Jan 07, 2004

fit and finish

If you ever have the opportunity to either seriously renovate or build a house, whatever you do, pay attention to where you put your light switches. Otherwise you're in for one of those daily annoyances that will eventually drive you to...walk across the room to turn off a light.

What you need to do it right is a patient architect, an informed electrician and several uninterrupted hours of time. Walk through every (framed or unframed) doorway, and do your best to visualize that instinctual reach for the throw. Stand at your imaginary sink and think about your disposal. Imagine you're doing your last rounds before going to bed -- what's the sequence of shutting down the house? Review the drawings that come out of that session. At length. And then do the whole thing again. And then again.

Our architect was fabulous at laying out the big picture; cluing us in to how the rooms would play against one another, why this doorway needed be here, why this ledge needed to be this high. But we (collectively) just couldn't get it together on this particular fit and finish detail. At the point in the project (a) the house was barely framed (and always dark), (b) schedules were tight and (c) budgets tighter. We didn't afford ourselves the time to do it right. We were stuck with one initial draft of schematics, one one-hour walkthrough, and an offsite review of the final schematics.

There's one switch that drives me batty. Our back hallway has an overhead track. Its switch is near the back door. But I'm about ready to have an electrican rip up out the wall and run conduit to create a second switch for that track at the near end of that hallway, so that when I'm doing my nightly rounds I don't need to trek that extra six or seven feet. It's not that I don't need the exercise, it's that it reminds me -- daily -- that we rushed that part of the project, and that we're paying for it now in the annoyance factor.