Thursday, January 7, 2016

#202 - Just Like Herding Cats

For months (maybe even years) Teresa and I have talked about doing various home improvement projects or having them done. Last month, we finally moved from the talking to the doing stage.

We decided to start with our family room and have a gas fireplace installed. Boise is prone to inversions during prime fireplace weather, and during an inversion there is often a ban on wood burning. Hence the decision to go with gas.

We went shopping and found a fireplace we liked. Someone from the dealer was to visit the house before we made the purchase just to check our situation and ensure the model we had chosen would actually work. He never showed up.

That turned out to be a good thing. We had our contractor open up the wall where the fireplace was to go so he and his crew could build the platform for supporting the fireplace. Upon opening the wall, his exact words to me were "the plot thickens."

Here is what the area looked like before the work began. The middle section juts out about eight inches from the two wall areas where the shelves are on either side. When we bought the house in 2003, we were told the house had been "plumbed" for a fireplace but that one had not been installed. We later found a fireplace door in the storage area above the garage. Because of that, we had no reason to suspect that the reality was any different.

However, after the contractor and his crew opened up the wall, we found out the situation was much different. Hence the reason for the ominous statement about the plot thickening.

It turns out there had been a wood-burning fireplace present all the time. Not only that, but at one time the fireplace had been used at least occasionally before the previous (original) owners of the house decided in their infinite wisdom to simply wall over the fireplace. They also decided not to mention it when selling the house. Either through experience of simple dumb luck, the contractor's crew chose the perfect place to cut into the sheet rock if we had decided to stay with the wood fireplace.

Once the existing fireplace was revealed, we decided against a gas fireplace and went with its cousin, a gas fireplace insert that could be installed in the existing fireplace. We placed the order for that on December 8. We then had gas line installed, had that work inspected, and waited for the insert and the special-order surround to arrive.

We are still waiting. When I called the dealer yesterday, I was told the insert and surround had finally arrived, and we set up an appointment to have it installed tomorrow. Maybe.

The workers who put in the gas line also connected a test valve to test pressure in the line. Once the line passed inspection, someone was supposed to come back, remove the valve, and turn on the gas supply to the line. We are still waiting for that as well.

In the meantime, we are also trying to coordinate all of this with having some wiring done so we can place the television above the fireplace (cliché, I know, but it's really the only place in the room the TV works) and having wires run to be able to connect speakers and other entertainment peripherals yet not see all of the wires. Which means running them behind walls or through the ceiling.

We also want to replace the shelves with something more built-in looking, though the options we got for actual built-in cabinets and shelves were not that compelling. They were plenty pricey, though.

We have, I think, decided on some DIY entertainment centers from IKEA for each side topped with bookcases of the same width. The plan is to secure the bookcases to the walls for added stability. Given the way various parts of the house were constructed, it could be as expensive as built-ins once framing and supports are added. We'll see.

The challenge for us is trying to coordinate everything, figuring out what comes next, scheduling, ordering, etc. We've never hired out home improvement before, so what could have been a one-week or two-week job if we'd been able to do it ourselves has now stretched out a month (most of that with no work being done as we wait for various parts, tests, etc.) with more to come.

You see, we haven't actually order the cabinetry yet, and that will likely take several weeks to arrive. On the other hand, we now have a nice pull-down door with ladder access to the storage area above the garage, something we had not even planned on doing at this time. However, since it is thus far the only completed job of this project, it does give us something to feel good about and a reason to think there might be light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, it could simply be an oncoming train.

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