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. :/

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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.

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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. 😉

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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!).

On the move!

Yes, we’re on the move, and we don’t mean moving from one place to another. We met with our two architects this week! Each one had a different style and approach to design after touring our loft. Now we wait to see what they can do with our ideas. Once we receive initial quotes and plans, we’ll have the tough job of deciding which architect to go with.

In the meantime, in an effort to help the kids make friends, we’ve signed them up for a whole bunch of classes that they started this week. And Heath and I went out on a date to a local market/biergarten to hear some live music. We even got to pick up some farm fresh goodies to take home with us at the end of the night! I’ve taken a break from doing historic research to research items for our loft. Today it was rooftop access doors and skylights. Just one of many things to think about and plan for our renovations.

Our temporary home in our townhouse is shaping up nicely. Still a handful of boxes to unpack, but we have our first visitors from our old hometown of Conroe arriving on Friday, so hopefully we’ll be in pretty good shape by then.

Overall, we’re doing great here in Brenham!