Monday, December 7, 2009

Living Here

We are fully moved into the house now. Most of the boxes are unpacked and most items have found a home. There's still a ton of stuff to be done and I will be posting projects as they come up. We have our fave handy-woman coming in next week to work on a couple of little projects: sunroom floor, powder room floor and the beadboard walls in there, finishing up the downstairs trimwork as well as a couple of other projects. The next major push will be after tax money comes in. We need to get the two new baths fully installed and operational. We need to put up a fence and a doggy door. That's going to suck most of the money.

I am usually a list person: grocery lists, to do lists, errand list, etc. There are so many jobs left to be done in this house, I am afraid to make that list as I am afraid of its potential length. I think I'm going to start by picking one smallish project, like priming the trim and stairs over the holiday break. It's ambitious enough to keep me busy, but not so big as to overwhelm.

Living in the house is wonderful though. We have entertained frequently and have had several folks over for dinner or brunch. I LOVE cooking again. I went nearly a year without cooking on a regular basis and it feels so good to have homecooked food. Cooking in this kitchen is delightful. Very satisfying. I have more space than I realized and despite the loss of the old pantry, I still have empty cupboards and drawers. I don't even mind not having a dishwasher. It really doesn't take much more time to wash the dishes by hand than it does to rinse and stack in the DW. It's kind of soothing actually.

Part of our decision to move into the city was to live a "greener" lifestyle. One of the things we have done towards that end was to sell one car. We have taken additional steps like join a CSA farm coop, begin shopping at the local farmers markets, not driving everywhere all the time. It feels really good, I have to say.

Not much to post pictures of as the rooms are still kind of cluttery and haphazard which makes for unattractive pictures. I'll try to tidy up and get some new ones up soon.

My contractor, Tom Henning, has gotten his site up and running and there is a new link over on the right. Check it out as he is amazing and wonderful I cannot praise him high enough.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Moving Day

Sorry for the lack of posting updates, but we are moving in tomorrow!! I cannot wait. I am so ready for this move, I can't stand it. Kitchen looks really good and I've posted one still yet incomplete picture. I snap a good one over the weekend and try posting something Sunday. All I have to say: NINE feet of countertops....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Catching Up

Okay, so it's been three weeks since my last post. Blame it on being frantically busily, limited amount of computer time, and being plain tuckered out. But, despite the fact I haven't been doing anyone electronically, we have been making massive progress on the house. In fact, we have a move in date, November 14th. Less than two weeks from now! I cannot wait. This process started a year ago when we decided to put our old house on the market. We moved out of there five month ago and have been working on this place for four months, almost to the day when we move in.

So, what has happened since the last update? Carpentry, primer, floor sanding, and painting. See for yourself:

Kitchen being primed:

Kitchen Demo'd and Painted (Cabinets at least)

We pulled the stove and the oven out completely. We also took out the cabinets under the stove and under the bar, as well as the countertops above those counters. For now, we've purchased some white, stock cabinets and custom sized laminate. On the left hand side of the kitchen, from this view, will go a run of cabinets and NINE feet of countertop. The bar will still be bar height and the tiny remnant of yellow counter will be replaced as well. I'm in the process of painting the old handles black. The old yellow sink cabinet has gotten a fresh coat of white paint as well. The yellow walls are actually formica walls, not sure what we're going to be able to do with them. I was reading about painting formica, so that may be an option. With dark counters, dark floors, the bright white will pop and look classic, I hope. It will have to do for a few years while we build up the kitty to redo the kitchen. Then we will be gutting it to the studs and rebuilding it.

Guest Room Primed

Dining Room Being Primed

Floors are in the process of being redone right now. It was sanded and will be stained tomorrow. We're going with the dark walnut stain. I think it is going to be beautiful up against crisp, white mouldings, when ever I get to that.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I don't know when I've ever been so tired. P had surgery on Monday and her right hand is in a big old cast. She's not much use around here right now. So, in the interest of domestic peace, I sent her to Lake Gaston to spent the weekend with friends. I spent Friday night dusting down the front room. Used an entire box of swiffer wipes on that room along. Saturday, I was here by 9 and spent the day dusting the rest of the upstairs. Had some hired help for a couple of hours which helped. T washed down the floors and vacuumed the stairs. I dusted part of the downstairs before quitting and heading back to the Springs. Stopped at 5 Guys (damn they have good burgers) for dinner. Went home, showered and fell into bed at 7 PM. Was up at 6:30 this morning and at the house by 8. Spent the first part of the morning cleaning up. Washed all the dishes, the countertops and did some general de-dusting. Then finished de-dusting the downstairs. Cracked open the primer around 1ish and started priming. Got the master bedroom primed to where I can reach. I don't have the energy to pull the ladder up the stairs just now. Started priming the bathroom when my hand just gave out. Decided to take a break and try and get a post in.

Taking pictures of people washing floors or dusting walls is pretty uninteresting. So, no pictures today. Maybe after priming has happened.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Walls, At Last!

We have walls, I tell you! We have walls! Plaster guys were here all last week working upstairs putting in drywall and repairing/skim coating the plaster and I have to say, it looks beautiful! So white and clean.

First the guest bedroom:

The Hallway and Bathroom:

The drywall guys said we were going to have to pull down all the plaster in the bathroom because it was so deteriorated due to the leaking skylight. Penny started to go up and work on that on Wednesday (her day off). The guys looked at her and asked if she was going to do it now. As she is having hand surgery on Monday, Wednesday was going to be the only opportunity for her to get the plaster down. I think her pitiful hand made him feel bad so he agreed to laminate the old plaster with new drywall and box in the opening for the medicine cabinet too!

Master Bedroom:

So, what's left?

Downstairs skimcoating/plaster repair has to be finished.
Electrical is wrapping up.
Need to install sink in golden bath.
Skylight has to be fixed as it still leaks.
Downspouts need to be installed.
Need to get a new stove/range as now both the stove and the oven have crapped out on me.
Need to dust and then prime.
Then we get to call in the floor folks to fix and refinish the floors.
THEN we get to move in. I'm still hoping for November 1, but I'm thinking that is going to be pushing it. We'll see.

It won't be perfectly completed, but it will be livable. We are hoping we will be able to put in the powder room downstairs now too. It would be nice to have a house that has two toilets.

I'll be back later in the week with more wall pictures. Promise

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Apologies for the delay in posting. We pulled two very long days last weekend and I never got a chance to post on Sunday. We are trying to get the walls all prepped and ready for drywall and skim coating of plaster. We'll be back at it this weekend as the plaster/drywall guy starts on Monday. That will make a HUGE difference.

The stucco work was started and completed last week.

Monday they delivered materials.

Tuesday they pulled down all the old plaster and nailed up a metal mesh.

Wednesday they skimmed on a first layer of concrete

Thursday they did another layer.

Friday they did the texture and packed up all their stuff and went home.

Insulation update: Our wonderful contractor, Tommy, found someone to come blow the insulation in and take the huge green machine back to Lowes. What a relief that was. Penny spent much of Saturday insulating the soon to be master bath using the blue fluffy stuff.

We spent the weekend trying to get the last of the wallpaper down in the stairwell and get the walls cleaned.

We will spend this weekend washing walls and getting all the little bits of wallpaper off. The plaster/drywall guy thinks he can do most all of it in a week. That may or may not include skim coating the ceilings. I hope we can get at least the downstairs ceilings done. With walls in and skimmed, I can start priming. Once primer is on, the floors can be done and then we can move in! Oh, I'm so hoping we can make the November 1 date. I am so ready to have something of a "real" home. Well, as much as we can get for now.

We got the quote on tiling the master bath and that is going to simply have to wait until we get the tax check in February. We should be able to get the downstairs bath in however. That will give us a bath and a half, most importantly, it will give us two toilets.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Defeated by Insulation

I can't say that Penny and I are expert DIYers, by any stretch, but we'll tackle almost anything. This weekend, we tackled insulation. We did our research. We priced out the job. We reconnoitered Lowes to see what materials we needed and how much material we would need. As we did sell the Rav4 on Thursday, we had to figure out how to get all that material and the machine to the house as well. We spent most of Saturday doing all the prep work. We drilled perfectly round holes in our plaster walls upstairs. We stapled plastic to the outside walls where we had pulled down the plaster. We even went and purchased the lay-in insulation for the areas where we had removed the lath. We decided since we needed such a small amount, we splurged on the green stuff (which is actually blue) which can be installed without layers and layers of protection. The pink lay-in stuff is fiberglass and is a very messy and unpleasant job. We were thrilled with the way the green (blue) stuff went in. Of course, the first time we purchased it, we purchased insulation for 2x6 walls. We had to turn around and exchange them for the stuff that fits in 2x4 walls. Easy to cut. Easy to install. Skin friendly. This gave us confidence that the blow in insulation was going to be a snap as well.

So, this morning, armed with all our measurements, we trundled off to Lowes. As we only have a Yaris (Japanese for "very little car"), we rented the Lowes Truck. They were kind enough to load 20 bags of blow in cellulose insulation and the 500 lb green machine. We climbed in and drove the now filled truck the two miles toward home. We (meaning Penny) did a brilliant job of driving that sucker into the alley where we then unloaded all twenty bags of insulation. Then came the big green machine. We did manage to get it off the truck without breaking 1. ourselves or 2. the machine. I dragged the hundred foot hose up the stairs while Penny took the truck back (you only get it for 75 minutes). Upon her return, we started up that sucker. I was downstairs outside filling the machine and Penny was upstairs with the hose, filling the walls. We flipped the switch and waited for blow. It blew, but it didn't blow insulation. We couldn't figure it out until I decided to read the directions. It seems you have to open the hopper for the stuff to flow into the hose! With that figured out, we took our respective places again and flipped the switch. The problem was that Penny was upstairs inside and I was outside with a loud machine. I couldn't hear her yell to stop. This was the result:

At this point, covered in insulation, Penny declared "I ain't doing this shit any more. I'll stand outside and YOU blow this crap!" She was not amused. She was even less amused that I insisted on taking pictures.

So, we tried it again. We got some of it in and made some progress, but our plastic stapling job left something to be desired, and mostly what we ended up with was a mess. After about three hours of wrangling with the hose, cellulose, staples, plastic, etc, we threw in the towel and called our contractor and begged him for help. He's sending help tomorrow. I get to go to school. Penny's off and she will have to be helper. So, should you be so bold as to think you can blow in insulation into your walls, my advice is DON'T!

Add that to the live termites found, it hasn't been a great weak at the Domus Aurea, this week. Yes, the electrician found some live termites and so we will have to have the house sprayed again. Thankfully it is under warranty and won't cost us anything. He's coming Tuesday. The neighbors did get quite irate with the Grand Canyon trench between the houses. It was quite the show from what I heard. Penny had to deal with it, not me. She had to make a quick call to Tommy who rushed over and quickly mollified the neighbors (who in turn hired him to do a job for them!). Then, what we suspect was a drunk driver, plowed into our wall at the back of the yard. Luckily, I don't think anyone was hurt, but he sure did a number on the wall. We assume he must have blown through the stop sign and going pretty fast to have done so much damage.

We did pass a whole bunch of inspections. The trench finally passes inspection and that is now filled in (much to our neighbor's relief). The show pan passes inspection. The HVAC system passed inspection as well. The framing is to be inspected tomorrow afternoon and hopefully that will go well.
All in all, not a good week at the Domus.

Also tomorrow, the stucco work is to start. James River Exteriors will be doing that work. Once that is done, new downspouts can happen. I think somewhere in there, part of the house has to be jacked up and reinforced, but I'm kind of hiding my head from that job right now. It's more than I want to hear or can bear to hear. I think we have figured out who will be doing the drywall and plaster work and that should start once the framing work has been inspected, so likely later on in the week.

Since we sold the car, Penny is now living here. She'll be biking to work. It takes her 9 minutes to get to work. I will be in Highland Springs, taking care of animals. Hopefully, this will only be until early November, when we hope to move in. This is her new home:

Other random pictures:

Glass Block

New Terrace Surface

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not much to post

Not much progress to post this week. Mostly a continuation of previous projects.

Outside Work
The dig to China (replacing the lead water supply from the street) has continued and is at a standstill, much to my poor neighbors' regret. The trench is deeper, but we still haven't found the supply line yet. The city has to come out and do the next step by digging up the sidewalk and replacing the line under the street.

The roofers have been here the past two weekends. Last weekend they fixed the gutters. This weekend they are replacing the terrace roof. The last thing they need to do is replace the downspouts. That will lead to the start of stucco work.

Inside Work
Penny took down the plaster in what will be the master bathroom. Tom (my wonderful contractor) and the tile guy were in there last week discussing tile options. Penny was off so she was in there as my proxy. They were asking too many questions and I ended up talking them through my desires via cell phone. Oy. I think we are going with a basket weave tile inside the shower floor, a 2 inch white hex tile with black buttons on the floor, white subway on the walls with a black pencil line just below the top of the wainscot. These are the lights we've picked out. This is my bathroom inspiration. Lovely, isn't it? I think the plumbers are coming to put the shower pan in and there has to be an inspection of that this week as well.

Glass block is in and it looks beautiful! I will post pictures a bit later, promise.

Electrical continues. We did pass the rough in inspection.

We put the Rav4 up for sale. It's a lovely car and I do hate to part with it. It is probably the nicest car I'll ever own and it breaks my heart, but having two cars in the city just doesn't make sense. You can see the ad over at the AutoTrader. There's also a listing on Craigslist - Richmond as well, but I can't link to it from work. Someone, please buy it!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer ends...

Bye Bye Summer

Well, this is it, summer is over and I go back to school on Tomorrow. I am so not ready to face the classroom. I have no clue how I will split my brain between these two all consuming projects. I’m sure I’ll figure a way. I am excited to meet new kids and see my friends more regularly.

Much progress this week, however. We have laundry facilities once again (thanks to everyone who let us mooch their washer and dryer for the past two months!). We have plumbing for the two new baths. We have framing for the closets and baths. Most of this all happened on Wednesday. The house was an absolute hive of activity. I think there were six guys from the plumbing company, a day laborer digging a trench to replace the lead pipe, two HVAC guys, a carpenter, and two electricians. It was all I could do to just stay out of the way.

HVAC is finished and we have air conditioning (and heat) now. And, we have a new hot water heater. Yeah! The only drawback is the AC return. It’s kind of an eyesore, but I think I’ll be able to build a cabinet around it so that it doesn’t stick out quite so grossly. I am thinking a marble counter top with a matching cabinet on the opposite side and we’ll have buffet room. Maybe some open shelves on either side for dishes?

In the flurry of plumbing activity on Wednesday, the crew removed the yucky ceiling and all the faux bois wallpaper (not to mention all the plaster) so I didn’t have to. Upstairs, the master bath was also plumbed and the shower stall framed out. Originally, the plans blocked up three windows up there and had the shower wall running to the ceiling. I was afraid it was going to feel like a coffin. We modified the shower wall to have a transom for ventilation and one of the windows is going to be filled with glass block. That leaves me with two functioning windows and a glass block window. Glass block should be installed Monday morning.

We are spending weekends here at the Domus now. We had some old friends drive down from Delaware. They just built a house in Milton and they had twenty eight gallons of left over Benjamin Moore paint and primer they brought to us. We do have the most remarkable friends.

Roofers started yesterday on the gutters. Given they’ve left their ladder, I am assuming they will be back today. I tell you what, I wouldn't want to be wandering around up there, that's for sure!






Trench for new pipe