Thursday, February 7, 2019

Remodeling Our Hut: Part 3

 Now that Ms. Crawford has given us her advice on my last post on how to proceed with the remodeling, I have a much clearer picture of what we need to do. 

Here's one of the problems we're facing, I know it's kind of hard to see, but there is just a little room between the house and the garage, just enough to walk between them comfortably.  If we are going to attach the garage, we don't have a whole lot of room to work with.  Carl didn't want an attached garage back in the day because he disliked the smell of gasoline, but as we get older, it sure would be nice to be able to walk into the house without going outside.

That point really hit home during the Polar Vortex last week with near -30F temperatures; we were hauling in groceries from the garage and struggling with the bags while battling the high winds and ridiculous windchills.  

"Just think," I said to Carl while stamping the snow off my feet in our kitchen, "this might be the last winter we have to do this if we finally get a mudroom."

Along with a mudroom, we would like to have a zero-entrance home, eliminating steps to enter from the garage.  After caring for Mom in our house when she was too weak to walk and was using a comparatively small transport chair, we realized we need much more room in the bathroom and bigger doorways if we are to live here in the event of age and infirmity.  

Considerations kept getting added to the list.  Handicapped accessibility?  Change the bathroom?  Get rid of the tub?  Add a bathroom to the mudroom? Upstairs laundry?  How long will I wash with a wringer in the basement?  

I'm not getting any younger, so the mirror on the wall tells me every morning.

And for floors?  Tile?  More vinyl?  Laminate?  And the rulers would come out and Carl would draw up random plans on dinner napkins and we'd bore all of our friends with our silly dreams and what if's and in the end, oh, well.  Some day.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  

 About seven years ago, I remember asking one contractor if he did remodeling on smaller homes and he seemed interested, but when I called the number on his business card (twice) he never got back to me.  I took that as a sign it wasn't supposed to happen. And life went on.

For years and years we'd been going on builder-sponsored new and remodeled home tours, getting ideas of what we might do and seeing the various contractor's work.  

Finally, this past March 2018 when we were on another home tour with our young friends, Cody and Briana, I got up some nerve.   I decided to show a picture of our house to every contractor I saw that weekend and ask if they would be interested in remodeling our hut.  I was specifically asking if they felt it would be possible to add a dormer and an attached garage with mudroom.  

Several flat out told me no, we'd be further ahead to tear it down and start over.  Although, I'm not going to lie, that did sting a little, but that's ok, better to be honest than to string me along, right?  

However, one contractor was actually somewhat enthusiastic about the project that day; yes, he could see what we were proposing and was interested in the prospect of turning a sow's ear into a silk purse.  He did caution, though, that it would not be cheap.  

Contractor #1 promised to come out in April 2018 to look at our current abode and see what he could do.  He arrived with his  assistant and took measurements and photos of the interior and exterior.  Then he sat down and asked us what we hoped for in a remodel.  He didn't like our staircase in the position it currently is and said our idea for a breakfast nook overlooking the garden wasn't going to work because we didn't have enough room even if we tore out a wall, but....he had other ideas that we probably wouldn't have thought of. 

This contractor is well-known for his work preserving and restoring historic homes, most of which are true mansions, so I was surprised he was even interested in our humble project.  He asked when we'd be wanting to get the remodeling underway, and we both said  sometime in the summer of 2019 as we have to get ready for the American Hosta Convention tour coming here in early June.   As long as we were out over a year, he said he'd work on the plans and get back to us later on.  We were excited and a little anxious, wow, we finally had the ball rolling on this dream.  It really might happen.

However, we heard nothing more from him after April.  As usual, things were busy here and I knew the contractor was also swamped with projects, too, so we didn't think it was totally unusual.  Joel and Abby's house construction started this summer and with all the other stuff going on with Carl's parents and the garden and my last few visits with my doctor, time flew by once again.  

June, July, August came and went with no word from the contractor.  I told Carl I figured he had decided he had bigger fish to fry.  We guessed he had forgotten about the whole thing, after all, this wasn't the sort of project he normally took on anyway.  

We did attend one of his open houses in August for a remodel he'd finished this summer and he recognized us right away when we did the walk-through.  He asked us how we'd been and said he'd be in contact very soon, but once again, he reminded us his calendar was really booked.  We were very intrigued by the renovations he'd done.  The house was an historic bungalow and he had moved staircases and rooms all around to improve the flow and add space and an open floor plan.  There were some neighbors on the tour who had known the former owner and they were so impressed by the changes that they had to congratulate him.  It was very nice.

But since he was busy, it was sometime in September before he called me with a rough estimate of the cost of remodeling.  It was about what we'd feared; very expensive for the size of the house, but still cheaper than building a new home.  I think he wanted to see if I'd back out immediately after hearing the price, but since I didn't, he said he'd send out a crew to look the house over again in November.

Oh, well.  Had we started the remodel in motion even a few years ago, we'd have had to pay much less in lumber and labor costs, as everything has gone up in price, but again, it is what it is.  

The reason I call him Contractor #1 is because after finally receiving the first estimate, we reached out to Contractor #2 who came recommended by a friend of ours.

Contractor #2, Phil, came out within a few days of when he was called to meet with us.  He arrived right on time and was business-like, having just come from another job he was working on.  He is the owner of the remodeling business and is part of a two-man crew, working with another carpenter.  He said he prefers to be a hands-on contractor instead of hiring a large crew.

Contractor #1 is an animated person, very verbal and excitable. He is more of the visionary design and idea professional, but most of the work would be carried out by other carpenters in his employ.  Though he didn't say exactly what he wanted to do with our hut, he said the end result would be 'cool', which is a favorite saying of his.  Since we have seen his work we know he is very talented, no doubt. 

Phil's personality was the exact opposite; he was so very quiet that I feared he was going to run for his truck after shaking our hands.  I couldn't tell what he was thinking and there were lots of awkward silences. I figured he was going to say thanks, but no thanks, I don't want this gig.  He carefully looked over the property, taking notes silently as we followed him around answering what few questions he had.

Finished outside, we entered the house.  He was standing in our kitchen, studiously making notes about what he was seeing and quietly said, "'ll be wanting new flooring in here?"

Me, being the goofball I can be at times, said, "Well, we really like the orange vinyl and hoped to keep it if at all possible."

He had never taken his eyes off of his notes and at first I don't think my comment registered with him, but within a few seconds, he looked up at me quizzically.  

"Oh....well.......," he began until he saw me grinning at him.  

"I'm sorry, Phil," I said. "I was just kidding.  I know it's time to let it go."

(Thankfully, for all of us, I didn't break into the song from 'Frozen' at that point. Phil was probably already wondering what type of asylum this was.)  After a short discussion about what we would like to have done and another firm handshake, he was on his way back home.

To his credit, Phil came back a second time a few weeks later; apparently we had not scared him off entirely.   His written estimate came in a little less expensive than Contractor #1's verbal estimate, and he was willing to start remodeling in December, as in this past December.  

Whoa, it just got real! We had neglected to tell Phil at our first meeting of our timeline of the summer of 2019, but he was fine with starting the job then, too.  So, it looked like we were moving ahead again.  He said he'd get back to us with some rough drafts after he contacted a designer for plans.  At this point, we still didn't have an idea of what we could actually do, but at least we had a ballpark estimate of what it would cost.  

We never did hear from Contractor #1 in November as he'd promised.  We know he's still busy; he had another open house in January and being the silly people we are, we went to that one, too.  Once again, he recognized us immediately and was friendly, showing us around the home he had just built and was listing for sale as a spec property.  He had rescued some impressive oak columns (colonnades) and fireplace mantels and other woodwork from a recently demolished character home and integrated them into the new house which turned out beautifully.  We chatted with him for awhile afterward, but he never mentioned our project again.  

And neither did we.  

I think we have our answer.   If he'll have us, Phil it is.


outlawgardener said...

Whew! Finding a contractor who is ready and willing to work with you is a huge hurdle. Glad that you and Phil found each other. Looking forward to seeing what y'all come up with. You'll need a new name for your hut once it's all fancied-up. (Philled up?) Perhaps you could frame a piece of the orange vinyl and hang it in the remodeled dining room as a reminder.

Beth said...

This will be so nice for you and Carl. Make sure you have enough places for sons, daughters-in-law, and (present and future) grandkids to eat dinner with you...we have a DR table for 8 and that's not big enough for everyone when they all come. However, we have a 2nd table in what we call the breakfast nook that seats 4. I have a friend who has 5 adult kids, 12 grandkids, and ? great grandkids and a small house. She hosts Thanksgiving and makes it happen with seating on couches and chairs as well as the table, so there are ways to do this. Best wishes!

Alison said...

I have high hopes that things will work out with Phil! He sounds very thoughtful and hands-on, which I think is a good combination. I hope he gets your sense of humor, cause some day it will get you in trouble, Missy. I like Peter's idea about keeping a piece of the lino and maybe framing it.