Week 22 – Finally Under Roof

Several milestones were achieved last week:

  1. The new roof is covered with sheathing. (Note that I didn’t say roof sheathing is complete… there are some leaks. More about that another time.)
  2. Some of the windows have been installed.
  3. The pile of lumber is no longer in the street.

You can probably guess which of these we are most excited about. Windows and roofs are great and all, but on-street parking in front of your house is unbeatable! Especially when you have two kids and no driveway. Despite some rain, the week featured five solid days of work, including a couple when workers were here past 5 (thanks, Daylight Saving Time!).


At the beginning of the week, they added more Zip sheathing to the roof, and then on Thursday they worked on the connection between the old and new roofs. This seems to be a tricky thing. We have started the process of getting roofing estimates from a couple of companies, which is apparently also a tricky thing… getting the estimates has taken a lot longer than we thought, and one company said they’re booked up for six to eight weeks. Our carpenter took some pictures of the roof for us, which was helpful to be able to understand what they are doing.

Roof 1

Old Roof, meet New Roof

They installed seven windows over the course of this week. Windows are pretty exciting because it looks so real. Now hopefully nothing breaks them before the work is done.


They started applying some tape to seal the sheathing. For the uninitiated, the Zip system takes the place of the traditional plywood and house wrap. The boards have plywood and a built-in waterproofing layer, so they save a step. Our boards also have a layer of insulation. Then they apply the tape to all of the seams to (theoretically) make it all waterproof. The roof is also Zip sheathing, but is brown instead of green and does not have the built-in insulation.


IMG_3608 Almost all ZIPped up!

Week 21 – No More View

Week 21 was another two-day work week for our house. The workers built some more scaffolding on Monday and moved the pulley over to the side of the house in order to move some lumber and Zip sheathing to the second floor.


They carried some of the lumber and boards from the pile in the street and somehow attached them to the pulley to bring them upstairs. I never saw them pull the boards up, so I’m not exactly sure how one connects a board to a rope and makes sure that it doesn’t fall on its way up.


Monday afternoon was warmish, so the boys and I played in the front yard for a little bit. It was while they were bringing boards to the back, so I told the kids they had to stay close to the porch so that they wouldn’t be in the path of the workers. Jonah came up with an idea to chalk a line on the sidewalk that he could not go past. Then he made another line for the worker not to go past and informed the carpenter of the rules. They both did a good job not crossing their lines.


Monday also brought some sadness to the house. That afternoon, the workers put plastic up over the windows on the back of the house. We assume that this was for some necessary reason related to the work and not because they were tired of being watched by small humans. It’s been very different not being able to see what they are doing. I am trying to pretend that we are living in one of those HGTV shows where they send the family away while they do the work, and then there is a big reveal when the family returns. The main difference is that we are still here and I can hear them working; I just have no idea what they are doing.


“What have they done to us?!” – Jonah upon seeing the plastic for the first time.

They also began putting the Zip sheathing on the roof this week. They only got about halfway done on Tuesday, so when it snowed again on Thursday, our future bedroom was once again covered in snow (not that we could see it, because the window is covered with plastic). We’re pretty excited about the roof though.



We went to Home Depot on Saturday and discovered that they have a kids workshop the first Saturday of every month. So the boys got to make their own bookends.


Preparing him to help around the house.


Week 20 – So close, yet so far

Is winter over yet?

Is this construction project over yet?

One thing that actually is over is February, and we’re still not under roof. We attribute this to a combination of a small crew, the crew being pulled to other jobs when the weather isn’t awful, and the weather being awful. During the first two weeks of February, they worked 10 days. During the last two weeks of February, they worked 2.5 days.


The construction has gone on so long that Jonah has grown a mustache.

Two of those days worked were during the last week of February, and even during those days, I expect the icy conditions made for slow going. Since I failed in my attempted act of kindness of clearing off the snow the previous weekend, the carpenter came after hours Monday to scrape at it. Tuesday morning, they dug down through the snow enough to set the bottom of some new scaffolding on the frozen ground (pump jacks was the term they used; the vertical supports went all the way to the peak of the roof).


With ice continuing to prevent them from working on the roof Tuesday and Wednesday, they used the new scaffolding to add wall sheathing on that side of the second floor and the gable above it. I think they were also able to place a few additional rafters where the new roof will connect to the old, but we can’t see those without climbing onto the construction zone.


Add a lumber delivery, and that was their work for the week. I added to the work quantity only slightly by replacing the deadbolt and doorknob on our front door. If we ever get the new exterior doors installed on the addition, they will have hardware to match the new set on the front door. All in all, this was a relatively simple task, but I think I was hoping it would be simpler than it actually was.


For some reason, the housing for the new deadbolt refused to fit neatly in the hole that the old deadbolt (from the same brand!) had occupied. I was worried we would have to leave the door without a deadbolt on a cold day, but after much frustration, we made it work.


Week 19 – Brrrr

Last week was cold. Inside and out. The coldest it got in our living room was 37 degrees a couple of mornings. We had an unfortunate combination of the outside temperature being about zero degrees, having a drafty house, and not having heat downstairs. We ate breakfast upstairs most mornings last week while the space heaters did their best to warm things up downstairs.


The workers only worked about a half day last week. They came Monday morning, when our windows and doors were being delivered. They unloaded those and then also did a tiny bit of work on the house. Then it started snowing.


They came by briefly Wednesday morning and cleared the snow off of our subfloor. It snowed again on Saturday, and Peter was going to attempt to use their push broom to clear the snow off, but it was so cold that the broom had frozen to the subfloor and the handle snapped when he tried to pick it up. Oops.


Feeling frustrated.

We had a couple of exciting things happen on Thursday. The porta-potty company guy came to clean it, but (my theory is) all of the liquid was frozen, so the normal process didn’t work. Instead, he added a scoop of something (sand? salt? kitty litter?) to it and went on his way.

Thursday afternoon we had a frozen water pipe. This was a first for us, which is kind of impressive given how cold it has been and how exposed our pipes are. We have been careful to leave the water dripping each night it’s below freezing, and there is a space heater running in the cellar to keep the pipes warmish. After being gone for a few hours Thursday morning, I came home and found that the cold water in the kitchen sink wouldn’t run. I was in the middle of trying to put Micah down for nap while also trying to figure out what to do about the pipes, and Peter was at a meeting an hour away. Micah was less than understanding and did not end up napping that day.

I went down into the cellar, which involves leaving the children inside, locking the door, walking around to the back of the house, and climbing up a dirt wall that is about 3 feet high. Once there, I discovered that the space heater was not running, which is probably why the pipes froze (and it was about 7 degrees outside). After going in the house and back out a couple times, I figured out that the breaker had tripped for that circuit (which only has the one cellar outlet on it). I flipped the breaker back on and went back to the cellar. The outlet is a ground-fault one (you should see the letters GFCI on outlets in your kitchen and bathroom), and I pressed the test button and then tried to reset it. No matter how hard I pressed, it would not reset.


The dirt wall.

I consulted with my dad over the phone, and then used the contractor’s extension cord to plug the space heater in to the newly installed outlet on the front porch. After about half an hour of the space heater running again, the pipe was unfrozen. Yay! I waited a few minutes and then went back down to the cellar to check for leaks. There were none. Double yay! My dad and I had determined that the outlet was probably bad and needed to be replaced. When Peter got home, he changed the outlet but made a rookie mistake during testing and ended up making sparks and charring the outlet. It was a good try though! My dad came by the next morning and changed the outlet again, and it seems to still be working.

Also, on Thursday afternoon, the hot water in the bathroom sink was very brown when I got home. I ran it for a while to get it clear, but then it only had about half its former pressure. On Saturday, Peter worked on it a little and was able to get the dirt cleared out and turn the water pressure up.



We were sad that the cold, snowy weather prevented work on our house, but we did manage to enjoy playing in the snow several days last week.


Week 18 – Peak Activity

The second week of February was a solid week of work (they get another gold star for working five days!). Monday was mostly preparation: A pulley was installed on the lintel above our bedroom window for hauling materials up. It gives the space a nice industrial feel, so maybe we should keep it. Scaffolding also went up, but we probably shouldn’t keep that, since it would be in the way.


On Tuesday, the ridge board was added, marking the peak of our new roofline, and there was more preparation in the form of additional scaffolding and hauling up boards.


We had a meeting with the carpenter and production manager this week to discuss breaking through walls. While this may sound too destructive for this stage of the game, it is also exciting, because it means we are nearing the point when the new part of the house will be joined to the old – by way of replacing the dining room wall with a beam and knocking out the wall and window at the top of the stairs.


Throughout this whole process, it has been entertaining for the boys to watch the work through the window. Now that the work is happening on the same level as the window, it is apparently also entertaining for the workers to watch the boys. The carpenter reported seeing Micah licking the window while watching them. Jonah will often watch them and wave when they pass the window. He frequently yells at them his name of the moment, but I don’t think they understand when he tells them his name is “Calley.”


The second half of the week was a flurry of construction activity, with installation of roof rafters and attic floor joists making it progressively easier to visualize the new upstairs space.



Week 17 – A Little Bit Stalkerish

Last week was a little bit weird for me. We were out of town for three days in the middle of the week, so I wasn’t able to watch the construction as it was happening. It was the first time I had missed seeing the daily changes taking place on our house since construction began. I knew that I would miss knowing what was happening, so I prepared in advance by moving our video baby monitor from the boys’ room to our bedroom window. I angled it so that I could see some of the construction. I couldn’t see much, but it allowed me to know that work was happening each day, and I was able to see enough to know that second-story walls were going up. I readily admit that this is a little bit like stalking, but it is our house, after all, and I really wanted to see the progress being made. Both mornings in our hotel, I brought up the baby monitor on our iPad and just left it on in the background for 10-15 minutes while I was getting ready. It was then that I realized how accustomed I have become to the sounds of construction. I could hear work going on and commented that it made the hotel feel like home. Those sounds have become my new normal.

My view would have been a little better if there hadn't been a trash can in front of the window.

View from the baby monitor: my view would have been a little better if there hadn’t been a trash can in front of the window.

So now that I have gotten my stalking confession out of the way, we can move on to the work that was accomplished last week. At the beginning of the week, we had the second floor subfloor, but no walls.


We weren’t sure how they would get all of the supplies up to the second floor, but they managed to do so.


It’s a good thing our workers are relatively skinny.

By the end of Monday, they had a partially completed wall. When we came back from our trip Thursday evening, they had all three walls erected.



Before we left town.


When we got back home.

When we got home Thursday night, there was a surprise waiting for us in the parking spot in front of our house: a large pile of lumber. Peter said he was going to just park in the street while we unloaded our luggage and children, but I figured that since we had just hauled our luggage around DC and on buses and trains, we could probably manage to park two houses down and walk our stuff to our house. We had hoped the lumber would be gone quickly, but alas (spoiler alert!), it’s still there more than a week later.


On the plus side, it is lumber for our house, and not some random lumber blocking the parking spot.

When the sun came up on Friday morning, we were eager to look out the window and see the progress that they made while we were gone. It’s really exciting to see our new bedroom taking shape.


The workers worked all five days last week, so they get a gold star for that! On Saturday, Peter and I climbed through the window at the top of the stairs to get a closer look at the new space. We enjoyed the warning the workers left for others (don’t worry, I was already aware that there was a hole there, so we wouldn’t have fallen through if the note hadn’t been there).




The view out our bedroom window, looking toward Downtown.


The other side of the bedroom, looking toward Downtown Belmont and Pantops Mountain.

Week 16 – Four steps forward, one step back.

We’re still a week behind on posting, so this is for the last week of January. It rained Monday, but happily, we saw four solid days of work the rest of the week. On two of those days, they even had 3- or 4-man crews! Unfortunately, the bulk of Thursday was spent redoing some of Wednesday’s work.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On Tuesday, there was lots of noise and vibration along our dining room wall, so they must have been attaching things to the house. They raised the remaining first-floor exterior wall and added the exterior sheathing.

First floor with walls on all sides!

First floor with walls on all sides!

On Wednesday, the workers placed the floor joists for the second floor. They also cut the hole for the laundry room window and removed the remaining first-floor roof that had been hanging around until the existing landing at the top of our stairs had a new support under it.

Second floor joists (first time)

Second floor joists – it’s feeling like a treehouse!

Roof removal

Roof removal

Roof removal, with sparks - a spectator sport!

Roof removal, with sparks – a spectator sport!

View of the first floor with joists above

View of the first floor with joists above

That appeared to be a lot of progress. But at the end of the day Wednesday, the lead carpenter came inside to take a measurement from the landing. Then on Thursday, they removed the floor joists they had set the day before, added about a foot in height to the kitchen walls, and replaced the floor joists. They had a little time left to finish framing the laundry room wall and to finish removing a chunk of roof.

Second floor, second time: First, raise the walls.

Second floor, second time: First, raise the walls.

Maybe not the best example of ladder safety?

Reaching way over your head while standing on a closed stepladder perched on a slanted joist, which rests on plywood covering a gaping hole with concrete below: do not try this at home.



Our guess is that either the plans didn’t show the correct ceiling height for our first floor or they didn’t consult the plans. The old kitchen had a standard 8-foot ceiling, but the rest of the house has higher ceilings on the first floor – meaning that if the second floor had stayed where they put it the first day, we would have had to step down into our bedroom. Wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I’m glad they caught the error before they had built anything on top of the floor joists.

Friday was mostly adding the subfloor to the joists. They also attached some beams to the old house at the second-floor landing, which was quite loud.

And they scraped plaster from under the second-floor landing, which was also very loud.

And they scraped plaster from under the second-floor landing, which was also very loud.

Like a dangerous dance party stage in the sky!

With the boom box, it was a dangerous dance party stage in the sky!

Teaser for next week's post: This was the last week we could see the old roofline from the ground!

Teaser for next week’s post: This was the last week we could see the old roofline from the ground!