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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Summer Sweating!

As usual, I’m remiss on updating. We’ve been enjoying our summer so far – hope you have, too. Even with the heat, we’ve managed to get more work done.  Let’s back up a bit, first, though.

On Memorial Weekend, we had our dear friends, the Shelbourne family, back again, and they, with the Tavary family helped us do jobs that we could not do alone. The first picture is of Heath and Scott driving supports into the rear wall so we could finish the flooring in the south east corner of the building. It was hard work, drilling through age-old brick while on a narrow scaffold, but they got it done.

Charity is pictured here, working on the seemingly never-ending task of masonry. We just can’t finish framing walls until we get this masonry finished!

We had such a big crew that instead of our usual stack of pizzas, I ordered ahead for the biggest sandwich I’ve ever seen in my life! I think everyone was happy (and tired of pizza, LOL!).

Another completed job is decking for the AC unit for the two-bedroom apartment. While we will have lovely exposed beams in the living room and kitchen for this apartment, the hallway, bathrooms and laundry room will be a regular height ceiling to accommodate the AC unit, ductwork, electrics, and whatever else we need to hide.

If you are friends with us on Facebook, you also saw that our first set of windows was delivered and installed! Yay! Final caulking and installation of a sloping metal plate to prevent water damage happened today (no pictures of that latter work yet).

These upstairs ones are the three windows that were replaced (note to self – need to get exterior “after” photos).

We plan to replace the original trim work (too many layers of toxic paints and damage to save most of them). We have a few samples left that we can use as templates to recreate the original. Sorry the photo is a little bright, but here’s what it will eventually look like. The rosette square will go in the top two corners with the moulding running down either side and the top. We will be crafting new windowsills. We’ll probably not paint the trim, but use a similar stain as in the photo (maybe a little lighter?).

Unfortunately, we’ve been having more leaks!! Luckily, the warranty on our roof repairs from earlier this year has covered all of the work. Some of them are new leaks, and some old. One of them is really worrisome, located in the smaller bedroom of the two-bed apartment. We’ll be adding framing and flooring somewhat soon, so we need to get that fixed. There’s a challenge with the flashing on where the roof connects to our 3-story neighbor, but luckily our neighbors are willing to work with us and our roofer.

When we started to work on the area where our apartment door will be, we realized that we needed to cut in to the flooring, and figure out the final height for everything. Of course we want the hallway outside of our apartment to line up with the door and our interior. Doors will be installed soonish (see next paragraph), so we have to make sure to give room for the door to open inwards. Here’s a photo of what we had to cut, and the debris. I’m just amazed at the number of layers in what was previously the main dance floor.

That’s a lot of room for insulation, running pipes and electricity, and we’ll still probably end up raising our floor to ceiling dimensions.

Don’t worry, we’ll be piecing that gorgeous flooring back together again! None of it is getting thrown out. My job will be to sort the pile for later use, and pull nails.

Lastly… masonry. Oh bricks, you tiresome bricks! To do it right, we have to make sure everything is lined up as we go. It is just so slow-going, and the masonry is holding up pretty much everything else. Once we finish the masonry, we can frame the last few walls of phase 1. Once we frame the walls, we can get them treated for termite prevention, run the electric, set up the AC, finish the plumbing, install drywall, install doors, install rear windows, install insulation… uggh! So right now, it’s just masonry holding us up. Oh, and nailing down a fire sprinkler contractor – so many challenges to that.

In closing, I’ll leave you with an updated 4-Corners Collage. Lots of fun, since now we have some walls blocking our “view” and it is no longer wide open in phase 1. Not much has changed on the west side of the building, though. Except more debris.

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. 

Jumping in to 2017

The week before Christmas, Heath took off from work and with the help of our friend’s eldest son, did a bunch of odd projects, including completely removing the front stairs, nearly completing ceiling reinforcement in the east wing of the building, reorganizing our lumber stash, working on sanding paint off of more antique doors, bolting massive beams to support some of the existing ones that were partially damaged by termites, and a few other items on our list.

After Christmas, we pooled our gift certificates for home improvement stores and picked up some shiny new tools for our loft. We got a high-quality planer that does really beautiful work (but we’ll still need a table sander because we keep finding nails in planks that are dinging up the blade already and causing ridges along the wood). And we also got a small router table to use with a router that we already owned. These will help immensely! I believe that there’s only three tools left that we’re going to need – an infrared paint remover, a tile cutter, and the aforementioned table sander.

Currently we’re getting quotes from plumbers, HVAC companies, and window installers for the eastern wing, and it’s on my list to compile our quotes from our fire sprinkler companies to make a decision on that. And I’m also doing tons of historic research, looking at original deeds and documents to continue piecing together the history of the Zeiss building. I need to get all of my work completed in the first half of the year so that I can submit it before the September deadline to apply for our historical marker.

We’ll also soon be announcing several demo and construction weekends for January and February, likely taking a break in March. We’re going to need help removing the ceiling in our downstairs tenant, and installing a new one, as well as completing masonry upstairs. Once we get rough plumbing and electric in, we can get to work on flooring and walls. We’ll be tapping our previous helpers, and hoping those of you who’ve not joined us will jump in, too!

Happy New Year and Happy 2017 to all of our readers near and far! I posted on January 1st on my Facebook page that my wish for the new year was to celebrate my birthday this fall in the living room of our completed project. Here’s hoping! At the very least, I hope we get Phase 1 complete (or at least habitable) before our rental lease is up at the end of May. It will be so much easier to work on Phase 2 once we are living there, not to mention saving a bunch of cash by not paying rent.

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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.

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. 😉