Morningside Renovation

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


Bathtubs have Arrived

Just thought that I would give a quick update on what progress has happened at our house during the last several weeks.  As you can imagine the holidays basically brought everything to a halt and if it wasn’t the holidays it’s been the rain.  However the rough plumbing was recently completed and just last week our GC finished installing the tubs.

We were originally going with a standard tub in all of the bathrooms, except the master, however our GC, amazing guy, was able to secure these awesome Kohler Devonshire tubs which have a 20″ depth and gave them to us for the same price as the standard ones. This guy is incredible.

 

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The hole(missing concrete) in the above picture was where our former GC originally put the plumbing…in a bedroom…bright guy huh?

 

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And for the Master Bath (below) we decided not to go with one that was jetted, so we chose a 41 1/2″ x 70″ Bathcraft tub manufactured by Craftsmen, model A97040-00.

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It’s funny, it will be a while before the house is ready and we’re able to actually utilize the tubs but it’s still pretty exciting having them installed.  Plus, it’s the first time I’ve seen the boys excited about taking a bath – we’ll see how long that lasts. 

The holidays are behind us and even though we have rain forecasted throughout the end of this week I’m hoping for good weather in the near future…we still have a long way to go.

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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.


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Velux Sun Tunnels, Are They Worth the Added Expense?

The Velux Sun Tunnel

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Originally I was planning on having these installed in the Master Bath, our walk-in closets, Kitchen, Boys’ Bathroom, and Laundry Room but since can lighting is less expensive and we’re cutting costs this is one of my “wants” that had to be eliminated.  Unfortunately I can’t seem to let it go, meaning that I’m trying to find a way to justify the added expense.  Of course I know the argument that “they’ll pay for themselves overtime with reduced electrical use however that just isn’t enough. So basically I’m asking you, “are you familiar with them, have you used them and are they worth the added expense?  I’m also concerned about the potential of them leaking.  They seem to be an amazing product, adding a lot of natural light and at this point I’m totally sold on them, I just need either more information, a cheaper alternative or to know that they’re not worth the it. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find very many contractors around the Atlanta area that are familiar with them. Let me know your thoughts if you have any experience or history with them.

So we’re moving along with framing, completed the majority of the interior frame-work, closets, baths, fireplace, stairs, etc…as well as the sheathing on the roof.  It is beyond exciting to see it actually all starting to come together.

Fireplace in the Great Room

Fireplace in the Great Room

Stairs - landing in the new basement area

Stairs – landing in the new basement area

View from Great Room into the Kitchen Area
View from Great Room into the Kitchen Area
Great Room

Great Room

       

Back of the house
Back of the house


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?


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Does Anyone Really Know Their True Purpose?

So I somehow came across the below article which gives tips on blogging.  Not sure how I found it being that 1) I never have nor are my aspirations to make money from this site (humorous even thinking about it), 2) it is a site created and tailored for moms.  Nothing against moms, but it’s just not a site that I would normally find myself stumbling upon.

My personal feeling is that everyone has a purpose, that there is a bigger reason than the obvious as to why someone was born. Of course I understand how someone could oppose that statement as I’ve heard some very valid arguments, however I stand firm in my belief.  And while I have absolutely no idea as to my own “purpose” I’m determined to eventually uncover that ever elusive question – hopefully.

Anyway, #1 got me thinking.  Originally I created this site to update friends and relatives about our construction (remodeling & renovation) project while of course showing numerous pictures of our progress as well as the occasional ones of our boys. Unfortunately that all changed.  We experienced a horrible nightmare with our first general contractor and while we came close to abandoning it all we decided to press on and try to accomplish our original task knowing that it will be a huge up hill battle.

So currently and going forward what is the overall purpose of this site?  I have no idea.  I’ve read my past posts and I’m all over the place.  Of course I could continue on the same path but does that really answer the question?  One thing I do know, I’ll probably have the answer as to the purpose of this site before I discover my own. 

Blogging Tips


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.