Morningside Renovation

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

Time Flies, Group Effort and Angels

Time certainly moves quickly and unfortunately I had to set some things aside but I’m back and over the next several days I’ll try to give an update on where we are in the renovation process.

We’re still moving forward and even though the weather hasn’t been overly cooperative, and we’ve been constantly reminded that others move at their own pace no matter how much you try to prod them along, progress is being made.  As mentioned, I’ll post updates on what we chose for insulation, installation of windows, outdoor room decision, drywall installation, exterior paint decision and where we are with the kitchen countertop decision.

Six months ago I never envisioned that we would actually be this far along.  While I had every desire and intention to turn this house into our home there is no way that if back then I somehow had been able to step aside and remove my tunnel-vision goggles I would have bet even a dollar that this dream might actually be achieved.  Of course it would probably be somewhat rewarding to feel as if I had singlehandedly brought us to this point but it’s been quite the opposite and has taken a total team effort on numerous fronts.  But even with this team effort we’ve also, and thankfully, encountered a few angels along the way that have provided us with invaluable guidance and assistance.  My hope is that I’ll be able to provide an adequate account, acknowledgement and thanks through the next several posts, but realistically I can’t imagine how that will be possible.


Able to Save Some Money on Roofing

If you’re somewhat familiar with our story and if you read any of my posts over the last few months you know that if we’re to complete our house we’re going to have to get creative and find ways to reduce some of the construction expenses.  When we were re-interviewing Contractors for our second go at this project a lot of them talked about how they were good at value engineering projects and how they would “probably” be able to find ways throughout the course of construction to lower some of our costs while not sacrificing our finished goal or the quality of it.  I’m sure some of them would’ve been able to do so but one of the reasons why we chose our current GC is because he actually provided us with true examples on the front-end of how he would be able to do it and deliver to us our dream.  From the bids we received he wasn’t the lowest in price nor was he able to get his bid as low as we were hoping but he assured us that he would continue to look for avenues where we could save money.

I was skeptical at first for a few reasons; the contract with our current GC is a true Cost Plus contract. Meaning, we pay our contractor for the actual cost of the material and labor plus a predetermined percentage of those costs which basically is his profit. My feeling was that because of this arrangement he had very little incentive to reduce any of the expenses because that would in turn lower his profit.  My second concern was just the simple fact that he was walking into a project that had challenges.  The house was built in 1927, so who knows what issues he might find when he starts getting into the original structure.  Plus, directly because of the “improvements” by our former GC our house now had structural issues.  AND we’d been told by all of the contractors we interviewed (I believe 11 total) as well as our structural engineer that if we didn’t want to compromise the quality of our home or somewhat drastically change our overall plan of the house, then directly because of these past “improvements” there would need to be adjustments made to our framing and roofing plan which would significantly increase the overall costs.

So my concerns seemed realistic, not only why would he look for options to lower the costs which would reduce his profit but how would he even be able to do so?  As stated above, we knew that going forward there would be extra costs associated with the construction, framing, roofing, etc…and we made certain that the quality of our current GC’s work was above par and that he wasn’t one to cut-corners – quality GC, sterling reputation, past clients give him nothing but praise – still just doesn’t seem possible.

Well our house is far from complete and fortunately  our GC has been true to his word.  At the onset of our project he took it upon himself to have our roofing plan redrawn.  Our original roofing plan had more peaks and valleys than the Himalayas.  The amount of lumber required was enough for a house twice the square footage.  By redrawing our roofing plan, while making sure that it didn’t change the street appearance of our house, or that seen by the neighbors, he was able to simplify it thus reducing the cost of lumber, shingles, labor, etc… At the same time he was able to find us a comparable shingle as to what had originally been spec’d which also helped to reduced some of the costs.  We still have a lot more ground to makeup but overall this attributed to a 23.6% REDUCTION in what was budgeted for roofing.  Of course I wish that would become a trend and we could reduce all of the expenses by 24% however I’m just grateful that he not only took the time to explore various options but even more so that he actually did it and lived up to his word.  Amazing guy, so thankful we found him.

A few pictures below of the shingles. Try to ignore the exterior of the house, the trim will be added shortly, as well as replacement of all of the windows and they’re waiting until the interior improvements are complete before they paint the bricks.

Barkwood 2

The shingles are Timberline HD which are manufactured by GAF and the color is Barkwood

Barkwood 1

Barkwood 3

One piece of advice, I would strongly recommend that before the shingles are installed that you inspect a few of them just to make sure they’re the same color as to what you’re expecting.  While we confirmed that what was written on each of the packages was the same as what was ordered, we personally neglected to actually view the shingles and when we saw them on the roof we were somewhat disappointed as they seemed a little lighter in color than what we saw on the shingle board, as well as what we viewed online.  (GAF also recommends the above on their website)  They all came from the same batch however they’re definitely lighter, my hope is that once the trim is added and the brick is painted that less of the redness in the shingles will be highlighted and the brown will become more dominant.

Going one-step further, it would be even better if one was to use the same approach in selecting a shingle color as what is recommended when painting an interior wall.  If possible take a few shingles of various colors and have them placed on your actual roof so you can get a better idea as to what you’re getting and how the sun might alter the look/color.  Sample boards aren’t always accurate and I’ve been told that not everything you read or see on the internet is completely accurate as well.


Velux Sun Tunnels, Are They Worth the Added Expense?

The Velux Sun Tunnel


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?

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

Structural Repairs

Well even though it may not look like it, a lot of work has been done on our house since my last update.  The vast majority of them are structural repairs as it seems that age and carpenter ants had compromised the structural integrity in some places. 

As age and gravity can tend to make things sag over time, houses built in the 1920’s aren’t immune to it either.  And while some have said that the waves in our hardwood floors add character, I would rather let that come from elsewhere.  So they have been supporting  the floors by adding new beams below the main floor as well as re-supporting the ones that were already in place.






They’ve also discovered a few places where carpenter ants and Mother Nature had spent some time.  Because of this they’ve removed and replaced all of the rotted and eaten wood and re-support the house in those areas as well.






Last, they’ve supported the back of the house, I’m really shocked that the temporary supports held it up for such a long period of time.

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.