7 Random Realities about Rehab

Yesterday we were discussing window placement in the bathroom. This bathroom is on a gabled 3rd floor so the walls are relatively low which makes window placement above the toilet a strategic enterprise (e.g. “What exactly are we going for here?”). While standing in our brand spankin’ newly framed master bathroom, Sebastian was going over our options:

Sebastian: “So, you can do 29×24 or smaller. Like, 24×24”.

Owner: “Well, 29×24 gives more light which is what we’re going for,”

Ally: “True, although then the window is – y’know – lower…”

Owner: “Right, but we can put a plant on the toilet. Ally, you need to do something about your sunburn,”

Sebastian: “24×24 doesn’t look so big and it’s like one of those smaller windows that old houses have,”

Owner: “True…”

Sebastian: “But, this is up to you. Really, it’s up to you.” *shrugs*

Owner: “Okay, 24×24 seems like the best option here.”

*Sebastian walks out of master bathroom*

As we are about to follow Sebastian to the other bathroom, the owner and I glance at the wall where the window is going:

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Now that framing is finishing, MEP is starting, and Finish Carpentry is ramping up – I’m starting to reflect on the idiosyncrasies of construction. So, here are a few random realities about rehab that you should know:

1. There is no professional way of kneeling in an above-the-knee skirt. Our porch contractor decided to explain his dilemma on the drawings which he logically laid down on the ground outside. I started kneeling, slightly swayed from one side to the other, couldn’t really lean forward to point at what I needed to, then decided to sit sideways on my hip with my feet tucked behind me like some short, freckled wannabe model which made all of us even more uncomfortable. Just stick with long, flowing skirts or jeans.

2. Moms are secret weapons. My mom is my bookkeeper. Aside from being awesome, she is also responsible for the money. Everything in construction revolves around money, anyone who tells you different is lying. I’m talking about money constantly all day long. Specifically, I talk about money with sub-contractors. They like to do this thing where they say “okay, so we did X today and that’s $X of the contract,” and then stare at me expectantly waiting for an immediate check. All payments need to be electronically recorded for our records so I just say, “Okay, I’ll have my mom cut you a check.” – magically, this is always okay. No one wants to rush your mom.

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3. Hieroglyphics are normal. There’s a lot of culture on site. We all have one common language: pictures. Get crafty and always use lumber as your sketchpad.

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4. Lumber takes time. Direct materials may seem like the simplest part of the job – this is not true. First, you have to decide whether or not you’re having the lumber delivered. If you’re having it delivered, then you have to decide where outside they’re going to drop it. If you’re picking it up, ideally you’ll call in the order so it’s ready when you get there, then need to make time to have it put into your truck. Regardless of transport, you then also need to get it in the house and up staircases (did I mention that I hate stairs?). Last week I had an order of 300 2x4s, 25 2x12s, and 10 2x16s. This took 2 big guys 3 hours to get inside. Or, you can hire a boom truck – you just need a window big enough.

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5. Cleaning is rugged. Don’t think you don’t have to be domestic because you work construction. Every worker and sub-contractor is required to clean up after him/herself before they leave for the day. Don’t convince yourself that “it’s going to just get dirty again” is a good excuse – cleanliness is next to safety. As far as I’m concerned, sloppiness on site encourages sloppiness in the trades. Besides, the work is easier when everyone can see what they’re looking at.

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(mopping is not the norm, that was a value-add that day)

6. Make room. You need materials in order to do any job on site. After you clean, make room for it. Otherwise, the 15th time you have to climb over another sub-contractor’s material will feel like the 100th time you pulled your hamstring. Plus, it slows everyone down when they can’t easily walk over to their stuff.

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7. Confidence is key. Here’s my new site sign! …and yes, I am compensating for something.

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