Morningside Renovation

Our Journey Through The Renovation Process Of Our Future "Forever Home" In Morningside (Atlanta,GA)


Grading the Backyard

Not a lot to report due to the rainy weather that we’ve had in Atlanta this past week  but I’ve included a few pictures of the backyard which was recently graded/leveled and now gives us a more visual idea as to its size, although the purpose was to give them a place to unload the upcoming framing packages. 

 

Little Brendan (22 mo) just had to get involved

 

Of course Max was quick to volunteer in helping me spread some hay to prevent erosion as well as start re-stacking the wood pile which had to be located.

 

 

Good things are happening, just need to find ways to cut down some of the upcoming expenses, as this is where the $’s start to be spent.


Batman and Robin

What a week.  Halloween and continued progress on our house, this blog has been a rollercoaster of emotions over the last several months. 

Halloween!!  If you know our oldest son or if you’ve read some of the previous post then you know that Max is crazy about Batman.  So of course that is who he dressed up as for the big day.  But his biggest feat was convincing his little brother that they didn’t make Elmo costumes in his size…only costumes of Robin.  So our sons were the Dynamic Duo: Batman and Robin

At first it was a challenge convincing Brendan to try on his costume, but once he had it on he took to it better than anyone could have expected.

  Of course we had to carve a Batman pumpkin and since Bren didn’t get to be Elmo I ended up trying to at least carve one for him.

It was a long night but the boys had a great time.

As for our house; all of the plaster has now been removed from the walls and ceilings as well as all of the old corroded plumbing and original wiring. It’s amazing the amount of work that has been done in what feels like such a short period of time…or at least from what we were use to with our prior GC.


Hurricane Sandy

So it’s the day before Halloween and our boys are beyond excited, at the same time our new GC continues to impress us by staying ahead of schedule (Yes, despite what our former GC stated, they do have schedules in residential construction).  However it’s challenging to get geared up to write about our progress when all I can think about are the millions of people being so adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

If you’ve read my blog long enough you know that the experience with our previous GC was beyond a nightmare.  Besides the emotional and mental strain that we experienced he ended up costing us a lot of money and we’re having to become overly creative and value engineer every part of the process going forward.  We can’t go back and change our experience but my hope is that maybe I can somehow prevent someone else from having to go through the same living hell.  We thought we dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” but obviously there are things we could have done differently.  Being a “Monday morning quarterback”  has always been my specialty. 

That being said, I’ve attached 2 articles, the first is from Mike Holmes giving tips on how to hire a competent contractor, while the latter was recently featured on msn.com and is super informative with regards to contractor warranties and how to handle defective construction.

Make It Right® | Resources.

Unhappy Homebuyers Face Double Whammy

 Thoughts and Prayers are with are with all of the victims of Sandy.

 


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Interior Demo

What a week, after having gone through so much frustration in the past it’s refreshing to actually be making progress.  Unfortunately we had a horrible experience with our last GC however it’s refreshing with the progress that’s been made with our new GC.  He’s cleaned up the mess which was left behind,

 

 

 

cleaned up the basement,

These stairs will be removed and are being relocated into the expansion space

 

and then finished removing all of the plaster as well as laths from the walls and some of the ceilings. 

 

One of the surprisingly interesting finds was the condition of the brick which has been hidden for years behind plaster. 

 

We’re seriously contemplating letting the exposed brick become part of the “decor” in the dining room however we would also like to find a way to incorporate the brick (2nd above photo) into what will serve as a hallway/corridor.  We’re still not sure what we’ll do with the fireplace in the foyer, however thankfully we have a couple of weeks before we need to decide. 

I feel somewhat foolish celebrating the demo, however it’s been a long time coming…can’t imagine what we’ll feel when they start driving nails. 

I wanted to share another interesting article, What to Look for in a Contractor’s Contract, (this one is from Houzz)  that is certainly worth a few minutes if you’re about to enter into a contract with a General Contractor.


Removing Plaster Walls

It’s been a while.  It’s been a while since I’ve actually written a post and had a true smile on my face, however tonight it’s a little different.  One week after hiring a new GC he has already cleaned up all of the mess left by our former GC, cleaned out the existing basement, neatly stacked all of the old interior doors in the existing basement, removed everything from the old kitchen as well as the bathrooms and has also started demo’ing the existing interior walls.  I feel that they’ve accomplished more in a week than our past GC did in 8 months, sad when thinking about the past but damn…I’m starting to get excited about our future home again and I love it!!

So today Max and I decided that we would go over and start removing some of the plaster from the walls since all of them are being stripped down to the studs.  Maybe I watch a little too much of Nicole, Josh and Mikebut I just couldn’t resist and Max loved the idea of actually being able to put holes in a wall and it not resulting in some form of discipline. 

Goggles, proper breathing masks, work gloves, crowbar, sledgehammer, mallets, etc… we’re ready. 

I promise he can see

I’ve mentioned it before but for only being 4 years old my boy is a machine, he just never ceases to amaze me.  You’re probably thinking how much can a 4 yr old help?  A lot!  I loosened some of the plaster from the lower parts of the walls and he not only finished it off but also hauled out his “mess” to the dumpster – I did manage to get him to take a break occasionally for water or a snack but it wasn’t easy (I sure hope that I’m not violating any sort of child-labor laws). 

About half-way into our 3 1/2 hour project Julie and Brendan decided to check on our project.  Not surprisingly it only took about 3 minutes before Julie decided to take part in the action.  The draw of putting holes in a wall was obviously too much for her as well.  As for Brendan, with him only being 22 months one of us constantly had to watch his every move and keep him entertained away from all of the action, and although he probably slowed our progress a little we all had a great time.  Vastly different from our traditional family/quality time together but I do know that at least 3 out of 4 of us enjoyed it.

Now it’s possible that if my everyday-job was ripping down plaster walls and tearing out  laths it wouldn’t be nearly as exhilarating and would probably grow old but I really wish that I didn’t have such a busy schedule the next few days because I know where I would spend it.  Of course I would need my crew with me to make it complete.

Also, I recently came across this article on “How to Find the Right Contractor for Home Renovations”, great guidelines to follow and certainly worth the read.


Hard to Trust Again

Personally this next step has been one of the toughest.  Tough mentally as well as emotionally.  Some people automatically trust others until proven differently, while others are only willing to extend that gift once it has been duly earned. While I strive for the former, unfortunately the latter is more of my nature.  Regardless, it’s been extremely tough to move forward and hire another GC, even though it’s imperative if we’re going to achieve our original goal. 

There’s probably very few people who have never been the recipient of some sort of betrayal…at least once in their life.  And while I was taught early that “you’re only as good as your word”, I’m often reminded of how differently some have been raised.  Our original GC we initially “loved” and trusted, he was the one who would ultimately deliver our dream.  We did our due diligence and trust was rightfully given, however that trust was shortly shattered and as a result our dream was almost abandoned.  Trust is the basis of any healthy relationship, business or personal, and for me it can at times be challenging to readily “re-extend” that gift after it’s been recently, and in my opinion, abused – especially when it’s been so costly mentally, emotionally and financially. 

I’ve been told that how you respond to life’s challenges is what defines you. Not really sure how I or we’ll end up being “defined” – but I am somewhat curious.  I do know that while it could be so easy to waste needed energy getting bogged down in our past experiences it would ultimately only prohibit us from moving forward. To begin our next step of moving forward we’ve met some incredible GC’s, ones that are undeniably competent enough to finish our project.   In the end our criteria for choosing a new GC went beyond experience and we decided to leave the final decision to our gut/heart. 

So this past Monday we began our next phase/step, the crew from our new GC showed up an hour early and progress has resumed!!!  While it’s disheartening that some of the sacrifices which will now be required will affect/alter our desired finishes, appliances and basically the green features of our home, it is beyond exciting to see progress once again being made.  The vast majority of this week will be literally cleaning up the mess left behind by our former GC and if possible they might start demo’ing the interior of our house.  While it’s scary stepping back out on this “limb”, it’s comforting to see the organization of our GC and even more that there’s someone on site with a real understanding of the project and actually supervising the work. 

As for our past experiences, I truly believe in Karma and have no doubt that those with poor intentions will more than receive what they have once dealt.

But the one thing I’ve learned over this past year which is more valuable than anything else is that we’ll be okay…we can make it through whatever lies ahead as long as we stay focused on what’s most important.


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Not Throwing in the Towel – Just Yet

As for our little project, if you’re a glass half-full type then you could say that we’ve made a wee amount of progress. Wee as in tiny, small, minuscule,slight, etc… But, at least we’re moving forward.

Interesting last several days which I’ll try to recount: first I received an interesting call from two past clients of our former GC.  One just wanted to compare notes as to the various issues which they’ve uncovered as well as their past experiences with him while the other wanted to get my opinion on our experience with him and if we would consider using him again.  Pretty easy guess as to my answer – I really can’t believe that he’s still out there marketing himself, hopefully through various efforts that we’ll be short-lived.  

Now, on to that which is positive.  As you may know I’ve tried to divorce myself from this house and our dream quite a few times and while I’ve come so very close numerous times, presently I just can’t find the strength (sense) to do it.  So even though there is a significant financial gap as to what we’ve budgeted and what it will now take to complete the task, I’m determined to make it happen.  How? I’m not totally sure, but I have faith that somehow we can get it done without sacrificing quality of finishes or our initial plan (maybe there’s a little touch of insanity). We have a couple of highly competent GC’s that we’re deciding between which have thankfully offered to assist us in various ways, however I still have a fairly large hill to climb.  No doubt that it’s going to take more than a team effort so please feel free to offer any advice, tips, suggestions, etc…but Please- only positive talk.  I know 99.9% of the population would have abandoned this “dream” weeks ago but it’s something that I just can’t let go of, at least not yet.

First step, the architect which was hired by our GC contacted my wife and offered to assist in any way possible.  He had heard about all that had transpired and volunteered to do whatever he could to make it right and assist in any possible way.  His first task, re-draw our roofing plan. We’ve been told by numerous contractors that our current roofing plan was a little extreme, basically it required over double the amount of materials as to what a similar home with a comparable square footage would require.  His second task is to confirm all of his past measurements as we’ve had questions arise as to the inaccuracies of them, not sure if this will reduce the overall costs but hopefully it will help to eliminate some of the future surprises. Last, review and look for inefficiencies and ways we can achieve our overall goal that could also reduce the construction costs, not expecting much with regards to the last request.

Truthfully, after discovering that a few of our past issues were created due to the architect’s inaccuracies I haven’t been his biggest fan but almost everybody deserves a second chance.  We gave our former GC 3 to 4 “second chances” so Julie talked me into granting the architect a second one.  We shall see but I’m not really sure how it can hurt.  We need to utilize every resource possible so hopefully this will prove fruitful.

Second Step…hopefully coming soon


Reality Check

Patience is defined as the state of endurance under difficult circumstances. Blah, Blah, Blah!!!  I’m ready to move forward!!

Beautiful day so I decided to knock off a little early. Julie and the boys were at a “play-date” so I thought I would take advantage of the weather and split more wood – by now I probably have enough firewood to last us through 4 or 5 Atlanta winters.

Of course this provided me with a little Reflection Time.   I received a thank you note today from a guy who interned with our company this past summer. This is a kid who lost his dad when he was 6 months old and mom when he was in high school, both tragically unexpected.  Prior to his mom’s death he lived a life that I’ve only read about or seen in movies; there were times when they had no utilities and the only food in this growing boy’s body were those provided by his school.  His mother worked 3-4 jobs as life continued to present them with challenges that would sink most. So one day over lunch I asked him how he managed to stay out of trouble and not get caught up in such readily available negative influences, his response – that wasn’t his focus.  It was there, all around him, he easily could have taken another route and more than likely ended up being a statistic that we all pay little attention to on the nightly news, but that wasn’t his focus. 

We’ve communicated a few times since he left to go back to school but this young man who is half my age left quite an impression on me.  The odds were more than against him, life couldn’t have dealt him a worse hand but he never let that stand in his way.  Today he’s a sophomore at Harvard and one of the standouts on their defense; one amazing and determined young man, a true inspiration.

Sort of puts life into perspective for me…Best of Luck Zach and Thank You!!