Client Empathy Blog #2 -Old Habits, Muscle Memory, Solid Foundations and Strong Relationships

The back porch came off. You can see it is gone, and the sun shines directly into the living room now with no porch roof to shield the direct southern light. That, however, has not stopped me from walking to the back door with dinner for the grill. Old habits die hard—lucky for me, there is a neon board and yellow CAUTION tape to remind me.   

The demo was quick and was followed by the digger breaking ground. 

It really is hard to fathom just how much dirt gets excavated.  There were two dumpsters in the driveway: one for building materials and the other for dirt.  They hauled off two dumpsters of dirt and then the part came where we needed to save some for the backfill.  There was a well thought out plan to fill yet another dumpster and work to preserve as much of the lawn as possible.  The Contractor is very aware that he is working in “Marvin’s Garden” and yet he was forced to choose.  In an effort to preserve a weeping redbud tree –a unique specimen -- the contractor had to pile the dirt on the lawn.  He was unable to maneuver between the hole he was digging and the tree we are saving.   I am not certain any tears were shed, however, I am certain that Marvin the gardener was working hard to stay composed.

Discovery:  Our 90-something-year-old home has no footings....but great muscle is still standing…and really never showed any signs of forgetting how to stand.  For all the homes we have worked on, you can typically observe some cracking or sagging that would indicate that the area was not supported correctly, and we anticipate the need for some additional structure.  Not here.  It came as a bit of a surprise.

Our experience and solid relationships with our consultants had us verifying the condition with our structural engineer as soon as it was exposed.  He dropped by and created a sketch for the contractor for underpinning the existing structure, and we have moved forward with corrective measures. 

End of first week –   footing inspection called for and the beginning of one of the many hurry up and wait scenarios was upon us.  The inspection times are typically within 72 hours of the call, and the inspectors will come between 10 am and 1:30 pm.

Success: They came (at 10:30 am), they observed, we passed! Now the big wait. It was Friday. Not knowing if we would be closer to the 10 am inspection slot or the 1:30 pm inspection slot and if there would be something the inspector observed that also needed to be addressed and with the holiday weekend approaching, there was no time to order cement and the workers were gone.

Forecast for the weekend…you guessed it rain….

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So, like most of our clients….this first week we are getting to see what it would be like if our dream had been a swimming pool in our back yard.

While the workers were digging and underpinning and tying re-bar this past week, we signed off on the window order and door order and a big comfy couch for the family room. I had a moment ….second guessing all the finishes I have selected for the bathrooms and then there was all the middle of the night tossing and turning as I worried if the foundation would really remain standing.

Gratitude: So from Pete at KSI who ran out and did the foundation underpinning sketch, to Frank at DirectMillwork, LLC who went line by line confirming the order -- painted or stained, color of the hardware, screens, drip edges and jamb liners -- on something like 30 new windows, to Ali Como from Alexandria Como Designs for specifying and ordering the perfect couch in the perfect fabric and giving me encouragement and her nod of approval on the kitchen tile and colors I was leaning toward, to Adrienne at Short Hills Marble and Tile for her patience and professional guidance in helping me find the perfect tiles, colors and patterns for my bathrooms and kitchen back splash...THANK YOU.  

It really does not matter how many times you hold someone else’s hand in this process....when it’s your house, it’s personal….and while I have known that, being exposed to so many beautiful ideas and finishes, it is really difficult to choose. We are truly even more empathetic now.

The strong, trusted relationships we have cultivated over the years with contractors, engineers, designers, subcontractors, craftsmen, suppliers -- each with their expertise—make all the difference—be it our house or yours.