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A Few Hurdles to Surmount to the Finish Line

Last of four articles.

May 01, 1988|JOHN McCAFFERTY | John McCafferty is a Times copy editor. and

There were no catastrophes throughout the remodeling of our Manhattan Beach house, but enough little things went wrong to keep us watchful.

Like the water pressure. It was pitifully weak in the front yard. I mentioned it to the contractor, who said he'd "check." I never found out what the trouble was, or if it was related to the hole that got knocked in the new plaster (and badly patched) behind the kitchen plumbing. Somehow, the pressure returned to normal.

Clear glass was put in the bathroom window. How could they not notice what they were doing? They replaced it, however.

They put a gas pipe into the fireplace, but forgot the turn-on handle. When this was pointed out, the carpenter quickly cut a hole in the new drywall and installed a handle--in an inconvenient place. Oh, well.

The completion date on the contract came and went with no fanfare.

We mulled over the old, spattered scaffolding that the stucco men were setting up. The original estimate was $1,100 for scaffolding, but we never saw any new scaffolding. The contractor's estimate for all lumber for the remodeling had listed that cost as $14,000, but a separate list we got ourselves from a lumber yard estimated lumber at $7,000.

We surmised that profit also came from hiring cheap labor. The drywallers seemed skilled; the stucco job was chaotic.

The laborers broke branches off trees and bushes, splattered my potted plants with stucco and piled all manner of refuse against my melaleuca tree. They filled my garbage cans with refuse and stacked them on a brilliant red hibiscus bush, breaking it to bits.

There were scratches on the black finish of the new fireplace box. One day the toilet, which had been left on for the workers' use, was plugged with building materials and had overflowed, soaking the new drywall.

Stucco Thrown On

I had watched with amazement as one team of laborers applied the first coat of stucco while another team hammered the drywall into place inside. One man ran up and down the ladder with 5-gallon buckets of stucco while others smeared it on with 2-foot trowel blades. One worker couldn't reach the uppermost part of a wall and was throwing handfuls of wet, gray stucco at the wire mesh.

Then it began to rain heavily and everyone went home--after dumping leftover stucco against the trunk of my besieged melaleuca. The drywallers had disappeared also, leaving me alone with my depression.

Only later did I learn that drywall is always done in stages. The men had not run away to Las Vegas with my money.

The home stretch was turning into a messy, irritating grinder.

"Progress!" I said to the contractor one bright morning as the stucco crew was putting on the finish coat. It looked beautiful. And the drywallers had finished texturing the walls and cleaned up their mess.

"There's been progress all along," he corrected me.

Meanwhile, the finish carpenter was installing molding around the floors and the cabinetmaker was putting poles and shelves in the closets.

There were minor glitches. The contractor hadn't specified enough room for full-length women's clothing in the closet, and the cabinetmaker had misunderstood our directions and built the angled top of the built-in living room cabinet wrong. But such things weren't too hard to correct.

The painter was due on Monday, the carpeting on Thursday. The tile was next to the hearth awaiting installation.

It was fun to see a flurry of finishing-up touches. Doors were hung, a nicely curved S-shaped walkway was laid.

Weird Toilet Noise

The plumber finished his work and the electrician completed his.

Suddenly we were ready to move back in, although the Edison people hadn't turned on the power to the new portion of the house, we had no window treatments and one closet door had a defective mirror, but, basically, the place was livable.

However, the new upstairs toilet made weird bubbling sounds after being flushed. The odd sound may have been the result of the toilet tank refilling with hot water. The plumber had attached the wrong pipe. He fixed the problem promptly.

We tallied the glitches:

1--Glass blocks were aligned differently from the plans.

2--There was a half-inch gap between the drywall and the cabinet in the living room.

3--Drywallers had not smoothed over some bum jobs someone had done in years past on one of the two remaining interior walls.

4--The upstairs water closet still makes strange sounds when it fills.

5--There is some shabby stucco work in evidence.

6--The old breaker box was left for the old portion of the house and there is a rusty pipe sticking up from the rear corner.

7--We had the phone and TV outlets put on the wrong wall in the upstairs study/bedroom.

Time to Finish

Oh well, nothing is perfect. We moved in the weekend before Thanksgiving and entertained our children. They loved the house.

It took a couple more weeks to get the electrical contractor together with the Edison workers so they could figure out how to transfer power from the old box to the new.

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