grumpy about the construction project (very, very grumpy)

It’s been a long spring and summer. I looked through calendars and blog posts today to see if my mind is stretching the time unfairly, but no. We first started ripping out carpet in April. That’s also when we all five (two parents, two kids, dog) started sleeping in one room as we began preliminary DIY demolition for this interminable project. So we’ve been sleeping together for almost five months now.

No wonder we’re all going crazy. If you’re thinking about going full-on paleo and sleeping in a room together with your extended family like cavemen did, just go for it why don’t you. My bet? You’ll start embracing the idea of rapid evolution soon enough. I’m certainly ready for the next evolution in my life.

The professional crews started visiting us mid-June, and internal major demolition kicked off in early July or thereabouts. Everything moved along smoothly until some electrical issues arose. We need to upgrade to 200 amp service because of the change in where the power line comes into the house. That’s really a good thing, but it required several iterations of inspection and work, inspection and work. I can’t recall all the details, but here are the parts that really matter (I think I mostly have the facts right, but you’ll forgive me if my grumpy got in the way of me remembering some details squarely):

Our carpenters did as much work as they could before the electrical line was moved. They left it where it was, which means it was coming out of a hole in the roof. Can you see the line in this picture? It’s a little fuzzy, but it hits the house just where the blue tarp abuts the new plywood roof sheathing:


The plumber and electrician won’t do their major work until the roof is on. I get it. They can’t do their work and then have it get all wet. The roofer couldn’t and wouldn’t do the roofing until that line was moved. Because you know, it’s coming out of a hole in the sheathing. I get it.

So work ground to a halt. I got the feeling everyone was stunned and paralyzed by our city and utility company for taking so long. Because what could we do about it? Meanwhile, every time it rains, water comes in the house. And, although prior Augusts have been pretty dry around here, for the past couple weeks we’ve been subjected to torrential thunderstorms, dumping kazillions of gallons of water every couple days on our poor, unprotected shell and leaving our newly installed studs and subfloors saturated and puddling.

* * * * * *

It turns out this is what was going on with the electrical stuff, timeline-wise:

Last week of July: our electrician Mike installed a new circuit panel for 200 amp service, and then he called the city’s contracting inspection service to set up the “service rough” inspection, “OH to OH”, which I think means overhead-to-overhead in reference to the line coming into the house. This inspection had to happen before WE Energies could come move the line, so that then our roof could go on.

Monday, August 3: the inspector came to our house. The carpentry crew greeted him and he did his thing. Which apparently was a “rough electrical” inspection instead of what Mike asked for. But it is obvious just standing in the kitchen entry that there has been no rough electrical work done. There are bare lines, exposed during demolition, dangling everywhere. They look like this:


And this:


You don’t need any electrical expertise to “fail” this inspection. Any reasonable inspector would have suspected something was amiss and called around to make sure he was doing the right thing. But no. This inspector “failed” us and then “failed” to post anything in the house to inform us, like the big red “FAIL” sticker our contractors look for.

Tuesday, August 4: Mike called the city to see what happened, because the inspector left no evidence of his visit. The city lady shuffled papers and told Mike everything was fine.

The rest  of the week, Mike hassled various people trying to find out when WE was going to get to our house to move the line.

Monday, August 10: Mike called WE again to find out why in the world they weren’t scheduling our work. Duh, said WE. You failed your inspection.


Mike followed up immediately with the city and learned what had actually happened a week ago. The inspector scheduling lady told him we’d have to have a new inspection now, because the inspector did the wrong thing. So Mike ordered that.

Wenesday, August 12: The inspector finally called Mike back to schedule the inspection. For Friday, August 14. Yes, at least two weeks after Mike’s first request for an inspection.

This is when the shit hit my fan and I emailed our alderman to complain. I don’t know if it made any difference, but it was necessary to release Snarla from her cage so that my body didn’t fall into an apoplectic fit and stroke out.

Friday, August 14: The inspector finally came! He refused to make eye contact with me when he came into the house; in fact, he refused to acknowledge I existed, eve though I was standing one foot from him as he walked through my basement. I don’t know if that’s normal for him, or if it’s because of what I understood to be some nasty conversations between him, the inspection company, and some city employees earlier in the week, as a result of my email.

I had dim hopes that WE would arrive Friday afternoon to do their thing and move that blasted power line, but they didn’t. So over the weekend, I released Snarla once more and she sent a nasty-email-gram to the city inspection guy, encouraging him to inspire WE to come on Monday. I embraced a somewhat tacky tactic: I used words and phrases I thought might get a rise, like “mold,” “water damage”, and “increased costs resulting from the delays caused by your inspector’s failure to complete the inspection properly.” I made no direct threats. But I admit that litigation has crossed my mind frequently in recent days

Monday, August 17: Around 9:00 a.m., someone knocked on the door. When I answered it, I saw a fellow in a hard hat and utility trucks on the street. I opened the door and hit the hallelujahs. “You’re heeeeere!!” I keened. “I am sooo happy to see you that I could hug you!!! But I won’t because you would think that’s weird, huh??? You are making so many people happy by being here today!!!”

Hard hat man nodded drily and tried to look nonchalant, or maybe he looked a little anxious and aloof. At least that’s what I thought at first, but then I remembered he was a Wisconsinite. He warmed up quickly and wandered the house with me to figure out what they had to do. As I told him about our travails with water in the house and how long it had taken to get this work scheduled, he asked incredulously, “Why did it take your contractor so long to get us out here?”

* * * * * *

But we’re back on the map now. The plumber and carpenter are working again. The electrician should start soon. The roofing guys are apparently stuck in a scheduling nightmare (because they understandably moved on to other work while our job stalled out), so our trusty carpentry crew stepped in — the three musketeers. The three stooges? Los tres caballeros?

Oh no I didn’t! That’s just rude, Carla.

Here they are, Erick, Dan, and Talon, doing their thing. Three men and their ladders, not too macho to extend a loving hand to each other:


Erick doing his Fiddler on the Roof thing:


Dan implores Erick/Tevye to rethink his position on his daughter Hodel’s engagement:


I caught the guys doing their daily Construction Pilates class this afternoon, even as they began installing the final layers of the roofing. Core strength is so important.


As they wind down with their stretching in the shot below, you can see Bob the Plumber peaking out the window — he’s a bit shadowy, but it’s the best I could do. I’ll get a better pic of this friendly plumber soon:


By the way, look at this lovely architectural detail on the exterior of the addition, to capture the peaked lines of the house and deflect attention from the flatter, uglier shed dormer line. Hand built piece by piece, by Erick and crew.


Bob has been busy doing plumber stuff. Lots of angles and bends. I don’t get how they do it, but look at this beautiful work: IMG_0195


I can already imagine our family’s poo and pee going down that massive drain stack, and sewer gas going up the new vent stack.

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, we’re still struggling to keep it together in this deconstructed home.

Here’s the view from our living room these days:


Yup. That’s the inside of the garage at the end of the view (past the still-boxed kitchen cabinets and the hollowed out future mudroom). Al fresco.

Here’s our future garage door, sitting approximately 8 feet away from its eventual location.



“Door, install thyself!”

And the hole that will eventually be the door out of the kitchen to our back yard:


At the end of each work day, the crew attaches a piece of plywood there to keep out large critters. The little ones make it in through the garage, but Jesse has caught all the toads and taken them back out to the woods.

It’s all good.

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