Yes, We Will Complete This Project!

Basement Reno Inches Forward

It was supposed to be a six-week project. It’s now been nearly six months. But we can see some light now. Surely, this basement renovation can’t take more than another couple of weeks, can it?

It’s not so much the amount of time we have been without our basement family room, bath, laundry, and storage room (a children’s bedroom for former owners, a large walk-in closet for us) – but the interminable waiting is so hard! When will it ever be done? We no longer have a schedule we can consult. We want one but can’t ask our contractor. He keeps updating the previous schedule – there are always reasons for delays. Sometimes it’s supply chain problems and mistaken deliveries, sometimes it’s plumber’s oversights, or other subcontractors’ schedules (they all seem to juggle many more simultaneous jobs than they can reasonably handle). So, we sit and wait. The days when workers are here have been frenetic and noisy, but the days when no one comes are silent and painful. When will they return? We’re no longer sure.

Demolition came first and was fast. Insulation and framing followed in lock step. No problems emerged until the plumber surveyed the existing pipes. No go! All work had to stop. Then there was the plumbing inspection delay. The electrician was hard to schedule, but he finally appeared, and gave us further selection instructions for fixtures we hadn’t planned on. But we complied. The electrical inspection, another delay. Dry wall subcontractor did fine work when he finally showed up – except when plumbing fixtures and vanity finally arrived, we discovered that the earlier plumbing inspection missed two “test-T” configurations in the pipes, which were now covered by dry wall. Dry wall was removed and replaced in one location (the other was masked by our washing machine). Painters did their thing, wrong in a few places – bulkheads mostly – but we congratulated ourselves on our attractive selection of colors. Then there was the stairway door and railing. Wrong sizes. Re-order.

We’re still waiting on installation of a radical threshold for powder room – to get a level floor, tile had to be laid a full three inches above the floor level of the adjoining living space. Bathroom door will have to be cut down before it will fit over this threshold. Only then can carpeting be laid in that family room/office area. Still no furniture in it! We’re not getting any younger waiting for completion. How much longer will we likely live in this house before being forced to down-size? We’ve already been here for 39 years, odds are good it won’t be as much as another decade.

So, ten years max to enjoy this marvelous new living space? In a house that’s already too big for us empty nesters? What do we do with those vacant kids’ bedrooms upstairs? New furniture there before we sell? And, we can’t sell before we redo our landscaping. The current plantings and hardscape are moss-encrusted, dying and scraggly. They barely lasted eight years before neglect set in (neither my wife nor I style ourself “gardeners”).

These are the perils of “aging in place” – there’s more than mobility and cognition at stake, it seems. Additionally, whatever we get when we do sell will likely be stolen by the “independent living” or continuous care facility we move to. Not to mention the capital gains!

We’d better enjoy the old house while we can!

When we ultimately settled on a contractor last summer, we picked somebody we had worked with before, I’ll call him “Dan.” He specializes in our neighborhood and did our first addition 20 years ago. Yes, he’s still in business – runs it from his home not far from us. He relies on a few employees, like our site manager, and a lot of subcontractors. His leverage over those subcontractors has proven to be limited, however, as we have seen over the course of our project. Yet, we still have confidence in him – he seems to be easy to get along with, having an unassuming, personable demeanor. No pretense. Not quite so much with our site manager, but we can always defer to the “boss.” There have been no disputes in this project, unlike with the contractor for our last, and largest, addition (two floors, comprising kitchen and master suite) some 13 years ago. That contractor is no longer in business. This relationship is slow and easy, matching Dan’s personality. We are willing to wait. But, oh how frustrating it can be! There are simply too many things beyond anybody’s control: supply chain, subcontractor schedules, county inspections. Dan is willing to come and work on his own, without benefit of any subcontractor crews, doing cabinetry himself (he seems to enjoy that kind of work). We are getting a beautiful built-in armoire with sliding door and five drawers for our new laundry!

Except for that plumbing sub, everybody we’ve dealt with on this project has been very easy to talk to – they all seemed eager to please us, to offer expert advice, alternatives where there might be issues (like how to deal with ducting bulkheads – it’s a very low ceiling in some places!). Except the plumbers, who failed to open those “test-Ts,” all seem to model their customer interaction after Dan himself: slow, steady, personable, agreeable.

This is the fourth, and final, home renovation project for us. If our main complaint is the wait for completion, we’re doing well. But no more projects like this! Although happy to write favorable reviews of Dan and his company, I won’t use my Warp & Woof platform for an Angi review.

— William Sundwick

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