Fall update – lots of news

Shockingly, I don’t have photos on our progress, not because there hasn’t been any, but because we’ve been so incredibly busy.

As many of you know, we suffered some damage from hurricane Harvey last month. Our roofer has been remiss in coming to fix leaks that we told him about in June. So of course we had leaks during the hurricane. Also, one of those leaks trickled all the way down to one of our tenant’s offices, ruining the window trim and framing. We’ll have to replace that, but as of this posting, I’m STILL waiting to get our roof repairs finished!

Our biggest, most time-consuming construction job has been masonry. It’s just a slow and tedious process, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We also got lintels to support our apartment’s front door, so there’s really only a bit of brick-laying left to do.

Another huge issue is fire suppression – both literally and figuratively. I’ve been doing the run around between getting estimates from contractors and the city fire marshal and our architect, and it is hard getting a clear answer on what is required for our structure. Needless to say, we’ve gotten wildly varying quotes from $25,000 to $70,000. Tomorrow the city fire marshal, our architect, and I will be having a meeting to try to iron all of this out. Keep your fingers crossed for us. Of course we want our building to be safe, but not with unnecessary extra added lines and cost.

Last, but definitely not least, we are moving! Not to the lofts, obviously, but we will be leaving our large rental townhouse next to downtown.  When we first moved here, we thought we’d only be renting for a year or two. We have the sweetest landlords now, but it comes down to finances. Instead of continuing to chuck rent money into a property that isn’t ours, Heath ran the numbers, and found that if we could get the right house for the right price, we’d not only cut our monthly payment for residence significantly, we’d be getting something for it: equity and future investment.

So, just on a whim, really, we searched for houses that were for sale in town with enough bedrooms, and at a price that would allow us to cut costs. There was really only one that fit the bill, and last week we signed on it! Homeowners again! Yay! As you might have guessed, we got the house for a low price because it is a fixer-upper. Luckily the items that we need to update can be taken care of in a much faster amount of time than at the loft. We aim to do about 2/3rds of our list before we move in, and then pick away at the rest month-by-month. Which puts our moving date somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

It’s a cute house with loads of personality that just needs some love. The kids are already head-over-heels for it, and the hardest part so far has been prioritizing the renovations. Luckily, we’ve got loads of renovation experience under our belts right now, so we’re up to the task, and excited for the change.

After we are settled in, work will resume on the loft. My hope is that by the time we are ready to get back to the loft, we’ll have selected our fire suppression contractor, and they will have completed the installation. Hopefully. :/


Summer Sweating!

As usual, I’m remiss on updating. We’ve been enjoying our summer so far – hope you have, too. Even with the heat, we’ve managed to get more work done.  Let’s back up a bit, first, though.

On Memorial Weekend, we had our dear friends, the Shelbourne family, back again, and they, with the Tavary family helped us do jobs that we could not do alone. The first picture is of Heath and Scott driving supports into the rear wall so we could finish the flooring in the south east corner of the building. It was hard work, drilling through age-old brick while on a narrow scaffold, but they got it done.

Charity is pictured here, working on the seemingly never-ending task of masonry. We just can’t finish framing walls until we get this masonry finished!

We had such a big crew that instead of our usual stack of pizzas, I ordered ahead for the biggest sandwich I’ve ever seen in my life! I think everyone was happy (and tired of pizza, LOL!).

Another completed job is decking for the AC unit for the two-bedroom apartment. While we will have lovely exposed beams in the living room and kitchen for this apartment, the hallway, bathrooms and laundry room will be a regular height ceiling to accommodate the AC unit, ductwork, electrics, and whatever else we need to hide.

If you are friends with us on Facebook, you also saw that our first set of windows was delivered and installed! Yay! Final caulking and installation of a sloping metal plate to prevent water damage happened today (no pictures of that latter work yet).

These upstairs ones are the three windows that were replaced (note to self – need to get exterior “after” photos).

We plan to replace the original trim work (too many layers of toxic paints and damage to save most of them). We have a few samples left that we can use as templates to recreate the original. Sorry the photo is a little bright, but here’s what it will eventually look like. The rosette square will go in the top two corners with the moulding running down either side and the top. We will be crafting new windowsills. We’ll probably not paint the trim, but use a similar stain as in the photo (maybe a little lighter?).

Unfortunately, we’ve been having more leaks!! Luckily, the warranty on our roof repairs from earlier this year has covered all of the work. Some of them are new leaks, and some old. One of them is really worrisome, located in the smaller bedroom of the two-bed apartment. We’ll be adding framing and flooring somewhat soon, so we need to get that fixed. There’s a challenge with the flashing on where the roof connects to our 3-story neighbor, but luckily our neighbors are willing to work with us and our roofer.

When we started to work on the area where our apartment door will be, we realized that we needed to cut in to the flooring, and figure out the final height for everything. Of course we want the hallway outside of our apartment to line up with the door and our interior. Doors will be installed soonish (see next paragraph), so we have to make sure to give room for the door to open inwards. Here’s a photo of what we had to cut, and the debris. I’m just amazed at the number of layers in what was previously the main dance floor.

That’s a lot of room for insulation, running pipes and electricity, and we’ll still probably end up raising our floor to ceiling dimensions.

Don’t worry, we’ll be piecing that gorgeous flooring back together again! None of it is getting thrown out. My job will be to sort the pile for later use, and pull nails.

Lastly… masonry. Oh bricks, you tiresome bricks! To do it right, we have to make sure everything is lined up as we go. It is just so slow-going, and the masonry is holding up pretty much everything else. Once we finish the masonry, we can frame the last few walls of phase 1. Once we frame the walls, we can get them treated for termite prevention, run the electric, set up the AC, finish the plumbing, install drywall, install doors, install rear windows, install insulation… uggh! So right now, it’s just masonry holding us up. Oh, and nailing down a fire sprinkler contractor – so many challenges to that.

In closing, I’ll leave you with an updated 4-Corners Collage. Lots of fun, since now we have some walls blocking our “view” and it is no longer wide open in phase 1. Not much has changed on the west side of the building, though. Except more debris.


Hello from Brenham!

First bit of news is, for a variety of reasons, we’ve decided to renew our lease for the location that we’ve been living at while we complete the renovations. So don’t change those address books yet! We simply won’t have Phase 1 (the two smaller apartments) of the lofts in good enough shape to live in by the end of May.

What’s new? We’ve hired some teenagers to help Heath on the weekends that we don’t have big work weekends with lots of friends helping. As you know, we currently have floors open from the ceiling of the second floor down to the bottom level floor. We did not want to hire day laborers because we didn’t want any problems with our tenants below, not to mention that we only have a small size tool box and can’t lock up 80% of Heath’s tools. Our teenage crew is small, but helpful and focused, so things are progressing.

For all three apartments we were required to get specific, fire-rated doors to be code compliant. They are a bit on the pricey side, so we double checked our sources to find out exactly which rating we needed. We’ve got the doors ordered for the three apartments, so they should be here by the time we finish the walls.

This week I need to nail down the fire suppression contract and window contract and start getting quotes for kitchen and bathroom cabinetry for Phase 1. Any one want to take my 3 year old for a day so I can hammer out the numbers? Hahah. I love him, but he can be a demanding distraction.

On Friday we got another load of our antique bricks delivered, and yesterday our teen crew plus a few extra kiddos got all of the bricks moved upstairs. We’re hoping that with those two pallets of bricks plus what we’ve reclaimed inside the loft and from our neighbor’s lot will be enough to get all of the walls filled. Between the time that we purchased our first two pallets and today, the price jumped up for our bricks by a couple hundred dollars. Yikes! If we can manage without more bricks, that would save us some cash.

Our electrician (my Uncle Jim) is working hard on getting our electric put in. He visited us last week bringing the first round of supplies as well as meeting with the city inspector. Uncle Jim and my husband also went over the architect’s electrical plans in great detail. As soon as we’ve finished framing the walls he’ll be back to do the installation.

Since we’ve relaxed our deadline, we’re not in as much of a rush, but we still need to try to get things completed as soon as we can. The sooner we move in, the more money we can save to apply to renovations.

Most of the rear decking is done! Just need to finish the bit on the left. 

What’s left to do on our end? We need to finish the last bit of floor joists in the very back of the building, and cover with plywood. Then we need to lift the sagging ceiling area in the very middle of the space that started to lower when we took out the wall in that area. It’s currently being held up with two temporary frames. Next it’s more framing. We’re still missing some walls, plus certain sections of the brick wall need to have framing added to them (we unfortunately can’t have as much exposed brick as we’d originally assumed). Oh! And the front stairs are still missing.


As we’ve said before, we depend on the kindness of our friends and family to help out on work weekends. We’ve got a big one coming up on Memorial weekend – let me know if you want to be added to the event. We’ll feed you, arrange for child care, and give you a place to sleep, and in return we ask that you put in a full day of work with us. You don’t need to have skills or tools, just a willingness to jump in and get your hands dirty. 😀 Unfortunately it will soon get too hot to work for very long in the lofts, so we will be slowing down on some of the work during the summer, and pick things back up in the fall. If we can get our aforementioned projects done before the heat, though, we can let the contractors manage during the summer.  😉 So come on over to Brenham and give us a hand if you can. 😀

Long Overdue Update

Hello family and friends and followers!


We know it’s been ages since a proper update, but as you can guess, we’ve been super busy!


To start with, we applied and received our construction permit!!! YAY!!! One more piece of paper on the front door allowing us to proceed!


As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve stopped all demolition on the “Phase 2” (i.e. our final living space), and are focusing only on the “Phase 1” (the efficiency and two bedroom apartments). In January, February, and March, we’ve laid down the base flooring for the efficiency apartment and half of the two bedroom apartment. We need to replace the floor joists in the rear of the two bedroom apartment before we can lay down flooring. This is the area on the southern side of the building where the “deck” was.


Since demolition and removal of all of the interior walls in Phase 1, some of the ceiling pieces have started to sag somewhat. Through lots of creativity, Heath was able to add two temporary support walls, even using a jack to push the rafters back up. He’ll also be going up into the ceiling to raise the joists and adding supports there.


We now have walls framed for nearly all of the efficiency apartment, including the bathroom and closet for the stackable washer and dryer.


And as of this weekend, we’ve got part of the walls framed up for the two bedroom, including the living room and part of the master bath and the laundry room.


Last, but not least, various helpers (including my bestie’s Dad, Frank, who is a Master Mason) have been slowly filling in the brick walls that were cut in to in previous renovations. Many thanks to Scott and Erin, too, for helping us lay some brick! And most especially, my cousin Mike, whose construction knowledge was much appreciated by Heath!



We unfortunately have roof leaks – AGAIN! Got a call in to our roofer to come take a look and get these last two leaks taken care of once and for all!

20170305_103413   20170305_103543

We’ll be taking a weekend off for Spring Break, but returning to work on March 18th and 19th if anyone wants to join us. Here’s our Work Weekends from now to June.

  • March 25/26
  • April 1/2
  • April 8/9
  • April 22/23
  • April 29/30
  • May 6/7
  • May 20/21
  • May 27 MOVING DAY (We will be moving either in to the lofts or into a different rental – we won’t be staying in our current rental for various reasons)

Please please please come and help if you can. No experience or tools necessary – just show up wearing close-toed shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty in. I promise it is a lot of fun, and we’ll feed you lunch, and give you a place to sleep for the weekend if you need it.

So what’s left for Heath and I to do for Phase 1?

  • Finish filling in the gaps in the brick wall
  • Finish framing all of the walls
  • Add floor joists to the southern section of Phase 1 (and lay the floors and add the framing)
  • Build new stairs
  • Drywall interior walls
  • Plaster brick walls
  • Sand interior doors and varnish or paint them (we’re restoring most of the old doors)
  • Lay tile in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Restore and install wood floors
  • Paint (this could possibly wait until June)
  • Install crown molding (this could possibly wait until June)

Plus, we need to get our fire sprinkler system installed, electric lines run, HVAC installed, plumbing finished (we have the rough-ins), 2 hour fire layer installed, windows repaired or new ones installed, and spray foam installation done. These are all professional jobs we’re hiring out. We are still waiting on the last fire sprinkler estimate and the last window estimate.

We’ve come in to a bit of discussion about the windows, but I think I’ll save that for another blog post. And I also have another video tour coming up soon!

A recent find

Forgot to share this:

Our most recent find came from the demolition of the front stairs. We have no idea what door this key might go to, or even if we still have the lock, but it is kind of nifty.

Also, check your Facebook event invitations, as we have added one work weekend for February. More dates soon to be added, for those interested in pitching in. 

Jumping in to 2017

The week before Christmas, Heath took off from work and with the help of our friend’s eldest son, did a bunch of odd projects, including completely removing the front stairs, nearly completing ceiling reinforcement in the east wing of the building, reorganizing our lumber stash, working on sanding paint off of more antique doors, bolting massive beams to support some of the existing ones that were partially damaged by termites, and a few other items on our list.

After Christmas, we pooled our gift certificates for home improvement stores and picked up some shiny new tools for our loft. We got a high-quality planer that does really beautiful work (but we’ll still need a table sander because we keep finding nails in planks that are dinging up the blade already and causing ridges along the wood). And we also got a small router table to use with a router that we already owned. These will help immensely! I believe that there’s only three tools left that we’re going to need – an infrared paint remover, a tile cutter, and the aforementioned table sander.

Currently we’re getting quotes from plumbers, HVAC companies, and window installers for the eastern wing, and it’s on my list to compile our quotes from our fire sprinkler companies to make a decision on that. And I’m also doing tons of historic research, looking at original deeds and documents to continue piecing together the history of the Zeiss building. I need to get all of my work completed in the first half of the year so that I can submit it before the September deadline to apply for our historical marker.

We’ll also soon be announcing several demo and construction weekends for January and February, likely taking a break in March. We’re going to need help removing the ceiling in our downstairs tenant, and installing a new one, as well as completing masonry upstairs. Once we get rough plumbing and electric in, we can get to work on flooring and walls. We’ll be tapping our previous helpers, and hoping those of you who’ve not joined us will jump in, too!

Happy New Year and Happy 2017 to all of our readers near and far! I posted on January 1st on my Facebook page that my wish for the new year was to celebrate my birthday this fall in the living room of our completed project. Here’s hoping! At the very least, I hope we get Phase 1 complete (or at least habitable) before our rental lease is up at the end of May. It will be so much easier to work on Phase 2 once we are living there, not to mention saving a bunch of cash by not paying rent.





Current status

Hi all,

I know it’s been a while since we posted anything substantial. In case you missed it, check out my husband’s previous post for the final plans for phase one of our project!

We have been really busy working on the space of one of our tenants (the fancy law office), upgrading and fixing their office before their grand opening. We still have a few more items to tick off her list.

Our current projects with the upstairs of the loft are finding a fire suppression/sprinkler system installation company, continuing the roof/ceiling structural improvements in the phase 1 section of the building, and occasionally working on sanding layers upon layers of paint off of historic solid doors. Our first quote for the fire suppression system was off the charts, so we’re hoping that we can get a better deal.

As soon as we settle on a fire suppression system, and schedule the installation, we’ll be tapping our network of helpers. Our next big demo will require a HUGE workforce. We’ll be tearing out the ceiling of our tenant who owns the woodworking shop, as well as the front stairs (we are making them less steep by adding a landing and a turn halfway up). Our goal is to get the fire suppression installed within a week, so as not to inconvenience our tenant. The following weekend, we’ll need a ton of folks to help us build a new ceiling for the tenant, and rebuild the stairwell.

If you’ve not helped out yet on a Demo Weekend, we would love to have you. As always, we provide food, beer, and lodging, and you bring clothes to get dirty in.