Chapter 8: Light at the End?

When the property buyers missed a payment they'd owed me, I delivered some strong words to my attorney, who dutifully translated them into polite, professional but stern legalese. He prevailed, and as a bonus he secured the right to terminate the contract if the closing did not take place when the final extension expired. If it came to that, it wouldn't be the best outcome, but at least it would free me from the shackles of a contract that's almost literally killing me.

But for every bit of good news I receive, some bad news is sure to follow. I now have (temporary) electric service. Hooray. However, it appears if I ever get the chance to finish my house, I'll no longer be able to do all the work myself: my knee, which almost a decade ago had been predicted by a specialist to give out right about now, is in fact giving out. I'm beginning to regret building a multi-level home; indeed, I'm beginning to regret attempting to build a home, period. That little light at the end of the tunnel just might be yet another oncoming train...

As if to add insult to injury, New Jersey has been enjoying one of the most startlingly mild summers I can recall. Days barely reach 80 (some hover around 76), while some nights dip down into the 50s. It's painful to see such gorgeous weather go to waste while I sit on my sorry butt and wait for something that may never arrive. It made me angry—to the point that I dragged my broken body outside to do something constructive.

My knee wouldn't allow me to get up on a ladder, but I could push a broom and move stuff around. So I straightened up the garage and put my car inside, just as any normal, civilized human who has a garage would do—the satisfaction of seeing it in there made up for some of my pain. I also swept up all of the dead leaves and cleared away some of the cobwebs from the rest of my sadly neglected little house. It was the first time I'd spent any significant amount of time there in months.

After I'd expended what little energy I had, I donned my finest rose-colored glasses and set my mind to task: assuming the best possible outcome with the property closing, what will I need to do next? I drafted a detailed checklist...

  • rough framing inspection (framing is done)
  • rough electrical inspection (wiring is done)
  • rough plumbing inspection (plumbing is done)
  • finish eave sheathing on living level (probably can't do this)
  • apply Tyvec house wrap (should be able to do this)
  • order and install custom windows and exterior doors
  • get bids on steel roof, eave flashing and gutters, and order installation
  • install transformer and underground line
  • install meter pan and energize main breaker panel
  • order and install soaking tub and toilet
  • well hookup
  • water test (may require a water softener)
  • final plumbing inspection
  • order, install, plumb and charge heat pump (ductwork is done)
  • install fireplace flue and chimney (I'm doing this)
  • install insulation (should be able to do most if not all of this)
  • insulation inspection
  • apply exterior sheathing (might be able to do at least some of this)
  • install and finish all sheetrock (will gladly farm this out)
  • reinstall all lighting fixtures (I'm doing this)
  • final electrical inspection
  • install smoke and CO alarms (I'm doing this)
  • fire inspection
  • temporary CO application (should be able to move in!)
  • floor tiling (truly wish I could do this, but my knee makes it impossible)
  • wall tiling (should be able to do this)
  • frame out kitchen cabinets (I'm doing this for sure)
  • order and install custom countertops
  • order and install appliances (oven, cooktop, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer & dryer)
  • install interior doors (I'm doing this)
  • finish all cabinetry and trim woodwork (I'm doing this for sure)
  • install fireplace
  • final CO inspection
  • build the deck (wish I could do this, but can't)
  • deck inspection
  • landscaping

Once the list was complete, it looked awfully long—I suddenly felt as though I've hardly gotten anything done! It was also quite evident that a number of these were big-ticket items made much bigger thanks to my blown knee, since quite a bit work would now have to be done by contractors, although the bright side is that things might get done much more quickly. Thankfully, there was a fair amount of stuff I should still be able to do. And there are some things I insist on doing myself, such as the cabinetry, trim and other woodworking. Ah, the sweet smell of sawdust...

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