You go into a construction project thinking that you won’t have horror stories like everyone else.
“My remodel is going to be different because I did my homework and thought of everything,” you tell yourself as your friends and family members recall their construction stories.
And then… you start your construction and as you progress into the project you find out that you aren’t special or different… and that you have become a person who says thing you never thought would come out of your mouth.
“Go pee outside.” –my husband and me
We are down to ONE bathroom for five people. I’m not going to lie: it hasn’t been easy. Of course, it didn’t make it any easier when our one, overworked toilet complete stopped working a few weeks ago. (Murphy’s Law, right?) I love having three sons, and the fact that I could have them go pee in the backyard (after work hours), has been a blessing on more than one occasion.
“Do you think you should cover my house before it rains?” –me
Starting in August, there was a period of time in which no one showed up to do an honest day’s work at my house for about three weeks. We began to freak out. We had no idea what was going. We were afraid that if we complained they would get mad at us and walk away. (Yes, I know that sounds paranoid. Read more about that by clicking here.)
We had been watching the weather forecast, nervous about an upcoming rain storm, and sure they would come get some sort of roof or tarp or something on our house with such bad weather on the horizon. The rain was expected on Monday, so on Friday, I texted the contractor a photo of the weather forecast and asked if there were any plans to “button us up” before the rain came. Low and behold, about eight workers showed up the next day, putting in windows and putting up tarps. Thank goodness I called.
“Daddy, it’s raining in our room!” –our 5-year-old, Connor
When that rain storm came late that Sunday night / early Monday morning, the rush job to button up the house was put to the test. At 3a.m. we heard, “Daddy, it’s raining in our room!” come from the kids’ room down the hall. Their center light fixture had basically become a shower head the entire room was soaked–beds, linens, the carpet down to the hardwood underneath. We frantically cleared out a huge plastic storage container to start catching the constant stream of water coming through the ceiling and started putting up plastic sheeting to protect the furniture. Around 6, the contractor came over to put up more plastic on the roof, but by the time he and his colleague were finished, the rain was about over.
In the end, the carpet was ruined and had to be pulled out. The room needs new drywall, new flooring (we weren’t planning on replacing the flooring in that room), new paing and a new light–so basically it is totally trashed.
I sure wish they had worked during those three weeks they took off. I imagine there would be a lot less damage to our kids’ room–if any at all.
“Mom, do you think the ceiling is going to fall in on my while I sleep?” –our 10-year-old
So, like I said the ceiling is ruined in my kids’ room. In most rooms, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except our house has beautiful plaster walls with coved ceilings that I insist must be replicated. Moreover, my kids are currently sleeping in this bedroom with crazy huge cracks and splits in the walls that are getting worse by the day. My 10-year-old is in the top bunk of our bunkbeds, which means he gets to closely stare at the cracks every night before he goes to sleep.
“I really don’t think anyone should be cooking their lunch on a stove in my bedroom.” –me
Early on in the project, my carbon monoxide detectors were going off once or twice a week during lunch time. I work from home, so as you can imagine, a jarring alarm in the middle of the work day isn’t conducive when you are a writer “in the zone.” Each time it would happen, I would rush back to the construction area and ask if they knew what was going on. They would say they have no idea why it was going off. A few alarms in, I pressed a little harder and a worker told me that it was the “smell of his food.”
Sure. I’m a total dumb shit and believe that the SMELL of food can set off a carbon monoxide detector. I walked away disgusted. But, hey, am I going to stand there and argue with the guy who is building my house?
Finally, I got sick of the alarms and after the workers left, I decided to go through all of the personal items they were storing in my walk-in master bedroom closet. I found a portable stove and numerous cans of butane. Yes. They had been cooking… in a construction site (and my master bedroom) with an open flame. Because, you know, that’s totally safe IN A CONSTRUCTION ZONE.
When I brought it up to the contractor that I didn’t think that was safe, he looked at me like I was nuts. Yes, I’m the crazy one for not wanting people cooking with an open flame that causes carbon monoxide in my home.
“Mom, do you guys need to borrow some money?” –our 8-year-old, Brandon
I thought we weren’t going to be like other people; I seriously thought I had considered everything before our construction started. Hah!!! I was wrong. Stuff came up–like the new windows or extra stucco my contractor didn’t realize was part of “code” in our town or the fact that certain things (like a decent banister for the stairs) wasn’t included with the contract.
In the past, we are blessed to have never been a family who worries too much about money, but this remodel has put a crimp on our finances that we haven’t experienced since the early days of our marriage when we were young professionals just starting off. Unfortunately, the conversations about money have happened in front of the kids and my sweet middle son has offered us money from his wallet on more than one occasion to help pay for the remodel. (For the record, we have not taken his money.)
“A window frame shouldn’t rest on a door frame.” –me
The most surprising part of our remodel has been the lack of supervision from our contractor. (We recently had another meeting about this and he has said it will improve.) There have been times in which it has been more than three weeks since we have seen our foreman or contractor. We have often been left to inspect work and answer questions ourselves–especially because I work from home.
During the early stages of framing, the contractor never seemed to notice (because he doesn’t spend a lot of time on our property) that a window in one of the bathrooms was framed in right against a door frame. Right. Up. Against. It. Isn’t it the contractor’s job to catch shit like that? By the time we brought it up, it had been there a week or two without anyone noticing. They acted shocked–shocked it happened and shocked we didn’t love the look. WTF?!
“The porta-potty is trapped!” –me
The porta-potty has been an “issue” since first day of construction. When it was dropped off on the first day, they wanted it up against my neighbor’s house–like up against the stucco of his house right outside his bedroom windown–so that it wouldn’t kill my grass. I thought that was nuts and made them put it on my lawn because it was my problem to deal with and not my neighbor’s.
As the days went by, the workers discovered that we our master bathroom was no longer being used by us. Instead of demo-ing the whole bathroom, they decided to keep it in tact as long as possible so that they could use it. In other words, we paid a weekly fee for the porta-potty and for their flushes. We brought it up several times and it was brushed off. Sure we could have been more forceful on the issue, but then we would look like jerks who don’t want to provide our workers with a regular toilet out of spite.
Eventually, the porta-potty was moved to the backyard and the toilet had to be removed. And then they put the scaffolding up…with the porta-potty trapped behind it. Yes, that means the porta-potty couldn’t be dumped. We asked for FOUR WEEKS for them to move the porta-potty. Every time, we asked to have it moved, we were assured it would happened “immediately”… and it didn’t. On the fifth week, we continued throwing fit and it was finally moved. I don’t think I have to tell you what it smelled like after five weeks of use in 100 degree heat.
“Has anyone seen our kitchen cabinet?” –my husband
As part of the great beam debacle, our kitchen cabinet is still not up on our wall. The wall hasn’t even been entirely fixed. The cabinet was living in our master bedroom closet for a time and is now residing on the floor of our kitchen–which is great, because there isn’t already a ton of other displaced shit all over my kitchen.
“This isn’t supposed to be here.” –my husband and me
Not to be confused with the window/door phrase above, this phrase has been uttered typically because there has been a lapse in communication or lack of oversight in our project–like the crawl space for under our foundation going where the stairs will go to our sliding glass window… or the wall we didn’t want under our stairs… or the insanely huge windows in our master bedroom we never agreed to but were framed in anyway… or, of course, the window up against the doorway. My contractor says they are “happy accidents” that provide us opportunities.” Nope. I call it spending $200K and not getting my washer and dryer where my husband won’t bump his head when he stands up from putting laundry in the machines.
“Go practice writing on the walls.” –me
Typically, I don’t let the kids do things that could be confused with undesirable behaviors under other circumstances, but given the fact that our life is so topsy turny and space for creativity is minimal, I have encouranged the kids to draw and practice writing on the plywood wall that separates our “living space” (did you see how I put that in quotation marks?) and the construction. And they love it–especially my youngest who is learning to write in kindergarten. It started out pretty tame, but now… 21 weeks into construction… it looks like the walls in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” (See the photo at the end of this post.)
So… there you have it. Those are the 11 things we have said SO FAR in our remodel that I just never imagined coming out of our mouths. If you are about to start a remodel, read this as a cautionary tale of what may come. If you are in the midst of a remodel, read this and know you are not alone. If you are done with your remodel and laughing at this as you think of your own experiences, leave me a comment of encouragement, because I could really use it right now.