The Strike of Disaster

Color me foolish but, in this whole adventure of downscaling, it never occurred to me to enroll my contractor in an accidental death and/or dismemberment policy. Which is another way of saying that a few days ago I received an email from my contractor… from a hospital bed somewhere in Oregon where he was scheduled to have surgery the next morning.

Apparently, Kenny had spent the weekend enjoying a ski-trip. Enjoying, anyway, until a major wipe-out in which he ended up breaking his leg. And Kenny, ever the over-achiever, didn’t just acquire any sort of run-of-the-mill break. Oh no. We’re talking a massive spiral fracture of the femur requiring surgery to bolt him back together.

I would like to make it clear that my first reaction upon hearing the news was, in fact: “What?! What happened? Are you okay??” I’m less proud to admit that this was closely followed on the heels with: “Where the hell is there skiing in October and who gave you permission to do anything life-threatening before you’re done with my house?!”

Somehow, I managed not to relay this second set of sentiments to him. (Mainly, I think, by biting my lip bloody.) This was especially difficult at the point he broke the news to me that his doctor has told him it will be at least two months before he can return to work. Things like working on rooftop could be much more time and physical therapy later.

On the best of days I wouldn’t be thrilled by the news that scheduled work on my house was going to be delayed by two months or more. But this news arrived when a quarter of the siding on my house still needs to be installed, the old metal roof has been stripped off, and the rainy season in Oregon is just about to begin.


Adding Windows and Doors

The last few months have taught me that remodeling projects tend to have a freakish ability to snowball. They start as charming, easy-to-grasp little things. But then they start to tumble downhill, gathering both size and momentum, until they reach monstrous proportions that are easily capable of knocking you on your ass.

But there’s also something immensely seductive about the process that makes you forget the fact you’re very likely treading dangerously close to calamity. Before you know it, you find yourself saying crazy things like: “Well, since we’re rebuilding the back half of the house, ripping off all the siding, and replacing the roof, I suppose we might as well do all the doors and windows while we’re in there, too.”

In my defense, he had broke it to me a month or so back that the seals on all my windows and doors were shot. (That would go a long way in explaining the leak my first contractor, mentioned he’d found under the flooring near my front picture window.) Most of the windows were of roughly 1970’s vintage, and I figured it probably made sense to replace them with more energy-efficient versions. Moreover, I had wanted to add a few additional ones anyway to make the center of the house feel less like a shoebox an ambitious six-year-old had wrapped for Christmas.

It’s weird to get so excited over windows and doors but, so far, it’s been the most fun I’ve had as far as the remodeling. I love the two 4 x 5 foot windows he added to the back wall of the former boatwell. I also had him add a teeny-tiny little frosted window over to the toilet in the bathroom and a much larger window across from the sleeping nook. I have no idea how many times I’ve gone back to the bathroom to check out the little window, grinning from ear to ear. It just makes me gleefully happy to see the little window and I have no idea why.

Perhaps it’s because, to my mind it makes such a huge difference to the cramped bathroom space and it was all MY idea. I’ve owned homes before and experienced the creative satisfaction of decorating them as my heart dictated. This is the first time, however, where I’ve had creative control all the way down to the bones of a structure. I suspect my frustrated inner-architect is finally getting a chance to let her hair down and she digging it.

The two large 4 x 5 windows in the back are designed to open about six inches. The advantage to that is there’s nothing to obstruct the view in the center of the frame. The downside is that, in order for my house to meet fire code, I was required to add a back door, which means I’ve lost some of the sidewall on which I’d originally been planning to have a wardrobe for storage. I decided to take the opportunity to select a door with a half-pane of glass in order to let some additional light into the room. (Hey, if you’re going to live on the water, I say you might as well enjoy as much light reflecting off it as possible.)

The other change I made was to the front door. When I bought the house it had a sliding glass door. Most of the external changes I’ve made my house make it look less modern and more cottage-y. (cottage-esque?) I really had my heart set on adding a pair of white French doors in the front with internal venetian blinds for the times I want privacy. Kenny convinced me, however, that that would be a Very Bad Idea, considering my front door faces to the east. He is one of several locals now who’s mentioned the Dreaded East Wind of Winter.

Apparently, in the summer, the wind along the River blows from west to east. It’s a balmy, friendly wind coming off the Pacific. In the winter, however, it’s a whole ‘nother story. Then the wind comes from the east and, for anyone not familiar with Portland geography, that means it’s coming off the snow-clad peaks. We’re talking a cold, wet, unfriendly wind that drops the temperature more than 15 degrees lower than a half-mile inland. It finds its way into any gap or crevice in a structure you haven’t successfully managed to seal and it’s perfectly happy to soak everything it can reach to the bone.

The East Wind has a lot to do with why my marina is more than half-empty come winter. It’s only the strong and the stubbornly die-hard who choose to remain.

Anyway, I digress. Long story short, Kenny made it bluntly clear to me that he’d put a French door in my house if I insisted but I wasn’t to come whining to him when enterprising penguins started up an ice rink in my front room come December. I was just about to relent and stick with the glass Arcadia door when he mentioned this was another option. Apparently there is an Arcadia-style door that looks like a French door but the doors are on tracks and are able to slide sideways as well as one side can swing inward. Dont ask me exactly how this all works, but the advantage is theres a solid center seal between the two side of the door that prevents water from blasting in. So I get my faux French door and Kenny can stop worrying about my welfare my first winter on the river.

My front door actually was delivered the morning I was scheduled to head back to New Mexico, which was neat. I didn’t get to stay for the full install. But I arrived in the early morning mist of rain to discover my old door gone and a good third of the front wall of my house open to the river while Gene worked on the new framing. It was pretty surreal. I’ll certainly not ever have that exact view from the kitchen again any time soon.

I’m eagerly awaiting pictures from Kenny on the finished front of the house including my spiffy new door.


Changes to the Home

Well, so much for my good intentions to at least have an entry every Friday. My work-life got insanely crazy working with banks right now will do that to you and I am more than a little behind on updates on the house. Please bear with me while I try to catch back up

Three weeks ago I spent the week up in Oregon so that I could meet and discuss siding,windows, roofing, and colors. He very wisely insisted that I come up and eyeball what he thought I’d probably want in the way of colors for the new roof and siding.

I had picked out a color scheme a few months back and sent him the make/model numbers for the siding and roof colors I’d selected. Naturally, since nothing about my remodel can go as simply as initially planned, I had picked out a different brand of siding than what Kenny actually wanted to use.

He did his best to match the colors, but they didn’t exactly sync up. And then I exercised my prerogative and changed my mind which complicated matters further. (Hey, at least I changed my mind before we bought materials or started putting them on the house.)

I’m using vinyl siding that is meant to look like cedar shake in a color called “cedar sunset”. The shake-style siding is considerably more expensive than regular siding. However, one of the advantages of having a tiny place is the impact of using higher-end materials in not nearly as dramatic to the total costs as it would be in a larger home.

One can argue that vinyl isn’t all that high end, but there’s no way I’m going with traditional shakes when wood rots as quickly as it does on the water. Ive taken a good look at some of my neighbors places that are covered with actual cedar shake and Ive got a sneaking suspicion I know where my former flying squatters may have relocated to.

Since I was already ripping the siding and walls off the house, I got into the spirit of things and decided to replace the battered metal roof as well. The roof will remain green, but is going to be a slightly darker shade than what is on there now. The manufacturer has very creatively named the color “forest green”.

Trim along the edge of the roof and the new railing on the rooftop deck will be done in white. We’ll have to see how it turns out, but I’m thinking it should be nice.

I have to say I was excited when I received photos from Kenny of the siding in progress. The place is starting to actually look and feel somewhat house-like again.