Renovations began with destroying what seemed to pose the greatest physical dangers for us (a type of demolition triage if you will): the garage and the “glass house”. So, bright and early on day #1, a haul away crew of college-aged guys arrived ready for demo. I was fighting full blown mom-mode as I stressed about the kids needing hard hats and gloves, which apparently no one was too concerned about besides myself (we clearly aren’t in CA anymore…). I knew insane levels of dust and broken glass lie ahead, and who knew what might actually cave down overhead as they dismantled the dungeon.
The garage, seems to have not been a functional garage for a while. There are holes covered with plywood and windows in the brick exterior where we assume garage doors once were, but perhaps they were never actually installed. We knew this had to be turned back into a functional garage asap for our family’s needs and we also wanted to make sure the support down there was structurally sound.
The garage is at the lower side of the house and includes the crawlspace and a semi- basement area. It has a staircase going into the house. It had been built out into several dungeon-ish rooms which were barely walkable. A floor about 4” high had been built up to cover the bottom of the entire space and several walls had been constructed to section off rooms which seemed to at one time be used for an office, extra rooms, and…a good amount of hoarding. Awfully placed AC ducting ran through the middle, running directly overhead at the bottom of the stairs. Any person taller than Frodo would have to duck to not hit their head on it.
It was hands down the dirtiest area of the house and problematic for several reasons. First, there are some fairly important things down there…like steel support beams holding up our house. Second, there is a small room before the crawlspace which we want to function as our tornado safe room. There was water damage down there but it was hard to see where it was stemming from and how severe it was given all the old buildout. And of course where there is sitting water you certainly have issues, like corrosion and mold. The crawlspace earth was literally seeping into the basement room, pushing the makeshift plywood wall out.
We had the entire thing gutted – walls, plastered ceilings, boxes of junk, carpet, wood paneling..nearly 4 truckloads. The wall between the crawlspace and the basement room was completely removed, dirt moved back, and a new wall constructed. There was a good amount of moisture that had seeped into the built up floor for who knows how long. This water had damaged the bottom of the walls, staircase, and corroded the steel beams. Carpet was removed from the stairs, some of the wood replaced, and we opened up the wall on one side making it feel like less of a tunnel. Support beams have been replaced and several of the ceiling joists which had termite damage were changed out.
The electrical panel is in the garage and the wiring was a wonky mess, so we took this opportunity to replace it and rerun new wiring in there. Ronny is forbidden to do electrical work of any kind so thankfully we have found a good electrician. We now have a new labeled electrical panel with functional breaker switches! The AC ducting got moved to the sides of the garage, opening up the staircase entrance and center of the garage a ton. Obviously this is still a work in progress and a far cry from a functional garage, but this area of the house is structurally sound at this point! What has taken the most amount of time with this space has simply been decision making. We went back and forth on things like adding support to the already existing steel beams or replacing entirely…and we got several bids for each project down there, trying to take cost and quality both into consideration.
The back porch had been built into a fully enclosed sun room. Despite this room being completely worn down and the windows quite “rattly”, the glass pieces were surprisingly all intact. How had it withstood this many years of Tennessee storms? I imagine this windowed space was once pretty nice but it’s time had definitely come to an end in my opinion. Ronny tried briefly to talk me into keeping the hot tub and seeing if we could fix it…um, gag. Firm no.
Glass really freaks me out…along with about 4629 other things…so I vehemently expressed my concern about removing the sheets safely. The college boys promised they knew what they were doing. They intended to take the glass panels out intact…but it didn’t work so well and ten minutes later one of them cut their hand open – fortunately not seriously, but bad enough that they all went to get gloves on (see, crazy mom isn’t all that stupid after all). What I didn’t express concern about – or even think about – was the safety of my own lawn staying glass free! Such of a no brainer that I didn’t even think of: if you’re gonna smash glass, lie down plastic to catch it! After the panel extraction plan fell apart, the approach shifted to grabbing a long tool and smashing it. The glass shattered EVERYWHERE. They threw away the big pieces but it was still all over the place. I have since spent hours picking up pieces on my hands and knees and yes, VACUUMING the surrounding lawn.
I love the height that this porch has as well as the arched brick base and I plan on keeping that. Screened-in southern porches are one of my new favorite things and I look forward to re-doing this one at some point. For this summer we are just gonna get a safety rail up and some quick paint on here…and while the glass mess is 98% contained, I have a few more inspection rounds to make. The early morning light that comes through the trees is one of my favorite things about this backyard and I can’t wait to have my coffee out here!