NOTE: As of September 23, 2009, this post has been edited in
accordance with a court-mediated settlement. The names of the
contractor and his excavation subcontractor have been replaced with
So some of the work in the front parlour that needs doing is just sort of fixing areas where the taping and so forth got jostled in the foundation work. That's work we knew would need to be done, and a risk we knew we were taking.
Unfortunately, the majority of the work is due to Contractor A (the guy who showed up drunk on the job) being an incompetent goon. This is where he removed our old brick chimney (that hazard to life and limb). He also removed the chimney chase that ran through the living room, which I didn't think was a great idea but it made the job easier. He was all about messing up our house to make his work easier. It was almost his speciality (which gives him at least one talent, since his construction planning, foundations, plumbing, electrical work, and carpentry were particularly half-assed, if you consider the "work" he did on our house). Then he put it together like this:
There are so many problems with this work. First, he jammed some random, non-encapsulated insulation behind this wall without permission. Which is actually a huge issue because it is in a wall cavity with known water issues, so now we have a huge fiberglass sponge holding water against the siding, and that will be causing rot issues.
Then he used the wrong thickness of drywall on the ceiling, which he did because he didn't ask us for drywall to use to do this job, but just used the drywall he removed from the chimney chase.
Then there's the fact that the quality of work he did there was just... there is no word for it but ASSTASTIC. Sorry, I do try to keep this blog clean but there is no nice way to describe the incredibly messy rocking of that piece of wall. And in the process, they managed to put a broom handle through the ceiling, so we have that to repair, as well.
So we have to take at least some of it down and re-hang it. My preference would be to take it all down, throw it away, sage the room to remove that man's evil spirit and bad karma from my house, and then redo it with clean, un-tainted materials. But Noel won't let me, so I'm making do.
I spent some time yesterday seeing if I could find a nice fireplace mantel to replace the one previous owners removed and theoretically destroyed. There was no sign of it when we bought the place, and we have no photos of what it might have looked like, so we're taking a guess and just relying on good taste and a decent understanding of historical precedent.
What was probably there was either a cast-iron combination fireplace (like these), which would have been bought prefabricated by mail order, or a combination of a (probably plaster) mantel plus a coal grate (like these). We know the fireplace was primarily for burning coal because it was way too small to be useful as a wood fireplace. So we'll probably do a marble mantel (because it looks nice, and we're not doing cheap beach-house construction like Mr. Holt was when he built this place) with a prefab gas fireplace like this with the gas coal look rather than the fake wood fire.
The main benefit of having the old fireplace breast taken down is that we can use whatever works in the space rather than whatever fits in the confines of the original construction. We're kind of stuck with the width: any difference in width will look wrong with the other elements in the room. But we might be able to use a bit more depth to accommodate a gas fireplace. The old enclosure was not very deep, as you can see here:
(That red was Photoshopped in; it's not on the floor.)
So I found some suitable places to get a new mantle from, but the cost is about as high up there as one might imagine (but not actually as high as my initial guesses), so it's not going to happen on this go-round. Good to know, but a bit of a bummer because I'd really like to put in a fireplace even if it would be a pain to coordinate with the changing floor levels and everything.
Less emotional than the whole fireplace area debacle, but no less frustrating, are these:
That's where our late cat Simon scratched at the drywall. He did this all over the room. It's not hard to fix: sand off the loosened paper, mud over it to make it smooth, sand it smoother. But it is literally a Simon-height ring around the room. And he made a much bigger mess on the corners. I really should have bought that cat a scratching post.
All in all, it's a real joy ride in the front parlour this week. (I will refrain from complaining about how cold it has been out of respect for those of you for whom cold means actually frozen solid outside. Around here, cold means 50F indoors because nobody in California has adequate central heating or insulation. But at least it's green outside, right?
posted by ayse on 12/18/08