Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pantry, Sleeping Porch and More Electric

So we are finishing the fourth week of this demo, and as usual, the contractors are making major progress. We still have two teams working on different floors, so there are roughly 10 people on site now, working on all three floors of the house. The chaos level is high, but things are pretty exciting.

In the basement- the electrical team continued to add outlets all over the place, and finished moving the panel upstairs. All week, we've been losing power to various parts of the house, so it's nice that now (almost) everything is back on. We had to go a couple nights without the air conditioner- and it's not something we want to do anymore.

new panel on the first floor is done

On the first floor- they added the new beam to replace the load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room, and removed the temporary wall. This is hugely exciting and makes the kitchen feel open, bright and huge. They removed the pantry, and started framing in the new mudroom and halfbath. It's just plywood now, but don't worry- it won't stay this ugly. Unfortunately- we lose total access to the backyard until the new door goes in, so that's a little problematic.

new beam between the dining room and kitchen

pantry comes down - view from the old porch

On the second floor- they removed the horrible old windows, which made our bedroom surprisingly brighter. Then they framed it in to prep for new windows.

sleeping porch before - with old slat windows

current sleeping porch- framed and partially closed in with plywood

current view from the back of the house-- lovely, yes?

Most annoying thing so far - So the lack of laundry is still annoying, but this week the most annoying thing is the invasion of men into my morning. For years, I have had a morning routine that consists of oversleeping, showering, making breakfast, and then sitting quietly to watch the news while drinking coffee with at least one cat napping in my lap. It's an important part of getting centered and prepped for the day. Now that the contractors are in the house, my routine is totally out of whack. They are working in the kitchen before I can get downstairs, so I've been skipping breakfast and the news, and coming to work with wet hair. To make it worse, now cats have to be pinned into the front two bedrooms to stay out of the way of the workers in the house. They, of course, hate being confined, so now I'm spending extra time having to chase them down. The only good thing is that I'm getting to work earlier, so that's something.

the pantry has moved to the fireplace room

dust guards between the fireplace room and kitchen/dining room

the constantly growing pile of crap in the backyard.

Next Steps- A plumbing team will start in the basement, moving pipes up into ceiling and out of the way. The structural team will finish up the old pantry and frame the new half bath and add windows and doors. Upstairs, the team will install the new windows and start prepping for the new washer/dryer.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bathroom is Demolished!

Usually the contractors work on Saturdays. We don't want to get in their way, so we have not been limited to Sundays to get anything done in the basement. This Saturday they weren't working, so we took the opportunity to finish up the bathroom demo.

What the bathroom looked like after last weekend-
ceiling, floor and sink in place, some framing on walls.

Removing the sink and light fixtures was quick. Then we took down some of the framing, which was barely attached, not remotely square, and rotten from water damage in some places. The walls were covered in wood slats, on top of sheetrock, on top of old bead board-- which must have been charming when it was new, but was no longer in nice shape.

The floor was a thick vinyl, with really thick adhesive to stick to a sweet little yellow and white mosaic tile floor. The adhesive was so thick, that pulling up the vinyl pulled the tiles up too in most places. I imagine the original bathroom, with this mosaic tile floor and bead board walls must have been really cute. It was kind of sad that nothing could be salvaged.

Then we started to remove the ceiling. [sigh]. The ceiling was constructed with metal wire, covered in several inches of plaster/cement. It was extremely heavy and strong, and could have functioned as a tornado shelter. Because it was a ceiling- inherently dust and junk kept falling in our eyes, making for an extra pleasant experience. The joists of the floor above had suffered some serious water damage and termite destruction, turning into squishy, soft sawdust, and leaving nothing for leverage to pry against. After several hours of us both slowly hacking away at it, we finally removed the whole thing. Then the rest of the framing on the walls came out easily.

R chips away at the ceiling- smiling through his dust mask

view from the old shower towards the sink
view from the old sink towards the shower-- nothing but pipes remain.
Fully demolished, only a lonely toilet remains.

a celebratory/exhausted beer at the end of the day... less pleasant when this is your view.

Several discoveries:
  1. The ceiling joists definitely have some termite damage and may need to be repaired.
  2. When the previous owner renovated this bathroom, they added new pipes and left the old ones in the wall. So there are a bunch of old, unnecessary pipes just hanging out.
  3. The ceiling and the walls were so thick, that we gained several inches in every dimension by removing it all. We can totally fit a bigger sink and shower now.
  4. The entire basement was built like this- so we have new respect for our contractors who removed all the rest of it.

Next Steps:
We will talk to the contractors about the termite damage and maybe removing the extra pipes. Then we reframe everything and start prepping for new stuff to go in. Yay!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Renovation Update: Electrical and Kitchen Wall

So we are now moving into week 3 of this renovation. The contractors continue to make swift progress and are now working in both the basement and the first floor of the house. We finally got around to starting the basement bathroom project.

We have multiple teams working in the house now. An electrical team has been in the basement adding outlets and recessed lights everywhere. They are also moving the fuse box upstairs so that we can have access to it once a tenant moves into the basement. The old box was really small and seemed to be the source of a water leak, so replacing it and moving it upstairs is a very good thing.

new recessed lights in the bedroom
lots of new lightswitches in the living room

a tangled mess of wires

old leaky panel was on the left, new sub panel going in on the right

before (left) - old entryway, now (right) - new panel going in

A second team also starting working on the demolition on the first floor. We are removing a load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room, which means that both rooms are now a total mess and completely unusable. But it's exciting to see such dramatic progress. It already feels more spacious and bright. They built a temporary wall to hold the weight.

before: view from the kitchen towards the dining room

now: view from the kitchen towards the dining room

before: from the dining room towards the kitchen

now: from the dining room towards the kitchen

We finally got started ripping out the basement bathroom. If you remember, this is the only project we are actually doing ourselves in this phase of the larger project. What's nice about that is it gives us a place to make our mark, feel like we've contributed, get our hands dirty, etc. What is obviously not nice about it is that we move at a snail's pace by comparison.

now: basement bathroom is mostly demolished. 

Most annoying thing so far:
The lack of laundry. On the first day the contractors got started, they removed our washer and dryer. That was about three weeks ago. We've so far managed to bother both our siblings who thankfully live nearby to use their washers and dryers, but it's a little awkward and annoying to be peddling our dirty clothes around town. Plus, there's a miserable heat wave right now, so everything smells. The new washer and dryer won't go in until near the end of the project, so we still have like another 4 weeks to go.

Next Steps:
We will finish the demo in the basement bathroom and start prepping for new materials. They will finish the electrical in the basement and new panel on the first floor, and then start the plumbing. They will also finish the kitchen wall and replace the temporary supports with a massive new beam.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Renovation Update: Framing and the Mess

Ok- so we're in week 2 of the basement renovation project. Both the contractors and us are working steadily, and we seem to be making significant progress.

Them:  The contractors have been busy this week framing the basement. All of the exterior walls are framed for insulation and sheetrock. They built two closets, one in the main hallway and one in the bedroom.  They moved the door for the bathroom into the bedroom, and they closed off the stairs so that we can access storage from above. Things are taking shape quickly. I'm a little worried that we created a long narrow hallway that will feel super tight once it's closed in, but we'll have to wait and see.

The living room/new kitchen all framed in
looking towards the back of the house - stairs framed in on the left, new closet on the right

from the bedroom, a new opening to the bathroom
new bedroom closet
bedroom exterior walls get framed
Us: We have been focused on managing the ensuing mess this week. First, we took the opportunity to organize the utility closet that's halfway up the stairs by adding some shelves and a hangy thing for brooms. While we were at it, R fixed the stripped screws that were attaching the door to the frame and causing us to need two hands to hoist the door in place to close. Now you close the door with just one hand easily, which seems very fancy somehow.

Utility closet before - a mess of randomness
utility closet after- 
two new shelves, a hangy thing and a camping light make for a nicely organized space.
Then, we emptied the kitchen pantry and moved everything to the dining room. The old pantry is about to become a new half bath, so all the foodstuffs have to get out. Unlike the rest of the mess, this is a semi-permanent problem because we won't be getting a new kitchen pantry for a couple years. I don't think we fully appreciated how big the pantry was, so now it's clear we need to downsize and minimize. I guess we don't really need 5 shapes of pasta, but it still seems disappointing to lose them.

empty pantry is ready to become a half bath
new pantry area in dining room

destroyed dining room is full of pantry and basement crap.

Next up: It's time for the contractors to start working on electrical and plumbing for the basement, which will be slow and unimpressive, but very important. We need to start with the basement bathroom and shopping, since we haven't bought a thing yet. Also need to find a way to better manage this mess. I guess our dinner party days are over for a while.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Renovation Update: Basement Demolition

So when we last talked to our contractor, they told us they needed one month to finish up the project they were working on, before they could start on our place. Whilst we were gallivanting around Paris, we got a followup email that said they were ready to start early.

Step 1: Clear everything we want out of the basement.
As soon as we got back from our trip, we scrambled to move the remaining stuff out of the basement and upstairs. It quickly became obvious that our house will be a mess until this project is all the way done.

the front living room wall

the bar in the living room

the bathroom

the kitchen and laundry area

Step 2. Let the contractor team go crazy.
Then, they got to work destroying the basement. Turns out a team of people with tools can really rip a house apart quickly. After four solid days with a three-man team, our basement is gone. Instead of sheetrock on the ceiling as I assumed, we discovered that the ceiling was covered in wire mesh, plaster and then sheetrock. So it took them a lot of effort to get it all down, but the fun part is that we gained at least an inch in height - so that's nice.

the living room & new kitchen area down to the studs
the living room
looking from the living room towards the kitchen & bathroom

the old kitchen- all cabinets gone. just the old stove left behind.
Next Steps.
The only thing the contractors didn't demo is the bathroom, which is ours to do, so we need to get started there. The contractors have brought in a huge pile of lumber, so they'll get started with the new framing. Meanwhile, we had to move our washer/dryer out of the basement and into the garage to be sold. So, no laundry for us until the new one goes in upstairs (no biggie, not having laundry in the summer when it's 90 degrees with 80% humidity isn't at all problematic).

Yay actual progress!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Anniversary Trip: Paris!

Almost as soon as we got married, I mentioned subtlely that I wanted to go to Paris for our first anniversary. Neither of us had ever been there, but we both have a strong appreciation for wine and cheese. With some luck, things quickly came together for a long weekend getaway.

Day 1: Wandering town
I arrive from the US tired and jet lagged, and meet R at the airport. After quickly checking into our fabulous hotel, we start walking around town to get our bearings. We go through the Tuileries (the garden outside of the Louvre), down the Champs Elysees (a busy, pedestrian-only shopping area), through the Arc de Triumphe, and then pass out after a lovely dinner at a random bistro.

getting our bearings at a church near our hotel

the Tuileries and the Louvre

the plaza thing in the center of the Louvre

in front of the Arc de Triumphe, starting to look tired.

Day 2: Museums and towers
We start off with some fantastic breakfast pastries, then head to the Musee d'Orsay, which holds all the impressionist art. After a lunch break, we head up the Eiffel Tower and thankfully the sun comes out briefly. Then we walk along the Seine towards dinner.

one of many cool doors

the main hall of the Musee d'Orsay

not thrilled about going up the tower in the rain

at the top

view from the top of the tower- Sacre Coeur on the hill

8 small French desserts. mmmmm. 

Day 3: Churches and wine
The sun is out and the rain is gone for our first day of nice weather. We head up to Montmartre, swing by the Moulin Rouge (which is truly tacky, btw), and then up to the Sacre Coeur for a picnic lunch with a view of the city. Then we head back down to Notre Dame and walk around the islands. We stop for an excellent gelato and happy hour break. Then back up towards the hotel for dinner and a much needed break from walking.

our picnic: wine, cheese, baguette, blueberries and a sausage. 

enjoying our picnic in front of Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Notre Dame

full of very good gelato

love locks on a bridge

Day 4: All by myself
After breakfast pastries, R hops on a train to head on to his next stop. I wander town by myself and decide to capture the day on film. (This is my first movie attempt- have low expectations please.)

Day 5: Time to head home
Sadly, that's it. The fifth day was my travel back home (which totally sucked because of bad weather here). R arrived home a few days later, and now we're getting back to normal.

It was a fantastic little trip. Totally unexpected, but perfect. I would love to go back and spend more time there, as well as get out to the rest of the country. Now it's time to get to work!