Lee & Cates showed up with a big crane today, the kids are on spring break, and we watched as a big starfish-shaped metal tool with five big suction cups was attached to each of the four humongous 12′ x 16′ panes of glass, lifted high above the house (windy day, lots of swinging), slowly lowered between the scaffolding and the house, and then detached by the glazing team to be pushed into place and sealed. I was told each 3/8″ thick piece of glass weighs close to 700 lbs. Crazy to watch. Huge sense of accomplishment to have all the big fixed glass in place finally.


I would think that any homeowner experiencing a massive renovation always takes some comfort in seeing movement and progress, no matter how minute. However, when you’re told by the contractor that completion is just weeks away, and even a week passes without seeing major progress, this particular homeowner goes a little crazy.

Dandeneau Contracting IS installing the birch ply ceiling panels slowly but surely, Butch from United Electric IS installing the lighting finishes in those ceiling panels, the drywaller IS doing a beautiful job on the installation. However we still have gaping holes where glass is supposed to go, such an awful job on the new roof that we’ve called do-over, we’re back to square one on a front door entry after weeks of wasted effort from various parties, and we’ve got a Change Order of Damocles swinging above us as the waterproofing is finalized.

Thank goodness we love, love, love our camper life so much. But wait, the camper owner needs her camper back in a few weeks…! Yes, we are happy to announce that we will be moving from the camper into the top floor of our unfinished home in a few weeks’ time, to languish on air beds and sleeping bags. Be careful what you wish for out there. It may make you loco.

Bill Thorne and his team have installed the majority of the Berridge zincalume siding in super quick fashion. 
Honestly, no matter how crappy I feel about the problems that are still arising, I can’t get the smile off my face upon seeing the cubic shell starting to look like a house!

Patricia McQuaid, our architect, is back on the job and working remotely from Italy to help finish up. We are now getting quotes on the wood flooring installation and bathroom cabinet fabrication, but we can’t do anything until the builder and architect figure out how to resolve the waterproofing around the glass.

My one unwavering bright spot is the bathroom. Chris at Tile Market helped finalize tile choices and gave us his blessing, and Josh Eberling is lined up to finish installation in two weeks. Will this be the one item that is completed on schedule? I daren’t hope.

Meanwhile we’re enjoying the first siren songs of spring. The oak leaves began dropping the last week in February, followed by a serious pollen drenching that continued into last week, and this week the maple tree across the little side creek began dropping helicopters all over our camper lawn, whirling down and remind us of our childhood.

downed helicopters

helicopters on the pool deck

Highs are inevitably followed by lows. Upon closer inspection of our glorious new sliding WinDoor systems, we found large gaps in some areas between the window frames and jambs that are not easily sealed, and everything has ground to a halt while the experts scratch their heads and figure out how to keep water out AND still make the architectural detailing look good AND not require us, the hapless homeowners, to sell our first-born. The huge fixed glass pieces arriving next week will have similar issues. My suggestion of pillows of pink expanding insulation and metallic spray paint was met by cold stares.

Nay! Gaps!

Pressure treated wood reveal, gap, aluminum door frame

The over-arching problem (oh that’s so negative! how about “consideration?” much cheerier!) with this house has been, and always will be, waterproofing. Every single major decision that has been made in this project has first been based on waterproofing. And here we are, within keen eyesight’s view of the finish line, and we have a new major waterproofing…consideration.

I’m going to go sit outside and watch the mullet jump (must be some seasonal thing? they splash around all day and night right now), forget my problems and let the experts mullet over. Ba dum bump.

A juvenile mullet

After six months of staring at a black plastic-veiled shell, we are overcome by the sight of plywood sheathing on the exterior walls and sliding glass doors and windows in place! Normal people may not get a charge out of such a sight, but normal people don’t live in 300 square feet without proper plumbing or heat/air. A huge shout out to Willy and his crew from Architectural Windows & Cabinets – they have worked until 6 pm the last two days to install cumbersome windows and sliding door systems on all four levels, and they’ve been in a jovial mood for most of it. Whistle while you work, indeed!

THAT'S what's underneath?!

Richard and I are on our own for a lot of the finishes and have been working feverishly to complete our research and make decisions. Today we ordered 2500 square feet of bamboo flooring, my dreamy dining room pendant lights, kitchen cabinetry, bathroom countertops, kitchen appliances, and a whole house tankless water heater. We are still finalizing bathroom tile choices but Josh Eberling will be here tomorrow to install the Schluter-Kerdi shower system and related Ditra subfloor in the first bathroom (supposedly rendering said bathroom a stand-alone floatation tank in case I fall asleep during The World’s Longest Indoor Shower, which I plan to commence immediately upon the grout being dry).

insulation around bath fixtures

Feel free to send ideas for an art installation or other reuse for our dear black plastic house veil…I’ll miss that sudden snapping sound at 2 am when it caught in the wind and woke me from a dead sleep, its funereal drape, the way it gaped in all the right places to tempt the driving rain…

Our most excellent architect, Patricia McQuaid, is off to globe trot with her family for the better part of a year and beyond. I must pause to thank and praise her for her efforts on our project, which I feel sure went above and beyond the usual efforts of most architects. She has been focused, diplomatic, and steadfast in every aspect of designing and managing our huge personal undertaking, and working with her has made this project (including living in a camper) a great deal more bearable. We will miss her horribly and selfishly wish she could have been here to see the fruits of her labor completed. We’ll send photos.

Are we there yet?

Well we try, and we try…

There is great comfort in having an insulated house. It speaks of warmth, shelter, safety, quietude. We were scheduled to have an insulated house months ago, then two weeks ago, then a week ago, and finally today the insulation guys arrived…with the wrong, i.e. el cheapo, insulation. Durwood (site superintendent) saw them coming in the door, and after a few not-so-nice conversations, the insulation guys left never to return.

Baby better come back later next week. Perhaps we shall then have insulation?

This is our new goal – to have glass. Glazing. Windows. Sliding glass doors. Our own little micro-biosphere rather than a plastic-covered box. We are crossing our fingers that by the end of this month installation will have begun. For those one or two readers out there, please cross your fingers too.

The electricians are working away mostly diligently, the LG split system interior evaporators are going in (after Richard caught a few boo boos here and there) for our HVAC system, Jorgensen has completed 99% of the interior framing (it looks like a closet! hey it looks like a subfloor!), and the playroom corner post that had bowed out has been replaced. Insulation and sheathing of the outside is slated to begin next week, then on goes the metal siding.

Lots of details to go but we can finally imagine a finish line. I feel like Dennis after he gets through the wall in Run, Fatboy, Run.

My friend Annie recently completed an extensive kitchen renovation and most aptly characterized the renovation process to be akin to the title of this post. The idea of the coming baby is exciting, filled with romantic dreams of the future, unfettered by any problems or stresses. You picture it as a beautiful, transformative experience. Then the baby is born, you’re exhausted, you feel inept, and there are daily mundane decisions made on the fly that you later worry could affect the rest of your’s and the baby’s life.

In the last two weeks I have spent at least 10 full hours looking at light fixtures. 2 hours researching bathroom exhaust fans. 3 hours on bathroom tile. 2 hours on flooring thus far. This from a woman who let someone else plan her wedding. Meanwhile my children have turned feral and go to the bathroom outside when I’m not paying attention. Because I just found a stunning Foscarini light fixture online that I need to bookmark for my newest “child.”

Mundane details: United Electric has begun work, the HVAC installation starts tomorrow, the Windoor systems (most of the glass in the house) have been ordered, and the framers are doing bits and pieces on the kitchen, bathrooms, and closets. We are pushing hard for a Feb 28 completion. (Do I hear hysterical laughter coming from the cheap seats? Or is it in my head?)

THE most exciting news in the last few months is that we finally, finally found our septic tank and drain field and it is sound and needs no maintenance. (See? With new babies we all get obsessed about body functions.) Immeasurable thanks to both my neighbor who helped me track down the prior owner, and to the prior owner who gave me all the information I needed as well as more history about the house.

Hygema has removed the last bits of shoring holding up the house and deemed it sound. Glory day! Rather than attempt to express my sentiments on this event and the end of this renovation road which is swinging into sight, I shall defer to the words of Emily Dickinson:

The Props assist the House

Until the House is built

And then the Props withdraw

And adequate, erect

The House supports itself

And cease to recollect

The Auger and the Carpenter —

Just such a retrospect

Hath the perfected Life —

A Past of Plank and Nail

And slowness — then the scaffolds drop

Affirming it a Soul —