Sunday, December 22, 2013

Renovations Before Christmas

Larry left to come to RI on Friday, but before he left more improvements were completed.

Roof rafters had to be replaced. The roofers installed 2x6's instead of 2x10's. Really? Anyway, the team of four guys replaced them quickly, and soon sheathing covered the rafters on both the main house and the back bedrooms. At least when it rains now, the interior will remain mostly dry.

New sunroom.
New sunroom water barrier.
The inspector approved all forms for two new concrete pads that will be floors for our laundry room and sunroom. The forms had to have fill and sand shovelled in to level them as a more drainable base for the hard, clay soil full of rocks that is the land that surrounds our house. Larry also built a form to extend our broken boat ramp that he cleaned up to prepare for the new concrete pad.

New boat ramp.
New laundry room and entry.
One of two huge concrete trucks arrived on Wednesday, and those southern "boys" had fun directing the pours, levelling the material and finishing it all off with broom sweeps for traction. Accelerator was added to the concrete to speed drying and curing time. A vapor barrier was installed under the sunroom pad with a footing of sorts on the entry side.

Only the entry pad took longer to cure than the rest. No accelerator was added to it. Larry shared a beer and a tequila shot with the last guy on site before he left for the Christmas break. This guy was waiting to broom finish the pads, and Larry had to get back to his brother's house to pack for his plane ride the next morning.

But, before leaving, Larry caught one our favorite visitors on the lake looking for food.

Work continues while we're away. I look forward to seeing all the changes in person when we return Sunday night after Christmas. On pre-New-Year's-Eve, we'll take a ride over, and I can meet the workers and inspect progress myself. The project remains very exciting.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Renovations

Lowest Lake Level
Not much has been happening at the lake house. Rainy weather and the Thanksgiving holiday slowed progress way down.  The up side is that Larry ordered all our appliances and kitchen cabinets, and most of it has been delivered. We're just waiting for the new washing machine.

The lake is at its lowest level this round. Larry can now walk out there in his tall boots and remove debris that has collected around the dock. He can also check our sprinkler system pipe and footing to make sure all is still well, or repair it if needed before the water comes back up in January. The lake level is at 350 feet now; "full pond" is 360. SCE&G (South Carolina Electric & Gas) keeps it at 358 feet generally.

The masons finally completed bringing all the house walls to equal height. New bricks were added and cinder blocks where required.

Larry has been alone in his "man cave" much of the time, but finding chores to keep busy. The latest, besides cutting down pesky Mimosa trees (they are SO invasive!), he evened off the concrete boat ramp.

The next chore will be to install forms to get ready for a new pour next week. Before evening out the top of our ramp, he found he had created a lovely map of the state of Virginia. He cracks me up.

 The plumber is there today. He and an assistant dug out the septic pipe with a big machine. Larry dug the same pipe out several years ago by hand to fix a toilet overflow problem we suffered with for years. He discovered that the pipe went up hill. Really? No wonder we had problems. Geez.

Drain pipes are being installed for the new washer and kitchen sink. The pipes will once again sit under the new laundry room concrete floor. A dry well will be dug next to the septic tank to take gray water from the washer, kitchen sink and new dish washer.

Roofing materials were also delivered today! Bill, our General Contractor, says work will begin on the main house roof immediately. Here we go!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Latest and Greatest

No more interior ramp!
Brick wall addition
This is the final week Larry will be at the lake until Saturday. His bother takes the grandboys deer hunting and Larry has asked that he wake him up before sunrise so he can get on the road extra early. He'll stay in RI with me and the pups until the Monday after "turkey day", then head back south for a couple weeks. Then he'll come back north for Christmas. We'll both drive down with the dogs after Christmas and stay with his brother for a couple of weeks.

Interior kitchen roof
Larry trusts the workers he has gotten to know and like to do a good job while he's gone. Plus, he's hanging one extra security camera on the temporary electric pole so we can watch the roof get built on the main house. Today the masons are finishing up brick walls in the living room, and starting to reroof the pump house.

New Water System
Our new water system has been installed, but will not be activated until we are ready for water. They cleaned out the house and sealed the cinder block walls, so that it looks clean and white in there now. Our new water system is self-flushing which will cut down on the need to purchases filters. And, we have been assured it will also remove the iron and magnesium, so prevalent in the water now, as to allow us to actually do laundry at the lake when we are done.

Pump House
Larry purchased the natural hickory kitchen cabinets from Lowe's after designing the kitchen layout. Buying from Lowe's saved us about $3,000. He's also purchased the majority of our appliances and sinks from both Lowe's and Home Depot; taking advantage of early "Black Friday" deals, saving us many hundreds of dollars, and percentage discounts for using our HD credit card. The only appliance to actually get delivered to the lake house after he returns will be the refrigerator. It is the largest and heaviest item, so the closer it is, the better. The rest are being delivered to his brother's house and the "brothers" will get them to the lake when it's time.

Proposed Laundry Room
My talented husband also designed my new laundry room and we talked this morning about refinements for it like cabinetry for pantry space, and counter tops for folding clothes. We'll use propane for the dryer, stove and water heater to save on electricity. Our electric coop has very expensive rates. And, we decided to get a large propane tank to be located near the "shed" (garage) parallel to the fence separating our property from the neighbor's. We don't have any neighbors right now, but someday we will.
Kitchen Lighting Plan

Larry also sent me the lighting design for our new kitchen. It is the darkest room in the house, and lots of lighting is very desirable. We've been talking about exterior lighting, spotlights to keep an eye on the pups at night, and where switches should be located. There are so many small decisions to be made and planning for use of space required when doing any build or renovation.

My husband has done an excellent job planning, researching, and doing all the work of this project. All I've had to do is "sign off". I am happy about this. He is having fun kibitzing with the workers and making jokes at my expense like, "keeping the little woman happy". I could care less. They now know I spy on them on the cameras, and they think this is hilarious. The cameras and Skype keep me connected with the project and my husband, and that also makes me happy.

SCE&G (the utility company that owns Lake Murray) has been dropping the lake level over November. It will continue to drop until December and be left that way for a month. This periodic level drop helps to naturally curb invasive weed growth and in general aides the health of the lake. From this shot, the level should drop about another three to four feet! We will extend this concrete boat ramp up into the yard once the concrete trucks arrive for ease of backing the pontoon into the water.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Latest Demo News

Demolition of a house is quite the expansive process. As of today, the rest of the roof of the main house was removed.

It was discovered that bricks must be removed in the living room to create a hole for the new sliding glass door out to the new sunroom that brings the wall "to code". Apparently, the demolition guys went crazy with brick removal!

Before cleanout.
Replacement bricks, mortar and machines to mix it have all been delivered. Masonry work proceeded today and seems to be going well.

The pump house is all cleaned out and repainted inside to clean it up. Our new water system is being installed on Friday. After the installation, the roof will be rebuilt on the building. Larry had to wrap the pump in a tarp to try to protect it from twenty-degree weather coming tonight. He is the only one thinking about exposed pipes that could actually freeze.

It is very cold in SC right now. Larry had to buy fleece clothing and long underwear for his days sitting next to the heater in his "man cave" designing our new kitchen. He continues to send links to Home Depot and Lowe's Department stores for appliances for me to peruse and approve. In the most recent iteration of his kitchen design (yet to be viewed), the dishwasher is on the left side of the sink. Plumbing pipes need to be moved and consolidated in order to be efficiently run down the wall to be able to use the existing drain. I don't fully understand all this, but then, I'm not there to see it either.

Tonight he'll send me the laundry room design too. I can't wait to see his latest and greatest.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Demo Continues

Letting go of control over how a house renovation happens is hard. But Larry is doing a great job of keeping me "in the loop" by texting and emailing pictures of the entire process. There is no internet at the house anymore, so watching the goings on over the security cameras is not possible any longer. Not only does he keep me abreast of the demolition, he also sends updates on our plants and the critters that we have grown so fond of.

A lizard still crawls on the floor amidst the debris and chaos, while a new (to us), very large, red spider visits our dock. It feels like our wild friends are keeping track of the progress with hopes of continuing to invade our space when we're done. "Sorry, kids, that won't happy anymore. You must stay outside from now on," I tell them telepathically. I'm sure our family and friends who come to visit will be happy about this change too.

The roof is off all the bedrooms and the living room now. Steel trusses had to be to be cut off with a torch and slowly lowered to the ground crew for removal outside. The demolition team discovered, however, that once windows and now the roof were removed from our brick living room, those walls are not very stable anymore. Framing has to be built back in to the window holes for added support, and wood braces were added while the trusses were being removed. Mortar is old and cracked, so our mason is repairing it, and adding concrete to the holes in bricks for added structural support. The place is a mere shell of its former self. Larry feels a little sad by the change, but I remind him that we are breathing new life into the house. It is more of a rebirth than a death.
Now the dumpster is full, so demolition cannot continue until it is replaced with an empty one. So, today they are trenching for new plumbing pipes and maybe power lines between the pump house and the main house. We belong to an electric co-op, and MCEC (Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative) will have to come move the main house power off the outside wall to the temporary pole that was installed recently. We also decided this morning that we will have another trench dug, which our builder tells us MCEC may pay for between the transformer and the house, to move electric power under ground.

We decided in the last few days to remove our utility closet in the kitchen. The main circuit-breaker box in that closet will move into the new laundry room because the house has to be rewired anyway. Our builder discovered the wiring powering the house and hidden above the kitchen ceiling was old and spliced. This new knowledge sent shivers down our spines for the potential fire hazard they posed unbeknownst to us. Thank you, God, for protecting us all this time. With the utility closet gone, we gain a little more useable space in the kitchen, and it becomes more aesthetically pleasing.

Larry has done lots of research into our bathroom renovation purchases with pricing and web links for me to look at. I am taking a trip to Lowe's to look at a vinyl shower stall with glass door, granite counter tops with sinks, and vanities in person today. He also got two plumbing company quotes for our new bathroom purchases to compare with Lowe's pricing. We assume our builder will be able to get additional discounts to save us more money as well.

I have to admit that my husband knows my taste pretty well, and I like what he has chosen for me to weigh in on so far. And, I admit that I have no problem letting go of control over this process. Because I trust what he has chosen so far, I feel included and good about the proposed final look and feel of our renovated lakehouse so far.

One decision he convinced me of this morning, also, was to not frame over a window from our current living room into the new sunroom, making it a solid wall. Instead, we will add a frosted glass panel. This panel will allow in light, but add a little privacy to the new room. I was concerned that if we decided to put a television in front of it as the only usable wall in that room, the shadow would be unattractive. I can always just hang sheers over it like we used to and will do in the rest of the room. We'll see once it is done. I'll be redecorating the place, and it just won't be the same. This kind of change is a really good thing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More Demolition

Demo continues at the lakehouse with Larry supervising the efforts. Our GC, Bill, has a wonderful family crew doing all the excavating, jackhammering and stripping; inside and out. Dennis, his wife, son, brother and father are handling all the work with expert care, and "Mr. Larry" is on hand in his self-made "man cave" to answer whatever questions arise.

All the bedrooms have now been stripped of walls down to the framing, and the ceilings reveal trusses for support: a surprising find given these are flat roofs. Another snake skin was found in the ceiling above our bedroom. Argh! The living room and kitchen have also been stripped and all the windows and interior doors removed. The house doesn't even look like itself anymore. One thing Larry and I realized, is how big the living room window holes are! If only we could afford a large pane of glass for those holes. What a gorgeous, unobstructed view we would have. But, we can't afford that, so double units of single-hung windows will go in instead. So be it. The view will still be magnificent.

We decided to move some walls around. Dennis asked the question, and echoed what I had begun to think about but did not yet voice. Larry drew up a design, and our final decision is to make the master bedroom a little bigger and the back guest bedroom a little smaller. The smallest guest bedroom door will be moved to make the room more efficient for use of space. There will be more flexibility for where to place the double bed, and the room will not feel so crowded.

Yesterday, Dennis's father, jack-hammered the boat ramp out of the living room and will be the mason replacing it with a level broken-tile mosaic floor. Hopefully, we chose a color tile that will closely match the existing tile.

Today, Dennis will demo the master bathroom and begin ripping the roof off the living room. Progress is being made very quickly, and we expect building the new roof could maybe start next week. With things moving this quickly, we hope the entire project will be completed by January! Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Tiles to match existing floor.
We cannot believe how quickly the renovations are moving now. Demolition, for today, is complete. So complete in fact, that the crew has quit for the day and Larry has them on our pontoon boat fishing. "Oh, he has one," Larry tells me when I call him. "Never mind. He lost it," he then says. I called him after he texted me pictures of the latest lakehouse changes, and asked for my opinion on a tile color.

The crew showed up again this morning and moved our painted cupboard and hat rack out to the shed (garage). Then, they moved the loveseat, kitchen table and chairs.

Last night Larry took all the living room curtains down except from the window behind the television, in case he gets to watch TV in the afternoon. The bright light from that window washes out the picture.

Now all Larry has is a sofa, hassock, table with a lamp; our bed, nightstands and bureau. He didn't mention if my father's bureau has been moved, so I am assuming it still sits in our bedroom. This bureau is the last piece of my parents' bedroom furniture that I kept because it was the perfect size for our small lakehouse bedroom. I gave the rest of the set to my great niece, Hannah. Larry's plan is to stay at the house until Friday. Then the remaining furniture will be moved out as well. After the remaining furniture is gone, Larry will begin sleeping at his brother's house in Chapin, and commute to the house each day.
Back Bedroom

Unexpected Guest
The pumphouse roof has been removed. The concrete pad outside under the kitchen window is now gone as well. The workers left that part of the pad in front of the door. The two guest bedrooms have been stripped to the rafters and framing. We learned there are trusses in the ceiling, and they found a snakeskin lurking up there. "Why was that up there do you think," I asked my husband. "To eat the mice he said." "Of course," I add. Duh.

To hold our hanging clothes, Larry decided to make a rack on wheels in the shed. He proudly announced it only cost $35 to build. "We couldn't buy one for that price," he adds. I have to agree. It's a beautiful piece. He is a very talented man, and I am grateful for all his talents that save us and our children money. He can fix or make anything. And, he has a Ph.D. in Physics! Braun and brain. I am one blessed woman!

Lastly, he texted me a picture of "Libby's Rose". This is a rose bush that his late sister, Libby, saved a cutting of from a friend, rooted, and I planted with her and her husband, Ed. It only bloomed a single rose once a few months before she died. She never got to see it in person, so when it bloomed, I brought a picture on my phone to her in the hospital. It's real name is a "Confederate Rose". I renamed it for her. We noticed on coming to the lake this trip that there were three buds on the plant. It has finally settled into it's rooted home and grown quite a bit in the past couple of years. It's taken two years to get here, and I hoped it would bloom before I left. Two of the buds bloomed this morning. In the morning, the blossoms are white, and in the afternoon they are pink. It is one of the loveliest plants I have ever seen, and seeing these blooms makes me so happy. I have to believe Libby is smiling down on us now, both because of this rose, but also because we are proceeding with our lakehouse renovations. We just wish she could be here to enjoy it all with us. I sure could use her advice now and again.

While he is out on the boat with the work crew fishing, I peruse the security cameras and tell him, "A big machine just showed up in the yard. They're taking the dumpster away." He tells the crew the dumpster is gone, and a much larger one will be delivered. Sitepack should be coming today or tomorrow before the rains come to level the driveway.

Larry told me that he and Bill, our GC, decided to take out cinder block walls on the gable ends of the kitchen (which was the original cottage). They decided it would be easier building a new roof after completely ripping off the old one if all the walls of the entire house were the same height. "That sounds logical," I add. Once the house is completely empty, more panelling will be removed and ceiling. No mold was found in the back bedrooms to our surprise, and not much mouse/spider poop, which we expected. There were lots of multi-legged little critters crawling around in there though. "Oh goody," I say.

P.S. We have found four, count them four, very deep and large hornet nests in the ground around the property. Poison hasn't hurt them at all. So, the one that they found directly in front of the pumphouse door, that Larry has been walking over repeatedly without incident (incredible!), was dowsed with gasoline and set ablaze. That's the end of the hornets!