How to Renovate a Baltimore Rowhouse Sat, 23 Apr 2011 15:13:14 +0000 en hourly 1 Neat Install for a Kitchen Computer Tue, 13 Apr 2010 17:34:01 +0000 Chris Naturally, I have a computer in just about every room of the house.  The one in my kitchen has created quite an eyesore with speaker wires, network cables, wires keyboard and mouse, wired webcam, and power infrastructure, so last weekend it was time to tidy things up a bit.

Right now we have the CPU, the mess of wires, speakers, and a 20″ LCD monitor all taking up space on a granite breakfast bar that could be better put to use.  What we want to do is mount the LCD to a wall mounted boom, mount the CPU, speakers, power and network connections underneath the granite, where they are out of sight, and then go with a wireless keyboard and mouse setup that can be easily moved when it’s time to use the breakfast bar for… well, breakfast.

The Computer

The Computer itself is a refurbished Dell Optiplex in a Small Form Factor Case.  These make great 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th, etc) computers to set up around the house because they can be had for about $100 bucks, and come with a fully legal clean install of Windows XP.  No, we’re not running photoshop or anything… in the kitchen, this computer gets used for email, youtubing, remote desktop connections into the office, music playing, and looking up recipes.  That’s about it.  Incidentally, these Pentium 4 XP boxes are also great for general use in the office too.  We use them for our point of sale computers, and for our bench computers.

The Setup

As a matter of coincidence, I also designed and installed this kitchen back in 2007.  While I was forward-thinking enough to place power, network, and cable jacks above the breakfast bar for what my future kitchen computer, it did not occur to me to place these things under the bar where I could hide the wiring.

The first step was adding a 120v electrical outlet below the granite, about 10 inches below an existing outlet above.  After turning off the power, I pulled the existing outlet out, adding pigtails for the existing outlet and installing a piece of cable for the new outlet.

Next, using a swivel-arm wall mount from home depot, I located a stud that would put the monitor in the right spot for maximum viewing options, and also to make sure it could be neatly pushed out of the way. The mounting arm comes with drywall anchors, but if you don’t bolt it directly to the studs, someday someone will put too much weight on the full extended arm and rip your wall out.

Once the display is in place, we need to find a good location to route cables.  This should be close to the base of the mounting arm, and provide an unobstructed path to the CPU mount location underneath.  We used a 2″ hole saw and plastic wiring ports from home depot.  If the wiring port is not a tight fit, give it a few wraps with masking tape until it stays in place on its own.  We do the same beneath the counter near the CPU mounting location.

Mounting the CPU was easier than expected, since its small enough to fit between the 2×4 “joists” that are holding up the breakfast bar.  A short length of flat-link chain and a couple of drywall screws hold it in place.

We installed a small shelf to hold the Subwoofer, and simply mounted the speakers using zipties.  It’s not the prettiest way to do it, but they are out of sight and out of mind.

After routing all of the cables through our new ports in the wall, we plug everything in, fire it up, and make sure everything is working properly.

Lastly, a few wire ties keep everything in place.  Add a wireless keyboard and mouse, and the setup is complete!

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Gutting the House Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:11:32 +0000 Chris Step one is to get the old stuff out. It’s amazing how much material goes into a single wall. I ran into some trouble in this phase, and nearly had some big-time structural issues. It seems as though you can never have enough dumpsters. Every time I thought I was done, there was more stuff to toss out. Walls, plaster, flooring, appliances, ductwork, cabling, carpets, ceiling fans, AC units, trim, closet doors, and the list goes on and on.


There were two major “gutting” days, but the rest was ongoing while work was being done. I couldn’t tear out the old stairs until the new stairs were done. I couldn’t tear out the 2nd floor joists until I figured out how to replace them. As in all construction, every task is dependent on some other task. In renovation, it’s not as linear as in new construction and you find the dependencies forming loops!


A big dumpster is $350, and I used 2 of them. I really needed 4, but was able to move a lot to the dump myself, or have it taken away a trashbag at a time by the garbagemen.

Originally posted in 2004:


On July 24th, 2004 we began to rip out old materials from my house. I sent out an eVite to round up my friends, asking for a few hours of work in exchange for pizza, coffee, donuts, and an opportunity to break things.
Me, taking a crowbar to the window frame. Note the purple panel walls, and the plaster on the brick.

After asking around a bit, everyone told me that a 10 yard dumpster would be WAY too small, and that I should get a larger one. I ended up with an 18 yarder from Benjer, a company in White Marsh. $350 included delivery, 10 days of use, and pickup. I think the maximum weight allowed was 3.5 tons or something… Parking on the street is limited, and I was determined to get the dumpster directly in front of my house, which involved a bit of street babysitting. Once a car would leave, I would drag chairs, trashcans, and anything else into the spot to save it… between 8 am and 2 pm on July 23rd, I was able to secure the space right in front. The dumpster was still smaller than I expected, but ended up holding up a lot.p7240085-400.jpg
To prepare for the demo party, I went out to Lowe’s and bought lots of stuff, to include crowbars, sledgehammers, gloves, facemasks, goggles and chisels. I also bought plenty of bottled water for my working friends to consume. I had purchased a box full of halogen work lamps
and extension cords that I found on craigs list for 50 dollars!
Will and Jason dumping a trashcan of plaster rubble into the brimming dumpster.
Alex inside the dumpster (we opened it early in the day so we could walk in and position the trash for optimal space.
Also before the work began, I ensured that all the power was off for the areas people would be working. I only left the kitchen and basement power on, and ran extension cords to the work areas.

The plan was to start with the main bedroom upstairs, and remove EVERYTHING except the floors and walls. The main bedroom had plaster covered brick on 3 sides, a plaster covered stud wall on one side, and a plaster ceiling above the drop-in panel ceiling. Oh yeah, on top of all of the plaster was a layer of panel walls… there were several layers of crap.
Alex shoveling plaster into a trashcan. This was the most time consuming task of the day.

Plaster walls are HEAVY. The plaster over the studwalls crumbled easily, but removing it from brick takes a lot of work with a hammer and chisel. After you get the hang of it, it comes off pretty fast, but then you have to cart it out of the house.
After a plaster wall comes down, it gets DUSTY as hell. Good ventilation is a must (we used a box fan in the window), and masks are extremely important.
A half-full trashcan of plaster rubble weighs about 250 pounds, and takes two people to take it out of the house. We ended up taking out about 20 or so half full trashcans.
With all the debris from the many layers of walls and ceilings, the dumpster filled up quickly… we kept packing it down by throwing a door on top and having a few people jump on it… it worked pretty well. I decided not to remove any of the framing upstairs because we had to get the little stuff into the dumpster… I would deal with the lumber later.

At the end of the day, the upstairs was left with one fully exposed brick wall, and 3 plaster covered walls. The framing is all in place, but that’s about it. Some old furniture was still there, along with the old bathtub and vanity, but I’ll deal with that later.p7230062-400.jpg

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Framing it up Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:09:52 +0000 Chris I picked up a few books on carpentry and framing, but the best way to learn is by watching someone who knows how. Hiring people from my former employer was the best resource for my own learning. A good carpenter will work for $25 an hour, and if you assist him, you can learn what you need to learn. When you frame, you need to be thinking about the drywall that will be hanging on your wall, as well as the plumbing, wires and ducts that will be running through them.stairthumb-400.jpg

The first step was the new stairwell and floor. Rowhouses usually have joists that run the width of the house (13 feet in my case) and sit in pockets in the brick. My floor joists were rough-cut lumber, many of which were weak or failed due to termite and water damage over the last 100 years. I removed about 70% of them on the 2nd floor, and replaced them with new lumber that was cut down to match the original joists. (This had to be done to maintain the ceiling and floor elevations) It would have been smarter to rip them all out and replace them with new lumber rather than ripping the new ones to match the originals, but I guess I was trying to save money.stair5-400.jpg

Also, before I started working on the walls I had to reinforce the roof, which was sagging quite a bit. The main beam that holds the roof up had a huge knot in it, and actually snapped during the demolition (and scared the crap out of me). I had to build temporary walls, remove the old beam, and install a new one (made of a couple of 2x12s) using a hydraulic jack. I also installed a few more beams to get the sag out of the roof in the front and the back. When I first bought the house there was standing water on the roof, but the reinforcing beams brought it back into level and it drains well now.stair4-400.jpg

Once the structural elements were addressed. I started building walls. None of them are structural, which means they are simpler to build. The floorplan is open downstairs, and an entire wall is exposed brick. On the front wall, you have to match the framing up with the existing door and windows. Upstairs, the stairwell had already defined the size of the rooms and hallway. Most of the walls were built in place as there was very little floor space to build them and set them in place.


Once the walls are done, frame in the ceiling joists, paying attention to the corners and where the drywall will be attached. Also, make sure you plan accordingly if you want a heavy item such as a ceiling fan in a specific location.stair1-400.jpg

Once the framing is done, it’s time for Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing trades to come do their thing.

Originally posted in 2004:

In Baltimore City, you need a permit to do any type of work on your house. I couldn’t believe it either, but if you so much as replace a plumbing fixture, you are required to have a work permit.

I was not sure where to begin, so I naturally turned to the internet. I found the web site for the Baltimore City of Housing and Community Development at The web site still left me with a few questions, but it showed me where to download my permit application, and where to take it downtown.
I went to check out the permit office in Downtown Baltimore and I began asking questions. Everyone I had talked to before this told me that I would need detailed plans to provide with my permit application (because I planned to do structural framing work). To my surprise, I was in and out in under 30 minutes… it bears a striking resemblance to the MVA, and is every bit as dull and impersonal. They don’t really seem to care what you are doing, they just want their cut of the money.
A copy of my permit it shown below. I think I was a bit too descriptive. (After looking up permits on, you don’t have to be very specific in the wording.) Once the permit is in hand, you can work until the date that it expires. Basically, mine gives me 6 months to re-do my floor, build walls, and finish the upstairs. NOTE HOWEVER, that that does not include any plumbing, electical or HVAC work! You need to have licensed contractors pull the permits for plumbing, electrical and HVAC!!!!! What a pain in the @$$!

So, now that my permit is in hand, it is time to start working.
Me, taking a crowbar to the window frame. Note the purple panel walls, and the plaster on the brick. (Click it)

So, the offending old walls, doors, ceiling, etc have been removed. Upstairs is a wasteland of bricks, plaster, floorboards, plywood, and joists of various ages holding it all up. The joists in the front half of the house are original. 3″ wide by 7 and 3/4″ high, and 130 years old!!! I ripped up the floorboards to see what condition they were in, and they were all solid… the 20th century has given them a slight bow in the middle, but overall they are in pretty good shape. (except one, which termites were feasting on at some point. The old joists are 2″ on center. In the back of the house, the new joists were installed (I think in the early 80′s) into the same brick pockets as the originals. Because dimensional lumber has smaller finished dimensions, the 2x8s were shorter than the original joists, resulting in a different floor elevation for that section. I wanted the new floor to be flat, so I had 2x10s cut down to the exact dimensions of the original joists. (This was a great idea posed by a carpenter named Tom. There was about an inch difference in floor elevations upstairs when I bought the house, due to the different heights of the original and new floor joists. The simple solution to this is to raise the shorter joists, but then the bottoms don’t match up, and the ceiling below will be at different heights! I never would have thought to do it that way!)
A plan, showing the layout of the subfloor. It did not end up like this, many peices had to be cut smaller. (click it)

The first step was to frame out the new stairwell. I had already settled on the staircase I was going to buy, and a spec sheet, including minimum stairwell dimensions was available at The stairwell opening required 2 doubled up joists running the width of the house, a double header, and 4 shorter joists headered off (see the picture if you don’t know what that means.) One of the full length doubles sat nicely in the existing pocket, and the other required me to extend an exisitng one about 4 inches to one side (After all this work is done, I will need to get someone to patch up the brick) The joists were almost level when they were set in place, and needed a few shims on the right side (where they bear on the top of the brick wall below, not into a pocket. All of my new joists are 16″ on center, which is sturdier than 24″. I left the back section of flooring in place (with the existing stairs) so we could still get upstairs while we install the new front.

After the new joists were in, and the stairwell was framed out, it was time for the new subfloor, which was made from 4′x8′ 3/4″ thick tongue in groove plywood. (these darn things are really heavy, and need a big hole in the floor to get them upstairs. Since there was a lot of stuff upstairs, we did it in sections, starting in the front right corner… We ripped up a 4×8 section of the old flooring, and applied subfloor adhesive to the joists. MEASURE FIRST! 2′ on center is what the old joists were SUPPOSED to be, but some are a bit off… the edges of the plywood need to line up with the joists, so some may need to be cut. Once the first half of the floor was in, we moved over all the stuff, lumber, etc from the other half and continued! Tap them in place with a hand maul, making sure the joints are tight, and nail them down with 8 penny sinker nails!
With my stairwell opening framed in, I was ready to install the new spiral stair. The first step was getting the thing from Philadelphia to Baltimore. I could have paid for shipping and waited 2 weeks, but I decided to go get it myself. I drive a hatchback, so I borrowed a pickup truck one Saturday morning, and went to get my stair.
It came nicely packaged on a palette, and the folks at the iron shop were nice enough to tie it down and make sure the pole had a little red flag on it, since it was hanging several feet off the back of the truck. It took about 4 hours round trip.
Installing it took a while, (about 4 hours) but it went more smoothly once we were underway. Basically, you install the center pole, slide the treads down, and then position them all from top to bottom, attaching the spindles as you go. The handrail goes on last… be careful, there are a million little nuts, bolts and screws to these things that all need to be accounted for.
Mid assembly. Making sure everything is level is the tough part, because everything shifts when you tighten the bolts.
It’s not by any means a finsihed stair. The handrail is black vinyl, and can be upgraded in the future. The treads are predrilled for a wood covering, which I will work on once other things get finished. For now, it is a means to get upstairs, and I can remove the old staircase.

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Installing Finishes Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:07:53 +0000 Chris I chose Armstrong laminate for flooring, upstairs and downstairs. It looks real, it’s easy to clean, and more importantly, it’s easy as hell for a novice to install. Each level took about 5 hours to complete. In the bathroom I used “Edge” tile, a short-lived product that Lowe’s carried that attempted to make installing a tile floor as easy as installing a laminate floor. I had no complaints about it, but I read a lot on the internet about how they were prone to crack.p3010023-400.jpg

Finish carpentry was kind of a pain, but I was able to enlist the help of a carpenter from work. The floor trim upstairs was a bit tricky because of all of the corners. The bedroom doors were pre-hung, so the trim was already on them, and the windows had drywall returns, so they didn’t need trim either. That left only the pocket door for the bathroom, which was easy enough.p3010021-400.jpg

I hate painting. I hate priming more than painting, because it just seems like extra work (I know it is necessary). With help from friends, everything was painted after several weeknights of work. I was cheap and left the trim unpainted, though it did have it’s nice wite factory primer. I also missed a critical step of caulking all of the trim, which really makes it a finished product.p3010010-400.jpg

I went with brushed nickel for everything metal, including the doorknobs, plumbing fixtures (even the toilet seat hinges and the flush knob), the ceiling fans, track lighting, and more. I have always hated brass, and having nickel on everything is a nice touch. Only certain people have noticed the consistency. I had been ordering fixtures online for months, and it was great to finally install them all.p3010020-400.jpg

Sealing the brick was a huge pain, and a huge mess. I used abrasive drill pads to strip away the plaster from the surface of the brick and then used a liquid sealer called “drylok masonry treatment” applied with a brush. Two coats did the trick, but the amount of dust and debris kicked up while cleaning the brick was awful. This step needs to be done before framing, not after you’ve painted and done your flooring.p3010018-400.jpg

I left a lot of finishes undone, like windowsills, and a wood cap for the knee wall at the top of the stairs. Soon I was off to Iraq, and I had to focus less on the house and more the deployment.p3010012-400.jpg

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Formstone Removal Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:07:02 +0000 Chris The exterior of the house needed a lot of work. The first step was to remove the formstone. Formstone removal costs a few thousand dollars, and they set up scaffolding, powerwash the brick and re-paint the mortar, returning the facade of the home to its original brick. There is a lot of information on formstone out there, and it’s ironic how it used to be a symbol of status, and now it’s the opposite. The house looked a million times better without it.p1100013-400.jpg

The windows were replaced with high efficiency vinyl windows from Vytex. They installed them and did aluminum wrapping around the window jambs.

The front stoop was formstone as well, and I hired a mason to replace it with a brick stoop, and replace the exterior windowsills with brick. I hired a guy who was working around the corner to fabricate, install and paint a new railing.p1100011-400.jpg

The front door was a special order at lowe’s, and I hired a master carpenter to fabricate a custom door jamb (14 inches in depth). A lot of folks will install a pre-hung exterior door and get creative with the trim. Adding framed walls inside increased the total depth of the front wall, and a custom jamb with a window above it makes a very nice built-in touch. Don’t forget the doorbell, also in brushed nickel.

The front door casing and header were purchased online, and are made of some kind of composite material, not wood. They installed easily with screws and glue, and were pre-primed and ready for paint.p1100007-400.jpg

The cornice was re-painted while I was in Iraq. When I bought the house, the cornice was covered with vinyl siding. It was in surprisingly good shape when the siding was removed, and it was stripped down and repainted, completing the renovations on the front of the house.p1010209-400.jpg


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Building a Rooftop Deck Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:05:52 +0000 Chris A rooftop deck was always something I had thought about adding, but I never thought I’d be able to make it happen. When I was designing the addition, I went over various cimg0611-400.jpgoptions for building in beams for a future deck. I owe the idea to my construction consultant, Ryan Parnell, who came up with a design where the beams were set into the sides of the parapet walls, instead of bearing on top of them. This allowed for a continuous metal cap on the parapet walls, eliminating any chance of leaks where the beams bear. (I’ll have to upload a photo to explain this)

As I got further into the planning for the addition, it became clear that I should include the deck… doing it as part of this project would ultimately save money by incorporating the deck plans into the structural drawings that my engineer was going to approve, and not having to worry about pulling a separate permit and dealing with inspectors at some later date.

The plans called for a 6 foot balcony on the 2nd floor, accessible by a door from the new bedroom. From there, a spiral staircase would lead to the rooftop deck. Access to the deck was a source of debate. Using a doorway meant that traffic had to pass through the new bedroom, not through a common space. progress-400.jpgHaving a stairway leading from the ground floor to the balcony exposes the roof and the 2nd floor windows to hoodlums, who can easily gain access from the backyard. I decided to go with the door, more because of the cost savings than anything else.

As I mentioned earlier, the beams for the deck were installed during the framing of the 2nd floor, prior to the roofing application. There were three tripled 2×10 beams to support a deck with dimensions of approximately 12 x 18 feet. I hired Design Builders, Inc. to build the deck minus the railings. I had a nontraditional design in mind for the railings, and wanted to save a bit of money on the contractor. Their expertise and more deck specific tools allowed them to complete the balcony and the deck in 2 work days. I also had to hold off on the railings until I knew exactly how the spiral stair would land.

deck6-400.jpgWhen you order a spiral stair, you need to know the exact floor to floor height so they can calculate the number of risers you’ll need and the length of the center column. Once the decking was complete on the balcony and the roof deck, I had this dimension and was able to order the stair. It was 5″ in diameter to meet code, which was going to be a tight fit on the balcony. It barely cleared the rain gutter on the 2nd floor. Spiral stairs can be assembled to rise either clockwise or counter-clockwise, and the configuration you choose will effect how you enter and exit the stair at the top and bottom. In my case, only the clockwise configuration worked, and that left you ducking under the rising steps as you approach the bottom of the staircase. In the clockwise configuration, the entrance was completely inaccessible… I found that out after building 70% of it the wrong way. It’s tough to envision where all the parts will end up.

deck5-400.jpgEvan Yakas and I built the railings out of 2×4 runners and electrical conduit for spindles. We cut 4 spindles from each 10 foot length of electrical conduit, and installed them into pre-cut and pre-spaced holes in the 2×4 runners

deck4-400.jpgThe finished product turned out better than I could have expected, and we wasted no time in hauling a gas grill to the roof and getting as much use out of the new deck as possible. It’s winter now, and I can’t wait for it to get warm again.



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Buying the Property Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:05:30 +0000 Chris cimg0611-400.jpgp1010019-400.jpgp7050077-400.jpgLooking back, the price I paid for my house was too high considering that I ended up completely gutting it. However, you can’t even get a shell of a house in my neighborhood these days for under $200,000, and the newest built homes are selling over over half a million dollars. I could have bought a place for half of what I paid in a neighborhood I didn’t like, and I’d be constantly regretting it. Make sure you have your finances in order, and be persistent. Eventually you will find the house you are looking for.

p1010055-400.jpgWhen I bought my house, I inherited a tenant. The tenant was paying $550 a month (less than I now charge to rent my spare bedroom). I couldn’t legally kick the tenant out, and I didn’t want to since the house would be vacant while I was away at training. A few more months of rent helped out with the new mortgage payments, and I was able to save up more money for the renovation (which I was about to walk into blindly).

Originally posted in May 2004:

p1010020-400.jpg(Sorry, I have excluded details on pricing… e-mail me if you want to know specifics.) I knew that every day that passed that I did not own a house, the property values would be rising, and I would be less likely to get one. I began looking at houses almost every week, and put in my first offer in December. I got lightheaded while signing a paper that said I would pay someone that kind of money, and I waited two days only to find out that the seller had decided not to sell the house (they were asking $135k, and could have easily gotten $180k for this very large house on Fort Ave.) I was let down, but now I knew the process, and was less stressed out when I would undertake it again.p1010027-400.jpg
I knew from perusing the online listings that homes were selling in Locust Point at lightning speeds. I checked them literally every few hours waiting for something in my price range that I could live in while I fixed it up. I would gripe every day, but I kept at it, and lost another house in January to a higher bidder.
Online listing hint: Homesdatab
ase will show you the houses by zip code, but it will not tell you addresses. Most of the listings are posted by big-name national realty agencies, like Long and Foster and ReMax. You can usually find the exact address of a house on Homesdatabase by searching on the listing agency’s web site.
My house was literally sold in hours. On a morning in January at 7:30 am, I saw it online, and immediately called my realtor to schedule a visit. I was in the house at 2:00 p.m. that day, and learned that there were already 2 bids on it, and someone else was also viewing it when I got there! They asked $140k… I bid, expecting another letdown. I found out the next afternoon that my bid was accepted, and it blew my mind. Homeownership meant a whole new set of stresses and responsibilities… I figured I would just place a few harmless bids on houses I could not afford before realizing that I was just a stupid kid and I would never be able to actually do it. Now I had to find a loan and get ready to stop my frivolous spending!

My real estate agent was with ReMax Exclusive, a Baltimore agency. They have a partnership with Baltimore American Mortgage, and if you use both of them, they eliminate a major portion of your closing costs. I shopped around a bit for my loan, but my realtor’s deal worked out best for me because I did not have much to put down. They ended up saving me almost $5,000 dollars on the total amount I had to spend to close.
I wanted to be able to get a lot of demolition done before I left for Missouri (The Army was going to send me to Engineer Officer Basic Course for 4 months) but I was not able to. I was only able to move in a few things, and t
hen I had to go.1227haubertthumb-400.jpg

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Building the Addition Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:03:59 +0000 Chris The addition was more work than the first part of the rehab, but went a lot smoother due to experience, money, and timing.

It included submitting a zoning appeal to the city, massive demolition of the old kitchen, engineer approval for structural work, a new foundation, two floors of framing, tie-in to the existing structure, relocation of electrical main and other utilities, roofing, more spiral stairs, a half bath, powder room, rooftop deck, exterior siding, and going back and finishing all of the loose ends from the first part of the rehab.

Post Conspicuously on the Premesis…

November 14th, 2006


Yes, I wrote it with a magic marker, because I am ghetto.

Sooooo… as the date of this zoning hearing approaches, I am reviewing my options for building this addition. I have a lot of routes I could take, but most are telling me that this addition is going to cost well over $50,000.

I am pricing out the electrical, plumbing, demolition, concrete, masonry, drywall and roofing…Â the plan now is to hire a carpenter to manage the project and do all the framing, siding, windows doors, trim, and finishes.

Nothing is set in stone, and I still have to get my permits once the zoning hearing is done. It’s not a good time of year to open a house up to the elements, but that’s the way it’s going right now. I’d rather not put it off until spring, but I have to wait and see how things develop.


The Incessant Dust

November 9th, 2006

In preparation for putting an addition on my house, I started to move everything out of my basement to the first floor.

Part of my plan is to finish the basement, and have a laundry room and a nice workbench. Just about every bit of home improvement I have done results in a tremendous amount of dust, most of which ends up in the basement. Vaccum all you want, in a few more weeks everything will be covered in dust. It will be nice to get the walls and ceiling closed in.

I did also finally get rid of some relics in the basement that came with the house and I was never motivated enough to remove before. Two make-shift shelves (made with unfinished dimensional lumber, probably from the original walls of the house) were constructed down there. The only way to get them out was to dismantle them. There was also a very old, very broken dresser with a mirror that I proceeded to throw out my backyeard into my concrete back yard (Which, incidentally, is already occupied by a growing mountain of trash and tons of clippings from viens that grew rampant while I was deployed).

So now I have a very large mountain of trash in my backyard, which is bad for three reasons:

1) I am not home during the day, and a big pile of trash invited trash-pickers to come root, who may also take things that are not trash.

2) Some people see piles of trash as an opportunity to get rid of their own trash, especially if nobody is around to see them.

3) Neighbors don’t like big piles of trash… it looks, well, trashy.

The burning question now is whether or not to hire a general contractor to do the major construction work, or to hire some workers myself to get it done. The former is eternally simpler, but will cost a lot more money. The latter leaves me exposed to a lot of setbacks, liabilities, etc, but it more budget friendly.

I can remember coming home from Kuwait with the thought in my head that I’d be done my addition by Christmas. That didn’t happen, and now, with 4 months to plan, it may not even be underway before Christmas. (Sigh)

The following links are for blog postings that I wrote during the construction of the addition, and include a lot of photos.

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