Still Standing

For those of you who think I’ve been incarcerated for clubbing my General Contractor in the knees, it’s not so.  So where have I been?  Well, I’ve just been recovering from the anxiety of Operation Presto-Change-o, whereby the phantom contractor and his crew made a one-day cameo appearance to take out the beams that were supporting our house to replace them with one ginormous piece of steel.

Never one to overreact, I figured I’d evacuate for the day.  But the logistics didn’t work out, so I decided on the next best thing, which was to have my good friend Beth come over and distract me with the ridiculous cuteness of her six month-old twins.  I figured, since she has two infants, she probably has a high threshold for noise and maybe she wouldn’t even notice the construction.

After distributing hard hats and reviewing safety drills highlighting the nearest exits with Beth, we had a lovely visit that managed to take my mind off of what was going on under the house.

{Side note:  My husband is also a big fan of Beth’s but he has begun to dread her visits.  Not because he doesn’t enjoy her company.  That’s not the case at all.  It’s because he sees the maniacal “I-might-kidnap-these-infants” look in my eyes.  And he knows that, hours later, the other side of my split personality will emerge and tell him we should have four to six more kids.}

We actually had a full house, as P worked from home that day — either to keep me from kidnapping Beth’s babies or to assist me with any necessary evacuation — I’m not sure which.  So he took the opportunity to bring me down to the basement — where I have not ventured in a while, to avoid a nervous breakdown — and showed me how they were switching out the beams.  It was a real, live HGTV show right under my house.  See, we don’t need high def after all.

In the most non-technical and unprofessional craftsman terms, here’s my understanding of what they did.  First, they took out the old beams and replaced them with this makeshift support structure.

I’m not an engineer or an architect but this seemed like a flimsy replacement to me.  Should it really look like a fort?

Then they took this big-ass beam and, somehow, moved it to the back of the house.  Eight guys.  One beam.

Then they slid it under the house, through the makeshift wooden fort.  And by “slid,” I mean yelled a lot and moved the Earth under my feet for about 90 minutes.


Then.  They jacked up the beam to its proper place.  By this point, Beth took off with her kids, which was smart.  Because I was convinced my 100 year-old house would not withstand the amount of shaking that this process brought.

But it did.  We’re still here. Somehow.

I should also mention that while P and I were touring the makeshift fort, the head mason was down there.  So we took this opportunity to corner him and try to get more clarity around things like, say, why the hell his crew shows up on a random and increasingly rare basis.

It went like this.

Us:  “Bill, what’s going on with the schedule?”

Bill:  “The schedule?”

Us:  “Yeah.  You know, we are on week 12 of a five week job now and we’re not really feeling like anyone is communicating with us.”

Bill:  “Oh but we’ve had problems with {inaudible} and {mumbling} and look, is that a bird over there?”

Us:  “Bill.  You promised us the beam would go in today {Friday} and the concrete floor would be poured on Monday.  Is that still going to happen?”

Bill {reaching for pocket}:  “I have to take this call.”

Us:  “I don’t hear a phone ringing.”

Bill:  “Oh.”

Us:  {blinking audibly}

Bill:  “Well, we need an inspector to come out here before we can pour the concrete.”

Us:  “Fine.  This is the first we’ve heard of this.  Did you schedule the inspection?”

Bill:  “No, no, not yet.  But I will, first thing Monday.  And they should get here on Tuesday.  And then maybe we can pour the concrete on Wednesday.”

{Translation: Concrete floor will not be poured until after Thanksgiving weekend.  Probably once the calendar reads December.}


We could have said more.  Much more.  But the timing felt wrong.  Vulnerable, even.  I’m usually not afraid of confrontation, but I didn’t think I wanted to piss off the guy in charge of holding up my house at that moment.

And so the house stands.  Even if our nerves are hanging on by a thread and we’re about to be awarded VIP status at the laundromat.  Because, 12 weeks in to my five week project, this doesn’t really feel like quite the milestone photo I’d hoped to post.

Baby steps, my friends.  Baby steps.

As for Bill, he somehow slipped through our fingers right after our conversation and disappeared into thin air, much like Kaiser Soze.  And just like that, he was gone.



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  1. I’m speechless…Wow!
    Wishing you luck that this project is finished sooner rather than later.

  2. Steve Lemson says:

    I’m sorry, did you tell me that you were constructing a subway tunnel under your house? I should pay more attention.

  3. Karin Lesko says:

    Oh, Kim, I do empathize. Of course, when we added our garage/kitchen, it was just the two of us so the whole thing was much easier to ignore. I remember thinking that it would be really fun to have a big 60th birthday party in our brand new addition – after all, by that date we would have begun the work over two years earlier – of course everything would be finished, decorated, ready to go. I was only off in my calculations by about a year and a half.

    This too shall pass – and you’ll have a wonderful lower level in your beautiful home – where you’ll have a much greater appreciation of the home laundry center than you ever thought was possible.

    Chin up – and Happy Thanksgiving!

    • fordeville says:

      Thanks Karin! Yes, I try to tell myself that, after all this, I will never again complain about doing laundry!
      And I wonder if this will be done by my 60th birthday 😉

  4. wow. and sorry.

    i remember being called for jury duty once on a renovation/contractor case and everyone had to be dismissed b/c they had such a negative story about the contractor on their renovation… which is all just to say you’re not alone!

    good luck!

    • fordeville says:

      They probably just took the guy out back and had a few “jurors” smack him around, rather than go through a trial.

  5. markus says:

    Love the Usual Suspects reference!!! By the way, is it too late to adjust my “Week 12” estimate of completion to, oh…say…Valentine’s Day???

    • fordeville says:

      Let’s not be too quick with any optimism for February completion. Just saying.
      And thanks for picking up the Kaiser Soze reference. I had to do it, even if I was the only one who found it amusing.

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