Secret Project: Major Fail

We live in an old house.

Old houses were built to old codes...that is, if there were even building codes back in 1918. 

Trying to remodel an old house to fit new codes is very difficult. Especially, in the case of old stairs.

Our basement was never intended to be a living space.  When the house was built, they couldn't have fathomed the need for more living space... heck, the house already had 5 whole rooms (2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living/dining room), why would anyone need more?

So, the stairs that go down to our basement were not built with any particular care or attention to detail.  They were just functional enough to get to the basement if anyone ever needed to go down there.
They were VERY steep, the stair treads were small, the hand rail was flimsier than a broom stick nailed to the wall, and the head room quite possibly was designed for Snow White's seven dwarfs.

Even though we are not tall people, we still had to duck every time we went down there to avoid the huge beam that could take your head off if you weren't paying attention.
Notice that the previous owners stapled a piece of foam to the beam in case anyone hit their head....
So when it came to doing our renovation, we knew the stairs were pretty much our number one priority.  We needed to make them safe, increase the head room so there was no ducking, and they needed to be to code (2012's code- to be clear).

Our contractor designed a great set of plans for new stairs.  It was tough to get to code with limited space to work with, but he did his best. 

He does lots of old home basement renovations, so this was not his first stair rodeo.  He works with the city permit inspectors to get the stairs as close to code as possible.  So he demolished them all together and set out to rebuild them.  

For a while, we had a death trap behind the door.
Hello 13 foot drop to a cement floor, you seem really safe to have with a small puppy in he house
In order to rebuild them he had to remove that big beam (the one with the foam wrapped around it).  Then, we still needed more head space, so he cut a hole in the ceiling-which is actually the floor of the den.

Luckily, we were able to fill the hole in the floor with an extra stair from the den to the second floor.


I'm not sure that I even understand what I mean.

I'm also not sure that pictures will illustrate it any better.

New beam, above that is the hard wood floors that got cut into, and the white wood is the new stair

Here is the new stair... we used to only have one in that spot, now we have two.
OK, so once the head space issue was all dealt with, they finally built the stairs and our door-to-death went away (which was good news for Ketchum).

Since we had a finite amount of space, we had to turn the stairs and make two pie piece shaped landings...which was a bit of a departure from "code," but it was the best we could do.

 So, we all were feeling good about our permit inspection.

When the inspector showed up, I was in the middle of nursing the baby in my living room (nothing like answering the front door while nursing) and I was also trying to wrangle Ketchum (he has a penchant for running to the door and jumping on visitors).

He was not as good humored about the puppy as most people are, and since I stopped feeding the baby half way through, he was now screaming.  I think I may have gestured to him to go around back, probably while telling him with my eyes to leave me alone.

I'm not sure if it was the puppy licking his shoes or my less-than-happy-greeting, but we got a big FAIL on our permit inspection.

Apparently he is the ONLY inspector in Seattle that our contractor had not worked with, and this guy was a stickler for the code.  He was not willing to concede on ANYTHING.  

His biggest issue was the pie shaped landings.  They were a big no-no in his book.

So our guys did their best to fix the landings and make them a bit more rectangular than pie-shaped.
See the add on to the landings?
So when he came back for his re-inspection, we all held our breath.  I actually considered baking cookies to try to put him in a good mood, but I was too tired.

Not sure that anything would have made him happy, because he failed us again!

We were all pulling our hair out, and we couldn't move on with the project until we passed this inspection.

So we tried the oldest trick in the book.  

"If mom says no, go ask dad."  In this situation, that means, we called his boss.

To be honest, that didn't even work.

So they built a small wall next to the stairs, hoping that would make him happy and called to schedule another re-inspection.

Wouldn't you know it.... our grouchy inspector was on vacation that day so another guy showed up.

He happened to be a big Husky fan, and chatted about sports, the recent game and passed us with flying colors.  He even mentioned that we went above and beyond bringing this old house to code.

Why couldn't we have gotten this guy from the start?

A Husky fan and easy going?  

My kind of guy.

So finally we could move forward, with "legal" stairs.

Once that permit was a go, the rest of the project started to fly!

Speaking of which, we are hoping to be DONE next week.

I'm feeling hopeful it will actually happen.  We have to pass the electrical inspection and then we will be home free.

Wish us luck, I can't fail again!