I love old houses- always have. They have so much character, so many stories. The first house I bought on my own was here in Birmingham, the ‘Blue House’. It was a beautiful 1920 home with amazing views…just down the street from our Chez Gainey. When I closed on Blue House, the first order of business was to repair the foundation. It didn’t scare me one bit- I was too infatuated with the claw foot tub, the hardwoods, and the view. Though I’d sworn they’d have to take me out of Blue House on a stretcher, meeting a certain Dan Gainey changed everything.
Like me, Dan is good at seeing the potential in things (and people and animals, too). We fell in love with the funky old 1920 house on the side of Red Mountain that would become our home, our hobby, and our passion. We knew when we bought the house that we would need to address the foundation issue at some point, a settling on one side that wasn’t major…yet. We jumped into all sorts of renovations and upgrades, pouring our hearts and souls…and money, into the landscape, the guest house, the garages, the lighting, and on and on. As we could afford it, we would head into the next project, always a labor of love. Bailey, our gentle giant, came with us from Blue House to Chez Gainey.
Our friends say that Chez Gainey is like a cross between Star Wars’ Ewok Village and Swiss Family Robinson treehouse. All we know is that we love living here, inspired by the ever-changing views and our wonderfully Bohemian neighborhood. It fits us like a comfortable old pair of tennis shoes…but even comfortable old shoes need an upgrade sometimes. We started to notice the stairs sagging slightly, and a pane in our wonderful front sunroom cracked. It was time to do the big project we had been putting off…a shoring up of the foundation, along with a new furnace, new ductwork, and a general sprucing up of the basement. It all began with demo today… Mr. MacKenzie is in his element, overseeing the big project. It looks like the basement threw up in our yard…That’s gotta hurt.
I loved going in to see the basement after the initial demo had been done. So interesting to see the bedrock as the basement gets more and more diminished in height as we go up the hill. To the far corner are the old steps that used to go to the kitchen for people to reach the coal burning furnace (transitioned to gas and electric many years ago). The stonework of the foundation is beautiful to me, the same stones that make up the old retaining walls in the yard.
Day one is complete. Dan is in on the project, rewiring several things in the basement and assisting the different crews that will come in. I just stay out of the way and check in when I get home from school. I did get to be clean up crew this afternoon….the guys didn’t warn us to cover the vents and registers, and when they pulled out the ductwork (umm, asbestos covered ductwork), tons of dust swirled up into the house, coating everything with a film of gunk. That and my poor crushed white irises from the truck that delivered the huge dumpster were our first casualties of this two to three week (please God, no longer!) process. The next step will begin tomorrow, setting the footers for the new supports. How exciting to help take this wonderful old home that gives us so much joy to the next level.