Monthly Archives: November 2012

Like a Tortoise on Benadryl

Hello again! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? By now the renovations are complete and the finished product will be revealed in pictures below, right?  I wish this were the case but it is not. Unfortunately for us, the house is in the same condition, more or less, as we left it in since my last post. The reason that I haven’t written for so long is that our little construction project hit a major roadblock after just two weeks when we were informed that our entire foundation needed to be replaced! Not fixed or supported or repaired or even partially rebuilt. Unfortunately, the state of the foundation is/was such that it needs to be completely reconstructed, a fact verified by three independent Engineers and a Toronto city building inspector, so it’s not up for negotiation.

We found out about the foundation issue around mid-July, 2012. Today is November 21, 2012. It has been almost five months since there has been any substantial movement, construction-wise, on the house. But that’s not to say that the house and the foundation hasn’t occupied at least a part of every single day since then. On the contrary, these past nearly five months have been a Sisyphean journey involving a lot of administration and a lot of red tape. There have been letters to the insurance company, waiting, letters, lawyers, more letters, more waiting, stress about waiting, the decision to dig out the basement since “they are going to be in there anyhow,” more waiting, collecting our winter clothes (many items of which had grown moldy), not finding many winter clothes and then more letters and waiting and inspection visits and, well, you get the picture. During this time information became sensitive – and not particularly interesting. From my point of view it was downright discouraging most of the time, and for this reason I decided not to blog. The scope of this new work is staggering because of the labor, time, permits and cost involved, to say nothing of the extension of our sojourn downtown (about which Dexter—okay, me—becomes less enthralled with each passing day).

I won’t deny that for a while I began to lose hope that the house would ever be fixed properly. It was extremely difficult, for example, to simply find a contractor who had the experience and know-how to take on a job of our scope. Then there was the tendering process, which was not only time-consuming, but also frustrating to navigate because the quotes we collected were so different from one another. Unlike collecting quotes for the initial construction project, which we put a lot of thought and research into, getting quotes for the foundation was based on work we a) had no choice but to complete and b) didn’t really understand the nature of. It wasn’t fun.

Can you move a little faster, buddy?

A few weeks ago, however, some change and movement finally came about. We made the decision to forge ahead despite any good resolution on who will eventually pay for all of this (obviously we are prepared to do so, but would really, really rather not.) Once this decision was made, drawings were drafted, a new basement designed and permits were submitted. Right now foundation work is slated to begin practically the second  that our permits are issued. We learned that the permitting process typically takes between 6-8 weeks but lucky for us, Frank (our contractor) and Andy (our Architect) have the kind ear of the folks at the city building office, or as Frank puts it “BEGGING from my end and Andy schmoozing them…” thus, we can expect the permits to come through as soon as next week.  If this is the case, foundation work will be completed by Christmas, and interior construction will resume after the holidays for another three months or thereabouts—right about where we left off in July. As Frank puts it, “We will be going hard shortly.” Let’s hope…

Meanwhile, our construction/renovation journey has expanded my understanding of several new things.  (Here is where I try to find positives in this whole mess). For instance, I feel like I have learned more than I ever needed or wanted to know about stuff like building materials, insurance companies (boo), waterproofing techniques and administrative law.  I have also learned several lessons, some painfully, that I will talk about over the course of this blog. But most of all,  I learned to practice, perhaps more intensely than at any other time in my life, the virtue of patience.

This is a renovation blog so I won’t dwell too much on these touchy-feely things, especially since I have so much to be thankful for, so many blessings that don’t have a thing to do with this ol’ house. And so I am now celebrating small victories: the finalized drawings, the patch of west wall that was excavated last Wednesday for testing purposes, the perfectly perfect piles of interlocking brick that was removed in preparation for the real work to begin. Despite the crummy unfairness of it all, it’s nice to see that we / the house are still under someone’s care. As D keeps reminding me when this house stuff gets me down, “you’re gonna love it when its finished!” Its so hard to see that far ahead, or believe that it will ever be done, but I have to. This is what keeps me hopeful about this project.  I won’t deny that this has been an exceptionally stressful experience, but ultimately I am utterly powerless to not accept the ways things are and go with the flow. And the flow is flowing, however slowly, these days. Or as I like to say – like a tortoise on Benadryl.