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A Season of Contractors

In 2021 we had made plans to have our bathrooms renovated, majorly in the case of our bedroom suite bathroom, and in a more modest fashion for the hallway bathroom Athena and any guests we might have use. Those renovation plans, originally scheduled for the second quarter of 2021, got pushed because of 2021’s greatest nemesis, Supply Chain Issues, and as a consequence, our contractor’s schedules slipping because of other jobs they had on their schedules before us. Then at the end of the year, we bought the church, which necessitated engaging another set of contractors, these ones which specialize in refurbishing churches, and getting on their schedule as well.

It turns out that now is the time both sets of contractors are available; the ones for the house have been working on and off over the last month while the church contractors are just getting started. And while we are happy that work is ongoing — we miss our bathroom and would like to have it back — it turns out that having a bunch of dudes in the house drilling and pounding and moving around toilets and such, and me needing to babysit a dog anxious about strangers in her house, is not great for my creative focus. I would go hang out at the church, but, well. We have people there, too. I’m getting some work done, mind you. It’s going a bit slower than I had expected.

I’m the first to admit these are high end problems, especially since at the end of this, my bathroom will have a rainfall shower head and a very fancy toilet that will do everything but read me poetry whilst I sit on it. Still, I will be happy to have my house returned to me soon, particularly in the mornings, i.e., my prime creative hours. There’s a book I meant to be writing. It would be nice to have a substantial portion of it under my belt before Kaiju comes out and I go on tour.

Thus is life at the Scalzi Compound at the moment. And how are you?

— JS

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

31 replies on “A Season of Contractors”

Since you’ve got contractors both at home and at the Church, have you considered renting out a temporary office, one that will let you take Charlie with you? It might be easier on your nerves and hers if you’re able to take her out of the house while the construction crews are working, and she can be with you while you work.

February of 2021 we put down the first money to have a kitchen reno done. We were recently told our new dishwasher MIGHT arrive on February 22. Now, two others were delivered: the first arrived before they’d even started, since they started much later than they should have, so it was sold to someone else; the second one came crushed, because someone thought it would be a good idea to stack another appliance on top of it. And then we had to wait over a month for Bosch to decide they would replace it instead of trying to fix it.

I am now once again a seasoned dishwasher, and am also so tired of it. Can’t wait until we start our next reno!

I am well, thank you for asking, and very grateful indeed that we are NOT currently undergoing remodeling in our home. Been there, done that, lived with our only bathroom torn down to the studs for weeks on end – not anything I am eager to do again. Loved our contractor, were thrilled with the way the job came out, but it wasn’t an experience I would care to repeat. I hope your project proves very worthwhile, and especially that it is over quickly. Enjoy that fancy bathroom!

A proverb of My People. AKA “Cheops’s Three Laws of Construction:”

1.) It will cost more.
2.) It will take longer.
3.) Jewish subcontractors can be trouble.

All joking aside, a piece of advice (which I hope you’ll never need) if you might ever have to move or reinstall a toilet (I know, not something we normally plan for, but…)

I hope you can make sure your contractor secures the toilet to the euphemistically named “soil pipe” in the floor using something more modern than the traditional “wax ring”–nothing more than a big washer made of…yeah…wax. Positioning the toilet on it correctly is sorta like landing a glider: you never get to make the same mistake once.

If it’s even slightly mispositioned, sooner or later you’ll have leaks on the floor. You’ll have to take up the toilet and scrape off all the wax (and whatever might have been leaking through or past it). Not a job I’d wish on a Sad Puppy. How do I know this?

Even a rural hardware store should have various more modern alternatives that let even a homeowner get it exactly and permanently right. I’m expounding this only because I get the impression that Bradford might not be the easiest place in which to find a plumber on short notice.

Our bathroom remodel was scheduled (with 1/3 downpayment upfront) in March, with a “summer” start. They had us prepare for the remodel in June (move out of rooms, stack boxes in our living room, etc.) They started on Aug 30, so, still technically summer, promised an end date of before Halloween. They made it the week before Christmas. Oh, and forgot to get the final sign off on the building plans with the building department, making our house unsalable. A letter 2 years later to the state Contractor’s Board FINALLY got them to fix all the things they’d done wrong, and bring it into legal compliance with code. All of this was long before the supply chain problems we are now experiencing. Not a single needed anything arrived late.

I went into the process expecting delays, expecting problems. They were so bad they made my expectation look like massively unrealistic.

I wish you MUCH better luck than we had. You might remind them that your negative review will have a far greater impact than the negative review we left.

Another alternative to renting an office might be renting an RV.

You can park it right in your own yard, just far enough away from the construction noise to allow work and a less stressed doggo.

Not a cheap option, at $250 a night and up from “RV Life Is Good” in Dayton–the closest place that allows dogs in their RVs.

But it might make for a fun staycation, sort of.

I’ve traveled extensively around Alaska in a small Class C during cold season, and never had a problem with staying warm in the RV.

So you’re getting a Toto?

Renovations: hahaha. We renovated our house during a pandemic and we are glad we won’t have to do it again.

We interviewed contractors starting in the fall of 2019 and met the design-build firm we hired in February, 2020. The design process started in… August, 2020. Demolition was in mid-April 2021 and we moved out then, because you can’t have two people working from home during the gut remodel of your kitchen and laundry room.

The original time estimate was that the job would take three to five months. We moved back home on December 30, more than eight months after we moved out. We got to celebrate the new year in our gorgeously renovated house, except that we were so exhausted that we fell asleep around 10 pm.

Reasons for the delay: replacing the electrical system in full; the cabinetmaker had an injury to his leg and was laid up for a month; refinishing the floors and painting the interior took another three weeks…

We didn’t run into supply chain issues, though!

We had our bathroom ‘done’ a little over a year ago. Even though the builder is a neighbour who did a good job and even let us use his shower when the sense of being unclean got too much, it’s still not an experience I wish to repeat anytime soon (but now my better half is muttering about having the downstairs toilet and hallway ‘done’ …)

As for my week, it started off on a high note with a flash fiction acceptance (a piece that has been bouncing from one rejection to the next for a year now), quickly followed by the fastest rejection I’ve ever experienced: submitted in the morning, rejected before teatime! Still, at least I can get on with sending it off somewhere else, so silver lining and all that …

I bought my place here in Reston Virginia 5 years ago knowing it was a project. One of the first developments in Reston and as old as I am. Kitchen and master bathroom were both to-the-studs gut jobs. Took one week apiece. Had the work done in July so I could shower out back with a garden hose. Also needed a new breaker box, roof, and antenna cable run from the attic to the living room. New hvac. Could sell right now at a profit.

I sympathize. We have also just recently pulled the trigger on a complete master bath remodel. We planned it in 2020 but, COVID. Now everything has become significantly more expensive, both materials and labor, and longer lead times for both too. One positive is that we bought and stored all of the major materials a year or more ago.

For an extra special cherry on top, a leak came to light just as the demo was scheduled to start. It has not been precisely located yet and is holding things up. If it turns out to be below the floor in a footer, which is likely, then the entire house may need to be re-plumbed. What’s another $5K we don’t have between friends? Can’t wait until all this is finally done.

We scheduled our bathroom remodel in October, but were told there would be a 10-week delay before they started.

In December they asked if they could begin on December 27. It would be a four or five day job. There would never be a truly convenient time, so I agreed, thinking I might be able to start 2022 with a newly remodeled bathroom.

40 days later, they’re re-doing some of the tile work, removing the grout and doing it again. The sink was mostly installed, but they took it out yesterday to re-do some of the plumbing, so the drawers of the vanity can close. I run an extension cord into the bathroom to plug in my toilet and I swept a path through the grout dust so I can get to it. During the day I cover the fancy toilet with a blanket so it won’t get damaged by the work they’re doing.

Every day the foreman says (sincerely) that he’s going to finish up that day. Every afternoon when he leaves early to beat the traffic he says he’ll be there first thing the next day, but it’s often late morning when he arrives (today is no exception). And there’s usually some missing supplies or equipment that requires a trip to Home Depot.

I’m mostly chill with the situation. My roof replacement (with a solar roof) a year and a half ago went the same way. More than two months with workers on site five days a week.

The last major remodel our house had was when I got rid of all the kitchen counters and appliances (the cabinets were old enough to have rotted. Don’t ask.) redid the tile on the floor, and replaced everything up to the top cabinets. I outsourced the cabinets themselves, but the rest of it was on me, including replumbing for the (new to me) dishwasher. Kitchen was torn up for 3 weeks while I laid tile, had the cabinets put in, installed tile countertops and backsplashes, painted, and put in a new fridge, stove, and the dishwasher. The appliances were all of a vintage with the house, so it was time. Needless to say, DH did not appreciate all my cooking happening on a hotplate and/or microwave; that, or carryout.

The bathroom is getting a makeover this time, but it’s happening in stages. After that, the next major effort will be once the remaining indoor cat kicks it and I replace the 20+ year-old carpet (eew!) with Pergo.

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