Monday, September 21, 2009

The library is finally mostly done!

Library view 2

Remember back in February when the leak from the seal on the toilet in the second floor bathroom led to us tearing down the ceiling in the library? Remember how the project just had one complication after another after another? Remember the scary looking broken joists? Well, thanks to A. kicking my rear end a bit, it is finally complete. Almost.

I still have to make some crown moulding to fit the space, and I have to put the endcaps on the radiators, but that's little stuff. The room is now usable, for the first time since February! One can walk in there without tracking out dust!

Library view 3

It is at this point that I want to give a big shout-out to Perpetual Renovator. In that post, she discusses a product, Restore-a-Finish, which she has had good luck with in the past. I used it on the floors in the library, which were all scratched up because someone failed to properly cover the floor before beginning demolition and also had lots of water spotting from the previously mentioned leak. The floors don't look like new, but they look a lot better - enough so that I'm no longer in trouble. After using the Restore-a-Finish on the floor, I finished it with Feed-n-Wax.

Now I just have to get to work on fixing the table that my computer will sit on.

Photos taken by the always lovely and tolerant A.

Avoid Paul David Plumbing for anything but plumbing!!

While he is a good plumber, he is horrible as a general contractor! (He also does business under the name "Feldman Mechanical Contractors" or "Feldman Mechanical Contracting".)

When we hired Paul David Plumbing as our general contractor, it was because Paul David had done good plumbing work at a reasonable price. He was willing and able to deal with the old plumbing in our house, and to do things like rebuild our 1920s toilets.

He has proven himself completely incapable as a general contractor. We paid the deposit for materials, about 65% of the total cost of the job, in April. The contract was entered into with the agreement that a subcontractor with experience in slate would be doing the vast majority of the work, and that Paul David would be doing some work to assist them.

Paul David Plumbing provided us with excuse upon excuse upon excuse why the work had not begun on the roof. Last week, Paul David himself began work on the breezeway between the house and the garage. When one side of the breezeway repair was complete, he asked if we were satisfied with how it looked - I was - but this was based on appearance only. There was another slate that he had replaced, with a nail driven through the face of the slate, which I infomed him was improper practice, and that such repairs needed to be done with a slate hook. Paul David was unable to locate a supplier of slate hooks, which should have been a warning.

Back dormer work done by Paul David

Next Paul David began work on the rear part of the roof, where there had been considerable damage from ice falling on it the previous winter, and where it was obvious repairs had been performed previously. The slate for the bottom few rows are 28 inches long. The slate installed was only 24 inches long, which did not provide sufficient overlap. Paul David did not realize this was an issue until it was pointed out to him. He further didn't realize that the slate needed to be shimmed out, using smaller pieces of slate, to fit the slightly curved framing of the roof.

It was at this point that we realized that Paul David Plumbing had failed to live up to their end of the contract. A professional with experience on slate had not been brought in, as had been specified in the contract. Further, slate adequate for the job had not been provided.

Back dormer work done by Paul David

When Paul David Plumbing informed us that the proper sized slate wasn't readily available, we told him that we expected the exposed area and the improperly slated area to be covered to prevent damage from rain, which is expected for the rest of the week. When it appeared, on Sunday, that it was going to rain, we called Paul David Plumbing, informing him of this, asking him to cover the area. He said that he'd try to be out that afternoon. When we called him again, an hour later, when rain was threatening, he said that he couldn't make it and that his insurance would just have to cover it.

That was the absolute last straw. While Paul David may be a competent plumber, he simply cannot be trusted with anything beyond that.

Breezeway work done by Paul David

On further inspection of the breezeway, in the area where work had not yet been completed, I saw that the slate was not installed properly - the nail holes in the slates were not countersunk, so the nail heads will rub against the slate above, eventually wearing through. Further, the flashing at the house is in such poor shape that it really should be replaced. This was not part of the original contract, but something that should have been brought to our attention - it makes little sense to repair the slate now, only to have to take it off in a couple years to redo the flashing.

I took a very long lunch today (and as a result will be working quite late tonight) and met with Paul David to iron out the details of the completion of the contract. By next Friday, he will present us with a list of all the money that has been spent on materials, which will be deducted from the amount we paid, in April, for materials. From his costs will be deducted the cost of a temporary repair on the main roof of the house and repair of the improper work done on the breezeway. If he doesn't provide us with the expenses by next Friday, the amount will be assumed to be $2000. Either way, the amount due back to use will be paid in full by two weeks from that Friday.

I'm not terribly confident that we'll get our money back, but at least now we have everything in writing, and we have some legal standing, I hope.

In good news, Dennis Crookshanks (of Dennis M. Crookshanks Const., Inc.), whose gallery features some pretty impressive work, will be at our house either today or tomorrow to evaluate the situation and install a temporary patch. He clearly knows his stuff - I only wish I'd gone with the estimate that he'd provided when we called him originally. Fortunately, he still has our information on file, so it shouldn't take him terribly long to write up.

Friday, September 18, 2009


We are presently looking to see what our options are for pursing legal action against Paul David Plumbing. He has failed to deliver on the projects that he was contracted to complete, namely repairs to the roof, the chimney, and our gutters, supplying us with excuse after excuse after excuse.

He had said (and I should have specified further in our contract) that he had talked with a roofing firm who was to repair our roof and that he would only act as assistant. Now, with excuse after excuse, he's begun the work on the roof, himself. First he completed some work on the breezeway, which acceptable. Then he began to work on the main roof of the house. The slates that he had ordered were not long enough for the job, but he did not realize that. As a result, as installed, they do not have sufficient overlap. Further, the framing of our roof curves out, and the proper slate shims were not installed to avoid stress upon the slate.

This guy doesn't know what he's doing. He's taking forever. Right now, there's a big open chunk on our roof and we're screwed.

I bring up these issues and he just comes up with one excuse and then another. It's always going to be done in just a couple days, just a couple days more.

I just don't know how to handle all this. I'm freaking out because I feel I have no options. I'm not going to be able to meet the deadlines that the city has set for addressing the violations on the house, and I'm going to have a big hole open on my roof all winter.

On the plus side right now, and this is really the only thing on the plus side, the first gutter that was sent out to be repaired was returned today, and looks great. The gutter is copper, and they were able to roll out all the dents, thus that it looks like the rest of the gutters, or perhaps a bit better.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finally, an update!

It's been forever since I've actually written anything about the house - this is mostly because the house projects are moving forward at a snail's pace. My general contractor has been moving at the speed of molasses and I haven't felt too motivated myself recently.

The contractor has finally started work on the slate, and I'm told that one of the new gutters will be here today, I think - I'll believe it when I see it.

I've finally finished the drywall on the ceiling in the library - I hope to start working on the crown moulding in there tonight.

Further, I've learned something that I wish I knew earlier. It can be just about impossible to get the old glazing out of steel casement windows - unlike wood windows, there seems to be less chance for humidity to get into the space between the glazing and the frame - so the glazing is often rock hard. I learned that a bit of heat, from a torch, will soften the glazing up enough that it comes out quite easily!

Hopefully I'll be able to make a post later this afternoon illustrating all the progress on the house.