The Summer Construction Season is almost Here!

Despite the appearance of snow in this photograph, the 2015-2016 winter in southeastern Pennsylvania was generally mild, leading to an early spring.

We’re now well into spring which means that the summer construction season is almost here.  That doesn’t mean that we’ve been idle this past winter.   We spent a large part of the last four months renovating the home’s third floor bathroom. That involved removing the bathroom’s old rusted shower stall and clunky vanity, repairing plaster walls, removing the old vinyl tile floor and replacing it with ceramic tiles, replacing molding and moving/replacing large sections of the plumbing and re-purposing an antique dry sink we found in an antique store to be used as the bathroom’s new vanity. That bathroom project is now almost complete with only one major task remaining: moving the 350 pound vintage claw foot tub up two flights of stairs to the home’s third floor.

The vanity installed in the renovated 3rd floor bathroom,  consisting of a re-purposed antique dry sink and a porcelain vessel that was recovered from the bathroom’s original vanity.

And there has been much family debate over how that is to be accomplished.  At a minimum, three strong individuals are needed to lift and carry the tub, although four is preferable. That itself isn’t much of a challenge until you take into account the configuration of the stairway leading to the third floor.  The stairway is wide enough in places for only one individual to pass, never mind two people side-by-side carrying a very heavy tub on each end. To make the task even more difficult, the stairway has a landing between each floor, thereby requiring two 90 degree turns and two tight 180 degree turns on the trip up to the bathroom. To further complicate matters, the tub would need to be carried sideways through those parts of the stairway that are constricted by wide molding or wood banisters, leaving nothing for the carriers to grip.

I thought that I had a simple solution to these problems: I purchased an appliance hand truck with treads designed for carrying heavy objects up stairs. Capable of moving up to 800 lbs, this hand truck would keep the weight of the tub primarily on the stairs rather in someones arms and provide greater mobility through the constricted areas.  However, my second son, in a demonstration that was intended to bring  me back down to reality, placed his 200 pound body onto the hand truck and dared his 56 year old father to pull him up the stairs. I couldn’t.  So, it was back to the drawing board.  In reviewing our options further, one that was popular among my children was to hire professional help. This went against my do-your-self philosophy, but I conceded once I realized that I was outvoted by my family members.  However, it only took a few phone calls to realize that professional movers, even those who advertise an in-house furniture moving service, generally have no desire to carry a heavy vintage tub up two flights of stairs.

Thus, the tub still sits in my main floor office, waiting to be moved to its final destination. I do, however, have one last sinister plan up my sleeve:  My daughter’s college graduation party is scheduled to occur next weekend and she plans on inviting a number of her fellow student friends.  Maybe I can coerce these millennials  into muscling that tub up the stairs in exchange for a few beers? If that should too fail, then I have my two brothers to fall back on, who will be traveling from New York to also attend the party. There is no job, no matter how seemingly impossible, that my brothers and I are smart enough to avoid. Thus, with a little ingenuity and sweat to overcome our naivety, I’m sure that we’ll figure out a way to get the job done. If not, then I may need to construct a bathroom in my office.

The vintage tub as it still sits in the first floor office as we try to figure out how to transport it up to the renovated third floor bathroom.

That would then bring me to my big summer project:  Renovation of the Workshop. There is just one problem with that, however:  It may not be possible to save that structure.  I had originally hoped that I could save the building by replacing or reinforcing that structure’s wall studs that were supporting the roof, which was in good condition.  On closer inspection, however, I began to realize that the structure had more problems than I had originally anticipated.  Even if I could save the structure through renovation, the work would be well beyond my capability and stamina. I concluded in the end that the building would have to be torn down and be replaced. In doing so, the foundation, which is stone, would need to be both stabilized and raised so that it is no longer flush with the ground where it caused the deterioration of the sill, the overlying studs and the floor joists.

The “Workshop”, which extends outward from the rear of the Mason Lodge. The entrance to the ice cellar is located inside.

Again, against my do-it-yourself philosophy, I decided to engage professional help. I’m currently searching for a contractor who can complete the job, or at least complete the foundation work and frame the new structure. I plan on salvaging as much of the original building as I can. In particular, I plan on saving the windows, which were once part of the original home but moved to the Workshop building in 1903, and have them restored and then re-used in the new building.  I will keep everyone appraised of the progress.

I have one last item to mention in this post before I wrap up for the evening. In an earlier post I discussed the problems that my wife and I had with our homeowner’s insurance carrier, particularly with regard to how the carrier cancelled our homeowners policy less than one year of our moving into the Neebor Lee. The cancellation was a result of the carrier’s incorrect perception that repairs that its inspector had required during his a initial home inspection were not completed.  The insurance was re-instated once we corrected these perceptions with documentation and photographs of the repairs and after we filed a complaint with the state’s insurance commissioner.

It turns out that one cancellation is apparently not enough. Several months ago the insurance carrier cancelled our homeowner’s policy yet again. The reason provided for the cancellation this time was a determination by the carrier’s home inspector that we had abandoned our house. Upon being notified of this, I phoned our insurance broker and assured her that we had not abandoned our beautiful old home but rather were still happily living in it. In fact, I stated, there could be no mistake that we still occupied the home since our little schnoodle, Pepper, who is in the house always, welcomes any and all visitors with a very annoying high pitched bark that is difficult to miss. It thus became a question of which house the inspector inspected.

As I suspected, it would appear that the insurance carrier’s inspector fell victim to our postal no-man’s land problem. The inspector apparently placed our address into his GPS and, like so many others  before him, was directed to a house located five miles away from the Neebor Lee in the next County on a road that has the same name as the road on which the Neebor Lee is located. And the residence to which the inspector was directed by the GPS was indeed abandoned.  Out of curiosity, my wife and I decided soon after this incident to drive to the that location to see for ourselves and, sure enough,  the GPS stopped us in front of a very old, boarded up house with an overgrown yard. So, yes, for unsuspecting travelers searching for the Neebor Lee for the first time, they will often find a run-down decaying house, leaving a very poor first impression of our home.

Fortunately, and for the second time, the insurance company corrected its mistake and re-instated our policy. And so, with this latest incident, I decided that it was time to find a new homeowner’s insurance carrier. And I’m still looking.

Abandoned house that was mistaken for the Neebor Lee by the insurance carrier.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Diane Roman says:

    Happy to see you’re back! Love reading about your home


  2. You could call mitros insurance in Paoli – I like them and they were way, way cheaper than the other quote I had gotten. They also worked with me for a while when I wasn’t living in the house


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