Plan B: The Basement

Before leaving for Mexico, we carefully (and hurriedly) set our “out of office” auto replies, secured our pet sitters, wiped down furniture, laid down fresh plastic sheeting on daily use items (such as our printer, studio desk and filing carts), ushered miscellaneous chairs, ottomans and decor into the safety of our second spare room and – most importantly – confirmed with the contractors that they would, indeed, be done with everything by the time we returned.

Remaining on their to-dos? Repair a leaky roof hatch, tie up all electrical loose ends, hang the coat closet door and patch in wood floors where we had knocked down walls. By knocking out their punch list, we would have over a week to start prepping our home for Thanksgiving, including the task we were looking forward to the most – CLEANING.

Scott and I were nervous and anxious to arrive home, imagining a home that was empty and ready. We would mop, dust and run microfiber cloths over every new sheet of drywall! We would prime our walls to help knock off the finest drywall particles that had settled into the nooks of our floors! We would start mapping out our plans for the dining room table – the table we’ll be building – and we’ll gloriously, with the happiest of hearts, lift off every remaining sheet of plastic. We would sit on our couch for the first time since September, and we would excitedly start brainstorming room configurations!

All that to say, it didn’t happen that way.

Rather, we came home to a house that looked, we felt, almost the same as how we left it. Our hearts sank, and we were even more frustrated to learn that drywall sanding hadn’t been completed – a task that has been weeks in the making. After a few flustered calls back and forth with our contractor, we discovered there were a few setbacks – most specifically, with the flooring (more on that later this week). You know the feeling of being so frustrated – so overwhelmed! – that the only thing you can think to do is laugh? That was us. (As a mini consolation, they did leave behind this trinket, found within our walls.)

So, rather than wallow in the feelings of being down on our luck, we redirected our energy elsewhere. (Sure, we were months behind the original estimated schedule, what’s one more week? Hahaha!) This was, of course, after needing to leave the house to take in the cold Chicago air, enjoy lunch elsewhere and toast a beer. An hour or two later, we were ready for Plan B: The Basement.

In the month since we received the city’s zoning approval, we had worked at least two nights a week (usually three) in the garden unit, prepping the space for our future tenant. (After all, there was nothing we could do in our home!) Our contractors have been using the space as their staging area, which, while it has been helpful to cut down on clutter in our living space, has transformed the unit into a jungle gym of sorts. Additionally, we’ve pulled down cabinets to gain easier access to drywall repair (a result of destroying this bizarre half-tiled wall) and have so many of our own supplies splayed about that the basement is looking rough.

We’re currently working with a ready-by-December-1st deadline (an agreed upon date with our soon-to-be garden renter), so while we feel as though we’re floundering in our home, the silver lining is that we can use this time to knock out every last item on our basement list.

So far? We’ve replaced each and every light fixture, grouted tile that was never grouted in the first place (oy!) and painted baseboards, doors, ceilings and (half of) the walls. We’ve purchased and added in-unit laundry, installed new exterior, closet and utility room doors, replaced deadbolts, and hired the pros to epoxy cracks in the house’s foundation. We’ve repaired furnace vents, trim and window screens, and we’ve replaced vanity mirrors, scrubbed cabinets, exterminated and tirelessly worked with the gas company to seal a tiny leak and get us down from three meters to two.

Our two or three day a week basement schedule has rapidly escalated to an every night, every waking hour affair (that is, when Scott’s not dressed in his adorable ties and I’m not painting your wet-nosed buddies), with quite a few more items to check off: Lay new tile underneath the sink (because it was never done in the first place – are you sensing a trend from the former owner?), finish painting the walls, replace missing cabinet knobs, reseal the tile, add switch plates (because, you guessed it – they were never there to begin with!), install window coverings and – finally! – clean, clean, clean.

And then… it’ll be time to whip our house into a real beauty. (We can.not.wait.)

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  • Elaine - November 20, 2013 - 8:42 AM

    Wow! This tenant you have moving in December 1 is a lucky person! The list of amenities is making my heart pitter patter! Fresh paint, in unit laundry, new tile and grout? Swoon.ReplyCancel

  • Hannah K. - November 20, 2013 - 8:45 AM

    WHEW! What a whirlwind! So sorry for the setbacks (again) – that’s life with working with contractors, huh?

    Stay positive – IT WILL GET THERE!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - November 20, 2013 - 8:47 AM

    I am so sorry to hear that everything was not done as expected when you came home. I’m sure you were crazy frustrated and overwhelmed. Contractors are a funny sort and every time I start out with a new one I always think this will be the time we will get everything in writing, they will complete tasks on time, within budget, etc. and yet everytime something gets me and we are stuck with something that is terribly upsetting. But ultimately it does pass and for your place they will be finished soon and all will be well :-)
    And your basement apartment is looking gorgeous :-)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - November 20, 2013 - 8:48 AM

    Elaine, you do make it sound so glamorous! Actually, we’re only tiling a section of the kitchen that was never tiled in the first place, so it’s simply an extension of the current tile – just basic, white 12×12 ceramic. We’d love to get something nicer down there eventually!

    Thanks, Hannah! We know you’re right, but it’s been hard to remember that… (Just the contractor part, that is. We can’t WAIT to get started on this house!)ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - November 20, 2013 - 9:49 AM

    You guys are so dedicated and awesome. So much workReplyCancel

  • carrie @ brick city love - November 20, 2013 - 9:58 AM

    I have a garden unit that I rent out too. Getting it renovated was one of the very first major projects I tackled.

    Sure I’ve been living in chaos upstairs for the past 4 years but the steady stream of supplemental income makes it sooooooo worth it. It’s all about priorities – Yes, I’ve been living without a kitchen upstairs for 20 months (but who’s counting?). No, I don’t worry about paying the mortgage every month.

    It seems like the construction mess will never be over. But it will be. Eventually. Enjoy it. Be present through the process. Someday you’ll be able to look back on it fondly and have some awesome stories to share.ReplyCancel

  • Aly - November 20, 2013 - 11:22 AM

    What color did you use in the main area in photo 1? Ive been on the hunt for a perfect warm neutral & I think this is it!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - November 20, 2013 - 11:59 AM

    Carrie – THANK YOU. It’s always great to hear from some one in the exact same boat.

    Aly, we haven’t painted that yet – it’s still the previous owner’s color. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but it’s more of a yellow-based taupe. We didn’t have any leftover cans of paint, so I’m unsure of the color!ReplyCancel

  • Heather {AFirePoleintheDiningRoom} - November 20, 2013 - 12:04 PM

    Ugh. What an unwelcome welcome home gift. At least you are making the best of it and making some serious progress on the garden level!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - November 21, 2013 - 8:16 AM

    Oh my gosh – that’s the worst feeling! We just had the same thing happen with our plumbers. They have only worked one day so far this week and our inspection (and thus every…other…project) is now delayed indefinitely. Wildly frustrating! But yay for progress on your basement! December 1tst will be a good day when you can switch focus back to your own space. It’s just around the corner, hang in there!!

    ~Amy
    http://www.lifeonhillst.comReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 21, 2013 - 9:14 AM

      Amy, no kidding! We’re like that little kitty on the tree branch. We’re hanging in, but December 1st can’t come soon enough!ReplyCancel

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci - December 2, 2013 - 12:35 AM

    My bloglovin’ reader is so backed up (so many blogs! so little time!) that I just got a chance to read this post. When I saw the December 1 deadline I gasped a bit–then went back and saw this was written on the 20th. Phew. Hope you got it all done!ReplyCancel

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