Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Washing walls on Halloween

We've lived 10 years in our University District home and have progressed from going all out adorning the house with spooky Halloween decorations and buying a ton of doing nothing of note this year. In past years we've gotten all geared up only to give up an hour into it having received half a dozen kids (all in the same group). We uniformly would surrender and go out to dinner, but optimistically leave the light on and bowl of candy on the porch for costumed revellers. When we'd return we'd at least expect that some over-anxious kid would have dumped the remainder of our treats into their pillow sack, but nope, there was an almost full bowl of candy. After several years we've kind of resigned ourselves to the fact that we don't have that many kids in the hood. This year, while buying 2 bags, just in case, we went to the "new" house to tackle drywall dust. I even brought the bag of Kit-Kats in case some goblin showed up (nope). So Eric and I spent All Souls Day night wielding a shop-vac (him) and damp rags (me) and combatting the fine white dust that has covered everything in the house in the wake of the drywall sanders. We're prepping to get this place primed and put up a few colors this weekend.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A ton of tile!

Is quite literally what Eric and I moved tonight. We went to the Tile Shop to pick up our "splies" and learned that between a whole kitchen's worth of tile and two bathrooms of accompanying backerboard, michigan mud (for the shower pan), mortar and grout..we were going to be making two trips despite owning a formidably super, mega-huge VW Eurovan! Trip one was (19) 4'x4' awkward, though not OVERLY heavy Denshield(R) cement backerboards for the floor (the drywall crew did the walls-thanks guys!), the polished river rock for the shower floor (an easy 50#), (4) 80# bags of michigan mud (Eric carried these), (4) 55# bags of grey mortar, (3) 25# bags of grout, (4) 55# bags of white mortar and all of the floats, sponges, notched trowels, spacers, etc. So there's a half-ton of the crap that represented trip one. We took a break at Cafe Appropos up the street, shared a smoothie and contemplated whether we were really up for another back-breaking round of hauling heavy stuff. Apparently that strawberry-banana concoction had rejuvenating and hallucinatory components b/c we decided we were! Back we went to Morse Road...trip two was all about the kitchen tile. NINETEEN boxes that were an easy 50# each of the "Kund" ceramic slate-look tile for the kitchen. Those suckers are 18"x18" each and are probably packed 6 to a box so it should have been no great surprise that they were obnoxious to hoist out of the car, lug across the yard and attempt to gently set onto the floor (in two different rooms to distribute the weight). Eric and I were wiped out by the time we finished (it was now 8PM and we started at 4:30). But not too tired to appreciate that the drywall mud sanders had been to the house today and completed the job. So once we do a whole house scrub down (there's drywall dust everywhere) we can get about the "fun" task of priming the walls and putting on some COLOR! I'm optimistically hoping for this weekend.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It is finished!

By "it", of course, we mean the exterior painting on the house! Eric took the afternoon off, I had the day off and we knocked out the remaining parts that needed painting! Eric "spiderman" scaled the roof (with a small aluminum ladder) and perched off the unseen side of the dormer on blocks to get that done. I hit the remaining eaves that could be reached from the ground with the (manageable) aluminum ladder. Then we used the big ladder to tag-team on the east side peak that needed finishing and couldn't be reached with my smaller ladder. In between all of that I raked up another 4 bags of leaves and removed countless roofing nails from the backyard. Have we mentioned how prolific the nails in the backyard are? I now have a little game that I play. Stoop somewhere in the yard and see how many nails you can find & pick up from that spot. I think my record is 11! What's more ridiculous, is that if I return to the same spot a little while later, I'll find another 3 nails I didn't catch the first time. Anybody got a metal detector we can use to root these things out before precious dog paws play in the yard? Other highlights: the Quoizel outdoor light fixture came in Saturday morning and we picked it up. The drywall mudders returned this afternoon, hopefully to apply the final coat of mud before sanding can take place and then we can start painting! The Tile Shop called to tell us we can come get our order. We're a little tired tonight so we'll do that tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nice Backside!

Aside from the new back porch and door, the back side of the house has really taken shape. And today we are signing a contract for the porches, so those should be in-process soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Two new crews for a Tuesday!

Or, drywall part deux. The "cleaners" came this morning and hauled out two tons of drywall crap. Extra cuts, bits, pieces, they removed the piles from each room and shuffled them away to who knows where, but they're outta here! Then a two man crew arrived and started putting on the metal corners and drywall taping the seams. Eric and I couldn't stick around to play as the Martineaus arrive Thursday and there is much house cleaning to be done at the "other" home. And Eric already spent an hour+ this morning evacuating all of the plumbing fixtures and paint cans from the front room of the basement where Monday night's rain created a deluge in the nether regions of the house...and shop-vac-ing up umpteen gallons of water....So that battle's not won yet...but we have a plan....and it involves temporarily removing the staircase...but not this week! Maybe over the winter when the rain is not an option!

Monday, October 22, 2007

What did you get for Sweetest Day?

Sweetest Day was on Saturday and Eric and I "got" each other stuff for the house. He "gave" me an installed wrought iron railing on our master bedroom porch deck. And I gave him the porch quote that was emailed to me that day (Finally! We got one! And we like it! And we like the contractor!) OK, really we just claimed stuff that other people were taking care of as "gifts" to each other, but we were both so thrilled with them that we enjoyed them just as much as the box of chocolates I bought at the Market that day. And then today I got this bonus gift:
We picked up the various other indoor & outdoor lights awhile ago:
But we had not come up with a suitable pendant for the front porch. We mulled over various online options, but Eric really wanted to see and touch one in person. We went to Panic Lighting today and they had 2 lights we considered, but I was still stuck on the Quoizel one I'd seen online. In fact, we were at Panic because the Quoizel website listed them as one of their distributors. So I asked if we could order the light from them. Affirmative. Our salesperson pulled out the catalog and it was about the same cost as the ones in stock. And Eric agreed to order it despite not having actually touched it. He's the sweetest indeed!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What a difference a day makes!

And a Sunday at that! Eric and I got to the house at 10AM this morning to take advantage of the gorgeous weather (78 for October ain't bad...almost unheard of!) and crank on the exterior painting. On the way to the house, Eric made a sarcastic comment about not being sure he'd recognize the house what with all the drywall work done (b/c they'd been awol the past week and not expected on a Sunday). If you recall, about 3 sheets of drywall had been hung to date. To our astonishment there was a van in our driveway and the house was literally abuzz with activity. There were about 8 guys working and almost 1/3 of the drywall had been hung by 10AM! According to Carolyn, they'd been waiting there an hour when she got there at 7:30AM to let them in! By 5PM the whole house was covered in drywall. Next up, a crew comes to haul away the debris (and there are piles of it- drywall leftovers). Then another crew comes in to do the mudding and finishing. And now for a barrage of photos of drywall-covered walls that look remarkably uninteresting in photos, while awe-inspiring to see in person. Do drop by for a tour if you are around! Starting with the magnificent arches (looking towards the kitchen):
This is standing in front of the bay window in the living room looking at the ceiling (the little window goes to our 2nd floor):
The pocket doors now glide smoothly and are completely removable thanks to new hardware installed by Phillips Renovation (brilliant)! Now looking from the living room (hi pocket doors)through the study into the guest bathroom:
If you ever stay over, this is the guest bedroom (we promise it will be cleaner):
Looking out the front door, note the soffit hiding our ductwork:
They even refinished the whole coat closet so we have a nice smooth ceiling and walls! This is the kitchen looking out the back door:
Notice that the kitchen ceiling isn't drywalled? That's because it's supposed to get plywood...all the better to attach a pressed tin ceiling to it! (Cross your fingers with me that works out). The master bedroom with the French doors:
And the "loft"in the master bedroom. You might notice the beam at the top that is currently covered in drywall. That was one of the few "oops-es". That is supposed to be exposed. It will end up that way. Carolyn said they'd rip off the drywall before the refinishers take over!
Are you scratching your head in awe and amazement at that whole thing getting done on a Sunday? Yeah, we were too! But we had plenty of our own work to do! Eric and I spent the day attempting to finish the exterior painting. We got the whole back of the house done and looking spiffy (we had to live up to the promise of the new iron railing). I worked the sides and eaves. Of course, by the time we were done it was too dark for photos, but here's E hard at work at the peak of the house:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

And just like that....

And just like that...we have our iron railing!
Here's a review...Friday railing:
Saturday morning...railing (that's Josh from Fortin who installed it):
Eric and I got to the house at 8:30 a.m. this morning to let the Fortin Ironworks guys in, but they were already there, had let themselves in and had our iron railing hoisted up on the second story porch and were getting ready to secure it! In less than an hour they had it firmly bolted to the house and off they went! We now have a fantastic (and very sturdy) railing for our master bedroom porch. Eric really likes that the railing is anchored into the house rather than our metal-seamed roof (no chance to create leaks!). While the guys worked Eric insulated the kitchen ceiling to cut down noise between it and the master bedroom:
I raked 4 bags of leaves and cleaned up the pile of rubble in the bathroom.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Drywall has begun...sorta

All of the drywall has been delivered to the house. It arrived on Monday. And BONUS waterproof cement backerboard for our "wet" wall areas in the bathrooms came in on Tuesday (meaning we can remove those from our Tile Shop order and eliminate that bit from our own workload!) And the drywall hangers started on the second floor in the "den" (or what we're calling the funny little room with the skylights). I say "sorta" because they hung a total of maybe 4 sheets of drywall:
And then like the lost colony of Roanoke....they vanished! (Is that too obscure a reference? I think I AM smarter than a 5th least as smart?) So the drywall has begun and we hope they work full throttle on Friday. Eric had the brilliant idea to print off our blog to date so we can seal it into one of the walls as a "time capsule" for some future owner (after we've died here) to discover our journey with the house:
Other than that we took a break from house labor today...we mulled over paint options, does that count?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How much tile does one couple need?

We need a lot. Actually, we needed "splies". We went to the Tile Shop after work today to get MORE tile and other stuff (yes, we were just at Hamilton Parker yesterday, no we are not tile-obsessed...well, maybe a little). First order of business was to order the "Kund" ceramic slate gray and mustard tiles (18x18) for our kitchen...and all of the accompanying supplies to complete the job (ourselves) including trowels, sponges, spacers, grout, backerboard, etc. We also had to order all of the supplies (backerboard, grout, etc) for the two bathrooms...and the oh-so-cool river rock base for the master shower and the shower pan kit. We pulled out all of our sample tile pieces and pontificated over how wide we wanted our grout lines (which dictated spacer sizes) and what color the grout should be for each tile style in each of the 3 rooms. We'll refrain from boring you with the details, but you are welcome to check them out and help us lay tiles one of these weeks. We cannot say enough great things about the helpfulness of the folks at the Tile Shop. From the free class we took there to the now hours they have spent with us to give advice and order everything we'll need to do this job ourselves, they have been pleasant, professional and exceedingly helpful. They promised we can call anytime for additional advice even when we are mid-job and they'll give any answers they can (OK, these may be famous last words). Eric and I have also read up on tiling a ton and are confident we can handle this, but at the end of our 2 hour decision-making session there last night we kept nudging each other, "you having tile freak-out yet?" Now we await 2 phone calls (Hamilton Parker & Tile Shop) in the next 2 weeks telling us to come get our stuff!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Because we haven't stockpiled enough tile yet....

We went to Hamilton Parker (tile showroom) this afternoon. We had to get there around 4:30 as they have "showroom hours" of 8AM-5PM weekdays and 8AM-12PM Saturdays and we wanted to get an order in sooner rather than later. We'd been in before and knew pretty much what we needed, but now that the drywall is impending (sheets delivered today for job to start tomorrow) we decided we want to have the supplies ordered so we can start when they finish. From HP we were ordering tiles for the master bathroom. You may recall (or not) that we picked up about 18 cases of US Ceramic subway tiles from Bargain Outlet. HP is an authorized US Ceramic distributor, so we went there to order the matching Victorian chair rail for our project (Doh! those little pieces are expensive! $5+ each for a 6" length of rail). We also got splendid terrazzo-ish white/grey/black flecked 18"x18" tiles for the floor. Since nothing is ever that easy, we also decided to get black "cove" base molding tile for the whole bathroom to put a nice border between the terrazo and subway tiles.
Then we headed to the house for (literally) last minute prep work for the drywall installers. We had to knock down the plaster remaining around the newly cut in window in the guest bath so the drywall can be "laminated" directly on the brick. And we had to remove all remaining traces of the multi-layered (like 8 sheets) wallpaper also in the guest bath on the adjacent wall so they can "laminate" that drywall (or probably greenboard in this case) to the plaster that's in better shape. Can't wait to seee if they actually start tomorrow!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sore arm Sunday and achey back Monday

I had today off so I used it for the "fall planting" at the house. The finished product: mums and some plant whose name I don't remember, but it's a perennial whose coloring I thought coordinated nicely with our brick:
What is not visible in the above photo is the 100 tulip, 120 daffodil, 80 crocus and 60 muscari bulbs that are planted UNDERNEATH it all. This was my 6 hour project yesterday. The photo above started with me digging a 3 foot wide, 10-inch deep trench in the shape of the bed. Then I added bulb booster, spaced the plants and laid out all of the tulip and daffodil bulbs...added 5 inches of dirt back in...placed the crocuses and muscari (grape hyacinths)...add the remaining 5 inches of dirt with the priceless help of Eric. An intended future task is to add a brick border using the bricks from the (former) wall in the middle of the house that are currently stacked in the back yard. The front planting was the final task of the day. I started with the "easy stuff." On the side of the house I planted big hostas transplanted from the "original" homestead that I've split for the season and small variegated hostas in the strip over the gutter pipe:
Through all of this digging and dirt disturbing I also removed about 60 roofing and other nails, a window's worth of glass and a dozen of the old school ring pop tabs. We took a break for dinner with the Reno's (Becky's is due today, but no baby...and those crazy kids are going to a concert tonight!). Sunday Eric and I spent the entire day at the house. I spent a few hours on my knees pulling staples from the hardwood floors that we want to have refinished in the living room and dining room:
Eric added some extra insulation in spots to reduce noise in important places like the guest bedroom wall that faces the dining and living rooms:
And the guest bedroom wall next to the stairs so any visitors don't have to listen to us and the dogs clomp up and down the steps QUITE as loudly:
We also spent time shaving the foam insulation (Mary) to fit WITHIN the channels (makes sense to you and me right?) so that the drywall will fit flat on the studs, chipping off extra mortar from the stairway (Eric) for the drywall guys to have better adhesion, and removing traces of wallpaper from the remaining plaster over the brick in the study...again for direct adhesion of drywall to the plaster. We took a "time out" for lunch with the Reno's who are still waiting for the arrival of baby Reno and a trip (was it two?) to Lowe's for Shop Vac bags. it felt good to suck up some of the extra grime and make the place just a little cleaner.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Getting close

We did some more exterior painting yesterday. The leaves and branches do a nice job of concealing the fact the peak remains unpainted. Of course, there is the whole right-side dormer, too.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Thanks Clinton!

So, fellow neighbor/houseblogger(see Adventure Reno in the sidebar)/Daddy-to-be, Clinton created this lovely banner for us:
So when our entries stream to they should have this nice deocrative little heading. Alas, due to some glitch (or perhaps due to my IT-incompetence) it's currently not working. So here's a little love for Clinton anyways. If you like this little piece, you should see the most fabulous rock-n-roll posters that are his forte. See here:
Consider buying one a contribution to Baby Reno's college fund.

Friday, October 5, 2007

And now for more contractor interviews...

We met with Linda from L&L Floors this morning to give her a tour of the hardwood we'd like to try to patch and refinish. They get rave reviews on Angie's List and from our immediate neighbors...let's see what the price is and whether they can work us into their busy schedule! This evening I interviewed Justen Fick of JLF construction. We're desperately trying to get SOMEONE (ANYONE?) to actually GIVE US A BID on building our porches. It does not LOOK like it would be such an awful job that no one would take it. The roofs are already up even! Thus far we've asked 3 folks for bids (including Justen tonight) and nobody's gotten one to us...we're willing to pay to have it this too much to ask? Justen is also a trim carpenter who mills his own molding...which might come in handy when the drywall is up and we have to start putting the final touches on the replacing all of the molding that was missing from the house with the various pieces parts we've been collecting! And he does built-ins so we might also consult him for the china cabinet and bookshelf next to the fireplace in the living room. Stay tuned...let's see if anyone wants to build a porch or two!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Insulation realization!

Three quick days and it would appear that our house is fully insulated. 75% of it is the rigid foam insulation. Here's what the cathedral ceiling in the living room currently looks like:
The guys were so thorough that they even insulated the space where one of our new entry doors will eventually be placed(hey- it LOOKED like framing)....and filled in the broken transom window so it now oozes primordial foam:
We popped over to the neighbors to check out their refinished wood floors as we're having the same company bid the job at our house tomorrow. In other flooring news, we went to Lumber Liquidators on the west side and picked up three boxes of Morning Star bamboo flooring for the downstairs study ( We think it will make a nice transition from the original hardwood and set the room apart as a separate space. We also considered the cork flooring they have for the upstairs "den" (that funny room space with the skylights in the eaves next to our closet). We haven't committed to that yet, although they had some nice colors (here's the sample we took home: ). We're thinking maybe we should go with a stained cork in a "funkier" color (if such a thing exists), since this is such a unique space that we can totally get away with it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A flurry of activity!

Eric and I showed up at the house tonight to tackle a pretty basic project...rid the kitchen of the old of the last vestiges of awfulness from the original state in which we found the house. We walked in the door to delightedly discover that the Phillips' crew had framed in our future arches:
The grand arch looking from the front door/dining area into the future kitchen:
And the first floor had received the initial treatment of spray foam rigid insulation, so our walls and the interior of our house look like something out of a low-budget science fiction film! Do you feel like you're inside the alien? But we can believe that stuff is going to block out any drafts as it gets in all the nooks and crannies and it's rather solid. The team carefully tarped off all of our new windows, exposed brick, electric boxes, etc to prevent them from getting foam-filled:
We imagine today they'll tackle the cathedral ceiling that's "up" in that last photo. One of our architects, Steve, dropped by to check on progress and gave us the thumbs up on everything he witnessed. Then Eric and I went to work getting the fridge out of the house. Since it measured 34" and our widest door maxed out at 32", the masterful Mr. Martineau broke out the ratchet set and removed the us about a 30" fridge. From there we had to actually get it our the door shimmying it left then right (it weighed an obnoxious amount), down the porch steps, across the yard and into the van. Why not just pull the van to the porch and save ourselves the trouble? We have placed a moratorium on bringing the van into the yard as Eric JUST (like today) replaced the SECOND tire that met its demise due to a roofing nail stuck in the sidewall (hence, irreparable). We can't figure out where else we'd be picking up roofing nails other than our own project and those Euro-van tires run from $150-225 (depending on where you're buying we discovered) and we can't have them further increasing our renovation cost. Mission accomplished, we "dumped" the fridge behind a friend's garage who intends to use it as storage (passing the ironic "Nail a Dumper" sign just a few hundred yards down the alley). I think I failed to mention what a completely disgusting mess the fridge is. Aside from the mountain of crap that was on top of it from the demolition (that rained on E's head as we tried to take it down the back stairs), it has been unplugged for more than six months and has spawned an impressive collection of mold and mildew. Oh, and I think we may have discovered the LAST mouse carcass that was caught in the coiling under the fridge that was left in the yard...EWWW! After dropping it in said friend's alley, we hastened to promise that we will return TOMORROW to give it a thorough cleaning and make it a storage-worthy vessel...or haul it away if we fail to accomplish that.

Sensational Insulation

We have had inordinate luck with picking contractors who (mostly) show up exactly when they say they are going to and get the job done in the manner promised. Let's take the insulation, for instance. YESTERDAY Eric faxed them the contract saying we were ready to start and TODAY we have an insulated master bedroom. It was interesting because it was quieter than it has ever been since the batting absorbs all of the extra noise! Check out our ceiling:
A ceiling fan/light will one day be where the white circle is poking out. And our "loft" space is visible on the right portion of the photo. The perspective makes it look like a flat wall, but there's at least 4 feet (width) of space up there! We also have an insulated master bathroom (bear with us, it's hard to see, but trust us, it's done)!

So inspired were we by the fast progress being made by the insulation guys that it occurred to Eric that we still have (had) some drywall that needed to be removed on the steps to the basement. After all, if they're going to town insulating the house, let's make sure they insulate the WHOLE HOUSE! So Eric knocked out the rest of the drywall as you see here:

Those lovely wires indicate that we have working electricity to light up this stairwell....To the left of that wall would be where the old vinyl siding was on the house's exterior. And where our framing crew found an old (and rotted) door that was original to the house. This stairwell was originally a wrap-around porch and the access to the basement was steps in the closet of what will be our guest bedroom (we're not quite taking reservations yet!)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lights, inspection, action!

Brandon (one of our electric contractors) worked diligently over the weekend (he was even there on Saturday while we were painting) and we've got LIGHTS throughout the house. Mind you, these are merely bulbs stuck into sockets, nothing fancy, but they give out ILLUMINATION! Meaning we can now be in the house after dark and SEE what we're doing (inside at least)! Most impressive is the basement (formerly referred to as the cave). Each of the 3 rooms now has two rectangular fluorescent fixtures that set the basement aglow like it's broad daylight. And they can be turned on by switches BEFORE you enter the room (instead of fumbling in the dark for a pull cord). Eric and I took advantage of this by doing a little basement cleaning tonight....there's still miles to go on this, but a little debris is gone.

Also of note: today was our structural inspection and with the exception of two minor details (1- a rafter needed shimming - done- and 2-safety glass on one second story window)...we PASSED! So Eric faxed the insulation contract back and they are starting TOMORROW!

And our EMTEK Arts & Crafts mortise locksets came today ( We stopped by M&M Doors and dropped them off so they can be installed in the doors that are being custom made for the house....and we got a sneak peek at them, they look great! Brad (from M&M) estimates they'll be ready in jusst a couple weeks!