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Ten weeks after renovations started, we finally have a house. Some things remain un done, but that is due on the one hand, to scew-ups with our plumbing order (order an elongated, raised-height toilet, get one that is neither, then the manufacturer insists that they did send exactly what we ordered; order a sink and have it delivered without the necessary mounting hardware), on the other hand to the weather, which was like this for all of February and the first half of March (that door is 2 feet above ground level):

IMAG0101

and on the gripping hand, to a few modest miscommunications about our special requirements, such as the need to have the back stairs land on a concrete pad that in turn becomes perfectly flush with the existing driveway, because after she's away from the handrails, [livejournal.com profile] morgan_dhu cannot handle even a tiny step up or down.

Shall we take a brief tour, then? )
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Back in November and December, when we were interviewing contractors and then trying to decide which one to hire, my parents had lots of advice for us. Speaking from their position of having done home renovations in rural New York and also in rural Michigan, they felt qualified to tell us not only how much a renovation in metropolitan Ontario would cost ("$50,000 will be plenty!"), but also how, no matter who we hired, no matter how high their reputation or how glowing their recommendations, any contractor we hired would not finish on time ("you need to put a late penalty fee in the contract"), would not work steadily at the project ("He's not going to be there every day"), and would leave a mess behind when he was done ("You'll want to hire a maid service afterward"). They were adamant that I would have to approach our relationship with the contractor in an adversarial frame of mind, making sure, for example, not just to request that workers not smoke in our house, but to put such a requirement in the contract.

In this, as in so many other things, my parents don't know nearly as much as they think they do. Counting everything, the renovation is costing us around $80,000, and the scramble to shake loose the necessary funds (thanks to the parental fecklessness in which they promised things and then clawed them back later) continues. I'd say that on the revised finish date, Shawn was about 99% done, and most of the things not yet finished were beyond his control (eg, we were delivered the wrong toilet, and the sink did not come with all the required parts; the weather had been continuously below zero for weeks, forcing work on the deck to be put off to the very last minute; minor miscommunications about our requirements for the concrete pad leading to the deck also created a couple of extra days of work for him). Aside from the bureaucratic interregnum, Shawn or his crew or his subcontractors were there every working day. Most of Shawn's crew don't smoke, and those that do are chippers who smoke one cigarette a day, after lunch, and (by Shawn's policy) only outside. And not only have they consistently cleaned up after themselves throughout the renovation, when Shawn and his brother finally cleared out all their tools and supplies on Friday the 28th of march (only 4 days late, BTW), they left the house all-but spotless.

Before I talk about the other ways in which Shawn was one of the right people to hire (as opposed to whoever my parents hired who gave them such a negative attitude toward the whole class of contractors),

A Disclaimer

If you found this page via Google and are thinking of hiring Shawn Morren to work on your house, please note: [livejournal.com profile] morgan_dhu needed a chemically safe, handicapped accessible place to live. We bought the house, and then discovered that the inspector had been wrong, and we had knob and tube everywhere. To make matters worse, my parents then reneged on part of their promises to help us pay for the necessary accessibility renovations. Shawn, like all contractors, has two kinds of clients -- those who can afford what they want, and those, like us, who can just barely scrape together enough for what they need. Shawn went out of his way to cut us some special breaks and did some work for us pro bono, but he made it clear that he was doing so because of our dire situation, and that he doesn't do that for everyone. [end disclaimer]

More reasons why Shawn rocks behind the jump )

One final note: there's good contractors, and then there's all around good people. On that note, the other day, I learned that Shawn's monster 4-seat pickup is not just his business car, but his only car; he keeps carseats for his two young children in the back. And he makes a point of always fueling the truck with biodiesel.
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After the incredibly annoying bureaucratic delays discussed previously, Shawn and his team began making rapid progress.

ETA: Sorry, I forgot to insert a jump here )
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I am not doing very well with keeping these progress reports up-to-date. Here it is March 21st and our story has been stalled back in January for close to two months. It has to be told, however, so that our RL friends, who have been asking, can be given some kind of idea of How Things Have Gone.

So, we very quickly went from demolition to framing, followed by a period of getting all new wiring, ducting, and plumbing. Things proceeded swimmingly for about three weeks. Then Shawn started trying to get the inspector to come over to look at the structure and the plumbing rough-in. There was some urgency to this, as he had a long-scheduled vacation coming up, and he wanted to have a pass in hand so his lieutenant could start putting up the drywall in his absence. And now let me present you with a little timeline: there is too much, I will sum up )
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In our last episode, we learned that Shawn and his crew are very efficient at tearing things down. Considering how much practice Shawn got at destroying things on the Holmes on Homes show, this is not surprising. On January 15, after only three or four days of work, the garage, basement ceiling, bathroom, and various walls were gone.

It turns out destruction isn't the only thing they are fast at )
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So we hired Shawn based on his detailed estimate, with the understanding he would be able to start on January 14th. We asked our draftsperson to finish the drawings so we could get permits. Then the solstice and year end holidays happened. Finally, the drawings were ready, and Shawn found the time to turn his estimate into a formal quote. Last week, I obtained permits, Shawn obtained an electrician's quote and got a plumber to scope the drains.

then the fun began )
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So, as [livejournal.com profile] morgan_dhu has chronicled, after 4 months of searching, looking at hundreds of listings and touring at least 50 houses in person, we finally found a decent-sized bungalow in a transit-accessible neighbourhood that we could afford that was in acceptable condition. If that seems a long time to look, recall that 90% of bungalows are small tiny things, because if the original buyer of such a place had the money for a roomy house, then they would have bought a standard 2 storey house instead.

We were lucky that the owner (a 98 year old woman who had finally decided to move into assisted living) was in a terrible hurry to sell and did not leave the house on the market for long, which enabled us to be the only people making an offer by their deadline for considering offers. So we got the house for, I am told, 30k less than what other houses in similar condition in the neighbourhood are going for.

Realtor's photo
many more photos below the jump )

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