The remodel went well. Mostly. Here are some stories.
Let’s start from the bottom. There wasn’t a stitch of carpet that we wanted to keep. It was all this pale cream color that was stained in some rooms and tracked up in others. It wasn’t in really bad shape. But it wasn’t what we wanted. And a lot of the rooms had it. That meant that we had to pick out flooring for 1, 2, 3, 4 bedrooms, the entryway and hall, both bathrooms, the living room and the dining room. We only kept the wood flooring in the kitchen and the tile in the laundry room. Fortunately, we knew the tile that we wanted. It was the same tile that we had at our other house. And we knew the areas that we wanted it in. We also knew what we wanted in the dining room. We wanted to extend the flooring from the kitchen. Very fortunately, they had just discontinued, therefore discounted, that particular wood flooring style. (But everyone still had plenty on hand.) The working bedrooms were getting a sturdy vinyl flooring. It wasn’t that hard to find something that we both liked. Of the six hundred we looked at, there was one we agreed on. Thea opted to have the same flooring put into the master bath. That just left carpet for the living room, guest bedroom, and master bedroom. We decided to have the same carpet in all three areas. I think by that point, I got my way through attrition.
We got bids from two different companies and chose the one that seemed to be trying harder, Metro Flooring. Boy, did they work with us to try harder. First, they locked in their bid so the price was fixed. Then during the demo, they found an extra layer of quarry tile in the entry under the gloss white ceramic tile there. Then the tile in the master bath didn’t come up so much as it turned to powder. So the whole house caked with dust. Then during the install, the tile adhesive and grout seemed to track everywhere. The installers must have cleaned the tiles six times to remove 90% of the residue. (we’ll go through and get the last 10%) Then they cleaned up the dust that was created. Then cleaning up the dust, they marred some of the wood planks and so they replaced them. And through it all, they kept asking if everything was perfect and if it wasn’t, to have them back out to make it perfect. The price was just below five figures. I’m not sure that they made any money.
I knew the appliances, a double oven and gas range, that I wanted would require rebuilding some of the cabinetry. I lined up a contractor to do the kitchen remodel before I actually purchased them from Lowes. I chose Lowes because our airline miles on our joint charge card also translated to Lowes Gift Cards. When I ordered them, Lowes said that it would be three weeks. The double oven wasn’t the problem. The gas range was a special build. I would have expected the other way around. After not hearing anything for three weeks, I checked with them. They changed their tune. No, it would take three weeks to order them and two weeks to deliver them. Two more weeks went by and they changed their tune again. It was two weeks to deliver them to the store and then up to a week to get them delivered to the house. Anyway, the appliances took five and a half weeks. Fortunately, we didn’t have any deadline. But I can imagine how upset a person moving out of an apartment would get by such treatment.
The contractor I lined up, Anthony Quinn Spencer, did the remodel for about half the price of the other two that I interviewed. He maintains an excellent rating from the Home Advisor website. The reason, he explained, he could do it so cheap and the way he kept such good reviews was that he didn’t have to do any job that he didn’t want to. So he only took jobs that he felt like he could do excellent work on. Now excellent may be a bit of a stretch. I’d say more like quality work. As in you get what you pay for with him. I let him know where I was flexible and he cut the appropriate corner for me. Although I was advised not to put laminate over laminate, it could be done far cheaper than getting new counters. The result is decent enough. But it could never pass for excellent. The cabinetry that he modified and installed matched the rest of the kitchen well enough. The rest of the kitchen has almost forty years of wear. Excellent would have stood out like a sore thumb. But it was much better than I could have hoped for doing it myself.
Flooring and kitchen remodel done. Now we’re cooking with gas. Only we weren’t going to be until I got a gas line run to power the gas range. That was another jolt. Running gas lines is expensive. The first company I asked for a quote we’d been working with them for years. They came out and gave me a four figure quote. The gas furnace was only fifteen feet away from where I wanted the range. How could it possibly be that expensive? The second company said the same thing about it. They didn’t think it should be that much. Then they went up in the attic and looked around. They came back down, ran the numbers, added the labor, and they gave me a four figure quote. The third company, Brandon’s Plumbing, went into the attic. They kicked around the insulation trying to figure out why the other two companies were putting such a high price on running the line. Essentially, what they found was that the other two didn’t kick around the insulation. If they had, they would have seen that the gas feed for the furnace went right over the location that I wanted the range. That cut the distance and therefore the price in half.
There was also a minor miscue with the master bath. I had spent weeks with the hall bath ripping out wallpaper then texturing and painting. I had removed and swapped a couple of doors. And I felt pretty good about the job that I’d done. And I was feeling pretty good about how handy I was. So when Thea asked me to remove the shower door in the master bath because it was too narrow, I thought, “No problem.” (It was a sliding door on a thirty-six inch opening that had four inches of overlap. That meant that the opening was sixteen inches.) I removed a couple of screws from the aluminum rails and got a putty knife to break the caulk seem. Then the sill kinda crumbled on both corners at the floor. It was real rotten in Denmark under that tiling. I called a friend who had a friend who did side jobs like this. He tore out the rotten wood and replaced it, re-tiled and grouted for just one-fifty plus materials.
Through all this, we were also replacing lights. The entryway had a cut-crystal lantern on a chain. The dining room had a cut-crystal half-dome. There were two ‘dead spiders’ that must have been original to the house as well. The plastic stems holding up the chandelier bulb bases on these things were crumbling to dust. The fluorescent lighting in the kitchen was unreliable. The bedrooms and living room had ceiling fans with the lighting kits made up of four arms and bare bulbs in bubbled bell-jars. You know the type. And the hall lights were straight out of the thirties; single bulb in an inverted candle lamp base with frosted glass and rose decals. So now in the hall and entry we have flush mount alabaster half-domes with two and three bulbs. The ceiling fans now have alabaster half-dome lighting kits. The breakfast nook has a three light frosted and etched pendant drum light to replace its spider. The dining room has a four light suspended bar with curved frosted panels. And although the LED light bulb selection at Lowes is abysmal, Home Depot has some Phillips LED lighting tubes that replace fluorescent bulbs without modifications. They’re not very expensive either. Oh, but there is one thing ou need to know about my wife and I. We are light snobs. All of our lights have to be 4000K or higher. We hate ‘soft’ light.
In my next installment, I’ll talk about moving.