Slowing down

So, as many of our readers know, it has been unusually hot here in central Texas. While many other parts of the country have started to cool off, we are still in the 90’s every day, and not getting out of the 70’s at night. This makes it very challenging to work in the loft, even early in the day. Consequently, work has been slowing down somewhat.

We need to do masonry, but that’s an all-day job – once we mix a batch of mortar, we need to use it all up. Heath is doing a side project of stripping the paint off of the doors, but it is extremely slow work. He’s still not finished the first door – and we have 30. We’re determined to reuse all of them, though. They’re great heavy soundproofed doors.


Heath scrapes paint stripper off the trim on our first door. He’s already done the other side of this one. Doesn’t it look lovely?

We’ve also been doing minor structural reinforcements to the roof as required by the structural engineer.

Oh! And as of this Thursday, we SHOULD have a completely leak-proof roof! YAY! No more problems dumping water on our neighbors, no more leaking into our tenants’ spaces! And when we finish renovating the upstairs, we don’t have to worry about all of our hard work getting leaked on, either. Yaaaay!!

Really what we’re waiting for is the plans from the architect for the layout of the fire sprinkler system, plumbing and electrical for the two apartments on the east side of the building. Once we have those, we’ll be working with our very patient tenants, Kulow’s Woodworks and Chiropractics, to tear down the drop ceiling in their retail space, and replace it, adding the sprinkler system as we go. We’ll also be cutting in to their space slightly to alter the rise of the stairwell that comes out on Main Street. Once we get their ceiling in, we can worry about plumbing, electric, insulation, and then replacing the floors in the east wing, building walls, oh…. I’m getting ahead of myself again.

One of our other projects is updating the office of our lawyer tenant. We’ll be turning our attention to repairs caused by the leaky roof. Luckily Heath is able to do all of the repairs himself. We’ll also be trying our hand at tiling, tackling both the breakroom of the office, and the front stoop. For the latter, we’ve decided to go with a really classic black and white hexagon “penny” tile that was first popular a century ago.

I think that’s about it for now. Nearly every weekend for the foreseeable future we’ll be working up at the loft. If you want to try your hand at masonry, or help us with various other projects, we’d love to have your help, and will bend over backwards to house and feed you. Just let us know which weekend we should make up the spare bed.😉

Construction Permit Obtained! YES!

We got a wonderful surprise yesterday: our construction permit from the city! The previous permit we have is for demolition (which we’ll still be finishing on the western 2/3rds, but we’re not there yet). Now we have a construction permit, which means we can move forward with structural repairs, and then electric and plumbing, and then floor insulation, and then the floors, and then, and, and, and… just so exciting!

In other news, we finally re-keyed the side door to the building on St. Charles Street! No more running up the front stairs, running across the loft, and running down the back stairs to open the side door. Eventually we’ll be replacing this door with a much nicer one. We needed to have easy access to the side stairs because we’ll soon be tearing out the front stairs and reworking them to make them more shallow with a second landing, and we needed an alternate way to get into the building.


Buchanan Locksmith services hard at work.

What’s on the agenda for this weekend? Masonry! My friend Kirsti’s dad, Frank, is coming again to help us fill in holes. My husband Heath will be working on odds and ends related to structural repairs. Want to help out? We could use it. No experience needed, just show up at Zeiss Lofts Saturday morning.😉

Last, but definitely not least, we’ve finally found a roofer who will do all that’s needed for our roof, and at a decent price, without forcing us to redo the entire roof. Assuming the weather cooperates, the repairs will be done next week, including fixing some small but significant leaks, and upgrading the rear gutters.

Busy Busy Dizzy Dizzy

Our renovation project work has been super busy this week, though most of the progress has been made in the planning area. Emails are flying back and forth between us and our architect, the structural engineer, and the city so fast I can barely keep up. We’ve gotten our structural improvement plans for the eastern third of the building (where the two bedroom and efficiency apartment will go) through the first level of approval by the city. And details are being worked on to lay out the plumbing and electrical. We are also getting our quotes for fire suppression as required by the city because our building is both commercial and residential.

Putting in a fire sprinkler system will be fairly uncomplicated in the eastern third of the building, since we are already going to be replacing the old drop-ceiling in our wood repair shop tenant’s business. The challenging part will be next year, when we have to rip in to already existing ceilings of the dance studio and law office. But we’ll worry about that later.

This past weekend, the father of one of my closest friends came to share his masonry expertise with us. Frank, the masonry expert, and my husband, Heath, tore down several existing brick sections that needed to be leveled for doorways. They also started filling in some of the holes in walls with reclaimed brick. Check it out:


First hole completely filled! Small hole that is in a wall between a kid’s bedroom and the bedroom of the two-bed apartment. I think there was previously a vent pass-through here.


Originally a window opening, we are filling this in as it is going to be the back of a closet in one of the kid’s bedrooms.


Needed to remove brick from another window opening to go down to the sub-flooring.


This is yet another window opening that we broke open the bottom all the way down to the level of the floor joists.

Shout out to our crew of teenagers and friends for helping us haul TWO pallets of “Old Chicago” reclaimed bricks from the sidewalk up into the loft! Thanks Tavary Family and Kulow Kids! I don’t have a picture of the kids, unfortunately, but look at all of these bricks we hauled! And this photo is only half the load! Did I mention that there is no elevator? Basically, we start with a wheelbarrow at the top of the back stairs, and a line of people on the stairs passing bricks one-by-one up to the top. Once the wheelbarrow is full, one of us jogs it over to the designated drop area (needed to balance the floor load), another few folks unload it, the wheelbarrow goes back empty, and the process starts all over again. A bit tedious, but it’s the only way.


This photo shows only half the load! There were more stacks to the right.

Oh, and this was only two of a total of seven pallets that we’ll eventually need. Can’t overload the floors with too many bricks, plus there’s not really enough room for that many. Luckily the brick company (Rudloff Bricks – great team!) will hold on to the rest of ours until we need another load delivered.

So, our current weekend job is filling holes in walls with bricks, and performing necessary structural improvements dictated to us by the structural engineer. Any one wanting to try their hand at masonry is welcome to come on over!😀 And those of you who have been to demo days know that we’re not kidding.

P. S. I suffered my second job injury (the first was getting my feet tangled up in old wiring, and falling very hard on my left knee). Twofold stupid: I was wearing sandals, not my work boots, because it was supposed to be a quick meeting with the brick company representative and our master mason – and I wasn’t paying attention. There’s a missing floor plank in the very middle of the building. I stepped right into it with my right foot almost up to my hips. Oddly enough, I was saved by my phone, which was in a side cargo pocket, and prevented me from going all the way down. The phone bruised me badly, and I got scraped up on either sides of my leg. Thank goodness for my friend Heather’s homemade skin healing lotion! So… wear proper footwear, and pay attention, kids.


My bruise, several days later, from the phone saving me. Thanks, Otterbox! And you can see a nearly-healed scrape on the bottom of the leg (Thanks again, Heather!).

Holding Pattern

So, a lot of you have been asking what’s going on with the renovations?

First, how about the results of our most recent demo day:

View from the front stairs, facing south.

View from the front stairs, facing south.

View of the rear section of the building, facing east.

View of the rear section of the building, facing east.

Junk-free floor after filling up two dumpsters. View facing north.

Junk-free floor after filling up two dumpsters. View facing north.

To sum up, the entire eastern third of the building has officially completed the demolition phase. Yay!!! This means that we are now in the process of working on getting our construction permits for this section of the building. This “eastern third” will contain the efficiency apartment and the two bedroom apartment that we’ll be renting out in the future. We have demolition permits, but have to apply separately for our construction permits. Right now, we’re waiting for the structural engineer and our architect to get us the final construction plans for these two smaller apartments. Waiting… lots of waiting.

As soon as we have our plans in hand, we can go through the approval process from the city to get our construction permits. We’re hoping that it won’t take very long, but these things never go quickly.

Hopefully we can begin construction soon and are now aiming to complete the efficiency apartment and two bedroom apartment by the end of November. After these two apartments are completed, we can continue demolition of the western two-thirds of the building – this is the section that will contain our living space. For demolition, we’ll need to remove the remaining ceiling planks, and remove all of the flooring. Here’s hoping that will happen by the end of January. Then construction can begin on our new home!

What are we doing in the meantime? Well, truthfully, it was nice to take a break for a few weekends. There’s lots of fun to be had in Brenham in the summer, such as the Hot Nights Cool Tunes concert series every Saturday in downtown during July. We’re also taking the time to fix tenant issues, as well as reorganize our downstairs storage area to better accommodate items for the period where we’ll be living in the two small apartments and renovating the big one. Yesterday my husband Heath and I worked all day adding new shelves and moving some extraneous items over to the storage area.

We’re also working to organize our interior design, starting to pick styles, fixtures, tiles, wall colors, etc. We’re researching important stuff like fire sprinkler systems, insulation between apartments, where we’re going to locate AC units and water tanks, and so much more. We also have to start considering the exterior, though that probably won’t happen until late 2017 or early 2018.

So, even if we’re not physically working on the building for the next few weeks, we’re still ticking items off our lists. We’ll update again once we know more about our construction permits.