Bucket List Item!! Check Off the Concrete Truck

We had a steady stream of concrete trucks pulling into the yard to pour the foundation walls.   And they were the red and white Ozinga trucks, which are my favorite!!   One driver was so nice:  he let me sit in the truck while it was spinning.   That’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I was about 5!!!  Check that off the bucket list!  I’m not little, but look how little I look standing next to the truck!   What a GREAT day!!

Cutting the New Basement Doorway

Before pouring the concrete, we had to cut the doorway that will go from the original basement into the new one.  Joe rented a gas powered ring saw from the wonderful folks at O’Leary’s (Mr. John O’Leary, Matt Hamilton, Johnny Johnson, George, and let’s not forget Roy!)  to get the job done.   A big thanks to all the O’Leary’s staff!!

There had been a wide window in the original basement, so we used that opening as the starting point of the doorway.

Pouring the Footings!

The red & white Ozinga truck showed up today, to pour the footings for the home and garage additions!!  You can see the “keyways” cut into the middle of the concrete they poured.   The keyways help the pieces lock together better when the foundation walls are poured on top of them.

I don’t know if I’m more excited about the progress on the house, or the fact that there is a concrete mixing truck on the property!  When I was 4 or 5, I really wanted to drive a concrete mixer truck.    Perhaps I can at least sit in one tomorrow!!!  *Fingers crossed!*

Hint:  don’t call them cement mixer trucks!… Joe has informed me that cement is the glue that holds the concrete together, but that concrete is what is actually poured.  Who knew?

Excavation Has Begun

The first step for the new addition is to excavate for the basement.  The new basement will be the same depth as the existing basement in the current house, and we’ll eventually cut doorways from the old basement into the new basement.

But first we must excavate.   Joe used his Bobcat and rented a mini-excavator from the fabulous folks at O’Leary’s Equipment to dig the hole for the new basement, and to dig the foundation for the garage expansion.    Everyone seems mesmerized by these machines and I think they secretly want to take a crack at running them.

Click here to watch Joe work the Mini-Excavator

Click here to watch Joe on his big boy toy

Brick, Brick, Exposed brick!

We were already having new doors and windows cut into the existing brick, and the brick chimney fixed, so after we demoed the drywall from the dining room wall, Joe suggested that we have an exposed brick wall between the dining room and the new kitchen.   I love that look, so Joe asked Rafi Chocolowicz to do his amazing brickwork on that wall.   The result: GORGEOUS!

New Stairs!

One of the weird “characteristics” of the original home, is that although it has an attached garage, there is no door leading from the house into the garage.  The door opens up just in front of the garage, so you have to go out into the elements if you are leaving the house and going into the garage … design flaw!

So, Joe had a doorway cut into the old garage wall, and worked with the fabulous folks at L&M Welding  to get a new staircase going from in the house to into the garage.   BINGO!!

Reality TV Show: Episode 2

There was one demo incident that if I didn’t know better, I would have sworn was staged.   I was still at work, and Joe had gone to the house to demo the basement ceiling.   As he was cutting down some of the drywall, a wasp’s nest fell out. Thankfully, it was a dried up, empty wasp’s nest, so no troubles.    On the next panel over however, another wasp’s nest fell to the floor, but this time Joe was not quite so lucky: dozens of angry wasps flew out, and Joe was stung repeatedly on the chest and neck.

When I saw Joe later that night (complete with red and puffy wasp welts) I completely spazzed out:  “What if you were allergic to wasps?!  What if you swelled up like a puffer fish and died??!!”   Thankfully, Joe is not allergic to wasp stings, nor is there a video of that outburst.

Demo Day!

Have you ever noticed that when you’re watching anything on #HGTV, that demo day makes everyone so excited?  We had so many people coming out of the woodwork, asking if they could help us demo the house.  It was hilarious.   I think everyone just likes to get out their aggressions and break things.

Joe also comments when watching HGTV, “You do not just go at a wall with a sledge hammer!!!  What are these people doing???”   He swears by the #Sawsall to more efficiently demo the walls.

Hint: The beautiful thing is that based on Joe’s estimate, we probably saved $5K-10K by doing our own demo, so that’s a huge bonus.

My nephew… in on the action
Joe’s niece… styling the fancy work gloves








Well… our demo day became demo days, as the process took longer than you see on TV.   But the results have been so cool to see:


Reality TV Show, Episode 1…

So, we were at our friends, Jena & Pend’s wedding in Montana, when we started getting texts from friends and family back home that there had been a storm “microburst” near our house.     I figured that there might be some limbs down, but when we got home, we saw the immense amount of damage that impacted the fabulous (and newly pruned) maple tree.   I can’t even begin to express what a bummer this was.

This is the kind of plot line you’d expect on a Reality TV show.   Sadly, this was our reality.   However, to make lemonade out of these lemons, we kept the trunk of the tree, and are hoping to make a dining room table out of it … lemonade.

Yard Work: The End Result…

WOW!  The giant maple tree looks incredible.  All of Joe’s hard work paid off.    The weed trees have been eliminated (which is good, because they actually smelled bad.)    And we now have a giant pile of limbs and logs waiting to be picked up by the garbage truck.

Hint:  If you live in Chicago, you can call 311 to have the city pick up yard waste at the curb.


Tree Trimming and Yard Clearing

Boomlift… ready for action!

Joe rented a towable boom lift from #O’Leary’s, and we spent a long weekend doing nothing but trimming trees and clearing the yard.

Joe cut down multiple trees, one log at a time, using a chainsaw and a Sawsall.  I then lugged the logs to the front of the yard.   Apparently I didn’t do a good job, as Joe put me in “time out” at the top of the boom lift.

At one point while I was lugging logs, Joe proceeded in his famous southern accent to call me “a sturdy woman.”  Seriously? … like that’s going to get him far.   He deserves to be in “time out” for that comment.   Seriously.

While We Wait For The Permits

The giant maple is scraping the roof


According to the sellers, the house hasn’t been lived in for 10 years, and we can tell that the trees haven’t been pruned in at least that amount of time.

There are a bunch of overgrown weed trees in the side and backyards, that need to be cut down.    The tree in front is a giant, gorgeous old maple, but the limbs are about 4 feet from touching the ground.

12 foot weed trees… lovely.

What Convinced Me

Once I stepped into the house, I immediately saw the potential, and loved the character.   But, wow … it really needs some serious work! …. like completely gutted and expanded bathrooms, an addition so there is a kitchen larger than a postage stamp, and what I’ve been dreaming of:  space for an art studio!

I certainly wouldn’t take something like this on myself, and we’re not in Waco Texas to pull in #Chip and Joanna Gaines to become the next #Fixer Upper.  Thankfully, Joe is very construction-oriented, which helped allay my fears, so we decided to be our own GCs.













Bought The House … And Boy, Is It Ugly!

After looking at countless houses online, and physically visiting dozens upon dozens, I decided to placate Joe and take a look at a place he thought was perfect.  I took one look at the green garage, and the half siding/half brick exterior, and thought, “you’ve got to be kidding.”

I’m certain that if I saw the house in the MLS listings on my own, I deleted it immediately … A: because the exterior is seriously ugly, and B: because the description read as though it needed an exorcism to even be livable.  Not my cup of tea.  But Joe seemed convinced, so off we went.