Friday, August 22, 2014

C'est Fini...Presque.

We arrived back at the lake house late on August 9th after visiting our friend, Nancy in Annapolis. Larry and I also had a lovely dinner with old friends and colleagues of his nearby, and took Nancy out for her birthday on the 8th for a wonderful Cuban dinner, complete with a luscious rum tasting.

Upon arrival at the house, and after bringing in all our stuff from the truck, Larry heard a drip, drip sound. He looked all around and deduced it was coming from our chimney. He pulled the screen back and found at least three inches of water in the hearth and water spilling in. He lifted the flue and water poured down. It had been raining all day, and we've experienced heavy rains since the house was finished, but water has never come in. I texted our general contractor about the leak and he came to look at it on Monday. Larry had gone up on the roof and taken pictures of the cap.

The contractors who raised the chimney and capped it did so with concrete. Using concrete to cap chimneys and stoops made of brick is common here in SC. Our cap was cracked in several places and had pulled away from the brick. We all deduced that cumulative deterioration over the short months of its existence cause the cap cracking to result in the leakage. So, our GC is finally having a stainless steel cap made to fit and he should be installing it any day now. He should have done it over a month ago as promised. Ah, well. It will be painted black so it will blend in with the roof. No damage was caused by the leaking.

Next, a good friend who recently stayed in our house called to let me know there was mold in our bedroom closet. I immediately checked it out, and found the closet baseboard covered in mold. This find was more concerning to us. Our GC contacted a mold guy who came by with some very interesting equipment that detects water flow behind walls. He determined there was no leak, after Larry took pictures of the leaf accumulation in roof valleys and cleaned it off. He deduced that wood to frame the closet was wet when installed. Closing it in with drywall never allowed the wood to dry out property, causing the mold. The GC cut up the drywall a foot from the floor and removed all the baseboard. The mold guy said to dry it out for a week with a fan then close it back in. We had a little portable heater that we run during the day to dry it out, and next week, the GC will come replace and repair the drywall, paint it, and install new baseboard. No cost to us. Phew. I feel so relieve that it was an easy fix.

Since we arrived, mostly, Larry and I have been working on the landscaping. We called a local landscape company for a quote, but he never got back to us with one. So, I called Super Sod out of Orangeburg, SC and ordered three pallets of Centipede sod to be delivered at a cost less than we saw on the local landscaper's web site. Larry laid it all in two days. I raked the areas to be covered and put extra sandy soil we had left from the build over the rockiest places. When it was all down, I took bags of top soil we had in the shed and covered as much of the edges as I had soil to keep the roots covered. Then I spread Centipede seed over the patches and areas needing extra help. Now, we just keep it watered, and wait for its first mowing. The yard looks so beautiful. I can't even get over how lovely it is. We feel so blessed.

We have been pruning shrubs and trees as well. Because we cut down nine trees a few months ago, the extra light and all the rain we've had has caused the invasive Mimosa trees and Wisteria to run rampant. We could not believe how big and voluminous they were, especially the Mimosa trees. I love Mimosa. I think they are beautiful. But the words of Fred, the former owner of this property keep coming back to us. He talked about the war he had with the Mimosas. We didn't realize what he meant. Now we do. We also found poison that works well to kill them at the root. Their roots go deep and far, just like the Wisteria. We cut down the plants and paint the stumps with poison. It is a lot of work, but we achieve the desired results.

The grass makes the area around two sides of the house look finished and beautiful. We still have lots of landscaping work to do, but for now the place feels finished. Home ownership is a process. That's for sure. We work hard, but each completed section provides us with such satisfaction.

Yesterday, while Larry was outside under the pontoon replacing red wiring so we can once again have a working sonar on it and a functioning gas gauge, I went out to help him. Mostly, I swam around. Then, we went to the movies and out to dinner. It was a nice relaxed evening with gin and tonics on the boat last night while we watched the sprinkler system water our new grass. Life is very good.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Just About Done

The time finally came after I pushed and pushed. We moved back into The Lakehouse on Thursday, May 22nd. We arrived with a twenty-six-foot U-Haul truck and three other full vehicles to a half dozen pickup trucks and cars of workers blocking the driveway. They descended upon the house and weren't supposed to be here. I announced many times over the week that this was moving day, but many workers didn't finish their jobs. Trim guys were cutting wood, painters were on ladders, the backup generator was being installed, and others I just can't remember were in our way.

We hired a crew to help us unload the vehicles and they had been waiting almost two hours for us. Loading the truck and our cars took longer than expected. We almost allowed the workers to put our move off, then I put my foot down. "You! Please move your pickup. And, You: would you please move your vehicle. We're moving in right now. Please move those tools off to the side. Thank you." So, my brother-in-law, Billy, backed the truck up to the door and in we went. By the time we finished unloading all the vehicles, it was 9:30pm. We still had to go back to the in-laws' house where we had been living to pick up our dogs and bring them back home. We were exhausted.

But, waking up in our newly renovated lake house was magic. The house is beautiful, and we are so happy we went the extra mile to make it just right. Our budget was exceeded, and our retirement fund is a little lighter as a result, but we think it was well worth the price, stress, sweat and anxiety. Our son and daughter-in-law arrived the next afternoon, and they were so helpful. Having their extra hands unpacking and continuing to get organized was priceless. On Saturday, we had a house-warming party for family and close friends. It was wonderful.

Everyone was wowed by the house, and Larry and I felt so good as a result. We still have lots to do in our last week in SC until August, but we'll get it done. Larry has to install security cameras. He has to repair the sprinkler system, add new heads and install (wire) a timer so it will run while we're away. We created three new gardens that have to get watered while we're gone. We're heading back to RI to get ready for my Celtic 65th birthday, 13-day trip on June 23rd.

We also have to plant all the plants I bought, the free sod we got from Billy, and spread grass seed over the fill that is slowly being washed out from heavy rain. All our systems were well tested the first weekend during the party, and we got
an unwelcome surprise. After only three dishwasher loads and some hand washing in the kitchen sink, we learned that the dry well installed to off load our septic doesn't work.

As of this writing, the new drainage system has not been fixed and I can't do laundry or use the dishwasher. Larry fixed it so I can at least wash dishes in the kitchen sink, but the water drains into a pan under the laundry room sink. We dump that one to two times a day. I have to go to the laundromat tomorrow and wash two weeks' of laundry. I thought I was done with the laundromat. But, NOOOO!!!!

The guy who yesterday cut down nine huge pine trees and will resurface our driveway and parking area will come back Monday morning to finish picking up logs and debree. He is only willing to discuss the tank we want installed as part of the trench that doesn't work for draining our kitchen grey water. He says he's been working around here for twenty-five years and is sure he'll hit slate ledge if he digs down four to five feet. Larry disagrees and has good examples of why.

We are leaving for RI next Saturday, so we are going to push hard to get this guy to do what we want and get the drain fixed well before we have to leave, so we can test it before family comes here while we're away. More stress. But, today, we had a lovely breakfast on our new deck under our new umbrella. The pups discovered a new "friend" in an alligator snapping turtle that probably laid her eggs in our sandy fill before sauntering back down the yard and disappeared into the lake. The heron, osprey and hawks flew around our cove and over our heads while calling their calls and singing their songs. The sun finally came out, and I have to get to unpacking bins again. Larry is out buying supplies for his projects, and on it goes.

We love it here, and can't wait to get back so we can just completely enjoy living here, and not have to worry about fixing, or unpacking, or installing anything. In the meantime, I'll keep you posted on our future landscape projects here. The Lakehouse isn't fully complete until the grass is grown and the gardens are finished. Until then, have a great summer, and thanks for reading.

Friday, May 9, 2014

It's so close I can taste it!

Renovations are moving along pretty well now. Only two more weeks until we get to move back in, hopefully. We have a housewarming/thank you party planned for Saturday, May 24th, and my son and daughter-in-law are flying in on the 23rd. I just hope we're not scrambling to get set up on the 22nd. Let's hope not.

Yesterday the 500-gallon propane tank was delivered and buried. What fun it was to watch a very large man operate small equipment. One little backhoe looked like a Tonka truck. We wanted one so badly.

The stucco continues to be troweled on. We chose the color "mango". It figures I'd think of food when searching for a house color. Half of the house is covered now. It should be done in a couple of more days. Then the guys can come and finished adding Hardy "shake" shingles on the house peaks, then the window trim. Lastly, the outside finish trim will get painted "Fireweed", a dark
cinnamon-red color to complement our brick. It should be very pretty when finished.

Electrical fixtures are pretty much all installed now. I love the outside sconces we chose, the dining area chandelier and pendants over the kitchen sink. I'm also happy we chose neutral fixtures, because they look very classy with the wall and tile colors.

Our backsplash tile looks beautiful. The painter/stucco woman suggested we also put the same tile around our new "service" window in the kitchen. It was a great idea! The tile makes that window just pop. I love it with the "Black Pearl" granite counter tops and Hickory cabinets. Everything is coming together nicely.

All ceiling fans are now installed with switch and other plates. The rooms are looking very finished. The only electrical things left to be installed are the bathroom vents, and the connector (I can't remember the name of this) for our backup generator.

Interior trim is being painted now, and touch-up work for the walls will be required. The walls were painted before the trim guys came in with ladders against the walls.

The house now has water, and the lame plumber ran unfiltered (read that orange) water into all our new toilets and sinks and pipes. Really? We (read that, Larry) had to bleach them and figure out how to install a stop-gap measure to protect this from happening again until permanent power is installed. Our circuit breaker is in, but no temporary power has been connected yet. I don't know why. Extension cords run everywhere.

Our GC, Bill, says we may be able to get a final inspection in the next week. After that inspection, we can get permanent power connected to the house, and all the final electrical things can be installed: security system and internet. We won a $1,200 security system at the local Home and Garden Show a couple of months ago. It's the kind of system we can turn off lights remotely with our Smart Phone. Cool, huh?

We're almost done, and the end is so close now, I can actually taste it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Feeling Frustrated

"That's construction, dear", my patient husband reminds me as I sit steaming with frustration over two weeks of no workers showing up at the lake house. The weather is beautiful! Why isn't our project important enough to put someone else off for? Didn't we contract early enough? Didn't our contractor get on vendor schedules early enough? I don't know. All I know, is that the finish carpenters won't be here until Thursday. Nothing happened all last week, except what Larry is doing in the laundry room. The tile guy is back to do some fine-tuning, finish work today, but that's it!

I am not patient. That's it. I just am not! So, I emailed the GC last Friday. Of course, I have received no reply. I expect he'll avoid me and talk directly with Larry. I reminded him once again that airplane tickets have been purchased for guest arrivals for a party planned on May 24th! I told him I'd need two weeks to move back in. I could accomplish this in a week, but I need to put pressure on. I asked if this was going to be a problem. I need a functioning house by mid-May. That's it! There is no room for two weeks with nothing happening. I hate this. Thanks for listening.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Latest and Greatest

Renovation activities have been slow at the lake this week. The new laundry and sunrooms have been completely tiled, though, and look beautiful. We are so happy we chose the pattern and grout color. The grout blend is lovely with the tiles.

Our GC, Bill, met with the finish carpenter boss the other day. We have not seen any sign of them since, but we're sure Bill gave him his marching orders. Hopefully, they'll come today.

Larry has been busy mounting upper cabinets in the laundry. We both have been staining them here at the in-law's house. We'll take the nine doors in separate trips, so as not to wreck their finish in transport. He's got some in the truck, and I'll bring more in my convertible.

Speaking of the convertible and this is top-down weather right now: We are really enjoying it, but have to be mindful of the heavy pollen coating all our vehicles. I had to wipe out the dash and doors the other day to get the yellow coating off the inside. A good hard rain early in the week took care of the outside, but now more is forming. My eyes burn with pollen irritation every day. Luckily, my antihistamine is working and my sinuses are fine.

With warm spring weather, the Azaleas, Dogwood (white and pink), Wisteria and Yellow Jessamine vines (the SC state flower) are all out. Blooming trees are everywhere and the lakehouse yard is just gorgeous right now. Our cherry tree is also in full bloom on the water's edge. I just love spring in SC.

We realized last week that our master bathroom vanity was purchased with a different room configuration planned. We decided to keep it anyway, but had to purchase a triangle-tank toilet to accommodate the limited spacing. I'd rather look at the shower door when I pee than be bumping up against the vanity just trying to sit down. Wouldn't you? Larry purchased the toiled from Amazon Prime, and put the bowl in place to check for spacing. We think it'll work just fine.

The kitchen cabinets have all been installed and the granite guy came to template the kitchen and master bath. We chose "black pearl" with modeled gray in it and some little blue specks. The bath will have "mahogany blue eyes" with iridescent blue and green specks in shades of brown.

I've been shopping like crazy to decorate the interior. We only have a month of construction left (hopefully). Then we'll have two weeks to move back in and decorate before the party on May 24th. It better be ready! I keep cracking my whip at the GC and other workers. They just shake their heads and chuckle. It's life in the slow lane here. I keep reminding them I'm a Yankee and we "move and shake"! Lord help us all.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Oops! What's hidden underground?

Work at the lake house is moving along. I emailed our general contract for schedules, and people started showing up the next day. Interesting. Us Yankees gotta nudge these "life in the slow lane" people along sometimes, right?

Painting is complete in the kitchen, laundry room and the sunroom. I wanted these rooms finished first because the kitchen cabinets are ready to be delivered on Monday, and the tile guy needs to begin. He has started tiling the laundry room today. I love the colors I chose and cannot wait until the rest is complete. Tammy, our painter, is finishing up the master bathroom, so the plumber can get in there next. I've asked her to get the living room done after that, so all the workers coming in and out won't be tripping over her ladders, buckets and brush handles. She's very nice, and is doing a great job.

Sun Room
The plumber showed up yesterday with a helper and a backhoe. He dug a long trench from the house to the pump house. A new water pipe and wiring was laid in the trench before covering it back up again. I feel sorry for Larry because in the course of digging the trench, sprinkler system pipes got broken as well as our internet cable. No more cameras to spy on workers. Because he's a plumber, he fixed the broken sprinker pipes before covering them back up. We'll wait to call Comporium, our internet provider, until we are ready for our packaged service to be installed.

Next, the backhoe dug a dry well for our washing machine. The septic on the laundry side of the house is limited, so running a drain for the washer somewhere else seemed prudent. Stone was layed in the trench into which the drain pipe was laid, and plastic covered the stones before it too was covered over with clay soil.

Larry hand-dug his own trench from the shed to where he thinks our new power pole will be installed, if MCEC (Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative) decides we can have one or need one. Our power comes from a pole in the neighbor's yard over the fence. Because our soil is hard clay and rock, hand digging is strenuous work! But, as usual, Larry did a great job, and laid the wiring pipe for power to the shed.

I was there yesterday to meet the painter and see the latest progress in person. I took pictures of the Azaleas beginning to bloom, the Red Bud trees and Pear tree blooms. Our Forsythias have gone past now, and spring continues here, even though the temperatures are at least ten to twenty degrees below normal for this time of year. I guess everywhere is being affected by the powerful winter that hit us this year. I'm just glad I'm not in freezing temps with snow threats. Enough of that for me, thank you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dry Wall not Sheet Rock

Renovations at the lakehouse are moving along quickly, then they slow down. Rain and cold have not helped the process. The house may be dry now with doors and all but three windows installed and complete, but this cold, damp weather does not allow anything to dry. Not drying slows the process down again. Up and down; fast and slow. We feel like we're on a roller-coaster ride sometimes. Spring has sprung here in SC with Daffodils, Snow Drops, Ground Flox, Magnolia trees, Red Bud and Braford Pear everywhere. It's amazing how a little spash of color can lift one's spirits, especially knowing family and friends in MA and RI are still experiencing snow and freezing temperatures.

Kitchen (see stilts)
In my last post, I think I told you that I was unhappy with the "old" bathroom window our vendor installed, and the kitchen window over the sink. I lost sleep, again, over these windows and emailed our GC, Bill. The upshot is that he will replace the double, single-hung sink window with a slider, and the rigid pane of glass in the bathroom with a small casement. Bill was not happy that I insisted if the only way to get a casement was to screw it to the concrete, then so be it. Larry backed me on this, and that's what Bill's crew will do. This replacement means the wood "buck" that was installed will also be removed, so the tiled opening will be smooth up to the window. I am happy now. But, the large kitchen window has still not come in, and that hole remains covered in Tyvek paper. I firmly believe in getting what you want if you can, so I push when it feels right to do so.

Living room into Kitchen
All the sheet rock has been installed and taped. I learned when I met Dave, who introduced himself to me as our "dry wall" man, that sheet rock is no longer a viable term. Tomato; tomahto. A single coat of spackle, now called "mud" was spread yesterday. Today, the weather remains cold and rainy, so there are no workers at the house. This layer has to dry before another layer can be added, so we wait.

The Mexicans, as they are called by everyone down here, who installed the dry wall, tape and spackle must double as acrobats. The stilts they use to walk around are really tall. Not only do they have unbelievable balance, but they hold tools while they walk, look up and back while they work, and I am in awe of their talents. These guys are also happy, and as we approach the house, loud Spanish music blares at us. I love that they play music while they work. They feel like kindred spirits in that regard.

As the house gets closer to completion, I get antsy to shop. Larry and I went browsing in furniture stores on Sunday, and we decided to not only upgrade to a king-size bed, which will have to be purchased, we decided the living room sofa needs replacing. We do need new coffee and end tables, but I hadn't anticipated any other new furniture. With the new sun room, some of the furniture will be moved out there and the existing coffee/end tables will go with it. The best laid plans...
New Laundry Room

We're going out today to order the new shower door, tile for the sun room with its grout, and upper oak cabinets for the new laundry room from Lowe's, our other favorite store along with Home Depot.

The only knob and pulls I haven't purchased yet are those for the laundry room cabinets. I also am looking for one artistic knob or pull for our bathroom cabinet door. I got nice chrome pulls for the drawers, but wanted to add a little "something, something" to the door with a handpainted, porcelain or glass knob/pull. I haven't found it yet though.

I also found a little bench for the back bedroom dressing area that we will go pick up. I'm just not sure the fabric will work. I may have to recover it later. I'm looking for mirrors and some art work for the walls too. Interior design is so much fun!

We have a beautiful, framed map of Narragansett Bay on our RI wall, so we purchased a lovely fishing map of Lake Murray, complete with marinas. I'm so happy we found this. I think it will make a lovely addition to the new sun room. And, it will help in August when the big bass-fishing tournament is here. I still hope my two brothers and sister will make the drive down to visit, drive around with our brother-in-law, Ed, on their Harleys and do a little fishin'.

Oh, we also got free tickets to the Home and Garden show at the SC State Fairgrounds this past weekend, and low and behold, we won a free $1,200 security system! Equipment, installation and activation fee are all free. We aren't ready for its installation yet, so we asked the company to call us in two weeks when we may have an electrical outlet to plug the wireless router(?) into. I never win anything! Let's see what the monthly monitoring cost is. This is a fancy system like we see on the television commercials where the guy hits a button on his Smart phone to close up the house his kids left "on". I can't wait. This will also add market value down the road, so I am one happy camper.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Back in the Southland Again

Front Entry
I had a dream while in RI. My dream wasn't about freedom, but about being alone. I realized how much I missed my husband, so that day I quit chorus, the gym and my exercise class. I let my friends know I was leaving after my sisters volunteered to clean my house for me so I could leave for three months. And, me and the pups were off! We spent a lovely weekend snowed in with our friend, Nancy, in Annapolis before continuing south. It was so nice having our "pack" back together again once we arrived in SC.

New Sunroom
Living Room
The day after we arrived, we drove to the lakehouse to see renovations in person. The first thing that struck me was how much I do not like the new windows. We opted for single-hung windows, especially in the large holes, to save money. I really wish we could have afforded windows that offered more glass. The frames on the ones we ordered are so chunky, it put me off in a big way. We lost glass in the process, but that is just how it will have to stay. I will get used to them. The problem is going from what we had to the new version, that is not a huge improvement. Maybe I would have felt differently if we had built new, but the ones we have will just have to do. The two windows I absolutely cannot live with, however, are the tiny one in the old bathroom and the one over the kitchen sink. On a positive note, I love the octagonal windows in the living room, and am so happy I opted to have those installed. We can see the tree tops and sky through them and they give the room an expansive feel.

Bathroom Window in Foreground
I woke up this morning realizing I lost sleep over the offensive two windows mentioned above, so I called our contractor, Bill. The window in the old bathroom next to the kitchen was small to begin with. What they installed is so small now, it looks silly. The builders installed a "2x" buck frame in the hole, which made the new window about four inches wide. It just looks stupid. I asked Bill if a smaller "buck" could be installed so we could get more glass. He said he'd ask. "If I have to live with it I will", I offered.

Kitchen Window
The other window I cannot live with is the small one over the kitchen sink. The non-opening window we had before was larger with two big, horizontal panes of glass to look through. What we got were two small, single-hung windows in one chunky frame. It is very distracting and I told Bill we'd pay a little more to get a slider replacement. "There," I told Larry, "I feel better for letting him know how I feel about all the windows in general, and about asking for what I really want." Part of me feels silly, but when my gut tells me it's wrong, I have to change it. I think another woman buying the house will feel the same way. Could it really be just a "chick" thing? I seem to be the only one who noticed, so maybe. At any rate, I believe Bill needed to know my reaction, so he can help future clients with the reality of what one orders from a picture in a catalog versus the reality of what gets installed. The two are very different animals.

All the walls and ceilings now have insulation, and the interior is looking more complete. We had an inspection last Thursday, and the "nit-picky" inspector insisted the rafter on the interior chimney had to be cut away by two inches so they don't touch the brick. Really? Yes, really. So to reinforce the support structure, boards had to be "sistered" onto the rafters being cut back and connected to the plate. Next we had to add hangers in the old bathroom ceiling. Again, all that is being supported in that ceiling is sheet rock, but we had to add hangers anyway. So, this morning the inspector will return, and hopefully not find anything else we have to change. Once he gives us the "thumbs up", the sheet rock guys will descend and should be able to finish that installation in a couple of days. When the sheet rock is in, the house will really feel whole, and I can complete my vision for the interior design. Taping, sanding and spackling should take another couple of days, so by the end of this week, it should all be finished.

Front Porch
View from the dock
We chose a color from a special pallet for the stucco on the exterior that very closely matches the paint color we chose. It is called Mango, and the stucco will come already colored. Shingles will get installed on all the gables and will be painted a dark red. The trim will all be white. We found outside lights for the front and back door at Lowe's with stained glass that pulls all the house colors together, and Larry found a matching, flush-mount version by the same manufacturer for the front-porch ceiling. I think it'll look beautiful. The ceiling of the front porch will be finished in white beadboard.

Master Bath
The master bathroom now has the shower and pocket-door frame installed. It feels smaller because it is now long and rectangular, but I think a mirror on the solid wall across from the smaller window will expand its feel.

I climbed up the pull-down stairs to the new attic, and was very happy to see we have lots of storage space up there. It is a space that one can walk erect in, and that makes me happy. The new heating/air conditioning system looks good up there and all the duct work is in place. The electrical and plumbing rough-ins are all complete as well.

I cannot wait for this house to be finished. We've already scheduled a housewarming/thank-you-to-the-workers party for the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. We'll launch the pontoon boat for the party, and slow-roast a half-pig for the occasion. Are you salivating yet?