Sometimes it helps to take a moment and look at where we’re going and what we’ve done so far. At the moment I’m thinking about a bunch of different projects either in progress or upcoming, so to keep everything straight I’ll lay it out. It also helps for any random or occasional visitors to this blog to know what’s going on.

So, to recap, we bought this house in June of 2011. In addition to the first and second floor units, there was a basement apartment that was like something out of a horror movie. We spent two months fixing up the second floor unit so that we could move into it. When we moved in we put the laundry on the first floor where the kitchen had been as well as stored a bunch of our stuff in one of the bedrooms. Here’s the second floor living room before and after painting.

 

We knew that the support beam and columns in the basement needed to be replaced, so our first major project after moving in was to gut the basement unit. It was a moldy, disgusting mess. Here’s a picture of what it looked like before and after we gutted it.

 

With that done, we got some quotes on replacing the wooden beam and columns with steel, including new footings. The quotes were a lot of money, so we held off doing it right away. Our son Derek was born at the end of November, which interrupted some of our work on the house. I started using Sketchup and came up with a floor plan we liked. I even made a whole 3D model of the house, inside and out.

 

Then we found an architect and got him working on plans and permits with the city. We also started working on selecting contractors, including electrician, plumber, radiant heat and air conditioning installer, and concrete mason. Getting our plans together with the architect took longer than expected, so we decided not to wait until we had our permits before demoing the first floor. After moving the laundry and storage to the basement, we threw a demo party last month and gutted the whole first floor. Here’s the before and after gutting the first floor.

 

Along the way there have been a lot of smaller projects, like moving gas lines and plumbing, re-routing electrical, getting a new electrical panel installed, exterminating cockroaches and disposing of at least a dozen rat carcasses, checking the depth of our foundation footings, and a lot of planning.

So what’s next? Our immediate steps are to select a concrete mason, since that’s the only thing holding up our permit submission. Once that’s submitted we should have permits in thirty to sixty days. ComEd will be installing our new electrical service in the next few weeks. I have to remove the electrical running along the  beam in the basement, since we can’t replace it until I finish that, and the seemingly interminable cleanup on the first floor will need to be completed, including our room full of lath.

Once we have our permit, the beam and column replacement in the basement can take place. We may wind up doing that ourselves because it would save us a ton of money. Once that’s done we can demo the foyer and replace the bearing wall in the first floor with an LVL beam and columns, and close up and replace windows. We can start replacing the plank subfloor with plywood.

Next spring we’ll put in a new high efficiency hot water heater and boiler that will direct-vent, allowing us to remove the chimney. We’ll take out the front stairs, demo the second floor office (where the new stairs will connect), and frame the opening for the basement stairs. Then we can finish the subfloor and install the new stairs.

Then and only then can first floor construction really start: new front and back doors, framing, plumbing, electrical, and the first floor radiant system (all big projects themselves). Then it’s insulation, drywall, flooring, cabinets, doors, trim. I honestly don’t know how long that will take, but I’d be very surprised if it’s finished by the end of 2013, and that’s just the first floor.

Some of these pieces may move around. We were hoping to have the new radiant system in by this fall and that didn’t happen. We thought we’d have the basement beam in last fall. Things that cost less like replacing the stairs  may happen sooner –maybe even this winter– while replacing the windows doesn’t happen until later. Some things are fixed in order. We can’t frame until the subfloor is replaced, and we can’t do that until the beam and bearing wall are replaced, the chimney and radiators are removed, and the stairs are replaced. The chimney can’t be removed until we have the new radiator and hot water heater. It’s a very big jigsaw puzzle.

With my full time job, Sarah’s graduate school and job, and a 9-month-old baby, it’s going to be a long process. If you’re considering taking on a project like this yourself, make sure that firm timetables are something you can live without or that you have a lot more free time than we do. Make sure that if you’re doing it with someone else that you both have clear expectations. I still think that working on a two flat is the perfect way to do it. One of the things that makes this project so bearable is that when we’re done working we can just go upstairs where there’s no dust or debris, cook dinner in a real kitchen, relax on the couch, and sleep in our bed. A lot of home improvement projects aren’t so lucky.

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3 Responses to Project Review

  1. Hi Matt, regarding the new steel support and columns in the basement – we did a lot of that work ourselves too. Preparations and installation of the spread footings were easy:
    http://delafleur.com/blog/?p=1452
    http://delafleur.com/blog/?p=1547
    We did not dare taking on the steel work, but hired a contractor who goes by the name UV. He did good work for a reasonable price.
    http://delafleur.com/blog/?p=1811
    http://delafleur.com/blog/?p=1823
    Let me know if you like his contact information.
    Also, could you share which contractors you plan on working with / you are already working with? If you don’t want to put this info on the blog, feel free to e-mail it to me.

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks, Marcus! I’d forgotten you did that. One of the main reasons we’re thinking of doing this (aside from the huge cost savings) is that a friend of ours is a welder for a construction company and offered to order the steel and weld it for us, provided we can get it in place. I’m not as worried about pouring new footings as putting in temporary supports and removing the existing beam. If I can get some more confidence around that, I’ll be sold on it. We’re still figuring out our concrete mason, but otherwise we’re just using your contractors! Thanks, by the way. ^_^

  3. Stupid Facebook cutting off comments…

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