Annex, 13 August 15

As you might know, I am renovating and adding onto a small “accessory building” on the property I purchased almost two-and-a-half years ago in downtown Salida. The first stage of the building project felt like riding in a rattletrap around potholes on an unpaved road through hilly country in a downpour with someone else steering. I fretted a lot.

The relationship with the contractor I had hired fizzled. The requirement to make the property ADA compliant created an unanticipated financial load. One building code requirement after another challenged my every move. And, to top it off, failed right and left hip replacement surgeries literally knocked me off my feet. During an extended recovery period, I often wondered whether I had veered off course when I purchased the property.

But last week, when my framers gracefully raised a new wall for the Annex, I gratefully acknowledged that the components of the project are now falling into place. For example:

Several weeks ago, I was looking for a decorative architectural element to break up the expanse of the new 17 x 24’ terrace off the back of the main building. It struck me that a cast iron tree grate set in the concrete would be stunning, so I visited the Neenah foundry distribution lot in Denver. A tree grate in the catalog caught my eye, but at something like $800, the price was prohibitive. Fortunately, the supervisor of the lot produced an alternative—a 5’-square grate that could not be sold because the frame was missing. He had kept the grate because it was too beautiful to dispose of. But he sold it to me for $100—and then volunteered to deliver it to the building site in Salida, a 280-mile, 6-hour round-trip from Denver. I can’t imagine what a freight company would have charged to transfer the 400-pound load. All the supervisor asked for was the price of a tank of gas.

5-ft. 400 lb. cast iron tree grate set 22 June 15

More recently, needing a strategy for draining a terrace off the main entry to the Annex, I called a civil engineering firm in nearby Lafayette. After finding a creative way to reach someone in an office that has no receptionist, I ended up meeting with the president. She made calculations based on the topographical survey of my plot and the elevation drawings of my building, and then suggested a plan. I asked her to mail me the invoice. She declined to charge me. I thanked her with a copy of my book Dancing Girl.

Thursday before last, I visited a construction company in Salida to find out whether they would roof the addition to the Annex. I knew my timing was off; I should have arranged for the roofing weeks earlier. And the dry wall installation. And the finish carpentry. (To my credit, I lined up a brick mason, a plumber, and an electrician in good time; I ordered doors, windows, and hardware far in advance; and I’ll probably paint the interior myself.) Who knows why the CEO of the construction company greeted me on my way in, postponed his departure for an off-site appointment, and gave me contact information for an independent roofer and a retired builder. Within 24 hours, the roofer committed to the job, and the retired builder referred me to a drywall installer and a finish carpenter, both of whom said yes. As I wrote in a thank you note to the CEO, I struck gold when my path crossed his. When I returned on another errand this past week, the project manager  assured me that I’m doing fine as general contractor, and that I’m saving a lot of money. To seal the deal, he invited me to contact him any time for names of reputable sub-contractors. This is Salida!

Annex, 19 August 15

So how does the building project feel now? Like cruising along a paved shotgun roadway in fair weather with the top down and the volume turned up on the CD player! I am playing Zorba the Greek, of course, and I am behind the wheel.

Remember, I’ll let you know when we “get there.”