Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Project

How did we get into this?

We're not even full time home remodelers.  Tom is the Publisher of Home Energy Magazine.  I'm the Executive Director of the Center for Accessible Technology.  I'm also running a project building a 47 million dollar center on disability services called the Ed Roberts Campus.

We've restored several old houses in Berkeley and San Francisco.  We've won a restoration award from Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) for the house we live in now.  We even converted a garage into a small studio (which we lovingly refer to as either "The Houselet" or "The Homo Hut").  

Yet this is beyond anything we've done before.  

First, we're buying an 1880s victorian cottage on 62nd Street in Berkeley.  The house, known as the "Delaney House",  has been empty and neglected for over 20 years, boarded up and forgotten.  For a couple years, a squatter was in the house, and he tried to take possession of it from the owner (unsuccessfully).  The house was trashed, yet somehow stood through it.  When we first saw it, all the windows were covered in plywood, most of the interior doors were broken or missing, the transom window was boarded up, and the house had no plumbing, no wiring, no heat and no foundation.  Pieces of the chimney had fallen into the living room.  There were multiple layers of linoleum, all broken, on all the floors.

So after buying the Delaney House, we have to restore it - fix all the windows, scarpe and paint the exterior, strip multiple layers of wallpaper, patch plaster, run new wiring and plumbing, strip linoleum and refinish floors.  (Did I mention the bathroom is disgusting? And the kitchen is non-existent?)

The next step will be to move the house.  The house currently sits in the front corner of a large lot.  As it has no foundation, and is right against the neighbor's driveway (just 5 feet from their house), we're moving the Delaney House toward the back of the lot.  So we also have to remove the chimney.  

While we're doing this, we plan to lift the house up. It has a 6 foot high basement, which we are going to increase to 10 feet.  Then we plan to build interior stairs, and create a living room, dining room, kitchen and a fully accessible bedroom and bathroom downstairs.

In the meantime, we bought yet another house.  We saw an article in the Berkeley Voice about two houses on the University of California-Berkeley campus.  One of them, a 1902 house known as the "Cheney Cottage", is a 1400 sf, 3 bedroom house in the Swiss Chalet style.  It's a historic house, but severely delapidated, with much deferred maintenance. The University agreed to sell it to us for $17 - yes, seventeen dollars - but with one caveat: we have to move it.  By May 15th.

So the Cheney Cottage, formerly of College Avenue but now squarely on the campus of UC Berkeley, will be cut in two (the top floor removed from the bottom) and then pulled 2 miles across town to 62nd Street, where it will be reconnected and situated on a new foundation.

And then, the restoration of the Cheney Cottage will begin.  It needs a familiar list of upgrades: in addition to the new foundation, new wiring, new plumbing, a new roof, floors refinished, insulation, windows repaired, and lots of scraping and painting. And a new kitchen and bathroom.

After that, we're in the home stretch: landscaping, fences, a driveway.  

And we hope to complete all this by September.  Stay tuned.

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