Living Through Construction: The Downsides of Home Renovation
ROCKY RIVER, OHIO – It was 8 a.m. on a Thursday, rush hour on our street as children head to school and commuters head off to work. And there was a giant truck in our driveway.
“Where do you want your wood? asked the driver.
Where did I want my wood? I had no idea. How much wood were we talking about?
A lot. A full board. So much so that it took three trips down our driveway with a forklift.
As soon as this wood was neatly stacked by our detached garage, a truck with a dumpster arrived. Right after, a truck loaded with portable toilets.
The school bus drivers must have hated us that morning. But nothing about home improvement is practical. For months you live in a construction zone, hoping the noise and mess, the extra work and the expense are worth it. I mean, who wants portable toilets in their backyard? Or piles of building materials killing your grass and blocking your vegetable patch? Or power tools drowning out a Teams call?
The goal was/is to add a laundry room on the second floor above our existing kitchen and transform our unfinished attic into a dreamy bed and bath suite, complete with a shiplapped fireplace.
To prepare, I first had to empty the attic, cram out-of-season dresses into my son’s closet, and fill the corners of the basement with fans, humidifiers, and quilts, along with trash that I probably didn’t need to keep. I took rugs and took family photos off the walls. I organized a place to podcast every morning, so as not to be interrupted by the noise and the buzz of contractors.
But I hadn’t considered the simplest first request: where to put the loads of wood.
That morning, as I took a picture for posterity of the forklift lumbering down our driveway, I toughened myself up for two long months, for the destroyed grass outside and the drop cloths snaking across the floors. inside.
At least we didn’t have to move during the works, since everything was happening in the space that we weren’t using yet. So I thought. I didn’t realize they would need to open up the walls in our kitchen or drill through the basement rafters to insert pipes. (Note to self: Move things before the sawdust gets on everything.)
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The carpenters arrived with a mechanical lift, to demolish the existing walls and build new ones. The house’s gutters and drainpipes, shutters and 1970s aluminum siding are pulled out, revealing the century-old original siding underneath. The iron railing on our second story porch came loose, all in one piece. It still sits in the backyard, as does much of the wood. Who knows what we might use it for?
The team worked quickly, hammering, sawing and hammering. Within days they had poles in place and a roof over them. Holes were drilled for the windows of the second floor laundry room and the third floor bathroom. A film of Tyvek covered the exterior.
And our bathroom was full of debris.
You see, our house is 109 years old. In order to get air conditioning to the second floor, a previous owner had installed large ducts that looked like robot arms spread throughout the attic to supply the ceiling air vents. When the workers removed the conduits, there was essentially a hole in the ground where the men were working. Thus, wood chips, dirt and insulation fell on the tile below. Right where we got out of the shower.
I vacuum almost daily. I podcast from my neighbor’s daughter’s bedroom. (Thanks, guys!) I turn up the volume and mute my Teams calls as the team saws pipes in my stairwell. I collect green plastic button caps from my yard while I weed.
The guys have been great. And I try to calm my type A need for cleanliness and order. While I wish I could plant my vegetable patch this week, as the framed greeting card in my room says, “Messy is so often where the magic is.”
But we have so much more project – and mess – before we’re done.
On a recent morning, a large truck backed into our driveway at 6:23 a.m. as I was heading to the gym. They delivered windows. This time I knew exactly where they needed to go.
Content director Laura Johnston writes occasionally about modern life, usually with children. She chronicles the renovation of her house every two weeks.