I keep saying I'm in the home stretch of this remodeling project, but the home stretch is a moving target, and the finish line seems to be disappearing into the horizon.
Two steps forward, one step back.
I was pretty excited that Handyman No. 2 (who prefers to remain nameless, after what happened to Corey, Handyman No. 1), dug out the area of the south side of my house in an effort to get dirt and concrete and debris away from the vents. This was to prevent water from further flooding beneath the house this winter, which is what happened before I purchased my house, and contributed to dry rot, and required expensive, extensive repairs immediately after I bought the house.
On Saturday Handyman No. 2 called me over and said he thought he'd uncovered a big root. I looked. (Dang, I forgot to take a photo. I'll add it later today.) Whatever it was looked old and man-made. I told Handyman No. 2 to not proceed, to just leave it alone. By the way, sadly, that was Handyman No. 2's last day, because he'd already reached the ridiculous $500 CSLB cap for an unlicensed worker.
Goodbye Handyman No. 2. It was nice knowing you and working with you.
Sunday I received some advice from someone who wishes to remain nameless (see the pattern?) that I should call the 811 number first thing Monday and see what we'd uncovered, especially since he suspected it was a gas line.
811? I'd never heard of it.
I called the number Monday morning, and got into a bilingual telephone loop, so I just called PG&E where I reached an automated message that said my expected wait time would be about 30 minutes. The automated voice asked me to say in a few words what my call was about.
Within seconds a live person was on the phone, asking questions. In what seemed mere minutes - not enough time for me to even get in the shower after my workout - a PG&E truck was in front of my house. Wow. Impressive.
My twin later joked that from now on, if there's an emergency that would normally prompt us to dial 911 - such as someone having a heart attack -- we should dial PG&E and say the magic words: gas line. Then, when the PG&E truck arrives, ask for a ride to the hospital.
One PG&E supervisor later, the two PG&E folks had determined that not only was "the thing" a working gas line, but it was very old, and instead of heading toward the street, as expected, it actually traveled through my back yard and toward the alley.
A little while later another PG&E guy came out with a kit to patch some of the sheathing that was missing from my old gas line, which may or may not have been caused by someone's shovel. The guy asked why I'd not called 811 before I'd had my handyman dig. I said I had never heard of 811. He said there are ads all over TV and radio about 811. I said I don't watch network TV or listen to commercial radio. Also, because I'm an REU auto-pay customer, I don't read the inserts, either.
Sounds like 811 needs to advertise online with A News Cafe.com. But I digress.
Apparently, before we citizens proceed with ANY digging, we're supposed to call 811, which notifies the local utility authorities of our dirty intentions and dispatches trained professionals to check things out. That call (or online application) triggers a series of visits from various agencies, such as PG&E, and city of Redding Public Works, who'll identify things like gas lines. (Not sewer lines on my property, though. That's private. I have to go the city to see a plot plan for that information.)
I have to say, I was impressed with the process, and the efficiency and professionalism of every worker that day, including an REU arborist - unrelated to the 811-call - who responded to my online report of trees in power lines.
But learn from my mistake. Before you make the call, first mark off your area in question with white paint, or white chalk, or even (I'm not making this up) white flour. Then call.
Instead, I filled out the 811 request online, and while I was on a roll I filled out a different form online with REU about tree branches in utility wires near my property. Just as I was heading to the garage for the 811 white paint, the city of Redding Public Works guy showed up. He did his markings on the ground and said my white markings should have been there first.
He was here and gone and in no time another PG&E representative arrived, but this one was here to mark the gas line with yellow paint. The PG&E guy also questioned me about digging without the 811 call, and said that if my handyman had actually punctured the line, and if PG&E had come out on a weekend, I could have faced up to a $7,000 fine.
That rattled me, probably because it was my second brush with a potentially serious gas issue in just a few days. The first gas event happened when one of the electricians (a licensed contractor, for those who care) was installing under-cabinet lights. He accidentally drilled a hole in a gas line inside the wall.
The smell was instant and unmistakable.
He turned off the gas outside, but then had to open a wall to get to the line, which needed a plumber to come and repair. The electrician is supposed to arrange for someone to come patch the hole, but in the meantime, I've covered it with tape and plastic, you know, in case there's a returning rodent who missed the memo that this is now a rat-free zone. Whenever I pass that wall, I keep expecting to see a hairy little pointed face pressed against the plastic, checking out his old digs.
Yes, I'm aware that rats can chew through chicken wire, let alone plastic and masking tape. Indulge me.
The good news was my appliances were delivered, including an LG stacking washer and dryer set that I got for a super marked-down price in the store's clearance section, because it was a returned special order. Oh, how I love those kinds of deals!
The bad news was the set was delivered without the stacking-kit hardware, so the install guys ordered one and left. The good news was the Home Depot store manager drove the part to my house after she got off work that day. (She's new. She's from Utah. She says that's how they do things in Utah. I think I like Utah.) The good news was the install guys returned a few days later to stack the set. The bad news was the washer and dryer had such major issues the set had to be picked up and returned to the store a few days later. This pick-up was the third trip for those same two guys to my house.
I got another stacking set, and this time, as the installers pushed it against the wall, there was a major light-and-sound show from my new laundry room. Sparks flew. A flame shot up from the back of the dryer. The aluminum dryer hose melted. A woman in paint-covered overalls screamed.
I contacted the electrician, who came out the next morning and fixed the problem. The stacked appliance was not the problem, rather, the culprits were two wires behind the outlet that were too close in proximity. The jarring from the appliance bumping the wall made the wires connect when they weren't supposed to. Arking ensued.
It sounds like I'm focusing on the negative. But really, I'm grateful for so much, such as the fact that the install guys weren't hurt in the laundry-room incident, or that the house didn't catch fire and burn to the ground in the process.
It takes a village to complete a remodel of this magnitude, and I'm so grateful to everyone who's helped, such as my sister, Shelly, who finished painting the last bedroom room yesterday.
And I'm eternally indebted to my son, Joe, who flew from the Czech Republic to install cabinets, but ended up picking up major, unexpected duties when Corey was ordered off the job by a bully CSLB representative.
I'm also grateful for locally owned businesses, like Weaver Lumber, my chosen source for exterior doors and interior trim and moulding, and Appliances Direct, where I purchased all my kitchen appliances, and Nor Cal Granite and Tile, whose guy will tile a bathtub surround in pretty mosaic next week, and Edgewood Plumbing, which has worked with me for years and is my favorite plumbing company, and Best Price Furniture and Mattress, for my new couches and for selling me my first real grown-up bed with a matching head and foot board.
I'm supremely grateful to Mobile Me Moving, for not just packing up all my earthly belongings in June, but storing them in a huge container months longer than expected. (Delivery is Sunday! Ready or not!)
I'm also grateful to personal trainer Matthew Lister at Align, who keeps me on the straight and narrow with my workouts, despite my crazy remodeling schedule and elevated stress levels; and that he withholds judgement when I confess that my dinner on the night of the flaming-dryer incident was a corn dog, a beer and a Neopolitan ice cream sandwich.
Finally, this week I'm grateful for Pacific Crest Granite, whose technician took my countertop templates Tuesday. That means I'll soon have counters, which means I'll have a sink and running water in the kitchen. No more washing dishes in the bathtub.
Most of all, I'm grateful to have a home here in northern California, when thousands of people have been left homeless - or worse - by fires just a few hours from here.
Keeping things in perspective, I'm grateful to be in this home stretch, for as long as it takes.