Thursday, December 28, 2006


After they finished installing the water line not much else happened for the remainder of December. The 25 Anderson windows I ordered earlier this fall arrived on December 18th and Doug and I carried all of them up the stairs and into the house that same day. Carrying windows is a very physically awkward activity. We both completely trashed our backs and visited the chiropractor more often than usual for the rest of the month. In addition, Doug thought he had a hernia, but it turned out to be “only” a sprained groin muscle. Needless to say, we had to take it easy for a couple of weeks.

Friday, December 15, 2006

HEY! What are you guys doing to my new front lawn??!??

They came and dug a huge trench in the front yard to bring in the new water line to the house. How rude!!! There goes my beautiful new grass. Now it’s going to be muddy for the rest of the winter.


Monday, November 20, 2006

okay, this is not fair....

Doug started this month by going out on a 10 day cruise from Madiera to Fort Lauderdale. Cyndy, admittedly, was somewhat bitter about this because she had turned down several ship gigs this past summer in the spirit of getting the house finished. Since Doug needed extra time after he got back to recover from his very exhausting ship gig, not much else happened with the house this month. But we did have our first meeting with Pat the Plumber. We have a very good feeling about him. Cyndy spent a lot of time researching doors. They are expensive. Isn’t this fascinating?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

After we bought the plans from our previous builder we began to realize that we could tweak the plans to suit our previously unrealized needs in whichever way we pleased, within reason, and it wouldn’t cost us a penny.

It was so incredibly difficult trying to design our house from a piece of paper while we were on the road, but now that we actually own our plans we can carry them around the house with us and see how changing certain details will greatly improve the house.

We altered the window sizes quite a bit, and made a few secret changes to the porches that will work out great for us. We feel like for now, nobody can tell us what to do with our house.

There were so many money issues involved previously – after all, architects do charge by the hour – but now we are at a stage where we can freely mess with the plans and make them even better than they were already.

When the actual construction begins we will have to stop this nonsense, but we are having some serious fun with it right now. Hopefully we are not also making some serious mistakes that we will pay for later. There's no way to tell that at this point so I guess we'll just keep on fine tuning it for now as we see fit.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Doug got in touch with an old friend of his who is a contractor and is known for his high quality work. He was not available to start right away, but Doug told him that was okay because he still needed to build the front porch out of the foam core panels. Nobody else gets to work with the foam core panels because Doug is the king of foam core construction.

Not much else happened this month – we got all of the cement poured into the piers for the front and back porches. Cyndy figured out all of the window sizes, ordered the windows, and tended to the new grass. Doug worked on mouthpieces.

We went to a home expo show late in the month just to get some ideas, and Doug decided that he just had to have a whole house vacuum system. Cyndy was skeptical, but she went along with it. The rich people who have these things apparently think they are great. The actual vacuum cleaner is in the basement and all you have to do is plug a hose into the wall instead of dragging a vacuum cleaner around all over the house. But the hoses are huge! Where will we keep them?

Saturday, September 30, 2006


In September we had some more grading done. They filled in the trench in front of the house and dug the holes for the back porch piers. We put in heavy-duty cardboard sonotubes and backfilled. Shovelling is super back-breaking work. Also they regraded and put in a gravel driveway in the back. It is great to be able to drive right up to the back door again after all these years. It is fantastic. The final activity for September was planting grass everywhere and covering it with straw. It looks much more pleasant now, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

All that Remains....

When they finished tearing down our house and finished hauling it all away we both felt kind of empty and yet also very relieved. It had been difficult to see our house in such a state of disrepair for well over a year.

But now we can finally begin to move on.

This is when they were beginning to fill in the former basement.

Our house is smaller but our front yard is bigger.

They left a big trench in front of the house so that Doug could do the parging and then apply the tar and plastic sheeting all the way down the front foundation wall. Then he added a drainage system. Thanks to all of this we should never have a wet basement.

This new, smaller version of our house does not look so good just yet. It is rather unattractive and a little sad without any windows in the front.
Maybe we should plant some grass now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Few More Videos

In case you just can't get enough of these, here are a few more. Certain people might find these entertaining, or even interesting. And if you don't watch them, you'll never know what you've missed!

Here's one taken from pretty close in:

Doesn't this look like a giant chicken?
Watch him pecking away at our house.

this one even has some inane dialog

Some Entertaining House Demolition Videos

These are fun to watch I guess, especially the second one.



Tuesday, August 15, 2006


As we were watching our house being torn apart I suddenly decided that it was time to learn how to work the video thing on my camera. It wasn't that hard and I wish I'd checked it out sooner. It definitely made watching the permanent destruction of my house more "fun" as in: Well my house is being destroyed today but at least I 've learned how to make videos on my camera now. Great. After I made a few, Doug figured out how to do videos on his camera too, so I had a lot to choose from.

Loading Debris Into the Truck

Smashing Up the House Some More

House Demolition Photos


Here goes....

A small crowd gathered to watch.

Smashing up the front

Smashing up the roof

And that's all that's left of it for today

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Sad Day....

Today is the day that our house is going away forever

I took some final pictures of our house in its current decrepit condition because it is our last chance to see the house we lived in for our entire marriage up until the fire. So this is it, I guess.

Goodbye House...

Goodbye Bedroom and Living Room.....

Goodbye Melted Kitchen....

Goodbye Green Bathroom.....

And this is the last bouquet that I'll
ever get from my beautiful snowball bush....


Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Installing the Upstairs Wall

We finally installed the foam core panels into the remaining open front wall surface on the second floor. This was the trickiest thing we've had to do so far. The panels had to be cut and assembled with extreme accuracy and in a very definite order for it all to work. It did work, but it felt kind of like climbing a cliff - scary, and once you start you have to keep going no matter what. And those damn panels are HEAVY!

Here is the center top gable section just before it was pushed into place. This was taken on a cell phone and the lighting wasn't so great. We put in a lot of really late nights working on this - because it was cooler at night. The horizontal thing going across the middle of the picture is a collar tie.

Here I am exhibiting my Herculean strength, pushing that center panel into place. Besides the weight, there was the also the friction of the splines. But the wet glue made a nice lubricant, so pushing it up wasn't as hard as it might have been. hmmm.... Then I had to hold it in place while Doug nailed it with his big strong nail gun.

And now I am inserting the splines into the bottom piece, this time after it was installed because that was an easier way to assemble it on this piece. There is going to be a window in the middle part so we'll just leave that section open for now.

Okay, now I really need a vacation. Scotland here we come!

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Preparing the Foam Core Panels for Installation

Here is the melting device that we use to remove the foam so that we can insert the panels over the awaiting 2x6s. It is a heating element that is sized to fit in the foam section between the two layers of OSB. The foam needs to be taken down to a certain level so that the 2x6s will fit exactly between the OSB layers. So instead of cutting the foam out, we are melting it out. The cross piece on the heating element adjusts to accomodate the exact depth of the 2x6.

Somebody commented that our house smells like a crystal meth lab after we've been melting foam. So I want to know how would they even know that? Notice the happy expression accompanying the lack of gas mask.

The foam is cleaned out and we are ready for insertion.
oooh, that sounds dirty....

Monday, August 7, 2006

Almost Ready to Install the Front Wall

Doug is so happy about having finally finished sawing the house apart. He stands proudly by the light-emitting gap that he created with his mighty saw.

We've put in the 2x6s around the perimeter of the 2nd floor and attic. They are now ready to receive the panels.

Here is the collar tie system that Doug came up with back in 1995 for the roof structure. It's probably overkill, but it works and more importantly, the structural engineer passed it.

This is the final shot of the exterior wall of the old house, which thankfully kept the fire from spreading into the addition. We are putting up the new wall right next to it so soon it will no longer be visible. It's weird way of doing it but it's also the only way, and we are pretty sure it will work.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Cutting the House in Half

My former music room was completely filled with panels just a week ago. Now there are only a few left since most of them have been used to build the new front wall of the house.

Doug used a variety of saws to cut the old part of the house away from the new part so that the new part would not be damaged when we tore the old part down. He cut around the entire house, through all of the walls and the roof. He had to cut from the inside and from the outside to get all the way through the walls safely. He use a couple of different circular saws and I think at least one reciprocating saw died during this process.

It took close to a week to cut through everything but we ended up with a really nice one inch gap between the two sections of the house. Here is a close up shot of the gap. It's a rather scenic gap, as gaps go, don't you think? That basketball hoop is in our neighbors' front yard! I wish we'd been able to get Maggie into the shot.

Saturday, August 5, 2006


When we lost our home because of the fire, Gerry and Larry, who live next door to us, took us in for an entire week until we found a place to rent. Now they are sharing their electricity with us while we work on our house. We are so lucky to have such kind and wonderful people as neighbors and I hope we will be able to do something really nice for them when we finally get through this mess.
They have a really nice dog too. I always enjoy visiting a little bit with Maggie whenever I go over to plug in our extension cord into the back of their house. Isn't she beautiful? I think she has such a pretty face.

Installing the Floors and Moving the Panels

During the month of July we removed the basement steps and installed the subfloor on the main level, which means that we can now only access the basement from the outside.

After we put in the floor, we installed the new front wall panels on the main level.

Then we used a pulley to lift the panels for the 2nd floor up through the floor joists.

We stored them in "hallway" of the main section of the upstairs, which already had a floor installed.

Once we got all of the panels we needed moved upstairs we put down the subfloor in the open areas that had originally been designated for the stairwell in the former design. We left a little opening around the wooden ladder that we've been using all this time to get to the 2nd floor.

Thursday, August 3, 2006


In order to safely tear down the old part of our house we had to build a new front wall – from the inside. This involved removing the basement stairs, installing a new sub floor over all of the open stairwell areas on both floors, and then installing foam core panels on what was to become the new front surface of the house. All of these procedures were tricky and physically challenging. And it was hot as hell. We put in some really long hours because there was no way to tell how long it would actually take and it needed to be completely finished in time for the scheduled tear-down of the old part of the house.

After the front structure was complete, Doug used a few different types of saws to cut completely through the wall and roof of the old house at the intersection with the addition. The two sections needed to be completely separated before it would be safe to demolish the old house.

In other news, our building plans were approved by the county, but on July 13th we finally realized that we could not afford to have this builder build our house, so we bought the absolutely fantastic plans and paid the additional amount for ending the contract, and for a while we had no idea what we were going to be able to do about getting our house built. Scary times…..

Nevertheless, we took some time off and went to the International Trombone Festival in England and had a wonderful road trip afterwards through England, Wales, and Scotland. We needed the break, both physically and mentally.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Photo of our burned out house

This is what our house has looked like for an entire year and a half after the fire. Pretty depressing, huh? Obviously we aren't living there since it is CONDEMNED. I feel really bad for the neighbors in addition to myself and I hope we can get it into a more reasonable looking condition as soon as possible.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Finding Time - what time?

We really needed to spend a lot more time than we had available to us on the bus in order to go over the plans and make rather important decisions about our house. There were not only the many design details to fine-tune, but also a bunch of really involved and complicating technical details that Doug had wanted to incorporate into the plans, like radiant floor heating and individual water heaters on each floor instead of one big one like normal people have - things like that.

The architects were always waiting for information from us that we weren't ready to give them because we hadn't had a chance to sit down and talk about it. I had the feeling that these delays and lack of preparation were going to end up costing us a lot of money in the long run. It was difficult because it seemed like Doug's time was needed on the tour even more than it had been in the past and it was nearly impossible to get out the plans and start going over things without being interrupted.

So in spite of all of the faxes and conference calls with the builder we still get way behind in the planning of our house. It was extremely disappointing to have this be the situation after Doug had convinced me that we would have planty of time to get our house planned during our many long days on the bus.

When we finally got home at the end of May we were at last able to wrap up the final details with the architect so that he could complete the plans. As of right now, construction is set to begin "only" a year and a half after the fire , but we should be back in our house by this coming December if all goes well. I can't wait!

Friday, May 5, 2006

Gloomy Thoughts

We are out here on tour, spending most of what limited free time we have visiting kitchen and bathroom showrooms and Lowes and Home Depots all over the country.  Doug kept saying how we would have such a nice time planning our house and doing it OUR way, but we aren't really doing that at all.  It's just not possible and I tried to tell him that last summer.

I'm still not convinced we are doing the right thing, tearing down our 130 year old house that we've lived in for almost 25 years.  The insurance company had said they would restore it which means it would end up in far better condition than it was before the fire.  I don't need a fancy house - getting our current house brought up to brand-new condition would be like a dream come true for me.  But apparently I'm wrong, so off we go on this exciting new adventure.  At least I'm not going to have to do any of the work other than planning it and probably painting it.  I don't mind that.

But I have this awful sense of foreboding - that all of the planning with the design-build firm is just for show, to impress the people on the bus or something, and that Doug is ultimately not going to be able to let someone else do the work.  It seems like he is trying to make everything unnecessarily complicated.

I don't want to do any more work on the house.  I don't, I don't, I don't!   I know I'm going to end up helping Doug with some of the stuff he has signed on to do to in order to save money.  Why can't we have a more modest house instead?  The things I want are not ridiculous - they are mostly practical and designed to make the house easier to live in when we are old.

I'm not lazy - I painted the outside of our house by myself the summer before last.  I kept thinking that needed to be my last big home improvement project.  I hate to pull the woman card, but at what age do women typically stop being housepainters?  I'm sure there's a reason for whatever age that might be, the same way you don't see very many 50 year old carpenters.  SHEESH!

I sort of told our producer to leave us alone today which was not a very good thing to do.  We were looking at the blueprints because we have a big important conference call with the builder coming up that we MUST be ready for and he kept needing to ask Doug unnecessary questions about stuff that is happening two weeks from now that Doug has already finished planning for and has already briefed him on - several times.  I feel terrible about that - I'm not in the habit of snapping at people.

Doug has been extremely irritable as well, especially to me, since as his wife I should be more understanding about how frustrating it is for him to try to be all things to all people.  I completely understand that he is unable to say no to anyone except me because he has to keep his nice guy image going.  This tour manager gig has been extremely challenging for him because he is not naturally an organized person - at all.  Not one bit.

He's done an amazingly good job, but it's been extremely frustrating for him because so many people want to take advantage of him and his willingness to devote his time to their various self-serving needs.  It doesn't seem to occur to any of them that he might need a little time to do the other things that he needs to do.

The bus driver has made it her mission this year to make Doug's life as difficult as possible with all of her various complaints and arguments.  She constantly shirks her responsibilities and those of her bus company if she can get Doug to do the work for her.  She seems to crave his attention and does all kinds of manipulative things to get it.  At the end of each day she spends 30-40 minutes chewing Doug out about the hotel parking, or whining about the rude hotel clerk who disrespected her (probably because she's bossy and has bad grammar), or complaining about the producer or one of the actresses.  No wonder he comes back to the room in such a bad mood after I've been patiently waiting for 30-40 minutes for our "quality time" to start.  I understand completely what he's putting himself through.  I guess that makes it my fault because I was so easy going in my efforts to convince him that this tour was far less fun for both of us when he decided that he wanted to be the big important tour manager.

There's another guy on the tour who I know really wanted to be tour manager and he's insanely jealous that Bud for some reason or other chose Doug.  I guess since it wouldn't look good to go after Doug directly since Doug can apparently do no wrong in Bud's eyes, he's been acting kind of creepy to me this year instead.  It's completely out of the blue and has been very disconcerting because I'd actually been in favor of the idea of him being tour manager instead of Doug.  Couldn't he tell that?  I guess not.  There's a certain irony in me having to stick up for Doug's performance as tour manager to this guy.  Life is so weird sometimes, and not always in a good way.

This certainly has turned into quite a rant.  Well I have to do SOMETHING during the time that I'm not spending working on the house with Doug.  Hopefully we'll have some time tonight after the bus driver finishes HER nightly rant with him.  At least I'm not wasting anyone's time.

My biggest fear, before I got distracted by all of these other thoughts, is that the design/build company is going to start not wanting to deal with us and that they'll drop us and we'll be back to square one.  I don't know why I think this except that Doug keeps thinking he can add stuff and it won't cost more money.  They are going to have to wait for him to do his work before they can start and he is terrible at predicting how long something will take.  Unfortunately he is good at convincing people that something will take less time than it actually does.  I am worried about the consequences of everything - everything that I've mentioned.

Hopefully thoughts of our upcoming days in beautiful Hawaii and our trip to England and Scotland will distract me from all of this, but we still have to get this house stuff squared away.  There's absolutely no getting around that.

Friday, April 7, 2006

The March Meeting and the Spring Tour

The architect's three different versions had three different price categories, and at our meetings in March the builder apologized profusely for the fact that all of three of them them were out of our price range. We'd been waiting since December to receive this wonderful news.

Doug had been planning to add on to the front of the addition after the house was torn down, leaving the planned stairwell where it was. If we didn’t add a section for the music studio in the front, and instead put it in the much smaller stairwell area, and then moved the stairs back into the main section we would be able to afford it, they said. So we said okay, and they quickly came up with three alternate plans. We chose the one we liked the best and the nitty-gritty stage of the planning process began.

Our month long break after the winter segment of the tour was now over, and the next stage involved a lot of planning and communication with the architect while we were on the road for two months. We spent nearly all of our free time wandering around various Lowes and Home Depots across the country trying to imagine what kind of countertops, cabinets, toilets, bathtubs, sinks, and lighting we would want to have in our new house. The reason we had to decide on all of these things so soon was so that the builder could continue with his pricing process. These details would significantly affect the final cost.

So there were numerous debates about toilets, bathtubs, flooring, kitchen cabinets, and countertops, etc,etc,etc. Here’s an example:

Cyndy initially thought that formica countertops would be perfectly acceptable, since she hadn’t ever had anything else and it was inexpensive and easy to maintain.

Although Doug has also never had anything but formica, he somehow thought that something a little more upscale was in order and he had the impression that Corian was the way to go. It definitely had certain advantages. But Cyndy didn’t like the extremely plasticized look of it and all of the sales reps were acting like Corian was sort of passé anyway. Who knew?

Granite was the same price and looked more natural and was supposedly more durable than Corian. But it also had some maintenance issues. Doug didn’t like the clattery sound that dishes make on granite.

Then Silestone came into the picture. It seems like the most durable option and is probably what we will use, if we can find a pattern that we both actually like.

Cyndy began to notice that all of the speckled granites that are used in hotel bathrooms these days had been starting to remind her of throw up. And most of the Silestone things were either very similar to the vomit patterns, or they had these silly looking sparkles in them, or they were totally boring. She's still not convinced that the countertops need to be fancier than good old tried and true formica.

It has been very difficult to decide on something just for the sake of pricing when so much unattractive stuff has had to be sifted through in our very limited time. It has been that way for toilets, bathtubs, sinks, and medicine cabinets so far - probably because we are so limited as to where we can go to look at things.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Our First Meeting with Our Builder

During the December break we met with the owner of a design-build company. He was very enthusiastic about our project, as we were about him. His company does very high quality work and he had previously been partners with our original architect. We wanted to make the addition, which was to be our new house, sort of in the spirit of the old one. He thought that what we had in mind would definitely be possible with our future budget, so we signed the contract and things got underway.

There was a whole team working on various aspects of the house plans. They had people out measuring the house, there was an architect, and a head carpenter, and all of their various assistants. They were going to design three different floor plans that were related to the sketches we gave them. The prospect of ending up with an even more well-designed floor plan than we had been able to come up with ourselves was thrilling, and to be able to choose from three different versions was amazing. We headed out on the January-February segment of the tour feeling excited and optimistic.