Chap 6: The "School of Hard Knocks"

The laundry area portion of the eat-in kitchen before demolition started

Early on in the process of restoring and renovating Rosehaven Cottage, we realized that we needed to break everything down into phases in order for it to be more manageable. The fact that Hubby is an Information Technology project manager (and I'm a former project coordinator) probably helped bring that fact to the forefront early on in the process. We could both see that in order to manage such a massive undertaking, it was necessary to break go through this process to create manageable chunks as well as work on some things simultaneously.

This got really tricky.

Sometimes it was obvious that we could work on two things at the same time because we were utilizing the same equipment. And sometimes it wasn't so obvious.

We had determined that "Pre-Phase 1" consisted of everything necessary to get the house in a state where we could physically move in and not sleep at my sister's house. We went down the list of things we absolutely had to have to make that happen:
  1. a bed
  2. a toilet
  3. a shower

We had a toilet upstairs so the installation of the downstairs toilet wasn't technically necessary to move in. We also determined that the kitchen sink was not a must-have.

So logically, one would assume that the priority would be to focus all our energies on the downstairs bathroom. Yes, well “logic” doesn’t always apply when you’ve got two new homeowners on your hands.

During the escrow period of buying our home, we were so enthusiastic about thinking up all the new things we would do with the house once we had the keys in hand that we went out and purchased a new refrigerator, dishwasher, and stacking washer/dryer. They were on sale, so we couldn't pass up that! The problem was that, like the delivery of all our belongings from our apartment, we scheduled delivery of the appliances under the original delusion that everything would be done in 2-4 weeks. And because we couldn't delay the delivery much without running the risk of losing the appliances altogether, there were items on the "to do" list that got bumped up in priority over just simply finishing the bathroom.

Here's how the chain of identifying dependencies ended up happening in this case:
  1. Appliances being delivered on August __, 2000
  2. Appliances are hard to move once the delivery guys have set them down, SO…
  3. Appliances need to have a finished kitchen floor to be set upon by delivery guys so we don’t have to move them around later, SO…
  4. Old kitchen floor needs to be torn up
  5. Also, the old laundry area wall plumbing and wall repair needs to be finalized for washer/dryer as well as having the flooring finalized
  6. So, technically, the new kitchen floor can be put down even though kitchen cabinets aren't done
  7. This will be a piece of cake!
“Logic” gets very skewed when you work through a project plan like this. Add to that my own need to personally be doing something productive at all times while the contractors and Josh were working, and “logic” really goes out the window. What I really should have been doing was just “supervising”. I’ve learned from experience that when someone isn’t the designated overseer or foreman on the job things happen that shouldn’t. Holes end up in walls that probably didn’t need to be there. Things get torn out when you could have saved time and money by keeping them where they were. And your husband shows up at the end of his workday wondering what the heck happened and why.

Yeah, “logic” gets really skewed.

And I’m surprised that Josh put up with it all. His work would jump from one room to another depending on what seemed really critical at the time. He started ripping up the old linoleum in the kitchen when I got frustrated at not being able to tackle the ancient glue on my own (I hadn’t built up biceps yet).

Feeble attempts at removing the linoleum and underlayment until Josh devised the "human crowbar method"

As he often did, Josh devised a completely unique way of prying up the linoleum and underlayment to expose the subfloor underneath. He would get an edge up with the blade tool we had. Then he’d lay down on the floor on one elbow and shove one boot under the edge that he’d pulled up. Using his arm strength, he’d slowly shove his body under the edge until he could fit both boots under. With both boots under, he’d continue to push with his arms until he had shoved himself under the edge up to his hips. With half his body under the linoleum and underlayment, he’d twist around so he was in a position to do a push-up. Then with brute force from his arms, he would push his body up and literally use himself as a crowbar under the material that was being removed. It was quite amusing to watch the “human crowbar” in action. To this day, I wish I had a video of it.

With the subfloor exposed we could move forward with sheet rocking the laundry area wall where the plumbing contractor had cut out large sections to install new supply lines and a beefier waste line.

Above left: The new laundry area plumbing with updated supply lines and waste
Above right: The new sheet rock over the updated plumbing

Also with nthe linoleum and nasty underlayment up and out, we discovered that there were sections of the subfloor that needed to be replaced before any new floor could be put down. As often happened through our renovation process, when we tore something old out we uncovered another “to do” that hadn’t been on the list before. And after a long conference under the kitchen sink, we determined that the cabinets were completely unsalvageable and had to go--so that was another “to do” on the list that was growing by the day (along with our budget).

Josh and me having a conference under the kitchen sink regarding the state of the cabinets
(thanks Hubby for this "lovely" photo)

The hope of having a new floor for the appliances to be delivered onto was diminishing rapidly. We decided that if the appliances got delivered onto a solid subfloor, we’d be happy.

I was learning an important life lesson again…

Because I didn’t just sit down, supervise, and stare at the kitchen cabinets long enough to realize there was no way they were in any condition to be salvaged, I ended up slathering layers of non-toxic-paint-stripper-monkey-snot (and irritating my brother in the process) on cabinets that eventually had to be torn out altogether. And I would have seen that the original cabinet configuration wasn’t going to work at all with modern appliances anyway.

I learned that it is important to sit down and simply ponder before moving forward with decisions both big and small. Now, when I’m changing a space either inside the house or out in the garden it is critical that I take time at various stages throughout the change process to sit down at a vantage point where I can take it all in, ponder, and let inspiration come.

I know that now, thanks to the “school of hard knocks”.

To be continued…
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  1. You must be really proud of your brother! Seems like hes quite a guy! Can't wait for you next installment about your rosehaven cottage!

    : )

  2. Wow! What else could possibly happen??

  3. Hey, I've been to that school!

    Did you keep a journal during this time or do you just have an incredible memory? I have never been able to remember details.

  4. Willow--Oh you have know idea how much more can happen! Just you wait!

    Robin--About 3-4 months into this whole adventure I started and old scrapbook/photo album with black construction paper pages where I wrote funny captions for the photos. I'm using that (and the photos) to write all of this. It's been really good for jogging my memory (and I also have a good memory too).

  5. LOL love the description of the human crow bar. Yes it's amazing how one job uncovers another and still manages to become bigger itself.

  6. I've graduated a looooooooooooong time ago from that school. ;-)

    I know what you mean about that to do list getting longer and longer. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt!

  7. I love to sit back and think before undertaking a prject but sometimes I think so much that the project never gets done. So that's bad too.

  8. I love the human crowbar Josh... I would have expected nothing less. What a funny guy!
    Love you

  9. I keep glancing at your transformations and smiling at all that can go wrong and the treasures one find when doing a remodel. I am glad you had funny help to keep humor high on the list....or tears would continue to flow!
    Your own transformation has also been amazing! I am also impressed with what you have accomplished Cindy. You are beautiful both inside and out! I will ck back for more beauty in the happening!


  10. Wow, your brother sounds amazing! Love the shot of the two of you peering under the kitchen

    Ah yes, how does that saying go? "The hurryier I go, the behinder I get."

    That's quite the project you guys took on.

  11. Cindy - love the pics [esp the sink examination]. You have a great gift for telling a story.
    Have been thinking about the "looking at the job for a while, then planning" principle. I don't do that very well either. Is it a first child thing, do you think? Anyway, thanks for the idea!
    I am really loving your narrative!!
    Love ya, Auntie

  12. Enjoying the history, Cindy!! You have done amazing work :)

  13. I felt right at home reading this post and viewing those pictures! My husband and I have remodeled a few homes. The one with the biggest challanges was a 1940's old farmhouse....

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.


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