comes the SWAT team, lol but nearly, since they could not get me on the limit the got me for not posting I was unlicensed, anyway it really is getting so that the honest hard worker can’t make an honest living and save people money because they love what they do and in return are usually the best at there craft!

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