Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Finally, it begins...



We began to talk seriously about a home remodel almost a year ago.  On the table was gutting our existing kitchen, an earthquake retrofit, new flooring, and installation of a new HVAC system.  After discussion with a contractor and a designer, my husband proposed a plan that, among other things, involved expanding the kitchen's tiny footprint by pushing out the exterior wall by 5 feet into the back patio.  Perhaps that doesn't sound like that big a deal but we live within a designated open spaces hazard zone.  In fact, the boundary of that zone runs diagonally through our house.  Obviously, that designation didn't exist in 1951 when the house was built but we were aware of it in vague terms when we bought the house.  The thing is, the city proposed pushing that boundary well beyond our property line in 2012, a couple of years after we bought the house.  However, in 2018 when my husband paid the first of many visits to the city's planning office, he discovered that, while the proposed change "could" happen by the end of that year, it wasn't yet in place.  Rather than wait and see, we went ahead with the city's required evaluation process.  After a geological survey, securing approvals from parties including the local school board and the fire department, and outlays amounting to several thousand dollars, we finally got general approval to proceed last December.  To date, the city still hasn't moved the hazard line.

Discussions with an architect, the contractor, the designer, a cabinetmaker, and construction specialists of all kinds followed.  More approvals, including one from the Air Quality Management District, were required before, at the end of May, we finally got our construction permit.  In the meantime, my husband had begun his own preparations, starting with construction of a temporary kitchen tacked on to the back of our house.

By mid-April, he had the temporary kitchen framed out and partially walled in

The structure has been ready to move into since mid-May

Yes, it even has windows - with screens - and open cabinets.  It's just missing the refrigerator, slop sink and kitchen equipment we won't move until the last minute.


A week ago we started clearing areas for the construction workers, including both our patios.

I don't have any good before photos of the back patio but we had a bench with a coffee table, a large dining table, and dozens of potted plants here

We had another set of table and chairs and more pots here on the side patio


All that stuff had to go somewhere.

Some of it's lined up along this path

But my husband piled most of it up in my cutting garden, with no attention to sun requirements.  I spread the pots elsewhere throughout the garden, emptying quite a few of them for the duration of this project.  Our chimnea, one rainwater tank, cement blocks and other paraphernalia are tucked around the citrus trees.

Even the rain gutters on the back of the house came down, temporarily stored on a hanging system my husband rigged up on the fence behind the garage.  The disintegrating compost tumbler was dismantled and consigned to the trash.


The driveway is now outfitted with a storage pod and matching port-a-potty.


Some outdoor furniture got stored behind the port-a-potty


A construction dumpster was delivered late yesterday afternoon.




And the long-awaited construction began today with the removal of the portion of the back patio necessary to create a footing for the kitchen extension.

The pavers came out quickly

I don't know what we're going to do with the extra pavers.  Only a small number will be relaid.

The digging has only just begun



Our contractor estimates that it'll be 2 weeks yet until the kitchen wall comes down.  The city requires that the depth of the new footing extends 2 feet below the existing foundation.  As we're sitting on bedrock, that means a lot of digging and jackhammering before the concrete can be poured.  It's going to be a long 4 to 6 months.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

34 comments:

  1. Oh, my heart sinks for you, but I'm also excited to see how it goes. I dislike the disruption of construction. I'm also kind of flabbergasted at how permanent-looking your temporary kitchen is. I know it's because of your husband's diet restrictions, but it's still evidence of how incredibly handy he is. I'm wishing you all kinds of good luck and a speedy finish to the work.

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    1. I border on obsessive about order in my environment - I've been like that since I was a kid, perhaps the result of living with a mother who was a hoarder - so this kind of disruption is a test of sorts. My husband is incredibly handy, and organized, and obsessed in his own way but I appreciate everything he's done to ease our way through this process.

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  2. Wow! That is quite a process you had to go through. I still don’t quite understand what the hazard zone was. It does sound as though your preparations have been very thorough. Hopefully no problems will delay the process and you will get through it with ease.

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    1. In our case the hazard of concern is the prospect of landslides, Jenny. There's a coastal area within 2-3 miles of us that's been sliding for decades, necessitating near constant work to keep the main road passable. There are also houses on the very steep spur roads off of our neighborhood road that also have land slippage issues but, as our geology test proved, our own property sits firmly on bedrock.

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  3. A long few months, you say, but oh how exciting! It'll be great, I'm sure! Sending tons of karma from up here that all goes fabulously well, and without any unwanted surprises whatsoever! Before you know it, it will be time to move all those planters and furniture back to where they belong. And by that time, the weather will begin cooling off again, so you can both really enjoy your new kitchen/patio. Please keep us posted on your progress!

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    1. Thanks for the positive thoughts, Anna! I'm hoping we've accumulated enough good karma over the past year of dealing with one challenge after another to allow us to sail through the main event.

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  4. Maybe you can hire someone to use those pavers to terrace your back slope ! 4 to 6 months-wow. Hopefully it leans towards the 4 month side.

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    1. It sure looks like a lot of pavers but I'm not sure what kind of dent they might make in shoring up the back slope. It's an option, though!

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  5. Ohhhhhhhhh my! Best wishes for no delays and no surprises.

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    1. No delays and no surprises would be wonderful, HB. I'm not counting on a Christmas tree this year, though.

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    2. I got one half the regular size and put up 1/3 of the normal decorations. It was all we could manage.

      I know you will be very careful with Pipig. It's got to be hard on her to have strangers in her house, disrupting her naps and patrols. B&N enjoyed yapping at everyone.

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    3. Cats do have an entirely different style than dogs in dealing with "intruders." Pipig's begun showing some curiosity about what's going on outside and is less anxious than she was on day one but the real challenge will be managing her interest in outdoor access once people are coming in and out of the house all day.

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  6. It will be interesting to watch this work progress, Kris, after your long period of negotiation. I’m glad you explained the hazard zone to Rock Rose, as I wasn’t sure what it is either. I hope all goes well, without delays.

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    1. I should have clarified the nature of the hazard at the outset, as there is a whole range of prospects, including fire danger. The landslides here are slow roll events, not the big disasters that make the TV news.

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  7. So good to hear the work is beginning. That's an impressive temporary kitchen and at least you have two weeks to get it organized. Here's to no delays and surprises!

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    1. There's been times I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and kiss the whole project goodbye, Shirley. I'm glad we managed to get started before I did that.

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  8. I don't envy you your long duration of no kitchen. Even with a temporary kitchen I see a lot of meals eaten out. UGH... You might get used to that. Good luck. I hope it all goes according to plan.

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    1. I wouldn't mind eating out more often but my husband has a seriously restricted diet that doesn't allow that, or carry-out, or even most store-bought prepared foods so a kitchen is mandatory. I suggested getting ourselves a short-term rental but my husband prefers to be here to watch over the project. Still, there's no guarantee that the cat and I won't find temporary accommodations at some point along the way...

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  9. Grit your teeth, focus on the completion date (and a gorgeous new kitchen) and find a spot out in the garden where you can go to relax. You, of course, are far more sensible than me.. you didn't choose to dig up the garden at the same time! I shall be with you in spirit all the way.

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    1. I just hope it won't be one of those summers in which we get one heatwave after another, Jessica. Those make hanging out in the garden difficult.

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  10. So it finally starts at last! Hard to say which is worse, the permitting process or the destruction? I hope it goes smoothly and no surprises. How's Pipig taking the first days?

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    1. Pipig is doing okay. At this stage all the work is still outside the house but it's noisy and I swear she knows when the workers arrive on the street, even before I notice them. She immediately hunkers down. She's spent time hiding under beds and in closets but, when we're near, she calms down and, whenever the noise stops, she's craning her neck to see what's going on. My biggest concern is keeping her safe (and inside) when workers start inside the house.

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    2. Will you have to sequester her in a spare room? Even if you asked the workers to not let her out, I wouldn't trust that they wouldn't. Kind of nerve-wracking!

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    3. No, I'm not going to depend on the workers to watch out for her. Depending on where work is being done, I'll either be locking her out on her catio during work hours or locking her in the back half of the house. My husband's already build a door to seal off the latter area (an addition to the dust shield I expect the contractor to erect) but at certain stages of the project, some areas (my office, the hallway) will be open for work and then it'll have to be the catio for her.

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  11. Wow, I'm tired already and you've hardly got started! What a lot of behind the scenes work (if not physical labor) you have had to do prior to construction - no such thing as a DIY kitchen these days! I hope the construction workers will be careful and respect your garden. But a kitchen remodel sounds so exciting, and I wish you well with it. In the end it will be worth it all!

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    1. The approval and planning phases WERE stressful, although my husband took the brunt of it. The bureaucratic hurdles got ridiculous for awhile. The contractor warned me that some of my garden will be affected (and my husband's already pulled out 2 Nandina in an area designated for the new HVAC system) but, so far, this first crew is being very careful on their treks with wheelbarrows through my garden.

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  12. This is really exciting Kris. I had no idea there was so much red tape to deal with, not to mention money spent before the work even begins. But it sounds like all of that is behind you and now it's on to the fun stuff. Hopefully the workers will remain sensitive to your garden plants. I'm excited for you.

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    1. If we'd had any idea exactly how much red tape there would be, we might never even have started the project. Along the way, we've made many of our decisions on kitchen appliances, countertops, etc but I suspect there will be more still to make as we proceed.

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  13. Wow, it's underway! I can't help but think that's a relief in itself. All the time waiting would just lead to worry for me.

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    1. It was a relief to the mounting frustration with red tape. Now, we're just watching the money flow out of our bank account...

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  14. Best of luck, fingers crossed, sending positive energy your way...

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  15. I don't envy you the process of living with the construction mess of a house remodel. I did that five years ago, and it was indeed a long haul. Once it's done though, and you get to enjoy the results, it will be worth it. Good luck.

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    1. That's what my friends keep telling me, Jean! Or most of them anyway. One said I should just look for a new house - and another strongly encouraged me to move into temporary housing for the duration.

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