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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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. 

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.

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!).

Even More Destruction!

Okay, not really destruction, but selective removal of wooden components for use in the future. I missed updating last week, so the pictures below will show two weeks worth of work.

On a side note, we picked up a new tool that it bonkers fun to use! I wish we had bought this way back at the beginning! The Air Locker AP700 is the best tool I’ve found to remove nails! It has an air actuated piston that punches the nail back out of the wood. On thin lumber, it will shoot the nail out of the wood, across the room, bounce off the wall, and come back to hit you in the chest. Don’t ask me how I found this out. Oh, and make sure you’re not aiming the board towards your feet or… crouch area. We’ll chalk these up to OTJ training. On thicker lumber (2x), it will punch a driven nail out so you can grab it with the crowbar. All you need is a little bit of the nail sticking out of the bottom so you can aim and pull the trigger. Anyone planning on recycling lumber, I highly recommend you get this little guy. We picked ours up off Amazon for under $60.

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AirLocker – Get yours TODAY!

I started where we left off with the porch ceiling/floor. I still can’t believe this structure was/is still standing with the original rafters/joists in place. The best I can guess is these have to be over 100 years old. All the ends where they connect into the wall are heavily rotted and only being held in place by luck. The hard part here is working over an existing shop that is in operation. As you can see, our renters, Mr. & Mrs. Kulow operate two business below. On is Mr. Kulows wood working office and the other is Mrs. Kulow Chiropractic office.  Trying very hard not to drop anything on their heads!

A special thanks to the Tavary family for all their help! Once again, they have been more than helpful in this project. We never could have gotten this far with out their help!

By the end of these last two weeks, I would say we’ve removed 2/3rds of the apartment flooring and 2/3rds of the old ceiling/flooring structure.

Under the front room flooring, we’ve had some good news and some bad news. Good news is that “sometime” in the past (guessing before 1930’s) structural steel columns & beams & a big 9×9 solid wood center beam were added to the flooring structure.

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BEAMS

This has really beefed up the structure, to the point that (I believe) we will pass the structural review by the licensed engineer without having to add anything to the floor. Still waiting on that report. Based upon those findings, I put together a quick sketch (Floor Joist Details ) on how I thought I could finish out the ceiling below and the floor above. And now for the bad news (maybe, still researching). After running it by our Architect, she had to say the dreaded words “fire code”. She is doing the research, but believes that their can not be non-sprinkled voids between two different zones. So, we may have to rip the ceiling off of Mr. & Mrs. Kulows place and attach it directly to the floor joists. I broke the news to Mr. & Mrs. Kulow and they were quite happy to work with me on this. Currently they have a drop ceiling in place, and would be happy to have the extra 3 feet of vertical height and insulated structures to limit their HVAC bills! It actually could become quite a design feature with the structural steel beams showing.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Here’s some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

 

From existing to missing!

Slowly this floor is coming up. We’ve finally learned how to remove it quickly without causing major damage. Would you believe the sledgehammer is the answer?

And for last, I leave you with cuteness overload!

Guess What Day it is!

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My lovely wife more than happy to stop by Chip & Joanna Gains place (Magnolia Market) in Waco, TX to peruse and pick up some clothing. As readers may remember, we tried to get their show Fixer Upper to come down and do our project. Unfortunately, they declined our request, as they did not want to leave their base in Waco.

Saturday was a family day, with Dance recitals for our daughter and a birthday party for our eldest son, so I was only able work at the Loft on Sunday. Started at 8 am trying to get to the cool part of the day, but it was no use. The Texas heat is upon us for now, with a big touch of the Gulf Coast Humidity, making the upstairs one big sweat bath. I did get some accomplished, but had to take lots of breaks and gallons of water to survive. Hopefully we get a cool weather break soon.

The only cool find I discovered was an old 1940s lighbulb fixture still wired into the knob and tube wiring system.

Sunday I worked on the back porch rooms. When we pulled up the flooring, we discovered the structure to be dangerously rotted. We will have to pull all the wooden floor and flooring structure down and build it back up properly. It appears that the back porch was “fixed” in 1999, based upon the date stamps on the newer lumber pulled up, but it was only a BandAID.

As you can see in the next few pictures, I have to first pull up the 2x12s, then take out the 2×6 “old ceiling” sloped rafter and then take out the 2×6 “old ceiling” joist. Under that is a 2×4 ceiling joist with 1×8’s nailed at a spacing for old acoustic tile (now missing). All of these are tied together with vertical nailers and cross bracing between the old 2×6 joists. The 6 sections I removed took me 8 hours. I left the 2×4 ceiling to be removed from the downstairs.

We’re going to try and salvage as much of the 2x6s as possible, as they appear to be old growth lumber, judging on how heavy the beams were trying to pull them out. And of course we will reuse the 2x12x18′ beams. Reuse and recycle, that’s the game on this project. Not only to be a little bit green, but most important for me, to save money!

Speaking of saving money, if anyone has these type of 4x8x2 red bricks, please send them my way. We have a lot of holes in the brick walls that need filled in. Many Thanks in Advance!

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And Finally, here are the after pictures, kindly taken by my eldest: