Let the mess begin.
When we first walked through this house with the owner he took a look at the kitchen and said he’s fine with replacing it before we move in. We needed to get in
months before as soon as possible, so we opted to move in and do things as we could.
Here we are, nearly two years later and oh, so happily tearing out.
[I will not miss these cabinets one iota. Not the countertops that weren't attached and had to be readjusted because they tended to slide off center. Not the cabinets that were never set on the level and so eggs and rolling pins rolled right off of them. Not the countertop edge that kept coming off and finally had to be screwed into place and still managed to snag my clothes. Not the inefficiency of the layout. Not the interior that crumbled or the raw plywood replacing a missing shelf or the rotted out cabinet under the sink. Goodbye cabinets. I'm not even shedding a tear.]
I could not wait to see the carpet go. The house still has a funny smell, particularly noticeable when we are gone for a day or two and I’ve been blaming the soiled carpet. Now, I’m not so sure it wasn’t the cabinets. The cabinets were all crumbling, but the sink cabinet was badly rotted out from a leaky plumbing system. When we pulled it away from the wall we discovered mold. I took a plastic container and some cleaning supplies to the basement to store during the remodel and every time I walked down the steps I could smell that smell.
David came up with the absolutely brilliant idea to store the dishes in the existing cabinets. I’ve been getting rid of more and more boxes since the basement is finished and hadn’t bothered to keep the empty ones around. I have no idea how he dared to stand there holding up a cabinet while I stood on tiptoe behind him with a power drill to unscrew them, but he did. He balanced them and when they were unscrewed we carried them out to the deck where we recreated the kitchen.
This is perfect! Quick and easy. No need for boxes. No room full of boxes and dishes and chaos. We’re planning to not cook and to use disposables, but in the event I need something, I know exactly where to look. David covered everything with a tarp to protect it from rain, but I still opted to keep cookbooks inside.
The boys are nearly swaggering around in their sheer delight at wearing tool belts and being involved in demolition. Adam ripped up the metal divider between the old linoleum and the dining room carpet. You always expect to see a huge difference in flooring where it’s been protected, but it still never fails to shock me at just how nasty carpet gets!
We’re rearranging the kitchen layout a bit so that the stove has cabinetry on either side of it and so that there are outlets accessible anywhere on the countertop. Since he had to cut drywall and re-wire anyway, David is running wires for under cabinet lighting. He’s also getting rid of the very poor ceiling lights and installing can lights. I am so proud of that man. He is not afraid of hard work, but he is also not even daunted by a project he doesn’t know how to do. In the basement project when an electrician couldn’t come, he called his dad who used to do it years ago and the two of them figured it out together. He did plumbing the same way and taught himself how to drywall.
Zara is the one having a hard time with all of this. She hates noise and makes displeased noises if Adam tries to practice piano when she wants to go to sleep. The loudness of construction tools has pretty much put her over the edge. Thankfully, there was a lull this afternoon while David fished wires so she could take one long nap. If cutting drywall did her in, I’m thinking she and I might be walking the road in a stroller the day the hardwood gets installed.
People often ask, so how does this work when you remodel?
Camp didn’t have funds available to purchase the property at the time so an individual purchased it to rent to camp for now with the long term goal of having camp own it at cost. In the event that for some reason it would be sold instead of going to camp (unlikely since camp desperately needs more staff housing), the additional revenue would be donated to camp. If donations are not available for needed improvements, the owner pays for needed supplies. He is seriously one of the most unselfish, giving men I’ve ever met. David and I provide the sweat equity.
What makes you do it if you aren’t going to live here long term is usually the next question. I have no idea. Maybe it’s just in our blood by now. The truth is, we have no idea how long we’re here. I sometimes think we might get all the repairs made in time for the next person to enjoy it. Maybe we’ll live in it for a few years after that, who knows. But in the end David keeps saying, someone will benefit from this. And the truth is, why not us? Someone is going to have to live through it. It may as well be us. David is a master craftsman with wood and he doesn’t do a shabby job with the other parts of it. I think he actually likes the chance to work with his hands again.
Is it different working on something that’s not your own house?
Yes and no. Yes, because of course it is. When you work on a house you own, you always feel as though you aren’t working only to improve your own life, but to improve your equity if you sell it so you make decisions accordingly. We have been given a great deal of leeway regarding style and design; but we always try to make decisions that would best benefit camp. We consider what we like, but we also try to always choose the cheapest of the acceptable quality options when making purchases. Because a $13 dollar light that works and still looks nice is going to benefit camp more than the $30 one I might have chosen to splurge on in my own house. We also try to be very conscious of the longevity and style of purchases in hopes that we will choose things that will hold up and be unobtrusive for the next person who may have completely different tastes. It’s different in that you don’t choose whether to sub out parts of the work versus doing it yourself. You just do all of it.
While we have been budget friendly in our purchases, we have been completely blown out of the water by some extremely generous donors who gave way above and beyond budget friendly to this little part of the overall camp project. A nursery in Virginia donated gorgeous shrubs for the landscaping here and at the other staff house. After searching for a cabinet donor and finding one for the unfinished boxes, David contacted the company he used to sell for. They volunteered to donate the entire project. I can’t even describe how thrilled David and I were. We both love their cabinets and think their quality is superior to almost anything on the market. A business in Pennsylvania is donating granite tops. Yeah, not the kind of stuff you look at when you’re shopping on a limited budget. I loved the granite tops in our house in Virginia. Not only are they gorgeous, I love that you can pull things straight out of the oven and plop them right on the countertop.
There are other benefits, too. We don’t carry the financial burden even if we are cost-conscious. If you’ve ever built or owned your own home, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We also asked if we could eat supper at chuck wagon while the kitchen is dismantled. We’d never have done that if we were working on our own house, but it took an eNORmous load off of me to only scrounge around for breakfast and lunch while the kitchen is raw.
It’s not different in that we still work long hours and the dirt and dust and chaos doesn’t change whether you’re working for yourself or someone else. One of the best things we did this time was to take a little staycation this weekend just before starting in on the project. Our summer has been super full, just like everyone else. It was such a gift to have this time with just our little family to rest and refresh before plowing into something big. Because even swaggering little boys in tool belts start to quickly show the effects of a life disrupted when Dad is still mudding and taping at 9:30.
Still, I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy to enter a season of dirt and chaos. Hey, at least this time I’m not doing school and I’m not attempting to paint baseboard at 38 weeks gestation either!