Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Making It All Up To The Neighbors

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published September 11, 2014] © 2014 

I think it should be standard practice that after a remodel, you give a party for your neighbors and beg their forgiveness.

The average home remodeler is not living in the construction site but their neighbors are. While the homeowner basks in the idyllic quiet of rental digs, the folks on either side of his remodel project are being subjected to months – sometimes years – of construction noise in the form of backhoes, jack hammers, constant pounding, never mind a realistic recreation of the Kansas dust bowl. There were a couple of years where we had two neighbors doing major remodels producing stereo construction noise, and at one point, when three neighbors were remodeling simultaneously, the equivalent of construction surround sound.

At the moment, there are two huge remodels on our street – one three houses to the north, another five houses to the south. One of them is a total-tear-down three-level (there’s a full subterranean floor) new construction that is scheduled to take two years, which translated into English means at least three. I don’t know why the neighbors on either side of them aren’t suicidal. Or maybe they are. Just the level of noise we get from this, including the constant rumbling of large construction vehicles, is mind-numbing. There’s an absence of street parking within a five-house radius from workers’ pickup trucks. More than a few times, I’ve thought the new house was on fire, such was the cloud of dust wafting from the site.

Of course, remodeling is a pretty constant state of affairs in La Jolla. The Light recently covered Mitt Romney’s much publicized demolition of the family’s $12 million, 3,009-square-foot single family home on Dunemere Drive which is apparently being replaced with an 11,000-square-foot two-story structure. (Is that really neat automobile elevator on the basement level still part of the plans? If the Romney grandkids are anything like mine, I can see them visiting just to make the cars go up and down.) Regardless, this remodel is going to go on for a while. Eleven thousand square feet doesn’t appear overnight (unless it’s 11 badly-built thousand-square-foot houses from my neighborhood which I think did appear overnight in 1947).

I was just starting to feel sorry for the neighbors when the Light further reported that virtually every house on Dunemere is undergoing an extensive remodel as well. I had to wonder: is this some genius cooperation between neighbors – everyone remodeling at once  to minimize the disruption - or a terminal case of My Remodel is Bigger than Yours?

You also have to wonder how the construction crews even keep track of which project is theirs. I would be seriously concerned that my second story could end up in the wrong house. Should there be a mix-up, you can always hope that it was the Romney’s second story that ended up on yours.

The construction to the south of us is nearing completion so it was with some dismay that we learned that our next door neighbor plans to move out temporarily in a few months and do a major remodel on his house. Fortunately, it will be a one-story remodel and therefore hopefully go quicker than the behemoth that is being constructed a few houses north.

Ironically, we’ve already lived through a few remodels of this neighbor’s home. Some house flippers made major changes in 2000 including a new roof; the new owner ended up replacing the flippers’ improvements including another new roof. I pretty much spent two years waving at roofing crews when I’d go outside in my nightgown in the morning to feed our aviary birds.

Fortunately, we adore this neighbor, and he us, so if there are really any issues, we can address those with him directly. But I think my days of sleeping past 7 or taking an afternoon nap will be over for a while. The remodel will be extensive enough that it will require – yes – yet another new roof. I guess it’s time to buy some new nightgowns. Maybe some stock in roofing too.

Now, fair enough: it just isn’t possible to do a major remodel without a certain amount of noise and dust and disruption to those who live around you. Which is why I truly do feel that a festivity expressing one’s sincere apologies to the neighbors for all they’ve endured should be part of the construction budget. In the case of the house three doors north, I don’t think that flying all the neighbors within a 10-house radius to Tahiti first class would be unreasonable.

Personally, the party I’d like to get an invitation to is the one that the Dunemere Drive folks should throw for the one neighbor who isn’t remodeling. They’re going to owe him big time. For the record, I’d even be willing to bring the canapés.


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