Category Archives: starting up

Saying goodby…

We had a false start on our back porch project late last year, and I used the winter months to get it back on track.

It was time to say goodby! Goodby to our old, ugly, shaggy, and crumbling back porch. This was an easy goodby…

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Back in late March, we were waiting for the weather to break and for the demolition crew to move in.

Relates posts:

Transportation folly

… or should I call it Truck folly?

February 2009: I have a long laundry list of preparations for the upcoming purchase of our house and the planned remodeling. On that list is the purchase of a pickup truck so that I can haul materials around.

Great idea, except that most times I am just driving the 1 mile from our current rental place to the house and back, hauling next to nothing.

Let’s see:

  • There is myself (around 215 lbs),
  • the dog (around 75 lbs),
  • a tool box (around 100 lbs),
  • a tool bucket (around 40 lbs),
  • the document and lunch bag (around 10 lbs) and
  • the camera bag (also around 10 lbs).


All together, we are talking about 450 lbs that get hauled around with a 5500 lbs truck. Even better, 290 lbs of the 450 lbs (i.e. myself and the dog) wouldn’t even need the truck. We could use our 6 legs and walk!

That leaves me with only 160 lbs of equipment that need hauling most days. Using the 5500 lbs truck for this job suddenly seems grotesque.

Solution: we talked to our bicycle friends at the HUB. Sam pulled a very sturdy bicycle trailer out of the basement, I mounted a hitch to the back of my bike, and the dog and I get our exercise twice a day, riding to the house and back.


This mode of transportation reduces my carbon footprint, saves money on gas – and it’s fun riding around and making heads turn!



Do you live there?

As you can imagine, this project is a big part of our lives. And we talk about it a lot. Not so much as to bore people, but our friends and neighbors frequently ask us for an update.

Just about every conversation includes the question, “Do you live there yet?”  Of course the answer to that is no. There is no electricity, no plumbing and of course no heat.  We’ll live there someday, but not anytime soon.

So where do we live?

You may recall that we had been working on a project in Elmhurst for the past few years. Last spring when we bought this building on 15th St. we clocked our travel to the city and back to Elmhurst at 45 miles, round-trip.  We did that trip many times in the spring of 2009.  That is certainly not sustainable, nor was it any help to our sanity.

We decided we really needed a place in the city … but how would we find a comforting home on a temporary basis?  One day we were at brunch with some very cool friends at their place, the HUB Housing Cooperative.  (HUB stands for “Housing for Urban Bicyclists.”)  As it turns out, they had a unit for sale and our friend Ted was interested in renting it to us.  So we moved in last Memorial Day weekend.

The HUB is a six-unit co-op right at 24th and Marshall Boulevards in the Little Village neighborhood. It’s an intentional community comprised of 11 people, 4 cats, 2 dogs, 3 worm bins and more than 50 bikes.  The group meets once a week to talk about business and there are lots of social opportunities.  I’ve known many of the people who live here for about 10 years through Critical Mass and other bicycling activities.  They are truly a great bunch.

The unit we’re living in right now is for sale.  It’s about 1,000 square feet with big windows and lots of light.  And lots of built-in friends. The kitchen looks out onto the boulevard. If you think you might be interested in buying the share of the co-op that is this unit, please let us know and we’ll pass your info along.



Smaller tasks, such as the replacement of the front porch roof (see also 08/18/2009 post), don’t necessarily require a set of drawings or plans. But we have bigger – much bigger – tasks ahead of us and will need floor plans that show the existing and proposed conditions. Such plans will allow us to get accurate pricing and bids from contractors and effectively schedule and execute the work. Drawings, plans and specifications are also required for the permitting process.

In our attempt to get a halfway accurate floor plan together, we have measured back and forth in the house many times, starting back in April. I actually lost track on how many times we measured.


No an easy task in an old house like this. At the beginning (prior to any deconstruction) we had to measure each room individually. Inevitably, there are small errors along each step which compound into bigger discrepancies at the end. Once we had the basement and first floor gutted, we were able to reconcile those discrepancies. We now can pick a fixed point (such as a point on the inside of the shell wall) and measure in increments from that one point.


I took the measurements and input them into CAD (Computer Aided Design). There are CAD software options for purchase, or freeware such as SketchUp. For those who don’t have access to a computer, an alternative option is hand drafting the floor plans, although this makes corrections and adjustments somewhat difficult and labor intensive.

While drafting everything up in CAD, I went back to the house a couple of times to verify some dimensions, but I now have accurate floor plans that show the as-is or existing conditions. These plans are the foundation for the forthcoming design process in which we take our project rationales and principles and our wish list to figure out how we put things back together.


Here is what we bought…

Our friend and photographer David Pierini was kind enough to meet us at our new (old) house the day after closing. He did an excellent job documenting the two flat prior to Cathy and me starting with the green rehab. His collection of photographs tell the story of the charm and challenges of this building – and our new pilot project.

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If you like David’s work and are looking for a good photographer you can contact him at the e-mail listed below. We highly recommend him.

E-mail: [email protected]