Finding an Architect
We consulted a few local builders about adding a sunporch or expanding
the kitchen over the first couple of years, and they all advised us to get an
architect. Eventually some friends of my brother recommended Gratton Gil, a
former student of F.L. Wright. He had worked at Taliesen, I had no other leads,
and I called him. Turned out that he was retired, but he kindly recommended a
couple of his ex-associates. One of them was The man we hired.
The Architect came to see us in the fall of 2004. He brought some
drawings and models, and we liked what we saw. The Architect does all hand
work, no computers, so we saw a lot of sketches and plans, all hand-done. More
importantly, he seemed receptive to our ideas, and not too worried that we
could accomplish what we wanted within our budget. In short order we hired him
for phase one, which we hoped would take us through a final set of plans. by
spring of 2005. We wanted to actually start the project in the fall of
He also mentioned a builder who might be right for the project, and we
mentioned some of the builders we had spoken to. We took a couple of field
trips to see other projects he had designed, and we were off.
The Architect started by studying the lot, the sight lines, the path of
the sun and the existing house. Then he developed a very ambitious
early plan which would have touched virtually
every element in the house, and would have been much too expensive, and much
too big. But we liked it.
Once you got rid of the things that were out of scope, the core of the
plan was to expand the kitchen to the north, and to put a loft over the
kitchen. Stairs up to the loft and down to a new basement were incorporated
into the kitchen extension. There was a sunroom towards the back, with a new
deck, and a mud room toward the front, with a new side entrance and a new front
It was a very 'conceptual' plan revolving around an east/west axis
corridor in the new construction, and sight lines that The Architect thought
would be important. We thought that the east/west axis arrangement effectively
cut off the new section of the kitchen, and we questioned the window
placements, among other things. The Architect's reaction was to immediately
respond with a reduced plan that discarded some his 'concept' but integrated
the new space more effectively.
He had the lot surveyed and determined that we were well within town
setback requirements, but ultimately The Architect realized that the plan had
to shrink significantly to make it more affordable for us, and to comply with
town 'lot coverage' rules. The width of the addition went from 16' to 12', and
the mud room/entrance was shortened. We also reduced the extent of the new
basement space, and continued to tinker with window placements and the kitchen
It took a while, but we finally arrived at a
'final' plan late in the summer of 2005. The
Architect had done a nice job of simplifying it and helping us make economical
choices of components, materials and finishes. The final breakthrough was the
placement of the 1/2 bath into an angled space in the new mudroom, and
positioning of the new front door. At that point we knew we had what we
We still had to price it, however, and to pick a contractor.
The Builder and The Basement
One contractor we had recommended really didn't want to do the job, and
instead suggested tearing the house down and building a new one! Another
contractor that The Architect had worked with previously was locked into the
high end of the market, and gave a preliminary price that took him right off
the list. That left the guy The Architect had originally had in mind for the
job, and who we had met on one of our early field trips with The Architect.
The Builder gave us a reasonable price (twice our original budget;
that's how these things go) but there were two problems. One was that The
Builder was already committed to building another house in November-December of
2005, so there was a big hole in the time he could work on our project. Two,
both he and The Architect were extremely leery of the structural integrity of
our old basement walls.
The Basement Solution
We had been thinking all through the planning that we would leave the
old basement as it was, and address the water issue by re-grading around the
exterior foundation and adding French drains or something similar. The old
basement would still be wet, probably, but the new section would be dry and
isolated, and all the utilities would be in the new space.
It became apparent, however, that raising the grade around 10" at the
exterior as planned would add to the load on the old basement walls, and there
was a concern that this was not to code, and just in general not wise. I
complained that this problem had been left for last, but in fact I was as much
to blame as The Architect. I had just assumed it would 'be OK,' while The
Architect had assumed that his structural engineer would find a solution, but
never actually pinned it down.
We ruled out lifting the house and building new basement walls. This is
a common practice on the Cape, but in this case too expensive relative to the
rest of the project. That left two basic solution types: structurally
reinforcing the old basement walls or eliminating the problem by filling in the
old basement altogether.
In the end the 'final' basement remediation plan combined both
approaches: a short wall built inside the old basement wall, applying a
water-proof membrane, and filling the space between the walls with crushed
stone. This buttresses the old cinder block walls, and allows for better
drainage inside as well. We get to keep the existing bulkhead entrance, and
preserve the majority of the existing basement space. We'll also re-grade and
drain the exterior as planned.
So, the plans are stamped and the permit application is in.
- 10/15/05 - We met with the builder to finalize everything and sign
the contracts. We saw the new, 'final final' set of building plans which were
stamped for submission with the permit application. The most significant change
is a modification of the shape basement walls at the stair landing to
keep them as far away from the septic system as possible. The walls now come to
a point. The deck extension behind the sunroom is also absent, because it would
have been too close to the leaching field. Maybe we'll use the famous
pavers for that space. I don't have a copy of the last plans, so no updated
pictures are available.
Cable TV and internet are disconnected; all
kitchen and living room furnishings have been moved into the bedrooms so the
kitchen and living room are ready for demo. Plants are dug up and basement
shelves cleared for removal.
- 10/20/05 - The permitting process moved quicker than expected and is
now complete. Next week the gas line will be relocated to South side of house
(as all other services will be eventually,) the dumpster will be delivered and
the new furnace and hot water heater will be installed. Exterior demo will
clear the deck, so to speak, and then the basement remediation work will start
and the old chimney will come down. After those steps, excavation can begin.
The plan now is to have the foundation and perhaps the first floor box complete
- 10/21/05 - And it used to be so cute...(click image for full size
- 10/28/05 - The chimney is down (among other things)...
- 11/03/05 - Even more 'final' plans
are in and being 'tweaked...' These are are some bad photos of the rather
wrinkled plans. See if you can spot the 'issues.' (Way too many ironic single
- 11/04/05 - Excavation Day
And for you action fans,
a short movie in
Realmedia format. Oh yeah, they hit water a little sooner (higher?) than
expected, but everyone is coping as best they can.
On the down side the
basement remediation work was unavoidably interrupted, and the new HVAC
equipment isn't in yet. The water line has been replaced, however, and so the
HVAC/plumbers should be back next week, and they'll connect the gas and then
the new equipment. The masons also should be back to finish the wall in the
corner by the new water line, fill and cap the space between the old and new
walls, and (I hope) finally get rid of that front landing.
- 11/08/05 - Foundation has been poured.
- 11/09/05 - Forms and forms removed
And a big honkin'
machine to lift the forms in and out.
- 11/11/05 - And the infamous front slab is history
or as The Builder said, "a step in the right direction." He
adds, "The new furnace and ducting is installed and awaiting the plumbing
inspection (Monday or Tuesday). Then the electrician will wire up the
connection. The foundation will be waterproofed on Monday. Hopefully I'll get
the inspection on Tuesday and the backfill on Wednesday."
- 11/19/05 - Foundation Insulated & Backfilled and HVAC Vented
And the wood for the 'box' is on site.
- 11/21/05 - Framing begins; the utility trench is dug.
And the plumbing inspector came by and said OK.
- 12/11/05 - The 'box' is complete and all but one additional pier is
poured. The foundation remediation on the inside is complete and the new
furnace is up and running. The new utility conduit(s) are in and the
electricity is (still) waiting for NStar to allow is to hook it up. We're
getting ready to button up for winter.
- 12/28/05 - We have power! Meanwhile The Builder is down in the US
Virgin Island of St. John while we freeze and wait.
- 01/07/06 - Happy New Year! We're busy ordering the fireplace, picking
out kitchen cabinets and counters, and wondering where all the money went.
Well, some of it is going down the duct to nowhere, as most of the heat at the
moment is going where the thermostat isn't.
At least the lot is fully
staked out. The worst corner is the front (southeast) where the fence was about
three feet too close to the house. The corner is actually where there is a
small pine growing. Part of that fence is gone, anyway, after the trenching, as
is most of the corner rose bush. Now, what to do about the fences?
- 1/19/06 - The Builder's been heard from! Correcting my geography and
looking for more working capital.
Work will re-commence on 2/1/06.
Maybe by then we will have settled on kitchen cabinets. We'll probably go for
something simple. More news next week, maybe, after the fireplace is installed
by The Architect and the guys from Stove Place II on 1/25/06.
- 01/28/06 - Fireplace is installed (sort of) and we're closer on
kitchen cabinet selection and thinking about countertops. We'll go for
inexpensive painted cabinets but a nicer countertop.
Some time since the
7th the neighbor's fence behind us started to fall down. That's a Cape winter
and rotted fence posts. Bad combination. But our new improved cellar is nice
and dry, despite very wet weather. And The Builder should be back at work some
time this week!
We also have a new ultra-final set of plans, including the fully
'tweaked' kitchen, and a front elevation that fixed the bedroom windows.
- 02/13/06 - The Builder's back at work and we have more structure
coming in. This was taken before this weekend's blizzard, of course.
- 02/15/06 - Framing is going up almost as fast as the snow is
- 02/20/06 - And the second floor framing has begun.
- 02/23/06 - The view won't be this good... but hey!
- 02/24/06 - And down below, the main sump and pump are history.
- 02/28/06 - On some of the coldest days of the winter so far, the loft
level takes shape.
- 03/01/06 - March is in like a cold, calm lion, and the ridge board is
up. What, no flag?.
- 03/03/06 - Snow Day!
- 03/07/06 - The Builder reports that the new skylights will arrive on
the 8th. Looks like he's ready for them.
- 03/08/06 - Framing complete. Roof will be sheathed tomorrow and
skylights dropped in Friday.
- 03/09/06 - Breakthrough!
- 03/16/06 - It's really gone!
- 03/17/06 - The Infamous East Window in the loft. Is it too high to
see out of? Yes! Should we just lower it? The Architect says "No!" Can we find
a middle ground? The saga continues...
- 03/22/06 - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly? Well not quite. But while
the windows are going in and things are stepping along, and while The Architect
has come up with what might be a solution to the infamous east window, what are
those streaks on the brand new green roof? Shadows? Nope. But they are actively
under discussion. (Editorial note added 4/10/06: turned out to be asphalt
bleeding through from the back of the shingles, caused by age and pressure from
being at the bottom of the stack. Meaning: this was a bad old bunch of
shingles. The shingle company will make it good and cover the re-roofing.)
- 03/25/06 - The kitchen cabinets and appliances are on order, and the
roofing manufacturer will be on-site on Monday to see the problem and propose
how to fix it.
- 03/31/06 - Buttoned up, and the slab is poured. The new backside
looks pretty nice.
- 04/06/06 - The exterior cedar shingling has begun.
- 04/08/06 - The interior is taking shape, although it's still hard to
see without the wallboards, and the exterior is virtually complete. Still
tweaking the design. Dropped the little closet at the new entry, and The
Architect and The Builder adjusted the celing lines in the transition between
the open loft and the kitchen and living room. All to good effect, I
The new rear door needs to be replaced because it doesn't have
the built-in shades that we wanted. The re-roofing is pending; The Builder
needs to find someone who can get in on their schedule. I'm working with the
electrician on switching and lighting details and my ethernet and cable TV
We're closing in on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Framing inspection should be this week, I hope, and with rough electric close
to complete, and rough plumbing ongoing, we should start to see wallboard going
up soon, maybe.
- 04/14/06 - No new pictures, but good progress. The basement landing
was tentatively framed; Dorothy and I decided we didn't quite like it yet, so
we made some more changes and finalized that 'tweak' today. We also moved
around the washer/dryer locations and settled on the basement lights and
switches.The wall between the old basement and the new has also been framed,
and the old front door is installed there.
Speaking of lights and
switches, all the low-voltage issues were resolved and the rough electric is
almost done. The Builder hopes to get the plumbers in next week and get their
Dorothy's trying to figure out the best way to get
started 'pickling' what's left of the old paneling, and the recycled paneling
which is going to be waiscoating in strategic spots.
So things are
moving on. The Builder hopes to have the interior basically complete by end of
May, leaving the decking; trellis work, etc. for last. Oh and he's found a new
roofer; that should be done within the next three weeks or so.
and I are discussing the ideal shape and position of a kitchen table.
- 4/15/06 - one more electrical tweak: we accepted the electrician's
suggestion to add an outlet to the old bathroom. Happy Easter!
- 4/22/06 - Dorothy's on her way to the house to try some pickling
techniques on the old paneling. The surprise of the week is that the
replacement roofers showed up and the roof had been redone and, according to
The Builder, looks good. The rough electric is almost complete; no word about
the rough plumbing. The last little window (remember the east window in the
loft?) is in and in.
Dorothy's also carting down the overhead fan for
the loft, and some other miscellaneous items. I'm heading down on Tuesday to
receive the appliances. We also need to pick out some exterior lights for the
deck, since the ones we were going to get from The Architect turned out to be
too old to use. No comment, there.
- 04/26/06 - Pictures! The roofers stripped and re-did the whole deal,
and it looks great. Rough electric is mostly complete and the inspector has
been by. Heat ducting is being worked on, and rough plumbing starts by the end
of the week.
All the new appliances were delivered yesterday and are in
the 'new' cellar, which also has a framed landing. The old washing machine and
stove were hauled away, making a little more room.
will have to wait for rough plumbing, however, so that probably won't be be
this week. Meanwhile Dorothy is slaving away over the paneling hoping to beat
the looming deadline of floor refinishing, which should follow the drywall
guys, who should follow the insulation guys, who should follow the framing
- 05/06/06 - There's been a lot going on but not a lot of dramatic
structures to photograph. So here's the news...
Rough electric and rough
plumbing are complete and inspected. Framing inspection is Wednesday the 10th,
so insulation will start right after that. The kitchen cabinets are still
scheduled to be delivered on the next Tuesday, the 16th. Timing of the cabinet
installation is in the air as of this writing.
No functioning toilet
this weekend so Dorothy can't work on the living room paneling, but most of the
loose panels have been cleaned up. Final 'pickling' is likely to be an ongoing
project. We've decided to put a grey stain on the new floors and on the newly
sanded living room floor, partially to avoid being overwhelmed by yellow
So I expect the interior finish work to be pretty dramatic when it
starts this week, and The Builder will be outside working on decks and trellis
work while the trades are drywalling, sanding and staining. More photos after
- 05/10/06 - Framing inspection postponed until tomorrow, but I went
down today to get some pics of the electrical and plumbing rough installations
before the insulation and drywall started. Our mechanical engineer has already
blessed the framing, including the patching The Builder and the Architect came
up with post-plumbing (see bathroom pic below.)
The roof is finished and
The Builder is finishing up the shingling between the rain showers. We still
expect cabinets next week, but won't be ready to place them until after the
drywall and flooring. The Builder still says he'll be done by the end of June,
even though we won't get the countertops until mid-June. Ever the
- 05/12/06 - I was more than a little unhappy after I returned from my
last visit. After stewing all night because there was no heat duct in the
sunroom, I complained and, as of this afternoon, The Builder
We now have a heating duct in the far end of the addition next
to the large windows on the sliding door side.
Hope to start pouring
the footings next Monday.
All insulation is completed.
have a few things to do before the drywall begins.
So all is
well, although it's been raining for about a week and it will probably continue
for almost another week. On and off. But I digress...
- 05/19/06 - The havy rain has stopped. Yesterday, The Builder
Cab[inets]s are in the basement, drywall is onsite and
should be installed (hung) by tomorrow -end of day. We will finish pouring the
footings tomorrow AM. Exterior trim is almost complete and should be done by
tomorrow. We're getting there.
This weekend, Dorothy is getting
ready to bring some 'pickled' panels down and will work with the architect on
floor stain colors on Sunday. We are indeed getting there; I'm getting
optimistic again about using the place in July.
Oh, and tonight, The
Builder got caught up on his phone cam pics.
- 05/24/06 - Best laid plans? The drywall is incomplete and that is
slowing down the whole program.
The Builder is working on outdoor stuff
(decks supports, exterior trim, etc.), and Dorothy and Richard The Architect
are coming up with various ideas for surface finishes, still under review.
We're all going to get together tomorrow afternoon to hammer out the scheduling
issues, and figure out if we can save the July 4 completion target.
- 05/25/06 - Big pow-wow day on a beautiful Thursday before memorial
day. Dorothy and I joined The Builder and the Architect and we seem to have
resolved most of the outstanding issues surrounding the various surface
finishes, although exact timings are still a bit uncertain.
lots of other details, from the re-location of a can lamp to the addition of
another heat vent, and the scope of the outdoor work (not much) were all
The cabinets will be placed in the kitchen temporarily for the
purpose of finalizing the countertop measurements, and then they will be
returned to the basement. Next week, while The Builder takes another hiatus,
The Architect will supervise the subs who will be finishing the sheetrock and
laying the flooring. The Architect, and The Builder's trusty assistant, will
also work on completing decks, pergolas, etc. The Builder comes back just in
time to help install the countertops, after which the plumbers and electricians
come back for finish work, and the race to a July completion begins. Now
whether it's Independence Day, Bastille Day or Amelia Earhart's Birthday, that
remains to be seen...
- 06/01/06 - The Architect writes:
The Builder is gone
cooking in the early-summer tropics. We finished the front deck yesterday and I
plan to get started on the back deck on Friday.
We will measure the
cabinets on Friday as well. I spoke with Fire slate and they need dimmension by
I have calls in to the sheetrocker (re: stair wall in the
basement) and floor guys (re:stain and poly options, availablity and cost). No
word yet on either.
Dorothy has all but selected the floor stain
and just about completed the panels.
- 06/15/06 - It's been a while, and it's been raining most of the time.
Roslindale was awash. The project house on the Cape more or less got through it
OK. Some water appeared around the old sump hole, but the other end of the
cellar, which used to be the wettest, stayed dry. Cabinets and other items
stashed in the cellar seem to have survived as well.
awful wet weather slowed down the drywall process, which in turn will slow down
everything else. The cabinets did get placed and measured, at least
sufficiently to get the custom countertop guys going progress. The cabinets are
still unfinished, however, and although we're close, Dorothy still hasn't
finalized a wall paint color selection.
I'll be down there tomorrow for
the installation of new telephone and cable TV circuits, which I booked a
couple of weeks ago on the advice of Stan the electrician. The Builder's back,
so I'll see him. We'll probably re-jigger the schedule (again) and maybe try to
get the painting done before the flooring, which means we really need to pick
that wall paint.... Film at 11, as they say.
- 06/17/06 - And a long boring film it was...
up on time and installed the cable. Verizon, scheduled for an 8AM to 12PM
window, stiffed me because the order had been entered incorrectly as a turn-up
rather than an install, and then their special 'resolution' office stiffed me
again by promising an afternoon dispatch and a call-back, and failing on both
That could have been worse, because I had plenty to do down
there while I was waiting, using my pint-sized wet-dry vac on all the standing
water in the basement. So much for the 'bone-dry' reports I'd been getting from
The Architect. Water tables do have a tendency to rise.
new basement was free of standing water, although the walls were damp to the
touch. And there appeared to be no significant damage to the cabinets and
appliances which were throughout the space. Lack of gutters and downspouts
didn't help during the heavy rains, either.
Otherwise, the completed
decks look OK, the plasterer was finishing up the last coats of joint compound,
preparing for primer and paint, which will be Benjamin Moore OC-31 Fog Mist per
- 06/22/06 - It's officially summer, and all the cellars are
Dorothy's been down at the house pickling the kitchen cabinets.
The sheetrock guy is also painting the interior, and today exterior painters
Speaking of showing up, Verizon apparently did show up on
Monday and installed the telco line in the conduit. Of course, when I called
them on Tuesday they told me that an unspecified 'technical' issue had kept
them from keeping the appointment last Friday and they re-scheduled it for next
week! Left hand not knowing what the right is doing. Ah me.
- 06/25/06 - Verizon not only showed up, but the somewhat overzealous
lad terminated every cat5 in sight! The hithertoo unspecified 'technical
problem' wea that there was no longer any facility on my pole, so they had to
being over dial tone, which they did late in the week. The Electrician and I
will have to deal with this mess, but at least it's in.
four days at the Cape, pickling the cabinets and watching the painters.
Exterior paint to be completed on Monday, if the weather clears, and flooring
will also begin. Oh and the countertops are in a crate out front.
- 07/02/06 - Things never go as fast as you want, but they are moving.
Exterior and Interior paint is done, flooring down (but not finished), cabinets
and countertops going in. If we had more working plumbing and electricty it
would be livable, almost.
Dorothy is back down there, pickling the
cabinets. I joined her late yesterday with a littlle champagne and a wireless
TV I hooked up so she could watch the Tour de France. Next year at this time
will be our 33d anniversary, and we're planning "33 at 33."
- 07/10/06 - Dorothy has returned from another weekend of pickling.
More trim is in place, most kitchen cabinets are up. We're closing in.
- 07/27/06 - The problem with this part of the process is that, while
progress is being made, and it's significant, it's not dramatic. No big holes
in the ground, no walls going up or coming down. Just..., well
Stairs are in, most of the trim except the baseboards and
railings, a finish painter is working on the poly and trim paint, and the
electrician has begun his finish work. Now if we get the plumbers on board, we
could have finished floors in, say, three weeks?
- 08/08/06 - Details details... The gutters are up, the
bannisters/railings are complete, the high wall has been refinished and various
construction dings in the walls patched. Most of the trim finishing is, well,
We're waiting on the plumbers, mainly, then we'll finish the
floors and the electrician will finish his hook-ups, and by then the overhead
trellis work outside should be complete. Dorothy is still conconcting a floor
- 08/18/06 - Getting ready for the finish. Per the
The gas piping is just about complete. The water piping
is dragging on. The half bath is partially piped. The outdoor shower is also
The front and rear arbors are completed, the living
room bookshelves are complete and waiting paint. The electrician is waiting on
trim rings for the ceiling lights and special covers for the outlets that are
in the short knee wall facing the sunroom.
The yard is pretty much
cleaned up. Next week the interior painting/poly will continue and should be
Next week the floors.
- 08/24/06 - Or the week after...
Anyway, how does the song go?
"countin' shadows on the wall, doesn't bother me at all..." Flowers, shadows,
weeks, you get the picture.
But, the plumbers are in and plumbing. Saw
them with my own eyes. And, the detail of the exterior work is lovely. I'm sure
I'll enjoy it next summer.
- 08/29/06 - Sanding of floors due to be completed today and Dorothy is
heading down to supervise the application of her secret mix of floor stain.
That will put indoor work out of comission for a couple of days at least, to
allow for drying, poly application, etc.
She'll also be able to see how
much of the plumbing and electrical work is yet to be completed, since we're
trying to set up inspections for immediately following Labor Day.
- 09/04/06 - The floors are stained and polyurethaned, and Dorothy
finds the color acceptable ("at least they're not blue") so that's good.
Screen doors are hung, and the last gutter/downspout is in place. It really
(really) really is almost (almost) done.
Plumbers and the electrician
are due back this week for final touches and appliance installations, and final
inspections possibly by next week.
- 09/10/06 - We spent the weekend down there, spoke to the Architect
and the Contractor, and even the Plumber(!). Still not finished, but the final
electrical inspection happened on the 8th, and the plumbing inspection is due
The rest of the update can almost repeat the last
Plumbers and the electrician are due back this week for final
touches, last appliance installations, and plumbing inspection. Final overall
inspection possibly by next week.
- 09/18/06 - Met with the contractor and worked up a punch list. The
bad news was that we failed the plumbing inspection last week, so no final
inspection yet. Plumbers have fixed most of their mistakes and re-inspection is
Tuesday the 19th, and final is due Wednesday the 20th. Electrician should
complete his stuff by Friday, and if all goes well we'll be paying the final
bill on Saturday.
Except that the architect is ill, and so the
backsplashes, which are on-site but his responsibility to install, are not
installed, and there are some missing clips on the dishwasher which need to be
drilled into the countertop. So glad we picked Fireslate.
But the stove
works, the sinks work, and it's really, really.... Well, you know.
- 09/24/06 - On Friday the 22d the contractor obtained the final
sign-off on the permit. The 'construction phase' is complete!
that the architect is still ill, and so the backsplashes, which are on-site and
assembled, are still not glued into place, the clips on the dishwasher are
still not drilled into the countertop, and we have a missing piece of one door
lock (because he was in charge of the locks; go figure.)
Other than that
there are some trim rings for the sunroom lights outstanding because of
supplier delays, and the outdoor shower is in need of a replacement mixer
valve. And that's about it.
I got the ethernet working and the
electrician did all the in house RG6 cable connections . Lots of paint and poly
work left for Dorothy left to do, lots of cleanup and testing of furnture
layouts, and next spring we will need a landscaper for some serious
But last night we had a fine dinner at the Ebb Tide and declared
All of the Pics from The
Builder's Phone Cam
Richard's Renovation Pics
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