Doni’s Old House Remodel: Almost There

Today is my final city of Redding inspection of my project. I'm nervous. There's only one thing that's being inspected: a powder-coated black bracket. This is the correct bracket. The ugly open part above the bracket is intentionally left exposed so the inspector can rest assured that the bracket is attached all the way up beyond the old (now destroyed) coving.

I'll get someone to make it look pretty with new plaster after I pass inspection.

This bracket will determine whether Doni passes her Thursday inspection.

I failed my last inspection because we had the wrong bracket in place, which delayed the job's completion, not to mention the hassle factor of removing the wrong bracket, which was a royal pain. Never mind the who/what/where/why/how-the-hell-did-that-happen.

It doesn't matter. It's water under the bridge. What's done is done.

What does matter is that finally, the wrong bracket was removed and the design plan was executed as architect Tyler Hendrickson drew it in the first place, which stipulated a specific (correct) bracket, for what it's worth.

The headers were required to mitigate the opened walls/doorways in the living room, dining room, hallway and laundry room; areas that involved load-bearing walls. I hate to sound like a brat, but I couldn't imagine spending time in that closed-off kitchen space. To me, it was obvious from the moment I saw the house that some walls would have to go. And there was no removing the walls without architectural and engineering involvement to make sure the whole project was up to code and passed city inspection. Naturally, I had no clue all that would be involved in removing those walls. I'm glad I didn't know, or I might have chickened out, and then I'd be stuck with that claustrophobic little kitchen.

This small kitchen was closed off from the living room and was accessed via narrow hallway and dining room doorways.

These headers have been the source of many discussions, and many opinions, most of which boiled down to this frequent question: Why did the architect insist on veneering those headers? Why didn't he just call for the headers to be dry walled and painted?

Here's what separates a good architect from the rest of us mere mortals: They sometimes see things we cannot. When it came to my headers, which were unglamorous stacked 6-by-12 boards, Tyler saw an opportunity to take something functional and make it beautiful.

Here's what the space looked like before from inside the kitchen looking toward the hallway.

Here's the same view taken last night (bad exposure, I know).

Would it have been easier to just run drywall up to the ceiling? Oh my gosh, yes. Would it have been as interesting and dramatic? No way. By the way, the headers aren't finished. They need a little attention, sanding, etc., to achieve perfection. And we need a drywall person to finish the edges. (I say this to those who'll surely zoom in.)

There are architects, and there are Architects. Tyler is a hands-on architect, the kind of creative thinker and doer who had such a specific vision for the headers' outcome that he wanted to be the one to see them through to the very end. By "see it through" I mean he wanted to actually apply the veneers himself. When was the last time you heard of an architect doing something like that?

Architect Tyler Hendrickson ponders the bracket, and how to make the veneers and bracket play well together. Meanwhile, in the background, Pacific Crest Granite's team installs counter tops.

He brought architect colleague Jose Garduno to help.

ONE SHOP architects Tyler Hendrickson, left, and Jose Garduno looked pretty chipper at the beginning of the veneer project.

They arrived on Friday, which made for a houseful all working on different things: two architects, two licensed general contractors, one handyman, one plumber, one interior designer (sister Shelly), and a team of five Pacific Crest Granite guys.

It was such total chaos that at one point, one contractor said it was too much for him, and he left for the day.

Not Tyler and Jose. They stayed for the duration, into the night, through a good hunk of the weekend, and then back again early this week. Until it was done.

Architects Jose Garduno and Tyler Hendrickson from ONE SHOP cut veneers for Doni's exposed headers.

Applying the veneers on Doni's kitchen headers was a two-man job tackled  by architects Tyler Hendrickson and Jose Garduno of ONE SHOP.

The last piece, the one beneath the bracket, was the most challenging, but Tyler and Jose did it.

Architects Tyler Hendrickson and Jose Garduno insert the last piece of veneer onto one of the kitchen headers.

I love the look of the headers, which are wrapped in walnut veneers. I hope the inspector likes them, too.

I also love the counters, in Rainforest Green, which were installed by Pacific Crest Granite.

First there were three, but one slab of counter was so heavy that two other guys were called in to help.

After all these months of balancing coffee pots and cutting boards on boxes, it's such a luxury to have real counters.

I'll show you more details next week, when I have better photos, but Edgewood Plumbing hooked up the kitchen faucets, dishwasher and garbage disposal, which meant I could finally wash dishes in the kitchen, instead of the bathtub.

Some things still await completion, such as hardware on doors, which is off being powder-coated.

And remember the battered pair of metal awnings over the courtyard doors?

Why oh why did Doni feel the need to remove the homely, broken awnings?

About a month ago I asked a handyman to remove the awnings because they were twisted, damaged and unsightly. I was thinking they were for shade. It didn't dawn on me -- until our first gully-washer -- that perhaps they were there to keep rain from pouring into the house.

Thank God for beach towels to sop up the water that overflowed from the packed rain gutters overhead, then down the screen doors à la Niagara Falls and onto the new laundry room and guest room floors. I would have taken a video but I was too busy mopping water.

As an aside, the handyman who cleaned the gutters this week said there were so many layers of decomposed leaves that they had actually mulched and composted down into what looked like quality topsoil. Once again, just when I think I've seen it all, this house continues to surprise me. And I don't mean fun surprise, but rather, holy-crap surprise.

Meanwhile, I've put a deposit on a pair of canvas door awnings from Redding Canvas. I need to choose a color asap. I know that darker awnings will last longer, and will withstand many years of sun and rain.

So many choices ...

And speaking of rain, I'm getting bids on repairing the water issue all around the house where the vents are below grade. In the meantime, I've taken matters into my own hands. I bought 100 feet of irrigation hose and attached it to various downspouts, and then redirected the hoses away from the house.

It's not pretty, but I hope it's at least a partially effective temporary fix.

Doni hopes these hoses will redirect the water away from the below-grade vents until she can enlist professional help.

I also put up plastic lids over the vents, which I know looks silly, but it made me feel as if I were doing something productive.

I also have an empty fireplace, which had a wood-burning fireplace insert. I'd like to have a gas faux fireplace eventually, but I'll see how the funds hold up. I may have to wait until next year.

The fireplace waits patiently for its turn to become beautiful and functional.

I also have a very large square opening in my hallway ceiling that was supposed to have a whole house fan in it, except I've heard from a few handymen/contractors who say I can't have a whole house fan with blown-in insulation, or it would be a big mess, unless I went to a sheet metal company and had a big funnel thing made, which would cost a few thousand dollars. That's too bad, because I love whole house fans. So now I'm just going to get a drywaller to patch the hole and let go of the whole-house fan idea.

Pay no attention to that opening in the ceiling, taped shut so Doni's imagination doesn't run wild with critters scurrying from the attic.

Weaver Lumber delivered my exterior doors, which are gorgeous, but I don't want them installed until I can first address my flooding issues.

Just hosing off Doni's courtyard for a few minutes caused it to flood, and the water to run beneath the house.

Even so, it brings me joy to look at the front door, and imagine how it will look when it's installed, and not leaning against the living room wall.

Doni ordered her exterior doors from Weaver Lumber. She will have the doors installed when the water issues are addressed.

Although all but two interior old doors - closets - are hung, I still need to paint and caulk all the doorways, baseboard, trim and crown molding. Tedious! So tedious!

Even so, this cozy little old house finally feels like a home, with civilized spaces and creature comforts, and when I say creature, I mean human, not rodent.

Doni writes at her dining room table with a view of the open kitchen.

It helps that sister Shelly pitched in with such crucial details as hanging curtains and arranging furniture.

Doni has a real dining room, but unlike her last home with its huge table, she now has a small square vintage table that has three leaves.

The inside of this old house is nearly finished. Now I will turn my attention to the exterior flooding issue, and do my best to take care of things before the rain begins in earnest.

But first, it's inspection day for my bracket. Wish us luck.

UPDATE: The bracket passed inspection! I'm so happy!

Thumbs up! Doni's house passed the final inspection!


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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41 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    Wow, it looks amazing – what a difference that last week made! I really like the look of the exposed beam too, great idea Tyler.

  2. Matthew Grigsby says:

    Warm, charming, beautiful and amazing. All the headaches will be eased by the many happy memories you’ll create in that home.

    And those countertops are magnificent!

  3. George says:

    Doni it all looks so nice! You have done a fabulous job transitioning from what the house looked like when you bought it, making some serious changes to the interior and the how it appears today. You really do have an eye for envisioning how nice things can turn out with a little hard work.

  4. Deb says:

    The progress is astounding – it must have been so much fun/such a relief to actually be able to start decorating! You’ve had so much structural/”invisible” work done, and had so many hard-work tasks to get on with, that I can only imagine what it’s like, now, to see it all taking shape and becoming a beautiful, comfortable home. You’re in the homestretch. Good luck with the inspection!

  5. Beverly Stafford says:

    Looking great! Please post the inspection results as soon as you know so that your fans won’t have to wait until next Thursday.

  6. conservative says:

    Your neighbors probably own houses with similar challenges. They may not have the creativity or capital to remodel like you did. The neighborhood could wind up as neglected rentals. Every city has neighborhoods where properties are increasing in value and neighborhoods where the trend is downward.

  7. Ginny says:

    I knew it was going to be beautiful when you completed your house, and I can see the real beginnings of it now….. Keep plugging away, and it the nightmare will have passed soon.


  8. Steve Allen says:

    Re the whole house fan, are they saying it’s a code problem? I wouldn’t think so. Since the fan is sucking air out of the house and blowing it into the attic ( to escape the attic via some sort of vent system) I don’t underdtand why having blown in attic insulation is s problem. You can box around the fan with plywood or Sheetrock of the concern is that loose insulation would fall into the hallway. Which won’t happen anyway because the air is forced up into the attic. Been there, done this with no problem. There must be something else that is a problem?

    • No, not a code issue. The issue – according to a contractor – is that the whole house fan would swirl the blown-in insulation around the attic. The blown-in insulation hasn’t been done yet.
      I need a skinny person to first get in the attic and fill all the openings with spray foam that wiring goes through for added energy efficiency.

      He was saying that in order to prevent that scenario, I’d need a whole custom sheet metal system from the fan through the attic and through the roof. Nightmare! Bleeding money!

      But I see what you’re saying: build a box around the fan, up higher than the insulation, and then when the fan goes on, the insulation would stay put.

      • Tim says:

        You should be able to tack down rolled insulation next to the fan and use blown insulation everywhere else. They also have spray insulation that sticks together too.

        It may also be that your original gable vents aren’t big enough for a whole house fan and that the contractor needed to install additional roof vents. This is common on older houses and helps prevent the fan from making as much noise.

  9. Susan Briley Margulius says:

    Congratulations Doni, it looks beautiful! I knew it would.

  10. Viki says:

    Wow. It is looking fabulous! I know all too well the tediousness of caulking and painting trim. I still don’t have all of ours done.

  11. Grammy says:

    Would a French drain system help the drainage problem? Done properly sure would take a lot of rain or re-direct it where you want.

    • Oh yeah. Absolutely. A French drain would be awesome. However, the issue with that side of the house is a gas line that’s near the surface and runs the entire length of the house, and two sewer cleanouts (I have no clue why I have two) that are also near the surface. So that really limits any serious trench work.

      A couple of folks have suggested I contact PG&E and make the case that it’s PG&E’s problem to rebury the line deeper … after all, I can’t help what PG&E did 80 years ago, but its poor gas- line location is messing with my ability to keep water from flooding my house.

      Think that would fly?

      • Tim says:

        I doubt PG&E would do anything, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

        You can still install a french drain, but if you have to work around gas and plumbing lines digging becomes a lot more labor intensive. Think archeology rather than trenching — probably not something you want to leave to unbonded handimen…

  12. Steve DuBois Steve DuBois says:

    Your place looks beautiful, Doni.

  13. conservative says:

    How did you find your architects, contractors, subs? I had a bad experience as an owner builder in 2007. Picking out subs in the phone book got me some real turkeys. Is there an informal network? The worst sub I dealt with in 2007 agreed on a price after having a set of plans for about a week. It took multiple calls to get him to bid. On the day work was supposed to start, he sent out a worker with a contract for $1,000 more than we had agreed verbally. He was very angry with me when I refused to sign and sent his helper away.

    • I relied upon friends, word of mouth, and lots of social media, mainly Facebook and I’d put a shout out that I was looking for someone, and people gave recommendations. I knew I’d hit pay dirt when I read recurring names.

  14. Karen Calanchini says:

    Doni, the transformation looks amazing. Cozy, classy, and elegant. The kitchen granite is breathtaking. The photo blew me away. Most stunning piece of granite I have seen!

  15. Rich King says:

    Congratulations Doni! The house looks awesome!

  16. David Jackson says:

    Your home looks great, Doni! What a transformation! Holidays will be happy in the Chamberlain home this year! 🙂

  17. Steve DuBois Steve DuBois says:

    It’s amazing the holy-crap you’ve gone through. I sure hope the stress of it all has washed away. The flooding issue could be a problem in lieu of all the rain we’ve just had. You’ll get through it like everything else. I can’t believe what a STRONG woman you are! By the way, even though it’s simple, I like the fireplace. You’re kitchen looks incredible even though you mention bad exposure. And your counter tops are gorgeous! Looking forward to the pictures next week.

  18. Jon Reville says:

    The pictures look great compared to the first time JP and I walked into the house and also there is a whole house fan that has the fan in the attic and it is attached to the trusses up high with tubes from the opening and it’s a lot quieter. We will stop by and see the finished remodel. So happy for you Doni

  19. Brando says:

    Your house looks amazing. I really like the exposed beam. Brando

  20. Sue Asbill says:

    a couple of weeks ago, suddenly I stopped receiving The News Cafe in my e-mail, Today I was finally able to sign up again, but on reading this article, I couldn’t access the pictures or video,, just wondering if something is wrong with your site? or me. I even tried reading the article on the web and couldn’t get the pictures.. Just a heads up

  21. Eleanor says:

    I don’t get the email any more either. Didn’t think of re-signing up, which I will. I don’t see the photos neither……….and I want to! Not a complaint, just fyi!

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