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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First Night

We slept in our new place for the first time last night and it was wonderful!

Some wonderful friends came to visit and provide free labor. Since there is no room at our little cabin in the woods, we decided to camp out in the new place. Yesterday, two of us went upstairs and scraped more wallpaper (argh!) while Penny and our other guest demo'd the sunporch. They took up the floor and pulled out the paneling in the area that is to be the new powder room. They uncovered the blocked up door. Then, we all showered and headed out for a fabulous seafood dinner and a terrific bottle of wine. Came back, and we each snuggled into our beds. The late afternoon had brought a lovely, and much needed rain storm, which cooled everything down. With the fans blowing, it was quite comfortable to sleep. We kept giggling that we were spending our first night in the house. Didn't hear any ghosts or goblins. We did hear a couple of drunks stumbling down the street at a rather early hour though.

All in all, it was a good night!

We see the light at the end of the demo tunnel. All major demo is done (I hope). I still have to remove wallpaper in the tiny bedroom, the closets, the sunroom and the golden bathroom (which has been de-paneled). Since there is only a week left before I go back to school, I hope to get all the wallpaper down and all the walls washed in the next week.

Things we've done last week: I washed the dining room walls so they are ready for whatever comes next. The paneling in the sleeping porch (soon to be master bath) has been pulled down. All the moldings that need removing have been removed. Sunroom floor has been pulled up and all that paneling has been removed that's going to be removed. Oh, I fixed the leaky faucet in the kitchen almost all by myself (with a little bit of guidance from my electrician). I was quite proud of myself that day.

What's happening this week: The HVAC system is almost finished and we should have AC (and heat) by next weekend. We are getting quotes on the framing/drywall work and the plumbing for the two baths we are installing. We went ahead today and purchased the medicine cabinets for all three bathrooms. Penny has Monday off so we are going to look at pedestal sinks for the master bath tomorrow. This is the style of sink I want in the master bath. Roofing guy is supposed to start sometime this week but do the major work next weekend. Things are moving rapidly. I think we'll probably spend the night here again so that we can get started in the morning.

BUT, the best thing is happening tomorrow! We are finally getting a washer and dryer!!!!!! OMG, I am so happy I could just cry. They will be installed sometime tomorrow. I am OVER THE MOON about this. For the past two months we have been begging laundry time from friends or going to the laundrymat.

So, on to the pictures. As demo winds down, the pics are less dramatic (except for the sunroom ones).

Bathroom without sparkly faux marble paneling (only to reveal pea soup green paint over more @#$% wallpaper)

Faucet Repair: I carefully removed all parts and laid them out in the order I removed them and even took a picture so that if things got mixed up, I would have a record of their order.

Sun Room Demo

Faux Bois Wallpaper

The room formerly known as the "blue room" without wallpaper

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I blame HGTV.

QUESTION: My mom asked me in an email how I was feeling about the project so far. What did I think about the progress? Was it slower or faster than I thought? What surprised me? When do I think we'll get in. I wrote her a long winded answer, but have been thinking about the question and frankly, it kept me up all night.

ANSWER: I cannot give a simple answer to the question. The more I try to unravel all the strands of that answer, the more hopelessly tangled my thoughts get. I'll try to sort out the major threads here, but if this post goes wildly astray, well, I did warn you.

Strand One: It seems to be bringing Penny and I even closer. We work really well together and genuinely have fun even when we are doing to grossest, hottest, most sweat-inducing jobs. When I'm having an "OMG-what-have-we-done" kind of day, she steps up to the plate and gently directs me to a simple, necessary task that will yield immediate results and calm me down (like washing walls). And when she has days like that I can "talk her down" as well. That's pretty cool.

Strand Two: Overwhelmed. There are days when it simply seems like such a huge and daunting task that we have taken on and I wonder what in the hell we thought we were doing buying this house. We have virtually no renovation-necessary skills (plumbing, carpentry, electrical, framing, woodworking, nothing). We've never done a renovation before. We did a very light (VERY LIGHT) renovation on our old 1950s ranch, but we had lots and lots of help with that too. What made us think we could do such a thing. I blame HGTV, quite honestly. Those wonderful 30 minute programs that show you how effortless it is to renovate and redecorate your house with a few simple tools, some paint, and elbow grease. What the evil producers never show is the army of workers who do the grunt work (like hauling 99 buckets of plaster down stairs and out the the dumpster), sweating like pigs, the weeks and months of this effort, oh no, all that falls on the editing room floor. That doesn't make for good television. Those wonderful 30 minute shows dupe us poor schlubs into thinking that we can tackle that wall demo, no problem! After all, the built an entire house in just two 30 minute episodes.

Strand Three: Time - time is a weird construct. Sometimes, it moves so slowly (like when you're waiting WEEKS for your house to close) you begin fantasizing that the clock is an evil, sadistic enemy bend on making you miserable. Then there are the times when time seems like the telephone poles swooping by you as your speeding down the interstate. If you were like me (and aren't you all?), then you could count them as you went across the country and within mere moments you had reached 100, 500, and 1000 before you lost interest and decided that counting swooping telephone poles was a stupid way to spend time and started to antagonize your brother. We closed just over a month ago and days are flying by like those telephone poles. I can't believe I have to go back to work in less than two weeks. Holy Crappola, Batman! Where did the last month go? Every day is chock full of stuff to do. My day starts by dropping off Penny at work, coming to the house, opening all the windows, tidying up last night's mess. Picking a project for the day. Welcoming any crew that is here to work. Working. At some point, I go walk the dog. I might do an errand or two and get some lunch. Back to the house to work some more. Pick Penny up at 5:30. Some days we work some more. Some days we try and get some other work done like laundry (begging at our friends' door as we do not have laundry facilities either here at the house nor at the rental), grocery shopping, cleaning the rental, taking the dog to the vet, or the other hundred errands that come with being an adult. At some point, we fall into bed, often at the ungodly hour of 8 o'clock. And sleep quickly (unless were up all night fretting about the house), only to start all over again at 5:30 the next morning. I have never been so busy in all my life.

Strand Four: Amazing people in our lives. This project has shown us how incredibly fortunate we are and what super cool people we know. Yesterday, a friend of ours who lives in Arlington, drove down with a truck full of extra tools she had lying around and gave them to us. We are talking a sawzall, a shopvac, three or four hammers, several prybars of different sizes, and even an electric sander. Then, she wired a light in the bathroom for us. She got back into her truck and drove home. She wouldn't even let us take her out for a meal. How fricken' cool is that? Then there is the couple that makes us an amazing and delicious home cooked meal every Tuesday night. They live just a few blocks away and they feed us and provide huge moral support every week. Then there are the friends that are "renting" us their cottage. Our rent consists of mowing the lawn and paying the utilities. Then there's my contractor who is just the coolest man on the planet. He calls me daily simply to touch base and tell me it is all going to be okay. I honestly do not know how we could do this project without the love and support of everyone we know.

Strand Five: Time, again. I don't know if we are moving fast or not. I honestly can't tell. Penny wanted to move in right away. I was thinking maybe September 1 (as a highly hopeful date). We've pushed it back to hoping we can move in before Christmas. We've done most of the demo ourselves, save for the bathroom and the basement ceiling. That means we've taken out walls, learned to remove moldings without breaking them (mostly), and hauled literally a ton of plaster. The major demo is done. It's taken us a month to do that. Is that fast? I don't know. I have no yardstick for comparison. When we first closed, Penny had two weeks of vacation and we worked every day. In the entire month, we took one day off to go to the lake and we took a weekend off to go to a (super cool) wedding in Nags Head. Other than that, we've worked. We generally knock off no later than 4 pm, because we are just wiped out. We usually start around 7 am in the morning. Some days, we've worked until dark. Last night, we laid in bed looking at all the pictures we've taken, from when we first toured the house, to where we are today. We have come a long way in that time. All the carpet is gone. 95% of the paneling is gone (we still need to tackle the sun room), much of the wallpaper has been removed. Walls and closets and bathrooms have been demo'd. Electrical has started. HVAC has started. Both should be finished by the end of next week. Next weekend the roofing guy is coming to fix the gutters. After that, I'm not sure what's next.

Strand Six: Wow, what a freakin' cool place to live. The neighbors are awesome, welcoming us to the 'hood. Inviting us in and showing us what they've done to their houses. One guy even brought us a bottle of wine. There's always a breeze on the terrace and of course a lovely view. We are mere blocks from great restaurants and cool little shops. It takes me less than five minutes to reach Penny's work to pick her up. So many of our friends live near that we're going to actually be able to walk to see friends. We get to walk the dog around the lake and greet neighbors. I want to take some time and make friends with the neighbors. Dogwood Dell, a local outdoor amphitheater is just a beyond the lake and we'll be able to take advantage of that soon, I hope. I am so looking forward to the time when we can just LIVE here and enjoy all the benefits of living in the city. So much great architecture to see and areas to explore. I'm looking forward to walking to restaurants for dinner, frequently the farmer's market, and creating a whole different lifestyle here.

So, that's some of what I'm thinking and it is only the most simplified version of it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Link to more photos

Click here to see all the photos posted on Facebook. You do not have to be a facebook member to see the photos.

One Month Into the Project

Yesterday was our one month anniversary. And, despite the fact that some days the progress seems so slow, we have come a long way. This week especially. On Tuesday, we had a demo team come in and take out the white bathroom. We had three guys whacking on tile and within hours, the whole thing was gone, floor, ceiling, tiling, everything. It was a huge mess. I was glad that I didn't have to do it.

While the guys were working, HVAC started! By next week, we ought to have heating and cooling! YIPPEE!!! I can't wait. Here's the first evidence of having AC!

Mostly, we have been tearing out walls and hauling bucket after bucket of plaster down the the dumpsters. We have removed lots of closets, stupid closets. And opened up the soon-to-be master bedroom.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I know contractors get a bad rap. I have to say however, that I have been so very lucky to work with some awesome folks on this project so far. I wanted to make sure they were recognized for their stellar work, punctuality, and professionalism. As a woman, I have often run into condescending attitudes from men when discussing construction issues. I will fully acknowledge that I am not fully cognizant of every detail or problem that might arise, nor do I possess every solution, however, I do have a reasonable modicum of intelligence and can understand most issues when clearly presented. All of the gentlemen I have dealt with so far have been the utmost of polite and professional and never once have I been talked down to. That is a characteristic I prize highly. To that end, I will be linking websites of contractors that we are working with who have given us the highest quality of work, materials, and customer service. I urge you to contact them if you are in need of their services.

Widespread Solutions, LLC

These folks did the demo on the basement ceiling and the upstairs bathroom. Dan is a super nice guy and all of his workers were amazing. Also, a portion of his profits go to the McShin Foundation, a non-profit peer to peer addiction recovery support organization. How's that for cool? Hire good guys and support a good cause.

Acors and Griffith Heating and Air
These folks are putting in our new HVAC system. These gentlemen show up on time and work the entire day. They are friendly and easygoing and I can't recommend them any higher.

As other contractors come in, I will continue to post their names and websites. I think word of mouth advertising is the best there is. I will also add them to links on the side so that folks do not have to go looking for them.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Work Slows

Penny had to go back to work last Monday so work has slowed considerably with only me working all by my lonesome.

I continued the never-ending wallpaper removal process. I got most of it down in the center foyer. I still need to get it off the angled ceiling under the stairs. My arms gave out.

The big news for the week is that I took out the wall between the two bedrooms to make the big master bedroom. That was big fun, the cleanup however, really sucks. Plaster is heavy crap and I have to haul it down in five gallon buckets. It took about 15-18 trips to get all the plaster out. It's going to be a really cool room though.
The wall before

Me in full demo regalia

Plaster down on one side
Plaster and lath coming down on the other

I still have to demo the goofy closets that are 18 inches wide and 8 feet deep. That should be fun.

We went ahead and bought a mattress and boxspring for what will eventually become the guest room. We have a bed, but not the mattress, and this way, as soon as the hvac goes in, we can start sleeping there. As I start school in three weeks, we will be sleeping here sooner than later.

I also had a guy come out to give me an estimate to get a fence built. We need to have a fence and doggy door for all the puppies and kitties once I go back to work.

Monday, a demo guy is coming to take out the white bathroom. Penny and I demo'd one bathroom in our old place and it took us two weeks, a hammer drill, and a huge toll on our bodies. (Check it out here.) We both swore never again! So, we're hiring it out this time. Money well spent.

Also on Monday, we're having the SECOND dumpster emptied. Hopefully, we will only have the third and final dumpster as those get pretty pricey!

Wednesday, the HVAC guys get here and will start working on that project. They say it should only take them a week or two.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Week three already?

Wow, time is flying!. Demo continues. All the carpeting is gone, hurrah! The smell is slowly starting to get better.

1. living room wallpaper is nearly all removed. I missed behind the mirror, but now that I have that down, I can remove the paper.

2. All carpeting has been removed to the dumpster. This includes the miles and miles of tack strips and most of the staples used for the padding. I spent hours on the stairs alone.

3. kitchen floor has been removed, all four disgusting layers of it. Of course it was tacked down with about a bajillion inch long staples.

4. UPstairs hallway has been de-papered. I still haven't figured out how to get it down in the stairwell. It's too tall.

5. Took down lots of plaster in the vestibule where the leaking issue was most damaging.

6. Homeowners Insurance cancelled my policy due to the poor condition of the house. Had to scramble to get a new policy and am now paying through the nose of a policy. Hopefully we can get the roof, electrical, and stucco addressed and finished quickly so that we can go back to the cheaper insurance.

7. Went up into the attic and cleaned out a half a century's worth of trash. Found a few treasures including a cool 50s desk, some paintings, and some other odds and ends.

8. The cedar closet in the tiny bedroom was demo'd by our demo guy revealing a badly damaged wall. Took down most of that plaster.

9. Electrical work continues apace. The HVAC guys are going to start NEXT Monday.

10. Purchased a queen sized mattress which will be delivered on Tuesday. Penny swears she will be sleeping here, but without AC, not sure I will be.

11. I got all the transom windows open, so that was quite an accomplishment.

12. Penny smelled gas one day and called the city. They came and tried to light the stove pilot light, but condemned it instead. Sears is coming Tuesday to take a look at it.

13. I took pictures of the scary maid's toilet in the basement. Realize these pictures were taken after it had been cleaned up and far less scary that it started out.

So, that's where we are for now. I honestly don't know when we will be moving in for sure. I had said (optimistically) September 1. Now, I'm hoping for November 1 or at least before Christmas. We'll see.