It’s not as bad as you think.

If you’ve been reading, even sporadically, over the last 5 months or so, you’re aware that we’ve undertaken a construction project of substantial proportions. We’ve doubled the size of our family room, which required an extension of the foundation (there’s a walk-out basement under this portion of the house). The extension of the foundation suggested to us (maybe it suggested to Husband more than me, but whatever) that we should finish the basement at the same time and build a bar/tv room/man space down there. You know, since we’re in for a dime, in for a dollar.

We broke ground on June 1, and we’re almost finished. The family room portion has been open and useable since just before Halloween — it’s fantastic and everything I ever wanted it to be — and the bar area will be done around the end of this month. (Good news: the taps will be ready for Thanksgiving, even if the room’s not aestically as pleasing as I’d like. Guinness on tap overrides paint and flooring. My priorities are straight.) Everyone who hears that we’re doing contruction puts on their sympathetic voice and starts patting us, as in “Oh, honey, it’ll be almost over. How are you holding up?”

Actually, the opposite is true. It’s been a really good experience — only about 5% annoying or bad. That’s pretty good, no? So at the risk of being pedantic, as the project wraps up, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned. To wit:

Embrace the project creep. I had heard about this, but was in denial that it would happen to us. We’re disciplined, we have a budget, we’ll stick to the plan. HA. God and Contractors laugh when you say stuff like that. So the Creep crept, and I’ve got new doors on my computer room/office area, new banister spindles to replace the ones that Doodle #2 decided to chew; mahogany paneling where we didn’t earlier consider paneling; exterior stone where we hadn’t earlier considered putting it….All good things. All things that make this house more lovely. I have embraced PC.

It doesn’t matter how long you’re told the project will last, it will last 50% longer than that. Plan accordingly. Don’t get worked up about it — embrace it. (Hmm. Lots of embracing when doing construction. Who knew?)

Although the contractor is essential, more important in many ways are the people that the contractor uses for the job. From the contractor’s own employees to the subs hired for the job, you’ll be living with these people for longer than you think you will. You better like them. They’d better be people you’re okay with having in your home and around your family for an extended stay. Do they smoke, curse, tell bad jokes? Do they clean up? Do they like your dogs? Do they respect your property at large so as not to screw up the parts that they’re not working on?

If you need someone to pick the most expensive fixture, finish, or option on the planet, please call me. When left alone in a showroom, or with a catalog, or on a website, I have the uncanny ability to choose the priciest faucet, hinge, tile, or toilet. It’s a gift. I don’t know that there’s a big demand for this gift, but I’ve got it. Such a gift can’t be hoarded, so I’m happy to assist anyone who needs this service.

As soon as you reassure the craftsman/tradesman that no, we never have trouble with water in the basement, or dogs destroying things they shouldn’t, or something else that’s tangential to the project, you will have that exact trouble. The words were no sooner out of my mouth that we don’t ever have issues with water in the basement so of course I want to drywall the ceiling rather than install a drop tiled ceiling, when son #1 clogged the main floor powder room before bed one night and the toilet ran ALL NIGHT thus flooding the newly drywalled ceiling below. Niiiice.

Keep your fingers crossed that your neighbors won’t have a stroke about the enormous dumpster placed adjacent to your front door, the bright orange excavator living in the side yard, AND the porta-john strategically positioned all summer at the (house) end of the driveway. Nothing says “classy neighborhood” like a porta-potty and 30 yard dumpster on the property. (If only the excavator could’ve been up on blocks in the front, that might have really suggested some interesting lifestyle decisions here.)

You’ll spend a lot of time wondering about the health and mental status of the craftsmen/tradesmen. It is rare for anyone on this job to wear any kind of breathing apparatus — but really, why should they? They’re just spending their days cutting wood or sanding it, drywalling, or cutting concrete. No dust there. Breathe on.  Also, apparently the decibels from saws and pneumatic nail guns don’t impact hearing. Who knew? I asked my group of guys about their hearing (I’ve completed my Masters coursework in Deaf Ed), and got some smart-guy response: “What? I can’t hear you.” Did I mention they’re funny?

You’ll get used to having Guys. Hold on, before you get all nudge nudge, wink wink at me. I mean you’ll get used to having “The Guys” around.  As in, “Let me see if The Guys will do that,” or “Let me ask The Guys to help me with…” They’re incredibly useful. My Guys have helped me move furniture (unrelated to the project), hang tricky photos over the fireplace, carry boxes, and provide opinions on “how-to” stuff that I would’ve called someone about. We’ve also agreed to be mutually complimentary: I solicit opinions on whether or not my new bathroom is the most beautiful they’ve ever seen (it is, of course), and I tell them what geniuses I think they are. Win win. I’m contemplating buying them all Christmas sweaters and photoshopping them into the Christmas card this year. (And then counting how many curious calls or emails we get about the new additions to the family.)

This weekend the floors will be sanded and refinished so the new family room space matches the old family room space. We’ve (me and The Guys {see? useful}) cleared the entire space of furniture, photos, plants and the detritus (sorry to interrupt, but that is a great word right there) of four children and two dogs and a couple of adults.  I’ve got the music blasting and it’s all I can do not to go into the empty rooms and dance like no one is watching.

But I’ve got Guys downstairs, and so far they don’t think I’m nuts. (At least they tell me they don’t think I’m nuts.) We’ve got a couple of more weeks together still, so I don’t want to ruin it. That’s maybe the final lesson: Keep your act together, so as not to tip off the craftsmen that you might really be a loon.

Oh yes, another vocabulary-challenge-post. This week’s word is *not* detritus, but another equally useful word: pedantic. C’mon, come play along. You know you want to!

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7 Responses to “It’s not as bad as you think.”

  1. Sheena Says:

    Well we’ll never have to worry about neighbors, but people in my house that are helpful…can I trade the foreman for four. Heck I’ll even settle for two for my four.
    Sheena recently posted..hello there stranger

  2. maryellen Says:

    Spot on! Well put –and hysterical–as usual!

  3. The Flying Chalupa Says:

    When I saw “project creep,” I honestly thought there was a creep working on the project – as in The Money Pit (wasn’t that a great movie). Did you ever open your bathroom window and find a construction dude? Eh? The place sounds fab – and did I read Guinness on tap? I’ll be right over.

    Alyson says:

    You did read that right–I’ll let you know when the first pint is poured. I hear the perfect pint can be tricky to pour. I’ll be practicing *a lot*.

  4. Jersey Diva Mom Says:

    Guinness on tap, at home? You had me at hello.

    My parents live in a gated community. A few of the annoying (read as hyper-prententious) people called one of their neighbors to complain about the equipment when a neighbor had work done. They actually reported the couple for having a POD in the driveway for *GASP* two weeks! It “violated the community code regarding advertising signage.” Puh-leeze.

    Alyson says:

    Got word that the portapotty is leaving in the next few days. (Apparently we won’t be able to use it for the T’giving crowd.)
    That breeze you feel is my neighbors’ collective breath being released in relief.
    I’ll announce when the Guinness is tapped so you can come on down. I think it will make a delicious Irish breakfast.

  5. liz Says:

    I have a friend who just went through the Creep. They wanted bookshelves built into their dining room…which led to a new mantle…which led to a new fireplace facade…which led to new lighting around the fireplace. And the new bookshelves made the kitchen cabinets look bad, so those got stained, too.
    liz recently posted..Why I&8217m Stupid-Excited

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