We have turned the corner on our home construction in several ways. One is that our general attitude and patience level has moved from “Isn’t this all very fun and entertaining” to “When will this be over?” Another is that we actually know it will be over soon! We finally have a mostly-complete, mostly-functional house and the list of outstanding items is pretty manageable. We reached a big milestone when our builder moved his trailer of tools and supplies to the next job site. Now if only we could get rid of the port-o-let in the front yard….
The biggest accomplishment of the last month was finishing a large array of tasks that were gating items for other projects that were themselves prerequisites for other items. For example, appliances couldn’t be delivered until we had countertops and functioning gas service. Sinks could not be installed in the kitchen and bathrooms until we had countertops, and the shower fixtures couldn’t be installed until the bath/shower areas were tiled. Countertops were dependent on having final cabinetry installed, so a backorder on one of our kitchen cabinets was a major logjam. Meanwhile, since we elected to do all our own interior paint we were racing to stay ahead of the various subcontractors and deliveries, making sure that we finalized paint in the areas behind the appliances before they were due for delivery. All the subcontractors also had to work around the planned concrete pour for the pad underneath the house, which required clearing out the entire work area below the house and also involved several relocations of the Airstream to different spots out of the way of the concrete trucks. In addition to the flurry of subcontractors on site, our regular crew worked steadily to finish up interior trim, complete all the decks and handrails, and build the porch ceilings.
This confusing image collage matches how scattered we felt over the last month:
Some fun facts:
- The island in our kitchen is so large that the countertop needed to be lifted up into the house with a crane, and it exceeded the weight limit of the countertop contractor’s hydraulic lift. It is possible that the design was influenced by the fact that we spent three full years living in an RV with approximately 18 inches of counter space.
- I guess cement trucks don’t hold as much material as I thought, because we needed not one, not two, but three cement trucks for our ground level pad.
- It’s fortunate that the local appliance store employs plenty of brawny young people, because hauling refrigerators and other big appliances up large flights of stairs does not look easy.
- We need to buy furniture since we kept no furniture in storage when we hit the road. But we were so thrilled when we could finally move into the house that our camp chairs and TV from the Airstream suited us just fine as a temporary measure.
It’s been interesting to see the very different work styles of the various subcontractors. Raul, the charming tile guy, had a straightforward strategy: arrive early, stay late, and complete the entire job flawlessly in three days while cheerfully humming along to mariachi music. The electricians, on the other hand, were a complete clown show. These dudes would show up randomly, work for an hour, accomplish one thing on the long list of open items, then leave without a word. Then repeat the next day, and the next day, and the next day, creeping almost imperceptibly towards completion. It was completely maddening. As a bonus, we had to make small talk with these guys every. single. day. while in my head I was screaming “Please just FINISH your job!!!”
All this reinforced my long-held view that a person can make a very good living in the construction trades merely by combining (a) average technical competence and (b) decent customer service skills. Luckily we have a great rapport with our builder and his main crew, so it was easy to feel optimistic about the final product even if there were plenty of head-scratching experiences with subcontractors along the way.
The best news of the last month has been gaining easy access to vaccines against Covid. I was initially concerned that our small, rural community would lag in receiving vaccine doses. But I have been pleasantly surprised to find that our vaccine access has been easier than in larger cities, and in our community people can even choose between Moderna (at the health department) and J&J (at the pharmacy). Ken and I were each able to get appointments at the local health department within the first two days after we became eligible under our state guidelines, and that included automatic follow-up appointments for our second Moderna shots.
We are thrilled at the prospect of getting back to some semblance of normal life. Our first step in that direction will be making some long-overdue visits with other vaccinated family members. We’re heading to South Florida over Mother’s Day weekend to see my mother for the first time in 14 months, which will also allow us to collect our items from our small (5×5) storage unit and close out that rental account after over three years.
We have made some limited gestures toward returning to normal activities here on the island. We attended some outdoor group events associated with the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air Art Festival. Our area does not have enough population to attract large art shows with a wide variety of artists, but in some ways it was even more fun to watch a dozen or so artists in the process of making high quality art. They happily chatted with spectators while working and shared tips on everything from brushes and media to selecting a perspective.
This spring our community has been the focus of a project by masters degree students in the FSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and as part of the end-of-semester thank you event I ate at an outdoor restaurant… just my second meal in a restaurant in over a year. Life is slowly getting back to normal and it is a relief.