Bathroom Demo, Pt. 1
Until a few days ago, there was a full bathroom in the basement. It was located here:
Now, there are zero full bathrooms in the basement. There is, however, a substantial mess to clean up, but that's a story for another day.
I didn't want to demo the basement bathroom - which I'm not going to replace - just yet because going from 2 full bathrooms to 1 full bathroom will present some hygiene challenges when it comes time to redo the lone remaining bathroom. However, the basement bathroom was in the way of tackling some critical projects so she had to go, and I'll cross the hygiene bridge when I get to it.
The exterior of the bathroom walls looked like this:
The inside of the bathroom looked about like this:
Standard stuff: tile floor, shower, sink, toilet, wallpaper on drywall, cooked GFCI outlet, etc. I wound up demo'ing the space because 1, I'd already torn into it a little bit during a recent round of demousification,
and 2, there's a big beam I want to replace and the western bathroom wall was right up on it. I'll have to build a litany of temporary walls during the project to support the main floor, and some of those temporary walls will have to go where the bathroom was.
The demo hasn't been all that exciting, but the bathroom - like the rest of the "finished" basement - is a weird mix of stuff that looks like it was done by legit tradespeople, and stuff that looks like it wasn't even done well by amateur DIY standards. As such, and because I'm living in the house and need its MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) systems up and running, all demo is really more like deconstruction, because there's no telling what's hiding inside the walls.
For example, there are dozens of junction boxes buried in the walls (that's a code no-no) and, in general, rat's nest wiring:
Knowing that's what's in the walls and ceiling, I can't just get real feisty with the sawzall or even a hammer or pry bar.
There are plumbing setups that some people, myself included, frown upon, like this:
That's a galvanized nipple threaded into a brass fitting. I won't bore you with the science that doesn't even seem to be universally agreed upon, but short version, that setup (galvanized steel in an otherwise copper/brass system) has caused corrosion inside the galvanized nipple. I didn't take a real good pic of it, but it's there and if let go long enough, it would drastically diminish the inside diameter of the pipe and subsequently drastically diminish the water pressure coming out of the shower head.
Some people say this situation (galvanic corrosion) doesn't occur with a setup like this, but I've seen it with my own eyes. Between that and the ridiculous number of elbows used in the plumbing to zigzag around all sorts of stuff, I'm led to believe that maybe the work was performed by somebody other than a true professional or somebody who really knew what they were doing. Just like with the electric, this means I have to proceed cautiously and tread lightly.
Oh, and I can't forget the mice. They made homes everywhere, like here:
If you look kinda closely, you can see little bits of chewed up insulation paper facing all piled up across the door jamb. That's the work of some rogue mice. Because I don't enjoy having dead mice rain down on me, all ceiling demo is done halfway slowly so when things do come down, I'm not directly in the line of fire.
Otherwise, the demo has progressed about as well as could be expected without having a dumpster on site. The massive pile of demo'd material in the floor gets in the way a bit, but I'll get to enjoy the long, arduous walks out to a street-staged dumpster soon enough.
The tedium of deconstruction hasn't been without a few exciting moments.
When peeling back the drywall around the window, I realized that the original window casing had been left in place:
It's not real noteworthy from an architectural point of view, but it's always interesting to see how something was originally finished. And since none of the other basement windows had any of the original casing, I wasn't expecting to find any on this one, the last one to undergo any demo. But there it is, and it looks to have been 2-, if not 3-piece casing with a little bead detail in the apron. Pretty fancy for a basement window!
The other thing that caught my eye was the paint job on the plaster wall that was behind the more modern wood-framed wall:
I don't think the paint is original to the house's construction date, but it's certainly plenty old, and it's sort of amazing (to me, anyhow) that way back when, somebody didn't just throw 1 color on the wall, they took the time to paint kind of a faux wainscot/panel thing.
In a basement.
These old houses, especially the smaller ones like mine, there wasn't an inch of wasted space. Granted, the space may not have been used all that efficiently and 19th century floor plans are typically deemed functionally obsolete by today's standards, but still...this was the work of somebody who had such a deep appreciation for what they had that they wanted to dress things up - including finished plaster walls in basements in a pretty small house - any chance they got.
Anyhow...that's where things stand now. The dumpster gets here in a couple days, and work will resume...after about 50 trips carrying debris out to the street.
Street View Ain't Good
That's my house.
If you Google Street View my house, that's it.
You can scroll up and down the street a little bit thinking you'll find a decent angle to peek through the trees and see the house, but you can't. It's just overgrown shit jungle, nothing more.
That's my house, if you Google Street View it.
Look in the bottom right hand corner of the pic, see the downed tree branch? Per the neighbors, that was a regular occurrence. The trees - and yard in general - went unmaintained for years, big tree limbs got too heavy from the burden of carrying weight they shouldn't have been carrying and/or they died from any number of things, and they'd fall to the ground.
And they'd lay there, sometimes across the sidewalk, sometimes across a fence, sometimes in a neighbor's yard, until somebody other than the homeowner offered to take care of the mess.
If you Google Street View my house, that's it. And it's f'n embarrassing.
On the one hand, I see that image and I cringe because I wanted to be farther along on this rehab project than I currently am (if you know me IRL, you know that I could have finished the entire project in 4 months and I'd be pissed that it took me THAT long). The only places where I made any noticeable progress in 2020 are the basement - where I never go unless I'm working on it or doing laundry - and the yard, which isn't saying much because the shit show couldn't possibly get any worse than it was when I closed on the place.
Needless to say, the basement is far from done and so is the yard. When viewed in that light, it's all a bit disappointing.
But I'm not viewing it in that light.
That's the house, my house, a few days ago.
Truth is, I made a shit load of progress in the basement. I probably still have a mice or 17 scampering around the space, but whatever. The basement is 95% gutted. The basement is dry. The basement is dangerously close to being ready to support some big, big noise that I'll get around to making sooner or later on the main floor, and it's ready because I personally removed about 9 million loads of nasty drywall, framing, insulation, suspended ceiling, plaster, mouse carcasses, and plywood that had made the place a wreck.
And the yard...like I said, far from done. Ridiculously far. But it's come a ridiculously long way, too, and I have the yard waste dumpster receipts and fire pit ash to prove it. No more tree limbs on or against the house. No more invasive Japanese Knotwood, all of which I pulled out by hand. Trees and bushes have been trimmed about as much as I can trim them from the ground, or roof, or bed of my truck. The neighbor to the east cut down a bunch of overgrown hedge and vine stuff along our shared fence, because he no longer felt like he needed to screen his yard from the ignorance that had gone on in mine before I bought the place. I found some sort of ancient, super rad pool, buried and seemingly lost forever. 5 cubic yards of masonry garbage was dug up and removed. I actually got some grass to grow.
Now, Roscoe is getting increasingly comfortable spending time in the yard, and Freckles...she'd live out there if I let her. She's still got that puppy energy, she loves to run, and she LOVES playing "fetch", so I spend a lot of time out there with here; I can't tell you how many people walk past the house and do double takes, or how many neighbors compliment my efforts, after seeing the place in the shape it was in for years and years and years.
I could tell you all about the things I wished I'd have gotten done this year, or my frustration with being limited in some cases, like with the giant maple tree in the front yard (I can cut limbs down...but I can't regrow the big upper ones that are long gone), but really, anything in 2020 that isn't a total disaster is borderline cause for celebration.
I work in construction management for a global life science company that does something like $18B in annual sales. We make, currently, over 100 products that go into COVID vaccines, test kits, etc., although the number of overall products in the company's portfolio is something like 300,000. We have 8 facilities - some production, some administrative - in St. Louis, and I couldn't tell you how many worldwide but it's a crazy number. The St. Louis group, which consists of about 2,500 employees, spends something like $20M annually on capital projects and I help manage them. Could be new parking lots, could be office renovations, or, like right now (among several projects I have to get wrapped up by 12/31), it could be a 4,000 SF lab/freezer farm/cubicle area to support the production of some component of a COVID vaccine.
When the virus first became something of widespread concern, most of the non-production personnel were directed to work from home. Our engineering group, of which I'm a part, fell into a weird half-and-half category. The older members of the group were told to work from home, period. The non-older members of the group - 4 of us - were assigned to specific facilities, asked to work from home every other day, and on the days we could come to our designated sites, we had to work from our vehicles in the parking lots. No going into the buildings. We tried to continue with our projects, but it was tough.
A few months back, due to some retirements in the group and very, very slightly relaxed virus protocols (and after the addition of all sorts of cameras and gadgets and temperature scan things installed at every door of every facility) the engineering group was allowed to come back to work, on site, full-time. But it's weird. The building where my desk is, it normally has about 900 employees; now it has maybe 50. Total ghost town. Empty cafeteria. Giant chunks of empty building. Empty parking lot. Silence.
But we've pushed forward as best we can. We've had something like 70 positive virus cases among employees, and who knows how many times that number of quarantines due to contract tracing. One of our guys lost his wife. Some of our vendors, big burly construction types, have gotten choked up when telling us that they can't do a site visit because they're quarantined at home while a spouse is in the hospital struggling with the virus.
Recently, one of my colleagues' wife tested positive, so he had to quarantine for 2 weeks. When he was ready to come back, he tested positive and the 2-week clock started all over again. Between that and 2 retirements in August/September, that means instead of 4 people doing what I do, which we had when the year started, right now we have 1: me.
The end of the year is always insane, as department managers try to spend every last dollar they can for budgetary reasons. With 4 people, it'd be insane. With just me...if I can tread water each day, I call that a victory. My day may start at our Spruce facility with the lab project, but then I have to go check on a flatwork project at our Dekalb facility. If I'm lucky, I may have time to squeeze in a trip to the roof to see how the roofers are doing. While I'm on that side of town I stop by the Cherokee facility to check out a locker room renovation, then it's over to the Broadway facility to see how the exterior concrete work is going. Then it's back to Spruce, and probably the Laclede facility as well since it's just across Market and we have security upgrade work taking place at both locations. Lots of phone calls, emails, texts. Dealing with EHS. Dealing with security. Punchlists. Getting approvals for crane lifts and hot work and flammable coating applications. Figuring out incorrect invoices, submitting purchase orders, answering contractor questions about design, or laydown areas, or what work can be done one what days and at what times.
And that's before lunch.
After lunch, it's the same thing all over again, although the real fires don't usually seem to crop up until about 2pm, which makes the end of every day a total fiasco.
I've worked holidays, Saturdays, Sundays - today was the final day of a 13-straight-day stretch - and the last day where I only clocked 8 hours...probably back in September.
Long story short...the paychecks are cool, but the house rehab...just hasn't been a whole lot of time for it lately. But it's OK. The virus will pass, at some point, and I've been fortunate to remain employed and relatively unaffected personally by the virus. The house is under control, I got 1 of 2 student loans paid off in the meantime, and before too long, the stars will line up just right and I'll really be able to get after this rehab project.
Last weekend I decided that I wanted to decorate the house a bit for Christmas. I don't have any exterior receptacles near the front of the house, so lighting was out. I settled on a couple big red bows, partially because options were pretty limited (shelves were empty). But I got them attached to the front porches columns, I stuck a couple electric candle thingies in the window, and that's good enough for this year. I haven't decorated a house of my own for Christmas maybe ever, so it's a start.
And that's the point. This little house - I really like it more and more each day - needs a shit load of work, and it'll get done at some point. But all things considered, I'm pretty happy with the start that I got.