(This blog is best viewed on a computer. For some reason, when the photos are right side up on the computer, they go sideways on the phones. )
Begin with an old and small bathroom:
This is why we decided we needed an ADA Bathroom. When we closed the door, it barely cleared the hanging sink. The commode was the smallest ever made. The shower was fine, but getting into the bath tub is getting harder and harder for Dave. So after much discussion, over the course of about three years, we finally decided it was time to enlarge the bathroom. Right next to the bathroom was a former laundry room that had been converted into a really awesome pantry. It was one of those spaces for putting stuff when you don’t know where else to put it. A person really doesn’t know how much junk they can squeeze into such a small place until she has to remove it all and find it a new home.
Holly and I went through it and started by throwing out all the expired groceries that were in it. I was very surprised because I thought I stayed on top of that. But ya know what? There were things in there I KNOW I had just bought in the last couple of months that we had to pitch.
Lesson Number 1: Always check expiration dates AT THE STORE before throwing them in the cart.
After pitching about two garbage bags full of expired food, I still had to find a home for my remaining groceries and canning. The only place I had was my computer room. Total disarray and it’s fun trying to find stuff when I want to cook, I can tell ya. These things used to be neatly organized, by categories in my pantry. Sigh~ Not anymore. And this is how we will live for the next four weeks. Fortunately, Chase has agreed to do Thanksgiving so that is a blessing. Besides all this stuff, I had to empty out the stuff that was crammed into every nook and cranny in the bathroom, too. Again, I had no idea how much stuff was stashed in there. A lot of that got moved into Holly’s new bathroom. She’s not real thrilled to be sharing with us oldsters during this transition because we have to do things old school, like waiting for turns and cleaning up after each other sometimes.
The last step before calling in the construction team, was to empty out a closet that had old vent work in it that was just wasted space. This is going to be transformed into my new pantry. It’s really going to be a lot handier than the old pantry was.
The Veterans Administration Grant. HISA
The first time we considered doing this to the bathroom was back in the fall of 2013. We learned that the Veteran’s Administration has a program that gives veterans a once in a lifetime grant to do a remodel project for disabled veterans. We first applied for the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant at that time. After several months of waiting to hear whether or not we were approved, we finally learned over a year later that our paper work had been “lost”. So we decided to give it another try this year. We got the estimate up front, downloaded the form off of the computer, took some before pictures and sent copies of these and the application to both our Congressmen the same day we went in to personally hand the paperwork to the department in charge of these loans. Imagine our surprise, when the grant was approved in less than a month. We really weren’t expecting it to go quite that quickly but it did and so we were ready to call in our contractor, Homeland Construction out of Wichita.
Homeland Construction Arrived.
DAY 1: November 7, 2016 – The crew from Homeland Construction arrived at our door at approximately 9 a.m. I have to use my own terms here, because I’m not sure how they refer to their “chain of command”. The ‘squad leader’, Don and two of his men were the first to arrive. Their goal was the demolition of my closet, pantry and bathroom. Their “Platoon Leader”, Larry, also showed up that morning along with their “First Sergeant”, Johno. They dove into the demolition like fiends and had everything torn out and on a trailer by the end of the day. It was impressive. When they finished, they cleaned my driveway, my yard and sidewalk and inside the house to make it look like no one had even been there. The only evidence was two gutted rooms and a closet. Not even a stray nail or a spec of dust! Very impressive.
Day 2: Some pipes and electrical wiring had to be moved and the water softener as well. You can’t really tell there were floor issues from the photos, but it was rotted out where that pipe goes up to the ceiling. The really big problem that became known after the demolition was the electrical issues. Hot cords had just been taped off with electrical tape and jammed into the walls, creating a rather dangerous situation. We were lucky the house hadn’t burned down. It was bad enough that legally, Don’s “squad” really didn’t need to be there working due to safety issues alone. But they stayed and did what they could to finish hauling out all the nastiness that was in the walls, ceilings and floors.
Day 3: Special Ops was sent in. The plumber and the electricians. The plumber showed up first thing in the morning. Johnny on the spot he was. His job was to move the sewer pipe from the commode and the plumbing over a few feet and remove the water softener. While he was under the house, which was like 100 degrees, he met a new friend. An opossum who had apparently been trapped under the house for God only knows how long. He was a fat little critter. I did a bit of research on opossums and discovered they eat mice, spiders and roaches. On the upside, I have to admit I have noticed a distinct lack of spiders. We had a mice problem for a brief period of time, too. I set out traps and none of them ever produced a dead mouse, but the mice disappeared and I always wondered why. “Mischief Managed” (for you Harry Potter fans).
Then the electricians showed up in the afternoon and had to address all the dangerous hot wires. Oh my and did they flip my switches. They were in the breaker box off and on all afternoon flipping switches off and on trying to find the right ones to that particular part of the house. HELLO! That was our fault for not having our switches properly labelled.
Lesson Number 2: Accurately label the switches in your breaker box so electricians don’t have to turn off your computers, television, refrigerator, lights, washing machine and air conditioning to find hot wires.
Day 4: The electrician team had to come back and finish securing the wiring in the walls, securing them safely into the walls and ceilings and properly wiring switches, outlets and junction boxes. I felt embarrassed that so much of the basic parts of home maintenance were in such DANGEROUS order. They were all so nice about it though, assuring me that it was not unusual in house as old as ours. Don, the “Squad leader” brought a team back in that afternoon and they brought in the shower and did some structural work that was necessary to make the new bathroom safe and sturdy. One thing I noticed is that they reinforced the back wall where they are going to be putting the hand rail inside the shower.
This is a photo of where they had to put in a piece of flooring to cover an old vent that went directly to the dirt under the house where the opossum lived. This space is where the old furnace was and prior remodeling neglected to address the direct opening to the ground under the house. I’m sure glad we got that fixed with critters running around under the house.
Day 5: Materials they ordered didn’t come in, so they couldn’t work.
Day 6: They started putting up the sheet rock. They got the ceiling on and part of the walls. You can see in the photo where the old insulation was falling out of the ceiling. There’s hardly anything left of the stuff. We’re really glad they are putting in new insulation, too.
Day 7: Today they covered the old tile floor with the underlayment for the new tile. It was a little tricky getting those pieces to line up with the plumbing. So that’s why the guys were “laying down on the job”. It really is looking better all the time. I hope they appreciate the fact that I didn’t get their faces in this picture! They seem to work well together and have some fun as well.
Once they got these pieces in then they finally got the rest of the sheet rock up. These guys really work hard and I have to say I am so thankful that they always clean up every afternoon before the leave for the day. It takes a little time, but it sure does beat having to walk around all the materials and tools in between their work days.
Day 8: Things aren’t going so well today. They didn’t get here until a little after 11. They got all set up to work and then ‘poof!’ they left to go eat lunch. Today, the Platoon Sergeant, Larry came buy to give Don and Brett a class on how to install a pocket door. Then Johno popped in to put some signs in the yard. I’m kind of glad he did that. I imagine the neighbors are wondering what the heck is going on here.
This is really a big project for such a little house, but when they start getting old it’s just sensible to tear into things and get them updated. It’s a lot more than just changing the decor, that’s for sure. It’s getting people in there who know what they’re doing and getting a rotting floor replaced and having the plumbing and wiring up to code again. The bathroom is going to be quite a bit warmer this winter, too, thanks to the whole thing getting new insulation. I’m a little disappointed that the work days are getting shorter because I don’t like my stuff being so disorganized. It’s also quite a hike for Dave to get to the other bathroom at night so he has gone old school and we have a little chamber pot in the bedroom. Now if only I had a chamber maid to take care of it in the morning. So you can see why I get a little impatient when the crew comes in late and then takes off at 3 pm like they did today. Oh well, things will be better tomorrow.
Days 9, 10, 11 These were pretty boring days. Mostly what they did was tape the seams of the sheet rock and the screws where they screwed them into the wall. They use a special water proof kind of sheet rock in the bathroom and regular sheet rock in the hall. The green in the bathroom is the waterproof and the grey around the doorway is regular. If you look closely at the photo you can see where they started to tape on the right. They have to put three to four layers of this on. I can’t believe it takes a whole day to do every single seam and every single nail, but one has to realize they did the ceilings too. It’s a lot more work than people think. Then it has to dry overnight each time. They did the third layer today and it is looking really nice. Alex and Gary have been here all week and they really seem to have a talent for getting it on smoothly. I have liked every single worker that Homeland Construction has sent.
Lesson Number Three: Changes Cost Time and Money
As a consumer, one thing people need to be aware of when having this kind of work done by contractors, is that changes COMPLICATE their lives and consequently, those changes will inevitably cost you more money. There is a certain order in which these things need to be done. If you come in when they’re doing sheetrock and decide you want a door in a different place, guess what. . . BIG BUCKS. That’s because they have to tear out their work and redo stuff in order for it to be right. Best rule to observe if you want the job done the way you want, is to try and anticipate any kind of changes ahead of time. Originally, I was going to put in a regular door. In the photo on Day 1, you can see where there was a door already framed in. Look at Day 7 and see how much bigger that door space got. On Day 2, it occurred to me that a pocket door (one that slides into the wall) would be more functional, especially considering how wide the opening had to be for ADA. A regular door would have used up a lot of the space in the bathroom when it was open, but with a pocket door, it slides out of the way and into the wall. When I told them I really wanted that door, they essentially said, “Whew! You told us just in time, because we were just getting ready to frame that open space for a regular door.” The frame had to be twice the size to accommodate a pocket door. Imagine if I hadn’t thought of it until Day 7.
Also, I was hoping to use that dead space between the shower and wall that the window is on for towels, wash cloths, nick knacks etc. Once it was all measured out and framed in, the shelves might have been 4 inches wide. Again, waste of effort for what would be gained. So we ended up sheet rocking around the shower.
But changes happen. It’s why you have to keep an eye on what’s happening as they go. When they were doing the new pantry, Day 4, I realized that what I wanted was not going to work out. The space I thought I was going to have ended up being much smaller than I imagined. Originally, I wanted two small cabinet doors at the top, next to the ceiling. But it turned out I was only going to gain a really small amount of space for a whole lot of money. Johno and Larry were so helpful in helping me walk through some options factoring shelves and lights and the two main doors. I still get some of the space but the access will be different. The storage space at the top would have been about nine inches. Not worth the money to put in two special doors. It really pays to be on hand when they’re working. They were glad to make the modifications, but it’s important to request them in time. These guys have come up with some really great ideas so far, that I think are going to make my pantry and bathroom as awesome as I hoped they’d be. But folks, you’ve got to work with them. As it turned out, the pocket door change cost us a little more money, but it will be well worth it. On the other hand, leaving out the doors and shelves I wanted in the bathroom, ended up saving a little money, so it about evened out.
Days 12-17 – They got busy on my pantry and I was so thankful. They put in some very awesome and sturdy shelves that are going to last a long time. The closet got primer put on most of the shelves. Quitting time came before they were finished, so over the weekend, I got out my handy dandy paint brush, and following Don’s (The Squad Leader) instructions, proceeded to finish them up. I got them all done Saturday. On Sunday, order was restored and my groceries are back in a pantry again. I’ll be able to put pans and other nitnoid stuff on the floor when they get finished with all the painting. There will also be wire shelves on the inside of the doors to store items that aren’t so heavy, like pasta and jello and boxes of tea.
The cabinet where we will be putting the water softener and my new vanity is in place. Slowly things are beginning to take shape. It’s the little stuff that eats up the time and they all seem to know what they’re doing. We even had an unrelated problem in our other bathroom. Johno graciously set one of his men to the task. My homeboy from Iowa, came up with a brilliant solution and saved us a LOT of work. So a shout out to Steve! Many thanks for going the extra mile. It was greatly appreciated.
Days 18-19 – They showed up on Monday and were pleasantly surprised to see how much of the painting was already done. I even got the wall paper back up on the walls. (All I painted was the closet and the pocket door). The emphasis this week has been on trim work and getting the final things done. They picked out some awesome wood doors for the pantry. The grain in them was so pretty, I decided not to paint them as I had intended. We’re just going to put polyurethane them so we can enjoy the natural beauty of the wood. They aren’t going to match the doors in the hall, but I think they will be a pretty focal point from the kitchen. It’s going to be so nice to have a pantry right across the hall and those lovely shiney doors are going to look awesome. You can click on the picture and make it bigger if you want a closer look. They haven’t put anything on them yet.
We were dogsitting this week. We tried to keep him out of the way as much as possible but he was so curious all the time. He just wanted to see what was going on and the guys were all so nice to him. So it was an interesting week for the little guy. He’d pop in for a few minutes and then go back in the other room and return to whomever had an available lap for him to nap. Personally, I think they should have named him “Pharoah” because he really believes he’s in charge! Ha!
We still need to put a little more paint on the trim boards and get the cabinet for the water softener and our vanity installed. As far as the carpentry work goes, they pretty well have things sewn up. Homeland Construction has people who specialize in certain things. It’s kind of neat how they send over the best guys for the job on any given day. Don has been the one we see every day; the glue that holds it all together. He has been very helpful when I’ve asked his opinion about ideas and decor. He keeps us informed about what is going on and he’s very conscientious about making sure we will be satisfied. Larry (the Platoon Sergeant) and Johno (the First Sergeant) also stop by at least once a week to check on the progress and discuss any questions or concerns we might have. Johno is really great at keeping things moving, calling the right people when there are snags and getting those ‘nitnoid’ things that sometimes get overlooked. When he is discussing the project with you, you think you are the only customer he has to worry about. It’s a rare quality and one I appreciated very much.
Day 20-21 – the end of the fourth week! And Homeland Construction finished right on time. Most of the credit goes to Don who was here nearly every single day, except for a few vacation days he had to take. Don was always so friendly and thorough and he was so supportive all through the process. Although I am happy that I don’t have to get up and get dressed every morning and the noise level will decrease significantly, I think I am going to miss having them around. Westfall Electric, from Mulvane came in right on time to finish their part. The new lighting is wonderful and we have peace of mind knowing that our electricity has all been done correctly. Getting a look at some of the drawbacks of “do-it-yourself” wiring and how dangerous it can be gave me new respect for having it done professionally. Codes change also over the years and it’s nice to know we’ve been updated.
We would have been completely done, right on time except for a local plumber who was not quite as efficient as Homeland Construction and Westfall Electric. They neglected to anticipate and schedule the completion date of their job, even though they got half their pay up front and were told it would be four weeks. Maybe because they just aren’t used to contractors who actually finish on time the way Homeland did. It also occurs to me that plumbers are so in demand and so few people seem to want to go into this field that they really are spread awfully thin. So we have to wait a whole additional week before we can actually use our new bathroom. Technically, it wasn’t just the bathroom. That was the cost for the pantry, the hall and the bathroom. We had to have so much done, though. I only wish we would have had more square footage to work with. On the bright side, it gives me a little more time to get the curtains made and hang some stuff on the walls before we have to turn that final photo in to the VA.
Lesson Number Four: Call the subcontractors and confirm the dates they will be needed for finishing up at least a week before they are needed.
The Final Video:
The slideshow as they were working.