Sometimes it just feels like I’m living in an HGTV Show. It’s been 10 months since we moved out of our home and started renovations. I am publicly declaring my daughter and son saints for allowing us to stay in their homes. And my son-in-law… he should be declared whatever is grander than that!
So why does it feel like I am living in an HGTV Show, you ask? Every time, it seems like progress is being made, something is found (you know it is an old house, or at least I am told that EVERY TIME) and we make our way a few steps back. As our original move in date of Memorial Day approached, I asked our contractor, Sam, if we would be in sometime this summer. He responded, “Define summer.” Not what I wanted to hear.
As the self-proclaimed HGTV addict that I am, I can almost hear Johnathon from Property Brothers or Chip from Fixer Upper saying to us when we walk in the door – “Well we have good news and bad news, what do you want to hear first?” The only thing missing is the camera crews! In case you are wondering, take the bad news first, the good news typically isn’t enough to compensate but at least it’s something to leave with.
Sometimes, Jim and I just walk into the house and find our bad news on our own. Just such a thing happened a few weeks ago. We walked in to find retention wires bolted into the front wall of our house and pulled back, connecting to a crank that was bolted into the floor.
Both of us must have stared at those wires for 5 minutes before I said, “You know it looks like these wires are holding the front of our house onto the rest of our house, looks like maybe it was falling off?” Jim without any expression just says – “Yep.” And that’s what happens when you renovate a 164-year-old home. Everything is moving along and then you walk in, and the front of your house is falling off. No big deal, right? Things like this 10 months ago would have made us question if what we were doing was even sane. But all this time later we now just wonder…what are they going to do to fix it …..and we call Sam. We found out that indeed, the front wall of the house was bowing out and must have been doing so for quite some time. It appears that this had been “fixed” many years ago, long before we bought the house. The problem is, we are finding, that there have been many fixes and many renovations to our home over the course of a century, most of which were not done to hold up another 164 years.
Construction in the late 1800s was truly amazing. Hand-hewn Beams were carved and fashioned into place using a mortise and tenon system.
Beams were simply hooked into hand chiseled openings in the wood, they fit like a puzzle, often without any nails to hold them in place. Occasionally, we will find a wood nail or dowel that was used for this purpose. When the new roof was put on our house it was just enough pressure to pop the, already slow-moving wall, off the beams they were puzzled into and pull away from the structure. But there is good news! The front wall of our house has been pulled back into place and 21st century plates, screws and bolts are holding it in place. Crisis adverted….for now.
There have been other issues, sewer pipes that crumble in the plumbers’ hands and must be completely replaced, soffits that must be built where you don’t want them but need them to make room for the HVAC that wasn’t planned for way back when indoor plumbing didn’t exist and lights that must be moved because unmovable beams get in the way. Nothing is really shocking anymore and if truth be told, it is interesting to see both how things were built in the times when my sweet house was created and then to see how our tradesmen of today can make it all work again.
We have begun to focus on the finishings as of late and this has opened a whole new world of things that I know nothing about. Schluter was one of those items that I needed explained. For the record, I found out that I do not like Schluter. This is the material that is often used to finish the line where tile meets wall. It is also often used in bathroom niches and around corners. Made typically of metal, I want as little of it as possible, creating quite the headache for poor Sam. Good news, met with the tile people a few days ago and all the tile I have chosen has bullnose (another new word defined) and I don’t need Schluter! Crisis averted, again.
And so, as we move into month 10 of our little project, I am beginning to have hope of one day returning to 58 N. Main St. Electrical, plumbing and structural inspections were done this week. Insulation goes in on June 8 and the goal is to be completely dry walled by July 4. I love goals like that. After that the finishes will begin and although a “sometime in August” date has been given, I am setting my sights on September, giving myself some extra time so as not to be disappointed. I have learned that good mental health starts with the expectation!
Jim and I spent time this weekend haunting my favorite Instagram designers’ stores while in Grand Rapids this weekend for a wedding. We visited Liz Marie Galvan’s store “The Found Cottage” (www.lizmarieblog.com) and Jean Stoffer’s store (@jeanstofferdesign) and found some wonderful treasures for our home. We even took a walk past Jean Stoffer’s home, The Madison, and was in awe of its beauty. Jim double-dog-dared me to go up and ring the doorbell to see if I could look in the home….but thankfully I was too chicken! I must say this is the fun part of renovating and redecorating.
As we head into summer, I miss most our lake. Having not grown up on water, when I moved to Michigan, I never understood the draw to it. I wondered often what the big deal really was. I understand now. It is playing with my sweet Nora in it and hearing the giggles and laughs that come with spending a day on the water with her. It is the serenity that comes from paddle boarding on a Michigan summer night with my sweet dog Enzo or just simply looking at the water, taking it all in, that somehow brings peace. I miss that, but know that one day I will be back. There is nothing like a Michigan summer, nothing at all. I know, I’m a bit biased, but no matter where we have traveled, we have found that Michigan summers are the most wonderful. The candy cotton skies that appear at night and in the morning and the cool evening breezes that calm the heart ,no matter where you are sitting, simply cannot be matched. For that alone, I am grateful.
Enjoy this beginning to summer wherever you may be.