Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Update

A lot of work has happened this week at Lafayette Flats. Unfortunately most of it is not terribly photogenic and so you'll have to take out word for how impressive it all is.

First, rough plumbing is all done. Those of you who have followed us since the beginning understand how big of a deal that this is. It has been the single largest task and the cause of most of our headaches. It would take much more time than we have to type and much more space than this blog affords to adequately communicate how difficult it has been to adapt this old building with two new bathrooms, three new kitchens and to tie everything to a 109 year-old plumbing system. There are three main reasons it has been so hard - concrete, plaster and oak: every piece of pipe had go through all of these materials at least once as it traveled through the building. An uncountable number of saw blades and drill bits were worn out, and an equally countless number of cuts and abrasions suffered by everyone involved made this part expensive and painful. Add to that the endless number of trips up and down the 51 stair steps from the basement to the third floor, and yeah, you might say that we're elated that plumbing is done.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Porter Jarrard and Megan Houk for their amazing work in getting it all done.

Second, we have reinstalled nearly all of the beautiful old trim that we removed in the first days of construction - all of it, that is, that can be reinstalled. We are awaiting an order from Appalachian Millwork in Beckley for the new wood that we had to buy to supplement the old.

Flooring is being delivered on Saturday and the installation will begin next week. This means we have to work furiously over the next few days to get as much cleaning and painting done as possible lest we muss up our beautiful new floors after they are laid.

The stair railing to the third floor that had been so abused when it was covered by a wall many years ago is being rebuilt. We found an old piece of white oak in the attic and were able to cut enough balusters from it to replace those that were missing. We have removed, stripped and sanded the balusters that remained and they are nearly ready to be reinstalled. We still have to rebuild the old newel post at the bottom of the stairs, but we should have enough old wood to do that fairly easily.

Next week's update should have many more photos as we get more and more finish work done. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Construction Update November 11

As the Beatles once sang, it's getting better all the time.

Quinnimont (Flat 3), as reported last time, is completely done other than some trim work and flooring. That hasn't stopped Amy from proceeding with decorating work and placing some furniture, especially in the bedroom. This is good because we are making the commute to and from Charleston most days so we can burn the midnight oil on construction details each evening. It's nice to have a well-appointed place to bunk.

Nuttall (Flat 1) will be painted this week. A few pieces of trim and it will be ready to set fixtures.

Eddy (Flat 4) is getting its final electrical touches soon and will be ready to paint by the end of the week.

Corten (Flat 2) is currently serving as a construction shop and is still a real mess. Since the plumbing for Flat 4 has to come though its walls, expect this unit to be the last one to be finished.

Common Areas - The stairwells and hallways are nearly finished. The texture of the old plaster has been difficult to match. We bought every kind of paint texturing products that Lowe's had to offer, but none of it seemed quite right. This weekend we tried something new - actually something old - that finally worked: corn meal in the paint! After we found this trick we were able to match the texture and now the first floor entrance area is finally free of the last remnants of the former electrical facilities (AKA "Old Sparky").

Also in the common areas, all but one of the new fire rated doors have been installed and the old trim and transoms have been re-installed in such a way that appeases the Fire Marshal.

The West Virginia book case is in the final design stages. We're trying to re-use some of the original trim from the building but are having some trouble designing the book case so it can be built completely with the old material.

Lastly, we thought we had better take advantage of the weather and make some improvements on the building's facade. We cleaned the ugly stained pediment stone and painted the transom over the main entrance. Watch for the Lafayette Flats sign to go up there soon!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fayetteville Lowe's

As you can imagine, we spend a lot of time at Lowe's, because it is the only large home improvement store in Fayette County. Barely a day goes by that we are in Fayetteville that we don't make at least one visit. We thought we would like to use a little bit of our blog space to brag a little bit on "our" Lowe's.

First, let me say that we are very experienced in home improvement stores. Amy used to work at Home Depot and Shawn has been in the construction industry his entire adult life. We regularly visit the three Charleston area Lowe's stores and have spent a small fortune there over the years. All of this experience, however, did not prepare us for what we have found at the Fayetteville store.

The very first contact we had with anyone at the store was with Eric in contractor sales. He seemed on the phone to be very knowledgable - as you might expect from a "Pro Sales" guy - but we found him to be more than just knowledgable, he seemed to be truly interested in helping us with what proved to be a very specialized order. Later, when we had to order other things from Eric, we found this trait to be authentic. He is always busy, it seems, but never too busy to help. This, we thought, was a rare employee; the kind that we haven't encountered much in our dealings with "big box" stores. We felt fortunate to have found Eric.

And then, Eric introduced us to Jeff, the flooring guy. In Jeff we found yet another rare (for us anyway) Lowes employee who seemed to have our best interest at heart and who possessed the product knowledge that made us feel confident in his recommendations. Jeff even came over to visit us on his day off and follows us on Facebook. We thought that this store was very lucky to have two such stellar employees.

But then, as we began to get deeper into our project and began to spend more and more time at Lowe's, we found employee after employee with similar customer service skills and helpful attitudes. It was so evident and so unusual that we would remark to each other about each new person we would meet and simply marvel at their helpfulness, friendliness and product knowledge. From the paint department to the plumbing experts to the hardware guys, this store is filled with great people who seem to love working there.

We have spent lots of time talking about it and have developed many theories as to why this Lowes store seems to be so far superior to others. Amy, with her strong retail management background, credits the store manager. We haven't met him but we are very impressed with his work. Shawn doesn't have an explanation but is very pleased to be the beneficiary of whatever it is that makes this store so darn good.

So here is a shout out to our Fayetteville Lowes crew: We truly count you folks as part of our team! Thanks, and keep up the great work!