Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hamilton Road Interview

   This week i had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Dave Delind, a friend of mine who has been working on a massive home renovation project he calls the Hamilton Road Project.  I wanted to ask him a few questions about the house and renovations, and the transcript follows.  All the photos are pulled from Dave's blog (link below), which i highly recommend reading.  My questions are in italics.

What exactly is the Hamilton Road Project?
   The Hamilton Road Project on paper is the renovation of an antique house.  On that face of the project I decided to take it on to see physical results from my education.  On the other face of the project is that it was the house my father and his brothers grew up in.  It was bought by my grandfather in the '40s, and at the end of the day it was either buy it or a developer buys the block and bulldozes the block for condos.
The HRP Before Work Begins
How long have you been working on the project?
   Just over two years.

So what made you decide to undertake the entire renovation yourself?
   My grandfather and my dad are people I looked/look up to.  The were/are the sort of people that solve their own problems and depend on themselves.  It seemed to me that if I could do the ins and outs of a project like this and see it through that it would help me depend on myself more.
The Original Interior
Walls Removed
Is it working?
   Well, yes and no.  It has made me realize that any problem can be solved and what is considered "standard" or "code" may  not necessarily be the best solution to a given problem -- but at the same time it is quite humbling.  I went into it thinking I knew how to work with my hands and now I realize that in most aspects I am still a novice.
Novel Problem-Solving
Speaking of code, have you had any trouble getting your renovations approved with the city?
   I did at first, mainly because I didn't get a permit.  Or 5 permits for that matter.  It was ok for the first year, but I got the bright orange "Stop Building Notice" about a year ago.  As it turned out, the inspector knew my grandfather, walked through to see what i was doing later that day, approved me, and decided not to hit me with fines.
Hah, lucky.
   Yeah, mainly he just wanted to see I wasn't trying to flip the place and knew somewhat what I was doing.

Ok, two-part question:  what was the state of the house before you bought it, and what's your goal for the final style of the renovation?
Do you mean physical state or style state?

Well, both.
   The house, as I found out getting into working on it, should have been condemned ten years ago as an unsafe structure.  [It was at a] point where half the walls needed to be jacked up, kicked out and re-framed because of how badly the supports were rotted.
   The physical style was pre-Victorian for the original brick, with a truly utilitarian gray addition from the forties built off the back.  My plan is to leave the brick parts of the house more or less unchanged and have painted stucco off the back.
Looking Out The Front Windows
What's been the biggest hurdle or surprise you've had to overcome for the HRP?
   Well, every day there are things that were unexpected and each has its own "special" way of being difficult.  I can't really say one part was harder to overcome, but there are a few points that stand out in my mind.  The first was raising the walls two inches with jacks the same way someone would change a tire.  That was one of the more dangerous things we accomplished.
   Beyond the aesthetic things that are starting to come online now the single thing i take a great deal of pride in is the HVAC system.  I had never worked with sheet metal before and built from the ground up a system that passed code and works.
So it seems like you're getting to the point where you're most of the way done; when do you expect to be able to move into the house?
   My goal is to have Thanksgiving there.

Do you have any other big projects you've got on the shelf for after you finish this one?
   Actually I haven't allowed myself to think too far out yet.  I found early on that if I didn't break things down day to day it was too overwhelming to continue.  I can definitely say though that I won't let the skills gained go to waste.
Stairs To The Basement
Ok, last question:  what advice do you have for readers who might want to start a big renovation project?
   What I can say is this:  It is a great thing to do, but if you take on something like [the Hamilton Road Project] there are caveats just like anything else.  It will take twice as much time and three times as much money as you initially expected, but at the end of the day nothing is more satisfying.  On that line, though, for anyone getting into a project like this, the help and support of my family, soon to be family, and friends was the most valuable thing on site.  Not only were they there to help manually, financially and spiritually, but they kept me going even on days that I didn't want to be working.

Thanks for much for contributing.  Best of luck on completing the renovations!
You can follow Dave's progress on his blog at http://hamiltonproject.blogspot.com/

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful interview. I am sure the satisfaction of a job well done will be a source of pride (well deserved) for many years.