Water, Air, Fire, Earth
Within the first month we were living chez Lady Beekman, it became abundantly clear we needed to start with the basic elements: Water, Air, Fire, and Earth. Our theme for the house became: functional, clean and safe.
As we shared before, we coined Lady Beekman after a particularly difficult day in our first few weeks in our new home, when a massive flat roof leak was revealed to us during a summer storm… And unfortunately, that was just one of the leaks we have had. In our first ten days in the house, we had six plumbing issues, including a main sewer line crack. Lady Beekman is an old house that had been vacant for about six months by the time we moved in. Even though everything was thoroughly inspected, unfortunately, continuous use of the house revealed old and new problems.
Leaks such as the one from the faucet embedded in our exposed brick wall in our screened-in porch had to be fixed right away since they involved water sipping into our foundation (thankfully the hole on the pipe was almost at surface level, minimizing the amount of destruction to the gorgeous brick). Other leaks, such as the faucet in our giant farmhouse sink in the basement, were able to be shut off at a valve until we could deal with them at a later time. Leak under the kitchen sink? Right away. Leaky tub drain in kids’ bathroom? Immediately. Saying we had a plumber (or a full plumbing company!) on speed dial those days is not an exaggeration…
We originally had intended to remodel our home in three phases, expanding several years: make the main floor layout a little more efficient, then work on bedrooms and bathrooms, and finally work on the bonus room and finish the basement. In its purchased condition, the house (an extended Federal Cape) had oil heat on its original half, with two oversized electric wall units for air conditioning, and a heat pump (which switches from heat to AC) on its expanded half. We knew we wanted to make the house more efficient after we pulled the house’s history of electrical and oil spending.
We met with HVAC experts, and were thankful we could break our HVAC installation into two separate phases: Phase 1 – original Federal Cape. Phase 2 – expanded half.
Phase 1 would require a brand new HVAC system, including laying ducts to all rooms in the original house build in 1958. For that, our architect explained, we would need almost every wall open. There went our plans for a three-phased approach to our remodel…
We had to secure a renovation loan before proceeding with our plans, and have meticulous plans for the order of when projects would be executed. Our experts were onboard and communicating (we had an architect, a construction company, and a HVAC company), our loan was secured, our permits and construction plans were approved.
The first order of business to enable our construction to start, was bringing gas into our home. Although our particular house had oil heat, electric showers and stove, there were gas lines running in our street. We worked closely with our gas company and successfully brought in the street gas into the front of our property, directly to our basement. Concurrently, we worked with an Environmental company, who was able to safely remove and dispose of our above-ground, basement oil tank.
When our home had the gas line all ready for use, we installed a brand new water heater. The one in the house was electric, and, well, not functioning very well. We had known since inspection that it was slightly undersized for the size of the house — lukewarm showers at best. It is amazing what efficient machinery will do for your home and quality of life!
With this much rapid change happening in an already new environment, we wanted to give our children the opportunity to spend their Summer outdoor, playing in their safe heaven. However, we had to do a lot of work before our gorgeous backyard could be safe for our littles. We were so enamored touring Lady Beekman, that we neglected to notice our backyard had A LOT of Poison Ivy. Everywhere. We also had major limbs precariously hanging from trees, a few dead trees, and a few diseased trees.
This was all very daunting. We came from having a 10’x20’ paved patio as our backyard in our townhome Amethyst, to having a full acre of property with dozens of mature trees. We had to educate ourselves on what we even had, so I called a dear friend’s brother, who is a proper tree connoisseur (and has a tree care company), and Duane helped us inspect each tree, and make a plan for work that needed to happen on year 1, year 2, year 3 (…) until we achieved our backyard vision. And so, we got to work on making our backyard functional, clean and safe for our family.