Morningside Renovation

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

Framing Work

Since so much framing progress has been made over the last several days I thought it might be best just to share some of the pictures.

Also & fortunately during framing our GC discovered that the vast majority of the rafters and joists in the original house are still in good condition so it was great to learn that we won’t have to replace those.  Also, because of all the water damage to the original hardwood floors due to our former GC not tarping the roof correctly  we thought we would have to replace all of the ORIGINAL hardwood floors – fortunately it looks as if we will be able to salvage the ones in the foyer, dining room and one of the bedrooms.  My hope is that the transition from the original to the new won’t be too noticeable…

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Master Bedroom

Trey Ceiling in the Master Bedroom

Future Family Room

Future Family Room

framing 074

framing 064


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.

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.

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!!

I Fix Things

Great weekend with the family,a lot of pure quality family time which was definitely needed.  We have so much going on and so many decisions that are on the cusp of being made that getting lost in our boys is a welcomed oasis. 

I was able to sneak away for a few hours to split some wood at the house.  I’m not really sure why I find it so therapeutic to sling a 12 lb sledge-hammer but for some odd reason I love it. The exercise as well as sweat is great and the results are rewarding, however it’s the quiet time that affords me the luxury to actually think about everything. 

This past weekend was no different, it was an absolutely beautiful day and I had been at it for a little while when I started thinking about our current position with the house which shortly led me to reflect on the last 14 months and all that we’ve been through as well as experienced.  For 2 people who share the mindset that you create your own road and it’s solely up to you to do so, we’ve been taught through experience during these last several months that there are times in life when you’re thrown a  Sandy Koufax curveball.  We can’t change what has happened, but we can learn from it and then decide whether to move on or step back up to the plate.  Personally I feel that we’ve handled everything remarkably well but at times that just isn’t enough for me. 

You see up until now I’ve had a fairly successful track record of fixing things and I thrive on it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a broken toy, a gate, an old wheel barrow… I fix it.  Of course this mindset might have slipped into our relationship at times but I tend to think that’s pretty much the norm for guys and I’m hopeful that I’ve gotten better on the listening and validating front.  Not sure if this “fix it mindset” is derived more from nature or nurture but it’s there.  Hurry up and make things right, get it back together or on track – fix it.

I was taught years ago that the key to hitting a curveball is patience.  Of course determination and focus is imperative but patience is the key.  You have to wait, wait until the ball starts to break before you swing.  Patience is not one of my strengths.

Also, I came across a short but great article recently on remodeling – definitely worth the 2 minute investment: 3 Ways to Keep Your Cool During a Remodel.

All In and Further Vetting

Late yesterday we received the last of the bids to complete our renovation/remodeling project.  We ended up meeting a lot of very experienced builders that we feel certain could handle and complete our project however we’re just going to focus on our Top 3 going forward.  We’ve met with one of them this past weekend and our plan is to meet with the other 2 over the long Labor Day weekend.  Hopefully we’ll get a better sense of their abilities, character, experience and dependability when we meet and as we’re contacting their references, but our other main goal is to discuss the plan in more detail and see if there are areas or ways to reduce the overall expense of the project to make it more justifiable. 

Also, our last contract was a fixed price contract however we’re starting to think that “cost-plus” might be more advantageous.  I’m planning on researching which is best before we commit, “cost-plus vs fixed price”, thoughts or advice?

Speaking of research, you can imagine that I’ve been trying to become better informed and/or more educated with hiring a contractor this time around.  Not really sure what we could have done different last time however I did read a ton of articles giving tips and advice when for hiring a general contractor.  See below some of the better ones:

After you’ve completed your homework and have implemented all of the necessary steps, asked all of the right questions and have covered all of your bases remember the most important one – Pray.  Pray that you’ll make the correct decision and if for some reason  you find yourself stuck in an ugly situation, that eventually the best will become of it.


Wish That I Could Channel Churchill’s Fire

I think Sir Winston once said “Never, Never, Never Give Up” but then I quickly remember the definition of insanity – extreme foolishness or irrationality.  As you can tell a clear decision has yet to be made…unfortunately.

We’ve decided to speak with various builders which have been referred to us (thanks to many of you) and see where we stand when comparing what it will actually cost to complete our home versus what is remaining in our budget.  (I think we’ll need a magician)

I know we both fell in love with this ugly house when we first saw it and emotionally we fell even further as we envisioned the memories that would be made and the future it would hold for us, but we’ve come to realize that it just may be unachievable now thanks to all that has transpired.

It’s depressing and it’s extremely tough for me not to feel defeated in numerous ways and levels.   There have certainly been high’s but the low’s have been numerous and more constant.  This place which use to bring me so much excitement has unfortunately become such a source of negative energy and feelings for me that unless we come up with a solution fairly quickly it will probably be best to just abandon this dream and try to eventually start a new one. 

I also need to clean up after our former GC as he’s left everything in quite a mess,but for a place that I once would make any excuse just to go over there and spend time splitting wood, moving dirt or just sitting there envisioning “one day”, I now find myself actually trying to avoid it.

“When you feel like giving up remember why you held on for so long in the first place”

And now to exhaust every potential avenue…initially the biggest challenge will be summoning the energy to explore them.

My Focus Needs to be Elsewhere

As we head down to Florida there are numerous questions rolling through our heads. Aside from the LAST stunt our GC pulled, the big question is what do we do?  Sell it or keep it?

He’s already taken a significant portion of our allotted construction funds and has also basically put us in quite a predicament due to the alterations and modifications that will need to be made because of his numerous mistakes and omissions.  At this time I’m not really sure how we can overcome this position if we decide to continue forward?

If we sell it, the “improvements” he’s made will have little value and will very possibly detract from the value of our house.  Plus, we still have the cost of cleaning up the mess that he’s left behind as well as repairing the existing house due to some of the damage (direct & indirect) that his crews have caused.

I’m just not sure of any answers, it’s a lose lose situation either way.  The thing is, we aren’t one of those couples that bit off more than they could afford.  We work hard, save money, budget and watch our expenses.  We’ve been looking for several years and finally found our potential dream and POOF!!!  Not only does it feel as if it’s gone but it possibly will also cost us even more money with either route we choose.

So here we are; heading down to Florida with some pretty massive thoughts going through our minds.  And I’m resentful, very resentful!!! Not only will all of this take away some of our focus on the boys but the true purpose behind going to Florida isn’t so much for the beach or a vacation but more so to be closer to Julie’s dad.  I won’t go into too much detail but after his accident, a year ago tomorrow, the beach is now a place where Julie feels the closest to him.  Outside of this “renovation” catastrophe it’s been a hard year for all of us and especially Julie.  Douglas, Julie’s dad, was such a big part of our lives and their father/daughter relationship was one beyond anything that I have ever seen.  If one day I can achieve even half of that relationship with my boys then I will feel as if I have been successful as a father and dad.  There have been so many times throughout this project where I have wanted to call him for advice on what to do, how do we handle something, what do you recommend, etc…which at times has only made the reality and pain seem close to unbearable.

Tomorrow will be about Douglas, Douglas and Julie. 

We Miss You and Love You Douglas!!!