Friday, August 8, 2008

While we're at it

I have concluded that living in the moment is not advisable when remodeling your kitchen and every passing moment costs more money.

The original project was to tear out and replace the 1927 cabinets and ugly but very enduring tile-set-in-cement countertops, install such modern conveniences as a dishwasher, and smooth out the bumpy old plaster walls. A big dollar number, to be sure, but one we and the home equity line of credit were up for.

The first call from the contractor came after the cabinets and countertops were gone. "These old plaster walls are pretty flaky," he said, "I'm not sure we can skim coat them without it just flaking off. Do you want us to just remove the plaster, take it down to the studs, and put new drywall up?"

It will only cost $X, he said, and it will look a lot better. "Okay," I said, thinking while we're doing this work anyway, might as well.

The plaster gone, we could now see what lay under the 80-year-old walls. For the most part, it was solid, but there were a few issues. Notably, old knob and tube wiring that we thought had been replaced in an earlier rewiring project, complete with dangling live wires, and a hole cut through a structural support beam from an earlier plumbing repair.

"The wiring is dangerous," the contractor said. "And you can see where there is sagging from that plumbing repair." No disagreement there.

"It will cost $X and we can fix that right up for you." Might as well do it now, while we're at it, and reduce our chances of the back of the house dropping to the ground or burning down altogether.

Next was an option to move some pipes, remove a wall and open up the space slightly. "It will give you more room for your refrigerator," he said. "We can do it now, while while we've got everything opened up." Sure, we said.

By now, however, just seeing the contractor's name come up on my caller ID at work made me cringe. The next call was about plumbing, most of which we'd replaced over the years -- but not a supply line to the tub and shower.

"Have you noticed low flow to your shower,?" he said. Of course - it's an 80-year-old house. "We looked at the supply pipe and it's got a lot of deposits in it blocking flow. Do you want us to replace it? Now's the time, before we drywall over it... it will cost $X."

This time, $X seemed pricier than it should, but what are you going to do, slow down the work and get three bids for replacing a pipe? "Go ahead," I said. "Might as well, while we're at it."

I fear by the time this is over, "while we're at it" will end up costing close to $5,000 a word.

Come to think of it, maybe living in the moment during kitchen renovation is a good idea after all. Beats thinking about the debt-laden future.

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