31 July 2009

A "Lot" of Work

We bought our new old house a month ago, and less has happened in that month than we would have hoped. Our design is coming along nicely, but without having complete plans to send out for bidding, we won't be able to start construction on September 1 like we, at our most optimistic moments, had thought we might.

We are still working toward demolition, too. (The seller got a condemnation letter from the city back in February, allowing until May to rebuild or demolish it. The seller pretty much ignored that letter.) You'd think it wouldn't be so hard to un-build a house. However, you would be wrong. Before you can bring in the bulldozers, you need a permit, of course, but that's the easy part (we hope). Before you can get a permit, you need a tax certificate from the county to prove to the city that you don't owe them any taxes. (If you did, they wouldn't let you tear down the structure that they may want to foreclose on to cover the debt. In our case, though, the joke would be on them because the property is probably worth more without the house on it.) There's a three-day wait for the tax certificate. Then the permit application needs the notarized signatures of all owners. But before you get to that, you better have gotten in touch with gas company to cap the gas line at the property line (the first time, they just removed the meter, so we had to call them back out), the electric company to remove the electric meter (the first time, they arrived and decided not to remove it, so we had to call them back out), and a plumber to cap the sewer line (we hired our own plumber for this, so it only took one call). So now we're at the point of going down to the city development office (a place no one should ever have to go). Even though I will bring them everything they have asked for -- application, tax certificate, 8.5x11" site plan, photographs of the structure(s) to be demolished, etc. -- I fully expect that I will have done something wrong, and I'll get to drive down there and try again the next day.

We are hoping to start demolition on Monday the 10th or Tuesday the 11th. We are meeting with an arborist the Friday before to get his advice on the two unhealthy trees in the front yard. The dead tree in the backyard is definitely coming out with the house, but we disagree about whether to keep ones in the front yard in the short term for the bit of shade they provide (and plant new ones, which will have some time to grow before we remove the old ones) or have them taken out by the demolition crew. This is an appealing option because the demolition equipment can pull the trees right out of the ground, roots and all, but it means that we wouldn't have any shade in the front yard until new trees grow big enough to do the job. Anyway, right now we're waiting on the meeting with the arborist before we can tell the demo company what we want them to do. (While the arborist is at the site, we also plan to grill him about what we should plant after the house is finished.) 

All of this reminds me that we should get started scheduling the next steps: soil samples and engineering of the foundation (as well as some longer beam spans in the house). Our area has lots of expansive clay soil, so samples will be critical in ensuring that the foundation is designed and built strong enough to withstand any movement. Apparently they bore down more than 10 feet for the samples, and taking them from directly under where the new house will be -- which is where the old house currently is -- is the best way to be sure they get good samples.

Thanks for reading. As we get used to blogging and figure out what's what, we'll be adding pictures and other fun things...so buckle up!