scope creep + the big dig.
For those of you who may be interested, our concrete floor is still only half done. We’re waiting for Dick’s broken ribs to heal, and for his schedule to clear up. And we’re hoping that maybe he knows someone we can hire to help him out with the finishing when we do pour the second half of the floor. Since the weather here is known to get bloody cold, bloody early, we may also be babysitting the floor once it does get poured, to ensure that it doesn’t freeze before it cures.
Meanwhile we’re moving on with our house-renovating lives. This means we run around like crazy all week trying to get our work obligations taken care of, and then spend all weekend trying to make progress on the house while also trying to take care of the socializing that we want to do (or in some cases are obligated to do.) This, while simultaneously trying to prepare for the onslaught of the coming week. Last weekend we spent Saturday trying to visit with Luke’s brother, Olin, + his girlfriend, Kim, while also digging a big hole in the yard. (I’ll discuss the hole in a minute.)
Architects sometimes talk about the phenomenon known as “scope creep.” This term refers to the gradual upsizing of the scope of a project– often in a progression that seems so natural that you hardly realize it is happening. Scope creep occurs when a faucet starts dripping, and a homeowner decides that, instead of replacing a fifty cent washer, she should buy a nice new faucet, justifying the purchase because the old faucet is looking cruddy. Then the nice new faucet makes the sink look pretty lack-luster, and before you know it, an entire $50,000 kitchen remodel has been embarked upon. Architects and contractors are hired, the economy gets stimulated in ways that make George Bush very proud to be president, and the whole thing quickly gets out of control. Frankly, I think scope creep is what makes the world go around.
Our little renovation project is really the classic example of scope creep going out of control. The progression of our scope creep is exponential, not linear. The “big dig” that we are currently embarking upon is but one example. It started when we needed to move our electric meter in order to do our kitchen re-framing (a project that itself started out as a “remodel” and turned into a total demo-and-rebuild project.) After a meeting with the utility company’s representative, we decided that the best and cheapest way to relocate the meter would be to put it out on the alley, and bring it back to the house underground. And voilà! The “big dig” was born. Because if we’re going to dig a 15″ deep trench in the yard we might as well dig another foot deeper and replace the undoubtedly substandard sewer line. And since we’re digging a new sewer line, we might as well go a little deeper and put a hydrant in the yard to water the garden that we’ll never have because we’re doomed to spend the rest of our lives rebuilding this damn house. And while we’re throwing everything (except the kitchen sink) into the trench, we might as well add in a loop of heat lines in case we need a heat dump for our solar heating system. Oh, and why not add a gas line in case we ever want to have a heater in our someday shop-space? See how much we’ve stimulated the economy by digging a little hole in the yard? (Pipe ain’t cheap, folks.)
Anyway, we brought the Bobcat down from Kent’s house and started digging last Saturday. Like many boys-in-men’s-clothing, Luke’s brother (Olin) loves nothing more than to play around with heavy machinery, so we got a lot of digging done. We removed + transplanted a bunch of cherry trees that were in the path of destruction. We ripped out much of the foundation of the old greenhouse we had demolished a year ago, and found the existing sewer line. By breaking it with the backhoe bucket. As it turns out, scope creep is not necessarily the enemy of human-kind, because sometimes it causes you to do things that really need to be done. In this case, the sewer line was clay pipe with joints every 24″ or so. Every joint must have leaked, because each joint had a lovely little plug of roots that completely filled the diameter of the pipe.
Frankly, it’s a miracle that the toilets worked at all. Living in that old dump must have involved a very careful balancing act in order to keep oneself from perishing. No heat + no insulation must have meant the occupants had to live within a 3-foot radius of the wood stove during our 9 months of winter. Clogged sewer meant no more than 2 flushes per day, and pity the person who got food poisoning from the gallon-sized tubs of mayonnaise they seem to have kept around. All the plumbing leaked because they neglected to get the solder into the pipe joints, but instead they seem to have sprayed the solder around in the general vicinity of the joints. So using any water at all must have involved a bucket brigade out to the yard. (Which perhaps explains how the sewer worked–most of the wastewater was diverted into buckets before it ever reached the sewer line!) Oh, and have I mentioned the rotting floor joists and the dead cats moldering below the floor?
Somebody– please remind me what possessed us to buy this nightmare? Ah yes, it was cheap.. and provided everything we thought we wanted in a house… the opportunity to work ourselves into a state of exhaustion while depleting our pocketbooks, the chance to correct all the building-sins of others, the opportunity to blog sarcastically about all our woes. Plus, the roof line didn’t make me want to gag.
Well, with winter quickly approaching, and a year of work under our belts, it turns out that what we actually want most out of a house is simply to have a roof over our heads. So far, what we’ve got is a big hole in the yard, an overwhelming amount of work, and a place that we can’t live in.
(My apologies for the lack of pictures…. deadlines loom, and I’ll have to post them later!)
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Tags: big dig, concrete, electric meter, scope creep, sewer, trench