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.

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.

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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:

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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!).

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.