Home Remodeling Advice

by axs54

This post is from a long-time lurker from the TOS.  Recent discussion has prompted me to submit a post.

We have been living in our house for about 9 years and are considering doing a large addition (add master suite, expand kitchen, add mudroom, etc). Our house is a typical (for Boston suburbs) 1960’s raised ranch, which our family of four is outgrowing (it is 1,500 sq. ft.)

We are in the very initial stages of the project. We have hired an architect and he is just beginning his work on the plans. We are looking for any suggestions re: contractor management, accommodations (we would have to move out for at least one month), and any other pitfalls that Totebag readers have experienced. It seems that a decent number of regulars has gone through a significant home improvement project, so please share your wisdom!


73 thoughts on “Home Remodeling Advice

  1. While you may be moving out for a chunk of the time, if possible you and/or your spouse should plan to go by the house every (construction-work) day…probably >1x/day (like on the way to work so you can see what’s actually going on, or over lunch, then on the way home also, when no one is around). Schedule regular on-site meetings with your GC and architect. This is based on our experience building a house. You’ll catch stuff before it becomes a big issue.

    Be very familiar with the plans/blueprints.

  2. Double the time that you will be moving out from the estimate. Also figure on adding about 30% at a minimum to the estimated cost.

    Ditto to Fred’s suggestion of stopping by every day. This was key to our friends who moved out during their renovations.

  3. Regarding a remodel of any size…
    1. Know what is more important to you/your family…that something is exactly “right” – the color, the fixture, the quality of work, etc. or the “time”. If you must wait for the special ordered “right” tile, know that the project will take longer vs you are happy with an in-stock tile that is close enough and can keep your project “on time.” This isn’t always an across-the-board thing. For me, the second choice toilet was fine, but the second choice tile was not in our bathroom remodel. This can help talking with your contractor go more smoothly.

    2. Get lots and lots of references – friends, neighbors, groups – free or paid (nextdoor vs. Angie’s list), and ask to see projects if it is something you can drive by or if there are photos of it. If it is a regulated profession in your state, contact the regulatory agency to see if they have had any disciplinary action taken against them (most cannot tell you about all complaints) and for what. Talk to your architect. Some will do contract management and/or will assist you with picking contractors. But, always ask if they have any type of financial relationship.

    3. Prepare your family for the project to take twice as long as the contractors say it will. This means both in cost (paying for lodging when you have to move out) and inconvenience (such as sharing a bathroom). If it takes less then everyone is happy.

    4. Talk about time frames and what will happen when they aren’t met. For example, we have had unprecedented rain at the “wrong” time of year. A roofing project we had scheduled, had to be put off more than a month because of the amount of days the contractor couldn’t work on other people’s projects, which bumped our start date back significantly. If we had been upset, we would have had no recourse as the contract stated that days they could not work due to weather were excluded from meeting the deadlines regarding starting and completing the project.

    That is what comes to mind after our two mini projects this summer.

  4. We did a big renovation this past spring and we used a contractor who permitted us to make payments by credit card (we didn’t finance it that way, I just paid off the CC each month. I did have to call and get our limit raised.). This gave us a huge amount of protection, because he knew if he failed to perform we could dispute the payment. He did pass on to us the CC processing fee (3%), so it added to the overall cost, but it was worth it to me to not run the risk of writing a check and then having only complex recourse in the event he disappeared or did shoddy work.

    We also got copies of subcontractor lien waivers as they completed each portion of the job, and I kept track of who the subcontractors were and what pieces they were doing so I could be sure we got each one.

  5. If they are telling you that you need to move out for a month, plan on three. At least.

  6. Make sure that your contractor pays his subs and get certificates of liability from each and every contractor and subcontractor who does work on your property. If they can’t/won’t provide certificates of liability and evidence of worker’s comp coverage, don’t hire them.

  7. We are pretty happy with our big addition project (done in 2006/2007), even though it was mega stressful. We had started plans with the architect in 2003, but then illlness interrupted the project. It took a long time to get the paperwork done with the town – figure that in too. Hire a contractor who has worked in your town before successfully because he or she needs to know who to butter up/pay off.

    My house now is not perfect – we could always use more storage space!!! But it is far more customized to our needs than anything else we have ever lived in. In particular, I used the house we rented in MA for 5 years as an example of what I did NOT want! Our house is a Sears catalog house, so we had to be very respectful when we did the work, but I think we managed it. I now have my walk in pantry, country style kitchen with workspace, dining room with a DOOR closing off the kitchen (I detest open kitchens) and walk in closets, albeit on the small side. And two bathrooms! The house only had one miniscule one when we moved in

  8. One thing I regret – the contractor talked us into replacing the interior doors. We had all the original 20’s doors, which were nice big solid things. The contractor insisted the new doors would be the same but they are not. Like all modern doors, they are chintzy. We did keep the cool spring-loaded swinging door to the kitchen, a very Craftsman touch, and the original front door and door to the stairs leading to the second floor.

  9. MooshiMooshi – don’t be surprised if you contractor sold those doors for a tidy amount.

    I agree with whoever said to insist on Certificates of Insurance – very important. Also make sure they have permits and inspections stickers for each and every phase of the work – footings, plumbers, electricians, etc. VERY IMPORTANT or the Building Department may insist on tearing work out to inspect after the fact.

    Also, pay a nominal amount upfront and stage other payments as work is done.

    Try not to let it stress you out too much – try and enjoy the process and your newly renovated space.

  10. I would always double the time estimate to completion – the last couple of weeks may just be dribs and drabs. That may not require you to vacate the house for double the expected time, but there are always hold ups. You do need to plan to come by *every* day, and not always at the same time of day, AustinMom makes a good point about figuring out when your second choice is just fine. I love Lark’s methods – not relying on the local arbitration process to resolve disputes, obtaining copies of the subcontractor lien waivers – but most GC’s will not take credit cards even if you pay the upcharge. I live in MA, and I have listened to many horror stories over the years about unfinished work. You usually have to pay another person to fix/finish the project, and then go through the prescribed hearings to get some relief or refund several years down the road, and unpaid subcontractors complicate the entire process. The unfinished work usually results from a low bid or poor cash, time, or workflow management on the part of the GC – not from any deliberate desire to cheat you.

    Also, if you have any specialized work (artistic, custom fitted furniture, floor inlay) that you plan for the finished space, if at all possible have it entirely done before (if it has to be installed and things built around it) or after (if it can be installed freely and possibly modified from the proposed design to fit the finished space). The GC functions best if he/she controls the entire process. Also, make sure the GC and the architect have worked together in the past and/or are price point compatible.

  11. Thank you for all your comments – very helpful! We met the architect to review the initial plan options yesterday – we hope to finalize the plans by the end of the year. Ideally we would start work in April/May and would have to move out in the summer, when my oldest is done with school. I was thinking of sending the kids to the in-laws for at least 4 weeks when we move out – they are out of state but offered to have the kids while we renovate. In terms of moving out, I have heard of a short term apartment rentals or long-term stay at a hotel. Are there any other options. Also, did you move out your furniture to a storage unit or one of those pods during the renovation?

  12. One more thought – we have more renovation to do. But we decided to do it piece by piece, so that we wouldn’t have to move out, and we would have less vested in any one contractor or process. I am really, really glad we did. It does mean that we’ll probably have 6 weeks of work going on for each year of the next 5, but for me that’s much more manageable.

  13. Last summer we underwent an unplanned renovation – pipe burst on our second floor. We moved out for 10 weeks while the main level of our house was pretty much redone.

    For storage, we took all valuables with us (like jewelry and small things), and took our fireproof safe with us. Insurance rented us a Portable On Demand Storage (PODS) unit. We put all our (dry) furniture and items in that. It stayed locked in our driveway. All dishes, electronics, breakables were packaged away and stored on the second floor of our home in areas not impacted by the water damage. I put a lot of trust in my GC and his guys to not walk off with some valuables. Nothing left our house that wasn’t supposed to. I liked the PODS set up because everything stayed on site and locked. Plus, if we needed something we could get it. Even with a PODS system, I’d hire movers or people you trust to help you with your bulkier furniture items. Our cleaning crew took great care of our ~60-75 year old dining room set by carefully packaging up the legs and table top in blankets and bubble wrap. Our TV stand and coffee table have a couple scratches on them, but it’s not the end of the world.

    If you have the ability, I’d recommend a higher end extend stay style hotel (like Homewood Suites or Marriott’s Residence Inn) or a rental apartment. We had a mediocre extended stay hotel and it wasn’t great. It was a roof over our heads and that was all. We also had to find the place in <24 hours, so we took what we could get.

    If you have pets, make sure they can come with you or you have people who are willing to watch them for potentially 3 months. Our dog spent the summer at Camp Grandma.

  14. I don’t know how much furniture you need to move/relocate. A few things my neighbor found out were:
    (1) Storage places in our area are pretty full and especially full in the summer as many college students rent them to store stuff while they go home over the summer. If you need to go with this option, plan ahead. Also, the minumum contract was 3 months.
    (2) Pods in our area were easier to get, but if you have an HOA make sure having one in your driveway is not some sort of violation – hers had an exception for home repair and rennovation and for 30 days before and after a move, but were prohibited otherwise.
    (3) Depending upon your house layout, can you store your furniture in other parts of your house? My friend was able to use a pod 1/2 the size by doing this.
    (4) Find out what your homeowners insurance or the storage or pod provider covers as far as insuring your contents while they are not in your home.
    (5) As a college town, my friend spent 6 weeks house sitting for a professor who was teaching a summer session at another university. She actually was paid a small fee to stay there and keep the fish alive and had no cost to living out of her house.

  15. Have you considered getting the house torn down and another built? It is hard for me to figure how you will come out ahead with a big remodel of a small house, but I have not done this myself.

  16. We like to go by Lark’s method of a little bit every year so we don’t have to move out, although lately it has been hard to get anyone who wants a “smaller job” the past couple of years. Last year we did a bathroom and new driveway, this year we’re doing another bathroom, the back yard and adding a fireplace and built ins to our living room. Next year maybe the kitchen, floors & front yard. We’ve lived in a house while undergoing a kitchen renovation and it was tough, even in the summer months when you can grill outside, but it was only for one month. If it was more than that I would definitely move out. There are a lot of apartment complexes around here that will do either month to month or a 3 month lease.

  17. Have you considered getting the house torn down and another built?

    I’ve watched enough This Old House to know that is something one should always consider.

  18. I’ve mentioned here before how my neighbors at a previous house used the kitchen and bathroom of their RV, parked in their front yard, while renovating theirs.

    There would be advantages to doing that over, say, staying at a hotel. You would easily be able to monitor construction; you would have easy access to your stuff; you could even use the RV to take a weekend jaunt or two. If the demo/construction part of your project took place during the off season for RV rentals, it might be less expensive than a hotel.

  19. Axs, we did almost the same remodel last year – family room, master suite, kitchen reno, and new mudroom, plus a finished basement underneath.

    Totally worth it for us, because we didn’t want to leave our school district and 4 bedrooms here were out of our budget. Our GC finished on time and on budget to the dollar. He’s doing my friend’s house now and is almost done, a month early. There are good remodeling stories.

    I love this sort of project and drafted all the plans myself rather than using an architect, so if you want to be less involved, some of my suggestions may not work for you. I had a great time and learned a lot.

    1) You want a GC with a fixed price contract. Time and materials contracts for this size project can get way, way out of hand.

    2) Specify everything you possibly can up front. I made an excel spreadsheet that listed everything we wanted, down to the faucets, tile, and type of flooring and roof shingles, before we bid. When we met with potential contractors, I made sure they had included the cost of the fixtures we chose. We had a $100k discrepancy between our lowest and highest bidders, because the low bidder was just skipping whatever he “wasn’t sure” about – “oh, you wanted me to include the cost of select red oak hardwood floors? Oh, right, I do see that here. Hmm…that would add another $10k. Oh, yeah, you need siding, right? I wonder what that would add….”

    If we had gone with the low bidder, we would have ended up paying the higher price anyway. And it would have been a lot more stressful if we didn’t have enough financing lined up.

    3) Look into a HELOC if you can. It was a lot easier to deal with than a construction loan because there was no bank approval at each phase, I could just write the check.

    4) Go visit your GC’s past projects. Look at the trim work and other finish carpentry and make sure it matches up to your expectations. Call at least 3 prior references. I’m an attorney so I also ran a search on court records to see if the GC had ever been sued. BBB records too.

    5) Ask the past customers what the subs are like – do they speak English? Are tools picked up daily? Etc. We lived at home during the reno to save money, and with three small kids I wanted to be sure the subs were safe.

    6) Using Conestoga cabinets and having a good carpenter install them on site probably saved me $40k, since I wanted inset beaded painted maple cabs. They come flat packed, like Ikea, but are *much* higher quality. You may need help selecting them if you haven’t done a kitchen before, but they spent hours on the phone with me making sure I had everything right. I did several completely custom pieces on a 15 x 15 kitchen and still spent under $10k.

    7) If you are going to be out of your house over the summer, you may be able to rent housing on a nearby college campus. The condominium style dorms near us are $500 a week and you can rent them on a weekly basis, so you’re not tied into a long lease.

    8) If you want the project to run on time, don’t dither: make any decisions the contractor asks you for within 24 hours. I stopped in every morning and lunchtime to see how things were going and answer any questions. If you’ve picked out finish materials like tile in advance, it’s feasible.

    Good luck!

  20. Considering how much renovation the OP would need to do – I’d definitely consider tearing down and building new. In my area, houses that require too much renovation are torn down. Usually houses that survive and are renovated don’t need major additions. They are just gutted and redone. In my neighborhood it took a year for a new home to be built on the site of a former 60s house. A family was supposed to move for the start of school. The contractors are rushing to get the landscaping in. I’d estimate that they are about a month late.

  21. We added on rather than building new because it cost significantly less – adding on cost 1200 sq. ft. cost $250k, but tearing down and building the 2500 sq. ft. house new would have cost $400k-$500k.

    There ought to have been some economy of scale from tearing down and building new so that the per square foot cost was lower, except that our town has different permit requirements depending on whether you are adding on or tearing down and rebuilding.

    Teardowns have to follow a later code throughout, which means wider doorways, longer stairwells, higher basement ceilings, etc. Plus our skilled labor costs are really high, so every additional day from the electrician and the plumber and the trim carpenter really add up.

    If Axs is in a Boston suburb, it’s probably pretty much the same there. Axs, if you’re not sure, you can always do what we did and get a real estate agent to walk through your current house and compare the likely sale price to what he or she thinks you can get for the finished remodel. We did that, and it helped us decide whether to love it or leave it :)

  22. Good luck OP! You have been given some great advice. We renovated all 3 bathrooms and the kitchen of our house. We did not move out, but it them one by one when we had the cash handy. However, we had the size of house we wanted–the inside was just dated, which is a very different situation from the one you’re in.

  23. Sky – your response is so great – am copying it down and am going to refer to it before we do our kitchen remodel next year.

  24. Sky – The code compliance can make a big difference here too. We had an issue with that just on our replacement windows. The code is not just in your construction, but around here can sometimes bleed into replacing sewer pipe connections from the house to the street and septic systems.

  25. ” lately it has been hard to get anyone who wants a “smaller job” the past couple of years. ”

    Perhaps you could contract it out as a bigger job, but done in stages.

  26. We looked into adding onto our house but it isn’t structurally feasible/cost-effective. Make sure you consider upgrading furnace/air conditioning (and associated natural gas line size, etc.) and any drainage issues when you plan a 1200 square foot addition. In California, property taxes are affected by how the remodel is done, I’ve heard, so if you’re considering a tear down/rebuild, make sure you understand that aspect for your state. Also, if the addition will be over new ground, consider soil compacting differences between the existing area and the new area.

  27. I have a very voluminous excel spreadsheet that lays out every aspect of the bid, Axs, if you want it.

    There’s a page for each room, outlining exactly what we expected done (e.g., frame 40 linear feet, 100 sq. ft. of OSB subfloor nailed and glued, 100 sq. ft. of select grade hardwood screened 2 times, four tamper-resistant 2-plug outlets, such and such ceiling fixture from Home Depot with the price and SKU, one coat of primer paint from Sherwin Williams and two finish coats in ivory, trim around 2 doors and 3 windows to match existing house profile, etc.)

    I can anonymize it and send it along via CoC if you think it would be helpful. Our GC attached it as an exhibit to the final contract so there would be no debate about what was expected to be done. Note that if you use the spreadsheet approach and forget anything, it’s on you, not the GC – so you have to be very detail-oriented.

    Some contractors liked it, some didn’t, but it helped me figure out who would be driven nuts by me and vice versa :)

  28. It is very difficult to get teardowns approved here, and with good reason. For a number of years, beautiful houses from the 20s were being replaced with huge ugly McMansions that were so tall they blocked the light. A lot of people were concerned about housing values and pushed through a 2 year moratorium. That has now expired, but I think the process to get approval is still onerous

  29. Mémé, I could see the one photo and could not see any other photos, nor any obvious identifying information. The “Hello, [account name]” in the upper right had my name.

  30. Sky – that would be great and extremely helpful. Grace has my email. I am also very organized by nature (accountant by training) so I was thinking of doing that anyway. To address some of the other comments, we did consider tear down very briefly. But we have already done a lot of work to the house in the time we’ve lived here – updated kitchen, updated bathroom, new roof, updated electric when AC system died a few years ago…we did a lot of these projects ourselves so there is a ton of “sweat equity” already in the house. I agree with Sky comment that it would be too expensive to tear down and rebuild. Also, we would not be redoing the whole kitchen, just adding a few cabinets and an island. The addition will most likely be in the back of the house, so we can stay in the house while foundation/framing/insulation are done. We would have to move out when the addition is connected with the rest of the house and there will be electricity, etc. Thank you to everyone on ideas of places to live when we move out – some of these I have never considered!

  31. I second the other suggestions to move your furniture to a room that is not going to be renovated. Perhaps your living or dining room, or maybe one of the kids’ bedrooms? When we did our downstairs remodel we moved everything into the living room. They put the fridge right at the edge of the room so I could use it (we lived upstairs for all but about 3 weeks of an 8 month job) and then put plastic sheeting across the opening.

  32. My thoughts in addition to other good ones here:

    Beware the “allowance.” Contractors use those for decisions to be made later (tile, lighting), but they are frequently low-end – our entire house lighting budget was $1400! The more you can specify, the better; where you can’t, specifying a “similar to” can help the pricing.

    Cost out as much in advance as you possibly can. Pods = case in point – I thought, awesome, so nice to have handy — and found out it was significantly more than standard storage options!!

    Always plan for contingencies. Any older house is going to have something you don’t expect when you open the walls, from non-code wiring to missing support beams. Keep a pot of money just for that.

    Beware the “while we’re at it” — or have another pot of money set aside for that! That’s how our $50k kitchen remodel turned into “let’s rebuild the back half of the house.” But at the same time, if you can afford it, it frequently does make sense to take care of things when the walls are open (my biggest current regret isn’t redoing the back half of the house — it’s only redoing the wiring on he first floor and basement).

    This is stupid, but if you do move into an extended-stay place, sign up for rewards points! Our 3 mos in the Residence Inn got me Platinum status + many other free Marriott stays.:-)

    Finally, go ahead and be silly and break rules and have fun wherever you can to keep your sanity. Have a picnic in the backyard when the kitchen isn’t working, or make brinner when all you have is a hotplate for pancakes. Etc. It’s a step toward a really awesome place to live, so make it as enjoyable as you can — especially when the decisions and money and delays are grinding you down.

  33. Grr…what stuck in a 4 hour meeting. The nerve of some people!

    Anyway. Has anyone worked with a kitchen and bath designer? How much? What was involved?

    As I’ve mentioned before we had great luck with a decorator, it’s amazing all the tricks and tweaks they can do. After that experice, we’re into the idea of hiring a professional to give us options vs sweating every sconce and draw pull ourselves.

  34. @ Rhett – our contractor had a designer on staff. The charge for the design process was $2500, and that included receiving a copy of the detailed plans/blueprints, so you could then take them to any contractor. However, if you used them for the project, the $2500 was credited towards the project itself. For me it was worth it. I gave them very general ideas of things I wanted incorporated, and they would find the most clever way to have it integrated in. I still did a fair amount of my own research, but they helped me understand my choices and price differences. Not sure I would do it for a small powder room where choices in general are so limited, but for what we were doing (overhaul of half of the downstairs, including den + kitchen) I would absolutely recommend.

    I don’t have the bandwidth to look at 100 different fixtures/faucets/pulls/configurations/etc, so when they could narrow it down to 5 in in each of the different price points, all with the general look I wanted, it was very helpful to me.

  35. HIjack/Vent – Two meetings between 6 aned 8 pm tonight. One was horribly run, no decisions were made, not worth my time, and will make me frustrated later. The other was well run, but too big of an agenda. However, we are clear on what is next and who is doing what.

  36. I am still living through the summer of hell in my home. We didn’t have to move out because DD was away for sleep away camp, and we could move to the basement. I would LOVE to leave for a long time, but I can’t imagine if I didn’t come here each day to speak to the GC or even the electrician about outlets etc.

    My budget was missing a lot of stuff, but it was the cost for new furniture and items from bed bath etc. I have been a big customer with all of the back to college parents at BBB because I really did need all new stuff for the three bathrooms, and the bed sizes in the new bedrooms required new linens etc.

    I agree about the “allowance” from your contractor being too low for most bathrooms or kitchens even if you are really careful about what to buy for a room. I forgot how EVERYTHING has to be purchased – even a hook for a towel, or a handle for a drawer. Bulbs for fixtures etc etc. The list is endless, and so are the costs.

    The most frustrating and upsetting part to me is the damage to the rest of my house. All of the projects are on the second floor of our home except for the powder room. Two bathrooms and two bedrooms. This required them to move materials up/down through my front door and basement door. The use of two staircases etc. My walls are really messed up. they covered my carpets, and floors, but all of my walls are a mess. My contractor said that they will now paint these areas as part of the project, but what a hassle. They broke my screen door, ruined some plants next to my driveway and theres just a lot of little things that would add up to a lot of money if I have to fix everything on my own.

    I have to stop the project when we go on vacation, but I am really (praying) that this is over within 30 days.

    p.s. add a case of lice from camp, and it has been a summer that I want to forget.

  37. We paid an architect to draw up a couple of options for the basement. The designs are still sitting on the coffee table. She guesstimates it would run about $50K to do the renovation. I just am not convinced. DH wants to move ahead, but for heaven’s sake, how much living space do we need? We already don’t make good use of the two floors we live on. I want DH to retire in the next year or two and I feel like that $50K would be better spent on savings, or at least on retirement travel.

  38. Yes, we got back last Thursday. Got a great moose video. Maybe I’ll post a link. We had a guide who was certainly well-qualified, but had a really grating voice and would.not.stop.talking. Activities went from 6am to past 9pm and she seemed personally hurt that you wouldn’t want to do all of them. She was as cheerful as two chipmunks on meth. On the Prince of Wales Hotel day, I just sat in the lobby and refused to do any of the activities. I wanted to read my book and enjoy the scenery. She seemed to think that you can read a book any time. You’re only here once!! Fortunately DH stood up for me. Some people will just never understand introverts and their need to have a little peace and quiet once in awhile. The other folks in the group were congenial, although the German couple fought constantly. That was entertaining. Overall I’d give NatHab another try, but not with that guide!

  39. I really feel awful for Josh Duggar’s wife. She was homeschooled through high school, has never worked, and clearly intends to be a SAHM. She has no options despite how hideously he has behaved. And to have it play out in public just adds to her pain.

  40. I am going to post many separate paragraphs (because of link overload) about my trip on this thread for the record. I am experimenting with posting a mix of public and private photos – I think I have found a way to imbed the personal ones without requiring a click through. We’ll see.

    I met up with my daughter in Akureyri, northern Iceland. We did the 12 hour diamond circle tour and went to the Lake Myvatn mineral baths, and had a fine time viewing natural formations despite rainy weather. (Our ONLY rainy day). This is an easy side trip from the capital if you are planning an Icelandic vacation.


    When we returned to Reykjavik we took a tour, the highlight of which was a trip to a geothermal power station (geek heaven). Ate good food. Iceland is widely reviewed on the internet so I give a couple of links for those who have further interest. If you are super light sensitive even blackout curtains and eyeshades may not work for you – the sun set at 10 and rose at 3, but it is never really dark out. It was also colder than most people would want for a summer vacation. Outside of the city (and you don’t go to the arctic for the cities) if it is sunny out you need mega sunblock because of the thin air. If it is windy you need a good windproof layer, as well as a lightweight down or heavy fleece underneath. Gloves and hat \.


  41. Too many links hung up part 2. CoC – just delete them if you are around today. I’ll do one at a time.

    Flew to Kulusuk in a Fokker 50. Then a helicopter to Tasiilaq former name Angmagssalik.

  42. Map of Greenland for reference. All the white is the Greenland Ice cap, 2 miles thick in the center. I have a photo of the edge where it was a few kilometers from our location.

  43. The camp was 30 km north of Tasiilaq about halfway up the little bit of green. We got there by a four hour boat ride. We returned via small helicopter because Semmalik fjord had iced up.

    While there we went out iceberg viewing on Zodiac boats in survival float suits. Here is a commercial photo of a similar ride in Iceland.

    We did see some fin whales in the distance, and a few seal noses, but I have seen many whales and seals in my travels so I was not disappointed. We visited with several locals – one in the tiny village (our local guide’s mother in law) and one who raises dogs (son of a member of parliament) in the regional capital. Seal is freely hunted, and primarily is used today to feed the dogs. The seal catch is stored underwater attached to buoys in the summer since the water is very cold, and taken out to be slaughtered as needed. Most of the year transport around the area is done by dog sled. The four hour boat ride (impossible in winter) is a three hour dog trip down the glacier finger. There is a bit of taking in each other’s wash in East Greenland, but the main industry is tourism. Much like Alaska, the Danish govt (Greenland is an overseas autonomous region) supports every greenlander, primarily by providing 50 per cent of government revenues. 20% of the labor force is employed directly by govt. Total pop of Greenland 55,000, about 25% children. East Greenland has a pop of 3000, mostly in Tasiilaq.

    I can’t really convey to you the excitement that the vagaries of nature add to a trip of like minded people. Our schedule changed based on the ice conditions. We had a real chance of not seeing our bags for three days. The showers were in a separate hut and hot water somewhat chancy. The daily itinerary/activities depended entirely on the weather, but there was spontaneity too, including an impulse sunset (8-10pm) kayak expedition. The group of 12 ranged from a 40 year old couple, DD (under 40) to a well traveled pair of 82 year olds. We had two retired senior UN security officers (married couple). Also a gentle professor who stayed back to read and journal and wished for more local contact and less adventure, but really enhanced our local encounters.

  44. Here are a few photos in an Amazon cloud link. Note the two with a zodiac full of people for relative size of iceberg and mountains. The photo with two carts in the foreground is the view from our cabin’s front porch. I didn’t rhapsodize about the rocks above, but they are really old and are all twisted up and fascinating, too. The photo of the ice filled fjord and the opposite shore shows the edge of the ice sheet – the flat white bit just below the blue sky.


    And I omitted from the above narrative that I had to go to the mat with one of the guides to be allowed to take a perfectly ordinary hike with the younger group. I did fine, but didn’t push for inclusion every day – I got extra kayaking instead.

  45. Meme,

    It’s amazing how still the water is in that iceberg pic. It’s like a mirror.

  46. Wow, what a fantastic trip!

    For those who want it I will send along the spreadsheet to CoC. (It will probably get sent off to her tomorrow or Saturday.)

  47. Mémé, when you say, “The seal catch is stored underwater attached to buoys in the summer since the water is very cold, and taken out to be slaughtered as needed” do you mean the seals are butchered as needed or that they are stored alive?

  48. The seals are dead. The very cold summer water is the meat locker. The are stored whole. After late September the air temperature stays below freezing so they are stored on land. Seal hunting continues through the winter, of course.

  49. WCE, I was wondering the same thing, although I figured if they were stored underwater, they wouldn’t stay alive very long.

  50. thank you!!!! for sharing the details and the pictures. It looks amazing, and I am glad you were still able to go on the trip.

  51. Thanks for sharing — what a great trip! And RMS’s sounds fantastic as well. Sigh, I was only home a month from our summer trip before I started getting itchy feet again.

  52. Back OT, axs, I suggest you spend some time at places like the Home Depot, flooring stores, plumbing supply stores, etc, and get an idea of the price ranges for your flooring, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, cabinets, counters, etc. This will give you an idea of how realistic the allowances on your contract are.

    If you’re a member of Costco or similar, keep your eyes open for stuff there. They often have things like plumbing fixtures or flooring at low prices, albeit with little or no choice. There are also more choices on their website. If you find something you like there, you could save some money.

    I also suggest you consider recessed lighting wherever you need lighting. Recessed fixtures are among the least expensive options, and there are also a lot of LED options for them that are very energy efficient.

  53. And I agree, butcher is the correct term, not slaughter. Some of us chose to witness the butchering of the seal and the feeding of the dogs. Because the animal carcass was so cold and the blood congealed, the process resembled carving up a side of beef much more than slaughtering a pig. The women do the butchering (she did not use a traditional ulu or woman’s knife, but modern tools) and there was not a speck of blood on her clothing.

  54. When elk are hunted during rut, the meat is usually hung at a similar temperature and the bulk of the butchering is done on chilled, aged meat.

  55. slaughter:butcher::butcher:slaughter

    The definitions of these two words, in this context, seem to be recursive.

    slaughter: the act of killing; specifically : the butchering of livestock for market

    butcher: to slaughter and dress for market

    I’m used to thinking of butchering as dealing with carcasses, and slaughtering as starting with live animals.

  56. Back OT, take a look at frameless cabinets for your kitchen, sometimes referred to as European style. This style of cabinet has less unusable space than cabinets with face frames.

    We used opaque, patterned glass instead of wood as the door panels for our upper cabinets. A lot of critters like dark spaces, and this choice means that the insides of those cabinets is a less friendly environment for those critters.

Comments are closed.