Bumps in the Road

As I said in my last post, we haven’t signed a contract with the builder. We’ve been back and forth making minor adjustments to the scope. The latest was to add a hard-wired smoke and CO detector system. This system is now required for new houses and may be required when we sell the house. We don’t expect to sell the house for a very long time. On the other hand, it seems that it’s good practice to have a detection system and now is a good time to install it.

It was about two weeks ago that Erik sent me the price for the alarm system. He also said he’d write up the contract and send it over. Four days later having not heard from him, I emailed a request for an update. That’s when he said that he had the permit in hand. He also said he was waiting to hear from me about the alarm system proposal. Who’s waiting for whom? We set up a meeting for the following Thursday, which was three days ago. On Monday Erik sent over his revised proposal and contract for our review.

I scanned the contract and itemized scope of work and quickly realized that there were a couple unexpected cost increases in the revised proposal. There were two things I was particularly concerned about. The first was an increase in the building permit fee. Newton charges double what is typical and Erik had only included the typical fee amount, without checking with Newton. The second item was a charge for some work that had always been on the drawings and in our discussions, but which had not been included in the itemized scope, despite scope corrections I had previously made.

At our meeting on Thursday, I stated my concern about these charges. I didn’t want the increases to be taken lightly or to set a pattern for future issues. The charges were legitimate, yet I felt they should have been included in the original proposal that was part of the basis for selecting the contractor. Should I push Erik to remove the added costs or should I pay them? What’s going to best support our relationship for the long term? It’s not going to work if we lose trust with each other. I suggested that maybe we could split the costs. After discussing some other items, including scheduling we ended the meeting without resolving the cost issue, as Erik needed to confer with his dad, with whom he is partnering. Result: still no contract, although I believe we are inching closer to completing that step. I felt good that I expressed my displeasure and that I did it in a way that I believe will benefit our relationship no matter who ends up paying the added costs.

We also discussed the project schedule at our Thursday meeting. I’ve been pushing Erik to provide us with a progress schedule. We are purchasing quite a few items for the project and we need to know when they will be needed. We don’t have such a schedule yet, but Erik did say he’ll need the appliance and plumbing fixture selections by the time the plumbing and electrical subs start their work. That makes perfect sense, although I’d been thinking we’d have more time

Meanwhile, I’ve been in touch with the asbestos remediation contractor to get the paperwork in place for removing the sheet vinyl kitchen floor that’s under the ‘floating’ wood floor I installed about eleven years ago with help from Matt and Craig. We’d already had the company on site to test various materials for asbestos and were very pleased that all the tests were ‘negative’. We didn’t test the flooring- we just know there must be asbestos, if not in the flooring itself, then at least in the mastic holding it in place. One of the key issues with asbestos remediation is that paperwork has to be filed two weeks in advance of the actual work. Check that one off. I initiated that process with about three weeks to go.

One more big surprise this week was the insurance quote. I did realize that with a project of this scope we should be in touch with our homeowners insurance agent. Sure enough, since we will be moving out, our homeowners policy is not the right vehicle to insure the house. We have to get a ‘builders risk’ policy. We got the quote on Friday and it did not put me in a good frame of mind for the weekend. It looks like it’s going to triple our insurance payments for the duration of the work.

When I have taken a break from the business of this project, I have noticed an increasing level of fear and/or anxiety. I was a bit nervous about getting the building permit, as I mentioned previously. And you might suppose I’d be anxious about taking all the steps we have taken without having settled the contract, but I’m not anxious about that. I think it’s more a fear of the unknown combined with the dismantling of our home base. I find that as I dispose of multitudinous notes generated in past activities, as I give away books that I’m never going to read or reread anyway, as we choose what to keep and what to pass on to others, the sense of solid grounding these things somehow provided me is disrupted. What becomes of me if my past is not reflected in my possessions? Will I lose something precious in the process?

What I know, which I suppose you may be thinking right now, is that we are engaged in a process of completing past experiences and creating space for future ones. In my head I know this is part of the opportunity of our project. However, this week I find it hard to think about new beginnings in a new space. Instead, I’m feeling just a bit homeless. It’s not that I have no place to go, because I do. But, it’s not yet home.

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