Rebuilding Together Update 1

The Knights of Columbus and St. Elizabeth’s Parish teamed up with Rebuilding Together to take on a home renovation project in Montgomery County. Through the charity of brother Knights, as well as members of the parish community, we obtained the $2500 required to sponsor a house. Any additional donations are still appreciated as only materials are paid by Rebuilding Together, so food, drinks and other items are out of our pocket.

If you would like to donate to the project, please visit the following secure Paypal donation link. Donations are tax-deductible and any funds not used this year will either be donated to Rebuilding Together or saved for a later project.

About the Homeowner

For the purposes of privacy, we will refer to the homeowner as “Mr G”. Mr G was born with a condition that makes him prone to strokes, and he has suffered a number of strokes since his early 20’s, which habe rendered his left side unusable. In addition, Mr G has been fully blind in both eyes since just after birth. However, these disabilities have only hindered his body, not his mind, as he is a very sharp and intelligent individual. Mr G has a number of friends and family in the D.C. area and obtains additional support from home health services.

Rebuilding Together had visited the home about 5 years ago to install a very elaborate wheelchair ramp system for Mr G, as well as replace some larger mechanical items and make priority repairs. Overall, the home is in very good condition, but there are a few small and medium tasks that will improve both safety and independence, as well as improve the appearance of the home. All of these items will be discussed in further detail below.

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About the Project Tasks

Through a combination of the initial application by Mr G, a visit by an occupational therapist (provided by RT) and a visit by the House Captain (Michael Townsend) and House Ambassador (Jim Begis), both from the Knights of Columbus Council 12796, we have identified a lengthy, but manageable, list of home repairs and improvements. Some of these tasks will be handled prior to the official project day, while others will be done only on April 24th, 2010.

Exterior Front

Mr G has limited the landscaping to minimize maintenance costs. However, one large item identified for improvement due to safety is a guide rail on the wheelchair ramp. Currently, Mr G only uses the ramp with assistance from friends or a nurse, but when he does use the ramp, he likes to participate in pulling himself up and down. However, he uses the top of the railing, which is a high reach and is prone to splintering. Additionally, in the event of an emergency where Mr G must exit by himself, a guide rail will allow him better movement through the sense of touch, especially since there is no railing on the brick front of his home.

Currently we are looking into various options for the railing, but have recognized this is not meant as an everyday-use item. Therefore, it does not need to be a fully-functional and grip-able handle rail, but simply a guide that allows Mr G to participate as well as guide himself down the ramp in an emergency. Additionally, we are only looking at adding the rails to the top 2 lengths of ramp, which would be about 65 feet of railing (counting both sides).

Another task for the front exterior is replacing the existing storm door with one that is hinged on the right side. When Mr G comes up from the ramp, he must go around to the right of the door to open it, then pivot to the left to enter the home. By changing the hinge-point of the door, Mr G can open the door from the same side as he comes up the ramp, and wheel directly into the house. Along with this new door, we will look into something that will allow the door to close more slowly.

A third task for the front is adding a gate to the porch to cover the stairs to prevent Mr G from accidentally rolling off the porch. We are looking at a hand-built gate from pressure-treated lumber, which can be done prior to or on the 24th.

Lastly, we will replace the doorbell as it currently has a hole in it.

Exterior Back

We will be repainting the rear steps leading to the back porch. Most of the paint has worn and chipped off, so the painting task may include stripping the old paint off first, which may be done prior to project day.

Also, there is a small ramp leading from the kitchen onto the back porch. This ramp can be slippery, so we will add non-slip strips onto the ramp.

Other tasks to be considered depending on the weather and number of volunteers include replacing bricks around the tree in the backyard, and edging the lawn around the front sidewalk, as well as painting the floor of the back porch (which requires moving all the furniture off the porch).

Living Room/Dining Room

After entering the front door, you will step directly into Mr G’s living room/dining room. There are no tasks identified for this room except for the doorways into the kitchen and hallway. However, due to Mr G’s blindness, we must be very careful that if anything is moved, that we place it back in the exact same spot (and the same condition).


Over the years, Mr G has scuffed up the walls of the hallway (as well as doors) with his wheelchair. We are looking into both repainting the hall and doors, as well as installing chair rail at a lower point to catch most of the damage from the wheels. Two options are standard chair rail (about $1.50 per foot) or thicker oak boarding (unknown price). The less expensive chair rail would may end up more decorative than protective, but would be more aesthetically pleasing than the thicker oak (or other strong wood) painted white. We’re looking at about 20-25 feet of wall to protect.

As for the doors, we are looking into either Plexiglas or metal kick plates to cover the lower part of the doors. We will need to use wood filler on some of the doorways and doors to fix larger gashes before painting. We’re still determining how to protect the doorways as they are not square and there are less options on the market that would also look good to the eye (recall that although Mr G is blind, we have to consider the aesthetics for both visitors and when it’s time to sell the home).

The door into the bathroom is currently an accordion-style door, but simply just gets in the way of Mr G’s wheelchair. A simple fix, approved by Mr G, is to install a curtain rod at the top of the door frame, a large curtain hook (U-shaped) inside the bathroom, and a fabric shower curtain in place of the door. When not in use, Mr G or visitors can keep the curtain in the hook so that it is not hanging down in Mr G’s way.


The bedroom only requires some small fixes, such as a door-stop installed in the baseboard or on the door hinge. Also, we will remove the wooden base to Mr G’s bed so that it is low enough for him to slide out of his wheelchair and into bed at night. We will need to observe Mr G performing this motion to ensure that the height is not too low after the removal of the board. The board is about 1.5-2″ thick.

In the office just off the bedroom, we noticed one of the sticky brackets used to hold up speaker wire on the wall has fallen down. We will glue it back up and ensure other brackets are secured properly.

Guest Room

Mr G has claimed his guest room as “The Queen’s Room”; the “Queen” being his pet cat. We may do some cleaning in this room, but Mr G usually has it taken care of by a paid service or friend. Additionally, he has an automatic litter box for the cat that requires little maintenance.


The bathroom contains the other difficult, and potentially costly and time-consuming, task. The 3′ x 3′ tiled shower appears to be leaking into the basement, albeit very slowly. It appears that the base of the shower is not sloped properly, and thus water sets along the back edge and has degraded the grout. This may require a replacement of the bottom portion of the shower. This must be done by a professional, so if you are experienced with shower repairs and tiling, please let us know!

Some other tasks in the shower include:

  • Replacing the hose and shower head and acquiring a special connector so that Mr G can once again use the installed pole in the shower, rather than the 2 other brackets installed later to hold the shower head. This connector is sold online by Home Depot, not in the stores.
  • Replacing the sink faucet with one that has knobs rather than levers. While we would normally do the opposite (replace with levers, not knobs), Mr G has requested the knobs so as he has found visitors tend to close the levers to tightly and strip the threading on the handle, thus breaking the faucet. Knob faucets tend to have a specific stop point that is more apparent to users.
  • Caulking the toilet and pedestal sink

Since the shower fix may be a large project, we will need to get someone in to begin the work well before the project day since it will be a multi-day task, and may also require a water shutoff, depending on the severity of problems we uncover.


The major task in the kitchen is painting. We must both move everything out AND move it all back in in the exact same spot. We must also fill in some old screw and nail holes prior to painting.

Another task is to lower the phone on the wall. Currently the phone is above the light switch, but that is far too high for Mr G. Since he wants to keep it on the wall, we will move the phone jack lower on the wall. It appears that the wiring is external (the wire runs up the door frame), so we won’t need to cut any new holes. We’ll just need to patch and sand any holes from the old jack.

One small task is finding a way, either with magnets or a hook, to secure the accordion gate Mr G has covering the steps down to the basement. It is all ready for a hook to be added, but we need to determine what is easiest for Mr G to work with.


There are 2 somewhat large plumbing jobs in the basement, but are optional depending on whether we have a plumber on-hand. Mr G would like the knob on the water outlet for the outside hose to be changed to a lever. While Mr G does not use this knob, those who do have found it difficult to turn due to its age.

Second, Mr G would like to add a pressure regulator to his incoming water line. This would require a water shutoff in the house, but can be accomplished without involving the water company as we can add the regulator and new shutoff lever above the old knob.

Next Steps

We have submitted the budget for our project to Rebuilding Together, as well as the $2500 organization fee. We’re now awaiting the approval of the budget, after which we will begin purchasing the materials for the project (mostly from Home Depot thanks to Rebuilding Together’s relationship). Actually, we have already obtained a number of materials from the RT warehouse for no charge that will save us a chunk of change such as a new storm door, about 80 feet of Trex board, a new bathroom sink faucet, a shower hose and handle and some paint supplies.

It is also time to begin recruiting volunteers, both skilled and unskilled. If you’re willing and able to help on Saturday, April 24th in the Rockville area, please contact us or the parish office to sign up for morning, afternoon or an all-day shift. If you’re a skilled worker, and would like to take on one or more projects, please let us know!

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