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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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.

Floors coming up

We decided to post-pone the removal of the middle section of ceiling for now for a variety of reasons, and have gotten started on carefully removing the floor beams in the eastern third of the building. This eastern third will eventually contain the efficiency apartment and the two-bedroom apartment that we’ll be opening up to lease to the public. Take a look:

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View of the back room (south-east corner). After we redo the floors and seal them, the windows will go, and this whole area will be a deck (foreground), part of a bedroom for the two-bed apt (middleground), and a small balcony for the two-bed apt.

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Closer view of the back room. Unfortunately, the ceiling in the shop below is in very poor shape. But on the up side, we will be able to access everything underneath this third of the building easily, replacing the ceiling for the tenant in the process.

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View looking into the rear-room. You can see that it is slightly higher right now. We’ll be lowering it to meet with the rest of the building.

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At the top of the stairs (left side of photo) coming up from Main Street, floor boards are slowly being removed to expose the beams. A temporary walk-way has been created with some recycled plywood boards.

At this point, our plan seems to be that we’ll be completely building out the eastern third of the building so that these two living spaces are complete. We’ll then put most of our belongings into storage, and live in these two spaces while we finish completing our own space. Of course, plans may change. But that’s what we’re thinking right now.

The big question is when. We still don’t know. As the months get hotter, it will become much more difficult to work up in the loft for any length of time. We’re trying to avoid as many social commitments as we can for the month of May so we can spend every spare minute picking away at the structure. I’d like to hope that we’d be finished with the eastern section by the end of November, but I could be severely under-estimating our progress.

In the next few weeks we’re supposed to have our next meeting with our architect, which will also include a consultation with his structural engineer. We’ll be examining all of the beams that have been exposed in the ceiling and in the floor, and any plan of action that might be needed. So far, in our uneducated opinion, our girl looks great! There’s one beam that is badly damaged by termites that will need to be replaced. And another beam got butchered where an over-zealous plumber got really creative installing indoor plumbing. But other than that, we seem to be okay so far.

As usual, if you have some free time on a weekend, we’d love to have some help. You don’t need experience, just a willingness to work. We’ll feed you, give you a place to sleep if you are coming in from out of town.

Post-Demo Results and Finds

We’ve got some great progress to share from our demo weekend. I can’t think of why I haven’t taken my wide-angle lens to the loft before to take photos, but I did yesterday. Perhaps those who have never seen our project in person can better see the scope of it now. I took a shot standing in each corner, and you can really see how much work has been done.

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View from the north-east corner, ceilings gone all the way!

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View from the North-west corner: ceilings gone for most of this section. You can see that ceilings still need to be removed in the middle. Also, some of the dropped ceiling still remains in the right back-ground. To the left is all of our lumber. To the right is debris that will end up in a dumpster on our next demo-day.

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View from south-west corner: in the foreground on left are some tools and metal cabling (the latter being saved for recycling). Beyond the red tool case is the debris pile. To the right, just out of sight is the back stairwell, and the doorway leading to the back room which will be the future deck.

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View from the south-east corner: all of the ceiling has been removed. We’ll remove the rafters but keep the roof. Floor will be re-done. Back wall/windows on left will go, replaced with wrought iron railing. This area is our (and another apartment’s) future back covered deck.

And I think that’s about it. Before we pull down the remaining section of ceiling, we are going to skip ahead and pull out the flooring! Ha! We want to start exposing some areas for the structural engineer, plus we need to start streamlining the process of restoring our flooring, especially on the east-side of the building, where it isn’t as well-kept. After we remove a section of the flooring, we’ll partially cover the opening with some temporary plywood so we can move all of the lumber out of the way of the ceiling demolition. And after the final ceiling is removed, we’ll move on to the floors – can’t wait to see what we find under there!

Speaking of finds, here’s some of our found objects of the weekend.

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Metal fuse boxes and we found Prince Albert’s can!

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After Heath went and bought needed extra hammers for the crew, a hammer fell out of the ceiling. Seriously. Looks like the end was sawn off.

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Difficult to see in the photo, but it says “Belknap” on the top, “Trade” on the left, “Mark” on the right, “Bluegrass” in the middle, and “Louisville” on the bottom. Probably 1930’s to maybe as late as 1960’s era.

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And as usual, a ton more hand-wrought square-head nails. I’m saving them for lots and lots of future craft and art projects.

That’s all for now, folks. We’ll be picking away at smaller projects just about every weekend we can, so if you are interested in taking a whack at some demolition, just let us know. And keep watching this space and your Facebook Events page for the next demo day! Thanks for keeping up with our project.

Demo Day Review

Saturday was a blazing day with a full crew of people. Unfortunately, we lost a few folks due to injuries and weather threats, so Sunday went a bit more slowly. The upside is, 4/5ths of the ceiling is now down, with only the last section in the middle to go. That includes two heavy air conditioning units hanging from the ceiling. But that’s in the future. Let’s share what we just did. First, the fun stuff.

We had one last “dropped” ceiling hiding the real ceiling that needed to go. It was barely attached to the last remaining non-brick wall, so the guys decided they could just yank the entire dropped ceiling down instead of piece-by-piece. It was by far the faster and easier route, and also a bit more amusing. Also mildly dangerous. Check out this video by our friend and one of our lovely volunteer workers, Miranda:

(Charity had some great videos, too, but you’ll have to be a friend of hers on Facebook).

Here’s some shots of us in action throughout the day:

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First find of the day: bird skeleton number 374

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Scott gets started on the ceiling in the northeast room of the building.

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Kaylea and Connor pull nails from reusable lumber.

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Heath had to build more saw horses because we had so many crew members.

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Mike sticks his head up in the southeast room’s ceiling.

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Miranda knows that Charity’s beatings of Zad will continue until morale improves.

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Zad and Charity take a much-deserved break.

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Scott is a prime example of how filthy things got. There was a lot of nasty dirt and debris under the rear room ceiling.

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And I do mean filthy… the clean part is where his glove stopped.

I’ve got pictures of the final results of this weekend coming up soon!

Much thanks to the Shelbourne Family, the Tavary Family, the Norris/Jackson Family, Miranda, and Jill who all helped out whether it was actual demolition, cooking, or keeping the kiddos out of our hair.

We’ll definitely be doing more demo weekends in upcoming months, hopefully before it gets too hot. Just keep watching this space for more details and/or your Facebook Events page.

Latest Finds in the Loft

So, for most of the month of March, due to other obligations, we didn’t work on the loft. The lack of noise must have made this dove very comfortable, as she had two wee eggs in her nest.
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Hopefully we didn’t startle her too badly. Heath went up for a bit to work on the loft on Saturday, and our friends’ toddler and our kids were running amok. The poor dove kept leaving her next to dash across the alley to the building behind us. As long as she or her babies doesn’t come inside the window, we’re fine.

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Momentarily placated with chips and electronics

We’ve got a big work weekend coming up April 16th and 17th, so please feel free to drop in for that. As usual, we’ll feed you and beer you, and give you a place to shower and crash. This weekend’s fare will include some great boudin, straight from the LA source. You don’t need any skills, just a pair of work gloves, and a willingness to work. Our aim is to get all of the ceiling pulled down, the last few remaining walls, and pull a lot of nails from a lot of lumber. If there’s time and enough people, we might even get to start taking a look under the floors. Check your invites on Facebook if you want to join in on the fun, or comment on this blog post.

In the meantime, Heath will be spending every spare minute in the loft. We need to get as much work done as we can before the Texas temperatures make it unbearable for working in an un-airconditioned building.

Many of you have asked when our project will be finished. We really have no idea. I’m hoping by Christmas of this year, maybe even Thanksgiving. A lot depends on how the floor structure looks once we expose it.