We’re facing a conundrum. We got confirmation from the city that we can pass inspection doing things the wrong way and found a different plumber willing to work with us, so we should be all set to move forward with our plan. Then we started thinking more about the future. We’ve lived in the house for over three years now, and by all accounts we’ve made a ton of progress. That said, it’s taken a long time to get to this point and we have a long, long road ahead. It’s possible that if we did things the right way it wouldn’t take as long, plus it would make several parts of the work simpler. It would still take a long time, but maybe not as long.

Here’s the decision before us: we can continue our current plan and finish the first floor. When that’s done we gut and finish the second floor in two separate phases so we always have a full bathroom. This adds complexity to framing, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. After that we have to dig out the basement, which involves moving out for a month or two while the water line and sewer are replaced. Then we can finish the outside, the porches, the garage, the attic, the basement, and the landscaping.

The other option is we don’t finish the first floor yet. Instead we demo the back porch and the garage, dig up the basement including the part where we stay in a hotel for a month or so to replace the sewer and water line, then move into the basement. We’d have a full bathroom down there as well as heat, so we could gut and re-frame the entire second floor at one time. Then, since both floors would be open, we could get the HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and spray foam done for the whole house rather than in pieces. After that’s done we could finish the first floor followed by the second, with the remaining projects proceeding as in the first option.

Time estimates are incredibly speculative, and there’s no real way of knowing how long it will take us, but looking at the tasks and how they need to be done tells us the second option could potentially save a lot of time, possibly a year or more. Demoing and framing the second floor all at once with the first floor still open would be much simpler. Running the ducting all at one time through open walls would be significantly easier and avoid potential problems. It would also eliminate the complications of attaching to existing plumbing while supporting new plumbing. All of these things being easier and simpler translates to cheaper and faster while likely giving us a better end product.

There’s a catch, of course. We’d have to live in the unfinished basement for an indeterminate amount of time likely measured in years. Instead of a finished first floor next year, we probably wouldn’t have it for two or three. While we were in the basement there would be no kitchen and no bedrooms. Most likely we’d set up some sort of partitions, but it would be smaller than our current space on the second floor and much less comfortable (radiant floor heat aside). It would mean not having a garage for the foreseeable future, not being able to entertain friends and family, not being able to cook, and not having a dishwasher.

Finally, it would mean spending a lot of money sooner than we thought. The advantage of getting all the plumbing, electrical, radiant heat, air conditioning, and spray foam done at once turns into the disadvantage of having to pay for all of them at once, and in rapid succession. We haven’t reached a decision yet. We’re mulling the two options, looking for other alternatives, and trying to decide what will work best for us.

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