Saturday, August 30, 2014

Trim, Air Conditioning and Doors

So, this week at the house we had fewer workers, and they were working entirely in the basement. While we didn't have any huge projects completed this week, what they did made a huge efforts towards making the basement feel more finished. This space now feels livable. We're getting so close to being done. 

So they finished installing the kitchen cabinets. They partially installed the new dishwasher down there, which is a shame since it goes upstairs in our kitchen. They finished the tile, but haven't grouted it yet. They added trim around the floor and started trimming all the doors. They also started installing the exterior and interior doors. The big change was adding the mini split unit, which has a condenser under the patio and two blower units in the basement. 

kitchen cabinets in with our new dishwasher.
new front door brings in lots of light

one of the blower units (this is the old glass-brick bar spot for those who remember)

see all the pretty floor trim

bedroom with trim

bedroom blower unit

doors going in (view from the W/D closet)

condenser under the new half bath - pretty quiet so far! 

Next Steps
We are getting really close to being done down here. The last of the doors need to be installed, with door knobs. The tile floor needs to be grouted. Kitchen appliances will go in. We're getting close!!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Pottery Classes & Creative Outlets

As a kid, I played a variety of musical instruments, took a couple types of dance classes, and went to theater and art camp over the summers. (I'm not claiming I was actually good at any of these things- just that I spent time doing them in my misspent youth). Now, like many people I know, I spend 40+ hours per week in my office, staring at my computer. Work products are made out of excel or word, and are always in black and white. While I love my job, it does leave me a little desperate for a creative outlet.

I've been getting my fix lately off of renovations, but we can't afford to redo a bathroom every month. I dabbled in paper projects, but got some harsh criticism, so I'm looking for something better.

new art in the fireplace room made out of tissue paper and a glue stick
that does not look like it was made by a very young child

a new mobile in the living room
that is absolutely appropriate for adult spaces

One of the art camps that I went to as a kid taught pottery. I wasn't very good at centering the clay, but made a few ok things and got really messy in the process. In college, I found a pottery studio where I could dabble and loved it too. A while ago I found a pottery studio in the area that I have been meaning to check out, and I finally just signed up for classes.

  • Gives me the creative outlet I've been wanting, and an opportunity to work with my hands.
  • Christmas gifts for everyone!
  • I've already paid for 10 classes, so I have strong incentive to actually go.
  • I want something to go on our fireplace mantel and I think this is going to be it.
  • It's kind of on the way home from work, so it should be easy enough to get to.
  • I get to make a huge mess.
  • I have to clean up the huge mess I make.
  • It's a little pricey, but what isn't in this town?
  • I have to leave work a little early to get there, just hoping no one cares/notices.

My First Class
After finally signing up, I just had my first class. It went great! It took a little while for things to come back to me, but after about 2 hours I had made 3 small pots.

I apparently needed more very small bowls.

Next Steps
So I have 9 more classes to go to, in which time I hope to successfully master this whole thing and move on to bigger stuff. After that, we'll see. But generally, I think keeping a creative outlet is important and something I will always plan to do from here on.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beach Week in the Outer Banks

After a solid three months of renovations, the house was a disaster and our nerves were fried. With the doldrums of summer approaching, we were both desperate for a vacation. A nice jaunt in the Caribbean would have been perfect (diving + frosty drinks + elaborate swimming pools = very happy Emily), we wanted to cut costs until this renovation is over. We settled on renting a house in NC's Outer Banks as an easy option to get away, and a good opportunity to research local beach options in search of a beach to call our own.

We drove down on Sunday, moved into our little one-bedroom unit in a multi-unit complex, hung around, and then drove home. Instead of giving you the day-by-day, I thought it would be more fun as a Top Ten List.

#10 - Yoga with a View
I have a yoga video that was shot on a beach in Hawaii. I brought it with me as an easy exercise option, but got to turn my mat towards the awesome view outside instead of pining over the beach in the video. Mine came with wave sounds too.

it's harder to do yoga when you have cats

#9 - Sand Castles
One day, after several of sitting on the beach reading, I decided to make a sand castle. It was amazing. I spent at least 10 minutes with moats, towers, walls, etc. Then we watched as the tide came in a slowly washed it back out. Time well spent.

#8 - Cat Naps
When we planned this trip, we expected the renovation to be complete by now. Since it is a couple weeks behind schedule, we had to change plans for the cats. We couldn't leave them alone in the house and weren't sure boarding would work, so we decided to bring them with us. While their presence totally ruined the car trip both ways, they really made the stay nicer.

I nap with both cats

Wally sets a lively mood for the afternoon

#7 - Beach Time
We got some great beach chairs that you wear like a backpack, and a good-sized umbrella. Each day we went out to sit in the shade of the umbrella for a couple hours to read. I usually wandered on the occasional beach walk to stretch my legs and spy on all the people around us, while R would go float in the waves.

reading on the beach
beach walk
#6 - Sitting on the Porch
While sitting on the beach was great, I would argue that it was slightly nicer to sit on our porch. It was shaded, and had a great view of both the beach and the pool. It was right off of our living room, so you could easily come and go without hauling chairs or anything else. All of our meals were consumed there blissfully.

view from the porch looking towards the pool and beach

#5 - Restaurant/Bar Place
After a couple days doing the sitting on the beach/napping inside with the cats thing, we decided to shake it up and see what the island had to offer. We drove down to their national seashore and lighthouse, which were both quite nice, and then stumbled upon an outdoor bar/restaurant place right on the beach. We both had serious difficulty getting up to leave.

the lighthouse on the way to the amazing restaurant

beach bar

happy beach bar face
#4 - Junk Food
So, generally we both try hard to eat well. We cook almost everything from scratch and avoid processed foods and junk. But this was vacation, so it was a different story. During our week, we went through 3 bags of chips, 1 bag of Oreos, 3 donuts, and quite a bit of liquor. Good times. No regrets.

ice cream on the boardwalk
G&Ts plus Dill Chips. yah.

#3 - Seafood
Just opposite of #4, we did actually eat really well on this trip. We found a fresh seafood market and picked up a different seafood or fish each night. The winner was salmon grilled on cedar planks, followed closely by the scallops and roasted multi-colored potatoes.

R mans the salmon on the grill
Shrimp and clam boil on the patio
#2 - Karaoke
Early in the week, we discovered that a restaurant within walking distance offered nightly karaoke, but that it didn't start until 10. We spent the whole week trying and failing to stay up late enough to make it, until our second-to-last night (because I napped in the afternoon to prepare). Once we got there, it was clear it would be everything a karaoker could dream of - complete with a large group of college boys that had had too much to drink. We brought the house down with a perky and poignant rendition of "Love Shack".

horrible picture- but the only evidence this actually happened
#1 - Heroism
So one night we were walking along the beach around sunset, just as all the fishermen were coming out and setting up their lines. As we neared one, we saw that they had caught something that was flopping on the sand. We got nearer and realized it wasn't a fish, but a bird, that was caught in the line and flopping and twisting itself around. The owners looked at it sadly and apologetically, but clearly didn't know what to do. Suddenly, husband rips off his shirt and confidently strides over to the bird, using the shirt to cover its head, calm it down, and prevent it from moving. The family then steps up to help, with the mother trying to untangle him from the line while the daughter uses her phone as a flashlight. The bird is clearly completely knotted and tangled, and it's starting to look grim- when the father arrives with nail clippers, to cut him lose. After roughly 15 minutes of working on it, the last knot is cut and the bird wriggles free and flies off. I don't know what the family would have done if we hadn't helped, but I don't think it would have been good. Because of my man, the bird lived another day. It was pretty awesome.

So, all around, it was a pretty fabulous trip. Not sure yet if the outer banks will be "our" beach yet, but they definitely set the bar pretty high. I'll leave you with some pictures of a sunset walk along the sound-side boardwalk.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Floor Tile & Siding

Last week we were out of town (more on that shortly), but our house stayed busy.
In the basement
Floor tile began to go down. It's a wood-look tile, which was a compromise between me wanting hardwoods because they look nice, and R wanting tile because it's a basement with water problems. We didn't quite agree on the color - I like dark wood floors, but he wanted something lighter since it's a basement. We picked this one because it was somewhere in the middle (and much cheaper than other options). So far, so good. It's not quite done, but will be shortly. They also started putting up the kitchen cabinets, which look quite nice.

Floor tile goes down (covered with boxes for protection)
more floor tile in the bedroom
laundry closet gets tiled and starts looking nicer
kitchen cabinets partially installed
On the first floor
Remember how I mentioned last time that the old wall between the kitchen and the dining room had pipes running up the radiators upstairs? Well, they finished installing the new pipes, and covered them with a small bump-out. Hardly noticeable.

Small bump-out for pipes between the kitchen and the dining room
bump-out from another angle
They finally put up the siding outside, which closes in the sleeping porch and new half-bath. It definitely looks better than the plywood did, but neither of us are thrilled by the look. I think I thought it would cover more of the brick? Maybe if we paint it all one color? Not sure.
Current view of the back of the house

Next Steps
So in the basement they need to finish the tile, grout it, and put in the rest of the cabinets so that our countertop guys can come. On the first floor, things are wrapping up quickly. We just need a new back door. On the second floor, I think we're pretty much done. The end is in sight!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bathroom Shower

 Ok- so the basement bathroom was supposed to be the one part of the basement renovation that we did ourselves. I originally planned for us to do a little bit of it each week, generally staying on the same schedule as the rest of the basement project. Unfortunately- we hit some hiccups, like finding major termite damage in the ceiling, that had to be fixed by the contractors, forcing us to wait around.  Other than the original demolition, we haven't done anything in here.

Where the contractors left the shower

Once the contractors finally repaired the ceiling, upgraded the plumbing and electrical and hooked up the gas line for the new kitchen stove which is directly above the bathroom, they were finally finished in here, and we could get to work. The bathroom needs to be done for the final inspection, which is sometime soon. So after all this waiting around, now we have to jump into action and play serious catch-up.

This week was all about the shower. Each step requires letting the materials dry for about a day before moving on to the next step, so it was easy enough to work every night for an hour or two.

Day 1: Shower Pan and Curb
The contractors did the first step of building the shower pan, which is to create a curb and fill with cement to make a level surface. Unfortunately the curb was way too small, so our first step was to beef it up with 2x4's and some clever wood cuts. Then we added the shower membrane, which is really thick plastic to prevent leaks. Then the wall boards went back up, and we added metal lath to surround the new curb. Finally, we filled with more cement/sand mixture at a slope. Shower pan complete!

Beefed up curb

Membrane attached

Filled with cement/sand mix

Day 2: Tape the Seams
Next we got to work on sealing up the enclosure so that it won't leak. We got self-adhesive tape that's meant for cement boards, and taped over all the seams. We probably could've gotten more done on this day, except that we originally bought the tape over the weekend and left it at the checkout counter, so we started this evening with an extra trip back to home depot to get another one.

Seams taped

Day 3: Fill the Seams
Once the tape was on all the seams, we covered it with thinset to fill in all the gaps and holes. This should make a pretty impervious wall.

Seams filled with thinset

Day 4: Rubberize
Even though we had already taped and filled the seams, we went the extra mile by covering the whole space with a rubber paint. After dinner, we added a second coat, so this should be a really water-tight enclosure. Enclosure and pan complete!

Everything coated with rubber paint

Day 5: Tile the Shower Floor
Once we had finished all the prep work, it was finally time to start tiling. This is definitely my favorite part because it quickly and easily takes a space from nasty construction site to finished room. The mosaic we ordered for the floor is the same as what we'll use for the kitchen backsplash and as a border on the shower walls. It has marble pieces as well as glass and stainless steel. Unfortunately, the stainless isn't ideal for showers, so the first step was to remove all of them. Then we dry-fit the tiles onto the shower floor and started gluing them down.

our mosaic with stainless steel, marble and glass tiles

Tiling is quick- we just mix up the thinset, smear on with the trowel, and place. On the first night, we just tiled the inside of the shower floor. We had to stop at the point where tiles needed to be cut.

the shower floor is tiled

Day 6: More Shopping
The next day we head back to Home Depot to rent a tile saw and get the remaining materials to tile the shower walls. We wanted the white subway tiles for their classic look, and chose a mosaic arrangement of them that's 1 ft2 partially because it should be easier to install than a bunch of individual tiles, and also because they were out of the individual tiles. The only tile saw they have to rent is a small one that's not in great shape. Generally, renting tools is great because you don't have to worry about maintenance, but that's only true when the store is maintaining their tools- and this one isn't doing a great job.

Day 7: Finish the Shower Floor & Shower Walls
Early the next morning, I spring into action tiling the walls. It's a little tricky because gravity keeps pulling everything down, but after a little tweaking and lots of spacers, I figure it out and get moving.  I tiled almost the whole thing myself in a whirlwind 10-hr tiling session,  while R ran a half marathon. Right at the end of the day, the saw crapped out, leaving just a handful of tiles to be cut. We were disappointed not to have a completely tiled shower, but so exhausted and broken we were happy to just return the saw and finish another day.

the almost completely tiled shower

exhausted but proud

Next Steps:
So the next time we need to rent a tile saw, we'll finish up the remaining tiles that need to be cut. Then it will get grouted. We'll add shower doors and the faucet, and the shower will be done.

Total time = 7 days
Total Trips to Home Depot = 4

Monday, August 18, 2014

New Appliances and Paint

OK- so last week was the 9th week i think of this renovation [no clue- i'm just guessing]. We had about 5 guys every day this week working on all three floors. It was definitely a week of highs and lows.

In the Basement
They finished up the sheetrock and added another coat of mud to all the seams.  Then they coated everything with a layer of bright white primer and then a coat of light grey paint.  They also added more trim to all the new windows, which look spectacular.

the living room with primer

living room with light gray paint

future kitchen with paint

bedroom with primer and hookups for the mini split unit

On the First Floor
They connected the gas line for the new stove, which is now fully operational. We are both very excited to start cooking with gas now. The only downside is that the new stove is a slide-in, which means that it doesn't have the back panel that the old one did. So now there's a ugly awkward spot that used to be covered.

They also ran the new radiator pipes to connect the upstairs radiators. The old pipes ran straight through the wall that came down, so they were disconnected during the demo. The new ones will go up along the wall, which should get closed in soon.

new gas stove!

radiator pipes coming up in the kitchen

On the Second Floor
They finished the plumbing and electrical, added a vent, and closed off the old closet door. Then they installed our new washer and dryer.

laundry closet!

the old door to the closet is closed off

Best Thing This Week
Without a doubt, the highlight of the week was getting our new washer and dryer installed. The last two months have been more difficult than I expected because we didn't have any laundry in the house. Having to take our stuff elsewhere completely ate up an entire day. Because it took so long, we ended up skipping laundry a couple weekends and stretching things further than they should. Even when we had laundry though, it was all the way in the basement and not ideal. It was a pain to carry baskets all the way down there, and we often forgot about loads that had already been started. [Hello, moldy towels.] Now that it's on the top floor, it will be so much easier to drop in a load or two and get them finished and folded. It's funny how everyone used to have the laundry in the basement and now no one wants it there anymore.

I want to take this moment to thank our amazing siblings. My brother and his wife, my sister-in-law and her family all graciously allowed us to bring our filthy clothing to their houses to do our laundry for the past 2 months. We are so appreciative of you all! Thank you so much! We only had to break down and go to a Laundromat once, which was awful and just made us appreciate you all more. You're fabulous and we love you.

Worst Thing This Week
Monday morning, both cats were playing on top of some boxes. At some point, the team arrived and started making noise, and I realized both cats were missing. I started getting ready to go to work, and found Syd hiding under a chair upstairs, but couldn't find Wally anywhere. I searched under all the furniture, I called for him, I looked everywhere. At this point, the whole team was in the house, making lots of noise, with all the doors open. So I started searching outside, in the alley and the street, calling for him in case he got scared and bolted outside. After an hour or so of searching, I had to leave for work.

I sat miserably at my desk for a couple hours, imagining him wandering around the streets, getting in fights with dogs or getting hit by a car. I even imagined that he had followed me to work and gotten hit by a metro train. It was awful- I don't understand why in these situations my imagination goes straight to the worst possible outcome.

I left over my lunch break to come home and search some more, just as the team went on their lunch break and the house quieted down. Calling to him and shaking his food bowl, I finally spotted him in our bedroom. He climbed out from under the bed, stretching and yawning as if he'd just woken from a nice little nap. He was completely fine. [a$$hole].

2nd Worst Thing This Week
Boxes. Everywhere.
Wally playing on new boxes

Entryway packed with boxes