Early last winter, after searching for more than two years, I finally found a new home in Oregon, outside of Medford, near the small town of Ruch. It took a long time to find this place because I couldn’t decide where I wanted to live and once I did, I had a hard time finding a place I could afford—a small, older home that hadn’t been remodeled. After the “big boom,” houses like that became pretty rare.
A Note from the Publisher:
WARNING: POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST!
Many people have asked about my new home and shop, so we’re publishing a new series of From the Road articles. You’ll notice I’m using a lot of Katz Roadshow-sponsored materials. We choose our sponsors carefully, from among the best manufacturers in the industry, and that’s why I chose to use their products on my own home, too, some of which were donated.
The place I bought was built in the fifties and had no insulation in the walls or floor. The entire west side of the house, facing the Applegate River, had once been a porch. The interior was mostly old wood paneling—the cheap kind, with several layers in some rooms, where previous owners had redecorated, and cove molding in all the corners—including the ceilings! The electrical and plumbing…well, these pictures will show you what I mean.
|The plumbing was a mixture of copper, old galvanized pipe, thin-wall PVC, and even garden hoses.|
|The wiring had been spliced—inside the walls—with electrical tape.|
|Sunken foundation piers had to be replaced.|
|And on top of all that, I planned to build a new shop and guesthouse—a lot of work for a guy who’s on the road most of the year. I needed a GC!|
Hire Slow and Fire Fast
I began to look for a good contractor/carpenter—someone who wore a tool belt and could work with me side-by-side or when I was thousands of miles away; someone who was eager to learn and to teach, too—as a finish carpenter, I haven’t been involved in general construction for more than thirty years, but I wanted to do all the finish work!
I started by asking JLC for a list of their subscribers in the Medford, OR area. I sent emails to those fifteen names, and I received seven or eight responses. I followed up with the ones that replied within a couple days, doing a brief email interview with each contractor. I eliminated several—those who weren’t licensed or didn’t work with tools themselves. I interviewed about five contractors on the phone, and then I sent plans for my new shop to three of them. All the time, I paid close attention to how quickly they responded to email, how organized they were, and how digitally savvy they were. As I mentioned before, I was looking for a contractor who I could work with closely, even when I was far away; he’d need to be familiar with a computer, email, etc.
In the end, after meeting each of them, visiting their jobs and speaking with their past customers, I chose the one who asked the most questions, the one who provided me with the most organized and thorough bid, and the one who was the most responsive: Scott Wells Construction. He was also the high bidder. Go figure.
Demo to Drywall
Scott started work in February, and by the time I arrived in the middle of May, he had gutted the old house, installed new wiring, repaired the plumbing, insulated the walls, and primed the drywall. He had the foundation formed for my new shop,…
|…and he had also dug utility trenches all over the property. I arrived just in time: the dirty work was almost over.|
A lot of folks have been asking about my new place, wanting to see pictures. In the months (and years!) ahead, I’ll be sharing some of the lessons I’m learning while working on my new home.
|For better or worse, I’m learning quite a few lessons the hard way.|
|You can expect to see articles in TiC, JLC, and Fine Homebuilding, too, from building doors to setting windows; from installing the kitchen cabinets, to building out the new shop.|
The next article on my new home will cover installing a French door and flanking sidelights, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill install. This one has a remodel twist—I had to install a deck ledger first.
• • •
Gary Katz still travels the country doing Katz Roadshows—carpentry clinics at locally owned lumberyards and tool stores. But he no longer lives in L.A. These days, well, a picture is worth a thousand words.