life, interrupted

You have probably heard that renovations suck, and it’s true. I think I’ve been handling the inconvenience pretty well—rolling with the punches of not having a back door, having my yard turned into scrap heap, having to clean debris from every interior surface daily.

Then you get a day like today, where you go to your orthodontist appointment with half of a dead moth in your hair, and come home from work to clean up cat blood from the hall and bedroom floors and walls.

It’s hard to explain how both were caused by the renovation, but I can try.

The moth is because we have routinely been removing the entire back of the house to work on it, and not boarding it up until after dark. Despite enough citronella candles to choke a person, the bugs have been getting in. Mostly, it’s been mosquitos, leading me to fear I’ll die of malaria before this phase is finished. But how the moth got into my hair after I showered today—and when it died—is still a disgusting mystery.

Boo has also been suffering from bug bites. Her poor ears are a mess. Normally, we’d keep her in until they heal, but the lack of walls around here lately has prevented that. Today was the first day we’ve had plywood up and were able to keep her in, so for once, I was expecting to come home from work to a relatively clean house and cute kitty. Instead, she scratched and spattered so much blood around the hall looked like a crime scene.

No one tells you that this might be your life one day.




welcome to the dollhouse

a stoop to conquer

This is how things go off the rails. The plan was to start framing this weekend, i.e. building the house instead of tearing more down. But instead we spent all day on this stupid stoop.

First, we had to rent the tool from Home Depot. Then we had to go back and exchange the cutting bit they gave us for one that was slightly sharper than a spoon. Then, cue four. Solid. Hours. of jackhammering.

I gave our only remaining earplugs to Joe and his dad, so Belle and I got the worst of it. She slammed out of her room, complaining that she had just taken “the loudest shower in the history of the world.”

Finally, around dinner time, they managed to get the concrete poured and leveled. And that’s when the cat decided to run through it. I am convinced that cats have an impeccably evil inner clock that tells them the exact moment their actions can cause the most damage, which is why they only puke on the sheets the moment after you’ve washed them.

Anyway, we managed to smooth out the pawprint she left behind. Although it was kind of cute.

in medias renovation

Just a few small ways this project has impacted me this week:

  1. I have started looking forward to trash day like a kid to Christmas. That’s how excited I am to get at least a few bags of crap off my lawn.
  2. The cat doesn’t get that the back door is gone, and that scratching on the plywood will not get her let out, or in. Instead, she meows and  sits forlornly on the pavement where the door used to be.
  3. We have an axe in the kitchen. You know, because if a fire broke out, we have no rear exit. And we almost did have a fire when I attempted to grill dinner in the backyard without a back door.


old enemies, and new ones

More demo this weekend. It a constant surprise to me how much there is to rip out of this tiny house. I also forgot about my old, long lost enemy, insulation. The rash-inducing crap that once filled our attic was also pumped behind every exterior wall, so when we remove siding, guess what’s waiting behind it?

Joe and his dad have quite a bit of framing to do, given how terrible the existing boards are. It’s amazing the roof hasn’t caved in. The thing I will never understand is why we were required, by law, to pay for a termite inspection that somehow turned none of this damage up.

But maybe the worst news this weekend was that someone stole my Garmin and about $10 in quarters out of my car Saturday night when I left it parked on the street in front of the house. It’s a little disconcerting to discover thieves in my neighborhood around the same time we’re opening the back of the house like a cartoon can of sardines. Although all they’re really going to find inside is more rubble, and possibly asbestos.

Still, we are taking the precaution of boarding the back up with plywood, which means my kitchen now looks like this:


An improvement, I’d say.



And for our next trick, we will make this chimney disappear.Image

This was even more dangerous than taking the hearth down in flip flops. But mostly to Joe, who had to stand on the roof and heave cinderblocks onto the lawn. It was very Donkey Kong-esque.


I, meanwhile had to haul each block (or the fragments) into our growing cinderblock castle. I am starting to know how the Hebrew slaves who built the pyramids felt.


Still, there is just something about saying to people, Oh, you went to the beach this weekend? That’s nice. I demolished a 20-foot tall masonry structure and moved five elephants’ weight in cinderblocks.

like a ton of bricks

It took three years, but we finally gained enough misguided optimism (and money, let’s not forget money) to attempt Phase II. In case you forgot, Phase II involves the kitchen, living area, and full exterior of the house.

I think part of the reason hiring a contractor costs so much is because they order everything. That alone has sucked up months of our time and caused at least one feud with a lumber yard. But on Saturday, we were finally ready to do the second stupidest thing of our lives (the first being to buy this house): Take down a fireplace in 90-degree heat. This behemoth:

Image There are many reasons you should not attempt this yourself, but the chief one is pain. You will be in terrific amounts of pain for 48 hours after you finish, and a fair amount during.

Joe was on chisel duty, hammering out each stone, while my job was to get rid of the debris. That meant carrying the stones out back and stacking them. (We may reuse it, and also, have to be conservative about our Dumspter usage since those things are expensive.)

By the end of the first day, this is what we had (all carried by yours truly):Image

Oh, and did I mention that the entire time we had to wear goggles and OSHA-grade respirators because we don’t know if the fireplace contains asbestos? Yeah.