Showing posts from 2009

a better photo of the opening


Steel structural work complete

Here's the new steel beam on the first floor. I know it's hard to tell with all the wood studs in the photo, but the living room and dining area opened up to the large hallway looks incredible!! This rehab is really taking off! From what I can tell, Benito's crew did this job pretty close to the architect plans, which were very detailed.

City of Big Shoulders

Benito and crew really went to it today putting in the steel posts and beams today! It was really scary watching them lift these 500+ pound (maybe more?) pieces of metal.

Black Pipe Crosses your Path (bad luck!)

These are the radiator pipes going from the basement to the 2nd floor. They orginally (back in 1896) cut a chunk out of the wood beam to fit the pipes in. Since we're removing the wood beam, and putting in a larger W-8 steel beam, the pipes will even be more in the way. This is yet another reason taking the entire h0t water boiler heating system out is a good idea.

Nine Inch Nails

Nathan came by Sunday while I was doing laundry to pull thousands of plaster/lath nails. Great work for a 19-year old listening to their iPod! He might have discovered a new look for his death metal band.

Peoples Gas workin' hard

Peoples Gas has been out 3 times already to shut off the gas outside the house. The first time they came, they said they didn't know where the shutoff was (buried) and my pipe is connected to my neighbors, so they couldn't shut it off anyway. Then they came back a 2nd time, with my neighbor present, and even with some effort looking for the shutoff, they couldn't find it. Once the weather turned a bit warmer again (it was almost 0 degrees earlier in the week), a crew came out with a back-hoe and did their big dig. It ended up the shut off was under the neighbors parkway sidewalk! The crew said the city of Chicago likely removed the access pipe when they poured a new sidewalk. So they pulled out a jackhammer and put in a new access pipe. I hope they'll come back on Monday to finally shut off the gas, and cap the pipe inside so we can get the steel posts and beam in. The footings have been curing for over a week now.

New post footings and temporary supports

Benito's crew came in today to saw cut the 4'x4' concrete post footings. I thought they were just going to work around the existing posts, but it ended up they thought removing the existing posts would make the job go more smoothly. So, they put up the temporary supports, saw cut the floor, and started digging! We were concerned the center drain pipe would interfere with the 18" deep hole, but it looks like we've cleared it. One less dollar to the plumber. :)
I still have LOTS of radiator pipe to remove.

Gas Pipe Woes

OK, we're what, two days into the construction, and already a major problem is encountered. This is something I would have never guessed before I started all this. The existing gas supply comes in the front of the house, and goes all the way to the back where the two gas meters are. There's no shutoff available to me before the gas meters.
The new steel W-8 beam that will be going in place of the old wood beam will not fit nicely with the existing gas pipe. Also, having a gas pipe on the south side of the center wall will force us to put in a small soffit on that side. So, the best idea is call the gas company, have them shut off the gas from the outside, and move the pipe to a better location.
The gas company came out this morning, and said "your incoming pipe is also connected to the neighboring building. We can't just turn it off!"
Crap. So, i'm trying to work this out with the gas company. stay tuned.

Goodbye Stairs!

I was hoping to keep the existing stairs to the lower level. I thought they were in pretty good shape, but it ended up there was termite damage at the bottom of the stairs. I spent an hour on Wednesday evening cutting the stairs up with a Craftsman circular saw and DeWalt reciprocating saw (MVP of demolition!). They look sort of ghostly just hanging there, don't they?
Also, the existing stair were not up to code in many ways: tread height and depth (too narrow, too tall), and there wasn't enough headroom at the last step. If I'm not too careful, i would have been bumping my head anyway. goodbye!

Demolition continues, and continues, and continues

You realize when doing a complete interior demolition on an old building how much work went into it building it in the first place! I found there used to be a radiator in the entrance to the first floor apartment, since there were holes in the wood flooring that was covered by vinyl tile.

I still haven't taken out the radiator pipes, I was looking for a metal recycler today. No one was in the alleys looking for metal. Maybe the metal recycling places are closed today.

I have so much more cleanup to do before we can get the concrete and steel guy over here to start with the jackhammer. sigh.....

They come from a far for Southern Pine!

Bart came all the way down from Geneva to pull up the 1st floor southern yellow pine. I know he'll put it to good use. He and his girlfriend worked as a team and pull up 300 sq ft in a couple hours! He found just using a flat bar worked well, rather than another suggestion of using a sawsall to cut the nails.

Difficult Center windows

Quaker Windows supposedly can't make a double-hung large enough for the center windows, might have to go with Marvin Magnum or other brand. I think its a 53" wide opening, most wood windows go up to 48". I'm in a dispute with the window contractor since he didn't check this very important information before we signed a contract and I handed over $5K. I'll find out on Monday where this is going. I would truly prefer to put in double-hung windows to match the existing ones for resoration sake. The other options are either a picture window or putting two windows side by side. The photo is not my window, i'm just showing what a nice wood double hung window looks like.
The plumber came over on saturday morning to discuss the project. It looks like there will be much more drain work than originally expected.
the windows shut. The tenants were upset about the dust, and are moving out.
The demolition is almost complete, just a few ceilings on the first floor remaining. I made the mistake of not sealing up the second floor and keeping

Truly Reclaimed Wood Flooring!

I put an ad on craigslist in the free section for my wood (pine) flooring in the basement. It's a nice red-brown color, so I figure someone might want it. A family from Romeoville came all the way into town to pull up the flooring, and haul it away in their SUV. So, I didn't have to do any work to get rid of it! I love CRAIGSLIST!

Demolition Underway

Ravenswood disposal dropped a 30 cubic yd dumpster (kids, do the math) in front of the house today. $440!
Stewart and a gang of two laborers will be gutting the basement tomorrow.

Mission Accomplished! Permit acquired!

OK, not the complete mission, such as completely finishing the renovation. It's more like the George Bush speech on the aircraft carrier with the 'mission accomplished' banner behind him. None the less, it's an accomplishment worth celebrating over a beer today after work. BIG THANKS to William @ makeArchitecture for drawing up the plans, getting us through the Zoning administrative adjustment, and pushing the plans through Dept. of Buildings signoff. We hope to consult with William through the remainder of the construction when needed. I'm sure he'll stop by to see how things are going.

Permit issued!

I just have to go down to city hall to pay permit fee, then I can pick it up and post in window!
I'll order the dumpster shortly. Evie and I have to move out this weekend, and demolition will start early next week in the basement.

Oddly enough, Chicago water department is fixing the sewer right in front of my house where I'd want to put the dumpster, so I hope they finish that by the end of this week.

almost there ! (with permit)

I was informed friday the plumber's license expired, so I can't get the permit until the plumber re-news his plumbing contractors license.

all depts. signoff

All departments signed off on permit application this morning, but project manager said he needs time for final review. Maybe one week. I'm going to start some light demo with stewart
testing mobile blogging!

dept. of building rejected first set of plans

The CoC dept. of buildings rejected the first set of plans. Maybe they were upset about Rio getting the olympics instead of Chicago?


submitted plans to CoC buildings project manager

The architect and myself submitted the plans to the city project manager this morning.  Everything looked in order.  William also have to give him his structural load calculations.

got through zoning, on to buildings!

My meeting with zoning on Friday, Sept. 4th went without a hitch. No questions from the zoning plan reviewer at all, he just made a bunch of cryptic notes on the building permit application, stamped the plans, and said "next!!". We have an appointment with the Dept. of Buildings in City Hall Sept. 22nd. Unfortunately, the city changed their policy regarding the satellite offices at the beginning of this month. Now, if you have architect plans, you have to go to city hall. The satellite offices will only deal with homeowners for repair/replacement, etc. type of work. DARN!

can now visit zoning to move forward

I spoke with the administrator this morning about the status of the
administrative adjustment. She said now that the inspection has occured
and it's on file, we can move forward in the process. She says we can
just come in with our existing paperwork and have it stamped so we can
move on to Dept. of Buildings. I can possibly visit there Thursday
afternoon or Friday morning. It didn't sound like there was any bad
result from the inspection, so that's good. I think they just wanted
photos for proof that there no tenants down there, as we've stated to

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visit from zoning inspector

Zoning inspector came over, took a few photos, and said "there was definitely an apartment here at one time, but doesn't look like it's being used now".  He understood that we want to duplex down, and said I could call Anna Roblez tomorrow to follow up.  I'm not sure if his comments were good or bad.

appointment with zoning inspector

I received a call from the inspector at lunch today, and we scheduled a meeting at the house. It will be Tuesday at 8:30AM.

lost in the void?

I spoke with a different person down at zoning today, and they said (after looking in computer) they didn't see anything in my file regarding occupancy check. I left a message with the zoning person I spoke with yesterday to call me back and hopefully get to the bottom of this. Could it be that they want a zoning inspection, but I haven't filled out a form yet to get the process going?

awaiting zoning inspection

I received a call from zoning this afternoon, they tell me they are
waiting on the zoning inspector to complete the occupancy verification.
They have to call me to setup an appointment, and then come over and
check that we are not using the basement as an illegal third unit. I
asked whether there was a chance this could happen before the end of the
week so we can still make our building permit office appointment on
Monday (31st). No guarantees. The zoning administrator that called
said they would contact the inspector to let them know we are waiting.

green cards accepted at zoning dept.

We can visit zoning on Aug 25th or after for next step of the zoning/ building permit process.

last letter received

The last of 3 letters was received by my neighbor, I await the return
receipt in the mail today or tomorrow. My father and uncle will be
downtown on Monday, so they will hand in the 3 green return receipt
cards. Hopefully they will keep the conversations short with anyone at
zoning. I've instructed them to do so. My uncle has a vendetta against
the city after all the parking tickets and towing he received a few
months back, I don't want him to take it out on zoning! ***
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"Administrative Adjustment"

An "administrative adjustment" is a process used by the zoning department to allow non-conformance of buildings to the code.  Rather than seek a full up-zoning (near impossible now), minor changes to property can be dealt with via the AA.   I'm in the process of notify my neighbors as required, using a letter penned by the zoning dept. and sending via certified/return receipt mail.  One of my neighbors is not very receptive to receiving return receipt mail, so this is taking longer than I had hoped.  The zoning department will not move forward with my permit until they receive the green return receipt cards from me, so I'm waiting for the last one to come in the mail.  I've already spoken with my neighbor and her son, but there's no particular incentive for her to go to the post office and wait in line for a letter than is not going to make the least bit of difference to her. ***
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William made the visit to the Zoning dept. the morning of the building permit meeting. What do you know, zoning rejected the plans on the grounds of 'non-conformance' with current RS-3 zoning. Even though we're only working on the inside of the building, they say our living space square footage to lot sq ft. will be greater than code allows, and 2-flats are inherently against RS-3 single family zoning code. I'll explain more later. What else would be expected from city hall?

some background on the rehab

Evie and I were married in November, and she moved into my building, now OUR home, shortly after. We quickly realized the 1st floor bathroom was not big enough for two people, and we're sorely lacking closet space. Since the basement is more of a garden apartment, being only 1/2 underground, we decided we can create a master bedroom suite complete with walk-in closets, jetted tub, double sinks, etc. The ceiling is 8' 2" from concrete to floor joists, so there's plenty of headroom. We contracted makeArchitecture to do the plans and help with the permit process in late May. William completed a set of plans more than worthy of a visit to the building permit office on Addison, and were all set to go as of July 21st.

welcome to this blog!

Since any major home remodeling project can be a harrowing experience, I thought it might be helpful to share my ups and downs with the world.
We're doing a "duplex down" of our 2-flat in Logan Square of Chicago. It's a nice brick building, that I've dated to the fall of 1896.