Friday, February 1, 2019

Turning the page to 2019, Looking back at a busy 2018

Our big shed is now gray with touches of light blue.
This past year we were stretched to the limit completing renovation projects.  Seems I could hardly breathe at times. Thankfully my husband took over when I pooped out or just got bored with a task. I do have a brain that likes to stay busy so finding projects is very easy for me but completion is another matter all together! My husband does such good work that I pester him until he can't stand it any more and finishes the project so I'll leave him alone.

I started 2018 by falling off the front porch backward while swapping out a suet feeder and fracturing my ankle. So I was worthless for a solid 2 months and gardening was near impossible!

Our little shed that was painted in 2017
While I was crippled up, my husband painted our large shed. I had no part of this for the exception of small design details. One day we will attempt to paint the house to match. At least the two sheds and coop finally look like they belong in one yard together.

Another fun project which was a little more complicated was to install an outdoor rain barrel shower. Only available for use when it's hot outside, I used it exclusively this past summer. I love outdoor showers and feel as if I'm doing my part to save resources by not turning on the indoor shower. It works amazingly well and saves time after you get out of the pool. Also no more tracking water through the house to get upstairs to the indoor shower! A friend donated a rain barrel and we used shutters that were in the shed as partitions. I picked up a shower head at the habitat store. Our only purchases were a hose and connector piece.

Our patio incorporating the outdoor DIY rain barrel shower.
Summer and leading into Fall was spent on two bathroom renovation projects. We still have not laid the floor tile in the master bathroom, due to other more pressing projects, but we've completed the hardest parts. I'm very happy with our tiny bathroom remodels. We enlarged one bathroom and stole some space from the other to even the sizes out. Ripped out an old plastic shower surround and installed wall and floor tile. It's such an improvement. Long lost friends came to visit during construction and their auto rental happened to be a TRUCK. Danny hauled some shower boards for the project, he loved every minute. Great timing for that visit! 

The last pair of Monticello Lions were tracked down!
Taking a Spring break from construction projects, we took a very quick trip to North Carolina to investigate a solid report that the Monticello Levy Lions were sitting peacefully gazing out over the lawn of a historic estate. One of our highlights of the year, we enjoyed lovely company and visiting with the lions! A massive discovery being they were the real deal with a long history. Catch up on this interesting mystery.

Jethro the magnificent.
During the summer months, our dear Roo Roo Jethro passed away suddenly. I so miss his morning call and alert noises. He was a commanding rooster that was well behaved. We were lucky to have experienced a flock with a rooster as so many are discarded due to noise and behavior. He was just plain cool. We miss his antics, it was a sad day when he passed. A friend gave us three hens early in 2019 so we now have six pretty girls. It's going to be a whole new egg laying dynamic this Spring!. Watch my funny viral video about the noises that chickens make.

Our little barn garage. Shutters to be added next.
For a solid year I interviewed contractors and researched an addition to our house in order to move mom here. We started big with a full on mother-in-law suite and ended up adding a 2-story garage. We decided to turn our basement into Mom's space. Getting the garage layout ironed out and the prefab structure here was not as easy as it sounds. I acted as the general contractor and independently hired a foundation guy and builder. After the foundation was poured, and the structure went up in an amazing 2.5 days, it was time for us to do some work. I installed most of the electrical wiring (we did hire an electrician to hook up the big wire from the garage to the house).

In the middle of all this, I had some weird health issues creep up. I developed something called Morton's Neuroma of the foot. It just made me so angry that I worked through the pain. It took several months to get in to see a doctor but it looks like a cortisone shot is forthcoming next week, which I hope will provide some relief. It is unbearable burning stabbing pain that worsens the more you walk. My nature walks have come to a grinding halt. This shall not do! I also developed an allergy to meat called Alpha-gal! Which sounds unbelievable but it's a real thing (it so happens the allergist that discovered this is right here in Charlottesville). My ankles and feet were attacked this summer by what I call chiggers (could have been seed ticks). Talk about horrible, the only thing that helped the itch was a baking soda paste. A week later I ate pork at a restaurant and thought I was going to die. Massively ill, hives all over, go to the emergency room ill! An antihistamine curbed the reaction but it was hell. At that time I thought it was food poisoning and I even called the health department! Because I only eat meat a few times a year, I did not realize this was a meat allergy until it happened again in the Fall after I ate a hamburger and I experienced the same violent reaction. A near vegetarian in 2018, needless to say, a complete vegetarian in 2019!

Two of the three cats, Cesar was injured in 2018 but better.
I still sell vintage online and hope to ramp things back up once we get mom here and settled. I sell online mainly on Etsy and Ebay on consignment for seven friends and family members. I also try to market art and vintage through my Facebook and Instagram pages for our local talented Etsy shop owners.

Looking back, it probably was the busiest year since we moved into our home nearly 10 years ago. We will be putting the finishing touches on the garage in 2019 (we just finished insulating and will begin hanging sheet rock ourselves this weekend) and next redoing the basement for mom. Hoping to get things wrapped up in a few months. Then we have to get mom's place ready to sell and her moved. I'm looking forward to possible rest in 2020 already!


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Amazing Prefab Garage built in 2.5 days by three builders at Sheds Unlimited in PA

My inspiration, another garage built by Sheds Unlimited
Building onto your home is never a simple task. I spoke with 6 different builders when trying to retrofit out house to move my mother into it. Initially we started with the biggest of plans, adding a full mother-in-law suite. After months of contemplation we decided to convert our basement into a mother-in-law suite and build a garage to accommodate my home business and provide temporary storage. We also wanted to build a multiuse space that could later be used for a master suite or apartment, positioning the garage on our lot so it could later be attached to the house.

Our complete garage arrives on a big flatbed truck.
I was interested in a prefab building for a host of reasons but finding one that built garages in our area proved to be limited. Local builders wanted to build the shell and finish the interior. I finally found several prefab shed builders that framed unfinished garages, a perfect fit for our needs as we wanted to finish the interior ourselves. A big benefit to prefab construction is that on-site construction time is significantly less than traditional stick building.  Pre-constructed walls and roofing were assembled in a warehouse and transported, streamlining the process. Our new prefab garage was erected in an amazing 2.5 days! No waste, no mess, and no workers at your house for months or even years.

If you're afraid of heights, this job is not for you.
Working with a company located in Pennsylvania five hours away was a little scary. I could only read online reviews and hope the company was truly legitimate. Making down payments over the phone and not receiving any product in return was unnerving. Some days I wondered if I was the biggest sucker in the world. Fortunately, we ended up with an amazing structurally sound garage, just as promised!

Foundation work by George Payne our concrete expert.
The majority of my work for this project was in planning. I had to fit the structure on the lot properly, find a concrete company, come up with the design, and convey the details accurately to Mark, my patient Sales Rep at Sheds Unlimited. I acted as the General Contractor so had to submit details to the county to get a building permit, which ended up being much easier than it sounds. Thankfully, our county does not have layers of requirements and the staff was always available to answer any questions.

AJ, Elmer, & David, our builders + our new darling garage!
When the builders arrived, it was totally in their hands to be competent enough to construct the garage. Hauling in large equipment, tools, walls, trusses, shingles, boards, trim, a dumpster, and a generator on one monster flatbed was incredible. Working from sun up to sun down is not an exaggeration. We had a few materials missing from the order and even after working 12 hour days, the guys made it to Lowe's to pick up the missing items. Extreme workers but they completed each process with ease and calm.

Loading up to leave with a lot less stuff!
We adore our new cottage garage and thank everyone at Sheds Unlimited that helped this become a reality; Mark, Austin, Gideon, AJ, Elmer, and David (plus a few shop elves).

We have a long road ahead as we'll be installing gutters, electric, insulation, drywall, trim and flooring ourselves and one day we hope to attach it to our house. Being big DIYers, this is what we call "fun" here.

This blog post is the second in a series, Finding a Place for Mom.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Finding a Place for Mom, Options and Adding on to your Home

Me and mom early 1960's
At some time during your 50's, the question, "Where should mom live" will probably arise. The situation came about for us when my father passed away from Alzheimer's over a year ago. Options will depend on the physical and mental health of your parent. Many years ago, my mother and I looked at retirement facilities and found it to be shockingly expensive and my mother's main complaint was "these people are OLD". I hear this often from seniors that have good physical and mental health but there are a broad range of options one can explore.

Aging in place is of course the top option but one should plan for the future expense of hiring in home health care. We found that having the same person assigned to my father was nearly impossible. Constant demand, patient needs and health care workers qualifications all cause the reassignment of caregivers. We finally did get one wonderful caregiver but it took several months to iron this out. In retrospect this was the best choice that my mother made for my father during his illness. Once he was placed in a dementia unit, a whole host of other - over the top - stressful issues arose. A topic I hope to one day be able to write about.

Tiling the new shower stall.
Another option for seniors is to move into a rental. After living in a home, some seniors balk at the idea of having close neighbors. There are rental communities designed for 55 and over, they often have long wait lists so plan in advance. Private home rental is another option but safety concerns must be addressed; one level, no curbs in showers, stairs, slippery flooring, drivability to shopping or alternative transportation options.  

First day of ripping up the yard.
My mother did not want to live alone and wanted no part of a retirement facility or rental so we considered a mother-in-law addition. Our neighbors built a lovely apartment connected to their home for their mother and she also has hired home health care assistance. We entertained adding a complete addition, but pricing was upwards of $300,000. The time frame of the project and expense was like building a stand alone home. After speaking with our realtor and several builders, we decided that adding a garage with a bonus room over top would help better sell our house down the road vs adding a mother-in-law suite. We were fortunate to have a one level basement with 11 full size windows and doors that was acceptable to my mother. I do not recommend putting a parent in a dark and dank space, way too depressing! We would have to add a small kitchen and remodel a bathroom, add some insulation and sheet rock to a few areas, and attach it to our new garage. If you decide to go this route, make it as separate as possible (words of the wise from my neighbor with the mother-in-law addition).

Lots of big trucks, some driveway damage is bound to occur.
It has taken 1 year to investigate remodeling our home and it seems like a century! Everything takes longer than expected and a big part of it is pinpointing exactly what you need and want. Our original concept of adding a complete suite has been whittled down to a large single car garage with office space (or possibly a future master suite if we sold our home later). We are very happy we chose this route as the thought of undertaking anything larger is truly mind boggling. 

Concrete is a messy process, hiring out is the way to go.
A list of the steps: 1) Talk to numerous builders about options and the lay of the land. 2) Get a notebook with grids to draw, draw, and then draw some more. I filled a complete notebook trying to nail down what we needed and what we didn't need. This really helped! Even with this detail, I still screwed up in the end but even I am not perfect. 3) Talk to neighbors or get on a local online neighborhood group list and find out who they are hiring. 4) Try to do what you can yourself. I am the contractor for the project. I contracted a concrete guy myself and a separate builder. We'll be wiring the garage, insulating, and adding sheet rock as my husband has worked in construction in the past. 5) Get estimates as your time allows, bite the bullet at some point. Figure that no soil will be turned for a solid year from when you begin your project due to weather, busy contractors, and to give yourself a little breathing time to not make too many changes in your design (big $$). 6) Pick a builder and try to get a concrete date of beginning 7) Get that foundation scheduled as weather delays are imminent. 8) Wait for the builder, as there is typically more of a wait than anticipated. 

Foundation DONE - Done - DONE
I have worked my way to step 8 over the last year. We selected a prefab garage builder as I really liked the idea of doing the construction elsewhere and popping it up over 2 days! In and OUT fast! The garage slab took what seemed forever as the soil was wet most days (hurricane season) for months. It was also a little more complicated as the lot sloped off and required a cinder block foundation to compensate for the elevation. We also wanted a breezeway poured that we can later enclose.

I hope this has help you think through your situation. First and foremost you need to match your decision with your parents wishes. It's never easy, but it can be done. Deep breath.

I'll be writing soon as our project develops. We're estimating mom will move in 2019 at this rate! 


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