Morningside Renovation

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


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The Value of Capturing the Moment

It probably goes without saying but I never knew the true value of it until our ordeal.  Take pictures if you’re in the process of or about to begin a renovation/building/remodeling project – lots of them. Pictures can be extremely helpful if there is ever a dispute about the quality of work that was performed. I imagine most people generally take a few “before and after” pictures as well as when their project reaches certain milestones.  However I would strongly recommend taking pictures more frequently, possibly everyday if there is a lot of work being done – and make sure that you take them covering all aspects and phases of the project.

These pictures can potentially save you thousands of dollars in the future by showing proof of inferior workmanship. Unlike our first experience, and quite fortunately, the vast majority of General Contractors are admirable, trustworthy and competent professionals, but they’re humans.  Everyone makes mistakes and some of these mistakes could end up costing YOU a tremendous amount of money in the future, especially if it’s critical to the structural integrity of your home. Also, it would be great if we could all depend upon our local municipality’s building inspector to catch these mistakes but that doesn’t always happen and in most areas they’re indemnified and can’t be held financially liable. All of the more reason to do everything you can to protect yourself.

Of course you want to be mindful of those working on your project and not get in their way.  And you don’t want to be viewed as a homeowner that is just trying to find a mistake and looking to build a case – sure fire way to destroy a contractor/homeowner relationship. At the beginning of your project start with an open and trusting mind while giving the professionals you hired the benefit of the doubt since they do this a lot more frequently than most of us – we hope. These pictures should just be viewed as insurance, same as we have for our cars and house.

Now, if you do find a mistake make sure you take detailed pictures of it along with the surrounding area.  Keep in mind that if these pictures are ever presented to a third-party in order to make a judgment you want there to be undeniable proof of your claim– remember that the burden of proof is always on the homeowner.

From the beginning of our project I took a lot of pictures out of pure excitement, not even thinking that I might need them one day. Every day I would stop by the house and take pictures of the progress.  A few of them I’ve posted on this site and Flickr however that is a small percentage of all of the pictures which I’ve taken. When I started finding mistakes I made sure to take a lot of pictures from all angles and views.  For instance, after the initial framing was completed and we discovered that the ceiling height in the basement was going to be at least 6” shorter than what was on the plans I made sure to document this by taking pictures and videos showing the error and I even used a tape measure which gave more accurate proof of our claim.

Keep in mind that any litigation will be an uphill battle for a homeowner. Unfortunately when going before an arbitrator or a judge homeowners are often at a disadvantage and at times prematurely viewed in a negative light before a hearing even begins.  The contractor has more knowledge about construction(most of the time), knows the jargon and depending if your contract includes arbitration language with an arbitrator already identified, they could possibly already have a relationship established with those determining the outcome.  While not a guarantee of victory, pictures can certainly help to even the playing field and take away some of your contractor’s argument.  They say pictures are worth a thousand words and in these instances it couldn’t be truer.

Thankfully most people won’t have a similar situation as we experienced however these pictures can still come in handy years from now by serving as an x-ray of what’s behind all of the sheet rock and finishes.  This alone could save you hundreds of dollars.  One too many times a contractor has probably said to a homeowner “we have no idea what’s behind those walls until we open it up”, your pictures will eliminate some of the guess/exploratory work and expense. 

There it is and pretty simple, take pictures and lots of them – before, during and after your project. If you have a video camera it’s not a bad idea to utilize it as well.  Download the pictures and/or video to a disk or external hard drive and keep them someplace safe.  Hopefully you’ll never need them but if you do they can prove to be invaluable.


Maybe a Virus Gave Me Some Clarity

Not Really – I’m a little behind on posts being that my computer had a nasty virus that basically destroyed my hard drive, but I’m back.  During the “down time” I realized how time-consuming it can be to actively blog.  Of course I entertained the thought of abandoning it altogether, but that time away was actually good.  It allowed me the ability to reflect on why I’m even blogging.   As you know a few posts back after reading an article on blogging I wrote about my concern with this site/blog not having a true purpose.  This site was originally started as a way to keep our friends and family updated on our renovation/remodeling/expansion project – basically an online journal with updates and pictures.  I thought this site would be active for 5 maybe 7 months at most.  Life(shit) happens and nothing against professional bloggers but I never expected that 12 months later I would still be typing away.

This “journey” has taken us from our initial excitement – to watch our progress, we’re so excited – to crap I can’t believe this is happening, what do we do – to Ok, we’re committed to this, we have to somehow find a way to pull this off. 

Shit happens, we had an incompetent as well as less than honest GC and to now accomplish our original goal (or as close as possible) we’re going to have to do it with an even tighter budget. Unfortunately I don’t have the experience to “Super Man” the job and singlehandedly save us.  We’ll have to rely on our new GC to value engineer areas, hopefully I can assist by doing a little DIY work where it’s appropriate, but mostly  it will depend upon us making wise economical decisions and choices.

So maybe I’ve found (uncovered) the underlying purpose of this site.  From our past misfortunes and during our forward journey my hope is that we’ll be able to share a few areas where we’ve been able to make up ground – create savings.  It won’t be easy and there’s quite a gap to bridge but someone once told me to never underestimate determination.

Last, I would love to be able to provide a proven method on how to assure that you won’t get screwed or taken advantage of by an unscrupulous contractor, or at least minimize the risk.  However I’ve come to realize that a guaranteed method just doesn’t exist.  We read and followed all of the various articles, tips and advice but it still happened. So what do you do if you find yourself in our position? Is it worth pursuing?  I’ll try to journal that as well.

So there it is – any bets on if I stick to it?


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.


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.