HOUSE: Newburgh

The radiators are OUT! YAY!

For the past six months or so, we’ve been trying to get a plumber to our house to disconnect the kitchen radiators and do some related pipe work in the basement that goes beyond what we’re capable of doing ourselves. You’d think it would be easy to, you know, give someone a bunch of money to do the work they’re trained to do, but contractors are a special bunch. Long story short, we’ve had three enthusiastic and friendly plumbers come to our house to assess the situation and prepare a quote, but after five months of phone calls/voicemail messages (from us), we had yet to see even a single quote from any of them.

You know things aren’t going well when you can’t even get a quote.

So now we’re back with the plumber who worked on our upstairs bathroom in 2008 and our downstairs bathroom a year later. It took yet another month to get a quote from him (and then a couple more weeks to schedule the work), but…IT HAS FINALLY HAPPENED. Evan and I both had to be in the city so we haven’t seen it in person yet, but my friend Ilenia was wonderful enough to both let the guys in and sneak a few iPhone snaps while they worked. This is SO exciting!!!


EWWWWWWW!! Gross. I’m guessing this part of the room hasn’t seen the light of day in the better part of a century. I cannot even express how much I am looking forward to CLEANING that baseboard molding (and painting it!!) and repairing the wall above. There was zero clearance behind and under the kitchen radiators, so it’s impossible to clean and maintain properly. This is going to be soooooooo very satisfying.


The radiator next to the sink was removed, too, and I’ll bet it’s even grosser back there. We’re actually not going to replace that one. We had the plumber cap the steam pipe at basement level. We’ve been getting by just fine heat-wise with only a single functioning radiator in the kitchen, so we’re going to put this one in storage (in case we ever want to reconnect it).

The other radiator was in a really weird spot before, so we also had the plumber move the steam supply pipe over about a foot so that it can be centered under the window when it’s reinstalled. The photo on the right is the new position — it’s not connected yet, they were just figuring out where to drill a new hole in the floor.

Hmmm…I think this also means we’re going to have to move an electrical outlet. Hmmm.

Now that the radiators are OUT, here’s what’s on my kitchen to-do list for the next couple of months:

▶ Frantically tile the last two walls
▶ Frantically refinish one of the radiators
▶ Frantically pull up the existing VCT floor tiles
▶ Frantically remove the plywood subfloor, which was at some point used as a large snack for carpenter ants
▶ Frantically assess the condition of the original pine subfloor that’s underneath the plywood
▶ Frantically do something so that there’s a floor in place when the plumber comes back to reinstall one of the radiators

I feel a little sick thinking about it because I’ve been SUPER busy with work lately, but between summer hours (I get every other Friday off) and a few vacation days Evan and I have both scheduled, I think we can make it happen before heating season starts. The floor is just a huge unknown because we have no idea what’s happening under the plywood, but at least now we can actually start doing the demo work.

I’m just going to try not to think about the fact that we also need a major repair done to our boiler. Sigh. This is why our renovation projects drag on for years — there’s always something urgent to deal with that sucks up our entire budget. House stuff is expensive. All of it. Even the stuff that’s not expensive is expensive. I am mystified by blogs that document entire home renovations that take less than a year. We’re going on eight years of renovation with no end in sight. Is this normal? Sorry, I’m digressing too much. Ignore me…

On the agenda for this weekend: TILING. And more tiling. And tiling some more. It’s going to be total tiling madness. I can’t wait!!

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  • Reply Marisa August 16, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I had the same exact problem when trying to get estimates for installing wood floor. You’d think they would just come up with an estimate instead of having a crazy pregnant lady continuously calling them asking for one. It finally happened and our floors are finally in but with an actual “must be finished by” date of a baby arrival looming and a whole house to put back together after the polyurethane odors clear out, it’s crazy stressful.

    I’m sure our renovations will be never ending as well. There is only so much you can do at one time!

  • Reply Ben M August 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    We’ve had the same problem with getting tree work done. I contacted about 7 companies. Four did provide a quote, but after the quote, we never heard from three of them again, despite many calls and emails. The company that finally did the work probably had a lower resistance threshold than the other three companies because it took a lot of contacting before finally scheduling something. I don’t get it. Are they all so busy that they don’t have time to do the work? If that’s the case, just tell me so I can bug someone else.

  • Reply miss alix August 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    When you say frantically I imagine you doing all this work with Kermit flailing arms.

    • Anna @ D16 August 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      That’s pretty accurate, actually!

  • Reply Joey August 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I’m going on two years for a 500sq ft apartment (ha ha…ha), so I feel ya. But this blog has been such an inspiration and help! Now if only I can get a quote out of one of the guys I had come out to look at replacing the windows…

  • Reply Jaimie August 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I think it would be really boring to have all the renovations done in a year. What would you do after that? What if you decide afterwards that you didn’t like what you did or it’s not optimal for the functionality of the house? I mean sure, it’s daunting when you first move in and it feels like EVERYTHING needs to be done, but I find house projects to be really fun/relaxing. Well, most of the time. And not thinking about the amount of money involved.

  • Reply John @ Our Home from Scratch August 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Part of the reason I learned how to DIY everything (I mean just about everything) was because contractors, in general, are terribly unreliable by nature. I’ve actually had great luck with Angie’s List over the years for the projects I absoltely refuse to do myself. Almost everyone I’ve called using the list has shown up AND given me a timely quote. The prices aren’t always great, but they at least get back to you. I think mainly because you can poo-poo them online if they don’t show up or fail to quote you.

    I’m envious of your trim work. Good luck with the radiator. Oh and your blog design work is amazing!

  • Reply louize August 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I thought it was only in Belgium that people never come back to you with quotes – plumbers, gardeners, window people – I have waited in vain to hear back from all of them these past months…
    So exciting to get your radiators out and to be able to clean behind them – I am hoping the plumber will actually turn up next week and remove all my radiators so I can get the walls fixed behind them, and I am really looking forward to being able to give them all a god clean!

  • Reply S@sha August 17, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Can’t wait to see what the old subfloor looks like! Hopefully the carpenter ants didn’t do a number on it too.

  • Reply Kimberly August 17, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I thought unreliable, hard to get repairmen were only found in Florida! Nice to know it’s worldwide. I’m in year ten on my reno and feel as you do about a one year whole house renovation. Who can afford that?!! I’m thinking about starting a blog to motivate myself to get’er done!
    Love your blog and Daniel’s who I found through you. Also, I could see myself in both roles during your visit with Daniel and the floor-A/C situation. Isn’t it nice to have friends to help pull you through trying times or even find longed for items while thrifting? 🙂

  • Reply Christa August 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    I assumed that all those plumbers, landscapers and contractors who never called me back just didn’t like me. Good to know I’m not alone, I was getting a complex.

  • Reply L August 18, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Georgia reporting here that yes, contractors tend to be really sorry when it comes to getting back about a quote. You’d think they would at least look at the job and say “Nope, sorry ma’am, I don’t want to do that.” so you could continue to call others. I think it’s another of those testosterone-linked problems (like not seeing things in the refrigerator that are right. in. front. of. them. or being unable to clean up ALL of a spill).

    In fairness, though, how many of us get contractor quotes on something, then don’t call them back to tell them they did not get the job?

    Your house is amazing, and would be much less so if you’d not respected the original fabric and taken your time deciding what to do with it. Think of the proportion eight years is to the age of the house. Tiny!

  • Reply Florian August 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Ah. Well. In my experience small jobs like this are comparatively uninteresting to contractors, because they don’t pay much and don’t keep them employed for long. A small company might be quite eager to actually do the work, but often they do the office stuff on the side, like in the evening or on the weekend. So when they find themselves with a bigger and more important job on their hands, small fry like a quote on moving two radiators moves to the bottom of the pile, especially if they can’t just drop in anytime, when there’s a lull in other activities.

    While they probably would have liked to give a quote on the work they might just not have got around to actually doing it, bedcause of, you know, other shit. And isn’t that a familiar pattern?

    It’s still totally effing annoying, nontheless.

    • Anna @ D16 August 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

      Actually, we’ve had this same problem with pretty much every contractor, even when we were hiring for much larger (multi-week) jobs like repointing the entire exterior of our house and replacing our roof.

    • Florian August 20, 2013 at 8:13 am

      Seriously? That’s odd.

      When we (I’m an architect, by the way) ask for quotes for a project, admittedly we do have to badger companies. But within a timeframe of two to four weeks, it’s usually possible to get enough quotes. But yeah, there are always some (maybe a up to a quarter) that don’t submit one. So we ask about four to ten companies and set a deadline and to remind them of the deadline two days before. It seems to be helpful to remind them, that the job will go to someone else, if they don’t submit. Supplying the companies with the quantaties of the work to be done also helps a lot, because the calcualtions are much less of a hassle this way. Also like this you can compare prices much easier.

      My experience with small companies, ones that don’t really have office staff, has been, that craftsmen really don’t enjoy the office work much. So supplying them with all the information they need and something they just have to fill out helps them along quite a bit.

      For a small job like you radiators, I probably wouldn’t ask for a quote at all, but just for how long they think it will take. And then have it done on the basis of payment by the hour and material. You should know how costly an hour of skilled work is in your area and ask them what they cost by the hour. But then you have to check, that they don’t dawdle.

      But then again this is in Germany. What is customary in the US, I have no clue. Maybe your area is just very dynamic and prosperous and companies are really, really busy.

      Anyhow. I love your blog and that you post so very often! More, more, more please!

    • Anna @ D16 August 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

      Ah, OK, I was baffled until I saw that you’re in Germany, not the US.

      I don’t want to say that this is customary in the US, but it is absolutely the norm. Take a look at all of the comments that preceded yours — this is just how it is here. The city my house is in the opposite of prosperous with a very large percentage of the population living below the poverty line, but you would find the exact same situation in an affluent city. Even once you’ve signed a contract and agrees on all the specifics, contractors often simply do not show up or show up days (or weeks) late. Again, this is the norm.

  • Reply Cheryl August 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

    My husband and I are running into the exact same problem right now. We’re doing 90% of our home renovation ourselves, but knowing the speed in which we’re able to work, we’re trying to get a contractor to replace the plaster ceiling in our bedroom so that we won’t be sleeping in the guest room for months. It’s difficult enough to get someone to come out to the house, but it’s even more frustrating when we don’t even get an estimate after that.

  • Reply Martha August 27, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one doing renovations that take forever! Glad things are coming together for you though!!! It looks great 🙂

  • Reply jackie September 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    my hubby and i run into this all the time…we’ve learned to do alot of DIY specifically to avoid dealing with contractors. we always have the same discussion….in what other business could that behavior actually fly? If i’m a graphic designer and someone calls for a quote i would for sure show up (which we’ve found to be hurdle number one with contractors..showing up for the first estimate)…and then i would give a quote or at least be HONEST with people and let them know i’m too busy, or i could get to the job in 3 weeks when i’m freed up, etc. I mean how is this acceptable to just blow people off who want to give you business?

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