After the “false start” when our contractor pushes off the construction for a day, my husband and I wake up the next morning feeling hopeful, but cautious. We’re pleased when the crew actually shows up and gets to work that day.
As the weeks unfold, we notice the crew seems to work odd hours: arriving mid-morning, showing up on Saturdays sometimes, not coming at all some days. I don’t think much about it as long as work seems to be progressing. The longer they are around, the more I start to recognize them and to learn their names.
Many of the crew’s methods seem a bit illogical to us, but we don’t ask too many questions as long as they keep working. It’s great summer entertainment for our sons to watch the demolition progress from the front window. Occasionally they make opinionated observations: “Why don’t they use a jack hammer instead of hacking up the concrete by hand?” Assuming the contractor must have a reason, I offer my best guess: “Maybe they’re worried about hitting sprinkler pipes and trying to be careful.”
This optimism that the contractor must know best reassures me through quite a few conundrums in how his crew operates. I never question his methods and choose to ignore the things that seem horribly inefficient even to my untrained eye.
The first setback in the project comes when our main water valve needs to be relocated to prepare for the front porch construction. It’s a Saturday in July and we leave for the day assuming the water will be turned back on by the time we get home.
We pull in our driveway that evening around 6p.m. exhausted and unkempt from a day of waterskiing. We’ve cut it close and are in a rush to shower and change for a friend’s birthday barbeque.
Surprisingly, two workers are still in our yard hunched over some water pipes, clearly struggling to figure out a problem. My husband hops out to survey the scene and I fret about how to get us ready for the party without water for showers.
We unload the car and wait around until long past the celebration’s start time. Finally we leave the crew working in the yard, pack up clean clothes and drive across town to my mom’s house to shower there on our way to the party. Little do we know it will be one of many times she bails us out during a problem in construction.
Throughout the festivities my husband calls the contractor for updates. The water finally gets turned on around 9 p.m. I’m glad we didn’t wait.
A few weeks later we’re preparing to leave for vacation and feeling anxious about all of the work being done on our house. The contractor never returns our calls while we’re gone. but we decide that means everything must be going OK.
A week later we arrive home to find the foundation for the new front porch has been poured and the corner posts are in place. We’re pleased that progress has actually been made but realize there is no way the project will conclude before school starts at the end of the month, despite promises that it will be.
As it turns out, the messiest phase of the project actually begins just after the start of the school year. The new front porch with a gabled roof is complete and the new front door is finally in place.
It is time to tear out the two original walls around our old recessed front porch that are now inside the new construction. The workers tape flimsy plastic sheeting from the ceiling to the floor in a vain attempt to contain the mess. As soon as they tear into the walls, fine dust billows throughout the house.
A few weeks later, just as the crew puts final touches on the porch and we prepare to pour concrete for a new driveway, we realize this is a permanent and expensive portion of the project. Once it’s done, this aspect of our house will be literally “cast in concrete” and will be a sticking point for any future changes we want to make.
We’re both thinking about it but not saying anything. After several sleepless nights and internal wrestling matches, I can’t believe the words coming out of my mouth when I muster the courage to say to my husband: “Maybe it’s finally the right timing to remodel our kitchen and expand our family room. I think it might be now or never.”